Centuries of Poverty: Life Extension & Rejuvenation

There is a flood of people worldwide that are researching Life Extension. The idea of Life Extension (or its more robust sister – rejuvenation) is for a lot of people still a comparably outlandish idea, but the basic idea of making people live a lot longer is no longer regarded as a scientific or medical absurdity. The possibility (and affordability) of giving large parts of the human species an indefinite lifespan “somewhere before the year 2100” is now being widely debated by the medical community and popular media.

Of course this notion is in itself completely revolutionary. Revolutionary ideas of this caliber are extremely threatening to the status quo. In other cultures people might be a bit more blase about the prospect of radically extending human lifespan. In many developing nations, people have more recent memories of respective life spans “suddenly going up a few decades”. We in the “developed” world may be living under a cloud of distorted perceptions and expectations, and as a result we may be taking certain things for granted.

Utopian Fantasy?

Perceptions about life extension are often relegated to the realm of Utopian fantasy. The very idea that people alive today (for instance, people who are reading this article) might live to experience a 150th birthday is regarded as such wishful thinking it would be seen as some form of wishful thinking. Not even biogerontological luminaries such as Aubrey de Grey are making many predictions on the practical realization of rejuvenative (regenerative) therapies, other than that

the first iterations of these treatments are likely to be invasive, expensive and uncomfortable

medecinesThe problem is that nature itself handles the production of youthful people relatively effortlessly. It isn’t very difficult for a low education, low income person living in Bangladesh slums to mass produce a dozen or so children. Procreation is by default a low tech affair that does not require any invasive, expensive, comfortable technologies.  So we might conclude that the extension and generation of youth will eventually become a rather routine treatment. If we assume that “in a couple of decades” we might see modest advances in bio-gerontologically extending lives (with out people experiencing youthfulness), it won’t be centuries before new iterative treatments become available. If the progress of information and medical sciences throughout the 20th century is any indication we might conclude similar advances in turning decrepit and sick human physiologies in to healthier, more comfortable, more youthful versions well before the middle of the 21st century.

We once lived in a world where the idea of flying through the air in a machine was an absurd idea. Progress in recent history is absurd by any standard, and we in the developed world are pretty delusional and conceited about it.  In a few decades no doubt there will be people that will take “being young for 150 years” annoyingly for granted.

A World With Rejuvenative Therapies

womanA world with rejuvenative therapies will quickly become a world with socialized life extension treatments. That may seem like a fairly bold statement, especially for people from the United States, until you think about it for a while. Being young is a pretty desirable state of affairs.  I am in my late 40s, dating a girl age 25 and the way she’s pretty and unspeakably healthy freaks me out on a near daily basis. Just being around her, the attention she gets from pretty men and women is maddening and drives me livid with envy. I am pretty certain as soon as there will be clinics offering treatments that are proven to actually turn you in to a credible facsimile of “young” people will be lining up around the block with a semi riotous demeanor to get a few years of that good stuff. I might even make the claim that even during decades of severe economic downturns the most rich of nations will still be forced by popular vote to sacrifice an enormous percentage of the respective national products on giving a demanding electorate whatever is necessary to keep them young.

Rejuvenation & Basic Income

I might even go further –  I might conceivably predict that in a few decades voters in relatively affluent (Greece and above) social democracies world wide might give their citizens two things, to stop people from rioting – rejuvenation treatments and basic income. People will decide they need money to eat in world that no longer offers people a means to ascertain another income. Voters in  any democracy will wreck the economy using their vote to make damn sure to get what they perceive to be absolutely necessary. Once youth becomes a commodity (no matter how expensive) it will be insanely in demand, and people will either sell their McMansion and live in a one room council flat to get it. Or they will take to the streets and put the electoral knife to respectively politicians throats and demand it now. I predict that by 2100 life extension treatments will have long since been added to a long list of “human rights”.

The world we are in is depleting in numerous ways. We are not collectively getting any more affluent, as was the case since the 1970s. We are experiencing world wide decrease in affluence. It still perplexes me people still find this decrease in living standards acceptable, but politicians have become remarkably adept at selling curiously ridiculous narrative to explain why we should all accept this turn of events. The world is now no longer growing, and our moral and social betters are demanding we are all going to have to consent to a downwards turn in expectations. He’s probably right (and Guillotines never went out of style as far as I am concerned) and indeed future generations in Japan, the United States, Europe, Australia, Canada (et.al.) will probably be less affluent and less free). There are numerous reasons for this, of which the main three are resource depletion, pollution, climate change and ever increasing populations. And let’s not forget developing nations quickly catching up to previously developed nations. There are now many parts of Africa that do better in every measure than the worst parts of the United States, and this trend will continue.

In 2100 we are looking at a contradictory world – a world where on the one hand there are people born halfway the 20th century and they are still alive in some form – and a world where average global standards of living have fallen sharply lower than we have grown accustomed to in most of the 20th century. There might not be a middle class at all – we might all be living in a dystopian cyberproletariat.

But imagine such a world going on for centuries – absurd and near-magical technological progress, amazingly intricate electronic devices, most people you’d encounter on the street looking not a year over 25.

Such a world is a contradictory world of dormitories full of pretty young people. I might find certain types of satisfaction in such a world, but a whole lot of more consumerist inclined people in the country I live, might not be so happy having their hopes of a prosperous middle class standard of living squashed. Such a vision also tells us that world rarely turn out universally Utopian or universally Dystopian. There’s always a little of both mixed in, and your attitudes and general sense of optimism (or pessimism) towards the future will dictate how much you, my reader, might look forward to living in such a world.

What does it mean to be a successful human specimen? Many people will prefer affluence over a long life. I don’t. I’d rather live on a few centuries in my current (relatively meager) standards of living, rather than die a bloated fat western style cookie cutter middle class consumer – in my 70s. If we live to see quota established on life extension in various countries, we’ll see people having to choose one of either – live in a Cuba style dirt poor nation that offers all of its citizenry access to socialized youth, or live in a high-octane competitive society where only a few obscenely rich perceived “meritocrats” get to enjoy living to 200 and everyone else subsists on a range of brightly colored soylent products.

Pick your poison.

Images from Shutterstock and In Time.

Khannea Suntzu describes herself as cosmist, cosmicist, upwinger, socialist-libertarian, hedonist and abolitionist. Khannea is transgendered, and currently lives in the Netherlands.