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An age-old question

I'm fifty. I'm not the same guy I was when I was forty, or thirty, never mind twenty, or ten. I visualize identity not as a solid object but as a wave form travelling along the temporal dimension through a complex emulsion of memories, experiences, and emotions, bounded at front and back by singularities—boundaries beyond which there is no continuity (and almost certainly no persistence of identity). We're all waves travelling through this common soup of human existential phenomena, occasionally refracting through one another and being changed thereby. And as we move, we change. Not only are our physical bodies not made up from the same individual atoms: the bits you could notionally use to describe us change, too. New data is added, old patterns are lost (I have the memory of a goldfish these days).

Beyond the obvious (gross physiological deterioration and pathologies of senescence), what are the psychological symptoms of ageing?

I tend to be somewhat impatient or short-tempered these days. Examples: getting worked up about people obstructing a sidewalk in front of me, or carelessly blowing smoke over their shoulder and into my face, walking while texting ... you know the drill. This I put down largely to the chronic low-grade pain of the middle-aged body: joints that creak and pop, muscles that need an extra stretch, sore feet. Certainly dosing up on an anti-inflammatory like naproxen or diclofenac is mildly helpful: if it wasn't also associated with a slightly elevated risk of sudden cardiac death I'd do it all the time. (I take special pains to be mindful of this tendency when driving, and compensate accordingly: wearing a couple of tons of metal and travelling an order of magnitude faster than on foot raises the potential costs of impatience from trivial to lethal. But then, I probably spend less than a hundred hours driving in any given year. Driving isn't routine any more (although I used to commute around 20,000 miles/year for work, back in the dark ages of the 1980s) so I can usually keep track of it.)

My memory, as previously noted, is a sieve. Partly I find myself living in a cluttered cognitive realm: I have so much context to apply to any new piece of incoming data. If middle-aged people seem slow at times it may not be because they're stupid (although stupidity is a non-ageist affliction) but because they're processing a lot more data than a young mind has on hand to digest. That shop window display? You're not just looking at this seasons clothing fashions, but integrating changes in fashion across multiple decades and recognizing when this stuff was last new. (And if fashion is your thing, you're trying to remember how far back in the wardrobe you hung it last time you wore it, all those years ago.) A side-effect of this: when experiencing something familiar through long repetition you forget it — you don't remember it as a new experience but merely as an instance of a familiar one and (eventually) as nothing at all. (For those of you with a workday routine, this can cut in quite early: how well do you remember your last commute to work? If you do remember it, do you remember it only because it was exceptional—a truck nearly t-boning you, for example?)

An intersecting effect of the aches and pains and the difficulty retrieving information is that you have to focus hard on tasks—it's hard to execute a day with six or seven distinct non-routine activities in it, because that requires planning and planning requires lots of that difficult mental integration. Planning is exhausting. Instead you focus on maintaining routines (get up, brush teeth, take meds, shave, use toilet, make coffee ... check. Go to gym: check. Eat lunch: check. Work at desk: check ...) and scheduling one or two exceptional tasks. Mental checklists help a lot, but you run into the sieve-shaped memory problem again: this is where digital prosthesis (or an overflowing filofax) come in handy.

Your perspective on current events changes. Take the news media. Everything new is old after a time: you see the large-scale similarities across decades even without becoming a student of history. Today's invasion or oil crisis is just like the one before last. Our current political leadership are stuck in the same ideological monkey's-paw trap as their predecessors the last time their party was in power. And so on. So you tend to discount current events and lose interest in the news until something new happens. (If you're wondering why I'm obsessively interested in the Scottish independence thing this year, it's because it's a disruptive event: nothing like it has happened in UK politics for a very long time indeed. It's fresh.)

The same thing happens to one's interest in the current celebrity culture or pop stars. I haven't heard any of Taylor Swift's music. Or Amy Winehouse's. I have no idea about the Kardashians other than that they're famous for being famous. These people are successful players with careers that follow a handful of standard trajectories: well, good luck to them with it. If they make music that speaks to me I'll hear some of it sooner or later and then start exploring their back catalog, but I feel no urge to get sucked in by the hype and excitement right now. Been there, seen it all before. (The last live concert I went to was Nine Inch Nails; the next will probably be Lene Lovich. That should tell you just how non-current I am ...)

Planning takes on a different perspective because your relationship with time frames alters. When you're in your early 20s retirement seems infinitely far away, and the idea of laying plans for a 25 year span is positively surreal. But when you're 50 you've experienced multiple such overlapping periods. You can recognize gross patterns and trends in your life and understand how to set your sights on goals years in the future. My work, these days, often involves planning and executing projects that take months to carry out and must be scheduled years in advance. As an extreme example, I'm midway through a personal project (performing some rather informal A/B testing on two ongoing series of books) that will take 3-5 years to get any useful information out of. So, while short-term task-juggling becomes harder, really long-term project planning gets paradoxically easier.

Interpersonal relationships change in scope, too. Everything is intense and fresh and immediate when you're young. Emotional engagement is high. Emotional engagement doesn't necessarily slacken with age, but the amount of energy we can bring to bear on our relationships diminishes along with our stamina. Watch a pair of 70-80 year olds who've been together for half a century some time. They often appear to ignore each other, because they have such a strong internal model of the other's mind that they can anticipate their partner's words or actions: it's an ignorance derived from deep insight and familiarity, not obliviousness. There's some evidence from cognitive psychology that we use our partners or children or other relatives as external content-addressable memory storage, relying on their shared experience to fill in our patchy recollections: just like google. (Google isn't making our memory obsolete, rather it's plugging into an existing interpersonal human mechanism at a very low level.) At the same time, they may not notice or be able to respond effectively if their partner is undergoing an exceptional crisis such as a stroke or heart attack: the phenomenon is so far out of scope that they don't recognize it as an emergency at first, unless their attention is specifically redirected from their mental map of the other and back to the human territory it represents. Especially as our stamina diminishes with age, until in extreme old age even focusing on our own immediate needs is a challenge.




So, you've been reading a Charlie Stross blog entry and you're wondering where the zinger is.

Here's the speculation. Let us suppose that in the next couple of decades we develop a cure for the worst problems associated with senescence. We figure out how to reverse the cumulative damage to mitochondrial DNA, to reset the telomere end caps of stem cells without issuing carte blanche to every hopeful cancer in our bodies, to unravel the cumulative damage of prion proteins, to tame the cumulative inflammation that causes atherosclerosis, to fix the underlying mechanism behind metabolic syndrome (the cause of hypertension and type II diabetes).

We now have a generation of 70 year olds who in 20 years time will be physiologically in their 40s, not their 90s. At worst, they're no longer in the steep decline of late old age: at best, they're ageing backwards to their first flush of adult fitness.

You're one of them. You're 25-60 years old now. You're going to be 55-90 years old by then. Unlike today's senior citizens, you don't ache whenever you get out of bed, you're physically fit, you don't have cancer or heart disease or diabetes or Alzheimer's, you aren't deaf or blind or suffering from anosmia or peripheral neuropathy or other sensory impairments, and you're physically able to enjoy your sex life. Big win all round.

But your cognitive functioning is burdened by decades of memories to integrate, canalized by prior experiences, dominated by the complexity of long-term planning at the expense of real-time responsiveness. Every time you look around you are struck by intricate, esoteric cross-references to that which has gone before. Every politician, celebrity, actor, blogger, pop star, author ... you've seen someone like them previously, you know what they're going to say before they open their mouth. Every new policy or strategy has failure modes you recognize: "that won't work" is your usual response to change, not because you're a curmudgeonly pessimist but because you've been there before.

Maybe you're going to make extensive use of lifeloggers or external prosthetic memory assistance devices—think of your own personal google, refreshing your memory whenever you ask the right question—or maybe you're going to float forward in time through a haze of forgetting, deliberately shedding old context to make room for fresh. Some folks try for rolling amnesia with a 40-70 year horizon behind them. You gradually lose contact with such people because they just don't want to know you any more. Others try to hang on to every experience, wallowing in the lush, intricate texture of an extended lifespan until their ability to respond is so impaired that they appear catatonic.

Which are you going to be? And how will you cope with a century of memories contained in the undecaying flesh of indefinitely protracted adulthood?

330 Comments

1:

In twenty years time I'll be 45. Supposing these treatments are around by then me and my peers will be the first generation never to experience old age in any significant way. That in itself could create interesting disconnects of experience, beneath us would be the generations who grew up with the knowledge that they'll be fit forever (until a rare illness or truck kills them) and above us are the generations that experienced decades of pain and poor health. I can't help but feel that an entire life of knowing your health will decline will generate an entirely different outlook on life compared to those who grow up knowing they just have to be careful to stay alive. Perhaps we'll be seen as alien, always acting as if things will get worse.

In terms of everyday life I imagine that a typical social group will be roughly the same size, if a bit smaller. Already I have a few groups of friends that I am in close contact in and more, larger groups that I'm not. The second category has a high turn over whilst the inner one doesn't. Memory prosthetics would be useful for the second set. With so many people forgotten it could be embarrassing to meet one again and have no memory of the three years you worked together. Then again maybe you've both forgotten and it would simply be of passing interest to relearn parts of you life.

Close friends and family memory prosthetics would be more akin to an argument settler. I imagine a common conversation topic would revolve around an event or part of life that one of you remembers but the other doesn't. It would be quite interesting and common to relearn about yourself through your friends memories. This might solidify these friendships more, it would be harder to leave old friends because it would mean leaving part of your knowledge of yourself.

In short memory prosthetics are going to be a necessity but more for personal rediscovery than genuinely trying to maintain continuity.

2:

I caught the first 10 minutes or so of the first of this years' Reith Lectures (Dr Atul Gawande); title something like "Why Doctors Make Mistakes". My understanding of his argument was that we're now past the point where ignorance is the main cause of mistakes in public health: it's more incompetence, in the sense that the complexity of what we know is too high for anyone to keep all relevant information in play at one time.

If this is right, I think that for many there won't be a choice: you'll have to rely on external prosthetic "memory" for procedures, and checklists, and knowledge. You already pointed this out in Halting State with the potential collapse of the network.

But this response if all framed around a life where it's the job that you do that matters. When I read your framing of it it seems to be more about a post-scarcity lifestyle, where there's freedom to re-invent yourself or appear to be catatonic, independent of the job. Maybe I'm being pessimistic here, but I think it will take something truly revolutionary to free (most of) us from the notion tying our work to our self-worth, and so it will be the work that drives what approach to our memory we accept.

3:

I can't help but feel that an entire life of knowing your health will decline will generate an entirely different outlook on life compared to those who grow up knowing they just have to be careful to stay alive.

Such speculation lies at the core of Bruce Sterling's most excellent SF novel, Holy Fire. Go read it now if the idea interests you. No, seriously, go read. (Then consider that Bruce wrote it in 1996, which should give you some idea of how far ahead of the rest of the SF field he runs.)

Another note. You're 25: that means you've exited adolescence and are almost definitely an adult. Your personality isn't frozen, but it's no longer iterating through childhood and adolescence: it's stable. 25 is about how old I feel subjectively (modulo the fact that I have some medical conditions that affected my emotional stability for years, until I found treatment for them). As Terry Pratchett put it, "inside every old man is an eight year old wondering bewilderedly what just happened to him." The point is, if I could pick my preferred age to be for the next century, I'd pick 25 as a good compromise between friskiness and maturity.

4:

I'm implicitly assuming that we find our way out of the neoliberal economic rat-trap via a combination of (a) globalization levelling the playing field world-wide, (b) automation on a massive scale removing the "bullshit jobs" and leaving nothing but skilled professions, caring roles, and artisanal crafts, and (c) a guaranteed basic income being delivered as the only way to square (a) and (b) with a prosperous and stable society without risking mass starvation and rioting/revolution. In other words: everyone gets a liveable pension, everyone who gets too bored to sit on their hands finds something to do that can hopefully earn a bit more, and if nothing else the unemployed keep the wheels turning by providing a constant consumer stimulus.

Yes, this is a sort of post-scarcity society. It's also one that I think ought to be achievable, if we don't royally fuck the environment and allow ourselves to be led over the precipice by ideologically obsessed monomaniacs and bigots. But then, I have the privilege of an occupation that I would continue to work at even if I wasn't paid to do so, as long as I had a basic income to fall back on.

5:

And how will you cope with a century of memories contained in the undecaying flesh of indefinitely protracted adulthood?

Lots of science fiction and fantasy has tried to tackle this theme--Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, and many others (you mentioned Holy Fire in a comment above, that's another great one).

Not too many of them have come at it from your angle--old minds, new bodies.

I do think external "protheses" for memory are going to be essential for this sort of lifestyle. When you've had 80 years of adult life and looking toward more, you've got to organize information carefully.

I'm also curious what it does to our *culture*, on a macro level as well as an individual one.

6:

I'm 61, and apart from a recent pulled muscle in my back have no physical disabilities. In other words, I do the same Shorinji Kempo class now as I did 35 years ago. The BIG thing is the "seen it all before". It makes me impatient and intolerant of (my perception) time wasting arseholes doing/saying the same shit I have had to put up with for decades. I am no longer polite to idiots. A rather cruel example is the time saving script I have for when someone approaches me in London. My first words, before theirs is "If it's money the answer is no". Years ago I might have engaged them somewhat more deeply, but experience says it is a waste of time, and they have more of it than me. It doesn't mean I don't give occasionally to some street beggar, but I am a lot more choosy.

Similarly, I classify people a lot more readily by "type" as in "I have seen you before, in another body". A pre-judjment (prejudice) that far more often than not is correct. However, I am occasionally surprised when I'm wrong.

As for the cognitive decline thing, it hasn't really hit me yet. But then again, maybe it's because I "cheat" by taking racetams on a daily basis. Who knows. The best that can be said of "supplements" is that if they work nothing happens.

When it comes to the past, most of it is not worth remembering. The future is far more attractive to me.

One other possibility - the neuro-atypical may be the ones that continue for centuries, even with augmentation. At least until the jump to a fully PostHuman condition.

7:

I agree that what you describe seems achievable. I'm not convinced that it will be achieved before our lifespans have been increased to the extent that our techniques for coping with massively enhanced lifespans are set in place. I would expect the "historical" forces that get us to the society you describe will shape the approaches and tools we use by then.

To take the "hand shapes the tool which shapes the hand" analogy further, aren't you implicitly asking us to work backwards from your desired "endpoint" society? Wouldn't such a society effectively require us to take a less selfish, individualistic approach, and that would be embedded in how we deal with our memories as well? After all, they're going to be the bedrock of how we relate to others, as you note.

8:
In terms of everyday life I imagine that a typical social group will be roughly the same size, if a bit smaller. Already I have a few groups of friends that I am in close contact in and more, larger groups that I'm not. The second category has a high turn over whilst the inner one doesn't.

If I was going to guess — I'd guess the opposite. That social groups might get a bit bigger. For three reasons:

1) They don't die (as often). I'm 44 — and a whole bunch of friends and family are, well, dead. Now I've been a bit more unlucky than many (averaged 2 funerals a year for about a decade) but if I were your age now, in OGH's future I'd still likely have an extended family and a whole bunch of good friends and mentors who aren't around any more.

2) Socialising takes effort. Part of the reason I had a larger social group in my 20's was just that I could meet more people on a regular basis. Going out and meeting new people and socialising takes energy. Something that can flag a bit over the years. Also a bunch of the disabilities that age brings make socialising and meeting people in some contexts much harder. I'm a little bit deaf now. Not very, but just enough to make conversation in pubs or venues with even vaguely loud music hard. That conference after-party where I would have met a bunch of new awesome people is now often just noise for me.

3) Folk's automatic age-based social groups will get fuzzier. I was fortunate enough to look a little younger than my years for a while. I've noticed a real difference in how some folk treat me now I'm pretty much looking my age. Folk tend to socialise with people-like-me. When age becomes less of a visible differentiator it makes it easer to meet a wider group of people.

9:

Every politician, celebrity, actor, blogger, pop star, author ... you've seen someone like them previously, you know what they're going to say before they open their mouth.

Who's to say there will be new ones? Presumably, most of these will be moneyed enough to be in the first few waves to get health extensions, while they're still priced out of the range of their customers. 50-year-old acts are still touring now? How about seeing the reunited Radiohead in 2055?

Tastes change and people generally prefer the pop stars, actors, etc. that were new and fresh when they were. In the meantime, Western society has gradually lessened the pressure for young people to reproduce (and could be said to be actively disincentivizing it) but biology has been a hard stop - human ova are use 'em or lose 'em and the womb doesn't stay hospitable forever, unless...

Assuming you can preserve a body in a prime child-bearing state for decades, will The Freezing of the Eggs be the new hotness for a Sweet Sixteen party? Where your average girl who screamed over Elvis considered herself maybe a little weird if she wasn't doing the wife-n-mother thing by age 25, would that number be pushed out to 45 with a newborn baby today? 55? 65?

If this comes to pass, it eventually creates a culture where a static number of people must entertain themselves while a slow trickle of new members is educated and indoctrinated. Who needs a new pool of Taylors and Tylers when we can just reinvigorate the careers of the ones we already have? If the kids cry out for a new icon, we'll just render them a new one.

10:

I'm also curious what it does to our *culture*, on a macro level as well as an individual one.

Here's the obvious one: a global wave of revolutions 20-40 years on. Call it an "adult spring". Possible outcomes to include term limits on all political offices, and a wealth tax. The trigger will be the intersection of Piketty's war of capital accumulation vs. labour with the fact that the oligarchs can potentially reign forever if they're not dislodged. 20 year olds today can afford to wait for gerontocrats to die, but if the gerontocrats are physiologically 20 as well .... well, we need a better transfer-of-power mechanism, and representative democracy will probably break down if your representatives can dig themselves in for decades or centuries.

11:

That may well manifest in the form of wealth taxes and attacks on the legal status of Trust Funds. The latter would have far reaching implications.

12:
maybe you're going to float forward in time through a haze of forgetting, deliberately shedding old context to make room for fresh

This would be my bet for the majority of folk. Because it's basically what we do now. It'll just be a bit more obvious.

We can rewrite our memories every time we remember them. The idea that homo saps are generally pretty good at recollection and memory is about as accurate as the idea that we're really good at logic an probability. We're a greasy evolutionary hack and our memory works just well enough for us to generally not die before we have kids.

I have several completely clear memories of my childhood and twenties that I know are false, because the facts that I have available from third party sources don't back them up. There are probably thousands of others that are equally incorrect, but I've just never been put in front of the evidence that shows it.

I think the interesting about memory prosthetics isn't for the folk who would have previously been classed as elderly. The interesting thing is what's going to happen with everybody else sees how flimsy and inaccurate their memories are in general (Ted Chiang's The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling is a great SF slant on this).

And that realisation gives a whole new angle on the dangers of your memory prosthetics being based on a google-facebook-twitter-etc lifelog type environment. Because controlling how the past is stored and presented can, literally, change how you remember it. Imagine the lifelog version of Facebook's recent news feed experiments. Let's see if we can make everybody remember 2014 as a "good" year…

13:

Memories, shmemories.

Once aging has been conquered, we will have time enough to improve the hardware further.

I'd like a faster brain. More memory. Wider bandwidth. I'd like stronger muscles and bones, too.

I want to run a forest trail for three days without stop, never feeling sleepy or tired.

To spend a night on the summit of Everest and watch the sunrise.

To dive in the ocean, from a plane, without a need for parachute.

To swim deeper than any whale ever swam.

To hike the volcanoes of Io, without fear of radiation, and observe the atmosphere of Jupiter on the horizon in all colors, from X-ray to microwave.

To catch a ride on a sun-grazing comet and see the photosphere up close.

Am I asking for too much?

14:

Due to childhood trauma, I have a sparse no biographical memory, only re-hashed bits and bobs. I remember kinda of ok the last two-three years, but before that it's pretty much the deluge. I love to learn stuff, I speak four natural languages and three programming languages. I am 45 and it still comes easily to me to study and incorporate new knowledge into my mindset. I look younger as well, although no longer to a freakish extent like it was until two or three years ago.

I don't suggest everyone goes and bash their children on the head to give them long mental telomerase; moreover I am not even 100% sure that all those seemingly anti-aging factors in my life are correlated. Plus, the lack of memory thing makes me a freak because everyone my age has more wisdom and more emotional baggage, and there I am, fresh as a rose, quite shallow, imaginative and unable to relate.

Where my age does show, it's in the blunting of the emotional high and lows and a certain world-weariness. I guess that a successful strategy to cope with a long life is to refine the intellectual, analytical side of oneself, to use the time to explore in depth more than in breadth, to learn new skills -- all for the purpose of getting one's kicks from something different than infatuations or passion or violent emotions, as in my experience their fading away cannot be helped. But on this I'd be happy to be proved wrong :)

15:

Not feeling things to the extremes we once did is interesting. Is it merely hormones, or some other factor?

16:
I'm also curious what it does to our *culture*, on a macro level as well as an individual one.

One cultural shift that might be interesting: having children will likely become age-independent.

It's no longer expected of the young — no more clock running out. It's no longer excluded from the old — either through biology or through not having sufficient time to raise 'em.

I didn't want kids in my 20s or 30s. Even if I wanted to, at this point I can't really change my mind. In OGH's future I could. Having that ability would likely push a whole lot of child rearing later on in life.

17:

I noticed suffering the "every day event" problem in my early 30s (15 years ago). It was a 10 minute walk to the train station; more than once (at around the 5 minute mark) I found myself wondering "did I lock the front door" and being totally unable to recall that information. I went back to check (yes, I had).

Oddly, I haven't had that problem in my current house! Maybe I just don't care so much, any more :-)

The concept of "memory clutter" has come up a few times in the genre; one more fun solution to the problem was one of "organisation". The idea is that the problem is more akin to indexing; you appear lost in memories becauase it's taking too long to sort through them, but organising the memories better would allow for faster retrieval so you get the best of both worlds; lots of relevant context, fast enough to be useful. (My unindexed cluttered memory is throwing up a low-confidence value of "Zelazny").

18:

Very good point, it might be completely a hormonal thing, therefore avoidable. Although my rationalisation is often in the lines of "ouf, been there, done that, I know how it ends, nothing to write home about" it's also very true that hormones influence cognitive perception to an almost uncomfortable extent (see the book of Max Wolf Valerio where he takes testosterone and changes gender, but also political orientation).
I really don't regret the emotional rollercoaster of my youth to be honest, but this negative outlook about it might also be due to all the repair work I had to do about my childhood. Maybe now it would be interesting to take supplementary HRT just to have fun :D

In a world where everyone would be in a broadly similar condition, maybe social peace would be easier to maintain, as everyone would be tucked up somewhere learning violin, having sex or literary conversations, but social policies would also need to be revisited (i.e. no lifelong imprisonment, enforced right to be forgotten, etc).

19:

Every time you look around you are struck by intricate, esoteric cross-references to that which has gone before. Every politician, celebrity, actor, blogger, pop star, author ... you've seen someone like them previously, you know what they're going to say before they open their mouth.

I'm feel that way now, and I'm forty-two! Nevertheless I seem to get on as well with people who are ten, twenty years younger than me than I do with people ten years older, or the same age.

All the memories I have that are older than two months are confabulated blurs, except those memories that are connected to unchanged cultural stimuli - books, music, films, TV.

Unfortunately I have blotted out much of the 1990s due to psychological and physical illness, and the pain of recovering from them - which is a shame because they felt the most culturally satisfying time for me. If I could re-do the 1989-2000 period so I wasn't sick and miserable, I would.

It was probably the last time I felt optimistic about the future. I don't feel that now.

If artificial life extension were offered to me, I'd refuse it.

20:

From the "Been there, seen it all before." desk. I seem to remember two of our patron saints talking about accelerating lifespans and how there were people born today who if they didn't live forever, would at least live for a very long time. That was Tim Leary and Bob Wilson 40 years ago. And they're both dead now. This time around.

I sympathise though. 30 and 40 were easy. 50 was hard. I think it's when the intimations of mortality hit home.

21:

Thanks for the suggestion, unfortunately the kindle edition is not being sold at the moment but I ordered a new copy. The difference in generational culture is pretty fascinating to me. I'm struggling to imagine what it would be like to grow up without the concept of old age, let alone how I would relate to someone from that environment. The gulf seems greater than the one between my generation and those above, and that seems huge in itself.

