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Will Capitalism lock people out of Immortality?

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#1 Michael Farrington

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Posted 04 September 2013 - 12:18 PM


A lot of H+ers seem to be technocapitalists/neoliberals but I really think that such an ideology increases the division between the rich and poor, and also makes wealth fall into fewer and fewer hands. This would likely lead to an Elysium like scenario where a tiny elite possess eternal life and the rest of us make do with a Hobbesian nasty/brutish/short existence.

I think transhumanism is a school of humanism and that socialism is the best way to guarantee everyone can enjoy indefinite life. The means of production should be owned by people who work and innovate, not people who speculate and gamble.

What do you think?
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#2 lemonhead

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 11:46 AM

What's an H+er?

I don't think there will be enough work to go around in the future. There will be some positions available for engineers, scientists, designers and artists (including writers, musicians, etc) but most everything will be automated.

I haven't seen Elysium, but the scenario seems plausible.
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#3 niner

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 02:09 PM

A lot of H+ers seem to be technocapitalists/neoliberals but I really think that such an ideology increases the division between the rich and poor, and also makes wealth fall into fewer and fewer hands. This would likely lead to an Elysium like scenario where a tiny elite possess eternal life and the rest of us make do with a Hobbesian nasty/brutish/short existence.

I think transhumanism is a school of humanism and that socialism is the best way to guarantee everyone can enjoy indefinite life. The means of production should be owned by people who work and innovate, not people who speculate and gamble.

What do you think?


That sounds suspiciously like something that we already tried, and it didn't turn out so well. However, say we managed to implement such a scheme. Would we have a mechanism to fund risky projects? What about people who can't (or won't) work and innovate? When robots are better than humans at just about everything, will there be increasing pressure to kill unnecessary humans because they are placing too much strain on the planetary ecosystem?

I agree that we need to avoid the rupture of society into a small cadre of elites and a huge mass of the poor. This is thoroughly underway at the moment, and has a lot of political support, so it's not just a hypothetical future scenario but rather something that we need to start reversing now. I think there are too many humans for the planet to safely carry, and we need to lose about 90% of them. Preferably this will be done by attrition, but some sort of pandemic, either natural or engineered, may get them first.

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#4 lemonhead

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 05:04 PM

Well, attrition is certainly preferable to a pandemic, or mass slaughter by robot armies, or mass starvation (most likely scenario; the 10% or 1% or wherever the cutoff is can say 'He who does not work, neither shall he eat' - popular phrase for both mid-century socialists and present day neocons alike).

Since I and my offspring will probably be in the 'unnecessary humans' category, I kind of don't like any of those options, though my daughter says she wants cats not babies, so attrition is okay with her.

I wish that when I was younger I had not been so idealistic and hadn't had such faith in humanity and the future; then I would have married for wealth when I had the chance. Oh well, I don't call myself 'lemonhead' for nothing.

Edited by lemonhead, 05 September 2013 - 05:06 PM.

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#5 Michael Farrington

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 07:13 AM

What's an H+er?

I don't think there will be enough work to go around in the future. There will be some positions available for engineers, scientists, designers and artists (including writers, musicians, etc) but most everything will be automated.

I haven't seen Elysium, but the scenario seems plausible.


I doubt there will be much for legitimate artists either. Probably only the Miley Cyruses, Britneys and Jonas Brothers will get any pie.

#6 Michael Farrington

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 07:26 AM

That sounds suspiciously like something that we already tried, and it didn't turn out so well.


I presume you are talking about the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Actually, while the Soviet economy did stall, it did not utterly fail until after Gorby started his reforms in 1988. The Soviet recession of the 80s wasn't any more dire than the one in Japan that's been going on since the same time the USSR collapsed in 1991, or the global one that's been going on since 2007.

What really caused the USSR to collapse was the revival of nationalist and religious tendencies, moreso than a desire for Big Macs.

However, say we managed to implement such a scheme. Would we have a mechanism to fund risky projects? What about people who can't (or won't) work and innovate? When robots are better than humans at just about everything, will there be increasing pressure to kill unnecessary humans because they are placing too much strain on the planetary ecosystem?


Yes, it's called crowdfunding. When all you have to lose is just a few bucks, people will be much more willing to take risks. Venture capital is actually quite limited in the things it can innovate, since even speculative capitalists won't fund things that might benefit humanity greatly but aren't very profitable. And of course there are public projects as well.

