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Old people neglecting to die
September 29, 2006 9:11 AM   Subscribe

The Coming Death Shortage We've talked about Aubrey De Grey and gerontology before, but what about the Anna Nicole Smith syndrome and compound interest? This piece from the Atlantic online brings up a scenario that that we may well have to deal with as the maximum possible age increases. Generational warfare, government subsidized longevity treatments ,30 year old adolescence and bio-engineered nations are just some of the things we will live to see if this forecast is accurate. (via Plastic)
posted by daHIFI (52 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
30 year old adolescence? In my case the future is now.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:25 AM on September 29, 2006


seriously. just go to a coldplay concert, the place is crawling with basement-dwellers.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 9:37 AM on September 29, 2006


I'm not convinced I'm going to be sorry I'm alive, I think I'll be sorry you're alive.
posted by biffa at 9:46 AM on September 29, 2006 [2 favorites]


Not a major problem if your not paying people to be old. Social security was designed to kick in only after most people had died.

And governments don't need to pay soo much for health care, just eliminate patents except between nations. Nations pay for universities to develop the technology & seek approval. Then allow any company within your country to produce the treatment & sell it abroad. Or lissence it to other nations.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:46 AM on September 29, 2006


If death truly is an engineering problem, surely taxes and the like could meet a similar end?
posted by Freen at 9:46 AM on September 29, 2006


Plastic is still alive?
posted by togdon at 9:50 AM on September 29, 2006


Another point, child raising need not remain the pervue of the young. Ain't nothing wrong with a women having children when she is 20 & handing them over to her parent(s) to raise while she gets on with her life.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:52 AM on September 29, 2006


So, AARP will be voting in nationalized health care to make taxpayers pay for their longevity treatments?
Yeah....it’d be a real shame if grandpa took a bad fall down a long flight of stairs...a couple of times.
(Back up in your ass with the Resurrection Is the group harder than an erection That shows more affection They wanna ban us on Capitol Hill Cause its die muthafuckas, die muthafuckas, still .)
posted by Smedleyman at 9:55 AM on September 29, 2006


What Jimmy said. This 30-year-old just woke up at noon and is having potato chips for breakfast. Does this mean my parents will live to be 120?
posted by Bookhouse at 9:56 AM on September 29, 2006



Another point, child raising need not remain the pervue of the young. Ain't nothing wrong with a women having children when she is 20 & handing them over to her parent(s) to raise while she gets on with her life.


I'm not so sure the parents would agree.
posted by SBMike at 10:08 AM on September 29, 2006


I'm most impressed with the Atlantic's Mea Culpa for this paragraph:

"Even before Smith appeared, Marshall had disinherited his older son. And he had infuriated his younger son by lavishing millions on a mistress, an exotic dancer, who then died in a bizarre face-lift accident. To block Marshall senior from squandering on Smith money that Marshall junior regarded as rightfully his, the son seized control of his father's assets by means that the trial judge later said were so "egregious," "malicious," and "fraudulent" that he regretted being unable to fine the younger Marshall more than $44 million in punitive damages."
posted by cosmonaught at 10:08 AM on September 29, 2006


Another point, child raising need not remain the pervue of the young. Ain't nothing wrong with a women having children when she is 20 & handing them over to her parent(s) to raise while she gets on with her life.

Yeah, because "parents" have no interest in getting on with their lives...

It amazes me how many people tend to view their own parents as endless pools of sympathy and support, without any desires or wants outside of making things good for him.
posted by delmoi at 10:09 AM on September 29, 2006


I, for one, will not be raising my children's kids. I'll babysit now and again, and spoil them, and send them birthday cards with $5 folded inside, but that's about it.

The whole reason I had my two offspring relatively early (born when I was 28 and 31) -- so that I can get the chore of childrearing over with in time to boot the suckers out of my life and enjoy my wife all to myself while I'm still young enough to sleep through the night and touch my own toes.

If my kids need more help than that with their kids, I'm taking out a loan to get a robot nanny. And it won't look at damn thing like Robin Williams.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 10:21 AM on September 29, 2006


Donald Trump, a 108-year-old multibillionaire in 2054, will be firing the children of the apprentices he fired in 2004. Meanwhile, the maids, chauffeurs, and gofers of the rich will stare mortality in the face.

A world in which the old and rich benefit at the expense of the less fortunate? That's crazy talk!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:23 AM on September 29, 2006


This is why we invented Death Race 2000, people! We are six years behind schedule. Now get to your vehicles and do your duty!
posted by tkchrist at 10:31 AM on September 29, 2006


I guess it's time to get into death futures.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2006


I guess I'm not sure why so many people are so opposed to extending the average and maximum life span. I'd certainly like to extend mine as long as possible.

