Let’s be clear: modern science has done a lot of incredible things for human health. We live way longer than we used to, and quality of life is remaining far better, for far longer, than at any other point in history.
But there are a lot of wealthy people out there who don’t just want to live longer. They want to live forever, and they’re using their deep pockets to try to make it happen. In fact, Wired just declared that anti-aging research in 2023 could “kickstart the greatest revolution in medicine since the discovery of antibiotics.”
Could all that hype fall short? Sure, and it likely will. But it’s also possible that the quest for immortality could mark a grim new inflection point in the history of wealth.
That’s not just because it might mean that humanity will simply have to exist with the glare from an immortal Jeff Bezos’ glistening scalp for eternity, but because such technology might mean that people like Bezos, whose money equals a whole lot of power, would be able to continue compounding that wealth and power for, well, forever.
“Suppose, for example, we had a kind of vaccine for the pandemic of age,” Christopher Wareham, a bioethicist at Utrecht University who studies the ethics of aging, told The Financial Times. “This is going to potentially exacerbate all the kinds of existing inequalities that we have… The longer you’re around, the more your wealth compounds, and the wealthier you are, the more political influence you have.”
It’s a bone-chilling hypothesis, to say the least. Time, of course, is the central reason why anything really changes, politics included. Old leaders and belief systems die, new citizens with fresh ideas are born; in Wareham’s dystopian postulation, dictators and autocrats, as well as their donors, would additionally flock to the still-mythic technological fountain of youth.