Friday, December 10, 2010

Open Access Article on Global Aging

My paper entitled "Global Aging, Well-Ordered Science, and Prospection"is now out in print in the latest issue of Rejuvenation Research. The paper is actually available for free, as an open access article.

I believe this paper is one of my most important publications to date, so I am very happy it is available on the open access option. The paper aspires to do many distinct things. It makes the case for reviving the Aristotelian conception of political science (namely, that it is the architectonic science). It also makes the case for prioritizing the imperative to tackle the inborn aging process and, most importantly, the obstacles that impede our ability to accurately perceive the importance of tackling aging.

A sample from the introduction and conclusion:

Political science is a methodologically diverse social science that aspires to bring together knowledge from distinct fields of scientific inquiry (e.g., economics, psychology, etc.) with the ultimate goal of elucidating what constitutes good governance. The Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was the first political scientist, described politics as a normative, prescriptive science that is ultimately concerned with the good of humans. As such, Aristotle considered politics as an architectonic science, for it is politics “which ordains which of the sciences should be studied in the state, and which each class of citizen should learn and up to what point they should learn them” (NE 1.1.1094)

Aristotle believed that a student of politics should be most concerned with what preserves and destroys a polis, or city-state. And more than 2,000 years after Aristotle outlined this vision of politics as an architectonic science, the health and economic challenges facing human populations have changed dramatically. A determination of which sciences ought to be studied, and how science could improve the health prospects of the world's aging populations, is imperative, but it is also challenging. It is imperative because an unprecedented number of humans are expected to suffer the chronic diseases of aging this century. And it is challenging because we possess a number of cognitive limitations and biases that impair our ability to perceive both the harms of the inborn aging process, as well as the magnitude of the likely benefits of age retardation.

To ensure the societies of today flourish, we must revive the Aristotelian vision of politics as a normative, practical science. Senescence poses enormous challenges to the health and economic prospects of today's aging populations. Meeting these challenges requires us to advance our knowledge, not only about the biology of aging and how to minimize the harms of senescence, but also about the cultural and social obstacles that impede our ability to tackle aging. These include misperceptions about the threat the inborn aging process poses to those living in both rich and poor countries, misperceptions about the trends of global health inequalities, and misperceptions about what the goal of biogerontology is (e.g., extending the health span versus extending the number of years of frailty).

...There are also misperceptions about what the potential consequences of age retardation might be. Prospection can be skewed by simulations that are unrepresentative and abbreviated. To help individuals overcome these prospection errors, it is important to emphasize the diverse benefits age retardation would confer on individuals in both rich and poor countries. Slowing aging would provide individuals with greater opportunities for health and independence. And this would yield significant economic benefits. As the WHO's 1997 Brasilia Declaration on Ageing emphasized, “healthy older persons are a resource for their families, their communities and the economy."

Our susceptibility to cognitive biases and errors, like our susceptibility to the diseases of aging, has been shaped by our Darwinian past. To meet the challenges facing today's aging populations, we must tackle both the scientific and sociocultural obstacles that impede well-ordered science. Reviving the Aristotelian vision of politics as a science concerned with the good of humans, and one that strives to bring together knowledge from distinct fields of scientific inquiry, can help us ensure that we are better positioned to meet the challenges facing the world's aging populations.