Some people might be willing to bet that there's an afterlife of some sort, but we don't really know if there is or not, do we? I'd rather not rely on a promise of "no, really, you'll have eternal life, but you have to die first, so you won't actually know if you're actually getting that eternal life thing until it's too late to do anything about it". I want the real thing, here.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 10:41 AM on September 29, 2006


I guess I'm not sure why so many people are so opposed to extending the average and maximum life span. I'd certainly like to extend mine as long as possible.

Ah. See. You hit it. We all want our OWN lives to be longer. It's the rest of you fuckers cluttering up the planet that are the problem.
posted by tkchrist at 10:51 AM on September 29, 2006


This is why we invented Death Race 2000, people! We are six years behind schedule.

Paul Anderson is on the job. Fear not.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:53 AM on September 29, 2006


30-year-old adolescents? Hell, we've got 'em now.

Just c'mon over to my apartment complex and pick up their parking-lot litter with me, or walk up the hill to the sports bar to watch 'em act out their favorite beer-commercial antics.

Ugh.
posted by pax digita at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2006


Many cities unprepared for aging boomers.
posted by ericb at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2006


C_T, that would be an interesting test of faith. Who would choose to step into the possibility of an afterlife, and who wouldn't? There would definitely be implications for religious faith, and likely religions who'd tell their adherents not to artificially prolong their lifespan.

In the scientists' projections, the ongoing increase in average lifespan is about to be joined by something never before seen in human history: a rise in the maximum possible age at death.

While I agree medical science and quality of life are obviously extending many lives from where they were, I think it was here on MeFi we discussed Longevity Cultures a while back (can't find the thread), places where people routinely lived much longer lives than other spots even in mondern western mainstream society. I'm not sure we'ver really bumped up above those limits yet.
posted by weston at 11:10 AM on September 29, 2006


In the past century U.S. life expectancy has climbed from forty-seven to seventy-seven, increasing by nearly two thirds.

It is amazing how well clean water and basic health for the poor, huddled masses can reduce infant and child mortality and so drive up the average life expectancy. However, all those easy gains have long since been made and, in fact, there even seems to be some recession in the public supply of sanitation and public health for the common good. Nonetheless, most of the increase in aggregate life years heralded by booster magazines like this has resulted from the efforts of sanitation engineers, not doctors.

However, spending more per capita on health care than any other nation, the U.S. these days comes in around the middle of the pack regarding outcomes. It's about level with Fiji. As others point out, with growing obesity, underinsured, and no single risk pool, the US is in no danger of progressing to a gerontocracy anytime soon.

The main reason articles like this exist is because of the unusually advanced age of the Atlantic subscriber base relative to similar magazines.
posted by meehawl at 11:17 AM on September 29, 2006


A sudden disruptive extension of lifespans in the West (and we ARE talking about well-off westerners, here, let's not insult anyone's intelligence by pretending otherwise) would be a social planning catastrophe.

But what I'm really curious about is what makes people think they deserve to double or triple their lifespan? You'd better be doing more for society than coding databases or designing websites, and you'd better have a lot more to offer than being a second rate movie star, or the heir to a hotel fortune. I could envision an application process, through which one is required to prove that an extension to their "natural", lifespan would be of benefit to society. As an illustrator, I wouldn't have a hope in hell of qualifying.
posted by slatternus at 11:18 AM on September 29, 2006


and send them birthday cards with $5 folded inside...

"Birthday cards?" "Dollars?" Sorry, CheeseburgerBrown; the voracious mechano-children of the future will be satisfied with nothing less than 5000 virtual yuan deposited directly in their mental market accounts.
posted by Iridic at 11:23 AM on September 29, 2006


The culture is shifting as a result of increased longevity, just as it has with previous transitions. This is reflected in politics and government priorities (UK information):

  • Age discrimination laws coming into effect.
  • New pension legislation that fails to raise the retirement age in line with longevity.
  • A shift in the burden of taxation away from older people with capital towards younger people with incomes:
  • Increases in health spending (old people) outstripping increases in education spending (young people): Budget 2006 Treasury Report (PDF), and user fees for education.

