The setting is the modern day, US. All aspects (unless addressed by the question) can be assumed to be the same as our current, real Earth.

This question has the assumption that a technology exists that can provide a person a new, 18-year-old body, effectively allowing immortality if the individual's brain can be recovered. Obviously such a technology will have a high market demand.

This question is not about the technology; its existence is handwaved.

What cost, in USD, for the body and operation would stop most of the middle class (>60%) from being able to make use of this technology?

Most citizens are assumed to want to make use of this technology, and are probably willing to sacrifice savings to take advantage of this.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I assume insurance won't cover it? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 16 '19 at 19:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In 0.65 seconds, Google told me that the average lifetime income of a college graduate in the U.S.A. is about 1.8 million. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 16 '19 at 19:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Alexander One can assume insurance could apply, in a similar fashion that car insurance will cover you replacing a car. If I want insurance great enough so whenever I crash my car I can replace it, the insurance rate would be high. Nothing comes for free. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Apr 16 '19 at 19:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @NexTerren: A person simply cannot pay more than they make in a lifetime; not "won't", not "shouldn't": literally cannot. Put the price at three of four times the average lifetime income for a college graduate and the treatment is certain to be out of reach for most members of the middle class. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 16 '19 at 22:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Next Terren In regards to insurance, I don't believe companies would give New-Body insurance. Insurance works based on the idea that most people won't use it. Your New-Body insurance is practically guaranteed to be used. Looking at hearing aids for example, most medical insurance doesn't cover them. (Side gripe: And they're considered "luxury" items by US taxes.) The reason being that replacing them eventually is near-guaranteed so either the insurance price becomes too high to be practical or the company loses money. So insurance probably isn't the way to go. (Life insurance addressed below. $\endgroup$ – mVitus Apr 17 '19 at 13:35

10 Answers 10


Price doesn't matter.

On matters of life-and-death, no one could care less about economics. No proprietary legal protections will stand against the overwhelming political demand that the technology be made accessible to everyone.

If necessary, world leaders would instruct their armed services to obtain the technology for open release, or else the population will throw them out of office in favor of leaders who will. It is implausible that society will stand for any legal system that requires them to die when there's a viable technical alternative.

At best, people who want to profit from the technology should understand that they can't really profit from granting access to the technology so much as facilitating it. This is, the population's unlikely to rebel if, say, the company that invents the technology is making credible efforts to mass-distribute it to everyone. Most will forgive such a company if they try to grab obscene profits in the process, so long as they're making the product reasonably accessible.

Feasibility matters.

If immortality technology isn't widely distributed, it won't be widely distributed because it can't be.

In most plausible scenarios, this will be a temporary supply-chain limitation problem, as with any new technology. If some credible mode of clinical immortality is discovered, then many people will correctly realize that what will stand between them having a relatively short life vs. a far longer one will be happenstance; it could be pretty contentious, to say the least.

If the technology is limited to few in the long-term, that'd be harder to explain. It'd require some plausible reason that society hasn't devoted resources to growing the supply chain, or whatever else might be needed to get it out there.

Price segmentation

Say that you have a product everyone wants, e.g. cell phones or computers, and you want to make a lot of money from the rich buyers while still making it accessible to the poor buyers. How do you do that? Price segmentation.

So in your story:

This question has the assumption that there exists a technology exists that can provide a person a new, 18-year-old body, effectively allowing immortality if the individual's brain can be recovered. Obviously such a technology will have a high market demand.

Seems like a company/government/whatever that manages the distribution of these bodies would want to make a version that's basically free. Maybe people who get it will have to sign some sort of contract with a lien on their future wages or something, but basically there'd need to be a model everyone can afford somehow.

But... maybe the male version has a penis that's just a little too... little. And perhaps a tad shorter, and a bit heavier, with less muscle, and perhaps a propensity for uneven hair loss? It'd have to be tuned. It doesn't necessarily have to be a bad option from an objective point-of-view, just has to be something that someone with money would select against given the choice.

Then there'd be a model that's more reasonable. Most people could afford it by spending most of their money, and it'd be more like what people would think of as "average".

