Transcript: James Hughes and Margaret Somerville on life extension | Oct 05, 2003

Against a black screen, a slate reads "Will life extension offer more benefit than harm?"

Tim Falconer stands behind a lectern addressing an audience. He’s in his mid-forties, clean-shaven with receding brown hair. He’s wearing a light blue striped shirt.

Margaret Somerville and James Hughes sit at a long table next to Tim. An advertisement on the table reads "Better Humans."

Tim says THIS IS A, A
TOUGH ONE FOR BECAUSE ON THE
OTHER HAND, LIFE EXTENSION,
SOUNDS LIKE A PRETTY GOOD THING.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Tim Falconer. Journalist, Moderator."

Tim continues UM, I MEAN, MOST OF US SPEND OUR
LIVES IN COMPLETE DREAD OF OUR
INEVITABLE DEATH.
UM... LAST FALL, I WAS IN
THIS... LEON KASS, WHO'S THE
CHAIR OF THE AMERICAN
PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL OF
BIOETHICS.

The caption changes to "Debating the Future: Will life extension offer more benefits than harm? J. J. R. MacLeod Auditorium. University of Toronto. August 29, 2003."

Tim continues HE WAS GIVING THE HOURLY LECTURE
AND HE SPOKE VERY FORCEFULLY
AGAINST LIFE EXTENSION, UH,
ALTHOUGH, I HAVE TO ADMIT, I
WAS... NOT REALLY SWAYED.
AT ONE POINT, HE ASKED IF A
TENNIS PLAYER WOULD WANT TO PLAY
25 PERCENT MORE GAMES OF TENNIS,
SEEMED TO SUGGEST THAT THE
ANSWER WAS A RATHER OBVOUS NO.
WELL, I HADN'T REALLY FOLLOWED
TENNIS SINCE BJORN BORG RETIRED,
FOR THE FIRST TIME, I MEAN, THE
FACT THAT BJORN BORG, UH,
ATTEMPTED UH, A PATHETIC, UH,
UH, RETURN TO THE GAME IS
PERHAPS EVIDENCE THAT HE WOULD
HAVE LIKE TO PLAY 25 PERCENT
MORE OF GAMES.
UM, AND YOU KNOW, FOR MYSELF,
I'D LOVE TO PLAY 25 PERCENT MORE
GAMES OF HOCKEY, READ 24-- 25
PERCENT MORE HOCKEY BOOKS, I
MEAN, OR GREAT NOVELS AND 25,
SEE 25 PERCENT--

[audience laughing]

Tim says YEAH, ... HOCKEY BOOKS,
AND 25 PERCENT MORE, UH,...
CITIES.
UM, BUT, WHERE IT GETS
CONFUSING, UH, IS, UH...
KASS WAS USING ARGUMENTS, UM,
AGAINST MORTALITY, IMMORTALITY,
TO ARGUE AGAINST LIFE EXTENSION.
UM, AND, AT, IN THE Q and A SESSION,
MICHAEL BLISS GOT UP AND SAID,
WELL, I THINK THERE'S BEEN SOME
VERBAL SLIGHT OF HAND.
UM...
WHAT, WHAT I HOPE WE'RE GOING TO
DEBATE HERE IS NOT JUST SIMPLE
LIFE EXTENSION, WHICH,
OBVIOUSLY, HAS BEEN GOING ON, I
MEAN, ALL OF US HAVE DONE
VARIOUS THINGS, HAD OPERATIONS,
APENDIX REMOVED OR WHATEVER, TO
EXTEND OUR LIFE, OR WE'RE
TAKING, UH, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
PILLS OR, OR WHATEVER.
UM, LIVING A LITTLE BIT LONGER
IS, IS NOT, I THINK, WHAT THESE
TWO WANT TO DEBATE.
I THINK THE QUESTION WE WANT TO
TALK ABOUT IS IMMORTALITY.
AND, OR, YOU KNOW, SOMETHING
CLOSE TO IT AND THAT'S WHERE IT
BECOMES A BIT MORE CONTENTIOUS.
UM...
SO...
I'M GOING TO LET THESE TWO DE-
DEBATE THAT, UH, AND, AND WHAT
THE PROBLEMS ARE WITH IT.
MARGARET, IT'S YOUR TURN TO GO
FIRST.

Margaret gets up and approaches the lectern. She’s in her fifties with short blond hair. She’s wearing a black blazer with metallic rings on one sleeve over a blue, yellow and turquoise patterned shirt.

Margaret says WELL,
THIS IS THE TOUGHEST ISSUE TO,
UM, DEBATE AND, QUITE FRANKLY,
THE, UH, TRANS-HUMANISTS MAKE,
UM, THE SCIENCE OF OLD LOOK LIKE
AMATURES WHEN THEY, UH, WHEN
THEY, SORT OF, START TALKING
ABOUT LIFE EXTENSION AND
IMMORTALITY,

She puts on red glasses and continues
BECAUSE WE ALL WANT
TO HAVE-- WE ALL WANT LIVE FOR
AS LONG AS WE CAN, AS WELL AS WE
CAN.

