What if we lived for 500 years

Posted January 23, 2006 by Evan Tishuk

I'm sitting here half-listening to a television documentary that supposes we humans could potentially live for 500 years with appropriate genetic discoveries and proper body maintenance. It's becoming an increasingly surmountable engineering problem.

What the heck would that be like? Seriously, this isn't the old "immortality" question, because we all agree that would be torture. Assuming you wouldn't be a bed-ridden stroke-prone diabetic, would you want to live for 500 years? You know, Cocoon style.

Wilford Brimley is a genius
(Wilford Brimley hasn't aged since 1985)

If it was an option, I think I'd give it a go, but I can only imagine how drastically things would change if many made the same choice.

  • Would a class of super-experts emerge or would you hit your brain's capacity where learning becomes stifled?
  • Would memories from childhood eventually evaporate?
  • Would you go to college 3 or 4 times? If so, would you need to go to special elder-schools or hang with the kids?
  • Would euthanasia be more acceptable for the people who decide at, say, 350 years to just stop keeping the machine running?
  • Would the relative life span give people less of a sense of urgency and cause lower productivity and laziness?
  • Would it dialate the experience of time such that it doesn't really *feel* different for the person living that long?
  • Would we send these long-living people into space so they could reach nearby stars?
  • Would you drive more or less recklessly?
  • Would those who have acquired an enormous lifetime of experience and knowledge have a considerable economic advantage compared to those who are a mere 80 or 100 years old?
  • Would the collective wisdom of all these (hopefully lucid and reasonable) old folks help to keep humans from making the same mistakes over and over?
  • How would that kind of lifespan effect natural selection? Would women prefer the man who can make it past 200 successfully?
  • To extend a classic Bill Hicks line, would pro-lifers support or oppose a 500 year lifespan?

I think it's safe to say religions would freak-out, but I wonder how much so? I mean there are people in the Bible who lived longer than 500 years. "After Lamech had Noah he lived 595 years having sons and daughters. He lived to age 777 and then he died." I'd look at it like a true modern miracle.

I don't know if I'll ever see this in my lifetime. I'm not too upset about it.

Scientific American posts feature article: Unlocking the Secrets of Longevity Genes.


olivier blanchard ~ January 24, 2006

Cookie, we're gonna need a bigger cake.

ihatetrucks ~ January 24, 2006

The only way I would get on board with something like this would be if there was a special lane on the highway for them.

Bobby ~ January 24, 2006

How would the aging process work? Would we be decrepit old geezers from our 60s on? Or would 284 be the new 30?
I am not on board. I would have nothing to do. The only way I'd want to live to 500 is if I could still retire at 65 and golf every day. Even then, I'm sure I'd get sick of golf. I'm pretty sure I'd be ready to go around 80 anyway, so why delay the inevitable?
Also, could you imagine the family trees???
Our family Christmas party would be ridiculous. The house is already packed and that's with three generations. Great great great great grandpa Nick would probably fall asleep in the best chair 5 minutes into the first quarter of the Eagles game...nah, I couldn't handle that.

Evan Tishuk ~ January 24, 2006

I'm assuming that "284 would be the new 30." I don't think anyone would want to be in a nursing home for 400 years. And I think people would likely not have huge families either. If you were still fertile later into life, why would you want to be tied down for 400+ years? You could spend your first century trotting the globe looking for that perfect person to share the next 400 years with! Ha! Sounds like Highlander.

Bobby ~ January 24, 2006

People don't think that way though. Trust me, in my line of work, people don't plan on having families..."they just happen..." Because sometimes you just can't resist inpregnating a toothless crackhead. So while you and I may wait for Ms. Perfect to start a wonderful life together, Harry and Wanda are going to have 4 kids by the time they are 30 regardless (unless 30 equates to 6, but you get the picture).
This leads me to another point and probably another topic. BIRTH CONTROL. My solution, all men must get a vasectomy at age 12, freeze some samples and then you must pass a test in order to have a child. Certain folks aren't able to parent and they should not be allowed to. Think about it, you need to pass a test in order to drive, but anyone can produce life whenever the mood hits them. Call me Communist if you want, but we need to stop the problem at the source...nads. I'm sure the money used on the operation would be much cheapier than all the hospital bills of unwanted children, crack addicted infants and premature babies.

Evan Tishuk ~ January 24, 2006

I understand your job puts you on the front lines there. So I won't call you a communist. I think you're more of a fascist. Fascist.

olivier blanchard ~ January 24, 2006

Wait... You guys are talking about being able to do this WITHOUT having to suck other people's blood?

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