If humans died aged 30 would we be more advanced?

If all humans died at a maximum age of 30 and reproduced at age 15 how different would the world around us be in 2004? Would we have skyscrapers and Channel Tunnels? Would we still spend the same amount of time doing trivial things like watching television, collecting stamps or building model airplanes?
Would flight and television even be here?
I suppose the pyramids would be here as the average lifespan back in those times was probably close to 30.
I feel that we would be just as advanced today (if not more so) if we all died aged 30. People do their best work around that age. We would still have time to get a full education and because of the increased turnover in generations would we not have evolved more ideas and technologies than we have today.

Are there any things that we definitely would not have been able to do? Apart from getting a telegram from the Queen of course.

The average lifespan back in those days may have been close to 30, but that doesn’t neccesarily mean that people had a maximum age of 30. Infant mortality was really high, which lowered the average life expectancy.

If the world were to retroactively go Logan’s Runnish, we would never have developed the way we did. Think about it. Newton wrote his “Principa” at 45. Einstein won the Nobel Prize for his work on light at 42. George Washington took command of the American revolutionaries at 44. Julius Caesar conquered Gaul from when he was 42 to when he was 51. All of these people, and many others are most famous for things they did after they were 30, and had they died before then, the world would have been really different.

“Last day, Capricorn 15. Carrousel begins.”

“No! You don’t have to die! No one has to die at 30. You can live! Live, and grow old!”

Einstein was 42 when he recieved the Nobel but he was only 26 when he came up with the theory that won it for him.

But surely the age at which people did things in real life would translate to them doing it earlier in the 30 year limit world.
Einstein would have had a larger number of academic shoulders to stand on. Or if we assumed and increase of 30-50% in the number of generations maybe someone would have done Einsteins work before he got a chance to do it.

People surely would still have done great things but the history books would have them doing it aged 18 - 30 instead of 46 or 52 or whatever.

But the main point is, would we as a whole be a more intelligent race or not?

Not to be all Junior-Moddy, but I don’t know how a factual answer can be given for this question, so I’ll just give an IMHO answer, and you can ignore it if you want.

First, to echo what others have said, at no time in history (that we no of) was 30 the maximum age. So we’re not really talking about returning to an historical context. We’ll have to take your scenario on its own terms, not comparing it to ancient times.

Assuming a maximum age of 30 and a mandatory breeding age of 15, I think we’d be a lot *less * advanced than we are today. For one thing, we’d have no grandparents to watch over the kids, freeing up healthy people to do heavy labor. We could change our society to one of kibbutzes, where a few people watch over all the children, but I have to wonder how this affects the drive to reproduce.

I don’t see how this assumption is valid. We’re not talking about fundamentally changing brain structure.

Losing our elders means we lose a lot of knowledge. Of course, we could compulsively database all knowledge, but if you’re dying at 30, who has time to read it all? (Already, I assume I may live to 90, but I have no hope of gaining all existing knowledge of arts, literature, computers, engineering, science, mathematics and laundry washing. I learn what I can about what I can and trust that others will keep my car running for me.) Since so much of our development is based on first comprehending and then adding to what others have done, the rate of development would be greatly slowed.

Think of it this way. An engineer currently has about 25 years to learn all she needs to know about the basics of engineering (elementary school, high school, college, grad degree). There’s a period of a few years where she’s still basically repeating what’s gone before, perhaps refining it, but essentially just getting good hands-on knowledge of what was formerly book work. Only when she’s 30 or so is she really becoming capable of groundbreaking, original work - the work that her successors will learn about in their own schooling. Obviously, there are prodigies and exceptions, and there always will be, but I think your scenario will make it much harder for advanced work to occurr in any field. You might still ahve an Einstien, but far less people inventing useful things like toaster ovens and flushing toilets. (OK, I can’t find a bio of Albert Giblin, maybe he was under 30.)

Now, a lot of the educational time is spent learning about stuff seemingly unrelated to your eventual field. Our hypothetical engineer had to learn not only math, physics, and science course, but history, languages, spelling, music, art, P.E., etc. Perhaps we could cut that training time in half if we didn’t make her learn the liberal arts stuff. The problem with that is that there’s just a limit to how fast most of our brains develop. No matter what kind of background I give a ten year old, he’s simply incapable of learning Ph.D. level physics. His brain hasn’t formed enough neural connections yet. But let’s assume we can do it. We can teach this girl everything she needs to know about engineering by age 14. (This of course assumes that we assign everyone their eventual career in early childhood. We don’t have time to let people figure out what they like or what they’re good at. Early apptitude tests and no career changes.)

Oh, well, now she has to get pregnant, in order to reproduce at 15. (And we are going to give her a little time with her newborn before shipping it off to the kibbutz, right? 6 months for breastfeeding, perhaps?) So now she’s rounding on 16. Four or five more years to get hands-on experience and really let all that knowledge sink in and let her make a few mistakes. So now she’s 20. She can finally start doing some really orginal work. Wait a minute, who’s teaching the kids now? Is it only people who have absolutely no hands-on experience? That may work for little ones, but once you get to advanced work, you really learn better from people who have worked in the field. Except you need those people actually working in the field.

Finally, of course, is the question of whether or not people will be willing to devote their entire, brief life to work and reproduction. In developed countries, we currently enjoy a lengthy retirement period before expected death. Many people use this time to be with loved ones, travel, learn and basically enjoy life. If you allow people a retirement period, you’re seriously diluting your workforce. If you don’t allow them a retirement, morale (and therefore production) could be expected to go way down. (This is assuming health and stamina of current 30 year olds before sudden death. If you people are getting “old and frail” near 25, see above and multiply the problems.) In lesser developed countries, there may not be a formal “retirement,” but less is acomplished over the entire lifetime. And the country is “less developed” as a result.

