Sunday, May 16, 2010

Aging Prevention

The modern world of today

The world of tomorrow

Technology will soon reach a point where the human aging process can be halted. It's not that far into the future. Maybe 30 years. So what happens when people have a 20 year old body when they're 80 years old?

Technology will soon reach a point where diseases like cancer will be stopped. Again, it's not that far off. What happens when people live as long as they don't have a serious accident?

I think it changes a lot of fundamental things in society. And it makes our demographics much more like very poor countries (or like very old times), except a lot more extended in time.

Demographics in olden days

Demographics today

Future demographics

In developed countries, once people are about 3 months old, they generally live until old age. Then, at something like 75 years old, the aging process starts to have a big impact and suddenly diseases that were survivable at a young age become fatal. Eventually aging wins out and the person doesn't live beyond 130 years.

In very poor countries (or very old times), people die from disease or accidents often enough so that the probability of dying is fairly constant throughout a lifetime. Unlike developed countries where people generally don't die at 30 or 40 or 50, in any given year you have about the same chance of dying. Biologically speaking, your chances of dying in any given year have nothing to do with how old you are... in fact, your chances of dying might actually decrease as you get older and more experienced.

I still need to think about how the probability of dying affects people's behavior, but we can be sure that it will lower people's risk tolerance. If your life expectancy is 200 years, or 1,000 years, you're going to be careful about parachute jumping or scuba diving in underwater caves.

I think people would view time very differently. You'd sacrifice a decade for some greater benefit just as someone today might sacrifice a year. A medical school education would become a lot more valuable. Self-improvement would reap bigger rewards.

Since our demographics will revert to the old distribution, I think that there are facets of our future behavior that will resemble hunter-gatherer societies. The small number of very old people (500+ years old) might be very valuable for their accumulated knowledge and experience. What else, I don't know.

It means that you live to see your great-great-great grandchildren, but they might be so far removed from you that you perceive each other as distant relatives.

One unexpected result of this future world of non-aging is the change in the balance of sexual attractiveness. If a 150 year old looks just the same as a 20 year old, then experience/knowledge becomes a major factor and only a fool would pass up a hot 100 year old for a green 20 year old.

Another result is that small differences in behavior result in huge differences in outcome over the course of an extended lifetime. A 1% difference in productivity increases per year result in very different results after 500 years. I think overall civilization would get very wealthy.