Back to: Sitrep | Forward to: In case you were wondering ...

The ticking clock, stopped

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?

240 Comments

1:

Note on the billionaires thing:

If I was a Bill Gates/Warren Buffet type, and someone offered me the elixir vitae for $1Bn/year, I'd take it. (At least, I'd take it if I was Mr Buffet, aged 82.) I would then throw twice as much money -- at least! -- at trying to reverse-engineer it or come up with an alternative. And when I got there, I'd put it on sale at cost plus 5%, to (a) thumb my nose at the sharks who, through vile and immoral price-gouging are condemning millions of geezers to death every year[*], and (b) clean up the 99.9% of the market that they're ignoring.

[*] The logic of the drink stand in the desert applies: to a plane crash survivor crawling out of the Sahara a litre of water might be beyond price, but that doesn't mean it's morally justifiable to charge more than $5 for it.

2:

My plans would now extend into the indefinite future. For a start, I would begin an entirely different career. As for how much someone is willing to pay for something like this, if it gave me more than 25 years of healthy life extension I would forego a house and use the 25 year mortgage for this. So to me, it would be worth around £100K over 25 years ie £4000 per year

3:

This is also very much like asking someone who is fairly old "what would you do if you were 20 years old knowing what you know now?". I suspect that there would be a rather rapacious sector of society suddenly let loose.

4:

It doesn't. This is a combination of being only 22 years old and therefore not looking very far ahead and futurist optimism. I'm already betting on someone figuring out a reasonable cryo or immortality scheme by the time I'm scheduled to run out of time. It's not a very large chance, but the associated reward is so large that the expected utility is overwhelming. And I'm having a pretty good life anyway, so it's not like I'm losing any opportunity cost.

5:

Ah, there was a sci-fi novel with the same scenario (and dammit, I can't remember the name). Pharmaceutical Co. developed the immortality drug. It was sooooo expensive only the rich could afford it. Everyone else was promised that the price would eventually come down but people got impatient, paranoid and rioted, killing anyone they thought had already taken the drug. Somebody retaliated by letting loose a plague that killed everyone but those who had taken the drug. The only survivors were now immortal and eventually took to the stars.

6:

I should have said a similar scenario.

7:

Actually, it doesn't affect my plans much either.

Since I do a lot of conservation work, I'm naturally looking at an indefinite future. Certainly this is altruistic on my part. I won't live to see many of the things I'm working for. If I will likely live to see the goals I'm working for, that makes it easier to keep going.

I suspect that, over the course of about a decade, it will make everyone a lot more conservative, in the sense of risk averse and long-planning, and that helps me. Conservation makes more sense for someone who likes a mountain and wants it to remain that way for a hundred years. I see a lot of stupidity of the "but we want the forest back NOW, not a hundred years after the fire, 'cuz we can't wait 100 years." If they are able to wait that hundred years, then it's not so urgent. Letting nature take its course becomes more palatable to someone who gets to enjoy the long, slow change.

The other thing is that school will shift from being primarily about programming children to become productive adults, and will become mostly about helping adults transform their lives when they get tired of doing what they currently do. Since I like teaching adults, this would open new opportunities for me. At least until I got sick of it myself.

As an aside, I should note that the old will have a lock on status and power. However, since all but a tiny minority of people will be old, that actually destabilizes politics in an entirely different and more interesting way than if only the rich become immortal.

8:

1) Yes, I'd take the drug. (This may complicate my relationship because my spouse probably wouldn't.)

2) I probably wouldn't do anything very different at first, because I'd wait to see if it was actually working and without major side effects. Also, my perspective and priorities would be unlikely to change all at once, so I'd give it some time to sink in. That said, I'd put a higher priority on learning to play a musical instrument again, and exploring other creative endeavors.

9:

Start looking for a career I could live with for fifty years, rather than one that I'm willing to put up with because it pays a lot and be able to retire.

Get a lot more active on supporting environmental causes.

10:

It wouldn't change my life right now, but what it really changes is 'retirement', instead of it marking the start of the crumbly stage, it's now the 'financially independent' stage when you're debt free, own a home (or have it covered by income), and have return on investments that cover the lifestyle that you're accustomed to.

...then I go build GIANT robots in my back shed, because all it will take is time.

11:

I'm already working towards a career that requires years and years of effort before I get a brief shot at something I have a small percentage chance of achieving ever. So having more time? Not going to change that at all.

The only thing I can see changing much for me, at least in the short-term, would be putting off having kids. It's a major disruption of career plans, but there's a time limit on fertility. (And more potential for serious problems with the kids the longer I wait, even. Sigh.) Being able to stop that clock means I don't have to juggle my entire life around a theoretical future infant, and my ability to produce one.

12:

I probably wouldn't change anything too dramatically *immediately* but I'd start making plans for more long-term learning. Study sociology, dig into a second career that I found interesting but couldn't justify during the "peak earning years," and so on. I can easily imagine a life of hopping and skipping from one field of learning to the next, spending a decade or two sinking my teeth into each one, without the deep fear of screwing myself (and my wife) over in my golden years.

13:

1. Of course I'd take the drug.
2. It wouldn't change my plans in the slightest. I had never planned to be an old man.

14:

I would definitely take it. Aside from being able to see how "things play out", it would allow me to make some very long-term investment and career plans. You could spend extra years or even decades in school, knowing that you'll be able to pay it off eventually. You could do careers for a decade or two, decide you don't want to do that anymore, and go back and learn to do entirely other things.

15:

Well, I'd definitely take it. But sespite being on the young side (27), this would actually drive me to make some rather immediate changes to my life. Basically, my plan was to die of a heart attack around age 55 or so. Old enough where I've lived a reasonable lifespan; young enough where my body isn't falling apart and I can still take care of myself.

However, with this drug to prevent the latter, I'd need to start taking a lot better care of myself to defer said heart attack. :)

Long-term, I can't really identify any changes that this would drive. I like my job; even if I built up a nest egg, I don't really see any need to retire. Especially if my friends keep working too.

16:

Will there be implicit societal pressure to take the drug? ("if you don't take it then you're committing slow suicide" type of thing). I could easily see that happening.

Your question, in various forms, has been around a long time and answered many different ways in SciFi; I think Heinlein did it, even. One option is "multiple careers"; you earn and save enough money that you can retire from one job, invest the money into learning a new skill and then follow that career path.

However most of the SciFi answers assume a society that's worked out the kinks. In your specific question we'll be going through transition. Society won't be used to "multiple careers"; there will be a have/have-not divide and resentment. Current societal support structures will not be able to support traditional retirement.

I currently have a plan; work until 55 (11 more years!), and then retire early 'cos I don't spend much and save a lot. (Current world economic status probably means "60"; ugh). That's because I reckon I would have 25-ish years of savings at that point. But if I'm very very likely to likely to live beyond 85 and be in better health than I am today then this plan is no longer viable. And I sure don't want to do the same job for time infinitum. I would have to look at a second career on reduced income (I'm very good at what I do today; I won't be as good at the second career, initially).

Or not take the pill.

17:

If I'm going to be on this planet for eight hundred years, not eighty, then I'd switch my career back to being a rocket scientist, with the eventual goal of getting to see other planets.

If a disability or fatal accident is going to steal hundreds or years of my life rather than decades, then I'm staying in bed. Driving cars and extreme sports go right out the window.

Equally, I'm currently living on a fault-line with a acceptable change of a magnitude 8 quake within my expected lifetime (in Wellington, NZ). If that lifetime increases by an order of magnitude or two, then the acceptable risk increases equally and I'll be moving somewhere safer.

18:
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)?
Of course I'll take it. I'm about your age, and I'm already spending $2k/year on "maintenance" drugs. I think it will be a decade or two at much higher prices - probably 2 orders of magnitude higher. I predict that they'll be somewhat deceptive on their patent applications like some current meds, so that off-patent generics won't work because they're missing the active ingredients. Alternatively, they'll simply bribe enough politicians with free samples that they'll make the patents eternal. Like copyright in the US is becoming.
And if so, how do you see it affecting your life-plans?

I'm currently a software developer. All the guys I personally know who are older than myself report hitting a brick wall getting hired around 54-55 [1]. So I'm working on my 3rd bachelors degree to switch over into another career before that "deadline" hit. My personal retirement savings started late and while they're a lot more than everyone else I know, I'm worried that I'll be working until I'm 70+.

With this new drug, I would not be worried about retiring, because there would not be much need to do so. I personally want a farm/ranch/spread out in the sticks where I could grow my own food and not be near people (except when I want). I could easily see myself doing that for a few decades before getting bored. "I think that tree would look better over there" takes on a new meaning when you can live to see that new tree reach maturity from a sapling.

My predictions:

A) We will see credentialism get a lot more serious all over the place.

B) With much longer longevity, more people will take risks that we would normally associate with stupid teenagers. So I predict the death rate from accidents to skyrocket among people who were older and now have younger bodies [2].

C) With longer lasting people, planning for the future and economic-thinking will become more common than it does now, partly because people will make mistakes longer, but also finally get to the "I should know better" stage when they're still physically fit enough to do something about it.

D) With longer lifespans, people will change careers far more than they do now [3], and mini-retirements of 2-10 years of not working [4] before returning to the workforce will be more common.

E) My other predictions will be too silly.

Notes:
1 - One of the guys never got any degrees at all and so he's now working for about 2/3 of what he was making 4 years ago.
2 - If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving was not for you. Also, see Old Man's War, especially when they ship out.
3 - At the orientation for my 2nd bachelors (back in the 90s), they were pointing out that the average person would have at least 5 separate careers before they retired. Since I was on my 2nd at that time, I appear to be on track for their prediction by age 70 anyway.
4 - Perhaps spacing children out by 20 year gaps, so you raise one, return to the workplace, then take time off to raise another one. It would currently seem strange to see generational gaps like this between brothers & sisters, but I think it will become more common when age and "biological clock" become non-issues.

19:

Thanks Charlie. Now I've got to think about the worst of the best of all worlds.

I'm finding it difficult to think about anything except the macro aspects of this scenario. Personally, I'd love to spend more time being who I am, with my family, doing things I enjoy, learning to play my violin better, writing, painting, listening to more music etc. But after the initial joy of (at least nearly) immortality, we'd just have more time to screw things up wouldn't we? Adolescence would last about 50 years. Politics wouldn't change, or to be more precise, politicians wouldn't change.

Oh, no, I got it; I'd be Batman :)

20:

Sure I would take it like a shot. How it would change my life? I would feel more able to space out my plans. I'm 41 now. A lot of the stuff I do is informed by the fact that I won't be able to do it in ten or twenty years. I go on holiday to Mexico to go cave diving because I can do the walking tour stuff when I'm sixty but I can only do the more physically active stuff right now.
I never used to feel like this ten years ago but now I'm feeling that a lot of the stuff I want to do I only have ten or twenty years where I will be physically able. So feeling less urgency to see the "difficult" sights (recently dived the german WWI fleet in Scapa flow, challenging -- won't be able to do that when I'm 60) would be reassuring.

21:

Of course I'd take it in a heartbeat, at almost any price, but I don't think it would change my plans much because fear of senescence hasn't really affected my plans so far, and I'm kind of permanently stuck in a "What the hell am I going to do next?" mindset. So that wouldn't really change, it would just cycle for longer.

"The Postmortal" by Drew Magary is a good but incredibly depressing novel about the social consequences of this very drug, in the context of a world that's already overpopulated and climate-addled.

22:

For the heck of it I would make it a sport of reaching different ages. I'm 38 now, would take the pills, reverse to 18, stop taking them and then age to whatever limit I set for myself before I start taking them again. Would be fun to bet on this. Can you live to 50? 70? 90? 100? Russian roulette with your own life expectancy. Or just to find out at which age I prefer to live forever and then reduce pill-intake to only revert to my preferred age - I guess there will be periods of trendy ages. Today we distinguish ourselves by fashion trends, music, sports - with such a pill age will be like those things: a style decision, not as fastchanging as other trends, but in little epochs of decades and centuries: The 2000s could be the epoch of the 25ers, the 2100s the one of the 45ers, etc - or those age-stylists will exist parallel in time and form various subcultures in every city.

23:

I'll start the physical and behavioural training necessary to qualify for the first mission to another star.

It's something I've always wanted to be a part of. My kids will be old enough to not need support by the time it happens, and I'd hope that at least one of my partners comes along for the ride, but they'll probably be here when(if?) I get back

24:

I would take the hell out of that pill.

I think it would make it impossible to ever eat the marshmallow. By which I mean, no amount of savings would ever be enough to retire, no vacation would be safe enough to countenance, etc etc. I would have to come to some sort of new understanding of risk - a process that would probably take quite a few years to properly internalize.

After that, who knows? I would hope that I would eventually set personal limits on how long I was allowed to stay in one place/home/job before I switched to something new. Radical novelty would then become the currency of the realm (as long as long-term savings were not drawn down below danger levels). I'll posit that I would probably eventually end up in some "Holy Fire" scenario.

25:

Obviously this wonder drug gets patented

I don't agree that it's obvious. Patenting would disclose information (although, apparently, in the US it's okay to leave out necessary information, but it's not okay in Canada, and I presume other sane states).

Logistics may make it difficult, if it's a daily dose, but for the money involved, it's doable.

26:

I'd spend a year committing mayhem against Big Carbon: sabotaging the Keystone XL, breaking equipment on the Albertan tar sands fields, harassing the Brothers Koch and their pets in Congress. I'd get put away for twenty, thirty years, but if my Mayhem Year can slow things down enough, or make Big Carbon unprofitable enough to give renewables that last boost they need, it will have been time well spent. Plus, I'll be young and spry when I get out of prison (which I'll probably need to be to survive it).

27:

I will note that for most USian poverty-level workers, $300 per year ($25 per month) is still beyond their means. People who are focused on how to afford their next meal will not be interested in prolonging their lives (read: suffering) when the money can feed or house them. Access to the drug will probably turn into another class marker, with only those with sufficient income having access.

Since I *can* afford $25 a month, the question is whether I am willing to live with depression for whatever the mean life expectancy turns out to be (accidents and microbes eventually get everyone). How would my life change? In the short term, not much. I still have to earn a living in order to keep myself and my partner housed and fed. It *does* give me a longer time-frame in which to save sufficient funds to achieve a non-employed retirement, at which point I would travel extensively, then return to school (because I am a student at heart), and eventually back to work to earn more "fun money" and enter a second retirement. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If lifespan is long enough, buying a single lotto ticket weekly may [I have not run the numbers to verify] turn into a reasonable strategy for eventually becoming super-rich, at which point the work-retire-work-retire cycle may collapse to Lifestyles of the Stupidly Rich.

28:

I'd take the drug to feel younger and get healthier - I am 45 and starting to feel some creaks and see some lines :-/

In all honesty I think that the majority of people, myself included, would be less productive in a daily and yearly measure of our lives if we thought we had longer to live. Therefore that biological clock that says, 'Create! Innovate! Learn! While you still can!' wouldn't be nearly as loud, with possibly more time wasted generally playing. I'm also the kind of person who wants to pay the bills before playing, so I'd look at paying the mortgage off before travelling or holidaying or anything... Pretty much what I've been doing for a decade or two already, but now biological clock is telling me to do certain things now or maybe never (and the kids have left home) so I'm rethinking my priorities with more of a focus to achieving certain goals in the next 10 to 40 years.

29:

Plan on changing my life radically in about 20 years and repeating it every 20 years. At that point, either join the military, or Peace Corps (sorry - haven't decided yet) for a hitch and then go back to school for something that I can do with my hands. Or maybe that first.

Otherwise, sit down and study neuroscience and neurobiology as much as I could, making a career out of it at some point. Focus on human memory and how it works and possibly how to fiddle with it. I suspect that will become a huge point later on.

Worry about my marriage. I hope it could last for that long a period of time. I wouldn't bet on it though.

Change religions. I bet Catholicism would go around the twist over something like that, at which point polite spiritualism or the UUs sound pretty good.

30:

Hell yes, I'd take it. Or I'd wait a couple years for near-term side-effects to show up, just to be on the safe side, and then take it (just as I do with laser eye-surgery). 1-5% of my net income per year is NOTHING. I live a quite unhealthy lifestyle, and the effects are already starting to show - a 20-25yo body can take much more abuse.

And then the problems would start, just because so many current assumptions (people retire or die off, making room in the corporate food chains) would fall down. Pretty much instantly.

Transition from a world where "everyone dies off within a hundred years" to one where people don't would hurt. And I guess "World War" kinds of hurt. Because all of a sudden Finite Ressources do actually matter. To Us(tm), not just our offspring (on a more personal note: it'd mean I could put the "spawn or not" decision off indefinitely, not just for another 5 years).

31:

Let's see... more people in the world, rising standards of living, and a fixed amount of gold etc.

32:

Yes I'd take it, no hesitation.

I'd probably stop paying my pension; I have little faith it'll be around when I retire as it is, this would make it a certainty. Plan? Pay off the mortgage, save, take sabbaticals to do interesting things. Who would miss retiring when you feel 25?

33:

Hell yes I'd take it, and no it wouldn't really affect my immediate plans. I'm doing some things for which I need stability so I'd stay put for the moment.

Long-term, though, it would be quite different. To me, there'd be no point in planning the kind of career path where you learn one thing and do it for the whole of your working life, climbing corporate ladders or accumulating long service awards. I suffer from perennially itchy feet; I get bored very easily, and there is no way I'd settle into that kind of rut, especially if I could see myself living a couple of hundred years.

