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Old 11-05-2006, 06:09 AM   #1
Kitsune
 
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Default Immortality in THS

In the John Sanchez thread (http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=20913) something came up that piqued my interest. (Yeah that can happen now and then ;-)). It were the comments about immortality in THS like:

Quote:
They do [die]. There's no perfect immortality treatment in TS, and the imperfect ones are very imperfect as well as expensive.
So, I considered to start some deep-minded contemplations about that topic of my own. :)
That done, after some duely hesitation, I decided to open a thread concerning the matter. :P


I want to focus on the Cellular Rejuvenation treatment described on THS p.167 - and its ramifications.
Anyone who undergoes the successful treatment ends up as a "young adult" again...that presumably means age 18 to 20. There are risks involved: temporary amnesia - but this will vanish in days, a few months in the worst cases. More serious is the risk of ending up braindead...and this most likely means REALLY dead in the world of THS. But this risk is quite small: only a critical failure on the skill roll involved results in the subect meeting his/her untimely(?) end. And, assuming that the skill of the treating physician is 16+ - quite likely in the setting I dare say - the chances that it happens are only 1 in 216 in the GURPS system. That would mean a failure rate of less than half of a percent. In other words: if a especially vain person would undergo the cellular rejuvenation treatment at the age of 50 (quite early by the standards of the setting) and then every 50 years thereafter, his or her chances to be able to celebrate his/her 1000th birthday are statistically a bit over 91% ! (A Ziusudra Parahuman would have about the same chance to live to the age of 2000 years). Admittedly this excludes the possibility to die in an accident, as victim of a crime, a war or a catastrophe. But it also assumes that there are no further technological improvements of the technology.
So, from a theoretical standpoint the technology is indeed imperfect and people still die, yes. But it comes quite close to immortality.

But there may be a catch. It is expensive. "Typical costs are around 450.000$". That may seem much, alright. But the fact that this treatment is only necessary once in half a century at best relativates this. The majority of the people in a Fifth Wave nation should be able to afford this. And even if not, it may be possible to get a loan from a bank for this: considering that the recipient can most likely start a new life in which he can pay the money back with juicy interests should make this a sound investment. Even more, the highly developed nations could even consider to let health insurance pay for this...for fairness and equality's sake.

Availability may be another matter. The treament exists since 2088 (THS page 15), so it is only around for 12 years in 2100. That and the expenses may mean that in the THS setting not everybody will enjoy the possibility to undergo cellular rejuvenation, at least not on a globally scale. I don't see the problem for the Fifth Wave nations of Western Europe, Japan, Australia etc. But according to canon the US is classified as a high Fourth Wave nation where "not everyone enjoys complete access to Fifth Waves technologies" albeit with "large Fifth Wave pockets thoughout the country" (Fifth Wave page 21). How this affects the availability of cellular rejuvenation is left to interpretation. China is classified as mainly Fourth Wave, India as partly even Third Wave - that could mean that only a minority have access to the fountain of youth. Same may be the case in large parts of South America. In some states of Africa it may even be the case that only the highest leadership of a state has the possibility to become young again - during a stay in Switzerland perhaps - after which they can return home and continue their good work with renewed vigor.

What does this mean for the overall impact of that technology for the world? In my opinion: quite extensive. In a society in which everyone has himself or herself rejuvenated again when reaching the end of his/her natural lifetime (with a 99.5% chance of success) the number of only 0.1 children per woman would suffice to keep up the population size, at least for the next hundreds of years. Or let's view things from a different angle. The rate of reproduction in Britain is today (2006) around 1.7 children per woman. More than most other European nations, but nontheless this means that the British population will shrink in the future if there is no immigration. If now everyone in Britain would receive the cellular rejuvenation treatment of the THS setting and nothing else is changed, the British society would have the equivalent of a reproduction rate of a society with about 3.7 children per woman. Or in other words, the human population would explode. And that totally leaves out immigrants, sapient AIs, Bioroids or uplifted animals all of which may also contribute to crowding the streets.

Now, it could be that SimonAce has a point with his only child theory. In the England of THS fewer women might decide to have children. Even the possibilty to be rejuvenated might affect this: while in the past the biological clock was ticking, in 2100 one can postpone the decision to procreate for another lifetime or two. Still, any number significantly over 0.1 children per woman will result in an strong increase in population and, let's face it, porcreation is a human instinct.
Its the question wether the possible trend for people to undergo destructive uploading affects the matter. A Ghost that decides to continue his/her (?) normal life, let's say in a bioshell, would actually make the situation worse - a Ghost does not age and thanks to the chance to have a safety copy around, might even come back after an deadly accident, murder or an catastrophe of large proportions.


Conclusion: the ramifications for the societies and therefore their politics of the THS setting may actually be quite severe. Especially the technology of cellular rejuvenation may cause significant demographic shifts. Even overpopulation may become a threat again.


