A very useful skill you get from the study of mathematics is the ability to skim details off a special case of a concept and get to the general case, which is the essence common to all special cases. This skill, far from being useful only in maths and science, can be applied to a variety of situations, including—perhaps surprisingly—rejuvenation advocacy.
Think about common objections to rejuvenation: won’t it cause overpopulation? Won’t it make it impossible to pay the pensions? Won’t it make it harder for the young to find a job? Won’t it change our perception of older people and our idea of family?
The answers to these questions are more complicated than just yes or no, but this is not what we’re concerned with here. All of these questions above are special cases of a more general case.
We can generalize the aforementioned questions like this: “Won’t rejuvenation break the system?” Each of the specific questions investigates a particular aspect of the system that will change—“break”—with the introduction of rejuvenation, and it deserves a detailed, specific answer discussing every twist and turn of the matter; as for the general question, as long as by “break” we mean “change”, even profoundly so, then yes—rejuvenation will most assuredly “break” the system.
It’s obvious that rejuvenation will break the system in many ways because the way society functions right now—the “system”—hinges on both the decline of human health with age and the fairly ironclad limit of our lifespans.
We were presented with the harsh, apparently unchangeable reality of aging since day one, so we had to come up with a system that made the best of it: learn while you’re young; get a job when you’re a bit older; have a family before it’s too late (not just for the perpetuation of the species, but also so they can take care of you when you inevitably won’t be independent anymore); and if you’re lucky enough to be born sufficiently late in history, you may also get some help from the State in your old age.
If we take aging out of the picture, clearly this system won’t work anymore. It may sound like a bad thing, but it really is not.
Figuring out what really matters
It may be redundant to say it, but here it is: the system doesn’t really matter. What matters are the people who live in the system. As long as the people, preferably all of them, can live happily thereafter, the way the system works is irrelevant. If a better way of life can be attained with the implementation of a new system, then it is time to bid farewell to the old system and welcome the new one.
The system is just a tool, and just like all other tools we’ve ever devised, it is periodically replaced when a better one comes along. This is not to say that all newer systems are always better than the previous ones in all respects, but the idea is to constantly try to improve the current system, fine-tuning it along the way, since it’s unlikely that you will come up with a perfectly working system straight away.
Rejuvenation will be a game-changer
Rejuvenation biotechnologies would without the slightest doubt offer us a better way of life, the details of which I discussed in three other articles (this, this, and this); however, this will likely demand that many aspects of the current system will be turned on its head—health care, pensions, our perception of the progression and stages of life, maybe the job market, you name it.
Being the above special cases, they need to be discussed separately, and it’s often easy to see how the new system could be much better than the old one (for one, think about the huge savings on health care, given that rejuvenated people would be as healthy as typical young adults for their whole lives); here, all I want to point out is that, if we need to change the system for the sake of reaping these benefits, so be it.
It’s easy to persuade yourself that a system you’ve lived in your whole life cannot be changed; it’s easy to think there’s no way to have rejuvenation without overpopulation or without collapsing the economy. More generally, it’s easy to think a new system can’t be devised and the current one will be there for as long as human civilization exists. However, the current system hasn’t been there since the dawn of our species, and it is unlikely to last forever: just like its predecessors, odds are it will slowly be reshaped through the introduction of new ways of living, working, and doing things—rejuvenation is only one of them, and as it is hardly going to happen overnight, we have plenty of time to figure out how the system needs to be changed and how we can bring that change about.
While we’re at it, we might as just as well get started.