Sam Cook

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Will Extreme Longevity Harm Human Drive? #

The topic of longevity seems to be capturing an increasing amount of our collective attention lately. There are multiple reasons for this – chief among which is likely that extreme longevity really feels possible for the first time ever (though I'm not certain exactly why that is).

I was recently listening to a podcast about deep work and productivity by Lex Fridman and Cal Newport in which they were discussing the positive psychological impact of deadlines on human productivity.

And that got me thinking – death itself is an inherent deadline in all of our lives (you might call it the ultimate deadline).

You don't have to be an actuary to know, roughly speaking, when you're most likely to die. We really just know it intuitively, even though we don't often think about it explicitly. There is something of a perpetual undercurrent in our minds that constantly keeps the likely timing of our deaths in play (consciously or not) when we decide whether – and when(!) – to do something.

So, you can probably see where I'm going with this. If deadlines are inherent motivators, what happens when we remove the greatest deadline of all? Will humans, having solved (or at least greatly delayed) their greatest problem (death) also necessarily lose what is arguably their greatest source of motivation (also, ahem... death)?

I'm sure someone smarter than me has already written about this, but it seems likely (inevitable?) that once advances in longevity science are fully implemented, there will be a new downward force on humanity's natural drive to get things done (which may just be the greatest and sickest irony of all time).

Perhaps (and hopefully) I am wrong, but if 100 becomes the new 30, then it would make sense to spend the lion's share of your first 100 years living like you're in your 20s, no? And maybe that's not even so bad, assuming we all have robots to do things for us anyway. Or will that just make us all even more hopelessly depressed than we already are? God only knows.