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Thought experiment

Part of the job description of any science fiction writer who's trying to break new ground in the field — or just to turn in work that doesn't suffer from the second artist effect — is to try and brainstorm the consequences of a new invention or discovery ...


This works best when there's an immediate tangible impact on the human sphere. For example: if tomorrow we picked up an unequivocal and clearly meaningful SETI signal from the M31 Andromeda galaxy (by which I mean a radio or optical signal that clearly contains non-random low entropy information, although we might not be able to decode it rapidly), then that would clearly have a major "gosh, wow!" impact in the media, and raise all sorts of longer term questions about our place in the universe ... but because M31 is 2.5 million light years away, there would be no prospect whatsoever of any meaningful two-way communication ensuing, unless the SETI transmission encodes directions for working around the speed of light.

In the absence of such a gadget, the SETI transmission doesn't immediately change anything. But if it comes with instructions for building some kind of spooky instantaneous communicator, then all sorts of stuff happens. Stuff that's obvious: we get to talk to the 2.5 million years later descendants of the SETI signal's senders. We get much better communications with future deep space probes, and the probability of humans setting foot on Mars just drops by an order of magnitude because we can send teleoperator-controlled robots that can do real work without a half-hour control lag. And communication satellites are obsolete. With me so far? Stuff that is a bit less obvious is that we get a global stock market crash, because most high frequency trading strategies have just been rendered obsolete (they usually rely on signal latency and speed of light delays at some level). We may get another major crisis because instantaneous communications almost certainly imply causality violation which gives us some interesting strategies for tackling NP problems and oops, all your encrypted password hashes might as well be stored in plaintext. In fact, the ultimate consequences of receiving an instantaneous communicator might be highly detrimental to a civilization that's just getting ready to start expanding into space in a big way, by zapping several of the business cases for space travel and simultaneously causing bubbles and wars and depressions. One wonders if there isn't an answer to the Fermi paradox here ...

But "aliens give us ansibles" is not the thought experiment I'd like to run today.

Let us postulate, as Aubrey de Grey does, that ageing and senescence in mammals is not inevitable, but a consequence of accumulated metabolic malfunctions that are not weeded out of the genome by evolutionary selection pressure because they emerge so late that they don't typically impair the organism's reproductive fitness.

Thought experiment: It turns out that there is no single senescence "master switch", but there are three or four fairly simple genetic tweaks we can make (either via epigenetic modulation or by actual insertion of a handful of genes by way of a suitably customized virus) that (a) slow the ageing process in young adults by a factor of ten, and (b) partially reverse the ageing process in middle-aged or elderly adults so that after a few years or decades they recover physically to the equivalent of a 25-year-old. A vaccine is developed, becoming available some time between 2020 and 2030, which can be mass produced for roughly $5 a shot — one injection, and the recipient isnt going to die of cellular senescence. Note that there is some small print attached.

(Small print: This is not a magic cure-all. It doesn't cure bacterial or viral infections, cancer, prion diseases, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or neurological conditions. It doesn't enable the user to regenerate lost limbs. It does enable stem cells in adult tissues to produce more new cells, improving recovery from injury and attrition due to age (such as damage to cardiac tissue or progressive loss of cortical matter in the brain). It does not preclude the development of other treatments for the above conditions.)

What do you think the consequences are likely to be?

(I'll post my thoughts on the subject later ...)

301 Comments

1:

Longer life (especially in a controlled environment) does help solve the travel-to-the-stars problem you've written about previously. Generation ships become more feasible as the generations are longer or the long-sleep technology becomes possible via similar genetic tinkering. Furthermore, travel-to-the-stars becomes necessary as we now have a growing population that isn't giving ground to future generations. Perhaps the old win out and exile the young on space adventures or the young win out and exile the old.

2:

This is not _Trouble With Lichen_, but it's also not too far off.

What happens when we run Human Mind 1.0 on the same hardware for longer? Do we find interesting high uptime bugs that were previously less noticable?

Perhaps old people are increasingly less able to adapt and less useful to society, and end up being unable to deal with the world around them despite physical health.

Perhaps people's minds crash after too much input (vague memories of red/green/blue mars here)

How do our current beliefs about how people's minds change as they age change? Do they still become more set in their ways, conservative, etc?

Socially - what do we do with all the extra people? If the treatment is widely used, we probably can't feed everyone?

We're already seeing birth rates are more culturally determined than people thought - does having a child become extremely rare?

Do we have a Soylent Green situation of tasty tasty senior citizens?

What do religions say about keeping people out of heaven for longer? Sure all medicine does this, but it's on a whole new scale.

What happens to pension companies? What happens to life annuity type arrangements? Is there a huge profit to be made somewhere in the transition.

3:

Furthermore, travel-to-the-stars becomes necessary as we now have a growing population that isn't giving ground to future generations.

AHAHAHA-hic-HA!!

You crack me up.

Two things you need to investigate: (a) demographic transition, and (b) the energy cost of interstellar travel.

Put it this way, mass interstellar travel makes terraforming Mars and Venus look cheap. Which projects in turn make the Iraq invasion and occupation look like something your kids buy from the bargain rack with their pocket money.

I do take your basic point, and agree that it may well make human interstellar travel feasible, but HIT is not a practical means of dealing with population pressure and never will be, absent someone inventing a "magic" transportation technology that doesn't require adding lots of kinetic energy to physically massive bodies.

4:

Before we go any further, I seem to recall an actuarial suggestion that, based on existing mortality statistics, if we eliminate diseases of old age including cancer and heart disease and senescence and dementia, and if we assume cognitive function remains acceptable -- in other words, if we come up with a better anti-ageing treatment than I'm allowing for in this experiment -- mean human life expectancy would be on the order of 600 years.

That's because suicide and accidents will get you eventually.

There will be long-lived outliers, but we're looking at an exponential decay process here with a half-life of around 600 years. Make it to 60,000 years and in all probability something really fucking strange will get you (the proverbial banana skin incident).

So merely curing old age doesn't lead to inevitable over-population; it just massively prolongs the demographic overshoot. Unless, of course, being alive for centuries increases womens' desire to have children. Something which TFRs as low as 1.1 in some countries on the far side of the demographic transition suggests is unlikely.

5:

The pension industry is toast. Oh and the spat with existing pensioners will be entertaining.

I wonder if people will become more or less risk averse? Young male drivers are an accident risk because they have no concept of their own mortality. Will an effective anti-aging treatment make people less like to take risk (To stretch out that 600 years) or more (I can live forever, full speed ahead!).

6:

A tiny piece of it that jumps out at me is that maybe some of the change/liberalization we seem to be on course for suddenly drops out of view, as those currently middle aged and in power can suddenly hold on to it for far longer, while kids stay kids for 50 extra years and play video games and do drugs instead of growing up and taking over.

7:

"Thought experiment (subheading in body text, not title)...the above conditions":-

This reads to me as being a fair bit like how "Prolong" works in David Webber's "Honor Harrington" series, with the caveats that I think he applies an upper limit to the chronological age you can be first treated at, and that he doesn't mention any extension of the procreative capability of women. (On this point, IIRC women stop being able to procreate naturally in their late 40s/early 50s because they run out of ova; they can still carry an artificially inseminated foetus to term for at least 10 years after this.)

8:


As well as Trouble with Lichen, there's Green Mars & Blue Mars.

I'm having trouble thinking of anything that Wyndham / Robinson haven't already thought of. I do like the idea of humans becoming a bit more responsible about long-term consequences, whether they be environment or cultural.

9:

It won't be immediate...but in about 50-100 years, policy debates which refer to 'the mistakes of the past' will be very different.

Because a huge proportion of those taking part will have the ability to remember the past, rather than having read the received wisdom (or taken up with the historical revisionists).

More broadly, will most 50-year-olds scrap their plans to retire before 65? What will that do to up-and-coming college graduates?

What about the health profession? How much of modern medicine is dealing with disease, and how much is palliatives for senescence?

Someone has already mentioned pension systems...But investing for the future takes on a different focus when a person is investing for a 600-year lifespan.

10:

The cosmetic surgery industry implodes; sure, people will still want nose jobs and boob jobs, but their "I'm getting old, and I'm desperate to look something approaching young still" market disappears.

Similarly, it becomes more difficult for an up and coming actor to be lazily hailed as "The new Tom Cruise" if Tom Cruise is still around and making films.

Sportsmen no longer retire. David Beckham returns to Manchester United at the peak of his form, and nobody else can get in the team because no only is he as fit as he ever was, he's got all of those years of experience at understanding the game.

And in general it'll take immense effort to oust someone from a position of authority (elected or corporate), as they'll have no reason to retire for old age reasons. This will make all kinds of politics more vicious.

11:

Para 1) Why? The whole concept of a "pension" is that you save money "now" in order to use the funds to purchase an annuity at a more or less planned future date. If you're going to live to be, say, 700, you simply save less per year, in order to have a worthwhile annuity at 650. Meantime, as OGH indicates, more people die of random accidents during the "saving period".

Para 2) The issue with young drivers is that they think "it won't happen to me" rather than "what are the consequences of it happening to me?" I don't see why sticking an order of magnitude on their life expectancy would change that.

12:

You'll get a lot of stagnation suddenly happening; there won't be turnover in government or at the tops of companies.

A lot of people are waiting on inheritances which now aren't going to arrive. They'll need a plan B to pay off the mortgage.

House prices will go **BONKERS** because now you can have a 250 year mortgage. Property gambling will pull money out of other parts of the economy.

Unemployment is likely to go up because people will stop retiring.

No-one will know how to price annuities; pensions savings will be OK, but the actual retirement process will fail horribly.

Public sector unions will all go on strike as the pension age is raised a lot -- look at how much fuss we're getting for a couple of years increase.

I'd suggest there will be a massive wave of divorce and depression as people realise the bits of their life they hate (like jobs and bad relationships) are going to be going on a lot longer.

There'll be a lot of rioting from young people as they realise they never will be buying a house because all the property is going to be in the hands of the baby boomers for what is going to look like forever.

Universities are going to have to work out how they handle having student intakes which contain a lot of second and third career starters who are older than the professors. People are going to have to learn to start second and third careers. There's going to be a lot of friction to that.

There's going to be a lot of shock as people realise that lives which previously seemed settled are suddenly back to only beginning again. I've actually kind of been through this. I never really expected to have a very long life. Then, suddenly, I get told I can be fixed now... which is brilliant, except I never needed to work out what I would be doing aged 40. I didn't bothered to think about pension schemes or career plans or anything like that. And having to do so has been a bit of a stress really. Everyone will have to go through that.

I can see religion taking a dim view of messing with god's plans; would they kill the immoral immortals? Well, they seem quite keen on killing people who believe very slightly different versions of the magic books, so yeah, I'd say there's going to be violence before this gets mainstreamed.


13:

You can't hide secrets from the future!
- MC Frontalot

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BA6kG-tOkBs

14:

It would be interesting to see what the rate of procrastination would be, when you have a mean of 600 years available to you. That's an awful lot of tomorrows to put things off to.

On the other hand what could be the commitment to long term projects?. Thinking of the formal gardens in stately homes.

Imagine what trials indian yogis and yoginis could put themselves through with that amount of time available. Moving mountains one pebble at a time.

15:

To much to say on this so here's some thoughts in bullet points;

- Birth rates plummet, with the exception of accidental pregnancy (teenagers may still make up the bulk of this) the average age to have a child rises to several decades as 200 becomes the new 40.

- A new pension crisis arises. Those who are already retired and don't want to treatment are not a problem (they'l be dead soon) but those who are on their way/near to retirement will be pressured to stay in work rather than take a sabatical. Companies quickly stop offering pension schemes.

- Religions kick up a fuss but hardly slow down the adoption amongst those who aren't ardent believers (with the exception of countries where religion interferes with politics).

- Career ladders become career skyhooks as now becoming a bottom rung PhD means working for roughly 50 years, to become a board member you have to be a multi-centarian. Consequently what we judge to be experienced/talented/expert change dramatically.

- Conservative mentality (not the political party) creeps into cultures as the average age of the population keeps on rising and rising with people who are set in their ways not retiring to make way for new blood.

- Right to die arguments heat up, with a reasonable life expectancy of several centuries those wishing to end life early due to non-fatal but quality of life destroying diseases facing a harder time from advocates of the "a cure could be just around the corner" argument.

- Everyone under a century will have a different mentality to that of today as they will be the youths of society (not too sure what this would lead to but it would be an effect)

- Re-education would be common place, qualifications will have to have a strict time limit (e.g. a BSc degree is only valid for a 5 years), if you work in the field the qualification can be renewed. This is to stop 300 year olds using qualifications that are centuries out of date. Whether this drives the cost of tuition up or down I'm not sure

- Health and Safety as well as fear of disease will become a much bigger issue. With the only cause to death being accidents or infection people will be a lot less risky. This may lead to huge business start ups for companies offering safety services (ranging from self driving cars to floors that become spoungy when fallen on). As people reach consecutive centuries of age paranoia about these things may grow (either that or recklessness thanks to conformational bias).

Very interesting thing to do these thought experiments :)

16:

Charile, about your small print. Technology that will create your immortality vaccine implies a really good gene therapy and a deep understanding of ageing processes. It will probably also eliminate a lot of "bacterial or viral infections, cancer, prion diseases, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or neurological conditions".

17:

Sure the pension industry is toast, in it's current form and given the uncertainty involved in financial planning thirty or forty years in advance, planning four or five hundred years in advance is not going to work.
But that's not where the real immediate fall-out is: what do all the current pensioners do? There are what, eleven or twelve million people over 65 in the UK alone. They can't stay retired because all the actuarial sums assumed they'd be dead by 75-80 but we already have 2.5 million unemployed.
So inter-generational conflict is about to become messy. I'm only thinking in the near future - once it's normal for people to live to 600, then the whole idea of inter-generational conflict would have to be rethought.
Second problem is reproduction. There's not enough detail in Charlie's inital thought experiment to know how this would effect female reproduction but I'm guessing egg freezing would become a major industry (only immediate reference is Podkayne of Mars, which isn't the greatest Heinlein work, though at least he's *trying* to write a female voice). I'm guessing nobody really knows how long frozen eggs stay viable.
Catholic Church collapses: no sex for 50 years, well possibly, but 500?
OK that last point was flip, given it's one of the few institutions to have survived the end of feudalism, I'm sure it would survive this too...
I'm now trying to remember a book which suggested that we did all use to have massively extended life spans - the Biblical records of lifespan shortening were accurate and that we were experimented on by a pscyhotic alien sociologist who wanted to understand civilization collapse and needed human generations to be only 50 years whilst he lived for 10,000 - anybody know what book I'm thinking of?

18:

Technology that will create your immortality vaccine implies a really good gene therapy and a deep understanding of ageing processes. It will probably also eliminate a lot of "bacterial or viral infections, cancer, prion diseases, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or neurological conditions".

I don't think so. It may actually increase cancers -- remember, cancer lineages are cells that have become immortal by switching off apoptosis. Bacterial/viral/prion diseases are independent variables (external factors like accidents or violence). Now, there's some suggestion that diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many of the dementias are immune system related (Type 1 diabetes is definitely autoimmune in origin). Being able to produce new tissues as required may mitigate the symptoms of some of these diseases, but it's not an absolute cure.

19:

Dark satire: Immortality is invented, but society becomes so tiresome and its hierarchies so dreadful that the rate of suicide and death by violence rises to the point where immortality is merely an academic question.

20:

Agree with most of Ryan's points.

Additionally, you see more socio-economic stratification as the old and wealthy who control large swathes of the economy peel away from contact - U.S. gated communities look tame in comparison to the pseudo-states full of 300 year old monied folk. The economic concerns with this class are very different, and monetary policy wobbles between zero-target and deflationary.

The possibility of actually watching while executing on multi-hundred-year plans changes the nature of organizations (thus far, you have to be something like the Catholic church to do this now, and there aren't many entities like that). Nearly any group, from lowly non-profits to nation-states, have a 100-year plan. This makes capital accumulation very important to them. It also makes conspiracy theorists slightly more accurate.

Legal: The death penalty becomes much more popular as the conflict between denying longevity and jailing people for 500 years comes to a head. Bankruptcy becomes much, much harder. A new class of law comes into existence, limiting the length of contracts into which one can enter, based on economic factors, in order to salve the conciences of folks who don't like the look of multi-hundred-year indentures for people who are dumb with money in college. At the same time, there are lots of even more ways to fuck up, and suicide due to money issues jumps. Something like the Wunderjahr becomes pretty standard across society (length varies) as a coming of age, get-it-out-now sort of thing, and happens multiple times for many.

Youthful rebellion involves eating fast food as a fashion statement.

The importance of families becomes much stronger than in currently is (for most) in the West.

Interest in black-market identities that are actually connected to the commerce machine explodes.

21:

There will be various panicky attempts to ration it - most of which will go crash very quickly, to enormous scary booing or even less pleasing accompaniments.

One of the nastiest, because both populist and slyly amenable to creating a really cowed and compliant population, is this one: it isn't made available to serving prisoners.

One of the apparently softest is this one: keep it available on prescription only. I predict that this will seem very reasonable to a lot of people - and that, for multiple reasons, it will yield an enormous bootleg industry quite quickly.

If any jurisdiction actively tries to use prescription restrictions against released felons, illegal immigrants, or any other target group it dislikes, the size and viciousness of the bootleggery will rocket through the roof. Either the restrictions will shatter, or we'll be in for a party that'll make the War on Drugs look like the Teddy Bears' Picnic.

One long-term effect probably insensitive to anybody's conscious decisions: a society growing more aggressively risk-averse for many generations to come, as the indefinite lifespan and increased role of accident in curtailing it creates a growing class of ancients thoroughly sifted for abnormal risk-aversion.

The only way this won't happen is if this correlates strongly with a propensity to commit suicide out of boredom or disgust - which seems to me quite plausible, but then it probably would, because I'm not well qualified to become that kind of ancient.

22:

There will be various panicky attempts to ration it - most of which will go crash very quickly, to enormous scary booing or even less pleasing accompaniments.

One of the nastiest, because both populist and slyly amenable to creating a really cowed and compliant population, is this one: it isn't made available to serving prisoners.

One of the apparently softest is this one: keep it available on prescription only. I predict that this will seem very reasonable to a lot of people - and that, for multiple reasons, it will yield an enormous bootleg industry quite quickly.

If any jurisdiction actively tries to use prescription restrictions against released felons, illegal immigrants, or any other target group it dislikes, the size and viciousness of the bootleggery will rocket through the roof. Either the restrictions will shatter, or we'll be in for a party that'll make the War on Drugs look like the Teddy Bears' Picnic.

One long-term effect probably insensitive to anybody's conscious decisions: a society growing more aggressively risk-averse for many generations to come, as the indefinite lifespan and increased role of accident in curtailing it creates a growing class of ancients thoroughly sifted for abnormal risk-aversion.

The only way this won't happen is if this correlates strongly with a propensity to commit suicide out of boredom or disgust - which seems to me quite plausible, but then it probably would, because I'm not well qualified to become that kind of ancient.

23:

Charlie, not the vaccine itself will cure those diseases. What I meant is, the technologies will also be used to create much more advanced cures.

24:

I think the whole financial sector goes crazy.

People have mentioned pensions and mortgages, but savings accounts that pay interest, short and long term credit and the like all change massively in the model. Life assurance rates will fall through the floor, insurance for accidental death and the like will change, for accidents and health care (whether that's NHS or the US model) will change drastically, although it's not currently clear to me exactly how - it depends on your precise McGuffin fixes.

Your current model doesn't address women's fertility stopping at around 45 - there will be some changes there though the precise nature isn't clear. Easiest to imagine is some sort of egg/ovary harvesting for reimplanting later in life. But I imagine at least one generation (old style) of people born to parents under 50 where the parents expect to live to 500+. That will be a nasty age bracket to be in.

Prison changes too. Is sending someone to jail for 5 years for theft reasonable if they're going to live to be 500? How about life sentences? Will the death penalty be reintroduced. If the population starts to soar (not convinced it will, but it might) how will that change attitudes - you can spin that either way, but I'm pretty sure it would come up quite rapidly, particularly with the next Yorkshire Ripper or similar.

I suspect there will be massive changes in industry too. Promotion to very senior positions will be hard, obviously, if the current model persists but I suspect this will encourage people to work for say 1 century to make sure they're financially stable, possibly to have a family, and then take the plunge into a riskier business where they're in charge. Currently you're about 50 before your kids are (probably) financially independent, so lets push that back a bit to 75, an extra 25 years to save for enough to see you through the next 100 years to risk it... not that bad if you're going to live to be 600. Rather than industrial giants, I suspect we'll see federated small businesses taking off.

I imagine sense of nationality will change and blur and we might move to a one nation planet. That ability to be comfortable and take risks plus a long life expectancy will make moving around the world more commonplace - even if you can't get a jet, in five years you could walk/ferry to anywhere in the world. Settle for a century... are you now a $country_citizen? Or do you become a citizen of the world?

The green movement will go into a meltdown of bliss. Climate change is no longer "something that might affect my grandchildren, so what" but a real problem for us all. Attitudes will have to change.

Societies will also change, but not sure how. Very crudely and generally speaking, the Chinese respect age while Western cultures respect (or at least desire) youth. How does respecting age pan out if 400 is the new 40? How does wanting to look young pan out when you're 500 year old mutton trying to look like lamb? Is that lamb still

25:

Another 150 Lady Gaga albums? no thanks

26:

My reading of the thought experiment was that if human aging slows by a factor of ten, then the same factor would apply to the period of female reproduction fertility.

However, if that is not the case, you end up with a seimic shift in society with a very small reproductive period for females relative to life span.

What is also interesting is the 'referesh rate' of the population declines massively, which I suspect would consequently slow the turnover of the dominant intellectual analyses of the world.

Human development slows significantly when benchmarked against previous periods.

Does this lead to a more stable society. I doubt it, prejudice and political differences will become more strongly entrenched.

Stuart.

p.s. Thanks Charlie - brightened up a crap friday in the office.

27:

Charlie: Apologies for the stutter-posting on 21-22 - my computer chose the damnedest moment to misbehave!

28:

By spooky coincidence, I'm playing around with exactly this idea for a short story I'm writing at the moment. One thing that strikes me is that within a few decades, *something* would have to be done to deal with the population control consequences of the fact that each generation would not die off.

How could this be done? Leaving aside Logan's Run type options, as I doubt there would ever be much public support for them, one possibility is that children would be deliberately locked into a pre-pubescent state to prevent them having children of their own until after their own parents had died. This would, after all, have the advantage that those prevented from breeding would be too young (biologically, and probably emotionally, if not chronologically) to be in much of a position to object. If you're biologically 9 years old, and are treated in law as such, how much scope would there be for you to object? And (side issue I'm looking at writing a short story about) just how screwed up would someone who had spent half a century living the life of a 9 year old child be?

Other thoughts? Economic privilege would be likely to become even more locked down - anyone who owns property outright will find its value soaring - if people can live for 500 years or more, that's a hell of a long time to pay a mortgage off... But there would be positives to - As a species, it might finally enable us to begin to address some of the long term environmental risks we're running (from the conventional environmental problems of the kind Greenpeace and FoE emphasise at the moment like resource depletion to more long-term low-probability high-impact risks like asteroid impacts). We might (or might not) become more sane as a society about our attitude to work - a rat race with no end in sight is particularly unappealing. But would we risk cultural stasis? why write that great novel today if there's always tomorrow? How much of human endeavour is driven by the knowledge that we have only a very limited time on this earth in which to get things done?

