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Biotech Science

Do You Want to Live Forever? 1334

Jamie McCarthy writes "In 1918, Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Daly inspired his weary men to attack by yelling, 'come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?' But how would the world change if we could? This month's Technology Review introduces us to the computer scientist, and self-taught biologist, Aubrey de Grey, who thinks immortality could be within our grasp by 2030. Thinking like an engineer, he's broken aging down into seven specific problems, like cell atrophy and mitochondrial mutation, which he believes can all, in principle, be solved. And he has good reason to think those seven are the only 'bugs' standing in the way of a thousand-year lifespan. De Grey is clearly both a genius and a little nuts, but I'm not sure in what proportion..."
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Do You Want to Live Forever?

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  • by filmmaker ( 850359 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:03PM (#11410115) Homepage
    As he reviewed the possible reasons why so little progress had been made in spite of the remarkable molecular and cellular discoveries of recent decades, he came to the conclusion that the problem might be far less difficult to solve than some thought; it seemed to him related to a factor too often brushed under the table when the motivations of scientists are discussed, namely the small likelihood of achieving promising results within the period required for academic advancement--careerism, in a word. As he puts it, "High-risk fields are not the most conducive to getting promoted quickly."

    The world needs more thinkers like him, even if he's a little nuts. Anyone willing to start his own international symposium after teaching himself micro biology is. Too many professional scholars are pinned into doing research that has immediate market viability and too many researchers are more interested in their own career advancement than the science they're supposed to be advancing. So they play it safe.

    Daly dreams of being on the cover of Time magazine I'm sure, ego is almost certainly a factor for him as well, and no doubt a huge payday would follow and major advancement on any of his 7 problems. But it's the all-or-nothing mentality, the fact that he's willing to go for it even if it never pans out, that separates him.
  • by NeoSkandranon ( 515696 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:04PM (#11410137)
    I believe the proper question at this point isn't "can we" it's "Should we"
  • Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:06PM (#11410158)
    By the time you are in your 70's so much stuff pisses you off that you can barely deal with it. Things change so much from what it was even when you were growning up.
  • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:07PM (#11410177) Homepage Journal
    Who wants to live forever, when love must die?

    Arch Obler addressed some of the realities of such a life span in one of the episodes of the old radio show "Lights Out".

    There was a revolution. The younger generation was tired of being held down by the generation that was in power when immortality became possible. Bereft of political power for hundreds of years, there was a violent and bloody revolt, resulting in the massacre of the older generation.

    Can you imagine the state of civil rights if the people running the country in the 1950s were still alive and well?

    To an extent, society just doesn't change unless the older generation dies off.
  • Fixing aging (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amstrad ( 60839 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:08PM (#11410199)
    If we "fix" this whole aging thing, won't we also need to put a stop to this giving birth thing?

    I don't think the Catholics are gonna like this very much.
  • Re:No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:10PM (#11410232) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, but would you get nailed to a cross to do it?
  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kryzx ( 178628 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:12PM (#11410258) Homepage Journal
    Duh! Of course!
    Just think how well my meager investments will be doing after they've had the chance to grow for 100 years! I'll be loaded!

    Seriously, I think the money and class issues are the interesting side of this. If it happened there would be a clear class division between those that could afford it and those that couldn't. And for those that could, their wealth could grow without bounds. Our (in the US and most other western countries) society depends on inheritance and the associated taxes, dividing of estates, etc, to redistribute wealth, and this would immediately negate that effect. Anyone with an estate worth much could afford the technology to extend their life, and therefore not pass on the estate.

    While it raises all kinds of social issues, on a personal level it means each of us has to try to accumulate enough wealth to get into the category of people that can afford it before the end of our natural lifespan. It's a race against time.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:15PM (#11410312) Homepage Journal
    Okay, why shouldn't we?

    The same overtone of moral disapproval you express has greeted every major medical advance. And it may take a while for people to hash out, but the overwhelming response in the end is always, "Hell yes, we should!"
  • by Saige ( 53303 ) <> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:21PM (#11410396) Journal
    You phrased that slightly wrong.

