Is Immortality Bad?

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Want to live forever? OK, if that's not possible, how about twice as long as you would "naturally"? Let's say that researchers develop a pill that enables you to retain your youthful vigor until you're 140 years old. Sounds good, right? Not so fast, say some bioethicists, who warn that you will have to work longer if you live longer. To which I respond–here's the deal–you can have your social security at age 67 or you can live and work another 70 years–which do you pick?

In this LiveScience article, "Toward Immortality: The Social Burden of Longer Lives," some bioethicists also fret over:

(1) Marriage–would people want to stay married for 100 years? If not, they can get divorced just like they do today.
(2) Progeny–what would happen if people had children born decades apart? Nothing much.
(3) Job mobility–what if greedy geezers refused to let young turks get promoted? The young turks won't wait for the oldsters to die–they'll go out and found their own companies, schools and so forth and outcompete the stodgy geezers just like Bill Gates and Michael Dell did. It's not like the economy is a zero sum game with only so many jobs.

Even the anti-immortality President's Council on Bioethics acknowledged: "It seems increasingly likely… that something like age-retardation is in fact possible." I say let's get on with it and talk about the "social problems" that longer healthier lives cause when I'm 150.

Commercial break: If you're interested in my further musings on immmortality, stem cells and designer babies, you could always buy my book, Liberation Biology.

NEXT: Into Africa with Nick Kristof

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  1. To which I respond–here’s the deal–you can have your social security at age 67 or you can live and work another 70 years–which do you pick?

    I suppose that would depend on how much you like what you’re doing.

  2. Wouldn’t the end of immortality be catatonia? With no need to further learn, eat, sleep or have fun (if that’s supposed to be an indicator of a mortality alarm), I imagine over time many “immortals” would simply stop moving or even know how to move, effectively dying awake.

  3. Amen, RB! I know such sentiments are not limited to those on the Right, but considering the coziness with the Bush administration of people like Leon Kass, it kind of gives lie to the accusation that the Democrats are the Party of Death.

    Beyond his deplorable constitutional record, his obvious second-rate intellect, and his jokey, shallow, completely unstatesmanlike demeanor, I despise GWB most because of his hostility toward science. More of the same from the American Medievalists: Fear that which you don’t understand.

  4. Given the direction our government is taking things, I don’t think I want to still be alive in 100 years. By then, each of us will have our own personal regulatory agency telling us what to do, how to do it, and fining us when we don’t comply.

  5. Ron, you’re clearly a shill for the AARP 🙂

    For those who don’t want extended lifespans, I suggest (1) not partaking in lifespan extending treatments or (2) Going Home, ala Edward G. Robinson.

    There’s no doubt a longer-lived humanity would have a radically different society than what we have today, but there’s plenty of good that could come out of those differences, too. Frankly, I always wanted to be a Spacer 🙂

  6. Oh, boy – 20 more years of work, some really good investments, and then six decades of watching Oprah, Ellen, and Dr. Phil.

    So now I have that going for me, which is nice!

  7. Perhaps we should call them bioaesthetes.

  8. I would view a longer working life as making it easier to accumulate a substantial enough portfolio of investments that I would be able to retire and live reasonably well off the interest. So what if that moves my retirement age to, say, 95?

    Or (more likely) I would pursue a completely different career, without worrying so much about how lucrative it might be.

    My guess is that people living longer, healthier, and more affluent lives will lead to an explosion of culture…all the would-be artists, writers, chefs, inventors, etc. no longer as concerned with saving for retirement and putting their kids through college.

    Of course, people whose thinking is so narrow as to see radical life extension as a problem probably won’t find a proliferation of creative culture as a net gain, either…

  9. To which I respond–here’s the deal–you can have your social security at age 67 or you can live and work another 70 years–which do you pick?

    i guess it depends on what you mean by “live”.

    there’s certainly a question of quality over quantity where longevity is concerned.

    longevity for longevity’s sake is probably not something i’d be interested in.

  10. I’m with Pro Liberate on this. Sign me up for Rejuvenation as soon as it’s invented.

  11. Oh, boy – 20 more years of work, some really good investments, and then six decades of watching Oprah, Ellen, and Dr. Phil.