The caption changes to "Margaret Somerville. Bioethicist."

Margaret continues BUT, YOU KNOW THERE'S SOME
REALLY SIMPLE WAYS TO DO IT.
THERE'S BEEN, UH, SOME SCIENCE,
UH, SOME RESEARCH REPORTED THIS
WEEK, I DON'T KNOW, IN CASE YOU
DIDN'T SEE IT, THAT A GLASS OF
RED WINE EACH DAY COULD INCREASE
YOUR LIFESPAN BY 30 PERCENT AND
SI-- AND THAT'S VERY SIMILAR TO
A LOW CALORIE DIET AND I CAN
TELL YOU WHICH ONE I'D RATHER
HAVE.
UM, SO, THAT'S THE FIRST THING,
WE-- THAT'S RIGHT, WE'VE ALWAYS
BEEN ENGAGED IN THIS.... ON THIS PARTICULAR DEBATE
IS, IT'S VERY INTERESTING TO
LOOK AT THE LANGUAGE THAT'S USED
AND LANGUAGE IS NOT NEUTRAL.
AND SO, THE PEOPLE WHO ARE
ARGUING FOR THIS RADICAL LIFE
EXTENSION, THEY SEE AGING AS A
DISEASE, THEY HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF
CURES FOR AGING, THEY MEDICALIZE
AGING, THAT'S WHAT I CALL
PUTTING A MEDICAL CLOAK ON
SOMETHING, BECAUSE THEN WE ALL
ASSUME THE TREATMENT'S WELCOME.
DOCTOR'S DO GOOD, MEDICINE DOES
GOOD, IT SEEMS A GOOD THING TO
DO.
AS WELL, THOSE WHO ARGUE AGAINST
THEM, I'VE ALSO LOOKED AT THEIR
LANGUAGE ON THIS, THEY SEE
OPPOSING RADICAL LIFE EXTENSION,
AND HERE I'M QUOTING, UH, THE
PEOPLE AS "CHAMPIONS OF DEATH,
MAKING THE CASE FOR THE VIRTUES
OF MORTALITY.
DEATHISTS.
THEY'RE MORTIPHILES."
SO, WE ARE SOME PRETTY NASTY
KINDS OF PEOPLE OUT THERE.
SO, I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS WE
HAVE TO DO, AND REALLY, I THINK,
THIS IS WHERE OUR CLASH OF WORLD
VIEWS COMES IN BETWEEN JAMES AND
ME, UM, IS, DO WE REALLY BELIEVE
THAT THERE'S SOMETHING
INHERENTLY GOOD IN THE NATURAL.
AND I DO.
SO, THEREFORE, I, I THINK AGING
IS NOT JUST ABOUT OLD AGE.
AGEING'S A LIFELONG PROCESS,
IT'S A LIFECYCLE AND WHEN THEY
TALK ABOUT PROLONGATION, UH, OF,
OF LIFE, THIS RADICAL
PROLONGATION, IT, IT SEEM FROM
WHAT I'VE READ IN THIS, THAT
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT EXTENDING
EVERY PHASE OF LIFE, SO,
CHILDHOOD WOULD BECOME-- LET'S
JUST TAKE A FIGURE, 20 YEARS,
AND ADOLESCENCE THE NEXT TEN AND
THEN MAYBE YOUNG ADULTHOOD THE
NEXT 30 OR SO, AND I JUST CAN'T
IMAGINE THAT WE WOULD DO THAT,
THAT WOULD BE A RADICAL EFFECT,
IT WOULD EFFECT THE WHOLE OF OUR
LIVES, NOT JUST THE END OF OUR
LIVES, AND I THINK WE HAVE TO
SEE THE LIFECYCLE AS A WHOLE,
WITH ITS OWN SHAPE, AND I THINK
WE HAVE TO RESPECT ITS NATURAL
INTEGRITY.
IT'S NOT JUST SIMPLY PIECES
STRUNG TOGETHER AND WHEN I WAS
READING AND THINKING ABOUT THAT,
IT OCCURRED TO ME TO THINK ABOUT
OUR THEORIES OF HUMAN IDENTITIES
AND HOW THEY'VE CHANGED, THAT WE
USED TO SEE OURSELVES AS, AS
HAVING AN INTEGRATE HUMAN
IDENTITY, SO, PLUS OR MINUS A
FEW PIECES THROUGH ACCIDENT OR
SURGERY, BUT, TODAY WE HAVE
WHAT'S CALLED A MODULAR THEORY
OF HUMAN IDENTITY, REPLACEABLE
PARTS ARE US, AND SO, NOW WE CAN
PROLONG OUR LIVES WITH THOSE
REPLACEABLE PARTS AND, PERHAPS,
RADICALLY SO.
AND THE, SORT OF, IMPACT OF
OVERCOMING AGING FOR INDIVIDUALS
WOULD BE-- I THINK THEY'D BE A
LOSS OF COMMITMENT IN
ENGAGEMENT, PART OF IT IS, IT'S
A BIT LIKE A HOLIDAY, YOU KNOW,
IF YOU'VE ONLY GOT SO LONG, YOU
ENJOY IT MORE INTENSELY AND I
THINK WE WANT TO FULLY LIVE
FULLY HUMAN LIVES.
I THINK ASPIRATIONS AND URGENCY
ARE IMPORTANT, I ALSO THINK THAT
RENEWAL, AND, PERHAPS, IN A
SENSE, SEEING IMMORTALITY IN
CHILDREN, UH, IS, IS A VERY
FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RESPONSE THAT
WE WOULD BE INTERFERING WITH.