22:

Two of us posting with this name might get confusing :p though it is a great name

23:

An anecdote about pop-stars and music. Last spring I was in a bus, and the bus's radio played some Metallica from the Black Album. I found this enjoyable, as that particular album was one of the first ones I bought with my own money and to listen for the music on it. It was also one of the cornerstones to make me listen more to heavy music.

Nowadays, I've tried to go to the roots, so to speak, of my music. This means I listen to a lot of popular music from the 1960s and 1970s. Listening to that Metallica on the bus I started to think what artists I listen to and which are newer than early 1990s. I realized that if I listen to newer music, it's the old artists doing new music nowadays. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are good examples - they make occasionally new music, but it basically sounds the same.

I then realized also that it is a longer time from the Black Album (1991) to the current day than it is from Led Zeppelin IV (1971) to the Black Album - and that I don't know any bands which would be the same kind of super stars than Metallica or Led Zeppelin were. I then asked my friends (who listen more to new artists than I do) is there any such band nowadays, and what should I listen to to get the new wave in metal.

I got some good recommendations, but nothing that would have changed the sound scene so much as the oldies did. I found Meshuggah and Infected Mushroom from this, and I now listen to them, too, but as a whole it feels like most "new" metal is just rehashing the old thing - or in many cases, just redoing the old thing again.

24:

Art de Vany (health nut, weights and supplements) seems to be something of an early adopter for this experience.

25:

As my account is brand-new and squeaky-clean, I will happily change my name to not cause confusion.

26:

Kim Stanley Robinson explores longevity in the Mars trilogy: he notes Bohr's bitter observation that new ideas never take hold by persuasion; senior academics who defend their positions by resisting all new ideas must eventually retire and die, and they are replaced by a new generation who have always known the new ideas, and choose to accept and understand new evidence.

KSR's 22nd century has an entrenched caste of undying professors, with tenure; they aren't retiring and scientific progress has slowed to a pedestrian pace of incremental advances, with very little that is new and unpredictable.

This is, of course, an extension of the problem of retention of capital by the older generation. He doesn't explore that in the trilogy: I would say that KSR is far too optimistic in positing a *mildly* dystopic old-world Earth where the problems of inequality have not been addressed.

27:

Alternatively, new ideas take hold because nobody has a job for life and many people have multiple and vary varied careers each decades long

28:

Or, nobody has any job because the AIs will have either wiped us out or be wiping our arses for us.

29:

It was probably the last time I felt optimistic about the future. I don't feel that now.

If artificial life extension were offered to me, I'd refuse it.

What if you were offered to become more optimistic first?

30:

As I recall, his future also had a problem with an Alzheimer-like affliction that damaged the memories and cognitive functions of the advanced aged that used the longevity treatments. Not dementia per se, but just to much accumulated memories and knowledge.

As for avoiding the trap of a repressive gerontocracy, there is a simple solution:

Geezers in Spaaaaaaace!

Send the old people off to colonize the solar system as the price for receiving their longevity treatment.

31:

Hmmmm. Maybe I'm unusual but I feel I get better as I get older (46) as I can pattern match back to prior experience and come up with answers/approaches faster than the young'uns.

I do work with numbers though. The interesting thing is that some of the new aps we're looking at (Anaplan, Adpative) appear to finally be delivering on the promises of planning/reporting financial data that has been around for a long time.

I feel pretty well, fortunately, but have put on a lot of weight in the last 3 years - need to do something about it before I become poorly.

There are a huge number of issues with life extension, mainly around capital accumulation for the older groups (wealth is held by those over 55, mostly), population pressures, old politicians hanging on forever (huge issue in the US Senate - can you imagine John "Bomb everything" McCain and Mitch McConnell clinging on for another 40 years?, and lack of opportunities for kids. There's huge societal problems already with lack of youth employment, the 0.01% aren't going to give up their stranglehold on wealth for anything...

32:

@vanzetti If artificial life extension were offered to me, I'd refuse it.

But would you refuse a treatment against incontinence? osteoporosis? senility?
The emerging view is not that there is a "life extension" breakthrough, but that senesence is the sum of these illnesses (and more).

@Nile: Whats a senior scientist? What if we're both in our 300's with a life expectancy of 1000? am I stuck in a rut or willing to try new things?

We do see in science today a "generational" cycle as people re-open discussions and revisit theories the previous generarion dismissed. But they do so with a batch of new insights and new methods developed in the decades in-between. Ideas that might have been dismissed as "Lysenkoist" a generation ago are visited with new Epigenetic eyes. Is there a premium for those who remember the details of a debate over decades, and will the 'older generation' be flexible enough to move on?

I think we'll see a dynamic between the timescales stretching as the time available to us increases, vs. the weariness of losing the debate for decades in a row, where most people will simply move on from a bad idea. Today an Important Intellectual might hold a bad idea until death, when that idea is tightly wrapped in their reputation and persona, and death is not far away. Tomorrow, when the cause of someones reputation is decades behind them, people will lose the mental stamina to hold failing theories for centuries.

33:

Those who fear AI should listen to Gary Kasparov, the Russian chess grand master who was beaten by IBM's Deep Blue. The future does not belong to man or machine, but to man plus machine:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/feb/11/the-chess-master-and-the-computer/

In what Rasskin-Gutman explains as Moravec’s Paradox, in chess, as in so many things, what computers are good at is where humans are weak, and vice versa. This gave me an idea for an experiment. What if instead of human versus machine we played as partners? My brainchild saw the light of day in a match in 1998 in León, Spain, and we called it “Advanced Chess.” Each player had a PC at hand running the chess software of his choice during the game. The idea was to create the highest level of chess ever played, a synthesis of the best of man and machine....

At first, the results seemed predictable. The teams of human plus machine dominated even the strongest computers. The chess machine Hydra, which is a chess-specific supercomputer like Deep Blue, was no match for a strong human player using a relatively weak laptop. Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer was overwhelming.

The surprise came at the conclusion of the event. The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and “coaching” their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants. Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.

(IOW, the future belongs to a merger of man and machine)

34:

I'm now 43. I should think about this more. I should also go re-read Holy Fire and see what it says to me now.

I do enjoy the 'whatever' that comes with age; there's a lot of things I'm just not excited about any more. That rush of newness is a rare thing, now. I keep on reading SF in hopes of that, but it's rarer and rarer.

My instinctual reaction to the question posed is a sort of mix of both approaches. My memories of much of my life are already kind of hazy. Let things that need to linger linger. Let things that aren't important go. The posthuman asteroid sculptor scuttling around the Belt in a spider-lady body will have some connection to who I am now; she'll have a few memories of growing up on Earth.

Also I am kind of curious about this A/B testing being carried out through a couple series! If you can talk about this without spoiling the test, I'd love to hear about it.

(I can't help but think of another Sterling story - 'Spider Rose', which I now remember mostly as a portrait of someone lost in the memories of her Earthy youth.)

35:

55 years old myself, with children in their 20s. What amazes me is that they love my classic rock music (Beatles, Stones, Who, Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Motown,Bowie) and my new wave/punk music from college Blondie, Talking Heads, B-52s, Ramones, Pretenders, etc.).

It would be like me listening to my dad's Perry Como records.

36:

I'm 74. The body's getting pretty creaky and I doubt I'll meet Charlie's time frame for life extension, much less with improvements. I have two new lenses in my eyes, about 15 dental implants, a stent in my left anterior descending coronary artery. I'm missing 20 cm from my sigmoid colon (diverticulitis) and I have peripheral neuropathy in my feet, legs and fingertips from a reaction to the drug that kept me alive before the gut was resected.

But.

My memory is pretty good. Essentially all the stuff is still there. The problem is retrieval. The more data, the more cross-associations, and the longer it takes to search and fish out the few bits I need right now. My computer works exactly this way. My first one had a 20 MB hard drive, which was perfectly adequate to my needs. My current one has a 500 GB primary and a 3 TB backup, and even with a dual core, 3.6 GHz processor it takes a finite amount of time to perform a search.

My personal hardware may still work, but I need a processor upgrade to keep up in this Red Queen's race. Not gonna happen.

37:

"combination of (a) globalization levelling the playing field world-wide, (b) automation on a massive scale removing the "bullshit jobs" and leaving nothing but skilled professions, caring roles, and artisanal crafts, and (c) a guaranteed basic income being delivered as the only way to square (a) and (b) with a prosperous and stable society without risking mass starvation and rioting/revolution."

This has been done before, it was called "pan et circes".

Unemployment caused by automation is essentially no different in its results than the unemployment of Roman citizens caused by a massive influx of slaves from imperial conquests.

38:
Hmmmm. Maybe I'm unusual but I feel I get better as I get older (46) as I can pattern match back to prior experience and come up with answers/approaches faster than the young'uns.

Mentally I'm feel the same way (44). What younger folk generally beat me on is endurance, not mental acuity. The vast majority of the time that advantage is outweighed by being able to work smarter, not harder.

I remember my dad talking about the same sort of thing when he retired. He had nearly 50 years of engineering experience which meant that he was able to pattern match on a whole bunch of hard problems that folk nominally more qualified were stalled on. Led to entertaining things like him being sent on CAD courses (he worked in the era of drafting boards) as an "old man" over people thirty years his junior.

I do see the effect that OGH talks about though — those set patterns of work that can make you live a few months and not really notice — but I try and take those as a sign that I should be doing something new. While not exactly completely changing careers, I've certainly made a few major turns when stuff started getting so routine time started speeding up.

It's the physical degradation that annoys the heck out of me. The only silver lining is that I've been getting physically fitter over the last five years and the plus points from losing 30kg of fat and gaining a few kg of muscle are beating the minus points from various encroaching chronic conditions ;-)

39:

Is there a premium for those who remember the details of a debate over decades, and will the 'older generation' be flexible enough to move on?

My $0.02:

Third-rate minds do the rote learning thing and stick with what they know. But this doesn't mean they can't be good administrators or politicians.

Second-rate minds can do some original research but focus on the area of their expertise because they're not flexible enough to go further. They make make breakthroughs, but they're not Einstein or Feynman.

First-rate minds are so flexible they are often bad at admin or politics, but they can break ground in different fields. And if they get bored, they shift sideways. Feynman is one example. Einstein's anno mirabilis (of the three Nobel-grade papers in different areas of physics) is another. (Linus Pauling tried to be one, but tripped and fell into crankdom.)

My guess is that over time we'll see partitioning. The eminent first-rate minds will get bored with their own fields after 10-100 years and move sideways, with unpredictable results, leaving the establishment dominated by the second and third ranks ... until a first rate mind (either an oldster changing fields, or a new wild card) shows up and disrupts everything. The top-heavy establishment will slow innovation, but not completely because of this sideways migration of the truly brilliant ...

40:

Also I am kind of curious about this A/B testing being carried out through a couple series! If you can talk about this without spoiling the test, I'd love to hear about it.

That's easy enough. A couple of years ago I realized I was slowing down as I aged, and wouldn't have the stamina to write three or four SF/F series simultaneously. So I decided to see what I could do if I pumped out Merchant Princes books and Laundry novels at a tempo of one per year for 3 cycles -- would one break big, or both, or neither? If neither break big, it's time to do a series wrap and look for the next thing. If one breaks big, then wrap the other series and focus on the cash cow. (If both break big, there's a four-engined pig on final approach at my local airport.)

As it happened, the MP trilogy has been delayed a year due to edits and will probably squirt out in a six month period when it's baked. Meanwhile, the Laundry books seem to be poised for rapid growth. But I won't have enough information to make a long-term strategic decision before late 2016 at the earliest!

41:

This has been done before, it was called "pan et circes".

Correct. (Only instead of slaves, this time we have robots.) And it seems to me to be the logical solution to the current slowly-building crisis. (This time, hopefully without the slave revolts.)

42:

I wouldn't expect revolutions. I'd expect society to become a lot more conservative.

People hardly ever change their foundational beliefs; progress happens one funeral at a time. Could the American civil rights movement have taken place if former slaveholders and former slaves were still around? I think they would have slowed it down. They would remember how things used to be, and be slow to imagine that the certainties of their youth could be overturned.

In a similar manner, our generation totally wouldn't get the software liberation movement. We'd say horribly retrograde things like "I don't care whether or not it respects itself. It's a damn toaster, and I want my damn toast."

43:

An interesting idea and discussion, it's always nice to see discussion looking more at biological future and it's implications.


So I'm 30 currently and assuming the technology existed I'd be very much inclined to go with the rolling amnesia type approach assuming I could keep at least some of my childhood memories (parent's, grandparents etc), and memories from certain important/defining events in my life. I'd also want to build my on personal wiki like system linking photo's, video and other bits of history, along with knowledge formated in the way I think/learn together as a sort of external memory.


One thing I think will make a big difference is how old a peron is when they were first treated the experince for a 80 year old vs a 25 year old is going to be very different. As one will have experienced aging while the other hasn't.

For the older individuals I wouldn't be surprised if they break into at least two groups, a highly conversative one which at least initially maintains the low risk behaviours that they've adopted as their body grew older and a high risk group who wake up feeling great one day and decide it's a good time to try reliving some of there memories of there past glories.

For this second group I'd expect there could be a noticeable increse in fatalities from trying risky behaviours that they think they can get away with, with their "new" body (accidents from drinking, drugs and high risk sports).

As such there may be an accumulation of indiviudals with low risk habits, and this will also be compounded by the fact that individuals who take less risks are more likely to survive no matter what their biological age is.

However this increasing number of old low risk taking individuals may not adapt so well to the changing world which could make things complex.

44:

People hardly ever change their foundational beliefs; progress happens one funeral at a time. Could the American civil rights movement have taken place if former slaveholders and former slaves were still around?

Disagree (conditionally): look at the marriage equality movement. It's made headway much faster than would be possible merely by waiting for homophobes to die of old age.

Foundational beliefs that don't change (or at best change slowly): stuff where the corollary of change is loss of personal status or threat to life and property. (Note that female emancipation threatens the "personal property" of conservative patriarchs, hence the persistence of sustained opposition to feminism.)

Stuff that can change in a sudden landslide: where it becomes glaringly obvious that the change in question doesn't threaten one's life or property, and that a bunch of people you already know and don't have a problem with turn out to be beneficiaries of it: the "it's no skin off my nose" reaction. Gay marriage falls into this category for many people -- they didn't know they had gay co-workers who wanted to live together openly like ordinary people until it happened, but suddenly it's been normalized enough that people who were formerly only passively opposed to it are now able to re-evaluate their views and change position.

45:

"All the memories I have that are older than two months are confabulated blurs"

I thought it was jut me. I find that if I'm on holiday for more than 6 weeks then it feels like I've never done anything else and memories of having done so are like they happened to someone else but were told to me in great detail. That's *not* how I felt in my teens. If I have enough stimulus of the new I can even feel that way in less time. After 2 weeks travelling in India by motorcycle it really felt like that's all I'd ever done with my life.

46:

In accademic Science at least there will also need to be a major shake up in the way funding works. With a big push towards funding younger individuals.


In general funding bodies tend to be made up of older individuals and secondly tend to fund based on a proven background.

Thus older scientists with a good publication record get good funding allowing them to produce further good publications and get more funding in a nice cyclic system. This is already causing some issues as the current lengthening lifespans (scientists often work into there 70's) meaning the average age of individuals reviving grants has been increasing steadly since the 1950's.

As Charlie said for the first rate mind's they have enough repuation and ability that they can easily move around (ie Biochem to Molecular genetics) within their domain (Physics, Bio, Chem etc) and can at times move between domains (though unless they have a strong mathematical background it's alot harder, people smart in one domain are often horribly wrong in another domain).

While second and third rate minds will tend to stick to their field within a domain and agressively defend what they consider to be there teritory/funding. With the difference mainly being between developing new knowledge and filling in the gaps or moving to administative or other roles.

Thus unless your one of the first rate minds, or there is a major shift towards funding younger individuals research is likely to become an unpopular field.

47:

"Kim Stanley Robinson explores longevity in the Mars trilogy: he notes Bohr's bitter observation that new ideas never take hold by persuasion; senior academics who defend their positions by resisting all new ideas must eventually retire and die"

I've heard that too (along with the idea that you can't do anything good after 25). On the other hand there are people like Leonard Susskind. He's 74 and still making astounding (well astounding to me) breakthroughs in Physics. He's even nicknamed the "Bad Boy" of Physics because every 5 years or so he shakes the place up and makes everyone think hard.

48:

Here's a thought...right now in the US, as we face a possible 2016 Presidential race between a Bush and a Clinton...if people are living so much longer, might the generational conflicts within families become more important that the idea of passing the wealth/power down to the next generation?

Why would you ever put assets into a trust for the next generation if you thought you might live forever? Why educate your children if you were worried that they would try to take your jobs? So much of our effort to help our offspring comes from the certain knowledge of our own inevitable end...but what if that end is not inevitable? What if we can live long enough to live out all of our fantasies of power and control, etc., so that we never had to think about doing so through our offspring?

49:

I sort of agree, but I think we're mentally hung up on the idea of "senior" and "establishment". What does "establishment" mean if I've proven myself and 'established' my credentials 20 years into my 1000-year long career?

What it probably doesn't mean is a rung on a career progression. If we survive the Neo-Liberal trap (as above) i've comfortably secured my material wellbeing (house, savings, etc.) and a professional reputation in early decades. I can explore other ideas and jobs.

When I change career I move from "established" in one to junior in another (or at least unproven, un-credentialed).
We haven't yet got a way of ranking people who do that. We still rely on seniority.

50:

Up to the age of 55 I never felt older than I did in my 20s and as a late convert in my mid 40s to exercise and weight training I was physically better than in my 20s. Mentally, formeat least, I was much more confident as an older man. However I now have to take a cocktail of drugs for hypretension and at 66 I think of myself as an old man. Although I don't have what you could call memory problems it takes me longer to dredge up names and other facts from my memory. Some of the current treatments for dementia show that much of the "lost" memory is actually just not indexed and can be recovered after treatment.
I would jumps at the chance to remove the signs and symptoms of old age but as Ken Macleod wrote in one of his earlybooks there is an economic consequence. I am comfortably retired on an NHS pension and if I were to be suddenly restored to youth I'm sure the government would not be able to continue paying me a pension and I would have to look for a job in a difficult market with a 1970s chemistry degree, a 1990 biochemistry MSc and job experience 20 years out of date.
Ken Macleod's solution was to use dropping the pension rights as payment for the longevity treatment. I would of course take the offer but in 20 years time there will be a lot of old people around.

51:

"It was probably the last time I felt optimistic about the future. I don't feel that now."

From experience, optimism seems to be very "chemical related". I know for a fact a whole slew of drugs can alter levels of optimism. Fixing optimism is far easier than extending life

52:

That is IMHO overly optimistic. It may be true for a very brief period but by the time the AI agumentation is a million times as powerful as the Human component the latter will be massively redundant. More so than a fingernail is to us.

53:

History doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme

I'd suggest that the pattern forming through experience has both positive and negative traits. Sure we see a Kim Kardashian come round and think (seen that, know how it goes). It helps to reject the repeated memes, ignore ephemera, etc. of fashion. In short, it's 'wisdom'; being better than those 14 year olds who think there's something important there, seeing the patterns, knowing the reaction ahead of time.

However, the downsides are significant. First, the pace of the day speeds up. The more we see today as a minor variation on the instance of yesterday, the faster time appears to pass, the swifter you reach for your grave.

And second, it's never really a repeat of the past. The circumstances in which it occurs are not the same, the drivers, behaviours, expectations are different. Is Kim K an artist wannabee in search of celebrity (nope, no talent). Is she a courtesan, selling sex for celebrity, money, and power (nope, you generally have to have a brain for that role). Personally I think she's, more a Sarah Baartman, crossed with Shirley Temple - but the reality is that the pattern is different, because the world is different. She is where and why she is because its not all the same with minor variations.

The flip side of wisdom is living in the past, and thinking the world hasn't changed or there isn't 'new' there. We all know of those older men who thought computers were glorified typewriters; women's work. Live too much in dismissing things as repeated patterns and it'll bite your bum.

The trick is to spot the meta patterns, and to use them to attempt to spot the meta, meta patterns - gain wisdom - but NOT to just ignore them, but to see the changes and focus on them. You say scottish independence would be 'fresh', but the story of groups breaking apart when one part thinks the grass is greener is an, ol' ol' story that usually doesn't have a good outcome. The meta patterns of the rise of the individual and the doing down of society are much more real in that context. What is really new about independence? Is it the shift to smaller and smaller units - because if so it's going to make a nasty mess (eg war).

And finally, ageing.

I'll give you two predictions - medicine that prolongs your active, creak-free time will expand - but medicine that seriously extends your life will get banned, for most. Society needs to reduce the burden that the elderly place on it, but it certainly doesn't want them hanging around any longer.

56:

diclofenac is mildly helpful: if it wasn't also associated with a slightly elevated risk of sudden cardiac death
I hope not - I'm on Diclofenac (gout) but, otherwise I keep exceptionally fit, without going anyhwere NEAr a gym. [ Allotment, cycling, dancing, actually. ]
I agree with Dirk about the fuckwits who keep on coming around - especially the religious & political ones, oh dear.

von hichtofen
If artificial life extension were offered to me, I'd refuse it. take it like a shot.
I want to see what happens next.

57:

Note that female emancipation threatens the "personal property" of conservative patriarchs, hence the persistence of sustained opposition to feminism.
And part of that "conservative partiarchy" is religious belief - a much nastier & more long-lived force for reactionary thuggery, historically speaking, at least.

58:

Unfortunately synthetic alterations to my brain chemistry have a limited life span, and the ones I'm on the moment a reaching the "familiarity breeds contempt" stage.

59:

Religious and political nuts - I welcome them! Paticularly the religious ones - you can keep them talking for hours about evolution and the flood.
I even once agreed to take some religious literature as long as they read a book I gave them on evolution and came back to discuss it with me later.

60:

If artificial life extension were offered to me, I'd refuse it.take it like a shot

Maybe there will be treatments for the physical suffering, but what treatments might their be for the existential suffering?

I'd like an anesthetic against loneliness, as the late David Foster Wallace put it.

I want to see what happens next.

I don't, especially.

When did the future switch from being a promise to a threat?

61:

"When did the future switch from being a promise to a threat?"

When a different set of chemicals changed in your brain. The world just "is". Seriously, one of the reasons I occasionally take modafinil is because it boosts my optimism about whatever problem I am facing. On a more chronic level that is also one reason why I take Piracetam

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

62:

By "foundational beliefs", I mean those beliefs that, if changed, result in a loss of social status or self-esteem. For most Westerners who aren't gay, the status of gay people isn't of much direct consequence. On the other hand, using my example of slave owners, if the underlying belief changes, then the slave owner has to admit that he's personally guilty of hideous acts; I wouldn't expect that to get many takers.

(Similarly, for a slave to come to believe that equality is possible, he would have to admit that he's been too scared to try for a long time; that way isn't much easier.)

Also, see:
http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3553#comic

63:

When did the future switch from being a promise to a threat?

Around your fortieth birthday.

64:

Fun question. I'm only a couple of years behind you, so this is Relevant To My Interests.

For me, it comes down to whether or not the decline in mental ability is due to physiological decline, informational overload, or stuck-in-a-ruttedness, or, rather, how these factors are weighted and how they interact. Once you work that out, then you have to work what happens when you remove the physical side of the equation.

My honest answer is "I just don't know enough to have an informed opinion." That answer is no fun.

I'm going to assuming that the majority of the decay is physiological and not simply an overload of information. That means, which I'm 90 but have the body of a 30 year old, I'm pretty formidable, at least compared to me-at-30. Sixty years of experience is some pretty powerful shit.

I'm aces at recognizing stuff I've seen before. There's a meta element to that, though: Yes, I've seen this idea and I know where it fails, but, I've also been around long enough to know that we have to keep trying this failed idea because that's also part of the cycle and trying to fight against that is pointless.

Now, if I have the physiology of a 30 year old, I also have that dude's hormones and that isn't a certain advantage. My inability to find a suitable mate or stay happy with one was, I suspect, partially a symptom of my body chemistry. I have to deal with that all over again.