29:

Didn't Bruce Sterling sort-of look at this in Holy Fire? His contention was that it would make 'dead man's shoes' a near-impossibility, by making a Gerontocracy possible. The implication being that progress and change depends on older people dying and making way for new ideas and that life extension would cement existing inequalities and make them worse, like some kind of reverse Logan's Run.

However, who's to say the experience of our life expectancy trebling or quadrupling wouldn't change the assumptions we have about people becoming more rigid in their convictions as they get older, especially if that rigidity is not either caused or exacerbated by physical and mental decline?

30:

Fundamentalists are not going to like this. "Only God/Ala/Zeus/Whatever can decide on life and death". Assuming, as you said, that the "death cure" is distributed fairly equally, then I don't see this as being a big opposition ("fuck God, I want to live forever", followed by a few fundamentalists accepting it as a "gift from God"). If it were limited (because of costs) to rich guys, expect a holy war.

31:

Well, yes: I posit that once researchers can hope to pursue a research program for multiple decades, the level of domain-specific expertise they can bring to bear will (I hope) result in breakthroughs.

One constraint on this question that I forgot to add was, I was asking, what are the short-term consequences? Because, obviously, if we look 100-1000 years ahead, the waters will be hopelessly muddied by other independent social and technological variables.

32:

600 years... would you not become more careful if you knew you had a long time to live? Wouldn't you also be making VERY long term plans that you'd want to see come to fruition? If we were all going to live much longer, and be as lucid and mentally agile as a 25 year old the entire time, we'd certainly think ahead a bit more. Mankind would probably undertake long term projects in a way never seen before. Interstellar travel unlikely but we'd easy make journeys to the gas giants, and have patience for very long scientific studies that are not possible now. Most of the world can't see past the next financial year right now.

What if you reach age 50,80,150, and you're still that sharp 25 year old. You still have the all that experience and wisdom and could go back and study again for a new career, another phd? Why not.

Suddenly we'd have an enormous inequality between people aged in the triple digits, with an incredible amount of life experience and expertise, and young adults who have about as much as any now. I wonder if any new generation in such a world will be a highly disadvantaged minority. Bcoming rather subservient to older generations (hell that sounds like your average corporate structure, from top down: Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y (aka Millenials) matching up to upper echelons of management, middle management, coal face.

I'd expect in a few hundred years to see god-like megawealthy humans that are to billionaires what billionaires are to millionaires now. Guess who's going to be running world politics... not your

Fortunately the ultra long lived may be rather benevolent, since there is little reason to shaft everyone if you were acutely aware of being around to see the consequences, you'd be careful what you do. Death is an escape to some extent. Expect suicide and assisted suicide to not only become widespread but legal.
Welcome the trend of the living funeral - basically a goodbye party for the very oldest before they check out.

Any newbie human would be at best a curiosity in a confusing world of walking relics or something that only still happens in slums or small remaining enclaves of humanity that prefer a old school programmed death.

One thing for sure the birth rate would crash, fast. I wouldn't expect mankind's population to boom too badly.

Even with genetic hacks turning off our programmed demise exposure to environmental radiation, toxins and oxidation damage would creep in over time to screw up our DNA and eventually kill us even if we switched off programmed death. We'd have to work on that too.

On the balance of everything it would be a good thing for humanity, even if it becomes a radically different socio-economic landscape. In fact I think we actually need it.

All this reminds me of Jerome Bixby's The Man From Earth - gives good fleshing out of the idea of what it's like to live 14,000 years.

33:

I was listening to the Radio Four thing with Melvyn Bragg the other morning and they were discussing Malthus and his ideas and how he came to them. Not something I'm familiar with but it did bring to mind the KSR Mars books.. the bicentennial surfers and such.

As for OGH experiment, I wonder how the finance incentives for Research and Development would play out. The 'get it to market' pressures would likely still exist but the IP ownership might be interesting if you begin from the point of owning the copyright and reaping the rewards for the next 600 plus years.. not that I wouldn't bet the corporate entities behind some of the current ip ownership haven't got that in 'mind' already.

Memory overflow for want of a better name: i can see it being more likely that developing a decent fast on-board holographic memory that can store and emulate retrieval of the owner's older/historic memory to augment the physical body's new found ability to experience and store things for much longer. Also, did Heinlein make up the techniques used by Lazarus Long for his memory management or are there real methods of mental organization that might work over the time period involved?

I wonder at the societal rules and mores that will continue and the new ones that will evolve to fit the situation.. given the data storage environment we already live in.. by the time we're 450.. how much of it will be made to be relevant to how we live then from what we uploaded today? Could you be prosecuted/ socially ostracized for your historic opinions on a subject that consequently became a taboo.. how much would you willingly pay to clear it out and who do you trust to do so?

these meanderings bought to you by the words 'Coffee' and 'Medication'.

34:

People will totally use the technology on their beloved pets. Immortal cats, oh my...

35:

What about the orphans? There will emerge one demographically small crowd of people who will be the oldest to a top couple of percentage points (but only by a few tens of years) and orphans. Most other people could have living parents essentially for the whole of their lifetime.

The transhumanist crowd who are convinced that generation Y is the first that might actually live forever (and what we are discussing is not just idle fantasy) have perhaps not considered all the personal social consequences of being the first. Sure your kids will grow up safe in the knowledge that this is the way it's always been, but you will among be the last orphans.

36:

People will totally use the technology on their beloved pets. Immortal cats, oh my...

37:

Didn't Bruce Sterling sort-of look at this in Holy Fire?

Yes, he did: it's the only serious treatment of this question that has stuck in my mind from the past 15 years. (Along with "Trouble with Lichen" and "Back to Methuselah" it's one of the three most important examinations of the implications of longevity research, I think. I discount "Time Enough for Love" because Heinlein wasn't on top form that decade.)

38:

Even if it's a cheap $5, that's still expensive for poor countries. I'd expect massive corruption and conflict around access to the treatment in those areas - and young/poor/nothing-to-lose vs old/rich/establishment.

39:

Ian MacDonald worked through this idea a bit in Necroville.

40:

First thing that happens is the actuarial tables go crazy, and all kinds on insurance policies get out of wack. Annuity holders feel lucky... until the insurer that sold it to them goes bankrupt.

That includes all the life pension promises made by states.

Any way you paint it, "old people" start getting back to work.

A whole lot of elderly-oriented industries will be disrupted, from healthcare to real state in sunny places.

More fuel to economic turmoil in the very short term.

Some people now, even if they know they are going to be old and not be able to work, don't save any money and live paycheck to paycheck. That would be even more true if you cannot even scare them with a frail old age.
So less savings means less money the banks can lend, so the price goes up for money.

Capital is scarcer, labor is more abundant.

Less people dying would put upwards pressure on scarce resources like real state and commodities, but the population pressure would mount progressively, which is the world we live in now, only faster.

The malthusian endgame depends on the life expectancy at that point and whether "old women" keep having children, but we are concerned now with the inmediate consequences.

But not all is bad news!
- There would be obvious productivity increases from keeping all that experience around, in all areas of life, across the board.
- All time, energy and creativity that now is spent on alleviating age problems (a lot) would be directed to other problems (cheap energy? space travel? good tv?).


Not being able to tell someone's age at a glance would have funny social implications. Another irrelevant thing the monkey is wired to pay attention to.

41:

The difference between a 50 year mortgage and a 250 year mortgage is almost nothing. You are always paying for the interest.

42:

The social welfare transfer payment system is permanently borked. Because they are represented by such deeply entrenched interests, they must be unborked, and so the vaccine is banned on religious/consumer safety/need-more-testing grounds.

A handful of powerful politicians work around this ban, have surreptitious access to the vaccine, and use the lure of eternal youth as leverage to get other politicians to vote the way they want. Representative democracy, already an iffy proposition, is completely borked (that is apparently my word of the day, and I'm sticking to it). World approaches crapsack stage. An enterprising journalist or blogger recognizes a retired elder statesman who has withdrawn from public life, despite that statesman's new, youthful appearance. He is through hiking the Appalachian Trail or climbing El Capitan diving the Great Barrier Reef or something.

Whistleblower begins a thrilling race against the powers that be to blow the lid off of the scandal before he or she is permanently silenced.

43:

Interesting to see what would happen to consumer goods. Items such as cars and white goods are usually designed to last 8-10 years - only top end stuff is designed to last longer. Would people move to buying things that where "built to last" or would we move to an even more throwaway culture (with good recycling) as nothing will ever last you for your lifetime.

On a separate thought, we'd all have to "Declutter" our lives regularly.

44:

For recurring costs, like access to clean water, I'd agree the rich can always outbid the poor. For one-off treatments, I disagree - sure, the rich will get their shots first. But the rich don't then get any profit from blocking treatment for others, while pharmaceutical companies do want to get that extra dollar of revenue as soon as possible, so I reckon the vaccination will be rolled out universally within a short time.

With far fewer estates, estate tax take falls, and individuals accumulate far more wealth in life. Either societies throughout the world become grotesquely stratified by wealth and governments are pervasively corrupt, or else annual wealth or land value taxes replace estate tax.

All vaccinations have failure rates: this shot will, too. Re-taking the shot will boost the success rate but there's still going to be that 1%-0.1% of people who show little or no response and will age and die in line with today's norm. Will they be criminals? Mystics? Hedonists? All of the above?

45:

For starters it'd cost a hell of a lot more than $5

46:

The Ceres Solution, Bob Shaw.

47:

True this; Katie, if you're dubious, use the Excel compound interest formulae to work it through using a constant amount advanced, and setting the term as 20 to 250 step 10 years. Observe the effect that varying the term has on total amount to be repaid.

48:

One implication is that investments in standard medicines: antibiotics, anti-virals, soars.

All of a sudden your chances of living long enough to die of something horrible like tuberculosis, hepatitis, AIDS and the knowledge that they can in principle be solved, makes them priorities for spending.

49:

Nuclear power becomes very popular again, because any treatment that can repair that kind of damage is going to be very effective on radiation-induced cellular/dna damage. This will reduce people's fears of the technology.

This will also make manned space travel to Mars and beyond a bit easier, since now you can skimp on shielding mass.

After an initial instability period, world economy booms due to the massive number of elderly re-enter peak buying years (20-30s) and hang there for decades or longer. Health care is the exception as it faces a prolonged recession due to the severe lessening of end-of-life care (70%+ of all medical costs expended in the USA).

Entertainment stratifies by decade. Clubs, concerts, TV and movies will be targeted to specific age cohorts. Most people will only associate closely with people in their own age cohort, as they do now. Some individuals will be adept at "crossing over" into other cohort social groups.

Asking someone's age will become even more taboo than now.

Older people will retrain/reeducate themselves and be competitive with younger people, since brain plasticity will be renewed as a consequence of the de-aging process. This also likely means that as one gets older, memories will still fade as new memories are added. The brain keeps rewriting itself.

Technology booms as productive and smart scientists, engineers, makers, and the like continue their work while younger ones are added to the mix every day. This will be one of the least "age-ist" groups.

50:
It turns out that there is no single senescence "master switch", but there are three or four fairly simple genetic tweaks we can make (either via epigenetic modulation or by actual insertion of a handful of genes by way of a suitably customized virus) that (a) slow the ageing process in young adults by a factor of ten
If you make that '300 years', i.e. a roughly fourfold increase in life expectancy, Nick Lane has suggested that one fairly involved mitochondrial tweak might well give us that on its own, *if* his elaborate hypothesis regarding mitochondrial control of the aging process is accurate (and it is fairly convincing, to me at least). There is an existence proof: birds live four times longer than mammals of a similar size would be expected to, and they have mitochondria tweaked in the same way he predicted. (Of course, *we* live three times longer than mammals of our size would be expected to, but we seem to be using some other mechanism: it is quite possible that they could both operate at once.)
51:

Unless, of course, being alive for centuries increases womens' desire to have children. Something which TFRs as low as 1.1 in some countries on the far side of the demographic transition suggests is unlikely.

Some of that may have to do with the limited window of fertility, or at least fertility without a high likelihood of complications in pregnancy, they're currently dealing with, and that window overlapping with the prime years for building a successful career.

Purely anecdotal: My wife jokes all the time that the rather large gap between my stepson (16) and my youngest (3) is due to the fact that it took her 12 years to forget how painful it was to give birth to a big baby, and how long afterward we could expect to go without sleep. Now that she's been reminded, she figures that by the time she recovers from Xander and forgets the drawbacks again, she'd be extremely high risk anyway, so no more babies until grandkids.

Now, that's a joke, because lots of other factors like financial means, size of the house, etc. come into play as well. But if women were able to stay the equivalent of their 20s for ten times longer, I wouldn't be surprised if there were at least some women who went through another couple rounds of child-rearing, maybe at something like 20 year intervals. A lot probably wouldn't, of course, contenting themselves with the grandkids (who you can hand back to your kids when you're done) and great-grandkids and so on, or not being innately interested in kids at all, but I have to wonder if the numbers would really shake out to the same TFRs that we see now, given the expanded window of opportunity to make choices in the matter.

52:

"The usual" investments fail.

While current-style pensions would be less of an issue, you would still want to save for the future.

Being through a global / national crash I've seen my pension fund built up at work effectively evaporate (my pension for the last 4 years in the public service is worth more than the previous 12 years in multinationals ...).
But i've still another 30 years to go before pension age.
I've acquaintances who've been through _two_ such crashes. I know of someone running their own business at > 80 because they've lost all their pension twice in their career.

I've a colleague who argues pure "defined-contribution" pensions should be outlawed as fraud on exactly such actuarial grounds.

53:

Because a huge proportion of those taking part will have the ability to remember the past,

Depends. How much memory can our brains hold?

54:

Sportsmen no longer retire.

Maybe, maybe not. Once you approach 40 almost all pro athletes experience joint problems. Will this vaccine deal with the grinding away of cartilage.

And if not joint replacement surgery will become much more common.

Ditto other organ transplants as specific failures occur but inside an otherwise healthy body.

55:

Dictatorships

What happens when they don't age out? Castro, Stalin, Mugabe, etc...

56:

A cure for aging without a cure for cancer = better chance of survival of cancer, because patients are going through treatment with a robust immune system. But does not = 600 year lifespan because, (with my tiny Bio 101 understanding) eventually your cells are going to accumulate transcription errors, i.e. given a long enough life (almost) everyone gets cancer. So unless this age cure also gets lengthens the life of cells and also lengthens the time it takes our cells to divide we are still stuck with cancers. And as a bonus by 100 all of our young looking geriatric men are without prostates and most likely impotent.

Add to this the fact that no matter what magic we throw at bacteria, viruses, etc., the very fact that we are biological means that we can only stay ahead of the tiny bugs for a very short time before they adapt to our bandaids (i.e. antibacterial soap, antibiotics are short term fixes). So no matter how advanced we may believe we are we can never beat the ingenuity of the evolutionary process. (Which is also kind of scary when we talk about possible uploading, as in last post, because of the same sort of problems that happen online.) Safety from parasites is impossible.

In short, with germs and cancer still menacing, you get a bunch of very young looking sick people living a little longer. (still very cool and would be a great improvement to the quality of life).

57:

First order response: yay I'm going to live forever! (for low values of "forever")
Second order response: Oh crap, you're all going to live forever.

Considering near term effects (say 20 years) if the treatment takes a small amount of time relative to that (say 3-5 years).
-Immediate chaos in the financial markets involving anything related to the lifespan of an individual (annuities, pensions, some insurance)
-Patchwork legislative intervention regarding the above geared towards whatever interest group has the biggest sway in the gov't in question. In the US, for example, annuities get nullified if you've taken the treatment. Large scale opt out of pension plans were possible.
-Apparently paradoxical increase in interest in extreme sports and dangerous activity as a means to signal that you really are young and not one of these poser oldies.
-A spate of family firm/corporation/organized crime murders where succession gets pushed out by decades if not centuries and the heir apparent decides to take matters into their own hands.
-A lost generation (a-la Japan) where there are simply no jobs for young people or no jobs with any means of advancement so they get supported by parents.
-destruction (or severe ablation) of the gerentological and old age home industry which is *huge* and employs large numbers of skilled and specialized service personnel.

Of course, messing with stem cells is problematic, tends to lead to cancer, particularly the absolutely horrifying teratoma form.

It would be interesting if the treatment worked randomly i.e. X% chance of horrifying death otherwise it works. Biases that would have a demographic effect on power groups would be interesting, i.e. doesn't work on balding white guys very much, works very well on women that have had at least one child.

58:

Which things do we know now that depend on mortality?

1) Our ability to feed ourselves. Without many of us dying, the population will expand or have to be dealt with in some other way. I think birth bans are the most likely way out.

2) Psychological issues - would we have an increased fear of death? Would we have an increased tendency to disallow traumatic events in general social life?

3) What about marriage/children. What kind of relationship can you have with your parents when you're 150 and their 170?

4) Actually, I don't think you'd have coffin dodgers keeping everyone from being promoted, but you may have people highly skilled in taking the biggest share of income from an organisation.

5) Wealth grows if you work at it. We could have some very rich people. It might even be that with their superior tactics, the upper reaches of the age group hold most of the wealth. The way the distribution of money interacts with family ties might be fascinating. As a further interaction with the birth bans, it may be that only the very rich can afford children. On the other hand, the birth lotteries may be entirely non-financial.

6) An increasing number of people would become aware of a wider than ever before seen list of leavers with which to move society. The "normal" or "default" ways of doing things could easily become so selfish that it's clear who's creating them, or so well thought through that they become key cognitive tools for most people. We might end up with some sort of socialist utopia, an almost fully manipulated society, or a society with the cognitive tools to live fully and well as individuals. Whichever it is, there's probably someone in the background laughing himself silly at it, and some sort of deeper cognitive solution to him.

7) I can't tell you which groups will at that time appear to be clannish and working for their own interests with disinterest at the interests of the group at large, nor which groups might be individualistic or communal, but such things may well be predictable in form using game theory, if not who will end where. I think the change brought on by ageing might well alter such groups.

59:

Dictatorships

What happens when they don't age out? Castro, Stalin, Mugabe, etc...

Very good point! +1

60:

Actually, my (CONTRARIAN) prediction is that this vaccine would extend maximum lifespans by at most a few decades on average.

The causes of death will remain the ones that are common now: cardiovascular disease and diabetes, incurable infections, and cancers and other diseases caused by pollutant burden. Not to mention simple accidents.

While rejuvenated bodies will be able to handle these burdens better than today's elderly do, people will still die from them. Forty year-olds still die of heart attacks.

As today, there will be outliers. The outliers will become increasingly spectacular (multi-centenarians), but for the majority, this vaccine will be a burden.

I'm still thinking about the consequences of slowing maturation, but I'm not sure whether prolonging adolescence by a factor of ten is at all a good idea.

61:

For all people talking about longer female fertility, remember that a female has a finite number of eggs that she's born with, unless she's thoughtfully had some eggs frozen into her golden years, grandma's screwed.

62:

"Unless, of course, being alive for centuries increases womens' desire to have children. Something which TFRs as low as 1.1 in some countries on the far side of the demographic transition suggests is unlikely."

I disagree; given a very long 'working adult' lifespan (say 100 years, from age 25 until 125, when old age finally hits), bearing and raising children becomes something which occupies only a small part of one's adulthood. Be in school until one's mid-20's, work until one's 50's, have children and concentrate on them until in one's 70's, and then re-enter the full-time paid labor force for another 40-50 years.

63:

I think you're on to something with the sportsmen. Not only will Beckham not retire for a very long time, sports teams will be flush with exceptional talent, as they will have the time to develop and accrue very good players. You might even reach a point at which basically every team is roughly equally matched by players who, for very good reasons, refuse to leave. In that case, I can imagine that we'd come up with new sports fairly regularly, or we'd end up with multiple ability tiers much deeper than accession systems we have now (i.e., secondary school level, university level, minor league level, major league level).

But sports teams are fairly flat as far as organizations go. The effect on business would be much different.

64:

How long do people want to work for a living? If you're potentially immortal but still human, you need food, clothing, and shelter, and that's going to involve money. Lots of people are eager to retire as quickly as they can; others want to work until they drop dead at their desks. I expect the latter sort of people will want to work and save money until they're in a position to run their own business, and perhaps cycle through new businesses every few decades (get bored, try something new, etc.).

What happens to people who are, at this time, in the lower percentiles of education and income? My above scenario re: starting new businesses really is the POV of someone upper-middle-class with a college education. Will that be a viable option for someone who works in a factory? How much of the human tendency to spend frivolously, which hits lower-income people much harder*, will impede their ability to save for the future? Will this doom people to lifelong serfdom?

Will people still have empathy for the sick and homeless, or will they be viewed as a useful depletion of the population?

Does the vaccine reverse the effects of "hard living," e.g. back-breaking labor in a coal mine or waiting tables?

I don't think the class differences will go away even if we all live forever. Do we end up with permanent serfs? How long will anyone stand that, and what will they do to get out of it?

Also, it's my experience that people of all backgrounds and incomes are remarkably bad at planning long-term. Will this be exacerbated by living longer, or will living longer give people the wisdom and perspective to get better at it?

I don't think the hegemony of older people will be a problem--people get bored. If your brain is happily functioning, there comes a point where you really want something new to do.

I'm fairly certain that if the old people don't step aside voluntarily to go do new things, the younger people will find a way to ignore them or remove them. People are creative that way.


*Not that lower-income people are any more frivolous with their money than anyone else, but that the consequences are more severe. Higher-income people can go on a spending binge, and as long as they're not sacked from their jobs, they can pay it off in a relatively short time.

65:

"On this point, IIRC women stop being able to procreate naturally in their late 40s/early 50s because they run out of ova; they can still carry an artificially inseminated foetus to term for at least 10 years after this.)"

IIRC, women have ~200K ova.

66:

There is an interesting aspect of mental adjustment to longer lifespans.

There is some sort of log(time) relationship over our learning abilities, and some researchers now claim that in terms of raw learning ability, humans top out at the age of 12-14 years.

Why this might be is not fully understood, but with our current understanding of neural networks, such a phenomena is indicated once the neural network reaches a certain information density.

To overcome this barrier, we would either have to grow bigger brains, or loose old memories surgically to make room for new ones, if we do not want to end up as a bunch of input-resistant old geezers.

Some sociologist point out that this is already a problem today, where brutally speaking, 1/4 of the voters are almost biologically incapable of changing their opinions.

Imagine what would happen to democracy, if that fraction became 7/8.

67:

Okay, I can think of at least one thing: if we posit this comes with a lack of alteration to the standard "fertile years" business for women (i.e. women are only going to be able to bear children during their peak fertile years, and these will remain between the ages of approximately 20 and 40) there will be a lot less emphasis on "early career development". Instead, people will probably be urged to take the time to have kids, raise them to adulthood, and see their grandchildren on the way, before really worrying about a career. It may be that we'll see a different sort of society slowly evolve - maybe one where there's children, adolescents, then early adult breeders and child-rearers, supported by perpetual late-adult workers (so having children and raising them becomes a stage on the way to full adulthood, rather than the culmination of adulthood).

