Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 1.27

This past weekend I watched 60 Minutes to see the report about Resveratrol, a compound found in small amounts in red wine, that seems to extend the lifespan of rats.

As many of you may know, I was in commercial clinical research prior to joining the JREF earlier this month, and I always cringe when I hear someone is going to profile a “miracle” substance that hasn’t even been tested in humans.  There’s a reason for clinical testing having several phases, and there’s a reason it starts in pre-clinical testing in the lab.

But my question isn’t about the vagaries of mainstream media.  It’s more esoteric:

If you could take a pill that would allow you to live to be 150, would you do it?  What about 250?  And if so, what would you do with your extra time?  (Assume you’d be relatively healthy for 80% of this time, aging as normal in the last 20%.)

a.real.girl

A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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76 Comments

  1. Of course I would take the pill – though I would likely try to get others to do the same. That being said, if such a thing became widely available, we would have to figure out what we were going to do about the sudden decrease in the death rate and the accompanying strain on our resource base.

    As for what I would do – I would probably do more of the types of things that I have already been feeling like I miss out on – travelling, reading, research, teaching, photography. Basically, I would figure that I had alot more life, and therefore should do, as best I could, the things that I most enjoy while I am able.

  2. Assuming I’m relativley healthy for 80% of the time, hells yes to the 250. I wanna see what our future looks like!

    I’d probably do the same as I’m doing now: Working, trying to find a solid career but mostly interested in enjoying life outside of work with friends, family. I don’t have any desire to get married OR have kids, so really, this would be perfect for me! :D

  3. Oh, and I’d probably experiment with more things in life – try the foods that don’t sound so appealing, read the books that didn’t interest me right off. After all, if I have extra time, I may find more that I enjoy.

  4. Speaking for the planet, this would be a disaster for so many obvious reasons.

    No way. Ever. I’m not sure I an afford to live as long as the current actuarial tables say I probably will. I’m sure my ability to learn, which is my primary joy in living, will be severely curtailed probably starting fairly soon. Besides if my wife died I’d be dead too in the time it takes to make a phone call and drink a glass of water.

  5. I’d go for the 150, which always seemed like the perfect age to me — as long as my spouse could come along with me. It will probably take us at least that long to finish remodeling on our house…

    I would just enjoy having the extra time, try to travel more, maybe spend a decade in a country where I could help others live better, then spend a decade living on a beach…Catch up on reading and doing all the things I get behind on while procrastinating on the net…

    M

  6. Yes! I want to see the future! Sadly, all of my family would die. Anyways, that extra time would probably be spent on me travelling around the world, doing astronomy, and other stuff.

  7. In a word: No.

    In a good deal more than one word:

    As @davew says, it’s probably not a good idea for the planet, for starters. Further, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing with the time I’ve got currently, and thinking about the future induces a stomach-churning dread in me as it is.

    Assuming nothing happens, I can expect to live another 50-60 years, and the thought of having a career and going to work every day for the majority of those years, the thought of living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to find something that I won’t HATE doing… these thoughts are terrifying enough. Why on Earth would I choose to extend that?

    I can see why some people would say yes. They have families, responsibilities, things they hope to accomplish, etc. Perhaps I’d change my mind if I were married, had kids, liked my job or saw anything but drudgery in my future. But for me, the nameless dread of a longer life is far, far greater than the fear of, one day, no longer living.

  8. You know how junk proliferates to fit the available space? Well, that applies to time as well. Folks are saying they’d spend the time traveling and whatnot. But, no you wouldn’t. Why? Because you’d have to work, babysit your great-great-grandchildren, and so on.

    In other words, undesirable obligations would proliferate to fill the available time.

  9. I think the interesting corollary to this question is: “If what you would do with the extra time is significantly different than what you are doing now, why?

    With most people living to 250 means they are still going to be working until they are 240. Laying on a beach for 10 years sounds great (actually to me it sounds like torture, whatever), but if it is not already happening to you the chances are it never will. Apologies if I am trampling on anyone’s flight of fancy.

