Google’s new venture to “tackle” the “challenge” of aging was the subject of an op-ed in The New York Times Sunday Review on December 1 by Daniel Callahan, cofounder and President Emeritus of The Hastings Center. Google recently announced the formation of a company called Calico that will focus on aging and associated diseases. “But there is a more ambitious possibility: to ‘treat’ the aging process itself, in an attempt to slow it,” writes Callahan, who is 83.
Even if science, with the aid of Big Data, radically extends our lifespan, and even if individuals want to live longer, Callahan argues that “aging is a public issue with social consequences, and these must be thought through.”
Among those consequences are an increase in the incidence of age-related chronic diseases and an associated increase in health care costs. “Historically, the longer lives that medical advances have given us have run exactly parallel to the increase in chronic illness and the explosion in costs,” he writes. “Can we possibly afford to live even longer – much less radically longer?”
If we could slow aging in a way that preserves good health, Callahan questions the social benefits. Speaking from personal experience, he concludes, “Adding years to a life doesn’t necessarily make it any fuller.