The year is 2120, and the world is (depressingly/refreshingly) similar. Sure, technology has advanced and there are flying cars, trains run through voided tunnels at 1000 mph and scramjets take the rich from Canberra to New York in 2 hours, and our virtual personal assistants ("Jeeves") often appear smarter than their owners. The unemployment rate hovers at a steady 70%, but with all the automation and the universal guaranteed personal income, that's not as terrible a thing as one might think. True Artificial Intelligence has proven elusive, and after (what even later history books would call) the War of the Lesser Abominations, AI research is at this point forbidden across most of the civilized regions of the planet, and a well-funded AGI Taskforce roams the slumlands hunting out rogue AI developers.

The one notable feature of this world that I'm interested in for the purpose of this question is that most people can expect to live to 200 years, with life expectancy growing at just under 1 year per year for much of the past century. Dementia, cancer, heart disease are quaint things of the past century, with suicide, accidents, and engineered viruses now the largest killers by far.

What would the implications of a 200 year lifespan be? I'm thinking specifically:

a) Career - would getting multiple PhDs become the norm for a well-educated member of the body economic (a.k.a. any employed person)? Would career progression be stifled by dinosaurs that won't retire or would innovation be instead boosted by the extra willingness to devote a decade or two to a risky project?

b) Family life - would dating one's grandchildren's friends be regarded as normal, and would marriages become limited-duration contracts?

c) Is there anything major that I'm overlooking? Yes, I'm aware of the concept of undying tyrants, and will not be pursuing it directly here.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting... People would have to work longer, but there is also 70% unemployment and universal guaranteed personal income, meaning less people are working at all, and don't really need to if they don't want... $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Jan 14 '16 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ Vitally important question: does fertility also get extended? Or does a woman still have her children before fifty unless she's an extreme outlier? $\endgroup$ – Mary Jan 11 at 1:35


Stagnation is the name of the game. If you've ever tried to change processes when your manager has been doing things the same way for 30 years and it's always been fine in the past, imagine what it would be like when it's been done the same way for 130 years. Asking for 5 years industry experience? No, now you can ask for 30 years experience. New tech? No way, if it ain't broken... Young people are going to remain unemployed until their children have grown up. Your kids will be at Uni by the time you've got the steady career that you've only just got into in your late 20s/early 30s, which may even become your late 50s early 60s. What's the rush anyway? You'll be doing it for another 100 years.


This largely depends on the importance of family in the culture you come from. Marriage might as well be a limited term contract as it is. Some people will partner for life but the majority will done by 20 years or so. Relationships will apply to specific periods in your life, rarely carrying over to the next stage. Early ones for fun, then a steady one for reproduction, moving into a career growth relationship, before a steady one again when you settle into a specific role, finally a retirement relationship for travelling and some old age fun.

  • $\begingroup$ Marriages not lasting "till death do us part" is becoming more common wherever divorce has been legalized, so it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine than in such a society it has become the norm for marriages to be more of a temporary partnership, with no stigma attached to it, even to the point that lifelong relationships are seen as quaint. $\endgroup$ – Oskuro Nov 2 '16 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention opportunities for advancement will dry up due to older professionals no longer dying and the whole nature of "dead man's shoes" advancement drying up. It would be hell for careers very dependent on such practices such as academia. $\endgroup$ – user2352714 Jan 10 at 20:18

Family? This partially depends on ability to procreate. Currently women have a limited time frame and in this scenario it would be the first 1/4 of their lifetime. This of course can be 'overridden' even with today's tech but there might be other issues for even a healthy 120 year old woman having children.

Men have other issues, though medication helps with some, the problem is that the older either or both biological parents are the more likely of genetic issues, such as Down's Syndrome. Maybe by then most pregnancies would be shifted through to ensure 'normal, healthy' children, kind of like Gattaca.

Though with such a long life, one thing I think could happen, is that the 'young' people 20's-50's might produce children for the older generation. Have a child, and let older people raise the child, and you continue living your life unencumbered, visiting your kids like they might be siblings. Completely rewriting family dynamics.

Career? I suspect those who need to be busy will work until they die. Those that like to learn will have several doctorates. And the many of the rest will be allowed to follow our interests to where ever they lead. Many people today would try and do many other things than what they get paid for, if they didn't need to earn money to live. I'm a woodworker, and becoming a blacksmith, I also review books, but I make my living as a software engineer, which lets me do those other things, so I have to fit them in around my work schedule.

200 years to perfect something also could improve many different technologies. But it also allows for incorrect thoughts to live much longer. Many scientific paradigm shifts don't usually appear. They become more accepted as the old school retires and dies out. If they stay an extra 40-50 years in a field it could severely hamper that field of study.


150 years ago the expected lifespan was around 40 years almost half than what it is now.