Then there'd be the Plus-version. Most attributes are a bit improved, etc.. Only the rich can afford it, making it uncommon.

Then the Deluxe-version, with various ideal human characteristics. It'd be the thing everyone wants, but only the ultra-rich could afford it.

It's hard to say if society would really stand for such extremes (I kinda doubt it), but if it's for a fictional story, it seems a bit less morbid while being at least as interesting as a dreary dystopian setting.

For examples of this pricing model, you can check out a lot of freemium games in which players design avatars. You could basically do the same, where everyone can get the basic body for free, but they get better stuff the more they pay, with diminishing returns to inspire everyone from the poorest-of-the-poor to the ultra-rich to sink their cash into whatever they can afford.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The first part sums up the problems. The population will not allow this to be limited to the rich: if it's flatly unreachable for anyone below the top 1%, there will be massive theft and/or revolution. Try to limit it to specific nations? Every nation on the planet will get spies in to obtain the necessary information in record time; I don't care what your security budget is, there will be leaks in the face of that assault. The free market dictates that corporations will refine the process and lower the price until it becomes feasible for the majority, so a financial barrier won't be enough. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Apr 17 '19 at 11:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ so the base model would be the "average Joe/Jane" and the premium model would guarantee to client with a genetically perfect, or at least enhanced model. The more add-on's you order the higher the price. However, the existence of genetically engineered super humans running around would definitely have a serious impact on society. $\endgroup$ – Sonvar Apr 23 '19 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ If the world did work that way, everyone would have decent health coverage. And even limiting ourselves to developed nations, the US is infamous for letting people die for lack of a decent health insurance system. And there are a number of people that consider poverty to be a sin or the results of a sin, and would spend efforts and money maintaining the status quo. And then it may simply be impossible to lower the price. If you need a million man-hours of work and 100 kg of osmium, cost won't be lowered much. $\endgroup$ – Eth Apr 24 '19 at 10:50

TDLR: Money will not stop them.

Immortality (even sequential Immortality if you need to renew the body every 30-50 years) is one of the most valuable options to a human I can think of.

Think of all the advantages you would get (even more in financial issues and power aggregation).

Example: You are 50, had a decent life, some small savings. Immortality is in the news. Wouldn't you try everything you can (crime included) to get it?

Think about some small mobsters and gangsters, not really rich. They would kill for 100.000$ or less (numbers just for example, I do not have market contacts :) ). What would they do for immortality?

Point is, this is not an ordinary luxury item. It's one of the most seducing and attractive feats for humankind. I do not think that a price tag will prevent people from trying to get it.

At least not for a significant portion of humankind. There may be some who choose not to prolong their life for ethical/religious reasons. But for all the others, they will basically try everything they can, even more so when they are older.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ This would be an epic plot for a story... $\endgroup$ – Efialtes Apr 16 '19 at 20:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have to disagree with this. You could easily make the same arguments about crime for simple money's sake. What stops someone from delving into a life of crime is the society around them, presumably citizens and law enforcement. "Willing to be able to commit a crime" does not promise you success, and in fact for many items in many cases pretty much promises failure. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Apr 16 '19 at 20:09
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Nevermind crime. The result of this type of technology being withheld from a significant portion of the population is inexorably revolution. Doesn't matter what you think of your government or where you stand on the free market debate, people are necessarily going to band together and demand that this technology be made available to all if it was ever developed. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Apr 16 '19 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ @NexTerren I disagree with you. Money is one thing, but immortality is just another league in my opinion. I will concede however that a good part of the population will not use violence or open riots to get it. But a quarter of the population (just for example) would be enough. $\endgroup$ – user6415 Apr 18 '19 at 21:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @NexTerren Well... Average Joe doesn't try to commit crimes because they weigh the tradeoff of current situation and what they want to achieve, against the risk and consequences of failure. We already see the desperate try to commit crimes because the risk and consequences are worth it considering the shitty alternative. So when average Joe faces death as the alternative to committing a crime, I'd bet Joe would try to commit a crime... $\endgroup$ – Spoki0 - Reinstate Monica Apr 26 '19 at 10:28

You do not pay with money. You trade your freedom, everything you own, and your right to live on Earth.

