The Transformation of Retirement
Permalink | View Comments (6) | Post Comment | | Posted by Reason

As I mentioned at the Longevity Meme yesterday, Aubrey de Grey has an excellent review of Coping With Methuselah up at PLoS Biology. In it, he makes this point (amongst many others that you should certainly take note of):

Am I, then, resigned to a future in which countless millions are denied many decades of life by our studied reluctance to plan ahead today? Not quite. The way out is pointed to in Lee and Tuljapurkar's (1997) graph of the average wealth consumed and generated by an individual as a function of age, reproduced in Coping with Methuselah (p. 143). Once [acturial escape velocity] is achieved, there will be no going back: rejuvenation research will be intense forever thereafter and will anticipate and remedy the life-threatening degenerative changes appearing at newly achieved ages with ever-increasing efficacy and lead time.

This will bring about the greatest economic change of all in society: the elimination of retirement benefits. Retirement benefits are for frail people, and there won't be any frail people. The graph just mentioned amply illustrates how much wealth will be released by this. My hope, therefore, is that once policy makers begin to realise what's coming they will factor in this eventual windfall and allocate sufficient short-term resources to make the period of limited availability of rejuvenation therapies brief enough to prevent mayhem. This will, however, be possible only if such resources begin to be set aside long enough in advance?and we don't know how long we have.

I have spoken before about retirement, retirement benefits (and social security), and related fiscal matters:

While it's blindingly obvious that the current monolithic pyramid schemes used to move money from the young to the old will have to disappear, this is a big stumbling block for politicians. People already in the payout stages of the pyramid scheme will not take kindly to changes. The difficulty of changing these systems has even been touted as a reason to opposing healthy life extension technologies - so much for rules to benefit the people! It's quite astounding that anyone would rather suffer and die (and force suffering and death on billions) than face the reality that change happens and we must adapt.

In a world in which the old are just as healthy, active, and capable as the young, social security programs are just not needed. Not that I think they are a good plan in the first place - enforced wealth transfers from the young to the old are generally enforced wealth transfers from the poor to the rich. Not to mention the fact that it enourages people to rely on the (inherently inefficient, unreliable) government for services that are quite capably handled by planning ahead (very underrated in the present time!), insurance, family, investment, and standard banking.

Retirement in the future will become something quite different from what it is today. I think we will see two forms of retirement in this future without aging. Firstly, there will be the extended vacation. A worker will finish a career with enough money saved to go on vacation for a few decades. That should be more than enough time to decide on a new direction in life.

Secondly, an ambitious worker could save enough wealth to remove the need for income - they could live on capital gains, the return on investments, and all the normal methologies of the well to do in the present day. Given enough time, even the most lowly of jobs could produce this sort of wealth, necessary for a permanent vacation.

Of course, this won't result in a world of perpetually vacationing people. If everyone is resting on their laurels, there would be no one to produce goods and provide services. So a dynamic equilibrium would arise between the vacationers and the working - too few workers and prices rise, so more vacationers return to work (out of necessity, or looking to make a killing in a hot market). If many people are working, prices fall, so more can afford to become long term vacationers.

A future in which we have won the fight to cure aging will be one in which everyone who is prepared to work can be wealthy. This wealth will bring vastly greater choice and freedom. It would be a terrible shame if political concerns and simple human selfishness mess up, prolong, and cause unnecessary pain in the transition from the current state of affairs to a better tomorrow.

Comments

"This will bring about the greatest economic change of all in society: the elimination of retirement benefits. Retirement benefits are for frail people, and there won't be any frail people."

Aubrey can not apply this to American politics. Welfare is a Democrat pork barrel which finances Democrat union workers (communists) and Democrat welfare recipients (addicts) using welfare to finance Democrat drug-legalization activists (dealers). Republicans have been trying to reform welfare for decades and the continually rising mean lifespan has done not but give Democrats a lame excuse to tax Republicans at the speed of debt:

http://www.heritage.org/Research/SocialSecurity/NOdometer.cfm


"My hope, therefore, is that once policy makers begin to realise what's coming they will factor in this eventual windfall and allocate sufficient short-term resources to make the period of limited availability of rejuvenation therapies brief enough to prevent mayhem."

It's nigh impossible to cut any funding once it's puts food on someone's table; they'll spend more money than the program gives them to fight to keep the program. ...nad just what kind of treatments will be offered?

http://gopchristiannews.blogspot.com/2005/06/cannibals-injecting-baby-bits-in-china.html

Posted by: Rev. Thomas S. Painter (R) at August 1, 2005 6:59 AM

Short-sighted selfishness seems to be the only impediment here. We must really look beyond that, and not allow scrounging pleas of the deserved to hold back long-term progress, while at the same time not totally thieving what is owed to them for their labours.

Posted by: Tyciol at October 30, 2007 10:28 AM

If people reached retirement age with their physical youth, they could also use some of their savings to buy land and live self-sufficiently. This reduces the cost of living by a lot, and would make any income from interest, investments, etc. go further.

Posted by: cpascal at May 12, 2011 12:12 PM

The most frustrating thing about anti-aging research and discussion is the amount of conspiracy theorists and whackos it attracts. So many sensationalist or half baked replies to these very well thought out posts.

Posted by: howcanIhelpAAresearch at August 22, 2011 10:30 AM

They should turn social security into a disability only program. Then the government should fund the alleviation of disability with it's basic research funding. Obvious!

Posted by: Bode Bliss at September 19, 2011 12:35 AM

No one mentions how we are going to find space on our planet for all these people! We are already overpopulated. Will the eternally youthful ban childbirth?

Posted by: Antiaging student at March 19, 2012 1:51 AM
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