March 27, 2011
Face Aging Simulation Increases Retirement Savings

This Wall Street Journal article is worth reading in full. Stanford researchers find that young people shown what their faces will look like in their 60s become more willing to save for retirement.

In one experiment, young people who saw their elderly avatars reported they would save twice as much as those who didn't. In another, students averaging 21 years of age viewed avatars of themselves that smiled when they saved more and frowned when they saved less. Those whose avatars were morphed to retirement age said they would save 30% more than those whose avatars weren't aged.

The potential real-world applications of the Stanford research are promising. "An employee's ID photo could be age-morphed and placed on the benefits section of the company's website," says Dan Goldstein of London Business School, another psychologist who worked on the project.

The thinking is that people who can see what they'll look like when old become better able to identify with their older self. The future self becoming less of a stranger makes people perhaps more sympathetic with that future person and more eager to take steps to help out that future person.

To use this capability only to get people to save more would be a waste. What's needed is a tie-in with efforts to develop rejuvenation therapies. Software that shows us aging to a point and then reversing aging could help build up support for the development of such therapies. Imagine watching a time-lapsed video of your aging face up to, say, age 60. Then the software would show different kinds of rejuvenation therapies applied. For example, one kind of cell therapy could restore areas that droop due to less collagen or other specific changes. Another kind of cell therapy could regrow receded gums on teeth.

Does any open source software for facial aging exist? It would be worth taking a crack at developing this capability for public web sites.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 March 27 04:58 PM  Aging Appearances

PacRim Jim said at March 27, 2011 11:42 PM:

I wonder if people in their 60s want to spend more after seeing pix of their younger selves.

Douglas Fletcher said at March 28, 2011 11:05 AM:

Maybe they could have alternate photos of how they'll look after 40 years of smoking, drinking, eating pizza, smoking crack, etc...

Anonymous said at March 28, 2011 11:05 AM:

This sentence makes no sense, grammatically....

"The sense of future less as no longer a stranger makes people perhaps more sympathetic with that future person and more eager to take steps to help out that future person."

j2 said at March 28, 2011 11:06 AM:

I wonder if people in their 60s - after seeing pix of their younger selves - wished they had spent more in their 20s.

bbartlog said at March 28, 2011 12:27 PM:

I'm not 100% convinced that encouraging people to save more for retirement is actually good for society. I suppose (if all goes well) it drops interest rates, leading to higher capital investment and a stronger nation; after all the overall effect is to move resources away from consumption and into 'streams-of-income', whether that's bonds or stocks or whatever. Of course, protectionism should have much the same overall effect...

Randall Parker said at March 28, 2011 7:35 PM:

Douglas Fletcher,

That's an excellent suggestion. Cigarette smokers in their teens and twenties ought to be shown what their cigarette smoking is going to do to their faces in 20, 30, 40 years.


There are many ways to save for the future that do not reduce aggregate demand today. One way is to alter what you buy. Properly done, consumption can reduce the need for future consumption.

For example, going to build a house? Make it based on Passivhaus design to radically cut your future heating bills. Or upgrade an existing house with insulation and a ground sink or air sink heat pump.

You can even choose clothes that'll last longer. I no longer buy cotton socks since polyester, Merino wool, and alpaca wool last far longer. I've got enough long lasting socks that I can go decades without buying more.

cancer_man said at March 30, 2011 11:42 AM:

Do you really think a 25 year old will have problems with smoking when he is 50 in the year 2035?

Over 70 comments on that article and none mentioned Kurzweil type technical acceleration.

thepaleogarden said at April 14, 2011 2:30 PM:

@PacRim Jim,

One of your best comments of all time... and that's a big body of good work

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