There's one big advantage that the truly young have over the biologically young: The ability to see new things as truly new and react to them thusly. Mr. I've-Seen-It-All-Before has to be VERY careful not to make kneejerk judgements about things he thinks he's seen before but hasn't.

In fact, I think you'll see a new school of psychology based on trying to keep old brains young by getting them to see new things as new. We have enough trouble with this already. Raise your hands if you still think the best music was "when you were in high school." That sort of thinking kills in the long run. That's the thing aging folks have to watch out for. The moment you stop viewing new things as new, you're done.

65:

The moment you stop viewing new things as new, you're done.

Things are never totally novel or totally repeated. Whatever the kids are doing these days, I'm sure it's a recognizable variant on some things we did at that age, plus a few borrowings from other sources, plus a few generally new touches. Recognizing when the new bits, or the newly mixed in bits, are important ... that's the real trick.

66:

Mid-life crises. What happens to mid-life crises?

There is a lot of evidence that personal happiness declines rather sharply in one's 40s, before rebounding equally sharply. Moreover, happiness appears to increase monotonically until extreme infirmity sets in late in old age.

Psychologists and economists (who are colonizing all of social science) are debating whether this is culturally-mediated -- e.g, the 40s are the age when careers tend to peak and family formation tends to stop -- or has a biological basis. Moreover, the evidence comes from industrialized and urban settings, albeit not all "Western" in the traditional sense.

Either way, however, extended life has implications. Will the 40s continue to be a period of emotional crisis? (On average, obviously; this doesn't happen to everyone.) Will happiness continue to rebound indefinitely? Will there be new systematic peaks and valleys or will the general pattern be replaced by idiosyncratic life cycles?

67:

Regarding the "natural" subjective results of aging: Gene Wolfe once wrote that he cannot read new novels if they are basically the same as novels he has already read. And that hit home a lot more when I read it in my 40's than when I read it in my 20's. I have now read enough that it is hard for me to find something new worth my time. Most of the "exciting new things" are actually the rebirth in slightly altered form of things which were the "exciting new thing" 20 years ago. If something is really new (for me) then there is a good chance that it is something I don't like (i.e. I rejected the older manifestations of this idea way back when and I haven't changed enough to give it a shot now.)

So I will read familiar stuff from my old familiar sources and I will occasionally, but less and less often, find something new.

This does not mean the new-old stuff is worthless. It is important that people get a version of the form that connects most directly to their epoch and experience; it is just very hard for me to get excited about the new versions and that in itself becomes a generational barrier, a gap where there could be common ground, but nope, if anything conflict as both sides protect their investment in their precious cultural property which happens to fill the same imaginary space.

Another possible side effect: taking up new activities. I was never a gamer. Now I play video games because they are still new enough to me that I have not built up "I have seen this thing before" resistance to each year's releases. But it is coming, sooner or later. Then what....

68:

"As a whole it feels like most "new" metal is just rehashing the old thing - or in many cases, just redoing the old thing again."

Is that mostly just to do with how the low-hanging fruit has already been picked, and it's difficult to do quote/unquote new things without straying from the genre?

69:

Computers are just high speed morons. You can make them faster but not smarter.

70:

There was an amusing question on StackOverflow the other day about this "midlife context accumulation" to the effect of "the more I learn the slower I am to get anything done". The answers tended towards "before when you thought things were finished you were wrong. You're still wrong, just less so". Which seems to sum up the wisdom side of aging quite nicely: the older you get the more different ways you've seen things go wrong.

Also, even without the niggling pains, there's the problem that things don't heal as fast so you tend to become more cautious. Ok, *I* have become more cautious, even though I have accumulated remarkably few injuries during my haphazard path to middle age. Even the little stretches and strains take a while to heal, and I get *sick* now. Whatever flu is going round, add me to the list of afflicted. That never used to happen.

71:

But would you refuse a treatment against incontinence? osteoporosis? senility?
The emerging view is not that there is a "life extension" breakthrough, but that senesence is the sum of these illnesses (and more).

The line you quote is not mine, it's from a post I quote in my post. :-)

72:

I'm already sort of living the answer to your question. My long-term memory has been terrible since childhood (of which I remember almost nothing). Everything beyond a few years is quite blurry. It doesn't bother me much---I'm always more interested in what's happening or going to happen than I've been in what used to happen. As a researcher I'm generally looking ahead and treating most of what came before as obsolete and irrelevant. I'd be happy to continue living this way for the indefinite future.

73:

We have some techniques for remembering stuff, like the "method of loci" approach and other mnemonics. If we have medical immortality and good "external prosthetic memory", then learning how to organize your memories so you could best draw upon the prosthesis for the old stuff would be essential. Maybe those kinds of techniques would be taught in schools.

I almost wonder if the line between institutions and the people/relationships who make them up would get very, very blurry in the world of immortals. KSR also brought that up in the Mars Trilogy, about how institutions are a reaction to human mortality and the need to preserve practices and knowledge beyond the lives of the founders.

74:

Leaving aside the Malthusian apocalypse that would result, if you want to see what your life will be like with a vastly extended/near immortal lifespan, just look at Prince Charles. I'm not British, so I'm going to make absolutely no comment or judgement on his character, abilities, or anything else, but I do feel sorry for him in that he's spent his whole life being prepared for a job that just isn't opening up. Anyone who isn't a "first class mind" is probably never, ever going to be promoted. Creatives are likely to be completely screwed; look at Hollywood's obsession with remakes, reboots, and sequels. I dearly love OGH's work, but what chance would a young SF writer have in a market where Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov, to name the obvious three, were still turning out new works regularly?

75:

As a fan of both Merchant Princes and the Laundry series, how can I sign up to receive the A/B test results?

76:

I think that personality changes are less important than changes in situation.

Until somebody has gone through the education system and put in a few years on their first job there are a lot of options they should be investigating just in case they are supremely good at X. At this point a good deal of optimism is entirely rational to keep them investigating these options. After this time, people should keep looking for opportunities, but "the world could be my oyster" won't be true for most people.

Around the same time people start accumulating possessions and ties to other people, which reduce their options by making them less mobile.

I could see changes in technology changing the second effect - telecommuting and kindle vs piles of books. The percentage of the population that owns their own home varies wildly across countries already. The first effect seems unlikely to go away, especially if longer lifetimes mean less quickly changing societies.

78:
I dearly love OGH's work, but what chance would a young SF writer have in a market where Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov, to name the obvious three, were still turning out new works regularly?

I don't think the problem for new writers will be old writers carrying on. For example I didn't much like a bunch of Asimov's later work and I find most of Niven's stuff from about 1980 onwards unreadable. Readers' tastes change. Authors' tastes change.

If authors keep writing the same thing — a bunch of folk are going to get bored (including the writers) and move on. When authors move on to new ground — a bunch of readers are going to find that it no longer matches their tastes and move on too.

Also if we accept OGH's world has a basic stipend, there is going to be less pressure for authors to write for readers. They're going to be able to take more risk and explore more personal work.

If we were living in that world now — would Charlie be working on the next Laundry and Merchant Princes books now? Or would he have decided that one of his attack novels was much more entertaining to go explore next…

I'd say the more interesting problem for new artists is going to be the shelf life of the books, not the authors.

It's now much, much easier to discover "old" work that's new to the reader. If I look at the things I've read over the last year a lot of it is work that's been around for years, if not decades. It's just much more discoverable for me now in the age of Amazon et al. At the moment the affect of that is minor, since most older works aren't digitised and immediately accessible.

But from now onwards almost every new novel is on Amazon et al forever. Accessible, searchable, pushed to me because they have a fair idea of what I like, and cheaper because old/dead authors are more interested in eking out the last possible bits of revenue from their existing work.

Even without life extension, new authors are going to be facing a lot more competition from older authors in fifty years time. Alive & dead.

79:

"Computers are just high speed morons. You can make them faster but not smarter."

I assume you also include in that summary the upcoming exascale computers running whole Human brain simulations?

80:

"Leaving aside the Malthusian apocalypse..."

Why would extending lifespans result in that? One study based on the demographics of Sweden suggested that if all ageing were halted now then in one century the population would rise by some 22%, all else being unchanged. In fact, if it were not for immigration the population of the developed world would be collapsing right now.

Of course, Nigeria may well be different, but the choice is to live in a society with a high birthrate and high deathrate, or one with low birthrate and low deathrate.

81:

My favorite technological "seen that shit before" goes something like this:

"Scientists have discovered how to make a transistor that uses light and that might one day result in computers running 1000 times faster than today."

I have seen that one about every 5 years for the past 40 years.

82:

Actual reference suggestion: Handbook of the Psychology of Aging, http://catalogue.lib.ed.ac.uk/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=1871433. (There is a later 7th edition, but everything up to the 6th ed. was edited by my grandfather, and is therefore better for his royalties if nothing else...)

What I think we would definitely see far more of are safe systems across all engineered environments (houses, roads, shops, whole cities), designed so that human beings never, ever need to react to an event in less than half a second, prefereably more. Strength and even twitch response is one thing, jumping the right way is quite another. Obviously driverless cars, but also sensor-protected doors and windows (no more amputated fingertips), *really* well laid out bathrooms and kitchens.

I would also guess there will be both gross and subtle inconsistencies between the conditioning regimens for the various different body systems, rather than even progress across the board. Brain diseases might remain harder to treat, so there will be more and more people suffering incurable dementias but with the body (and strength) of a healthy young adult; cartilage might still age badly, since mammals have crappy unvascularised cartilage, so we'd have to schedule knee and hip replacements every 10 years or so.

Incidentally, my mum's parents both reached their nineties, and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary (but only my grandfather is still alive now). That's not the interesting bit - the interesting bit is that they ended up living in a retirement community near a couple of old friends they first met in the 1940s, on the other side of the continent, who *also* reached their nineties!

83:

I'm implicitly assuming that we find our way out of the neoliberal economic rat-trap via a combination of (a) globalization levelling the playing field world-wide, (b) automation on a massive scale removing the "bullshit jobs" and leaving nothing but skilled professions, caring roles, and artisanal crafts, and (c) a guaranteed basic income being delivered as the only way to square (a) and (b) with a prosperous and stable society without risking mass starvation and rioting/revolution. In other words: everyone gets a liveable pension, everyone who gets too bored to sit on their hands finds something to do that can hopefully earn a bit more, and if nothing else the unemployed keep the wheels turning by providing a constant consumer stimulus.

Talk about nothing new under the sun ;) Progressives have been assuming those things for more than 100 years! I mean, I agree with your politics - take UBI (Universal Basic Income) for example - an obvious great idea that people have been periodically proposing for more than a century - but it never gets implemented! The elites won't allow it.

It's sad to see (for example) transhumanists enthusiastic about their great 'new' ideas of land-value tax and UBI, when in fact these things have been proposed over and over and over for decades but nothing ever comes of it.

I'm suspecting the only way that radical change is going to come is my 'crazy' idea of starting from scratch via Martian colonization - at least starting from scratch it would be possible to implement things like UBI without masses and masses of bureaucrats, civil servants and special interests stopping you.

If a colony of Scots declared independence on Mars there won't be shit the politicians on Earth can do about it. If they then implemented an entirely form of social organization (including UBI for example) , special interests on Earth will have no way of stopping them...and when people on Earth see the Martian way is superior, the populace will finally demand the same changes back here.


84:

If the martian way is superior then you can be sure there will be enough propaganda to convince the majority of earth residents that it is not.

Jamming radio signals from mars should be pretty easy.

85:

OK, at the OP, 52 (and a bit).

My brain obviously works differently to Charlie's (not least because I have Radio 2 in the office). I've at least heard the vocal stylings of Amy Whinehouse (sic) and may have heard and blanked Tayla? Taylor? whatever Swift and feel no need to own anything by either of them. OTOH I'm sufficiently impressed by Amy MacDonald and Lady Gaga to own multiple albums be each of them.
Also I already have a trick mind that can call up stuff that's 30some years old when prompted.

So I think I might go for the anti-geriatrics.

86:

In the future there will only be two options for OAPs on the NHS - antigeriatric drugs or euthanasia. The other alternatives are too costly.

87:

Mid-life crises. What happens to mid-life crises?

IMHO, the whole "mid-life crisis" thing is driven by regrets; a realization that you've not tried all that you think you should have, and that it's almost (not not quite) too late to do anything about it.

Those who feel that they've been a little bit adventurous in some way, been nearly there, done some of that, have a few T-shirts - they seem far more contented by their fourth decade. I certainly don't feel the need to impress young women or pose around in a flash car.

The end result is that it will be a bunch of 90-year-olds who were never Wild Rovers (i.e. spent their weekends and free time "in the pub" or "watching the football") will suddenly rush out and buy that superbike or open-topped sports car from the calendar they had on their wall as a kid.

Perhaps, it will mean we can do things alongside our children (or the early breeders, alongside their grandchildren) that are unimaginable now, because of the physical demands of the activities concerned. My father can ski alongside his grandchildren, imagine if he could still outrun them?

I also expect that sport would change. Imagine if (say) Pele could still run as fast, and as long, and have the same reactions as a 30-year-old; what would that level of skill, and that level of experience, do to a Brazilian wendyball team?

Given that a lot of endurance sport is driven by the need to operate for a (subjectively) long time on the wrong side of the pain threshold, which activities would benefit - for instance, would "risky" sports benefit from the twenty-year-old's innate sense of immortality, or the skill that comes from thirty years of not dying while competing?

88:

There's more to do in the future!


*Base jumping off Verona Rupes (on Miranda), the highest cliff in the solar system

*Colonizing the equatorial ridge on Iapetus, one of Saturn's moons

*Basking in the ringshine above the clouds of Saturn

*Floating above Jupiter's epic storms

*Hitching a space elevator out of the gravity well on Mars above the Terra Cimmeria highlands

*Human-powered flight in the skies of Titan

*Trekking across the ice fields of Europa

*Mining asteroids for manufacturing in space

*A scenic dirigible ride at Victoria Crater on Mars

You can see all these things in the video below (the video uses actual real images from the above locations):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6goNzXrmFs

89:

(re: 'Holy Fire') "The difference in generational culture is pretty fascinating to me. I'm struggling to imagine what it would be like to grow up without the concept of old age, let alone how I would relate to someone from that environment. The gulf seems greater than the one between my generation and those above, and that seems huge in itself."

One thing that he didn't cover was that this society was the aftermath of a series of plagues which killed most of humanity. This would mean that the older ones would be the survivors, with all that implies. And since life expectancies were radically increased, that gerontocracy could be very, very old.

90:

Hi, Martin! The mid-life happiness decline is not a male thing; moreover it happens a decade earlier than the go-get-a-car-and-mistress stereotype that you're discussing. I think I have inadvertently caused confusion by writing "crisis" rather than "happiness decline."

It is a topic where anecdotes are pretty worthless, given the amount of individual variation and selection bias. Not just selection bias in whom you know, but selection bias in what they tell you. Without getting into personal details, let me say that my experience is the exact opposite of yours. The more they've done, the less satisfied they feel.

The nice thing, however, is that there is a lot of psychological data piling up. We don't need anecdotes! It seems to show that the mid-forties happiness decline is not associated with life experiences in any sort of predictable way. It just happens, albeit not to everyone. It also then seems to quite dramatically reverse itself.

Is the reversal because time is limited? That might well be. I doubt that the initial decline is due to regret for things-not-done; rather, the feeling seems to be is-this-as-good-as-it-gets? If the latter is correct, then it quite well could become much worse without the imposed time limit that mortality brings.

Or not! I honestly don't know.

91:

> gerontocracy

"Generation Z" would be everyone who didn't have a foot on the ladder when life extension became widespread.

It's not "ageism" if your applicants simply don't meet the requirements... get another 50 years of postdoc education, and then resubmit your "sanitation worker" application.

"Those who have" maintain their positions as much by stepping on the faces of those below as to their own work.

If you thought the old British or Indian class systems were bad, there's a good chance an emortal society could evolve something worse.

92:

"I've heard that too (along with the idea that you can't do anything good after 25). On the other hand there are people like Leonard Susskind. He's 74 and still making astounding (well astounding to me) breakthroughs in Physics. He's even nicknamed the "Bad Boy" of Physics because every 5 years or so he shakes the place up and makes everyone think hard."


Actually, different fields have different ages of peak productivity. For math, it's before 25. Somebody had a list once, somewhere.

From "Age and scientific productivity. Differences between fields of
learning":

"Abstract. This article analyzes the relationship between age and scientific productivity at Norwegian universities. Cross-sectional data indicate that publishing activity reaches a peak in the 45-49 year old age group and declines by 30 per cent among researchers over 60 years old. Large differences exist, however, between fields of learning. In the social sciences productivity remains more or less at the same level in all age groups. In the humanities publishing activity declines in the 55-59 year old age group, but it reaches a new peak in the group 60 years old and over, Productivity declines in the medical sciences among faculty members who are older than 55, while in the natural sciences, productivity continually decreases with increasing age.

This article suggests that the differences between the various fields of learning arise from
corresponding differences in the development of scientific disciplines. In fields where the production of new knowledge is fast and where new scientific methods and equipment are continuously introduced, researchers may have problems coping and thus become obsolescent. In fields where knowledge production occurs at a slower pace, e.g. the social sciences and the humanities, faculty may he productive throughout their careers. This explanation gains further support when looking at various natural and medical science disciplines. Older faculty members in physics are less productive than older researchers in mathematics, and older scientists in biomedicine are less productive than their colleagues of the same age in social medicine."

93:

> Gene Wolfe once wrote that he cannot read new
> novels if they are basically the same as novels he
> has already read.

I thought it was just me! Some of it may even be well-written, but after a while I have the feeling my time could be better put to use doing something else.

94:

"Similarly, for a slave to come to believe that equality is possible, he would have to admit that he's been too scared to try for a long time; that way isn't much easier."

At the risk of derailment, it generally wasn't possible. The methods used were rather clear - force, violence, and terrorism, on a society-wide scale.

95:

"Of course, Nigeria may well be different, but the choice is to live in a society with a high birthrate and high deathrate, or one with low birthrate and low deathrate."

I think that by now it's an iron law of people that when women start getting educated, and people get above a low income threshold, that birth rates drop like a rock. IMHO, the TFR of Iran has gone from over 6 in 1980 to 2.something now, and that's with a deliberate right-wing fundamentalist authoritarian government.

96:

"I'm suspecting the only way that radical change is going to come is my 'crazy' idea of starting from scratch via Martian colonization - at least starting from scratch it would be possible to implement things like UBI without masses and masses of bureaucrats, civil servants and special interests stopping you."

As has been pointed out, that's not 'starting from scratch'.

97:

"I'm suspecting the only way that radical change is going to come is my 'crazy' idea of starting from scratch via Martian colonization - at least starting from scratch it would be possible to implement things like UBI without masses and masses of bureaucrats, civil servants and special interests stopping you."

This has been discussed (see 'High Frontier, Redux' on this blog).
A martian colony would have governmental control far tighter than any nation on Earth now, and I included North Korea.

"If a colony of Scots declared independence on Mars there won't be shit the politicians on Earth can do about it."

Stop sending supplies. This colony would have to be 100% self-reliant, for decades.

" If they then implemented an entirely form of social organization (including UBI for example) , special interests on Earth will have no way of stopping them...and when people on Earth see the Martian way is superior, the populace will finally demand the same changes back here."

A USian note - when polled as individual ideas, and stripped of partisan labels, most Americans prefer many 'European' things. However, the actual result is not that they are demanded.

98:

Well, a lot of things in the post are already happening, even if only to a small degree. Already physical and mental senescence are delayed past what they would have been a century ago. So we're seeing a glimpse of what can happen.

As for some of the psychological, I put it down to this:

Memory is logarithmic.

That is, when you were 10 years old, a year's worth of memories were 10% of your memories. When you're 50, it's 2%. This is why the years go faster as you get older. It's also probably why those with dementia remember their childhoods better than last week -- a random access into the memory pool is more likely to land there.

But as some have said here, an advantage is that as you get older, memory can also compress. That is to say that you can tie a recent memory to a similar older memory.

And you do have better indexing, though that slows things down when adding memories. There was some research on that this year, where various tasks were crafted to cater either to 'do it now and don't think' and 'you have to think, but think fast' types. Not surprisingly (because it seems like a lot of research exists to confirm what we already know) the young did well on the first, and the older did better on the latter.

99:

I was contemplating a slave, perhaps born in 1800 and enslaved for ~65 years, who somehow survived into the civil rights era of American politics (1960s). In a broader sense, I was contemplating a person whose fundamental understandings about how society works were a century obsolete.

100:

Scientists have discovered how to make a transistor that uses light and that might one day result in computers running 1000 times faster than today I don't know about photonic machines, but how about waiting Moore's law out for 10 periods (approx 15 years?)

101:

This is a on one hand, on the other hand response to the original question.

On the one hand, there are a bunch of scientific and political issues that are hard to study with a conventional lifespan, because they play out over 40 or 50 years. I think a lot of ecologists start to get the sense of how these things work as they retire, but they're not able to pass that knowledge on to their students, except very imperfectly, because it takes decades of experience to even see the phenomenon the teacher is babbling about.

A simple way is to think of an oak tree that lives for 500 years. A lot of what that oak endures over a human lifespan may strike the human as largely random, but if that human could live as long as the oak, some of those "random events" might resolve into understandable patterns. I've found it's very hard to understand and describe these long, slow patterns, especially to students in their teens or twenties. They may get it in an abstract sense, but it's hard to really get it until you've seen it.

Similarly, politics has long cycles. For instance, a lot of the Republican craziness in Washington is being led by alumni of the Nixon presidency and the 70s Libertarian movement. That's the 40 year lag time of people moving up the system and working persistently to get their agenda implemented. A lot of political change plays out over decades, but it's hard to communicate that to young activists and especially to voters. Politics will change when more people live long enough to see the patterns at play.

But there's a downside. I've got a family member who moved into 24-hour managed care this last year, and my father was severely disabled by encephalitis. There are any number of traumatic events that can leave someone helpless, dying very slowly. How long do we want to prolong the dying process, for them, or for anyone? Our fantasy of a good death is that we die at home, in our sleep, and leave all of our worldly problems to our heirs. For many, the reality is that we die slowly and expensively (at least if we live in the US), and we have to deal with unravelling our lives as we die too.

Prolongation of life will probably prolong the dying process too, with all the stress and discomfort that brings for us and our families. Do we want that? If you're at all like me, you're not going to enjoy watching someone else sell off the life you built for yourself, just to pay for years of nursing care to keep you alive as your body and mind fall apart, piece by piece.

102:

In fields where knowledge production occurs at a slower pace, e.g. the social sciences ...
Some of us would argue that there is no such thing as any significan progress in the so-called "social sciences"
Some of them are still babbling on about Sigmund fraud, &/or behaving & declaring it as though ilnesses, defects or faults in the brain's chemistry &/or "wiring" are in some way caused by non-physical agents.

103:

A couple of years ago I chucked out some old IEEE magazines from 1981 where there were a couple of papers that convincingly "proved" Moore's Law was coming to an end at around the 100nm feature level.

In its generalised form of computing power per dollar, I believe Moore's Law is good for at least another 40 years.

104:

The obvious starting place is to calculate an approximate life expectancy given that old age and associated factors are removed. Clearly, this is not the same thing as immortality.

While it's a highly inexact thing to estimate, I've seen suggestions of 2/3 - 9/10 of deaths originating with "old age" as a causal factor. So, for a rough estimate, assume that typical life expectancy to increase by a factor of around 8-10 - call that a typical age of death in the UK of around 650 years, with an uncertainty of around +- 200 years. Causes of death will obviously change dramatically - leading causes of death are likely to be injuries in traffic accidents and suicide.

For people currently in their twenties, such as, well, myself, that's an unimaginable period of time. That's the time that separates me from the beginning of the Ottoman empire, the beginning of the Hundred Year's War with France, the Black Death, the fall of the Mongolian Empire etc. In that time, there has been perhaps 150 years of cumulative peace in Europe. The Catholic Church has slowly waned in power. We've had the reformation and the enlightenment.

