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Centuries of Poverty: Life Extension & Rejuvenation

Centuries of Poverty: Life Extension & Rejuvenation

by Khannea SuntzuJanuary 30, 2015

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 ( 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.

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  • This has to be one of the most retarded article I have ever read.

    • Dr Johnty


  • Gear Mentation

    This is a good article. However, you deeply and basically misunderstand the future of resources.

    Anyone with the knowledge of what life extension may become will have an open enough mind to apply the same prescience to other technologies.

    Others have done a much better job explaining it than I can, so I won’t go into the reasons why we will be able to produce much more than plenty for everyone without depleting our environment.

    The only way the future will not be abundant is for purely social/political reasons. It can only be less than abundant if resources are purposely and forcefully withheld from people, resources which could easily be in plentiful supply for everyone.

    So there is actually a contradiction in your article:

    You say that people will be able, through electoral or other means, to demand life extension.

    There will be plenty of resources to produce abundance.


    People will not be able to demand that they partake in the abundance.

    You might be right, but I think if people can demand life extension and a basic income, they will be able to demand that the means of production work just a little harder so everyone will have their goodies.

    After all, how many trillions of people do you expect will be around? How many basic resources exist in the crust of the earth, in the asteroid belt, on Mars, and in the first few kilometers of the moon’s crust?

    Or do you really think we can’t, for some reason, get at these resources when we can keep people alive for centuries?

    • I agree with the thesis that a hyper abundant world a la Diamandis might be possible. The problem is that it isn’t possible with CURRENT technologies. 🙂

      • Gear Mentation

        That’s true about current technologies. Or, at least, the technologies currently in use. Production of food, water, and material could be improved drastically by actually using currently known technologies, or very moderate extensions, like figuring out how to make really nice soy meat.

        But, you have to make a choice: either the people have the leverage to get life extension… or they don’t. If they can get life extension, they can also get basic income, and they can partake in abundance.

        My reference to the rest of the solar system was largely rhetorical. For, say 20 billion people I think we could house them very comfortably on Earth, with easily foreseeable technology.

        So as you say, it’s all about politics, and/or elite use of technology to create totalitarianism.

        But I can’t foresee any future where the people have enough leverage to get themselves a basic income and life extension, but not enough to get themselves a nice lifestyle. After all, it’s not about resources now, and it won’t be in the future. It’s all about how those resources are used.

  • Dr Johnty

    Great article and lots to ponder. Personally I think it is hard for most people to grasp how the war on aging will ultimately be won and most people I find are in a trance and basically have a mental block to the potential benefits of life extension and even more importantly extending peoples healthspan.

    Clearly enhanced longevity means the implications for work and retirement are profound and this will require considerable thought and planning. No doubt the concept of retirement will need a total rethink because it obviously cannot continue as it does now even in the short term because lets assume someone started work at 20 and retired at 60 you would have worked for 40 years so if you live to 150 or more you will be retired for 90+ years, would the savings last? Clearly not. Common sense tells you that being retired for significantly more years than you worked will just not be realistic in the age of radical life extension. The crucial thing to understand is that we are not going to find a treatment all that offers a miracle cure, frankly I feel a true cure for aging is probably 100+ years away, this is because there are essentially two problems, firstly we do not understand how the damage which accumulates over the years is actually laid down and secondly we have very limited knowledge of metabolism and a comprehensive understanding in both areas is a prerequisite for finding a cure. In my mind Dr Aubrey de Grey’s theory of SENS which deals with the repair of the damage without actually interfering with the rate at which it is laid down offers us a shortcut to extreme life extension without the need to cure the underlying aging process itself but in the last few years Aubrey seems to have got his point across and others are pursuing paths to healthy life extension as well. My gut instinct is that aging will be under a decisive level of clinical control within 20 years but I think we will see significant progress within 10 to 15 years and the turning point could arrive anytime from around 2025 onwards. As far as the effect on retirement (or its elimination) I feel that the key is for people to remain engaged and productive, clearly the 9-5 grind is not inevitable and older people are ideally suited to working in some areas where a healthy rejuvenated body combined with decades of experience could be put to great use.

    I recommend a great read called the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris is gives a lot of pointers impacting a much longer potential lifespan. I have implemented a lot of the book to improve my own life and I haven’t even hit retirement age but as a researcher on the subject of aging I can see where we are heading and I think radical life extension will be a huge benefit if appropriate changes are made in lifestyle and outlook. Not only that but 100.000 lives will be saved each day if we can save people from the simple misfortune of being born many years ago and suffeing the inevitable frailty and chronic conditions that currently accompany old age.

    • I anticipate sort of an “imagination singularity” happening in the none too distant future where people start thinking “what if” ? Once more people wake up to potentials, we might see some very sudden shifts.