AS WELL, THERE IS SOME EVIDENCE,
UH, THAT EXTENDING THE HUMAN
LIFESPAN-- AND CERTAINLY, UH,
UM, THE PROLONGA-- THE AGE
RETARDATION, UH, THE, THAT
CAUSES REDUCED FERTILITY, SO ONE
OF THE THINGS THAT WE COULD
WONDER IS WHETHER WE TRADE, UH,
UH, TRADE OUR CHILDREN'S
LIVESPANS FOR PART OF OUR OWN.
AND I THINK WE WOULD HAVE
CHANGED ATTITUDES TO DEATH AND
MORTALITY AND, IN FACT, IN
READING THIS, I'VE DONE A LOT OF
WORK ON-- IN THE CONTEXT OF
EUTHANASIA, AND I REALLY GOT THE
FEELING THAT SOME OF THIS STUFF
IS REALLY AN OBSESSION WITH
DEATH MORE THAN AN OBSESSION
WITH LIFE.
AND IT-- THE IMMORTALISES REALLY
LIKE THE PEOPLE WHO WANT
EUTHANASIA, BUT THEY CHOOSE
DEATH, THEY WANT TAKE CONTROL,
THEY, AND THEY TALK ABOUT, DEATH
SHOULD BE A VOLUNTARY DECISION
AND I THINK IT DOES, IT REALLY--
I THINK WE SHOULD ASK THE
QUESTION, IS THAT A DENIAL OF
DEATH?
AND IT WOULD CHANGE THE MEANING
OF THE LIFECYCLE, WE'D LOSE OUR
MOORINGS OF NATURE, TIME AND
MATURITY.
AND I THINK WE COULD, WE COULD
USE THE TERM THAT'S ACTUALLY IN
THE, UH, E.T.C. GROUP'S BOOK ON
NANO-TECHNOLOGY, THEY CALL, THEY
SAID, WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL OF
IMPOVERISHING IMP-IMPROVEMENTS.
AND I THINK THAT'S A VERY, VERY
USEFUL WARNING.
SO, THE TRUE NATURE OF THE
DEBATE ON THIS TOPIC IS REALLY A
CLASH OF WORLD VIEWS AND THE
DIFFERENT CONCEPTS THOSE TWO
WORLD VIEWS ADOPT OF WHAT IT
MEANS TO BE HUMANS.
I SEE US AS MORE THAN MERE
CHEMICAL OR BIOLOGICAL MACHINES
OR COLLECTIONS OF PARTS, PARTS.
AN... HARNESS IS NOT THE SAME AS
BEING A PERFECT OR INDEED, AN
IMMORTAL, BEING AND PERHAPS IT'S
OUR PERCEPTIONS OF OUR OWN
IMPERFECTIONS, AND MORTALITY IS
ONE OF THOSE, THAT GIVES RISE TO
OUR DEEPEST LONGINGS AND
GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
AND SO, I THINK THAT WE DO LIVE
IN A DEATH OBSESSED CULTURE AND
THIS IS PERHAPS THE LATEST
MANIFESTATION OF IT, BUT
PARADOXICALLY, THAT CAN MAKE US
OBSESSED WITH LIFE AND THE CULT
OF YOUTH, WHICH WE SEE
EVERYWHERE, BUT REALLY, WISDOM
DEPENDS ON DETACHMENT FROM ONE'S
SELF AND ONE'S OWN, ALTHOUGH
THAT ATTACHMENT IS ALSO A
CHARACTERISTIC OF YOUTH, AND SO,
SORT OF, TOUGH AS IT IS, AND
MUCH AS I DON'T WANT TO DIE,
EITHER, MORTALITY MAKES LIFE
MATTER.
AND SO, I THINK WE HAVE TO BE
VERY CAREFUL WHAT WE'RE DOING
WHEN WE, WHEN WE REALLY SAYING
THAT WE WOULD OVERCOME
MORTALITY, OR OTHER RADICAL LIFE
EXTENSION.
SO, TO SOME EXTENT, I THINK THAT
MAYBE WE'RE SEEKING TO CURE THE
EMPTINESS OF LIFE BY EXTENDING
IT FOREVER.
AND THE QUESTION THAT ALL OF US
ASK OURSELVES AT ONE POINT IS
USUALLY, WHAT AM I DOING HERE?
AND THE ANSWER TO THAT, THE NEW
ANSWER, SEEMS TO BE, TO BECOME
IMMORTAL, OR SHOULD IT STILL
REMAIN AS IT A-- OR, HAS BEFORE,
TO DO SOME GOOD WHILE I'M HEAR
AND TO HAND ON WISDOM AND
GOODNESS.
AND THERE'S A RADICAL DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN VALUING ONLY OUR OWN
LIFE AND ALSO THAT OF THE
GENERATIONS TO FOLLOW.
AND SO, I BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE
TO SEE LIFE, NOT JUST IN THE
CONTEXT OF OURSELVES OR US-- OR
OUR OWN TIME, BUT AS SOMETHING
THAT, IN ITSELF, LIFE IS
IMMORTAL, EVEN THOUGH WE AREN'T,
ALTHOUGH, WE COULD WIPE IT OUT,
OF COURSE, BUT, IT'S BEEN HANDED
ON TO US AND WE HAND IT ON TO
OTHERS AND I DON'T THINK THAT WE
SHOULD CHANGE THAT, MUCH AS I'D
LIKE TO LIVE, AS WELL AS, I CAN
FOR AS LONG AS I CAN.
THANK YOU.

