Re: Immortality and Resources

Anders Sandberg (
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 18:17:06 +0100 (MET)

On Mon, 27 Jan 1997, Tony Csoka wrote:

> I am all for research into aging and achieving biological immortality as
> soon as possible. However, I see the primary problem, apart from the huge
> technical hurdles that will have to be orvercome, as a potential
> population explosion.

The population explosion due to immortality is unlikely; immortality
would just speed up the population growth somewhat, but the largest part
of the growth would still be the birth of children, not the non-death of

But in principle you are right, if the population grows, then the amount
of resources available to each individual in a finite system will shrink.
The obvious solutions are to lower the birth rate or make more resources
(of these two, most people only discuss the first).

> A possible solution to the population explosion would be migration into
> space, beginning with the terraformation and inhabitation of Mars and
> Venus.

As has been pointed out countless times, it won't work with
flesh-and-blood humans - you would have to ship millions each day, and
the inhabitants of Mars and Venus would soon be breeding too. O'Neill
colonies might provide more living space using less materials (planets are
so inefficient!), but they will of course not suffice either. In the long
run, the only solution is a decrease in birth rate to match the death
rate, or keep on spreading cubically.

> My question is short and simple: How much would it cost in US$ to
> terraform Mars, and who would pay?
> Is it technically and economically feasible for such projects to begin
> before 2100, by which time I think immortality will be within reach?

Doesn't a dollar cost assume the existence of the US, a rather doubtful
assumption in the 22nd century? :-) (BTW, what is the life expectancy of
nations? Does anybody have any hard data?)

But seriously, the main cost will likely not be in actually doing it, but
researching how to do it. In one scenario you just launch a single
standard nano-probe with some clever programming into space, and then lean
back and watch the fireworks as the solar system is reorganized. The
trick is to write that program, to take into account factors of
astrophysics, climatology, geology, ecology and everything else, and that
requires plenty of skill, knowledge, research and most likely
experimentation. It is a bit like most drugs or software made today, the
price mainly comes from the work that has gone into creating the product
in the first place, not from the actual contents of the package.

As for timescales, thay tend to be very ad hoc when it comes to this kind
of technology (or any kind of technology). We know terraforming, or at
least altering a planet, is physically possible and we know how it could
in principle be done. But we cannot predict how the economy and policies
of the late 21st century look like.

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y