John Scalzi - Old Mans War.

I further recognize and understand that by terminating my local citizenship and planetary Residential Franchise, I am barred from subsequent return to Earth and, upon completion of my term of service within the Colonial Defense Forces, will be relocated to whatsoever colony I am allotted by the Colonial Union and/or the Colonial Defense Forces.” More simply put: You can’t go home again...

I’ve never asked, but I would imagine that it is this paragraph that causes the most people to turn back. It’s one thing to think you want to be young again; it’s quite another thing to turn your back on everything you’ve ever known, everyone you’ve ever met or loved, and every experience you’ve ever had over the span of seven and a half decades. It’s a hell of a thing to say good-bye to your whole life. I signed. “Paragraph six—final paragraph,” the recruiter said. “I recognize and understand that as of seventy-two hours of the final signing of this document, or my transport off Earth by the Colonial Defense Forces, whichever comes first, I will be presumed as deceased for the purposes of law in all relevant political entities, in this case the State of Ohio and the United States of America. Any and all assets remaining to me will be dispensed with according to law. All legal obligations or responsibilities that by law terminate at death will be so terminated."...


In this fine piece of fiction, restored youth (and other enhancements) are given in exchange for enlistment as an off world soldier. You are young but you are theirs. When you are done with your duties you get to settle as a colonist... in theory. Mostly old people nearing death sign up, and by no means all of them. It is a fine and well written book with this and many other high SF concepts.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Anyone who is driven, ambitious, talented and wants to live long and prosperous of his work will opt to immigrate as soon as legally possibile. Why should an Elon Musk build up his industrial empire on earth if he'll die or loose it anyways? Just immigrate early and spend those youthful years on laying your lifes foundation after the military service. This does not solve the financial issue, it creates an extremely brain drained enclave where people can still die. $\endgroup$ – TheDyingOfLight Apr 17 '19 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDyingOfLight - in the book, those wanting the new body give up their possession to their heirs and are declared legally dead. So if circumstances on Earth are such that it is easier for you there it makes sense for you to stick it out as long as you can. When your time is getting short, hand off what you have to your heirs and start the clock again. But this sort of jump into the unknown is a scary prospect and I would think especially scary for some old people. $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 17 '19 at 13:54

Money will stop them, but the price tag will be extremely high. TL;DR: at least \$15million.

The immortality will essentially prolong your life for 50 years (for each brain transplantation). If you can't make enough money in these 50 years to pay for your next transplantation, it would be pointless (edit: more precisely, unsustainable) - sure you can borrow money and make the next one happen, but how about the one after next? Are you planning to work for 50 years so that you can work 50 years more? Sisyphys thinks it's a bad idea.

That's not just a hypothetical scenario. I don't see much difference between (brain transplantation -> 50 more years) and (liver transplantation -> 20 more years), except you will be healthier after the brain transplantation. Many people in real life can't afford the medical bill to prolong their life for extra 20 years. For some of them who are desperate enough, they will commit crimes to try to get those money, but majority of them just accept their fate.

If the brain transplantation costs $1billion, it WILL stop more than 99% of the people. More realistically, a research on 2017 US individual income shows a 99 percentile to be \$300k/yr, so assume people work 50 years, that will be \$15million. Any price tag higher than that works.

I'm no insurance expert, but I think the insurance will not cover something that 'everyone will use it'.

My understanding for insurance is that the company maintains the system by calculating 'risk'. If you are lucky enough never have to file a claim, you are essentially paying for other people who had the accident.

So if a insurance company have 100 customers, and a disease is 1% likely to strike any of them, and they need 100k to treat the disease, then everyone just pay 1k, so that on average there will be 100*1%=1 patient, and they can afford the treatment cost (as a whole).

For the brain transplantation however, EVERYONE in this system needs it. So eventually everyone will pay their own portion, unless the ☭government☭ helps?