  10. I would completely go for the 250 years. Even if it meant my husband couldn’t come with me for some asinine reason. He’d totally understand. I want to see the future. What you don’t say is if everyone gets the option, or only a few elite get it. I’m willing to bet I could figure it out so I could work long enough to build up what I need to have a part time working/part time retired thing going on. I have SO much to do, that I could more than fill up three or four lifetimes with stuff. :)

  11. You caught me with this question in the middle of my mid-life crisis, so my answer is no Bleeping way.
    Why? Money for retirement and quality of life. Even at 80% healthy how would being over 100 years old be as far as quality of life. Then to think of what a body would be able to do at 150 years or 200.
    Even if you give me that I stop aging, imagine the idea of working for another 100 years. I am already to retire now at the twenty or thirty years I have to work before retirement age seem so large.
    Oh and for sure if we are living that much longer then the retirement age will be like 150.
    –Eddie

  12. @davew:
    You have heard of compound interest, right?

    @Expatria:
    Get busy living or get busy dying.

    ————–

    Yes. 150, 250, 350, 450, 1050, 2500, enter a number for N, and I will choose to live that long.

    First off, the idea that you can’t get rich over your lifetime is demonstrably false. With apologies to davew, if you are investing reasonably wisely, eventually, it pays off. We can’t all get rich, true, but we can all get a hell of a lot richer than we are now. Even paying off your mortgage can have a huge financial upside. If I lived to 250, I would have 100 years of productive, increasing returns style working and investing AFTER my house was paid off and both kids are gone… and then I’d have another 100 years to reap the rewards. Sweet.

    I’d visit Mars at some point, even if it cashed me out completely and I had to start all over.

    Living to 250 would be like the biggest do over ever. I could sit there at 100, house paid off, transportation covered, investments solid, and chase a dream, like being an astronaught. I’d HAVE the decades to learn 7 languages. I’d have the centuries to really learn to write poetry.

    Yeah. There would be babysitting to be done, I’m sure. But you know… at some point you just pay some great-great niece to do it and get on with stuff you want to do.

    Oh… and when the pill stopped working and I hit the last 20%, where I wasn’t healthy anymore? I’d still go for it. Science got me this far, 50 years is a long time, and who knows… I might see the year 3000 after all.

  13. sethmanapio :

    That is assuming this capitalistic structure will be in place in 100 years.

    It also assumes you really enjoy going to work everyday and that would continue for 100 years.

    It also assumes your skill set no matter how great would still be affordable to companies as your experience grows.

  14. Yes. Hell yes.

    What I’d do with all that time?

    Probably procrastinate.

    “Should I go see [random sight or person here] this year? Nah, no hurry.”

    So pretty much the same as now, just more of it.

  15. @sethmanapio: You can’t invest what you don’t have to begin with. How many people in this world live hand-to-mouth, and how many people in this world carry unacceptable amounts of debt which essentially obliterate any shot of saving or investing? I’m all about capitalism, don’t get me wrong, but it is patently false that wealth accumulation is as routine as you made it sound.

    And as for “Get busy living or get busy dying,” I have to quote a certain piece of foliage and say “False dichotomy!” :-P

    That said, I’d certainly rather be busy dying than busy living the way I do now for the rest of my life.

  16. @sethmanapio: Compound interest.

    I did say most people. In order for compound interest to work you have to have something to compound and an interest rate better than inflation.

    In the words of Jayne Cobb, sort of, “Lessee. Nothin’ times nothin’ is nothin’, carry the zero, and…”

  17. Actually, I think this may be a deeper question than it originally appeared.

    The reason I say that is because I’m pondering what the effect on younger generations a life-extension pill would have. (I’m not taking on the ecological ramifications here. Seperate, but devastating issue.)

    Would youth (though they are also taking the LE-pill) see the older generation as getting in their way, clogging up society’s arteries? Would our presence inhibit their initiative or abilities? Would we be a stagnating force?

    I’m going to have to think about this one for awhile before I can answer it.