If one were planning for a holistic approach to such a lifespan, I think amnesia would be the only way to go - at least, primarily. I have no doubt that there would be a spectrum of those who maintain greater or lesser degrees of long term relationships and knowledge.

The only way I can imagine humanity dealing with such exceptional lifespans is a massive change in approach to risk and planning. While I think politics would become a great deal more conservative, I think there would be proportionately more attention paid to anyone who could make a cogent argument of long term effects posing a major risk. Current predictions around global climate change point to significant changes over the course of 50-100 years - I hope to be around to see some of them (or rather, *not* to see some of them), but very few people in a current position of power will be. If, instead, they expect to have deal with another 400+ years of dealing with the consequences of their actions, even the most ideologically hidebound elite is likely to start making some attempt to have a Plan B.

Reproduction could quite conceivably become a government monopoly: with the leading cause of mortality eradicated, breeding like rabbits, or hell, breeding like the most abstemious humans - would lead to a dangerous change in population. This is likely to be significantly at odds with a amnesiac-style approach to life - if you end as a single person living a series of disconnected "lives", having 2-3 children every 50 years or so might be appealing: but if that leads to an average fertility of, say, 10 children per female, instead of the 1.85 it currently is in the UK, then you have a problem.

I also suspect that class/age warfare would become a much more institutionalised thing: currently, one can reasonably expect the present leaders to eventually die off, generally leading to change (see, for example, the 1867 reform act, following the deaths of 3 of the most vociferous conservatives of the day). I suspect there would be a very strong push towards mandated transfer of wealth and power over time; the consequence of which would be a threshold change in itself, very nearly on par with the threshold change of an 8-fold increase in life expectancy. Elites who get into power would have an extremely strong incentive to remain there indefinitely - or at least, until they a) get bored of it and b) have built up a sufficient nest egg to take care of themselves in style afterwards.

==== Offtopic element ====

@99: optical transistors have been in development for several years, and it was a possible experiment to carry out on the equipment I have spent the first year of my PhD building. However, said equipment currently occupies a moderately large room, and needs 4 people and about 10kW of electricity to operate, not to mention about a million pound's worth of assorted lasers; optics; and custom, unique, machined parts. That would be equivalent to a *single* transistor.

It'll be a fair while before completely optical computing edges out solid state semiconductors

105:

I actually wouldn't rule out a UBI, or at least some type of "Job Guarantee" that would consist of paying employers to hire you on. Jobs programs are a well-known policy program and almost always very popular (see the Washington D.C. Summer Jobs Program), and most of us have accepted at least the idea of society ensuring a basic standard of living. It's just that said "standard of living" is fragmented among multiple programs and heavily under-funded.

That probably seems impossible in the present policy environment, but likely the eight-hour day and other labor law reforms seemed impossible in the midst of the Gilded Age.

106:

Curiously, the trend in politics is to get out somewhat sooner than previous generations would have. Gladstone resigned as PM for the last time at age 84, which admittedly may be the extreme case. Blair accepted the push at age 54, Brown is standing down at age 63. That may just be an acceptance that real power lies elsewhere. I don't see Murdoch giving up while there is breath left in him.

Also, get off my lawn !

107:

I'm going to permit some cautious derailing after about 90 comments, as long as the derailing forks off the discussion organically, and the derailers are self-conscious about it.

(And as long as it avoids the horrible Israel/Palestine strange-attractor/basilisk that killed the previous topic stone dead.)

108:

Causes of death will obviously change dramatically - leading causes of death are likely to be injuries in traffic accidents and suicide.

Nit-pick: within 100 years time -- possibly within as little as 20 years -- our blasé tolerance of death due to traffic accidents will look as weirdly distasteful as the 18th century's acceptance of deaths due to duelling with short swords. I mean, seriously, we have ICE and sensors these days: with Volvo aiming to reduce accidental deaths due to vehicle collisions to zero by 2020 and other auto makers following suit, if we still have cars in 2030 it's going to be pretty much a done deal throughout the developed world.

So my money is on suicide. Or dueling with short-swords making a mysterious come-back.

109:

"but the choice is to live in a society with a high birthrate and high deathrate, or one with low birthrate and low deathrate."

Tolkein already examined this issue in the context of what immortality does to us psychologically and culturally (something to think of as we achieve elf-like life spans):

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2003/11/tolkien-and-the-gift-of-mortality

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.

This fertility, this willingness to pass life on to a new generation rather than grasping for “endless life unchanging,” is the Hobbits’ great strength, as it should likewise be mankind’s proper strength. It makes them at once humbler than immortals, since they place less confidence in their own individual abilities, and more hopeful, since their own individual defeats are not the end of everything. The life that lives for its offspring may never achieve perfection, but neither is it ever utterly defeated or utterly corrupted. Some hope always remains.

110:

Real Immortality seems unlikely, even if you're a Puppeteer, given Murphy's law Though I think you may be right about genuine or true immortals "turning in on themselves" in as much as there are a finite number of thoughts that can be thought, even with artificial aids and it's got to get sufficiently dull or repetitive at some point in the indefinite future. Be interesting to find out though. Particularly if building societies survive into that indefinite future.

53, 1 stroke so far and some fairly major surgery (you should see my scar...), so I don't suppose I'll discover if immortality is dull. Which is mildly annoying...

111:

I rather hope and indeed pray that over time, politics will become so boring that most of it is automated away. Politicians are a truly appalling way to run a civilisation (except for all the alternatives), and even now, most politics is boring in the extreme.

Politicians faced with a wall of administratium that threatens to crush them into grey slime tend to react by dreaming up more and more laws and regulations with which to rule people, laws which are largely ignored unless actually useful, which most aren't. Politicians have yet to make the conceptual leap that such worthies as the BSD project have made, and realise that less, better-crafted code is better than more and more code (plus bugs have fewer hiding places in smaller codebases).

Really, we ought to be looking to render politicians obsolete or irrelevent in future, and to limit their numbers to a bare minimum in the mean time.

112:

'Finally the Entwives disappeared altogether.' I thought someone chopped them down. It gave some suspense on first reading the Lord of the Rings- would the Ents decide Men were guilty and kill us all, or would they decide it was Sauron and fight on our side?

'Can you imagine a millenium? A thousand years? can you imagine someone who has spent every day practicing with weapons ... I fear Benedict.' Peter Medawar thought old people got really good at getting work done, eliminating therbligs. What would Newton do after a thousand years- get really efficient at theology, alchemy, and catfights with Leibnitz, or chuck it after his first few hundred years and focus on physics?

Re Kardashians- new fresh ripe booty seems to continue to attract Mr Heffner. A thousand years of publishing Playboy might only reaffirm his focus.

113:

Well, Tolkein was writing from a Christian perspective and not one I either agree with or believe is valid

114:

"...as weirdly distasteful as the 18th century's acceptance of deaths due to duelling with short swords."

I don't find it distasteful. It's about what consenting adults get up to among themselves. I would have thought you rather more liberal than that comment implies.

How does this sound: "...as weirdly distasteful as the 21st century's acceptance of homosexuality".

115:
Well, Tolkien was writing from a Christian perspective and not one I either agree with or believe is valid.

Tolkien was a Christian. But I don't see the Christian message in any of the books of the ring. Very far from it in fact. What am I missing!?

Salvation probably...

116:

In one of his letters Tolkien states, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism."[

117:

Thanks Daniel.

Still don't see it myself... Still there's a large number of thoughts left to think, so maybe later... After I check out Madam JoJo's on Saturday next.

118:

"The Return of the King"?

120:

No, the whole "Steward of Gondor" thing as well. There's plenty of covert Catholicism in LOTR

121:

You can see all these things in the video below (the video uses actual real images from the above locations):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6goNzXrmFs

Heh. My post was inspired by that very video.

122:

It seems to me like Thad Starner's old wearable system is a good model for the kind of external memory that would be ideal for a society like this. Human memory tends to be pretty good at analogy and bad at being exact (as well as being bad at properly persisting between instances of recall -- every time we remember something, our environment has the capacity to manipulate it, to the point that memories can actually be extinguished in experimental settings by distracting people immediately after recall), so by storing notes (i.e., snippets of information chosen by the human being for importance and structured in a way that makes sense to the human being in question) and making them readily searchable with minimal effort seems like it would be a very useful thing -- maybe even to the point of requiring human intervention to store information but performing searches automatically. If the search is a bit wonky, so much the better for priming the kind of vague and ambiguous connections that human beings are good at making and testing. Such a system would have to be either dedicated to long-term storage (keep your grocery list on paper, or you'll remember it whenever you hear about eggs) or have some kind of decay built in (perhaps things can be sorted out when they are recalled, and frequently recalled things can pop up more often; alternately, things might decay in likelihood of recall based on a timer that's set initially, making your grocery list disappear after a week). People using such a system would probably appear to respond even more slowly, but they would have the capacity to remember things more precisely and with greater fidelity; they may in some cases be less prone to simple applications of availability bias (since not only is their own brain's system for determining memorability triggered, but an independent system with its own criteria formed based on a historical sense of what is worth writing down is also automatically consulted -- more complex forms of availability bias will still occur, and since only previous notes are consulted, the possibility for people to be stuck in their own personal filter bubble is greater). If taking notes through this system is visible to bystanders (even if the content of the notes is not), then taking notes becomes a social cue -- if someone is saying something they believe to be interesting, not taking notes is an insult on the same level as checking one's watch.

This differs from lifelogging in some important ways. Lifelogging doesn't improve upon the problem of having too much to remember; even extremely fast searching and ranking would require AI-completeness for supporting the kind of judgement that would improve retrieval speed, and when all sorts of media are automatically stored, consumption speed is also a major issue. You can't consume audio or video significantly faster than the rate at which it was recorded without losing a lot of information. Human-guided notetaking omits the uninteresting explicitly, using the heuristic that what is of interest to the human being right now will be of interest to the same human being in the near future, and allowing this heuristic to be applied on a very granular scale (the user will not store *anything* uninteresting, and will store the interesting things in terms of words that summarize these things, rather than images or audio or something similarly bulky that may contain uninteresting content like verbal inarticulations or color fields in the background of a scene).

123:

Tolkien was a Christian. But I don't see the Christian message in any of the books of the ring. Very far from it in fact. What am I missing!?

Consider that fact that there are barely any positive characters in LotR whose motivation is rebellion against authority. Instead, all of them are motivated by duty.

Éowyn is an edge case, but she is not exactly a character - more of a plot device to fulfill the "no man can kill me" prophecy.

124:

Not exactly C.S Lewis though. Thank God, so to speak...

125:

Scholars debate why such large numbers of Romans became landless and drifted into Rome in the last two centuries BCE. What they agree on is that the people who counted in a Roman election were those who could be there on the day, and that as it became one of the largest cities in the world Rome combined modern London's rent, modern Beijing's air quality, and a Latin American slum's public health and building codes. Of course most working people had trouble affording to live in Rome, and of course hungry people in the capital were even more dangerous than usual. I don't know if people outside of Rome were even eligible for the annona, but most of the recipients were probably in Rome, because they had needs and leverage which poor people in the country did not.

126:

Not exactly C.S Lewis though. Thank God, so to speak...

Well, Narnia is in a different category. It's a bona fide christian fairy tale.

127:

"seems impossible in the present policy environment, but likely the eight-hour day and other labor law reforms seemed impossible in the midst of the Gilded Age."

The eight hour day seems impossible to the present day. I've been in industries where you were called to account if you worked less than 12 hours per day (while being paid for 8). I was actually working 100 hours per week. http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2014/s4131575.htm

128:

I'm not so sure that there would be any drive toward "wealth transfer" or wealth tax. They say the US is a nation of "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" and I think the very long lived would all be like that. There's certainly a feeling of "You can't take it with you" today. Maybe long life would result in massive hoarding. If I can get even 2% return on investment then after squirrelling away half my income for 100 years I'll have a nest egg that can support me for 500 years. I think that would be my reaction. Or it might result in people being happy with incredible debt in order to fuel opulent lifestyle in the "now", on the theory that you can always pay it off later and inflation will probably take care of it for you anyway.

129:

What makes you think I'm interested in the future of the US?

The US is about 5% of the planet's population. When globalization runs to completion it's going to be down to about 5% of planetary GDP as well (from the current 20-25%). Not terribly significant; not much more significant than the UK (<1% of population). Upshot: the impact of US domestic obsessions with the global conduct of politics will be minimal, within another century.

130:

I'm grinding through Peter Hamilton's "Pandora's Star" at the moment. Not as much of a soap opera as some of his stuff, but it's not exactly moving fast.

Interestingly, extended lifespans, memory editing, cultural differences based on number of rejuvenations, and other similar subjects have been a large part of the story so far.

131:

I'd be down with that...

Considering its official anti-imperialist stance, the USA spends a huge amount of its resources meddling outside its borders. Even back when it was a minor power by European standards.

I wouldn't be surprised if the USA has already spent more money and lives overseas than the entire history of the British Empire. ("more" being subject to extensive debate of relative economies, of course.)

I would imagine what we could have bought with the money we've wasted since 2001, but I would probably weep.

132:

Memory is improved by repetition
I would require a couple of months ( or maybe 6) before I could solve second-order differential equations, again - not having done it for about 40 years ....OTOH, I'm gettign quite good at some aspects of systematic Botany, these days ....

133:

Ye gods / great Cthulu!
Wot happened?
In the UK, if you tried that, you'd be in jail. or at the very least barred from employing people ... one or two bastards have tried it & come ustuck - hence the fuss about slavery, of course, but when they are caught, they will either wish they hadn't, or (possibly) be told they are persona non grata & your "diplomatic" passport will not be recognised next time around ....

134:

You are forgetting ( or don't know about? ) the err, "Practice" the USA got terroising the gumints of evrywhere between Mexico & Venezuala, 1919-41??

Look up the US Army guy hired by the ultra/fascist-right to overthrow FDR back in 1933 (ish) - they hired him because he had practised this in the Sntral american states ... I forget his name ....
Ah Try this link... Smedley Butler ...
And google for other links on the subject.

135:

Gasdive's story is fairly typical in the U.S.

In theory, a full time employee in the U.S. works 40 hours per week and gets 1.5x wages for overtime hours. If the employee isn't "exempt", that is.

An "exempt" employee, for practical purposes, is anyone who works at a desk, works near a desk, or has ever seen a desk.

137:

I thought somebody chopped them down

This is something that occurred to me as a kid - there are mention of Ent-like creatures in the Shire early on in LOTR. Putting two and two together, was Tolkien leaving a hook for the Entwives?

My battered and much-beloved 1978 copy of "The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth" suggests that "the Entwives crossed Anduin... In what was later called the Brown Lands... ...their gardens were destroyed and they vanished". But if you reread Chapter VI, "The Old Forest", it's a very Entish place by implication. Wrong side of the Anduin for that description, mind you.

Having just reread Appendix A of the one-volume LOTR, the last three paragraphs describe the problems for long-lived dwarves that only one-third of male dwarves actually marry. If you want to completely derail the thread, you could argue that Tolkien was at the forefront of LGBT protagonists with Legolas and Gimli (who sail off across the seas together after the death of Elessar, because of "their great love for one another").

So: same-sex relationships encouraged so as to reduce population growth, a la "The Forever War"?

138:

Taking that a few steps further my money would be on massive, ongoing investment in health and safety and accident avoidance/mitigation technology. Low level consists of things like barriers along train platforms with automatic doors that line up with the train (present in a few tube stations but little else), high level could be embedded sensors in the environment and furniture/fittings designed to help in case of an accident, cold be as simple as automatically dispatching an ambulance after a fall or as complex as rapid genome sequencers that poke your food before its served to prevent food poisoning. And sitting in the middle will be an emphasis for safety throughout product design (rounded off corners, baths with high grip surfaces, padded floors etc).

In other words a future in which accidents are the leading causes of death is likely to embrace health and safety and universal surveillance in a way that would make a large demographic today run for the hills screaming.

139:

If I can get even 2% return on investment then after squirrelling away half my income for 100 years I'll have a nest egg that can support me for 500 years. I think that would be my reaction. Or it might result in people being happy with incredible debt in order to fuel opulent lifestyle in the "now", on the theory that you can always pay it off later and inflation will probably take care of it for you anyway.

I think that this enabling condition is very unlikely to be found when everyone can be indefinitely life-extended. For that matter I think it's unlikely later this century, life extension or not. You can have economic growth from producing more-of-the-same or from producing qualitatively different things. Individual wants for more-of-the-same reach an upper limit rather quickly. To be able to enjoy a fine brandy sometimes or take an hour drive in a car sometimes is a desirable luxury. Drinking 3 liters of brandy per day or driving a car 20 hours per day are not more luxurious versions of the same, but cruel death sentences.

Since you can't keep up economic growth selling more-of-the-same to a fixed number of people, even if those people have the income to keep buying more, growth has historically also relied on the opening of new markets and the increase of population in opened markets. But the market economy has now spread to almost all the Earth. The holdouts are, what, Cuba, North Korea, and some uncontacted tribes in the Amazon? I'm not sure Cuba even counts -- it didn't choose to cut itself off from its largest natural trade partner. Half of the world's nations are already below a replacement total fertility rate, though the absolute population peak lies decades in the future because of the long lag between birth and death. It's unlikely that global population will see even one more doubling. In short, even if ecological limits don't put a hard stop on economic growth, selling more-of-the-same won't sustain 2% growth for even a handful of centuries.

The last avenue is economic growth via making something different. After the rail travel market has saturated you can sell air travel. After the air travel market has saturated you can sell interplanetary travel, maybe. After the interplanetary market has saturated you can sell... teleportation? Time machines? Warp drives? Something else ridiculously unphysical? Every new market offering competes for time/money with an ever more intimidating set of existing market offerings.

Even if there are breakthroughs regarding big open problems like Dark Matter, Dark Energy, or quantum gravity, I don't know that they will enable mass market products the way that quantum understanding of electrons and photons enabled transistors, LEDs, and photovoltaic cells. I suspect it will be more like coming to understand how supernovas happen: fascinating, first-rate science that will never enable oxygen-to-vanadium factories, because humans aren't in a position to assemble multiple stellar masses of materials or otherwise commercialize the conditions that lead to high-Z nucleosynthesis in nature.

When more-of-the-same just makes you ill, and more-of-the-different is arriving at a snail's pace, what will people strive for? More of nothing. More leisure time. I don't know how that will play out, but I have some confidence that it will mean the end of sustained positive ROI for any given investment or portfolio of investments. Letting your money make money for you doesn't work when everyone is doing it.

140:

I believe I'd have a spring cleaning and start a new life. Psychologically, I'm okay with accepting what I have now because it's just part of aging, too late to change. If I were freed of that, I'd be out the door, on the scooter, off to some new place. A new woman, a new job, a new climate. Maybe family wouldn't mean nearly as much.

141:

"What makes you think I'm interested in the future of the US?"

Nothing at all. I didn't think I was referring to them other than as an example.

As I said I could see two possibilities: Eat Drink and be Merry, for tomorrow inflation will deal with your debt.

Or; Obsessive hoarding. While that idea of being a temporarily embarrassed millionaire is currently a uniquely USian trait, I could see that spreading. I'm from a mixture of Indian/Anglo/Scottish with a goodly dash of Protestant work ethic and the feeling I got being brought up was that wealth, serious wealth, was a multi generational project. You work hard to give your children a good education and the best possible start and then if they work hard and things go well, and you iterate for 4-5 generations then everyone is very comfortably off by the end of it. (approximately 80-100 years)

Now at present a single generation of feckless wastrel sets you back to square one again. So the incentive to work *really* hard isn't there. If on the other hand anyone could simply work really hard for a century and there by become one of the rent seeking upper-middle class, then it's unlikely (I think) for them to agitate for wealth tax. Even if conditions keep being rearranged such that they can't ever actually get there, it's going to take a couple of centuries for them to figure it out.

142:

Yes

I actually completely agree. The only subtle point I'd make is that most people think that the current economic conditions (tax structure etc) will persist forever. So until there's actual change, people will probably go on behaving much as they do now. That means probably working hard for a century in the hope of rent seeking, followed by cleaning toilets for 500 years. Yay, bring on the shining future.

144:

What makes you think I'm interested in the future of the US?

You should probably be more specific, then. Asking what the future will be like, full stop, is like asking what the past was like. Do you mean yesterday, the height of the Roman Empire, the mid Cretaceous period, or some other time and place?

I sincerely doubt the idea that "globalization" (an inappropriately reified concept, that) is going to completely level the economic playing field worldwide in a century, though. Nationbuilding takes generations, and a lot of the world has a lot of work to do. North America, like western Europe, has the huge advantage of relative political stability. Most other places on the planet have seen their government overthrown in living memory, and can reasonably expect it to happen again in their kids' lifetimes.

145:

This I put down largely to the chronic low-grade pain of the middle-aged body: joints that creak and pop, muscles that need an extra stretch, sore feet.

Um. Well, the fact is, you already know this even as that feeling of irritation spikes up inside. Trust me, I know this one :-) What gets me is that I know what's happening, I recognize it as a fault in myself, and yet I still act on those feelings of irritation. I put this down to some undefinable, ineffable collapse of will. Because the thing is, I'm much better dealing with negative feelings (which I agree in spades emanates chiefly from chronic, low-level pain) in the morning rather than the afternoon, on Mondays rather than Fridays. Don't even get me started on what I'm like after grading four classes of finals. And yet, even with the pain as an excuse, I used to bear up under that sort of thing much better than I do now. There's some sort of mental stamina that I don't have as much as I used to. Is that an age-related diminution of mental faculties, or is it something else? A certain impatience, shall we say? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that I don't like it and that I fight it as much as I can. I honestly didn't know what it was like to be this old is all I can say.

146:

Okay, that's bad, sure. To the extent that it's true. The flip side is institutional memory, by which I mean politics. ISTM that things didn't start to get seriously cockeyed here in the good old U S of A until most of the Greatest Generation had shuffled off this mortal coil and they were no longer a force to be reckoned with. You know what really kills me about libertarians and their ilk? Their complete ahistoricity. Their ignorance. The question of why we have public schools or public roads or public utilities isn't a matter of theoretical debate, completely untested in the field. It's a matter of bitter, hard-won experience. And those guys growing up in the first half of the twentieth century weren't wild-eyed liberals educated beyond their intelligence. They were there, and they experienced first-hand just exactly what no public intervention meant.

Does anyone doubt in the slightest that if they were back with us and hale and hearty, a biological twenty-something, that they wouldn't be up for some serious libertarian ass-kicking?

147:

@Charlie Stross

The US has a couple of "force multipliers" due to institutional military experience/capabilities and its lingering privileged position in the world's international institutions. It's sort of like how Great Britain still had a special place in the world economy and world politics in 1914 even though it had been years since it was the biggest or most dynamic economy on the planet (and it was never a huge share of world population).

That kind of stuff tends to take a major institutional break-down to destroy, like two world wars and a world-wide depression - along with the new rising power actively trying to make you play second-fiddle when forming the new institutions (AKA Bretton Woods).

@Matt

If nothing else, we'll spend more money on entertainment and possibly "new experiences" depending on how good the brain stimulation/virtual reality/augmented reality secondary worlds/etc are in the late 21st century. That stuff can be as disposable and diverse as you need it to be, with minimal resource impact aside from energy and the set-up/maintenance costs.

148:

If nothing else, we'll spend more money on entertainment and possibly "new experiences" depending on how good the brain stimulation/virtual reality/augmented reality secondary worlds/etc are in the late 21st century. That stuff can be as disposable and diverse as you need it to be, with minimal resource impact aside from energy and the set-up/maintenance costs.

Yes, that will probably be popular. It's not enough to maintain 2% economic growth for very long*. There is a hard upper limit of 24 hours in a day for enjoying entertainment, and it probably becomes unenjoyable much sooner. Each year's new entertainment competes for attention with the accumulation of every prior year's entertainment.

*Nothing is. To sustain 2% growth over a single extended lifetime of 700 years the economy would need to grow over a million-fold.

149:

If the US is indeed in the decline Charlie mentions,then I couldn't be happier. The only worry is blowback from all of the damage that's been done in the name of "democracy". That being said, some new power must rise,if only to continue intercontinental commerce. Protection of the sea lanes, a relatively stable currency, common trade law, etc. Can those things be privatized effectively? I dunno. They are things that have always been provided by empire, most recently by Great Britain and the US. The world will not become a safe place even if all it is on the same footing economically and politically.

