Slowed ageing, welfare, and population problems

Theor Med Bioeth. 2015 Oct;36(5):321-40. doi: 10.1007/s11017-015-9337-5.


Biological studies have demonstrated that it is possible to slow the ageing process and extend lifespan in a wide variety of organisms, perhaps including humans. Making use of the findings of these studies, this article examines two problems concerning the effect of life extension on population size and welfare. The first--the problem of overpopulation--is that as a result of life extension too many people will co-exist at the same time, resulting in decreases in average welfare. The second--the problem of underpopulation--is that life extension will result in too few people existing across time, resulting in decreases in total welfare. I argue that overpopulation is highly unlikely to result from technologies that slow ageing. Moreover, I claim that the problem of underpopulation relies on claims about life extension that are false in the case of life extension by slowed ageing. The upshot of these arguments is that the population problems discussed provide scant reason to oppose life extension by slowed ageing.

Keywords: Ageing; Anti-aging; Calorie restriction; Calorie restriction mimetics; Ethics; Life extension; Overpopulation; Population ethics; Slowed ageing.

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Ethical Theory
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Longevity
  • Mortality* / trends
  • Population Growth*