April 11, 2016 at 3:38 pm #5844
In his chapter on Aging, Bess raises many interesting points. He starts the book with the premise that the Earth will be able to sustain the aging population through decreased fertility rates and increased human’s ability to live sustainably. While I agree that human ingenuity will allow for the Earth’s capacity to be able to maintain lifespans to age 160, I find fault with the argument of decreased fertility rates. Bess makes a compelling argument that slow drops in fertility rates will accompany slow increases in life expectancy mitigating the each other. However, I think that fertility rates will increase if lifespan and time of fertility increases (particularly for women). Bess claims that there will be more choices available to the aging populations, people would have the ability to pursue more than one completely different career. Career is sometimes sighted as a reason for women in particularly in developed countries for not having children. With increased lifespan and fertility span, women would have more flexibility when having children. Furthermore, women and men would have the ability to have children throughout multiple decades in their life, without an increased drain on their resources. While the people may be able to make the earth capable of holding an increased population with increased fertility rates, I think this increased population would have to drastic impacts on other areas.
April 11, 2016 at 7:36 pm #5845
This post reminds me of a discussion I was having with one of my best friends last week. Right now, my friend is very against having children, mostly because she does not like the idea of having to carry a baby for nine months and go through the agony of labor. I have also heard many other women express that the thought of labor deters them from having kids, even though they would not mind actually having to raise the children to adulthood. My friend and I were talking about Our Grandchildren Redesigned and I mentioned the possibility of artificial wombs, which might allow women to have children without actually having to physically carry them in their wombs. My friend immediately latched onto this idea and said that if artificial wombs ever do become a reality, she would definitely consider having kids as long as she didn’t have to carry them herself. Thus, even if all other women who are already planning on having kids limit themselves to just two kids each, these technological advancements would probably persuade other women who might not otherwise have children to do so, further increasing the population size. Other advancements may also allow couples who currently cannot have children (but want them) to have kids, something that in vitro fertilization and other methods are already beginning to enable. Both of these technological developments would contribute to more population growth instead of reducing it, which would in turn increase the strain on the Earth’s resources even more.
- This reply was modified 7 months ago by KaraS.
April 12, 2016 at 7:04 pm #5849
I have never thought of either of those factors listed above. I guess I just read Bess’s chapter and was like “sure, a trend of falling birth rates makes sense”. I really enjoyed both of those arguments and it made me think of my good friend’s story that is related to this topic. As a Chinese native, my friend was the product of the one child policy in China. On a very emotional night, this friend of mine told me of the emotional trauma that came with his mother’s second pregnancy. His family was compelled to terminate that pregnancy and they all are very sad about that memory. My friend is very against the Chinese policy after the effect it had on him personally. He thinks that the government has perverted the meaning of pregnancy to couples from something about love and prosperity to something pragmatic and cold.
Looking forward to longer lifespans and the probability of artificial wombs, how do you think pregnancy in general will be viewed? I can imagine a world where multiple developed nations implement policy that restricts the amount of children a family may have. A world that has many medical facilities filled with growing fetuses that couples check their child’s health and progress through online status reports. In general, am I am excited about the possibilities that come with longer and better human lives, but I am also afraid (after increased reflection) of the impact that this longevity increase will have on child birthing.
Nothing in life worth having is free or painless. Great love requires great sacrifice to be really amazing. In my eyes, if you don’t put your everything into what you care about then you won’t get the most out of it. As a male, I won’t ever know the pain and inconvenience of child bearing/birth, but surely the a bond between mother and child originates as early as just the carrying of the fetus. Imagine the day where it is rare to see a pregnancy carried inside a mother rather than an artificial womb — is that exciting or scary?
April 13, 2016 at 8:31 pm #5857
Merklemoore, you make a good point that fertility rates will not decline if time of fertility increases, however, you seem to view increased time of fertility as a product of increased lifespans. I would argue that the two are independent of each other. A large percentage of healthcare research is focused on increasing lifespans and health spans through eradicating diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. However, the trend of declining fertility rates is rapidly becoming a serious issue, particularly in the developed world from which most research is funded. Today, 40% of the world’s population lives in a country in which the fertility rate has fallen below the replacement rate (2.1 births per woman), and over 60 countries have fertility rates below 2.1. Lifespans have increased greatly over the past century, but many still retire at 65 and draw on state funded pension funds. Yet, low fertility rates have led to shrinking labor forces and smaller tax bases in many countries, leading to billions of dollars of unfunded pensions. I believe this trend that has resulted in significant economic turmoil will be the driving force behind attempts to expand females’ fertile timeframe. Thus, low fertility rates and increased lifespans are separate issues at their roots, but the two combined have created a significant crisis for the developed world.