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Pointless? Suppose you are dying, but there is an operation that can save you. Regardless of what may happen in another 50 years, wouldn't you still go for it, or say it's "pointless"? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 16 '19 at 19:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Alexander I should have used the word "unsustainable", and eventually that proves that sooner or later, someone can't pay for their next transplantation. $\endgroup$ – Chenxi GE Apr 16 '19 at 22:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Alexander Some people do refuse potentially lifesaving operations if they think it'd put too much strain on their family. Think of it as "either I get it and watchbmy kids work their ass off to cover the cost until death or I die and give my kids a bigger chance of getting it". Same as education. Some people decide not to get one and work to give their kids a better chance. $\endgroup$ – IcedLance Apr 17 '19 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ @IcedLance the key word here is "some" $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 17 '19 at 15:57

No matter how much someone is willing to give up in order to have this technology (or anything they want badly enough), they can not give what they don't have.

If there is no insurance to cover the costs, and no grants (or you've already factored these in), then you're left with down payment and costs of a loan.

The payment may have to be made all at once (like it is when you buy a house) but banks will eagerly step in provide financing to qualified borrowers.

When you buy a house you either pay "all cash" (which means you just buy it outright, not necessarily literally with cash) or you get a mortgage. In the US, a standard mortgage is fixed rate for 30 years. Interest rates are relatively low (right now they're in the 4% range) but, when you pay over 30 years, you end up paying more in interest than in principal. Most banks will only loan you money for a single-family home such that the maximum monthly payment is no more than 1/3 of your income. You can fudge that some, but the understanding is that's what is reasonable for most people to pay.

If a new body were a house, we could calculate an amount that >60% of the middle class could not afford to pay off.

But a new body isn't a house. What's the difference? If you keep a house in good condition, it will still be worth about the same amount in 30 years (barring changes in the market, inflation, and the drop for a brand-new house).

Your new body is worthless to anyone but you in 30 years. It may even be worthless in 30 days. We don't know if the technology (or ethics) exists in the author's world to "repossess" a body and sell it to someone else. Even if it does, that body will age.

The reason banks are eager to make loans for people to buy housing, if there is a reasonable chance they'll be able to pay it off, is because, if the borrower fails, the bank gets the house. They get to sell it and take the first part of the profits to pay the loan and their costs. If there's anything leftover, the former homeowner gets it. Or the homeowners can sell the house themselves to avoid the bank doing it. Either way, the loan gets paid (one hopes) from the proceeds of the sale.

You can't do this with a body.

So the question becomes, does the person getting a new body have enough collateral? Their house equity would be number one here.

If you want to prevent the majority of the middle class from being able to afford a new body, set the price so that every middle class family can afford one.

Emphasis on one.

My assumption is that most middle class families own a house. Obviously this is completely false. It used to be true for most though and I'm going to run numbers as if it still were. Assume if you're middle class you probably live in the house you own with your spouse (or that your parents own, or you might be single and own one).

Assume that it is possible to get a loan for a new body based on your home as collateral.

Most households could afford one new body this way. They could not afford two. But most households have two people of about the same age, plus kids. Any one can get a terrible disease or be in an accident. But most people will get new bodies when they get old (which gives you a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and so on). And most households will have two people getting old about the same time.

This gives you about 60% of people in the middle class who can not afford a new body.

People who don't own homes or other assets that allow them to get loans, and who don't have enough income to buy a house, will be left out.

People whose spouse already got a new body are left out.

People with a kid or a parent who already got a new body are left out. Most kids will grow up, get jobs, marry, and buy their own house. But there will still be enough family members who don't do this, or who get ill/injured young, that it will lower the percentage of middle class people who have a chance at a new body.

Conclusion: Set the price of a new body to around the price of a house in a strong housing market.

You want the cost to be something a family can only do once (families can change houses but not buy more than one at a time, if they're middle class). Getting a new body means giving up your house or using your house as collateral with the hopes that you can somehow scrape together the payments. Very few middle class families can do this more than once. Larger families could, but the numbers still work out because most of the family members couldn't do it.

New homeowners couldn't get a new body because they don't have enough equity. The bank that holds the mortgage gets dibs on the collateral should the family default on payments. Using your house as collateral is ideal for elderly people; the most common customer in need of a new body.

| improve this answer | |

In a free market with competition, the invisible hand will lower the price so that eventually most people can afford it.

I'd assume, everyone on earth would want to buy immortality so the market is HUGE. There will be huge incentive for the company that can lower the cost of immortality so trillions would be poured into R&D.

Billions are already spent on cancer R&D and most treatments only expand your life expectancy by 2 years.

How much do you think would be invested in R&D for a technology that can expand your life expectancy to infinity?

| improve this answer | |

So for a number how about $1 million. Or an auction with only the top 1000 (or however many) bidders getting the procedure. This has the advantage of self scaling.

But a large cost isn't the only way to do this. What if in addition to being expensive there were vast waiting lists and all sorts of tests and evaluations that had to be performed first. The average person, even if they have enough cash can't just go buy the procedure, they have to wade through red tape that could take decades. In order to get the procedure in reality you have to have connections or serious bribe money to avoid that process making social capital important and limiting the procedure to the elites regardless of wealth.

| improve this answer | |

The initial cost may be prohibitively expensive. Think about how much R&D money would have to be poured into creating the technology. The massive infrastructure to clone a human vessel, grow it for 18 years and ensure the vessel is physically fit for the end user. the cost to raise a kid to 18 isn't cheap. Think about all the scientist, medical professionals and engineers that need to keep the vessel in top condition would cost. I assume several millions if not tens of millions. Not to mention the cost of acquiring enough embryos to begin the cloning process.

I would imagine this would be offered in trade for certain services. As @Willk suggested, the military would have the funds and need to replace the bodies of their recruits. Big corporations want to keep a high end engineer around a few more decades. A sort of benefit to sign up for service to an organization or company. the organization or company in turn benefit from the talent they hired for a long time. They would not make the initial purchase unless they know the quality of persons they are gaining.

A lot of people mention that people would do anything, including crimes, to acquire this new body. Unfortunately, if the price tag is in the millions of dollars one would not be able to steal enough to buy one, especially if the other 7 billion people are trying to do the same. Also, with that price tag, I am sure the fund transfers are watched pretty closely by government agencies, so the companies may not want to do business in such a way.

Until the market makes cloning human vessels and growing them for 18 years more affordable, it may be out of reach of most people for several decades. But to peons will get to enjoy watching their esteemed leaders in the government marching around in their designer bodies, telling them how to live their lives.

| improve this answer | |

There are a few layers of this question when think about it:


The first whole human genome sequencing cost roughly 2.7 billion USD in 2003. In 2006, the cost decreased to 300,000 USD. In 2016, the cost decreased to 1,000 USD. Assuming that this tech would follow even remotely similar price trajectory, a young person does not have to choose between saving himself or grandma.

2) Most people actually don't need this tech... right now. Seriously, it's an offer for retirees and other people who have short time to live.

So let's sum up what a person can offer:

  • his savings
  • his future earnings (at least from "next life", possibly even from future ones)
  • is such new person entitled to retirement money? (presumably someone would reform it, but for a while it may be extra cash flow to pay up debt)
  • savings of all loving, younger relatives, who expect that in 50 years this becomes cheaper

OK, so now there is a place for banks or other financial institutions to step in. Wall Street would love new "Clone Based Securities". Interest rates are low, so maybe something in price range even of 5 mln dollar. Oh yes, affordability of such product would be terribly based on interest rates and general opinion of markets on safety of those instruments.

So it's possibly not an issue how much you have, but how as how credit worthy you are perceived.

@Sonvar Being lectured by immortal politicians? I still think that more instability would be brought by people who would die because of credit crunch...

| improve this answer | |

A good analogy to this is pensions, the average UK person has around £73000 in their pension pot when they retire.

So scale up from there, if you want the average person to be able to afford it at a stretch then put the price around £100k. If you want only the better off then put it at £500k. If you want it to be only the rich then put it at £2M. If you want it only the mega-rich then put it at £100M or £1B.

The one thing you can be sure of is that most people who can afford it will pay it.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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