So overall, I just don’t see it working too well.

(who’s obviously spent way too much time philosophizing in coffee houses.)

I would have enjoyed the semester I took Calculus, Organic chemistry, Physics, and Statics much less, if I had been 12 at the time. It wasn’t a lot of fun at 20.

There’s no real way to figure out how this might affect the psychology of the population. Would everyone be out in a self induglent orgy every night from 15-30? Heck, that’s what seems to happen on Ibiza right now. Think about the ramifications if the alarm clock is set for 30. Also, there might be less concern about future generations. Theology would be greatly affected. Jesus, Moses, Luther, etc would never have happened. Maybe the Buddha, and certainly most philosophical works by the Greeks.

Personally, I think we would never have evolved much beyond primitivism.

Unless we institute carousel, we’re not going to get a factual answer.

Off to IMHO.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator


That’s a very good point, especially in light of what the OP seems to be suggesting. That type of lifespan might be considered to be typical of earlier hominid species, which had shorter childhood periods, more reminescent of our ape ancestors and cousins.

The key factor is brain development after birth. Most mammals have a fetal brain growth the abruptly slows down right after birth. Modern humans continue to have this accerated fetal brain growth rate for almost a year after birth. In this sense, our species in very unusual (if not unique).

So, without this extended early childhood period, and it’s companion of an extended childhood, we’d probably still be at the level of Homo erectus.

Not to be crass or anything, but I know a lot of people who had kids by 15 and quiet a few who died before they were 30. I guess you guys haven’t been to the ghetto recently.

And no, none of them came up with any new advancements in science or medicine… :rolleyes:

Kind of supports our point. In that short a life span, people are more concerned about putting food on the table and dealing with kids. You can’t put off childbearing, or your genes are not passed along. There are no older generations to hand the kids over to. It’s not to say that there would be no scientific advancement but I can’t see scientific advancements coming more quickly.

I think Research of all types would be crippled. Most advanced degrees aren’t awarded until 26ish and serious independent research would not begin to be pursued before then under normal circumstances. Even if we assume that 26 years of learning ing can be crammed into 15 years (which is a dubious proposition at best) we would lose something on the order of 2/3’s of society’s investment in these folks (i.e. instead of having circa 40 years of useful research life they would have about 15)

This says nothing of the loss of teaching years - an average medical school or grad school teacher who might have 25 years of practical experience and 10 years of teaching now might have 8 years of practical experience and 7 years of teaching before he/she dies.

It would be a Lord of the Flies dystopia pretty quick from here or, if it was always so, IMHO we would probably still be hunter gatherers

To echo some others who have already put it better than I can, I don’t believe shortening the average lifespan would “compress” human life so that we’d all be a lot more productive before 30. It’s not just productivity that often comes with age; it’s also wisdom, experience, and accumulated knowledge.

I don’t think we’d get very far. If we reproduced at 15 and died at 30, there would be very few grandparents, and the parents wouldn’t have much time between their kids leaving home and death. Who would be caring and providing for the kids while we were off making scientific discoveries, exploring the planet, etc.? At least one parent would have to be dedicated to kid care (not only the daily care, but also putting food on the table if the other parent was off trying to cross the Atlantic ocean or something). I can see many wouldn’t want to leave for any extended period if that meant leaving the spouse and your children alone with no family to help them. That would have to cut down on humanity’s productivity.

No. Your reasoning is completely flawed. Unless we were a society of child prodigies and Alexander the Greats, a shorter life expectancy would mean slower advances. Each generation would have less time to absorb knowledge from the previous one. Especially since we would be raising children from 15 onward.

Heck, I didn’t even complete my MBA until I was 28. I certainly wouldn’t have gone through all that schooling and bullshit for 2 productive years afterwards.

By the time you read this, I’d already be dead.

We could dismantle the Social Security program and nobody would complain.

I’d also guess we’d see an end to laws prohibiting child labor. If we lost all the workers over 30, society would need more young workers. So people would start working full time at 12 or 13.

We’d probably also be a lot more violent. Males in the years between around 14 to 24 tend to produce a highly diproportionate amount of violence. In the OP’s world they would represent a much higher percentage of society both in numbers and influence. And people who expected to die at 30 anyway would have less value on life.

Less advanced, methinks.

Simply because we’d spend too much time reproducing.
If I only had 30 years to live, I know what I’d like to spend my time doing.

Probably a little less advanced. Considering that it takes about 10 years to get a Bachelors and PhD that means a stereotypical Doctorate recipitent only has 2 years to gain experience and contribute to the world. An MD under our current system would probably die as an intern.

So you can safely assume the educational system would be greatly revamped with college and trade-education starting at maybe 11 and more strict focus on what actually applies to the degree would be taught with less irrelevant filler. I would assume a B.S. & PhD’s worth of relevant material that actually applied to the job could be taught in 2-3 years this way. Then again, who says 14 year olds are competent enough to be professional engineers and scientists? Then again, the immaturity that comes with age is paritally culturally related. Back in the middle ages a person started learning a trade when they were under 10, so I assume the same could be applied to this society.

Overall if you could get people to be highly educated and mature enough to handle life then yeah I assume things would be close to how they are now. But not as advanced as everyone would die too early to really make any great contributions.