emanuel_derman's picture
Professor, Financial Engineering, Columbia University; Author, Models.Behaving.Badly

The biggest game-changer looming in your future, if not mine, is Life Prolongation. It works for mice and worms, and surely one of these days it'll work for the rest of us.

The current price for Life Prolongation seems to be semi-starvation; the people who try it wear loose clothes to hide their ribs and intentions. There's something desperate and shameful about starving yourself in order to live longer. But right now biologists are tinkering with reservatrol and sirtuins, trying to get you the benefit of life prolongation without cutting back on calories.

Life and love gets their edge from the possibility of their ending. What will life be like when we live forever? Nothing will be the same.

The study of financial options shows that there is no free lunch. What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. If you want optionality, you have to pay a price, and part of that price is that the value of your option erodes every day. That's time decay. If you want a world where nothing fades away with time anymore, it will be because because there's nothing to fade away.

No one dies. No one gets older. No one gets sick. You can't tell how old someone is by looking at them or touching them. No May-September romances. No room for new people. Everyone's an American car in Havana, endlessly repaired and maintained long after its original manufacturer is defunct. No breeding. No one born. No more evolution. No sex. No need to hurry. No need to console anyone. If you want something done, give it to a busy man, but no one need be busy when you have forever. Life without death changes absolutely everything.

If everyone is an extended LP, the turntable has to turn very slowly.

Who's going to do the real work, then? Chosen people who will volunteer or be volunteered to be mortal.

If you want things to stay the same, then things will have to change (Giuseppe di Lampedusa in The Leopard).