I'd be interested in seeing whether the pace of life slows down any, since for once, we will have worlds enough, and time to slow down and enjoy ourselves (and each other). Relationships might become a bit more interesting if it's feasible to put off the consummation of same for a couple of years. I think it might do a lot to redefine things like marriage and sexuality, if the choices we make in our late teens and early twenties aren't seen as being so crucial and life-defining after all.

I suspect there'd be a redefinition of social adulthood. Over the past couple of centuries or so, we've been seeing it slowly drift further down, first from twenty-five (for men) to twenty-one, and now to eighteen (with mumbles of pushing it back to sixteen now). But when the life expectancy has increased from a mere sixty years to six hundred, is there any need to give political rights to a group of people who have only completed 3% of their possible lifespan (the equivalent of us granting voting rights to a 2 year old)? I think voting ages and "ages of reason" would slowly be moved up the scale (to the perpetual chagrin of the generation who happened to be caught constantly behind the changes).

In the short term there would be chaos. There always is, when the paradigm changes so drastically. We're living through a similar sort of chaos now to a lesser degree, as a result of the creation of better death-control measures back in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s - all those baby boomers who are still hanging around, occupying places the Gen Y types think should be theirs by right (meanwhile, Gen Xers like myself are busy saying "excuse us, there is a queue!"). It's only comparatively recently, after all, that the final veterans of WW1 have died off (Australia lost its last ANZAC about two years ago, I think) - and that war was nearly a century ago. Oh, and our definitions of "short term" and "long term" would alter.

68:
I was asking, what are the short-term consequences?

I think a lot of people are underestimating the financial chaos.

Eternal youth (which is what is promised) means, obviously, that you don't retire. Ever. You may take a 1-2-5-10 year sabbatical, but you don't retire. Ever.

So, the institution known as the "pension fund" simply ceases to exist. I stop pouring in funds in the pension, and I'm going to go to the reception, and kindly ask for the liquidation of it. Right now. Yes maam, I'll take cash or bullion, not check.

The pension funds are, as of today, the most important investor in the worldwide financial market. They hold trillions of US$, all invested in various models, on various markets.

Those pension funds are going to be liquidated. All of them (or close to). They are going to need to sell their assets. All of them (of close to).

The housing bubble isn't even going to hold a candle on this. No bailout is going to occur.

Of course, the market is going to know about this before the first dose of the vaccine is even going to hit the streets. As soon as the existence of a working eternal youth formula is known, the worldwide stock market is going to crash. Hard.

69:

Without many of us dying, the population will expand or have to be dealt with in some other way. I think birth bans are the most likely way out.

And that's working so well in China. How would you like to be a 20 year old male in a society where there's a surplus of what 20 million males over the females?

And while India doesn't have the birth ban it is creating the same issues with selective abortions.

What the planet needs in a balanced population has rarely coincided with what parents or governments want at a point in time.

70:

James Blish's "Cities In Flight" books dealt a little with this concept (although, of course, they had the fantastical spindizzy field, allowing interstellar travel).

In this universe, anti-agathic drugs stop aging toxins from accumulating and so you become long lived. As long as you keep taking them and don't have an accident (or are shot). One of my favourite series of books.

71:

"In the absence of such a gadget, the SETI transmission doesn't immediately change anything. But if it comes with instructions for building some kind of spooky instantaneous communicator, then all sorts of stuff happens."

Even if it's just one-way communication, there could still be consequences; imagine a galactic library transmitting the accumulated knowledge of many species. One of the things they transmit is how to create a transmitter that sends data back. Not real-time, not-immediate, but in a few thousand yours your knowledge base is integrated into the galactic library.

We could learn a lot from such a library (weapons, energy sources, life prolonging techniques...) which'd have massive impact, all without instantaneous communication.

(the back of my mind is shouting "Macroscope" by Piers Anthony...)

72:

For starters it'd cost a hell of a lot more than $5

Vaccines are interesting insofar as they're mostly an instance of goods that are produced by self-replicating machinery -- viruses growing in vitro. Once you've developed the product and jumped through the regulatory hoops, you amortize the R&D costs and almost everything thereafter is profit. It usually scales up quite cheaply at that point, which is why we don't have smallpox any more.

Say it costs $10Bn to develop this process -- massively over-the-odds for a modern vaccine-based treatment, by the way (typically R&D costs are in the range $100M-$500M). You roll out by first soaking millionaires and the elderly middle classes for $50K a shot; there may be a few million folks who'll pay that, so your revenue is going to be multiples of $50Bn.

Even if your initial production process is horrifyingly expensive and gold-plated and only yields a 10% margin after manufacturing costs (despite you having a monopoly by virtue of the patents) you can pay back the R&D spend in record time and then be into profit.

You use some of that cash fire-hose to streamline your manufacturing base, and a couple of years later you will be ready to roll it out at $1K a shot, which a large chunk of the entire middle class population of the developed world will pay in a split second -- up to a billion sales, giving a revenue stream that's going to visibly distort the entire global economy ("one trillion dollars, Mr Bond!").

You then offer it to governments, with the proposal: offer pensioners a choice of vaccine plus ten years of social security payments and no more, or social security for the rest of their natural life (but cut off immediately if they buy the vaccine at their own expense). This will be used to clear the social security mess: governments can get the elderly poor off social security in return for paying for their treatment.

Finally, you roll out to the developing world at $5 a shot. Even if the profit margin is only 10% at that price, your revenue is on the order of another $50Bn, so there's a tidy lump there.

Important note: patents on pharmaceuticals or vaccines run for 20 years and the instant they time out some cheap generic clones will show up on the market. So there's an incentive for the developer to roll out the product world-wide. As that 20 years is from the date of filing, not the date the produce license for prescription use in the general population is issued, they've probably got a decade at most to milk the vaccine for all it's worth.

Anyway. I reckon it's very unlikely that any large pharma co wouldn't follow a roll-out path like this because it's what they do. And any government who tries to ban the treatment is going to find (a) a deluge of spam, and (b) an unaccountable popularity of pensioners going on foreign vacations then living too long. And (b) is going to put the boot in on their rejection eventually, by stressing their social security net.

73:

Actually, although I agree that the current concept of pensions (save all your life to have a few years off at the end of it) will necessarily disappear due to the actuarial factors, and though I think it will cause a major disruption in the short term, there is a place for the pension funds.

They'll become fairer. Instead of 45 years saving followed by anything from none to 35 years spending, followed by death, they become the repository for the money you use during your sabbaticals.

Your life path might be

  • 25 years study (paid for by parents and student loans)
  • 25 years earning (paying off loans, paying mortgage)
  • 25 years earning (saving for sabbatical)
  • 10 years sabbatical (studying for next period, and chilling)
  • Repeat steps 3 and 4 until done

  • In some ways it becomes easier, since they know how many years that any annuity will be being paid for.

    74:

    Dictatorships

    Hell, Kyriarchy in general.

    The Arab Spring happened because of the demographic transition and higher education: the middle east has a surplus of educated, jobless young people, looking up enviously at the gerontocracy running the shop.

    Now replace 20 year old demonstrators and 80 year old dictators with 60 year old demonstrators and 120 year old dictators. Sooner or later the polity will blow their top if the distribution of privilege in society is too uneven.

    Put it another way, the flight of the USA towards an ever-higher Gini coefficient might be one of the harbingers of a very bloody revolution a handful of decades after such a treatment becomes available.

    75:

    From an economics standpoint, you have just made the value of "the rest of my life" much higher, but there are other things happening. I think we will:
    - be willing to study and work much harder for longer.
    - massively adopt pro-long term health behaviors, from flossing to an active life style to change in foods.
    - become much tougher on behavior that can jeopardize the life of others, such as DUI and other reckless behaviors. Some places may outlaw car driving altogether.
    - invest for the long term, knowing full well that 40 to 60 years of hard work and disciplined savings will allow us to retire comfortably for the rest of our life. I expect that will result in a less bubble prone market.
    - abandon dangerous behaviors and sports - skying, motorcycling, etc.
    - adopt telecommuting as a valid alternative to driving, which is dangerous.
    - create a temporary marriage contract, or facilitate divorce even further. People will routinely marry despite age difference of 50 or more. Prenups will become the norm and will be widely enforced / recognized.
    - have fewer children later. Many more people will choose not to have children at all.
    - create a large number of art and/or craft items, as more active and healthy retirees will find it a valuable way to stay active and involved.
    - see an explosion in enrollment into non profit volunteering activities, for the same reasons as above.
    - see an explosion in partial time work, again for the same reasons as above.
    - witness a brutal shift in the military. Un-manned equipment will become a key priority as the military will find it more and more difficult to find people willing to risk their (now so much more valuable) lives. We might also see smaller / fewer wars.
    - drive a significant increase in safety equipments for cars, houses, etc. This might be market based or legislature driven.
    - become a generally more literate, better educated, better travelled population. People will have more experience in common for the simple reasons that they have more experiences. Populations that are geographically diverse will become less diverse from a life experience stand point. That may result in fewer conflicts.
    - explore / develop mental techniques to learn how to cope with the fact that we can remember a much smaller portion of our lives than we used to. Our brain's capacity is finite and meant to deal with 50-100 year lives, not 200+.

    As a side note, $5 is still too expensive for a vast portion of the world's population. Not sure what the impact of that is going to be.

    76:

    Anyone who gets the vaccine would have to be agree to be sterilized.

    Even if it only cost a penny to produce and distribute, it would either be kept secret, or you'd get a dummy vaccine injected into undesirables. You know, as a control group.

    People being what they are, you'd have an immediate population destroying war on your hands. Maybe the survivors could live forever.

    77:

    How would you like to be a 20 year old male in a society where there's a surplus of what 20 million males over the females?

    If I'm gay, that's wonderful.

    78:

    Um, can you explain to me why an ansible would make GEO comsats obsolete? They're only there because you can (a) park them with respect to Earth's surface, and (b) thus offer line of site relay. Does the ansible signal go *through* x miles of mantle/core/ect?

    79:

    I think it might do a lot to redefine things like marriage and sexuality, if the choices we make in our late teens and early twenties aren't seen as being so crucial and life-defining after all.

    The average duration of a marriage in Victorian England (divorce: very difficult) was about the same that it is in the UK today (divorce: relatively easy) -- around 12-15 years. The difference was that in the late 19th century marriages were usually terminated by the death of one of the partners (in childbirth/of disease for women, of disease/age for men, as men tended to take much younger wives). While today, we have divorce.

    I suspect that the human pair bonding "instinct" has a half-life of around 15-25 years, and with indefinite life prolongation we would see a gradually rising divorce rate -- or, more likely, a gradually rising having-partners-on-the-side tolerance (because once you've been with someone for a few decades you get used to living with them even if you aren't having sex as often). Marriage as an institution envisaged as "until death do us part" will probably fade into the background, partially supplanted by a variety of arrangements including term-limited marriages and open partnerships or groups.

    Other pathological forms of marriage breakdown might disappear. Consider the stereotypical alpha-male executive who hits fifty, gets a red sports car, and ditches Wife 1.0 and the now-grown-up kids in favour of Wife 2.0 (who is the same age and style Wife 1.0 was when they got hitched in the first place). If Wife 1.0 is still as young and sexy as she was when they got started, and if the male mid-life-crisis gets pushed back 500 years, that particular dysfunctional relationship is going to end, well, differently.

    I suspect "training wheels" partnerships are going to be ubiquitous -- the first 20-year-relationship everyone gets into in their 20s or 30s, that runs until both partners are beginning to mature and they can see their differences in merciless relief.

    Oh, and the brake on women's careers -- where having children takes a 20 year bite out of their ability to climb the ladder, resulting in permanent disempowerment -- is going to ease off as well, because taking 20 years out of a 50 year working life is a big deal, but taking 20 years out of 500 years is insignificant.

    80:

    I think you've way over estimated the altruistic and rational thinking ability of much of the world's population. Which is the same way many economic models have failed over time. People are not rational.

    And testing seems to indicate that there's a big genetic or very early learned component to the ability to delay instant gratification for long term gain. You can divide toddlers in this ability.

    81:

    Now I have to go re-watch the movie "Zardoz"...

    But seriously, I think there'd be some consequences in the US that you UK folk aren't thinking of. Example of one difference: some folks talk about the death penalty "coming back", but here, it never left.

    If there's no longer any truly natural death, if it's all from disease or misadventure... how do the changes among societies with gun control (for example) differ from the changes among societies without it? Imagine if the average lifespan of a UK resident were 600, but the average lifespan of a US urban dweller were 250, due to differing levels of fundamental risk?

    What happens to traffic laws? Does running a red light, with a nonzero risk of killing someone, go from something you get a ticket for to something that gets you imprisoned for decades?

    There isn't just a question of being risk-averse, but of totally different *kinds* of risk. Look at the elderly folk who volunteered to help with Fukishima. "Yes, the radiation will give us cancer, in 30 years, and we don't expect to live that long anyway, so it's a no-op, sign me up for cleanup duty.". How many practices today are fine if you don't continue them for 120 years and horrible if you do? The risks are *different*. Can you imagine if everyone over the age of 400 were of female phenotype, regardless of genotype, due to centuries of the consumption of phytoestrogens from a diet high in soy?

    82:

    Hmmm. I wonder what happens to lotteries and gambling. But specifically lotteries. If you now live for a few hundred years will you (irrationally) decide you should play (or play more) as you're more likely to win over your lifetime?

    83:

    There will be an immediate emphasis on treating prostate cancer -- it is almost universal as men age, but is frequently ignored, because with many kinds the man in question will die of something else first. Extending life makes treatment for this subset a much bigger deal.

    The biggest immediate effect will not be prolonging lifespans -- most people will still die of heart disease, cancer, etc. at about the age they now do -- but the effect of the increased vitality of the old. Retirement homes and old age homes go out of business, the retirement age effectively goes away -- suits for age discrimination will take care of that quickly -- and upward mobility in large organizations slows to a crawl.

    I can't see many mainline religious groups getting worked up about it; the people who did that already had their say a couple of centuries ago (regarding vaccinations) and general medical life extension is no longer an issue, as they were sidelined into splinter sects. Groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses, though, will have major problems.

    The framework for marriage gets thoroughly reworked, but there should still be a reasonable number of Darby & Joan types who are comfortable staying together because they're used to each other. There will be an increase in the twentieth-century trends of increasing acceptability of divorce and relying on informal ("common-law", although there's nothing common-law about it) alliances.

    84:

    I think we will:
    - be willing to study and work much harder for longer.
    - massively adopt pro-long term health behaviors, from flossing to an active life style to change in foods.
    - become much tougher on behavior that can jeopardize the life of others, such as DUI and other reckless behaviors. Some places may outlaw car driving altogether.

    I disagree strongly on #1 (except for a handful of highly motivated people), I disagree utterly on #2 (if anything I suspect it'll go in the opposite direction), and partially agree on #3.

    If you're going to live for hundreds of years, the idea of working like a dog at a job you don't particular enjoy is going to appear hideously onerous. (If you're me, you'll go "yippee!!" and start working on the 10,000 page magnum opus you've never envisaged living long enough to complete before now, but I'm weird: I happen to have a job I enjoy.)

    Also, if you think you're going to live forever you may be paradoxically more careless with your life. Not you or me, but Joe over there who's propping up the bar between cigarettes.

    The difference between #2 and #3 is that #3 is about external risks, rather than self-assumed risks.

    85:

    There isn't just a question of being risk-averse, but of totally different *kinds* of risk. Look at the elderly folk who volunteered to help with Fukishima. "Yes, the radiation will give us cancer, in 30 years, and we don't expect to live that long anyway, so it's a no-op, sign me up for cleanup duty.". How many practices today are fine if you don't continue them for 120 years and horrible if you do?

    Flip side; if the Fukushima exclusion zone needs to be maintained for 200 years, we can just wait it out. Suddenly puts a rather different perspective on the costs of radiological accidents, doesn't it?

    86:

    Charlie,

    I can't comment on individuals. However, the economic fact remains that the value of "the rest of your life" has increased tremendously. This incentive *will* impact the way we make decisions, and it will do so over the long term in a generally rational way - with plenty of exceptions on the way, to be sure. The cost of working like a dog and delaying gratification is the same in absolute but it is much lower in relation to the rest of your life. The reward just became infinite.

    87:

    I think possible consequences are
    1. Strict population control. With imposed sterility at birth ( reversible if you meet the controlling government's need)
    2. More importance on the individuals benefit to the whole population. If I'm lazing about eating corn chips all day for 600 hundred years; there would be the fear that the next Newton or Feynman would not be born with the mandated population controls in place. So I have to prove my worth or risk being recycled to make space.

    Of course the ultra rich always have ways of circumventing restrictions. There might be a business to eliminate people to make room for the person who can pay.

    88:

    Stuff that is a bit less obvious is that we get a global stock market crash, because most high frequency trading strategies have just been rendered obsolete (they usually rely on signal latency and speed of light delays at some level)

    No, this wouldn't happen - the latency in the loop is still going to be there, but it'll be the processing time in the hardware at each end rather than the transmission time. HFT strategies still work perfectly well with instantaneous transmission times.

    But on the actual topic:

    This is not a magic cure-all. It doesn't cure bacterial or viral infections, cancer, prion diseases, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or neurological conditions.

    Well, to be honest: what good is it, then? Cardiovascular problems (heart attack/stroke) and cancer are the main killers in the West, along with accident/trauma and neurological problems. It sounds to me like all this virus would do is make sure you stayed young-looking until you died. I suppose it's a cure for Alzheimers and senility by allowing brain tissue to regenerate. Which would be great!

    Also: same life expectancy but no ageing means, I guess, that the Army is going to push up its maximum age for recruits again. Used to be 32, then a few years ago they pushed it to 44. Now it could be 75. (Picture US politicians being challenged "you're willing to send our fathers and mothers to die in a war that your own parents aren't fighting in themselves!")

    89:

    > For starters it'd cost a hell of a lot more than $5

    That's not necessarily the case, especially if using something like microRNAs. A cocktail of microRNA that, once in the cell knocks down suppressors and triggers a cascade and fires up the right genes (probably the usual stem cell suspects like Oct4, Sox2, Wnt, etc). Lets say you've figured out a way to import microRNA into the cells from ingestion (and/or snorting maybe to get past the brain-blood barrier). The microRNA can be arbitrarily cheap to create in bulk, and the packaging that gets it into the cell might be simple too, particularly if you're making billions of doses.

    Alternately, if you've packaged your medicine as a virus the it's potentially self replicating. Which has other obvious issues, but would also allow for a nice black market potential.

    But it need not be intrinsically expensive. Of course, what would be charged for it, at least initially, would be another matter.

    90:

    Accepting your suggestion of an expected 600 years of life. What happens to the brain?

    If it stays much like it is, it will lose plasticity as thought processes and memory become ever more fixed. How will a person cope with the constant challenges of newness - skills, social systems over a 600 period? It may be an extreme form of teh problem for mathematicians, your day in the sun will be over within 50 years and you will have 550 years of being a "has been" in almost any competitive field.

    If it stays plastic, or you can have "plastic" surgery, you will be forever able to change, but unable to retain many long term memories and hence who you are will change. Life may be a long series of striving to learn new skills, making new friends, adapting to your family.

    What if life just becomes boring? How many new experiences will one want? How quickly will new experiences and fads and fashions just become yet another trial to endure. Will there be suicide booths to end the boredom, or the interminable weight of life? What sort of social gaming by potential heirs might there be to speed this up, and counter games to slow it down?

    Family sizes could remain small, as youth allows delaying having children. But then everyone in a family will all be the same physical age. Babies and children, rarities in a world of 25 year olds. If reproduction is not delayed, patriarchs and matriarchs could extend over huge families. The possibilities for nepotism are interesting. Individuals could create small nations of families to run organizations and polities.

    The conventional wisdom is that wars might be less common as long life increases the "cost of death". But wars for booty would enhance the value of winning, and thus might make them more common.

    Someone above mentioned a problem for prisons. What indeed does a life sentence become? Life, 30 years? If the brain remains plastic, or people can be changed with "plastic" surgery, who are we imprisoning, and what does the legal definition of a person mean?

    To follow on from that last thought, will there be Turing tests for continued personhood? Can you be challenged to prove you are still mentally person X?


    91:

    the economic fact remains that the value of "the rest of your life" has increased tremendously. This incentive *will* impact the way we make decisions

    Your first assertion is entirely correct, but your second assertion is mostly wrong insofar as most humans are not rational economic actors: in particular, experiments in cognitive psychology have fairly definitively proven that we tend to strongly discount the value of future benefits against short-term gains.

    It's possible that surviving 200-year-olds will have learned to take the long view. But I wouldn't bet serious money on it.

    92:

    Rationality and economic facts will only come in to play once people hit a certain level of maturity. That level of maturity will be skewed as extended aging kicks in.

    In other words, young people will still be foolish, they'll just do it till they're 50+ instead of 20+.

    A young persons mindset generally doesn't weigh up future risks well, indeed children literally don't develop a good understanding of cause and effect until they reach their teens. I'd be surprised if retarding the onset of senenscence doesn't cause the human brain to develop in delayed ways.

    One thing noone has mentioned yet - at what age is this vaccine to be delivered, and what would be the in-vitro effects of the vaccine on the development of a child? You'd probably see a greatly extended childhood - not just in terms of maturity, but in terms of ability to absorb new things. Currently by the mid-20s, most people have reached the limits of how easily they can absorb new languages, or concepts, and as they get older they get more and more set in their ways. Extending youth would remove that barrier to learning, or at least make it last decades longer.
    Frontiers of science would be pushed well back, because you would have young and unencumbered brains able to start from significantly higher knowledge in multiple disciplines, that would achieve amazing things simply from not knowing they can't be done.

    93:

    I believe I'd opt out by way of opiate overdose. Y'all have fun, though.

    94:

    Frederik Pohl addresses just such a procedure in Outnumbering the Dead, including, as with the protagonist, what happens when it doesn't "take."

    95:

    In the short term, it would be striking how little people's behavior would change because until they'd actually survived to 130 years old or so in good health, they wouldn't really grok that things had changed. Even when the change was undeniable, many people wouldn't really internalize that.

    96:

    High frequency trading constitutes a high proportion of trading but doesn't constitute a proportion of value. a lot of it is based on arbitraging between markets as price changes take a certain amount of time to propagate; the high frequency trading itself is a major mechanism of said propagation and a major source of market liquidity. Slightly faster communication would have a fairly limited effect on high frequency trading, as it would equally effect everyone's communication speed and would not effect any of the other sources of delay.

    97:

    I think Charlie just meant to caveat that the vaccine wouldn't cure or prevent all diabetes or cardiovascular problems, in and of itself. By the general description of how it would work, it seems like it would prevent or at least curtail the sorts of adult-onset diabetes or heart problems that are actually associated with senescence, as opposed to genetic predisposition or distinct lifestyle choices. I don't think he meant to suggest that your cardiovascular and endocrine systems wouldn't benefit from the reduced effects of aging.

    For one thing, if the tendency to settle at about the level of general youth/senescence as you had at 25 extends to things like how fast your metabolism goes and therefore having about the same weight and body fat percentage, modulo actual diet and exercise choices, that you 'should' have at 25 as opposed to 50 or 70 or whatever your chronological age may be, then it's going to take a lot of people a lot longer to develop these problems, or possibly to avoid them with better habits of living or new treatments.

    98:

    One thing noone has mentioned yet - at what age is this vaccine to be delivered, and what would be the in-vitro effects of the vaccine on the development of a child?