[Applause ]

She goes back to her seat and James approaches the lectern. James is in his late forties, with short hair and a goatee. He’s wearing glasses, a white sweater under a black jacket and a pin on his left lapel.

James says ...IRONICALLY, I THINK,
YOU MADE MY POINT
AT THE END OF YOUR TALK, WHICH
IS THAT, IT IS NOT DEATH THAT
GIVES LIFE MEANING TO LIFE, IT
IS WHAT WE DO IN LIFE THAT GIVES
MEANING TO LIFE.

The caption changes to "James Hughes. Bioethicist."

James continues AND, THERE'S NO REASON WHY AN 80
YEAR LIFE SPAN OR A 200 YEAR
LIFE SPAN, GIVES ANY MORE
MEANING TO LIFE, AS LONG AS
WE'RE DOINGGOOD THINGS AND
GIVING MORE MEANING TO THE LIVES
THAT WE LIVE.
I PREFER NOT TO SPEAK ABOUT
IMMORTALITY FOR TWO REASONS,
ONE, I BELIEVE IN THE HAZARD
FACTOR.
UM, THAT IS THAT EVENTUALLY
AFTER A COUPLE OF THOUSAND
YEARS, NO MATTER HOW PERFECT OUR
BODIES ARE GOING TO BE, THERE'S
GOING TO BE SOME KIND OF
ACCIDENT THAT WILL GET YOU.
UM, I ALSO THINK THAT THE
EVOLUTION OF OUR PERSONALITIES
OVER TIME WILL BECOME
PROBLEMATIC, I CAN GET TO THAT
IN QUESTION AND ANSWER.
BUT, I'D LIKE TO LIVE LONG
ENOUGH TO ACHIEVE THAT
PARTICULAR KIND OF
ENLIGHTENMENT.
ALSO, BECAUSE I'M A BUDDHIST AND
BECAUSE ONE OF THE PRINCIPLE
IDEAS IN BUDDHISM IS THAT YOU
BECOME WISE WHEN YOU ACCEPT
SICKNESS, AGING AND DEATH, UM,
I'VE THOUGHT ABOUT THIS QUITE A
BIT.
AND, WHAT THE BUDDHA DIDN'T SAY
IS THAT YOU HAVE ANY
RESPONSIBILITY TO HURRY THEM
ALONG.
UM, THAT, YOU KNOW, TO SORT OF
REFLECT, ALTHOUGH I'M NOT A
CHRISTIAN OR AN ALCOHOLIC, I
REFLECT ON ALCOHOLIC ANONYMOUS'
SERENITY PRAYER WHICH SAYS.
GRANT ME THE STRENGTH TO CHANGE
THE THINGS I CAN THE WISDOM TO
ACCEPT THE THINGS I CAN'T, AND
THE, OR RATHER THE SERENITY TO
ACCEPT THE THINGS I CAN'T, AND
THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE
DIFFERENCE.
I THINK AS OUR POWERS INCREASE,
WE WILL INCREASINGLY BE ABLE TO
HAVE HEALTHIER BODIES AND LIVE
LONGER, SO THE RADICAL LIFE
EXTENSION WILL BE AN ALLOYED
GOOD AND I'M QUITE SURE THAT
WILL BE ALL PURSUE IT, IT'S LIKE
ARGUING FOR THE PLOUGH.
UM, I, I JUST CAN'T SEE HOW IT
COULD NOT COME ABOUT, THE...
SICKNESS, AGING, DEATH, IT'S
MOSTLY SOUR GRAPES.
IT'S PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY
AREN'T EVER GOING TO BE -- EVER,
ABLE TO BENEFIT FROM THESE
TECHNOLOGIES AND SO WHY WOULD
ANYONE POSSIBLY WANT TO LIVE TO
BE 80 OR 100?
WITH OUR COMPLETELY...FOR
INSTANCES OVER THE LAST CENTURY
OUR LIFE EXPECTANCY HAS
INCREASED FROM 45 YEARS TO 75
YEARS AND I DON'T KNOW ANY 60-
YEAR-OLDS WHO ARE SAYING, "YEAH,
THE GOOD OLD DAYS WHEN I WOULD
HAVE DIED IF I HAD INFECTED...
THOSE WERE REALLY THE GOOD OLD
DAYS, I HAVE LOST MEANING IN MY
LIFE NOW THAT I'M 60, BECAUSE IF
I HAD ONLY DIED AT 45 I WOULD
HAVE HAD SO MUCH MEANING IN MY
LIFE."
UM, YEAH, WE HAD TO ADAPT, WE
HAD TO MAKE SOME SERIOUS
ADAPTATIONS AS THE LIFE
EXPECTANCY CREPED UP, WE HAD TO
BUILD SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEMS,
PENSION SYSTEMS, MEDICARE, NOW
WE HAVE MEDDLING GRANDPARENTS
TELLING US HOW TO RAISE OUR
KIDS, WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL
WE'RE 60 TO GET OUR INHERITANCE,
THERE'S ALL KINDS OF THINGS THAT
ARE TERRIBLE ABOUT THE LIFE NOW,
OF HAVING TO LIVE UNTIL 75.
IF, WE THEN BY THE YEAR 2050
HAVE A LIFE EXPECTANCY OF 120 OR
PERHAPS INDEFINITE, WE'LL NEED
TO MAKE OTHER ADJUSTMENTS.
WE MAY HAVE TO HAVE THE BASIC
INCOME SYSTEM I TALKED ABOUT OR
WE MAY HAVE TO INCREASE THE AGE
OF RETIREMENT, WE MAY HAVE TO
ALLOW PEOPLE TO GO TO GRADUATE
SCHOOL UNTIL 35 AS I DID AND
THEN INCREASE THEIR ADOLESCENCE
