What If Life Expectancy is 100 or More?
Our medical advances have reached a cross road. We have the capabilities to increase human life span by a large factor. Just because we can do it, does it necessarily follow that we should? That is the question. I will give my perspective on this topic.
- February 2016
I want to approach this topic from an ethics point of view. For generations, our society has worked on the model of a family structure consisting of three generations. Many of our institutions revolves around that model as for example our social security system. If suddenly, that model is extended to four generations, what would happen? both in the short run and the long run?
The answer is chaos. We will be bankrupt by the Social Security payments alone. Our food supply and water and energy all will be taxed to the breaking point.
I have no problem with people trying to extend our lives and living standards and quality of life. Those are all good and when done incrementally. Our society will be able to adjust to a slow increase of average life span. However, a sudden breakthrough would be a disaster.
The population of the world is not unlimited. There is a point where it will not be sustainable. When that happens, something would have to give. By extending our lifespan by 30 years (a generation), this single fact could double our population.
In the past, population has been kept under control by natural events such as the flu or plaque but also man made events such as global wars.
On a Personal Level
Personally, what would it mean? Usually, a person is born, grows up, go to college and graduate at 22. He starts a career and possibly gets married and have a family. He or she works about 40 years in a career and retires. He lives out his golden years traveling and spoiling grand kids and collecting a pension and Social Security till his death (average life span 79 in 2016).
Imagine now that person is living to 100 years old. He has just hit the jackpot. Right? He would be living is leisure for as long as he was working. Will he be able to remember the names of all his great grand kids? Will Uncle Sam be able to pay for his Medicare and Social Security for that length? Our hospitals and clinics will be overrun.
Perhaps there is a wisdom behind the three generation rule.
The Time magazine article in the Feb. 22, 2016 issue ask a provocative question. "What if you live to be 100? Or even longer?" Scientists seems to be working towards that goal. Perhaps we need to stop and ask why?
Be careful what you wish for. It may not be the panacea you think.
Some Related Info
- February 22nd, 2016 | Vol. 187, No. 6 & 7| U.S. - TIME
- Life expectancy in the USA hits a record high
Life expectancy in the USA hits a record high: Those born in 2012 have a life expectancy of 78.8 years. People aged 65 in 2012 have a life expectancy of 19.3 years, says a new government report on mortality.
- Power of Three
Did you ever notice many things come in three? It seems to me, there is something special about the collection of three. The holy Trinity is just one example.