Saturday, July 09, 2005

Longevity Matters

Alex Tabarrok was recently having lunch with Tyler Cowen and Bryan Caplan, and the subject of longevity came up.
At lunch with Bryan and Tyler last week the question arose as to what we would do differently if we were immortal. After a nerdy discussion to clarify what sort of immorality we were talking about; the kind where you can't be killed but can be imprisoned or the kind where you are forever young but may be hit by a truck? (it was the former) - I answered that I would travel more.
They chose the wrong question to answer. Both Alex and Tyler are familiar with Cryonics, and Bryan appears to have discussed health and longevity with Robin Hanson, so I'll assume he's at least passingly familiar with these ideas as well.

It's possible (some would argue likely) that many of us are approaching the latter kind of immortality, (long-term youthfulness) but the former (actual immortality) is still a science fiction dream. Alex implied that he was making choices about how to spend his time based on what he'd do if he couldn't be killed. He said that he would travel more, and at the end of the post he said that he is going on a solo trek to Machu Picchu.

Maybe he would have come up with the same answer if they had addressed the right question. I hope so, since a solo trek in the Andes might be just the kind of risky activity that you'd get a different answer for. Travel more certainly, but a high chance at prolonged health wouldn't convince me to add significantly to my risk level. If Alex is an experienced high-altitude hiker this may not be that high a risk. But for most people, I'd guess that solo hiking in the Andes would cut into your chances of enjoying that long-term youthfulness that makes you think about travelling more widely.

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