I was invited to give a talk at the Institute of Philosophy, Eotvos University, Budapest, on the 25th of October. The talk is going to be a joint Theoretical Philosophy Forum (TPF) and Student and Faculty Seminar on Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics (LaPom). I’d like to thank Professor László E. Szabó and András Máté for the invitation. The nature of the seminar gives me a great opportunity to focus on the theoretical problems concerning to the philosophy of biomedical sciences, so on the aging part of the aging/longevity complex, that is the underlying core of the Open Lifespan studies.
Please see talk, abstract and short bio below.
Currently, most people spend the last decades of their lives fighting multiple, chronic, age-associated diseases, compromising their life plans.
Scientific breakthroughs have arrived in the last decades in terms of understanding the major molecular and cellular processes behind biological aging and in the last 5-6 years a strong scientific consensus emerging around the comprehensivity of this list on one hand and the malleability of human longevity on the other. Treatments and interventions are currently under development to counteract these processes in order to extend healthspan and slow down biological aging.
In politics, there’s now a new single-issue movement, longevity politics, prioritising healthy longevity research and interventions.
These three changes concerning aging/longevity, a societal, a scientific and a political invoke further philosophical reflection.
The talk will focus on presenting new biomedical knowledge related to biological aging targeted to an unexposed audience and then phrase emerging conceptual problems as clearly as possible. The aim is stating the problematics, in which philosophy is traditionally good at, not providing the solutions.
The introduction provides the basic vocabulary of the talk and a map of different aging concepts are drawn.
The first 3, connected parts of the talk, the bulk of the material, tap into what can be called as the philosophy of the biomedical sciences. First the highlights of state of the art molecular biogerontology are presented. Next, some of the offered biomedical aging definitions are analysed from a conceptual point of view. Attempts to properly define biological aging has a versatile and challenging history. We are trying to look into why is that so with a focus on the hardship due to trying to conceptually handle biological aging as a singular, when it is so hopelessly plural and broad spectrum. Third, the conceptual connection between biological aging, health and disease are investigated.
The second, smaller, part of the talk goes into the practical relevance of the more theoretical considerations in the first part and it can be dubbed as philosophy of technology. Here some arguments are discussed on why interventions trying to slow, stop or reset the biological aging process cannot be considered enhancements but rather, treatments.
Finally, the author’s Open Lifespan book project is sketched, introducing its main methodological vehicle, the Open Lifespan thought experiment and upper limit possible world. The main point is to carve out a separate conceptual space and angle for the possibility of an indefinitely long, open-ended healthy lifespan, while constantly limiting this scenario with the reality of biomedical technology. This position comes sharply in-between the all too familiar current closed lifespan scenarios, underestimating possible and probable biomedical trajectories and the biomedically impossible immortality scenarios favoured by philosophers, intellectual influencers, transhumanists and mainstream journalists, grossly overestimating what’s possible.
Attila has picked the problem of aging and the corresponding project of healthy longevity as his exclusive professional motivation at the age of 14. The rest is a compartmentalised follow-up on this early commitment integrated into one human life, wearing different hats at different times: mitochondrial and stem cell research, bioinformatics, proteomics, philosophy, business and political advocacy. Attila’s philosophy MS thesis (ELTE BTK, 2004), jointly supervised by Gyorgy Bence and Janos Kis, investigated some of the philosophical consequences of living significantly longer and healthier lives through systemic regenerative medicine. He lives in Cambridge, UK.