Social Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

What will happen if only the mega rich can access a new stem cell treatment that makes one physically younger and potentially live a hundred or more years longer?

Asked by Ltryptophan (9112 points ) December 20th, 2010

This isn’t so far fetched. In a way it has already happened in the past/happens in the present. Some people in the world reach “old age” at 30. But, that is more about life expectancy, than true old age. Given the right environment normal people from diverse cultures will probably live to around 70 or older.

If the mega rich started living hundreds of years longer than normal, it would certainly have an economic impact, a social impact, etc.

What do you think the world would look like if this comes to pass?

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15 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

McDonald’s profits will double or triple.

Centenarians would be the customer service people, and other centenarians would triple their spending on the food as the stem cell treatments made them feel young and invincible again.

jerv's avatar

As we are already largely a world of “haves” and “Have nots”, I don’t see this as being too much of a stretch. However, part of it depends on how well the rich defend themselves as us mere mortals (a term I use often in this context, but especially true in this case) probably would not allow them to enjoy that agelessness for long. The fountain of Youth is no match for an angry mob with pitchforks,

I see it not ending well, especially not in the US. There is already quite a bit of resentment here because the Joneses have a bigger flatscreen TV, and I see perpetual youth as being far more jealousy-inducing than any mere possession. It’d either redefine “class warfare“or lead to subjugation of the non-rich who are often seen as less than human already.

Pandora's avatar

I think they will all live long enough to become broke and kill themselves. If not, then they will live long enough to divorce several times and get taken to the cleaners that way, or their children will plot their death so they can inherit what they have been waiting for, for so long.
Either way. They won’t live very long. Every kingdom gets toppled at some point. Nothing last forever.

ETpro's avatar

There will come a point when “Let them eat cake.” has the predictable outcome.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Yea, this just sounds a lot like the present medical system.

The_Idler's avatar

The integration of genetics, eugenics, biotechnology & advanced medicine into the superstructure of the global elites’ systemic & systematic perpetuation and exploitation of socio-economic inequality is inevitable, and will be as powerful and significant in this sense, as the integration of:
— bronze & iron into prehistoric tribal power-structures;
— agricultural technology into feudal serfdom;
— animal husbandry into feudal cavalry supremacy;
— artillery, firearms & ocean-worthy ships into Western European imperial supremacy;
— broadcasting & mass psychology into fascist, communist & especially capitalist methods of control;
— precision long range weapons delivery and nuclear, space & surveillance technologies into the armoury of the modern Great Powers.

It is plausible, however, that this will cause the global elites’ to become so complacent, so detached from reality, that they will be incapable of resisting some innovative, globalised social movement, fuelled by some kind of technology that reaches and empowers the masses, without being detected and neutralised in time by their pathetically decayed senses. In other words, decadence could neutralise their capacity to react quickly enough.

Meego's avatar

Stem cells bug me :/ My husband could have benefited from them but never got the chance. Anyway, on that note, I think they would spend all their money to live along time for nothing, why do people want to live for hundreds of years anyway? Can’t think of anymore peaceful time in life then when your dead, even if I had the money and did it I think I would be like a TV vampire and regret it 100 years later!

wundayatta's avatar

@The_Idler I thought the internet was going to be that technology, but now it seems that the internet has been coopted by business interests. Rich people often get rich because they are smart and they have a hell of a lot of drive. Look at all the technology companies that have grown, in the last twenty years, from nothing to the largest capitalized companies in the world.

The elites who want to stay elite are never complacent. There is too much competition for them to allow themselves that luxury. They’ll be eaten alive, unless they represent companies that are too large for the people to allow them to go under. We, the people, have just saved a number of complacent companies from that fate. What makes you think we wouldn’t do it next time? We are job hungry. We depend on the elites for jobs.

Decadence gets a lot of novels written about it, but we not longer have much of a hereditary elite. Sure, a significant portion of the elites are born into their luxury, and these are the ones most likely to behave decadently. But more will probably be interested in philanthropy. They give the money back to the people. There is only so much decadence one person can consume.

You have a creative idea, but I don’t find it anywhere close to being plausible. I think it will be business as usual. Those with the most money will use the service first. As more and more people use it, it will decline in price, and eventually the middle classes will be able to afford it. After that, perhaps cut rate longevity shops will open up in the poor areas, but the services will be hit or miss. If you want a dystopian story, you can have the bodies from these failed treatments (all healthy young people) disappear, and end up who knows where? Perhaps as organ farms for the super rich? Oh blah. It’s already been done. Or if not that, something close to it. Perhaps Nancy Kress wrote it.

I hate to say it, but there is a reason why the elite are elite. What has happened to all our communist revolutions except a handful? And China seems to be doing a stealth conversion. I don’t know if Myanmar counts as communist. North Korea certainly does, but look how healthy that country is!

Elites are elite for a reason, and that reason is always going to be with us, I think. No matter how fast the folks at the bottom improve education and whatever, the elites will always be doing it faster and getting further ahead. Hmmm. Maybe they’ll all upload themselves into computers some day, and become somewhat irrelevant. Another novel perhaps? Why would they upload themselves? How would they protect the servers they run on? Would they no longer care about the world?

There you go. Two story ideas for free.

The_Idler's avatar

@wundayatta
Yeah maybe I was being a bit fanciful saying it could be the cause of a serious class conflict due to loss-of-touch with reality… but it could.

And when you say the technology will eventually reach and “benefit” the masses, in some kind of mass-produced, approved-for-plebian-usage form, that’s exactly what I meant by being integrated, just like: [enter list of previous technological revolutions]

I mean, the nightmare scenario is that that doesn’t happen, and creates a whole new kind of inequality, but we all know that a human life with 95% of it spent in working age is more beneficial to the global economic system, than one with ~60% as we have now.

So it looks likely that we’ll all end up getting the tech, just because living longer means serving longer.

wundayatta's avatar

@The_Idler We do have the “digital divide.” Those with internet access are going to vastly improve productivity. Those without, stay in the doldrums. Some people are working on bridging the digital divide, but not nearly enough.

zophu's avatar

Once I saw a program about how a doctor figured out how to make a working animal heart with an office printer. I got the feeling there might be some more refined stuff going that isn’t presented on the discovery channel. The saddest implication of this is that we might not be able to depend on even generational transitions in ruling powers. We can’t kill them, and we can’t wait for them to die. Just have to do our best to enlighten them.

ETpro's avatar

@The_Idler I don’t think you were too far off course in your first prediction. There is nothing new about class struggles. The French Revolution, the Cuba, Russia, China, the Korean Peninsula, Argentina, Venezuela, Nicaraguan,,, The list is long, and the results not often pretty.

=Over the past 30 years, the top 1% have gained in wealth till they now own over 40% of the wealth of the entire nation. Republicans have just pushed through a large reduction in the estate tax so that generational wealth will be much e\asier to defend. They have made it clear they will not settle till the “death” tax is gone altogether. Meanwhile, the poorest 60% of Americans have grown rapidly in number and now collectively hold less than 1% of all the wealth. And for the first decade since the Great Depression, middle class wages actually remained flat at the high end of the middle class, and declined for the low end.

Certainly there are notable exception such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs whose charity aims at that Reaganesque fantasy that a rising tide lifts all ships. But the buld of the wealthy seem determined to use their money and power to gain political influence and game the system so they retain perpetual, generational wealth. If they take that track, class warfare is definitely not an impossibility here. There are too many examples in history to allow such a notion to survive critical scrutiny.

plethora's avatar

They will be very long lived unhappy people. The world moves on regardless of their longevity.

ETpro's avatar

@plethora We’ve found another point of agreement. Hwy, good to be back. My Win XP Pro machine developed a bad boot sector and I’ve been scrambling to rebuild it in Windows 7 Ultimate and get all my application software moved. I actually missed you. :-)

plethora's avatar

@ETpro Good to know ET.

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