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06 October 2009 @ 09:21 pm
I'm curious about something, oh friends list o' mine.

Let us say there is a Magical (or Alien, if you prefer, or Divine) Device that humans, acting as a group, can activate. If we do, average life expectancy becomes actual life expectancy. (Do not think about the details. It's a thought experiment!) So, if we do this in the United States, every infant born is guaranteed to live to (roughly - please let's not get hung up on the statistics, here) 78. But in return, you're giving up any years you might have lived beyond 78. And if you're older than 78 now - or if you love someone who is - well, it's goodbye. You are guaranteed to outlive anyone who is older than you are. But anyone who is younger than you are will outlive you, guaranteed. No one will die stupidly at 20 from cancer. (We're ignoring suicide, here, for the moment.) But no one will live to be hale and healthy at 90, either. If you're not in the United States, and you're curious about what your country's cut-off will be, you can find it here (as it happens, magic/alien/divine creations are perfectly happy to use Wikipedia as a source).

Would you do it?

And, okay, now let's say we can't do it just as a country. It has to be worldwide. So everyone's life expectancy becomes 65. Again, infant death becomes a thing of the past. Those people in Swaziland and Angola and Zambia and Lesotho - people whose life expectancy is, on average, at or below 40 years - suddenly get a whacking great additional chunk of life.

On the other hand, you, if you live in a first world country (or, indeed, almost anywhere outside of Africa - there are some Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries with expectancies below 65, and it looks like one country in Oceania, but mostly it's Africa), and you already made it this far (and aren't currently suffering any major illness or degenerative disease or anything), could probably have expected to live longer than 65. By a lot, most likely. You are giving up - on average, though no promises are made to you personally, of course - something like 15 years of life. And you're giving up a lot more people, too. As it happens, no one I love is over the age of 78 right now, but I do love people over the age of 65. You probably do, too. The fannish community skews young, but still, we'd lose people in the worldwide adjustment - I don't, as it happens, know any fans over 78, but I do know some over 65.

You get a vote, and let's just say you know in advance that your vote will be pivotal. How are you going to vote?

Poll #1467592 Life expectancy

I am taking this poll!


If the Magic Device can be used on a country by country basis, do you want to use it in the country/ies where you are a citizen?


Turns out it's worldwide or nothing; do you want to use the Magic Device for everyone, so that we all live to 65 and no older?

Anoel: anoel lionessanoel on October 7th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
A big question for me, is whether it's possible to change it. It'd be more acceptable now with all the people who die young but I'm hoping in the future, medical advancements will make it possible so that won't happen much.
tried to eat the safe banana: Calamity Physicsthefourthvine on October 7th, 2009 05:15 am (UTC)
I'm assuming the Magical Device recalibrates regularly - so if there are major medical advances, the Device will adjust the age limit to what the new average life expectancy would be. (It's MAGIC. It can just work this out as a simulation and make the necessary modifications.)

So if we come up with enough medical progress so that people live, on average, to 200, then, hey! That's what we all live to.

And if we do the worldwide version, and do something about the diseases and so on in the countries with really low expectancies, our own lives will revise upward.

But if there's a war, that's gonna knock some time off everyone's life, not just the people fighting it.

And so on.
(no subject) - out_there on October 7th, 2009 05:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - chrismouse on October 7th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - margueritem on October 7th, 2009 11:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
Sometimes You Get Marshmallows: vicodinflorahart on October 7th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)
Does your magical device resolve the problem of pain? No one DIES at 20 from cancer, but do they still GET it, and then suffer for 58 or 45 years?

Just checking.
tried to eat the safe banana: Batgirl in glassesthefourthvine on October 7th, 2009 05:16 am (UTC)
No excess suffering. People who get cancer are cured through Magic (or Aliens, or Holiness, or whatever), and they don't hurt any more than they would have without the Device. (Although they still may hurt for a while. Just, then they get better, unless they hit the age limit, and if they hit the age limit, they just die with no added pain.)
(no subject) - bitter_crimson on October 7th, 2009 05:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jacquez on October 7th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
squigglepiesquigglepie on October 7th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)
I wonder if I'm one of the few that mixed their answers of: no I don't want to use it on the country I'm a citizen, but if it's worldwide or nothing okay.

I guess just because in Canada I figure we're getting a pretty good deal as is... but I know worldwide they aren't, and I could see the value in the sacrifice globally.

Still. Hmmm.
Sometimes You Get Marshmallowsflorahart on October 7th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
I fell more on the side of no for my own, maybe for all.
(no subject) - thefourthvine on October 7th, 2009 05:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - laurashapiro on October 7th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alixtii on October 7th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alixtii on October 7th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
out_there on October 7th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
I probably would, although I think a lot of that comes down to the social planning of the whole thing -- imagine how well you could plan your future infrastructure and medical costs, your population increases and decreases if you *knew* that 81 was the cut-off point? (I'm in Australia, so yay to 81.)