150:

"Nothing is. To sustain 2% growth over a single extended lifetime of 700 years the economy would need to grow over a million-fold."

Economic growth is strongly tied to growth in energy use. 2% energy growth for 700 years means that the total energy consumption would be 100 times more than all the energy falling on the Earth. Obviously that's not possible. The waste heat alone would raise the temperature to more than 500 C. (see Puppeteers home planets)

So while short term hoarding is possible, long term it isn't. So if we're looking more than a couple of hundred years in the future immortals will need to face life with not only limits on population growth but also limits on economic and energy growth.

I don't know what a future full of people who have lives of 6-700 years but no growth looks like, but I'd be interested to read a book in that setting.

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/galactic-scale-energy/

151:

Let me make a guess where all that economic development is going to go to maintain a 2% growth rate. Within decades the fundamental most desirable resource will be computing power. When 99% of our energy expenditure is going on computation, and 99% of the manufactured mass is computing hardware, that is probably when economic growth will fade away.

152:

What makes you think I'm interested in the future of the US?

Aren't they your biggest market? You better hope they still have enough money to buy your book. :-)

153:

"I sincerely doubt the idea that "globalization" (an inappropriately reified concept, that) is going to completely level the economic playing field worldwide in a century, though. Nationbuilding takes generations, and a lot of the world has a lot of work to do. North America, like western Europe, has the huge advantage of relative political stability. Most other places on the planet have seen their government overthrown in living memory, and can reasonably expect it to happen again in their kids' lifetimes."

I refer the honourable gentleman to the example of South Korea. War-ravaged peasant economy to industrial powerhouse in a single generation.

However, we don't need to look into the crystal ball. India and China are already the places where advanced production goes to be outsourced, and between them they comprise almost half the world's population.

154:

Did you read the cite? All they're aiming for is "0 deaths in new Ovlovs". Even that target has some issues, such as the apparent failure to consider our "single track roads" (Note for non-UK citizens, and even possibly for some of those who are. We have national primary roads with a single running lane and wider stretches every few hundred yards to allow opposing traffic to pass) where closing speeds can exceed 100mph relative (even just legally speaking they can be up to 120mph) and 2 competent drivers will accept this, relying on the one who has the "passing place" on their left to perform a "moose manoevre" in order to avoid a collision. This system does actually work, but the wheels might well fall off if an Ovlov decides to perform emergency braking and/or steering resulting in it being where the other driver is relying on it havn just left (or not gone).

155:

If computers become so dominant, is it so crazy to imagine robot space colonies, running on solar photo-voltaics?

It's the system latency from the ping times which is one of the obvious weaknesses, but Europe to California is already over 200ms.

We can also worry about ionising radiation and maintenance of hardware, but something like the Amazon cloud might work better than we might expect. It's a different sort of computing than a desktop machine.

The energy balance of the orbital does matter, but it has the potential to move the problem away from the somewhat fragile planetary system.

No, I doubt it would work, but I can imagine a certain adventurous robotic accountant telling tall tales.

156:

No, I doubt it would work, but I can imagine a certain adventurous robotic accountant telling tall tales.

Rsdud Adrny? ;-)

157:

A civilization based around massive computing resources would try and cluster them as close together as possible to reduce lag. Putting them in space in any quantity would be counterproductive.

158:

Dragon Tyrant Fable is sort of relevant to the discussion. I found Richard Morgan's picture of a gerontocracy, quite interesting in Altered Carbon, though stack technology seems "some way off...".

159:

You might want to check some of the more batch-like supercomputing jobs being carried out on the Amazon cloud.

A cloud supercomputer

It took 23 minutes to start up, so as long as all the hardware was on the same orbital, I doubt the lag would matter much for a job like this. I know I was a little surprised by this myself.

Anyway, I do "live" stuff over the internet with 200ms ping times. There's other reasons for that than lightspeed transmission delay, but it's around 18000 miles.

And yes, Clarke mentioned the control lag as a reason for the accident in A Meeting With Medusa, but can you really imagine a vehicle control system without local smarts, now that we have self-driving vehicles on test. He saw a real problem, but he didn't see the real answers that already existed. The story was published in 1971, and the first Soviet automated docking of spacecraft was in 1967, using the Igla system

160:

Did you read the cite? All they're aiming for is "0 deaths in new Ovlovs".

Did you? It was actually "no deaths or injuries in Volvos". They won't mention it (for obvious reasons), but I did hear the apocryphal statistic that no-one's died in a Volvo on a British road for much of the past decade.

I'd also disagree about whether you could count single-track roads as "national primary roads". Even so, the answer is fairly simple from a Volvo perspective - don't allow the vehicle to drive faster than it can see. Think of it as a variation on the "adaptive cruise control" stuff.

161:

The impact of long life might be major on academic science. On the one hand (as Popper said), certain ideas tend to take a generation to become accepted because scientists in their dotage can't square them with what they learned in their youth -- so, at the macro scale, major shakeups will probably occur more slowly (and arguably this is already showing up -- it's been 100 years since special relativity and the Copenhagen interpretation, while 100 years prior people still believed in phlogiston and humors). You might see a much greater industry of science in the details and fringes of existing domains (after all, the people who first developed these fields are still alive and capable of making advances) -- the equivalent of Watson and Mendel working together on designing synthetic organisms (with all the culture clash that implies).

On the other hand, the existing problem with tenure would be even worse -- tenured professors already inclined to keep their position will last longer, and the proportion of tenured faculty to graduate students, post-docs, and adjunct faculty will become even more skewed. Some of the overflow might go into alternatives -- post-doctoral students have historically flooded into industry (see: quants), and some adjunct faculty might move to primarily-online institutions or other more experimental places (like the 'boot camps' that have become trendy recently) the same way that adjunct faculty have historically moved to smaller institutions where they have a greater chance of being put on a tenure track. Nevertheless, when fame or impact is involved, our hypothetical Watson-equivalent will gather an outsized mass of people to work in his labs.

162:

You can disagree with whatever you like. I'm not going to read 80-odd pages of PowerPoint again, but look up an on-line atlas, enter "Lairg, UK" as a place and put it into roadmap view. Now look at the number of single-track A-roads there are running out of the town.

163:

Actually I forgot 2/3 of my answer in my last:-
On some of these roads sightlines can go out to a mile or more, so a "limit speed to what you can see" view can allow 100mph or more.
Also, when you can't see, unless you know the road well enough to know you have a passing place available to brake into if required a safe speed is more like "slow enough to allow you to stop in half the distance you can see" because the other guy needs some space to stop in too.

164:

We're seeing the development of this already in academia: the non-retirees.

Professors who have 'retired', but retain their labs, continue working, but don't hold any post. They retain an (honorary? depends) title, but not a chair. There is promotion into the chair they had. They actually see an upsurge in publication rate, due to a drop-off in bureaucracy, etc.

Start to get used to a disappearance of the 'pyramid', and promotion by seniority.

Again, I think holding 'bad' ideas for decades is hard. If you're a continuous researcher, rather than someone who has long since effectively moved to management, you're likely to persue lines of inquiry that are fruitful rather than hold a static viewpoint.

Similarly with the "Temporarily embaradded millionaires". I can be such a thing in my 30s or 40s. By my 50s I've silently realised my real position in life, but can't adjust to it. I've got kids, mortgages to pay off. By my 60s, i'm accepting my positiion , because I don't have the energy to be entrepeneurial.
But, in the Brave New World we're hypothesising? How can I hold the illusion for centuries when i've the energy to do something about it, and centuries of poverty to look forward to if I don't?


165:

My first thought on possible irrelevance of the United States was from another British author "Oft evil will doth evil mar". It's already happening in places, and while it may eventually be harsh, we (Writing from western Missouri.) may have it coming, for voting in politicians who bought into the idea of a sort of economic perpetual motion.

166:

There's an interesting webcomic that deals with a future including these issues called Quantum Vibe (http://www.quantumvibe.com/) but be aware that the author's a pretty hard core libertarian.

167:

"I rather hope and indeed pray that over time, politics will become so boring that most of it is automated away. Politicians are a truly appalling way to run a civilisation (except for all the alternatives), and even now, most politics is boring in the extreme."

A better description of that is 'hidden away', not 'automated away'.
Politics will determine what the automation does.

168:

" ISTM that things didn't start to get seriously cockeyed here in the good old U S of A until most of the Greatest Generation had shuffled off this mortal coil and they were no longer a force to be reckoned with."

And keeping things back inline with Our Honorable Host's wishes, I believe that it worked similarly with the UK. Once the people with memories of the 30's and 40's were gone, the right and the allegedly liberal center could start recreating the Good Old Days.

I note that their toughest nut to crack is the NHS, which is something with which the people have frequent and direct interaction.

169:

"...the equivalent of Watson and Mendel working together on designing synthetic organisms (with all the culture clash that implies)."

And Watson has been more and more a crank for quite some time now.

Given life expectencies well over a century, that'll be a major problem. It is just a subset of the whole gerontocracy problem, though.

Now, if we could sustain the same *creativity* over a century, at that point I think that we'd be looking at a genuine Transhumanist future.

170:

"Again, I think holding 'bad' ideas for decades is hard. If you're a continuous researcher, rather than someone who has long since effectively moved to management, you're likely to persue lines of inquiry that are fruitful rather than hold a static viewpoint."

I think that holding bad ideas for a long period of time is quite easy. What's hard is if there is actual, recognizable feedback, but there frequently isn't. And status/power/wealth provide a lot of insulation from casual feedback.

171:

Longevity impact … thoughts/observations:

Birthday/Xmas gifts … almost impossible to get someone something that they don’t already have unless it’s this year’s newest invention/gadget.

Babies – instead of horizontal slices of family giving a new parent advice on how to raise their offspring, the advice will come from a much deeper (longitudinal) perspective. Just as annoying though! Diapering babies will probably – alas! - remain a poopy business.

The age pyramid will become the age thread – long, with some looping back and forth – and no one age group/generation will control/dominate the course of culture/government/history...

Human condition milestones will be savored … they come only once in a life time … more celebration of each milestone.

‘’Happily-ever-after” – new fairy tales to explain what newbies-to-life (youngsters) should embrace as the meaning of life, what they should strive for.

“Been-there, done-that” – only applies to the so-so moments/experiences, achievements … best example that comes to mind is a new rendition of a piece of music that I thought was sublimely perfect (covered) by someone else quite some time ago … then out of nowhere someone new covers it, and it’s as though you’re hearing it for the first time … all over again.

Mentorship – there is a tremendous gratification/sense of accomplishment and vicarious pleasure in mentorship… quite similar to raising kids.

A’s-hire-A’s, B’s-hire-C’s --- professional envy is nothing new, but the types of people that I think will endure/thrive in a long-lived society is likely going to be made up mostly of people who don’t give up, and who actively pursue new interests and challenges. Flexibility – emotional, social and intellectual – will be increasingly important.

“Feels like just the other day” --- have met/worked with a bunch of different folks over the years in different configurations, at different times … including just within the past year … and it’s amazing how quickly you can re-establish a working relationship/rhythm, almost as though you’ve worked with them without interruption even though several years might have passed. (About half of the folk in this new business venture worked together at the same org about 5-6 years ago, a smaller group worked together with two of this group in an earlier business, and about one-in-four are completely new to this org. So, this is in a way a snapshot albeit with a much shorter time horizon, of the ways in which individuals will likely come together for a while, split apart (without any rancour) and then come back together again as new org.)

Cultural kinship/similar likes … The generational differences in cultural likes/dislikes in a long-lived society, e.g., music and literature, are in a way being played out right now but in terms of ethnic/cultural/nationalistic differences and blendings … Almost anyone now living in a major Western city is exposed to more cultural/ethnic/racial variation since probably the golden age of the Roman empire. This has a huge impact on how we value experience starting with what new/different means: new no longer automatically means threat, nor newer=better.

Probably the worst part of longevity is that you will no longer have the excuse … sorry, I just don’t have the time for this!

Who am I? Now vs. yesterday? If we're taught/brainwashed into believing that a person is immutable, or the opposite - that a person is supposed to constantly change then we're setting society up for problems. Every individual will want/be able to change at a different pace. Allowing for a mix/spectrum of permanent/steady vs. chameleon-like individuals would be a grown-up approach for society to take.

172:

Demographically, the future of the US is brighter than any other nation.

We are the only industrial nation with higher than replacement fertility ratres (TFR > 2.1). Everybody else's birth rates are delining. For example, by mid-century there will be 30 million fewer Japanese and 50 million fewer Russians. European birth rates are stagnant and China's one baby policy ensured that China will get old before it gets rich. In fact America will be the only society (outside of sub Saharan Africa) that is not demographically top heavy with old pensioners.

Furthermore, we are the only industrial nation that is accepting of large numbers of immigrants (unless you are a member of the Tea Party). “China can draw on a talent pool of 1.3 billion people, but the United States can draw on a talent pool of 7 billion and recombine them in a diverse culture that enhances creativity in a way that ethnic Han nationalism cannot.” - Lee Kuan Yew. Or any other ethnic natioalism, for that matter. Maybe the future America will speak Spanglish instead of English, but it will remain world's the dominant power.

Demographics alone ensure America dominance well into the next century

173:
"Oft evil will doth evil mar"

Reminiscent of Faust, or is it Faustus: "I am that evil much misunderstood which seeketh evil, but worketh good". Presumably purely by coincidence... I am not convinced that the political process should be left to Good Omens type ineffability...

Don't know about you but my gut feeling is that unless I get my pound of flesh for participating in this society, there will be trouble. Possibly the more thoughtful, well considered kind of trouble that causes real problems for entrenched interests.

174:

You forgot India. A population of 1.2 billion, a fertility rate of 2.5, a GDP that's averaged 1.6% growth since 1996, a lot of English speakers, lots of investment in education...

175:

Indai has the potential to become a super power but it is hobbled by endemic corruption, poor infrastructure, etc.:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/11/reports-of-indias-emergence-as-great.html

But the elemental problems produced by poverty, an inadequate educational system and pervasive corruption remain, and India’s mix of cultural diversity and democracy hampers rapid reform. For now, therefore, the ubiquitous reports of India’s emergence as a great power are premature at best. There’s no denying India’s ambition and potential, but as for its quest to join the club of great powers, the road is long, the advance slow and the arrival date uncertain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may seek to be a reformer, and he enjoys a reputation as a charismatic leader and skilled manager. He is also a proponent of improving ties with the United States and Israel. But he will face daunting obstacles in his bid to push India into the front rank of nations.

176:

As the OECD observes, "The share of the foreign-born population in the total population is especially high in Luxembourg, Australia, Switzerland, Israel, New Zealand and Canada where it ranges from 21% to 42%. In a number of other European countries as well (namely, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Estonia, Austria and Sweden), the share is higher than in the United States (13.1%)." As long as many immigrants to the US are forcibly kept on the edge of the law, I don't think that Americans have the right to tell anyone else that they are more accepting of immigrants.

http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/factbook-2013-en/01/02/01/index.html?itemId=/content/chapter/factbook-2013-6-en

177:

Hmmm .. saw Idiocracy ... consequently not so sure I agree with you.

178:

As an aside, I do wonder why people are so fixated on living on Mars, or trying to terraform it. Surely Venus, with a nice thick atmosphere is a much better prospect?

All you have to do with Venus is cool it down. An array of orbiting mirrors ought to do that fairly well, and after a few centuries it would cool off fairly effectively, to the point that colonies floating from balloons in the Venusian cloud-tops would be feasible.

179:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/01/us-europe-demographics-idUSKCN0JF1KA20141201

Europe is aging faster than any other region of the world. It badly needs immigrants. But many Europeans don't want them.

The "old continent" may be able to offset the impact of a graying workforce until around 2020 by bringing more women and elderly people into work, encouraging mobility within Europe and making better use of existing migrants, EU and OECD experts say.

But in the medium to long term, the European Union will need to attract significant numbers of skilled workers from beyond its borders - and overcome growing public opposition highlighted by the rise of populist anti-immigration parties.


180:

Few people who talk about terraforming have a grasp at how big of an undertaking it is to transform another planet.

Let’s take Venus for example, where Paul Burch proposes using the Bosch reaction to rapidly terraform Venus in less than a century. And on paper it looks like a possibility since the process is relatively simple, but the size of the task is truly staggering.

Assuming I haven’t made any bone headed math errors, begin with the mass of the Venusian atmosphere (almost 100 times more massive than Earth’s).

Utilizing the Bosch reaction (CO2 + 2H2 -> C + 2H2O), combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide to make carbon graphite and water. You would need a ball of solid hydrogen slightly larger than the dwarf planet Ceres.

Granted, this massive reaction would create an ocean nearly as large as 1/3 of the Earth’s ocean.

But it would also result in the deposition of a layer of graphite with an average thickness over the entire surface of Venus roughly equal to a 40 story building.

And where will this hydrogen come from? We could try the water bearing Type C asteroids of the asteroid belt. These make up 75% of all asteroids and have a water ice content between 10% and 15%. But even if we used all of their water, we would only have 80% of the amount of hydrogen required.

Comets, being far more numerous with a typical 40% water ice content, seem to be a better choice, though farther away and more expensive to retrieve, we would only need 0.003% of available comets.

And the surface of Venus (curtrently as hot as molten lead) wil remain hot for centuries as it radiates heat away into the now transformed atmosphere.

And why bother with tranforming Venus when it is so useful in its present state for industrial processes? Utilizing a reverse OTEC process which taps the temperature differential between the hot surface and the comfortabel upper atmosphere, enough energy can be generated to min carbon from the atmosphere and launch it into space via floating rail guns.

If we convert all that carbon into physical structures (sun shades, floating habitats, orbiting modules,etc.) made out of carbon fiber which is stronger than steel, we would create a mass of carbon fiber equivalent to a layer almost two football fields thick over the entire planet’s surface.

(Actual calculations available at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-moon-landing-45-years-later.html)

181:

Many people in most countries don't want immigrants, at least not immigrants with the same rights as everyone else. Right now Canada, Australia, Israel, and a long list of industrialized European countries let in more immigrants as a share of the population than the US does. For every anti-immigrant parlimentarian in the EU with an inconvenient family tree I could point to an anti-immigrant senator in the US with interests in orchards and cleaning services worked by illegal immigrants.

182:

"Demographically, the future of the US is brighter than any other nation.

We are the only industrial nation with higher than replacement fertility rates (TFR > 2.1). Everybody else's birth rates are declining. For example, by mid-century there will be 30 million fewer Japanese and 50 million fewer Russians. European birth rates are stagnant and China's one baby policy ensured that China will get old before it gets rich. In fact America will be the only society (outside of sub Saharan Africa) that is not demographically top heavy with old pensioners."

Good points. Note that if England hadn't accepted a large number of post-WWII immigrants, it'd be even further down than it is now.

I have a feeling that this will limit both China and India in the next half-century. They're going to be big, and first-tier economic (and later military) powers, but that will drag them down. In particular the USA has a chance of political regeneration from immigration and ethno-demographic change[1].

Now, prolonged lifespans will retard that quite a bit.


[1] Somebody said that if the demographics of the USA in 2008 were as they were in 1988, McCain would have beaten Obama, not needing *any* non-white votes.

183:

"... the share is higher than in the United States (13.1%)."

The joke is that I was vaguely aware of this.

I think that Western Europe will be far more accepting of immigrants as the current younger people mature into positions of power. If all that you know is easy cross-EU travel and migration, you're not going to have the same attitudes as those who didn't.

184:

"The "old continent" may be able to offset the impact of a graying workforce until around 2020 by bringing more women and elderly people into work, encouraging mobility within Europe and making better use of existing migrants, EU and OECD experts say.

But in the medium to long term, the European Union will need to attract significant numbers of skilled workers from beyond its borders - and overcome growing public opposition highlighted by the rise of populist anti-immigration parties."

You know, I see the media serving the elites saying this, but I don't see the rising wages which would indicate an actual shortages.

My second policy on this (my first is a loud 'BZZZZT!') is:
'Show me the Money!!!!!'

185:

People might disagree, citing 'But in the medium to long term...';
however, I've seen these predictions fail miserably for over a quarter-century.

186:

172: Your demographics is a bit out of date. The US's TFR is now 2.01, well below replacement, and below a few other industrialised countries such as France (2.08) and New Zealand (2.05). Its population increase is entirely down to immigration. The US also has fewer immigrants per head than quite a few countries, like the UK, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Spain and Norway -- it's hardly uniquely welcoming of immigrants.

(Data from the CIA World Factbook via Wiipedia.)

187:

Surely Venus, with a nice thick atmosphere is a much better prospect? All you have to do with Venus is cool it down.

Not even that: you just have to stay out of the bottom 25km of the pressure column and you'll be fine. (That, and find a convenient source of hydrogen atoms, which are kind of scarce.)

NB: I discussed Venus colonization here earlier this year. Maybe you missed it?

188:

Nile, KSR's Mars trilogy is nowhere near as depressing as his earlier _Icehenge_, which has people routinely forgetting everything they did earlier to such an extent that they-a-hundred-and-fifty-years-ago may well be entirely different people.

189:

... and that very video was inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson's work in _2312_, itself set in the Accelerando first mentioned in his _Blue Mars_. A large part of _Blue Mars_ deals with... the problems of aging!

The circle is complete.

190:

You're reading _Pandora's Star_, right? You know how many more books there are in the Commonwealth series-of-series? Five --oh, and a sixth coming, since #6 is the first half of a prequel to #3, #4 and #5. All these books are thicker than _Pandora's Star_. :)

(Just reread them, to refresh my memory before reading the latest. There are a lot of interconnections that aren't evident if you read them as they come out. The curse of serial fiction!)

191:

Within decades the fundamental most desirable resource will be computing power.

Not unless the law of supply and demand stops working. If the supply of computing power keeps increasing, the value of a unit of computing power will keep decreasing, and it's already low enough that projects like SETI@home can aggregate massive amounts of surplus computing power for free.

192:

I just turned 40. In my youth, I abused myself with hard work, hard play (drugs), and hard exercise (irrationally punishing martial arts). These days, I don't work as hard (switched from black market kitchen labor to accounting) but I do bike, walk, and weight train daily. I'm in the best shape of my life! I have to watch my knees and back a bit, but the load bearing exercise has been great for soothing the aches and pains I've had since youth. Being this age has been incredible for my self esteem too. I recognize bullshit and bullshitters right off and I'm not socially afraid to take the easy way to walk away from them. Cutting the dross from my life and engaging in the rewarding is so easy now (watch politics or hike Boulder Mesa this weekend? Easy answer!). I tend to think that the world changes constantly while the general shape of things remains static. Those of us not of the elite always have the same lot: enjoy the enjoyable and the meaningful and cut the bullcrap that makes you miserable. If I could take a pill that would halt my state right now, psychological and physiological, I'd take it. I don't have a pension now! So you can't take from me what I don't have!

193:

Spitballing here, but in a very real sense energy buys time. That is, lots of energy can make a lot happen in a small amount of time. Contrariwise, smaller energy budgets imply that more time is needed to get things done. If you want to think of this as Hohmann orbits vs constant acceleration all the way that's fine, but it also applies to quite mundane activities every day here on Earth.

Does longer (maybe much longer) lifespan imply the patience to put up with a lower-energy lifestyle? In my own very idiosyncratic case, I think it does. To put it more concretely, I want to get to Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, the Oort cloud fast, because I don't have a lot of time here on this Earth to waste. But give me ten times the span of years I have now? Suddenly minimum-energy orbits aren't so bad.

The same applies to making and getting stuff on this little planet of ours, in spades.

194:

Some of the effects you describe I agree with (and can corroborate, as someone about your age), but you are ascribing too many things to neurological clutter.

The crankiness some people develop with age is an effect of hormonal changes, not of experience, and not (generally) neurological. It is particularly common for men, with the loss of testosterone. Not all people get crankier and less tolerant when they get old.

I would say almost the same of the increasing mental slowness you describe, though I don't know the cause. Again some very old people can be quite sharp and quick. If I were you, I would look into what might be causing it.

