The greatest good for the individual ?= the greatest harm for all

By Stephen. June 29th, 2010

In my last post, I pointed out that an apparently unambiguous good (reducing infant mortality)was the primary cause of an arguably unambiguous harm: the last century’s massive increase in world population. Much the same applies to ending aging. (Though with an additional twist as pointed out by Flyss. We’ll get to that.)

For an individual personally, as well as those that individual cares about, ending the “symptoms” of aging and greatly postponing death will almost always be received as a good. Certainly, we would have given a great deal to save Glenn’s life. But this local good is a global harm; for the world at large, the consequences of significant life extension would be dire.

More precisely: Will be dire. Because this will happen. Death and aging are surely on their way out, whether slowly or quickly.

This could be described as a sort of equation not universally applicable but of considerable validity in certain goods conflicts, in particular this one.

The greatest good for the individual (not dying) ≡ The greatest harm for all (far, far too many people)

Contrary to the impression left by the piece on NPR Flyss listened to, Aubrey de Grey is not at all naive with respect to this. I read a very interesting article by him on this very subject, and I would post a link to it if  it were not that my Internet access is too limited while I am in hiding to perform a Google search.* But, as I recall, his considerations, while extensive, do not fully extend to the issues of power and class that Flyss brings to the fore. What she has to say is powerful, important, and truly frightening.

(continued in the next post) — Stephen

*Note the constant recurrence of Google. Strattera is right: they represent an entirely new but supremely great power.

1 Comment

  1. ImmortalisRX says:

    The Idea that individual success is the antithesis of group success is nothing but pseudo-socialist group think. It is impossible for a group to suffer when the individuals are prospering. If the weaker ones in the group can’t survive then that is evolution in action. The group will be stronger in the long run and the thought that humans are somehow a cancer infecting the Earth is un-natural and silly.

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