What if we didn't have to grow old and die? The average American can expect to live for 78.8 years, an improvement over the days before clean water and vaccines, when life expectancy was closer to 50, but still not long enough for most of us. So researchers around the world have been working on arresting the process of aging through biotechnology and finding cures to diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer. What are the ethical and social consequences of radically increasing lifespans? Should we accept a "natural" end, or should we find a cure to aging?
Aubrey de Grey
A true maverick Aubrey de Grey, the editor-in-chief of the journal Rejuvenation Science and co-author of the 2007 book Ending Aging, challenges the most basic assumption underlying the human condition â€”that aging is inevitable. He argues instead that aging is a disease --one that can be cured if it's approached as "an engineering problem." His plan calls for identifying all the components that cause human tissue to age, and designing remedies for each of them â€”forestalling disease and eventually pushing back deathâ€¦providing for an indefinite lifespan. He calls this approach Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).
Ian Ground, PhD, has taught philosophy in a range of roles, including senior lecturer in philosophy, at the universities of Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and Edinburgh. A specialist in making philosophical ideas accessible to the wider public, and in enabling people to think critically about current ideas and trends, he has been an innovator in the sectors of adult education and lifelong learning. Ground has won awards for Teaching Innovation and the UK’s National Award in Lifelong Learning. He has published in the philosophy of mind, especially our understanding of animal minds, in the philosophy of art, and on the thought and life of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. His books include Art or Bunk?, Can We Understand Animal Minds?, and Portraits of Wittgenstein, a comprehensive collection of memoirs. He is currently a member of the executive committee of the British Wittgenstein Society and teaches in the Department of Fine Art at Newcastle University.
Brian K. Kennedy, PhD, is the CEO and president of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. His innovative work in the biology of aging began as a doctoral student at MIT, where he took part in groundbreaking studies under the guidance of Leonard Guarente, PhD. Currently, he studies the pathways that modulate longevity in life forms ranging from yeast to mice, particularly the rapamycin (TOR) pathway. One of his lab’s goals is to determine whether such pathways can be regulated to treat the diseases of aging. Previously, he was in the biochemistry department at the University of Washington in Seattle. Since 2006, he has served on the National Institutes of Health Cellular Mechanisms of Aging and Development study section and on the grant review committee for American Federation for Aging Research Grants. He has published more than 60 manuscripts in journals, including Cell, Nature, and Science, is an associate editor for the Journal of Gerontology, and consults for biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
Paul Root Wolpe
Paul Root Wolpe, PhD, is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics, the Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics, a professor in the departments of medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and sociology, and the director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University. He also serves as the first senior bioethicist for NASA. A futurist interested in social dynamics, Wolpe’s work focuses on the impact of technology on the human condition. He is considered one of the founders of the field of neuroethics, and his teaching and publications range across multiple fields of bioethics and sociology, including death and dying. The co-editor of the American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB), Wolpe sits on the editorial boards of over a dozen journals on medicine and ethics. Previously at UPenn for 20 years, he has served as president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and is a fellow of the Hastings Center.