195:

Also, the do-over. We can't manage that these days because attaining mastery in just about any of the arts requires a minimum of two decades. Once you've sunk all that effort and time and money to be an automotive engineer, you're stuck with that means of learning your livelihood, whether you like it or not.

If you think that I'm rather bitter about the limited opportunities kids get to choose a career, you'd be right. Knowing what I know now, I'd have been better served going into something where I had the opportunity to use my hands, say furniture making or industrial design. Rather than the math and physics I majored in and which I am really not temperamentally suited.

196:

Your 500 y/o oak analogy reminds me of sequoia trees, which are partially dependent on drought and fire to re-seed. Short view of random events indeed.

197:

Smedly Butler was approached by a cabal of bankers led by a politician named Prescott Bush. If you think Prescott Bush sounds like he could be George W's grandfather, that's because he is.

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

198:

@Matt

If your population is near-immortal (and birth rates very, very low), then having a high growth rate overall doesn't matter as much except to poor people still hoping to converge with the rest of the world in income. The Society of Immortals could have a growth rate in the <1% a year range, with most economic activity being the replacement of old goods and services, and with a lot of human activity not showing up in traditional GDP measures.

@ScentofViolets

But give me ten times the span of years I have now? Suddenly minimum-energy orbits aren't so bad.

If we ever do space colonization, that's how I think it will happen. Space colonies will be assembled in Earth orbit with robots remotely controlled from Earth's surface, and then after getting them completed and populated you can gradually migrate them outwards using a combination of ion drives and the "interplanetary travel network". It might take you a few years to get out to Mars or the outer solar system, but you've got time and hopefully a reliable space colony to stay in while that goes on.

And of course, if your colonies are filled with near-immortals, spending five years in the colony as it migrates out to Saturn isn't going to be a big problem for them.

199:

Weird, that sentence ending in response to Matt's post got eaten. It included the sentence fragment "less than 1% a year range, with most economic activity going to replace and repair the existing stuff as it breaks down".

[[ That's because your < broke the HTML of your text. Use &lt; for the 'less than' sign - mod ]]

200:

Spitballing here, but in a very real sense energy buys time. That is, lots of energy can make a lot happen in a small amount of time. Contrariwise, smaller energy budgets imply that more time is needed to get things done. If you want to think of this as Hohmann orbits vs constant acceleration all the way that's fine, but it also applies to quite mundane activities every day here on Earth.

Indeed! The economic-slowdown tangent seems to be a popular one, so I'll add: in a robotized economy, with indefinitely prolonged life, you can trade time for a lot of different things. Sunlight is free. So are air, seawater, and common rocks. If you need some copper right away you can still try the Old World economy where you trade something of value to the rentier who has title to a copper mine. If you have something of value, that is. Otherwise you patiently wait for a solar powered robot to extract the 100 ppm copper content of basalt. In the New World economy the manufacturing of goods resembles pre-industrial gathering of plant products more than the 20th century factory: the product largely makes itself, leisure time is abundant, and there is little incentive for "subsistence farmers" of self-reproducing machinery to participate in the cash economy.

201:

"I don't see the rising wages which would indicate an actual shortages".

You're assuming a free market, in which the laws of supply and demand apply.

You're assuming that a mechanism exists by which isolated individuals can apply their scarcity value to effective negotiation without being fired and blacklisted.

You're assuming that there are no monopsonist cartels in the labour 'market' suppressing the price signal of an excess of demand over supply.

You're assuming an economy running on competitive production, rather than rent-seeking.

You're assuming that the end-state of the Anglo-Saxon economies isn't a concentration of wealth so severe that capital formation in the middle classes has ceased; capital is no longer deployed by the wealthy in productive enterprises, and it is not recirculating in wages and consumption.

And this process is accelerating. The collapse in demand for unskilled labour is moving further up the value chain of clerical, managerial, skilled and technical work.

What will you 'bargain' with when you have no consumer power, no political representation, and no rights? When *all* the money and power is on the other side, and every skilled technician who wants a pay rise is outnumbered ten to one by slightly less-skilled (or massively overqualified) people who'd take any wage on offer?

A skills-gap driven wage shift *is* happening in India and China - but from a very low base, and without collective bargaining. And those countries are working very hard indeed to correct the supply shortages.

That isn't happening around here, and I do not believe that the capital necessary to reflate the skills economy would ever be released.

And why would it be, when it is more profitable to offshore production - or withdraw from production entirely - and deploy the capital in the purchase of monopolies and the extraction of rents?

Go and read the less-exciting posts of the 'Things I won't work with' blog for a view of the contracting STEM economy in action.

HTTP://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2014/12/01/cuts_coming_at_gsk.php#comments

It's the future, happening already: and the smart kids around here are learning German.

202:

The kind of computing power that will be so desirable that 99% of our manufacturing and energy will go into it for decades is non-trivial AI. In an era where almost all intellectual property is created by AI there will be a computing resource "arms race". The nation/corporation that has the most dominates the field.

203:

>the increasing mental slowness you describe, though I don't know the cause.

One theory is that most people's vision, sense of touch, proprioception, and hearing gets slowly worse as they age. With sensory information becoming more and more noisy and possibly high/low filtered as well, a lot more processing time is needed to integrate it into an existing gestalt and respond with a suitable action.

A loose analogy might be motorway speeds on a bright, clear day versus a day with thick fog.

204:

I'd agree that, with the caveat that the acceptance is unevenly distributed.

205:

Long life at a price?

Let's suppose that research on diet and exercise produces scientific consensus around a regime not too far away from current best advice, but with enough of the gaps filled in to offer an extra 20 years of life and excellent mental acuity to 80. The cost is the self-discipline required to maintain the BMI of an endurance athlete, stick to a diet that is cheap but bland and incompatible with the consumption of processed food, especially ready meals, and undertake 20 minutes hard exercise every other day. Alcohol, tobacco, etc. are disallowed by this regime, of course.

People on this regime are identifiable at sight from their lean and hungry look. What are the social implications? As an employer, wouldn't you rather hire one of these? If you do, is that discrimination? As a government, wouldn't you try and nudge people into this - but what about those who can't or won't follow it? Will there be "fat is good - don't trust the scientists" campaigns? Will they turn out to be funded by Big Pizza? Will somebody's class be immediately apparent from their physique - a physique that, if anything, makes them look scrawny and fragile?

206:

I gave up partway into Pandora's Star. Okay, I gave up on it fifty pages from the end when I realized there was another book of this stuff to follow, pinched myself, and muttered "sunk cost fallacy".

Reason I gave up on it? I just didn't buy that future. Much English Home Counties, very suburbia, wow! With interstellar wormholes. Yeah, right: talk about failure of vision, both in the human dimension -- even with life prolongation surely we'd see a bit more cultural change -- and in the unforeseen-consequences-of-tech dimension. (For my own take on that kind of tech and its implications, see "Glasshouse".)

207:

The blaster in Glasshouse is still my go-to example of the breadth of the implications of a single change.

208:


There is an amusing little Short TV series being broadcast on the BBC at the moment.


“Posh People: Inside Tatler, BBC2 - TV”

Short review here...

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/posh-people-inside-tatler-bbc2--tv-review-9880618.html


This is relevant to the thread because it is an examination of a long lived magazine that caters to the needs of the British Aristocracy...which is one of the longest lived social institutions/ruling classes currently still in government on planet earth. Bluntly these people have more Money and Power than God and they are extremely good at hanging on to it. It is not an accident that the British Public Schools are currently recruiting the Children of the New Oligarchs as a means of refreshing the British Aristocracy they have always done this with Foreign Royalty - whatever you call the Foreign Aristocracies they are Royalty in all but name.

Just have a look at the British Aristocracies Links to the Aristocracy of the U.S. of A since before the foundation of the US of A. I take the view that the British Aristocracy simply exported their social model to the US of A where it has flourished mightily with extra special racism sauce though I will cheerfully admit that I have trouble understanding the US of As political system evolution from the British system.

Back here in the U.K there is the possibility that we might be able to modify our social system to something a little more, oh, don’t know what it might be called ...egalitarian perhaps? But whatever it might be called I don’t think that it is likely to happen in the near future. Unless it happens in Scotland of course.

See here in today’s news...

"No wonder landowners are scared. We are starting to learn who owns Britain Scotland is breaking the cover-up that stifles our political thought. Bring the Highland Spring south”


http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/03/landowners-scotland-britain-feudal-highland-spring


The longevity of Aristocracies as a social institution and ruling class based upon Family and Clan that make up a class can only be enhanced by the Forthcoming Longevity treatments. Have you noticed the ages of the current senior members of the British Royal Family?

As for the candidates for Aristocracy from the modern oligarchies? Of course some will fail the Longevity test, but that has always been the case up until now since not only have the Ariosto’s been prone to the same causes of death as the rest of us but they have a strong tendency to fight like cats in a sack for ascendency in their own little world which in the era of British civil wars did tend to reduce life expectancy by a head; one aristocratic head at a time. At least this has been the case throughout British history as well as just about every other society that I've read about for entertainment.


Oops, sorry Charlie! Is your cat still attempting to assassinate you? Make that fight like Rats in a sack rather than 'cats in a sack'.

Back to that TV prog on Posh People and “Tattler". If you look at that program, and others like it, you will notice how healthy the Rich and Famous look these days. Of COURSE some of them will die of various addictions to fashionable substances but even that will be non lethal in future as will breaking your neck whilst jumping a horse over a fence whilst ridding side saddle and similar such activities. I don't know about immortality for the masses but I think that we are reaching the point at which death will become a postponable optional extra for the members of the aristocracies and even upon death they will just be replaced by copies of themselves.

209:

Considering that the .01% enjoy holding others in thralldom, I expect a hypothetical life extension tech to come at a high price and it may be made available to a working stiff with a useful skill set on the condition of, say fifty years additional service or an astronomical price tag.
At 58, I already have issues with remembering a face and a voice, with the exception of what name goes with these, as awkward as one might imagine.

210:

What will you 'bargain' with when you have no consumer power, no political representation, and no rights? When *all* the money and power is on the other side, and every skilled technician who wants a pay rise is outnumbered ten to one by slightly less-skilled (or massively overqualified) people who'd take any wage on offer?

Sadly, "smashing the hell out of everything owned by the aristocrats if our demands aren't met" is an effective and historically popular bargaining chip. It's my hope that the rentier classes will allow the rest of the population a comfortable living as something other than impoverished desperate serfs...but I'm aware that has never been a universally popular option in aristocratic circles. A topical example is Gawker's socio-economic defense of riots, pointing out that while specific riots are expensive and annoying, the potential for such things can prevent greater problems.

211:

This reminds of the background of Pratchett's Strata

...the local Company store, where your Days could be cashed for carefully calculated longevity treatment -- at the guaranteed rate of twenty-four standard hours extra life per Day. Only the Company paid in Days, and only the Company gave the treatment. Textbook economics followed that the Company owned everywhere and everybody.

212:

"And this process is accelerating. The collapse in demand for unskilled labour is moving further up the value chain of clerical, managerial, skilled and technical work."

Please note that half of the stuff you are pointing out are due to the concentration of political power, but half is due to raw market power, and the sum is still the same - the modern First World economy is not experiencing shortages of labor[1], and generally hasn't since the OPEC Era started.

[1] Save for some niches here and there, which will always be the case.

213:

Yes, acceptance of immigration across the EU will be unevenly distributed, but I'll wager a Big Mac[1] that the trends are strong over age groups.

[1] If I lose, send me your mailing address, and I'll FedEx you one :)

214:

Again, I think holding 'bad' ideas for decades is hard. If you're a continuous researcher, rather than someone who has long since effectively moved to management, you're likely to persue lines of inquiry that are fruitful rather than hold a static viewpoint.

I suspect that bad ideas that are hard (i.e., falsifiable) will be difficult to hold onto for long periods, while soft bad ideas (cultural assumptions, biases, best practices) are going to stay -- and in some sense these are the more problematic ones. This is exactly the kind of bad ideas that are at issue with Watson (and why he's a crank now) -- he hasn't lost his ability to do any of the technical work he did, nor has he forgotten all his organic chemistry knowledge, but his assumptions about racial and gender differences are no longer culturally acceptable.

On top of this, soft bad ideas are (because they are difficult to falsify) often either accepted uncritically (because meaningful criticism is more difficult) or debated endlessly (because arguments on both sides are easy) -- a perfect storm for creating cognitive dissonance (a position is adopted uncritically and then, later on, is attacked often enough to become fully solidified as part of the person's identity). Even if over time people *do* learn from their mistakes and reverse their positions on these things, the half-life of soft bad ideas may be a significant portion of a lifetime (or at the very least, longer than half a generation by current generation-length standards) -- which would mean that, in the context of any policies formed by a democratic process, progress would actually be slower.

215:

"god" a.k.a. BigSkyFairy is a hard bad idea.
No BSF can be detected, at all, anywhere, anywhen.
Yet people still swallow this rubbish.

Err ... does this now make your proposition a soft or hard bad idea?

216:

I'm not sure what you're proposing, other than a bet that I don't want to win (anything involving MaccyDs I find to be in bad taste, and that's a comment on the food, ok).

Do you mean that similar percentages of people in $agegroup in Nation1 and in Nation2 are opposed to immegration? I was looking at the question on a regional scale and am pretty sure that Scots are more accepting of immigraton than people living South of the Severn-Wash line.

217:

Greg, apparently you never got the "Don't be a dick" memo that has been circulating around atheists for the past few years.

Leaving aside the immature bigotry of your hateful anti-religious comment, how exactly is God a hard (falsifiable) problem? The existence or non existence of God by definition is by definition impossible to prove or disprove either logically or empirically.

Its a matter of belief (or lack thereof) either way.

As for the arrogant conceit that relgious people are all stupid, perhaps they just wish to avoid the whole nihilism thing inherent in atheism.

You know, that without a God the univese is meaningless and without inherent purpose; and without a soul (free will being impossible in a purely material mechanical materialistic world view, and reucing the Self to mere illusion) making it impossible for individuals to create their own meeting. And no universal objective basis for morality or human dignity exept the limited morality found in nature that is strictly limited to those with genetic ties.

IOW, abject moral and existential nihilism all the way up and down.

But for now, just stop being a dick.

218:

Untestable propositions (eg God exists) are by definition not scientific, but there is plenty of scope to introduce them as axioms in a perfectly logical system. They are not going away.

219:

I suspect that bad ideas that are hard (i.e., falsifiable) will be difficult to hold onto for long periods, while soft bad ideas (cultural assumptions, biases, best practices) are going to stay

Yes, I agree. From an academic perspective what seems to happen is that (hard) bad ideas are supported at the moment because they're "not falsified"; its typically possible to pick holes in any supposedly 'definitive' experiment and show some weakness somewhere that enables you to believe, eg the sun goes round the Earth. This enables a crank to ignore the falsification, and just keep stating their position. The active scientists however see the utility of the new Newtonian dynamics and produce new science.

This is the difference between the active "retirees" in the lab and those that have "gone emeritus". The latter cranks no longer need to make progress and just keep repeating their prejudices.

@greg: "No BSF can be detected, at all, anywhere, anywhen.". This is actually the strongest argument that a theist can present. Personally I can see people getting tired of it over time. My rebuttal to that point is that nobody states just that a God exists, but also other things: e.g. the existence of a Soul, of Heaven, etc. that are more amenable to falsification.

e.g. Ernest Walton (of splitting the Atom fame; at least in Ireland where he's our only Nobel physicist so far) told a story of someone wanting him to do experiments with a Wilson cloud chamber; these evacuate the air suddenly around a radioactive source to reveal condensation tracks caused by ionising radiation. The investigator in question wanted to try putting insects, mice, etc. into a cloud chamber to see if condensation tracks could be seen on the mouses' departing soul ...

220:

Pandora's Star was the first and last novel I read by that author. The world-as-built was so implausible that I was sure for the first 2/3 of the book that it must be some sort of playful, satirical experiment with the genre itself, as if Stanisław Lem ghost-wrote it according to someone else's outline. But no, it wasn't that good. It felt cramped and dated a mere 5 years after publication, "cramped" being an amazing feat for a book of such length. It sticks out in my memory as one of the few bad books I read to completion in my adult years. When I was a child I thought I must finish any book I started, like eating any ice cream cone once licked.

221:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE

Enough with the "God (is|is not) falsifiable" shtick. Knuckles rapped all round. OK?

222:
The investigator in question wanted to try putting insects, mice, etc. into a cloud chamber to see if condensation tracks could be seen on the mouses' departing soul...

Brilliant!! But the general consensus is that humans are special and so we might need a human volunteer, perhaps with a strong sense of self. Perhaps a politician could be volunteered and the ethics committee subverted? But almost seriously, if there's a really good reason to believe "x" is true and "x" is important to the human condition and happiness, should unethical experiments be permitted? If the experiments kill a million people but produce immortality for everyone else, should they be encouraged?

223:

Oh! And to actually bring it around full circle to the original topic, the effects of centuries-long lifespans were one of the many things portrayed implausibly in Pandora's Star. I seem to recall that there were two young men who started the wormhole company. Both were grad students at the time of the invention, one a hard-charging business focused type and the other a relaxed surfer dude. We see a little of them at the time of their world-changing invention. Then we see them centuries later in greater detail and... they appear to have been very little shaped by subsequent years! One of them still loves running his company after centuries, the other still just wants to chill out and travel. Neither of them seemed to have undergone the changes of attitudes, interests, or accumulated wisdom that you'd expect after 30 years of adulthood, much less 100. In the context of the novel life extension felt less like a revolution and more like a lazy plot device so all the characters, at all points in their lives, could speak and think like the same 20-somethings.

224:

I happen to like Hamilton's books -- they certainly have problems, but they're Big Fun Space Opera. The societies are no less implausible than the Culture, and Hamilton is less of a travelogue writer than Banks was.

But I'm not going to pretend BFSO is hard science fiction.

(My favourite FSO continues to be the Mageworlds, by Doyle and MacDonald. The first three or five books, anyway.)

225:

> I suspect that bad ideas that are hard (i.e.,
> falsifiable) will be difficult to hold onto for long
> periods

I don't know. An otherwise-intelligent friend suddenly bought into the whole "Jewish conspiracy ruling the world" thing about 25 years ago, clinging to that belief like a skydiver to his parachute. No rational discussion was possible.

It was like, somehow, the filtering mechanism in his brain suddenly stopped working, and he didn't see any difference between the little psychotic pamphlets and any more-rational sources of information.

I do have to admit, a belief that almost anyone might somehow be in control of the world situation instead of the E-ticket ride to chaos and disaster I see would be most comforting, but it's awfully hard to hide things for long, which has been the downfall of many otherwise-attractive conspiracy theories.

226:

223: Pandora's Star:

Morning light Mountain was quite cool though...

... And the idea of God might be falsifiable if believers could unequivocally say what they mean by "God". Is going meta on this permissible?

227:

I found Hamilton's "Greg Mandel" books readable, though they'll never be on my favorites list. And I quite liked "Great North Road". But I hate putting down a book or series before it's done, and I felt like an animal about to chew its own leg off before I finished the Reality Dysfunction books.

It wasn't apparent from the cover that Pandora's Star was part of another endless Soap Opera in Spaaace...

Well, obviously his editors and readers like that kind of thing, but I think I'm going to bail on the others after finishing Pandora's Star.

228:

Alastair Reynolds (Revelation Space universe) anyone? Made STL space opera sexy again, IMO.

229:

I don't mind accepting impossible premises in my reading. I love the Culture, Discworld, Grossman's Magicians trilogy... But the impossible premises should have significant, internally consistent consequences. I felt like Pandora's Star didn't deliver that at all. It was like watching Star Trek, a horrible inverse-anachronism setting where life never became different enough to culture-shock 20th century citizens of the Anglosphere, even though it should have, given centuries of cultural drift and world-changing technologies. I see that a lot of people like Pandora's Star, including people whose judgment I normally trust when it comes to books, so maybe the problem is mine.

230:

Adding to the list ... impact of longevity:

Alone-time/sensory filters ... more valuable because our brains cannot be shut down and will process whatever input they receive. Business opportunity: Pre-perception (brain-spam)filters... save your brain by keeping out unwanted junk (perceptions/sensory stimuli). Meditation might become part of one's daily workout program ... to rest and reset the brain/mind.

Peers/reference groups ... assume that pregnancy/having babies is delayed indefinitely ... now only a very small fraction of the population is having a baby in any given year. Pre-longevity treatment availability, there were enough children of a particular age cohort in almost every neighborhood so that they all had friends who were the same ... their peers, age-wise. If there's only 1 child under 10 years per community of 10,000 people, who is that child's peer? Who does that child identify with? Doesn't this actually do away with most cultural/historical notions of 'generation'? Age will be a biologic data point, not a personal/social identity component. (Which of these groups is likelier to seek out life extension?)

Statutes of limitation vs. "Right to be Forgotten" (or, will it become easier or harder to get away with being a jerk)... wrongs done us are unlikely to be easily forgotten, and because of extended life spans, the consequences of some civil wrongs that are currently waited out (so that they cannot be pursued in court) may need to be revisited. (Examples: extended exposure to certain toxins, celebrities being outed for sexual assault.)

Genetic stagnation vs. visible genetic drift ... it's been about 10,000 years since the last of the ABO blood types showed up (type AB)... given an extended life span, would society welcome a new blood group ... or any other measurable (natural/random) change to its genetic code. Another possibility is the eventual blending of races ... and family lines. The degree of relatedness with one's 30times 'great' grandchild is probably about the same as with any random stranger.

Religion vs. psychology ... psychology is currently treated/regarded mostly as a 'soft' science. I think this will be the hardest science to establish as 'real' because once it is, there's a lot of BS that will have to be tossed out. I'm not holding my breath though ... because if people still can't admit that the actual age of this planet is much greater than 6,000 years based on geologic and fossil evidence, those same people are less likely to be swayed by (psychological) data that requires a thorough understanding of statistics, neurology, endocrinology, developmental biology, etc.

Moore's Law goes biologic ... there's no reason why the brain's wetware cannot be improved upon to make it faster, less likely to fray (capture every stray input), more efficient, etc. Increasing the number of folds (gyri) and sulci in our brains would do that. The limiting factor for speed of thought (time) is the distance over which electrical impulses must travel. Also -- don't know if anyone's ever studied this -- is there a practical limit to the size of the various brain cells: axons, neurons, glia, etc.? If these could be miniaturized, then storage/processing could be improved.

231:

What I'm suggesting is that (since we're talking about the future), the current generation of 20-somethings in the EU will be more accepting than the 50-somethings, since the first group will have grown up with far more openness and mobility (and the ability to casually chat across the continent/world).

I expect the group being born around now will be moreso.

232:

Yes, "But!".

Possibly the ability to communicate simply means there's more people to disagree with, resulting in the way threads get derailed here, except on a global basis, which may be a tad more serious if most people (nations) are armed. I'm glad there were no guns or nukes in alt.atheism (1982-89)...

233:

" Possibly the ability to communicate simply means there's more people to disagree with .."

Maybe so, BUT, you might like to consider the possibility that what those, ' More People ' might represent is not just people to disagree with but rather people of like mind that YOU might never have supposed share your own peculiar tastes ..Political Parties of like minds can form as readily as, say, Child Molesting/Rape Gangs...I refuse to use the term 'Pedophile '... and some Political Groupings are Very Nasty Indeed!

So, if you are a member of a Like Tastes Group, and a... ALL RIGHT THINKING PEOPLE MUST AGREE!!! .. Party then here is the Sheer Joy of the Internet...
You need NEVER EVER speak /communicate with anyone who disagrees with you. You might never communicate anyone other than your like minded Confreres.... save to gather information on just how you might destroy the others! The Enemy! And Quite Right Too!

And I can tell that YOU are UP TO SOMETHING that might not serve the interests of “People like Us”

I haven’t quite figured out what those activities might be, BUT, Clearly.... Your Activities MUST be reported to The Powers That BE!! This IS for the Greater GOOD!!

234:

Oh, and also - another Thing - following my post at 233 in response to your post...

What makes you think that the denizens that dwell in the depths of alt.atheism " I'm glad there were no guns or nukes in alt.atheism (1982-89)..." aren't heavily armed but rather are simply biding their time until the Happy Day that They Might STRIKE first in a Nuclear Exchange against your particular form of Atheism that is Clearly the WRONG kind of Atheism?

