The average American lives for about 78 and a half years. That’s not bad. The Japanese live longer (82.6 years), but Americans live roughly twice as long as the unfortunate residents of Mozambique, where the average life expectancy is just 39.2 years!
When planning for retirement, most experts suggest that you plan for the best possible outcome. No one would say that an American guy who retires at 65 will need money only for about 10 years (American men die, on average, shortly after turning 75.) Rather, it pays to be optimistic. Make sure you’ll have adequate funds to live for a very long time. A nice round number is 100. Maybe that should be your goal.
But what if you never die?
It’s not as strange as it sounds. The science of life extension grows more interesting each year. And although there are people who figure that the maximum a human can be made to live is about 125 years, and there other people who worry about the ethical issues involved in extending life, much of the thinking about longevity has the same flaw: it’s done by humans.
But the length of our lives may soon be determined by machines.
Consider, if you haven’t already, the Singularity.
The Singularity is a concept first explored by a science-fiction writer named Vernor Vinge. In 1993 he delivered a lecture in which he said “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”
Vinge, and others like him, most notably the writer and scientist Raymond Kurzweil, argue that we are rapidly approaching the emergence of a technologically based, greater-than-human intelligence.
But we’re not talking about super-smart computers. Rather, the theory behind the Singularity is that super-smart computers can develop smarter and faster computers that will build smarter and faster computers ad infinitum. Or, as Time magazine puts it: “Their rate of development would also continue to increase because they would take over their own development from their slower-thinking human creators.”
This is all related to a concept called “accelerating change.” In layman’s terms, that means that things get faster, faster. So the first generation of super entities (which took centuries to arrive), would build the second generation in, say, a year. The second generation would build the third in a month. And on and on and on.
In the sunny, optimistic view of the Singularity, the world is transformed at a rate that we (confined to our human brains) literally cannot imagine – but it’s all really wonderful. These new entities will solve diseases, control the environment, show us how to maximize our resources here on earth until the super ships they build return from other planets with new wonderful resources they can turn into other fantastic things, etc.
And these benevolent entities would ensure that humans live forever — perhaps by improving our bodies, or replacing them, or discarding them entirely in favor of an upload into something else.
Now sure, the whole idea is crazy. But there are people much, much smarter than you and I who think it’s going to happen.
Start Planning Now
So maybe you should start planning.
If, for example, you’re managed to put away a few hundred thousand dollars to fund your retirement, will that really hold you over for the next few countless millennia?
Now we at MyBankTracker are unaware of any investment plan that will guarantee you an income for all eternity.
So we’re just going to have to hope that the super entities of the post-Singularity universe will solve our personal-finance woes too.
In the meantime, let’s all keep our fingers crossed that their plan isn’t to feed us Soylent Green while we toil forever in a paper clip factory. Or worse, that lawyers will get their hands on the technology of immortality.
Simon Zhen is a research analyst for MyBankTracker. He is an expert on consumer banking products, bank innovations, and financial technology.
Simon has contributed and/or been quoted in major publications and outlets including Consumer Reports, American Banker, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News – World Report, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Lifehacker, and AOL.com.