I'd probably get quite rootless for a long time, moving from country to country every ten or twenty years, long enough to learn the language and customs and get to know a place fairly well, and then move on. I'd learn to live unencumbered by things, to be able to pack up and move at short notice, and I'd learn to play more instruments than I already do. I'd take photos, learn to paint, write and play music and never worry about having to save for retirement. Between gigging and selling my work I'd live simply and tend bars if I needed cash.

34:

I'd take it, but it wouldn't really have a huge impact my life plans. My life plans involve having enough equity banked that I can live off the investment returns starting sometime in my mid-40s. A thousand dollar per year expense isn't going to have a huge impact on that (two if my wife decides to take it). I'm fine pushing the time horizon out to my early 50s instead.

35:

I should add, once I hit that "fuck-you money" level, well- I don't have any plans. That's the whole point of having "fuck-you money". You don't need to have plans anymore, because fuck you, I do what I want.

36:

Damn, of course I'd take it. It's the only way I'll live long enough to write that book. Heck, it sounds like I might even live long enough to get it published too!

37:

I'd probably take it, and I don't see it changing my plans a whole lot. I already do a job I love, for the love of it rather than the money I could be earning at somewhere I hated.

Same deal with the 5-years-to-live.

If you live your life to find quality-of-life and happiness, then whether you have 5 minutes or 5 millennium to live becomes less important.

I'm sure that if I have another 50 years I'll be doing something different with my life in the details, but unless something radically changes about my personality, I'll be following the same principle: do something I enjoy and can live with doing day-to-day.

For the the macro effects (yes, I know...), I think they'd be terrifying and likely to go down as being far more disruptive than the agricultural or industrial revolutions (longevity revolution?), and the manufacturing/supply chain would obviously be a prime target for the people disenfranchised by it.

And on a more cynical note: anyone fancy an 800-year mortgage to afford a pod with just enough room for a tiny bed?

38:

I'd buy health insurance. (I live in the US.)

39:

I wonder if I would lose much of my creative writing impetus, personally. A lot of what drives my creative writing is a sense of impermanence, the anticipation (or dread) of transformation, etc. I'm not sure there'd be a place for that kind of thing in a world of people able to return to the physical prime of their lives.

Career-wise, I think I would be fine. I don't think the psychology that governs the financial markets would change very much. Maybe more volatility. But for my personal purposes, that would be a positive.

One thing I would pursue that I've pretty much given up on in this lifespan would be learning more languages and interacting more with different cultures. In this life, dealing with my own culture is more than enough!

40:

Yes, I would take it.

I would love to have a working pancreas again and not require glasses to read things.

I would not mind being around a few centuries. However, I would expect humanity's progress in all fields of endeavor to slow down. After all, there is no pressure to hurry up any more because we have all the time in the world, provided you can afford the $1000 per year.

SO getting to tour the galaxy may take a LOT longer than we expect. Of course, some proportion of the population may get very bored with waiting for the advance to happen and accelerate some developments so they don't have to wait about so long before they can do galaxy touring.

41:

What happens when one is 500 years old and stops taking the drug?

42:

Oh, no doubt, I'd take it. And so would my parents, so no inheritance for me - though I've never really counted on it. Probably no retirement either, unless I managed to sort out a pension - and that's going to cost a hell of a lot more once the actuaries realise they're going to be paying that pension for many more years.

Less advancement in any real career as less people retire. I'm probably stuck in a series of dead-end jobs for a couple of hundred years, or whatever my life expectancy is now.

I'd be a lot more careful crossing the road etc - my perception of acceptable risk will change with more of a lifespan to gamble with. So unfortunately, no rock climbing or sailing, etc.

With more time I'd probably get better at my hobbies - but will never be able to turn them into gainful employment as everyone else is getting a lot better, too.

In short, a long life in a shitty job dreaming of the week-end.

43:

I'd take it - as other people have pointed out, I can make up much of the cost by not paying into my pension any more.

At the moment, my wife and our three dogs drive to France and back for the summer every year. Given the risk of accident on motorways, and how comparatively cheap time would now be, I think we'd take trains instead, even if it took 5 days rather than 3.

I'd be tempted to only take it at small doses to stay at 30ish - even if the drug doesn't also make me think the way I did in my 20s, I wouldn't want to be so conspicuous-consumptive as to appear 18. Plus, and this might be a holdout from archaic thinking, I think older = wiser as a general rule, so 30s is a good compromise between wisdom and decrepitude.

I'd definitely do a lot more gardening, either directly or by hiring people. If you know you'll be around to see it, planting a bunch of trees or re-landscaping a garden suddenly has a lot more pay-off.

44:

Importantly, does this drug also restore mental agility and plasticity back to the level of 18-24 year olds and retain it there?

Given 18-24 year olds are responsible for the most crime, especially violent, maybe this isn't such a good plan? Hard to say as criminal behaviour is both neurological a life-stage behaviour. On balance of these things crime may fall to negligible levels.

Perhaps ones IQ continue to improve decade on decade like the Flynn effect but for an individual?

One thing I see happening would happen is that this drug would wipe out the dependent elder generation and reduce social welfare (enormous incentive for governments to support this), and massively expand the available workforce, which would be mentally sharp on top of decades of experience and qualifications (Your 150 years old and sick of working for NASA why not go back to university and retrain for a whole new career?). People would also begin to think very long term and plan ridiculously long term projects. I can't quite guess at what effects this would have on our technological civilisation.

Completely uncharted territory for the human brain, how does it hold up with centuries of memories. But it's forced back to a young malleable state, maybe it continues on just fine, oldest memories merely fade.

Anyone not on the medication would rapidly become an underclass that has a increasingly harder time mentally adapting to the pace of change. Sadly natural selection takes care of them.

45:

$1000 a year comes to about $83 per month, or $19 per week. I'd have to check and find out whether it's going to make the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) here in Australia first, and also find out whether it would be available at the lower rate that's allowable for people on various pension cards. If it isn't, I can't afford it and the question becomes moot, at least until it comes out at the generic rate in 12 years time.

To be honest, I don't see it making that much difference to me as an individual. My major problems (and the ones which effectively make me unemployable at the present time) aren't ones which are related to ageing, but are rather ones which have been with me continuously since my age hit double digits anyway. The medication isn't likely to do much about the chronic depression, and it probably won't touch the thyroid condition. I suspect in my worst moments of depression, I'd come to hate the stuff, because to be deadly honest, one of the little consolations I have with regard to the depression is that eventually I am going to die, and I won't have to live with this blasted desolation any longer. Then again, I'm from a long-lived family (3 out of 4 grandparents lived past ninety) and as a result immortality isn't really something I can be arsed chasing.

I suspect I'm on a lower level of income than a lot of the other people who are posting here, and with somewhat bleaker prospects as well. I think one thing which would help is having the firm deadline of seventy removed from my working life, although I'm in two minds about that one at times (it's all very well thinking positive thoughts about doing your dream job for most of your life; the situation changes when the jobs you're able to get are more along the lines of mindless drudgery or scutwork for multiple years). Certainly I'd prefer to be able to accumulate the funds to be able to purchase a house, and set it up with a garden and a self-sustaining orchard, and having longer to do that would remove at least one source of anxiety from my life. I'd hope my parents (and my partner's parents) would be taking it as well, because one of the things I worry about a lot is what we're going to be doing when they reach the age where they can't look after themselves any more (fast approaching - they're in their early seventies now). If they're not going to need the sort of care that comes with senescence, that's another anxiety off the list.

So, as an individual, I don't think I'd profit from it. But as a member of a family, and a person interacting with a wider society, I can see it having a beneficial effect. If I could afford it, I'd take it.

46:

I think the more interesting thing would be what my parents would do finding themselves rejuvenated. That would be interesting to watch.

For me, I'd consider a life career in trying to essentially found the ARM (As in Niven's books), some sort of AGI and disruptive technology control organization. Here's a potentially unlimited future for humanity, let's keep the singularity at bay as long as we can.

Also I just lost my 93 year old grandmother last month, so I'd rage pretty hard about the timing if it came out next february.

47:

Current retirement model (work for 30-40 years, get supported by pension schemes or own investments until you shuffle off) won't work any more. You will have to (and will probably want to) work for the next five-hundred years, not the next fifty.

If you work in privage industry, losing your job will be quite frequent. The median life of a corporation is measured only in decades, and individual departments are even more short-lived; you will frequently lose your job through no fault of your own. When your working life was 40 years or so you might experience this once, possibly twice. With 500 years, you'd go through it dozens of times; you'd be all but guaranteed to fail to get a new one at some point, fall through your safety nets and end up permanently unemployed at the bottom of society.

But the lifetime of nation states is measured in centuries. So I would immediately do everything I could to land a national government job, even if it means a much lower salary and a much less qualified position. Not only is the nation very likely to persist for centuries, you are also much less likely to lose your job for reasons out of your control.

And with luck I will land such a job in a research-related field, or a position with moderate working hours that gives me plenty of time for my own interests. In which case I'd take a long look at what kind of research project I could dream up with centuries to spend on it rather than 3-5 years.

I'd expect the general quality and capability of goverment employees to increase significantly once people come to the same conclusions. In Japan, where state government jobs are highly sought after, they have rules in place prohibiting over-qualified people from applying, so out-of-work PhDs don't grab menial jobs from low-educated but motivated people who really need them.

48:

How many other people find this just depressing?

The new, longer lasting vale of tears! Now with more damn sansara!

I've only been on the planet 40 years, and I'm pretty sure I've already seen and done most of the good stuff, for values of good meaning "I personally would enjoy it".

49:

I'd call off my impending marriage. Without the heavy hand of the ticking biological clock, there's less need to settle for the bird in hand.

Raises another question: How many marriages could survive 500 years? Or 100?

50:

I'd definitely take it; in fact I'm sure it would be socially unacceptable not to. Friends would drift away from the rare strangely aging people.

There would be *huge* social disruptions. You say to ignore that question for now, and I'm *mostly* doing so...but they'd be such a big deal that working to get that figured out would probably be the most important thing to do once the drug was available. So that's probably what I'd have to work on.

The way I'm thinking about my life now definitely becomes invalid. That would no doubt cause a bit of confusion for a while. In particular, the concept of "security" becomes invalid. I have NO IDEA how to cope with that off the top of my head.

51:

I take the elixir if and only if my wife does. We'd discuss, and my guess is that we'd agree to take it.

One huge question you don't specify: does it restore child-bearing ability?

52:

I'd take the elixir. Become a writer. Create a blog where I ask questions and get people to feed me ideas for my stories. AND TAKE ALL THE CREDIT.

Does the name of the blog have anything to do with the song of the same name by The Damned?

53:

I'd take it, of course (I'm about Charlie's age, reasonably fit, but not 25 any more). Most of this stuff we're heard before.

I'd hope it would become common for people's lives to break out of ruts every so often. For example,a few years back I was dockside, walking past various ships, and some guys asked if I'd ever thought of joining the Coast Guard. I don't think they really want guys in their 40s, but if I had the lifespan ahead of me I might go to sea a few years; the Coast Guard does useful things and this might be a lot of fun.

54:

I would take it, just for the rejuvenation effect, whether I'd live longer or not.

With more energy, and expectations of living long enough to utilize it, I'd return to college and take one of the other forks in the road that I decided against the first time. And if I lived long enough, I'd do it again and again. With everyone else also living longer, corporate careers would stall out, and entrepenurehood become the new way of making a living.

Or, once you have money, just learning to satisfy the hunger for knowledge. I don't think I'd live any more cautiously than I do now. Do people whose immediate ancestors died in their sixties live more recklessly than people whose ancestors frequently lived into the ninties? More likely the other way around. People would feel invincible, unkillable, and take more risks. And/or get bored and take more risks.

Or, perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps I'd slowly accumulate phobias, and turn into a housebound recluse.

Just have to give it a try and see what happens . . .

55:

Yeah, I'm another who does find the whole notion somewhat depressing - but then, I'm currently still working my way (gradually) out of a depressive slump which has been keeping me miserable for most of the past six months, and as a result my supplies of optimism and positive thinking are at something of an all-time low.

As I mentioned upstream a bit, one of the consolations I have in my most depressed periods is that I am eventually going to die, and it will all be OVER. The thought of having that option taken away from me (or even delayed) scares me silly - I suspect it would be enough to make my occasional periods of suicidal ideation much more intense (at present I allow inertia to trump misery, because hey, I've only got another fifty years or so left to me, it can't get too much worse; if that fifty years changed to centuries, I suspect I'd be much more active about seeking out death for an appointment).

56:

I would take the pill, but it fundamentally wouldn't change the way I live my life. I'm young enough (early thirties) that mortality per se doesn't dominate my thinking and planning. Another expected forty years of professional productivity and learning and an *indefinite* period of same are close to indistinguishable.

Though we take the usual steps that middle class folks in the US are advised to do for retirement planning, it's hard to view that as anything other than a good idea in building long term savings anyway, so long as society holds a shape that looks roughly like today's.

57:

No-brainer for me since I'm 60 next year and can afford the stuff - I start taking it and look at ways to extend my income into the indefinite future. I'm planning to retire next July and have my finances set up for that - I think I start getting nervous about how this affects my pension, savings generally, etc.

One big effect is that it will become a lot rarer for people to inherit money, homes, etc. - my heirs would obviously be affected by that.

I'd definitely look at improving my health and fitness generally, if I'm going to be younger I want to enjoy it!

58:

It’s probably already been said, but an elixir vitae seems like it could lead to a dystopian world where older people completely dominate society, having had centuries to master every field, including how to exploit the young. I suppose it’s possible that older people could become ever-wiser and more benevolent with age, but from what I’ve seen I’m rather doubtful. The situation I’m describing probably already exists to some extent, but the shortness of the human mental and physical prime gives the young at least a fighting chance, and prevents society from becoming some kind of feudal nightmare.

Having said all this, of course I'd take the elixir...

59:

Start a Kickstarter for a round-trip expedition to the nearest star system.

Hell, even a round-trip trip to Pluto and back.

Get to work mentoring the next generation.

Finally find time to WRITE.

Create value and wealth to the world.

60:

I'd do it. It's interesting, though – without giving away too many spoilers – in a certain ehem – NOVEL by Charlie S – near the end of the story, people could essentially replicate themselves as long as there was a record/copy to pull from. This made the finality of every decision sort of meaningless. The reason many of us cherish this one life is because it's... the only time we're ever going to have. Each second that passes brings us one second closer to our last. I don't care how convicted certain people of the spiritual assortment are – the possibility at least exist that this is our one shot. The possibility still lurks in the storage bin of our nightmares that our last blinks could, and most likely will, shove us over the precipice of an incomprehensible eternity. That's a scary ass thought, when you really let yourself think about it. The idea that we and our loved ones are probably going to disappear for like, ever, stings quite a bit.

So I would do it - $300-$1000/year (not adjusting for inflation) for the prospect of experiencing eternity is cheap at thrice the price. Imagine what we could know. Imagine what things we would see if we didn't have to die.

And the 12 year layaway would be irrelevant – because that liminal equilibrium of function, supply, price and utility becomes sort of a non-issue after that first gulp – because when you can live forever, I assume that the scarcity of time loses its dentures. Wait, don't wait – wouldn't matter. All things equal - without spiraling into the minutia that Stross suggests we stay clear of – eternity is enough time to figure out how to bend the market toward your bank account. Of course, a significant chunk of the population will have the same idea.

I think the answers you're going to get boil down to your readership's locus of control – and their beliefs in afterlife and whatnot. The atheist brood among us probably feel that, since this is our one and only shot, we should want to extend our time here as long as we can. In my opinion, you can't place a price tag on that sort of possibility.

I'd take your pill Mr. Stross, or whatever it is - by god (or whatever else that's listening). I'd drink it down, aim for the second star on the right and straight on 'til oblivion.

61:

I'm 24. I'm not sure I'd take it. (though eventually I would)

If it had any sort of respectable shelf life, I'd likely stockpile it. I already tend to stockpile things, and I don't expect the idea of society being about to drastically change would help my doom expecting tendencies...for the first few years.

62:

This sounds like the premise of a horror story to me.

A future world in which the current 1% get to entrench themselves in that position forever, without even the small amount of turnover that happens due to senescence or illness, is a world I wouldn't want to live in.

63:

Fascinating Question.

For a start, since you will effectively live a large, nearly unlimited number of lifetimes, you will do many things over and over again. So you can be as stupid, carefree, or sensible as you like. No matter your life choice mistake, there is a time when it no longer affects you. Even if you plan sensibly, accumulate money and power, one day your planning will come to naught, you'll lose it all and start over. None of these things will be permanent, there's always another cycle coming around.

Hmmm, cycles. Sounds like Zelazny's Lord of Light. Although there the rebirth was only available to a few.

Anyway, for my first cycle, I'd work to ensure my family. Make sure my grandchildren make to it adulthood safely. Make sure my wife, my parents and I can deage to our youth. [I prefer the term deage to regress.] That probably means doing what I do now. Using what I now put away for my retirement into them. But even long term, I probably would not change a great deal. I'm middle class, a knowledge worker, and will probably be something like that as long as I am around.

For my second cycle, it would be more political and altruistic. We will need a governmental system that guarantees things like health care (influenza won't go away), unemployment insurance (everyone will eventually lose their job), education (skills will need to be upgraded). In general, a stronger safety net (Socialism, oh my). Some of these things, no individual can do for themselves, and we will have to band together to achieve them. This won't be easy - witness our recent election in the US.

People will still die. Accidents, diseases will still occur. Children will still be born. We'll have to deal with bringing population into some balance, but that's solvable.

One difficult issue is dealing with people who are disabled. People are born blind, deaf, or any of a long list of disabilities from Autism to cystic fibrosis. Unless the elixir is a magic cure all, they will still be there, and we'll morally have to give them the drug too. What will life be like for them?