  18. Perhaps the powers that be would require sterilization prior to taking the pill and a demonstrating a provable long term usefulness quotient. I’d love to spend 200 more years learning, reading, writing, traveling, learning to paint, going to TAM CVII, not to mention the volunteer work and the fine golf game I’d have after 100 years of practice. As for the work issue, investments will make a difference not to mention all the antiques you’ll eventually own. And if the choice is work or be dead I’ll head into the office tomorrow morning as usual.

    Could this really happen and if so would it be allowed? Perhaps and perhaps. This would be an interesting bioethics argument to hear the experts chew on. It’s not hard to imagine a world of increasingly reduced resources where roving bands of young poor and desperate individuals who only steal and murder the PILL TAKERS!

  19. Hell, no. I hate to see the environmental changes that are going on now; I can’t imagine them 100 years from now. *shudders* I’m glad I’ll likely live less than 50 years more.

    I have a great life: meaningful, enjoyable work; great family and friends; enjoyable hobbies; and lots of volunteer activities thrown in for good measure. I love to learn and travel. But I’m perfectly content with a regular lifespan.

  20. @Sam Ogden: Clearly I’ve been reading to many SM Sterling end of the world as we know it alternate history novels. I only seem to read this type of book during the dark of winter. But just think of how good of a golf hustler you could become. Winnings to pay for golf travel and drinks!

  21. @James Fox:

    That’s assuming you had any talent to begin with. You could probably pull it off, but I’m pretty sure I could play golf for another 150 years and still be a menace to windows, other golfers, and various birds and small animals along the fairway.

  22. @James_Fox: That’s been done. Remember Lazarus Long? :-D

    @Bjornar: I suspect that, people being what they are, most would do exactly that.

    I wonder…
    Would we find out if the human brain has a ‘memory limit?’
    Would our older memories be lost as time went by?
    Would we fall into emotional depression, seeing that humans really don’t change much over even a 250 year lifespan?
    What would happen if we did have a brain ‘memory limit’ and it was completely filled?
    Would Sam reach his goal of playing to par? :-D

  23. A quarter of a century?
    Oh Abso-Fucking-Lutely Yes!
    I love what I do now, I have a long list of selfish, and philanthropic desires to fulfill, and I’m certain that both those lists would grow almost as fast as the items get checked off.

  24. @sethmanapio: i, too, would choose to live as long as possible. there’s just too much to do in this life.
    i’m closing in on 30 and only now feel like i’m starting to be on the right path. i still can’t really see where that path is headed.
    i’ve never been one to worry about the details. if i’m alive, i’ll find a way to make enough money to live comfortably and be reasonably happy.
    and if it really sucked that bad, i could always choose to die (though i don’t think i would ever make that decision).

  25. @davew: I did say most people.

    ——–

    Yes, but you said it exclusively to people with access to a computer, and therefore, access to low cost index funds, and therefore, to the miracle of compound interest. Over time, including the great depression, the market trends up faster than inflation.

    And given a century of compound interest? That’s real money, even if you start with only a few bucks a day.

  26. Yeah, I’d do it. I’d also consider cryogenics so I could come back for just one day in a few hundred years. I want to see the future and I can’t think of any other way to do so. It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I do wonder, however, if it would get really boring after a while. I mean, I’m already sick of annual holidays, political elections, and other recurring events and I’m not even 50.

  27. @Expatria: but it is patently false that wealth accumulation is as routine as you made it sound.

    ——-

    It is routine for 100% of the people on this board. You are all literate, first world denizens capable of getting full time jobs and engaging in basic investing. The floor for joining the investment class is about 30 bucks, which 100% of the people on this board are capable of scraping together.

    You are not a slum dog.

    And get busy living or get busy dying isn’t a false dichotomy, it’s just advice. I advise you to either start loving life on its own terms or just check out. Make the call.

    I do. Almost every day.

  28. @sethmanpio: re 36
    One thing you assume is a stable global/national governmental and financial system where you account(s) are located. All it would take is a stroke of a pen and you could lose all of that. The chances increase as time passes, but I can’t quantify that accurately. Even Switzerland’s safety is questionable when measured over centuries. After seeing the sudden implosion of the USSR, I can’t look at any government the same way.