235:

" Moore's Law goes biologic ... there's no reason why the brain's wetware cannot be improved upon to make it faster, less likely to fray (capture every stray input), more efficient, etc. Increasing the number of folds (gyri) and sulci in our brains would do that."

That rather reminded me of an ancient reference to a Sci Fact piece by an Ancient Sci Fi writer along the lines of the folly of a group of Gorillas endeavouring to design a super Ape...a web search took me to...


" Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin wanted to rebuild the Red Army, in the mid-1920s, with Planet-of-the-Apes-style troops by crossing humans with apes. This was according to a report in The Scotsman newspaper on 20 December 2005.1 "

http://creation.com/stalins-ape-man-superwarriors

Not my first choice but...who would have thunk it!

So, maybe Asimov?

Ho hum...


" Isaac Asimov’s 1964 Predictions About What the World Will Look 50 Years Later — in 2014 "


http://www.openculture.com/2013/08/isaac-asimovs-1964-predictions-about-2014.html


1964! I was 15 years old! SOB...I give up.

I'm overcome by age related degenerative cynicism. Must go and read an Interesting Lie that isn't woven around U.K Politics and the " Autumn Statement: A pre-election Budget "

236:

after years of reflection it seems to me that much of what we do is due to genetic programming (this includes hormones turning on and off). Its quite a challenge to know what true 'free will/choice' based decisions we make. Corollary ... memory of programmed responses are of lesser value than true free choice outcomes. Maybe someday we can just rerun the 'programs' with appropriate context and cues. Sure ... individual worldlines are unique and have value .... the real question is what do we really need to remember.

237:

I agree that I am not the same person I was when I was born or when I was a child or when I was a young adult. People recognize that, but studies show that we have a hard time believing we won't change much in the future. But consider immortality - a thousand years is much, much longer than 100 years. Imagine someone from a thousand years adjusting to live now. And a thousand years is nothing compared to a million years. And a million years is nothing compared to eternity.


As we get older, many of our behaviors are grooved into our brains/minds. We are more efficient in doing stuff we learned well. But we don't adapt well outside of the grooves. Look at the ages of people who come up with innovative science. They're young. The older we get, the harder it is to adapt come up with new ideas or changing conventions.

238:

If you are worried about rapid adaptation, just take a drug that increases brain plasticity. They exist now in rudimentary form, presumably because nobody has sought to design any with this function in mind. Here is a critical look at Valproic acid.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-limits-of-neuroplasticity/

There are also hints that modulated magnetic fields in the 10mT range can have a similar effect.

In short, brain plasticity (or lack of it) may not be a problem in old age for much longer.

239:

Anyone who doesn't think that Banksie was a good traveloguer should read "Raw Spirit". Despite the way it was sold the book is much more of a travelogue and autobiography than a "$single_malt gives a mixture of iodine and mutton with a whiff of whins waiting to whoosh up your nose" whisky-tasting book.

240:

On that level I'd agree pan-EU; as I say I was thinking that some parts of a single EU nation-state are already much more accapting of immigrants than other parts of the same one.

241:

Back in the day, there was a brisk turn-over of the elites, due to the high cost of failure

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die ...

242:

I felt like Pandora's Star didn't deliver that at all. It was like watching Star Trek, a horrible inverse-anachronism setting where life never became different enough to culture-shock 20th century citizens of the Anglosphere,

Yup, that's exactly why I gave up on the book, fifty pages before the end.

History makes an alien world of our own countries, in less time even than a single life-span. Really, really alien.

243:

That's why I also got irritated with many of the Dan Brown-a-likes; they postulated the uncovering of a major secret about how the world works, but at the end of hte novel it doesn't have any real effect at all. Rather like many of Michael Crichtons novels, they sweep it all under the carpet and make the whole journey worthless, that is if you like a bit of difference. I suppose they were written to appeal to conservative minded folk instead of the likes of me.

And in that respect Hamilton is probably a smash hit. I thought the ending of the Nights Dawn trilogy was stupid and annoying.

244:

And in that respect Hamilton is probably a smash hit. I thought the ending of the Nights Dawn trilogy was stupid and annoying.

I managed to read the Night's Dawn trilogy, and liked many bits in it, but the ending (or rather, most of the third book) was just stupid. I think I read them twice and put the books into circulation after that.

I read the Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained by the sheer force of cool gadgets, but I've never gotten far into the Void series. (probably not worth the effort.)

Now that I think of it, I agree that my annoyance with the series is probably exactly because the society is still the same old, the same old.

245:

I'm not sure that creative thought diminishes with age. In my teens and twenties working in a pathology labs I was a real pain in the arse because I was always seeing ways to improve and simplify the work. Some of these were practical but some just wild ideas.
I never stopped this impulse to innovate but as I got older I had less energy to put behind these ideas and as the person in charge I had to deral with the innate conservatism of most staff.
I always tried to encourage my staff to make suggestions. This is now formalised as a "Clinical Improvement" in the NHS and senior staff are obliged to review any suggestion put forward by junior staff in this form.
Over the past 10 years before I retired from full time work only two out of 20 staff regularly put forward these suggestions. One of them was in his 60s and the other mid-twenties.
There were occasional sugestions from others but over half the staff never suggested anything.
In my own case I still have the same attitude and If I were to be rejuvenated I don't think I would be any different to my younger self except that I would have more energy and less arrogance than first time round.

246:

Not just Dan Brown ripoffs. Every conspiracy theory you can imagine. The Illuminati rule the world! Obama was not born in the USA! The WTC was blown up by the US govt! Jesus never existed!... etc etc yawn. Even if they are all true.

247: [...]postulated the uncovering of a major secret about how the world works, but at the end of the novel it doesn't have any real effect at all.

Quite so and it'll be interesting to see how OGH handles Case Nightmare Green with respect to afterwards, if there is an afterwards. I think part of the charm of the Laundry, is the way it dovetails into the way things are, (as did A Colder War) though I can't imagine HMG not making more use of geises (? can't get over how it's apparently pronounced much less spelt!) particularly with respect to (say) mundane tax collection...

248:
[…] but rather are simply biding their time until the Happy Day that They Might STRIKE first in a Nuclear Exchange against your particular form of Atheism that is Clearly the WRONG kind of Atheism?

Wrong?! My atheism is self-consistent, rational and takes account of the world, to suggest it’s wrong is to deny its modest and inherent brilliance, well, that’s unpossible. Even so, does MAD work in a revolutionary or counter-revolutionary context? Will our Purity of Essence preserve our doctrine? General Ripper thinks so.

That said, few would have believed in the last years of the twentieth century alt.atheism was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences much sneakier than we ideologically correct atheists and yet as mortal as our own; that as atheists busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency atheists went to and fro over Usenet about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their dominion over theistic debate. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older traditions as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of theistic intelligence as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most atheists fancied there might be other intelligent agents, probably inferior to themselves and were ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of the internet, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded the domain of alt.atheism within the Usenet kingdom with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.


249:

I don't know. An otherwise-intelligent friend suddenly bought into the whole "Jewish conspiracy ruling the world" thing about 25 years ago, clinging to that belief like a skydiver to his parachute. No rational discussion was possible.

Grand Unified Conspiracy Theories (as opposed to theories about particular small-scale conspiracies) seem to be the end result of several common soft bad ideas interacting, rather than a single hard idea. Specifically, it's the soft bad idea that history is understandable and under conscious and intentional control (or, to say it another way, everything happens for a reason) interacting with availability bias and a confluence of accidental factors. As long as you keep the idea of a humanly-meaningful and rigidly-controlled history axiomatic, almost no GUCT can be falsified because any evidence against it can be re-cast as evidence of even tighter control. It's easy to come up with a list of cognitive biases that are important in supporting GUCTs, without which most would fall apart, and most of these are soft (culturally-enforced or culture-bound) heuristics -- the idea that influential events have causes that are of the same scale is a useful one in minor interpersonal cases but fails when applied to a large domain, as an example.

Anti-jewish conspiracy theories are a particular special case, because (between a culture with an emphasis on financial and intellectual success and a religious taboo against marrying outside the group) european jews are quite financially successful and influential. Such conspiracy theories protect the egos of the people who hold them by implying that their success isn't the result of being brought up to value working hard and being intelligent, but instead some sort of super-sized nepotism (which may play a minor role, but almost certainly doesn't play more of a role than it does with any other racial or cultural group -- nobody makes a big fuss about Chinese resturants employing a lot of Chinese people, and the impact of this effect by whites on non-whites or by men on women is almost definitely greater on the whole than that of any smaller or less-influential group).

250:

Not just Dan Brown ripoffs. Every conspiracy theory you can imagine. The Illuminati rule the world! Obama was not born in the USA! The WTC was blown up by the US govt! Jesus never existed! ...

I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail before Dan Brown ripped it off, and while I found the suggestion amusing as a thought experiment I really couldn't see that the world would be changed much if the whole thing were both true and publicly accepted. It would be an interesting historical note, certainly. The dynamics of holding a secret moderately closely for centuries on end should be fodder for any number of examinations. But even if the whole thing were true and somehow provable, it still amounted to nothing but a brief media frenzy and an interesting update for later history books.

To actually change the world the author needs something either much larger or much more fundamental. If Harry's battle against Voldemort got covered live by the BBC, maybe...

251:

To actually change the world the author needs something either much larger or much more fundamental. If Harry's battle against Voldemort got covered live by the BBC, maybe...

According to OGH, isn't that more or less the plot of the next book but one in the Laundryverse?

252:

Grand Unified Conspiracy Theories (as opposed to theories about particular small-scale conspiracies) seem to be the end result of several common soft bad ideas interacting, rather than a single hard idea.

There's also the related effect of crank magnetism, in which holding a single silly idea leaves one open to others; in extreme cases the sufferer can become vocally eccentric on a wide variety of topics.

253:

There's also the related effect of crank magnetism, in which holding a single silly idea leaves one open to others; in extreme cases the sufferer can become vocally eccentric on a wide variety of topics.

Kind of an inverse reverse proxy "halo effect"!

254:

it'll be interesting to see how OGH handles Case Nightmare Green with respect to afterwards

I have just broken ground on book 7, "The Nightmare Stacks" (elevator pitch: "Cthulhu versus the Planet of the Manic Pixie Dream Girls"). The clean rupture point between our history and the Laundryverse is buried somewhere in books 5-7; but anyway, the provisional plan for book 8 (which is not sold and may never happen) is for it to open in the autumn of 2014, with Bob being given a grilling by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight about why there's a smoking crater where one of our cities used to be and why the government has invoked the Civil Contingencies Act (Blair-speak for "declare a state of emergency, run in circles screaming with hair on fire"). And there's a Commons Select Committee on Cyberdemonology waiting in the wings ...

255:
And there's a Commons Select Committee on Cyberdemonology waiting in the wings ...

The Horror, the horror.

"Cthulhu versus the Planet of the Manic Pixie Dream Girls"

Works for me. But at one time I lived with a Doris Day lookalike who had red hair and a taste for the bizarre and 50s clothing (which is bizarre, except for hats), so it would... at least in my twisted imagination. Trust me on this, Cthulhu doesn't stand a chance except if he leaves, though I expect he'll never get his cashmere jumpers back. Or his big screen TV... but will be marked and fascinated for the rest of eternity by the use of a brush to apply lipstick. This will be his causal undoing.

Looking forward to autumn 2014. Not least to see

Bob being given a grilling by Jeremy Paxman

I wonder if he could be persuaded to film it? Make for nice viral marketing and bound to be popular on the usual suspects, and probably the Guardian. How's the marketing budget?

Who do you fancy to play Bob?

256:

I See Orion is delayed. Pity it's not proper Orion.

257:

I've been watching The Strain, Guillermo de Toro's TV series adaptation of his vampire apocalypse novels (adapted from his failed pitch for a TV series (reentrant circle of life!)),
and the rag-tag band of vampire hunters just hacked into the US Emergency Alert System to put out an emergency vampire alert on the back of the weekly test. (this may not be an entirely accurate representation of the EAS architecture) There is no UK equivalent of the EAS, yet.

258:

Links busted, but I assume you're referring to Project Orion http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)&oldid=636139322

And I'm damn glad I'm not the only one. I doubt one of those would worry much about the weather...

259:

Manic Pixie Dream Girls? I can only imagine what horrors lie in wait for poor, poor Alex. That boy is so fucked.

I say this as a software developer who's spent the last 15 years in the High Frequency Trading industry. Or, to put it another way, Alex is ME, 15 years ago.

That poor boy. He should just make a date with a UV tanning bed and save himself the trouble.

260:
I doubt one of those would worry much about the weather...

thanks.

Presumably it would make its own weather, at least locally. Is it woth a few deaths from fallout as a result of the launch, to launch one do you think?

261:

In the UK it would be both hard and tricky to nationally hack broadcasts. Hard to do it downstream, but easy at source. I.E. where most TV Channels playout from, which is mostly in West London though hacking disaster recovery sites would be easier. Oddly enough even ch5 have one. Thinking about it, I think you'd need access to the playout schedules and ITX storage. And how to make a non-standard mov file or an avc-i 100, of your chosen alert.

Though apparently putting Radio 4 off the air is sufficient to trigger the apocalypse according to conventional wisdom... especially in the morning.

262:

This is an emergency broadcast warning. Excessive levels of monster-related cognition are occurring in your area. All citizens are required to stop thinking about monsters immediately.

263:

Y-e-s-sss .... and if you recall (from previous topics) this is the same Stalin that installed Lysenko as the go-to guy for wheat/food production which set back Soviet biology/genetics decades. So, the super-ape army idea doesn't surprise me, nor does the lack of success.

264:

Just read the Wikipedia description of valproic acid [see below] ... deadly stuff. Using valproic acid to boost already functional cognition sounds comparable to getting chemo to get rid of excess facial/body hair ... not exactly the best move especially for progeny (if pregnant). (For below: "trigonocephaly" is a tri-cornered skull.)


Pregnancy

Valproate causes birth defects; exposure during pregnancy is associated with about three times as many major anomalies as usual, mainly spina bifida and, more rarely, with several other defects, possibly including a "valproate syndrome".[18] Characteristics of this valproate syndrome include facial features that tend to evolve with age, including trigonocephaly, tall forehead with bifrontal narrowing, epicanthic folds, medial deficiency of eyebrows, flat nasal bridge, broad nasal root, anteverted nares, shallow philtrum, long upper lip and thin vermillion borders, thick lower lip and small downturned mouth.[19]

Women who intend to become pregnant should switch to a different drug if possible.[20] Women who become pregnant while taking valproate should be warned that it causes birth defects and cognitive impairment in the newborn, especially at high doses (although vaproate is sometimes the only drug that can control seizures, and seizures in pregnancy could have even worse consequences.) They should take high-dose folic acid and be offered antenatal screening (alpha-fetoprotein and second-trimester ultrasound scans), although screening and scans do not find all birth defects.[21]

Valproate can cause neural tube defects. Folic acid supplements may reduce the risk of birth defects, however. A recent study showed children of mothers taking valproate during pregnancy are at risk for significantly lower IQs.[22][23][24] Maternal valproate use during pregnancy has been associated with a significantly higher risk of autism in the offspring.[25] Exposure of the human embryo to valproic acid is associated with risk of autism, and it is possible to duplicate features characteristic of autism by exposing rat embryos to valproic acid at the time of neural tube closure.[26] Valproate exposure on embryonic day 11.5 led to significant local recurrent connectivity in the juvenile rat neocortex, consistent with the underconnectivity theory of autism.[27] A 2009 study found that the 3 year old children of pregnant women taking valproate had an IQ nine points lower than that of a well-matched control group. However, further research in older children and adults is needed.[28][29][30]

265:
This is an emergency broadcast warning. Excessive levels of monster-related cognition are occurring in your area. All citizens are required to stop thinking about monsters immediately.

Even the Invisible Pink Unicorn & Gozer? And Castle Arrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhh?

266:

No, I doubt its worth the price. But I'd love to see a good simulation of a launch of one.

267:

Re: ‘Every new policy or strategy has failure modes you recognize: "that won't work" is your usual response to change, not because you're a curmudgeonly pessimist but because you've been there before.’

The interesting point is that the ‘why’ it won’t work will and does change … and at some point the new idea can/will work. I’ve seen this happen and so keep listening.

Also – new ideas can come from anyone/anywhere … agree that it’s easier for a neophyte (regardless of age) to come up with what sounds like a new idea because they’ve not yet become burdened with all of the old knowledge. But overall, I do not believe that the success rate of new ideas really corresponds to age. Most Nobel laureates continued working on ‘new ideas’ until they keeled over of old age. That they did not find new-as-exciting-ideas is probably more attributable to the fact that such ideas are damned difficult to come up with - period - than with their declining years. And, some ideas are so mind-blowing huge, that they’ve yet to be fully mined 100 years later by probably by now about 100,000 equally bright minds. Plato’s ideas dominated about 2,000 years, Newton’s about 300 years, Einstein’s/quantum mechanics are only 100 years old. (There’s probably a mathematical relationship here: How many physicists does it take to beget a new-gen physics?)

268:

Patients taking valproic acid have a lot of side effects.
More than 10% suffer from: Nausea, headaches,increased bleeding time, low platelt count, tremor, alpecia, infection, somnolence, amblyopia, diarrhoea, diplopia, nystagmus or vomiting.
Long term use can affect liver function and some users have raised serum ammonia.
Unusually in anticonvulsant drugs the level of the drug in blood does not correlate with relief of symptoms so in UK labs it is one of the few routine anticoagulants which is not regularly measured.

269:

Soorry typed anticoagulant instead of anticonvulsant. Perhaps age is affecting me more than I thought.

270:

"Sunlight is free. So are air, seawater, and common rocks. If you need some copper right away you can still try the Old World economy where you trade something of value to the rentier who has title to a copper mine. If you have something of value, that is. Otherwise you patiently wait for a solar powered robot to extract the 100 ppm copper content of basalt."

The rocks aren't free, I don't seen anyone letting you dig up their back yard with out some compensation. access to sea water isn't likely to be easy either not many people likely to be happy with you running a pipe down the beach - you could go off shore but you need to go a long way to get outside the exclusive economic zone and I suspect if sea water was becoming economically important they'd extend until nothing was unowned by someone. Sunlight still requires you have somewhere to setup your collector. Air is for the moment free but once you start getting to non trivial industrial applications I would expect a raft of legislation about what you're permitted to emit by way of pollution, and, if we're assuming a world of 10 odd billion near immortals sucking in air for personal industries you might well get restrictions on just what you can extract too.

My personal take on advanced automation is to expect several attempts at genocide with a non trivial chance one will succeed.

271:

At 71, I have fewer aches and pains than I used to; feel happier than I used to; and feel less old-and-tired than when I was ten.

I'm on antidepressant medication which works well for me (generic prozac.) Originally prescribed for ADD/ADHD (which I was diagnosed with decades ago.) Been rediagnosed with depression, which has led to a good deal of rethinking.

Turns out depression is common on both sides of my family.

And I'm working on changes in thinking and behavior.

I do have age-related problems. Prediabetic; gain weight too easily; cuts etc. don't heal as fast.

272:

It looks like there are a few youtube videos e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5IviadEChM but they appear to have chickened out and launched to orbit using chemical boosters though there might be a bit of hole in the ground just post launch.

... Moan, just think, earthly urban redevelopment & space exploration all in one convenient package.

273:

Valproic acid obviously has drawbacks, but it is a proof of principle - a side effect nobody expected. I imagine that much more targeted drugs will be developed. The point being, lack of brain plasticity in old age is no longer inevitable.

274:

Who do you fancy to play Bob?

Aside from us both probably having too strong Scots accents I'd say that Mad Elf and I both probably have the relevant base skills sets to play Bob convincingly.

275:

In the UK it would be both hard and tricky to nationally hack broadcasts
Really?
Been done - back in the 60's - for Manchester Uni Rag week, the cable to the Holme Moss transmitter was intercepted, with a buried tape-deck & a timer. [ All very very carefully wiped of prints, of course ]
At the appropriate point ( Peak viewing time of a Friday evening, IIRC. ) all channels suddenly went over to the pre-recorded broadcast, declaring Yorkshire a republic, rule ONE of the new constitution was "Free beer fopr all the workers" rule TWO was "Contribute to Man Rag" etc ...
Plod had a very bad sense-of-humour failure, but were unable to prove anything, very fortunately ....

276:
In the UK it would be both hard and tricky to nationally hack broadcasts Really?
Yes, the key word is nationally. Subverting a single regional transmitter is as the students discovered, not hard. Subverting them all is hard, just on a manpower basis. Better to do it upstream... Not that I'm now thinking about this and posting from Broadcast Center, ummmm how good are GCHQ anyway?
277:

I'd agree; to affect everyone in an area where cable and/or satellite tv reception is commonplace you'd have to subvert the satellite uplinks as well as the relevant Regional Terrestrial Transmitter (and even then it's by no means guaranteed; some areas are within the footprint of 2 separate RTTs).

278:

Sat & Cable systems are a bit different. Sky have their own PlayOut arrangements in Osterly, IIRC. And Virgin, are special (for all the wrong reasons) and of course today it's mostly file based via ITX or Omneon so a VTR won't do you much good. unless you're in just the right place in the chain (which I suppose is true in any case, even upstream).

But with access to the PlayOut schedules I'm fairly sure it'd be possible to subvert the programming, by the complicated process of a file rename. You be surprised how many things run on trust! Eg The opening Day of Al Jazeera in the UK was replaced by the Playboy Channel unencrypted through the wonders of BT's PlayOut management system.

The up side is that it's perfectly possible to run a TV station out of your spare bedroom (subject to local restrictions, though one hears the Russians already are in some cases).

279:

Part of Virgin's problems (and not just tech issues either) are that it's a merger of NTL and Telewest.

280:
Part of Virgin's problems (and not just tech issues either) are that it's a merger of NTL and Telewest.

Yes, I heard (don't know if it's true) working out the billing reconciliation for all the companies they bought absolutely stuffed them for ages.

281:

Fantasies quite often have immortal humans whose ageing has magically been stopped. Most of them don't seem to consider the implications of this for the way these immortals think, but a few do.

I don't have the quote to hand, but there's a passage in one of Kerr's Deverry books where the immortal sorcerer Nevyn thinks about the effect it's had on his thinking. From memory, it's that every time he faces a problem, he's reminded of the dozens of similar problems he's faced before, and the dozens of different ways he's tried tackling them, a lot like Stross suggested above.

283:
FORWARD TO MARS! TO MARS!

Today Mars, tomorrow the world?!

284:

Aaand Orion successfully splashed down. (Partway through the webcast I had to pinch myself and say "I'm frickin' watching an interplanetary capsule re-enter at above orbital velocity on a live feed from inside the capsule's window and I'm annoyed about plasma blackout induced drop-outs?")

Who's betting on whether NASA or Elon Musk will get to Mars first?

285:

£10 says Musk, or some independent will get there first. And £20 says NASA will be the first to get someone back alive.

286:

Well, it seems I overestimated GCHQ, and our local firewall, proxy, and am still at liberty. If you can call it liberty...

287:

In order:
a) No Human will get to Mars
b) If I am wrong s/he will be Chinese

I still remember every boast and timescale NASA has issued since "Mars by 1984!". Expect Orion or the booster to be cancelled for some reason.

288:

"Who's betting on whether NASA or Elon Musk will get to Mars first?"

I got $100 on NASA. The Internet Billionaires just don't have that sort of muscle. Space-X is good, but IMHO these people are doing far less than NASA did, with far higher technology.

A friend of mine is ~10 years behind the times on computers and cell-phones, and comments that it's easy being *behind* the curve (his last phone, a flip-phone, cost $15).

289:

You read "Saturn's Children", right? (I'm particularly proud of the gothic graveyard robbery scene set on Mars, and the context about whose bodies were interred there ...)

290:

>the "Don't be a dick" memo that has been circulating
>around atheists for the past few years.

I found the memo just now, it's at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmP9XozKEV0

Thanks for the pointer.

(Not to imply I was being a dick before listening to the memo.)