Even those who start able bodied in all ways will suffer damage. Wars, accident, crime, violence, will not suddenly disappear. Someday, the disabled among us will become the majority.

Coming up with a political system that deals with life's cruelties when a misfortune lasts forever won't be easy. It is a worthy goal to work many cycles for, perhaps forever.

64:

In general, this would be a great boon to the self-motivated taking up or enhancing skills that take a long time to learn; I could also see it being a huge problem in industries which already require that. There are a lot of surgeons who already keep operating into their 60s or 70s or beyond; imagine if they never got any age-related reason to quit?

If there's no way to figure out for the first few generations what the new equilibrium is recruiting new people in a given profession, there could very likely be some very traumatic boom\bust cycles of institutional memory.

Also, since nobody else seems to have mentioned it, Joe Haldeman's Buying Time posits a sort of intermediate financial situation to that which Our Host proposes - youthful immortality in 10 year chunks, for the price of all your money each time. Public wards full of dying lottery winners, and an economic gerontocracy of repeatedly self-made millionaires who are stiflingly conservative about their business models.

65:

That raises an interesting point -- would treatment be provided to prisoners? In the US, I would think not but it may vary by state. Which means that being sentenced to prison has even more consequences -- you age and may die early.

OTOH, if it is provided to prisoners, for serious and multiple crimes it is possible for people to have sentences of hundreds of years. Is this cruel, or appropriate? Better or worse than a death sentence?

66:

Wouldn't really change my life plans much, just add time for my wife and I to travel and do more, more time to write and a longer time to plan for retirement and all that.

The interesting thing is that after about 25 years or so, my son (who is due in February!) would effectively be the same physical age as his parents and within a half century or so, we will all have planed out to the same basic emotional/intellectual level. Stretch that out a couple of centuries, you have a plurality of generations in the same family who are effectively the same physical and mental age. This is bound to have some interesting interpersonal effects. How will you get on with your thrice great grandchildren? This is getting into the macro stuff, though, so back to micro level...

The idea of retirement will change. Instead of permanent retirement, I'd probably choose a mixture of working at a profession for a while (7-10 years) then retiring for a few years to travel and then go back to school and pursue a different career and alternate back and forth in a sort of punctuated retirement plan. At least until we get the whole post-scarcity thing sorted out and I no longer have to work at all, but that could take a century or more so by then, I'll have earned it, by gum!

67:

I wouldn't be taking it for at least a decade, but that's a matter of my own youth, and not needing to waste money on something I already have, once I'm older I'd jump at it.

As for my plans... That one is interesting, because my plans reshaping is really based on how I'd expect the macro effect to go. I'm currently retraining for a skillset thats in high demand specifically because the workforce is aging out. If that workforce doesn't age out... well, I don't think I can compete with a lot of 20 somethings that have 50 years experience. I'll have to find something else to do for a living. There's gotta be something that'll be in high demand thanks to the coming population explosion.

68:

Of course I'd take it. Even if I couldn't afford it, I'd take out loans to pay for it. But the cost isn't bad, and would likely be covered by my insurance. Heck, I'd expect most insurance plans to cover it -- the cost is a lot lower than age-related diseases and costs associated with cancers. I'd expect most national insurance plans to give it free to citizens as well -- people in their 20s usually have the lowest cost to the system so it would dramatically lower costs overall. Plus, various countries could cancel their national pension systems -- put the rejuvenated elderly back to work!

I'm not sure I'd change many immediate plans. I'd get my sperm frozen, it appears that the "quality" degrades over time, so unless the drug has some effect on that, my fertility and chances of having healthy offspring will decline over time. I'd probably want to put off having kids for several decades.

I think I'd approach working as a series of careers. I'd continue on my current one, and I'd keep investing money for "retirement". But retirement in this context would be a career change. The savings/investment would be use to retrain for a new profession and to maintain a lifestyle as I worked my way up in that new profession.

If I became really successful in my investments and my spending wasn't too high there is a good chance I could survive on investment income alone in short order.

However, after a point the macro changes are too great to make plans.

For example:

1. Accidental death will get us all after a certain number of centuries. So I still need to be careful. But what if mind uploads or copying is developed in 200 years? I can't plan for that but it could happen.
2. What happens to the economy when healthcare costs plummet and retirees reenter the workforce.
3. How long before pensions are cancelled and what happens to pensioners unwillingly forced back into the workforce?
4. How is the economy, politics, and society changed as a growing percent of the population don't have to work and can live indefinitely off of investment income?

69:

The scenario actually sounds like a big boost for space colonization. As mentioned up-thread, an immortality drug this cheap and convenient means that in most countries, the establishment isn't going to die off in favor of new blood. They'll have to be out-voted, out-competed, or (god forbid) driven out of power - or the new young people will have to move somewhere else to start their own societies.

70:

I think I'ld take it. I was going to say no, I really have no interest in living forever, or getting my hair back. But then I thought that if I could stick around long enough, I might actually get a chance to go into space. Being able to look back at earth, or finding out what it out there, that would be enough to make it worth sticking around here for a while longer.

71:

I think it would have a big effect on marriage. I am sure a small fraction would stay married for life, even though life has become indefinitely long. However, I think it would become much more common to marry, raise kids for 20 or 30 years and part ways without any animus.

The diminishing of opportunities with age and the need for mutual support in the face of senescence prevent this today. By the time the kids are out the door, you are already starting the end-game. It would be refreshing to get a chance to play the game again.

72:

Assuming this also puts fertility decline on hold (the most important detail to this childbearing age woman), I'd definitely move plans for a second baby into the 5 year future area (if at all). I would like to see how society changes and whether I think it is fair to have a child under those circumstances, and would be confident that I would have a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to that child.

Aside from that, I'd more aggressively hunt for a PhD to work on when I have finished my MSc, or look at work part time in the third sector whilst my son is young. There are opportunities, but they don't pay well and I'm very aware that the clock is ticking down on retirement saving time and getting established in my new field. If I know I will have plenty of time to work up slowly then I'd be able to take my time over it.

I would also be more relaxed about leisure time. I am currently keen to do lots of outdoor things that I worry I will not be able to do later. So things like long-distance treks, skiing, canoeing I in part do now because I worry that later I can't. Suspect this would mean that some of my "big aims" I never achieve if they don't require long-term work because I would have the attitude that they could be done "next year".

73:

I think John Wyndham covered this very nicely in The Trouble With Lichen, but I know for my field, assassination would be the prime tool for career prograssion. It's hard enough to dislodge dodery old professors as it is, let alone if they live forever...
I guess for most people it maks no difference - you still need to work to eat and I suppose for the majority of health workers this would mean a lot of unemployment. A&E would be the only department left open.

74:

Oh. That is a tough one.

I am already barely able to live and, in a way, am awaiting death (suicide recquiring too much effort anyway), yet I fear senescence like everyone else. So the prospect of gaining x centuries of life isn't appealing to me, but I can't see myself not taking the pill.

All I want is spending time with loved ones, but this is too much to ask. I just don't know what I'd do. Maybe keep going like a machine, I dunno.

75:

I think Ι would start a new carreer probably. Study something new from scratch.

76:

1.) Take the drug - getting old being so monumentally crap.

2.)Changes to long term plans will be highly individualistic. From comments above I'm unusual in that I have NO long term strategy: I and my relatives have been kicked in the teeth too many times to make such plans. (My father saved for decades for his retirement - only to have Robert Maxwell steal the lot and die at 67. I've advised major international corporations on their IT strategy, and found myself stacking supermarket shelves in the same year).

3.) The most likely change for me personally is that it'd suddenly be worth me training/retrain for a new career. At 50 I can't justify the cost of finally getting some sort of IT qualification, or learn a new career. No expiry date means that putting in that 10,000 hours suddenly becomes doable.

77:

I'm not entirely clear; does this stuff work on ostio-arthritis?

If it does, then I'd take it and (UK specific) switch long-term savings from a pension plan to an ISA.

If it doesn't, I can see it just condemning me to more years as a cripple.

78:

Yes, I'd take the drug, and not change my short-term (which post-drug would be a decade or so, I reckon) plans much. I enjoy my job well enough, and have a family to support. But in a decade, I won't have any dependents to worry about in a legal sense, so I'd probably have another think then.

The family aspect would be interesting - currently, and crudely simplified, people on average spend 25 years being a child/youth, another 25 being a parent, and a final 25 years winding down. A significantly longer life span would change this dramatically, as a much smaller proportion of your life would be spent bringing up children, although I could see people doing 25 years of child-rearing, then spend another as grand-parents, another as great-grands with more distance to children, and then re-starting a new batch.

I wouldn't be more risk-averse than I am now - I've stopped smoking, I don't drink much, and don't have any dangerous hobbies (sword- and axe-fighting is much safer than, say, rugby, football or ice hockey, and I've only suffered two broken knuckles in the last twelve years). But I suspect that many bucket lists would be down-prioritised. Things I'd like to try and learn - parashuteing, scuba diving, rock climbing - would lose the urgency physical detoriation brings, so could be put off.

79:

I find it difficult to divorce the macro effects from how it would change my own plans. The key macro question for me is what does this do to the long term cost of capital and what does it do tax levels if that state is no longer paying pensions or paying for long term care for the aged and infirm.

I earn more than I spend each year. Certainly more than I spend on myself. The surplus goes into savings, (pension, cash savings, investments and paying off my mortgage) so I can live a goodly chunk of my life in physical comfort and doing things that I want to do without having to earn my living day to day or year to year.

If the price of capital remains about the same as it is now then I can just about save up enough to live on indefinitely in about 50 years time in modest physical comfort. Certainly enough coming in each year that I could afford to be really picky about what work I did and even if I did any in any particular year. I’d need to do on average a month’s work a year to pay for repairs to my house to keep it upright and to eventually pay for it to be completely rebuilt.

So, if we assume that the returns on capital aren’t greatly altered by the effects of this and taxes start to come down a little (or stay the same) as a result of reduced pension and medical costs then I would plan to work for another 50 years and then more or less give up paid work as an occupation. That’s 50 years total not on top of the 35 years or so I have to go until my pension kicks in and I can retire.

Will need to think further about the what I’d actually do with this opportunity.

80:

After years of doing no art at all, I've discovered stained glass and have fallen in love. If I knew I had as much time as I wanted, I'd go back to art school, apprentice at a stained glass workshop, and continue in a career as a stained glass artist/restorer.

81:

Taking it is an easy choice - never mind the living forever part, paying that much money just for youthful vitality and looks is worth it.
Changes in plans.. I'd get a heck of a lot more politically active. Causes that suddenly become very, very vital: Full employment, stopping coal, halting the plutocracy..

82:

I'd take it, start thinking about new careers per numerous comments above, and put a lot of money and effort into lobbying for sterilization to be mandatory for anyone taking the drug, since all the benefits of lowered TFRs just went out the window and we're now confronted with unbounded growth in human population.

83:

Nice thought; I was leaving plans like that until after #77Para2, I'd got my "drop dead" money.

84:

Please, this one is so easy.

Make sure I at least earn $1000 a year and take it from there.

85:

Under the scenario as described, no thanks. I've lived with chronic pain since I was 19, and on and off since around puberty. It seems like there's nothing in the wonder treatment to fix what ails me.

And while I reasonably happy with my life - it's pain and hasn't largely been crippling levels of it just constant and somewhat limiting - the prospect of living with more and more years of it fails to appeal. That might be affected by the fact that today the pain is closer to crippling levels and I'm seriously wondering if I should shop online via the iPad because there's no way I'm making it the 250m to the nearest shop or if I'm going to be able to manage with what I've got until tomorrow and walk to the shop and back tomorrow.

On other days, when the pain isn't too bad - I don't know. I know the bad days will be along again. That colours the idea of another 500 years of pain as rather unattractive.

If I reverted to 25 say, but lost the various pain inducing ailments, I'd almost certainly go for it.

86:

If you want to have children and have not yet done so, it might be wise to have them as soon as possible.

Once public policy catches up with the effects of the drug, I would expect draconian restrictions on the birth rate to offset the fact that almost no one is dying. (As per Our Host's instructions I won't speculate on what form those restrictions might take, or the consequences of people trying to avoid them.)

87:

Hmm, well, from a planning perspective everything beyond a certain point is pretty marginal; there's not a big difference between a 30-year mortgage and a 300-year one — either way, you need to pay the first year's interest in the first year, plus a little bit over.

I'm guessing the adult human planning horizon is on the order of a decade, and a lot of the comments above are consistent with that — if the commenter has something relevant within that horizon (menopause or senescence) then the comment is about that. Otherwise, it's open-ended.

I guess I fall into the latter category: take the pill and see where life takes me.


(As for potential therapies, I rather like the purple liquid, olive oil with buckminsterfullerene; that would truly be stranger than science-fiction.)

88:

I wonder how the big organized religions would react to such a drug? Would taking it be seen as an attempt to cheat God of the last judgment?

89:

Yeah! Back to university :-)

Ok, first come up with a scheme to have enough money for sustenance and give the drug some time to make me more fit.

90:

Uh, you posted *that* under your real name??

91:

I’d take the pill. I’d wait until it came off patent. That extra $8k per person would compound up nicely. It nearly pays for my wife and I to rebuild our flat in 100 years.

For me the key thing to get right is to learn the art of living long. Part of that is how to segue from area of interest to area of interest.

I’m currently an accountant, mainly. I earn a nice living and one of the best things about my career is that my skills are very portable. I’ve worked for a financial services firm, for archaeologists, for a national charity, for an energy firm and I now work in the public sector. Do I want to be an accountant for ever? Not for ever but I can enjoy it for many decades to come and I can shift myself from organisation to organisation. The longevity and rejuvenation therapy makes this easier for me. I am currently keen to increase my seniority quickly starting in a few years’ time so I can retire a little bit earlier and in a little more physical comfort. That seems less of an imperative for me under the new status quo. If I get bored with my current organisation I can move sideways much more readily and instead of marching up the career ladder I can amble a bit more and still have hundreds of years of a baseline of comfort and choice ahead of me.

So the skill I would concentrate on learning is how to segue from one career to another so that I’m not constantly starting from the very bottom. This is about developing transferable skills, getting good at learning new skills, getting good at being prudently courageous and learning about myself so that I don’t end up making long-term decisions that I quickly come to regret and can’t easily get out of for a long time.

A career plan over the next few decades for me might look something like this. I think it would be good fun to be moisture farmer in South Australia for a bit

I stay where I am for another 6 years instead of for another 2. I use the mental energy from being on top of my brief to go to prepare myself to go back to Uni to learn about hydroponics etc. I probably need secondary qualifications in biology and horticulture. I like gardening so learning these things formally is already part of my hobby base.

Switch jobs. (Buy a holiday letting second home in Spain as soon as my eldest child goes to Uni. Owning land might be an important investment.) Do new job for 5 years. New job to be an accountant in some firm that has some bearing on moisture farming. Something in the food industry or appropriate tech sector. Do a bit of preliminary tertiary study in an appropriate field.

By now my mortgage is paid off and I can afford to take a few more chances. Get myself made redundant and use the money to finish off my tertiary study and spend some time looking for or creating my Next Big Venture.

All the while during this I continue to spend time working a democratic reform campaigner in the UK.

Found a Moisture Farming Co-Op in South Australia. (Why SA? I’m half Australian, I have siblings in Adelaide. I don’t want to live in North Africa, I think it is too politically and religiously unstable at the moment and likely to remain so for a few decades.)

Go and live and farm in the out near Arno Bay. I’d build some desalination farms and work towards a vertical farm. Hopefully the holiday let in Spain and the flat in Edinburgh would rent out enough to keep paying into my long-term savings fund whilst I literally ate what I grew north of Whyalla. My main contribution to the co-op, the thing that buys me my ticket in is that I’m the numbers guy. I’d know enough about the operations side to not be a menace as a trainee operations person but I’d earn my place doing the commercial side of things. My wife has worked in the food industry in the past so between us we can bring some useful transferable skills to the gig.

After a decade or so I’m probably done with moisture farming in South Australia. We’ll have set up and be in a steady state, or we’ll have failed.

Next Big Venture. Take my newly found skills as a moisture farmer and my long held interest in democratic systems and find a part of the world where helping some folk grow food in marginal agricultural land might support a democratic or peace process. North Africa might be a good place to go to now. So I probably need to have learnt Arabic in the meantime. Go and do that for a bit.

Then the question is, does anyone want a trained accountant, who knows how to farm in innovative ways and has a sideline in conflict resolution? Hello space programme. Or perhaps I’ll have found a totally new interest over the next 40 years.

92:

Of course this would affect my plans. There are so many good things that I used to do when I was younger, but stopped doing because the spirit is still strong but the flesh is already weak. I would restart doing all these things.

Also, I would reconsider all long term plans that I used to have when I was younger, like making the world a better place, going to the stars and that sort of things (I think this is what the question asks for).

93:

Don't worry, be happy!

Quoth flanagan.ffs: This sounds like the premise of a horror story to me.

A future world in which the current 1% get to entrench themselves in that position forever, without even the small amount of turnover that happens due to senescence or illness, is a world I wouldn't want to live in.

Going macro for a moment, I can see some consequences:

* Global disruption to the pension industry and, longer term, all savings schemes with a horizon longer than about 25 years. Right now, pension funds are some of the largest investors on the planet. And state pensions/social security/old age subsidized medication are some of the largest chunks of government spending. If people don't grow old, then the idea of permanent retirement will have to go -- to be replaced by periods of withdrawal/sabbaticals/retraining.

