Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"I am skeptical of life extending medicine. It's certainly good plot material to imagine a planet of immortals, or even those that live for centuries, but there are heavy prices to be paid for that."
Scottsz of Old School Jump

The recent posts regarding longevity are tagged 'Historical Conjecture,' and they are so labeled because in Riskail they are not proven facts nor even necessarily what has happened. The idea of science curing aging was a powerful--and ultimately destructive--obsession during the Toxic Age. The Geriatrics are a legacy of this time period, as are the Terror Children, and a number of nanoplagues, viruxes and worse. The Plaguecasters of Romthule revere this period as an Age of Wonders precisely because of all the horrific consequences that followed in the wake of attempts to achieve longevity, near-immortality and in some cases to foist them upon the unsuspecting populaces. The huddled masses of Toxic Age humanity were not prepared for this sort of thing and it came perhaps too early, possibly too late, but definitely as an unfortunate time indeed.

There were very heavy prices to be paid for the excesses of the Toxic Age.

Longevity is not for everyone. The proto-civilization of the Toxic Age was not set-up to handle more than a statistically insignificant number of people who lived past certain actuarially-defined optimal ages. The more people who managed to outlive the acturially-defined optimal ages to die bankrupted retirement funds, over-burdened insurance schemes, distorted the projections of marketers and political science consultants, and just generally crashed the system. These systems were never set-up with any regard for human costs or human impacts, only mathematical projection, budgets, financial considerations and assumptions that were no longer realistic or accurate. The stark contrast between human rights and the interests of the financial/insurance/reinsurance conglomerates--the foundational components of the Establishment that served as the matrix and underpinning of the interconnected and interdependent world economy grew farther and farther apart until something finally broke.
Mathematical systems entrain and enslave those who live or die by their projections and analysis, they also provide the bureaucratic anonymity that enables a form of dehumanization to take place and places the intrinsic interests of the system counter to the long term interests of the individual. Repression is inevitable in such distorted systems. Man's inhumanity to man is nothing compared to the truly inhuman systems that developed and evolved from deep within corporate, financial and other abstract concerns. People were looking for acceptable leaders, comforting answers, returns on their investments, and they didn't see the rise of a non-physical abstract ecology that was increasingly becoming not only independent of human concerns, but was rapidly becoming dominant behind the scenes. The media-folklore of the time warned of insane robots, killer computers, unfriendly AI...but it tended to overlook the far more subtle things that were going on behind the cloud of numbers, stock exchange acronyms, electronic transfers and so on. Machines never really did acquire sentience, but the underlying systems that moved through them most assuredly did.

But that is a tangent for another time.

"If medicine had a way to double the human life expectency, what of the economic impact? The U.S. economy is (at least) five times larger (relatively) than that of the Roman empire - but I doubt it could sustain such a sudden and massive jump in how long people live."
To again quote Scottsz of Old School Jump
The extension of life via medicine is a seriously discredited notion in Riskail, tantamount to a belief in superstitious nonsense and otherwise discredited philosophies. Medicine is looked upon as the Toxic Age equivalent of alchemy. A dim and symbolically-polluted and hyper-politicized institution dedicated to the monopolistic control of what once passed for science in the service of oppression and so-called economics.
Toxic Age science was flawed from the outset by being based upon observation. There could never be any truly empirical results, no baseline that was not contaminated or distorted by the inherent biases of the observer. The results of all research are the regurgitated interpretations of biased observers employing language that is full of subtext and implications, and all results are judged as to merit according to how well they fit into existing theories, established research, doctrines, protocols and corporate business/marketing plans.

It wasn't until Collaborative AI, Artilects and similar systems were brought into the process to provide literally blank-slate observation and minimal-bias interpretation that things began to shift away from the hierarchical orthodoxy of the cult of science to meaningful data that was divorced of most social distortions. Of course, all of this stuff had to be re-assimilated into human-relatable language and symbols, and that necessitated it being dragged back into the mire of muddy thinking and preconceived notions, but it did have a major breakthrough effect--science, true scientific inquiry, was removed from the hierophantic pontiffs and established experts. It was something that anyone with any desire or interest could get involved with simply by joining-in. Opinions were relegated to Interpreters and Commentators, even Edutainers. Investigation and experimentation were released from the burdens of politics and superstition. Ethics were no longer considered voluntary or debatable--they were intrinsic to the process and immediately affected all outcomes, thus it was deemed essential that all science be conducted under the aegis of a core set of ethics. The age of ignoring the impact of ethics upon scientific inquiry, and the lingering white lie that science could somehow remain an amoral force in the world was over. Science impacted society, thus society needed to seriously re-evaluate its relationship to science.

What happened, according to the commonly accepted wisdom of the day, the incipient folklore and Oral Traditions, is that science was broken-out of the old rigid structures and semi-democratized in a meritocratic manner--a spirit of
Free Inquiry, if you will--in which anyone could join in the work, contribute research, ask questions, and so forth. But only those who really did the work, saw things through to completion, dedicated themselves to the process and gained expertise from actual experience and effort ever gained any real status or acclaim.

Longevity is not a right. Several varieties of techniques for life extension are available in Riskail and beyond, many of them fairly straight-forward, some of them a bit questionable, all of them voluntary and left to the discretion and decision of the person involved. Of course there are the occasional virux like
Wrongevity that are in limited circulation and similar such things that could force the issue, but there usually are remedial options for revision or removal of such unwanted or involuntarily imposed parameters. Usually.

Life is precious, valuable and a gift more or less freely given from one generation to the next. The duration of life is considered a personal matter, a private thing best left to the conscience and choices of the individual. Society only intervenes when someone crosses over from their personal sovereignty to affect others and to impact society, which is considered to be only prudent and polite. A society that does not protect the interests of the individual is not a society, but a tyranny. A society that does not defend itself from internal disharmonies is likewise not a society, but rather a fraudulent hoax.

Polite Society is founded upon consciously selected, voluntarily accepted and freely adopted core standards that include a minimum level of ethical maturity. To do anything else places individuals and society itself in harm's way either directly or through negligence. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse, Knowledge is essential. If there is one Benevolent Patron overlooking Riskail, it would be the spirit of Knowledge.

It was Knowledge that terminated the Toxic Age.

"Youth is wasted on the young."

George Bernard Shaw


  1. Just had a thought, while reading this post: the metrics used to consider lifespan, health, productivity are incomplete: they can't really measure a person's inspirational impact.

    Should geriatrics be tasked with writing down a page of memoirs to earn their old age benefits? What would such a library (a collection of 'lives' in a way) be like?

  2. Short answer: Yes.

    Geriatrics acquire status for their development of memoirs, first-hand accounts of things that they witnessed or experienced, and they often do this via sensory-transfer media. The real value is in the human experience, their emotional feedback, the visceral voyeaurism if you will--not in the historicity as that is a matter of public record (usually) thanks to the ubiquitous Media. If a Geriatric has something to share that is not a matter of public knowledge...that's worth a good bit--novelty is a major commodity in Riskail...


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