Increasing Lifespan: Effect on Society?

Ah, sorry, I misread. Could be.

Let’s keep it simple. Let’s say the years zero to twenty work like they do now; people age normally throughout their childhood and teenage years. But around twenty, aging slows down to half speed. So a person who’s sixty would be the equivalent of somebody who’s now forty. Eighty would be the equivalent of fifty, a hundred would be the equivalent of sixty, and a hundred and twenty would be the equivalent of seventy.

Technology will continue to advance, but in terms of increasing mortality due to curing one set of conditions, these increases will probably remain modest.

That’s not the problem with the argument. The problem is curing cancer or heart disease would have a bigger impact on morbidity. Old age is not a direct cause of death. If your heart goes, the lung and kidneys often follow. Then you’re in trouble! Curing cancer might then prevent later blood clots. So the flaw in the longevity argument may be the interconnection of physical systems. But it surely is the case that curing COPD might prevent 5-10 truly awful years at the end of life. End of life treatments eat up an enormous percentage of medical expenses, if you look at it coldly and honestly. Preventive medicine? Getting slightly more attention than it once did - still not much. When was the last time your doctor inquired about your seat belt use?

I’m not so sure. At least not because of any reason related to old people not retiring.

It takes around 10 to 15 years to go from new hire analyst to partner at a law firm or Big-4 consulting firm like Deloitte. If people are living to 120, that means you could have like 2 or more additional careers if you wanted them.

In my own lifetime (48 years old), I’ve witnessed what amounts to a sort of increasingly prolonged adolescence. Basically people extending what has traditionally been considered the trappings of adulthood (career, marriage, house, kids) well into their 20s, 30s, even 40s. And why not? That adult shit sucks!

Numerous works of science fiction have included extended lifespans but the first one that I recall reading that pointed out a particular aspect was David Wingrove’s Chung Kuo series*.

IIRC, members of the upper-upper ruling class are effectively immortal. This eventually begins to cause serious problems in society as there is no longer any succession. Possessions, businesses, land, etc. is not transferred from the older generation to the newer, ever. Eventually a patriarch/matriarach may have hundreds of younger, “lesser” kin. They will never control anything, never not be in the shadow of their parent(s).

IMO even extending lifespans by a short but significant amount, if done in a miraculously quick way, would have catastrophic effects on society; we have so many legal and societal norms and assumptions that revolve around people naturally expiring after some time.

*No, I never did finish the series. It got really lame around book 4 and I think that after book 5 I couldn’t be bothered with his bullshit.

We need way to reverse the effects of cognitive decline. I’m not talking about senility, dementia, or the general decline that happens to people in their 70s or so. I mean the decline that happens after about 30 years.

We’re already experiencing this to some degree. People’s beliefs become frozen at an early point in their life. They’re unable to deal with social or technological change. They’re barely able to even interact with younger generations, to understand their motives and values.

If there were a drug that could reverse the effects of mental ossification, allowing people to keep a youthful mind even late in life, then a 120 year lifespan wouldn’t be so bad. But I’ve never seen anything remotely like this on the horizon, and it may not be possible.

Certainly, but the question would become: will there enough job positions in need of filling to support people going through two (or three, or more) complete career paths?

We probably have a somewhat finite need for lawyers (or consultants, or plumbers, or chefs, or whatever), and if many people are working for 80 years (i.e., about age 20 to about age 100) instead of 40 or 45, as they are today, we’d be more-or-less doubling the pool of workers. I’m not convinced that there would be enough job positions to keep them all employed.


A very few people have lived to 115+, such as Jean Clement, so the book hypothesizes a lifespan of 120 years is not impossible. Life expectancy is different, of course, but is 120 years for the purpose of this thread. <

It has been posited that 120 is about the limit for a human being, and coincidentally nobody has verifiably exceeded 118 to date. There is good reason to suspect that Jeanne Clement managed to conflate her mother’s lifetime with her own, and she was probably no more than 99. She refused to be medically examined and was very reticent about her family history.

A major issue is how much of this extended lifespan will be spent in a state of good health and still able to live independently. That will require some major breakthrough to delay aging, and possibly to some extent reverse it as well. .


The same question for everyone whose jobs have been automated away, yes? No a priori reason that it impacts them with their experience more than a youngun.

The point is that society as a whole is already having problems with job losses through automation, and having a large section of society still of working age - or in need of an income - means that either there will be massive unemployment and underemployment, or else many jobs are created to keep people usefully busy. Both are in effect the same thing, putting people onto welfare.

Facts not in evidence for that “long memories” claim. We “remember” what the news cycle reminds us of for as long as it is of interest and no recall.

You are too dismissive. That applies to some, but not all.


We probably have a somewhat finite need for lawyers (or consultants, or plumbers, or chefs, or whatever), and if many people are working for 80 years (i.e., about age 20 to about age 100) instead of 40 or 45, as they are today, we’d be more-or-less doubling the pool of workers. I’m not convinced that there would be enough job positions to keep them all employed.

Agreed. Given that the new breed of super-oldies might be a little fragile, I would expect them to take up knowledge-related or people-related jobs, much as some pensioners do now. But again there is the issue of having an assured income, whether a s a form of welfare, an earned pension, or heavily subsidized jobs in something like day care, for example.

Maybe not the proximate cause, but the theory goes that many of the proximate causes are all manifestations of the aging process and that slowing down that clock (best means currently by regular exercise, good nutritional habits, and good social interconnectedness) decreases morbidity and mortality from the whole batch.

@Brayne_Dead we have had other threads on the alleged future unemployment crises due to automation. It is at least a debatable prediction and when made in the past has been wrong over time. This time could be different but have not seen it yet. Somehow new jobs happen so far.

As to my being dismissive - it is what I see. Memory is not so long and attention spans are short. There is a recency bias in any case.

Assuming folks are vigorous up to the last 10-15 years as they are now, you’d also be doubling the number of consumer-years to offset all those additional worker-years.

The book makes the point that progress is made - not by the old guard changing their mind - but by expiring. New ideas in physics or voting rights may have been less likely to be adopted by the older generation. Probably true. Probably also a stereotype. Plenty of elderly folks are technologically competent. The average age of CEOs has increased by five years, at least according to the book. Is this really true? I don’t know.

Perhaps. I’ve seen a patient who was 110 though, and could verify it. I was once at an emergency conference, and the speaker asked the crowd who was their oldest patient and what did you do? It was a lecture on the greatly increased risks the elderly sometimes face, so threshold for admission should be low. (I don’t fully agree.) ER docs are biased since they see all the sick old people, but a sizeable percentage rarely or never need a hospital. In any case, this person was basically well, sharp and humorous. She got sent home.

You would think so, but somehow we keep coming up with random bullshit for people to do. A “career” or “job” might look very different in 20, 50, 100 years.

I mean think about how stupid my job is. Basically my job is just to “project manage” a bunch of technical experts for some client so they can build some corporate software that will pretty much replace the client’s job anyway.

There are always more jobs. It’s not like we have perfect infrastructure. And more people means more providers.are needed, of anything. More innovation creates new opportunities.