    When you ask that question, to make it honest, you should ask "Should YOU live forever?" After all, people who are against such things aren't against it for themselves, they're against it for OTHER PEOPLE.

    After all, a person can choose not to get the treatment to live indefinitely, or even commit suicide if they've had enough. They don't need restrictions to keep themselves from the long lifespans. They want them to keep other people from getting them.
  • by Neil Watson ( 60859 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:24PM (#11410442) Homepage
    You make a good point. One could also argue that, if we lived a very long time people may stop looking at things so short term. Creating project X may take 80 years but we would all get to see it. Pollution and energy concerns would be taken seriously as they would indeed happen in our lifetime.
  • by preatorian ( 778996 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:25PM (#11410464)
    I always thought the problem with living that long would be your teeth, they aren't meant to last that long (especially the way we take care of them). Those 900 years with dentures would sure suck...
  • Re:Fixing aging (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:26PM (#11410483)
    Italy, one of the most Catholic countries in Europe (proximity effects...) also has the lowest birth rate.

    For both Italy and Japan the low birth rate has more to do with abandoning the practice of arranged marriages coupled with women pursuing careers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:32PM (#11410581)
    Why shouldn't we? Here's one question for you: How can the world support a virtually infinite number of people? If everyone's immortal, it wouldn't take too many years for the world's natural resources to be completely depleted making life as we know it impossible. Also, before too long we would just physically run out of room. So what are your proposed solutions? There are hardly an abundance of habitable planets out there that we can colonize. Hell, we have a hard enough time just get a small robot to successfully land on Mars. Do we make reproduction illegal (or physically impossible) to control the population? These types of questions are just the tip of the iceberg. To me, it's not a moral question as much as it is a practical one.
  • by NeoSkandranon ( 515696 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:34PM (#11410605)
    Actually morals don't really come into what I was considering.

    I'm thinking more about population growth rate, living space and use of resources. Not to mention the disparity between rich and poor. If you think that's bad now, think about if being rich automatically means you get several generations to amass a fortune
  • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:34PM (#11410607)
    I want to see what the year 2505 will be like just as much as the next Slashdotter, but it is not meant to be.

    And as much as I am seriously a religious person I don't let it stand in the way of the rights of others to choose. Man will play out his destiny and if God has a problem with it I'm sure he can take care of it on his own. I doubt that a group of scientists can stand in the way of God's plan.

    Who knows... We of faith may be dead wrong too and that in itself should be reason enough for us to let others "do unto themselves". Instead of bashing people with Bibles (or Korans or Gitas or Necronomicons) we should be tolerant and guide those who desire our guidance.
  • He missed item #8 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:35PM (#11410614) Homepage Journal
    Nonliving tissue that's part of the body's basic structure. Think:
    bones (especially joints)
    tendons and ligaments
    lens of the eye
    basement membrane (think jowls sagging to your shoulders, breasts sagging to the knees)
    These parts of the body are usually laid down prior to adulthood, and last a "normal" life as nonliving tissue. Humans are largely unique in lasting past reproductive years, and most of the effects of wear and tear on nonliving tissue are seen in those people. There's no repair/replacement mechanism for these tissues because none was ever needed during the course of ordinary evolution.

    Speaking of evolution, some might make the argument that dying not too long after reproductive years is good for the race.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:36PM (#11410632)
    I see one reason to not: social stagnation.
    Society, politics, art, science... evolve because people die and new (young) people can replace them, with new ideas (be they better, worse, naive, or simply different). New ideas that may not be given a voice if the ancient who are in power don't want a different theory/opinion... to pass.

    Look at the senators, dictators, directors of [whatever]. They could stay at their position forever if senility and death didn't exist to relieve the humanity of their rigid worldview.
  • by greg_barton ( 5551 ) * <> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:38PM (#11410655) Homepage Journal
    The same overtone of moral disapproval you express has greeted every major medical advance.

    And, especially when it comes to immortality, cause and effect dovetail nicely. The same people who can't see the possibilities in immortality are the same people who wouldn't be able to handle it well themselves.

