Ask Ray | Thoughts on the consequences of the elimination of aging
April 8, 2013 by Ray Kurzweil
I would like to begin by stating that I am a huge fan and supporter of yours. I read your book The Singularity Is Near last year, and I was enchanted by all of your ideas on the exponential development of human technology and science. I am 100% singularitarian.
I understand that you are a very busy man, but I would tremendously appreciate it if you could take a moment of your time to read this email and respond with your own thoughts on the issue I am about to present to you.
I have recently read an article which discusses your views on the challenge of eliminating the process of aging. As I read the article, a disturbing thought came to my mind: What if humans were to completely eliminate the process of aging in, say, the next ten or twenty years (probably before the technological singularity)?
What would be the worldwide consequences of such a development? Would the elimination of aging, and thereby the elimination of death, ultimately, have good or bad consequences?
I believe that the consequences of such a development would be terrible for the entire human race in general.
I will present to you my personal prediction of what will occur. If, say, 15 years from now, the solution to death had been found and made available to all, mostly everyone would be eager to obtain it.
Once humans have been cured of aging and death, they will probably continue their lives and still reproduce with each other: this creates an obvious problem. The world’s population, already growing incredibly fast, will become enormous.
Less resources will be available for everyone, and the world’s average standard of living will greatly decline. Naturally, people, seeing that they do not have enough resources to care for their children, will gradually stop reproducing, and less and less children will be born each year.
It must be kept in mind that, although the cure for age-related death has been found, death will still occur due to other factors, such as starvation. Thus, people will continue to die and be replaced by means of reproduction, and the world’s population will eventually level out. However, people everywhere will be living in terrible conditions, as, once the population has leveled out, there will be just enough resources in the world to support this population.
Although age-related death has been eliminated, billions and billions of people will be living in absolutely horrid conditions. Given these possible developments, would it not be best for a scientist who has found a cure for aging not to reveal his discovery, for the good of all mankind?
In your response could you please tell me what you think of the accuracy my prediction, or if you totally disagree with it, what your own personal prediction is? If my prediction is somewhat accurate, what can be done today to prevent such a disastrous outcome? I am deeply unsettled by this issue, and any response would be enormously appreciated. Thank you very much for your time.
— Rish Vaishnav
The same technologies that will radically extend human longevity will radically expand available resources. For example, we have 10,000 times more free energy from the sun falling on the Earth than we need to meet 100% of our energy needs.
Total solar energy is doubling every two years and is about seven doublings from meeting all of our needs. There are similar scenarios for water, food, housing. Try taking a train trip anywhere and you’ll see that almost all of the land is unused.
Thank you so much for your response! I feel much better now about this issue, knowing that you have a much more optimistic (and definitely much more accurate) prediction than I do. I guess that we can also take into account that with a greater population, there will be much more people (along with more advanced technology) available to collaborate in the search for more and more resources to support the infinitely growing population. Once again, thank you so much for your response.
— Rish Vaishnav
SENS Research Foundation — “reimagine aging”