Bioethics

Could epigenetic reprogramming reverse aging?

A range of strategies are being explored to reprogram the body's cells to an earlier state. Most scientists aren't betting on a new fountain of youth just yet - but, in theory, epigenetic reprogramming is a recipe for self-renewal.

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Ten thousand years ago, the average human spent a maximum of 30 years on Earth. Despite the glory of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, most of their inhabitants didn’t surpass the age of 35. Between the 1500s and 1800, life expectancy (at least in Europe) fluctuated between 30 and 40 years.

Public health advancements like control of infectious diseases, better diet and clean sanitation, as well as social improvements have made it possible for human lifespans to double since 1800. Although lifespan differs widely today from country to country according to socioeconomic health, the average has soared to 73.2 years.

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Stav Dimitropoulos
Stav Dimitropoulos's features have appeared in major outlets such as the BBC, National Geographic, Scientific American, Nature, Popular Mechanics, Science, Runner’s World, and more. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter @TheyCallMeStav.
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After Dobbs v. Jackson, the Battle Shifts to Digital Privacy v. Surveillance

The limits of digital privacy are becoming clearer in the post-Dobbs era, as a wide range of data sources can reveal online and offline activities, including whether a woman seeks an abortion.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Since the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade — the landmark decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion — the vulnerabilities of reproductive health data and various other information stored on digital devices or shared through the Web have risen to the forefront.

Menstrual period tracking apps are an example of how technologies that collect information from users could be weaponized against abortions seekers. The apps, which help tens of millions of users in the U.S. predict when they’re ovulating, may provide evidence that leads to criminal prosecution in states with abortion bans, says Anton T. Dahbura, executive director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. In states where abortion is outlawed, “it’s probably best to not use a period tracker,” he says.

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Susan Kreimer
Susan Kreimer is a New York-based freelance journalist who has followed the landscape of health care since the late 1990s, initially as a staff reporter for major daily newspapers. She writes about breakthrough studies, personal health, and the business of clinical practice. Raised in the Chicago area, she holds a B.A. in Journalism/Mass Communication and French from the University of Iowa and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Should We Use Technologies to Enhance Morality?

Should we welcome biomedical technologies that could enhance our ability to tell right from wrong and improve behaviors that are considered immoral such as dishonesty, prejudice and antisocial aggression?

Photo by Asa Rodger on Unsplash

Our moral ‘hardware’ evolved over 100,000 years ago while humans were still scratching the savannah. The perils we encountered back then were radically different from those that confront us now. To survive and flourish in the face of complex future challenges our archaic operating systems might need an upgrade – in non-traditional ways.

Morality refers to standards of right and wrong when it comes to our beliefs, behaviors, and intentions. Broadly, moral enhancement is the use of biomedical technology to improve moral functioning. This could include augmenting empathy, altruism, or moral reasoning, or curbing antisocial traits like outgroup bias and aggression.

The claims related to moral enhancement are grand and polarizing: it’s been both tendered as a solution to humanity’s existential crises and bluntly dismissed as an armchair hypothesis. So, does the concept have any purchase? The answer leans heavily on our definition and expectations.

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Cohen Marcus Lionel Brown
Cohen Marcus Lionel Brown teaches and researches ethics and applied philosophy at UOW in Greater Sydney, Australia. Specifically, he works on questions in neuroethics, moral psychology, aggression studies, and human enhancement. He is a current member of the Australasian Association of Philosophy Postgraduate Committee, Sydney Health Ethics Network, and the International Society for Research on Aggression. Cohen also works as a judge of the International Ethics Olympiad, and volunteers with the not-for-profit organization Primary Ethics. Find him on Twitter @CohenMarcusLio1