Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Socialism and Immortality

de-grey.jpgThe latest book by Aubrey De Grey, "Ending Aging" (St. Martin's Press, 2007), raises the mind-bogglingly provocative possibility that science may within 20 years be able to extend human life long enough to develop successive improvements in life-extending therapies, thus potentially rendering humans who undergo such treatments immortal. It all seems to hinge upon the much-anticipated ability to extend the lifespan of a middle-aged 2-year-old mouse to 5 years rather than the usual 3 using bioengineering techniques that would essentially clean up the junk that is produced within and outside their cells, as it is with ours, which is a normal byproduct of the metabolic process.

You can see a video of an introductory talk by Dr. De Grey briefly outlining his engineering approach to indefinitely extending the human life span.

Capitalist society, for all its extraordinary scientific developments, has long reached the point at which it increasingly limits the potentials to enjoying the fruits of such developments by the human race. It is this tension between the mode of production and the means of production that introduces a potentially revolutionary situation for our species. Socialists are encouraging fellow humans around the world to work to bring us all to the next level of social evolution. As these brief words are being typed, vast resources are being plundered on killing human beings in the Middle East for the control of other resources (e.g., petroleum). This murderous waste of resources and its complete disregard for either life itself or the quality of life reminds us all each day of how the ingenuity of science is criminally derailed in the interests of filling the coffers of the rich.

Even disregarding the lowest levels of human existence afforded to the billions of the human race that face the indignities and miseries of squalor (which means their crime is to possess an insufficient number of monetary pieces of paper while the planet's owning millions spend their mountainous pile of such papers on mansions and Hummers), health care most certainly takes second place to profit-making, especially in the United States. This is clear to all of us insured and non-insured alike, even if we had not seen Michael Moore's latest movie "Sicko." And those of us here in the United States who do not live in absolute poverty but still stress excessively over paying bills, or who enjoy insufficient time to spend with our children because of our overburdened work week, or who are incapable of paying off our mortgages, must surely ask ourselves almost every day: "is this the best life I could possibly have - subordinating my entire existence to the welfare of my employers, putting up with inexcusable affronts to my physical and emotional health while awaiting a comfortable future that never seems to quite arrive?"

Socialists insist that the solution to these very unnecessary problems is not another change in the leaders that emerge from the privileged class, as you are now being asked in the United States to start choosing for the 2008 presidential election - another irrelevancy for most of us - but rather a change in ownership and control of the means by which the wealth is designed, produced, and distributed from private or state to common. Socialists do not advocate state control, as others sometimes mistakenly imagine, or are frequently misinformed in the press. Rather, they advocate common ownership, which means a form of inclusive democracy in which all humans would be eligible to contribute to the decision-making process as well as enjoy the fruits of production. And such fruits, of course, include the products of scientific brilliance.

Today, researchers investigating cures of illnesses must fight like pigeons over crumbs to receive appropriate funding for their projects. This should be considered by all of us, and not just a visionary handful, the crime which it is, denying us all significantly improved medical benefits that we could be, but are not, enjoying today. A society of common ownership will mean that need prioritizes the allocation of resources. Thus, citizens desiring vast improvements in health would by that desire alone become eligible for vast influxes of human and material resources allocated to medical research on a level that would enormously dwarf the relative lack of importance placed upon it in these barbaric days in which only the ability to realize a relatively short-term profit draws corporate or governmental funding, and even then in insufficient amounts, as advocacy organizations for each medical condition describe in their newsletters in justifiably plaintive tones.

It is quite possible that had humans realized a society of common ownership back in 1904 when our movement began, science might already have eradicated most of the illnesses that plague us today. Yes, also possibly including the ability to enjoy youthful lifespans ten times those presently available, as proposed by Dr. De Grey! Whether or not Dr. De Grey is overly optimistic on this score, one thing that we socialists advocate is not only the prioritization of such vital research, but also a life of freedom and abundance for all human beings around the planet that would actually render it, whatever its length, supremely valued, rich and desirable.

-Dr. Who

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