    For instance, one common objection I hear to a 1000+ year lifespan is, "I'd get really bored. What would you do with all that time?" My response is always, "What would you NOT do?" More time opens up more possibilities. So, the people who can't (or won't) see the experiential possibilities a longer lifespan creates also can't (or won't) see the ways out of the social problems it creates.
  • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:40PM (#11410669) Homepage Journal
    I can't explain exactly why, but it boils down to something like this. We can keep a car running forever, or maintain a house indefinitely, but at some point someone decides the major overhauls aren't worth it.

    Even if you replace every damaged cell, there are still supercellular structures (tissues, organs) that have to be maintained. You are probably going to need a lot of wholesale organ replacement. Living things have elvolved to grow their organs from small or large by multiplying cells in a certain pattern. I'm not sure that cell replacement can adequately maintain that pattern. If you have an old house and you replace each piece of wood as it rots out, small inacuracies will build up over time, and the whole structure will become misshapen, and you will have to replace the whole wall.

    I guess the point is that living things were designed to grow, and by that I mean go from small to large, into adult form, and then die. Can maintenance really work? If you look at, say, the spiral pattern on a flower, I think it's fairly easy to get one cell to multiply into that pattern, but then to replace a single petal? A lot of our organs have that branching tree structure. I think it's easier to grow that than to maintain. I don't know if our DNA has a program to replace a section of artery, but it certainly has a program to grow it.

    I remember from a radio interview a museum curator said "It's easier to destroy than to create, and it's easier to create than to maintain". I think it will be cheaper to make new people and let the old ones die than it will be to maintain everyone.

  • Re:Fixing aging (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Scorchio ( 177053 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:42PM (#11410701)
    I'd rather they'd fix the aging thing, so I can live in a twenty-something body until I die at a relatively normal age. 2030 puts me at about 60 when I go for my immortality jab. I'm not sure I want to spend eternity as a 60-year-old. Or will it make me younger, too?
  • by Zachary Kessin ( 1372 ) <> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:43PM (#11410711) Homepage Journal

    I love my (step) children, and the last thing my generation will do for them is to die and get out of the way so they can fill our shoes.

    If my generation stays as productive adults forever (or close to it) they my kids must remain teen-agers for ever. The greats of any given generation only become great when those before them have exited the stage.

    Elizabeth Moon touches on this in some of her books.
  • Re:Worse than that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:50PM (#11410810) Homepage
    Just like the much hyped social security collapse of the early 1980s?

    The level of "fix" needed to make social security solvent past 2031 is tiny. Besides, the reason we had (past tense, unfortunately) a social security "surplus" was due to the fact that lifespans *weren't* increasing as expected (among other things). Should they start to change, social security will clearly change to adapt - most likely with a later retirement age. A mere 2 year age boost in the retirement age made most of the difference in the 1980s - if you're living 50, or even 500 years longer, a longer work period should be a given.

    Much of the SS calculations, by the way, is rather pessimistic. They assume pretty poor economic growth and population figures.
  • by geg81 ( 816215 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:51PM (#11410816)
    The same overtone of moral disapproval you express has greeted every major medical advance.

    As it should: there have been very few medical advances that have actually increased human lifespan or health. Many medical advances feed on fear of the inevitable, have increased suffering needlessly, and are a bottomless financial pit.

    And, in case you were wondering why we live longer on average, it's not due to medicine, it's almost entirely due to public health measures, a reliable food supply, and prevention.
  • by Phillip2 ( 203612 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:52PM (#11410843)
    "Too many professional scholars are pinned into doing research that has immediate market viability and too many researchers are more interested in their own career advancement than the science they're supposed to be advancing. So they play it safe. "

    Research is expensive and sadly this is what the funding bodies want nowadays. If you are not interested in your own career advancement, then you will not remain in a job long.

    The only other alternatives to this is to either have lots of your own cash to live off. This is, by and large, the way that most early scientists worked. Or you can become a rampant self-publicist . Having a strange physical appearance is a classic sign of this, usually in the facial hair department.

    It's a pity. It would be nice if science were the fearless exploration of the unknown, rather than the fearful exporation of the nearly known. But to criticise us for playing safe is not fair. We have families to support. We have to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, just the same as everyone else.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:02PM (#11410977)
    If you knew you weren't going to decay and die, and that your body could be kept in trim and good health, would the same conservatism arise?