And the thing is, while people over that age may have to... cease living, that's longer than either of my grandparents lived (due to double divorces, I once had 7 grandparents, but now the remaining alive ones all live in England). And the rotten thing about not knowing is the unexpected deaths -- the family members who suddenly die when you're not expecting, the horrible feeling you get when your basic assumptions of born-after-will-die-after-me don't work. You'd be able to know the people to spend time with, an dhow much time you had.

In countries with low stats, at least you'd know that your children would live to grow up, instead of having to watch them die young. I think that would be less heartbreaking.

However, as humans, there's no doubt that we'd never reach a combined decision. There would always be factions fighting, and even if you could get hte agreement pushed through, there would still be groups wanting to fight against it, or desperate people trying to find a way around it.

So while it's a decision I would make and I think would be kinder, overall, it's not a decision that I think would ever be made successfully. Not even in a thought experiment can I believe that it would all happen smoothly.
tried to eat the safe banana: Daisythefourthvine on October 7th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC)

Oh, wait. That would affect the US, too. Curse you, Magical Device!

And, yeah, obviously it could never actually come to pass - perhaps I should have said you have been given the device, and you can make the decision All on Your Own, and no one will ever know you did it. That would probably have made it easier to imagine.
vito_excalibur on October 7th, 2009 05:28 am (UTC)
I'd do it if the cutoff was 78. But if it was 65 - no. sorry. I'm not killing my parents. I'm just not.
tried to eat the safe banana: Emotionthefourthvine on October 7th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC)
I hear that.
Suainesuaine on October 7th, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)
I voted "no" local, "yes" global, because let's face it living in a first world country with a life expectancy of currently 79 I'd have little to lose and nothing to gain. I don't think the local machine would do us any favors. The global one on the other hand? I'd sign up for that. It would give us a reason to do something about about the mortality rates in Africa that was just self-serving enough to get our asses in gear.
tried to eat the safe banana: Heartbeatthefourthvine on October 7th, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
Interesting. I actually took the other view - living in a country with an expectation of 79, I'd have little to lose (um, those years, but...) and a lot to gain (no more infant death, for example).

And I said yes to the global for precisely the same reason: let's see us ignore bad things because they're happening far away when they also affect us. (Not to say that we won't still ignore them, because, hey, we're people. But there'd be more motivation, anyway.)
(no subject) - suaine on October 7th, 2009 06:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostleslilacsigil on October 7th, 2009 05:33 am (UTC)
If you live to 65 healthily, sure. Then again, my oldest relative is 63 - the others died in their seventies, very frail, or their early 90s, healthy until the last week. But I've already had cancer with consequences that are life-shortening, so I'll be going well to get to 65 anyway!

It also solves the problem of people having to have large numbers of children in the hope of having one child survive to adulthood to keep them in their old age.

ETA: I'd also add that it might be rather nice for populations in those first-world countries - such as indigenous Australians - who have lifespans more than 20 years shorter than the rest of us.

Edited at 2009-10-07 05:37 am (UTC)
tried to eat the safe banana: Heartbeatthefourthvine on October 7th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
You get to live to 65 in reasonable health. You won't be just spending, say, twenty years suffering because you have a disease that would otherwise have killed you. (Or because you were in a traffic accident. Your injuries are healed! Arise! Until you turn 65!)
Lu (Not Your Average Retelling)elucreh on October 7th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)
Knowing it was coming? Yeah. I would. I mean, my great-grandmother is probably the person who has had the single most positive influence on the way my soul is shaped, and it's hard to think of never having the chance to meet her--my cousins have a totally different sense of family, you know? (She died when I was nineteen, but sixty-five would have taken her ten years before I was born.) But oh, the people I've known who suffered and clung past that; the people taken unexpectedly; the children. I'd trade it. I would. And part of that, too, is that her husband left her years and years and years before she died--almost thirty-five, I think--and she missed him every day.
pocketmouse on October 7th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
I saw this episode of Star Trek (uh, sort of). [ETA: It's also a bit of a creepy reverse TW: COE thing] I voted no on both counts. Also, does this Magical Device only work on natural deaths? You mentioned suicides, so what about traffic fatalities, murders, and warfare? Also, what about women who want an abortion? How will this skew the human population, which is already dangerously high? Yes, a good number of the older people will die, but how fast does the incoming rate grow? And does this affect animals, or if the population gets high enough will we have food supply problems?

It's not overthinking if those were my initial reaction thoughts, right? :D

Edited at 2009-10-07 07:00 am (UTC)
sapote3sapote3 on October 7th, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was curious about the population question, since demographic booms are what happens when your under-5 fatality suddenly drops but your net fecundity is still the same. I guess if everyone knew that all of their children would live to support them in their old age, and they knew exactly how much old age they had to budget for anyway (and exactly how much illness and infirmity) it would probably lead to free-falling birth rates.

