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Jan 09 2011

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Live Forever? Why?

“Who wants to live forever?”

“If I live til I’m 10,000, can I still retire at the age of 65?”

*    Both of these quotes appeared in the comments section of a magazine interview with anti-aging scientist Aubrey de Grey where he talked about the science of extreme longevity.  You could see the above comments as not serious,  but the thinking implied is quite common and worth exploring.
Living to age 1,000+
*    First, many people ask, “Why would I want to live beyond age 100.  I just hope I die suddenly in my sleep before I go downhill too much.”  The assumption here is that frailty and illness accompany old age.
*    But imagine if you could live until 1,000 (imagine the party!!) in great health, increased intelligence and beauty. Wouldn’t you want to?  This is a more challenging question. Whenever I’ve posed this question to friends, it has usually resulted in a stunned silence. The idea of aging and death is so much part of our thinking that it is hard to seriously ponder the possibility of our own extreme longevity.
*    In most religions and philosophies, the idea that death is just around the corner is a central tenet that adds meaning to our lives.  It is not surprising that living to age 1,000 is unexplored territory – but things are about to change.
Can I still retire at age 65?”
*    The idea of working from your 20’s until retirement at age 65 is another well ingrained idea.  Our culture is steeped in the childhood/school/work/retirement agenda.   Richard Bolles talked about this in his 1978 book, “The Three Baskets of Life – and How to Get Out of Them“.  He suggested that instead of only one progression of learning/work/leisure, that this trio could cycle many times throughout our life.
I’ve always liked that idea, and it was taken further by people like Tim Ferriss in his book The Four Hour Work Week. He also challenged the traditional gameplan of deferring leisure to a time when you can’t enjoy it.  But now with extended life-expectancies, how will the prospects of living indefinitely shape our ideas of study, work, retirement, leisure and meaning?  The story is just unfolding.  But the implications are far reaching and will be shocking to us and to society’s institutions.
*    Can you AFFORD to retire at 65?  If you are healthy enough to be around in 20 years, the very real likelihood of an extreme extension to your life span will will mean Retirement Planning will have to be radically rethought. [This will be the subject of future posts].
*    For more on Aubrey de Grey, check out this video of him presenting at Singularity University (click on the link);

Aubrey de Grey – In Pursuit of Longevity

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