    Might need to reread the initial post, then. It was fairly clear that it was contemplated for young adults and up, presumably so as not to disturb development before that point.

    99:

    Rationality and economic facts will only come in to play once people hit a certain level of maturity. That level of maturity will be skewed as extended aging kicks in. In other words, young people will still be foolish, they'll just do it till they're 50+ instead of 20+.

    I'll state that I'm fairly certain that most people who can't delay gratification at a young age never learn to do so. I used to feel the way you do but now that I hang out regularly with folks 40 years old and older I've decided most of them are as foolish as when they were 15. Just not as in your face about it.

    100:

    The "40-year-old First Time Mother" scenario becomes a lot more common, perhaps even the norm. Ginormous families become much rarer, as the "overpopulation is bad" meme spreads much quicker and with more concrete backing than it even has now. "Childhood", that is, the period of life when Society doesn't really expect you to have any skill at taking care of your own shit and you can be an idiot with fewer consequences than an Adult, stretches out several more decades than it currently is. Lots of the "you have to be THIS old" rules get stretched out, such that eventually you've got to be in your 2nd century before you can be President of the U.S. or PM of anywhere else. Environmental concerns and solutions become a HUGE priority for Old White Men in a way totally unprecedented, as do Industrial Safety and Health Care considerations. IOW, "Safe vs. Cheap" virtually disappears as a decision-making factor for lots of the Very Powerful, as "Safe" takes paramount importance.

    Going to be a lot of wars in a lot of places as 20-year-olds face the prospect of Glorious Leader (or Brilliant CEO) sticking in place for another three centuries, and decide that that just won't do.

    The Life Insurance industry implodes in a variety of ways I can't even begin to wrap my brain around at the moment.

    Charles Windsor goes absolutely fucking insane.

    101:

    Isn't the discussion here rather limited to how much such an event would impact on our current situation? The semi-indefinite postponement of death might lead to a much more fundamental change in how humans perceive themselves. So fundamental in fact that they would no longer be human in any sense recognisable to us? Consider, for example, how much of our culture is concerned with sex, the biological purpose of which is to enable a different sort of life extension. There are many other ways in which our fundamental human condition might be altered, it seems to me, but I can't begin to put them as eloquently as Peter Hammill does in Van der Graaf Generator's Still Life. Charlie has recently pointed out that human consciousness is as much a product of our bodies as our brains, and that it's pointless (and in my opinion creepily Victorian) to try to do so. It follows that radically altering the condition of the body will, on it's own, radically alter what humans are; they won't just be very very old teenagers but something totally different. Perhaps that should be our starting point, not how it affects house prices!

    102:

    Patrick:
    One thing that strikes me is that within a few decades, *something* would have to be done to deal with the population control consequences of the fact that each generation would not die off.

    I think you overestimate the impact.

    http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/pcbe/transcripts/dec02/session2.html :

    [Professor S. Jay Olshansky]: And so I did some basic calculations to demonstrate what would happen if we achieved immortality today. And I compared it with growth rates for the population in the middle of the 20th Century. This is an estimate of the birth rate and the death rate in the year 1000, birth rate roughly 70, death rate about 69.5. Remember when there's a growth rate of 1 percent, very much like your money, a growth rate of 1 percent leads to a doubling time at about 69 to 70 years. It's the same thing with humans. With a 1 percent growth rate, the population doubles in about 69 years. If you have the growth rate — if you double the growth rate, you have the time it takes for the population to double, so it's nothing more than the difference between the birth rate and the death rate to generate the growth rate. And here you can see in 1900, the growth rate was about 2 percent, which meant the doubling time was about five years. During the 1950s at the height of the baby boom, the growth rate was about 3 percent, which means the doubling time was about 26 years. In the year 2000, we have birth rates of about 15 per thousand, deaths of about 10 per thousand, low mortality populations, which means the growth rate is about one half of 1 percent, which means it would take about 140 years for the population to double.

    Well, if we achieved immortality today, in other words, if the death rate went down to zero, then the growth rate would be defined by the birth rate. The birth rate would be about 15 per thousand, which means the doubling time would be 53 years, and more realistically, if we achieved immortality, we might anticipate a reduction in the birth rate to roughly ten per thousand, in which case the doubling time would be about 80 years. The bottom line is, is that if we achieved immortality today, the growth rate of the population would be less than what we observed during the post World War II baby boom. (Emphasis mine)

    And note that he's talking about full immortality, which is to say, death rate zero. No accidents, murders, suicides, or diseases. If you simply removed death due to old age, the population growth would be even less.

    That's based on the US birth rate, but then many Western countries have an even lower TFR than the US. At least in the West, there would certainly be a relative population boom, but probably nothing to warrant extraordinary measures. In fact, for a lot of countries it would just reverse the underpopulation problems they're about to have.

    103:

    Savings accounts are already a scam. They always seem to pay less than inflation. Even if you go straight to Treasury Bonds (U.S.).

    Only the stock market usually outperforms inflation...and those results definitely aren't guaranteed. In stock market investing the real trick is to not lose, as the average rate of gain is so low that it is likely to take you decades to recover from one slightly bad loss.

    Things are basically set up so that you CAN'T save securely, unless you do something like investing in precious metals. (And there you're gambling on no major new strikes, or mining methods. But that's looked pretty safe over the last few decades. But I mean buying and storing the actual metal, and in that case you're risking it being lost or stolen.)

    Currently you can improve matters by becoming a corporation, though that has it's own problems. But those laws are already being considered for change.

    Inflation is ridiculously difficult to figure, because every government lies about it in ways designed to make the current office holders look good. This only way even approximately valid it to pick a basket of goods and to price them, and use that as the basis...but different groups consider different baskets to be a reasonable basis, so there's little agreement.

    So. A good thing to invest in should be durable, safe, useful, and have low maintenance costs. This lets out nearly everything. And all investment markets are rigged by somebody to their own benefit. This doesn't mean that you can't win, but it certainly means that's not what they're designed for. And all tax policies are designed to hit all possible sources of investment. (Except, perhaps, those used by the folks in charge of the government.)

    And that's NOW!! This will become much more intense if lifespans are expected to increase a lot. So will the promises that "This is a good investment opportunity!".

    104:
    But if it comes with instructions for building some kind of spooky instantaneous communicator, then all sorts of stuff happens. Stuff that's obvious: we get to talk to the 2.5 million years later descendants of the SETI signal's senders.

    If it's "instaneous" -- then we should be able to speak to the signal's original senders. You have a god-damn time machine.

    But on thread -- given that we still live in a world dominated by aristocratic advantage, where organizations that can propagate themselve through a century or so end up dominating the global system, well within 50 years or so you'd expect a complete failure of the social system. The communist revolution for real.

    Also, no more mathematicians -- mathematicians are young. No more young people mean no more mathematicians -- everyone's heads are too full of crap to see the underlying elegance of it all.

    105:

    It doesn't look like anyone's mentioned Bruce Sterling's "The Moral Bullet," in which an anti-aging shot brings about the destruction of civilization. If memory serves, the fact that an individual can persist for centuries weakens the intensives for cooperation.

    106:

    In terms of people planning longer... Isn't there a far greater chance that people will experience multiple meltdowns that they can't really plan through. The Flood/Fire/Asteroid-Impact/financial-meltdown/Wars/Divorce of the century are now expected events.

    So people might learn to be conservative, ensuring they can pick up again, but maybe more interested in living in the now. So you work to live the next 20 years, then you'll expect you'll pick things up again, your plans all gone to heck.

    So your 300 year old Great General might not make it. Or at least they might find that there are numerous times when they have to run off in the night with nothing but a suit case full of money.

    They might even start planning for that since power can always be regained, but getting shot in the head cramps your style.

    After all, look at the some of the current political conflicts where the people in power seem to be stuck in a Red Queens Race where if they drop out of power, the political changeover will be fatal. They might find that shifting to a system where enforced vacation times is most much more pleasant.

    107:

    First up, mortgage terms are now measured in centuries and real-estate probably gets slightly more valuable (my intuition is not by much though).

    Second, environmental concerns become more important and the world political situation stabilizes (compared to current levels in any way). People likely to see the results of their abuse of an ecosystem like our planet, and I'm thinking that increases our desire to stop such abuse. The political situation would likely be similar; you've pointed out before that we have a really bad track record with developing organizations that survive longer than a human lifetime or two. Well, that's now 600 years on average (and likely more in the range of 10k+ for CEO/party leader types modulo the occasional assassination or planning snafu).

    Humans get more time to get skilled and learned. We get some pretty practiced craftsmen/researchers/artists/etc. as it is, even giving them a lousy 10x extra years would push the bleeding edge outwards (and again, high talent tends to get preferential treatment, so I'm thinking they'll live a few k past the rest). Two fold development there; first, retirement age doesn't make sense anymore and second, the gap is so wide that it seems like newbs need not apply. That means that quadruple doctorates probably won't be uncommon after a while, and you'll still get humans living in their parents basement after graduating because of the inflated hiring standards. On the plus side, this probably means more (and probably more lucrative) self-employment among those of us who chuck the academic track altogether since we suddenly get a 20-year leg-up in the business world.

    I'm assuming that population doesn't take a nosedive or level off since this $5 shot doesn't seem to address child mortality in the places that need it addressed. So industries that do well when there's lots of humans do well, and industries that do well when there's few humans/lots of deaths do poorly. Morticians probably get to become bitter old drunks (with a few surviving by offering Premium service to the rare 6k+year-olds that get kicked off in style) while communication providers, personal trainers and (probably) insurance brokers get to get richer.

    Overall social fabric seems like it would change too; the generation dynamic that you see nowadays (where each person sees most of their peers graduate/marry/spawn/retire/die) seems like it would get less severe since the spread would be longer. Also, there'd probably be more social mobility since everyone older than 25 suddenly looks like they're 25.

    Am I warm?

    Another couple of interesting thoughts:

    Does long-range transport now essentially get bet off the table (barring other advances)? Granted the risk of an airliner crash doesn't change, but now destroys something on the order of 240 000 man-years instead of merely 18 000. A long term care settlement is also probably much more painful when the paraplegic plaintiff is likely to live for another few hundred years rather than just a few decades.

    Does euthanasia become more acceptable (if rarer) since the cost of it for relatives is suddenly higher? Do divorce rates skyrocket, or are people still ok with "til death do us part" even though it's now an order of magnitude more time? Do murder sentences become more severe?

    108:

    I see no reason why delaying/eliminating senescence would effect neurological ontology, the two processes are totally unrelated.

    I suspect the long term female fertility problem will be solvable very soon via tinkering with a young woman's eggs and giving it the older woman's genes. (less the problems with being healthy enough to have a kid at 60, which in our scenario isn't an issue).

    Age related diseases skyrocket, whole new classes of cancers and dementia pop of for the over-100 crowd as problems with our genes that almost never have a chance to manifest start cropping up. Some currently rare problems that require environmental triggers or are related to non senescence aging (IE, cumulative effects of injuries, wear and tear) to become an issue also skyrocket.

    For a specific example of the above, joint replacement will still be very necessary in the 100+ crowd, as cartilage takes decade on decade of the kind of abuse that healthy physically active (or sedentary heavily overweight) people put on it.

    Smoking (and other long term risk vices) turn into effective death sentences, as the chance of living long enough to get screwed by the habit go up.

    America will either finally adopt socialized medicine (or perhaps just socialized for certain things) or go through a series of bloody rebellions fueled by people who see decades of their life ticking away while they can't afford the drug (which will be incredibly expensive in America and the third world, even if it costs pennies to make, see the AIDS drugs for a nasty existing example of what happens).

    Youth violence and bad behavior in general will skyrocket as the age of adulthood (de facto if not de jure) rises, and the 'young' are left with little to do besides study, flip burgers, and wait to be old enough to be taken seriously when they apply for a real job. This should get really interesting if long term planning cognitive abilities are still fully developed by 23, and a smarter, experienced, and more risk averse breed of people with the same motivations as existing juvenile delinquents emerges.

    I suspect we'd stagnate culturally, as the youth demographic (actual teenagers, not just people who look like them) shrinks and the market for things that aren't what the older generation likes goes with it.

    109:

    How much heart disease and diabetes is caused by senescence?

    Rather little. Try living with a diabetic and keeping that person's blood sugar down, when they've been taught to love carbs and they're constantly bombarded with messages (from gut, TV, radio, books, etc) about how good these things would taste for dinner.

    Much cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc. is caused by lifestyle, and the simple fact that it currently takes discipline to live a healthy lifestyle, because healthy living goes against many societal norms.

    Previously, the discipline of living healthy was more congruent with the discipline of staying alive, and so we didn't see so many of these lifestyle-related diseases. Instead, people died of other causes, like disease, accidents, and pregnancy.

    That's really the problem any one-shot cure poses: it simply shifts what you are going to die from.

    I see no evidence that society will become more intrinsically healthy, so I predict confidently that the average age at death, will only be a few decades beyond what it is now, when this vaccine is universally applied,

    Certainly the age of the eldest will get higher, but there are outliers even now. The range between average age at death and the age of the oldest living person pushes 50 years in the developed world, and 70 years globally. In other words, it's two-fold difference already. Moreover, the eldest will spend a great proportion of their time being...old. Isn't that worth looking forward to?

    There will also be a long-term controversy about how young such a vaccine would be given, centering around whether 20 years of adolescence is desirable or not. Such a vaccine will help redefine childhood, and it will marginalize tweens and teens. Pop culture will shift from its current teen fixation to "finding your true self" ads, along with even more geriatric ads than we have now. Something to look forward to.

    110:

    Charlie,


    Assuming what you say is true (I don't agree, but let's move on), then there will be some countries (Japan, China), where people *have already* learned to delay gratification, where what I talk about will certainly happen in a massive way.

    In any case, whatever the proportion of people who do that in a given population, there will be a portion of the population living off their ever accumulating wealth, in a constantly increasing wealth situation.

    111:

    Things are basically set up so that you CAN'T save securely, unless you do something like investing in precious metals

    Nonsense. Risk free investments, like CDs will be arbitraged to return a rate that is approximately teh same as inflation. Positive returns require taking risk. Stocks and bonds will return above inflation rates over the long term.

    112:

    I suspect you'd see a sudden massive spike in both suicides and divorces, and then mass abandonment of marriage.

    Many people in their later life are putting up with situations because they will go away "soon", and who wants to get a divorce in their 80s if it means being alone for the last few years of your life? If that marriage looks to be something you're signed up for the next 500 years then they'll be pulling the self-destruct cord.

    And I agree on jobs. I'd be more likely to move from security as a priority to something that keeps me more interested (my job does pretty well at that, but not as well as I'd like). In the 500-year term there's no such thing as security, so I'd aim more for useful skills, and interesting work rather than finding a niche I can prosper in for long enough to retire.

    113:

    Larry Nivens Boosterspice played with this idea a great deal. One of the unintended side effects of 200+ year humman lifetimes is that people would get bored with their professions after having done them for 40+ years, so it was not uncommon for people to have been engineers/jazz singers and starships pilots when middle aged.

    114:

    ...so it's said that science changes, one funeral at a time.

    What happens when those funerals stop?

    That's what would keep me up at nights, at least.

    115:

    I think that a school - work - retirement - school cycle will become popular for some people. Though for plenty of people their job defines who they are, (or at least they like the structure) and will just keep working. Others will want to save enough to be able to live indefinitely off of the interest. At any rate, traditional retirement will be a thing of the past.


    I think the difference between intrest rates and inflation rates will shrink to almost nothing. As you have more people saving larger amounts for longer term goals a greater amount of the money supply is going to be trapped in savings.

    As paying off a 30 year mortgage becomes almost trivial, the number of mortgages is going to drop. The idea of saving for 20 years to buy a home outright may seem reasonable as well.

    So we'll have more people wanting to save and fewer places to put it. Financial industry will be in for massive restructuring, aside from short term crashes. (Someone with better econ please correct or expand for me here.)


    Currently lifespan is reasonable predictable, most people die about 70 - 90 years old. When the amount of deaths that occur by accidents and other random factors becomes a much higher percent, the bell curve is going to flatten out. Average life expectancy may be 600, but you've probably got a fairly equal chance of death anywhere between 100 and 1500.

    The randomness of death may shift the risk-taker / risk-averse argument towards the takers. And it's always going to be a broad distribution. Some people never leave the house, some enjoy base jumping.

    116:

    Everyone seems to have missed something really obvious:

    After several lifetimes worth of life, everyone's teeth are going to be in a miserable state if they haven't figured out how to grow artifical teeth and gums from stem cells by this point.

    117:

    Another thought - I wonder if effective immortality would change the nature of major world religions. At the moment, most of them, if not all, feature life after death as a significant part of their mythos. Not least, I expect, because most of us want more than the three score and ten we're offered. If we ever reach a stage where (as per Iain Banks' Culture novels) most people die only because they eventually decide they've had enough and its time to move aside, will the idea of an afterlife seem so significant?

    I rather doubt religion will just disappear (though I suppose it might) but I wonder if it might become increasingly preoccupied with achieving transcendence of some kind in this life, rather than the promise of a better hereafter?

    118:

    "Switching off apoptosis" is one factor in the process that can lead to the establishment of a "cancer lineage". It's far from the only one. I agree that a 10X increase in lifespan would likely lead to more cancers, but only because cancers arise sporadically and spontaneously over time, and with more time one necessarily will see more cancers. But the link between lifespan and cancer incidence is not intrinsic. Naked mole rats live roughly an order of magnitude longer than mice, but to date a spontaneous tumor has never once been observed in a naked mole rat. In other words, long lifespan without cancer is possible, if only because Nature has demonstrated so.

    The bigger biological issue with increased lifespan -- and one which presumably must be solved in order to obtain the sort of increase you posit -- is neural and stem cell senescence. Most neurons aren't regenerated; to increase lifespan, you probably need to figure out how to replace neurons. Neuronal replacement, particularly in the cerebral cortex, will likely have major consequences on memory, identity, etc. Else increased lifespan will just exacerbate the effects of aging on neurons -- Alzheimer's, etc. -- that have already been documented.

    119:

    Much longer lifespans will be one of the main drivers for humanity to build a real "Matrix" where we will live out our lives in an infinity of simulated worlds. Humans don't do "steady-state" well; radically longer lifespans would dramatically alter the Malthusian equations, and since space colonization is looking rather infeasible, we will need to find our new frontiers in "inner space". It's obviously far more efficient for humans to stay wired to a Matrix run on renewable energy than for billions of primates to be out in the world consuming things.

    Also, the Matrix will be so much more interesting to future generations than so-called "reality" that no one will want to leave it. The Matrix movies had it all wrong; Neo wasn't a hero, he was a villain and a fool. Immortal humans will simply take the blue pill and live happily ever after in the infinite multiverse of their minds.

    120:

    First idea was Sterling's Holy Fire, but that is already mentioned somewhere above.

    Second thought: What would the effects on social institutions be? E.g., age-dependency of certain institutions/single-career-life-path will vanish; it will become much more common to start a new field of work with 70, 120 or whatever. There needs to be some kind of "reset button"; financially speaking (personal insolvence, if some investment, ... didn't work out), but also biographically speaking ("start a new life with 45").

    Institutions: marriage, long-time-partnerships, child-raising: time is of essence here, so I guess these will change dramatically. What about the "biological window" for women (and partly for men also) - will that vanish, so the child vs. career decision can be decided in other ways?

    And of course all institutions that are dependend on death/fixed retirement ages (pension systems, health care insurance, maybe even upper echolon career paths in organisations) have to change, too.

    121:

    " That's because suicide and accidents will get you eventually."

    When is 'eventually ' to be ?

    It sounds like the Old Ennui problem .. weariness of the Decadent Long Lived.

    The idea being that if you live long enough you DO become tired of Life in as much as you are terminally bored.

    I don't subscribe to this point of view in so far as, even now, we do have treatments for clinical depression that, whilst limited in their effect, do point the way to the elimination of the condition - well they have worked for me even in the face of most people, including Mental Health workers at a fairly senior level, being inclined to tell me their troubles. And at present there are research driven speculations on the possibilities of editing painful memories - post traumatic stress at a domestic level ? - so as to suppress the drive toward suicide on account of the need /drive toward the avoidance of pain. In my own, very limited, opinion Suicide will be eliminated as a major problem as medical technology develops.

    It will be interesting to see what this might do to the development of personality. Trans humans may not be in the least bit like the Borg like characters that the trans-human Star Treky people do imagine,

    So, Suicide, save as DRAMATIC ARTISTIC Statement ? ..nope -treatable to the point of elimination. Accident ? Yes but very rare on account of ,then, Modern Emergency Medical intervention ..consider the improvement in Battle Field Tech and ratchet this up into the future.

    Of course there will be Practitioners of Extreme Sports and their equivalent, and thus accidents of the more Violent kind will happen - oddly enough, even now, Practitioners of Extreme Sports are often quite cautious in taking safety precautions - but unless Future You avoids Medi Tech Emergency Recovery for Philosophical Socio/Political reasons those accidents wont be fatal and in any case the segment of the populous who will seek out Danger will be extremely small....unless the Human Race is Medi Tech Developed towards seeking out Risk?

    Possibilities of a NEW RELIGION here.

    We may see Death as THE END evolve into Something Else ..you don't die but your personality evolves by Medi Tech into something else ..or not as you , or your polity decides is appropriate ....' CONGRATS CITison YOu have been Selected To BE ... '


    " Make it to 60,000 years and in all probability something really fucking strange will get you (the proverbial banana skin incident). "

    ER, well yes, maybe, but the stats on that risk being significant to whatever YOU are at that time would be interesting, bearing in mind that barring being at the receiving end of WAR or a Cataclysmic Geological/Cosmic SunSpotty type event most people are Really ARE content to live quite DULL lives with tomorrow being much the same as today and ... and I wonder what Future Celebrity Get ME out of Here type Voyeurism will look like in 60,000 years.

    122:

    And one more point I forgot to mention: if your lifespan is arbitrarily long, death becomes an infinitely bad outcome which you should avoid at all costs, which is another reason why living in a Matrix makes much more sense. You can take all the virtual risks and have all the simulated adventures you want, and when you "die" you just start a new game!

    123:

    I think stable autocracy would become nearly impossible, since there would be no margin in ambitious underlings biding their time, and waiting for the current primus inter pares to die or retire.

    It'd be a constant merry-go-round of coups and assassination, as aspiring sociopaths took their bid at power the minute they thought they were strong enough.

    124:

    I hope I'm not repeating anything but:

    It seems no one has mentioned hearing or sight. At least hearing degenerates inevitably and rather quickly, old people usually hearing up to 4 khz or somewhere around there. I presume bad eyesight also comes automatically with age. So probably advances in those areas will be prioritized with a newly young, healthy demographic but with bad eyesight and hearing. And if we can make people hear up to 17-18 khz (which is more than enough, 20 year olds don't hear over that, I believe) presumably we could fix it so people hear even higher than that (I for one would love to). So we should se higher sampling rates in recordings and audio interfaces. No more mp3!

    (my first entry here i believe. Very nice blog, I'm reading my first Stross book now (Accelerando, very nice). And pardon my english (maybe), It's midsummer so as a swede (sort of) I'm required by law to drink alcohol)

    125:

    We discover that Alzheimer's is caused by endogenous prion formation via random misfolding (as implied by http://www.springerlink.com/content/j2564ux0l15l3283/) - and the people who randomly keep making their saving throws year after year come to be seen as the Elect in the old Calvinist sense of the word. Throw in a genetic predisposition to avoid mis-folds in some people, and you get an aristocracy by virtue of compound interest, and a resultant violent rebellion against the owners of the means of production....