AS YOU SUGGESTED, I'M ALL FOR
THAT.
UM, UH, YOU KNOW, IT'S VERY
INTERESTING BY THE WAY TO PURSUE
A GENDERED POINT, UM, THERE IS A
LOT OF EVIDENCE THAT THE FEM...
THE CONTEMPORARY FEMINIST
MOVEMENT, OWES ITSELF TO WOMEN'S
EXTENDED LIFE EXPECTANCY AND
THEIR REDUCED FERTILITY.
BECAUSE, IT CREATED A SPACE IN
WOMEN'S LIVES IN WHICH THEY
COULD PURSUE SOMETHING OTHER
THAN THE DAILY TASKS OF RAISING
CHILDREN.
IT GAVE THEM THE FREEDOM TO
CREATE AND TO HAVE CONSCIOUS
RAISING AND TO FIND OTHER
MEANING IN THEIR LIFE, AND I
THINK THAT HAS BEEN A TREMENDOUS
BOOM TO ALL OF OUR LIVES.
NOW, THERE ARE THREE PRINCIPLES
THAT I WANT TO OFFER QUICKLY FOR
LIFE EXTENSION, GUIDING LIFE
EXTENSION PRIORITIES.
ONE, IS THAT AN AVERAGE YEAR OF
LIFE IS AS VALUABLE, IF IT'S AT
THE SAME QUALITY, NO MATTER
WHERE WE ADD IT.
IF WE ADD IT BETWEEN 20 AND 21,
IF WE ADD IT BETWEEN 80 AND 81,
IF WE ADD IT BETWEEN 120 AND
120, 221, IT'S THE SAME VALUE.
NOW, PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED THAT
IT WON'T BE AS USEFUL A LIFE,
THAT WE'LL BE HOOKED UP TO
MACHINES OR WHATEVER, THAT'S AN
IMPORTANT, UH, CONSIDERATION IN
OUR PUBLIC POLICY PRIORITIES AND
WE SHOULD TAKE THAT INTO
ACCOUNT.
BUT, IF WE CAN MAINTAIN A
CONSISTENT STEADY QUALITY OF
LIFE AND MOST PEOPLE NO MATTER
HOW SCREWED UP THEY GET IN OLD
AGE, THEY STILL WANT TO STAY
ALIVE, MOST PEOPLE DO NOT COMMIT
SUICIDE.
UM, THEN, I THINK IT'S VALUABLE.
EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE EQUAL
ACCESS TO LIFE EXTENSION
TECHNOLOGY, IT WOULD BE GROSSLY,
AND MORALLY UNACCEPTABLE FOR THE
RICH TO BUY AN EXTRA 50 OR 100
YEARS OF LIFE.
RIGHT NOW, IF YOU HAVE HEALTH
INSURANCE IN THE UNITED STATES,
YOU GET ABOUT AN EXTRA FIVE
YEARS OF LIFE.
BUT, IF IT EVER GETS TO THE
POINT WHERE RADICAL LIFE
EXTENSION IS POSSIBLE AND IT
BECOMES A MARKET COMMODITY, IT
WOULD BE GROSSLY UNFAIR, IT HAS
TO BE AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE.
AND FINALLY, NO ONE SHOULD BE
KEPT ALIVE AGAINST THEIR WILL.
IF... DECIDE THEY WANT TO GO OUT
THE OLD FASHION WAY, WHATEVER
THAT IS, THAT SHOULD BE THERE
CHOICE, THE REST OF US SHOULD BE
PERMITTED TO DECIDE HOW AND WHEN
WE DIE ON OUR OWN, RIGHT.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE THEY PROPOSING,
ARE THEY PROPOSING THAT WE
SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED TO DRINK
WINE AFTER THE AGE OF 80 BECAUSE
IT MIGHT EXTEND OUR LIVES?
IS THERE SOME PARTICULAR
TECHNOLOGY THAT WE CAN... TO
THAT WOULD BE THE LINE BETWEEN
NATURAL LIFE EXTENSION AND
UNNATURAL LIFE EXTENSION, BEYOND
WHICH THOU SHALL NOT GO.
I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT
THAT LINE IS, OR WHAT TECHNOLOGY
THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE.
FOR INSTANCE... MEDICINE
PROPOSES THAT WE CREATE ENTIRELY
NEW WHITE, RED BLOOD CELLS TO
CARRY MORE OXYGEN IN OUR BLOOD,
SO IF I HAD A HEART ATTACK RIGHT
NOW I'D HAVE ENOUGH OXYGEN IN MY
BLOOD RIGHT NOW, FROM THESE
NANO-BOTS, THAT I'D BE ABLE TO
SAY, YOU KNOW I THINK MY HEART
STOPPED BEATING.
AND, I'D BE ABLE TO WALK TO THE
HOSPITAL AND SAY, MY HEART
STOPPED BEATING YOU'RE GOING TO
HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
UM, IS THAT UNNATURAL, DOES THAT
MAKE ME A POST-HUMAN, DOES THAT
ROB ME OF THE MEANING OF MY
LIFE?
I DON'T SEE WHERE THE LINE IS,
OKAY?
SO, WE CAN TALK ABOUT WHAT
HAPPENS IF PEOPLE LIVE FOR
MILLION OF YEARS AND PEOPLE LOSE
THEIR PERSONALITIES AND THEY
MERGE INTO ONE BIG BORG OR
SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
BUT, THAT'S NOT AN IMMEDIATE
QUESTION FOR LIFE EXTENSION AND
ETHICS, THANKS.