    • Gear Mentation

      Yes. You *almost* fall into the trap of extrapolating out the advancement of one technology (life extension) but not doing so with other technologies. In a future where we apply indefinite life extension, other technologies should make “savings” and most “work” a thing of the past. I doubt there’s any possible future where we use life extension but mysteriously still have the kinds of scarcity we do today, with the attendant need for savings and the very idea of “retirement.” Retirement from what, if you don’t have to “work for a living?”

      • ozlanthos

        You are correct in assuming (as your tone suggests) that our current “scarcity” issue on this planet is the product of an almost (if not totally) managed effort to restrict food supply. We have plenty of healthy rivers with dams that with minor modifications can be made to allow for “human-free” (meaning Salmon, Steelhead and other anadromous species can get into our lakes and spawn) passage through to even larger spawning habitats than they have ever had (meaning that in their “natural” state, the rivers in question didn’t have enough water to produce the kinds of runs our lakes can. Before beavers built the dams, and Salmon and Steelhead would mature in the pools behind the dams until the dams would collapse in the fall) because beavers don’t build dams as big as we build them. Lots of production capacity lost because a few bureaucrats can’t see beyond the initial investment.


        • Gear Mentation

          That’s an interesting perspective on rivers I haven’t encountered before.

          • ozlanthos

            The Upper Willamette system in particular. Although I am not a structural engineer, I do see plenty of room behind the dams. I imagine it this way. There are two ways to get the runs back. One is the right way, the other is the wrong way. Some have suggested that complete removal of the dams is necessary… As I see it, this is the WRONG way to address the issue. It would eliminate the “flood-preventative” measure of the dams, and reducing the spawning aresa to a level no better than before the introduction of the dams.

            The right way (as I see it) is to cut a channel through the sections of the dams that are natural, starting at roughly 40 feet below full pool. The channel would have a series of floating locks that would rise and fall with the lake level, ensuring passive fish-passage throughout the entirety of the year. This would not only produce large runs of salmon and steelhead (because the lakes provide bigger spawning pools/smolting ponds than beaver ponds do) but we would have the capability to have SEVERAL runs per year, as well as a year-round warm-water fishery.

            The benefits of this proposal are myriad. One in particular being that it would increase the temperature of the Willamette by roughly 15 degrees. Thus making it far more appealing to visit. As it is, the river is fed from 3 dams, all of which drain water from BELOW THEIR THERMOCLINES. This means that the water coming into the rivers is anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees colder than it should be. This has been very destructive to the natural balance of the flora/fauna in the river system, and I fear is the primary reason for the loss of the Bull trout fishery we were so revered for.

            I’ve discussed this with a multitude of state and federal employees who work with these lakes, and their answer is always the same “we don’t have that kind of money”. It is this failure to see the grander design I am proposing, and it’s monetary impact on the region that I consider to be indicative of another plan already in place. A plan that does not account for there being ANY salmon and steelhead in the future… As I said, the “scarcity” is PLANNED, and ORCHESTRATED to exist.


          • Gear Mentation

            Interesting. Does it have anything to do with wanting to use the water for hydro electric? If so, the advent of solar energy over the next decade might make your suggestions more palatable to them?

          • ozlanthos

            I do believe solar is going to be a kind of a leap-frog kind of thing here as panels lower in price. At least that is what I would like to see. I think they have an urban expansion plan that mimics other metropolitan developments. I could be wrong but it feels to me like the destiny of the region looks a lot like the LA River (which itself at one time had runs of over 40k fish). As far as hydro goes, I’ve been thinking about (and there are already projects like this) generators that run “in-line” with the river. Meaning that there is a side channel that is run through a hydro-electric facility. To be fair, I do not envision that the canals I am proposing would cost the lake enough pressure to make them unviable for future hydro-electric utility.

            The greater issue to me is the fact that I’ve seen the lakes serve as excellent smolting pools. I think the reason for this is that the fish have a greater number of areas to lay eggs and do their thing, In addition I feel (as a product of having fished these lakes for over 20 years) that contrary to popular belief, warm-water species are actually conducive to producing larger runs.

            This is because of the spawn patterns of both types of fish. Steelhead, and Salmon spawn in colder water, thus their smolt are several inches long by the time they make it down to the lake. By then, the spawn of the warm water species is just hatching, to going to fingerling. So essentially the smolt come into a wide area (low concentration of predators) that is full of .5 to 1 inch minnows…. You do the math…The only thing missing from this equation is a fully functional means of escapement, and return. 😉


          • Gear Mentation

            I hope you are publishing this somewhere else. You are informed enough about your local environment to really influence policy and public debate, perhaps even if you don’t have the degreez to go with it. It’s impressive and shouldn’t be wasted.