April 18, 2015
Trading Off Between Living Standard And Health Care

On Twitter Andrew McAfee asked:

To which I replied:

Unfortunately, for most people 2014 health care does not do all that much. If you have a chronic untreatable condition in 2014 then all the advances since 1964 aren't helping you much. If your doctor just told you that you have fatal cancer with months to live you might get a couple more months today than in 1964 but you are still checking out of the Life Hotel.

By contrast, imagine you could get full body rejuvenation. But it came with a big trade-off. How much of a reduction in living standards would you be willing to take in order to get it? How much other tech would you be willing to give up?

The toughest thing to give up for me would be the internet. But the biological age of an 18 year old and the ability to maintain that age would trump the internet for sure.

The older you get the bigger the trade-off it makes sense to be willing to make. A young and healthy person does not get much out of today's medical technology. But add about 40 years of aging to their body and suddenly the benefit of rejuvenation becomes enormous.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 April 18 04:25 PM 

blink said at April 18, 2015 7:56 PM:

Why 40 years rather than "double or nothing" (i.e., 1914 vs. 2064)? Does the comparison "peak" around 2054 when you predict rejuvenation therapies to come online? Regardless, your comparison of health care makes sense; the potential benefits of rejuvenation swamp everything we have accomplished in health care in the last 90 (or 100) years.

Randall Parker said at April 18, 2015 10:41 PM:


He originally had a 40 year gap. I adjusted his range to be 40 years by taking the high end as 2014. Then I added 40 years on each end of his range (1964-40 and 2014+40); I . Effectively that tripled the range, not doubled it. So it was sloppy wording and sloppy math.

Why 2054: I think that's far enough into the future that rejuv in 2054 will extend life for decades during which more rejuv therapies will be developed. I expect by 2054 a portion of the population won't have to die from anything below the brain. Brain aging might still be a difficult problem.

Brett Bellmore said at April 19, 2015 4:27 AM:

"If your doctor just told you that you have fatal cancer with months to live you might get a couple more months today than in 1964 but you are still checking out of the Life Hotel."

Back in 2010, I got diagnosed with a diffuse B cell lymphoma, due to a chest X ray I got for unrelated reasons. (I'm told that's how it's usually discovered in time for saving you.) Chemo had a complete success rate for that cancer of about 80%, and today I'm cured. (Would have come back and killed me by now, if I hadn't been cured, so I know I'm good.)

I was told by my oncologist that this same cancer would, just a decade earlier, have been a death sentence. Get your affairs in order, take a vacation before the symptoms get too bad, maybe try out skydiving, and don't bother pulling the cord on your last jump.

So, we are making progress, (Though not in time for my sister, damn it, who's in hospice for stage 4 melanoma, and expected to die shortly.) and there are a lot of promising treatments in the pipeline. If sis had gotten her diagnosis just a few years from now, she might have made it.

To answer the question, I'd trade 1924 lifestyle for 2054 medicine in a heartbeat. In fact, I'm rather hoping that, if I'm still around when rejuvenation becomes a possibility, I'll be offered a chance to trade resetting my retirement age, for getting my youth back. Seems like it would probably be a good deal for the government.

Nick G said at April 19, 2015 9:18 AM:


Any thoughts about rapamycin as a general cancer treatment?

blink said at April 19, 2015 2:18 PM:

@ Randall Parker: Thanks for the additional insight on 2054. I guess the policy implication would be that we ought to devote significantly more resources to developing rejuv -- perhaps everything above our 1964 standard of living (and probably substantially more). It looks like you pegged rejuv as a top-5 political issue for 2014 (in 2004). Any updates on your thinking here?

Russ in TX said at April 21, 2015 6:36 AM:

Sorry about your sister, Brett.
Lost my Mom to something that better diagnostics in the ER (which we have now) would have handled, too. My big hope is that my Dad, who's never been particularly fit but is getting good about it, lasts long enough to benefit from these things so we can go back to boxing. (and maybe regenerate the brain cells that costs. Lovely sport, high penalty in ability-to-concentrate)

Rob said at April 21, 2015 1:42 PM:

Sorry, but a 1924 standard of living will contradict 2064 medicine. The food you eat, the air you breathe, the back-beraking work, the outdoor toilet will, etc, etc make a difference no matter what medical plan you have available.

Lummox JR said at April 21, 2015 1:46 PM:

The whole question is framed badly. There's no tradeoff between standard of living and standard of health care. Both have improved enormously, except for the facts that 1) single-earner families aren't so much a viable model these days, and 2) the health insurance market is drowning in regulation and red tape so that quality care is now far more expensive than it has any right to be. Meddlesome government at the state and federal level can be blamed for much of the latter (as can out-of-control litigation).

Randall Parker said at April 22, 2015 11:08 PM:


The most hopeful sign I see with rejuvenation therapy development is the interest in it being taken by some of the super wealthy. I think elite interest in rejuv is going to continue to grow. Granted, an 80 year old billionaire won't take much interest because he'll figure the research will take too long to help him. But thirty something and forty something billionaires will see therapies to do rejuv as something that could come in time enough to help them.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright