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Meanwhile, in the 1600s… – Hypothetical Dialogue by Nicola Bagalà

Meanwhile, in the 1600s… – Hypothetical Dialogue by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by our guest Nicola Bagalà, originally published by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) on January 24, 2019. This article provides an example of a family in the 1600’s having to deal with their children contracting and dying from a fever to shed light on anyone’s contemporary contention for curing age-related diseases. It’s easy for most of us in today’s age to completely support innovation that heals another from their fever before they die, when many would have considered that vile and blasphemous hundreds of years ago. Hopefully we can learn from history and accept that curing all diseases through medical science and innovation is morally superior. 

~Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, July 1, 2019

Many people are at the very least iffy about the idea of extending human healthy lifespan through medical biotechnologies that prevent age-related diseases essentially by rejuvenating the body. Even people who accept the possibility that such therapies can be developed are not convinced that developing them is a good idea, and there are only a few arguments that most people use. These arguments can actually be easily adapted to make a case against the medicine that already exists, which the vast majority of people on the planet currently benefit from—and the consensus is virtually universal that people who do not yet benefit from it should be given this opportunity as soon as possible.

The question is: would people who accept these arguments as valid objections to rejuvenation accept them also as valid objections against “normal” medicine? For example, how many present-day people would agree with what these two people from the 1600’s are talking about?


A – Did you hear about John’s son?

B – Yes, he came down with a fever and never recovered. What a tragedy.

A – Indeed. He and his wife had lost three other children to a fever before.

B – Oh, that’s terrible. Did they try to ask for a doctor’s help?

A – They couldn’t afford it for the other children, but when a fourth one became ill, they were so desperate about it that they did all they could to find the money. Anyway, not even the doctor could save the child’s life, even with all the leeches and poultices at his disposal.

B – Of course, I know nothing about medicine, but sometimes I think doctors don’t either. Their practices are a bit… scary, and as far as I have heard, most people they treat die anyway.

A – That may be, but doctors still have the best wisdom and techniques, at least for those who can afford them.

B – Who knows, maybe one day, doctors will actually know how to cure us for real. It could be as simple as drinking a potion or eating some sort of biscuit containing specific medicinal herbs, and in a few days, you’re back on your feet, no matter the disease.

A – That seems like fantasy to me. Doctors have existed for centuries, and they never managed to perform such miracles. If this were at all possible with knowledge and technique alone, wouldn’t one of them have managed to do so by now? Besides, perhaps it is for the best to leave things the way they are; doctors have gone far enough into God’s domain, and I don’t even want to imagine what would happen if they went even farther.

B – That is true. Surely, there must be a reason for all the diseases that plague us. Common folks are more affected, true, but they also take nobles on occasion. It’s difficult to say if this is because commoners sin more than nobles and that this is God’s way of punishing them or because they are more pious and God wants to call them to Himself sooner, but it is obvious that the will of Providence is at play.

A – Exactly. But I think there is more than this to it. Maybe the reason why diseases exist is to make our lives less miserable. Maybe they are blessings in disguise.

B – I don’t understand. They do cause a lot of suffering, not only to the diseased but also their families.

A – That is true, but how much more suffering would they endure if they went on living, especially among us commoners? It might explain why diseases affect common people more than the nobility. They live better lives, so it makes sense for them to live longer and enjoy it; but what about us? Our lives are harder and deprived of all the comforts and luxuries that rich people can afford. Is it worth living longer for us?

B – You speak truth, and I also think that if, one day, doctors will really be able to cure everyone of certain ailments, this will only make poor people’s lives worse. Very few people can afford the services of doctors even though they aren’t of much use; imagine how expensive it would be if they actually could cure you! Rich people would be healthy, and the rest of us would simply have to die knowing that they could be saved if only they had the money.

A – You are right, it is definitely better if there is no cure for anyone rather than a cure that is only for some. But, still, I dream of a day when medicine eventually becomes cheaper, or maybe the commoners won’t be so poor.

B – A day when even the likes of you and me could live in a fairly comfortable house, with our basic necessities covered, without having to work so hard every day to bring just a little food to the table, and while being able to afford the services of a doctor whenever we need one? You dream of Heaven on Earth, friend; it won’t happen until Judgment Day.

A – We won’t be able to achieve this ourselves, even centuries from now?