People who don't work should be able to eat and survive since there is a surplus of resources, and it's the humanitarian thing to do. You also have to remember most people who don't work desire to, but are priced out of the labor market. It's not just because they are lazy like a lot of social Darwinist right wingers believe.

I think they will use Malthusian theory as an excuse to kill people off, yes, if things get to that point.

I agree that we need to avoid the rupture of society into a small cadre of elites and a huge mass of the poor. This is thoroughly underway at the moment, and has a lot of political support, so it's not just a hypothetical future scenario but rather something that we need to start reversing now. I think there are too many humans for the planet to safely carry, and we need to lose about 90% of them. Preferably this will be done by attrition, but some sort of pandemic, either natural or engineered, may get them first.


I don't subscribe to the Gaia hypothesis. It's just another religious superstition in my opinion. While it's useful to metaphorically talk about "Mother Earth", I don't believe this planet is actually sentient. There's no evidence to suggest there are regulatory mechanisms that prevent a species from getting to a certain number of individuals, if they are as smart as humanity. Rabbits might reach a peak population before they eat all their vegetables and die off, but humans are different since we can innovate and make barren land green.

Hoping for it to happen by attrition in a reasonable amount of time is unrealistic. Half of the 7.1 billion people alive now were born after 1983, so in 50 years there will still be about 3 billion people given life expectancies do not change even if nobody ever gave birth to a kid again. That's still 6X more than the 500 million that's cited by the Georgia Guidestones as a sustainable population for the planet.

It will indeed take a pandemic unlike the world has ever seen: worse than the Black Death several times over, or a war that makes WW2 look like child's play, or a mass democide of the plebeians that makes the Holocaust look like peanuts, for the population to get back to the level deep ecologists and other assorted misanthropes wish for.

#7 niner

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 12:44 PM

I agree that we need to avoid the rupture of society into a small cadre of elites and a huge mass of the poor. This is thoroughly underway at the moment, and has a lot of political support, so it's not just a hypothetical future scenario but rather something that we need to start reversing now. I think there are too many humans for the planet to safely carry, and we need to lose about 90% of them. Preferably this will be done by attrition, but some sort of pandemic, either natural or engineered, may get them first.


I don't subscribe to the Gaia hypothesis. It's just another religious superstition in my opinion. While it's useful to metaphorically talk about "Mother Earth", I don't believe this planet is actually sentient. There's no evidence to suggest there are regulatory mechanisms that prevent a species from getting to a certain number of individuals, if they are as smart as humanity. Rabbits might reach a peak population before they eat all their vegetables and die off, but humans are different since we can innovate and make barren land green.

Hoping for it to happen by attrition in a reasonable amount of time is unrealistic. Half of the 7.1 billion people alive now were born after 1983, so in 50 years there will still be about 3 billion people given life expectancies do not change even if nobody ever gave birth to a kid again. That's still 6X more than the 500 million that's cited by the Georgia Guidestones as a sustainable population for the planet.

It will indeed take a pandemic unlike the world has ever seen: worse than the Black Death several times over, or a war that makes WW2 look like child's play, or a mass democide of the plebeians that makes the Holocaust look like peanuts, for the population to get back to the level deep ecologists and other assorted misanthropes wish for.


Hmm. I don't subscribe to the Gaia hypothesis either, so I'm not sure where that's coming from. I just don't think we can have ten billion people all living like Americans and expect everything to keep on humming smoothly. Technological change could increase the Earth's human-carrying capacity, assuming we develop and implement it in time. There's no evidence for regulatory mechanisms that prevent a species like us from getting to a certain number of individuals because it's never happened before. If we keep filling the atmosphere with heat trapping gases, and we trigger any of a number of suspected climate "tipping points", not to mention those we may not have considered, climate change alone could make large parts of the world rather unfriendly to human survival. That's not even considering pandemic disease. Are those "regulatory mechanisms"? They would seem to have that effect, whatever we call them.

Most highly developed nations have birth rates below the replacement rate. If that trend continues, we should, over time, see a gradual reduction in population.

I think you might be over-estimating the functionality of Communism. Outside of small communities of committed believers, has it ever worked well anywhere it's been tried?