291:

" Who's betting on whether NASA or Elon Musk will get to Mars first? "


No one who has any sense will vote for Musk against even a Small- ish Nation State that is prepared to put the 'umble Peasant classes welfare up against the PRESTIGE of the Political Class around the International Conference Table of The Super Rich ...let’s All Pretend to be Concerned about the Status of the Peons shall WE?.

There are TWO, maybe Three Major Status Markers for the People who Matter and they are, under the Broad Heading of ...I've GOT a GREAT BIG TONKER AND SEE HOW I WAVE IT!! ..


First would be control of Energy/ Power materials that produce energy and the Science/Engineering of the same... Second... Control of Life Span/Health and, again, the Science/Engineering of the same... Third, Big Stuff that proclaims the Sheer Size of My Waggle in Your Face Tonker...That would be the Mars Invasion Otherwise Known as...


" FORWARD TO MARS! TO MARS!

Today Mars, tomorrow the world?! " as was said up-stream by Therion667


As for ..

" 287:

In order:
a) No Human will get to Mars
b) If I am wrong s/he will be Chinese "

OF COURSE SHE WILL BE CHINESE! With any luck she will be one of my former students. ..Maybe of the Presentations Group who rewarded my little Study Group...Instead of Lunch... training with a Drawn on Rice Paper Calligraphy of two poems by Li Bai... “China’s drunken superstar poet ..."

I wasn't an Academic but rather a Tech Support Staff but I got really irritated by 'My' Students going into a flat panic of weepiness on my Shoulder because they hadn't been properly trained in Presentation Technique and Dreaded going before the Cameras and so I did my own Training courses.

Alas the Powers that be found me out when My Students rivals complained that they weren't getting Equal Time with me and my little training sessions and so half a dozen Cute Girls - err Students of any given gender - turned into Not Really a Lecture in a Theatre with 200 students at a time. Not as much Fun, but I could get away with just about anything. As was said by one of my Ex Academic Line Managers - I always insisted that anyone who commissioned my little Not A Lectures turned up to access my Work ..." You Know if I tried that I'd be up in front of a disciplinary hearing in a trice... and I’d ask you to represent me so there’s no need to look so Smug you Evil Bugger!"

Ah, Happy Days. My Cute Chinese Students could beat anyone else’s Cute Chinese Students... So There!

Seriously Though? Gods but They were HARD WORKERS! So intense...I’ll always remember them...especially when I visit my downstairs Loo where I have my Li Bai poems framed so that I might contemplate them in a Philosophical manner.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19884020


I'd bet the Chinese against Musk any day of the Week on any given planet let alone Mars.

292:

Decided to see what the real-life experience of an exceptionally long life and corresponding (e.g., eidetic) memory might be. Below are entries from Wikipedia. Not so bad … and given the differences in personality types of these individuals, I think that an extended life/memory probably doesn’t have any one particular effect on one’s life … people will be who they are, only for longer.

People claimed to possess an eidetic memory
• Sukarno, the father of Indonesian independence and the first president of the Republic of Indonesia,
• Stephen Wiltshire is a prodigious savant,[6] capable of drawing the entire skyline of a city after a helicopter ride.[7]
• Kim Peek, prodigious savant and inspiration for the character Raymond Babbit, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the film Rain Man.[8]
• Said Nursî, an Ottoman Islamic scholar who was able to recite many books from memory.
• John von Neumann, was able to memorize a column of the phone book at a single glance.
• Ferdinand Marcos, the former Filipino dictator.
• Charles Nalder Baeyertz, a publisher and music critic in New Zealand.
• Arturo Toscanini, Italian conductor. He memorized about 100 operas and over 100 symphonies.[14]

293:

"You read "Saturn's Children", right?"
Er... no. Only Laundry novels. I've been so far into H+ and "the future" I'm sick of it. Right now all that stuff is "work", not pleasure.

294:

Right now I'm working with a Chinese PhD candidate from Imperial. I am creating the new sensor on which his PhD will be based around. He's very bright, very quick and somewhat relieved that today we were getting results better than any recorded anywhere in the world. And I still have to tweak the data. So he's also grateful that after Xmas he will be flying back here for the next 2 years of it, because it was not a 100% certainty it would work. However, it is already 10x better than the preliminary specs required. Also contributing some legwork was another bright Chinese student whose MSc thesis saved me some tedious materials testing. She's now back in China among the elite.

295:

Decided to see what the real-life experience of an exceptionally long life and corresponding (e.g., eidetic) memory might be.

I'd note that Eidetic Memory is different from Superior Autobiographical Memory, where you supposedly remember everything about your own life. Which may be more relevant to the original discussion.

296:

Not sure that the emotional crisis of the 40s isn't (at a statistical level, or a personal, anecdotal one for some including me) driven by external events. I'm 44 and have lost 4 close family or friends since I was 40, have experienced the suffering and setbacks of declining health among additional close family and friends, at the same time progressed (declined?) from being a cat to being a cat herder in the workplace, resulting in weeks at a time of 10 hour plus days.

Midlife crises are supposed to happen nel mezzo del camin and all that, and that used to be 35. Since we now (all else being equal) live into our 80s (roughly on average, without adjusting for country... more in more equal countries, less in less equal countries), this means in our 40s. But maybe it's more about that one's close family and friends are not dying as early or as often than it is about one's own life expectancy. So not linked to a physical age, rather an outcome of macro trends around you.

Some people herd cats in their 20s, and I guess I'm grateful I never did have to report to one of those...

297:

I'd pick 32, for more or less exactly the same reasons. 32 is still a baby, really, but you've worked out some things that you haven't by 25.

298:

Oh dear - I was hoping this would go away & kept quiet, but now you have poked it with a stick ...so ... the question now arises "who was being a dick"?
Because DD said:
Leaving aside the immature bigotry of your hateful anti-religious comment
Err, what immature bigotry?
DD seems to have burst into flames at the mere suggestion of atheism ....
After all, one mustn't question people's "beliefs" after all!
This is the apparent attitude that gets Prof Dawkins called an "Atheist fundamentlist/extremist"
Which just ain't true.

Can we now drop this one, again & permanently in this thread - please?

299:

I wonder ... if some future Brit guvmint doesn't go either totally Thatcherite, and cancel anything to do with space, or alternatively go all SNP-Calvinist & cancel anything to do with space ....
"Reaction Engines" & the son/daughter of HOTOL ??
Step by step - remember that the really difficult (read EXPENSIVE) bit is getting "stuff" into orbit.
If one really can reduce the cost of that by 90%-plus then you are on to something.

300:
Who's betting on whether NASA or Elon Musk will get to Mars first?

False dichotomy? I don't think SpaceX would have any problems selling stuff to NASA.

301:

One difference between the young and the old is what the young have no chance to remember.

And then there are some things I wish I didn't remember.

It's a part of why politicians tend to be older. They need enough voters who don't personally remember the last time that stunt was tried.

I could point to examples, and Charlie might quite reasonably Yellow Card me. Suffice it to say that Fuck The Tories used to be a fanzine, and the <expletives deleted>politicians</expletives deleted> seem just the same.

But I do study some history, some quite recent, and it's not hard to find the old mistakes being repeated today. Isn't that one of the defining elements of insanity?

302:

<aside>

This feels like something from the Laundryverse: The Doom that Came to Puppet — Posts generated by a Markov chain trained on the Puppet documentation and the assorted works of H. P. Lovecraft

</aside>

303:

False dichotomy? I don't think SpaceX would have any problems selling stuff to NASA.

I'm just waiting for that awkward conversation in USA Congress, when SpaceX rolls out their BFR with twice as much payload capability as the SLS, while costing half as much (or much less)...

There might be a short period of Orion flying on SpaceX BFR, before being cancelled for good.

304:

Given Charlie's original question, is it reasonable to ask if the Elder Gods themselves could suffer from senility, or Alzheimers? Could that explain the nature of the recorded encounters with them? And would that mean that their might be young Elder Gods that we could work with?

Sorry if I am derailing the current derailing.

Enjoy!

Frank.

305:

SpaceX rockets are cargo ships with peak accelerations during launch exceeding 50m/s/s. Apollo was pushing the envelope with selected milspec crewmembers suffering a maximum load of 40m/s/s whereas the Shuttle carried civilians AND cargo and had a maximum acceleration of 30m/s/s. There are a lot of other man-rating questions to be considered after the acceleration problems have been overcome, of course.

The paper-exercise Falcon Heavy hasn't flown yet and even if it does come on-stream there are few if any commercial payloads it's actually needed for.

The Orion capsule flew on a Delta 4 Heavy which has about half the lift capacity of the Falcon Heavy, 28 tonnes to VLEO. It's flown a total of seven times since 2007 and most of those were cost-no-object NRO flights. Everything else that's flown in the intervening time like, for example, the man-rated Soyuz has not needed a Great White Elephant to get into orbit.

306:

What's the proposed acceleration for reaction engines craft?
And - remembering that it is not intended to be crewed ....

307:

You mean like Thatcher (may her name be forgotten) thought there were "reasonable members of the Khmer Rouge,with whom we can do business" (actual real quote, btw)?

308:

Have you tried to research before posting?

SpaceX has already received a contract for Commercial Crew, for a Dragon V.2 on the existing Falcon 9 rocket. Falcon 9 rocket was designed to be man-rated from the start. Apparently, NASA has no problem with the acceleration.

The "paper-exercise" Falcon 9 Heavy is going to fly in a few months.

The rocket which will kill SLS is not Falcon 9H. It is the "BFR" (no official name yet), for which SpaceX is developing the Raptor engine. Seriously, Google it up.

309:

I appreciate that the Low 300s Space Tech Stuff has Appeal on the Thread...of Course it Does Especially to those of Us who are Ever So Ancient and Who Stayed awake all night whilst all about us fled and Apollo Landed Neil Armstrong on the Moon. But...here as of today’s U.K.s Newsprint - Electronic News print - I am so ancient that I remember using Real Paper News Print as Flip Chart Sheets - is a Real Game Changer...

“New solar 'cloth' to turn UK rooftops into batteries "

https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/solar-cloth-turn-uk-rooftops-203111692.html

A couple of streets down from my house there is a near Identical House...err, Identical, that is, before I had my House Extended...that has had its roof covered with ugly ungainly Solar Panels. Not many people will be egger to follow this example -UGLY!!! - but here and there Roof panels have started to appear and there are any number of Industrial Estate Light Metal Sheet Roofed Buildings that could well be crying out for this " New solar 'cloth'

On things Medical in the Near Future that might lead to Immortality? Hum, I'm 65 going on 66 and have a degenerative Arthritic Condition of the Spine, but am I down Hearted?

Skip lightly aside from that one but mention that My Personnel Medical Project has invited my latest participation...


“Dear Mr Arnold

We very much appreciate your interest in, and continued support of, UK Biobank and hope you can help us further by taking part in our Healthy Minds project.

This involves answering some questions on mood and then doing some games and puzzles that are related to your cognitive health. The games and puzzles are similar to ones you did when you joined UK Biobank, and take a couple of minutes each. You don’t have to complete everything in one go, but can save what you have done and come back to finish later on.

If you are able to help, please login using your ID (redacted) and personal details via our website at https://biobank.ctsu.ox.ac.uk/members/ or simply click here.

The resource is now being made available to scientists for their research and anonymised summaries of all the data can be seen on our website at http://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/. We hope to include the anonymous results of this survey on our website in the next few months.

It is not necessary to reply to this email, but if you have any questions, please telephone the Participant Resource Centre on 0800-0-276-276 (free from most land lines) or 0292-0-765-597, Monday - Saturday 8am to 7pm.

We would be most grateful if you could take part in the Healthy Minds project. In a society that is living longer, cognitive health is an increasingly important issue to us all.

Yours sincerely

Professor Sir Rory Collins
UK Biobank Principal Investigator and
Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology
University of Oxford "

That’s from here...


http://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/


MY DNA is sitting in a VAT in the Secret Underground Headquarters of an Eldritch Organisation where it hops up and down squeakily and is the Cutest DNA in the VAT... YOU won’t laugh quite so loud when MY Clones saunter forth from beneath the Inactive Volcano and, After a Full English Breakfast, and around about mid day, set forth to Rule the World!

Actually The Secret H.Q is probably a sort of Shed situated in an Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Manchester.... BUT who would suspect that it be hidden there?

310:

OOPs ... MODS ..err sorry about That? Probably best not to include " ID (redacted again) " on that post? More haste best speed / typing fingers to swift and all that sort of thing?

311:

Other folks have tried developing methane/LOX engines but they've not been particularly successful hence the current fleet of commercial and government launchers based around RP-1/LOX, LH/LOX and solid motors.

Methane/LOX offers some advantages in terms of Isp over existing mixes but methane engines tend to coke up, break turbine blades and the like. Methane also has downsides in handling, storage and tankerage and it's less dense than RP-1 meaning bulkier and heavier vehicle structures for the same delta vee capability. We'll see what SpaceX can do with it.

The Falcon 9 is not yet man-rated, they've got more work to go before they'll get a signoff to fly people. The problem is that except for flights to the ISS there's no reason for canned monkey in orbit these days and the ISS is not going to be up there for that much longer.

SLS/Orion is an incremental development design, a big step backward from the Shuttle and it will suffer the death of a thousand cost-saving cuts over the next Congress or three. A few meatbags might fly it before the program is shut down but it's got no ongoing mission role other than maybe a boots-and-banner return to the Moon, if the government wants to shell out the fifty to a hundred billion to pay for it.

As for the BFR, why? Who is going to pay to fly it? What money-making payloads are there for it? It's a solution to a non-existent problem since we now know how to put small lumps of stuff into orbit with existing boosters and assemble it there using automated docking and handling systems.

Humanity doesn't actually need a heavy-lifter like the Saturn V any more. 1970s rocket tech is spectacular and stiffy-inducing, yes but the 1970s are long past.

312:

The Falcon 9 is not yet man-rated, they've got more work to go before they'll get a signoff to fly people.

Bzzt: SpaceX passes safety review for human spaceflight:

The company so far has finished nine of the 15 milestones under CCiCap, and now projects the process will finish in the third quarter of 2014.
And yes, they're scheduled to conduct those launch escape system tests next month.

I know it's hard to keep up, but it's worth noting that SpaceX isn't entirely revolutionary -- Musk started by poaching most of an aerospace engineering team from Hughes, IIRC, and they've now been working on incrementally developing their systems for a decade. Betting against J. Random Startup with starry eyed dreams is par for the course; betting against SpaceX when they're churning through comsat launches, have a multi-billion dollar order book, and are ten years past the starting block is a bit less sensible.

313:

Right now Canada, Australia, Israel, and a long list of industrialized European countries let in more immigrants as a share of the population than the US does.

I THINK I heard on a radio or TV news show recently that the US takes in more refugees than all the other nations no the planet combined.

Anyone know where I can find stats for such things?

314:

And of course, if your colonies are filled with near-immortals, spending five years in the colony as it migrates out to Saturn isn't going to be a big problem for them.

You're assuming a big change in how we humans deal with social interactions. I'm not so sure that 5 years in a big metal can will lead to results that most people would like. No matter how long the eventual life span.

315:

Let's suppose that research on diet and exercise produces scientific consensus around a regime not too far away from current best advice, but with enough of the gaps filled in to offer an extra 20 years of life and excellent mental acuity to 80. The cost is the self-discipline required to maintain the BMI of an endurance athlete, stick to a diet that is cheap but bland and incompatible with the consumption of processed food, especially ready meals, and undertake 20 minutes hard exercise every other day. Alcohol, tobacco, etc. are disallowed by this regime, of course.

There was a 60 Minutes segment (USA TV magazine show that way better than the average TV droll) early this year where some of the above was confirmed. Some current researchers discovered 30 years or so of medical records from a retirement community that had 10,000s of people. And the did some correlations looking at what seemed to be unique to the people still alive who are now in their 90s. 45 minutes of excercise 3 times a week seemed to be what you needed. More didn't make much difference. Moderate alcohol. And a few other things. Not a dull a picture as you paint but many common sense things that many people just don't do.

316:

The report/puffpiece you quote from is dated November 2013. According to that SpaceX will have/has carried out an escape abort from launchpad (probably simulated on a test rig rather than a flight vehicle) by Q2 2014 and a Dragon capsule separation in flight by Q3 2014.

It's now Q4 2014 and neither test has happened. From a Space.com report dated September 2014:

"We have a pad abort test planned, and an in-flight abort test planned," Reisman (a SpaceX press spokesman) added during the Aug. 27 talk. "The pad abort test is on track for November of this year, and the in-flight abort test is currently scheduled for January."

The pad abort test still hasn't happened. I don't see a SpaceX abort-in-flight launch booked in the Spaceflightnow launch calender heading into Q4 next year.

317:

neuroplasticity

This is a phrase used in the US on late night, after midnight, TV commercials for various potions and study programs to improve your mental abilities in old age.

This time slot is always full of various potions, snake oils, and such.

318:

Yes, I heard (don't know if it's true) working out the billing reconciliation for all the companies they bought absolutely stuffed them for ages.

10 years ago or so I was sitting next to a fellow on a plane who worked in the computer systems department of a freight carrier who had bought a smaller carrier a couple of years earlier. I said I had heard they were having integration issues. He said about 18 months in they just turned off the smaller company's billing systems and made everyone use the bigger company's system. The accepted checks as they came in but just gave up trying to reconcile the acquired company's old books.

319:

And £20 says NASA will be the first to get someone back alive.

And $100US says non of us here will be alive when that happens.

320:

My daughter used to baby sit a boy who was about 4 or 5 at the time. One thing she was supposed to do was keep him entertained enough so he wouldn't default to reading (and I think remembering) the phone book. He taught himself to read at around 3.

His parents were very smart and well educated and have been working hard to keep him on a somewhat normal social track so he doesn't become a "Sheldon" on steroids.

I need to ask her if she's heard how he's doing.

321:

Another: "Right now Canada, Australia, Israel, and a long list of industrialized European countries let in more immigrants as a share of the population than the US does."

David L: "I THINK I heard on a radio or TV news show recently that the US takes in more refugees than all the other nations no the planet combined."

The operative phrase is 'as a share of the population'.

322:

US population is 322 million. Combined population of Canada, Australia and Israel is 67 million. Not sure how long is the "long list of industrialized European countries", but at the very least it must include Germany, France, Italy and UK. Those alone bring the total to 329 million. It is impossible for these 7 countries to "let in more immigrants as a share of the population than the US does", and simultaneously for US to "take in more refugees than all the other nations no the planet combined".

Unless "immigrants" and "refugees" are distinct sets.

323:

Refugees is a subset of immigrants, so it's possible for Europe to have higher immigration while the US has more refugees than all the other nations combined.

It's crap, though; Jordan (pop. 6.7 million) houses a comparable number of refugees to the USA.

David L: here's the UNHCR figures for 2013, here's the US refugee admission figures since 1980.

324:

The pad abort test still hasn't happened. I don't see a SpaceX abort-in-flight launch booked in the Spaceflightnow launch calender heading into Q4 next year.

Blame NASA procurement rules.

Per wikipedia, "On September 26, 2014, Sierra Nevada Corporation submitted a protest of the CCtCap awards, stating to have undercut Boeing by $900 million, while scoring close to its competitors in the other criteria. The GAO has until January 5, 2015 to rule on the protest. On October 1, 2014, it was reported that NASA had instructed Boeing and SpaceX to halt work under the CCtCap contracts pending the Government Accountability Office's review; SpaceX has abort tests to complete under the previous CCiCap contract. On October 8, 2014 NASA used its statutory authority to instruct Boeing and SpaceX to proceed with the contracts during the GAO review."

I suspect that one-week legal hold probably threw a great big chrome-plated spanner in the critical path -- that, and the complexity surrounding the CCtCap program paperwork.

(In other news, SpaceX got DoD/USAF launch certification earlier this year, so they're probably also making a push for some of those juicy NRO contracts.)

325:
I know it's hard to keep up, but it's worth noting that SpaceX isn't entirely revolutionary -- Musk started by poaching most of an aerospace engineering team from Hughes, IIRC, and they've now been working on incrementally developing their systems for a decade.

SpaceX's engine design is by way of TRW (now part of Northrup-Grumman). It's arguably a direct descendant of the LMDE. NG wasn't too interested in rocketry like TRW was, so they lost more than a few rocket scientists to SpaceX.

Betting against J. Random Startup with starry eyed dreams is par for the course; betting against SpaceX when they're churning through comsat launches, have a multi-billion dollar order book, and are ten years past the starting block is a bit less sensible.

I'm a bit worried about what will happen when they transition out of the "burn up young engineers with 80-hour weeks" startup phase.

326:

Other folks have tried developing methane/LOX engines but they've not been particularly successful hence the current fleet of commercial and government launchers based around RP-1/LOX, LH/LOX and solid motors.

No, fully working methane/LOX engines for space flight haven't been developed before - until SpaceX started to develop the Raptor engine, which is a methane/LOX engine.

Methane/LOX offers some advantages in terms of Isp over existing mixes but methane engines tend to coke up, break turbine blades and the like. Methane also has downsides in handling, storage and tankerage and it's less dense than RP-1 meaning bulkier and heavier vehicle structures for the same delta vee capability. We'll see what SpaceX can do with it.

You don't know what you're talking about. Methane/LOX has somewhat lower Isp than LOH/LOX but is much easier to store and handle than liquid hydrogen. The big advantage of using methane as a fuel is that it is common throughout the solar system, and fuel could be manufactured off-world. Robin Zubrin proposed In Situ utilization as part of his Mars-direct plan (i.e., the fuel for the return journey to Earth could be manufactured on Mars).

SLS/Orion is an incremental development design, a big step backward from the Shuttle and it will suffer the death of a thousand cost-saving cuts over the next Congress or three.

No, in fact the Shuttle was the 'step-backward' - the shuttle proved to be a hugely expensive and unreliable system, and, as you said, there is simply no point to a craft that can only take humans to orbit and back (the ISS is also a huge waste of money).

The Orion/SLS is a much needed return to what worked.

Orion/SLS development can be done under the current NASA budget - it is unlikely to be cancelled.


A few meatbags might fly it before the program is shut down but it's got no ongoing mission role other than maybe a boots-and-banner return to the Moon, if the government wants to shell out the fifty to a hundred billion to pay for it.

Say what? The purpose of Orion/SLS is deep space exploration - it's exactly whats needed for getting into the solar system and its rationale is a future manned mission to Mars.

327:

The Shuttle had a flexible cargo bay capable of carrying an additional 20-tonne payload, a manipulator arm, airlocks and suit support for multiple EVAs, up to 18 tonnes of fuel and oxidiser for significant cross-range capability in-orbit and enough life-support to keep a crew of seven in orbit for a couple of weeks or a smaller crew for up to a month (never actually done in practice). It also had a toilet and a shower.

Dragon X and Orion have plastic bags, diapers and wet wipes, just like the good old (very old now) Mercury/Gemini/Apollo days. They don't have the rest of the useful work capability in orbit the Shuttle provided of course, they're just full of crew who need something to dock with or somewhere to go to before the life support runs out or it's time to come back down to Earth again. I'm not seeing the budget for that equipment, whether a deep-space mission or a replacement for the ISS, just the cash for the SLS/Orion taxi.

328:

The shuttle was a giant White Elephant with a horribly convoluted design. There was nothing it did that couldn't be done much cheaper.

329:

Yes. It was Congress telling NASA and the US military how to build a single vehicle for wildly divergent uses and the only way anything was going to get approved was to lie about the costs and benefits.

Think of Congress telling the US navy that to save money in the future they must combine ballistic missile subs with aircraft carriers and have a single vessel for both missions. I'm still skeptical that the F-35 will actually be cheaper in total costs than separate overall designs for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy. Been tried and failed multiple times over the last 80 years.

330:

combine ballistic missile subs with aircraft carriers

Sort of like an update of the Japanese I-400 class subs?

(Okay, okay, they had torpedoes rather than ICBMs which weren't around in the early 1940s. And their aircraft complement was somewhat small by surface carrier standards. And anyway carrier groups are pretty obvious even if you can't see the carrier in the middle. And your general point is totally valid, it's just that sometimes it seems there's no idea so crazy someone hasn't tried it.)

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 30, 2014 1:14 PM.

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