You will doubtless have read my smarter brother Morpheus’ piece entitled “…The Elixir Of Life”. No? Well hit – http://morpheusatloppers.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/morpheus-on-the-elixir-of-life/ and then come back here – okay?
Right. Well, his dissertation only TOUCHES ON whether a radically extended life is actually DESIRABLE – I propose to hammer the issue into the ground.
The thing is – as is also discussed elsewhere in these columns – man (and woman) has four ages. Childhood: 0 to 19. Young adulthood: 20 to 39. Middle-age: 40 to 59. And old age: 60 to 79. You could also add FREAKISH old age: 80 to whatever.
During childhood, one is gathering the basic knowledge one will need for the rest of one’s life. Then comes one’s heyday – young adulthood – the point at which one’s physical capabilities are at their zenith. When one struggles to establish one’s career and pattern of life.
This is followed by middle-age, where if one’s young adulthood has been successful, one can enjoy the fruits of one’s labours – if it has NOT, one can still change direction and try a different tack.
Finally comes old age, when one can reap the benefit from one’s years of toil – slowly winding down, hopefully in comfort and ease.
Of course, this model has been evolved by those in The West. For those in “Developing Countries” the model is quite different – Childhood: 0-5. Working adulthood:6-50. And old age: 51 to DEATH.
But whatever the model, therein lies a PROBLEM.
Because also in these scribblings, one has examined the PURPOSE of life – and come to the conclusion there ISN’T one. And while those in the Third World struggle for mere existence, we (which, if you have a computer to read these ramblings on, must include YOU) in The West have that problem LICKED. Thus our existence requires MORE.
And this writer believes that this is part of our natural make-up. That a desire to find a niche for ourselves (a purpose, if you must) is BORN INTO us – and that the afore-mentioned Ages Of Man have EVOLVED into our very BEING.
This is not so hard to take. Think about it: our body shapes and sizes change every DECADE. And mere fashion, diet and – thanks to cheap air travel – our ability to cross-breed with any race we choose, do NOT explain these variations.
Therefore, it follows that minor details of our evolution CAN happen in mere decades. Thus it is reasonable to assume the evolution of a recognisable pattern of existence – youth, young adulthood, middle-age and old age – or the Third World equivalent – could WELL have become established in the several THOUSAND years that Civilization has been going for.
Which would leave us with an INSTINCTIVE concept of how a life should be lived – and how long it should LAST. And THERE’S THE RUB, my friend.
Because if scientific methods of radical life extension DO become available, whilst future generations born AFTER that time will ADAPT – people of OUR generation will have MAJOR DIFFICULTIES!
The infrastructural problems discussed elsewhere – the practical (automation will have to be stepped up to allow people to have more leisure time) educational (people will have to be taught how to enjoy that leisure time, or they will get bored and smash the machines) economic (a long life must be PAID for) and social (the entire concept of “family planning”) – will be as nothing compared to the SHOCK of suddenly discovering one has an EXTENSION to a life – ALREADY LIVED.
The Ages Of Man are FIXED in our psyches. And a radical change to them will SHATTER us.