    You can also catch up on all the old tv you’ve forgotten or missed, and there are thousands of movies to go through. You could even create your own. Then we can all merge into a spiritual union (transcendence into god) and prepare for the next cycle of existance.

  12. There’s no doubt a longer-lived humanity would have a radically different society than what we have today…

    My concern is precisely the opposite: that social mores won’t evolve because the majority of people prefer The Way Things Used To Be.

    I wonder how this will affect the concept of inheritance…

  13. downstater

    Let’s say that researchers develop a pill that enables you to retain your youthful vigor until you’re 140 years old.

  14. 100 more years of American Idol?
    I’ll pass.

  15. Sheesh, ed, how about 100 years more to study the things that fascinate you? 100 more years to have the opportunity to learn from history – even history that you experienced personally.

    Imagine being able to directly ask someone what it was like to live through the Great Depression… and how it compared to the recession in the 1890s.

    Of course, extended longevity might also have the effect of making it that much longer before objective histories can be written… it’s hard to have a good sense of what really happened while the partisans are still wrangling over that very question.

  16. Son of a!,

    I don’t see how a long-lived population couldn’t change the way things are. The political and economic power of the active elderly would be immense, I’m sure. They’d likely tend to some kind of conservatism for a while, but who knows how a youthful 150-year old would view things? Also, if we’re able to breed all of these extra centuries, the generational cycle could change quite a bit.

    The argument has been made that the generational turnover we have now is necessary to avoid stultification, but I don’t know that that’s true. Nor does anyone else. One would like to think that we would gain something from a vastly more experienced and, hopefully, wiser population.

  17. 100 years more to have a chance to buy a ticket to the Moon. Whereinhell do I sign up??

  18. uncle sam,

    ahh, thanks. apparently my youthful vigor, with its accompanied sharpness in reading comprehension, is leaving me in my twenties!

    bring on that pill!!

  19. Son of a!: My concern is precisely the opposite: that social mores won’t evolve because the majority of people prefer The Way Things Used To Be.

    Two reasons I wouldn’t worry about that:

    1) “Youthful vigor” doesn’t just mean that of your non-neural body parts–it means youthful vigor for your brain, too. Better memory, quicker learning, less need to rely on habit, etc. If stodginess in today’s elderly results from aging of the brain, if your brain won’t age, you’re less likely to be stodgy.

    2) Today, after older adults finish raising children and working for a living, they can expect, on average, a decade of dwindling energy. Whatever motivation they may have to change things has to be fit into a relatively small budget of personal effort. Give them 50 years with the vigor of a 25-year-old and odds are more will act on those motivations.

  20. Of course, if we’re fully “youthful”, then hedonism may be the order of the day. Especially when coupled with the Salma Hayek Love Android? that gets invented five years from now.

  21. Woo-hoo! Welcome to the AARP Swingers’ Convention!

  22. To which I respond–here’s the deal–you can have your social security at age 67 or you can live and work another 70 years–which do you pick?

    Or we could get rid of SS, make our own long-term investments, and retire at 60.

    Bring it on!

  23. No matter how many negatives people come up with about extended life spans they always seem to forget that they have the option of not taking the magic pill(s). Or they could shoot themselves in the head if they get bored.

    Negativity about extended life blows my mind. Boredom vs. worm food- hmmm.

  24. While we’re on the subject of magic pills that do impossible things, I’d like to be 10 feet tall. And invisible. But not for 140 years. Too many opportunities to squish the midgets.

  25. “While we’re on the subject of magic pills that do impossible things”

    Where did you hear that life extention was impossible?

  26. Well, I hope others are right that my concerns are over-rated. (It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve jumped at my own shadow.) Nothing would please me more than to be wrong.

    I’m currently reading the Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, so I’ve been recently thinking on the various consequences of increased longevity. (In the book, people’s memories appear not to work so well over the long term.)

    I wonder, would a bank offer me a thousand-year loan to pay the cost of such a treatment?

