[ExI] Very long lifespans and accompanying mental milieus

Will Steinberg steinberg.will at gmail.com
Thu Feb 11 19:05:43 UTC 2010

When human lifespans lengthen, new mental paradigms are born.  This tends to
occur when sufficiently large amounts of the population reach a certain age
as to be common.  For example, humans of the past would have a hard time
understanding both the jaded, crotchety old man and the freaking-out fifty
year old, simply by virtue that anyone who lived to be this old was usually
revered for their luck.  Very old people, when there were not a lot of very
old people, were Methuselahs.  But as medicine advanced, being these ages
has become increasingly more common, and as the uniqueness associated with
these ages has disappeared, a slew of mental crises have developed.  Now,
some, as in the case of the elderly, are physiological--an old man is cranky
because he is arthritic or forgetful.  Yet there are aspects of aging that
cannot be associated in this manner, and instead lie completely in the
mental realm.  The mid-life crisis is and example of a phenomenon that is
distinctly new.

In the next fifty or so years (and I hope this is overestimating,) there is
a good chance that human lifespans will lengthen significantly, perhaps
going so far as to double.  Now, many of us simply think to ourselves: "More
time to think!  More time to work!"  But who knows what happens when the
metaprograms of the brain reshuffle connections for far longer than nature
"intended"?  Though it is fine, for now, to treat ourselves as having
overcome nature and evolution, we must remember that consciousness and
intelligence were successful for producing offspring, which are produced
relatively early in life, and have far less of a connection to the later

Is this problem one of value?  What if, at one hundred and fifty years of
age, man is suddenly compelled to end his life?  What if longer life will
dictate to us the most obvious example of human pathos--that, for all we
love about ourselves, the buck stops for the brain sooner than we might have
hoped?  It seems in this case that the recent discussions on mental being
that have overwhelmed the list are indeed incredibly important, if only for
the fact that knowledge of the mental processes of humans must be understood
in order to design even better processes that don't hit a wall after
extended periods of time.

This is Transhumanism, not in the often-held idea of letting "humanness"
transcend our current physical limitations, but in scrapping many aspects of
that humanness entirely in favor of something unfathomable and better.
There is a good chance that we will, at some point, be faced with the
problem that the confusing tangle of yarn in our heads produced by evolution
is simply not good enough to deal with whatever comes next.  And then what?
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