March 25, 2006

Live Long in Order to Prosper

This week's CNE blog was about the Economic Case against Ageing, inspired both by the recent Longevity Dividend article in The Scientist (S. Jay Olshansky, Daniel Perry, Richard A. Miller, Robert N. Butler, vol. 20:3 2006) and my own letter to the editors of the Financial Times (see also Waldemar Ingdahl's take on the essay).

The basic idea is that life extension isn't just individually good, but also causes huge economic benefits - benefits likely to outweigh any costs caused by people living longer. Sure, we have to rewamp pension systems and construct a new concept of the path of life, but that is challenges far preferable to the enormous amount of suffering caused by ageing. If we could fix mortality to save the 100,000 dead each day it would be great, but even a modest gain in healthy life expectancy has a big leverage.

It was interesting to see the high noon confrontation between Aubrey and some of the authors of the paper mentioned above at last week's conference. On one end of the street the lone gunslinger Aubrey the Beard, on the other side the fearsome biogerontologist brothers. Of course, the real shootout has not yet started, this was just a few warning shots getting the bystanders to stand back. Much of the disagreement was due to the different conceptual approaches (engineering project vs. scientific study). But whoever is left standing afterwards, the idea that ageing is not immutable is going to prevail.

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