February 7th, 2010

forums, me, non blog

[FORUM] Do you think we'll live longer? Do you want to? What would you do with that time?

One minor theme of my posts at Demography Matters, like my most recent one, is the way in which the steady advancement of medicine is not only allowing the continued expansion of human life expectancy at birth--any number of countries, like France and Japan and Spain, can claim expectancies of more than 80 years--but the ways in which silent advances allows many of the ills of old age to be not inevitable byproducts of aging but rather as treatable chronic conditions. People are living longer than ever before, and their long lives are increasingly characterized by good health, at least if you live in the right countries. A recent report even suggested that in these same fortunate countries, half the children born now might become centenarians.

Some few people, whether prophets or madmen, claim that life expectancies could be improved by more than a few years or a couple of decades, that human life expectancy isn't a product of inescapable biological limits so much as it's a function of the technology that's available to a society. As a society's medical technologies become more advanced, so do lifespans grow. "Imagine," some propose, "living for centuries, even indefinitely!"

I'm not sure if I can imagine that, not least because the very idea of such dramatically and unprecedentedly extended lifespans is ridiculous. Do any of my readers think that these predictions are at all plausible? It's not, I'd hasten to add, that I wouldn't like all that time. My 30th birthday has made me quite aware that time's a fire that would burn us all up, and since the life expectancy at birth for Canadian children of 1980 like myself is area of 75 years I'd welcome more time to do things, I think. A couple of different careers, perhaps separated by a decade or two of semi-retirement, would be fun. (I'd also like to visit Alpha Centauri if at all possible, but Buenos Aires and Kyoto and Cape Town would do.)

What do you think? Will we live for longer? Do you want to? What would you do with all that added time?