B – Again, it hasn’t happened until now, I don’t see why it should happen later. Even if it did, the consequences would be even more dire. It’s hard enough as it is to produce enough food for everyone, and if doctors could cure all diseases and everyone was able to afford these cures, there would be far too many mouths to feed. Therefore, in His infinite wisdom, the good God has decided that some of us must fall prey to disease.

A – I see your point, but in such a world where doctors can treat all ailments with their own knowledge, maybe we would be able to produce more food with less work, so that hundreds of millions, maybe even billions, could eat every day, while farming would not be as laborious.

B – You sure have a wild imagination! And how could that be accomplished, pray tell?

A – Perhaps there might be more machines that do work in place of animals, faster and better. Possibly even in place of people.

B – Machines that work the fields without a person maneuvering them? Walking water mills? Clockwork horses? Oh! How about a sewing machine to go with our spinning wheel? My wife would love such a thing, if it could ever exist.

A – We have some machines for some tasks. Why could we not have more?

B – Because they could never work, that’s why. I sure hope you’re never going to talk such nonsense with others, because not everyone has my sense of humor.

A – Maybe you are right. It was a bit of a stretch; windmills and water mills must sit where they are, after all. Diseases may be a necessary evil, as well. I’ve seen people who survived ailments like the one that killed John’s son, and as they grew older, their lives became more and more miserable. Old age was killing them more slowly and with far more cruelty than fever or plague. A poor old man dies on the street if he has no family to care for him or if his family cannot afford it. I would rather die the way John’s son did, surrounded by my loved ones, than as a crippled old man begging under a bridge.

B – Now you’re talking sense, and this is probably one of the most compelling reasons why we should leave diseases alone. Again, maybe it makes sense for the royalty to live that long, because they will not end up dying like old beggars, but for the rest of us, that would be a curse.

A – True. Besides, I suppose that at some point, one would get tired of living and would rather go. I guess this must be why even people who don’t die early in life eventually die of old age; even if you are part of the upper class, what can you possibly look forward to after you’ve seen your children and grandchildren grow up? Even if you know how to read and have a taste for music and the theatre, there are only so many books and so many composers and playwrights.

B – Precisely.

A – Yes, while being able to cure diseases might appear to be a good thing at first, when you think about it, you realize that it would not be.

B – Indeed, and this is what we must always remind ourselves of when disease does strike and sorrow makes us lose our objectivity.


The arguments presented by our two friends from the 1600’s are fundamentally the same ones that a lot of people bring up when they try to rationalize and justify the diseases of old age, saying that the defeat of aging might, at first, appear to be a good thing, but would actually not be that good after all. However, given the knowledge we have today, it is very easy to counter their arguments; in any event, not too many people would agree that the conversation above would have made a good case against vaccines and modern medicine, which have brought infectious diseases under strict control and save countless lives that would otherwise be lost on a daily basis.

Just like the arguments in the conversation above would not be a valid reason to give up on the medicine we are used to, they are not a reason to give up on the medicine of the future—the rejuvenation biotechnologies that might soon prevent and reverse the course of age-related diseases. Claiming otherwise is nothing but a double standard.

Nicola Bagalà is a bit of a jack of all trades—a holder of an M.Sc. degree in mathematics; an amateur programmer; a hobbyist at novel writing, piano and art; and, of course, a passionate life extensionist. After his interest in the science of undoing aging arose in 2011, he gradually shifted from quiet supporter to active advocate in 2015, first launching his advocacy blog Rejuvenaction before eventually joining LEAF. These years in the field sparked an interest in molecular biology, which he actively studies. Other subjects he loves to discuss to no end are cosmology, artificial intelligence, and many others—far too many for a currently normal lifespan, which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension.

Choose Your Own Story – by Nicola Bagalà

Choose Your Own Story – by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: In this set of short stories originally published by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), Nicola Bagalà illustrates  through convincing scenarios of possible futures why we should take seriously research and activism into rejuvenation biotechnology. It may make the difference between our own survival and flourishing into the indefinite future, or the painful suffering and demise that currently accompany old age.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 30, 2018


Today, I would like to tell you two short stories describing what your far future might look like, depending on the choices that you—though not only you—will make in the near future. Feel free to leave a comment to let others know which one you’d rather have as your real future.