  27. My advice to “bioethicists” who want to restrict life extending drugs: Learn how to fight!

    Seriously, if it is a choice between a slow uncomfortable death of age related illness… or illegally taking life extending drugs, and then arming myself and going after the people who try to stop me – I am for the second option. I even consider your family fair game, so how is them apples?

    Basicly, if your “ethics” requires me to suffer and die, you had better be prepared for a hellish fight… because it is only my concern for my life and physical comfort that keeps me calm and peacefully and co-operative.

  28. My bigger worry would be about the hoi poloi getting it into their heads that longevity treatment was a God-given right… anyone here read much Heinlein?

    The Howard Families had it easy — off-planet migration was an option for them. Those who develop real longevity treatments and then have the temerity to expect that they might be paid for their efforts will long for the sweet release of Death…

  29. my question is what will they raise the age of majority to then and the legal age to drink?
    65 or 70 there are gonna be alot of 40 year old juvenile delinquents running around.

  30. What a shameless book plug.

  31. …would people want to stay married for 100 years?

    My first marriage seemed that long…

  32. Of course, if we’re fully “youthful”, then hedonism may be the order of the day. Especially when coupled with the Salma Hayek Love Android that gets invented five years from now.

    I sure don’t want to die before I get a chance to try out a real holodeck . . . preferably one in my own home . . . that I can program to my liking. Then I can go with a smile on my face.

  33. No matter how many negatives people come up with about extended life spans they always seem to forget that they have the option of not taking the magic pill(s). Or they could shoot themselves in the head if they get bored.

    Damn straight. Funny, you never hear of a centenarian in good shape who whines about being alive.

  34. …(A)nyone here read much Heinlein?

    See my post at 1:46. 😉

    But at least your post raises a point, rather than my obscure reference.

  35. “Ve get too soon oldt und too late schmaart”

    Maybe, if we get old enough, we will find that government is the problem, not the solution.

    Once we get past that, we can all be Gods, by Yumpin’ Jiminy!

  36. Hey guess what – there might be some downsides to living longer. Of course, there are downsides to living shorter as well. A society of long lived people would have problems. And today’s society doesn’t? Living longer might involved tradeoffs, and deciding whether you wanted to do it would entail (if you’re the type of person who actually thinks for yourself) a risk-reward evaluation. So what’s new?

    I would love to see my daughter’s grandchildren. My husband’s grandmother is getting to watch my daughter grow up (the woman is around 96, we think, and shows no signs of stopping) and I’m jealous. I’d be happy just to see my grandkids graduate high school. And I’d have lots of other stuff to keep me interested. And frankly I’m not all that comfortable with the idea of dying – I think life is pretty fun. So I will sign up. Assuming I can afford it…

  37. …you can have your social security at age 67 or you can live and work another 70 years–which do you pick?

    It depends on how much adult diapers will cost.

  38. This truly seems like one of those issues where true liberals get separated from true conservatives. If there’s one thing my friends on the left and the right agree on is that vastly extended lifespans and the ability to enhance or modify our genes are both bad things. Left and right get blurred again (new song lyric).

  39. “Youthful vigor” doesn’t just mean that of your non-neural body parts–it means youthful vigor for your brain, too. Better memory, quicker learning, less need to rely on habit, etc. If stodginess in today’s elderly results from aging of the brain, if your brain won’t age, you’re less likely to be stodgy.

    Actually, I don’t think vigor is going to be the problem so much as space. I read about a study someone did several years back, which concluded that the average person runs out of room in their brain to store information around the age of 45. At that point if you learn something new, you are simultaneously forgetting something else.

    Considering how many things I was able to do well and quickly as an undergrad, that I couldn’t do today to save my life, I’m inclined to believe there’s some truth to this.

    Now, if we could double our brain storage capacity at the same time we’re living longer (without sssllloooowwwwinngg d-d-d-d-down access), that’d be kick ass.

    One of the biggest problems science and technology faces today is knowlege integration. You can only jam so much knowledge into one person’s brain, even if they get a PhD. But the more info one person has at their disposal, the more they (potentially) can accomplish.

    Living a whole lot longer is a really cool idea. But I have to wonder — at what point have you increased life span so much that people’s values fundamentally shift? An immortal being would certainly not be driven by the same motives.

