Thursday, March 22, 2012

Half of a Millenium

Well, Christian Fearing God-Man is now a year old.  I've managed to stick it out this long so far, so hopefully I can keep it going.  I'll admit, though, that with my new job, school, and kids, it's kind of difficult to find the time and motivation to write.  My friend and I, however, had an interesting conversation the other day, and I thought I'd share one of the big hilights.

What if tomorrow, all humans alive today would live to be 500 years old?

This question is different than "what if you lived to be 500."  It's easier to speculate about how you would personally change, but speculating about society is a bit different I think.  I for one think that a lot of problems in society would begin to work themselves out.

First, let's consider our current lifespan, approximately 80ish years if you're in decent health.  80 years is not a long time, and we always find ourselves saying "life is too short."  I think our short life-spans have a negative effect on human nature.  We feel as though time is short, so we feel that we must experience everything we can as soon as possible, lest we arrive at our day of reckoning without having lived life to its fullest.

That's pretty intense when you think about it.  People scramble to get their piece of the pie, because they want it before they cash in their chips.  But what people lived to be 500?  Would there be such a scramble?  Would people be so adamant about screwing each other over out of fear that they'll never get what's coming to them?

I'm inclined to think that after 500 years, nearly every person would have had the chance at some point to experience all the things they've wanted to do.  500 years is a long time, and a lot can change during that time period.  Just 160-ish years ago, people in American were enslaved.  Imagine how that would have been if those who had died of old age in bondage could have lived to breathe the free air.

Also, people in positions of power would have to put a lot more thinking into their decision-making.  Most of the time, it takes a hundred years before the events of the present fully manifest their ramifications.  Leaders know this, which is probably why they're willing to take so many risks and make poor decisions.  They know they won't live to see how badly they screwed the future.

But if they knew they would have to live to see the results, they'd probably be a lot more judicious and prudent.

There would definitely be some negative results to this.  There would likely be mass suicides.  Super old people would probably just off themselves, because who would want to spend the next 500 years in a decrepit, old body?  (In my little scenario, everyone's aging is proportional to what it would be if they only lived 80 years AFTER they reach the age of 25.  So you would spend most of your life healthy and vivacious).

Also, the Christians who don't believe suicide would send you to hell would probably just off themselves.  My guess is that the really hard core Christians would become insanely depressed knowing that they have to wait for the afterlife for that long.  Maybe they'd all be really reckless in the hopes of "accidentally" biting the big one?

I don't rightly know, but I think it's an interesting thought experiment.  So much of human nature is shaped by our short lifespan.  How different would human nature look if we all lived for half a millenium?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jack,

Though I know your thinking of how people would live their lives knowing that they can live 500 years, my mind keeps coming back to the fact that the planet could not handle a population that lives that long. The biology of any species (God intended or not) rests on its life-span versus its capacity to breed.

Apart from the fact that we would be living on a planet of potentially 56 billion people (so my wife calculted based on some maths equation), what changes would long life have on society, laws and conflict?

Knowing that the world could not support that number, would we have more wars (as population and culture are, along with simple power, are the main causes of conflict)?

Would, ignoring the above factors, people decide to have less children or wait a century or so - assuming your basis that their breedfing cycle lasts say into their 350th year or so?

The thought of living that long with all the human psychological frailties would change as well. If you really screwed your life up and did something unforgettably bad, do you live with it for three or more centuries?

What about punishment fitting the crime? We send people away for life, so does that mean a 500 year stretch?

Interesting subject, but it raises more than a can of worms.....

Damien Charles, in his early 6th decade, going blind, a grandfather, and wondering if he can get through two more decades with the wine cellar he has.

Jack Camwell said...

Yes, we'd have to toss the human population thing a side. We could assume that families would only consist of 1-3 children each. For one, people tend to limit how many children they have for financial reasons.

Secondly, my guess is that with as hard as it can be raising children, people wouldn't want to spend 500 years raising tons of kids. So the population likely wouldn't boom so much.