People 150 years ago were getting married in their teens, now they are getting married in their mid to late 20s and not it's not uncommon to wait until 30 and over, with 200 year lifespan, people might wait until their 50s or 60s (given that they can still have kids at that age).

Average education has also increased significantly, not only due to longer lifespan, but also due to more complex industry that requires that higher education. I don't see any reason for that to stop. People might decide to travel more, explore, have a "fun" career (bartender on a tropical beach anyone?) for a few years before they go back for PhD and research.

I don't think dating wise anything will change that much. There would be a much larger dating pool but I doubt a 150 year old dating a 20 year old will be that common, people change as they age a 50 year old will not be interested in doing the same things he was doing when he was 20.

Politics will be much more stagnant. Many politicians are in office for life even now, imagine how bad would it get if they lived 200 years on average...

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ 40 was the average age of death, but it doesn't account for the modal age of death being 0 and childbirth often being deadly. If a person survived childhood/childbirth they'd probably live to 70. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jan 15 '16 at 8:43

Life in Academia Would Be Hell

As someone who knows academia, I can tell you that an extended lifespan would make academia a heck of a lot worse. Academia right now works on a "dead man's shoes" principle. Career positions are so rare in many fields that getting a professorship position is often heavily dependent on the people ahead of you dying and opening up a position. If everyone lives to perfect health in their 200s now career opportunities no longer open up because older researchers just. won't. die.

This would also make getting a liberal arts degree or something similar an even worse career proposition than it is now. Normally, if you get a liberal arts degree or something else that has very little pragmatic value, there is always the potential of getting a job teaching in your field of choice. With people living to 200s, there is much less of a chance of that.

Tenure might also disappear as a concept. Tenure was mostly a mechanism such that older employees (who were assumed to be more knowledgeable about the workings of a university) could be more vocal with their criticisms or propose more controversial ideas and the universities couldn't just outright fire them just because they didn't like what they had to say. The assumption being that these professors wouldn't be around long anyway because they only had ten or twenty more years to live. But if people lived into their 200s, tenure suddenly becomes a lot more expensive (who wants to pay the salary of that one absentee professor for a century?) and colleges now have a lot of reason to abandon the practice.

This, in turn, would lead to an increase in stagnation in the sciences and humanities. Older academics that just. won't. die. will stymy scientific and social progress by impeding research that potentially threatens their pet hypotheses. Academics do this all the time today, by trashing grant proposals they don't like or giving nasty reviews to papers that disagree with them. That is if they don't just outright abuse their power by preventing people from conducting research that disagrees with them (I've seen this numerous times).

On top of that, radical scientific advances like evolution, catastrophic dinosaurian meteor extinction, the dino-bird connection, or plate tectonics only become widely accepted because all of their major opponents die. The initial opponents of the hypothesis become too emotionally invested in opposing the hypothesis and are unable to revise their worldview. Changing their opinion would be a loss of face, and they've invested too much to back out. Opponents of major hypotheses like Larry Martin and the dino-bird hypothesis or G. G. Simpson and plate tectonics never change their minds on the subject, they just died and opened the field to younger researchers who didn't have the emotional baggage associated with the debate and were able to look at things more objectively. If people lived to be 200 you would see tons of disproven hypotheses sticking around because some scientist is wedded to their pet theory, and you would get bunkum like orthogenesis sticking around to the present.

An Extreme Societal Shift Towards Conservativism

Older people tend to be more reactionary and prefer how things were "in the good old days". In general, across the world older people tend to vote for the more conservative/traditionalist political parties over more liberal/progressive ones. This kind of mindset seems to be increasingly adopted starting in what is now middle age when people have been around long enough for what their culture considered "hip" when they were young to be considered old and cliché by the younger generation (the "dang whippersnappers" effect). In modern society, this is offset by the fact that the old people tend to die, meaning politically younger voters and older voters are relatively balanced.

You've just set up a scenario where the old fogies outnumber the Young Turks by potentially as much as four to one. On top of that, they have an even louder voice because their numbers aren't thinned by dementia and other geriatric disease. As a result, in a democracy, the old timers are always going to win in political elections. Politicians also have much less reason to appeal to younger voters by including reformatory or progressive ideas in their political platform because the majority of their base are old people.

One might say that with an increase in lifespan the cutoff age for "old fogie" might just increase to seventy or eighty. But in reality all this might do is create age "strata" where certain age groups hold certain values, instead of an "old/young" divide. And the older age strata would still be more likely to be conservative, the shift seems to be relative to how many years lived and the passage of time more than anything else.

Immortal tyrants shouldn't really be a problem

Most modern democracies have laws in place that allow people to only rule for a few terms. Those that don't already have problems with leaders staying in power for long periods of time even without a 200 year lifespan.


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