So I guess sign me up as "curious about the implications".
(no subject) - pocketmouse on October 7th, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sapote3 on October 7th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
je suis marxiste, tendance Groucho: sg1 sam thinkingshinealightonme on October 7th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
No one will die stupidly at 20 from cancer

You didn't specifically state anything about non-fatal degenerative diseases, but I kind of took this line as being diseases, period are not such a problem with the Device. Currently, I am thinking that a world without the fear of losing your mind when you get old would be a very, very nice place to live, so that really influenced my decision.

I'm also extremely intrigued at the global average being EVERYONE'S actual life span. Because, damn. If that doesn't get people to care about diseases, poverty, and war in other countries - or, hell, other parts of their own country - I don't know what would.
lilacsigil: 12 Apostleslilacsigil on October 7th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
I am thinking that a world without the fear of losing your mind when you get old would be a very, very nice place to live

Oh yes. My mother's parents died in their early 70s, both very frail and suffering the early stages of dementia. My father's parents both cleared 90, in great health until the very end. My mother is in her early 60s and already getting frailer; my dad is the same age and healthier than I am.
(no subject) - shinealightonme on October 7th, 2009 06:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
Common sense doesn't always apply heremiaruma on October 7th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
I think the problem I have with the magical device is the fact that it promises the same life expectancy for everyone, but it doesn't equal the 'playing-field' for everyone, people born with severe disabilities would probably just be made to suffer.

Also: To take this further: you said in a comment above the magical device would compensate for additional medicinal advances and thus further raise the life expectancy, my cynical heart tells me that people probably wouldn't want to mess with that anyway (if it were in a whole world scenario) since people are a) scared of change and b) very complacent.
And if it were a country to country issue... how would you determine when someone would die? Would it be done by the countries people were born in? Where they live? In their DNA (if so- what of children with parents from different countries?) Because I can just see a stroves of people rushing to those places where life-expectancy was highest and the countries with the lowest life-expectancy becoming practically uninhabitated.

I hope I don't come across as mean or too literal on this experiment, I do think it's interesting :D *ponders some more*
(Anonymous) on October 7th, 2009 05:39 am (UTC)
OMG 1000% no.

This is such a horrible concept that words fail me...
MAY NEE ACK UL LEE LAUGHING: STRIPS - Highly Logical (angel_elf_icons24_centuries on October 7th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC)
I voted yes for both and am actually surprised that the majority didn't sway that way.

I think one of the reasons, though, is that people are thinking of their lives as if they would be the first "cut off" if you will. Meaning, they would be the ones who would be 64 when it was instituted and would only have a year where they thought they had fifteen to twenty, depending on health and SES (or they'd have to kill off their loved ones). I don't relish the idea of my father passing sixteen years (or three for the worldwide scenario) however, thinking about the future generations and the good it would do for them makes it an easier concept to accept.

I am privileged enough to live in a first-world country and I would love if everyone had the same opportunities I had instead of perishing at four because they didn't have access to good nutrition, clean water, and basic medical care. So if this Magic made all that go away and gave everyone 65 GOOD years, then yes, I'd be all for it.

I'm curious if there would be mass migrations to countries with the longest life-expectancies to try and further one's own life (and the lives of one's family) and the effect this would have on the life expectancies. The obvious answer is that they would deteriorate as higher population on limited resources would make the supply decrease as the demand increased.

This is a fascinating poll, I must admit *three cheers*
lilacsigillilacsigil on October 7th, 2009 05:51 am (UTC)
I'm curious if there would be mass migrations to countries with the longest life-expectancies to try and further one's own life (and the lives of one's family)

This already happens, doesn't it? I mean, it's framed as "opportunity" but it amounts to the same thing - clean water, food, relative safety, a chance to work and live in peace.
(no subject) - gossymer on October 7th, 2009 05:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
Nora Norwichnorwich36 on October 7th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
I found that I couldn't vote yes to either one since it felt like killing my parents. If it first took effect with my generation, though, I could vote yes to both.

Gossgossymer on October 7th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
So if enough death would have otherwise occured in certain areas of the world (due to extreme war or disease) then the worlwide age limit could fall to teens or something? Or the human race could become extinct if a crazy psycopath decides to nuke a few parts of the world? So there wouldn't be a post-apocalyptic scenario, 'cause we'd all die together...
lilacsigil: 12 Apostleslilacsigil on October 7th, 2009 05:59 am (UTC)
Ah, but teens can breed, and life expectancy will slowly climb again!
(no subject) - dzurlady on October 7th, 2009 09:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - azurelunatic on October 7th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alixtii on October 7th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)