Human Life Extension Talk

Tonight I'll be blogging this event live as it occurs from my Treo phone. I am volunteering to help with the Long Now Foundation's monthly speaker series. Tonights speech is by Ken Dychtwald and is entitled "The Consequences of Human Life Extension".

Last months presentation was on the prospects of life extension, i.e. whether life extension is even feasible (the verdict is yes). Tonights presentation explores the repercusions of age extension.

I just showed the Treo to Kevin Kelly to gauge his response to blogging the speech in real time. He had mixed feelings about the backchannel that has developed at speeches. He feels that it pulls the attention away from the speaker. In fact he feels it produces a new kind of speech, more of an interaction with the audience.

I'm mostly going to type small, interesting notes here because the Treo is difficult to type on:

The longevity revolution started with cleaning streets early last century

Jonas salk said that many people thought the future would be populated by a tremendous amount of iron lungs due to polio - shows that this view was wrong because we cured polio

Throughout history most people didn't age they died. Over a large timescale the human lifespan was only 19 years!

20th century will be known by the future as the age wave revolution

Social security is currently based on the expectation that there won't be an age breakthrough in 50 years

We must seperate disease from aging - they are two seperate things.

The elderly are now the richest portion of society. Just a few decades ago a huge amount of the elderly were in poverty.

While marketplaces still (incorrectly) cater to the young, politics is now ruled by the old. There is a lot of dishonesty from the elderly in terms of economics, politics, and entitlements.

Women live longer than men, leading to the long term trend that elderly women out live their mates. Older women go through 1 and a half years of bereavement after loss then get over it. Dychtwald foresees
older women getting into what are basicly "communes" with each other, where friends buy houses together because there aren't enough men. It will almost be like tribes of older women.

Increasing longevity leads to decreased fertility - depopulation will occur unless we radically alter immigration policy.


The three things I walked away from in this speech are:
1. to seperate health from aging. We could have a situation where we have age expansion without good health. 2. to not focus on life extension per se but on how to give meaning to the extra time we have.
3. that my view of retirement is completely different. I've been feeling that traditional retirement at the end of life feels very anti-life. Dychtwald's view is that our traditional view of first education, then a life of majority of work, followed by a final period of retirement and senescence will give way to a series of iterations of these 3 stages throughout our lives, where in fact all three will be going on at the same time. I have certainly been finding that true in my life (or I've been attracted to situations that provide that).