    126:

    I'm going to interpret the thought experiment a little more broadly than written and assume that it means everyone retains the same physical and mental vigor that you'd see in a typical 25 year old. I'll assume that the world isn't just heading toward a bunch of toothless but otherwise-youthful-looking people with bad joints dying of cancer and dementia in their 80s.

    I think the world's power and wealth structures could easily ossify, but I think perpetual youth could also take a lot of the sting out of it. Or, at least in democratic societies, after 50 years or so the people in power have already told every tall tale about how great the status quo is, and the electorate doesn't collectively forget the failures via turnover. Holding on to power longer also means being held responsible longer. If it's actually today's Republicans in power in 50 years, rather than just their ideological successors, it's harder to fob off responsibility for (e.g.) climate change denial once it's proven undeniable.

    If your life expectancy is roughly constant throughout adulthood, there's no time pressure to do anything in particular. When I was 25 I was earning barely over the poverty line, but the work wasn't demanding and I had much more free time than I have had since. It was a wonderful year. If I had unlimited vistas of youth to look forward to I'd gladly forgo professional ambition and accumulation. I'd divide my time between the minimal paid work necessary to feed, clothe, and shelter me and the unpaid passions that really interest me.

    127:

    I'd really like to see spelled out how this affects fertility. If it lets people stay fertile for a hundred years, it seems we've got a ticking bomb on our hands, with the Quiverfull movement and friends (the ones with vaginas like clown cars, that ridiculous amounts of crotchfruit come crawling out of) set to take over in a few generations. To stop this, you'd have to either cut their fertility or their political power. However, I don't see a good way of doing either.
    Fertility: Mandatory sterilization programs are going to have activists near-universally up in arms, mandatory contraception programs are going to fail horribly unless you have a sex inspector (and probably even then), and God help you if you try to force abortions on these people.
    Political power: You'll have to somehow convince politicians to disenfranchise one of the fastest growing demographics. Again, God help you. Maybe abolishing universal suffrage entirely is easier, but you're going to have to move very quickly if you don't want it to be the Quiverfull movement taking suffrage out of your hands instead.

    Does anyone see a more plausible way of avoiding TEOTWAWKI in this case?

    128:

    Regarding annuity providers, I don't think it'd get to the stage of companies collapsing under the burden of payments to multi-centennial pensioners. While I don't believe most annuity providers have any explicit mention of this in their contracts, the implicit assumption when someone purchases an annuity is that they're going to die within a few decades at the most, and if that were to change, annuity providers would be VERY aggressively lobbying governments to allow them to retrospectively amend the conditions - the two solutions I can think of are a maximum term for the annuity (reach that time limit and you've got to go back to work) and making receipt of an annuity contingent on accepting certain limits on life-extension therapy - I think the first is by far the more palatable of thee two.

    I'd also expect to see extremely strict population controls enacted. As a bare minimum, we'd be talking a Chinese-style one child per family policy, possibly going as far as a "dead men's boots" system - you join the waiting list to have a child, and when someone dies, someone on the waiting list gets to have a child. Such a system might be a simple queue, or more likely would be an involved process that included all kinds of tests as to the parents' fitness to have a child - if parenthood is a rare privilege, not an automatic right, then I imagine you'd have a lot of hoops to jump through to qualify.

    So, say there's "parenthood panels" that assess people for their suitability to become parents. Factors they might take into account might include state of health of the parents, genes (for example, carrying the genes for heritable disorders such as cystic fibrosis might be points against), financial situation and so on. So, in practice, such a body would be effectively enforcing a eugenic policy by ensuring that only people who met their definition of good parents were allowed to reproduce.

    It's difficult to say how this could be enforced, however. It's relatively easy to provide voluntary access to contraception and watch birth rates decline to around replacement levels at present, but if extended lifespans mean that the replacement level itself drops substantially, then that isn't likely to be enough. Assuming we rule out any kind of involuntary contraception, as well as particularly nasty or barbaric methods, we're left with criminalising unlicenced reproduction (not exactly a pleasant prospect either), significant financial disincentives, or social pressure (difficult to encourage in the first place, since reproducing is just human nature). Organisations that frown on use of contraception, such as the Catholic Church, would face immense pressure to change their views.

    With so few children around, I hate to think about how spoiled and sheltered they would be. When they reached adulthood, they'd be competing for jobs in a market saturated by their parent's vastly larger generation, who were far more experienced than they were and weren't going to be retiring anytime soon, and possibly their grandparents' generation who'd had to go back to work after their annuities expired. Add to this the fact that the drastic reduction in numbers of children and biologically elderly people would reduce job opportunities in relevant areas (teaching, childcare, medicine etc), and young adults wouldn't be likely to have any realistic expectation of any kind of gainful employment, even a McJob, without an extremely strong education. So they'd be likely to remain dependent on their parents for much longer, thus making it less practical for the less-wealthy to reproduce. We might even see people's perception of childhood extended significantly.

    129:

    Might need to reread the initial post, then. It was fairly clear that it was contemplated for young adults and up, presumably so as not to disturb development before that point.

    Ahh, but once someone gets the changes, they're in the bloodstream, and will therefore propagate. Remember this is a one off vaccine, so if administered to pregnant women it is guaranteed to affect the child, if she gets pregnant soon after taking it, there would be a high chance the anti-aging antibodies would pass through.

    130:

    Yes -- and that weights the dice very strongly in favour of democracy. (The importance of democracy isn't simple representation: it's that it solves the succession problem and in theory -- when implemented properly -- provides a relief valve for pressure release.)

    131:

    There seems to be a lot of optimism about changes in educational patterns in the above.

    The average population member has an IQ of 100. Someone with an IQ of 100 is not going to excel in High School, much less a university, much much less a PhD program. Even most bright people turn up their noses at graduate school.

    Things I can think of...

    Minority shareholders rights' become a Big Deal, because there's no effective age based mandatory retirement age for execs. The ability of companies to get rid of execs when the business / talent / company evolution time comes (as it always will) will require structural changes.

    Mortgages wont' change much - as pointed out above, even at 30 years the monthly payments are already (interest rate plus small epsilon), and there's no reason for either party to stay in it longer as you approach the bare interest rate (risk on the lenders side, total costs on the borrowers side).

    How many people will want to live forever? If you're not universally curing diseases, people will get things they won't live with, or can't live with.

    132:

    But why do I want to live longer? I told the nephrologist last week that I don't want dialysis when the time comes because my life is already so small and regulated. You need to find a way to cure more diseases.

    133:

    Teeth are already being grown from stem cells, and even current implants are pretty good, judging from the job my mother just had done.

    Was reading an article on aging recently which talked about progerin, a protein found in cases of progeria and also in natural ageing, caused by a misfolding of a normal cellular protein aggravated by telomere loss.

    Reversing ageing could be as simple as dosing people with a progerin antagonist of some sort, if so old people would revert to decrepitude if they didn't get their shots regularly (Much like Niven's boosterspice).

    I imagine the dynamics of a continuous supplement would be fairly different to that of a single use vaccine...

    134:

    Yes but ... if you live longer, there's a greater chance of a cure coming along, right?

    135:

    So, your body is effectively immortal, but what about your persona? 20 years ago, you were a different person and twenty years hence you will be different again.

    Now imagine that effect over a time span ten times greater, and factor in the youthful plasticity that turnover in neural tissue granted by the immortality treatment implies[*]. Human memory capacity is not infinite. Does having a 25 year old's ability to absorb new experiences and information for your whole 600 year life mean that you're bound to overwrite memories of formative experiences? If you are the sum of your memories, then does forgetting what happened 25 or 50 or 100 years ago eventually make a new you?

    Forgetfulness has its advantages. You need not fear terminal ennui. Getting bored with current career? Go and do something else for a while (50 or 100 years perhaps), then should you chance to come back to the first thing, it can be fresh and new all over again.

    [*] Becoming a mental Struldbrug due to the treatment would be most unfortunate.

    136:

    Charlie @ 18
    CURE for type II DIabetes just announced
    See HERE
    VERY interesting

    PROBLEM
    Easy for those with "IQ's" (note the quotes) above 129-130 - plenty for them to think of / change careers / do something different.
    Whjat does "society" do with the "IQ" have difficulty handling "new"?
    I foresee the religious bastards making a lot of capital out of that, and a lot of nasty killings.

    @55 Dictatorships?
    Bullets will still work

    Oh, and no-one has mentioned George Bernard Shaw: "Back to Methusalah" - look it up!

    137:

    Great potential for intergenerational warfare, assassination, etc. The kids of the wealthy aren't going to like having to hang around for centuries to inherit. Imagine the likes of Murdoch, the Koch brothers and Larry Ellison living for centuries! As for politicians like Thatcher, Bush (either one), Blair and Nixon, lots of pressure for term limits in jurisdictions that don't currently have them, and lots of pressure to loosen or eliminate them in places that do have them. Probably a generally much more risk averse populace - goodbye extreme, and many not-so-extreme, sports. Scientific advance might well slow to a halt as those elderly scientists locked in their ways fail to give way to newer ideas and stifle for centuries rather than decades the radical new research. But really, I doubt we'd last many centuries after this sort of discovery.

    Overpopulation would get much worse. The required changes in behaviour, and economic circumstances, to bring birth rates and life expectancy into balance probably wouldn't happen fast enough. I've long thought that the sudden discovery of significant life extension technology would finish us off, and the chain of discovery that began with Crick and Watson is almost certain to produce such a breakthrough sooner or later. If it's developed before we get our population, global warming, energy systems and general environmental issues under control we're toast. Given the magnitude of those problems and our poor track record so far in dealing with them it seems unlikely we'll make it in time.

    138:

    Does having a 25 year old's ability to absorb new experiences and information for your whole 600 year life mean that you're bound to overwrite memories of formative experiences? If you are the sum of your memories, then does forgetting what happened 25 or 50 or 100 years ago eventually make a new you

    I think this probably already happens to a great degree and human memory is not nearly as good as we intuit it is. We don't remember what we don't remember. Large parts of my life I've probably forgotten because they weren't that significant in the grand scheme of things I expect that formative memories will stay with us, but that large parts of what follows will disappear from our minds. Even at 500, you will probably remember various first times, just not always what followed. Yes, I think there will be some effect arising from the fact that we perhaps recall a smaller proportion of our life, but I doubt it will simply be a matter of forgetting anything which happened too long ago. My grandmother, who is nearly 90, has very good recall of the early years of her life (or at least appears to - its hard to know, there isn't really anyone around to contradict her) but struggles to remember what she did yesterday.

    139:

    Sigh.

    Yes, losing weight will help control diabetes.

    No, a 600 calorie diet is not sustainable.

    Yes, fasting when you're diabetic can kill you, if you're not very careful and smart about it.

    No, this is not news.

    And you know what? People with diabetes, even when they have a medical background,even when know all this, and even when they follow it a majority of the time--THEY STILL CRAVE CARBS!

    For a diabetes cure, I'm waiting for them to make islets of langerhans out of stem cells for transplants, and to combine that with a cure for any autoimmune issues that led to the loss of those cells in the first place. That will help cure diabetes, but even then, I'm afraid it's not perfect.

    The fundamental problem still is that diabetes is as much a behavioral disease as a medical problem. It takes a couple of decades of bad food habits to develop type 2 diabetes. Once you have the disease, cures like this fairly quickly bring it under control, with exercise, weight control, and minor medication. Unfortunately, it is (so far as I know) a life-long struggle not to relapse into the food and lifestyle choices that triggered the disease in the first place.

    As with alcoholism, I'm afraid that type-2 diabetes is a disease that can be controlled more than it can be cured. I suspect that cardiovascular disease will turn out to be much the same, even when cloned heart transplants become routine.

    140:
    Didn't Bruce Sterling sort-of look at this in Holy Fire?
    Yes, he did: it's the only serious treatment of this question that has stuck in my mind from the past 15 years. (Along with "Trouble with Lichen" and "Back to Methuselah" it's one of the three most important examinations of the implications of longevity research, I think. I discount "Time Enough for Love" because Heinlein wasn't on top form that decade.)

    A lot of comments, so if someone has already mentioned this, my apologies: Sterling also had the superb "The Moral Bullet", collected in Globalhead. To my mind, those are the only two treatments that have stuck in my mind over the last thirty years :-)

    The idea here is that in the short term at least, different polities are going to react very differently to the introduction of the sort of cheap life extension Charlie posits.

    141:

    Greg, that's not a cure for type II diabetes. Type II diabetes is progressive, so it's not surprising that if you take someone who's showing early signs of it and put them on a crash diet it's going to affect their blood glucose levels and pull them back from the brink a bit. But this was a very limited, small, study on recently diagnosed cases. It's almost certainly not going to be a miracle cure for people with existing advanced type II diabetes.

    (Yes, I did mention "Back to Methuselah", up-thread.)

    142:

    One thing is what effect this has on humans with other biological constraints still in place?

    Take the brain - only a certain amount of space inside the skull, with some redundancy in memory. Will peoples' memories fade after a quarter millenium so that they still remember the past two centuries, but three centuries or more back the memories are hazy?

    Technology is one possible answer - written language and recordings have given us some kinds of extended memory. Uploaded memories may be a possibility, maybe. Problems with them are no standard way of interfacing the brain with external hardware. ("We'll have to install a USB interface in your skull..."), the natural variation in brain architecture due to genetics and environmental factors - will memory upload/download hardware and software have to be tweaked a lot for individuals before it works properly?


    Granted, it's a long time since I formally studied biology, so I may have missed some important points here.

    143:

    For a great many people, access to whatever they want to eat means a fairly predictable weight gain year to year. Without a health shock and/or death interrupting this, you'll end up with otherwise healthy people massing in at whatever the physiological limits are.

    Expect to see a lot more thousand pound or more Americans.

    144:

    Some mathematicians - Euler and Weirstrass for example - were productive for decades.

    145:

    When looking at the effects of great age on human behavior, obviously the first thing to do is look at old people. Old people's behavior, differs from younger people's behavior through two mechanisms. The first is the physical aging and metal deterioration of the brain and its resultant loss of mental plasticity, and the second is the effect of habituation, the effect of having lived a lot of years. We tend to lump the two together as growing old, but under Charlie's scenario, these two effects will become decoupled.

    Consider the people who live to a very great age now. What has a 110+ year old done with the last 30 years of their life. This is the span in which a 50 year old has had a career (or two) and raised a family. They are usually are described as having "lived quietly." They've done the same basic thing day in and day out, and seem quite happy about it. They don't get bored or restless. Part of the reason is that their lives a constrained by age related frailty, but a lot of these people are in good mental shape at 110, so they were probably at 80 at the metal equivalent of being 50. They would have had the mental flexibility to make changes if they had wanted to.

    One reason for this stasis is that the older you get the more the mind seems to compress time. And if you do the same thing, day in and day out, the mind seems to compress it all into a generic day, so you don't have that teen-aged feel of the drag of time. I remember as a child being put off by old Aunts being surprised by how much I'd changed in a year. Of course I've changed, I thought, I'm a year--which for child is a huge amount of time--older. Now from the point off view of someone in their mid-fifties, I see that a year can seem like yesterday.

    I suspect a lot of people will fall into a comfortable rut. If they have to work, they will work. (It's interesting that there's a fairly high death rate within a year of retirement for men due to stress of change and the lack of purpose.) They won't change jobs if they can help it, and as they grew older, there behavior will become less and less spontaneous. I think Larry Niven's story: "The Ethics of Madness" catches this effect nicely.

    Another thing is that for most people their world view is completely fixed by age 30. We already have problems with people's world view not keeping up with changing circumstances. Imagine, if Britain was full of two-hundred year old people, people who had their world view shaped in Victorian times. As far as they were concerned, Britain should still rule the world, and their attitude to blacks, women, Irish and gays would be bigoted to say the least. And consider, if Britain had three-hundred olds. They'd be going around proclaiming that the damned colonials needed putting in their place.

    Even today, the young and the very old live in different worlds and don't have much in common, the youth with their hip culture and technology, the old with their historical memories. I could see a time when the young would flee the stultifying world that rejects their world view for places that have a reputation for being youth friendly. As they poured into these places, they would begin to dominate the politics making it more orientated to their world view. Then, they would settle down and tend to freeze the place with their world view, and eventually their children would look for somewhere else to go. So, we would finish up with a world divided not by regional cultural variation, but by chronological cultural variation.

    146:

    You are ignoring 'A Memory of Whiteness' by Kim Stanley Robinson, which I think is one of the best explorations of extended lifespans, a topic which he also explores a bit in his Mars trilogy. This was the novel that really got me thinking about the implications of long lives for marriage and memory and a lot of social infrastructure.

    147:

    I suspect after some fairly nasty "trimming down the
    bush" wars. Civilization would fragment into millions of little Cory Doctrowesque Commune/Hives (Comuives, Hivunes?) with the disaffected roaming between Hives every few years. Imagine with living with people who look like the cast of "Friends" for near-ever. You'd welcome death.

    ps.
    Wasn't this the backstory for all those horrible "Resident Evil" movies.

    "Oi, a cure for aging..i'll have a shot..glug glug (gack).....arrrrgggg ...BBBrrrainnnsss!!!...Brrrainns!!"

    148:

    If you want a picture of this future, imagine a hippie sandal[1] stamping on a human face — forever[2].

    [1] That is to say, the Boomers and their combined demographic bulge and ascension to the top of the social ladder at the postulated time of discovery. They don't actually act much like hippies any more[3].

    [2] Practically, for a few handfuls of decades, and mostly restricted to the West.

    [3] Tangent - I wonder how much of the stereotypically cranky attitudes of the old are due to their failing bodies?

    149:

    Rather surprised no-one's mentioned Norman Spinrad's 'Bug Jack Barron', one of the more cynical explorations of what longevity might mean. There are also scattered explorations of the consequences in Iain M Banks' Culture novels, but those are very much about the long term.

    For my money, the best exploration is in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars novels - in particular the chasm that opens up between generations whose expectations are so fundamentally different.

    150:

    "In an early stage clinical trial of 11 people, funded by Diabetes UK, all reversed their diabetes by drastically cutting their food intake to just 600 calories a day for two months. And three months later, seven remained free of diabetes.

    Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University who led the study and is also Director of the Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre said: “To have people free of diabetes ****after years with the condition**** is remarkable - and all because of an eight week diet."

    151:

    A long boom for bacteria that live on human hosts? A lot more healthy hosts for benign or not-so-lethal infections. Even the nasty ones might do better: my very limited understanding is that a lot kill from secondary effects on old and creaking bodies, not directly.

    152:

    Very short term: a lot of vicious ethnic/religious cleansing. In the window of time between the treatment costing $1K and costing $5, I'd expect a lot of determined people trying to ensure $HATED_SUBGROUP_X doesn't get to share eternity with the chosen ones.

    This would in some cases extend to nuclear warfare as a radiological event you can outwait. "Be patient my children. You will live to see the Holy Land stop glowing."

    153:

    People aren't going to change their habits so easily. I'm still going to have a mental approach to life strongly influenced by the events of the Seventies. (And also my medical problems, but that's not such a general factor.)

    Even if this did provide a cure, my thinking would still be affected by the experience.

    154:

    Greg,

    I assure you that is not a "cure" for Type II diabetes. The human pancreas stops making new beta cells after about thirty. By the time a Type II is diagnosed about 90% of them are gone.

    I was diagnosed at 52 and immediately went on a low carb diet. This allowed me to maintain normal blood glucose for five years with no medications. The fool who did that research would have considered that a cure. As my ability to maintain normal glucose levels waned I started using insulin and by the time I had been diabetic 10 years a C peptide test showed that I was producing no insulin of my own.

    155:

    There's two different sorts of diabetes. This is the second sort, which doesn't necessarily need insulin, and does strongly correlate with obesity, so this isn't so surprising.

    156:

    Does the FTL communication from M31 really crash the satellite communications industry, or might the effect still depend, at least to some degree, on line of sight?

    If it does, the COMSAT biz might become vastly more important. Perhaps you only need 2 for world coverage, because this technology isn't much affected by a gas, else the ~1 hydrogen atom per CC of 'empty' space (probably dated numbers) would have attenuated the signal from M31.

    Or perhaps you only need two from a coverage standpoint, but the criticality of this technology to hedge funds, etc., drives a GPS-like constellation.

    Or perhaps you want a constellation, but there are difficulties. One might be that this has been so disruptive that it's difficult to orbit a tennis ball. Another might be that the mass requirement is similar to firing Switzerland into the Kuiper Belt.

    157:

    I see Kevin Riggle at 114 beat me to it but I'll say it anyway, more verbosely:

    Major academic scientific breakthroughs stop happening, or stop happening very often, because the old professors who define the orthodoxy have tenure and they don't die any more.

    Following that train of thought a little further, the number of bright young minds going into academia plummet, not just in the sciences but in all fields, because they can look at the full-up ranks of tenured positions and see that their chances of eventually ascending to a tenured position are not just near 0 but are actually 0, unless they're willing to sweat it out marking papers in junior instructor positions for 300-400 years.

    158:

    First see my response to Greg.

    A little more of my history in response to your opinions about diabetes: When I was diagnosed I started studying the research in the field of diabetes. It quickly became clear to me that at 35 I already had had metabolic syndrome.

    In my thirties I ran 1600 miles a year, had a BMI under 23, and ate a healthy diet. In my forties I switched to bicycle because of a bad knee and my BMI got up to 25. It is not correct to tell people that if they eat right and exercise they won't develop diabetes.

    159:

    "And in general it'll take immense effort to oust someone from a position of authority (elected or corporate), as they'll have no reason to retire for old age reasons. This will make all kinds of politics more vicious."

    That was truly scary for a bit. Then I realized that even politicians and managers must eventually get bored. And there's the ageing-mind-set effect. If the majority of people can't somehow reinvent themselves, stay fresh, or however you might like to describe it, they will fall prey to those who can. It only takes one outlier with a killer new business model, marketing campaign, etc.

    I suspect that the viciousness of politics is conserved.

    160:

    Stuart,
    The beta cell death is a consequence of the type II diabetes, leading to further pain and suffering of course. It's not the cause. The remarkable thing here is that insulin resistance was removed and stayed removed.

    161:

    You said "Major academic scientific breakthroughs", and you may well be right about that; I couldn't even guess. But I wonder how operative the "academic" qualifier is, or will be. Big science isn't strictly academic. The leading relational database vendor (Oracle) was a supporter of the LHC for some time, IIRC. Time on light source beam lines is in heavy demand by drug companies (http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/pdfs/201105/may_2011.pdf), etc.

    Granted that the education has to come from somewhere, but I can imagine a future where a college or university serves, as much as anything else, as an industrial proving ground for head-hunting by commercial interests. A nasty future, to be sure, but I consider it quite likely.

    I could *so* do a rant now, but it's a beautiful Friday evening.

    162:

    Imagine, if Britain was full of two-hundred year old people, people who had their world view shaped in Victorian times.

    But the victorian period gave us Marx and Shelley and Wilde, Victorian Values covers a wide range of ground, and most of that ground was what the modern civil rights movements grew out of (even if the victorian gay rights campaigners were all weird pervs by modern standards, the suffragettes mostly racist and classist, the abolitionists and anti-racists ironically imperialistic and the communists and anti-imperialists generally managing to be either racist or misogynistic).