    That and more. You would develop an all-consuming fear of death, dismemberment, and dementia from illness, war, murder, or accidents. You would become more conservative than any of us short-timers could dream possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:03PM (#11410991)
    Too many professional scholars are pinned into doing research that has immediate market viability and too many researchers are more interested in their own career advancement than the science they're supposed to be advancing. So they play it safe.

    This has little to do with "career advancement." Doing science requires money-salaries for techs and students, reagents, equipment. Money comes from Industry, who want a product real soon now, or the Government, who fund between 10 and 20% of applications. Now ask yourself whether you want your tax dollars to go to some crackpot who thinks a shiny gold ring or a sparkley quartz pendant will cure HIV/AIDS, or to someone who's build a logical but incremental hypothesis, backed up by observations from multiple sources that may eventually lead to a cure.

    Now consider that a researcher who doesn't bring in grant money isn't going to be researching very long. The incremental approach to science isn't a matter of career advancement, it's a matter of career preservation.

    On the other hand, if you'd like to step up to the call, I have a few high-risk, high-payoff projects you might want to consider funding. Cheap-probably no more than a quarter million USD/year for the next five years. I'd pay for it myself, but the kids' college fund consumes all of our spare household resources at the moment.
  • by parvin ( 846446 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:06PM (#11411039)
    This line of response is, I believe, the correct one for related issues such as assisted suicide, and for longevity so long as the research is privately funded. Insofar as it is, I think that putting up barriers to progress in longevity is downright evil. This being said.... Just about all non-patentable (e.g. drug) research is heavily funded by the public and by large quasi-public charities and foundations, and much longevity research falls into this category. So the hard question needs to be asked: is longevity a need worth diverting money from more traditional areas of medical research? I'm not sure that it is.
  • Re:Fixing aging (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:08PM (#11411067)
    Not really. An actuary could probably figure out how long a man would live given that we can not die from natural causes. (War, accidents, etc... still kill off people.)
  • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:11PM (#11411108) Homepage Journal

    I'm glad SOMEONE picked up on this. Notice in my original post, I said:

    To an extent, society just doesn't change unless the older generation dies off.

    Notice that I dind't say "Advance" or "evolve".

    That change isn't necessarily good. You're right about the civil rights example. The changes we're seeing now in America are bad, destructive and counter to the ideals upon which the nation was founded. If the current crop of leaders were granted immortality and ended up trading off on who was president for centuries, things would only get worse.

    The point I was getting at, is not so much that one generation is better than the last, but that the BAD generations wouldn't ever die off. The newer generation isn't necessarily any better than those before it, but even with the worst leaders possible, the most destructive, oppressive regimes around, we have the consolation of knowing that sooner or later they'll die. What comes after them won't necessarily be better or worse, but at least there's the opportunity for the worst of us to die off. Of course this means the best of us die off as well, but at least the next generation has the opportunity to learn form the mistakes of the past, without necessarily having the ego of having committed them personally blinding them to the lessons.
  • Re:Your Forgetting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:14PM (#11411154) Homepage Journal
    I bet the divorce rate would reach 100% too.

    Marriage would probably become contractual arrangements to stay together for, say, 20 years, with options after that for a specified amount of time (5, 10, or 20 years). Romantics would probably still try for "til death do you part" but I suspect a major change would come around in how it's viewed by society.

    Reproduction would almost certainly be done by permit only if one subjected oneself to these kind of treatments. If one did not, and the normal lifespan of ~75 years were expected, then perhaps they wouldn't be blocked, but those living for hundreds of years would probably have to restrict themselves, getting on a waiting list to be allowed to have children.

    Another thought... How would people react to dangers if they could live for centuries? Suddenly, you're not risking the experiences of 10 or 20 or 50 years of life. You're risking the experiences of 100 or 200 or 500 years of life. Ouch. One might well think twice before pushing some of the boundaries in those cases.
  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:15PM (#11411162)
    I believe the proper question at this point isn't "can we" it's "Should we"

    What's with this "we" shit? Speak for yourself.
  • by random coward ( 527722 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:15PM (#11411173)
    If we do become immortal, imagine how that will change people's tendency to take risks. We all take small risks all the time. We take risks driving cars, flying, etc. because the odds of it killing us before we die naturally is small. But if we live 10x longer then we end up in the situation where the risks are likely to kill us before we die of natural causes.

