Documenting the Coming Singularity

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stop Thinking Lifespan and Start Thinking Healthspan

It is devilishly difficult to change the meanings we have associated with words and had reinforced over years and even decades. At the moment I am in the middle of an Accounting for Management class as part of an MBA program. In accounting, debits and credits mean only one thing: items to the left and items to the right of the line. They have no meaning as so subtraction or addition. I know this, and yet my long-held beliefs about these words still intrude into my cold calculations.

Similarly, I think we associate age with infirmity, which is quite understandable, since we have seen people get old, get sick, require lots of medicines and expensive medical procedures to keep them alive, and then die. It is rare to find someone older than 65 who has no illnesses and is hale and healthy.

Because the idea of old age is so firmly wedded to the idea of sickness and costly medical care, when transhumanists speak about the goal of radical life-extension, people seem to envision a world full of cane-using, wheelchair-riding, social-security-needing, 200-year-old parasites who are blithely sucking the last bit of the marrow out of the Earth's resources before finally kicking the bucket. I can see them thinking, Man, die already! I mean how long can someone play golf and eat dinner at 4 PM?

This is where it helps to understand that transhumanists are not interested in extending our number of dying years. They are interested in extending the number of years (perhaps indefinitely) we are completely healthy. No osteoporosis. No diabetes. No cancer. No heart disease. No inch-thick bifocals. No need for life-support. Just every 20 years a fresh round of rejuvenation therapy and many, many years of productive life. We're not talking about living off social security and Medicare. Won't need it.

So try that picture and see if it helps any.

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