Speculating on the Longevity Gap
Permalink | View Comments (6) | Post Comment | | Posted by Reason

For some folk, every possible aspect of future progress in technology is a chance to wish for class war. There will always be great differences between the haves and the have nots, but our modern age is distinguished from the past by just how little of medical technology is out of the reach of those comparatively poor people who live in the wealthier regions of the world where one finds most class war enthusiasts. If you are a billionaire you can buy the services of more doctors and assistants to do the legwork of applying for clinical trials, but there is no type of medicine that you can obtain with your wealth today that remains completely unavailable to the masses. This is generally true of most widely used technologies: communications devices, computing, transport, and so on. It is a flat age in which wealth buys you influence but little more than that.

When it comes to disparities in access to medicine, the people who care about such things should focus on those communities in the poorer reaches of the world that have yet to bring themselves up to par with Europe and US. The best way to help them is in fact to support faster progress towards ever better, cheaper, and more effective medical technology in Europe and the US: improvements in availability elsewhere will happen as a matter of course when price drops. Consider that the future of rejuvenation treatments will largely consist of mass-produced infusions: bacterial enzymes and other similar substances to break down metabolic waste, gene therapy vectors for allotopic expression of mitochondrial genes, and so forth. This is a form of medicine that once mature will be durable, easily administered, easily stored, and easily transported. It will be cheap, and it will eliminate the vast majority of all medical conditions, since the vast majority of all medical conditions are caused by aging.

Still, many people seem attached to their fond dreams of class war and immortality treatments that are reserved for the wealthy by virtue of being too expensive for everyone else. They're much more interested in pontificating on this topic than actually helping to support the production of rejuvenation treatments:

The disparity between top earners and everyone else is staggering in nations such as the United States, where 10 per cent of people accounted for 80 per cent of income growth since 1975. The life you can pay for as one of the anointed looks nothing like the lot tossed to everyone else: living in a home you own on some upscale cul-de-sac with your hybrid car and organic, grass-fed food sure beats renting (and driving) wrecks and subsisting on processed junk from supermarket shelves. But there's a related, looming inequity so brutal it could provoke violent class war: the growing gap between the longevity haves and have-nots.

The life expectancy gap between the affluent and the poor and working class in the US, for instance, now clocks in at 12.2 years. College-educated white men can expect to live to age 80, while counterparts without a high-school diploma die by age 67. White women with a college degree have a life expectancy of nearly 84, compared with uneducated women, who live to 73.

This is just a harbinger of things to come. What will happen when new scientific discoveries extend potential human lifespan and intensify these inequities on a more massive scale? It looks like the ultimate war between the haves and have-nots won't be fought over the issue of money, per se, but over living to age 60 versus living to 120 or more. Will anyone just accept that the haves get two lives while the have-nots barely get one? We should discuss the issue now, because we are close to delivering a true fountain of youth that could potentially extend our productive lifespan into our hundreds - it's no longer the stuff of science fiction.

Instead of allowing the wealth gap to turn into a longevity gap, perhaps we'll find a way to use everyone's talents and share the longevity dividend at all levels of income. This kind of sharing could leverage the wisdom of elders, forestall the economic collapse many have predicted when the grey tsunami picks up speed, and avoid an all-out revolt against the one or so per cent. We stand at the threshold of two distinct futures - one where we have a frail, rapidly ageing population that saps our economy, and another where everyone lives much longer and more productive lives.

Link: http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/will-new-drugs-mean-the-rich-live-to-120-and-the-poor-die-at-60/


medical research to extend and improve human life is absolutely necessary.

the best system is when there are no social classes -- a classless society.
In a classless system it's impossible to have a class war. But a class war just as any other war will increase Death Expectancy -- more humans will die or be injured, than in a peace time. For maximum life expectancy it is necessary to have medical services and products affordable for everyone, peaceful society and environment where accidents almost never happen.

Posted by: nicholas at July 3, 2014 3:35 PM

The digital gap is BS. With tablets becoming as cheap as they are and cell phones being the preferred form of communication by meth addicts, clearly there is no longer any such thing as a digital gap. People who still talk about a digital gap are idiots.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at July 3, 2014 9:24 PM

@Abelard Lindsey
So if I am, according to your definition, an idiot; may I call you a retard? Given that the digital gap is as real as the climate change.

Posted by: Nico at July 4, 2014 6:41 PM

Nico, that you still believe in the known fraud of global warming rather conclusively makes my point.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at July 5, 2014 10:54 AM

I hope this comment won't be seen as mean-spirited, but let's be real for a moment. There are so many opportunities these days to pursue basic education (high-school or equivalent) that adults lacking this qualification, unless undocumented immigrants, will tend to be of very low average intelligence.

Couldn't their lower life-expectancy reflect poor decision-making on their part? In that case no amount of wealth-redistribution would fully redress the lower life-expectancy. In other words, I suspect that this longevity gap is not primarily the result of an income disparity but an intelligence disparity and therefore not primarily the authorship of man but of nature.

Posted by: José at July 6, 2014 8:46 AM

Conventional medicine seems to be stuck at "fixing" things after they've gone wrong. It's possible that those with more resources might go beyond this methodology...but they need to have the interest and intelligence (I&I) needed to do so? It really comes down to having the I&I and a different world view that is not based mostly on tradition? Those who are interested in prolonging a healthy life probably need to protect themselves from those not interested? The issue might not have so much to do with wealth as it does world view?

Posted by: roger at July 9, 2014 4:17 AM
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