    Also imagine the wrongful death suites if someone would be expected to live another 500 years. Who will want to take any risks if it might cause them to die when they don't expect to die ever?
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:44PM (#11411542) Homepage Journal
    The greats of any given generation only become great when those before them have exited the stage.

    That's simply not true. Look at the lives of the greats in the sciences, the arts, politics, etc. and you'll see that at the point when their greatness was recognized, their mentors of the previous generation were usually alive and kicking.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:49PM (#11411598)
    "The planet can barely handle the population we have now, can you imagine if there were 20 Billion people on the planet, vying for resources?"

    Ummmm.... no. There was a time when people hypothisised that the world would only be able to maintain a million people tops. As the population grows, we keep finding new ways to take care of them. The world is in no ways straining to keep up with the population.
    I cant believe how many enviromental wack-jobs are posting to this form with claims like "we'd finally take the environment seriously if we thought we'd live for more than 20+ years". Nobody wants to live in a world filled with pollution, and its a straw-man arguement to insist that people do. Its all a question of what actions done to the environment are acceptable. If you consider any developement of any type as unacceptable, then you are a environmental wack-job. If you consider water quality standards that are so strict that noone (no factory, no purifaction facility, etc) has ever been able to produce a gallon of water that meets the standards, and that are soo stringent that there doesn't even exist any mechanism for testing that can confirm the quality level required, then you are a environmental wack-job. If you believe that people should be exterminated from the planet so that it can be returned to its natural state, then you are an environmental wack-job.

    As for the statement "Alternatively, only the ultra wealthy would have access to the technology, so the same set of SOBs would always run the planet while the rest of us slaved away as a clear and definitive underclass", I know people who came to this country with nothing but the clothes on their back and are now multimillianares. Perhaps your a slave because you choose to blame others for your failure rather than worked to become a success.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:50PM (#11411611) Homepage Journal
    Remember that you said that the next time you're in the ER. I'm sure you'll righteously refuse medical care because you wouldn't want to do anything that might "feed on fear of the inevitable, ... increase suffering needlessly, [or be] a bottomless financial pit." Right? Of course you will.
  • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:51PM (#11411628)

    Welfare is for lazy trailer trash who can't get off their fat ass to find a job.

    Trailer trash such as my mother, who after the divorce was a single mother of five. Trailer trash that worked her ass off, lived in a "house" in the "city." Eventually she got off Welfare, but thank God it was there for us when we needed it. It was not for lack of work ethic that we were on it, it was poor planning on my mother's part.

    Social Security is for old people who worked hard and want to retire.

    Socialist Security is not for people who want to retire, the benefits are so tiny that all it does is supplement the typically small income our elderly are able to procure. Think about it -- who wants to hire a 70 year old to a six figure job when that person is bordering on senility and has very few productive years left? Age discrimination may be illegal, but it happens. I see a lot of old people working at Wal-Mart and McDonald's. Social Insecurity will barely pay their rent or house insurance, whichever is applicable.

    Lots of people are in favor of cutting welfare benefits in the name of forcing these people to get a job and quit being leeches, while very few people want to be seen as "cutting" SS in the eyes of the older voters.

    Not everyone on Welfare, Food Stamps, or whatever other public assistance programs are out there are leeches. Some are just in a shitty part of life and need a boost. I have no problem cutting Social Security as long as everyone gets their dues if they want. I plan on denying my Social Security benefits even after paying into the system all my life. Hopefully I won't need them, because I will plan better than my parents did. It may be a drop in the bucket, and more symbolic than anything, but that is doing my part to keep the system from fucking some poor Joe who gets the short end of the stick in 40-60 years.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:54PM (#11411671)
    Human evolution is already at a halt, or worse, it might even be going backwards. People are allowed to breed no matter what kind of genetic problems they have. Stupid people seem to breed a lot more frequently than smart people.

