Christopher Scott

The Vortex of Expectations: Visions, aspirations, and the promise of human longevity research.

Associate Director of Health Policy at the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas, United States of America

Capstone Conference Talk

Saturday (8/5) 2:10-2:30PM

Make Aging Great Again: Imagining a YUGE lifespan

The new era of longevity research seeks extended healthy life, slowing the aging process so that one year of clock time is matched by less than one year of biological time. Embedded in longevity discourse is humanity’s oldest and most pervasive wish: defying death. Slowing the process of aging, it is hoped, will lead to treatments to reverse it. Social arenas and actors at the center of longevity are grounded in big science and a breathtaking sense that “the person who is born today will live to 200.” I will present an analysis of the longevity situation, the moral narratives used, and the future social imaginaries that are central to the movement and spur us to take action today.


Capstone Conference Research Laboratory

SUNDAY (8/6) 1:00-2:30PM

Drawing the Edges of Human Life

This laboratory session will attempt to bridge our research findings (encompassing technological, social, and moral dimensions) on human enhancements at the beginning and end of life with those normative views, beliefs, and attitudes operating in the public sphere. Which narratives about enhancement achieve valence? Which “publics” participate? How does the definition of “health” draw margins and borders of fitness that implicate resource allocation, justice, and disparity? Are the margins changing? To what extent can notions of human flourishing, the awe of life, and living finite life to its fullest move and shift the normative boundaries and expectations for the beginning and end of life that predominate our technology-driven cultures?

Research Laboratories allow audience members to interact with a panel of ELP Scholars and Interlocutors in addressing a problem of public relevance. We invite active participation from audience members in the creation of new knowledge.

Academic Biography

Christopher Thomas Scott, MLA, PhD, is senior faculty and Associate Director of Health Policy at the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. He is an emeritus faculty and senior research scholar at the Stanford University Center for Bioethics and past Director of the Stanford Program on Stem Cells in Society.

His research centers on the ethical, legal, and social implications of new biotechnologies.  Scott is widely published in peer-reviewed journals such as Cell, Cell Stem Cell, Science, Nature, The Hastings Center Reports, Nature Biotechnology, and the American Journal of Bioethics. His introductory text, Stem Cell Now (Penguin/Plume) has been translated into four languages.  He directs undergraduate, graduate, and medical school courses. He is a contributing editor at Nature Biotechnology and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. 

A former cell biologist, Scott was the Assistant Vice Chancellor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  He co-founded Acumen Sciences, a research consulting company based in San Francisco, and was formerly the President and CEO of The Stem Cell Advisors, a public benefit non-profit company providing oversight and guidance for stem cell research.

He is regularly featured in national media coverage of science policy and bioethics, including ABC, BBC, NBC, PBS, UPI, Fox, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Time, The Atlantic Monthly, Nightline, Talk of the Nation, Science Friday, Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines, and NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Project Executive Summary

This project, The Vortex of Expectations, seeks to examine an emerging field at the frontier of enhancing human life: longevity research. To better understand the strivings for human longevity, the study would provide a richly textured, thick description of the needs, goods, cultural resources, and possible futures offered by longevity research and the cultural movements that coalesce around the technologies. This study will ask what values, beliefs, social mechanisms, actors, and technologies are at work behind this much-heralded reimagining of anti-aging science. It would be the first to explore these assumptions through interviews of the principal actors and observations of the communities of the longevity movement, providing ground level insights into the meaning of human enhancement through the social mechanisms, scientific advances, and future worlds imagined by the principal actors.

The research features both qualitative and quantitative approaches and has three major aims:

Aim 1) Map the emerging landscape of the longevity movement. Conduct a content analysis of textual and visual materials related to the longevity field.
Aim 2) Use semi-structured interviews and ethnographic observation to study the longevity movement. Participants will include scientists, futurists, technocrats, business leaders, philosophers, citizens, politicians, and allied professionals. Fieldwork would include meetings, technology events, and networking seminars. Analyze these data using grounded theory.

Aim 3) Using the data gained from Aims 1 and 2, conduct a situational analysis of the longevity movement. Construct situational, social arena, and positional maps in the broader context of enhancing human life. Present results and widely publish findings.