Worldview: Philosophy: Thinking about radically extended life

David Ewing Duncan recently gave a TED interview about the possibilities–and problems–created by the fact that we are figuring out how to radically extend life as part of his promotion of his new book When I’m 164: The new science of radical life extension, and what happens if it succeeds.

I know it sounds weird, but I think about this very same question often. The fact of the matter is that I could easily live into my 90s and be productive well into my 80s. Where does retiring at 60 or 65 or even 70 fit into a life that could go on for two more decades? Where will the money come from? What will I do?

Again, I know it sounds weird, but my wife and I decided back in our 20s that we did not plan to retire. There are practical as well as idealistic reasons for that decision. Having made that decision that long ago has changed our entire outlook since then. We plan differently. We work differently. We save differently.

And, frankly, the result has been that we are, in a lot of ways, far better off right now than a lot of people we know. We owe less. We’ve saved more. We have less stuff to take care of.

I think the consequences of extended life will be one of the defining factors of our time. Are you thinking about it too?

DLH

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Worldview: 1,667

A week from now, National Novel Writing Month begins, which endeavor challenges its participants to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Success requires writing 1,667 words a day.

Many people, mostly non-writers, ask why in the world anyone would want to do such a thing.

For me, the answer is that NaNoWriMo represents a chance to establish a daily writing habit or to exercise a habit already established. To be a successful writer, one has to write, and the most successful writers do so every day. And, I believe that intelligent people write.

That second reason offends a lot of people, yet I think that no one can avoid the clear link between intelligence and writing. We spend as many as 21 years of our lives or more learning, most often through the study of the writings of intelligent people. We entertain ourselves by reading the writings of intelligent people. Even if we chose only to watch TV or listen to music, those scripts and songs were written by intelligent people (that is, people intelligent enough to write, at least).

The written word is a powerful force, and has been for most of mankind’s history. The written word has created nations and destroyed them. It has the power to inspire and encourage millions. It has inspired acts of courage and imagination and acts of treachery and abomination. When it is the right words, I believe the written even has the power to save people’s souls or destroy them.

I believe that our modern society does not give enough credence or respect to the written word or to the people who write them. Civilization has been built, in part, on the shoulders of writers, their ideas, and their actions, yet today too many people think of writers as some sort of underclass to the people who have ‘real’ jobs.

If what I say about writing, the written word, and history are true, though, there is no question as to why our modern society struggles. Without intelligent people writing and intelligent people reading, we are not adding to the legacy of the civilization that got us where we are now. What will that say about us to future generations?

As for me, I have no intention that those generations should have to speculate about me, and I hope that many other intelligent people will join me in establishing that legacy. It can all begin in 7 days.

DLH

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