Suppose Medical Science Conquered Death (from natural causes)

Suppose at some point all diseases and sicknesses were curable. (Assume that death due to starvation or thirst or being fed into industrial sized blenders were not curable.) Assume further that people do age and grow enfeebled, but just don’t die. What’s the practical impact?

ISTM that it would be a disaster. If people stopped reproducing almost entirely, then you could keep the population stable, but there would be fewer and fewer able-bodied people capable of keeping things running. It would pretty soon reach the point where the entire system breaks down and everyone starves to death (not to mention any number of other catastrophes which would arise).

But even if people keep reproducing - and it’s hard to imagine that reproduction would cease entirely - then that only lessens the problem, and doesn’t eliminate it, since the percentage of feeble people would greatly increase. And meanwhile you’d also have another problem, in that tremendous population growth would severely strain the planet’s resources.

Bottom line is that if death from natural causes was solved, then the only way to avoid mass suffering and death from unnatural causes (calling starvation and the like “unnatural causes” for this purpose) would be if both 1) natural senescence was also solved, and 2) reproduction was drastically curtailed.

Medical science is obviously nowhere near solving natural death at this point, but the above might be interesting as a thought experiment. But more importantly, where I think it’s significant is that as more diseases and illnesses are ameliorated to one extent or another, the above issues arise, though to a much smaller degree. Essentially, as long as there’s a disconnect between science’s ability to keep people alive and science’s ability to overcome natural senescence (and declines in natural reproduction) then there’s an increasing strain on the workforce and natural resources available.

Sorry if this is fighting the hypothetical, but wouldn’t solving aging prevent enfeeblement? If you’re aiming for what a possible real-world scenario of scientifically discovered immortality might look like (which I think is a fascinating topic, and one I’ve actually written a sci-fi short story about), I think finding and eliminating all the little cellular processes that enfeeble (and kill) bodies is more likely then some method which doesn’t solve these enfeeblement processes but somehow keeps enfeebled people alive in perpetuity.

The OP was not about “solving aging”. It was about curing all diseases and sicknesses.

Dying of old age is dying of “natural causes”. I’m assuming this is exempt from your hypothetical?

I’m thinking of where they can keep your lungs going and your heart going pumping oxygen and keep diabetes under control and cure all forms of cancer and so on, but that doesn’t mean that your mind is as sharp or your muscles as strong or your reflexes as quick etc.

You have an assumption in this scenario that the number of able-bodied people needed to keep things running is constant. ISTM that there are a couple of trends working alongside each other. One is the trend toward robotics, requiring less able-bodied people to provide food and shelter for everyone.

It’s also run within a system where there is a large degree of wealth inequality in most industrialized nations.

If the wealth were more evenly distributed and robotics alleviated the labor shortages, the need for the same percentage of able-bodied people could decrease.

Since people don’t age instantaneously, if this scenario did arise, there could be time for innovation to solve some of the problems with regard to natural resources.

It’s not clear from the OP if people would be immortal. That changes the problem. My take on your hypothetical is that people don’t die from diseases but people would still be dying of other things like accidents, etc.

Well, the population world wide would soar past the ten billion mark before the middle of this century, and there would be a tremendous strain on health care because you would have a huge number of seniors very advanced in age. They would require a lot of resources, and the effects on Social Security would be grave. It wasn’t designed to pay millions and millions of people benefits for half a century.

On the other hand, the need for health care professionals and senior facilities would provide a lot more jobs. People would be healthier so they could retire later in life at say 70 or 75 years of age.

I predict a lot of pressure to legalize euthanasia.

Simultaneously, people who have made some form of illnesses the center of their lives wouldn’t have it any more; for some, that would mean a huge change. But how about those who manipulate their own illness in order to control the situation? Would they be cured of their need to be sneaky assholes incapable of using their words, would they become capable of accepting that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that’s actually how it should be, or would they not? The consequences if mental illnesses and disorders got eliminated might have an even greater impact on daily life than that of more-physical illnesses.

A few years after the singularity event, super AI will develop some type of technology beyond human comprehension that prevent aging and health related deaths. Humans will achieve near immortal status. We will need to significantly curtail reproduction. We will also desperately need find other habitable places to live than Earth to insure the survivability of the species. Some people may not want to be immortal and choose to end their lives after some amount of time.

This scenario is nothing like practical immortality. Once people get enfeebled enough to be miserable, they will want to end their lives. Far more than today, since today it is easy to not make this decision knowing that various diseases will kill you anyhow.
So you are going to get a larger number of old people, since disease won’t kill people off early, but not many more really old (> 100) people.
We’d want the birth rate to increase not decrease in order to support all these old people. And nursing homes and retirement facilities will be even more of a boom industry than they are today.

I saw a movie about this (well, five of them, actually). Death would eventually catch up to you, via an unlikely series of events leading up to a complicated industrial accident.