Story 1: A day in 2140

The blinds in your bedroom slowly whirr open, as a gentle melody gradually fills the environment. Ferdinand—your AI assistant, to whom you decided to give a far less extravagant name than most other people do—informs you that it’s 7:30, your bath is ready, and so will be your usual breakfast once you’re done in the bathroom. Getting up that early is never too easy, but your morning walk in the park is always worth it, because it puts you in a good mood.

As you enter the bathroom, you step into the health scanner, and, after a few seconds, a couple of charts and several biomarkers show up on the display—the final report says that you’re a perfectly healthy 137-year-old whose biological age is about 26. It’d be enough by itself, but you think the charts and the data look cool; Ferdinand knows that.

You’ve got one of those awesome bathrooms with HyperReal WallScreens—well, nearly everyone does anyway—so today you’re taking your bath in the rainforest. As you enjoy your hydromassage, you’re listening to the latest news; your heart almost skips a beat when you hear that the Stephen Hawking Deep Space Telescope, the one that NASA and the African Space Agency sent pretty much to the edge of the solar system, has finally confirmed earlier observations: JSS “Jessie” 431 c, an exoplanet 95 light-years away, harbors multicellular life. They’d been chasing “Jessie” for a while, and now the chase is over; it’s an unprecedented discovery, and while it took surprisingly long to finally get this data, this is a world-changing breakthrough, and it leaves you yelling and splashing around in joy embarrassingly loudly. As you quickly get out of the tub, you imagine that all the geeks at work won’t be talking about anything else.

Your breakfast, freshly out of your molecular assembler, is as delicious and tailored to your specific nutritional needs as Ferdinand got you used to, but you’re too hyped today to spend too much time eating. Ferdinand casts a virtual, disapproving glance at you as you quickly gobble your food up and leave the flat. Your usual walk is cancelled as well, you think as you get into the elevator, because you’re too eager to discuss the news at work. As Ferdinand leaves room for Alice—the building’s AI janitor—you look through the glass walls of the cabin, gaining inspiration from the several other elegant skyscrapers towering over your beautiful city. After a quick descent from the 87th floor, you’re finally on the ground and ready for the commute to work—a quick trip of about 400 kilometers, which, when you were in your 20s for real, would’ve been anything but quick.

At the time, the world was so very different, you think to yourself. Take work, for example: your life depended on it, in pretty much the literal sense of the word. Nowadays, although the word “work” stuck, it is just something you really enjoy doing and you’re good at, and people look back at the whole “having to earn a living” idea in pretty much the same way as they looked at hunter-gatherer tribes when you were a child. It’s unnerving to think that you could’ve missed all of this by a hair’s breadth; when you were in your early 20s, the social movement for the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies really started to pick up, and therapies eventually followed suit. If it hadn’t—and that might well have been—right now you’d be six feet under, just like your poor grandma. She’d have loved the world today, your father always says.

Anyway, there’s no time to get melancholic now; another great day awaits you.

Story 2: A day in 2078

If this story had the same year as the previous one, it’d be very short: you’re dead, and you’ve long been such. The end. However, that’s not how it’s titled, so it is going to be a little longer than that. Whether that’s better or not, I’ll leave up to you to decide.

You wake up in your hospital bed to the beeping coming from multiple monitors and sensors, which by now have become your most consistent companions. It’s not even morning: you fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon, and now that you think about it, some of your family was there with you. Probably, as you fell asleep, they decided it was best to let you rest.

Not that you’re that much awake, anyway. You feel barely conscious, and most of what you can feel is either pain or tiredness. Up until a month or two ago, you could still sort of manage with some difficulty, although with the help of your caregiver or your children, but then everything changed. You’ve been waking up in the same hospital bed ever since you passed out that day, and one of the first things you heard when you woke up right after they brought you in was that, at 92 years old, you’re lucky to be still alive.

You’d like to know what time it is, but you can’t quite make out the clock on the wall nor any of the screens around you. You could ask the computer in the room, if you had any breath left, but you don’t. If nothing else, it probably has alerted the doctors that you’re awake, and maybe someone will turn up soon. Spending energy to push the damn button doesn’t seem worth it, what’s the point, anyway, you wonder—today might well be your last day, and given the outlook, it’d be as good a day to go as any.

