Tuesday, February 13, 2007


With medical advances arriving the promise of increased longevity is slowly arising. Increased human longevity could bring profound changes to society and the way things work. It is especially concerning that access to longevity itself may be based on economic status.

Suppose a drug dealer shoots and kills an innocent bystander who is a 40 year old man, effectively robbing him of perhaps half his life. Even if he were only to live only another year naturally, the crime is still every bit as punishable.

It does start to feel more serious, though, when the possibility of long life is available through medical science. Maybe this hypothetical situation could have happened in 2040 or later. Suppose the man was taking a "Methusala" pill daily and would have live for another 100, 150 years or even more. It may be perceived as even more egregious to rob someone of a much longer life. This is akin to the way we feel about the death of children or teenagers now. With so much ahead of them, the injustice stings our sensibilities more.

When we eventually, perhaps inevitably, are able to extend life, we may have to balance reproduction levels somehow. Maybe one will have to trade fertility for increased longevity. Perhaps the effects will be tied up together in the treatments. In the same pill so to speak. I am not sure it is necessary though.

Suppose, with extended life, human beings could travel to other star systems to search out new homes. Or we could live much longer in a hollowed out (hopefully also nicely appointed and well lit) asteroid far from the effects of any sun like Carl Sagan postulates in his book "Pale Blue Dot".

Maybe with incredibly long life, larger projects would become possible. Such as building elaborate homes in space by assembling materials over time. We already have the components of solar "push" technology which would use focused energy from the sun to adjust the position of objects. Another factor would be time...perhaps a lot of time, though we would also have time to develop new and better energy sources.

Could people, given 1000's upon 1000's of years, assemble planets...even stars? Ok this is getting highly speculative since we can only dream of slightly nudging a large asteroid enough that its eventual trajectory misses hitting the earth. Such an asteroid would be the about a kilometer in one or more of its dimensions. That is pretty tiny compared to a planet...even a small moon. Phobos, a moon of Mars, is 22.2 km in "diameter" (it is not at all round, more like a potato).

I digress. Human longevity will be a factor in the future, politically, scientifically and socially. I just hope it isn't another class-making factor. Class being the attempt to manufacture a privileged perspective, as an illusion, when none really exists.


No comments: