In this week’s episode of X10, another informative and straightforward Life Extension 101 episode, Giuliano discusses the benefits of life extension, including its effects on you, your family, and society as a whole. He discusses the possibilities of retirement and the ability to get around to doing the things that you never found time for, and he offers a glimpse into a world in which you may not have to inevitably bury your loved ones within a fixed amount of time.
A transcript of this episode is available below.
In the previous episode of X10, we established what we mean by life extension—the extension of healthy human lifespan thanks to rejuvenation biotechnologies that let you remain as functional and good-looking as a young adult, regardless of your chronological age. Before we move on to see how this could be done, we should talk in detail about the benefits—for yourself, for your family, and for the world as a whole.
On the individual level, it’s absolutely obvious why rejuvenation is a good idea—or at least, it should be absolutely obvious. The data unambiguously shows that aging is the biggest risk factor for virtually all diseases, and that the average 65+-year-old suffers from multiple chronic health conditions; but there’s really no need to pull out research and statistics—it’s enough to look at your grandparents or other elderly people to see that, at the very least, they’ve got poor eyesight, are hard of hearing, have difficulty walking, and are generally weaker and more susceptible to communicable diseases; in the worst case, they suffer from serious conditions like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or even cancer and Alzheimer’s, and the incidence of these diseases goes up quickly with age.
It’s fairly uncontroversial to say that everyone likes being healthy more than being sick, and since rejuvenation is all about preserving youthful health no matter how old you are, it should be clear why it’s good for you as an individual.
Of course, the benefits of rejuvenation aren’t “just” health-related; being healthy for longer implies living for longer, which means more time to dedicate to your passions and interests, to spend with your loved ones, to learn new things, and to become a better and wiser person, in principle without time limits. Without the hard limit imposed by aging on your lifespan, it would never be too late to make a different choice. If you didn’t like what you studied in your 20s, picked the wrong career in your 30s, had children too early or postponed having any for too long, the time ahead of you wouldn’t be limited to a few decades, at most, anymore, and as your health wouldn’t decline with time, you would always be able to use that time to make the choice you didn’t make before. There would never be a point in your life at which you would regret that it is too late to change.
Plus, if you’re as curious as I am to see what the future is going to be like, life extension is your ticket for that ride.
Does this mean that living longer will automatically make you happier? No. Simply living longer, even if in perfect health, isn’t necessarily enough to make you happy or happier; your career choices, the people you spend time with, and events both under and beyond your control may all play a role in determining how happy you’ll be, but more time spent in good health certainly gives you better chances to build your own happiness than less time partially spent in ill health.
That’s all good for individuals, but what about your friends and family? Well, rejuvenation would be good for them as individuals for the same reasons it would be for you, but there are other reasons too.
Having to watch powerless as you age and die would grieve your loved ones very much—if it didn’t, you’d probably need better loved ones—and rejuvenation would spare them the pain. Your children and grandchildren would never have to see you become sicker and sicker as you age, and in principle, they might even never have to bury you. Rather than spending time worrying about your worsening health, they could spend more time doing fun things with you, and what’s more, you would never have to worry about becoming a burden on them. Rejuvenation would allow you to preserve your independence so that you wouldn’t need looking after regardless of your age.
Speaking of friends and families, in a world without aging, we would be able to cultivate relationships for as long as we wanted. Right now, being in your 80s means that you often have to attend the funeral of a good friend who is no longer there or maybe the funeral of the companion you spent fifty years with, and that’s awful. Thanks to rejuvenation, 80 would be an age like any other, and you wouldn’t have any more funerals to attend than you had in your 20s; how long people want to be together would be up only to them.
On an even grander scale, rejuvenation would be good for society, and it might help solve problems that would otherwise be very difficult or even intractable; for example the problem of pensions. The modern pension system was devised around a hundred years ago, when nobody expected that so many people would eventually live into their 80s and 90s like today; and in 2050, the number of people aged over 60 is expected to reach over two billion, which is more than double today’s number. Experts are worried that we might be unable to pay all those pensions, and while enough policy tinkering might prevent a crisis in the short term, as long as elderly people need a pension, the problem might present itself over and over again.
As of yet, it’s unclear if full-blown rejuvenation biotechnologies that can turn elderly people into young adults again will be ready in time to prevent a crisis that is expected at best only a few decades from now, but studies show that delaying the insurgence of chronic age-related diseases by just a few years would be enough to save trillions of dollars; and once rejuvenation biotechnologies will be ready to rock, pensions as we know them will no longer be necessary, because people will always be able to work.
You might feel a bit iffy about working “forever”, but it’s a fair trade-off when you think that what you get in return is perfectly good health. Besides, being always able to work doesn’t necessarily mean that you must work all the time; retirement might turn into a shorter, government-paid holiday of a few years before you get back to work, for example—which, for your country, would be a much better deal than paying you to do nothing for twenty years before you die.
In a similar way, rejuvenation would eliminate the need for traditional geriatrics, which is not only extremely costly for society but also rather ineffective and unable to fully restore people’s health, as it focuses on the symptoms rather than the cause of diseases.
But enough about money: the societal benefits of rejuvenation aren’t just financial. How often have you wondered how much better off humanity would be if the great minds of the past were still with us? With rejuvenation, that may happen. Scientists, doctors, philosophers, economists, thinkers—you name it; thanks to life extension, they could go on living for a very long time in the prime of health, and humanity as a whole could benefit from their knowledge and wisdom; they could help bring science forward for centuries rather than just a few decades, and maybe hasten the solution of serious global problems.
And speaking of global problems, a longer lifespan might change our attitude towards them, leading to a renewed awareness. If you only have a few decades to live, you might decide that long-term problems, such as global warming or pollution, aren’t really your problem and that you don’t need to bother helping to solve them—and maybe, it’s okay if you pollute the environment here and there, too; you’ll be long dead before the consequences will show up anyway.
However, if you expect to be alive and well more than a hundred years from now, you might want to have a nice, habitable planet to live on, which may give you the motivation you need to take good care of it right now—if not for others’ sake, at least for yourself, and either way, we will all benefit from it.
Unfortunately, it’s not 100% certain that any of us alive today will live long enough to see rejuvenation happen, especially for people who have already lived for several decades—things can go wrong, and there might be delays. However, even if we didn’t make it, working on rejuvenation right now will still hasten the defeat of aging, which may make a difference between your children or grandchildren living long enough to escape the diseases of aging or dying of them like nearly everyone else before. Think of it as our parting gift to the next generations.
But don’t despair just yet—with enough effort, aging might be defeated in our lifetime, and a good way to help us get there is helping Lifespan.io in its mission to spread the word and crowdfund research. If you’d like to help us lock aging up into the hospice for retired medical conditions and throw away the key, you can join our supporters at lifespan.io/hero.