* Medical costs/insurance get a lot cheaper. It's worth noting that around 40-50% of lifetime medical costs in the USA are incurred in the last three months of life. And people aged over 65 consume vastly more medical resources than those under 40. In the US, I suspect insurance companies will actually pay folks to take this pill in order to reduce their long term costs -- just as providing contraceptives is cheaper than paying for the medical expenses of a pregnancy.

* Democracy is a crap form of government except that it handles transfer of power efficiently when a government loses its popular mandate. I expect lifetime term limits to become near-universal within a generation. Those countries that don't have effective working democratic systems with term limits will be at risk of revolution. (Hence my reference to the anti-gerontocratic aspect of the Arab Spring and the Iranian revolution -- the demographics of those revolutions are telling.)

* Mass unemployment: there simply isn't enough work, in our current system, to keep double the proportion of our population occupied. And by curing senescence we inevitably have to find things for the ex-retirees to do. So: lots more cheap labour ...

... Accelerating the crisis of consumer capitalism. Not that I particularly want to wax Marxist here, but within a century of this new demographic transition I expect to see a massive shift in what we expect from life and the way we live it. And we're going to have to answer Keynes' question (about what we do when our lifestyle can be supported by maybe 20% of the working hours we currently put in) sooner or later.

94:

I don’t know that you would ever get a mortgage for 300 years. I’d be reluctant to lend you money secured on a house that it likely to need to be completely rebuilt before you’d paid for it.

You might get a mortgage for 100 years. And the difference between a £250k mortgage over 30 years and over 100 is significant. It affects current cashflow and future optionality. Annual payments over 30 years are circa £16k. Over 100 years they closer to £12.5k. So if you are cash poor but time rich the 100 year option might be the one for you.

On the other hand if you don’t want to be paying a mortgage in 30 years then a hundred year mortgage is not for you. I might quite like the option of not having to pay for housing for 70 years 30 years from now. It’s all about when you might want the cash and when you might not want to have to be paying cash out.

For me, personally I’d go for paying my mortgage off quickly whilst I am enjoying a job that pays well. In the future I might want to make my living teaching improv and for that to work I think I’d need to have paid off the mortgage.

I am assuming in this that retail lending i.e. me lending to the bank, is not going to pay as much as retail borrowing so my best form of saving is to pay off the mortgage first before investing the cash.

95:

I don’t know that you would ever get a mortgage for 300 years. I’d be reluctant to lend you money secured on a house that it likely to need to be completely rebuilt before you’d paid for it.

If the mortgage also covered freehold ownership of the land the house was built on, some component of its value would remain after 300 years. (As Mark Twain said, "buy land -- they aren't making any more of it.")

I gather 100 year mortgages were not uncommon in Tokyo by the mid-1980s and subsequently. (You don't expect to ever pay it off, it's just that not all the money you paid on "rent" is flushed down the toilet/sent to line the landlord's pocket. So when you move on, you have some equity as a deposit.)

96:

I totally agree about the ability to secure debt on the freehold land. So you would run with two mortgages. Maybe three. One on the bricks and mortar. One on the freehold of the land. One on the planning permissions and fashionability of the area in which the house is in.

With my banker hat on, happy to lend you money on a house in the centre of London or Edinburgh for 100 years because they are still likely to be fashionable places to live in 100 years. In 300 years’ time, who can tell.

It’s a question of personal liquidity and risk allocation.

97:

Noone is going to lengthen the terms on loans. The increased risk to principal would entail a risk premium sufficient that a longer loan would in no way be significantly cheaper, and binding yourself to contracts that long would not be popular with anyone. Time does not flow faster just because you have more of it!
Heck, in the short run, a general anticipation of a lot of change in the economy would favor shorter terms, not longer ones.
Re: Fertility restrictions. Eh, at maximum, one child policy knockoffs, and even that seems unlikely. It does however seem quite likely that a lot of pro-natalist laws would quietly go away.

98:

I'm already spending money on unproven supplements like TA-65, so of course I'm going to go for the real thing if its available. I'm also curious if the same people who presently claim they wont have children because they are trying to save the world from overpopulation will refuse this rejuvenation offer for the same reason.

99:

I’d re-frame your comment about mass unemployment. There are plenty of very worthwhile things that are currently not being done because labour is too expensive and / or those who would do it as a hobby don’t have time. With a population with large amount of spare time to put into activity with reduced life healthcare and housing costs then I think you get some interesting employment opportunities.

Off the top of my head. Fostering kids in care. If I didn’t have to work for five or ten years I’d love to foster some kids. Tree planting. If I got room and board for a year I’d love to go and work for “free” planting trees in the Highlands. Skills exchanges. With savings for a few years so I can eat can I find a University that would let me tutor business students in exchange for attending Uni doing something else? Or my favoured option, performing and teaching improv. Can’t afford to keep kids and pay towards a pension and pay off my mortgage doing that. Freed from those requirements I could just about earn beer money for a decade or so doing that.

100:

For one, I'll be working for unpredictable future. No retirement at 65 (or 67, or 70). The birth rate is only going to peter out, so we'll need all the healthy workers we can get.

Second, I'd still continue saving for "retirement". Those tax-breaks are going to take a while to be reversed, and may as well take advantage of them as long as the powers that be will let me. If they're still around, or more likely grandfathered in, when I get to the former retirement age the mandatory disbursements will likely end up in taxable accounts for further savings.

Because really, if some accident or quirk of health takes me out of the workforce I'll need to have a rather large cushion to keep me in the style to which I've become accustomed. The current retirement system is built around the assumption that eventually people die, and do so on actuarially narrow schedules, so it's possible to save up 30 years of living expenses over the course of a working career. With the new drugs that schedule is thrown out the window. At least such a savings pad should give me time for TPTB to figure out how to deal with unaging, but non-productive, citizenry.

101:

We'reheading for a society dominated by Baumol's Cost Disease.

Briefly: certain occupations are highly labour-dependant -- we can't automate nursing/personal care, surgery[*], waiting at table, store sales assistants, or a whole bunch of other common occupations. Whereas those occupations that can be automated are rapidly dwindling in terms of employment opportunities. Look how many people work in arms or automobile manufacturing or mining these days, for example.

Abolishing senescence will massively decrease low-end employment opportunities in the medical sector, one of the last big employers (the UK's NHS is one of the world's largest employers, for example).

Meanwhile, we have a society where life expectancy is circa 80 years, but we are only expected to be productive between roughly the ages of 18 and 68 -- nearly 40% of our lives are expected to be economically inactive. If life expectancy rises to, say, 800 years, then we'd expect to be inactive for around 2.5% of that.

So I'd expect to see significant deflationary effects on labour costs, constrained by Baumol's Cost Disease, and/or serious attitude changes. For example, we could mop up the 40%/2.5% inactivity transition if we accepted a 20-25 hour paid working week as the norm, rather than the current insane insistence on 40+ hours a week.


[*] A teleoperator controlled robot still needs a trained human surgeon to control it.

102:

1)I'd assume the money I'm spending on treatment will come out of the money I'm currently having to save for old age/retirement anyway.
2) I'd assume I'll never retire, so I'd want to alter my work/life balance and go to part time working.

There'd be an interesting knock on for sports stars. Ricky Hatton is past it at 34. Beckham is past it at 37, Giggs is 39. Most rugby players don't go past 34. It could kill turnover in elite Sport with stars kicking around for decades. Even more, imagine a Mohammed Ali making a comeback against a rejuvenated Wladimir Klitchko...

103:

One Macro effect I see (sorry ...) is one of two pulls re. health insurance/retirement funds:

Either both will be highly individualized in terms of cost/benefit, according to health, how long/what kind of sabbaticals someone takes etc., or a move towards a free basic income provided by the state (as is discussed in some european countries).

Worst case: The drug is not given out for free, hoping that the poor not needed for the economy die off slowly.

For the micro effects: I don't think we'll see hordes of smart 20-somethings with conservative attitudes to risk taking ... we'll see people who look in their 20ties, have accumulated decades worth of small infuries in all their joints and grown out of the recklessness of the youth.

I don't think people will be far more risk averse: we are'bt rational when it comes to risk assesment, we will continue to over- and underestimate the same dangers.

As for me: I could see my kid (and possible little sisters) grow up to lead a self sufficient life, and then live a totally unresponsible life again without having to worry too much.

104:

I've always lived under the assumption (or hope) that something like this will happen before I die of old age (I blame reading Perry Rhodan in my early years and sci-fi in general for that). Of course I'd take the drug. So far the effects of assuming you'll live a long time (and not strapped into a wheelchair with tubes attached to your body) are that I don't really make big life plans. I have more of a wish list. I get ideas of what I want to do at some point, but I'm in no rush to chase after them and many of them I just feel not ready for yet. I'm in my mid thirties now. I don't want kids, maybe never, maybe in another 50-100 years when I'm a bit more grown up. I'm just starting to feel that it's time to find somewhere nice and build/refurbish a house, but I don't think it'll be the last place I'll ever live, I just haven't moved around the world enough and found that special place.

The side effects of assuming a long live are risk aversion (for example I decided not to go bungee jumping after reading about a few tragic accidents) and trying to live reasonably healthy to avoid premature heart failure and the likes. Also I'm more or less stuck to the parts of the world where reasonably functional healthcare exists. And if this drug came out in 2013, I'd probably wait another 5-10 years to see if it really works and if there's any side effects. You also get more concerned about things that can ruin it for all of us, like climate change, war and nationalism (I do find travel and immigration rules far too restrictive as they are). Oh, and when it comes to finding a place to settle down, you might think about population density, how climate will affect the landscape and if the place can sustain a food supply in case civilization breaks down for a while.

Without this assumption, our brief lifespans would be far too depressing and I'd feel I was wasting time doing things that I like or feel that I need to hurry up and rush doing something that I'd much rather do thoroughly and at my own pace. Or feel the need to do something that "matters" instead.

105:

Boxers do not age out so much as they accumulate damage. Current forms of boxing might well get killed/outlawed as a result and be replaced by martial arts competitions that do not involve concussions. US football? Also likely to go. The rest of professional sports would still have some turnover, from people doing not-perfectly-repairable damage to some joint or other, or simply not being inclined to stick with the full training regimen any longer.

106:

Boxers do not age out so much as they accumulate damage. Partly, but it's also that healing slows down, and speed and power and reactions go as well. It's the same sort of reason, for example, that Snooker players start to fade after their mid-thirties. Snooker isn't exactly a punishing sport.

I'd partly agree about the motivation thing, although maybe we'd see a lot of come-backs...

107:

Mmmh, depends what you think happens to reservation wages in this scenario. If you are essentially paying people enough to live on whilst they do their hobbies wages for hobby-work may fall significantly whilst leaving non hobby work wages unaffected. But then defining hobby and non-hobby jobs is not unproblematic.

There is also the economic boost from a one off influx of labour to the global economy and potentially a permanently higher proportion of economically active to non-active persons.

One aspect of labour rates is the amount of human capital required to do certain jobs. There is a fair investment in training and in time for someone to become a skilled professional or tradesperson. This needs to be recouped over a (currently) significantly shorter working life. And limited training opportunities act as a barrier to entry. Which change over the course of a few hundred years in this scenario.

108:

I would definitely take it. As a mllitary retiree in my fifties, my current plans involve effective use of my expected remaining 20 to 40 years of state pensioned freedom from the need to work. Barring a
post scarcity society, I would expect that pension to last about as long as snowball on Venus. The military might be rehiring, who knows what destabilization the elixir might be producing, but I would want no part of it. The risk/benefits equation would be different. In fact, with such cheap immortality it would be almost impossible to get anyone to do anything dangerous. Everyone would behave like Niven's puppeteers. I own my house without a mortgage, so my needs are modest, but I would have to get a job, possibly at Wal Mart a mile away. Or better yet, the McDonalds only a block away--no need to risk such a long drive. And jogging is out, no more jogging. (Do you still have to exercise, or do you become like a flabby youth?)

Once I adjusted to the new economic reality I would
add longer term projects to my list of things to do, rather than substituting them for current goals.
After all, plenty of time. Maybe I'd start doing things by a more brute force approach, throwing cheap time at them instead of trying to be clever.

Back in 1979 I read a speculative piece about the psyche of elves. They are different because the long lifespan simply gives them a completely different take on things.

But I don't think the effect would be that profound, because people are hard wired to an extent. In theory I would simply have time to learn every language rather than trying to design an auxlang organized to be learned spectacularly easily, but the former is drudgery while the latter is fun. Planning
your life is not programming. Theoretical optimization isn't always practical.

Keeping that in mind, I'd probably spend some of that
time just figuring out what to do with the rest of it. I'd try out a pretty long term project just to get a feel for the skill of properly using all that time. And it would be hard to pick. I might be unchanging, but I'm not the only factor. Any tree I planted would still be subject to climate change. Any advanced skill I gained by long study would still be subject to obsolescence on normal time scales.

I'd feel insecurity not only for the loss of my new vast lifespan, but for the economic security the loss of which could threaten it. I'd go for timeless stuff, like math.

109:

I think one personal effect is trying to figure out how to get out of the wage-earner-for-eternity conveyor belt. One doesn't want "living forever" to turn into the opportunity to "mop floors forever" (cf "Let's raise the social security retirement age 5 years").

Another, maybe contradictory, effect would be reduction of ambition and striving for immediate personal achievement -- a micro version of my favorite longevity tale, Alan Nourse's "Martyr", which dealt with the macro (and is, remarkably, available at Project Gutenberg). The long range means everyone becomes focused on getting it right, not getting it soon. I'm not going to go into debt to redecorate my kitchen if I can save up a few years and do it right. I don't have to come to market with that new widget that will have all the 1.0 bugs if I can keep researching and testing and come out with the 3.1 version to market. We can wait a few more years to go to Africa on safari, honey -- but maybe we should send some money to animal protection societies to be sure the lions and elephants are still there.

I've treated my house as the only place I'll ever own until failing legs mean I have to move someplace without stairs, in terms of investing into its upkeep and upgrading its facilities. I think I'd treat it even better, with the elixir on the market.

110:

One of the things that is most interesting about this scenario is the opportunity it affords me to be me in many different ways.

At the moment I tend to show up in the world as the elder brother, sober man of business, diligent worker. Not unpleasant roles to have in my community but I’ve never taken the opportunity to be the risk taking artist or the fervent campaigner or the relaxed manana surfing eater of lotus.

As well as changing my regularly career to suit my self I wonder how much I could expect to change my self.

111:

I would increase my savings a lot, with a variety of investments. Put off spending.

Figure that my skills will be obsolete and very hard to replace.

Figure that my culture will be obsolete.

112:

Both the clock questions create giant singularities for me. For the first, there's the five years or so and the the big D and after that...? Whoosh.

The same for the other. Five years being a young'n again would make me feel like my choices had expanded enormously. "If I knew then what I knew now..." sorts of thoughts. I'd get to see just how deep my "bucket-list" was and when it's finished? Man, I just don't know. Going back to a nine-to-five would feel like a cilice. I'd have the grim meat hooks of economic necessity to contend with, however, and I'd still have student loans to pay off...Ha!

Not only that but, being a dad of a soon-to-be-teenager, well, I'd be contending with a kiddo who may or may not understand why he can't have his treatment *now*, right this second. Maybe he doesn't want to look twenty. In his mind, the gulf between 'tween and twenty is astronomical. Patience will hopefully prevail. My parental paranoia just worries about under-the-table placebos that may or may not be cut with harmful materials.

I'd take the treatment, though, because I like seeing what unfolds on this planet. I'm a story junky. Couldn't be guaranteed of that with the alternative.

113:

Ummm, I think you've got to ask a more fundamental question:

COULD the 1 percent entrench? I'm not so sure

In general, wealthy families only keep their wealth for at most a few generations, just as most political dynasties last a few generations. The old Chinese rule of "One to gain it, one to maintain it, one to lose it" works as a rule of thumb.

While on the face of it, this seems to mean that the Bill Gates of the world will stay around forever, what it really means is that they'll have centuries to royally screw up and lose it all. Moreover, it means that there will be centuries for con men to figure out how to con them and hackers to hack them. It will mean that grudges will build up forever, until payback happens. And it means that these Great Men have to keep innovating forever, or lose.

If people can live forever (meaning around 1500 years without accidents), most geniuses may ultimately look like one hit wonders, men lucky enough to be at the right place in the right time with the right skill set, nothing more.

There are similar problems all over, if people stop dying. Right now, there are roughly a billion slum dwellers trying to make better lives for themselves. I'm assuming they will, but then again, those giant cities will make places like New York and London dusty has-beens, visited for their museums, not their vibrant culture.

But still, those who turned slums into neighborhoods and cities aren't necessarily the best people to negotiate the transition to mature cities, with infrastructure, complicated politics, and long-term planning to mute the more combative elements of growth politics. Political succession will happen, either peacefully or not. An undying society is definitely the land of the iterated politician's dilemma.

Worse, perhaps, your own personal microbial ecology will have centuries to adapt to take advantage of you, and it's not clear at all whether your immune system will be able to negotiate that relationship successfully. Still, trees have solved this problem by taking on more defensive symbiotes (read slow pathogens that keep out nastier ones), and that might be what immortal humans would have to do. Perhaps everyone will be sneezing and scratching, because that's the only way to keep from dying of various plagues.

114:

I'd take it.

First thing, I'd start training myself for whatever job/s I'll do next. My job, translation, could be completely replaced by AI. Computers have already gnawed away at the margins of it significantly. So I'd need some kind of game plan for that. Maybe I do even without anagathics.

I'd start figuring out where to move to. The place I live may well become intolerably hot as a result of climate change (someone in, say, Scotland might already consider it intolerably hot). Again, this may be something I should be doing anyhow.