    After the recent economic meltdown (the complete results of which are yet to be determined, IMHO), I’m feeling rather jaundiced about stocks and investing. My 401K is now a 200.5K at best. There are many people in my age bracket that no longer have much hope of retiring, including me. Yeah, that pill might let me live to be 250, but it will take me another 30-40 years of working just to rebuild for retirement.

    @carrd2d: re 35:
    I know what you mean. No one takes a linear path in life, because we all make mistakes and random events change our lives. As John Lennon wrote: “Life is what happens while we’re making plans.”

    @catfurniture: I weep and shudder at what I see coming ecologically. This is because within my memory, natural places such as reefs and beaches that I swam around, played on and enjoyed as a child no longer exist. You may laugh at this, but to me the sky itself no longer is quite the same blue it was near the horizon. It has a hazy tan layer around the horizon that wasn’t there a few decades ago.

    I fear we’re well on our way to an ecology that looks like the one depicted in Blade Runner.

  29. I’d have to know first if my husband decided to live longer. The hardest part would be having those I love die. But I think I would. I always think I need more time, especially as I get older. I’d love to travel more and learn more.

    But if I have to work for 100 years, I’m not so sure. Only if I could have those last 80 years for living modestly and pursuing a lot of hobbies.

  30. @davew:

    Well, no. I reject that if it’s not happening now it never will. Everything we accomplish in life is just an idea before we do it.

    Given I have (hopefully) 40-50 years left, these are things I *hope* to do — and which are quite possible — but if I knew I had double that time left, they would become even more possible, not less so.

    Enough people here seem willing to “go” early, perhaps making room for some of us who’d like to stay late. ;)

    M

  31. @sethmanapio “Over time, including the great depression, the market trends up faster than inflation. ”

    True enough, and this has guided my investing for the last mumble years. I’m not entirely sure it’s going to be true in the future. I certainly hope so, however. I’m certainly buying a lot of SPY right now.

    I am continuously amazed about the laissez-faire attitude about saving even among my well-educated, well-paid peers. I’ve had more than one awkward moment where I just assumed someone was in the 401k program. “We just can’t afford it right now.”

  32. I don’t think anyone has touched on this yet…two things first: If everyone else took the pill, I’d take it too. (same as if everyone jumped off a cliff…I wouldn’t want to be the only person left for very long)

    Main point: I think a large increase in human life expectancy may slow down advancements in technology and science. Humanity could lose a sense of urgency and become stagnant. (think “I’ll do it tomorrow” attitude). Example: Why bother fixing Alzheimer’s disease when nobody will get it for 200 years? But them maybe our creative minds would develop some super cool fun retirement activities…

  33. @QuestionAuthority: After the recent economic meltdown (the complete results of which are yet to be determined, IMHO), I’m feeling rather jaundiced about stocks and investing.

    ———–

    Really? Because I’m buying. I’m putting off other things to buy. I’m tightening my belt to buy. Why? Because one of two things is going to happen:

    1) Civilization is going to collapse, and it won’t actually matter whether I have money or not. In which case, the infrastructure to create the longevity pill will disappear.
    2) I’ll never see a market this low again as long as I live, in which case, I will really regret not investing now, especially after 200 years of compound interest.

    I will bet you 5 bucks, right now, that by the end of Obama’s first term we see the Dow over 12,000 again, and in less than 6 years all the losses you’ve seen will be made up and more.

    You have plenty of hope of retiring. Unless civilization literally collapses, you’ll be fine. Late by 5 years or so, but fine.

    @Mully410: I think this is way offset by the amount of productivity that gets gained when people with 50 years of research experience are considered young, and individuals can seriously contemplate embarking on century long longitudinal studies.

  34. Absolutely I would do it. I have a hard enough time as a 24 year old imagining how I’m going to have a chance to pursue all my interests in the next sixty years or so. Sixty years! That’s not enough to do all the interesting experiments I can think up, write all the novels that are kicking around in my head, investigate every fascinating time period and political event, understand every intriguing phenomenon, raise a child, learn how to bake bread, throw a curveball, etc., etc., etc.

