When We Conquer Ageing , We Must Transform How Society Works
As age reversal sciences approach major breakthroughs; we need to start planning for how to live in a world of immortals
“Nothing is certain, except for death and taxes” goes the famous quip.
Although — technically, there are quite a few countries (including several in the Middle East) where taxes aren’t really a thing.
Death, however, has been the great leveller from time immemorial. It ravages all — from the mightiest kings to the lowliest peasants.
That might not be the case going forward, however. An increasing number of scientists envision the human lifespan becoming indefinite; with some going so far as to say key breakthroughs for this are just a couple of decades away.
Now it is all very well for you dear reader, to live for 100s of years. But what if everyone does? Is society even equipped to handle a population composed entirely of supercentenarians?
Here is a look at how things might change from Social, Political, Economic, and Environmental perspectives:
If you could live for 500 years, would you still aim to have all your kids before you’re 40 (~30 seems to be the norm to become a parent in OECD countries)? Maybe you’d space it out significantly. How would familial relationships change if there is a 50-year gap between your siblings?
Would marriage still be till death do us part? It’s all very well putting up with your husband or wife for a few decades; but can you really deal with them for 300 years? Maybe eternity? Perhaps we will start to have marriage contracts that expire every century.
Would people still take part in perceived risky activities like riding motorcycles or being a volunteer firefighter?
How would politicians change the way they acted if they knew they’d be around to deal with the consequences in 200 years? Action on climate change is an obvious one that might be different.
A lot of political change occurs due to the clearing out of older generations (and their world views), being replaced by younger ones. Can you imagine the laws we’d have in place today if the majority of the population had been born in 1750 and were still around to vote and pass laws?
The same goes for the future — if laws in 2250 were made by people born in the 1970s; I’d imagine that things would be a lot more less progressed than they otherwise would have been.
What about lifetime appointments like those to the Supreme Court in the US, the House of Lords in the UK, or even tenure in universities. Would these continue as is, or will they have finite term limits?
Would you keep the same job and career for all that time? Or will you have multiple career transitions? Perhaps you could spend “one life span” as a doctor, another as a pilot and so on.
Perhaps you spend the first couple of hundred years working hard to establish a solid nest egg to live off, and then spend the next few pursuing low earning but more personally rewarding “jobs”.
Retirement would largely be a thing of the past. This would mean the entire aged care industry, pension system, funeral parlours, life insurance and other industries and services focused on the elderly would largely be rendered moot.
With the lack of older people dying and leaving behind inheritances; younger generations will find it harder to get a foothold into the economy. This might mean they need to move further and further out of the city due to affordability, increasing urban sprawl on the one hand — but increasing the needs of infrastructure on the other.
We’re going to run out of room. Sort of.
Human populations are expected to top out at around 11 billion people. As all countries develop and start to adopt resource-intensive diets like those of Australia, North America and Europe — we will find that there is not enough arable land to support these populations.
As such, we will need a way to output more calories per acre than we do today, or we will need to look at moving to other planets and adopting farming practices there.
A breakthrough in human lifespans is coming. It is coming soon and it will come suddenly. If we don’t start to think about the consequences of what extremely long lifespans will be mean for the world — we will be caught unprepared with events taking control of themselves.
What do you think? Are there any other major ways in which the world as we know it will need to change when immortality does come?
Let me know in the comments below.
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