Who Wants to Live Forever

“I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying." - While Woody Allen might only achieve the former, many younger people rightfully aim for the latter: Not dying. At all. Or at least not for next two or three hundred years or so.

It has been a human desire for as long as we can think of, but now, it seems that this vision is within reach. And while I don't want to go into scientific details about the progress of slowing death or indeed achieve immortality (you can start exploring the discourse here, here or here) I think it's important to talk about the implications of not dying.

There is of course a financial impact. Already pension funds have trouble providing enough money for a rapidly agening population. The lifespan of people that have stopped working but aren't dead has grown remarkably in the last 60 years. Those peoples savings will have to last for many more years and most of them have a lifetime pension, guaranteed by the state. If they don't die, that’s going to be very expensive. And even if those who only have a limited pension don't die, what’s going to happen? Are they all going to live in poverty? "Altersarmut" or poverty among the elderly will be a term we might use much more often in the future.

But probably, the ones who cannot afford to live forever will eventually die. That leads to an even scarier outcome. It is save to assume that the medicine and treatments for extending ones lifespan will cost a lot of money. So who will live forever? The rich and the powerful. The one percent that already owns half of the world and is getting richer by the day. Death, the most important constant of life, will not apply to those who have. And it will prevent them even more to share their wealth with others. Money and power will not be naturally redistributed after the death of even the mightiest and richest despot. They will be keeping it to them selves and they will stay in charge. Of their companies, their governments, their organisations.

So before we celebrate the medical breakthroughs that will certainly be substantial - with the raise of artifical intelligence, gene editing (think of CRISPR) and personalized medicine - we should consider what it means. Living in an society where people don't die might just be less fun than we think.

Sincerely yours,