[Applause ]

James goes back to his seat. Tim gets up and walks towards the lectern.

Tim says OKAY, MARGARET.

Margaret says YEAH, WELL, IT'S
THE SORT OF THING WHERE WE HAVE
TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT.
IT'S OFTEN SAID THAT WE USED TO
LIVE TO 45, THE AVERAGE LIFE
EXPECTANCY WAS 45 AND NOW IT'S
80 AND THAT'S TRUE, BUT YOU'VE
GOT TO BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THAT
FIGURE BECAUSE
ONCE YOU HAD REACHED FIVE YEARS
OF AGE 100 YEARS AGO, YOU
ACTUALLY HAD AN AVERAGE LIFE
EXPECTANCY, AT LEAST IN THE 60s
AND SOMEWHERE UP UNTIL THE 70s,
THE REASON THAT FIGURE, THAT
AVERAGE FIGURE WAS SO LOW, IS
BECAUSE THERE WAS SUCH A HIGH
RATE OF INFANT AND EARLY
CHILDHOOD DEATHS.
SO, THIS LIFE EXPECTANCY THAT
WE'VE GOT AT THE MOMENT, IS
PROBABLY AROUND ABOUT 10 YEARS
OR SO OR MORE THAN WHAT MOST
PEOPLE HAVE HAD THROUGHOUT THEIR
LIVES.
UM, JAMES REMINDED ME OF A SORT
OF A STATEMENT THAT -- ACTUALLY
SOME RESEARCH, WE KNOW THAT WE
USE 50 percent OF ALL OF THE HEALTH
CARE RESOURCES THAT WE'LL USE IN
OUR LIVES IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS
OF OUR LIVES.
SO, THE IDEA IS, THAT YOU SHOULD
BE WHAT THEY CALL, REASONABLY
WELL OR DEAD.
AND, UM, THERE'S A WRITER IN THE
NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF
MEDICINE
CALLED JAMES
FRIES, WHO WROTE AN ARTICLE
CALLED "REASONABLY WELL OR
DEAD," SQUARING THE CURVE, SO
HOW DO YOU KEEP PEOPLE UP HERE,
REASONABLY WELL AND THEN HAVE
THEM GO LIKE THAT?
WELL, THE ANSWER IS EUTHANASIA,
BECAUSE THAT'S THE FASTEST WAY
TO DO IT AND THE ACTUAL FACT,
EUTHANASIA IS A TECHNOLOGICAL
RESPONSE TO WHAT I WOULD CALL
THE MYSTERY OF DEATH.
IT CONVERTS THE MYSTERY OF
DEATH, TO THE PROBLEM OF DEATH
AND THEN GIVES IT TECHNOLOGICAL
RESPONSE.
AND TO SOME EXTENT I WONDER IF
THIS, THIS, LIFE, UM, AGE
RETARDATION, LIFE PROLONGATION
QUESTION.
JAMES MADE IT SOUND VERY BENIGN
AND NICE, BUT WHEN YOU READ THE
LITERATURE ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE ARE
TALKING ABOUT IT'S LIKE ALL
SORTS OF ENHANCEMENT
TECHNOLOGIES, I MEAN WE'RE GOING
TO BE WALKING AROUND BEING MORE
OR LESS SORT OF... SOME FORM OF
CYBORG AT THE LEAST OR PERHAPS
VAGUELY ROBOTIC.
CERTAINLY IF YOU LOOK AT RODNEY
BROOKS' BOOK
FLESH AND
MACHINE,
HE SAYS THERE'S
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT
HUMANS AND THAT WE'LL BE BETTER
OFF MORE INTELLIGENT, BETTER
FUNCTIONING WHEN THAT'S WHAT WE
BECOME.
AND, SO, I THINK THIS QUESTION
OF THE AGE RETARDATION, AGE
PROLONGATION, IS VERY CONNECTED
INTO THOSE POSSIBILITIES, WHICH
I THINK ARE QUITE HORRIFIC.
AND, SO, AGAIN I THINK WE'VE GOT
TO BE VERY CAREFUL, BUT I THINK
ONE OF THE REASONS, WITH
RESPECT, WHY THE TRANSHUMANISTS
PUT THIS ISSUE FORWARD IS
BECAUSE IT IS SO SEDUCTIVE.
THAT'S WHY I STARTED OFF WITH
THE... HAVE GOT A LOT OF LESSONS
TO LEARN FROM THE TRANSHUANISTS,
BECAUSE WE ALL WANT THIS AND WE
CAN ALL FEEL THAT IT'S GOOD, BUT
WE REALLY HAVE TO LOOK AT WHAT
WE'RE GETTING INTO AND WE HAVE
TO LOOK AT WHAT PRINCIPLES AND
PRECEDENTS WE'RE SETTING UP BY
TAKING THESE SEEMINGLY SMALL AND
BENIGN STEPS TO BE NICE TO
PEOPLE AND GIVE THEM SOME MORE
GOOD YEARS.
FINE, BUT THERE'S SOME OTHER
THINGS BEHIND THAT.

