The Big Picture

Once upon a time, I wrote a long spiel on life extension – before it was cool, apparently. I sent it off to an interested friend [a science fiction editor] who was at that time collaborating on a book with a certain politician. That politician – Speaker of the House, but that could be anyone of thousands of guys, right? – ran into my spiel and read it. His immediate reaction was that greatly extending the healthy human life span would be horrible – it would bankrupt Social Security ! Nice to know that guys running the show always have the big picture in mind.

Reminds me of a sf story [Trouble with Lichens] in which something of that sort is invented and denounced by the British trade unions, as a plot to keep them working forever & never retire.

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30 Responses to The Big Picture

  1. anon says:

    Are you signed up for cryonics? And why not?

  2. Sandgroper says:

    Quality of life is a thing. Give me some extra years in my 20s-30s, sure. Late in life, not so much – depends on what sort of shape you are in, I guess.

    • gcochran9 says:

      If you were as shaky as a centenarian, or even a nonagerian, there’s no way your life expectancy could be very high. Significantly extending the lifespan requires extending the period in which your physiology is in pretty good shape.

      • 83, so i need to report in. subjectively i am convinced that I’m on top of my game and aware that i pissed away many years not really doing much of anything. luckily from time to time back then i read myself to sleep with what I didn’t understand — a super sleeping pill because it is easier to fall asleep than to think about unknowns. Some of those unknowns have yielded in recent years (2003 to present) to aha moments. I wonder but not often how many years i have left to live with untrammeled agency.

      • melendwyr says:

        Thus far we’ve extended average lifespans by medically intervening in crises that once killed people off, not by making healthy people even healthier. There’s been very little accomplished in terms of pushing the boundaries back, rather than changing the distribution within them.

        Do people generally believe the elderly have much to contribute?

        • albatross says:

          The two candidates for president this year were both right around 70, so at least some important jobs do seem to be open to pretty old people. I’m not sure 70 is the optimal age for a president, but then, a lot about the way we select leaders seems pretty sub-optimal to me….

  3. Peter Akuleyev says:

    Well, sure, life extension would be good for me, and I can think of a few other productive people who deserve longer lives, but for the most part that politician has a point, even if he is making it obliquely. Most people are just net consumers, probably shouldn’t have been born in the first place, and extending their lives will not benefit society. Life extension combined with AI and automation, which is quickly making 90% of the human race superfluous, will be a mixed blessing at best.

    • DdR says:

      Any thoughts on low-hanging fruit in the life-extension space? It looks like senolytics may be the ticket.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        tailored diet alongside tailored medicine

        as the body builders say – and they should know because they experiment on themselves in huge numbers – everyone’s different

    • anon says:

      Why would productive people deserve longer lives but not net consumers? In a future world of abundance, it doesn’t matter. What’s the point of improving technology if there aren’t consumers reaping the rewards…

      • Y Yn says:

        There’s always human needs beyond services and products.
        Experiences, emotional wants, immediacy, time, etc.
        There won’t be infinite abundancy of everything – there’s a limited amount of human beings, there’s a limited amount of sub-atomic particles, and processes take time.

        Increasing the lifespan and quality of lifespan of only net consumers, when they constitute an increasing fraction of your population base as a nation is always a bad idea. Imagine welfare programs for fecundity-selected homogenous groups for giving birth to more babies – more for one person translates into reduced proportionable amounts for everyone in terms of increased costs, sure one can argue that specialization of services, ideas and things of value can exist because of higher populations, but that is not the point; at some break point, each marginal person added reduces the lifespan and quality of lifespan of individuals for a given arable area to live in.

        The point is that, what is the point of cramming 10 billion people into densely populated spaces being net consumers. This only enacts to diminish the quality of life for everyone and secondly, if these people can’t provide anything of value to anyone else and enacts violence, the situation would be worsened.

        One can go into all the philosophical arguments amount the meaning of life and how each additional human adds value to everyone’s else’s existences, but I don’t believe so. If highly intellectual beings can take the properties of human beings and instill self-agency, and self-replication, sentience and self-inheritance, then it makes human beings redundant. Even if AI and machines are better at everything in absolute advantage, human beings have comparative advantage – but even that has a limit. We can’t cognitively have infinite friends in our head or process infinite amount of information. That is the conclusion of my argument against simply increasing net consumers. Either way, I’m guessing that cranial/brain size will have some limitations on computability of information and that it will be expanded and we will be a different ‘species’.

  4. honhonhonhon says:

    Sadly that’s not unique to politicians. Think of how many people are ready to object to long lifespans because “you’d get bored” or, depending on the method, “all your friends would be gone”. I don’t think it’s malicious, just sour grapes that has been internalized enough that they’ve actually started believing it.

    • AppSocRes says:

      I’m approaching seventy. I’m finding that life does lose its savor as one ages, friends die, and one’s relevance to newer generations diminishes exponentially. Someone like Richard Feynman would probably make zestful use of an extended lifespan. Most of us lack Feynman’s resources and will eventually end up looking forward to a peaceful death. I am coming to regard death as a possible great adventure.

      Jack Vance wrote a novel, “To Live Forever”, about a future society in which life could be extended indefinitely. To prevent social stagnation and overpopulation this society allowed life extensions only to those who had made major contributions to society or who agreed to emigrate to a deep space frontier. The striving to make contributions enriched society, there was a steady flow of pioneers, and jealous observation by the masses – who threatened to revolt at any evidence of chicanery – kept the system honest.

  5. akarlin says:

    In my experience a surprisingly high percentage of negative reactions to life extension are based on the idea that you’d be spending centuries upon centuries in some sort of withered, catatonic state, and can be changed quickly for the better by pointing out that rejuvenation is central to life extension.

  6. Bob says:

    Must’ve been Hastert. He likes ’em young.

  7. Greying Wanderer says:

    i’m more into being spry at 80 than living to 100 but if all the things that make you spry at 80 tend to make you live to 100 then it’s moot.

    however in political terms, if people react badly to “life extension” then if you pitch it as “spry at 80” instead, then you can spin it as saving money.

  8. magusjanus says:

    Greg, what are most promising areas in your eyes for investigating life extension?

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