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Ooh, let me post my comment from the last time this was posted here back in 2015:

One day, an anti-dragonist on a speaking tour visited a town. When he arrived, most of the town's inns were already full, and he had to make do with a small room in a small in in a run-down part of the town. The next morning, he stood outside the inn on his soap box and told people about how the dragon could be defeated. A small crowd gathered around him. When he had finished speaking, a woman asked: "My children are hungry. My husband went off to war against the tigers and never came back. How does killing the dragon help them?"

"Well, they too will one day be fed to the dragon!"

"But they are hungry now. My baby is very weak. She cries all the time. Even if she doesn't die, she's going to grow up stunted."

"I'm sure you can find a way. Anyway, I'm here to talk about the dragon, it's..."

Another interrupted him: "My son was killed by the king's men three weeks ago. They laughed as they cut him down. No one will hear my case."

"Well, I'm sure they had a good reason. Your son was probably a criminal."

Another said: "My family beats me because I don't want to marry the man they chose for me. Right now, I wouldn't mind being eaten."

"Listen. I'm not interested in the problems of you little people. They're not my problems, and anyway, you're probably lying, or exaggerating, or just not trying hard enough. But I'm scared of the dragon, because the dragon's going to eat everyone, including me. So we should concentrate on that, don't you agree?"

And the people rolled their eyes and walked away.




For every one person working on addressing aging and death, thousands are looking at other problems. Nobody is advocating that every other problem should be ignored, simply that we could stand to adjust the balance.

(Apart from that, I'd say that the caricature you're depicting is not particularly good at responding to people in a productive or endearing way, which is unrelated to the problem itself.)


>> Nobody is advocating that every other problem should be ignored, simply that we could stand to adjust the balance.

Nick Bostrom's article is advocating exactly that:

Instead of a massive publicly-funded research program to halt aging, we spend almost our entire health budget on health-care and on researching individual diseases.

He seems to be saying that if we halt ageing, we'll stop dying from other disease, or in any case that ageing is more important than any other disease.


The fact that you are more likely to die of every other disease after the age of 30 is a direct consequence of aging. It is more important than any other disease. Also, that quote does not say that every other disease should be ignored, only that we should spend less than 100% of our budget on them.


Here's the entire quote:

(3) Administration became its own purpose. One seventh of the economy went to dragon-administration (which is also the fraction of its GDP that the U.S. spends on healthcare). Damage-limitation became such an exclusive focus that it made people neglect the underlying cause. Instead of a massive publicly-funded research program to halt aging, we spend almost our entire health budget on health-care and on researching individual diseases.

He's equating the spending on health care with the "dragon-administration" that he describes as a pointless, misguided task. So he believes we shouldn't be spending that money on that sort of task, i.e. the US should not be spending a seventh of its economy on healthcare, because that's just "damage limitation".

He's further saying that instead of "a massive publicly-funded research program to halt aging" we're spending that money on "researching individual diseases". In other words, he thinks that that money would be best spent on that "massive publicly-funded research program". Else, what's the meaning of "instead"?

Bostrom's belief is that halting ageing will cure all other disease. According to his allegory, ageing is the one big disease that kills everyone eventually. So if we cure it, we save everyone. Therefore, we should be working to cure ageing and abandon all attempts to cure all other diseases. That's the morale of the story: don't bother with tigers and snakes ("individual diseases"), don't bother with dragon-administration (healthcare), just kill the dragon, save the world.

Note that he's saying all that quite straight-faced, completely ignoring infant deaths (5.6 million under-fives died in 2016) and deaths of people in young age, i.e. many millions of deaths that have nothing to do with ageing and that a magic immortality pill will never get the chance to help in the first place, because they will be dead long before it can stop them from ageing. He's not explaining how a cure for senescence will cure or prevent infections, or genetic diseases, either.

His whole point is completely illogical, irrational, and it's obvious that even people who broadly support it have not really realised what the heck that guy's talking about.


His point is if you could keep the vast majority of the population to a biological age of less than 30, you wouldn't need the vast majority of health care.


That statement seems to me to simply state a fact, and suggest taking a different approach. That doesn't mean we should halt all research on anything else.

There certainly exist quite a number of diseases that have nothing to do with aging. On the other hand, there also exist quite a few health problems, including many that represent a substantial fraction of healthcare spending, that do relate to age-related degeneration. Taking that into account would produce a better allocation of resources.


I think the point of the conversation is also to point out that if there is no fear of death, and population keeps growing, it is possible that quality of life of average humanity goes down.

Of course, multiple factors can contribute to that, including induced "laziness" in large sections of society due to infiniteness of life.


Population growth is driven by birth rate, not death rate. Even slaughtering everyone at the age of 100 only delays the overpopulation problem (by less than two decades) if indeed there is an overpopulation problem.




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