Longevity...too much of a good thing?

I read somewhere recently that anyone now living can reasonably hope to live until their 120th birthday. With all the advances in medical science, with better nutrition and availability of health care, our life expectancy has lengthened considerably in my life time. (I am mid forties). While it is a wonderful thing to live a long and full life, I can’t help but wonder whether this might have some unfortunate side effects on society. For example, as the workforce ages and retires, who will replace the older workers? Who will support Social Security? Will we be plagued by unprecedented population growth as the death rate slows? And the health care costs alone, for a population whose median age is 65 or so could bankrupt the wealthiest nation. If we do begin to regularly age to 120 and beyond, what will retirement age have to be to keep us in pension plans? I want to live a long time, but not if I have to work until I am 95! Any thoughts on this?

I don’t think it is reasonable to expect to live to 120, from the stats i remember reading (someone who is good at looking up stuff check in please!) mention 1-5% living that long, and that was the most optimistic one i read. I think the major problem for people hittin 120 will be will the quality of life at 120 be worth living that long? If you are hooked up to a machine 24/7, eating mush, cannot leave the bed, and wearing diapers, what is the point?

I have to agree. It would be great to live to 200 years old and have the body of a 30 or 40 year old. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

What is the current rate of increase in average lifespan per year? I seem to remember reading somewhere that it’s about 1/4 of a year per year. The cool thing is if we can increase that average to a rate of 1 yr per year, we have the chance for potential immortality. These things are coming.

We’ll have to hope that anything that results in a giant population explosion will be accompanied by a signifigant advance in space launch technology. If we can get the cost of getting material into orbit down from $10,000 a pound to $10 per pound, we could really start to set up some off world refuges for the ever enlarging family of humanity (and the biota that we would bring with us).

If we can live longer, perhaps the experience that people gain can be put to better use, and ones life work can go much farther - bettering life for us all. What do you suppose Einstein could have done with another 50, 100, or even 1000 years of active life?

DaLovin’ Dj

DaLovin’ Dj

I don’t believe that 120 is an unreasonable life span in the very near future. I also don’t believe that quality of life need necessarily to decline to the point that we are all hooked to machines and peeing ourselves. My mother is eighty and extremely active…walks 6 miles a day, works out, has all her faculties and enjoys life. Her oldest sister is 98 and although limited by some infirmities, mainly impaired vision, she is also going strong. These are both women who were born at home, without prenatal care, who (for crying out loud) grew up eating bacon grease sandwiches! They never saw a doctor unless they were ill or broke a bone. Now imagine these women in today’s world of good nutrition and health care, vitamin supplements and all the other wonders available to us today. 120 doesn’t seem out of the question to me.

Maybe nothing. The usefulness of an extended lifespan really depends on how the brain stores memories and knowledge, and how much room it has. What happens when your brain fills up? For all we know, Einstein would’ve moved to New York to aid the fight against combat space tarantulas and their undead gerbil armies by now.

Considering we only use like 3% of it, I’m sure its pretty unlikely that we’ll fill up our brains.

Anyone who is tired of their life, regardless of their age, has options. And you might change your mind when you get to be 95- the world will be drastically different from what it is today, if we can rely on recent history as our guide. Even the nature of work- for example, could your great-grand parents have envisioned a work force/economy so thoroughly divorced from the land? So maybe your work will be(come) fulfilling, something you can’t imagine living without . One can hope, anyway.

You also have to consider the concept of carrying capacity- there’s a limit to how many humans the planet can support. Very likely this number will be reached before we get to the extreme of everyone living to 120 yrs.

This old saw again? Please see Cecil’s column debunking this for an explanation of why that’s not true.

This old saw again? Please see Cecil’s column debunking this for an explanation of why that’s not true.

I assume that the same sciences that allow us to extend human life will allow us to make sure we have plenty of “room” in our brains. My question assumed an extended lifespan maintaining full capacities. Not a surety that this will come to pass, but it is certainly a very good possibility.

The usefullness of maintaining a world full of vegetables, who can breathe but not think, is non-existant (other than the hopes that you will someday be able to cure them). I am debating the use of a technology that would allow people to remain active, aware, and coherant.

