Immortality decay (was Re: Stewart Brand's The Clock of the Long Now)

From: Adrian Tymes (
Date: Mon Jan 15 2001 - 22:51:22 MST

Damien Broderick wrote:
> `The very old will have experienced enough past to believe in the reality
> of consequences, while the young will not have been wrong about enough
> future yet to doubt their own puerile notions. It's an old dialogue, but
> with a new balance of power when the old out-number the young' (p. 152).
> I just wish he'd taken more notice of how everything, including the
> validity of his august project, changes with the arrival of indefinite
> longevity, human genomic engineering, and especially self-rewriting AIs.

...which leads to a question that's been idling in my mind. I think I
know the answer, but I'd like to make sure.

Question/problem: if physical immortality arrives, with attendant
ability to cure gross defects like dementia and senility, but stagnates
at that ability level for some length of time, would most people decay
into conservative, nostalgic sheeple who use their collected wisdom and
wealth to struggle to keep things the way they are, viewing young humans
and robots (sentient or not) equally as slaves laboring to support them?

Answer/solution: it only takes one person committed to renewing their
own physical and mental advancement, and to offering such advances to
all of humanity, to keep the flame alive. It is easier if there are
many, for individuals can be drowned out by the tides of the masses,
though if this went to its logical extreme the individuals could take
to hermitage, probably asteroid habitats given the tech level society
would likely settle at in this case. This might result in raiding the
aging society for its younger members, not yet calcified in their
thinking, though one suspects that the long term revolution this would
help forment would be ignored if the short term production of the
extracted people was replaced by the extractor, say by more robots or by
improvements to existing ones.

Maybe I should write that one up. Make for one heck of a dystopia (in
the eyes of the newborn slaves), if nothing else.

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