    Uh... back on topic, one of the biggest changes (though less interesting from a skiffy pov) that would have to happen would be that attitudes towards learning and education would have to change, rather than education being something that is front loaded into people's youth, the current schemes and attempts to get OAPs IT fluent and adult aimed literacy and numeracy schemes would have to be extended – like how the NHS helps british businesses by taking the costs of providing healthcare, so too would a tax payer funded adult-aimed education system be needed to take the cost of employee training for new tools and techniques off of businesses shoulders for everyone's benefits.

    Well, in an ideal world that is, but in that world we'd have grants and not loans as well so in more realistic terms you'd have a population that resented the need to keep being educated up to modern standards and a private sector trying to under provide that education where ever possible...

    163:

    Roger Waters "Amused to Death" comes to mind or Star Trek tos "The Menagerie" where our fantasies outweigh our conscious reality. However many convergent technologies may allow future societies to overcome their own entropy.Let's hope.

    164:

    A new psychological/neurological disorder will manifest among 140- to 150-year-olds who reached the saturation point of their brains' memory capacity. Cerebral Memory Overflow Syndrome (or something that sounds more sciencey, ending with -osis) will express as an Alzheimer's-like condition where the affected individuals can't recall current events. Or it will lead to neural/psychic deterioration resulting in insanity due to unexpected biochemical imbalances and perturbation of synaptic activity patterns.

    165:

    If is *is* a virus, will it be sexually transmittable? As in, very poor folks in very poor countries will be lining up to "service" incoming tourists to save the $5? (note: for some people in the world, $5 would be a significant fraction of their annual income).

    166:

    #165 is spam.

    167:

    Not any more, thanks. (Ironically, your post is now 165.)

    168:

    Likely short term consequences not mentioned previously in this thread:

    Legally. In order to do damage control on the markets, I think the most likely outcome is that pension funds get told to pay down their holdings over a 20 year period.

    A very great number of new buisnesses enter startup immediately, as ambitious people who were previously content to work their way up the ladder of larger organizations go "fuck that noise" at the prospect of a much slower climb, and dust of whatever ideas they have in their desk drawer. A lot more than you would expect succeed because they are entering the market in a time for great change and sharply rising demand (.. newly rejuved 90-year old. "I want to go dancing at a jazz bar again!)- This is partially a one time shock, but the rate of new startups is going to stabilize at a higher level than the current one. Not sure how much higher, but more than just a bit.

    Tenure gets an expiration date attached to it. Heck, with any sense on behalf of the people funding universities, it gets defined as "30 years of guaranteed employment, then guaranteed end of employment". - Thus professors who want to stay in the game after one stint will have to persuade another university to hire them, rather than simply staying on top forever by virtue of senority.

    Social and political activism changes: There is going to be a lot more emphasis on persuasion, and - again, if the people in "charge" have any sense, persuasion is going to be more possible - the last thing a rich powerful and semi-immortal individual needs is a communist inssurection, after all, so a overly stratified /static society is not a good thing, even if you happen to be on top of it. (.. I do not guarantee sense will universally carry the day on this topic. but nations which do stratify and go static will not prosper in the medium term)

    The dating scene gets very amusing for a while due to the sudden influx of recent divorcees, widows and widowers who gradually regain the hormonal balances and apperance of a 25 year old.
    Wait.. oh my goddess. Going by the statistics on sexual behavior by cohort and assuming actual preferences are in fact a constant, there must be a tonne of kinsey 5-6's (mostly women) in retirement homes who never got around to doing anything about it the first time around. Who are suddenly young again in a social context where there is no real stigma attached to it at all. Gay and lesbian bars are going to be doing buisness like gangbusters.

    Lets see, what else.. Certain consumer items - those that people expect to want to use indefinatly- such as furniture- are going to become available in *much* more durable versions. Not sure if it actually makes sense to buy that version, but it will be a part of the market.

    169:

    Citing a newspaper report as some sort of medical breakthrough is dubious at best. I don't see a link to the original paper.

    Here is Ben Goldacre on newspaper reports on health issues http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/17/bad-science-health-reporting

    170:

    and here is NHS Choices 'Behind the Headlines' take on it.

    In short, don't get your hopes up.

    172:

    I've already mentioned this in the "Singularity" discussion preceding this one, but I really think that incremental change could lead to both A (not "THE") singularity, AND considerable extension of useful life, as described in this article which is at least pointing a/the way forward .....

    173:

    "Good" jobs pay well because there aren't enough people to do them. When everyone eventually has a doctorate in physics, an MD, and a CPA license, then the skilled jobs will have their wages rates approch McJobs.

    174:

    That's about what I thought it would be.

    TL;DR: the study wasn't a controlled double-blind crossover, wasn't randomized, didn't run for long enough to deliver conclusive results, used a small cohort, and didn't "cure" anyone. Moreover, the test subjects were still able to produce insulin, albeit requiring metformin or sulfonylurea: no patients with a requirement for insulin injections were involved.

    In short, it's a useful piece of minor research but it doesn't prove anything and it certainly doesn't justify headlines screaming about a "cure" for type II diabetes.

    Moral of story: do not trust ANY story you read in a British newspaper about health-related breakthroughs until you have checked the scientific literature or at least the pop science press (who are a little less likely to get it totally wrong).

    175:

    A few random thoughts that I don't think have been mentioned yet.

    * Interesting first 10-20 years as the pharma company that invented it fights the bootleg generics that quickly come into existence. Would we see folk who took bootleg versions become criminalised? Would we get a bunch of common bootlegged versions with dodgy side effects?

    * What if "maturity" isn't just number-of-years lived, but has a biological basis. I can imagine there being some positive behavioural changes in folk past child bearing age that got kin selected... so it's vaguely possible that reverted folk remain young-and-dumb despite the number of years lived.

    * How much is the fear of death and not making a mark on the world a driver for progress? If it has any significance then maybe we see fewer new companies, new research programs, new technology, etc. when "I've got to do X before I'm 30/40" becomes "I've got a few hundred years"...

    * I am pretty certain that risky behaviour will go up, not down. People's concepts of risk are dumb - we didn't evolve that way. For examples drivers seem to exhibit more dangerous behaviour if they're in a boring environment with lots of safety features (see http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a930850139~frm=titlelink). I suspect the general background feeling of "I'm going to live to be 600" will get people to do riskier things.

    * I can imagine that there are going to be a new set of legislative conflicts. I've not run the numbers but maybe a 600 year lifespan makes the chance of dying in an auto-accident large enough that the folk who can run the numbers try and legislate against manually-driven cars.

    * We're going to lose the natural "I'm older and wiser" indicators our body gives us. I suspect that some new conventions of dress, etc. will be developed to replace 'em.

    * Euthanasia will become a more acceptable option. People are going to have personal experiences of more people who are facing 500 years of serious dementia, or a chronic pain condition, etc.

    * In fact they'll be a general change as more people encounter things personally due to the longer lifespan. More folk are going to encounter serious mental illness in themselves or close friends. More folk are going to encounter people with physical disabilities from accidents or disease.

    * I'm not as sure as others that the pension industry will completely explode. I think they'll reconfigure themselves to supply "work breaks". Work for 60 years save a pension, play for 15, repeat.

    ... and that's enough for now :-)

    Adrian

    176:

    Bob Shaw's One Million Tomorrows: you can get a simple one shot immortality injection, but it will make men permanently impotent. Cue lots of frustrated immortal ladies, but strangely enough no noticeable lesbianism. Well it was 1970.

    I haven't noticed if anybody's mentioned Alzheimers. You'd have to cure that BEFORE you introduced any life extension treatment. The risk of AD increases exponentially with every decade you live over 70, becoming virtually inevitable after three or four decades.

    177:

    "women get born with a set amount of oocytes" is no longer state of science. See http://www.impactaging.com/papers/v2/n1/full/100119.html

    178:

    I think it's worth pointing out there will never be a double blind study of this particular treatment, because there's no way to blind a starvation diet (the constant unrelenting hunger is kind of a clue). Paired crossover studies are still possible though.

    179:

    For defined benefit plans and annuities, companies with current obligations will lobby hard to have their payouts capped at current life expectancies. That's an equitable outcome if people no longer need to retire because they're less and less able to work as they age.

    180:

    In a lot of countries with a very limited government support for the aged, big families are the retirement plan for the parents. If the parents don't expect to become unable to work, demand for big families goes down.

    Demand and consumption of education goes up, as you have longer to recover your investment in yourself.

    181:

    The forms of educational demand will be dramatically diffrent, tough. Less schools as such, more continuing adult education, open university style degrees-pursued-in-paralel-with-a-carrer.. Also potentially less focus on diplomas and more on acquiring skills for use, tough unsure on this one.

    182:

    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Demographic_transition#Possible_Stage_Six

    This suggests that fertility rates are rising again is some highly developed countries. I've no idea how accurate this is.

    183:

    Obviously, the turnover in science would be effected by career changers.

    I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about the fertility rate. I remember being amazed by the number of surprisingly young women with small children, at the sort of age that in the UK is the mark of poverty, when I was in Sweden not so long ago - if you know you've got time to do your career properly, kids or not, you might change your calculations on that significantly. (In a sense, welfare-state feminism is a preview of immortality...)

    Political impact; I suspect that stable societies would be very, very unlikely to go to war. Among other things, as a politician you really wouldn't want to risk being assassinated when you're in a position to really test Enoch Powell's point about all political careers ending in failure. Ones with an active ethnic/religious divide might (as pointed out above) go the other way.

    Psychiatric speculation: if you keep stacking up memories into your 140s, perhaps you don't so much forget them as go through some sort of massive personality transition in order to flush the cache. Major source of fascinating gossip: how so-and-so's going to be the morning after their reboot party. Did you know he's given up the sexuality-flip pills and robot death theatre and turned into an accountant? Never!

    184:

    Future shock is going to be very real for anyone, anywhere on the planet, no matter how they live today.

    The constant education, retraining and job hunting is going to look like an interminable grind for everyone. If the brain doesn't stay plastic, this is going to be even harder to sustain over a lifetime.

    Long life is going to look like a living hell, not a boon, for a lot of people.

    Contrary to some comments above, I do see why the socio-political system will change. If anything, I see those with the power increasing their desire to consolidate their positions. A safe way of doing this is creating a family dynasty to control upheaval. Those families are going to become large if there are serial marriages, each with children. And a lot of interlocking families, much like royal families. The results might be very similar as the motivations will be similar.

    185:

    Just to go back to the undeniable SETI signals...

    It would have profound impacts even without ansibles or other magic technology. It would stir up a lot of religious loonies to the point of militancy. It might lead to lynchings of scientists and calls to outlaw astronomy for a while. In the end it would cut into support for current religions, Case of Conscience notwithstanding. And it could ultimately increase public interest in science and those parts of space exploration which are feasible. Dunno what the effects would be on philosophy in the larger sense. It would certainly change the way we see ourselves.

    186:

    "fasting when you're diabetic can kill you"

    This probably confuses Pancreatic Islet Cell failure, often called Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus where exogenous insulin is required, and having this without food can indeed end badly

    and overload/insulin resistance referred to as TYpe 2 ditto, where each meal you miss is a step in the right direction, provided you are not taking either insulin, or a sulphonylurea (or a few others, read it as provided your effort at control involves only suggestions on diet and Metformin).

    The number of people telling this story, who unaccountably fail to lose weight or control their TYpe 2 DM well is sadly large.

    187:

    Charlie, none of the reports I saw even seemed to realise that there was more than one sort of Diabetes. Though the versions with more details allowed inferences to be made.

    I think it's quite plausible that the two main types might be sub-divided at some stage. There might even be a cure for a particular sub-type. Personally, I think the press have spent today screaming "Cancer Cure!" when somebody tells them they've found sharper knives make a mastectomy "easier".

    188:


    The risks are *different*. Can you imagine if everyone over the age of 400 were of female phenotype, regardless of genotype, due to centuries of the consumption of phytoestrogens from a diet high in soy?

    Instantly I thought of Aldous Huxley's "After Many a Summer" -- after hundreds of years eating raw carp guts, neotonous apes grow up into adult apes... But would you still go for it knowing you have 10 or 20 decades young and healthy before that happens?
    Silly question.

    189:

    I agree with you--for your case I married into a family where many people have diabetes, and everyone struggles with diet issues on a daily basis, me included. Let me reframe that: we tend to see the discipline you obviously possess as a frustrating struggle against our desires.

    The bigger point I've been trying to make in this case is that, should we find a vaccine against old age, we'll still be stuck with what for many people (including myself) are lifestyle-based diseases.

    Getting back to the original question of the post, because of diseases linked to a metabolic syndrome largely brought on by modern life--with exceptions such as yourself. Because of that, I expect such a cure to make little change in the lives of most of the people who receive it, but immense changes in the lives of the few people who can discipline themselves to live with it.

    190:

    As I just noted in my response to Steve in Austin, I married into a family with many cases of Type II Diabetes.

    Yes, I do know exactly what I'm talking about. My concern in this article is that people with Type II Diabetes will uncritically believe that a 600 calorie diet for a week will cure them.

    It will help them lose some weight, but if they get their blood sugar well below 60, they're going to be in serious trouble.

    I have a diabetic in-law who ended up in the hospital after taking herbal medicines, and who now may need a kidney transplant. This person had a crappy doctor, and felt that the herbs worked better. They didn't.

    The bottom line is that people will treat themselves, especially if they're uninsured, and especially if they don't trust the medical advice they are getting. Articles like this can be harmful, in the sense that a little knowledge is dangerous.

    191:

    Going the other direction in terms of knowledge - the super expert. Not every field or type of knowledge can or will have these. But for subjects like taxonomy, or dress styles of the 20th century on the European continent, or collecting jazz sides, there will be a bunch of go-to people. You want to know what happened to character X first introduced in Flash #12? Comic Book Store Guy will be able to tell you in exhaustive detail. And old Bert will be able to tell you how fries were regionally served for the years 1920-1946.

    192:

    It's been some considerable time since I last read Bob Shaw's slant on the physical Immortality treatment question, but, wasn't the Slant that the Treatment worked on MEN ..and left them Impotent .. but that it Didn't work on women and so you had impotent but Em-mortal Men who chose when to take the treatment, and their female partners who were mortal? A really interesting idea along the lines of the quasi religious ' Not Everyone can be Chosen ' are you among the Elect of God/Nature sort of thing ?

    In terms of an Em- Mortality Virus ..what if some people - perhaps the majority of people ..were naturally immune to the Virus regardless of how wealthy they might be?

    193:

    I think we'd see a safety craze kick in around 50 years or so post introduction. If you have people who, if they take care of themselves, can essentially live forever, then one of the big factors limiting life span will be misadventure. Immortality means that you have a whole lot more to lose if you die. It will take people a while to really get this, though; the craze will kick off after the first generation of immortals notices that all of their dead friends died in accidents.

    Then there will be a backlash as their children reject the stifling safety regulations. Risk taking will become cool, desirable for it's own sake. Scars will be fashionable, and some plastic surgeons will specialize in aesthetically pleasing scarification. The false scars will be decried as poser bullshit at first, but then people will start to dig the look obviously false scars, the way that synth music at first was deemed an abomination, but later obviously synthetic music made a niche for itself in several genres.

    And this is how immortality serum will lead to fashionable people paying cosmetic surgeons to slice open their face and sew the wound up poorly.

    194:

    It's just occurred to me ..as it would to the Wealthy .. that this would instantly provoke a - no holds barred ! - research program into transferring the Brains/Minds from the Deserving Wealthy into the Body's of the Death Immune Proletariat.

    195:

    The article only said that for A SMALL NUMBER OF TEST SUBJECTS and IN HOSPITAL CONDITIONS it had 100% success-rate for one sort of diabetes.
    The other sort (type I) would not be cured by this methiod, even if it does work generally.
    It is implied, but nit explicity stated that careful control is necessary

    196:

    Larry Niven had bosterspice (?) stories and looked at long life for years. I think he covered it all in very different societies. What I think is the people in power will hate anything that could change anything. Like more living people. They will do what can to make as static a world as possible so the people they pay to take care of them will have a simpler time. The main point will be whether they can and how. And how long.
    Experts have been saying we are on the edge of a much longer lifespan for years. I thing if it happens we will all be dead by then anyway.

    197:

    I just reread Podkayne of Mars, and what I noticed was that Heinlein wasn't writing a female voice. His three main characters were the ego, the id, and the superego. (I probably should reread Saturn's Children with the possibility of a similar interpretation in mind.)

    198:

    I find it more interesting to speculate on the FTL add-on effects versus the Methuselah response.
    Like to speculate out the effects of a relativistically accelerated wormhole temporally shifted one year into the future then placed next to its other end. One could burn their entire 600 year
    extended lifetime looping within that one year...

    On the extended life question I have a 104 year old grandmother who still lives at home and only recently has begun to lose her hearing.. She sets several examples of how it can play out:

    (1) Mayfly scenario: Attrition will take its toll even on extended lives. At some point survivors become jaded as more and more fall to the wayside. Occupation with what got them verges on obsession.

    (2) External storage required: Her reference to events 50-70 years ago require photo-album look-ups.
    "Life Recorders" become standard equipment, visiting your 3D playbacks replaces books and movies.

    (3) Neuronal plasticity rejuvenate treatments every 50 years: After 50 years memories accumulate you visit the "Clinic" for injections to either:
    [a] - start fading selected blocks of memory
    [b] - choose the "Child plasticity" shot for building a new persona
    [c] - memory wipe (replaces suicide) to start over

    (4) Deeper Rut scenario: Imagine the mental ruts one would build after centuries.. An example of mental ruts: "Smartphone's will never replace my PC!", "Un-hirable at 45 cause all you know is X", "We've always done it this way!", "Our communes provide many time locked era's to choose from!", "We don't use any electronics not silicon based, keep that newfangled stuff away from me!",
    "I refuse to speak Engrish! (intentional sp)"

    (5) Tech locked/magic: Newfangled tech appears as magic to most over 100 (not that it doesn't already to most now). Lack of interest/ability in keeping up has bifurcated society into Techno stratum's. Some refuse to use new stuff, others accept it as magic and conduct rituals to keep it working, and somewhere way ahead is the bleeding edge, pretty much incomprehensible.

    (6) refusal to accept new paradigms:
    [a] science: I will not accept that the laws of physic vary over time
    [b] science: I did not cause the last refuge of mankind to be the North Pole
    [c] religion: revived corpsecicles must be zombies, they are an anathma to us!
    [d] business: AI managed companies are an abomination!
    [e] society: uplifted animals are not intelligent and have no rights!
    [f] society: An AI and robot managed earth with all others dreaming virtual worlds is wrong!, join our stone age commune on the reservation!

    199:

    You'd be looking in vain; I don't do Freud.

    200:

    planet earth is a nexus, we have already had contact, remember they built the sr =71 back in the 50s0r60s, the dod or gov, is bamboozling everyone. over and out

    201:

    Don't be silly. The origins and development of Project OXCART are well-documented and, frankly, is no more impressive than a whole bunch of other aerospace stuff that happened over the preceding sixty years.

    (I've sat in the cockpit of one; it's cramped and a lot more mundane-looking up close than at a great distance.)

    If the A-12 really ran on alien tech, where's the anti-gravity motor? :)

    202:

    if you have a technology good enough to cure something as fundamental as aging, you can probably also develop a genetic tweak that would make women go through a menstruation cycle only once a year, or decade, or even only if an extraneous trigger was present (like a specific drug). Given the prospect of not only going through cramps etc monthly for the next 20 years (and then be rid of them), but basically forever, a lot of women would use such a tweak on themselves quite voluntarily.

    203:

    Is there really such a thing as a "future shock"?

    204:

    * Rolls eyes *

    Start here. I'd say the evidence around us suggests the Tofflers were optimists.

    205:

    We may actually see the publication of The Last Dangerous Visions.

    206:

    197 & 198
    The most thorough put-down of Sigmund Fraud Freud, and the whole rotten edifice of pschoanlysis was by the late, great peter Medawr in "Pluto's Republic".

    What are these professional medical con-men doing now?
    telling me that it unsafe to drink more than 1.5 units of alchohol per day on no evidence whatsoever ......

    207:

    The Consequences of Riches...is to be and become, perhaps moreso and more...dogmatic, or more simply placed, as automatic. And so far as there are riches galore, it is less so their type and form that both wills and submits to these disasters to be spent on every shore available for the squandering. Riches of Tooth, may aspire to chew upon that which is most hard, to grind away incessantly, to not be so wearied by small gains, but the surety of the bite of more than one can digest is finally and forever layed to rest. Confusion may sit in and still the Teeth reemerge to claim such avenues of largess that become as boulevards and promenades, paraded at once solemnly and at times so gleefully as to be infectious. Such is that which is so large seeks ever enlargement, perhaps finally the tongue by needs will shrink its grip upon words, and lessens the ability of exclaiming...tsk, tsk.

    208:

    Haven't read all the above, but I'm surprised there's no mention of Gulliver's Travels. Swift convincingly shows that immortality without immunity from disease becomes a living hell, with the living condemned to an eternity of blindness (caused e.g. by diabetes from the small print), deafness and general feebleness. Gulliver realises this just before he takes the magic blue pill to become immortal.

    209:

    Regarding the "safety culture" of long lived individuals...

    Auto deaths are a major if not the leading cause of death of the young in the US, and older people feeling young would probably drive more like younger people in some ways (wheee) but not in others (actually having enough experience to avoid some accidents, more judgement about road conditions, better understanding of their cars and own limits).

    I can see a rapid insistence that auto safety standards start to rapidly ramp up. You can see a lot of high end sports cars whose crashworthyness isn't just exceeding that of road car government rules, but massively exceeding it - Ferrari Enzo spins off road at 162 mph straight into a telephone pole and both people inside walk away, for example. Dedicated race cars without normal door / window expectations can be better, but asking for all road cars to head towards being that tough would not be impossible or that impractical, all things considered.

    If the rejuvenation treatment doesn't help with cardiovascular problems, I can see a new War on Sugar and Carbs. The sun might well set on the era of Junk Food.

    The whole Diabetes thing is somewhat of a red herring; many more people die of cardiovascuar problems than diabetes.

    210:

    I don't know -- maybe research would stop since most people will live forever without disease. Although in one of my diseases, it would be really nice if they could make usable kidneys first. I'm too sick otherwise to get one, the surgery might kill me, but a lot of people would live longer if they got a kidney. More people die waiting for a kidney than people waiting for any other organ.

    211:

    My doctors require me to eat at least 1000 calories a day. 390 so far.

    212:

    Put a USB port in the back of the head.

    213:

    Eleven people are not actually enough for a study.

    214:

    "More people die waiting for a kidney than people waiting for any other organ."

    Longevity without being free of disease is going to make current organ transplant technology even more of a bottleneck. I would expect that we would have a lot more medical/biotech research on organ generation and transplantation. Even successful organ growing and transplantation is going to mean a higher relative spending on medical over a lifetime. There will almost certainly be social developments to reduce this cost.

    215:

    Heinlein wrote about the long lived Long family. His main Long kept saying they should has been bred for brains not long life.
    In that kind of a safety culture, it be hard on anyone who risked others. Very hard.

    216:

    Lot's of "think of the pension funds, won't someone think of the pension funds and stock markets!" and too little exploration of how absolutely fucking wonderful this would be.

