When I’m 640
Goodness, me. We survived the annual Giving of Thanks. I, myself, performed the ritual roasting-in-effigy of Lord Gobble the Tyrant, and even managed to get the sides all done together, and still warm. And the pie (the pie was really good), too. An extra-long weekend was survived by all, with some small planning and purchasing done. No writing, though, which galls. I’m glad I wasn’t doing NaNoWriMo this year (not really, at least). I just can’t manage that level of output right now, which is also galling. I don’t even have a chapter for you, this week. I’ll be back at that next week, though.
Oh, the title? Well, a discussion elsewhere sparked a bit of imagination and brought up something I’ve been maundering on related to SF. If you can solve most of the problems of age and infirmity via medical superscience (could be nanobots, retroviruses, clones organs (to which we’re getting really, really close), or Healium Goo™ (universal side effect of making you talk funny temporarily), and then have some sort of life-extending geriatric treatment, what does that do to society?
Suppose Mrs. Dave and I survive past our sixth century of life (I was going to call it “When I’m 6400,” which rolls more trippingly from the tongue, but that beggars my imagination, at this point). Let us further assume that we limit ourselves to a short score of children. Given that we’ve already had Wee Dave, who will presumably choose to procreate sometime in his second to third decade, and that human nature remains true regardless of lifespan, that’s a lot of descendants in relatively short order.
Which raises (if you squint right) the specter of wealth acquisition and management. If I’m going to live for centuries, I can take a paradoxically more cautious *and* riskier approach to investment. Knowing that – barring catastrophes, into which I’m not going to get today – I’ll be able to continue to accrue assets, with careful attention. That means I won’t be worrying greatly about the next decade, but rather about the next century. Which means I can actually be a bit wilder with speculative investments. “Hrm, what’s going to be a genuine collector’s item next century? What about that orbital industry startup? How’s tech going to go over the next fifty years? Anybody building personal spaceships, yet?” Lots of interesting questions spring to mind.
On the downside, who gets the treatment? Is it universal? Can everybody afford it? If that happens, what about the folks who aren’t particularly selective in when they have children? If a health and geriatric prolong treatment becomes more or less universal, the population boom could well be terrifying. On the upside, it might well destroy the concept of pensions. “I’m not paying into some nebulous fund that I’ll literally never see.” It might well be people end up stuck in jobs for a while. Society could get sick of that, and see a mass decentralization in work, or even the elimination of the concept of the day job.
I’m thinking along these lines while writing more or less far future space opera. Less for the personal impact on the characters – other than them not having to deal with getting the space sniffles – but more for how societies shift when you can expect to live for multiple centuries. I’m curious, though: what springs to your mind? How do you see civilization changing (for good and ill) with the advent of more or less miraculous medical fixes for such inconveniences as advanced age and it’s attendant unpleasantnesses?