Along those lines, I might try to buy up some soon-to-be coastal property, à la Lex Luthor. If I have a reasonable shot at living a long time, I might take a few bets that would take a very long time to pay off.

I'd have a difficult conversation with my wife about whether we really plan on being together until death, or if we want to periodically reconsider our relationship à la the Mexico City marriage contract.

115:

The "wages" worry is wrongheaded. The net effect of this is a society with 2 to 3 times higher productivity per citizen as a result of drastically lowered dependency ratio and improved overall health and energy, and a much lower spending on medical costs. It would require a quite epic level of boneheaded politics for that to result in workers being somehow worse off. Ultimately, all that surplus either flows to society as a whole, or people move to someplace where it does. The entire world is unlikely to uniformly fuck this up!

Hmm. Okay, for the lols: Best business opportunities in the immediate aftermath of this going live?

Most obvious: The more dignified end of the dating scene as there are going to be a lot of people reevaluating their life's choices. This is not sudden youth tough.. the slow reversal of the aging process lessens the shock.

Tool and art supplies, night classes in everything! This will boom hard. then die back down some. Think the net equilibrium will be quite a lot higher than present, but the exact level is unforeseeable.

Boring, but profitable: Consulting on high plant utilization work schedules. The current working week is kind of a historical accident.. shifting to something like 3 12 hour days on 3 days off, repeat, with a blue and red team is the same amount of monthly hours per worker, but lets you stuff a lot more workers into the same facility without having to go into full shift work.

116:

It would require a quite epic level of boneheaded politics for that to result in workers being somehow worse off.

That assumes governments make decisions with the welfare of workers in mind. I'd say the evidence of the past 20 years is that they very obviously don't.

Ultimately, all that surplus either flows to society as a whole, or people move to someplace where it does.

Have you looked into emigrating anywhere interesting recently? Barriers to immigration have gone up all over the developed world. (Oddly, they don't seem to apply to anyone with a million bucks in cash who's willing to jump through the hoops to apply for an investor's visa. Can't think why.)

We currently have a system where residual traditional respect-for-age means that people expect their wages to start low, then rise through their working life until they retire. (There may also be a pre-retirement ceiling imposed by ageism if experienced-middle-aged wage expectations exceed what employers are willing to pay as a premium for experience over youth.)

The trouble is, if we can expect an indefinite life, then the expectation of rising wages simply has to stop. There may emerge a situation where you can start a new job, but after 20-30 years you can't find work -- because employers aren't willing to pay for the extra experience wrt. someone who's just starting out. Or there may be other drawbacks.

The problem with working 3 x 12 hour days a week, or maybe 3 x 8 hour days, is the communication overhead between workers on the red/blue teams. When working a 40 hour week you don't spend time briefing yourself on what you did during the other half of the week. Whereas two 20 hour workers need to coordinate ...

117:

Further on #114 and #115
It would require a quite epic level of boneheaded politics for that to result in workers being somehow worse off.
I agree with Charlie, to the extent that I would say that you can't even rely on aledgedly socialist governments to make pro-worker legislative and/or tax decisions.

Working week.

3x12s on + 2x12s off then 3 days off is enough to guarantee that most people will be potentially dangerously tired by the end of their 3rd shift, if only because you'll not spend enough time working the shifts to get used to the work and sleep/rest pattern.

118:

Two years ago I'd have said lots of things. But now I think the answer is in many ways not a lot.

Firstly the best improvement it's likely to make is to about 800 years, because thats the point statistically where falling trees, fights, cars, freak accidents with the teapot etc get you anyay.

But more importanly - you may statistically have a thousand years to live but you never know if you are destined for the leading edge of the bell curve, so you might as well get on with stuff in case.

119:

Eh, moving is not actually needed.
Hypothetical: If countries a, b, and c adopt policies that channel the entire tripling of output to the one percent, while country d has everyone work a third as much and otherwise has no shift in wealth, countries e and f spread the gains equally across the spectrum, and g manages to lower Gini, no amount of propaganda is going to keep the governments of a, b and c in power. It is too drastic and too rapid a change in the economy for the usual low-key looting of increased surplus to work. The lies will just not pass muster, and power will change hands.

120:

I would take it. And progress at having children ASAP, before it becomes illegal.

121:

I would learn something new. Even with youth, I am not sure I would want to take up farming again. The economics have changed.

I have a suspicion that the older people are not going to reliably remember the more distant past. So the experience of age gets messed up. Somebody who is 70 might still remember a coherent story, that they can apply to decision-making.

Paying for education is a bigger problem than paying for longevity. Maybe the thing to do is to make an effort to write the book, while I still have a clear memory of the past to build on. Charlie would be OK, he's writing SF, he has the name and I reckon the memories you use are the ones which would survive. He might, fifty years from now, have forgotten Rule 34, but he won't forget how to write. I know I have already forgotten things about farming, and forgotten people.

122:

12-hour workshifts are not uncommon in some industries already. The supervisory crew of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had just finished a 12-hour shift when things went tits-up because of decisions they had made an hour or two before. Then again they were working 7 days on, 7 days off at 12 hours a day rather than a mere 35-40 hours a week... It costs a lot of money to rotate crews onto offshore oil rigs, helicopter flights and such and it's cheaper to employ them on an intense 2-shift system and compensate them well than it is to employ 50% more workers on a 3-shift system.

123:

Right now the future looks like 95% of the wealth in 1% of the population with the rest mostly either unemployed or working deskilled minimum wage jobs.

124:

Figure that my culture will be obsolete.

Why? Your contemporaries, who understand your culture, aren't going anywhere.

Interpersonal relationships might get rather more difficult when, for example, you pick up a woman in a bar to find she's 200 years younger than you, and has absolutely no connection to your formative experiences. Societies are normally home to overlapping age groups with different perspectives, but age limits us to about four of them at a time and appearances make it easy to tell generations apart.

125:

I knew some of that thanks; my point was specifically about the "3 days on 3 days full rest" scenario, which is purpose-designed to cause maximum mess with your circadian rythyms.

126:

"And progress at having children ASAP, before it becomes illegal."

It would not become illegal in the West or any nation with a collapsing population. One demographic projection done for Sweden found that if ageing stopped now then in 100 years the population would expand by 22%

127:

I could see some of the more hardline religious groups going bonkers over "flouting God's will." Things could be interesting, for classical Chinese values of "interesting."

I would expect societies in general to get radically more conservative, perhaps evolving eventually into a de facto class system as the "haves" raise every possible barrier, not just to the "have-nots", but new members of their own class who want their own slices of the pie.

Being able to effectively plan on the long term would be a politician's wet dream. Scientists and writers tend to burn out well before end of life, so there might not be much change there.

For the majority of people, though... I'm cynical enough to believe they'll still be sitting in front of their home entertainment center at age 500, watching "Britain's Worst Toilets" or "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

(flash: the Parliament reality show, where the MPs get together each week to vote one of their number out of office...)

128:

They have similar shifts on naval vessels and submarines. Long shifts are a way of dealing with the relative lack of recreation options.

129:

I can say without much hesitation that I'd take it. But one of your conditions -- taking a year to gain a year of health, youth, etc. -- makes it a long-term decision for somebody past middle age. A 75-year-old is looking at probably 20 years to get to just middle-aged condition, and 50 to get the full benefits. And if that person has had a heart attack, they're going to be in a 25-year-old body that still has a bum heart. The 75-year-old also has to worry about the older person's increased susceptibility to accidents, due to slower reflexes, worse vision and balance, etc, for at least a decade and maybe more. So it's not a guarantee of greatly increased life, but a gamble -- one I'd certainly take, as already noted. The potential payoff well outweighs the risks, IMO -- even more so for a wealthy person who can minimize some of those risks.

As to what I'd do with the probability of a much longer life, I suspect I'd divide my attention between figuring out how to support myself and working on a few things that would benefit from concentrated effort over time -- writing, music, learning another language, my chess game, etc. I probably won't ever get rich off of any of them, but I hope they would greatly improve my enjoyment of that longer life.

130:

I suspect that there will be an interesting shift in management as techies who acquired social skills late in life (raises hand) start being able to be effective managers.

It will be interesting to watch my fellow motorcyclists choose between their identities as joyous risk-takers, and the attractions of a long bubble-wrap life.

I'd take the pill, and start a new career as a power engineer. There's nothing this grumpy middle-aged sysadmin would like better than a cure for ageism, and the sooner I can get in before the retired engineers re-enter the workforce, the better.

Of course, I'd be pushing as much money into retirement savings as I could. Pensions may not survive, but once I've got a megabuck in the bank, I can fall back on living off the interest whenever I get bored with a steady job. (Meta: interest rates will probably stay pretty low, though.)

Heck, I already live in the town "where young people go to retire."

131:

I'm not convinced.

In those countries that don't have a really strong public service ethos, politics is used as a ladder to riches by many ambitious people who lack business aptitude. So there's an opening for the ultra-rich to co-opt the legislative system to their own ends; we've seen this in the USA and UK over the past couple of decades.

And if the prudent oligarchs buy all the main political parties (at the individual front-rank politician level) where's the opposition going to come from? You might go into politics aiming to fix the system, but once a couple of million bucks in slush money come your way you'll be as compromised as the next fat cat. And if you don't accept it, you can expect the dirty tricks/smear campaign to follow shortly thereafter.

132:

They have similar shifts on naval vessels and submarines. Long shifts are a way of dealing with the relative lack of recreation options.

This works fine ... as long as the cognitive demands of the job don't force tired people to make decisions that carry very high levels of risk without a second opinion.

(Put it this way, would you be happy to be operated on by a surgeon who'd been awake for 24 hours straight before they got you on the table? Or flown by a pilot who'd been awake for ditto? These are bad things and we really ought to do better ...)

133:

The thought of people getting stuck on the payday-loan treadmill for centuries would make me want to get working on predatory lending and usury issues.

134:

In Pratchett's Strata, the bicentenarian Kin Arad wears a double C tattoo on her forehead precisely to deter whippersnappers from trying to pick her up.

Niven had his multicentenarians be noticeably different in body language - precise, catlike, no wasted movement. Except for the one who didn't want to be considered a crone and intentionally mimicked youthful clumsyness.

if the same people who presently claim they wont have children because they are trying to save the world from overpopulation will refuse this rejuvenation offer for the same reason.

Can't speak for them, my motivation is, as far as I've rationalized it, that this just isn't a safe world for babies. This wouldn't really change that part.

Anti ageing tech isn't incompatible with old fasioned suicide, if you want to make room. This way you can leave a pretty corpse.

135:

Apparently, that's a common dynamic throughout history, and it leads to collapse. The best discussion I've seen is in this blog comment. Money quote:

Wealth and power concentrates, the commercial (or middle) class collapses, the wealthy and the powerful use their influence to avoid paying taxes, there's no one left to pay taxes (the poor have no money). The country collapses under the weight of unmet challenges.

(He cites the Roman and Byzantine Empires, Japan, China, ancient Egypt, Coolidge/Hoover America etc.)

In a society where even ordinary people could have the time and motivation to play the Long Game, I wonder if folks could turn things around?

136:

1) Take it.
2) My sort and long term goals consist of not dieing... so Mission Accomplished.

137:

It's different this time. The rich may no longer need the poor working masses for anything at all, least of all working

138:

Where are these "collapsing populations" of which you speak?

As of 2012, Sweden has an annual birth rate of 10.24 per 1000 population, and a death rate of 10.21. If people stop dying of old age, then (roughly speaking) the population would double in 100 years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Sweden

Sooner or later the birth rate would have to be seriously restricted. I'm imagining some sort of Larry Niven-esque "birth lottery" in which the lucky winners get to procreate.

139:

It would certainly reshuffle my priorities - it's easier to put up with a crappy job when you're only going to do it at most until you retire.

It takes some of the pressure off of achieving my goals before I get too old, which might postpone all of my awesome projects indefinitely.

I'd probably have another child, since I would no longer be worried about being too old to take care of them for the second half of their childhood.

140:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20426616

"Abstract
A common objection against starting a large-scale biomedical war on aging is the fear of catastrophic population consequences (overpopulation). This fear is only exacerbated by the fact that no detailed demographic projections for radical life extension scenario have been conducted so far. This study explores different demographic scenarios and population projections, in order to clarify what could be the demographic consequences of a successful biomedical war on aging. A general conclusion of this study is that population changes are surprisingly slow in their response to a dramatic life extension. For example, we applied the cohort-component method of population projections to 2005 Swedish population for several scenarios of life extension and a fertility schedule observed in 2005. Even for very long 100-year projection horizon, with the most radical life extension scenario (assuming no aging at all after age 60), the total population increases by 22% only (from 9.1 to 11.0 million). "

141:

(1) Smile a lot, given I'll probably live a whole lot longer, as will my friends and family.

(2) For the foreseeable future, keep doing exactly what I'm doing, but with the expectation that I may get to see some of the intractable research issues in my field (African archaeology) resolved. Plus I may eventually get caught up with the publication that I need to do.

(3) Spend some time thinking about what this means for relationships, but since everyone's going through it, this may be the definition of a many-body problem.

142:

I agree with all of your points, except I don't think it will necessarily lead to high unemployment in the long run. You'll see disruption in industries revolving around geriatric care and products and likely infant/child products as well. But on the plus side, other things will go way up. If people are more physically active and have more disposable income -- no children to raise most of the time, less need to save for the future, and no reliance on a fixed income -- then they will spend more on things like fashion, games, vacations, gadgets, etc.

I also suspect that every developed country and many developing countries will give the pills free to citizens if the cost is only around $1,000 a year. For a country like the US, that is only $300 billion -- half of what we spend on Social Security payments.

The amount of hours worked could be reduced -- especially if people start getting some form of investment income. If you are getting dividends each year, you don't need to make as much.

There will be some other issues that need to be addressed that could cause problems. You make a good point about politicians, and term limits. But the same problem could form in civil service, where people amass a lot of power and are shielded from political changes. Also the sort of civil service unions we have in the US will probably get more backlash -- any sort of seniority system is going to start looking bad if people with more seniority are never going to retire, and keep getting annual raises...

But really, politics and government as a whole are going to change -- imagine if a large number of voters today had their political views influenced by their experience in the Napoleonic Wars, or even the Thirty Years War... People change, but things that are long forgotten when people have limited lifespans, won't be if they don't.

143:

Learn to read music & play an isntrument ...
Learn other languages properly .....

144:

Well, one thing I'd do (or try to do) is: finally learn to play a musical instrument decently.

Why?

Because if my *dad* were going to (essentially) get younger over the coming years, at some point he'd no doubt want to get his band back together. And it would be pretty nifty if, this time around, I were actually able to play alongside him.

145:

The amount of hours worked could be reduced -- especially if people start getting some form of investment income. If you are getting dividends each year, you don't need to make as much.

Where, pray, do the profits to pay the dividends come from?

(That's a serious question. Very serious. The answer is non-obvious, and ultimately circles back to the Crisis of Capitalism again. TL:DR is, we should not mistake the current state of affairs for a stable system; we're living in a period of massive change, and it's not sustainable in the long term. If we abolish the aging process, then we are individually going to end up dealing with this ...)

146:

Not sure if this would encourage me to find time to learn Category Theory, or make me put it off indefinitely.

147:

Or the answer is trivially - those who have the money, either corporate or individual.

148:

It's different this time. The rich may no longer need the poor working masses for anything at all, least of all working

Forgive me for not understanding what that has to do with the collapse of an infrastructure-dependent society due to gov't capture and tax-avoidance by the extremely wealthy.

Feudal states come later, after population collapses and rebuilds.

149:

An interesting corollary of such life extension is that it brings the End of Growth to within one's suddenly-extended lifetime.

By "End of Growth", I mean that if humanity's energy consumption (and energy is the underpinning of ALL consumption) were to to grow at 2.3% per year (which is actually somewhat lower than our historical energy growth rate) then sometime between 400 and 500 years from now, humanity's waste heat would raise Earth's average surface temperature to above the boiling point of water.

Reference, from the excellent Do the Math blog: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/

Presumably things wouldn't go that far, for one reason or another. But that just means that growth would be stopping well before the boiling point, and thus sometime well before 500 years from now.

With dramatic life extension, rather than this thermodynamically-imposed limit of growth happening in a far-off future, it would be something that You, Personally, Would Have To Deal With.

150:

The typical Marxist analysis of a ruling class that owns the means of production. It failed because that ruling class actually needed workers. Fully automated production could make 95% of Humanity surplus to requirements.
Since almost all the wealth of society would be held by less than 1%, why should those "hard working people" support the billions of layabouts with handouts? The old answer was "revolution", but that may not be so easy in a total surveillance society and the rise of the praetorian class.
http://www.caseyresearch.com/cdd/rise-praetorian-class

151:

Start looking for another career. I'm already looking forward to retirement, but our pension plan will implode if those who've already retired don't die* so I almost certainly wouldn't get any return at all for the money I've invested in it.

Definitely would look for a job that lets me work with grownups all day.


*It's already underfunded, because the law hasn't caught up with demographics yet, and because successive governments took the 'excess' when paper returns were high (before the meltdown).

152:

I would take the pill
Secondly I would start farming and tree planting.
Longevity makes even the life-cycle of the oak tree a viable cash crop.
Hoarding stuff like screws because it will be useful someday definitely becomes a justifiable habit.
The slowdown in the economy because people will require more durable goods, inbuilt obsolescences such as fashions will be extended or frowned open.
Walking tours will become very fashionable.
The price of sheep will rise in response to the requirement for more wool for clothing as society will start to hoard hydrocarbons.
health scares and nimbyism will be massive drivers in politics due to the older generations new found vigour .
Also maintenance men will become the new working class elite.

153:

Eventually some point of equilibrium would be reached. The system is self correcting -- as profits fall people engage in more productive pursuits and profits rise.

OTOH, large scale businesses could well collapse in the near future. Technology may make mass production obsolete and we shift to a more boutique economy.

So perhaps there won't be anyone living off investments, but rather just a large idle class who work here and there as needed for cash.

154:

Very Cool Concept!

Given my exact situation now, I would take the drug,
providing that as it 'de-ages' me it will also be reversing the decades long decline of my spine due to an injury working in hospital in my early thirties.
Were it to reverse the actual initial spinal damage, I would likely return to many of the more risky activities of my youth (motorcycles, scuba diving, endless hours playing the guitar, mayhaps recreation chemistry??). If, as stated earlier, a process unaffected by the drug were to affect my wife; I expect I would continue on for her and likely devolve, after her death, into the type person mentioned by Sr. Bruere above. Who hasn't day dreamed of having the current full range of experience in a decades younger body?

Let's say a decade of foolishness. if I could afford it! Perhaps less if I could not. Or, maybe we 'young oldsters' would become the target of the 'new youngsters' Drug tests would lock us out and force us
into using every trick we have ever learned just to keep body and soul together (sorry if I have trod too close to the macro).

Ultimately, after an initial period of 'being young again' I think those of us with a shred of vision would start to band together to chart a way for humanity to expand beyond this planet. This would be a necessity as the whole FIFO order of the world would now be jacked and those that are 'called' to breed will (sounds macro but I don't want to live forever on a rock that cannot sustain its inhabitants).

155:

Sorry! I believe it is either trod or have trodden?

Anyway, one last thought. Maybe, without the pressure of the ticking clock, I would focus less on setting myself up for my dotage and go live on a commune, learn one more language by living there, take more time to help others (maybe those that the drug cannot help) and after a few hundred years become a pirate or fill some other short term job.

156:

Good question. I've only read the first ten or so comments so my apologies if I'm repeating others.

I'm 31 and have played guitar since I was 11. I had lessons until I was 15 and not only learnt more in those first 4 years than the next 16 but have now lost the majority of my theory knowledge. I regret not practising the guitar more, not reading more theory, not taking grades and not keeping up the lessons. If I had a drug available for $1k a year, I'd take it and use my now indefinitely extended lifetime to completely master instrument. Maybe create new techniques and music genres. I would then compose hellishly complicated and intricate guitar symphonies.

I also regret not trying harder with maths at school and consequently not going on to study physics. Again, I could learn slowly educate myself until I was proficient enough in maths to fully understand String Theory, E8 geometry and all the rest of theoretical physics, perhaps even formulate new theories.

Of course, I would now have to work indefinitely. Hopefully the tedium of eternal employment would not eat my soul before I fulfilled the above ambitions.

157:

I don't know what I would plan because it seems to me that the question as asked leaves too much else open.

All my income comes from pensions. The largest bit from a municipal pension, which is basically a life annuity. Which assumes that the average pensioner will die at the time the actuarial tables say that they will die. But the actuary who designed the table didn't think I or they would live for hundreds of years! So there, eventually, goes a good chunk of my income, leaving me in poverty.

The point is that my plans depend on how the world is affected by this change and I don't have the computing power in this skull to predict that with any reliability.
All I can be sure of is that the changes will be huge. So how can I make any plans, except to cope as best I can?

Of course most people will take that medicine so I may as well take it myself because the world is going to change and I suppose I'd be better equipped to cope with it as someone growing younger by the day, as opposed to older.

Now I have feet that are arthritic and one that has a broken tendon that leaves me slightly disabled. Even if your imaginary medicine is going to fix the osteoarthritis which, based on your specifications I doubt, I can't see it fixing my crippled foot so I will then be a young disabled adult rather than an old one. Never having been young and disabled before I don't know how that will be like and whether I would feel it was worth it when it happened.

I suppose a possible extended lifetime will give me a reason to get a surgical fix assuming one is available, whereas now the risks of the surgery probably outweigh the possible benefits. Getting around on crutches or in a wheelchair for months seems like an insuperable obstacle for me at my not so very advance age of 68.

I think most of the plans I've read above are pretty much bunk, because as I said planning only works if we can reasonably predict at least the near term future, and such a change, in my opinion, would make that nearly impossible for quite a long time. We are not isolated independent entities. We are tied up with the "external" world whether we like it or not, and the "external" world is tied up with us.

For instance, how would our society deal with several billion people almost all of whom would be fertile and horny again? We are just barely going to avoid being killed by overpopulation now - if we manage it we'll manage it barely. Billions more fertile horny and ready to go on a dime adults is not going to help!

So maybe we'll all have to become Chinese, limiting our fertility not voluntarily, but by government fiat. So all in all I can see such a drug possibly working out as a really big mistake for my species.

But I'd take it because I wouldn't want to be left out.

158:

I could see some of the more hardline religious groups going bonkers over "flouting God's will."

Only temporarily. If they eschewed taking the elixer, they'd be an extinct religious group within 3 or 4 breading generations, as their descendants would gradually peal off, succumbing to the evils of the secular world. This is a well-documented problem perplexing all hardline religious groups (even the Amish have started using zippers and hand-cranked generators). Seems you can't really transfer fervor at a lossless rate from one generation to the next.

159:

I think this is the entry point to "...and then the Culture happens" (Ian M Banks).

Personally, the risk of some things happening that are globally dangerous even to pseudoimmortals then bothers me even more. For one, nuclear warfare. For two, global warming (AGW). For three, new diseases. For four, asteroid / comet impacts. For five, global climate shift (what, you think Ice Ages and Warm Eras are a modern invention? ...).

I already do some small part for 1. 2 is becoming a societal value worldwide (not there, but trending). 3 is a nasty problem for which a doubling of various pandemic / epidemic control organizations budgets is a minimum first step. 4 ... I'm not personally involved but I know the right people, and it's the one exception to the nukes problem that stands up (though, the gravity tractor and white paint an a lot of telescope and radar observing is between now and any likely need for a nuke, unless there's a comet on the way down with our name on it). 5, we have some time to get used to geoengineering and understanding the long term climate cycle stuff and coming to a consensus on what temperature we WANT.

Would I take it? Yes. I'd also hope that it moderates or cures autoimmune problems, because my wife would probably be reluctant to live forever in her current condition.

160:


Your question, in various forms, has been around a long time and answered many different ways in SciFi; I think Heinlein did it, even.

For some reason, the question reminds me of Tolkien and the radically different cultures he postulated for Elves and Men.

Tolkien's Elves effectively have this drug, or the equivalent: a biology that doesn't do age-towards-death. They had few children, and they kept a strongly-stable culture that held long memories. Some were skilful craftsmen who had spent centuries or millennia honing their craft. All had the time to be skilful at something.

Tolkien's Men have an expectation of death after a predictable timespan. They have more children, and value growth and change. They have more adaptivity to the changes of Arda than Elves do, though their cultural memories are shorter.

However, this observation doesn't do much about the question of what a Man would do if he could suddenly transform himself into an Elf.

In my case, I would change little during the first year. (I'm barely past the tender age of 2^5 years...so the drug would not do much for me immediately. However, one of my grandparents has Parkinson's; I would hope that the drug would not leave him with a healthy body and an empty mind.) But I would plan on a new career in two decades. Perhaps that teaching career that didn't take off eight years ago. And another career some number of decades after that.

161:

Now that I've scanned a few of the other comments, I think I see many things which strengthen my comparison to Tolkien's Elves.

--Longevity makes even the life-cycle of the oak tree a viable cash crop.

--Learn to read music & play an isntrument ...
Learn other languages properly ...

--Because if my *dad* were going to (essentially) get younger over the coming years, at some point he'd no doubt want to get his band back together. And it would be pretty nifty if, this time around, I were actually able to play alongside him.

--Off the top of my head. Fostering kids in care. If I didn’t have to work for five or ten years I’d love to foster some kids. Tree planting. If I got room and board for a year I’d love to go and work for “free” planting trees in the Highlands.

--I personally want a farm/ranch/spread out in the sticks where I could grow my own food and not be near people (except when I want). I could easily see myself doing that for a few decades before getting bored. "I think that tree would look better over there" takes on a new meaning when you can live to see that new tree reach maturity from a sapling.

Each of these statements reminds me of some part of Tolkien's portrayal of Elves. They loved nature, and had the patience to spend long centuries tending their corner of the natural world. They were very musical. Almost all were poly-linguistic. Some were loners; others were very social; most seemed to have a sense of community responsibility.

It's not an exhaustive answer to the question posed; but it is informative.

162:

And now they (http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-build-its-very-first-warp-drive) are working on a warp drive tat won't need a whole Jupiter to drive.

I won't have to live forever to zip about the solar system after all :)

163:
Where, pray, do the profits to pay the dividends come from?

Ah, well, that would be a whole another discussion, really, on the macro scale, about who gets the benefits of increased labour productivity. Three scenarios off the top of my head:

1) "Status quo" — the benefits are consumed by an elite, while the rest of humanity continues to have to work a full work week just to make ends meet. Basically, the last half a century, projected forward.

2) "Occupy the future" — the benefits are in one way or another distributed more-or-less evenly among everyone and used to reduce each person's work load. Maybe fewer working days per week, maybe sabbaticals and furloughs, but fewer hours either way.

3) "Plus ça change" — the benefits are distributed and used to make room for new and previously barely imaginable work, in the same way that the increased labour productivity in agriculture has already been used to invent not just new industries, but to redefine the very concept of industry itself.


The phrasing upstream, "getting dividends each year, you don't need to make as much", corresponds to scenario (2). The precise mechanism will probably be quite different, in the same way that the game play of Carcassonne differs from that of Monopoly, but the effect will be the same. Somehow, people will end up doing much less work while still living a comfortable life.

Come to think of it, the difference between Monopoly and modern German-style board games may be an interesting metaphor for the type of change a post-capitalist society will involve, complete with Monopoly's tendency of leaving some players near-bankrupt while a couple of leaders duke it out over ten hours, but that may be drifting off topic a bit too far.


Scenario (1) is probably the near future in any case; we would hope that eventually it breaks down and leads to (2) and/or (3), but it could also break down altogether. Bit of a dystopia in the making.


Scenario (3) is the most interesting and the most difficult to predict.

164:

It's all very well to talk about long-term mature and sensible goals, and to mention Tolkien's elves as if they were some kind of actual historical model, but most people live in the moment. An average human lifetime is plenty of time to get incredibly skilled as it is, and I think it's delusional to think that we could all be writing novels and composing symphonies if only we had the time.

I think we'd see a lot of people trying to bonk teenagers.

On a personal level, as a not-very-well-off working class person with health problems, I can't imagine it making my life any happier. In fact, I can only imagine it would be like New Year's Eve. It's Hogmanay. Everyone's having a good time and celebrating, or at least giving a damned good impression of it. I'm not, and that makes me feel like a terrible, terrible failure.

165:

Hell yeah, of course I'd take it.

Aside from the people above who would have a health related reason not to... and perhaps a few diehard religious fanatics... I wouldn't expect to see many people not take it. Of course, they'd be some who originally resisted, but as the years wore on and the drawbacks of age started becoming apparent I expect that almost everyone would cave eventually even if they were not enthusiastic originally.

As to what I'd do... I'm guessing pretty much what I do now. Keep my head down, work to have the money to play, raise my kids, take some really stonking multi-year holidays as and when the savings really started to pile up. I may have a serious go at mastering an instrument or a 2nd/3rd language (my only real regrets).

One thing that strikes me in this scenario is that I think you'd see a return to family based patrimony (led by a "real" patri, in the biological father of the clan) where, being in the position of being the last beneficiary of inheritance and having the benefit of savings, pension pots and mortgage free housing at the point of the "phase change" he becomes the families source of capital.

So instead of inheritance....I expect in most families would assist the younger generations with short term loans for deposits and business startups in returns for percentages of the investments/enterprises in what would evolve into the "family conglomerate" over the years. Long term "Bank of Mum and Dad"ing. With the "patri" directing the show as a result of his greater experience and ownership of capital. A kind of small scale medici clan for all.

Of course, if he proves to be a bit of an idiot, or a younger generation throws up a business genuis, I'd expect inter-familial pressure may lead to a new "head" with the old man being shuffled off to a "professor-emeritus" position. But I could really see such a configuration of interests on a familial basis being a very stable organisational base in this kind of immortal future with the windfall at the phase change being the nest egg from which the familial conglomerate is built over the generations.

Oh...yeah... And definitely term limits for politicians. I agree with the poster above (OGH ?) who stated that this would be an early effect. I think the population as a whole could very well demand this in short order and be very successful in doing so.

166:

The study you are referring to ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20426616 ) is interesting, but quite different from the scenario described here. Stopping aging at 60 means that you wont increase the fertile period of life for females, in the long run that makes a huge difference I think.

167:

Your new sign-in process is a little creepy.

Of course I'd take the drug. But, but. People are being entirely too optimistic about their behaviors suddenly changing. Remember your New Year's resolutions? How long did those last?

No. I'd be very happily feeling younger... and still doing the same old things I always do. With a little less worry that time was not on my side.

168:

Oh, definitely. I've been lucky enough to be healthy (aside from lousy eyesight), so it would be a bonus. Fifty next year, worth rolling back to, say 35 (enough hormones that life is fun, not enough to be jerked around by them.)

Get around to hobby academic projects, like translating a funny compendium of Dutch cartoons about the 1720 bubble (you had to be there) into English, that kind of thing. Travel more, by train and tramp steamer (screw air travel). Satisfy my curiosity.

I'd have to learn to live more frugally, but if I get my mortgage paid off in another 18 years, that'll help. The Red Queen's Race of keeping up in IT gets old after 20 or 30 years, so I'd be looking for something that pays, but probably won't pay as much as IT. That and I'd want to spread the wealth to loved ones who couldn't afford it. I'd be happy to pay a little more in taxes or donate to make the pills cheaper.

Sorry, boring.

But I already feel like I'm facing that choice, a little, and I've been thinking about it for awhile. It's probably all the countries jacking up the retirement age. Barring accidents or a run of rotten luck, I'm looking at 100 years easy, having the benefit of long-lived grandparents and parents, and all those Baby Boomers and 1%-ers splashing money like mad to beat the Reaper. That's around 40 years in "retirement."

A good problem.

169:

@150:
The typical Marxist analysis of a ruling class that owns the means of production. It failed because that ruling class actually needed workers.
--
That, and both Marx and Lenin saw "workers" as an interchangeable mass. As the Industrial Revolution progressed the kind of pick and shovel "workers" who built the British system were much less in demand. Industry didn't need stoop labor, it needed steamfitters and toolmakers and foundrymen and engineers; a skilled class.

We're seeing that class split now, most apparent in the IT industry. You see a lot of places operate with a level of highly paid permanent staff who are basically a hands-on sublevel of management. In turn, the work is mostly done by temps, interns, or minimally-paid "contractors" who are worked until they drop and are discarded.

Some of Greg Bear's novels are set in a future where things have divided into management and temp agencies. My wife's employer hasn't hired a new employee since the 20th century; workforce lost due to attrition has all been replaced with temps.

170:

In Charlie's initial essay he said,

"someone ... has come up with the elixir vitae: a reasonably-priced drug which, taken daily, stops or reverses the aging process."

There is, of course, a flip side. Back in 1969 Norman Spinrad wrote "Bug Jack Barron", which caused a minor flap in Britain. The story's basic scenario was that a process had been developed to extend life, but it required the fatal harvesting organs from children.

Spinrad's development of that was that if something has a price, there will always be someone willing and able to meet that price. And if that price is only money, why, there's plenty of time to recoup the expense later. And from the viewpoint of an indefinite lifespan, why, the have-nots are just mayflies after all. What of their pathetic few years when you're staring eternity in the face?

It's not a nice book, and it is so heavily threaded with 1969 hippie-socialist politics it is hard to follow in spots, but it's still an fair read.

171:

#169 - You really think it was that quick? IIf so, then I suggest you read Patrick Campbell's "Tunnel Tigers":-
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tunnel-Tigers-First-hand-Account-Highlands/dp/1842820729/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354022821&sr=1-1

172:

@169:

> British system

Please substitute "British canal system".

173:

Ok, but I think #171 is still a valid point, since it's an account of hard-rock tunneling in the 1950s.

174:

The cost of capital and consequently the amount of dividend income to be had seems to me to be a really key question here.

If you accept that the price of capital is subject to the same laws of supply and demand then it’s might be worth spending a few minutes thinking about what the supply of and demand for financial, human and physical capital does in this scenario.

I think the supply of all three forms increases. Human capital increases in supply. People with longer life spans are more likely to gain more experience, more training, more knowledge. Partly as a function of having many careers in sequence and partly as a result of the cost-benefit equations for gaining skills changing. Also, accumulated technology keeps accumulating. Financial capital I think increases in supply, at least at first, as people who are currently generating an annual surplus keep salting it away, either through habit or as part of a plan to drop out for a while or forever. I think the supply of physical capital increases too. It gets steadily better due to technology. There is also something about the changing time preference for money going on that affects physical capital. With longer life spans people will tend build things that last longer and this should increase the amount of physical capital employed over time.

So, capital supplied goes up. Tending to push the price of capital down. Including the price of capital embedded in knowledge workers.

Demand for capital I think also goes up. First up you have a significant increase in the working population which makes the economy relatively under capitalised. Every retired engineer flooding back in to the labour market needs an office and laptop. Secondly, there are now a whole bunch of projects that were not worth doing when people lived for 70-80 years but are worth doing now that the lifespan is more like 700-800 years. People will want to invest more in their own training as more and more jobs are automated and 700 years of doing the same thing looks dull.