  40. Imagine a job listing that required 50+ years experience.

    Imagine going to college until you’re 50. Somebody wrote a novel (I forget who now) where you graduated from robotics school at about that age.

    Corporate vacation policy would have to change. Instead weeks per year, we’re going to start talking about years off per decade.

    To hell with all nighters. We’re having a six month party at my house, starts in October. It’s a bring your own Salma Hayek Love Android? party.

  41. But this is so perverse. Between having our own individualized government agencies, the endless wars (on drugs, terrorists, libertarians, whatever) and the fact that the planet is reportedly almost over heated and dead, what kind of future are we in for?

    I guess we’ll just have to party more.

  42. Living l and staying healthy, would be amazing. For those who can’t stand it, there is always suicide.

    Treating the Bible as imperfect historical record (I am NOT trying to make this any kind of religious debate), there were reported lifespans of 800-900 years. Considering that a woman probably didn’t go menopausal until at least 600 years, that’s a lot of breeding. It becomes easier to see how the world got populated, as opposed to today, where if you put off breeding by 10 or 15 years for a career, you really eliminate the possibility of many kids.

    I am with the guy who points out that we’d have so much more time to learn, develop new careers, etc. Can you imagine the skills and perspective of an engineer whose had 200+ years to perfect his skills? I consider it a shame that right about the time we seem to be hitting our stride in careers and skills, we start an aging and decline process.

    I read an article (I think by Bill Sardi) on LewRockwell.com about how vitamin C may well be the immortality substance. Humans are one of the only mammals that do not produce their own vitamin C, and also don’t live to ten or more times their physical maturity age (this would conservatively give us a lifespan of 180 years). Our livers produce the precursors to vitamin C, but fail by one step to produce it. The postulation is that by having a very small surviving population (like Noah’s family in the Flood) a genetic defect became the new norm, and inbreeding meant that the defect became predominant, and we quit being able to produce vitamin C, shortening our lifespans. It is notable that the reported lifespans post deluge fall of rapidly.

    Forgetting the religious debate, is there some truth to the story, or is it an accurate metaphor? Are we physically weaker and less able to survive largely because of an essential deficiency in vitamin C production? based on bodyweight, we’d be producing over 100,000mg/day per healthy individual (and it is very possible to take that amount or more via IV with nothing but healthful effects).

    In short, gene therapy to allow our livers to finish the sequence and produce vitamin C from its precursors may itself add 180 years to our lifespans, or more.

    Rather than being afraid, I think this would be the best thing possible. If what I read about C is true, we’d have a MUCH healthier population, with fewer chronic health problems and disease. We’d live longer, learn more. Even an idiot at age 120 should have some useful work skills and have wised up from their general bad habits. You can only eat consequence for so long before working at it.

    The problem with so called age ethicists is that they view everything through the paradigm of today, zero sum, current policy, etc. This is unsurprising, because I bet most of them are on some governmental payroll or research grant. Just as the Internet has been making major changes in the way we order society, education, business, and journalism, so would living longer. I’d like to volunteer to give it a shot and will post my thoughts on a life well lived when I am 300 or older.

  43. Something I forgot to mention, in response to the guy who mentions “running out of brain space” and also to attending college until age 50, etc. and dealing with 100 year old marriages, being a 40 year old delinquent, etc.

    We view everything, by nature of our immersion in it, with government schools, rules, and laws. Most of human history, we’ve not had that problem, in the way we live with it today. Everything is so regulated today, but I firmly believe that the age of the nation state is ending, and this massive regulation, police state building, war making, etc. is the last gasp before it starts devolving. An excellent book to read is “Sovereign Individual.” It was written in 1997, and most of what it discussed is coming true. It even made some predictions (in the context of its broader commentary) that have proven uncannily accurate.

    The reason I mention this is that due to technology, societal, business, and governmental arrangements are already radically changing. Politics as an important determiner of attitude is relatively new, and will pass from the scene again. This would continue in a society where people live longer.

