We will Live Forever or Die Trying

The mariner was re-reading a few of the more interesting articles in back issues of magazines. One from The Economist (August 13 2016) provoked thoughts about how culture would change if we lived a lot longer and how the economy and international relations would change and….

To share some thoughts with the reader, part of the article is copied below:

“Humanity must avoid the trap fallen into by Tithonus, a mythical Trojan who was granted eternal life by the gods, but forgot to ask also for eternal youth. Eventually, he withered into a cicada.

The trap of Tithonus is sprung because bodies have evolved to be throwaway vessels for the carriage of genes from one generation to the next. Biologists have a phrase for it: the disposable soma. It explains not only general senescence, but also why dementia, cancer, cardiovascular problems, arthritis and many other things are guarded against in youth, but crammed into old age once reproduction is done with. These, too, must be treated if a long and healthy life is to become routine. Moreover, even a healthy brain may age badly. An organ evolved to accommodate 70 or 80 years of memories may be unable to cope when asked to store 150 years’ worth.”

There are other social points made in the article. If the reader is interested, see: http://www.economist.com/printedition/2016-08-13 Page 14.

Using these thoughts as a springboard, one can take off running in many directions. The mariner provides a few:

How will family life change? Today, children typically are born before parents are forty; later adult partnership has a few awkward adjustments which may have to be taken seriously on a cultural level and dealt with differently than the present decorum provides. Will a lifespan become two or three life spans? The Economist says having children at 100 could be possible.

Today, one of the serious issues that confront us is the economics of older workers; not just at age 65 or 70 but the prejudice against the middle-aged worker – say someone approaching 50. If workers lived healthily beyond 100 or 120, should they be bumped off the first team so younger blood can move up the ladder?

Retirement is a growing problem today. Depression, boredom, lack of personal value and raison d’être are psychological traps even if one lives only a decade into retirement. How about living 50 or 60 years?

The economic side of the retired lifestyle is an even larger issue. Is a retiree required to carry a pension for self support? Where does the money come from to live another 100 years?

Sociologists say that a neighborhood has a span of 60 years. Built in 1960 as a new, upscale neighborhood with lots of young people, new houses and streets, and a bustling social culture – in 60 years it will be old houses, old people, lots of rentals and a slip in economic class. What if the neighborhood has to remain dynamic for 100 years?

Will there be senior pro sport leagues? Where does Roger Federer go to play when he reaches 50 given medicine will keep him young enough not to lose that step most athletes lose around 30?

Will hotspots like Sandals move their fantasy advertisements out a few decades? What do healthy 120 year-olds fantasize about?

Malthus[1] would be in a frenzy if he heard people would live virtually forever. He believed that overcrowding would force humans back to primitive cultures because resources would become scarce. Well, how will we manage excessive population when people won’t die?

Presented a bit tongue in cheek, actually these questions will require immense change in H. sapiens’ arc of life.

Joseph Campbell isn’t here to help us make a new one.

Ancient Mariner

[1] — Thomas Malthus, 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population.