All posts tagged aging

The Party of Death?

Ramesh Ponnuru, a somewhat respectable conservative, has published a book titled “The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life”.
I have nothing newsworthy to say about the claim that the Democrats are a party of death. What puzzles me is why Republicans think they should be considered opponents of a culture of death. I haven’t heard any leading Republicans criticize Leon Kass, who recently served as chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics under Bush, for statements such as:

the finitude of human life is a blessing for every individual, whether he knows it or not.

See this article for a longer version of his argument that people ought to die.
I wonder if what Ponnuru really means is that the Democrats are a party of unnatural death, whereas the Republicans are a party of natural death.

Book Review: Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever by Ray Kurzweil, Terry Grossman
This book provides a lot of interesting ideas for improving your health, but it is a bit too ambitious and I’m often left wondering whether they researched a particular idea well even that I should respect their opinion. They often seem to be more interested in showing off how many different topics they know something about than they are on focusing on the most important steps that a typical reader should be taking.
They are somewhat biased toward technological solutions, but occasionally surprise me with other approaches, such as pointing out some clear evidence that some kinds of meditation improve longevity.
I’m fairly suspicious of their advice about aluminum. It’s unclear why we should consider aluminum dangerous enough to be worth worrying about, but if it is then choosing the right baking powder and antacids are at least as important as the aluminum sources the book mentions (minor gripe: the index doesn’t have entries for aluminum or metals). Parts of the book leaves me wondering whether a close examination would reveal similar questionable aspects to their advice.

Social Security was created based on the premise that people of certain ages are unable to support themselves due to poor and declining health. Yet Aubrey de Grey has made a fairly strong argument that this bad health can be cured (see Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), so that the elderly will be as healthy as the young.
Since it’s probably inevitable that the government will end up paying for the initial round of anti-aging treatments, why not make government payments for such treatments conditional on the beneficiary leaving the Social Security system? This would probably save the government enough that it would be worthwhile for it to speed the research up by offering a few billion dollars in prizes for people who complete milestones such as extending the lifespans of lab animals.
There’s a good deal of doubt as to how many decades it will take to produce a good enough cure (and some ambiguity as to how good a cure would need to be to qualify). But the a combination of Aubrey de Grey’s arguments and those of Rob Freitas and Eric Drexler suggest that there’s a very good chance that it can be done before Social Security is expected to collapse. And anyone who thinks Congress might turn Social Security into a system that is certain to remain solvent is drastically overestimating the reliability of demographic forecasts and/or the far-sightedness of Congress.