    So many people I know (I am one of them) get burned out and wise up to the showmanship/distracting nature of politics as they age. Instead of dying, they might be voting, and more economically powerful and influencial than ever. They would not be taken in like the 18 year olds continually, looking for government to solve their problems by believing the same old lies. They might not be desperate for the social security handout to take care of them in their rapidly declining years if they could easily and happily work another 500-100 years in good health.

    As a result, the ability of charlatan politicians to exploit youthful naivette and energy, or aged desperation, would decrease.

    Brains “filling up” around age 45 is not a given. It’s still theory. It varies, massively, by individual. More importantly, it’s probably not a natural condition, but it is directly related to the aging process, and now days the accumulation of environmental (mercury) and food related toxins (nutrasweet, etc. that affect brain function. Being youthful and healthy, and delaying the actual age related deterioration process will likely put off this phenomenon.

    Living longer doesn’t automatically mean maturity would be delayed. Plenty of evidence shows that this is more of the result of the results of delayed responsibility and forced incarceration in the artificial institutions we call schools. There are already plenty of juvenile 40 year olds, and there are plenty of very mature 17 year olds. I worked three jobs to pay for a private high school, and was in basic training the morning after graduation at age 17. I never went through the immature period I know many men in their 30s are still going through. Reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography also shows just how possible it is for a young man to grow into responsibility and opportunity when it is available to him.

    There’s just no reason that a person can’t attend school until age 16, get an apprenticeship, save money, develop a career, and ten or twenty years later, go back to school, etc. develop a new career, and so on. If we didn’t get taxed so heavily, there’d be a LOT more money to put aside and compound to finance taking several years off to devote to education again every ten or less years. What makes this difficult or impossible to do now is the fact that we run against the age limits so young. By way of example, I am in my mid-30s, and attending university again to redevelop a new career. I am VERY cognizant of the clock ticking and the fact that I have limited time to go to school and still develop a worthwhile career based on the new degrees. If I get my way, I might be in school until I am 40-42. It would be nicer to know I could make this time and money investment pay off over another 60-100 years of work life (or more) than to try to cram it in for a only 20 years or so until (official) retirement.

    Living longer (and being healthy) would mitigate this, and make it very possible for people to approach various life and work problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective because they may already have four or five long service careers and all of that knowledge and experience behind them. For every problem supposedly caused by living longer, there are so very many upsides.

    Imagine if the inventors of the computers, or other geniuses, lived longer, and could continue to give their advice and knowledge. If Charles Babbage were still alive, or Edison, Einstein, Nobel or Linus Pauling, and so on, what might continue to be achieved? I also think people would spend more time earning their money doing things that are enriching and fulfilling and take the long term approach to success as there would be less pressure to pay off school debts, and cram as much earning capacity into your 20-45 years of working life before your youth and vigor fade.

  44. I firmly believe that the age of the nation state is ending, and this massive regulation, police state building, war making, etc. is the last gasp before it starts devolving.

    I’d like to believe this but I can’t.

    So many people….would not be taken in like the 18 year olds continually, looking for government to solve their problems by believing the same old lies. They might not be desperate for the social security handout to take care of them in their rapidly declining years if they could easily and happily work another 500-100 years in good health.

    As a result, the ability of charlatan politicians to exploit youthful naivette and energy, or aged desperation, would decrease.

    I think you misunderstand all the reasons people “fall” for the charlatans. There are in fact people who would rather not work if they can avoid it.

    You also forget that many people aren’t falling at all. They’re just social engineers and it’s as simple as that. Politics gives them a way to do what they want to do. I don’t believe people are going to grow out of this. You might beat them out of it, but they aren’t going to give it up on their own.

    The one thing that university intellectuals have, on average, agreed about over the past 200 years is that capitalism and individual liberty have got to go. Or at least be seriously curtailed. The general populace has been dragged along with this current.

    Brains “filling up” around age 45 is not a given. It’s still theory. It varies, massively, by individual.

    Maybe so. But it still remains true that there is a limit on how much info you can maintain at any given time, and it’s a brain space issue unrelated to aging. Take it from somebody who’s worked in highly multi-disciplinary tech fields for years. “Use it or loose it” is reality when it comes to working with reams of technical knowledge.

