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20 April 2009

What if You Could Live Forever?

In my last post of TED talks I linked to a video by Aubrey de Grey who talks about increasing the lifespan of humans. Here's a very good and long article that features him on MIT Technology Review. According to de Grey we could start seeing extensions in life expectancy in the next 25 years (the theory being that these extensions will keep you alive long enough to reap the fruits of the next breakthrough). So in a theoretical sense it's possible. Regardless of whether or not it is possible to live for a thousand years or indefinitely the question remains. What if you could? How would your behavior change? I've never really thought about that before, but it's a great thought experiment.

I would learn a bunch of languages. If you knew you were going to live to be a thousand years old what's 5 years of learning French, German, Italian, Japanese, etcetera? I'd probably be inclined to get a few PhD's too. Especially in medicine and law. The cost of going to school is high in terms of opportunity cost for such an unknown finite lifespan, but if medical school and residency is only .5% of your life as opposed to 10-15% it becomes much more attractive.

I'd be inclined to avoid cars, dangerous situations, and for that matter probably riding my bike through the city. If I live to be 78 or so (about average for someone my age) my odds of dying in a car crash are roughly 1 in 80 or 1 in 6,500 per year. Hell, I might even wear a light bullet proof vest... that seems extreme though (and it doesn't protect against head shots).

What about marriage and kids? How does that change? What about careers, or your view of global warming? What about jail sentencing, drug use, animal lifespan, or the length of schooling? I'm guessing a lot of our daily habits would change if we could live forever, and the interesting part is that in our lifetimes it's possible and in the long run it's more or less inevitable.

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