    As long as society exists, you can rule out any kind of human evolution. The only solution for all this is improved medicine.
  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:59PM (#11411732)
    All of Europe faces a big problem, namely, that the entitlement programs are so massive that they are becoming a massive burden as the population ages. France, in particular, is near the breaking point due to a lovely pension system.

    A rapidly aging population, long life spans, and a low-growth economy are disasters waiting to happen all over Europe...
  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) * <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:00PM (#11411755) Homepage
    I would like to expound upon your excellent point.

    Social Security exists for one reason, and that reason has been verified by scientific study, people don't save their own money. Thats not to say YOU don't save your money, or educated wealthy people don't save their money. No. The average joe schmoe, the normal guy, doesn't save money for retirement, and if
    he does, doesn't save nearly enough.

    You can say what you want about how the world should work and how people shoul act. The fact is not only do they not, they did not before the safety-net was there to help them.

    So we have a mandatory retirement fund, you pay into it when you work, in the hope that it will pay you when you retire. This has the effect of allowing people to retire before they become physically incapacitated, opening up more jobs for younger people, increasing the standard of living among older people, and taking some of the worry of saving for retirement away (it is still quite advisable to save more, but again, most people wont save enough on their own anyway)

    Now that fund works in odd ways, the current working gen pays the current retired gen and it doesn't bank the money so much for us. This is a detail of how its implimented of course, and is subject to change.

    Of course if we move to an ageless society, then we remove the need for retirement and retirement savings, and we will all have time to work and play and persue our own interests. Then we wont need social security.

    We can then also gut our education system as we will only need offspring enough to cover those who choose not to live forever and those who die of other causes (disasters, accidents and the like) so we should be able to educate what few children there are at a fraction of the cost of the current system

  • by vorpal22 ( 114901 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:07PM (#11411835) Homepage Journal
    While some of us might be like that, I disagree that for many of us, the reason that we work is to accumulate "stuff".

    We don't seem to be given much choice in the matter. I would gladly work at a part-time job if I was given the choice: I would much prefer to make enough to pay for rent, bills, and groceries. Unfortunately, because of the model that society has adopted, I'm forced into a work-world where eight hours a day is the standard, and I'm paid to a level where I have quite a bit of disposable income. Given how unhappy I am spending a huge chunk of my week either thinking about work, preparing for work, or working, I have little time to myself and feel that I should compensate myself; additionally, it seems silly to just save the money I've earned, since I wouldn't know what to do with it all. Hence, I buy stupid things that I don't really need and that bring me a small but very transient amount of happiness.

    I notice this pattern in pretty much everyone around me who isn't up to their ears in debt. They accumulate random garbage that they don't really need or particularly want much.

    This model really sucks, because I think it leaves many of us largely dissatisfied. I don't know what would make you happier, but personally, I can say without hesitation that I'd prefer more free time to spend with my family and pursue my hobbies rather than more possessions. As well, it's environmentally destructive: we gather and gather useless crap, wasting our natural resources which could be put to much better use.
  • by samantha ( 68231 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:10PM (#11411883) Homepage
    What makes you think many would be interested in parenting in their 100+ years? Why is it better for resources to be used by new people with less experience and accumulated knowledge than people already alive? Why is it remotely moral to require existing people to die if it is avoidable? What matter of riches will we not be able to create (it is not static you know) with that many additional productive creative years?

    And no, the advances will not be just for the rich.
  • by samantha ( 68231 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:14PM (#11411934) Homepage
    Do you call disintegrate and dying in front of their eyes an act of love? Really? Why are you "in their way"? Elders are generally only "in the way" because of ill health due to aging. How does your continuing vigor have anything at all to do with your kids becoming vigorous active full adults also?

    The world is changing so rapidly that there is plenty of advantage that the younger generations have in way of not having to unlearn a bunch of obsolete assumptions and concerns. The older generations will have to scramble to keep up even with perfect health and all those years of continuity.

    Think outside of the old box a bit. Your life could very well depend on it.

