We will soon be facing the reality of being able to be essentially immortal. Surely within the lifetimes of our younger generations it will occur that barring a tragic accident of physical trauma, there will be little danger of dying. 
So its very agreeable that Newitz is bringing the conversation to the table. There’s plenty of issues our societies will do well to tackle now so that when immortality is a reality, we’ll can have the ethical groundwork in place to ease the transition. 

I do agree with Newitz’ stated value that medical improvements and technological advancement should not come with the cost of depriving other’s the same access and dignity afforded to ‘elites’.

Newitz makes a conflation of ideas that is ultimately damaging to her argument against choosing immortality: societal health and the continuation of the human species. Categories of species are difficult and fluid, and I would assert sometimes quite arbitrary. What we know as our human ‘species’ is transitional–as all biological forms are. To make our form even more plastic, we are defined by our grasping beyond our present situations. We endeavor through culture, especially technology, to expand upon what is given. Humanity is not now nor has it ever been a closed equation but is rather like a syntax which though it has certain constraints can provide infinite possibilities.

I am convinced that there will be in a few generations many humanoid special types. Immortality will be a choice to many at first and soon a choice to all current human level species (and other life if one were to desire for a longevity pooch or super-cat to snuggle for the millenia). Of course the compassionate, just, and reasonable value to ever pursue is equal access to these new empowering technological/medical advances. I’m with Newitz there.

And yes, I believe that there will be those who for whatever reason will choose to opt out of immortality. But it remains that immortality is a worthwhile project that will prove to not be vulnerable to the types of ‘downsides’ that Newitz fears.

Her stated reasons are fourfold: 
1) We will no longer be human. What is human? Is Newitz ready to define humanity? Even within Martin Heidegger’s great description of humanity as a platform of possibility that leaves out all essentializing and body expectations, I am troubled by his centering the human experience around death. Certainly in Heideggerian terms immortality will not be Dasein, and that’s a good thing. I believe that “Being” is big enough to allow for many “areas of Beingness” and as we expand humanoid and robotic consciousnesses we will get beyond the petty fears of our current specism.

2) Whatever body you’re in, there you are. Well, yes. I don’t follow what Newitz is getting at here. Who would be fooled into thinking that immortality would be a form of escapism or flight from responsibility? It will most likely be the opposite: as we are able to “face consequences” for what was before seven generations, we’ll have to own up to our messes much more than we currently do.

3) Our augmented bodies and minds will be hackable. Protection from outside unwanted hacks and viruses has greatly increased over the past years. Will there be room for wanted hacks? Yes and thank goodness. The specialization and individuality possible in hacking will be a benefit to the future of creativity, freedom, and the poetic intangibles of life. It seems that such a worry of being the victim of an unwanted hack represents an updated form of the fear of “media saturated culture”. There is an attraction to the protected autonomous and isolative self that can exist as a pure essence and must be protected from “the manipulations of culture, media, and brainwashing propaganda.” Bodies’ immunity to unwanted invaders when uncompromised is an amazing feature of evolution and our next steps of evolution through technology will only improve.
And manipulation can be decidedly low tech.
Newitz writes: “…your cool new exoskeleton? Let’s just hope somebody patched that problem that lets kids in Russia take it over remotely and make you hump trucks forever.” Exploitation and cruel manipulation of another does not need computer interfacing or brain hacks. Let’s not be naive–slavery of different types and expressions occur right now and indentured servitude right here in 2010 United States through immigration policy and economics. Let’s tackle the problems we have now realistically.
4) We’ll have to deal with the immortality divide. Add it to the already long list of divides, sheesh. Yes, egalitarianism is the ideal. Equality in access and dignity is a value I support, but distribution of technologies and medical advances is exceedingly becoming more prevalent, not less. We must continue to support the global consciousness of connectivity and justice but let’s not let any current injustices dissuade us from continuing on the path of expanded possibilities. Newitz writes of the movie Daybreakers and while I haven’t seen the movie I know that its probably unnecessary in the conversation of “divides” or unjust social privileging. She writes: “….Democratic human societies might ossify into rigid, caste-based feudalism once again.” Why not, instead of talking about science fiction movies and the feudal systems of old, talk about the current reality of white privilege? Racism? Is it too hard to talk about? To put a name to? That the “digital divide” and “clean water divide” and many other access-disadvantages follow along skin coloring is a shame to our globe. Let’s face it head on and call it what it is: Colonialism and Imperialism’s ugly white privileging.

So while I will respect Newitz and everyone else’s choice to defer treatments to extend longevity indefinitely, I refute Newitz’ reasonings behind her argument.

Here’s Annalee Newitz’s post:
http://io9.com/5521531/four-arguments-against-immortality

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