  • Young people don't vote, old people do and politicians' actions reflect this. (As an aside, am I correct in thinking the USA, with its loathing of "socialised medicine", gives free healthcare to the over-sixty-fives, when old people make the greatest demands on the healthcare system? Always seemed odd to me). Expect old age to be fully funded by the taxpayer.
    posted by alasdair at 11:28 AM on September 29, 2006


    slatternus: the point is that anyone who does think they deserve to double or triple their lifespans, will. Motivation doesn't really matter here. What kind of morality will arise in society because of this is... probably exactly the same kind we have now.
    posted by freedryk at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2006


    the voracious mechano-children of the future will be satisfied with nothing less than 5000 virtual yuan

    If woolong were good enough for Moses and Jesus, woolong are good enough for me. I remember back when I was working on the Gate, I only got paid one woolong every day...
    posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:34 AM on September 29, 2006


    Thinking about the social safety nets we have in place for the elderly, especially with prolonged lifespans and birthrates below replacement levels, how can we possibly continue with the present system of taking social security from workers to pay retirees? It seems like a logical step would be to stop social security payments for people who have certain voluntary life-prolonging treatments. It might be a harsh solution, but are there any alternatives?
    posted by gyc at 11:56 AM on September 29, 2006


    But what I'm really curious about is what makes people think they deserve to double or triple their lifespan? You'd better be doing more for society than coding databases or designing websites, and you'd better have a lot more to offer than being a second rate movie star, or the heir to a hotel fortune. I could envision an application process, through which one is required to prove that an extension to their "natural", lifespan would be of benefit to society.

    Slatternus, you might enjoy reading Jack Vance's 1956 sci-fi classic, "To Live Forever." The story takes place against the backdrop of a meritocracy, where those who lead the most valued lives are granted essential immortality through replication -- while the lower-valued performers receive no particular benefits and may even be terminated.
    posted by clever sheep at 11:59 AM on September 29, 2006


    It doesn't matter, when every penny of that money comes out of a magic bottomless debt bucket, anyway.
    posted by sonofsamiam at 11:59 AM on September 29, 2006


    Every person I've known above 90 years of age (admittedly not very many of them) has said that they are ready to die any time. I'm not sure that any of them would take up the opportunity to stay alive, unless they were put back in their 20 year old body.
    posted by Kickstart70 at 12:01 PM on September 29, 2006


    A death shortage? President Jeb Bush will never let that happen.
    posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 12:26 PM on September 29, 2006


    But what I'm really curious about is what makes people think they deserve to double or triple their lifespan?

    Who cares about 'deserve'? I want to live longer for the same reason I want to live at all: for me, not society.
    posted by spaltavian at 12:29 PM on September 29, 2006


    "What Jimmy said. This 30-year-old just woke up at noon and is having potato chips for breakfast. Does this mean my parents will live to be 120?"

    Get a job.
    posted by BeerGrin at 12:37 PM on September 29, 2006


    I for one am not planning on Social Security being around long enough for me to get to use it.

    I remember back in Dec 22, 1999 hearing that it was the last time that the Winter solstice and a full moon would be on the same day for another 135 years. I made a promise to myself that I would be around to see that day. A quick Google search proves that this isn't necessarily true, but I still hold the belief that I will be around that long.

    Maybe I'm too naive in believing Kurzweil and de Grey et al, and perhaps that my lack of religious faith has been transformed into that of a salvation thru technology belief system, but I find articles like these to be instrumental as re-affirmations. I currently preach the singularity and longevity to others whenever I get the chance.

    I also didn't expect such response to this post, especially with the current lack of trolling and other negative comments. Thank you Metafilter!
    posted by daHIFI at 12:50 PM on September 29, 2006


    weretable and the undead chairs (great name by the way!) has got it right. The Great Oil Wars will take care of all our death shortages.
    posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 1:37 PM on September 29, 2006


    Genuinely wondering: how long would it take for a healthy, non-aging brain to start running out of long-term memory space? Surely there's some kind of an upper limit to the amount of experience a mind can store. No one's bumped up against it yet, but if our natural life-spans were tripled...

    How would that shortfall manifest—new memories overwriting old ones? Newer experiences simply not registering? Or would would we just lose our past across the board, our memory slowly becoming thinner and vaguer as it stretched to cover the new decades?
    posted by Iridic at 1:47 PM on September 29, 2006


    I plan on eating Nigerian Yellow Cake every birthday so I will live a nice long life.
    posted by BrodieShadeTree at 1:50 PM on September 29, 2006


    How would that shortfall manifest—new memories overwriting old ones? Newer experiences simply not registering? Or would would we just lose our past across the board, our memory slowly becoming thinner and vaguer as it stretched to cover the new decades?

    Hmmm. Good question. I think, given the cells themselves are healthy, wouldn't they simply overwrite the stuff in older storage? I remember reading that your brain can actually determine what is useful information and what is noise and will overwrite the oldest noisiest information first.
    posted by tkchrist at 2:18 PM on September 29, 2006


    Genuinely wondering: how long would it take for a healthy, non-aging brain to start running out of long-term memory space? Surely there's some kind of an upper limit to the amount of experience a mind can store. No one's bumped up against it yet, but if our natural life-spans were tripled...

