The Transformation of Retirement

Issue CCLXIII - October 31, 2010
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As I mentioned at the Longevity Meme, 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 [actuarial 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 entitlement thinking mess up, prolong, and cause unnecessary pain in the transition from the current state of affairs to a better tomorrow.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.