DailyDirt: What's A Good Lifespan?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

There's an Isaac Asimov quote: "If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster." But if there really were accurate predictions for a person's lifespan, how would people change? Maybe medical science is on the verge of creating a pharmaceutical solution for a fountain of youth. We seem to be a long way from a cure for death, but at least a few people think immortality will be available to humanity (eg. Aubrey de Grey, Ray Kurzweil, etc.) in the next few decades. Here are a few links to the study of aging and its causes. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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  1. identicon
    CK20XX, 23 Sep 2013 @ 6:50pm

    If we were to unlock the secret to immortality... it would probably mandate lifespan limiting laws.

    The way society and economies work actually kinda depends on people dying, as incredible as that may sound. Think of the job you hold. The only reason you hold it is because someone before you quit, retired, or died. What if every high-paying position, like those at the MPAA and NSA, was held by the same guy for centuries? Those might be the only sort of people who'd be able to pay for immortality treatments anyway.

    We'd never have sweeping changes in the world either. Those tend to be generational; people's attitudes are so stubborn that they don't disappear until the people holding them have been planted. American slavery didn't go away until future generations came along that wouldn't tolerate it, the American civil rights movement didn't take off until the last of the slaveholders and their children passed on, and we probably won't see serious copyright reform either until the people preserving the present system die off.

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  2. icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 23 Sep 2013 @ 7:48pm


    It's time for carrousel, beware the Sandman.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2013 @ 8:52pm

    You linked to the mobile version of the second story. The normal version is much more readable and as a video.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Hayate, 24 Sep 2013 @ 8:16am

    A bit strange there wasn't a single mention of Naked Mole Rat in the comments to the first article. That's a rodent with a highly exceptional lifespan. And burrows a pretty big hole in the theory mentioned...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2013 @ 4:17am

    Some of this deals with early life development rather than aging. Non-aging doesn't mean living in a pre-adult body for you entire life. Non-aging would be finishing physical development and staying at young adulthood.

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  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2013 @ 8:18am


    Well maybe a long enough lifespan with a brain as plastic as a young adult's would lead to people changing with time in dramatic ways. You're sort of extrapolating from the current 50-60 y.o. people in power and thinking what would mean if they (or their friends) remain at their posts in perpetuity. But we're talking about effectively much younger people running the show.

    Or consider another thing: if we can live a thousand years, we could explore the nearby stars. Currently, to send a ship to Alpha Centauri, it would need to be a generational spaceship where the people who do arrive at the destination are the descendants of the ones who started. But if we lived long enough, we could just send one crew there and back in their natural lifespan.

    And even if increasing our lifespan to a thousand years leads to generational stagnation, it won't matter much on a cosmic time-scale. Generations would still change. The sun will be where it is for more than long enough to support even a society where change only happens once every 500 years. Let's first get to the point where people stay young for centuries at a time and then worry if we're ruining society.

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  7. identicon
    CK20XX, 25 Sep 2013 @ 5:49pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, I'm kind of deliberately extrapolating there because when you consider a new technology, you have to pay close attention to how it can be abused. In computer science, they say there's no such thing as a bug-free program, and that philosophy often applies to inventions and ideas as well, so you want to focus on their faults and shortcomings if you want to make them as robust as possible.

    For one, there's always a chance that the new bosses will be the same as the old bosses, so youth is kind of an irrelevant factor to consider. Sometimes youth can even be a weakness, leaving one open to manipulation and corruption that can take root and permanently change that person for the worse. Look at President Obama; he seemed like just the remedy the USA needed when he came to office, and now look at what's become of him.

    Likewise, of course aging doesn't matter much on a cosmic time scale, but that's kinda beside the point as well. The universe doesn't care about us; only us humans are able to care and appreciate the world we live in, and if something happens to us, the rest doesn't matter. You know how lots of people talk about saving the planet? Well, what they're really talking about is preserving the planet's ability to sustain life, and especially our lives in particular. The planet itself will probably be around for millions and billions of years to come, but that fact won't be very useful should we manage to kill ourselves off.

    I am intrigued about visiting Alpha Centauri though. That would be a great way to make use of increased lifespans. But then again, we should probably focus on getting our own planet together before we go looking for other ones to crash on like an uninvited guest. It may take everyone working together to prepare and fund a deep space program of that caliber anyway.

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