Immortality and Personal Finance (fwd)

Dan Fabulich daniel.fabulich@yale.edu
Tue, 23 Apr 2002 20:42:50 -0400 (EDT)


Eugen Leitl wrote:

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 11:31:15 -0700
> From: chris arkenberg <carkenbe@adobe.com>
> To: fork@xent.com
> Subject: Re: Immortality and Personal Finance
>
> >So the question is: does my personal financial contribution to
> >immortality research probably matter quite a lot?  Or does it probably
> >matter fairly little?
>
> Well, if you think you'll actually be around to benefit from your
> investment & your research...
>
> Given the current projections for population growth and the ongoing
> depletion of the world's natural resources, life extension research
> in general tends to exist in a vacuum of selfish fantasy. You either
> end up with the most privileged 3% living to 400, or a population
> bloat of 15 billion impoverished humans. LE research also seems
> somewhat ignorant of the very real problems  which threaten the lives
> of people every day.

This is a confusing/confused trend fit.  Unlike Gaussian mortality,
where one's lifespan is, as you note, limited by the random chance
that something will crop up and kill you, augmented lifespan (if/when
it's possible at all) is based primarily on the state of the
technology available to keep you alive; the longer you can wait, the
better that gets.  That means that if you get to 200 at all, you're
*more* likely, not less, to get to 400, b/c there will have been 200
years of work on LE tech to keep you alive.

Same story for the "most privileged 3% living to 400."  If today we
might gleefully fantasize about live to 400, how long do you imagine
you'd expect to live 400 research years from now?

As I said in my original post, the honest skeptic, when asked what
we'll be able to do after even 50 years of research, should reply: "I
have no idea, but I hope we haven't annihilated human civilization by
that point!"

Same goes for depletion of natural resources.  If you imagine we'll
run out of fossil fuels in 200 years, (when you take into account
conservation provoked by rising prices,) ask yourself what sort of
energy technology we'll develop in 200 years.

If you think you know the answer, you don't understand the problem.

> In the past 2 years I've watched a 50 year old man die of ALS 6
> months after diagnosis, and stood by the side of a 48 year old woman
> as she died of an acute bone marrow transfer. It took 3 weeks from
> diagnosis to her death.
>
> I contribute to my 401(k) and my Roth IRA but, hell, I'm not even
> sure I'll make it long enough to reap the benefits - and I'm only 31.

You have my sympathies.  My dad died of heart failure earlier in this
year.  It's my goal to prevent deaths like these in the future.

I will say this: Perhaps years of continued tragedy will convince you
that you and your loved ones won't survive.  But suppose you realize,
too late, that you were wrong, that you could have done something, but
in your hopelessness and despair you became risk-averse and avoided
investments (in time, money, brainpower) that could have really made a
life-or-death difference.

I don't know about you, but the thought that I might blow my only
chance for survival, for my loved ones and for myself, is quite
haunting.  I suppose it would be less haunting to people (like
yourself?) who have already given up on survival, but I don't think
these fatalist views should dominate the discussion.

> I feel that the brilliant minds in LE might do better researching
> cancer or heart disease or immune deficiencies. I'd rather have a
> rich life of 80 years than live to 170 and watch generations of
> friends and family die from disease.

You're making a Common Mistake (tm): that, if you somehow got access
to Life Extension technology, you couldn't give it to your friends and
family, or anyone else you care about.

Immortality alone might well be miserable, but what makes you think
you'd even be so lucky?  If you live to 170, it'll probably be because
somebody figured out how to get all sorts of people to live 170, you
included.

I won't give up while there's still some hope for humanity.

-Dan

      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings