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Emma Heikkinen

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Is is ethical to try to lengthen the human lifespan?

My concerns about the ethics of trying to lengthen the human lifespan are partly related to overpopulation, poverty and famine and also the demographic changes it would cause. We've just hit 7 billion people on this planet and continue to reproduce.

My other aspect on the ethical side of this is that isn't is a bit selfish to try to live longer and longer? Are the medical and genetic engineering projects to lengthen the human lifespan the modern search for Philosopher's stone and the ultimate sign of our fear of death?

Please share your thoughts and knowledge and ask more questions!


Closing Statement from Emma Heikkinen

Thanks for everyone for contributing to this conversation! I could not be happier that my first TED conversation got replies and actually gave me some very fruitful thoughts also. Happy holidays everyone!

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    Dec 19 2011: Zdenek, you wrote that "I think the real problem with the good use of resources are not necessarily individuals but rather governments that spend trillions of dollars on wars, false security measures and laws that aid big corporations rather than the public".

    You are right, of course - except that it's not the one or the other. Governments make their own mistakes, particularly when they don't have democratic feedback. When they do get that feedback, however, you very often see politicians get into power on the strength of their short-term promises. That is one of the main reasons why countries run up debt.

    The biggest US problem right now is not the wars, or the debt as such, but the way the debt is increasing mainly because health care spending is out of control. Health care is nice. Everyone loves it, and wants to spare no expense when they feel they "need" it (or their loved ones). The problem is that all those costs add up. To say it (over)simply: We are bankrupting our kids and grandkids, in order to keep ourselves and our parents alive. And in order to save money, we're not even giving our kids the kinds of education that might have enabled them to pay the debt off.

    Atul Gawande wrote a brilliant article about the mechanics and psychology of health care spending a couple of years back, called "The Cost Conundrum". It depicts a medical system that has gone half the way towards where Law is now (I'm a lawyer). The only way out of this mess is to spend more sparingly and wisely. Europe manages to run health care systems that are much cheaper, and not that much worse.

    We also need to start reconciling ourselves with death.

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