    If we lived longer, I expect we’d have to find much smarter ways to use computers than we do now. That would probably be the work-around. Software still hasn’t really gotten out of the Stone Age yet if you think about it. It’s still pretty crude, and it’s still pretty easy to bog even “fast” computer down to a crawl today.

  45. Dear Kahn:

    You might not think the end of the nation state is coming, but all evidence is that it is. Virtually every nation state is bankrupt, deep in debt, bloated with legions of functionaries, and with unsustainable government spending programs.

    The Catholic Church, circa 1500 was in a similar position, and its influence went into terminal decline. Society, technology, etc. changed.

    I too have worked in the tech field as a design engineer, consultant, and researcher. Amongst other things, I have also been a soldier. While it is true about “use it or lose it” it’s not as bad as you make it out to be. For one, perspective is something that grows with age. ANY skill may decline with use, but the perspective of multiple careers often enriches others. I ended up doing some work for DARPA not because my military skills were up to date and well polished. Because I had so much prior military experience, I could design and give systems concepts with my current engineering skills in a way that the current military practicioners could use. If I were to be a soldier for 50-100 years, I am sure I’d be a better soldier than I would with 4-8 years of practice, even if some of the skills like ditch digging (mastered in basic training) didn’t stay as sharp as they might with 50 years of daily practice.

    I strongly suggest reading the book the Sovereign individual. It mainly discusses the change in political assumptions, arrangements, returns on violence that make the centralized bureaucratic nation state a going proposition. Of course many university types love the nation state. Their position, pay, authority, etc. are artificially boosted because of it’s current operating paradigms. Many weapons scientists in the USSR resented the end of communism and the USSR as they lost their pay, position, and respect. In fact, I remember a number of news stories and interviews showing former nuclear physicists making better money as butchers, where at least there was some demand for their skills.

    Ultimately, the point is that when prevailing circumstances change, institutions MUST change or perish, no matter how much they want to maintain control or authority. The Church would have loved to have kept its massive financial, temporal, secular authority, and be the sole perceived gateway to heaven. It didn’t, and changed. Government, for a variety of reasons too long to go into here, will change, and adapt, and pare down, simply because in the long run it will be bankrupt, and have no choice. People will just ignore it because they can.

    I will bolster this with one example. In the 80s it was illegal (in the USA) to receive a fax. Because of archaic laws, a fax was treated as first class letter, all letters had to go to the post office. As a result, the law stated that you had to fax a service, they then needed to print the fax, take it to a post office, get a stamp, mail it to the final recipient, or you’d be breaking the law.

    There are NO statistics on how many suckers actually did this. In their hundreds of thousands, then millions, and now billions, faxes went direct to and from recipients without the “benefit” of a first class stamp. Sure, they could have tried to stomp people out, make an example of a few business, etc., but they didn’t. Don’t think it was because the post office decided that society would be better off ignoring that law. They accepted what happened because they had no choice.

    One of the previous posters made mention of the fact that if there was this magic pill that doubled lifespan while maintaining health, he’d kill whoever tried to keep it from him. He’d kill there families, and to me, his rationalization was NOT without merit. In the end, I don’t think many people in the US government, or its employees, will risk death to maintain the status quo. If the situation that has developed in Brazil or Bagdhad with cops and their families being killed with scary regularity occured, most of society would change. Cops might nail you for serious crimes like murder, but would probably not pop small time dealers or tax cheats if they thought serious violent blow back would become the norm.

    I point out the extreme only to illustrate a point. As the system and the laws designed to enforce the system become moot in the face of advancing technology and social arrangements, people will start fighting or fleeing to escape outmoded constraints and societies. One of my favorite web authors, Fred Reed (www.fredoneverything.net) is a perfect example. He writes for a living. He moved to Mexico, probably pays no income tax on his writings, lives well, and outside of the regulatory reach of the USA. Andorra, Costa Rica, Belize, the Caymans are all popular tax or retirement havens. I’ve moved abroad, and will keep moving so as to keep my income and lifestyle outside of the regulatory reach of government officials. It is now possible for more people to do this than ever before, and is becoming more possible for more people with each passing day. The only alternative for the nation state to effectively police this is to follow the east German model and keep people in.

