TED Conversations

David Fuchs

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If physical immortality was perfected and happened tomorrow, and people could become young again, what would be the ramifications?



Since we are only a few years (10-20) away from this happening. I thought now would be a good time to discuss this.

How would physical immortality affect society, government, industry, relationships, war, funding for research, investments and investing, birth rates, the law, people psyches, what sort of people would become immortal if it was low cost and available to everyone, what sort of people would not become immortal, will there be a war between mortals and immortals. Would politicians continue down the same short sighted path, or would they take a longer view, and in the end would that be better or worse for the population at large.

We do not need to discuss population growth, exponential and exponential minus some (n) growth, leads to the planets "people limit" being exceeded within the same 5 year time period. We do how ever have to discuss how to slow down the birth rate through smart policies, education, and lifting people out of poverty,

I am giving a very short period to discussing immortality ... one month. Does anyone think we can get eternity right in that amount of time?


Closing Statement from David Fuchs

We live in an age that has linear growth in some areas and exponential growth in others. Growth of knowledge in biology is exponential. We have citizen scientists doing great science in back rooms and garages, adding to this growth of knowledge, and this trend towards more people doing biology and genetics will only grow as tools that are easier to use or more game like (http://fold.it) are developed. Robotic tools are also being developed, which will also accelerate our knowledge of biology and genetics, by allowing one person to do the work that would have required hundreds in the past.

Many of the points made here were valid, many were off topic, and many were a result of belief systems being threatened.

The good ...

Exponential population growth and exponential minus the death rate not being roughly equal long term (John Smith). That immortality could be a driving factor pushing us into space, colonizing the solar system and beyond (Dr Sivaram Hariharan). That some people might try to centralize power and control the rest of humanity. That perhaps people would grow up and begin taking the long view (online observer).

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  • Dec 30 2012: until we solve disparity between the rich and the poor. The powerful and the weak. Living forever will just mean access to despots and tyrants to continue their reign of terror.

    Every technology developed today shall be attained by the rich FIRST.

    Second problem we'll face is quality of mental health at a prolonged age. Nature has given us a perfect balance between life and longevity. Creatures that live longer tend to have slower metabolism, while those that lives shorter burns themselves up in a flurry of activities.

    To sustain continuous indefinite burning of energy would mean overwhelming consumption to keep up with the level of energy needs. So what's the worst case scenario?

    1) Large businesses overtaking governments run by board of directors (elders) that maintains the reign of the company and the decision making.
    2) The risk of nuclear warfare will be higher as despots built deeper bunkers with suppliers for them to wait out nuclear winters.
    3) The rift between the poor and the rich will be even larger as the upper echelons of society forces their value system against the poor. At the end of the day, somebody has to do the job. It'll either be robots or the poor sods.

    Frankly, I wouldn't want this to be unleashed to the world until we solve the problems that we face above.
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      Dec 30 2012: While the question was about physical immortality, and what will occur most people posting here didn't get it at all. Thanks. :)

      I need to disagree with your conclusions.

      "until we solve disparity between the rich and the poor. The powerful and the weak. Living forever will just mean access to despots and tyrants to continue their reign of terror. "

      If you hadn't noticed things are about to get much cheaper and decentralized.

      Energy is about to get much cheaper. So cheap in fact, that transporting the energy over the grid will cost more than the energy itself. Ruining a bunch of carbon based businesses.

      Manufacturing will become more localized due to customization, automation, and transportation costs. This will end the majority of the world economy. Raw materials will be the only things traded..

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