Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Cost of Living

Peter Singer makes a point in the NY Times Magazine that I've been making for years: we'll soon be faced with one of the greatest questions of applied philosophy ever to face mankind. That question is, How much is a year of life worth? When expensive medical treatments can extend and extend life, we - either individually or as a society - will be in the uncomfortable position of deciding approximately when we will die.

It's easy to project this forward to a dystopia: Brave New World residents stay young until 60, then die rapidly. More chillingly, the British health agency that has made one of the first notable decisions in this line is the NICE, named in apparent ignorance of the British agency NICE in C.S. Lewis' dystopia, That Hideous Strength.

In Lewis' novel, NICE is a government-financed but independently run British organization that seeks 'scientific' dominance over nature, valuing humans for utility and obliterating moral senses. In modern-day Britain, NICE is a "government-financed but independently run [British] organization set up to provide national guidance on promoting good health and treating illness". By "national guidance" it is apparent from the story that what is meant is in fact incontrovertible orders.

Of all the dystopias I've read, I wouldn't have predicted That Hideous Strength as the first to come true. Yikes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was dystopia the word of the day?

ali baba