Re: AGING: perhaps we are over the hump

Date: Sat Feb 16 2002 - 11:42:55 MST

Robert Bradbury writes:
> Now, given the genetic technologies I expect will develop within
> this decade, there is a reasonable chance that we will be able
> to give everyone the benefits of the Methuselah gene. If so
> we will be bumping average longevity from ~75 to ~90 within
> this decade, or ~15 years / decade.

I don't see how a gene discovered today could be affecting everyone
within 10 years. Will we perfect a method of genetic insertion into
all of the relevant cells, get government approval, and administer it
to the entire Western world within 10 years? I'm sure we all agree that
this is impossible. A better prospect would be to find out what the
gene does and hope that it is something which can be turned into a pill.
But even then there is no proof that the pill would accomplish the same
thing until you have studied it for decades, so there is no way that
everyone will be swallowing the pill within ten years.

(BTW I think animal models are of limited use in human longevity studies,
since people already live something like 3 times what they should compared
to similar animals, implying that they are already benefiting from some
biochemical longevity genes which are absent elsewhere.)

> If that proves to be the case, then the expected longevity of
> everyone on the list under the age of ~65 just became *much*
> greater!

Even if somehow everyone had the effects of this gene inside them within
10 years, that would not necessarily increase longevity to a large degree.
It is plausible that the effects are spread out over a lifetime, slowing
aging constantly, so that, say, a 70 year old with the protection is like
a 60 year old without it. Hence someone who was already an adult, let
alone 65 years old, would not get much benefit from adding the effects
of the gene so late in life. A 65 year old with a life expectancy of
15 years might get his expectancy increased to ~18 years. The effects
on young people would probably be correspondingly greater.

> Now, the "harsh" reality of this brings up an interesting question.
> I've always thought that there should be a fundamental shift
> in personal economic planning that takes place when people begin
> to realize they are likely to live hundreds of years. I call
> this "The no-brainer strategy to becoming wealthy". It requires
> taking $100-$1000 and depositing it in a savings account or
> mutual fund and never withdrawing any funds from the account
> until the annual increase in the account value exceeds what
> one reasonably needs to live in the world. It is based on
> the idea that it doesn't require sophisticated investment
> strategies to become wealthy, it simply requires living long
> enough.

I see two problems with this investment strategy. One is that it might
not work. Savings accounts can lose value to inflation, and mutual
funds can lose value to crashes. Some people will prefer to use their
judgement and move their money around among investments, depending on
economic conditions.

The other is that even if the account value does grow in absolute terms,
it may not grow relative to our desires. In other words, as the world
grows wealthier, although we can get more in the future if we save our
money today, it may not be as much as we would like. Over the course
of my career, which began 23 years ago, my income has grown by a factor
of 7. If I had saved $100 back then in a savings account, it would have
grown, but not by that much. So in a sense I would have lost money.
Now granted, I have been moving through the fastest-growing part of
my career, and this will probably not be sustained over the long term.
But it makes sense that our perceived needs will grow proportionately
to the total wealth of society. Hence any investment which grows more
slowly than that is actually a net loser.

> It would seem that Extropians/Transhumanists should be the first
> to recognize the paradigm shift and adopt this strategy. But
> I don't see any evidence that any of these individuals that I
> know have done so. So the "interesting question" is "Why
> is this the case?"

I'm not sure what you mean that no one has applied this. Are you saying
that no one is saving money? Surely that is wrong. Are you saying that
none of the people saving money are putting it into savings accounts
and/or mutual funds? I can't believe that either; I for one have money
in both of those categories.

Or maybe you're just saying that no one sees this saving in the way you
do, as "the" strategy for getting rich in the long term? That might be,
but I think the reasons are different from what you give.

> Possible explanations I can think of are:
> a) We don't really believe lifespan extension of more than 1 yr/yr
> is feasible;
> b) We believe the NanoSantas will make all wealth creation strategies
> irrelevant;
> c) We believe the SysOp AI will make all wealth creation strategies
> irrelevant;
> d) We belive the singularity will so totally disrupt things that
> all wealth creation strategies are irrelevant.
> There are probably some others but I think this may cover
> most of the positions.

I think the right answer is a variation on (a), which is that we think
it will take quite a while to get to 1 year/year, and may not be within
our lifetimes. And even if it does happen before we die and we are
able to benefit from it, we would still prefer to have more money rather
than less at that time, and in fact at all times. Hence we look for the
best investment opportunities we can find.

It's possible that some people do believe in (b)-(d), mostly young people
who have a greater likelihood of seeing these changes before they get
old. But I would hope that most Extropians would want a contingency
plan in case none of the Singularity scenarios pan out. Generally,
having more resources will give you more options.


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