If people are not dying from decrepitude, if people have an infinite life expectancy, if all humans become immortal. What would a government do to prevent overpopulation?
What would/should a government do against immortality

  • to prevent overpopulation?
  • to overcome the loss of natural selection?
  • to deal with pension while not abusing labor rights while not damaging employer?

Should it be forbidden to get older than 100 years or force a 0-child-policy?
Are there friendlier options?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Elmy, Mołot, Frostfyre, Ryan_L, RonJohn Nov 15 at 18:30

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    Forbidding to get older than 100 can be translated to "kill everyone who is 100", and that logically is not immortality. – L.Dutch Nov 15 at 15:41
  • 2
    Encourage risk taking off-planet – nzaman Nov 15 at 15:43
  • 2
    This question is better suited for StackExchange Philosophy because it doesn't ask how to build a world but about morals. – Elmy Nov 15 at 15:43
  • @L.Dutch Immortality means in this case just resistance against sinility – Jannis Nov 15 at 15:43
  • @Separatrix I changed it to decrepitude... i hate google translator – Jannis Nov 15 at 15:47
up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is actually a scientific question that has already garnered a lot of philosophical thought. Many have noted that immortality might be possible in the next few hundred years or so. So some investigation into its implications have already begun.

I suggest you do some light reading on the ethics of immortality:

  1. Pros and Cons

  2. JStor scientific article

  3. Senescence Society

However here are some key points that you may want to be aware of.

A. Never aging does not mean an end to death. I believe the estimated lifespan of someone who never dies from old age (but can still die from car accidents, war, muggings, viruses, etc) places humans at around 1000 year life expectancies. So while over-population will become an increasing problem, it is not like there will be infinite humans that keep piling up and never go away.

B. Lowering birth rates can counter overpopulation. Are you aware that all first world countries have declining birth rates? Why is probably a cobimnation of technology, passtimes, cost, and so on. However it is not a stretch to believe that if all humans are uplifted to the lifestyle of first world countries (and the lifestyle of the future), that birth rates may drop off drastically. Perhaps to the point that birthrates may only be a little higher than the estimated death rates of humans.

C. Space Travel. With the advent of space travel, and offworld colonies a possibility in the near future, it is then plausible to think that excess human capital can move offworld. If this is the case, then we may want the historically high human-birthrate. This is because there are bound to be a lot of accidents in space and on hostile planets that would lead to loss of life, and the need for colonists. So this may be another way to deal with an overpopulation issue.

We just need to maintain context, and understand that immortality, being a technological advancement, may be accompanied with other technological advancements like space travel.

D. Social Safety Net Programs. I don't think that it is a stretch to predict that almost all of these would disappear (at least as they are related to work). If someone doesn't age, and can work their whole life, then why do they need to be looked after into old age? They don't. Social safety net programs will in many ways becomes obsolete. The ones that may stay, are a universal income, or food stamps to prevent people from dying.

E. Natural selection. If you understand natural selection you will understand that natural selection never stops. If all humans never died (a more extreme case than will be the reality) then evolution would never stop. The only thing you may get is increased interference for a while, as newer generations breed with older generations and genetic change has a few rollbacks in the march forwards.

Conclusion:

Overt countermeasures will most likely not be required. Social countermeasures will come into place on their own, and future opportunities may mediate all foreseen problems.

  • I don't think space travel would be a good way to reduce populations. Leaving Earth is extremely expensive, and there are not really any good places nearby to colonize. Even if it becomes much cheaper, emigration did not typically prevent overpopulation in the past. At most a couple million leave, which is a drop in the bucket. – Richard Smith Nov 15 at 18:55
  • 2
    @Richard Smith Your statements that "Leaving Earth is extremely expensive', & "At most a couple million leave" are extremely arbitrary. In the future leaving Earth might become many times cheaper. As for good places to colonize, possibly space habitats might be built in vast numbers from asteroid materials. I once rad a statement that the population of the solar system could be as high as quadrillions a mere thousand years after the first space habitats were started, though that depends on factors including will people reproduce fast enough. – M. A. Golding Nov 16 at 16:33

Should the government prevent overpopulation?

Overpopulation creates societal pressures that will, in time, trigger progress. Whether that progress consists of driving people off into the stars or starting a war. To attempt to prevent this will cause social stagnation and ultimately, extinction.

If people are immortal then the time taken for interstellar travel becomes a mere inconvenience rather than a barrier. They will eventually take to the stars.

We have already prevented most of the effects of natural selection on our species. Being too sick or disabled to survive in the wild is no longer a problem in our modern society. Our tools override such issues.

Pensions are irrelevant. The point of a pension is to give you some time to be old and useless without being a burden on society before you die. Since you're not going to die, you don't get a pension. Keep working, peasant.

Let it happen, let the pressure build, and see where it takes you. The best option is probably to do nothing.

Overpopulation

Currently, there are only three main ways to prevent overpopulation.

  1. Human "reduction": Killing people arbitrarily (or carefully chosen) is one of the best (but at the same time the most horrible) way to prevent overpopulation. When a person reaches an age or condition (e.g: go to jail, be randomly chosen, live in an overpopulated block, etc). He is taken (willingly or not) away to commit suicide. If you kill the same amount of people than born, the balance will stay.
  2. Dispatch people: Not in the sense of killing, literally dispatch people to other planet or space colonies. This is an extremely expensive way and would require around a century more technology than us, but possible if you don't want to kill people don't forbid having child. Basically, you move the problem to another place, know the question would be: What we do when we run out of galaxies...?
  3. Population control: With a good health care system, is possible to make a population control in order to maintain the balance of borns and deaths. The government can forbid having offspring, either forcing abort on pregnant women or by sterilising people by force. This idea has a better money/ethic ratio than the other 2, you don't just incinerate people but at least don't have to build spaceships.

Also, with a good, highly educated, correct culture and powerful massive media are possible to make this 3 alternatives less by law. For example, you don't need to kill people, force them to sterilize or banishing from Earth. Having a good campaign, people will be willing to sterilize for the better of the planet, some of them will rush to explore new and existing planets and maybe a few will assist to be euthanized.
Even more, you don't need a good social media, for example having taxes reduction for you and your family is you sterilize or go to another planet maybe encourage them. Who knows, maybe a reward for people hunters may also encourage the killing...

Evolution

Evolution never stops, just slow. People will still die from diseases, criminals, war, accidents, suicide, etc. New people will bear just slower. Evolution is still there, almost faint but still exist.

Pension

I think you are thinking it wrong. At the moment, you only get a pension because you get old. If you are immortal, you never age, you never get old, you never stop working.

In such a social mileau euthanasia, voluntary or involuntary, becomes necessary. Preventing reproduction, the active inhibition of innovation or fresh viewpoint, would be the deathknell of any human society. Much like in our society, older humans would be prohibited from having children much past the age of fifty or so.

There are two sorts of approaches to this - a harsh sort of autocratic society where people are conditioned to see themselves as agents of the state/society and voluntarily or involuntarily lay themselves down on or before the deadline, as their duty, or are hunted down and dispatched with social opprobrium to their family.

Slightly alternatively, a more altruistic society where there is the sense that laying down is the sustainable, loving thing to do, and they get a nice send-off. Compliance is very high, dissent from the mandate almost non-existent.

The only real difference between the two situations is that the value or sense of obligation is more humanely internalized in the latter situation. The steel fists is always there, the velvet glove optional but imminently preferable.

In neither society would capitalism, or a great extent of privatization be encouraged, because that sets up counter-forces to the mandate which rulers would find at all times disruptive & threatening.

The mandate would become a great leveler.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.