Human Longevity (Full version)

This post is hidden from the main feed. It's an extended version of another post on the main feed (the short version).

In response to @Atorko, Will Extreme Longevity Harm Human Drive?

Reading time: I don't even know, definitely 3+ min

This are my raw thoughts transcribed and re-organised.
Short, summarised version is here.


I find this a very interesting topic. Productivity and human life expectancy. Things I love to talk about (and probably, my friends just want to shut me up).

On longevity (life expectancy)

We, on average, are now living with the longest ever life expectancy and this is expected to rise as the years come.

Weโ€™re at a time era where our knowledge of hygiene and how to stay healthy is at an all time high and generally becoming more widespread. (Especially during the past year due to a certain microscopic thing.) Our research and technology in healthcare has, to a great extent destroyed past common causes of morbidity and mortality, such as infectious disease (where a cut in your finger could have killed you).

Instead, we defend ourselves with highly modern developments in pharmacology and therapeutics (the study of poisons (drugs) in our body and the study of treating disease with said drugs), such as antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals etc., making these threats of the past (somewhat, barring antimicrobial resistance- I could write a full paper on this alone, so I think I will skip that).

Instead, the lives of those in developed places around the world are now limited by a different, modern type of disease: non-communicable (non-infectious) diseases and ageing. Such non-communicable diseases include: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and drug-related deaths. Some of these humanity has to an extent found treatments and medications to fight against the disease. However, ageing and cancer are fundamentally problems evolution has not provided us with a solution with.

Ageing can be said to be a root cause for all diseases. However, our biological defence against it is arguably lacking due to our lack of evolution in this regard. Using the theory of natural selection, for us to effectively evolve to protect ourselves against such a disease, we have to die with that disease as the cause. However, given that humans, for most of our existence, died young and to causes not related to ageing and cancer, we never developed a mechanism of protection against them that could last past our past mediocre life expectancy (most can expect to live to 40).

The (proposed) mechanisms for ageing involve the corrective and protective mechanisms for our genetic material wearing out and malfunctioning. They work fine up to a certain point, i.e. up to the life expectancy we had up until the last couple of decades. With our increasing life expectancy past that point (above 40), these protective mechanisms are proving insufficient, leading to new age-related, non-communicable diseases

However, in the recent years, we're entering an era era where genetic engineering is becoming cheaper, easier and more accessible. There are lifeforms out there that do not exhibit biological ageing (see 'negligible senescence'). Could we apply that to ourselves with this new technology?

I think these are the central reasons for why borderline eternal longevity is starting to feel reachable in humans.

On health expectancy

Something to consider for human life in addition to longevity (life expectancy) is health expectancy.

To some extent, each of us has a health deadline that will stop us from fully utilising our life expectancy.

We grow old and become physically or mentally incapable of performing tasks we could once do.

As a society, we should bring more light on health expectancy rather than life expectancy.

On life expectancy vs motivation

I think a historical case study can be taken from GDP per capita growth and life expectancy.

GDP per capita can ultimately be seen as a measure of productivity. For GDP per capita to grow, the productivity of each worker has to rise.

GDP per capita has historically, been a flat line until ~1800-1850, followed by a clear exponential growth afterwards.

Life expectancy, similarly, has historically, been a flat line until ~1800-1850, followed by a clear linear growth afterwards.

These two are correlated. Higher GDP per capita, i.e. higher productivity, is linked with higher life expectancy.

Even now, among different countries, GDP per capita vs. life expectancy has a strong positive log correlation. (I postulate that the plateau is due to increasingly encountering non-communicable diseases and age-related morbidity.)

Will this definitely apply when we have effectively infinite time, with no ageing? I don't know. These could be correlations and not causes.

However, I think this could be a sign pointing towards humanity keeping its productivity even as our life and health expectancy continues to increase.

Either way, we might become less motivated by extrinsic motivation (deadlines and its associated rewards or punishments) and become more motivated by intrinsic motivation (doing things for the sake of doing it).