That’s too bad, though, you think, saddened. You’d really have wanted to see your great-grandkids grow up, and all in all, the world has surprised you, turning out much better than you expected. Not perfect, granted, but you’re genuinely curious to know how things will change in the coming decades, with all these advancements in technology and science—and the overall political situation looks okay, too. Well, looks like you’ll be taking your curiosity to the grave with you, because these advancements didn’t happen quite everywhere in science, nor did the bureaucrats do much to make them happen. Tough luck.

Bitterly, you think this was at least a little bit your fault too. You didn’t do much to make them happen either. When you were in your early thirties, there was a lot of talk about rejuvenation biotechnology, and the talk intensified somewhat by your late thirties, but the whole thing never really saw the light of day. Oh, you tell yourself, it’ll happen eventually, but not any time soon. It certainly didn’t happen in time to spare yourself what you’re going through right now—thankfully, it’s almost over.

Back in the day, you were in the “unsure” camp, tending to “best not to mess with nature.” In hindsight, you’re not so sure you actually agreed with that view; possibly, you only said so because so many other people said the same and you didn’t feel like being one of those fruitcakes who wanted to change everything, or something like that—what the heck, that was 60 years ago and the memories are foggy. You do remember, though, that when you saw your own parents go through an ordeal very similar to yours, some thirty years ago, the thought that you might have misjudged the “fruitcakes” crossed your mind, but it was already too late.

Unfortunately, by then, populist discourse appealing to the cycle of life, a bunch of other, supposedly more important issues, and “the future of our children” had won over the crowd, and rejuvenation research had taken a back seat, making way for better services for the elderly instead; they’re not bad, but maybe, if a choice was available between better machines to take you to the toilet and drugs that kept you able to walk there on your own, the latter might have been preferable.

The future for your great-grandchildren is similarly rosy, as they get to watch their own parents and grandparents turn into almost-vegetables and then die, not to mention the financial burden—not just on individual families, but the world as well. With so many old and dependent people, and fewer and fewer young people, the economy doesn’t look so okay. The way they’re going about this is by offering financial incentives for families with kids, which, coming from the very same people who opposed rejuvenation for fear of overpopulation among other things, is quite ironic.

Maybe, you tell yourself, you should’ve listened. Maybe you should have taken the whole issue more seriously and helped the early advocates somehow, rather than having dismissed the idea of rejuvenation. Maybe, if you had helped, and if others had too, it’ll have happened in time to save you, or at least your children—they’re in their sixties and seventies now, and if rejuvenation didn’t happen in the past sixty years, despite the initial wave of enthusiasm, you can bet that it isn’t going to happen in the next twenty years when nearly nobody cares.

You turn your head slightly towards the door. Nothing. No one’s coming, but then again, you’ve only been awake for ten minutes tops, and the doctors have got plenty of other geriatric patients in this wing. Your eyelids are becoming heavy again, and as you won’t accomplish much by staying awake anyway, you decide to let them go down. Who knows if they’ll open again.

Both of these stories are fictional, though the first one contains more fiction than the second, because it describes a future that might or might not come to be. The first story is perhaps overly optimistic and even a tad too Star Trek-ish for your taste, but it’s just my happy story—you are free to replace it with whatever positive future you’d like to see. It’s just a possible scenario, and for all we know, the future might be nothing like that and more like a dystopia. It’s hard to tell for a fact.

However, the second story contains much more reality than the first, because it’s pretty much what it means to be in your 90s these days; depending on a number of factors, even being in your 70s and 80s can be not much better, even if you’re not bedridden. Unless we do something about it today, a story similar to this will be our story—your story—too, just like stories of infectious diseases killing millions would’ve still been very much current even today if we hadn’t done anything to change those stories before they could unfold.

I’ve already chosen my favorite version of the story a long time ago. The question is, which one is yours?

About Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà has been an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of rejuvenation science since 2011. Although his preferred approach to treating age related diseases is Aubrey de Grey’s suggested SENS platform, he is very interested in any other potential approach as well. In 2015, he launched the blog Rejuvenaction to advocate for rejuvenation and to answer common concerns that generally come with the prospect of vastly extended healthy lifespans. Originally a mathematician graduated from Helsinki University, his scientific interests range from cosmology to AI, from drawing and writing to music, and he always complains he doesn’t have enough time to dedicate to all of them which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension. He’s also a computer programmer and web developer. All the years spent learning about the science of rejuvenation have sparked his interest in biology, in which he’s planning to get a university degree.