    Also, every time I enter a library – especially the stuffed-full, cavernous ones where I work – I feel a strange sort of sadness that even if I sit down right now and start reading, and keep at it night and day, I will never read everything there before I die.

    (Not that living longer would help that – people would just keep writing more books and creating more knowledge, damn them!)

  35. Gah! One of the most depressing series of responses I’ve read during my very short association with this blog. For me, the answer is a qualified yes – because living longer gives me time and resources to begin to address social/environmental ills facing the Earth’s inhabitants.

    While I agree with others above who are concerned about the huge environmental impact, if the people here on this board do not note that the travellers/consumers are all sucking down the longevity pill, who is going to be left to help them see the errors of their ways? So much of our early lives are committed just to calibrate, acquire our bearings, sift/measure candidate projects that could make a difference in the world, that we often simply run out of time before being able to effectively implement them.

    Of even more concern, if a group of people like those posting here can offer so little to the future in response to an opportunity like the putative LE pill, there may be no future.

    (Of course, one of my first projects AFTER popping MY pill would be to limit its widespread availability to allow technology\social change a chance to respond to the other issues. We have elsewhere discussed ethics in a decaying social order and I want to be near the front of the line on this because as we all implicitly note, it is not going to be available to everyone forever.)

    THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE! (or something)

    Y_S_G

  36. We’re sparring over whether compound interest will persist long enough as a system to sustain you without working? That’s the sticking point? Really? ;-)

    While I do have questions, ala Kim Stanley Robinson, about what a society looks like where set-in-their-ways old folks don’t kick off and make room, physically and ideologically, I have to say: HELL YES. Another 3 to 4 times as many days to turn into adventures, and books read and written, and friends and lovers, and competitions won and lost, experiments, trips, business ventures, charitable work? You bet.

    Some people theorize that part of the violence decline is an increase in the perceived value of a life when it isn’t cut short by disease-how much further does that run if you can be expected to live to X length? How much more vibrant is the intellectual landscape if you go to college for something new every 50 years, instead of expecting to get it right once and ride it to the grave? What do athletics look like with a 5 decade prime to train in? What if you could retire for ten years at 100, to travel, or donate your time, or whatever, and pick up again afterwards? How much provincialism does that banish?

    And yes, there would be more time in cubicles and shoveling dog poo or whatever. But if the thought of those mundanities is so daunting…why are you still breathing as it is?

  37. @YourSkepticalGuy: Of course, one of my first projects AFTER popping MY pill would be to limit its widespread availability to allow technology\social change a chance to respond to the other issues.

    ———–

    Because drug wars work so well? I thought you were an evidence based thinker?

    Seriously… once this got out, it would be out, and we’d just have to deal with it. The good news is that everyone discussing environmental issues would be looking at a century+ of life, which might alter their perspectives a bit. Hopefuly.

  38. I probably wouldn’t take either of them, unless I could be guaranteed that global extinction isn’t just around the corner…. Unfortunately, one way or another, that’s not the reality we live in.

  39. Oh I’d take the pill in a heartbeat, and even then I would hope that further life extension was available in the future.

    The environmental and resource concerns are an issue, but I doubt there would be any major problems. Technological solutions will be available sooner or later, we just need to put some effort in to making them come sooner. In any case longevity will lengthen people’s time horizons, favouring the future relative to the present to a greater extent than is the case now.

    Nor am I worried about the collapse of civilisation. Economies are remarkably robust to bad political decisions, otherwise we’d all be in massive trouble already. You actually have to do something monumentally stupid (like communism) to actually destroy a country.

  40. I’d take it, whether it was only me, a few people, or everyone. But I’d rather not see such a sudden increase in life expectancy for several of the reasons already mentioned about the impact of such a sudden surge in population. It’d be a rough adjustment to that big of a sudden jump in population.

    On the personal level, I could see myself going through several cycles of learning a field, working it, and learning another. Let’s give astronomy a shot for a good 20 years. Well, that was cool, how about 20 years for biology. Anthropology could be fun. And for a break, let’s see if I couldn’t make it as a professional musician at some time, I’m actually half decent on this bassoon of mine.