#8 maxwatt

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 01:18 PM

Communism did not have an economic feed-back mechanism - we call it the free market - and that was the primary reason for its failure. (That, and the fact that "communist" states were mostly despotisms run by opportunistic thugs who were even more of a dysfunctional elite than the capitalists and kings they had supplanted.) On the other hand, the West has enshrined the feed-back mechanism as an end in itself: "the free-market will fix everything, through innovation". This is just as illogical and false as the gaiia hypothesis, replacing god with mammon.

Immortality is not an option if the human race does not survive.

It is known in biology that a successful species eventually reaches the carrying capacity of its environment. Consider this parable for the human race: a milk-bottle contains bacteria that double every minute. After one hour the bottle is full, all the food eaten, and the bacteria all die. Question: at what time -- after how many minutes -- is the bottle half full of bacteria? The answer -- think about it for a minute -- the answer is that the bottle is half full after fifty-nine minutes. Were you one of those bacteria, everything would seem fine at 59 minutes, as you cluelessly awaited the armageddon of the last doubling. Yes, free markets and technological innovation can keep resetting the clock, until they don't. The elites think their wealth and power will insulate them from the consequences of their decisions - and for a time wealth and power may mitigate the effects - but they too will suffer the consequences of denying the reality of science in favor of relying on strength of will to get their way.
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#9 lemonhead

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 03:17 PM

Hi maxwatt,

Why won't the rich be able to survive? I suspect many have thought about things and are closet preppers, with safe houses out in the country stocked with a couple of years worth of food, solar cells, guns, etc. Not all of them, of course, but some.

#10 Michael Farrington

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 03:21 PM

I think you might be over-estimating the functionality of Communism. Outside of small communities of committed believers, has it ever worked well anywhere it's been tried?


Does capitalism really *work* either? Indeed we are moving to an increasingly unbridled form of capitalism that is leaving more and more people out. The only place there the standard of living is clearly rising is China which is still technically a socialist state. India might have more billionaires and tall buildings but their neoliberal reforms haven't improved the standard of living of most of the people there.

#11 maxwatt

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 06:10 PM

Hi maxwatt,

Why won't the rich be able to survive? I suspect many have thought about things and are closet preppers, with safe houses out in the country stocked with a couple of years worth of food, solar cells, guns, etc. Not all of them, of course, but some.


Some, maybe. But surviving is quite different than living well. And the effects though generally foreseeable, are quite unpredictable on a local scale. You might have six or seven houses on different continents but be unable to get to them.... or the one you choose is destroyed by unexpected and unpredicted flooding, if not wildfires. Or a survivalist militia with more guns than you decides to take your solar cells and supplies. Or you eventually discover what our ancestors may have known from experience: in times of famine, money cannot buy food, and a sack of beans is priceless. Or one gets caught up in one of the wars over remaining resources..... The rich will have better odds, but will be subject to many of the same constraints. And as there are many more poor people, the odds are some lucky random few of them will survive even better than the rich. Perhaps they will bear a sense of resentment and seek revenge on any wealthy enclaves that survive?

#12 Alizee

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 08:22 AM

Money is the probably the number one thing you will need to live "forever".

If you can't afford it, you can't have it.

#13 Alasuya Lushanova

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Posted 02 December 2013 - 06:25 AM

I do not think Capitalism will lock the middle class out of obtaining radical life extension, because as technology progresses forward, the prices and cost decreases. We can look at many examples: sequencing the human genome, and computing technology. Cars, personal computers and the likes at one point also used to be for the wealthy elite, but it was not long till they became obtainable for the middle class.

Therapies and nano-tech medicines and applications will follow the same trajectory. They will start out only for those willing or able to pay the huge costs, but overtime we will find easier more efficient ways to apply the technology, create and distribute them.

#14 Ark

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Posted 02 December 2013 - 07:02 AM


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#15 rwac

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Posted 02 December 2013 - 05:46 PM

I personally believe that the bleeding edge rich are as likely to bleed as become immortal. There's a lot of bad information in the mainstream, and unless you're very careful there is a strong potential to hurt rather than save yourself.

#16 capob

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Posted 03 December 2013 - 04:49 PM

We can collapse just as civilizations have done in the past (historically and those lacking text in our history books), or we can go to something like this : http://persistenceso...manityFutureAI/

#17 Link

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Posted 04 December 2013 - 01:15 PM

i imagine a lot of third worlders will be unable to afford life extension treatments just as they are unable to afford the sort of health care we enjoy in the west today, that is an unfortunate reality.

