Many people believe that medical control over aging will be stunningly expensive, and thus indefinite extension of healthy life will only be available to a wealthy elite. This is far from the case. If you look at the SENS approach to repair therapies, treatments when realized will be mass-produced infusions of cells, proteins, and drugs. Everyone will get the same treatments because everyone ages due to the same underlying cellular and molecular damage. You'll need one round of treatments every ten to twenty years, and they will be given by a bored clinical assistant. No great attention will be needed by highly trained and expensive medical staff, as all of the complexity will be baked into the manufacturing process. Today's closest analogs are the comparatively new mass-produced biologics used to treat autoimmune conditions, and even in the wildly dysfunctional US medical system these cost less than ten thousand dollars for a treatment.
Rejuvenation won't cost millions, or even hundreds of thousands. It will likely cost less than many people spend on overpriced coffee over the course of two decades of life, and should fall far below that level. When the entire population is the marketplace for competing developers, costs will eventually plummet to those seen for decades-old generic drugs and similar items produced in factory settings: just a handful of dollars per dose. The poorest half of the world will gain access at that point, just as today they have access to drugs that were far beyond their reach when initially developed.
Nonetheless, many people believe that longevity enhancing therapies will only be available for the wealthy, and that this will be an important dynamic in the future. Inequality is something of a cultural fixation at the moment, and it is manufactured as a fantasy where it doesn't exist in reality. This is just another facet of the truth that most people don't really understand economics, either in the sense of predicting likely future changes, or in the sense of what is actually taking place in the world today:
The attitude now towards disease and old age and death is that they are basically technical problems. It is a huge revolution in human thinking. Throughout history, old age and death were always treated as metaphysical problems, as something that the gods decreed, as something fundamental to what defines humans, what defines the human condition and reality. Even a few years ago, very few doctors or scientists would seriously say that they are trying to overcome old age and death. They would say no, I am trying to overcome this particular disease, whether it's tuberculosis or cancer or Alzheimers. Defeating disease and death, this is nonsense, this is science fiction.
But, the new attitude is to treat old age and death as technical problems, no different in essence than any other disease. It's like cancer, it's like Alzheimers, it's like tuberculosis. Maybe we still don't know all the mechanisms and all the remedies, but in principle, people always die due to technical reasons, not metaphysical reasons. In the middle ages, you had an image of how does a person die? Suddenly, the Angel of Death appears, and touches you on the shoulder and says, "Come. Your time has come." And you say, "No, no, no. Give me some more time." And Death said, "No, you have to come." And that's it, that is how you die.
We don't think like that today. People never die because the Angel of Death comes, they die because their heart stops pumping, or because an artery is clogged, or because cancerous cells are spreading in the liver or somewhere. These are all technical problems, and in essence, they should have some technical solution. And this way of thinking is now becoming very dominant in scientific circles, and also among the ultra-rich who have come to understand that, wait a minute, something is happening here. For the first time in history, if I'm rich enough, maybe I don't have to die.
Death is optional. And if you think about it from the viewpoint of the poor, it looks terrible, because throughout history, death was the great equalizer. The big consolation of the poor throughout history was that okay, these rich people, they have it good, but they're going to die just like me. But think about the world, say, in 50 years, 100 years, where the poor people continue to die, but the rich people, in addition to all the other things they get, also get an exemption from death. That's going to bring a lot of anger.
And again, I don't want to give a prediction, 20 years, 50 years, 100 years, but what you do see is it's a bit like the boy who cried wolf, that, yes, you cry wolf once, twice, three times, and maybe people say yes, 50 years ago, they already predicted that computers will replace humans, and it didn't happen. But the thing is that with every generation, it is becoming closer, and predictions such as these fuel the process.
The same thing will happen with these promises to overcome death. My guess, which is only a guess, is that the people who live today, and who count on the ability to live forever, or to overcome death in 50 years, 60 years, are going to be hugely disappointed. It's one thing to accept that I'm going to die. It's another thing to think that you can cheat death and then die eventually. It's much harder. While they are in for a very big disappointment, in their efforts to defeat death, they will achieve great things. They will make it easier for the next generation to do it, and somewhere along the line, it will turn from science fiction to science, and the wolf will come.