Martin van der Kroon
There is a lot of inequality in the world, from economic or wealth inequality to inequality of opportunity, to inequality that may have to do with ethnicity, biological sex, or gender. It is not a surprise when I say that we can do without new inequalities. This is exactly what some critics of transhumanism fear, that with the coming possibility of indefinite life-extension we will face lifespan inequality.
I think they are justified in their fears. Let’s take a step back and illustrate what that would look like, as for many indefinite life extension seems like science fiction, and at the moment it still is. What would a world with lifespan inequality look like?
(Spoilers for the movie In Time (2011) ahead)
Although often compared to society’s current situation of wealth inequality, the movie In Time might actually be more directly linked to a fear of lifespan inequality, for the obvious reason that the movie is about humans being able to buy ‘life-time’, but also have to spend it.
As per the In Time movie’s IMDB page: “In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. …”
In the movie the wealthy accumulate time as a means of profit, and by extension extra life time. The less fortunate have their daily lives, but are always close to their time running out. Obviously the chances of this exact scenario are slim, but the metaphor is apt nonetheless. Wealth can buy almost anything, and in a future where indefinite life extension is possible, the wealthy will want to buy this, too.
The problem we face is whether we end up getting into a situation similar to the movie In Time, the wealthy having time, and the poor almost always out of time, or whether we can create a framework to make life extension available and accessible to everyone, rich, poor, and everything in between.
The science and willingness to make indefinite life-extension possible are fascinating and amazing, but the critics are right that we have to tread carefully in how it may be applied.
This is a reason why, even if you otherwise do not consider yourself a transhumanist, you might wish to consider supporting the U.S. Transhumanist Party. As a political party looking towards the future, we strive to create a framework that makes available and accessible to all the possibility of indefinite life extension so that we may prevent another inequality from entering our world.
Martin van der Kroon is the Director of Recruitment for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.