Scientist worries billionaires have so much money they'll stop ageing
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What would you do if you had more money than you could spend? Well, making sure you live long enough to actually use it could be a good option.
Obviously the majority of us will never know what it feels like to have billions of dollars, but some scientists have expressed concerns that those who do could try to use it to live forever.
By doing so, those who are already so rich and influential could just end up even more rich and influential. Sounds great - for them.
Israeli-American scientist Nir Barzilai has been studying the science of anti-ageing for 30 years - and we're not just talking about moisturisers.
Now, Barzilai believes we could be close to finding drugs that prevent the effects of ageing, telling the Financial Times: “We are done with hope and promise. We are at the point between having promise and realising it."
The scientist plans to run a trial to test whether a cheap diabetes drug named metformin can extend lifespan by years, though he's currently struggling to find funding.
Success in the trial could help humanity by increasing lifespan, but critics have expressed concern that the involvement of the wealthy could serve to widen an already vast divide between the rich and the poor. Bioethicist Christopher Wareham, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, commented on the possibility of expanding our lifespan after studying the ethics of ageing.
He warned that advances could lead to, for example, dictators extending their lives.
“Suppose, for example, we had a kind of vaccine for the pandemic of age,” Wareham said. “This is going to potentially exacerbate all the kinds of existing inequalities that we have... The longer you’re around, the more your wealth compounds, and the wealthier you are, the more political influence you have.”
James Wilsdon, director of the Research on Research Institute at the University of Sheffield, expressed belief that there is too great a need for immediate results in healthcare to spend money on 'much longer term, more speculative questions'.
Wildson told the Times there is a suspicion that those who tout the benefits of longer lives are actually disguising their 'individual, narcissistic, selfish desires to find ways of extending their own life as long as possible'.
“You can paint as much lipstick on a pig as you want, but it is still a pig of an argument for allocating health funding,” he said.
Wareham, to offer a counter argument, did say we need to get away from 'disturbing image of these kinds of vampire-like billionaires, concocting extension potions and experimenting on themselves'.
He pointed out that even if billionaires are in it for themselves, they can at least 'afford to make a lot of mistakes', which governments can't.
If Barzilai finds funding for the trial, which he believes will cost somewhere between $50 million to $75 million, the researcher expects it to take four or six years to complete.