    I think, when this happens, there will be a mass exodus to avoid being trapped, THEN violent struggle. As we are seeing in Iraq, nation states are like humpty dumpty. We are in the era of 4th generation warfare, and short of utter extermination of all opposition, and any who later accept their ideas, there is no winning a war against non nation state actors. The survival of drug dealing and organized crime (and their growth in the face of the most expensive and oppressive measures taken to end them) are proof of this.

    Think of how much sharper the struggles would be to live in a place that allowed free (non regulated) access to life extending treatments. Like never before, capital, talent, and population would move. People in regulated regions would wholesale stop obeying authority, and fighting when it was imposed with police or military force.

    No matter how you cut it, when you look at the historical precedents, financially, morally, and militarily, the nation state is at the end of its tether. What’s ironic is that whenever an institution or technology was at the end of its useful life, you’d see the most massive spending on it as returns diminished. So it was with battleships, I believe so it is becoming with massive government funded sports stadiums, and so it is with the nation state. The end won’t be pretty. In some cases, it will be violent. Surely it will mostly end in bankruptcy, ruin, and depression. That will merely demonstrate that the nation state is an ineffective and outmoded concept. Technology is largely responsible for this.

    Politics may have enabled social engineers to triumph, but really, this is because the advantages of an organized, central state with a monopoly on violence (and legitimacy gained primarily by being successful at this over a long period of time) have enabled this. This is ending, and a look around the world in every way shape and form shows that the power of the state is failing in competition with the free market and other non state actors. Medical tourism is an example, and if an anti-aging treatment is identified, it will be like a flame to an ammunition magazine for a nation that tries to regulate or outlaw it.

    If you want to carry on the discussion offline (it is kind of wandering it seems, as much my fault as any) and be provided with some source articles on it, send me an email. My address is valid.

    Best regards.

  46. I forgot to mention another thing about brains filling up. To this I answer mnemonic exercises and nootropics. There are proven ways, and it’s still in its infancy, to increase and enhance normal and degraded brain functions. By and large, most of the medical establishment is clueless. As one extremely familiar with the mainstream medical establishment, you’d be amazed at what the average long schooled, long practicing doctor who purports to be current in his field doesn’t know.

    Part of what keeps people from buying these things is lack of knowledge. Another part is regulation. Finally, there tends to be a lack of disposable income (high tax rates will do that), especially as this is something no 3rd party payer system will endorse.

    In the end, if you thought you’d live longer, and needed to keep that sharp mental function, you’d buy it. SO would I. At present, I am embarking on a self funded self realized experiment to start incorporating said nootropics into my health regimen. While it may be illegal to prescribe, buy, or sell them on spurious regulatory grounds depending on my jurisdiction, it tends to be very possible to buy these things via Internet and get them shipped.

    These things are not illegal drugs. They are usually (though not always) substances that can’t be prescribed for “mental enhancement” according to outmoded FDA regulations. Some of them are actual prescription drugs, but most doctors in the USA being unfamiliar with them, or only knowing of them as effective treatments for age related dementia, and generally won’t prescribe them to a healthy patient for the purpose of augmenting normal mental function (even though a number of nootropic medications prove both safe and effective for doing so).

    So…..you pay cash for an Internet or Mexican doctor to give you a prescription that you can use to fill a prescription in a foreign country (like Mexico) or buy it in a place where you generally don’t need any prescription to get most drugs (again, like Mexico). Where money flows…so does development. Again, governmental and social engineering nanny wishes are thwarted, and you have what you want. As word gets out about these, and other (perhaps life extending) drugs, governments will be hard pressed to regulate them.

    In fact, so much drug smuggling occurs via USPS, UPS and Fed Ex simply because it is so tough to police. For every story you read about them intercepting such a package, hundreds or thousands get through. Enforcement just gets costlier and costlier, for diminishing returns.

