Living Forever?

Gnarly! One of the oldest living organisms on the planet
Slate has a nice piece on a biologist who, like our friend pictured above, is rooting for immortality. That reminded me of my friends the Extropians.

5 Responses to “Living Forever?”

  1. Ross Levatter

    Without commenting on the likelihood of immortality in the near (or even distant) future, it IS of some interest to speculate on whether such a condition, if and when it obtained, would be better or worse for liberty. I suspect it would have a mildly beneficial effect, on the grounds that “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” works more effectively if people are around long enough to see how knavishly govt. behaves over time.

    OTOH, if people were “invulnerable” rather than “immortal” (playing the Superman game: if you can only have one of Superman’s powers, which would you want?), I think govt. would rapidly fade. If you can’t be hurt, even by your guardian, why pay for the guardian?

  2. Charles N. Steele

    Ross, I don’t think slowing or stopping aging, which isn’t quite the same as immortality. Obviously there are plenty of other things that can be fatal to us. Maybe you are right about “more time implies more wisdom,” but I can’t see any direct effect on prospects for liberty. But longer lifespans would still be great — it would certainly mean the opportunity to live a longer and more interesting life. I’d love to have time to study half a dozen academic subjects seriously, plus travel the entire world, plus try a couple different careers, raise a couple of families, etc.

    It would only be an opportunity, not a guarantee, since many people seem (to me, anyway) to waste the time they do have.

    I would suppose that if this research is successful it would be opposed by religious conservatives.

    It might render the social security debate moot at least.

  3. Ross Levatter

    A quick comment to Mr. Steele, who seems to have misjudged off-the-cuff reflections on my part:

    Dear Charles,

    I in no way meant to suggest that, should liberty suffer as a result, longer lives would not be worth living. Obviously, an increasing life-span would generally seem to be an example of something clearly good in itself. I merely thought it might be of interest to readers of Dr. Palmer’s blog as to what the implications of such changes might be with respect to liberty.

    I am aware of the distinctions that can be made between immortality, invulnerability, Dorian Gray agelessness, and similar constructs, having spent many years studying philosophy and medicine, to say nothing of science fiction and DC comics…:->

  4. Charles N. Steele

    Ross, I didn’t mean to make any particular judgement on your thoughts — I was just using your post an an excuse for my own off-the-cuff comments. And now I’m doing it again…

    The effect of longer lifespan on people’s perceptions of liberty and the role of gov’t is an interesting topic for speculation. I think it is clear that U.S. lifespans have steadily increased since 1776, and it seems likely that respect for liberty and distrust for gov’t have eroded over the same time span.

    But both trends were gradual, and I doubt there’s any meaningful link between the two.

    A sudden drastic increase in lifespan, OTOH, would certainly have big effects on peoples’ perceptions and expectations over a huge variety of things. People might well become more risk averse; but how that would translate into demands for & tolerance of gov’t policy would depend on how perceptions of the proper role of gov’t are affected…and again, I don’t see any inherent link between changing lifespan & changes in these perceptions.

    I am not aware of anyone other than Robert Heinlein who seems to have devoted much thought to these issues, yet it seems they may be of practical importance soon.

  5. Richard Relph

    It will be interesting to see what happens if and when the aged stop dying at the ‘expected rate’… Will they willingly forgo their promised open-ended retirement benefits to free their children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) from the burden of an ever-increasing retirement class? Or will they say “I’ve got mine, but it’s clear we can’t give it to any others” and support raising the retirement age, in effect allowing one new retiree only when one current retiree dies? Or will they decide to enslave the younger generations, taking an ever greater portion of their personal income to support their retirement?

    Something has to give. If it isn’t now, it won’t be brought up again until it is too late. “Too late” in this context is not when the Social Security actuaries say so, but rather when the medical scientists make it so.

    As an aside, suppose for a moment that this new life-extending technology turns out to not be free. Will politicians be able to tell the current retirees that they cannot have it? How much will be “too much”?

    Can Liberty cannot survive FDR’s folly, enhanced by LBJ and GWB? I have some serious doubts.

    PS. I have a copy of the PBS series “Stealing Time” from 2001 or 2002 on the topic of life-extending technologies. Fabulous stuff, living much longer… if it weren’t for these economic issues of one generation living at the expense of another.