    My 92 year old grandmother would be able to rejoin the civil defense, become a lawyer like she always wanted and a thousand other things. I don't think she'd worry too much about having to work again, she'd already like to get a job.

    Recently deceased author Jorge Semprun railed against mortality in one of his last articles, he was outraged at the idea that he would soon not be around anymore. Our lives are pathetically short, and extending them is something we unequivocally have to sort out.

    Hopefully before I start getting too wrinkly :)

    217:

    What you are missing is that cardiovascular disease is caused by impaired glucose metabolism. Google the EPIC Norfolk study. Cardiovascular mortality rises monotonically with increasing Hemoglobin A1C. The death certificate of most diabetics says: "heart attack."

    Examining the data of the Framingham study shows that those who died in their nineties had lower fasting blood glucose at 55 than those who died in their seventies and eighties.

    218:

    Our evolved distaste for associating with old people remains, but now they walk among young folk and no-one can tell them apart. A raft of social infrastructure develops for young people to identify one another, including many of the tricks that people currently employ to distinguish rich folks from imitators: exclusive clubs, costly status signals, fast-paced fashion trends.

    219:

    You'd be looking in vain; I don't do Freud.

    The bit in Saturn's Children about how she gets a new body every two years while growing up suggests that Maslow is the interpretive key to your work. ;)

    220:

    paleofuture is a neat blog. It shows what did not happen. "The lack of an equivalent to the Dewey decimal system on the Internet is a different matter. While it is true that experienced Internet users can eventually find what they're looking for, [Clifford] Stoll and other critics insist that it takes more expertise and time than Internet enthusiasts are willing to admit." http://www.paleofuture.com/blog/category/1990s

    221:

    The AI Singularity is Dead; Long Live the Cybernetic Singularity
    "The nerd echo chamber is reverberating this week with the furious debate over Charlie Stross’ doubts about the possibility of an artificial “human-level intelligence” explosion – also known as the Singularity." HOLY BAT WASTE! Read all about it. WASTE!!http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/sciencenotfiction/2011/06/25/towards-a-new-vision-of-the-singularity/

    222:

    Well, Cliff Stoll is a really nice guy, if a trifle frenetic at times, but you have to understand that he's set himself up as a professional net curmudgeon for the last couple of decades. He's been railing against the internet (as in the title of his book: "Silicon Snake-oil", and talking about how it's bad for us pretty much since there was one. I sometimes wonder if he wouldn't have been happier remaining an astronomer instead of becoming a computer celebrity and C++ expert.

    223:

    It's the "mass produced for roughly $5 a shot" line that takes this from the realm of merely science fiction to outright fantasy. The moment the more-or-less-eternal-life injection is patented, the holder of that patent will be holding on to their monopoly by any means necessary, and the war chest you would acquire as the sole seller of Immortalyze™ would be substantial.

    How much lobbying money would it take to pass a constitutional amendment (or local equivalent) extending the lifespan of patents from 15 years to "eternity"? I'm thinking it would be trivially affordable. So, come to think of it, would be an actual guns-and-all army.

    224:

    By modern standards much of what Freud did was a poor joke. So what?

    He was one of the first people who even made a stab at studying the mind scientifically. He was wrong on just about everything. His attempt was better than what came before. And it helped lay the groundwork for later, better work. That's how science happens, by mistakes, fits and false starts.

    225:

    @223
    WRONG
    ( Perhaps)
    A lot more money to be made from "Pile it high and sell it cheap" ....

    226:

    The very recent history of anti-HIV combination drugs provides little room for optimism here, and they offered the comparatively small advantage of returning a few years to decades of life to people previously assumed to be mortally ill. Monopoly over the keys to immortality? Men have built empires (and mountains of skulls) for far, far less.

    227:

    Extraordinary bitterness among the friends and relatives of people who do die of "old age" during the period where the vaccine is being distributed and sold.

    A lot more focus on Altzheimers research.

    Lots of people watching the early adopters to find out what the worst of the side effects is and how prevalent.

    South African health ministers will tell people they should eat more garlic and beetroot to become immortal.


    228:

    tf: See my comment #72 for a more detailed price analysis.

    Shorter version is: patent rights are time-limited, so you start by pricing high and cut the price progressively until you've got the entire market. Which is global, with about 190 different legislatures you'd have to nobble if you wanted to amend those rights -- and there are enough democracies that you'd have to bribe a lot of people, and enough social security systems in trouble that there's a strong incentive to produce pirate copies of the vaccine at cost "in the national interest".

    This is more or less that happened with anti-retroviral drugs for treating AIDS -- a sentence of death if untreated: today they're available cheaply enough that sub-Saharan African countries can envisage mass treatment schemes. Whereas in 1989 in the UK a five day supply of Zidovudine, the first such drug on the market, cost £135, retail (or around £1000/patient/month).

    229:

    I'm horrified by the thought, not that we would have a gerontocracy in the abstract, but that it would be populated by the powers-that-be at the time the cure shows up.

    Cameron. Lord Amstrad. Steve Ballmer. For 600 years.

    230:

    The risks are *different*. Can you imagine if everyone over the age of 400 were of female phenotype, regardless of genotype, due to centuries of the consumption of phytoestrogens from a diet high in soy?

    That's bollocks. Thousands of years of consuming dairy products haven't done it, and they're chock full of actual oestrogens. US non-organic milk is even fuller of hormones, ones that have been banned in the EU since the 70s because, sometimes, they do cause boys to grow tits. Yet US transwomen still have to take even more hormones to get the effect they want. They'd be overjoyed if all they needed to do was eat more tofu.

    231:

    Can you imagine if everyone over the age of 400 were of female phenotype, regardless of genotype, due to centuries of the consumption of phytoestrogens from a diet high in soy?

    You've been conned. (The soy/phytoestrogen link is black propaganda pushed by dairy industry figures who think soya milk sales are eating into their sales.)

    232:

    Will people be willing to remove term limits?

    233:

    "Tangent - I wonder how much of the stereotypically cranky attitudes of the old are due to their failing bodies?"

    There's considerable evidence that a large number of elderly people on the cranky-to-dementia spectrum actually have thyroid dementia... and it's hence curable.

    Mind you, almost everyone will get a thyroid problem if we live to 200 given the population prevalences of it. So we stop being crap at spotting it.


    234:

    As the politicians jarkman notes are British, and there are no term limits in the UK, there's nothing to remove.

    235:

    So, in the two decades as the vaccine rolls out, there is now (and this is understating it a lot, yes) another ubiquitous luxury item. Like a toothbrush or a cellphone. But everyone who finds out about it wants it. A lot. Billions on billions of vaccinations have to be produced, shipped, and administered. In the developing world. This process hasn’t been problem-free when it was just the sort of thing that kept people healthy or happy --- now it’s something that’ll make them live forever (or 600 years, yeah). So, war. But that’s the same old soup, just reheated.

    Large amounts of vaccines hoarded, improperly stored, and then administered with no effect or a negative effect.

    Fake vaccines proliferate. Rumour and disinformation proliferate. Accounts of the vaccines being used to revive the recently diseased are common. Parents of newborns stockpile vaccines in the mistaken belief that regular doses will prevent SIDS or that a correctly administered vaccine to a recently diseased infant will restore heart and brain function. Your average “Man falls from great height and emerges unscathed” news story becomes “Man saved from certain death thanks to SUPER IMMORTALITY vaccine” or if he hasn’t had the shot yet it’s all “Jesus saves un-vaccinated man from certain death”. There is a media scare that the vaccine creates suicidal tendencies in teenagers, that the vaccine makes teenagers believe they’re immortal, that the vaccine encourages teen sex and unwed pregnancy, that doses of the vaccine are combined with ecstasy to give a superhigh to delinquent teens.

    Prisoners, of all varieties, riot. Minimum security white collar crime incarceration facilities see court cases demanding they get the vaccine immediately. High security blue collar crime incarceration facilities get vaccines no problem --- the wardens are for keeping their prisons full.

    Families of the recently deceased sue their doctors for not administering the vaccine to their patient.

    Low-income families in developing nations administer their vaccines in unexpected ways : splitting a single dose amongst all their children, giving all of the vaccines to the sickest among the family or to their own oldest relatives.

    Use of the vaccine on other mammalian species. Beloved pets now have lifespans equivalent to their owners. Scandals in horseracing. The dairy & beef market undergoes some changes. Ted Turner says he has injected the vaccine into every single one of his 50000 bison and has plans to do the same for all the wildlife on his vast property.

    The vaccine is permitted and heartily endorsed by the overwhelming number of religious authorities. At first. Complications ensue among the Abrahamic monotheistic traditions : should the vaccine be given to a goy/heathen/kaffir when so many of our own holy and true faith remain unvaccinated? Can previously venerated religious authorities be trusted as, in the decades after taking their vaccines, they re-evaluate their positions on controversies?

    And every year the Pope’s gonna be a little more energetic and be able to work harder, say more, write more, and plan further ahead for a future that he fully expects to see. (So, the old wisecrack from Stalin(?) about “The Pope? How many divisions does he have?” may cease to be funny.) And, yeah, for the Pope in the first sentence you can substitute oil sheikh or Queen Elizabeth or Chairman of the Fed or Supreme Court Justices. Every powerful elderly figure of the present day. And, more than that, every once powerful geriatric now has a shot at a comeback. The idea of a political hasbeen becomes obsolete : Grover Cleveland’s place as the only non-consecutive 2-term PotuS will change to being merely head of a long list as a familiar bunch of names (now, both first, middle, and last ones) become Presidents in the US. Same process in most other democratic societies.

    The infirm emerge from their old age homes and lay rightful claim to the family business, replace the long deceased parent of their adult children with youngening contemporaries or golddigging opportunists.

    Grudges last. Secrets come out. Your best friend since kindergarten has a hundred years to betray you or for you to realize how he has always taken advantage of you, how he’s gone behind your back, how he knows what he did and must pay.

    Identity fraud. People pretending to be their own children. Children pretend to be their parents.

    Instead of pushing fifty the vaccinated are pulling forty. You keep what you get instead of feeling the loss. The future looks brighter (it isn’t, necessarily, but it looks that way to a whole lot more now) and the plans made for that future are brighter. Like your job? Keep at it! Hate it? Start planning for quitting day instead of retirement.

    Police. The statute of limitations comes to an end as a concept. Imagine a billion people in a dozen nations and every one of them has committed a crime or will do so in the future. Imagine a police force of committed lifers who will never buck for promotion, never give up on a case, never quit. Imagine that every solvable murder will be solved given the time and effort of dedicated investigators. Down these mean streets, etcetera, but now he doesn’t need to stop.

    236:

    The fact that you fail to mention either Jean-Martin Charcot or William James shows the impact of Freud was even more detrimental than most people think.

    In several ways, Freud was worse than his predecessors.

    237:

    I think you severely underestimate the things parents are willing to do to have their children not die. Vaccinations aren't usually about grown-up health, but about children's life.

    What would I personally do? First make sure my grandmother has access to it (if she'd even be willing to take it), then my mother, then my spouse. I won't die of old age for decades yet, I can wait and make sure my loved ones get it first. I could even out-wait the patent period.

    238:

    That's what you would do. When I say that "Low-income families in developing nations administer their vaccines in unexpected ways" it is because that's what happens a lot. Now.

    239:

    Ahem. Bonus points for namechecking a certain science writer.

    240:

    While it's technically about mind uploading, the way Richard Morgan treats the problem of incredibly old people in Altered Carbon is fairly interesting. It makes the assumption that people who live for eight hundred years are much richer than people who only live for a hundred, which may well be transferred to an anti-aging context. While life can be exciting, the problem of boredom for people who are nearly a thousand years old probably has quite a bit of impact, given the impact of what fairly bright people who had a low tolerance for boredom ended up contributing to the world when they could expect to live less than eighty years. However, this assumes leisure time, and any stockpile of money eventually dries up if not tended to. So, aside from the preposterously rich, those wealthy enough to afford anti-aging drugs who want to live for a very long time would probably need to go through cycles of retirement and working -- or ten-year vacations, perhaps. Pensions would need to be reworked, but they wouldn't need to disappear entirely because they might just gain an expiration date. If you retire after fifty years on the job, you might get thirty or forty years of paid time off before you had to find work again. I suspect that a mind that isn't rapidly decaying and a body that isn't complaining significantly more than it was at 40 or 50 will probably need to be quite creative in 30 years of leisure time in order to maintain.

    241:

    "I think a lot of people are underestimating the financial chaos.

    Eternal youth (which is what is promised) means, obviously, that you don't retire. Ever. You may take a 1-2-5-10 year sabbatical, but you don't retire. Ever.

    So, the institution known as the "pension fund" simply ceases to exist. I stop pouring in funds in the pension, and I'm going to go to the reception, and kindly ask for the liquidation of it. Right now. Yes maam, I'll take cash or bullion, not check."
    ----------------
    Take the cash and do what with it? Longer lifespan makes retirement planning more desireable, and more achievable.

    It's the flip side of the 250 year mortgage example. Work until you accumulate a pool of money that generates more income than you need to live on, and reinvest the excess. If you miscalculate and your withdrawal rate is higher than your earnings then you might need to go back to work or cut spending.

    A sixty year old is already planning today for a 30 year income time horizon anyway, planning for a perpetuity instead isn't that much more expensive. (At a five percent return, the difference is only a factor of about 2.6, so if retiring at 60 now is feasible for you, so is retiring at 80 with a five century time horizon: 1.05^20 being roughly 2.65. Actually sooner if you're continuing to save, but let's keep it uncomplicated.)

    242:

    Good job quoting and links.

    243:

    Yet US transwomen still have to take even more hormones to get the effect they want. They'd be overjoyed if all they needed to do was eat more tofu.

    Wait, you mean that won't work? FUCK.

    244:
    Eleven people are not actually enough for a study.

    Why not? It was enough for Wakefiel et al (1998; retracted)...

    (To be precise, they had twelve subjects, of which only nine even had both of the words "autism" and "MMR" listed in the table in any form.)


    In other words, this is not the first time the press has blown a preliminary minor study of this sort out of all proportion, to the detriment of health.

    245:

    "Watching Trees Grow" by Peter F. Hamilton has a lot of well-considered longevity implications layered through the murder mystery plot. Uplifting, positive slant on the subject; no dystopias here. I read it bundled with a Chagaverse novella from Ian McDonald in a Gollancz flipbook, but I'm not sure that's still generally available.

    246:

    #78 (also 88 and 96)

    IMO it doesn't; most of an intra-planetary communications delay is between ground-side routers and switches rather than over physical or radio-frequency links. Even if the ansible is cheap enough (include costs of maintaining "cable" for 5 years) to replace town-level routers and switches you still have the "last mile" network delays, and possibly bandwidth restrictions on the ansible itself.

    247:

    Marilee is an AMerican; she may not be aware of this "study" or the way it was reported (mostly by the Snail and the Excess IIRC).

    248:

    (The "phytoestrogen" thing wasn't supposed to be a good example, it was supposed to be a vivid example. Imaginations can take it from there. And nobody has been consuming dairy for 1000 years, that response misses the point. Generations of a population doing something for 400 years is *not* the same as one individual organism doing it for 400 years, the risks are *different*.)

    Thinking more about the truly *short-term* consequences, I've come up with two things so far.

    It seems not unlikely that the rich and powerful would find out about this before the rest of us, and would take steps to try to "dig in", setting up structures and schemes that would preserve their power for as long as they could.

    If the "cure" is retrovirus delivered by a vaccine-like mechanism, one thing they might start to do is to persuade the world's poor that vaccines are a Bad Idea, a plot to kill your children, et cetera. There'd be an effort to get the teeming masses to distrust medical science in general and vaccination specifically.

    We might also see them double down on efforts to set up the economy so that the wealthy get even more entrenched and the poor are tricked into making more and more decisions that are against their self-interest. We'd probably see real attacks on programs that improve the prospects of people below a certain threshold income, such as attempts to shut down or at least dilute the quality of public schooling. We'd see a tremendous amount of effort to undermine public health care (this dovetails with the previous paragraph).

    We'd see attempts to pit various underprivileged groups against each other, fanning the flames of religious conflicts for example.

    We'd probably see both a frenzied effort to increase in the tools for a central authority to exert control over the population (eg. CCTVs, TSA checkpoints, PATRIOT act), and simultaneously an attempt to re-engineer society so that the general public was more controllable (eg. social norms encouraging sharing every little thought and idea via social media, encouragement of "epistemic closure" so that new ideas can be contained before they become dangerous).

    I guess it might be prudent to start watching out for any of those sorts of signs.

    249:

    @ 248
    Very funny - not.

    Seriously, if the Tea Party ever do get a majority in the USA, then that country will implode.
    We in Europe will have a rough ride - we'll have to really re-start proper defence spending.
    ( As in Britain where every single PM since 1979 has been traitorous )

    250:

    I never read "Watching Trees Grow", but Hamilton's "Pandora's Star" and its sequels addresses most of Charlie's points very well -- better IMO than any other SF I had read. And yes, Hamilton view immortality as a positive thing -- with problems of course, but a lot better than the alternative.

    As an aside, I always hated cautionary SF where immortality comes with some kind of Faustian bargain, and moral of the story is We Are Better Off Growing Old. Mainly because invariably the bargain in question is completely implausible, e.g. "You get to live forever, but in an old decrepit body" -- have you ever tried to keep an old falling-apart car running exactly as it is? A healthy body should be EASIER to keep in its present state!

    251:

    Asking someone's age will become even more taboo than now.

    What on Earth makes you think so? There is already a tendency for unusually healthy old people to flaunt their age rather than hide it: "I am 85 and still jumping out of airplanes!" gets you more admiration than "I am jumping out of airplane, and I am... umm... sixty!"

    In Charlie's scenario being century-old or more would become a point of pride.

    252:

    Dictatorships. What happens when they don't age out? Castro, Stalin, Mugabe, etc...

    I hear this concern a lot, and I think it is overrated. When tyrants/dictators die of old age, all it really means son or some other designated heir takes over. With no real change. Dictatorships end through force, not through old age.

    Moreover, I think people who do not die will have less need "to be part of something bigger than one's self". Which is what makes tyrants and dictators possible in the first place.

    253:

    Dictatorships end through force, not through old age.

    Not always; look at the USSR. A major contributory factor to its end was that a generation of rulers came to power who actually believed in the rule of law and moral behaviour. Mind you, the USSR was pretty odd compared to many dictatorships insofar as even under Stalin, the dictator's legitimacy within his own party rested on the party's ideological claim to legitimacy. Plain old-fashioned authoritarian dictators don't even have that -- they're the Behemoth incarnate.

    It can be argued that China's one-party rule has survived this long because in a nation of 1.3 billion people the CPC has a membership of 80 million. Which is to say, close to 10% of the adult population. If you ask yourself what percentage of your country's population are politically active, it might well not reach that level.

    But the real point about dictatorships is that dictators are human too; very often they'd prefer to die of old age in bed, surrounded by their grieving family -- nobody wants to end their days the way Saddam Hussein did. Democracy solves the succession problem by providing a mechanism for the non-violent transfer of power, and that's going to be even more important in a world where someone can in principle remain active in politics for centuries rather than decades.

    254:

    But the real point about dictatorships is that dictators are human too; very often they'd prefer to die of old age in bed, surrounded by their grieving family -- nobody wants to end their days the way Saddam Hussein did.

    Can't tell if you agree with me or not. I would say you just supported my point -- sooner or later every dictator (or his son or grandson) will face a violent uprising, and if he is smart he will work out some deal like Gorbachev or Duvalier did. If not, he will get Saddam/Ceausescu treatment. Immortality only drops the "or his son or grandson" bit.

    255:

    Joss Delage:

    Do you realize that EVERY ONE of your points is already happening (some to greater extent than others) throughout Western World? Including "become a generally more literate, better educated, better travelled population" -- see Flynn effect

    256:

    sooner or later every dictator (or his son or grandson) will face a violent uprising,

    Not if they pre-empt it by working out a way to transfer to a stable succession.

    General Pinochet managed it after a fashion (although the death toll of victims he racked up early in his dictatorship resulted in his last years involving a lot of prosecution attempts). General Franco inadvertently succeeded by appointing as his successor a legitimate heir to the throne who just happened to believe in constitutional monarchy. And so on.

    It's true that the point of maximum danger to a dictator is usually when they begin to liberalize after a long reign of force. But the ones who tend to fall at this hurdle are often the ones who panic and go back to repression.

    257:

    It's possible that surviving 200-year-olds will have learned to take the long view. But I wouldn't bet serious money on it.
    I would. Not so much that they will have learned, but rather that only people who take the long view to begin with would survive that long.

    258:

    Assuming it doesn't all break down in war because of overpopulation or shortage of resources, then:

    Not only will most of the people who live to 200 probably have learned to take a long view, but some of them will have become *very* good in their area of expertise. Although there must be a limit to how much a human brain can understand, it seems to me that I have gotten better at my work of electronics design with increasing age (though in theory I should retire in under ten years), and at least one of the people who shared the Nobel prize for amorphous materials did the relevant work after normal retirement age.

    So, one possible way this may go is that we could see some scientific and technological advances that would otherwise be very improbable. There seems to be an advance in technology about every ten years that would have been regarded as impossible ten or twenty years previously, so I am guessing that some of the advances will be based on science that is even more like magic. Maybe the human race will gain a knowledge of physics at a level simply unavailable to people who die before they have had chance to learn and think for 200 to 500 years.

    We will need more biological knowledge as well, probably, to upgrade our brains to support larger memory capacity. It seems that early advances have already been made in this area, interfacing electronics to rat brains to replace memory temporarily disabled.

    259:

    Assuming it doesn't all break down in war because of overpopulation or shortage of resources, then:

    Not only will most of the people who live to 200 probably have learned to take a long view, but some of them will have become *very* good in their area of expertise. Although there must be a limit to how much a human brain can understand, it seems to me that I have gotten better at my work of electronics design with increasing age (though in theory I should retire in under ten years), and at least one of the people who shared the Nobel prize for amorphous materials did the relevant work after normal retirement age.

    So, one possible way this may go is that we could see some scientific and technological advances that would otherwise be very improbable. There seems to be an advance in technology about every ten years that would have been regarded as impossible ten or twenty years previously, so I am guessing that some of the advances will be based on science that looks even more like magic. Maybe the human race will gain a knowledge of physics at a level simply unavailable to people who die before they have had chance to learn and think for 200 to 500 years.

    We will need more biological knowledge as well, probably, to upgrade our brains to support larger memory capacity. It seems that early advances have already been made in this area, interfacing electronics to rat brains to replace memory temporarily disabled.

    260:

    One thing to consider is the effect this would have in more capitalist counties, where it is easy and cheap for the average person to invest in stock. Investing $10,000 a year (adjusting for inflation as you go) at a modest 6% average return would give someone about $6 million (adjusted) after a century. Not adjusting for inflation it would be something like $113 million nominal. Something like the 9% return over the 1900-2000 period would give them more like $50 million.

    So what do you do when the population becomes a bunch of millionaires who don't have to work? At what point does the economy collapse, or does it turn into a mostly automated post-scarcity society where wealth and power are determined by the shares you own in the companies that own the machines that make and do everything for you?

    261:


    #78 (also 88 and 96. IMO it doesn't; most of an intra-planetary communications delay is between ground-side routers and switches rather than over physical or radio-frequency links. Even if the ansible is cheap enough (include costs of maintaining "cable" for 5 years) to replace town-level routers and switches you still have the "last mile" network delays, and possibly bandwidth restrictions on the ansible itself.