So it’s not immediately clear to me what happens to the price of capital. Therefore, it’s not immediately clear to me if saving for the future, either to not have to earn for the rest of one’s life, or just to have a few decades off is going to be easy or difficult.

Difficult to divorce the micro from the macro.

175:

Interesting, but if everyone stops aging, 100 years is not really a "long-term projection." As the article points out, the eventual steady state population is 1/(1-r) times the original, where r is the number of children per individual. Sweden's fertility rate is 1.94 children per woman, or 0.97 per individual (with real world figures, assuming no extended time of fertility). So the population would stabilise at 33 times its present level, which might be rather challenging.

OK, they would have a few centuries to figure out a solution, but any birth rate exceeding the rate of deaths from violence, accidents and other non-aging causes would eventually cause serious problems. Unless of course the "unnatural" death rate rose to compensate. Earn your right to procreate by competing in gladiatorial matches to the death? Or just by playing a few rounds of Russian roulette?

176:

Any way you slice it, the demand for raw materials goes up relative to the demand for labor. Increased inequality is likely to result.

It would be horribly ironic if everyone became immortal just as peak oil started to take its toll. Just because we have hundreds of years to look forward to doesn't mean that our society based on affordable gasoline can last another 20.

177:

One more thing -- my simple calculation above ignores "unnatural" deaths. So really the population would peak at something less than 33 times its present level and then go into decline, assuming everyone had his or her 0.97 children and then stopped.

I can't be bothered to do the maths but I suspect there would still be a significant population problem in the long term. Fertility of 0.7 children per individual would still triple the population over time. Extended worldwide, a population of 21 billion might be survivable but would be decidedly crowded...

178:

My back of envelope calculation suggests that, at this point, "Stand on Zanzibar" becomes an actuality.

179:

Not in the least. If the world was populated at the same density as England there would be about 60 billion people around

180:

Re: oil. The tesla S just won several automobile of the year awards. Gasoline for personal transport is already dead, it just has not fallen over yet.

181:
Earn your right to procreate by competing in gladiatorial matches to the death?

Niven had that, as a supplement to birthright lotteries, a random draw that awarded extra reproduction rates. We could breed lucky people, like Teela Brown.

Of course in known space you can emigrate to the asteroid belt or the colonies, no birth restrictions there.

Of course maybe we'll be able to as well. Anyone have any technical opinions on that new NASA pocket Alcubierre drive? From my admiteddly ignorant POV it sounds too good to be true. But hey, I'd love it to be real

182:

I would certainly take the drug, and I can't think of anything in particular that I'd change about my life in the short term; I have a kid to finish raising, plus I'm already pretty much at the peak of a career that I love enough I'd be doing it as a hobby if they didn't pay me for it.

But ten or twenty years from now when the mortgage is paid off and the kid's out of college and I'm younger and prettier, maybe I'd go try and make it in showbiz. Come to think of it, maybe I'd only take the drug every two years, maintaining a middle-aged physique; I bet I'd be competing against a lot fewer actors in the 40-50 physiological-age range by then.

That plan goes in the bin as soon as they come out with the new improved drug that can go younger than 25, though. My 20s were fine, my 40s are fine, but I'd Peter Pan myself in a heartbeat if you gave me the option; I've never seen a single adult who was as happy on average as the world's glummest two-year-old. (Could be lucrative, even: after the population problem gets severe enough that they start imposing strict birth control, there might be a nice career opportunity for people willing to be adoptive children for nice lonely families.)

183:

of course I'd take it. Heck there is a non trivial chance that some of us will end up actually doing jsomething ust like that.

As for doing things, I'd build my own little Lothlorian and keep on keeping on. If you live for possble centuries, why worry about things you can do nothing about. Time and place will change around you and there is nothing anyone can do about it. So you build a nest and live the best you can.

mainly I'd work enough to make sure I had what I need , read books , garden and play long and elabourate D&D campaigns

Pretty much I'd be here now.


184:

"Difficult to divorce the micro from the macro," is right. Most somewhat smart or systematic individuals will make macro estimates a big part of personal planning, as soon as something like this comes out. I think the smart money is on not being able to predict what will happen globally. Prepare for anything.

Hopefully, plentifully available longevity treatments will motivate Earth emigration. Likely, there will be severe birth rationing (maybe that's how you get people to do dangerous stuff like fight off the third worlders who can't afford the stuff, or police the misbehavior of people who realize they can tolerate any prison sentence, or man fishing boats or work in mines). Either the reaction would be highly individual by nation, with the irresponsiblity and/or religiosity of some countries leading to stresses with nations that came up with some kind of program, or there would be a global or semiglobal solution. Global solutions could be either uninitentinal, much like with wages in Burma affecting wages in America (go to Mexico to have children just as people go there now for experimental treatments or divorces), or planned such as a well enforced international treaty. Bets are against a well enforced international treaty. But even the most draconian breeding restictions would be temporary seeming to someone with extreme longevity. You would live to see the end of them, when someone came up with a matter to antimatter conversion beam or something.

Technology could eventually make Trantor practical. Chemically synthesized food and high rises are not the main problem, it's energy. If new solutions are not found there in time breeding controls will be necessary, but conversely if solutions stay ahead of problems no need for the law to get involved. And eventually there will be trans biological solutions (with enough longevity, this becomes a part of personal life planning!). Wether solutions are found before problems are too bad cannot be predicted, but you can estimate that on average true solutions will emerge just in the nick of time after a long period of discomfort, with occiasional miscalculations leading to early solutions (temporary golden ages) or late solutions (temporary dark ages).

In the shorter term financial wise, it's going to be a race between various trends. Job markets will get tighter, real estate will go up. Investment will be extreme because investors will know they are personally in it for the entirity of a long upward curve and the time to get in is NOW. And the people power will be there, with floods of hungry high skilled new young with futures. Cheap people tends to mean less tech innovation, so that might slow down at first, but the adjustment would even out. Skills would have a much shorter life than lives. While your life is long, the early days of universal longevity are finite. Investing at this critical early juncture in mastering transients like a kind of computer system or software development method might be a gamble that puts you at going obsolute just as the ground floor opportunities are closing out.
Overall, the situation will be turmoil, like volatility in the stock market, big opportunities to win or lose big.

185:

Er, the point made in SOZ was that, if the entire population lived in 1m^2 each, they'd just fit on the island of Zanzibar. I don't know what the present population density of England has to do with that.

186:

I think the point is that at 21 billion people, that is "just" a third of the population density of England when applied to the whole world, and people in England do not yet live in 1m² each.

I'm not too sure if the global ecosystem would be viable even if England is nice and green. I think it was Dyson, or maybe Feynman who argued that England was a good example of man living in equilibrium with nature... I don't think that's quite such a mainstream view nowadays... :)

187:

Or Rhode Island:

What if...?

It also explains some logistics problems that arise if you have that many people on such a small area.

188:

Trying to avoid all the areas you didn't want discussed is very difficult.

Short term (today, tomorrow, next week, etc.) nothing changes. Life is a bit like an ocean liner that is slow to change direction or change speed due to inertia.

I'm retired on a pension and once I dropped back to working age it would be back to wage slavery as I can't see any government willing to let potential taxpayers escape from the tax department. Naive realist, I pay taxes therefore I am.

Competition means back to school for a higher educational standard, less than a Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD) and you will be sweeping the streets. Leisure maybe a problem so may be time to look at quantum computer theory to 'model' the brain.

189:

#186 - Are you suggesting that England and Zanzibar have similar land areas Nestor?

#187 - Er, the eponymous point was to help people envision the World population in the book; it wasn't a suggestion that everyone should actually visit Zanzibar.

190:

It sounds like a bad thing.

It would not cure what ails me, and while I would like to feel younger for the rest of my natural lifespan, the prospect of living with a chronic illness indefinitely is forbidding.

I might take it anyway with the hope that researchers would eventually find a cure. Might.


191:

And to help Americans understand the population density of England, imagine 3 billion Americans.
It is also worth noting that England could probably generate enough food for itself provided the energy input was sufficient.

192:

Taking the conversation to a more existential level....

Shortly before his own death, historian Will Durant remarked the "Death is life's greatest invention, because it makes new life possible." None of us want to die, but I'm one of those who see immortality as more of a curse than a blessing. Aside from the crushing ennui which will develope after a few hundred years of life and the damage to the earth's ecosystem from an undying humanity.

The biggest problem is that we will be replacing an exciting parade of events and personalities with a frozen tableau of sameness.


193:

The problem is exactly the energy input.

Chemical fertilisers and mechanized agriculture are the main sectret (together with genetic selection of improved cultivars) behind the enormous improvement of food production during the green revolution.

And it's harder to build an electric tractor than an electric car.

We will need some revolutions in that field too, maybe involving genetics manipulation and/or robotics, if we want deal with an energy-scarce future.

Anyway, to not have a totally offtopic post: I would immediately take that pill.
I've always felt rushed by the deadline of, well, death.
I like to take my time to do things, not having to hurry because if I do not do them now, I will be too old, or dead, to do them later.
*Maybe* it would come a moment (quite in the future, I think) when I would be so hopelessly tired of life to choose to not go further, but I like the idea of it being a choice of mine, instead of a biologically imposed limit.

About consequences, leaving apart the problems of resources and so on (BIG problems), I guess that we would see a more static world, but first, more static does not necessarily mean worse, as people in power that tend to take the short miopic view would suddenly have to deal with the idea of being alive to see the full consequences of their actions, and second, well, even if it does take 10 times the time to have something change, it will anyway, and you'll likely be alive there to see it...

194:
"Death is life's greatest invention, because it makes new life possible.

I've always considered such sentiments as last minute desperate rationalizations. Deepities, as Dan Dennet would put it.

Are you suggesting that England and Zanzibar have similar land areas

Obviously I must be saying that.

195:

The spiritual consequences of immortality have already been answered by JRR Tolkien - we'll all become melancholy Elves, and we'd be happier if we were more like Hobbits:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/tolkien-and-the-gift-of-mortality-17

The wise and good Arwen, who has given up her elvish immortality to be the mortal Aragorn’s queen, is overcome at his deathbed and pleads for him to stay with her longer. He refuses, saying that it is right for him to go with good grace and before he grows feeble. Then he tells her:

"I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men."

Arwen replies that she has no choice:

"I must indeed abide the Doom of Men whether I will or nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Numenoreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Elves say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive." ...

The virtues of mortality are most obvious in the great paradox of the book: that the very mortal Hobbits are the only ones who can resist the Ring’s seduction and destroy it. Seemingly the most insignificant and lowliest race of all, they spend their (relatively) short lives in small pursuits. They have little use for lofty “elvish” ideas. As most characters in The Lord of the Rings remark, they are unlikely saviors of the world. In fact, their lowly mortality may be their greatest asset.

The Hobbits are firmly enfleshed. They love gardening, visiting, eating and drinking—“six meals a day (when they could get them)”—and parties and pres-ents. Also, unlike the other lands we see, the Shire is full of children, for Tolkien tells us that Hobbits have very large families, Frodo and Bilbo being “as bachelors very exceptional.” This is true of no other people in Middle Earth. The immortal Elves, of course, need few children. Arwen seems to be spoken of as one of the youngest of her people; they call her their “Evenstar.” Legolas has apparently been his father’s heir for aeons. The Dwarves, though mortal, are very long-lived, and they have children so seldom that many believe they are not born, but grow from stones. They have few women, and even fewer children, as many women choose not to marry; likewise with the men, “very many also do not desire marriage, being engrossed in their crafts.” The Ents seem to live more or less forever, but even they are dying out. “There have been no Entings—no children, you would say, not for a terrible long count of years,” Treebeard tells the Hobbits. “The Ents gave their love to the things they met in the world, and the Entwives gave their thoughts to other things.” Finally the Entwives disappeared altogether....

Personal immortality, or the lure of it, seems to turn members of all these races in on themselves. The Elves dwell more in their memories than in the present; the long-lived mortal races turn to glorious deeds in an attempt at personal immortality. For the Elves and the Ents, the result is a kind of lethargy. For men it can be far more sinister: in Boromir and especially in Denethor, Tolkien shows the pride and despair that come from the pursuit of personal immortality through individual glory.

The Hobbits have no illusions that they can in any sense live forever. As a result, they concentrate on immediate and animal concerns. They pursue immortality only by a far humbler and more mortal path, the ordinary, impersonal, animal immortality of parenthood. It’s no accident that everyone who meets the Hobbits mistakes them for children at first. Even after long acquaintance, they are to Legolas “those merry young folk” and to Treebeard “the Hobbit children.” Something about the Hobbits is so lively and natural that they invariably turn the minds of others toward childhood and children.


196:

Rationalization or no, it is a true statement.

If nothing died, how would new life be possible?

197:

Most philosophy about the virtues of death strike me as highly elaborate "sour grapes" reasoning. For one thing, not a single person advancing these arguments ever decides that the perfect length of life is 43 years and commits suicide when that day comes.
Nor do they ever take poisons with the aim of ruining their own health, appearance and mind.

That may seem snarky, but I am perfectly serious. Because arguments against availing oneself of such a treatment amount to a declaration that nature has hit upon the ideal length of life for us, and further that the best way to leave the game is slow decline and suffering. Which is... Toxic garbage designed to make us go quietly into that dark night.
People value health very highly. Youth is health. Should you one day tire of life, the nine-millimeter exit from the mortal coil will always be available to to those who wish to use it.

198:

Yes, death is good - especially for other people.

199:

I would take it, definitely. I would be happy to know that I'll have time to write the 40 books I have planned. I would likely be able to abandon the day job long before them, somebody's going to buy the blasted things eventually. And then I would work very hard with people for a cure for schizophrenia, because living with a son who has it is exciting enough already for decades. Centuries, not so much.

After that, I would get serious about dance. I really really like dance, but there was no money for it in my family, and raising a family came first.

In society? I suspect there would be some quiet assassinations. There are certain people who are old enough that we don't expect to have to deal with them for terribly much longer (cough naturalized USian from Australia, cough cough), and with this pill, we'd be stuck with him *forever*.

It would take a REALLY long time for me to be bored with the world, I expect. I'm one of those who live in the 'world as amusement park' paradigm, and rather enjoy it, thank you. Besides, a very long life makes generation ships more doable, I think.

200:

The world economy would go through a really shaky period. Lots of capital is tied up in pension funds and the like and suddenly that money is in the hands of its owners. How does society handle all that spare cash ? Confiscation via taxes ?
There would be no real need to provide for retirement and old age anymore so hiring costs would drop sharply. Why pay people more than you have to?
A lot of peoples job would disappear over a period of time as people in retirement homes and similar institutions suddenly are redundant as people go on the drug or die off if they dont. The entire health care industry would get a real shakeup.
Another interesting thing is what happens to the brain ? We very easily get set in our ways, flexibility diminishes due to the way our brains work. Generation gaps would progressively get to be quite wide.
but, hey, I would try it. Who doesnt want to be physically 25 again?

201:

Most philosophy about the virtues of death strike me as highly elaborate "sour grapes" reasoning.

When something has been part of the human experience throughout evolution, getting rid of it is going to break a lot of otherwise stable systems. Imagine what society would look like if monarchists and witchburners were still walking around. Would society be better if former slaves and former slaveowners were still kicking around? How will you get by, when surrounded by people who consider your philosophy as anachronistic as you consider the slave-owning witcher's?

202:

I suspect you place too much faith in human consistency; as individuals, we change over time. Yes, I will grant the basic truth of your assertion -- living surrounded by people with radically different philosophies would be somewhat difficult. But to some degree we already do so: I have precious little in common with a lower-class Saudi guy, or a southern Baptist millionaire. Nevertheless, we mostly manage to coexist on the same planet. Moreover, individuals change their attitudes over time, and human memory is transient and fades. The rate of social change might well slow if people lived longer, but I suspect your former slave-owning witch hunters (or equivalent) will in most cases outlive those belief systems.

203:

There's an old saying that science advances one funeral at a time. In other words, people hardly ever reconsider views that have gone deep enough to form part of their identity; progress is made as younger generations evaluate their predecessors' arguments and evidence and reach a consensus.

What I'm saying is that, if a person spent his first hundred years burning witches and beating slaves, it would be psychologically very difficult for him to consider the possibility that these actions are unjust. Similarly, a person whose youth and middle age was steeped in materialist, egalitarian liberalism may be equally alienated by the culture of his great great grandchildren (especially if they burn witches or beat slaves).

204:

People very highly committed to the ideologies of an era, or a given scientific paradigm are always going to be a very small minority of the population. And out of that tiny minority, most will be able to let go, eventually. The remnant who cannot admit that they were wrong do not need to die in order for society to move forward, they merely need to be moved into careers where it their views on the matter is no longer of consequence.

Bluntly: You argument holds no water whatsoever as an objection to longevity, even if it is fairly potent on the subject of tenure and term limits.

205:

In society? I suspect there would be some quiet assassinations. There are certain people who are old enough that we don't expect to have to deal with them for terribly much longer (cough naturalized USian from Australia, cough cough), and with this pill, we'd be stuck with him *forever*.

Oh, my. That does bring up some thoughts, doesn't it?

On a personal note, my mother was a social worker, which meant that she met a large number of interesting and memorable people. I met a few of them as a teenager. I know of at least one man, walking free today and with plenty of money, who is no longer (much) danger to children only because he's now too damn old. I'd not be happy to see him back in the prime of life, not a bit...

206:

You seem oddly certain. Do you have any evidence whatsoever for your assertions?

For my contention that obnoxious ideas go deep and fade only very slowly (even with mortality), I would direct your attention to my home for now, the American South. Anyone over about 50 around here remembers Jim Crow personally, and a brief look at recent electoral maps will give you some idea of how well they've done at letting go.

