Combating people who have the wrong intuition about longevity

Ben Goertzel talks about the war on the war on death.

A couple days ago the New York Times ran an article by 83 year old author Daniel Callahan, entitled “On Dying After Your Time.” The theme of the article is that extending human life is a bad idea, for a variety of reasons. The author thinks life extension advances will probably result mainly in the lengthening of the unpleasant, sickness-plagued, mentally-feeble period at the end of most modern human lives. He also foresees that an increase in the population of incapable old people will drag the economy down.

This is some individuals intuition about the economic impact of longevity.

People living longer lives means a more prosperous society and higher per capita income.

Here is a research paper that looks at the increase in longevity from 1749 in Sweden. Sweden began keeping population statistics and economic statistics back to the start of the Industrial revolution. So we can use actual data to see the impact of the increase in longevity. The paper is Growth and Longevity from the Industrial Revolution to the Future of an Aging Society.

They show that historical increases in longevity have contributed in increased economic growth by increasing incentives for people to get more education. They can have more years getting educated because they are generally assured of a longer life and career to utilize more education.

Population aging and endogenous economic growth

This paper shows:

(1) increases in longevity have a positive impact on per capita output growth,
(2) decreases in fertility have a negative impact on per capita output growth,
(3) the positive longevity effect dominates the negative fertility effect in case of the endogenous growth framework, and
(4) population aging fosters long-run growth in the endogenous growth framework, while its effect depends on the relative change between fertility and mortality in the semi-endogenous growth framework.

Technological progress has been identified as the main determinant of long-run economic prosperity, we are particularly concerned with the effects of changing age [distributions in society] on research and development (R&D) intensities.

Our main conclusion is that currently ongoing demographic changes do not necessarily hamper technological progress and therefore economic prosperity. Simultaneously decreasing birth and death rates can even lead to an increase in the economic growth rate.

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