Would you choose to live longer than anybody else or first help others to do so?

Forget everything you know about the complexity of interventions giving you indefinite healthy lifespan and imagine for the sake of a thought experiment that accidentally you have found a pill giving you this feature, but only you. Would you swallow that pill?

Taking the pill would mean you would be slowly but definitely outlive anybody else within humankind. In fact you would become the last person of your species assuming you manage to not die due to external causes.

Would you swallow that pill?

If yes, what kind of reason could you possibly come up with that can help you bear the responsibility? Would you think: Hey, I’m going to become the guardian of humankind and use my ability to help as many as I can.

But in this thought experiment nobody has granted you super-strength, super cognitive abilities and superpowers of any kind. Indefinitely long life does not come bundled together with indefinitely augmented capacities. So no utilitarian calculus could correctly compute why you and just you should be the one swallowing the pill.

How about saving humankind by saving yourself for later and become last person on Earth?

Sounds cool in theory but still no reason why it should be you and exactly you taking that pill. There might be people better fit for that role.

How about the principle of life’s default positivity introduced here, the strong belief that ‘it is good simply to be alive’, could this give you enough incentive to digest the pill right away without further consideration?

I’ve already suggested one restriction of this principle, applied to ‘dying’. Here am going to use a broader interpretation of the principle to suggest another restriction of its usage to argue why you should not swallow the pill. The original formulation of the principle is generally framed, so the interpretation is not ‘X says it is good simply to be alive for X’ but rather ‘it is good simply to be alive for everyone (including ourselves)’, except when ‘dying’ and being helpless about it. So while one can possibly establish some sort of survival ethos based on this principle in a ‘last person on Earth’ situation, this moral justification cannot be derived from this principle when it is about access to life and choosing yourself over somebody else. So the principle fails to single you out, the founder of the pill as the morally justified user of that pill. Still it is not reasonable to choose yourself as the person justified to keep the pill all for yourself. And this way we are back to square one; why you, why not somebody else?

So how about somebody else then? Offering the pill to somebody else makes sense through the lens of ‘life’s default positivity’, while throwing the pill away does not. The question stays open when it comes to figuring out the algorithm picking up the fortunate (or unfortunate?) person for whom the pill will be offered first. Actually you better come up with an ordering mechanism and a list of people cause chances are other people on the list will pass on the opportunity and suggest somebody else. But today it is not my job to elaborate on this.

In order to make my point we are now leaving behind the hypothetical pill scenario to generalise with respect to the rise of Open Healthspan technologies, providing people longer and healthier lives by counteracting the biological aging process. All I wanted to argue for in terms of a potential access to these emerging Open Healthspan technologies is that we have a reason to offer these technologies to others first. Or at least make it possible for others to access it the same time as us, in case we happen to have privileged access. I’m not talking about the first guinea pigs of these interventions, think about actual medical treatments and drugs and safety trials with considerable risks. Think consumer access to these technologies. Maybe we can argue that once you have access to these interventions as a consumer you need to turn other volunteers consumers first, or at least at the same time as you.

This is the first post where I’m using a bit of the communitarian critics of liberal political philosophy as an inspiration to account for community access to Open Lifespan. Expect more along these lines.