Aubrey de Grey will mess with your actuarial tables

Responding in this Big Think video to questions about how his life extension work might impact society, IdeaFestival 2011 presenter and Chief Science Officer for the SENS Foundation, Aubrey de Grey, says that the benefits of living longer will outweigh the current social costs for end of life care.

In his society, only the actuarial tables suffer. Whether this theoretical geneticist's vision will come to fruition or not is, of course, not known, but the issues related to extended life are being explored in popular culture. Two examples come to mind. 

In The Coming Death Shortage, Charles C. Mann takes a skeptical view, believing that even if the societal costs of extended life might be contained, armed with the "supreme weapon of compound interest," individuals on the right side of the resulting generational divide would have enormous power - an older and extraordinarily wealthy group of people would reap all the financial benefits that life extension and wealth might provide. As for me, I find the timing of this revolution particularly troubling. Haven't the Baby Boomers had a pretty good run already?

Gary Shteyngart's brilliant 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story alludes to Mann's social dynamic: High Net Worth Individuals busily seek life extension while a world dominated by ethically challenged and powerful corporations falls apart around them. Financial debt in this dystopian near future isn't just a personal failure, but can get you sent to war. I won't give away the end, but the novel is ultimately touching and Shteyngart writes beautifully, and humanely, about the desirability of eternal life. This "book trailer" has more.

I hope to see you at IdeaFestival 2011.