If you ever watch a sci-fi movie, such as Star Wars, you'll notice they portray many elements of what one individual imagines future society to be like. They usually consist of using lasers as weapons, interstellar (and sometimes intergalactic) travel, sentient extraterrestrial life coexisting with humans, much more sophisticated artificial intelligence almost to, and sometimes reaching, sentience (usually robots), and among many other things. These, for all we know, may or may not be correct, however, one thing most science fiction generally ignores is longevity - the point at which humans defeat aging and all illnesses, and thus have an indefinite life expectancy (death being caused only through serious accidents, murder, or suicide). In just about every sci-fi film I've seen, life expectancies remained more or less the same as they are now.
As much of an oversight as it may seem, this ignoring of longevity makes sense. After all, can you imagine just how much society would change, and how every individual lives his or her life? Most sci-fi movies, novels, etc. usually don't portray the future so much as they portray our current attitudes and society in a future setting. This is also true of historical dramas, where they take our current attitudes and society and put it in a historical setting. Certain technologies such as laser weapons, interstellar travel (at least as is portrayed, seemingly instant), and very sophisticated artificial intelligence wouldn't change too many things regarding peoples' lifestyles and society in general, you can most certainly bet longevity would and in every way imaginable. Trying to incorporate longevity accurately into the sci-fi genre would require placing oneself in an absolutely foreign setting - so foreign that many of our concepts and perceptions of life, love, and so many other things would become "obsolete."
Personally, I find this prospect fascinating. Many people do not give longevity the emphasis it deserves and often take the idea for granted. Hell, many don't even believe that it's possible, but as far as I can tell about aging, it is not something which is necessary. Evolutionarily speaking it is and so is the death of all organisms, but to an individual level, it can be stopped, and indeed, health technology will eventually reach a point at which it will be. Obviously not all at once and I'd imagine it would take a bit of time for such an advance to reach the entire human population, but once it does, its effects will be profound. And to be honest, this change may very well appear as bleak as it is fascinating. The future is always a mixed baggage - it's never all good or all bad.
Certainly you can imagine death would become much less common and far more alien to future generations than they are now. However, this is a trend that's been occurring over the last few centuries, and not just because we live longer now than we once did in the past, but because the people we associate with today are usually closer to our age where in the past (largely an effect of urbanization), whereas an individual of the past generally associated with an entire community of the area in which they lived (thus giving them more intimate contact with all age groups, the old included). However, just as we disassociate ourselves from death now (as I mentioned in my last post), future generations will do it to such an extent that death will be something which is almost never considered and seem "real" to them. After all, how many people do we personally know who have died? Most of us have had at least a grandparent die. Death to us is all too real, whereas with an indefinite lifespan, losing one's parents, grandparents, etc. would be an extremely rare thing.
Of course, given enough time everybody will probably die of an accident or something else eventually, however, that would likely take a lot of time in most cases. Long enough for the consideration of death to appear irrelevant at least. When this happens, you can be sure that the idea of death will disappear from the future society and a culture focused on death (as ours in many ways is) will cease to exist. It may still exist in the form of a final judgment against a villain, but in most other cases, it will cease to exist for they will fail to apply to the society at large. People largely will not be able to relate to death.
Life is said to be more beautiful because we live only so long. You would think that there are only so many things you can do before you eventually get bored of life. After all, we aren't just talking about a few hundred years here, but rather, thousands of years, if not tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of years - in a few cases, maybe even much more. An indefinite lifespan can potentially last forever. Can somebody really live that long? It's hard to imagine it, but I think people can, and quite a few will. People often think life would become so boring after awhile, but I disagree. There's so much to life which we fail to notice that unless we stubbornly refuse to explore what surrounds us, we'll be able to keep ourselves occupied potentially forever. Moreover, as we move through time, things will inevitably change, keeping what's going on seemingly fresh.
Of course, we look at our older generations today and we often notice them unable to relate to the way we are today. I think this is the result of ageism, the phenomenon where we assign so much importance to how old somebody is. If our lifespans become indefinite, ageism will disappear, and with that, so will the idea that we are a certain age. Mainstream society will truly be mainstream - there won't be a culture that pertains only to the younger generations or older generations, but to everyone. Certainly how long one has been alive would give them some experience to base their knowledge and wisdom on, but I think that's about as far as it will go.
But lastly, and most importantly, is love and how families will work. Can a marriage truly last indefinitely? I think theoretically it could, but I doubt very many will. And what will happen to the concept of love if people routinely enter marriages with the understanding that they'll probably split up at some unspecified date after growing weary of each other and wishing to move on to new experiences? Will it seem as deep as it is now? Will it be as monogamous as it is now? One thing is for sure - the whole fantasy of "happily ever after" will cease to exist. A culture accepting these changes will have to evolve and we may be seeing one more open to divorce, remarriage, open relationships, and the like. Love may become more based on how you enjoy someone's company more than any deep commitment. I'd imagine this could make some today feel a little uneasy, myself included. Certainly age old myths of "love conquers all" and the like will go and love will likely be much more pragmatic.
And then consider it, if you can potentially have an infinite number of children (no menopause for women), how many generations of children could you produce? Children with a 10 year age difference will seem like nothing when we think of children with a 100 or more year age difference. As I said, age differences probably won't seem so relevant in the future, so siblings with such an age difference could still likely relate to each other, but what would you do with so many children? Especially if you have them with multiple spouses over hundreds and hundreds of years? How would you keep in contact with them all? I think we may see a culture less focused on the family unit, with parent-children relationships becoming less important. To compensate, we may see a society will a much more collective mindset where friendship circles and other social groups are emphasized more than family units. I'd imagine that this could also make some today feel uneasy as our culture today is largely structured around the family unit.
Please bear in mind that these are just my predictions for what the impacts of longevity will have on the future. I think they're likely, but they more than likely won't be spot on. But the fact remains that longevity will most certainly change how we think of and associate with death, life, ageism, love, and families. And these changes won't necessarily be for the better; they'll simply just be a neutral change, many of which won't entirely make sense to us living today, just as how some of our concepts wouldn't entirely make sense to those living hundreds of years ago.
Change of plans.
3 years ago