Civilization would end. And not from overpopulation.

More detail? The number of old people would eclipse every other voting demographic. These people would vote their peers in at every level of government. The US government, among others, would be staffed entirely by frail, needy people with little fear of death and probably a healthy dose of xenophobia and racism.

Nukes fall, everybody dies.

Do you want Soylent Green? Because this is how you get Soylent Green.

How would that be justified in light of the fact that these old people are now HEALTHY old people? There wouldn’t be any humane justification at all. The “justification”, in essence, would be, “We’ve got way too many people, so let’s just choose to get rid of the old ones.”

How about the young, stupid, useless ones instead? How about all murderers and child molesters instead? How about a lottery instead?

I’m pretty much in agreement with the OP; a society where people grow old but don’t die is heading for a demographic cliff.

If you’re looking for a fictional equivalent, there are several works that treat vampirism as if it was real and openly acknowledged. In such a society, everyone wants to be a vampire; they’re immortal and indestructible. But vampires need to have a human population around to provide the blood they need to consume. If everyone becomes a vampire, they all starve.

I’m guessing maybe Nava means voluntary euthanasia. Perhaps the elderly who have simply gotten tired of life, no matter how healthy they are. At age 300 or so, someone may well become thoroughly sick of life no matter how good life is.

I wouldn’t support euthanasia, but I do think a considerable number of people might opt for it.

If there really are such a surplus of elderly enfeebled people who can’t work, such that there isn’t enough food to feed everyone, how exactly are we paying for these people’s medical treatments?

It’s one thing if there’s a cure for cancer that costs $1000. If the economy is doing good, everyone gets the cure for cancer. But when there are billions of people who can’t work and contribute nothing then how can we afford to pay to cure some guy’s cancer? People in third world countries today get sick and die from easily treatable diseases, the reason they die is because they can’t afford the treatments. And we could altruistically pay for those treatments, except we don’t.

So when the world is impoverished from an surplus of enfeebled people, the solution is that the healthy people stop working like dogs to support the warehoused enfeebled people, and the enfeebled people die. There’s no such thing as “everyone starves to death”, because when you’ve got one healthy worker for every 10 enfeebled nursing home patients, and not enough food for everyone, the healthy worker doesn’t share and share alike and starve to death along with everyone else. The healthy worker takes the food and lets the enfeebled people starve.

Things that can’t go on, won’t. Eventually you reach a new equilibrium, where the number of enfeebled people doesn’t increase because the economic capability to care for enfeebled people is at a maximum. If you’ve got people who volunteer to care for you, then you keep living. If not, you get tossed into the gutter to starve to death or die from curable diseases that medical science could cure, but you can’t afford the cure anymore because you’re enfeebled and broke.

As for a gerontocracy where the enfeebled outvote the healthy, how is that going work? It only works if the healthy people agree to do whatever the enfeebled say. In reality democracy would break down, and if you’re not contributing you don’t get a say. You’ll be declared incompetent, and disenfranchised.

The other option is Carousel. Only it kicks in on your 100th birthday instead of your 30th.

I think it matters how disease and sickness is beaten - does it require perpetual treatment, or is everybody just healthy (but feeble) forever?

Also, when you say feeble, do you mean fragile? Bones breaking everywhere? Because if so it’s basically the same boat as them requiring perpetual treatment.

And the way that boat goes, the old people end up dying of old age after all. Society can only devote so many of its resources to medical treatments, and if it comes down to a choice between feeding people or caring for the elderly, medicare will get slashed. Which means that old people will eventually be forced to pay for themselves, and will die shortly after their money runs out. Some will go broke quickly, some will last essentially forever. But society will find an equilibrium where the working populace eats. It pretty much has to.

If the old people are *not *prone to death by inattention or injury, the next question is, are they subject to illnesses of the mind? Will they all lose their minds by 150? If so I think you’ll see the government moving to cut off support of people after that point, along with a socially acceptable system of ‘helping people out of this life with dignity’. Again an equilibrium will be reached.

If the old people aren’t prone to death, injury, or senility…they’ll get desk jobs. Or starve - their call.

The pressure will come from a wave of suicides and people charged with assisting suicide.

But as long as I can still die intentionally legal or not I have no problem with this. Soon the earth will be populated by only the most selfish people and they deserve each other.

The “justification” from the mouth of my HEALTHY grandma: “why do I have to live so long?”

She was like the people the OP posits. Diabewhat? Choleswho? Cancer was a zodiac sign, and she didn’t like what she called the horrorscopes. But she was feeble and she hated being feeble with the fire of a million billion trillion suns (European numbering system).

I’m not talking about euthanasia chosen by third parties, but by the HEALTHY and feeble old people themselves, the ones who say “why do I have to live so long?” and eventually stop eating. The same kind that’s currently being legalized in multiple developed countries. The other kind is called murder where I come from.