Any thoughts?
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Old 11-05-2006, 06:49 AM   #2
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Default Re: Immortality in THS

I think one of the possible solution of Fifth Wave nations is this:

Emigration.

The Fifth Wave nations are saturated markets in many ways. Sure, there are business opportunities, but nothing that will really make you rich beyond avarice. On the other hand, developing markets have huge potential for growth - and thus, many Fifth Wavers, especially the young ones who have given up ever rising to the rang and status of the old guys around them (since they neither retire nor die off) will move to other countries and seek their fortune there - and thanks to the generally high Fifth Wave wealth, they usually have enough seed money to pull it off, and a high education to aid them in it.

And the establishment in the Fifth Wave societies probably encourages this trend, since (a) having too many young rebels around would upset their society and (b) in the end, the emigrants are still likely to spread the dominant memes of their country of origin...
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Old 11-05-2006, 07:46 AM   #3
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Default Re: Immortality in THS

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jürgen Hubert
The Fifth Wave nations are saturated markets in many ways. Sure, there are business opportunities, but nothing that will really make you rich beyond avarice. On the other hand, developing markets have huge potential for growth - and thus, many Fifth Wavers, especially the young ones who have given up ever rising to the rang and status of the old guys around them (since they neither retire nor die off) will move to other countries and seek their fortune there - and thanks to the generally high Fifth Wave wealth, they usually have enough seed money to pull it off, and a high education to aid them in it.
It's worth noting that Elizabeth Moon's Heris Serrano and Esmay Suiza novels explore the effects of a comparably effective life extension technology, with some good handling of details—for example, what happens in the navy when neither admirals nor top level petty officers will ever reach retirement age? Moon suggests that apart from emigration, the long run logic points at aggressive military expansion.

Another possibility would be an increasingly militant "youth" culture. Part of the whole boomer problem was that the later boomers faced an economy that was oversupplied with labor at their age and experience levels, creating intense competition for jobs and economic stress; a measure of cultural alienation might plausibly follow.
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Old 11-05-2006, 03:07 PM   #4
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Default Re: Immortality in THS

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos
By medical standards, a half-percent risk of death is colossal. Ethical standards committees would ban the treatment, hospitals would refuse to let it be performed, juries would find against any doctor who performed it. There might even be legislative bans. Which means that on top of the cost of treatment there is the cost of getting to a sympathetic or lax jurisdiction.
Well, I am going to assume that the patients undergoing this treatment will have to sign very lengthy waivers...

Really, this sort of technology, if it comes into existence, will find people who want to use it on them - despite the risks.

Still, quite a few older people will probably avoid this treatment for quite some time because of that risk - and then die before they took it.
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Old 11-05-2006, 04:36 PM   #5
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Default Re: Immortality in THS

Agemegos wrote:
Quote:
By medical standards, a half-percent risk of death is colossal. Ethical standards committees would ban the treatment, hospitals would refuse to let it be performed, juries would find against any doctor who performed it. There might even be legislative bans. Which means that on top of the cost of treatment there is the cost of getting to a sympathetic or lax jurisdiction.
In a way you could see aging as an illness: it slowly destroys body and mind until you die from organ failure. Its only that all human beings suffer from it, that is all. Considered that way, you have two choices: to either undergo a treatment that will restore you with a likelihood of 99.5% to perfect health again...or to watch your body decay - which results in death with 100% certainty. It's hard to imagine how any ethical standard committee could truly justify the ban of cellular rejuvenation as a service to humanity. (But I would be fascinated to see them try).
For any society that practices "rejuvenation for all" the noticeable effects would also be beneficial: the number of (biologically) young perople would increase dramatically, while really decrepit old people may all but vanish. Considering the gains, namely a wholly new young body without any ailings, the risk of less than 0.5% is really not too great. And even if death should claim you, your end would be during nanostasis and therefore painless and comparatively dignified. This should be quite comparable to the end as it was in earlier days: waiting for death in an increasingly frail husk of a body, with more and more ailments, more and more often in hospital until, one day, you don't leave it anymore. The whole process can be very lenghty, tormenting and...undignified.
So, I would think that the cellular rejuvenation treatment, despite its 0.5% failure chance (in which case possibly still the creation of a Ghost or a Fragment could be attempted) would be seen as vastly beneficial. Any government banning it in any free society might have a hard time doing so.
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Old 11-05-2006, 07:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: Immortality in THS

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos
By medical standards, a half-percent risk of death is colossal. Ethical standards committees would ban the treatment, hospitals would refuse to let it be performed, juries would find against any doctor who performed it.
That really depends on what you're treating. Heart surgery routinely has mortality rates higher than 1%. It does, however, have a lower mortality rate than not performing the surgery.
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Old 11-05-2006, 07:24 PM   #7
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Default Re: Immortality in THS

One of the most common forms of gastric bypass surgery has an up to 10% mortality rate.
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Old 11-05-2006, 10:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos
But then, RPG rules frequently make critical failures, misfires, and weapon jams about a hundred times too common to be realistic (automatic successes likewise). {Example: the British Security Service ('MI5') took the Walther PPK out of service because it jammed once per 4,000 rounds. In James Bond 007 a well-maintained Walther PPK jams once per 50 rounds.}
That's the real point. For example, in GURPS, every air takeoff and landing requires a skill roll. A pilot with the highest possible effective skill will have a critical failure on an 18. A critical failure requires a second skill roll, with a crash of some sort on a failure, which occurs on a 17 or 18.