April 13, 2016 at 9:05 pm #5858
I think it is interesting to consider the implications that new techniques for fertilization and pregnancy will have on when couples decide to have children. Already, we are seeing new developments with in vitro fertilization that allow couples to have children later and later in life. I think an interesting question is whether a lifespan of 160 would necessarily mean increases in the number of children that women have over the course of their lifetimes, assuming that the ability to have children extends similarly into older age. What would family dynamics look like if multiple generations of the same family were continuing to have children into older age, with each successive generation experiencing longer and longer lifespans? Outside of the fertility conversation, how will health advances be experienced in economies with large levels of economic inequality? Because poorer individuals often experience lower levels of health and access to newer technologies, we could see the poor experiencing lifespans far below those of the rich. This could create a new moral crisis especially is the rich are on average living 25 or 30% longer, gaps that we see now only between the richest and poorest societies.
April 14, 2016 at 12:57 am #5871
The posts by merklemoore and KaraS are two ideas I had not thought of at all when reading Prof. Bess’s chapter. I was inclined to agree with his points about declining fertility rates and increasing life spans, because they were logical and similar to ideas I had learned in my Urban Economics class. However, I’m inclined to agree with Tony Osorio. In my short 22 years on Earth I have found that the things I enjoy and appreciate the most are those things I had to work the hardest to achieve. Therefore, although there could be many exciting advancements in childbirth that make it easier for everyone, the moment science and technology goes beyond healing and making people normal to enhancement and changing natural processes that seem to work well, I become more hesitant about their benefits. How could removing the natural attachment between mothers and children impact the depth of their relationships? Will it hurt human flourishing? (Because whether or not an enhancement enhances human flourishing should be the yardstick in determining if the enhancement should be accepted) That being said, as a male, I tend not to think about the difficulty of bearing a child very often. Maybe I’m naïve since I have never, and as far as I know, will never experience child birth, maybe it would be best if we could make it pain free.
April 14, 2016 at 1:54 am #5873
I think another interesting point that arises in the wake of child restrictions to decrease the weight we are placing on the planet is fairness. When we are saying that you can only have one child because there is someone who is 140 years old who is essentially taking that unborn child’s place, are we being fair to the unborn child. It seems selfish to me to take the place of another, essentially denying them the right to life because you want a longer lifespan. I see the other side of the argument, in that a person who is currently alive has the right to life over the unborn, and this is not something that I have totally rectified in my mind. In addition, I also wonder about a potential brain drain, with less people living longer. While people will be able to accomplish more with a longer life, it seems to me that we may be missing out on humans who may be more innovative and bring fresh ideas, but are not born because their place is taken by someone who is already alive. There are going to be costs to having less overall people being born, and this is only one of them.
April 14, 2016 at 3:50 am #5880
btb brings up and interesting point here. Studies of learning and memory have shown that while crystallized knowledge (roughly defined as the ability to use acquired skills, experience, and knowledge) levels off, or even continues to slightly increase after 30 years of age, fluid knowledge (ability to solve to new problems, identifying new patterns) actually begins to rapidly decline at this age. Increased health span may very well increase our longevity, but it seems unlikely that we will be able to stave off the decline of fluid intelligence (at least in the near future). As btb just mentioned, we may be missing out on humans with more innovative and fresh ideas if we are essentially treating each baby as a one-to-one trade for an adult.
April 15, 2016 at 12:02 am #5888
I think it is interesting to consider what Bess said about aging, that the aging population will even out with the birth rate since less couples are opting to have children. This way we can divert over population and have a population that has a longer life span. I think it’s interesting to think about the social implications of a longer life span. Already we see twenty year old models with eighty year old men, which is something that would not have been possible a hundred years ago due to a shorter life span. However, Bess discusses the age gap in relationships, sibling and family relationships, and marriage. In his vignette about the man who had two thirty year marriages, will relationships still have the same meaning? I think that the benefits of a longer lifespan outweigh the costs, and this transition will not happen over night. By the time humans are living to be one hundred fifty years old, we will be able to accommodate the society in which we live. The health of living individuals will most likely continue to improve as well, which means an increased older population would not have an adverse effect on society.