Tim says THANK YOU.
JAMES.

James says UH, I MEAN, YOU
ABSOLUTELY ARE RIGHT, THAT ONE
OF THE BASIC POINTS THAT WE
DISAGREE ABOUT IS WHETHER PEOPLE
SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONTROL
THEIR OWN LIVES.
AND, YOU SAY A TECHNOLOGICAL
APPROACH, A UTILITARIAN OR
WHATNOT
I THINK IN GENERAL THE
PRINCIPLE, AS ARTICULATED BY
JOHN STRUGMEL WHAT THAT IF YOU
GIVE PEOPLE THE RIGHT TO CONTROL
THEIR OWN LIVES THEY PURSUE THE
THINGS THAT MAKE THEM HAPPIER
BETTER THAN IF YOU TELL THEM
WHAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING.
AND THE TWO WAYS -- THE TWO
THINGS THAT GIVE US MORE CONTROL
OF OUR LIVES ARE TECHNOLOGY AND
DEMOCRACY.
LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS, A
RELATIVELY EQUAL SOCIETY ON THE
ONE HAND AND TECHNOLOGICAL
FREEDOM ON THE OTHER.
AND, WHAT YOU HAVE TOLD US, IS
THAT YOU NEITHER WANT PEOPLE TO
HAVE THE RIGHT TO DECIDE HOW
LONG THEY'RE GOING TO LIVE USING
TECHNOLOGIES OF LIFE EXTENSION,
NOR TO DECIDE WHEN THEY'RE GOING
TO DIE USING TECHNOLOGIES OF
ASSISTED SUICIDE.

As James speaks, Margaret takes down notes.