Now, a big, busy airport might have 108 takeoffs and 108 landings a day; every a very small airport serving airlines would have that make a week. So between once a week and once a day, you'd have the skill roll to avoid a crash. One failure in 54 would mean between one and seven crashes a year. That's far in excess of what we really have. Can you imagine how long it would take the FAA to descend on an airport that had several crashes in the same year?

The thing is, first, on a 3d6 roll, you can't get lower odds than 1/216; and second, requiring the roll of more dice than that makes the extreme outcomes too unlikely to ever mean anything. You just don't roll the dice that many times during a game. So the probabilities are warped; both critical successes and critical failures happen unrealistically often. Effectively, the story takes place not in real space, but in dramatic narrative space, where unlikely but interesting events occur. Any attempt to reason from the dice mechanic probabilities to the real world probabilities or conversely is at best perilous, and assuming literal exactness will lead you astray.
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Old 11-06-2006, 02:02 AM   #9
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Default Re: Immortality in THS

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitsune
In the John Sanchez thread
I want to focus on the Cellular Rejuvenation treatment described on THS p.167 - and its ramifications.

That would mean a failure rate of less than half of a percent. In other words: if a especially vain person would undergo the cellular rejuvenation treatment at the age of 50 (quite early by the standards of the setting) and then every 50 years thereafter, his or her chances to be able to celebrate his/her 1000th birthday are statistically a bit over 91% ! (A

But according to canon the US is classified as a high Fourth Wave nation where "not everyone enjoys complete access to Fifth Waves technologies" albeit with "large Fifth Wave pockets thoughout the country" (Fifth Wave page 21).

What does this mean for the overall impact of that technology for the world? In my opinion: quite extensive. I

Conclusion: the ramifications for the societies and therefore their politics of the THS setting may actually be quite severe. Especially the technology of cellular rejuvenation may cause significant demographic shifts. Even overpopulation may become a threat again.
Any thoughts?
- A hidden demographic bomb in THS is the p. 29 statement that population stats don't include AIs. An AI or ghost may not eat, but it does use resources, and it can reproduce like crazy.
- Cellular regeneration is meant to be a dangerous and expensive option at the cutting edge of medical treatment; the text says it is still controversial due to the risk involved. I expect it will be much more common and reliable in another 5-10 years, though.
- There are vast numbers of places in THS where exotic and risky medical treatment of this and other types is easily available; the strong transhumanist and morphological freedom memes lead to this. You won't get sued; there's decades of case law dating from the 2040s onward protecting you.
- Combos of artery cleaners, DNA repair, carinophages, immune machines, biogenesis organ transplant etc. mean that you should have a ridiculously extended lifespan anyway. As long as you're effectively in a 4th or 5th wave society, you pretty much just won't die of "old age."
- I suspect circa 2120 the conditions will exist for a major population movement off world, thanks to the completion of the Earth beanstalk and a desire to escape from growing social instability on Earth caused by increasing distance as societies transition out from Fourth Wave to Fifth Wave and FW entities demand full reproductive rights, leaving those stuck in Third Wave to Fourth Wave transition completly behind in terms of numbers and economic power.
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Last edited by David L Pulver; 11-06-2006 at 02:07 AM.
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Old 11-06-2006, 06:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: Immortality in THS

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs
It's worth noting that Elizabeth Moon's Heris Serrano and Esmay Suiza novels explore the effects of a comparably effective life extension technology, with some good handling of details—for example, what happens in the navy when neither admirals nor top level petty officers will ever reach retirement age? Moon suggests that apart from emigration, the long run logic points at aggressive military expansion.
Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga is a pretty nice space opera with a very effective life extension techonlogy (and it has FTL by wormholes, which leads to the renaissance of train instead of starships ;->). It shows its consequences pretty well - rejuvenation treatments are affordable because you can pay them off in your next life, so everybody gets one and the positions of power are all occupied by multi-lifers, people before their first rejuvenation (first lifers) have to be really talented to get to be somebody important in their first life. :-)

Also, obviously, marriages "till death do us part" become a thing of the past, since not many people are able to live with the same mate for hundreds of years.
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