    If you look at the sheer numbers of police, their lavish and expensive kit, weapons, authority, vehicles, etc. in the USA, and consider that the so called drug problems are no better in real terms, despite the massive prison population, it becomes quite clear there are seriously diminishing returns, and it can’t continue. In super regulated Britain, there are FAR fewer police, they are paid far less, do far less, and equipped less lavishly, yet society still functions (though the UK is going bankrupt for other reasons). The point I make is that never before has America been so policed, and never have the police been so well paid, trained, equipped, and empowered, yet they are STILL failing to do what they are supposed to be able to do. In the event of real public need (Hurricane Katrina, LA riots, etc.) they are powerless…even with minimal to no serious public opposition.

    In other words, the very expensive mechanisms by which the nation state compels obedience are less and less effective, and in the long run, it becomes impossible to maintain a vibrant economy to fund such mechanisms in the face of other jurisdictions and nations that don’t bother. Here we are, and there we are going.

    And seriously, if you want to work on expanding your brain’s ability to retain and process information (especially with programming and other high intellect demanding tasks) look into nootropics. Things being what they are, you can get some amazing books like “Smart Drugs” (both I and II) via Amazon’s used marketplace (or new, your pick). It can’t hurt, and it might help a lot.

  47. I aged 100 years just reading the last two posts.

  48. On working an extra 70 years – a simple analysis would say that this isn’t necessary if prudent savings is done – the effects of compounding yield/interest over time are not linear – saving $10k a year for 50 years with a return of 4% over inflation, gets you $1.5m. Doing the same thing for 70 years more than doubles it. Doing it for 120years means your kids can join the idle rich.

    Of course, one has to wonder where this return on investment would come from once we become a nation of trust fund babies :-).

  49. There is a way to address things for what kind of work we’d do if we became a nation of “trust fund babies.”

    Assuming new people continue to be born, I think there’d always be an incentive to work to build that initial stake.

    My idea of retirement is not to quit working. It’s to quit working for someone else, doing something I don’t absolutely want to do, because I have to. Many wealthy people continue to work because they love the work. Some volunteer, others create more value. Look at Edison and Bill Gates, Michael Dell, etc. Any of them could have sold out, retired, and lived large. They kept/keep working.

    You’d probably see a more natural ebb and flow to life. People’d work hard for five years, or ten years, then take several off. They might work for a decade, then retire for one, then go back to work. People might take time off to go to school in their 40s, and branch out. Putting kids off until age 50, then taking off full time work for 15 years to raise them before returning to work might be the new norm.

    Life would quit revolving around the school, work, pay off debt, accumulate assets, push kids through college, pay usurious taxes all that time, retire, hope your money lasts until you die, then the remaining estate gets taxed.

    Having a retirement fund that could see you through, but knowing you could easily go back to work at any time might make people more entrepeneurial and willing to risk their investments and efforts on high payoff projects. People, freed from having to have an income might work on things they think are worthwhile. I read that the contest for private manned spaceflight had a group that while funded by a very wealthy man depended on a large number of highly skilled professionals to donate their time. That would probably become common, and taking a year or two off to work on some special project, join the Peace Corps, travel, fish, write, whatever would become common.

    In all likelihood, we’d have more skilled, wise people putting their time and money into a wider variety of projects, jobs, and such than ever before, working for the love of it once they didn’t need to work.

    To toss a fantasy reference in, I think of what I’ve read of Elves in the Tolkien genres. Basically, having hundreds and thousands of years to develop their crafts, they evolved a very philosphical society, and built things to last. They developed their artisanship to incredible levels, their knowledge in magic, history, etc. became essentially unparalleled. Life was not rushed through, in a frantic hurry to accomplish something before death took them.

    The real world might become something like that fantasy simply because, with the constraints of time diminished or comparatively eliminated, we’d have more opportunities to explore what we wanted in life without the demand of having to maximize income to time. Work is something you resent and avoid when you don’t like it, but have to do it. In the longevity world, at least after an initial stint of building wealth (the degree of which would vary for everyone), that burden would be seriously diminished.

    And for those that just want MORE, they can do that too. Buying a yacht would become more reachable for more people if they could just work an extra decade beyond fiscal necessity (to finance retirement), saving said resources to buy it. I imagine the pool of available lending or investment capital would dramatically increase as a result too.

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