    Uh, no, most of the delay from the US to Japan, Australia, India, Europe etc. is speed-of-light delay.

    Been there, done that, benchmarked remote applications users / data sharing with corporate offices in Bangalore, can calculate c along the fiber running to Singapore and thence to Bangalore, can count ping delays and great circle cable route distances. Most of the delay for well adjusted long haul is c.

    262:

    Are you sure? When I'm doing datacomms work like this, I'm working mostly over leased lines and not an ad hoc $uk_server needs to contact $bangladesh_server arrangement where $uks contacts &uk_router contacts $bahrain_server contacts $south_india_server contacts $singapore_server contacts $bangladeshi_national_router contacts $bs. My statement did not apply to leased lines.

    263:

    Okay, that's a reasonable reformulation :)

    264:

    Dude, have you ever logged in via telnet ssh to a server in California from a workstation in London and tried to edit a configuration file or document using vi or emacs?

    You can tell whether it's going via cable or comsat in your fingertips.

    (Earth to GEO is 36,000km. Back again, the same. You then need to repeat the round trip for a reply (standard if you're using a TCP connection). That makes for a round trip of around 150,000km. As the speed of light is a whisker under 300,000km/sec, there is no way for a TCP packet transmission mediated via a satellite in GEO to complete in significantly less than 500ms.)

    Cable is another matter. UK to CA is around 10,000km via a great circle route. Cables don't go via great circle routes, but neither do they go right round the entire planet more than once to get to the destination: the distance is almost always invariably much than half the planetary circumference, or 20,000km. So packet latency over intercontinental cable is almost inevitably going to be either (a) much shorter than via satellite, or (b) due to congestion somewhere else.

    (A colleague of mine once demonstrated that an ISP's routing table was borked by doing a traceroute from eth0 to eth1 on the workstation on his desk. eth0 went out of the building via a 64K leased line -- this was some time ago -- while eth1 was plugged into a shiny new E1 line to a different carrier. The head end of each line was in the same physical building elsewhere in Edinburgh, so the fact that the traceroute bounced off MAE-WEST three times was a bit of a giveaway as to why we were experiencing multiple-second latencies in http requests over what was, for the mid-1990s in the UK, a blindingly fast connection :)

    265:

    Ok, the transit time in ether/cable is much less for a landline than a satellite. Since I was originally arguing that ansibles don't reduce intra-planetary transmission (as opposed to routing) delays much, and that routing delays don't get reduced much by ansibles even in the absense of bandwidth restrictions I think you're making my point for me.

    266:

    If you want to check the newspapers' science on any reported health breakthrough look here http://www.nhs.uk/News/Pages/NewsIndex.aspx - for example, they completely trash the the "diabetes cure diet" thing here http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/06June/Pages/type-2-diabetes-and-low-calorie-diets.aspx

    267:

    Anyone who doesn't think that c is a major factor in communications, should do a traceroute to a site on the other side of the world.

    Looking at the trace and guessing where the hop over the Atlantic/Pacific happens can be illuminating.

    268:

    Who's to say the pharma company that invents this won't make it a daily dose instead of a one-time shot? The temptation will be enormous.

    But barring that, I find that the religious argument was somewhat overlooked. There are other religions out there than Christianity; some of them even believe that reincarnation (as in a series of short successive lives) holds the key to attaining Nirvana. There are yet others that promote the exchanging of a short life here on Earth (and a "heroic" end) with an eternity of reward in Heaven.

    There might be entire societies that willingly eschew the treatment, cheap as it may be. For these people the quasi-immortal Western world would start looking more and more like a sort of vampire elite, something to be feared and despised. I don't even think said priests would have to work hard at it, given that the evidence of "unnatural" lifespans would be all over the Western media. The natural conclusion of such a divide would be the mother of all jihads - probably nuclear-powered.

    Too pessimistic?

    269:

    Anyone who thinks that processing/switching time isn't a major factor should try measuring delays over a link that has about 10 processors, and a known but relatively short, say 92km, transmission link in it. I've got one, and the total delay can run over 1s, with 3.06E-4s of that being the link itself.

    270:

    The 8 week low cal diet (600 cals a day) seems to cure type II diabetes. The report I read suggested that it may be fat cells that stop the insulin production which is why the medical trial seemed to get the insulin production working again. Subjects reported that there was no need to continue with their meds after the trial, at that was 18 months ago. Sure, not a lifetime, but still the word cure seems appropriate!
    That said, I'd agree that it was a dietary solution and if the subjects go back to hitting the pies their diabetes will likely return!

    271:

    Longevity vaccine leads to a drop in the 1st world birthrate to near zero, with people pretty much only having babies if they know they will die. 3rd worlders and 1st world have-nots still have babies and "breeding" becomes a derogatory slur related to class disparity. Still, the slow reproductive rate of the rich allows lower classes to out-populate them, so the rich resort to private security forces made up of people who don't have the vaccine, promising to immunize them if they pledge their loyalty to defending the upper classes. Eventually the rich are outnumbered 20 to 1 globally but a combination of unmanned security bots and immortal cops keep the proles in line. Because of the relatively fewer number, though, the rich still end up losing a lot of territory and sequester themselves in smaller groups, possibly building self-reliant arcologies to fulfill their Randian Utopia schemes, leaving the poor to die outside. The reduced projection power of the rich allow the new poor to create new power blocks and societies, with their own rules and politics separate from the former ruling class, and eventually they're powerful enough to make war on their oppressors.
    Okay there are probably a lot of holes in that.

    272:

    On the Education front, it might mean careers that can you can dip in and out of might be an obvious first choice. Lets throw teaching in the pot here - and I know the subject matter often changes but the ability to teach would be a core skill that you could use many times over 600 years!
    What other careers would offer a pretty much guaranteed work prospect without necessarily having to learn all new skills to update (we will always need teachers, right?) ...

    273:

    There might be entire societies that willingly eschew the treatment, cheap as it may be. For these people the quasi-immortal Western world would start looking more and more like a sort of vampire elite, something to be feared and despised. I don't even think said priests would have to work hard at it, given that the evidence of "unnatural" lifespans would be all over the Western media. The natural conclusion of such a divide would be the mother of all jihads - probably nuclear-powered. Too pessimistic?
    Yes, far too pessimistic. You are forgetting the amount of time it would take before immortals become obvious, and the number of young people in these "traditional" societies which will grow up in the interim, with access to Internet and Western media, and say "F-U" to these aging priests. Look at Middle East today -- most young people are not much into their "tradition", and want things they see in the West. What hostility they have toward the West is more jealosy than disdain -- "I want what you've got!" as opposed to "What you've got is immoral, and I want nothing to do with it."

    274:

    Now that I think of it, what I just posted applies to most claims about disruptiveness of prolonged lifespans -- they ignore just how long it would take for the effects to play out. Over last 50 years most societies throughout the world adapted to change and became almost unrecognizable. And the changes we ae talking about here would take at least 50 years to take significant effect.

    275:

    re: only working on certain demographics, it would be interesting if it was very heavily racially based. i.e. What if it worked 99.99% on people of african decent, and 0.1% on people of european decent? Suddenly Africa has the chance to become an economic powerhouse in a few decades. What would the USA/EU governments do if they had that facing them down?

    Likewise, what if people of indian or chinese decent were going to live forever, what sort of global politics would happen?

    276:

    @ 275
    BOLLOCKS
    We are ONE species, and the cultural differences are much greater than the "racial" ones.

    Homo sapiens sapientes africanus remember?
    [ Man who thinks he thinks, & comes from Africa ]

    P.S Putting that in the "race" box of personnel surveys REALLY screws with the Humoid-remains departments' heads!

    277:

    Also, let's be clear, the mechanisms of aging and senescence are common to a very large clade of animals (most of the Vertebrata at least, I would think; I'm not sure how much of an urban myth that story that some fish don't age is). It's got to be a relatively well-conserved genetic constellation, certainly one that will be functionally if not base-for-base identical in all humans.

    278:

    Interview with Aubrey de Gray on Start the Week this week: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/stw/stw_20110627-1130a.mp3

    Went to see him talk at Cafe Scientifique in the Filmhouse in Edinburgh a few years back. A very interesting discussion around the social implications of a 'cure' for agin but, while I don't pretend to know nearly enough to be able to say myself, two friends with biology-related PhDs who were there assure me that he's either a fraud or a dilettante fantasist in terms of the actual science.

    279:

    To play devil's advocate again (yeah, I seem to like that, I know), when talking about dictatorships, it might be interesting to stop focussing on the badasses (Pinochet, Franco and like) and think about some of the more ambivalent figures, like Pilsudski, De Gaulle (May 1958) or even Octavian, for that matter.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Józef_Piłsudski

    Problem is, most of the bloody ones started out as self-styled "benevolent dictators", so that's tricky business indeed.

    280:

    Patents for pharmaceuticals last a relatively short time, so even if they made it a daily dose it would soon be generic and other companies could make it however they wanted. And that's not counting countries that just void the patent.

    On the subject of IP, copyrights could get interesting. If musicians, authors, etc. live for centuries nothing enters the public domain.

    281:

    Err, with the lack of new works entering public domain, am I the only one who gets an intensive "the Simpsons already did it" with this one?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treehouse_of_Horror_XIX#How_to_Get_Ahead_in_Dead-vertising

    282:

    I'm looking at the reproduction rates required for a stable population. Crudely, with 5x the life expectancy you want 1/5th the birth rate. Or alternatively, 4/5 of the current population don't get to reproduce, since you're postulating the same 15-50 year old fertile period we have now. Good luck with that - most population reform of that nature has been done by killing, not breeding restrictions.

    The "birth permit" system could easily look like the current bureacrazy around adoption. There's much more demand for adoptable kids than there are kids, so the bureacrats get to make all sorts of funky rules. It's a process designed to weed out 90% of the applicants in a field where we have no real idea what goes into a good outcome (and what constitutes a outcome is contested). So there is a lot of randomness.

    The flip side is trying to become a foster parent. There are lots of children with problems ranging from minor (depression, bet-wetting) to severe (precocious sexuality, violence, pyromania) who are in state care for one reason or another, and governments struggle to find enough people to care for them. In a true triumph of modern free-market ideology, the solution is not to raise the amount paid to the people willing to do this, but instead to imprison children who we cannot find foster parents for. Imprisonment is known to be extremely damaging, but it's... ah, at least tenfold more expensive than fostering, so we do it preferentially (the reasons are irrational - my impression is that foster parents are supposed to do it for love, therefore paying them is not permitted).

    I think we would probably still have both systems operating, with "unable to use contraception" children being the overwhelming majority. Especially if we react by taking the "extra" children away, thus lowering the cost of breaking the rules. Face it, there are people for whom no amount of negative feedback will be enough to make them stop breeding, and over 50 years they can produce a lot of children. So unless we kill or sterilise the parents, we will have a lot of those children.

    The parents who did apply for permits would have to jump through hoops and I do wonder if this would select for compliant, patient people over a relatively short time (reproductively it's a population collapse - less than 20% of the population will reproduce. Ever)

    My prediction is that population control would fail, in a generation or two we would see massive numbers of people migrating out of high-birth-rate poor countries and a resulting series of wars. Hey, if you've got 200 years you can walk to *anywhere* (except Antarctica). There would hopefully be a few cycles before things stabilised, probably at a lower, more industrialised level. I say hopefully because the most likely alternative would be a post-nuclear-war much reduced population at a lower level of technology.

    And that's just the breeding...
    Moz

    283:

    My prediction is that population control would fail, in a generation or two we would see massive numbers of people migrating out of high-birth-rate poor countries and a resulting series of wars.

    This didn't happen in China under the one-child-per-family laws. (Now largely rescinded, incidentally, because it turns out they've undergone a demographic transition and are now facing a Japanese-style ageing population.)

    284:

    I'm looking at the reproduction rates required for a stable population. Crudely, with 5x the life expectancy you want 1/5th the birth rate. Or alternatively, 4/5 of the current population don't get to reproduce, since you're postulating the same 15-50 year old fertile period we have now. Good luck with that - most population reform of that nature has been done by killing, not breeding restrictions.

    In the short term (say life of a specific individual) this might be correct, at least if the lifespan of a typical individual is no more than about twice the natural reproductive period of a typical female of the species (for Hom Sap, say 35 years). In the longer term, say over 5 lifetimes, it has been shown many time that you need a little over 2 children per female with a ~50/50 balance of sexes to maintain a stable population.

    In the worst case, you'll get an initial population growth because people live longer, but long term you need that 2.something children per female birth rate to maintain a constant population; drop below that long term, and you'll get a reducing population.

    285:

    I guess I'm way late to the party, but this is what finally induced me to start a comment.

    Charlie @ 91: It's possible that surviving 200-year-olds will have learned to take the long view. But I wouldn't bet serious money on it.

    Yeah - but you're, what, 40 years old?

    On the topic of memory:
    I've lived 44 and a half years so far, so I'm starting to see some changes in memory as time goes on. My wife and I have been married for 22 years - and there are things she remembers that I completely, and I mean completely, have forgotten. And vice versa. My sister, now 42, can't remember most of our childhood. We joke about it.

    So I honestly think that we'll progressively discard the unimportant memories as we go. Their traces will fade away, leaving only changed weights in their wake to continue influencing our personalities. And overall we'll notice nothing - until we run across video taken 300 years ago showing us doing something incomprehensible in a place we don't even remember ever having lived in, with a spouse we've forgotten.

    Good notes will be important.

    On childbearing: I think childbearing will fall off to below replacement values pretty quickly. The poor won't need to have kids to look to their retirement (what retirement?) and the rich will continue to think of themselves, and have a kid every now and then when they just want to.

    On business: corporations will be forever, with ancient CEOs and Board members - and will be an attractive way for young people (or those fallen on hard times) to earn a nest egg. Anybody with any gumption will quit and start their own business - but the pressure's off if you know your career isn't going to be measured in three or four business starts, but fifty.

    On risk assessment: You think America's scared of terrorists now? It is to laugh.

    286:

    Yeah - but you're, what, 40 years old? On the topic of memory: I've lived 44 and a half years so far

    Youngster :)

    I'm inclined to agree about forgetting lots of stuff, but formative events and experiences hang around long after trivia has gone. For example, you probably can't remember what you ate last week (unless there was a significant meal out with friends, or you took some care to cook something unusual), but you almost certainly remember the meal on your wedding day. Reinforcement occurring shortly after a significant event causes it to be remembered better, so I think there'll be some learning from experience that sticks around in the long term.

    Mind you? We'll need lifelogging.

    As for corporations ... the average corporation today has a life expectancy of around 30 years. It's astonishing how few of them make it to their first century, much less their second. Now, this might be a side-effect of a rapid expansion in the number of business start-ups and a fast pace of change rendering established niches obsolete, but I'm not convinced: I can see arguments for and against corporate longevity. If the same people run the organization for a century it's going to tend to be inflexible (ergo likely to fare badly in changing circumstances) but if the people turn over rapidly it's going to lose institutional knowledge (ergo have difficulty maintaining focus on its core competencies).

    287:

    What about a suitably diverse company (far more so than the supermarkets of today that sell everything from pet food to pet insurance) with a long personnel turnover period, I.e. board members are admitted every 5 years in groups with the top group 'retiring' every time a new group enters (with ten or twenty groups)

    288:

    I would expect to see a standard distribution in the longevity of corporations, with a mean not much different from what we see today (though the median might be much larger because there will be a very long tail). That's because the makeup of a company changes a great deal in the first few years of its existence as it goes from a startup or spinoff to a mature organization operating in a mature market. And in the course of that change different kinds of people will be attracted to work in it, certainly at the top levels, if not overall.

    In the initial stages of the life of a new corporation there's a much larger attraction for people who are not risk-averse, or are even risk-tolerant (assuming that there are any such people left in a geriatric society; if not, there won't be many new corporations). As the business matures, risk-aversion becomes less likely to be dangerous to the formation of new business, and more likely to be a survival characteristic both for the individual and the company. And when the company matures and operates in more of an equilibrium in its marketplace, it's much more likely to attract employees who are less competent and/or more likely to deliberately operate to the detriment of the company. So eventually, usually within one or two human lifetimes, I would expect most corporations to fail, be absorbed by other corporations, or break up into separate corporations addressing significantly different markets.

    289:

    sorry to butt in late - re:spooky action at a distance, I thought this lecture, recorded a couple of years ago at Imperial College, about the current state of the art might be of interest.

    http://www.imperial.ac.uk/podcasts/schrodinger.m4v

    290:

    As I remember, gene wise, the Caucasoid "race" is part Negroid and Asian. It's 70 and 30% Asian and Negroid. I think. But its not PC to say race now. Tell people that and watch their faces. You may be surprised.

    292:

    Yep. Take any animal and inbreed it and it starts diverging away from the base stock. But it's still the same thing. If it goes on long enough, and one man can do it to dogs or fish. The different's will breed true. Making a better dog for what he wanted if he culled out what he did not want. Humans live too long and breed to slow for this. But if it goes on long enough?
    Thanks to time and isolation there are differences in humans But only on top. One thing I have always wondered about and don't know enough about is hybrid vigor. Most animals we use are not pure breed. They are only bred only to make stock for breeding the hybrids.
    So we need more "race," group or whatever mixing?? Even a very small thing makes a big difference in nature with time. I bet you hate reading this, I'm not that happy.
    Now and only now, I remember Larry Niven did a short story on this. But I had it on my own first. THE CHOCOLOLATE MAN HOLE COVER?? I did have it first, if that's a good thing?

    293:

    Your scenario is a nightmare; Big Brother's boot stamping on a human face . . . forever.

    The world will become a much more ugly place when 600 year lifespans become common for men such as Mummar Kaddafi, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Il, George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney, the kings of Saudi Arabia, the ruling party in Communist China.

    Okay, so maybe not those particular individuals, maybe only for the next generation of charismatic psychopaths.

    Common people become terrified of criticizing the ruling class, not because they fear death but because they fear spending 500 years deep in the salt mines.

    The US Congress is already overloaded with senile cronies. Imagine corrupt Senators who plan to spend 300 years in office. Imagine Pelosi, Reid, etc., still ruing the Congress in 2411.

    For crime and punishment, the death penalty is replaced by chemical or physical lobotomies or personality erasing because long lived people abhor the death penalty but also don't want to pay the costs of life in prison for 500 years.

    294:

    Other, random associations.

    Very long lived Americans stop building houses out of wood and start using material that won't feed termites or rot away in a hundred years.

    Long lived, middle class professionals, will keep any jobs that pay well. But they renegotiate for lots more free time, preferring to work 24 a week rather than 40 to 50. But they're instantly available on demand.

    Long lived, low IQ people will be a constant problem, Little Britain thugs keep spilling into the public until the '30 strikes out' rule sentences them to get 'brainwashed'.

    Families get more nuclear. People need some distance from Ma and Pa, especially after the first 100 years.

    Marriage become short term, five year contracts with options to renew.

    Most women stockpile their ova in freezers and subcontract the actual pregnancy to low IQ women.

    Television and movies die out almost completely. On one hand, long lived people crave novelty and entertainment and diversion. On the other hand, they already know every plot point and story arc. (This is happening to me now and I'm only 55).

    But there will be events like a block party of Boomers projecting an old movie like 'Woodstock' onto the side of a building to relive the experience every fifty or hundred years.

    You'll see many people put their assets into storage and spend a decade or so in a monastic retreat. Until they get really annoyed by some social phenomena and come out of retirement to fix the problem. The Tea Party in America is largely driven by folks near retirement age who are outraged by the current state of affairs. Some South American dictatorships were deeply wounded by elderly women walking through the capital holding up pictures of their children who'd been 'disappeared' by death squads.

    Many others will put their assets into storage and live like a mendicant, a hobo, a stoner, a surfer dude, a community of Amish or Mennonites, or a historical recreations such as a Bronze Age village.

    Imagine a dedicated team of Performance Artists who spend ten years recreating the Trojan War. Little video cameras capturing every movement in real time, computerized language translation instantly, millions of people in their 'Matrix' sensory pods watching through the actors' eyes. And they fight with real weapons! Valkyries stand by to fly away with the actors KIA to revive them before brain death becomes permanent!

    295:

    Of note here is Elizabeth Moon's Familias Regnant series, in which a major, if shadowy, plot engine is the development of viable life-extension within a polity and (in particular) the reaction of other polities around it to this development

    296:

    Capital is scarcer, labor is more abundant.

    There is a counter to this, however - many more people will be accumulating capital with the expectation of eventually "retiring" on it.

    At present, if you're good and save wisely, you might be able to accumulate enough capital in 40 years or so to keep you going "indefinitely" until you die - or you can go entrepreneur and maybe accumulate this quicker. This is predicated on a society where most people work, and a small minority live off capital.

    If everybody is trying to do this, things change. i suspect the real return on capital will go down, probably due to higher inflation, with actual wages (i.e. what you get for working) keeping track with that cost of living - but I could be wrong on how that plays out.

    297:

    I think it was Lincoln who said something like "Without Labor there can be no Capital." Capital is something labor makes. Money in a bank is nothing but stored labor.
    For the life of me I can't think who wrote them, (BRUCE STERLING, "THE BICLE REPAIRMAN," in "A Good Old-Fashioned Future") but there is a writer who is doing a time that is not too far off.
    The staffers of a long senile Congressman man are still doing what he wanted. Things have changed a lot, but the staffers are still running black bag jobs to uphold what he believed was needed. Maybe then but not now. They have too much power from his name. And no body in the US Congress wants to rock the boat and try to pull them in.

    298:


    Its been a long time since I read The Trouble with Lichen and don't have it to hand but I remember it as rather uncomfortable as the inventor doses up his family and friends and other nice middle-class people but its pretty clear that it will - naturally - be a while before the unwashed get a look in.

    What I find surprising no-one has mentioned is that this stuff will itself immediately become the most precious commodity imaginable. OK you can make it cheap but there's supply AND demand. Supply is finite (and limitable) but demand is infinite. There's no question of marketing something in those conditions - the usual commercial pharmaceutical IP stuff doesn't enter into it. The rule of thumb about priceless things is that they don't get sold.

    My immediate prediction - the relevant researchers/developers are landfill and the only people raising questions about the meteoric political careers of wise-beyond-their-years young turks like Margery Bratcher are internet conspiracy theory nutters.

    299:

    On the contrary - demand is finite. One dose of immortality per person. There's some precedent for this; the polio vaccine was in demand by everyone at once...and after a while everyone had been immunized [approximately]. There's a very sharp peak in the demand in the beginning, but once everyone has gotten their fix it declines into a low maintenance level.

    300:

    Yeah OK- but you'd have to get over that initial hump, which might be interesting. I'm just not sure the process would run along classical economic lines with people making rational choices and the market fixing a fair price (in fact, I would argue that heathcare provision doesn't exactly work like that as it is). Weren't the mass-immunisation programmes of the twentieth century essentially run and funded by governments? So the question is – would there be a political will to make sure everyone has a dose? -given this will do something unprecedented and basically unpredictable to the global economy, as above. Wouldn't anyone in a position to control the stuff exploit the fact in more underhand (and controllable) ways?

    301:

    I think healthcare provision could/would work pretty muh like that if not for the distortions caused by a few very large and high cost private HC markets.

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