The Societal Benefits of Rejuvenation Biotechnology
Rejuvenation biotechnologies promise to bring benefits to ourselves and the people close to us. Most people have no difficulty acknowledging these benefits, but even so, many people tend to focus on potential large-scale downsides of rejuvenation while entirely neglecting its benefits on society at large. Anti-aging biotechnologies would positively impact the whole of humanity, assuming that they become widely employed.
Doing away with useless expenses
The reason retirement exists is simple: older people aren’t healthy enough to work and support themselves, so governments need to finance their expenses. This has no other real utility than allowing older people to live decently; of course, this a noble goal in and of itself, but if old people were able to support themselves, they would enjoy a large degree of financial independence. It would also clearly have a large societal benefit, because the money saved on pensions could be put to other uses.
Let’s also not forget that, as their health keeps deteriorating, older people need ever-increasing medical attention. Unfortunately, current geriatric medicine isn’t able to restore their health or prevent it from worsening, thus it becomes less and less effective with the passing of time. Everything that can be achieved through this approach is a modest reduction of suffering or simply postpones the inevitable; in this sense, expenditures for geriatric care are nearly useless.
On the other hand, things would be far different if rejuvenation biotechnologies to stave off age-related diseases were widely available. Older adults would enjoy more youthful health; in a best-case scenario, people could look forward to enjoying the same health as typical young adults, irrespective of their actual ages. Naturally, we can’t expect age-related diseases to be fully eradicated overnight; rather, we should expect a gradual series of advancements staving them off until they will possibly be eradicated altogether. Accordingly, the need for later-life interventions will gradually decrease and eventually disappear, together with the medical expenditures associated with such things.
Not having to pay for treatments that can’t make people healthier anyway is obviously better than the opposite, and money saved on these short-term treatments could be put to other uses; for example, it could be used to finance government-subsidized rejuvenation therapies.
If rejuvenation biotechnologies gradually make people healthier for longer, and perhaps even for an indefinitely long time, then people’s ability to work will be preserved accordingly. This would translate into more wealth contributed to society and less wealth spent on retirement; people who work for longer can pay taxes for longer and don’t need government support for longer. This would certainly change the way Social Security works, but pension programs wouldn’t disappear altogether; there might be other things that make you unfit for work, and after thirty years of working, you might want to take a relatively short break, and it would be nice if we gave everyone the chance to do so by granting them pensions for maybe a couple of years.
The idea of working for a longer time, perhaps even much longer, may sound unappealing. However, this is a choice between working for only 30 to 40 years and then dying of age-related diseases, or alternatively working for 80 years and still being in good health. Besides, it won’t be necessary to shorten life to shorten time spent in any given line of work; simply changing jobs, however easy or difficult it may be, seems more reasonable.
Speculations on how this all might work in the distant future would be a pointless exercise because we don’t really know how much different that future will be, and they would be outside the scope of this article anyway. All that matters is that, in the near future and today’s economic system, it would definitely be a good thing for everyone if we could save on pension programs and ineffective, short-term treatments for the very old.
Transforming society for the better
It’s impossible to predict with certainty the effects of any disruptive technology over the long haul, but a concern granted to be voiced in a discussion about rejuvenation is that of social stagnation: the default assumption that old people hanging around for longer would hold back social progress because of their ‘old people mentality’.
Howver, there are ways in which society could benefit from longer-lived members. Scientists or great thinkers could actually speed up our progress on all fronts if they just had more time at their disposal, and the population would gain ever-growing life experience, knowledge, wisdom, and a lot to teach to younger generations. (Just imagine how much better a parent you could be with a 120-year life experience as opposed to 30, for example.)
This scenario is more plausible than its opposite, because there’s no real evidence that very long-lived yet physically and mentally perfectly healthy people would necessarily be conservative fossils just because they’re old. The gloom-and-doom scenario is often people’s first thought. This might be just evolution at work, as an extra pinch of pessimism in this case might have granted better survival chances than too much optimism.
Another possible beneficial side effect of longer lifespans might be improved foresight. It’s easy to neglect global concerns that might not affect us personally over the course of our 80-odd-year lifespans. Some of us do display sensible behavior and are worried about the kind of world we’re going to leave to the humanity of the future; yet, others don’t concern themselves with problems that might manifest only long after they’ll be gone.
However, if our lifespans were much longer than just 80 years, the consequences of our negligent behavior would stand far better chances of catching up with us; this might make even the least sensible of people think twice before behaving irresponsibly, and all of us would benefit from it.
It would be commendable if everyone were genuinely concerned about pollution, for example, for the sake of humanity as a whole rather than just for their own sake; however, regardless of individual motives, the end result would still be a better world for everyone. We could be content with that, even if some of us contributed to it because they had personal stakes and not exactly out of the kindness of their hearts.