He continues AND I THINK
THAT PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE BOTH OF
THOSE TECHNOLOGIES AND HAVE THE
RIGHT TO USE BOTH OF THOSE
TECHNOLOGIES IN A LIBERAL
DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY.
APPARENTLY, YOU THINK THAT
BECOMING A CYBORG OR HAVING A
CHIP IN YOUR HEAD OR UM,
UPLOADING YOURSELF TO A COMPUTER
IS THE LINE IN WHICH WE CROSS
FROM THE NATURAL TO THE
UNNATURAL.
IF, SO I'M QUITE HAPPY, BECAUSE
I THINK THERE WILL MANY, MANY
TECHNOLOGIES, WHICH NEVER, WHICH
WILL ALLOW US TO HAVE BIOLOGICAL
CONTINUITY OF OUR CONSCIOUSNESS
AND WHICH WILL NOT REQUIRE THAT
KIND OF UPLOADING, ALTHOUGH,
THAT WILL BE ONE OF THE OPTIONS.
BUT, AS I POINT YOU BACK TO
EARLIER I THINK THAT ONE OF THE
BASIC PRINCIPLES AND THINGS THAT
WE DISAGREE ABOUT IS WHETHER
CONSCIOUSNESS ITSELF IS A VALUE,
WHETHER SELF AWARE BEINGS ARE OF
VALUE AND I DON'T THINK THE
PLATFORM -- I THINK THAT THE
ARGUMENT THAT STAYING INSIDE A
HUMAN DNA CODED BODY IS THE
DEFINER OF WHETHER SOMEBODY'S
LIFE HAS MEANING OR SHOULD BE
ALLOWED TO CONTINUE, IS
PRECISELY THE RACIST ARGUMENT
THAT WAS USED AGAINST -- BY
EUROPEANS AGAINST AFRICANS UM,
THAT SAID THAT THERE IS
SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT A
WHITE SKINNED BODY THAN A BLACK
SKINNED BODY.
THERE'S NOTHING DIFFERENT.
THIS IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF Dr.
MARTIN LUTHER KING'S SPEECH "I
HAVE A DREAM."
I HAVE A DREAM TOO, I HAVE A
DREAM WHEN PEOPLE ARE NOT JUDGED
BY THE COLOUR OF THEIR SKIN, BUT
BY THE CONTENT OF THEIR
CHARACTER AS HE SAID, THAT'S
PRECISELY THE PRINCIPLE OF
LIBERAL DEMOCRACY AND IT'S
PRECISELY THE ONE THAT YOU
APPARENTLY THINK AT SOME POINT
WE GO BEYOND BEING NATURAL
BEINGS NO MATTER WHAT THE
QUALITY OF OUR MINDS OR
CONSCIOUSNESS OR PERSONALITY.
AND, FINALLY ACCORDING TO
BRIAN... NOVEL, RECENTLY, I
FORGET THE NAME, BUT IF YOU LOOK
UP BRIAN... MOST RECENT SCIENCE
FICTION NOVEL, HE'S GOT A
CHARACTER IN IT WHO IS LIVING
FOR A RADICALLY EXTENDED LIFE
SPAN AND HE'S A HISTORIAN AND HE
DECIDES TO WRITE A THOUSAND YEAR
BOOK PROJECT, A 10 VOLUME
HISTORY ON THE HISTORY OF DEATH
AND THE NOVEL GOES THROUGH THE
VARIOUS THINGS THAT HE WRITES
ABOUT.
AND, THOSE ARE THE KINDS OF
PROJECTS THAT WE WILL HAVE AS
OUR LIVES EXPAND.
WE WILL HAVE PROJECTS THAT GIVE
OUR LIVES MEANING, WE WILL BE
MORE COMMITTED TO THE ECOLOGY IF
WE'RE GOING TO BE AROUND LONGER
TO SEE THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR
ACTIONS.
WE WILL BE MORE COMMITTED TO THE
LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR
CHILDREN AND FOR THE FUTURE
GENERATIONS BECAUSE WE WILL
AROUND TO BE WITH THEM AND THEY
WILL BE AROUND TO SUPPORT US IF
WE ACTUALLY MAINTAIN A
RETIREMENT SYSTEM.
SO, I THINK IT'S PRECISELY
RADICAL LIFE EXTENSION WHICH
WILL GUARANTEE US MORE SOCIAL
RESPONSIBILITY.

Margaret says BUT JAMES, DO YOU THINK
THERE'S ANYTHING ESSENTIAL, ANY
ESSENTIAL ESSENCE TO BEING
HUMAN?

James says NO, HUMAN IS NOT A
CATEGORY OF VALUE FOR ME, IT'S A
PERSON.
IF YOU ARE A SELF-AWARE BEING,
IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE
TO ME WHETHER YOU ARE IN A GREAT
APE, WHETHER YOU'RE IN A HUMAN
BODY, WHETHER YOU'RE IN A
COMPUTER.
NOW, THE QUESTIONS OF WHETHER WE
CAN ACTUALLY FIGURE OUT IF
THINGS THAT ARE IN COMPUTERS OR
CODED IN COMPUTERS ARE SELF-
AWARE BEINGS, THAT A VERY
COMPLICATED ONE.
BUT, I THINK THAT THIS, AS PETER
SINGER EARLIER, WE TALKED ABOUT
EARLIER, UM PETER SINGER HAS
ARGUED VERY COGENTLY THAT WE
SHOULD BE EXTENDING HUMAN RIGHTS
TO GREAT APES BECAUSE THEY
EXHIBIT ALL OF THE QUALITIES
THAT WE CONSIDER TO BE NECESSARY
FOR -- BEING A RIGHTS BEARING
BEING.
UM, AT LEAST THE RIGHT, NOT TO
BE EXPERIMENTED ON AND THE RIGHT
NOT TO BE KILLED FOR HUMAN
PLEASURE.

Margaret says DID YOU KNOW THAT
NEW ZEALAND HAS JUST DONE THAT?

James says YES, AND I'M...
ABSOLUTE SUPPORT IT, IT'S A
WONDERFUL LAW.

Watch: James Hughes and Margaret Somerville on life extension