But this is more about the psychology aspect, and your questions are perfect questions for this scenario.

In terms of screwing up your life, wouldn't you think that people would be a little more cautious and thoughtful if they knew they would have to live a jacked up life for a really long time?

Would people think twice before they commit a heinous crime that can get them sent away for 200+ years in prison?

We could apply this to only young people in their 20s and 30s. It wouldn't be fair to ask a frail, 97 year old man to tough it out in that condition for so long.

Anonymous said...

Jack, my wife made an interesting comment. Assuming because your into rpgs, you probably have read the works of Tolkien (LOTR, etc).

If you have, the Silmarilian, is another major work by Tolkien discribing his world, its origins etc. My point being, the psychology of the Elves, the first born of Middle Earth and thier immportality and how they cope with it. Their love for perfection, the fine arts and how, for the short-lived humans, the elves procrastinate and take a very long time to come to a decision.

Get my drift?

Damien Charles

Anonymous said...

slipped finger - try "immortality", a nasty "p" got jumped in....

Jack Camwell said...

Yes, I think that's something worth thinking about. That's more or less what I think would happen with humans if we had much longer lifespans.

Jersey McJones said...

Jack, if people already simply did live 500 years, today's 80 or so stretched out over 500 years, the world would have to be much safer place.

People would certainly take less chances, and by that I mean at a lower rate - stretched out over 500 years. Also, disease would have to be less frequent, so the environment would have to be different. The reason we live to be 80 or so is a consequence of the combination of our evolution and the environment.

Just the same, if all this were so, people would certainly have be more tolerant, patient, civil. It's the only way. Aggressively individualistic and greedy people would have to be fewer and further between.

Funny enough though, I don't think it would mean much of a difference when it comes to religion. I just don't see why it would. People would be born into one faith or another, or find it sometime in their young adulthood, just as they do today, but around 100-200 years old. ;)

I don't subscribe to the God gene, but you can't argue with history.

Man has been making up crazy answers for things since his dawn.

JMJ

Silverfiddle said...

I'm with Charles on this one...

I don't think I would like living 500 years, but the Tolkien perspective is interesting.

William McCullough said...

The 500 year life span is an interesting thought. However, considering the idea that at some point boredom might take over and morph into depression at having done or witnessed most everything one might be tempted to shorten the experience....WM

bill said...

human beings are the most adaptable
life-forms existant, i doubt any change in our life-span would impact our culture. from an
objective accounting we would simply be seen to adjust the inception, incubation, and execution of our virtues and 'foibles' accordingly.

more important though, on your anniversary post, is the next to last paragraph. once again i see you reaching out for an argument; girded in the armament of righteousness and intellect, the same defenses that we all fall back on when we feel threatened.

right now i'm sure you're taking this in, categorizing the nuance, and formulating your response. i
know this 'cause i've been there
done that. you're trying to confine an almighty God into a
human amalgram that suits your
sense of right and wrong.

most folks read john 4:16 and see a locked door, name's not on the guest list, but those with a humble heart see their Savior.

some folks i've known have said it
was like walking across a 'dotted' line but most, like myself, fought tooth and nail for what we thought was our claim to sanity in a fallen world.

it's a bridge that must be crossed mr. camwell; God has provided the means and all we have to do is quit fighting and take the first step. that's all He asks...b

Jack Camwell said...

There really wasn't anything in that second to last paragraph other than just thinking about what a 500 year lifespan would mean to a lot of Christians.

There are Christians who think the next life is the ultimate existence, and I would imagine that they'd be pretty disappointed to know that they would have to wait another 500 years to see their Lord and Savior.

It wasn't a dig against religion (although I'm Catholic, I'm still Christian), but rather me just pondering how humans would cope with that.

"Coping with immortality," is something that Damien brought up, and I think it's a salient notion.

How would you adapt if you suddenly found out that you've got 500 years to go?

I wasn't looking for an argument, mostly I was just looking for some perspective as I know some of my readers are Christians.