The longer you live, the odds are the longer the chance you’ll get to live. If I, a 26 year old male, can live to be 120 instead of 86, then I have another 30 YEARS of medical advances to live through. If they then can extend that usable lifespan to 200 years within those 30 years, then I have another 80 years on top of that. Surely in those 80 years they will figure out how to keep a human ticking for 300 years.

Technology has grown and moved forward exponentially. That means the better the capabilities, the faster the capabilities tend to get better, as Moore’s Law illustrates. We may be the first creatures on the planet with a real shot at immortality, just because of when we were born.

Life extension is not the only issue. What about enhancement? What about genetic improvement? Using nanotech to make ourselves stronger, faster, better looking? Using brain enhancers? Linking machines directly into your nerves? Linking communication devices between people internally, shared perception, hive minds, designer bodies? All of these things will have to be dealt with if we don’t blow oursleves up first. I’m looking forward to being an immortal with the brainpower of a supercomputer. It’s gonna be a long road getting there though. People will fight evolution tooth and nail as history has shown.

DaLovin’ Dj (a registered Transhuman, a.k.a. Extropian)

I agree that the medical advances that were just dreams 20 years ago are rapidly coming to pass. What concerns me is at what cost? Imagine that as you reach your old age (whatever number that might be, 85,95,150) you are told by your doctor (or technician, perhaps) that you can live another 10, 20, 30 years, but you will need an operation, say a new, improved artificial heart as well as a new artificial vascular system. Suppose that the technology exists to accomplish this, but it will cost 6 million dollars. Where does the money come from? Does this mean that only the wealthiest of us will survive? Wont this place intolerable burdens on an already overburdened health care system, not to mention an already over crowded planet? Where will our health care dollars be spent…keeping geezers alive or on the young? Who decides? I imagine that, as power normally rests with the elders, that we will spend the resources keeping the elderly alive, possibly forever, eventually. As we move closer and closer to living as bionic creatures, surely the science involved in immortality is not that far off…maybe not our lifetime, but soon. Does this mean that only Americans and Western Europeans will have the resources to live forever? And wont global politics change as a result?

Yes; Longevity is way too much of a good thing.

We all should stop at 50.

What about future shock? I’m only 34, and I’ve already seen way too much change in my lifetime.

I suspect that the next 100 years will bring advances that signifigantly increase the amount of wealth available and minimize the amount of human “work” that needs to be done. Truly, medicine and treatment should be a universal right. Most likely, however, the best tech will go to the wealthiest first, and then it will get cheaper.

Undoubtedly, if immortality (or relative immortality) treatments become available, and they are kept out of reach of the general public, 2 things will most likely happen:

War & Crime.

You think 80% of the world will sit by and die while 20% live on and on? And if you think Joe Blow will pay alot for a vile of Coke or a bag of kind bud, imagine what he would pay for an illegal shot that knocks ten years off his life. If it’s done, it needs to be available to everybody.

DaLovin’ Dj

There is another aspect of this question that has been ignored so far. What if there is an afterlife? I am not a Christian, but I think that we must have been created for some purpose. Perhaps we should be more anxious to move on to the next plane of existence. On a related topic, Muslim fundamentalists seem to be more than ready to die. Would they partake of the “longevity drug” if it became available?:confused:

I sure as heck hope it’s not available to everybody… not unless we start getting a good portion of the population off this ball of dirt in the mean time.

One of my favorite SF theme’s on this is after it’s discovered, anyone can get it… if they sign up to be shipped off to another planet.

This doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me. So you would be guaranteed a natural lifespan on Earth, but if you go for the longevity treatments, you have to move offworld (the moon, Mars, space stations, or asteroid colonies) to make room. A whole new potential for wealth crops up. A young Earther (hijacked that term didn’t I?) who wouldn’t mind moving to Mars could sell his slot on the Earth to an older person who wishes to remain on this old ball of dirt, but who chooses to take the immortal pill.

Of course, once the colonies get big enough, they will want to regulate population numbers themselves, so we have to continue to move outward. We’re definately gonna need the acres that are available on Venus, the Asteroid Belt, and all kinds of moons if humans start living for hundreds or thousands of years.

DaLovin’ Dj

We’re gonna need alot of suicide machines.

well, I did find this book the other day titled “How to serve Man”…