Another thought experiment (to chew on, while I wrestle this goddamn novel to the bitter end) ...
In The Ticking Clock I asked: what would you do if you learned you had roughly five years left to live?
Let me flip the question upside-down.
Let us postulate that someone, somewhere, toiling in the bowels of a large pharmaceutical corporation, has come up with the elixir vitae: a reasonably-priced drug which, taken daily, stops or reverses the aging process.
Ground rules: if you're past puberty, it stops the physiological processes of aging dead in their tracks. If you're over about thirty, it sends the clock into reverse: for each year you stay on the medicine, you lose a year of apparent age, stabilizing only when you reach your prime, around 18-24. If you're under 18, it has no effect. If you're in the 18-24 range, it stops you getting older ... but there's probably no point taking it until you hit your late 20's.
Tissue damage, regeneration: nope. You heal better than a crumbly, but if you lose a limb or have a heart attack, the stump or the myocardial scarring remain (although other treatments may be available for them). Cancer: a side-effect is that the medicine cures 90% of cancers. For the other 10%, there are the usual chemotherapy/radiation/immunotherapy/surgical options. (Reason: per one line of research, cellular senescence appears to be a side-effect of a malfunctioning anti-cancer mechanism. And I'm going to point to naked mole rats and their strange combination of longevity and cancer-resistance.) Menopause: the drug does not reverse menopause. (But see also.)
Obviously this wonder drug gets patented and goes on sale around the world rather fast, starting in February 2013. There is more money to be made by taking a billion people for a thousand bucks a year than by taking a thousand people for a billion bucks a year, so after an initial eye-watering introductory price that pays off the development costs in a couple of years, the price crashes to "what the market will bear", where the market is everyone in the developed world aged over 35. So by 2015 you'll be able to afford it, if you're on better than minimum wage and living in a developed nation.
So, my question: do you take the drug (cost: $1000/year; if that's too much, it'll come down to $300/year after the patent expires in another 12 years)? And if so, how do you see it affecting your life-plans?
Please ignore, for now, the macro effects — population demographics, ability to feed the planet/control climate change, collapse/re-purposing of pension funds, long-term political instabilities caused by the young gradually realizing that the old now have a permanent lock on all high-status niches (as contributed to the revolution in Egypt last year, and the revolution in Iran a generation earlier).
What I'm asking is: you, personally suddenly learn that, unless you've got a terminal prognosis already, you can buy a medicine for not very much money that will make you feel young, fit, and sharp again if you take it — and you're never going to grow old and slow and wear out. How does this affect your plans?