  • No different (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:19PM (#11411984)
    Except for the obvious difference that the people who receive welfare have not paid a bloody dime into the system. It is those of us who pay income tax that provide the benefits to welfare recipients, on the basis that it is better for all of us to be forced to support them, than for us to see them starving beside the street.

    On the other hand, Social Security is sold to the people as a system where they pay money in over their working career so that they can then have it back after they retire.

    Which would be great except for the problem of it not working that way.

    Instead people working now are paying for the people getting social security today. Private accounts would move it in the direction of acting as you outlined, but currently it is nothing like that apart from a notation about how much you've paid in so far to taunt you.

    I pay social security, other people get that money. I pay taxes, other people get that money. To me there is no difference. I should just pay some level of taxes and expect that if I fall on hard times in the future there is some way of helping me out. I don't like paying into a system that has such a low rate of return that I am required to independantly contribute to many other forms of savings (like Roth and 401k) so that I'll have actual money when I retire instead of hypothetical money that I cannot count on and is hardly enough to live on anyway.

    There should be some middle ground between social security and welfare such that I could pay less into the system, keep more for investment, but also provide better support for those that really need it.
  • by d34thm0nk3y ( 653414 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:36PM (#11412165)
    meh, like any of us are going to die from old age anyway. More like heart attacks and liver failure...
  • by cculianu ( 183926 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:36PM (#11412177) Homepage
    I whole-heartedly agree with you!

    Most of us are forced into a binary scenario of either working a 40+ hour week or not having a job at all. How many of us wouldn't choose to work part-time if we could convince our employers to let us do that? Even if it meant half the pay?

    When you have more free time you definitely don't feel a need to spend so much of your money on useless crap.

    Just who is this full week serving? Whose needs?

    I don't think we were born to do this -- to work 40 years for 40 hours per week getting 2-4 weeks per year of time to ourselves. It's insanity! It feels like a prison-sentence really!!

    Even if one gets to the top of their profession, it still gets really boring after a while.

    Our minds are too interesting for this type of mundanity. I would like to believe that our spirits are more beautiful than that -- that we aren't just some lowly cogs designed to perform one specific and uninteresting task or series of tasks each day.

    It's chillingly sad if I am wrong.

    However, this is the trend in society. Our economic system is going towards greater and greater division of labor -- so look to jobs getting more and more mundane as technology advances and as populations grow.

    This immortality thing will only compound the problem, I think.
  • by WhiplashII ( 542766 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:56PM (#11412375) Homepage Journal
    The answer is quite simple, really. Everyone is really better off when one person is in charge. In anarchy the wealth is evenly distributed, but the total wealth is far less because no one is willing to do anything. In a structured environment, wealth is created so even if the wealth is distributed unevenly everyone is better off. That is why the system works and is stable - everyone is better off, even the lowest members of society. (If you don't believe that, ask yourself why people don't just quit society and go live in the mountains - it is possible, at least in the US)

    As for why the people at the top get more than an even distribution - its because it is hard to get to the top, and society is better off if it motivates people to reach the top. I know everyone says that CEOs are overpaid, etc. but good CEOs are extremely rare - and are therefore workth their weight in gold to society. If, as you seem to believe, it was an easy job then others would compete for the job and the board would tell the CEO "Hey, Joe here can do just as well as you, and he will work for peanuts!" The fact is, once you find a good CEO you don't let him go!

    Of course, whining is much easier than studying the game theory that explains all this...

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @05:16PM (#11412583) Journal
    > When you are born, your parents invest $10 at 3%
    > insterest. When you are ready to retire in 1000
    > years you will be worth $100,000,000,000,000
    > Sign me up!!!

    Except that in a thousand years, that will buy you a Mars bar with enough change to use a payphone.
  • Space travel (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Abhorsen ( 850685 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @05:18PM (#11412607) Homepage
    If you could live for ever it woudl atleast solve the problems with space travel ok it may take 6 years to get to mars but when you live for ever what is 6 years mabye this is the way we get aroundt he vast distancis of space. If you build a box big enuth it could hold enuth food to last the trip we could move peopel off to over worlds a lot easyer than now.
  • by hunterx11 ( 778171 ) <hunterx11@gma i l . com> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @05:25PM (#11412694) Homepage Journal
    Social Security was never supposed to be, and should never be thought of as, a welfare program.