    But if it were for everyone, I’d go along with it, but I fear the sudden changes. Mostly the social ones, though. It’s bad enough we get stuck in the thinking of previous generations now, but with more than an extra 150 years for one generation to stick around longer than the last one, that generation’s gonna be a HUGE pain in the ass for all the coming ones. I may be wrong in this, but I do seem to see the culture moving forward only as quickly as the previous generations let go of things, so unless people mature more with their aging more, there’s going to be some stagnation.

  41. With the caveat that my wife and a few of my best friends also have the same chance at life extension you bet I would do it! Human’s ability to learn NEVER goes away until you get some signifigant illness like alzheimers and realize less than half of humans ever get such an illness. I’ve changed professions once, I could do it 6 or 7 more times in another 200 years, and have all that time to love those close to me. Wow, what a deal!

  42. There is much we do not know about this pill – the description of the problem does not indicate that there is much of a direct penalty for its use.

    Not being a geneticist, I am not up on the latest theories of aging. There is some idea that human life may be extended by a drug (temporary) or through use of gene therapy (longer term) to lengthen the telomeres of our chromosomes.

    I suspect that a single pill to accomplish this for an extended period is going to be more complicated than dropping a menthos into a diet coke container (if it is ever possible to have such a one-time use pill). Which is why I have some small hope at controlling this pill.

    I agree that, up to now, *drug wars* have not been effective. Even so, it is my belief that such a pill, if it existed without direct adverse effects, would become the number one issue facing civilization (at least short term). Therefore new ideas and techniques will be required to stop its use on a widespread basis. Not sure how to do that, just as I am not sure how to make this magic pill.

    I also suspect it would be one of those things we wish could be un-invented when we experience the consequences of trying to restrict use of this pill. Such efforts will breed a quite unpleasant future. Not sure who would actually be able to pursue all these leisurely scholarly goals in such a world…

    Y_S_G

  43. @ZachTP:
    @MathMike: “A quarter of a century?”
    Millennium != Century

    All right, that’s it. I promise never to comment here while drunk again.

    Unless it is appropriate to the thread. :-)

    Snow Day = Much Beer with Lunch

  44. @YourSkepticalGuy:
    What I gather from futurists, and whatever current science I can find is that a pill like this would most likely not contain a chemical formula like the pills of today. It would instead contain any army of nanobots programmed to perform repairs on genes, or turn some genes back on that aging turns off, or turn off genes that aging turns on. The sum of these changes would mean a hyper-extended life span. I’m sure there are many here that could give better details.

    This raises other questions. Would taking such a pill mean that part of your autonomy would be given over to maintaining the survival of these nanobots? Would passing on repaired genes to your offspring mean that future generations might not need a pill to live to 300 years old? Would that make them a new sub-species of human?

  45. @sethmanapio:
    Perhaps you are right, but by 401k got hit so hard that it’s down into the low five-figure range. Apparently, my choices didn’t weather the financial storm well. I am pushing my 401k contributions to the max allowable by the IRS, just hoping it will help ease some of the damage.

    I’m in my early 50’s, so I figure at best I have roughly another 25 years before I’ll be forced to retire. Statistically, I have already passed my peak earning years, and I have already been passed over by employers due to my age.

    Given the EL pill and society’s current ageism in employment, a likely scenario is that many could end up as Wal-Mart greeters or slinging hash for decades. What kind of life is that? Attitudes would certainly change over time, but how much time would it take? I think I need to re-read some of my Kim Stanley Robinson and Heinlein (Lazarus Long) to get a better grasp of this question. I certainly hope we solve the FTL problem, because we’re going to need lots of room for the human race.

    Let’s take the gloves off on this question now. Let’s assume that, for the sake of argument, we have to figure climate change and overpopulation into our scenario of 250-year life spans. Then what?

  46. Oh hell yeah I’d take it in a heartbeat.. the longer the better

    I love life, and the one thing I dont like is not having enough time to do everything I want to do.

    I’d go back to uni and study to become a vet, spend a few decades doing that, then go back to uni and become a doctor and do the same thing again until I’ve tried everything I ever wanted to and my brain is full to bursting point!

