Saturday, January 05, 2008

What if we could live forever?

The pious believer already believes this. But what if secular science could indefinitely extend this present life? This Economist article talks about a few who think breakthroughs are within sight. Moreover it presents the intriguing concept of the longevity escape velocity - if you could live long enough to benefit from life extension innovations, and these innovations come about more rapidly in the future, then conceivably some people alive today may experience hitherto unknown lifespans (over 150 years).

I wonder what the social and economic implications would be if life expectancy could say achieve early Genesis scale (a millenium). My biggest concern is to contain population growth. At such prolonged lifespans, I think the environmental carrying capacity requires very low annual fertility rates. With very little reproductive selection going on, genetic erosion in homo sapiens may accelerate. This may render us vulnerable to population shocks - pathogens, climate shift, asteroid collision, whatever. (Technological optimists would think that a fix may be possible for this.)

And think about it - a world where children are as rare as, say, 2 m tall people are today. What would the quality of life be in such a world?

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