    Social Security was conceived as, and still is, a welfare program. It takes money from working people and gives it to retired people. The working people accept it because they too will get money when they retire. But they're not going to get the money they "saved." They're going to get the money from people who aren't yet working today.

    I'm against Social Security and forcing people to save, but I think this nonsense over "privatizing" anything is just that. Private groups that coercively redistribute wealth already exist--they're called the mafia.

  • by overseerbrian ( 530484 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @05:26PM (#11412705)
    Given how unhappy I am spending a huge chunk of my week either thinking about work, preparing for work, or working, I have little time to myself and feel that I should compensate myself; additionally, it seems silly to just save the money I've earned, since I wouldn't know what to do with it all. Hence, I buy stupid things that I don't really need and that bring me a small but very transient amount of happiness.
    Even though you say it seems silly to save, how about instead of buying stupid things you save the money? Then when you have saved enough, stop working. Take a vaction if you want, or quit and spend a year in another country.
  • by GonerDoug ( 814114 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @05:31PM (#11412772) Homepage
    I'm thinking more about population growth rate, living space and use of resources. Not to mention the disparity between rich and poor.

    As big as these problems are, like all problems, they have solutions. Imagine if we had Einstein (and 50 others like him) still alive to apply to the task of solving them...
  • by lukesl ( 555535 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @06:16PM (#11413319)
    It is a cool technology, but it seems to be limited to things like skin and bone, where the detailed arrangement of different cell types in the organ is not important to the function of the overall organ. It might be very useful for growing a person a new liver, but it would take a lot of work to get this going for the heart, kidneys, or brain. And when it all comes down to it, the brain is the only organ that matters. Every other part of a person's body could be replaced.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @06:21PM (#11413378)
    When coming up with the program not many people thought the birthrate would decline so dramatically, leaving the program in the hole when there are not enough people actually working to support the ones taking in social security.

    Thus the projected problems starting in 2018 (the year the program has more money going out in payments than comes in from workers) instead of 2042.
  • by da55id ( 585236 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @07:34PM (#11414084)
    Agreed. The real capital is knowledge reduced to useful innovation. This is accelerating geometrically. This creates deflation - most of the cost in stuff purchased in the developed world is expended in advertising, distribution costs, taxes and fashion. When I was young. All bedsheets were a single color, wore out in 6 months and ripped when you got in bed. That never happens now. When technology made sheets last forever the sheet business almost went down the drain...until they got the idea to make bedsheets fashionable. Now, you needed to color coordinate, accessorize and buy them for newlyweds etc. Everything that a society was willing to kill for eventually becomes free. Salt, spices, trees, food...starts expensive - ends free. Diamonds are only expensive due to worldwide monopoly - but that will end too. If you live to be over 200, you will eventually modify your behavior based on these insights and stop worrying so much. I'm already doing it in fact. I've decided to not buy a $3,500 60 inch LCD HD TV system because I know I can have it 5 years from now for $350. After that I'll have IMAX in my lenses :-)
  • No No No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by carldot67 ( 678632 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @08:19PM (#11414545)
    A third year molecular biology undergraduate could shoot down all seven theories without even breaking into a canter.

    De Grey has broken the golden, unwritten rule of life sciences:

    Have Humility in the Face of Nature

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @08:31PM (#11414683)
    You clearly don't understand even the very basics of economics. Take a course and learn a little, then come back here and make some kind of intelligent statement.

    The idea behind saving and investing for your retirement is that by the time you retire, your biggest purchase (your home) will be paid off, and all you'll need is the money your savings and investments make each year, without ever touching the principal. I could live very well off the earnings from one million dollars invested properly.
  • by kapital75 ( 851736 ) on Thursday January 20, 2005 @01:35PM (#11421343)
    assuming one is able to live healthily for a millennium, it makes no sense that they would only work to age 65. comparing retirement age to average life expectancy, we currently work til about 90% of life expectancy. by this logic, we would work to about 900 years old. giving us plenty of time to contribute more to ss as well as have enough money saved so as not to depend on ss.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein