April 21, 2015

Where would a conservative come down on the notion of immortality?

The day-to-day political machinations of the two parties are of late, pretty banal. I've started thinking more about the future of conservatism as it relates to issues that are not yet fully formed.  In particular, what might conservatism's views on extending the human lifespan be?  Relatively recently Google announced it was trying to develop a fountain of youth.
...Google announced it was forming new subsidiary company known as Calico that “will focus on health and well-being in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases.” The exact whats and hows of Calico haven’t been made public, but the current Time magazine cover story, “Google vs Death,” describes it as a project that will “seriously attempt to extend [the] human lifespan.”

Immortality would certainly be in line with other big-idea "moonshots" such as self-driving cars, flying turbines, or free global Wi-Fi provided by balloons. While Calico will not be part of Google [X], the lab run by Sergey Brin where most of Google's more ambitious programs are born, CEO Larry Page commented, “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives."
Trying to determine a "correct " conservative viewpoint on the issue is foolish.  After all, a faith-based conservative might view it as sacrilege. However, a national security focused conservative might have an entirely different view, as would an economics-based conservative.  And with rare exception, no conservative is entirely a conservative of a single strain but rather a mixture of different conservative, libertarian and sometimes even liberal beliefs.

But the question of immortality, be it through genetic manipulation, or artificial intelligence/life or other means carries with it a host of ethical, spiritual, cultural, philosophical and personal questions.  For example, is it ethical to manipulate DNA? If the technology were available to extend our lifespan for centuries or even indefinitely, should it be available only to those who could afford to purchase it? Would that be 'fair'? And what about the impact on social services?  With more people being born and fewer people dying, what happens to social security?  Do we end up being employed for life (assuming we are and remain employable that long). What does it mean for us to play God? And who makes those decision, and based on what criteria? Do we actually end up with death panels?

The questions are too numerous and I've just started thinking about them in the last few moments. But the questions, like many others go far beyond the scope of current law.  They require a lot of consideration.  That said, they do not necessarily extend beyond the scope of the Constitution, and looking there (along with the Bible, should you be so inclined) is probably where most conservatives should think about starting as they search for answers.  That, and possibly consideration of  the inverse of "what wouldn't a liberal do?"

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