But here’s something he and interviewer Eliezer Yudkowsky don’t address: on the day eternal life becomes available, it might be a bad idea for everybody over a certain age. Those people would be locked into life at their current age indefinitely, while the rest of the world — their future friends, enemies, bosses and lovers — would become an ever-swelling group of 24-year-olds.
How would society react to this approaching possibility?
Let’s start with four assumptions.
A) Eventually, scientists will figure out how to halt, but not reverse, aging. (Note: de Gray, presumably one of the world’s top experts on this question, doesn’t share this assumption.)
B) The worst possible scenario is to be permanently locked into old age while the number of 24-year-olds in the world grows ever larger. (Or, alternatively, to commit suicide.)
C) At current rates of research, it will be slightly more than 80 years before a cure for aging becomes widely available.
D) We’re all going to die at 98 of age-related ailments.
i. If an 18-year-old assumes that the time horizon before scientists cure aging might be shortened to 80 years with a bit more anti-aging research, then he will oppose anti-aging research. Because then aging will be cured while he’s still alive, and he’ll have to be old forever.
ii. The closer scientists approach that 80-year horizon, the more opposed to research our hypothetical 18-year-old will become.
iii. Therefore longevity research is likely to face accelerating political resistance at least until it crosses the 80-year horizon.
iv. Meanwhile, a hypothetical 38-year-old will be similarly motivated by a 60-year horizon, a hypothetical 48-year-old by a 50-year horizon, and so on. As with the 18-year-old, their opposition to anti-aging research will increase as we near each of these horizons.
v. At the moment the 80-year horizon is reached, the 18-year-old’s intensifying resistance to anti-aging research will peak. Though he still opposes the research, his worst-case scenario (to be forever 98) is subsequently impossible.
vi. However, all older voters will still feel increasing pressure to lengthen the horizon. The electorate’s overall resistance to anti-aging research will continue to climb.
vii. Somewhere between each voter’s current age and 98 is an optimal target age (“A Prime,” let’s call it) after which he or she will begin to prefer death to immortality. Let’s assume, for the 18-year-old, that A Prime is 68.
viii. When scientists cross the 50-year time horizon, the 18-year-old’s opposition to age research will reverse. He now supports rapid progress in anti-aging research.
ix. After that point, a large but ever-shrinking proportion of the electorate will expect to be older than A Prime at the time aging is cured. This ever-shrinking group will become ever more intensely opposed to anti-aging research.
x. Meanwhile, a small but ever-growing group will become ever more intensely supportive of anti-aging research.
In the year 2040 there will be a massive worldwide revolution of young against old and first against the wall will be the biologists.
– posted by Mike