I remember watching In Time, a movie with Justin Timberlake, a few years ago and pondering a world where everyone looks 18. In the film, Justin’s character, Will Salas, lives in a society in which the rich have reversed the aging process and can, effectively, live forever.
In Time is mostly about class struggle, but, it was the social implications of reversing aging that I found fascinating.
Think about it. Why do people fear getting older? Is it because they don’t want to accumulate life experience or wisdom? Hardly! Do they hate the idea of having grandkids? Nope!
In our younger years, we have superficial concerns, like wrinkles and age spots. In our 50s and 60s, we start to worry about whether we will be able to stay healthy and independent as we age.
As I look at all of the advances in biotechnology, medicine, genetics and nanotechnology coming our way, I can’t help but wonder: what will happen when everyone looks and feels 18, no matter how old they are?
Actually I have several questions.
No matter how you look at it, men and women over 60 are more sexually experienced than any other age group. We have done everything that today’s 20-somethings are into – and much more.
We have experienced passion and romantic love. We have created children. We have explored and, for the most part, learned to love our bodies.
If you think about it, the only thing that young adults have going for them is flawless skin and toned muscles. What happens when we also have our 18-year-old bodies back?
Would actresses in their 80s and 90s become sexy again, if their bodies looked and felt 18? What does this say about the shallow way that we look at beauty and sexuality as a society?
The concept of retirement is based, in part, on the assumption that people eventually become too old to work. This, in turn, is based on the assumption that our bodies naturally degrade with time.
There is nothing magical about today’s retirement age. If anything, you could argue that it hasn’t been adjusted enough to compensate for the fact that most of us are living longer, healthier lives than our grandparents.
What will happen if we all start looking and feeling 18 again? What happens when the aches and pains, dementia and diseases disappear?
Will society be forced to abandon the concept of retirement altogether? Will older adults, who feel physically fit and healthy demand to be able to work for as long as they want? Will younger workers come to resent the fact that older workers refuse to retire?
These are important questions with implications for every segment of society.
While it is inevitable that the technology to reverse the aging process is coming, it is less clear who will get to benefit from this technology.
Will anti-aging technologies, genetic modification and medical advances become so cheap that everyone can benefit from them?
If these treatments become a tool for political and economic elites to separate themselves from the rest of society, how will the rest of us react? Will we stand by while supermen and women rule the world?
If, on the other hand, these treatments become ubiquitous, how will society survive when nobody dies and our population explodes? Can the world handle billions of immortal beings who want to work and consume forever?
It seems crazy to even consider the possibilities outlined in this article, but, trust me, within 50 years, they will be far from theoretical. In fact, I predict that many of the people reading this today will have to decide whether they want to live in an 18-year-old body in the future.
The more we think about these problems now, the better equipped we will be to make informed decisions in the decades ahead.
What do you think a world would be like in which everyone stayed 18-years-old forever? If you had the choice to reverse the aging process, would you do it? Why or why not? Please join the conversation!
Tags Getting Older