    Sorry, can't remember sources, but I believe I've read more than once that, as far as we currently know, there is no theoretical upper limit.

    Obviously, this is an educated guess based upon observation, (necessarily limited to about 100 year lifespan) and current models of the brain. Still, (and I'm totally bullshitting here), based upon that, if there is some upper limit, I'd think we'd have to way more than triple current lifespans to reach it.
    posted by spaltavian at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2006


    It amazes me how many people tend to view their own parents as endless pools of sympathy and support, without any desires or wants outside of making things good for him (sic).
    I think you meant "them" not "him, heheh. Freudian slip?

    But wait -- you mean my Mom is on this planet for taking care of something else besides me, and I can't expect to just dump all my problems on her forever? Oh shiznit!

    In all seriousness, I hope they have 120 year lifespans for my Mom cause I'll miss her when she's gone, and I wouldn't mind getting a free 30-40 extra years with her, assuming she got to keep her faculties.... and no, I don't live in her basement.

    She lives in a ranch.
    posted by illovich at 2:52 PM on September 29, 2006


    meehawl beat me to it (though the article admits as much). i don't think we've seen any indications these 10-year longevity pills are anything but theoretical.

    then again, i'm in the Logan's Run camp (though I'll be generous and give us a few more years). i think everyone over 70 should be put out of their misery. or at least they should be put out of my misery. ;)

    We're going to have a very public debate about whether this will be covered by insurance

    Heh. Can't wait for that debate. I can't even get my insurance to cover running shoes.

    Also, old people are one reason why I object to usury (the old-time Christian definition). Yes, I know I am culturally insane.

    Instead of helping their juniors begin careers and families, tomorrow's rich oldsters will be expending their disposable income to enhance their memories, senses, and immune systems.

    I'm not sure why advances in longevity research will suddenly turn old people into assholes. There are lots of seniors now who sacrifice their own personal desires to help out their children and grandchildren.
    posted by mrgrimm at 2:59 PM on September 29, 2006


    > How would that shortfall manifest—new memories overwriting old ones? Newer
    > experiences simply not registering?

    Sherlock Holmes believed that he had reached his limit and was therefore very selective about learning new things, being convinced that whenever he shoved a new fact in the front an old one fell out the back and was forgotten.
    posted by jfuller at 3:29 PM on September 29, 2006


    spaltavian: How much do you really need long term memory these days? Much less than that of pre-literate humanity, for sure. And certainly less than the days of tree-bound encyclopedias.

    Think about all the things you don't have to remember because you've got wikipedia?

    Now, imagine what happens when wikipedia is at your mental beck and call?
    posted by Freen at 4:11 PM on September 29, 2006


    The main reason articles like this exist is because of the unusually advanced age of the Atlantic subscriber base relative to similar magazines.

    I had no idea. Where can I learn more?
    posted by Kwantsar at 5:04 PM on September 29, 2006


    I want to live as long as I want.
    posted by Alex404 at 6:30 PM on September 29, 2006


    I hope I die before I get old. Unless they perfect disc-&-vertebrae relacement surgery and my HMO starts paying for it I'd say 50 sounds old enough.
    posted by davy at 8:17 PM on September 29, 2006


    Where can I learn more?

    2004:The New Yorker and The Atlantic have the oldest readerships of any of the news magazines examined - 45.4 years and 50.0 years respectively. But they also had the readers with the highest incomes, by a large margin. Readers of The New Yorker have a median income of $78,538, about $12,000 higher than the next nearest news publication, Newsweek. The Atlantic readers' incomes were higher still, an average of $82,983.

    2005: Every title we examined had a higher average-age readership in 2005 than it did in our baseline year of 1995, except the Atlantic . That wasn’t profiled by MRI until 1997 and had a baseline-year age of 51.5 years. In 2005 the average age of all the news titles we look at was 46.3 years, up from 45.4 in 2004. This marks the first time the average age has climbed over 46, and it is now more than two years above the average age of the adult U.S. population, which sits at 44.
    posted by meehawl at 9:04 PM on September 29, 2006


    Hey, I thought that the Economist had the wealthiest readership of any newsmagazine -- like, a quarter of their readers being millionaires. Or something like that.
    posted by jason's_planet at 10:23 AM on September 30, 2006


    The readership of Departures (American Express' monthly magazine sent to its Platinum and Centurion card holders) and The Magazine (sent exclusively to Centurion card holders) also represents a high-income/net worth demographic.
    posted by ericb at 10:34 AM on September 30, 2006


    don't forget Via Magazine, official publication of the AAA! those drivers are rich, rich, rich! and old!
    posted by mrgrimm at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2006


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