April 15, 2016 at 5:10 am #5906
Another potentially negative impact of dramatically longer life spans that is often overlooked is the increased stagnation due to the lack of aging as a vehicle for forced change. Take sports, for instance. New players are often only able to establish themselves because they are able to take the place of better players that are no longer able to perform because of advanced age. These young players often develop into players far better than the athletes they replaced, sometimes to such an extent that they are able to change the game and uncover new, exciting strategies. The same is true for company leadership and scientific advancement. If the CEO of a company didn’t retire for 100 years, there might never be a time where someone new would be able to take his place and do a better job. If he had to retire after 30, however, the new person in charge may have been worse for a period of time, but likely would be better able to adapt to changes that are better understood by someone who grew up in a world where they were present. Because of this, the CEO in charge at the point 100 years in the future in a world with current aging speed would likely be significantly better able to run the company than the person who was in charge for 100 years. This is also true for the sciences and many other fields in which their are a finite number of positions. The lack of aging could stifle innovation, and could become a net negative on the human race.
April 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm #5927
I disagree with Professor Bess’s idea that the entire world population will have reached a point of low fertility rates and low mortality rates at some point in the near future. The demographic transition that many developed countries have undergone to achieve low fertility and mortality rates is accompanied by an overall development of the society and growing GDPpc that allows families to make decisions resulting in low fertility rates. Similarly, lots of resources are needed for a country to decrease its mortality rates significantly enough to achieve anywhere close to Bess’s proposed life expectancy of 160. These demographic changes are certainly possible, but it will be extremely difficult to combat the current high fertility and high mortality rates in underdeveloped African and Asian countries. Today, Ethiopia has a fertility rate of about 5.5 children per women and a life expectancy of around 61. While it is certainly feasible to imagine a Western developed country or Japan achieving a life expectancy of 160 one day with rapidly increasing technology, it is difficult to foresee countries like Ethiopia undergoing the same demographic shift at the same time. More likely, underdeveloped countries will see population explosions over the next century while developed countries will continue to see life expectancy rise and fertility rates drop to around replacement level.
April 15, 2016 at 7:20 pm #5956
Aging and increased life and health spans play a central role in Bess’ vision of the future. Bess describes the accumulation of wealth that is possible over such a health span. I believe Bess is optimistic in his description of the possible multiple career paths and creative intellectual endeavors that a population that is drastically richer for longer would partake in. He describes retirements as long as current life times but I believe that this is unrealistic. Health span expansion will happen over time and society and the work place will evolve to accommodate this temporal expansion. All of those extra years for creativity would do very interesting things to our culture and how we see work and life after work. This would change the value we place on work itself but I think the rat race will prevail and people will continue to work as long as they can to accumulate as much as they can. Others will still be working into their 120’s so why shouldn’t I?
April 15, 2016 at 7:45 pm #5962
One thing that should be taken into account when examining increased life expectancies is the incentives to have a child. In this future world where let’s say nearly the entire population has this higher life expectancy, than the total number of children being born, especially in the previously developing parts of the world, would be dramatically lower. You put forward the idea that people will be able to have even more children in their later decades, but why would they want to do that if they already have a son or daughter? I think with the medical breakthroughs that enable this increased lifespan, there will also come an understanding by those who have access to it that going beyond one or two children would strain the Earth’s resources. You might even see something like China’s one child policy come into play.
April 15, 2016 at 7:54 pm #5967
I do not believe that the earth will be able to sustain the increased population that would come with increased life spans. Increasing the lifespan would create two factors that now can increase the total world population, births and people living longer than they usually should. For each person that begins to live in this “second life” time frame (the point past when they were suppose to die) this technically is increasing the world population by preventing the natural decrease. The main reason for concern however, is how fast the population will increase. When the enhancement first begins to come out people will be living to 110 and plus and since no one is really close to that now, the amount of natural deaths will significantly decrease. Thus, in the first few decades there will be strictly increases from births with only limited deaths from accident, crimes, and war. If the increase occurred naturally, I would believe that technology could adapt and help the world sustain the increased number, but because it will happen so rapidly, I do not believe it is possible. The world population already doubles naturally every ten years or so and for the most part society has been able to sustain the increase, but the increased lifespan rapidly speeds up the rate the world population increases to a rate that will be tough for technology to keep up.
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