Cynthia Kenyon says that her most important discovery is that aging is not completely unavoidable. Instead, "we begin to think of aging as a disease that can be cured, or at least postponed," she and another Elixir cofounder, Leonard Guarente, wrote in an article quoted by Smithsonian writer Stephen Hall. Lifespan, Kenyon says, is determined by the result of competition between
Social Impact: The Dangers of Extending Life
Few people would object to a treatment that prevents heart attacks or Alzheimer's disease, but critics such as conservative ethicist Leon Kass have questioned whether greatly extending overall human lifespan is a good idea. Earth is already overpopulated, these opponents of life extension point out. They claim that adding large numbers of older people, many of whom might need expensive medical care, could produce financial and ecological disaster. At very least, a high proportion of life-extended people might produce an excessively conservative society, eminent Harvard zoologist Edward O. Wilson wrote in Esquire in May 1999. Such people "would have the physical capabilities of teenagers but . . . [would be] culturally, educationally, and emotionally aged. . . . Those who have survived and enjoyed longevity extension . . . won't be revolutionaries. They won't be bold entrepreneurs or explorers who risk their lives."
Cynthia Kenyon, however, thinks that antiaging treatments will develop slowly enough for society to have time to adjust to them. "If everyone ages twice as slowly, you'll still have the same percentage of old and young. So we're not talking about filling up the world with old and infirm people," she told David Duncan. On the contrary, she says, life-extended people would continue working and would be active contributors to society. The overpopulation problem, Kenyon says, can be solved by lowering the birth rate—encouraging people to have fewer children and have them later in life. "With a life-span-extending pill, the birthrate would have to come down just a little more" than it needs to do already, she thinks.
two sets of forces, those that break down or damage cells and those that preserve, maintain, and repair them. "In most animals, the force of destruction still has the edge. But why not bump up the genes just a little bit, the maintenance genes?" she asked David Duncan.
In the far future, Kenyon believes, people may be able to take a pill that really accomplishes what the Indians promised Ponce de Leon that the waters of the magic fountain would do: grant, if not immortality and eternal youth, something very close. Would she herself want to live to be, say, 150 years old? "Of course," she told David Duncan in 2004, "if I'm young and healthy. Wouldn't everyone?"
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When over eighty years of age, the poet Bryant said that he had added more than ten years to his life by taking a simple exercise while dressing in the morning. Those who knew Bryant and the facts of his life never doubted the truth of this statement.