  47. Without question I would take the pill. Read novels like Ringworld for what I would imagine a civilization of multi-centarians would be like.

    Question Authority:

    Don’t forget that if you’ve taken the aging pill you wouldn’t likely be passed over for age reasons, as you would be around for a long time.

  48. Since I’m planning to live to 128 (256 just seems unreachable) anyhow, the 150-year pill wouldn’t be that attractive.

    But, if I could have my health — by which I mean be youthful enough to care for myself and have a reasonable quality of life — and if I could have reasonable mental capacity, I’d live as long as possible. Forever, if there were a way.

    I just can’t ever imagine being bored: there’s so much to figure out and learn about.

    Yeah, it’d be sad to watch others in my life get sick and die — and I know that not everyone could live such long lives if we keep breeding like we do (unless we colonize space! ah, one can dream…).

    But it’d still be worth it.

  49. Yes, I’d take the pill that had the longest amount of time.

    I have no significant other or children so once my grandmother passes (she’ll be 90 in June) I’ll have no family obligations.

    I would spend my time helping to keep the JREF alive (either by working for the Foundation or, if they had no openings, working at another job close to it so I could volunteer often).

    For fun I would see Penn & Teller (I almost said until I outlived them but then I realized they’d definitely get ahold of those pills ASAP).

  50. @YourSkepticalGuy: Therefore new ideas and techniques will be required to stop its use on a widespread basis. Not sure how to do that, just as I am not sure how to make this magic pill.

    ————

    First off, let me just say this, and I mean this without much rancor.

    On a philosophical level, your statement fills me with utter disgust. The idea that there should be some elite group of duo-centarians deciding whether the poor schmoes at the bottom of the heap deserve to live beyond a pitiful 80 years is a filthy, despicable concept best relegated to communist propaganda and bad science fiction.

    On a more practical note, such a society would basically have to spend all its resources preventing constant, bloody revolution, and it would fail, unless we introduced totalitarianism on such a massive scale that even Orwell would be shocked, in which case our entire society would stagnate.

    And be utterly overrun by the countries that decides not to play along with this ridiculous prohibition.

    So not only is the idea of restricting medication unethical, it’s also just impractical.

    Climate change/overpopulation… I think you get a spike in population that ameliorates over time. We would have a real need, quickly, for new technologies to handle larger populations. Price wouldn’t be much of a barrier to entry, the demand for such a drug would be huge.

    Basically, I would predict about a century of bad, bad things. China and India would have bloody generation wars, as would large parts of Africa. Anywhere where people were having more than one or two kids. In America, I think that average family size would shrink, but even at 2.4 kids per family or whatever the average is, over the next century you would expect a billion people minimum in the US.

    Beef would be basically unobtainable, and so would fresh seafood. Massive restructuring of fisheries, which is already needed.

    Fresh water reclamation, we would need massive spending on that. Fortunately, with a larger, much better educated population, the amount of physical and intellectual capital expands so you can afford the infrastructure spending…

    I don’t know. It would be a wild ride for the first few centuries.

  51. It depends. How available is this pill? If friends and family also had the chance to live a long and healthy life with me, of course I would take the pill. I doubt I would take if it meant losing everyone I care about. As for what I would do with my extra time, well, my library isn’t going to read itself!

  52. I’d definitely take the pill, given I knew it to be reasonably safe and with few side effects. With an extended life and extended health, I’d join a number of other Skep-posters in space travel. Hopefully I’d live long enough to see interstellar travel of some sort as well, even if I didn’t partake in it myself. I tend to believe it is better to have attempted great and unusual things than never to have tried. While one can do that with a short as well as with a long life, a longer life would allow greater accomplishment. I can see that, on an individual level, being only a good thing.

    I do, however, share the concern that a number of other people have on how this would affect the next generation. If people can be expected to live longer, it might be more difficult for newer generations to take their place amongst their elders. James Fox’s image of roving gangs of twenty-somethings wreaking havoc is especially poignant. However, upon thinking the issue over, it seems this longevity pill might actually help the situation when we consider that developed countries have much lower birth rates than developing ones. If the future United States is developed to the point that not enough people are being born to replace the current population, increasing the longevity of that population could counteract the higher mortality rate, at least for a while.

