Living to 1000 - one possibility in a Festival of Ideas

01 November 2011

According to some researchers, the first human to live for 150 years has already been born, and the first to live for 1000 years will probably be born within the next two decades. Is it really possible to live to 1000? More importantly, would you want to?

Professor Julian Savulescu, Director of the Institute for Science and Ethics, discussed these questions and more at the recent Adelaide Festival of Ideas from October 7-9, 2011.

The theme of the festival was ‘Planning for Uncertainty.’ Said Savulescu; “The greatest challenges we face this century – climate change, bioterrorism, degradation of resources, mass migration – are the result of human choice. For the first time, our future is in our hands. We aim to examine the values that drive and the psychology of these choices. We provide an impartial, secular set of values and a platform for discussion of the ethics that must guide the 21st century. “

Over 80 speakers took part in Australia’s longest running ideas festival, including keynote speaker, the physicist, astronomer and former chief scientist for Australia, Professor Penny Sackett

Savulescu was taking part in a panel discussion, 'Immortality...reality?' chaired by Paul Willis, RiAus Director and former Australian Broadcasting Corporation Director. The panel included Brad Partridge from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Centre and Professor Fiona Wood, who is well known for her patented invention of spray on skin for burns victims. The panel discussed the implications of long lives for our bodies, minds and societies. Listen to the podcast here

Julian Savulescu also presented a lecture entitled ‘The Case for Perfection’ where he said “The current possibilities for using genetics and other biotechnologies to enhance human cognitive and physical performance are real and significant.” Savulescu argued that we have a moral obligation to pursue the project of human perfection and to take the opportunity science is already affording us to improve moral behaviour.

Listen to the podcast
Watch the webcast

While in Australia, Julian also joined a television discussion on organ donation on the Australian television programme Insight. Joined by other guests - including Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, they discussed why Australians are saying no when it comes to donating organs. With just 13.8 donors per million people last year, Australia has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the developed world. Download the TV transcript here (PDF).

Julian Savulescu often steps out of the academic realm to apply his rational ethics to important issues of public debate. And he doesn't shy away from the controversial. In the past he has debated the use of drugs in sports.

He also runs his own blog where he discusses controversial topics.

Recently, he called the European ban on patents for embryonic stem cells as deeply immoral.

Along with Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague MP, and leading intelletual Germaine Greer, Savulescu will be taking part in BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival 2011 on Sunday 6th November. His discussion will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 10pm on Tuesday November 15.

Find out more about the Institute for Science and Ethics