Is Immortality an Ethical Issue?

Question: Describe an ethical dilemma you’ve faced in your life.

Aubrey de Grey: I’m not really a philosopher; I’m not really an ethicist, and it’s in particular I always get rather irritated when people suggest that there are ethical dilemmas associated with combating aging. I feel there are certainly plenty of psychological dilemmas – you know religious, economic and so on, but when it comes to the moral obligation or the moral issues plus or minus with regard to combating aging, I always feel that the issues are completely unequivocal, and really for me that’s been true throughout my life. I guess the best example I can use where it was a little bit of certainty was with regard to my views about whether God exists; you know whether I should be religious or not. On that really my decision was not to make a decision, so way back in my teens when this sort of thing is on people’s minds I guess I came to the conclusion that well okay what’s the difference; how would I run my life differently; how would I behave differently if I were religious versus if I were not religious, and I realized that there was no difference at all; that I already had decided that what I wanted to do with my life was to benefit humanity, to make a difference to the quality of life of people in general, and I realized that that’s fundamentally what scripture tells you to do in pretty much all religions. So I thought well okay why does it matter and therefore I have not in my view wasted my time trying to come to a decision on that.

Question: So you’re agnostic?

Aubrey de Grey: So I guess the best way to describe my own view is I’m agnostic.

Recorded on: October 2, 2009

There are plenty of psychological dilemmas when it comes to immortality, but the moral issues are unequivocal.

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