    Staying healthy longer might also provide more opportunities for couples to have more children over a longer period of time. Fewer children at a time could put the economy at ease, while more children overall could help keep the population stable.

  53. Hmm, a population spike that ameliorates over time? For 2006, crude death rate (from wikipedia referencing 2006 data) 9.6 deaths per 1000 for 6470 million persons. Some fraction of this is not age or aging related (like living in Eastern Congo with rampant genocide – I digress) but I did not want to dig to find age-related numbers because I suspect that they are hidden in mortality rates for age-related diseases and because the numbers get so big so fast it really may not matter (and I was lazy). This pill (when did it become a medicine? When did everyone have a right to it?) if given to everyone may account in its first year alone a “spike” of upwards of an extra 50,000,000 people on this planet (I dropped 12,000,o00 persons to account for for misc non-age related violence and sundry mishaps and to simplify even more the later “math”).

    The question asks about popping a pill that will add a bunch of years to our expected life, no matter how old we are (it doesn’t require that we take this pill pre-puberty) so that means that our 80 year Aunt Nellie has got about 170 more years. Since this pill must do more than simply add potential years, but combat age-related dementia and cancer and diseases and “stuff,” it presumably permits breeders to do what they do best for these additional 170+ years as well to add even more spiking.

    So, just the easy math – we now have, as a floor, at least 170 * 50,000,000 “extra” people over those 170 years. If my crude calc is correct (admitedly it may be off – even way off) 8,500,000,000 (8.5 Billion People) are spiking from the non-aging effects of the pill at the end of the first 170 years (PP (Post-Pill)). The fact that Aunt Nellie and her other 80 year buddies start dying 170 years from now would seem to be way too little too late given “compound interest” of the breeder population. Exponential models ultimately fail, but I predict civilization is going to fail long before Aunt Nellie would have reached 250.

    I admitted to not being an geneticist, I am also not a math whiz – and the above is nothing more than a crude off-the-cuff calculation. If someone of more brainpower/training/compassion wants to model the “spike” in a more rigorous fashion, I will of course listen and learn. It would please me if this “spike” amelioriates by operation of some pleasant, blood-free, non-conflict, Kum-by-ya mechanism.

    We already live in a world in which the elite control the future for the less fortunate. As I mentioned in some other question about what would be done in case of the collapse of civilization AND because the question posits I have the option to take the pill, I would take it and align myself with the faction with the most guns…

    Yes, it is a very sad thought, but so is an extra 50,000,000+ people a year on top of some soon-to-be whacked out birthrate.

    Go forth and multiply and multiply and multiply…

    Y_S_G

  54. @YourSkepticalGuy: This pill (when did it become a medicine? When did everyone have a right to it?)

    ———

    Well, skeptical guy, traditionally humans are considered to have rights about the time they are born, although opinions differ.

    As for your comments about the elite controlling this or that and yadda yadda yadda…

    Yawn fucking yawn. The elites do not have special drugs that no one else is allowed to have by law.

    This attitude of yours really hits a nerve with me. It’s such a loser mentality, this fiddling-while-rome-burns thing, its an affront to human decency. You would think that human technology and ingenuity had never solved a problem before.

    God. It’s like having a conversation with Glenn Beck.

  55. Furthermore, the pill would have two immediate economic benefits (assuming it restores youth for old people who take it)

    1) A lot of money is pent on health care for the old. That cost would disappear almost overnight.

    2) All those old people would be healthy enough to go back to work (a condition of taking the pill should be an increase in retirement age to 230).

    People are the greatest resource. All those extra healthy people would have a massive effect on productivity.

    Some social changes would be needed (less emphasis on seniority for promotion, much less life tenure), and we would need to increase our resource base a lot, but its been done before. For example, the invention of space elevator technology would make orbital solar power viable. For that matter, we could build a Dyson bubble around the sun.

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