207:

so, personal plans:
I'd make sure that my husband and my pets got it right away.
I myself would wait until I was safely past menopause, for dealing with cramps, and generally a period, for the next decade is bad enough, even -thinking- about dealing with them for centuries .. no way, no how.

It strikes me that all the people speculating that women would of course aim to be fertile and have babies for centuries are very obviously men. Fertility, for women, is not all pleasure and roses. And keeping it in check by just about anything but barrier methods is even less pleasant (who wants to live with low-level depression for centuries so that they might have a baby every two or three of them, if there is a different way out?). And last not least, one in 1000 pregnancies ends in the death of the mother even in developed countries.

I'd expect most women to opt getting rid of fertility sooner or later, and for most fertile women to be "true young".

All in all, I suspect the birth rate will not be as high as some people project, at least not if women actually have a say in whether they have babies.

Oh, and I agree that 30-35 is/was a better age to live at than 18-25.

208:

I think I'd go back to school immediately, get a STEM degree and find my way into the technology world. It's got better career prospects in the medium term. Get a morgage on a house in a decent location as quickly as possible. Debt is no longer a real problem; as long as I can manage the monthly payments for a while it doesn't matter if I'm on the hook for 100 years, and in that time I may come into significantly more money than I currently have access to.
I'd also seek to create a larger footprint online. If incumbents will rule the future, then I hope to make a name for myself quickly and hold onto a bit of an internet fiefdom to use later, should the need arise.

209:

I would direct your attention to my home for now, the American South. Anyone over about 50 around here remembers Jim Crow personally, and a brief look at recent electoral maps will give you some idea of how well they've done at letting go.

To amplify this a bit. I've lived in western and central Ky, western PA, CT, and now NC. And I've traveled to most of the country on business and had relationships with people from all over the country.

The main difference between the southeastern US and the rest of the country on this issue was that the southeast wrote Jim Crow into laws and talked openly about it. The rest of the US just implemented JC with a club and tacit support of the local authorities.

At least the "old south" didn't lie about it.

And I figure it will be another 20 to 40 years before most of the effects of JC have even a chance to fade. As it will require people to not be raised or in close contact with those who thought JC was a "good thing". If no one is dying, it could take a lot longer.

And if this anti-aging drug had secondary effects that increase economic pressures then the "us" and "them" mindset could last a lot longer.

210:

Cohort studies on immigrants show that the majority adopts the secular values and lack of faith of Scandinavia in less than a decade, regardless of where they are from. Immersion is an extremely powerful persuasive force.
The south is hanging on to a set of unpleasant ideas because of an ongoing organized effort to keep those ideas alive for political and economic gain. Having grandma cracker croak will not do a fraction as much to change that as bankrupting the Kochs family would.

211:

Yes, I'd pay and take the drug. There are so many things I want to see and do in the future. For instance I'd like to go sailing to the Moon comfortably (not in a tin can like current astronauts) one day, instead of going there with my imagination only:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzPb4zc6MUk

But I know that if I want the future to happen sooner rather than much later I should put my hand to the wheel. After all there is a risk of dying by accident over the many centuries, and I'd like to sail to the Moon (comfortably) before I die. So, I'd go back to university to study things like air and space law, and after becoming a recognized expert in the field I'd put all my knowledge to good use in helping people who arrange comfortable sailings to the Moon.

212:

And if this anti-aging drug had secondary effects that increase economic pressures then the "us" and "them" mindset could last a lot longer.

Oh, unquestionably. Probably even if it didn't. If brownish people have 1.2 babies per couple while pasty people are having 1.1, you can expect quite a lot of the pasty folks to completely lose their shit about the "demographic time bomb".

213:

I was think of more than just racial issues. In the US I could see west coast vs. east coast or similar splits. Urban vs. rural. Renters vs. home owners. If this causes most of the planet to be in a worse state economically than before with little chance of getting better I see our current Balkan conflicts looking tame.

As to what would I do, arrange things so I could go back to school and try for something different. But I see some real issues where people good in jobs never leave them to make room for "new blood". Which creates some of the economic havoc I envision from this. Today no matter how good you are at your job you will likely not be there form more than 20 to 40 years. This will all end with upper end jobs being eventually taken over by people who really are "the best and the brightest". With no room for others below them to advance. Lot of pissed off people over time.

214:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

217:

Er, extended "female fertility"* requires either external storage of ova for use in IVF, or that Charlie's rejuv spec allows adult females to grow new ova whilst de-aging.

*Quotes because IVF post-menopause is cheating nature more than extending fertility.

218:

Third party comment re Jay re science advancing one funeral at a time:

Perhaps in a long life time the function of death in allowing fields of study to change will be taken up by career switching. The set in his ways Physicist will get bored and decide to become a Musician instead, making room for progress just the same way the set in his ways Physicist dying previously did.

Re Witch Hunters being set in their ways, as they mature, or as they see things change, I think people learn to overcome cognitive dissonance at differing but always positive rates. They realize that the trick of redefining your failure-to-rise above-being a-product-of-circumstances as instead being a special-success-at-sticking-to-the-underappreciated-moral truth is a bad technique because it leaves you increasingly dissonant in a variety of new ways. Sticking to your guns against one kind of resistance is all that most die hards get in a lifetime, but each new challenge stresses the old ways in new ways, and eventually breaks them like metal being bent back and forth until it breaks.

The few who learn to flexibly be inflexible will have made profound sacrifices for that ability like highly specialized species always pay a price. They'll have to be systematically out of touch with reality, and sooner or later they will notice how messed up they are.

Not only that, but new cognitive dissonant types will be less likely to crop up, because the average maturity of population will be higher, and there will be more of a culture of understanding how you need to be flexible.

Only those who were able to afford to live in a bubble and get away with it would get set in amber, and they would be so isolated as to be irelevant to anyone far enough away from them.

219:

No, not really. The idea that mammals have all the ova they ever will have at birth, and cannot grow more, has been revised by new research.

Also, given ca 300000 ova-to-be at puberty of a human woman, even if you assume two ova ripening each month, the supply would last 12500 years.

It would be strange if the rejuvenating effect would repair all cells in the body including sperm producing cells, but by some magic excluded ovaries.

220:

Thanks; your biology is more up to date than mine.

Ref Para 3 though; Charlie has excluded some other areas from regeneration, hence the uncertainty that I and the other arthritis sufferer have about whether we'd take the drug or not.

221:

It would be nice if people happened to be capable of continuous learning and adjustment over the course of centuries, but evolution never selected for that and what little evidence is available isn't too reassuring.

It seems that people usually have an "identity decade" between the ages of about 15 and 25 where they are engaged with and shaped by the popular culture. After that, disengagement gradually sets in. Successive decades are usually progressively more alienating.

The disengagement usually roughly coincides with marriage and parenthood. The identity decade is a life stage associated with coming-of-age and dating. Looking at it a different way, the onset of feelings of disengagement is a signal that it's time to settle down.

222:

Ref Para 3 though; Charlie has excluded some other areas from regeneration, hence the uncertainty that I and the other arthritis sufferer have about whether we'd take the drug or not.

I'd go for it reversing arthritis, in as much as that is usually a consequence of ageing. It's tricky to reverse ageing in any meaningful sense without having to reverse its consequences.

223:

I see your point, but if it's not going to regenerate muscle damage when the muscle is physically still present I'm not sure.

224:

Well, at the least you'd seem to get the faster natural healing of youth, which would probably help a lot even if the drug itself did little — both in its own right, by healing damage in months and years rather than decades, and in making some surgeries worthwhile where previously the long healing of old age would have been expected to intersect with life expectancy.

225:

Lots of interesting ideas, many of them assuming that the capitalist type economy will survive our new longevity. Once we get mature enough that our rampant consumerism is outlawed, how does the economy keep going? I agree that the world will become more conservative, and that 'market forces' will actually reduce competition between products, and eventually drop the number of products to two or three in each category. The individuality of the population will be their emphasis in the music, performance, volunteerism, etc. I think your employer will actually start to require you to volunteer / donate / participate / learn as a requirement of employment.
Of course, there will be two types of workers (and I use the term loosely) in the new world / economy. There are those that will try all the careers they think are cool, and those that stick to the same thing for 250 years. What does the pay scale look like for a guy who gets a 4% raise a year for 200 years? (pay doubles effectively every 18 years - holy crap i just did the math. start at $50k, by 2215 earn $58.2M!) Is his job worth it? Can he be fired? Is this age discrimination?
Again, I can't see how the existing economy can continue.

Personally, I already have the land, I'd probably be one of the ones trying all the cool careers while raising my own food, writing music, and convincing the neighbors to all join together in community projects like a wind farm for electricity.

226:

Neil Gaiman referenced something like this in one of the Sandman issues - "Men of Good Fortune". I don't remember the exact words, and the interwebs are failing me, but Gadling (the human granted immortality) says something along the lines of having been rich, poor, plague infested, so hungry he wished he could die, happy, sad and everything in between. (At the time of this meeting, he's at a low point). So he's asked if he's ready to die, and after a pause comments along the lines of "are you kidding? there's so much to see/live for/do".

When i think about a shot at immortality, i don't think about how i'm going to make money, or what the world economy is going to look like. If the drug costs 'whatever the market will bear' then you'd probably need that plus enough to eat. the 'rat race' becomes unimportant. i don't care who has a better car than I do. some day, i'll have a better one. if i want to work hard and become a captain of industry, great. Learn a language? great.

Essentially, it would give me the time I need to learn what i want to know- i.e., everything. So how would my plans change? They would change as often and fluidly as i wanted them to change, instead of being a rail line towards eventual death.

227:

Yes, I'd take it. Because I feel my brain aging, and after the drug had taken effect, I'd be better able to make a decision about what to do next. Since I'm in the fortunate position of having a job that I like, but nobody else really wants, I could take some time over that.

228:

a guy who gets a 4% raise a year for 200 years? [...] Again, I can't see how the existing economy can continue

Well for one that annual raise concept goes out of the window. As will the extra day annual leave per x years worked.

Both the annual raise and the extra vacation can still apply, but just for the start of a career, not for it all. It's dubious whether an employee of 20 years standing is actually worth much more than one of ten years (says the man who's been in this position for not far short of a quarter century).

What is more likely eventually, in my opinion, is some form of steady-state economy. The current model of continual expansion just doesn't scale into the far future. GDP increases from improved efficiency, yes. From newer better technologies, yes. From mining more coal to smelt more steel to make more cars ... no.

229:

Quick ruling, then:

Osteoarthritis -- basically due to wear and tear on the joints, damage accumulating over time -- will be reversed by the treatment.

Rheumatoid arthritis -- an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your joints -- won't be reversed by the treatment. However the anti-aging treatment may improve your ability to recover from suppressant treatments (such as methotrexate) and does not preclude the possibility of living long enough to see a definitive cure (presumably through some kind of therapy to reset your immune systems' response).

So: osteoarthritis, cured. Rheumatoid arthritis: made somewhat more treatable in the short term, prospect of a complete cure within 1-3 decades.

230:

What heteromeles said:
> Since I do a lot of conservation work,
> I'm naturally looking at an indefinite future....
> I won't live to see many of the things I'm
> working for....

If I'd believed my expiration date was further out in the indefinite future than it's likely to be (at my age, could be any day now), I'd have done a better job of establishing the baselines on the sites I've been trying to restore, and of archiving the records.

Hoping someone comes along later to take on the work is all very well, it's all anyone has to hope for with any biology field work.

But ah, yes, it'd sure be nice to expect to see the end of some of these 200-year projects instead of only the beginning.

231:

I'd take the drug - sufficient things ache and are wearing out now that I'm over 50 to be a hindrance.

It would be nice to be able recover from unusual activity like I could in my twenties (Climb a mountain when on holiday etc).

What would I do differently ? I'd buy some good wines whilst young and affordable lay them down. Then I could have fun tasting them at intervals.

Like many here there are some learning opportunities (Languages for one) I'd like to take up. I'd also go to work less than 5 days a week. After all I've no longer got to save for a pension.

However I do wonder is Jonathan Swift gave us a warning about what could happen with immortality - would we end up like his Strulbrugs ? We might well be healthy, but physical and mental scars will build up. We'd have to properly learn how to use our memories !

232:

Amen to that, Mr. Roberts!

Anyone who doesn't think there's a strong element of faith in science should read that. I think our faith is that a) we did the right thing, b) that's it's going to matter, and c) that those who come after us are going to have a f**king clue about how to do things right.

233:

There's a whole family of questions to ask about how the treatment affects our brain. If it's 500 years of Alzheimer's, that would suck. Issues like memory (gray matter has a finite capacity and no built-in delete option) and general psychology of old brains in young bodies are unknown at this point. Would most Baby Boomers still be listening to the Beatles in a millennium, or would they have moved on? If Scientology was the state religion for a century or two, how many would be able to adapt and how many would be disincarnated as Suppressive Persons?

234:

Actually, we do seem to forget quite a lot. IIRC, it has to do with anandamide and possibly marijuana (which leads to some truly black humor about pot becoming not only not illegal but mandatory for sound mental functioning above a certain age. Ahem). If there's healthy growth of new neurons, then people will simply continue learning and forgetting through the centuries. Of course, they'll be stuck with the foresight and caution of 10 year-olds rather than of 50 year-olds, and that might be a small issue.

I should point out that if there's new neuron formation (along with formation of new neural stem cells), by rights, there should be new ova formation and new reproductive stem cells. Menopause shouldn't happen.

Seriously, though, this miracle drug seems to do something magical with regenerating bones, neurons, and so forth, and getting rid of old broken down crap without causing problems. Personally, I think it's magic, simply because it's hard to do that with a car where all the pieces are designed to be swapped out and replaced, and that's not the case with our bodies. But. Make it out of a bioengineered member of the Ambrosia genus, call it Boosterspice, and call yourself Niven, I guess.

235:

Aging is not really wear and tear, tough. If it was, we would die *much* younger. Dialing up the repair mechanisms keeping off entropy to the point where they keep ahead of it does not violate any biological laws. I would expect some issues to crop up in the long run - at a minimum, everyone is going need a good deal of dental work eventually. But any problems of that type would get whatever amount of resources it took to solve them thrown at them, because they would be hitting everyone.

236:

207 S.P.Zeidler, I'm with her. I would take the pill because I have worked through most of my angst from a very bad childhood, but I'm not thrilled about the idea of having hormonal rages again.

If those could be treated, then fine, I would take it with no hesitation at all, even although,I am poor ($1200 a year), I figured out I have Aspergers this year (I just turned 55), even although I have a BA, I'm just not very employable. I deliver pizzas, (have for over 20 years), and I still enjoy it. I like doing things for a very long time, and living forever would be interesting (anthropologist on Mars view point), and I would get really, really good at knitting and other things (sword making!).

Macro, it would be interesting to watch society change as women abandon their marriages because they have had their kids and raised them (why stick around with an abusive man when you have accomplished the job you entered into the relationship with him for?)

Live long enough and eventually they will be able to figure out when it's abuse and not love...

237:

#229 - AFK Friday.

Cheers Charlie; that seems to work with the other rules, and if the regen therapy reverses ostio-arthritis (or even if it had regrown bone well enough to allow infinire artificial joints), then I would take it, and as indicated earlier cashin pension funds to ISAs with a view to having "drop-dead money" (the level os savings where you can afford to tell management who p!$$ you off once too often to drop dead, and maintain lifestyle whilst looking for new opportunities) ASAP.

238:

Honestly, the whole "[other disease] won't be reversed by the treatment" thing is a red herring. If you survive another 100 years, they will be able to grow a new arm for you. Probably sooner. Likewise the price: governments will be faced with a choice of (1) barricading themselves against a desperate and deadly underclass with nothing left to lose, or (2) telling the NHS to dispense the pills, and looking like a saint. They will pick #2. So basically it's "don't walk under a bus or get cancer, all else is temporary".

What I'd personally do is massively grow my TODO list. There are a lot of things I'd like to learn, I'd be willing to accept the glacial pace of learning them all, all at once.

239:

Can people take a smaller dose to hold in place above the 18-24 bracket?

Women do seem to like older men -- therefore, I postulate, some men will wish to be older to make it easier.

Not all people like[d] the 18-24 bracket. Personally, I'd prefer about 28 to 32.

Some people will like being older; for instance, a Prime Minister/President may *have* to look older just to get votes (this may change over time, who knows). Makes me think that people who enjoy power will have the capability to have a lot more of it.

I'd buy shares in Adidas, Nike, pimple products, contraceptives (and therefore baby goods), Stuff Young People Like etc. Dump shares in pharmaceuticals.

Begin getting terrified about healthcare. If every body's healthy, will doctors become, overall, less skilled?

Sex -- if most of the population is simultaneously at their emotional and physical peaks, there's going to be a lot more of it. Significant increase in weird behaviours? I don't think so.

Religion -- I can see whole sections of the population bypassing the drug.

Agers -- similar to above, some people will reject the drug and die young (relatively speaking).

Boring -- a completely homogeneous very pretty society. Yawn.

240:

Women do seem to like older men

Some women prefer some older men. But actually in my experience, it's that they want someone who's grown up, who behaves in a mature way, and I don't expect men whose apparent age is returned to this range to suddenly shed all their experience.

There may also be a slight holdover from the era when a lot of men couldn't afford to marry until they were into their forties or so, so women frequently ended up with much older men for economic reasons. Again, I don't expect that to be an issue for apparent age, not in the long term.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 25, 2012 10:09 PM.

Sitrep was the previous entry in this blog.

In case you were wondering ... is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda