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Retro: What Would Radical Longevity Mean?
Jamais Cascio, 26 Aug 05

In the developed world and in much of the developing world, human beings are living longer, healthier lives. But how long can human lives truly be? People older than 100 years are becoming increasingly commonplace; some medical scientists suggest that the natural human span, if everything goes just right, may be up to around 140 years. But others argue that the natural span is no limit -- that we may be on the verge of a world where people could live for much longer than that. In What Would Radical Longevity Mean?, I take a look at several scenarios of what the world might look like if -- or when -- we figure out how to cure aging.

What about relationships? While many marriages end in divorce, not all do. What does "til death do we part" mean when death may be centuries off? Can you imagine being with your current partner for another fifty years? Hundred years? Three hundred years? What if one of you wants the treatment and the other doesn't? [...]

How does it change people's behavior if they know that they could live for centuries? Do they become more conservative? More adventurous? Are they less likely to have kids? How do they treat people who won't be living extremely long lives? Do they start thinking long term? Does society stagnate, or is the concept of "stagnation" itself an artifact of short-term thinking?

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Comments

It's a Lovecraftian moment - you know, the inquisitive person digging back into personal and family history, mounts the steps leading to the crypt or whatever, where his family secret is hidden. Only to realize, a few days later, the ghost that's begun haunting him is his own self ...

The greatest horror I see in extending the human lifespan, is one's personal demons. One's own failings, etc, amplified over several more decades than otherwise ... and what's even worse, the failings of known psychopaths such as a certain HOS, continued in seculas seculorum ...

One of the most important aspects of extreme life extension would have to be brain plasticity - it's no good if all you get is three-hundred year old drooling morons.

And I'd love to see in some future constitution, an amendment making politicians ineligible for life-extension treatment for the duration of their term of office.


Posted by: Wesley Parish on 27 Aug 05

Does't one of Asimov's robot stories deal with this? Human contact became minimal, chances weren't taken. Those with life extension were essentially unable to compete with those that hadn't embraced it.


Posted by: mo on 27 Aug 05

One solution to that problem - to institutionalize the 'virtual death'of the person every 50 or so years.To make this 'rite of passage' ceremony popular and widespread, it should be performed with maximum pomp, somberly but joyfully in the churches or the funeral houses. It will include : the change of name and residency, possibly country and spoken language, the public mourning of the person by spouse, children and relatives and physical separation with the complete ban on future interaction with virtually deceased. Also the use the memory-erasing technics that will sure be available at that time will most likely be used.


Posted by: sukeroki on 29 Aug 05

Read "Time Enough for Love" by Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of Lazarus Long, a guy that lives for over 4000 years. He covers many issues, including that he's basically done everything in the universe worth doing and is bored. Read the story to find out how he copes. The book also covers many issues brought up here like marriage, children, and living in a society where people live much longer than they do now.

L.L. fan,

skeeter


Posted by: skeeter on 30 Aug 05



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