However, I doubt that it will be only the multi-millionaires and billionaires that will be able to afford it - this is an idea that is generally put forward by anti-longevity deathists as a knee jerk argument with no real evidence base.

If you really think about it, why would it be so expensive that a person earning say $50,000US p.a. today could not afford it?

Presumably this life extension treatment does not require any super rare inputs and is not so difficult to produce for a single person that would justify pricing it in the millions? The only reason then would be because they can...

Things that only the super rich can afford are usually either one of a kind or super rare (e.g. famous artworks) or are unnecessarily luxurious versions of a regular item (e.g. Bugatti Veyron) where no expense is spared in production because money is no object for the consumer.

Really there is nothing that a middle class worker truly needs that they cannot afford.

Whilst it's true that a company could create a treatment and charge $10 million a pop, how long do you think it would be before a competitor brought out their own version and undercut them in order to tap into the huge market of people who earn an average first world salary?

Personally i think given the demand, the first longevity treatments will be expensive but will be priced within reach of most first worlders. You will make more from a few hundred million customers paying $100 000 each than from a few thousand paying $10 million each.

Or i could be totally wrong and we're all screwed.

#18 lemonhead

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 05:33 PM

i imagine a lot of third worlders will be unable to afford life extension treatments just as they are unable to afford the sort of health care we enjoy in the west today, that is an unfortunate reality.

However, I doubt that it will be only the multi-millionaires and billionaires that will be able to afford it - this is an idea that is generally put forward by anti-longevity deathists as a knee jerk argument with no real evidence base.

If you really think about it, why would it be so expensive that a person earning say $50,000US p.a. today could not afford it?


That's 50,000 with a mean household size of 2.52. The median household income is trending downward, income inequality is increasing and social mobility is decreasing. [Inequality: growing apart, The Economist, 9/21/2013]

Most people have barely enough saved to live on during retirement ( I think disability pays out $1,000/month so I suppose you can squeak by on $12k/year somehow):
"... the average retirement account balance for people between 55 and 64 is $291,000, which will only provide about $12,000 a year in inflation-indexed income." [Saving: too thin a cushion, The Economist, 4/2/2013]. (Assuming people don't retire, will there be enough jobs to go around? Will more workers cause more wage depression? Don't know. My point is that people are having trouble saving up for large expenses.)

Meanwhile, a Harvard study attributes 45,000 deaths per year to lack of adequate medical insurance (normal medical care, which one could call our current state of life extension technology).

Unpaid medical bills are currently the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.

My in-laws are now $40,000 in debt because my FIL with COPD had to be rushed to the hospital and it wasn't a VA hospital (since he couldn't breathe, he had to go the closest ER) and the hospital stay wasn't coded such that Medicare would reimburse. They are hoping to get the coding changed. Anyway, that's just an example of how much a short hospital stay currently costs. I don't know how they will pay if they get stuck with the bill.

...

I'm not a 'deathist' (though all I want for myself, really, is a healthy lifespan), I'm a realist.

My advice to you young people is to hustle and save up. Maybe start shilling for c60-oo or make money like they did in the good old GDR and practice Zersetzung on innocent people on behalf of the lying government.

Sorry for the digression...

Edited by lemonhead, 05 December 2013 - 05:42 PM.


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#19 Godof Smallthings

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 01:40 AM

I think you might be over-estimating the functionality of Communism. Outside of small communities of committed believers, has it ever worked well anywhere it's been tried?


Does capitalism really *work* either? Indeed we are moving to an increasingly unbridled form of capitalism that is leaving more and more people out. The only place there the standard of living is clearly rising is China which is still technically a socialist state. India might have more billionaires and tall buildings but their neoliberal reforms haven't improved the standard of living of most of the people there.


I think PRC's present mechanisms and direction are more traceable in Chinese run societies like Singapore and Taiwan than they are in socialist principles, although one cannot disregard that Maoist-Leninist structures and ideas remain. But alone, these principles could not have achieved this type of growth, especially not in a world dominated by other socialist economies.

China's extended business families are run like corporations in some sense, with individual wishes almost always coming second to the interests of the family, and planning being done over generations.

With the rise of individualism the West has become significantly more free in terms of personal choice, but has lost much of this type of 'sacrificing oneself for the group', and this can be observed in everything from micro (family, socializing patterns) to macro (how politics and companies are run).





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