24
$\begingroup$

Here is a hypothetical, but not entirely plausible, scenario:

An organization or company (likely pharmaceutical) discovers the formula to develop a drug that stops aging (the human body's cells are created and die at an equal rate indefinitely).

The question I have is, would this discovery be broadcast to the public (through news, television, etc.) or would the organization/company keep it secret, or would a 3rd party organization (CIA, for example) intervene and seize the drug and prevent this information from being leaked.

I guess my question is, would this kind of discovery ever be broadcast to the public? I mean, if it did, one of many things could happen:

  • It is sold only to the wealthiest people.
  • The formula is leaked, it becomes mass produced, then we could have a population growth problem (because less people are dying).
  • Riots ensue as people demand access to the drug.

I'm assuming people would want access to this drug; is this a wrong assumption?

Is my reasoning plausible in a real-world scenario? If not, could someone with better understanding on world economics and world events help me out on what would happen?

Let me know if there is something I need to further clarify.

$\endgroup$
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Relevant: smbc-comics.com/comics/20141124.png $\endgroup$ – evandentremont Nov 25 '14 at 0:25
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Is this a one-time drug, or a continuous drug that you must take the rest of your [immortal] life? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 25 '14 at 1:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "would this discovery be broadcast to the public" is not so relevant since "and prevent this information from being leaked" is not possible. Just look around you to see how much information gets leaked. A discovery of this magnitude can be kept hidden for a few years, but it will leak. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Nov 25 '14 at 8:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are you interested in long term social implications, or is this solely related to the effects soon after discovery? Evolution (including social evolution) is dependent on the old dying to make room for the new $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Nov 26 '14 at 19:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Its worth considering that, like any big medical breakthrough, reasonable people will only consider it the real deal when its been demonstrated as reliably working on human subjects. Unless its a miraculous geezer-to-teen formula with patently obvious effects, this probably means a clinical trial of large enough size (and in this case, long enough duration) that it can't be effectively kept under wraps. $\endgroup$ – Maxander Jun 26 '15 at 18:44

14 Answers 14

12
$\begingroup$

Let's start from the top.

The question I have is, would this discovery be broadcast to the public (through news, television, etc.) or would the organization/company keep it secret, or would a 3rd party organization (CIA, for example) intervene and seize the drug and prevent this information from being leaked.

This is going to depend entirely on how the company treats the whole situation. Actually, it's even more basic than that - it depends on just who created the drug.

Let's say you have a guy doing R & D for a large pharmaceutical corporation. If s/he stumbles on this formula, he's going to realize pretty quickly that s/he has just become one of the most powerful individuals on the planet. Chances are, this person is going to hide the formula for a while. If a lot of sci-fi books are to be believed, s/he will try to use it purely for his/her own benefit. [Insert evil genius scenario here].

It becomes more interesting if a group of people discovered this thing. There are a few paths that could be taken:

  1. One member gets jealous and kills the others
  2. The group uses the formula together but hides it from the public
  3. Some moron in the group messes up, and the company finds out about it.
  4. The company finds out about it anyway, without the moron's help.

I think that situation 4 is the likeliest. Lab tests are going to leave some trace of the prior experiment, and any discovery this momentous would have involved a lot of documentation. There would also have been lots of lab tests (probably on very short-lived animals) to make sure that this drug is the real deal. So in some way or another, the company learns about the drug, even if just one guy is behind it.

So the company knows. But just "who" in the company knows about this? It's not just going to be one or two people outside the team; there will be a lot of personnel involved. I'd expect the top executives would try to take control of the drug. They won't want anyone stealing their secrets. They won't release this to the public because they'd have the idea stolen, and they'd lose any bargaining power they had.

Would the CIA have found out? Well, sooner or later, some safety inspector from the government is going to walk into the laboratory and find . . . nothing. The executives are going to do everything in their power to hide this thing, even from the government. They most likely have large amounts of money at their disposal, and they can do behind-the-scenes work while making sure that the government doesn't get suspicious.

Actually, this might not be the case. This would be a fairly large cover-up. If somebody has found a formula for immortality while working at a company, the company will discover it, which means that more workers will learn about it, which means that matters will quickly get very complicated. All it would take is for one person to talk to an outsider.

If this scenario happens - many people within the company learn about it - then the cat could be out of the bag. This cover-up might be really, really difficult, if not impossible, assuming that someone else within the company learns of the formula's existence.

Going at it from another angle, why keep the drug secret? After all, the only way to make money off of this is to reveal it to someone. At this point, though, the executives aren't interested in making money off of this. They'll conduct many tests (on animals, probably, although I wouldn't put it past it to test it on willing human volunteers) before taking the drug themselves, imbibing it and then destroying any evidence of its existence. The profit here is immortality, not money. That's the only way they could profit.


Note: This assumes that a large company discovers the idea. While it is certainly possible that a small company or even an individual would discover the formula, I think it is more likely that a large corporation would because they have more money, workers, and resources in general than a smaller company.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Most of your reasoning is built on the assumption that the discovery is made by a large company (as opposed to the academia or a small research) and they originally set out to create such a formula (as opposed to discovering it accidentally). $\endgroup$ – Nit Nov 25 '14 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Nit Good observation; it would be a fallacy to assume that a big company created it. The reason I assumed this is because I figured that it would be more likely that a big company - having more resources, workers, and money - would stumble upon something like this than a smaller company would. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 25 '14 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ Great answer @HDE226868 you've described a very likely scenario! I'm just confused about the last part, why would they not try to profit off this drug? Sure I get that they would take the drug themselves, but naturally human greed they would want to be extremely wealthy as well. Even though I'm sure they are already well off, people always want more money :) $\endgroup$ – crusarovid Dec 16 '14 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ @crusarovid If you're immortal, you've got a low of power. Do you really want a whole bunch of other immortal people running around? :-) $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 16 '14 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 hmm how does being immortal equate to being powerful? Just to re-iterate, you cannot die from aging but you can still die from other causes (accidental death, disease, etc.). I naturally assume the creator of the drug will want to be rich as well as immortal. And what would he /she have against there being other immortal people? As long as he/she is rich and immortal themself? $\endgroup$ – crusarovid Dec 17 '14 at 22:10
8
$\begingroup$

The secret of immortality can't be hidden forever. Some day a new Assange or Snowden will reveal it to the public. Or another researcher will rediscover it independently.

The first question would be population regulation with respect to natural resources. The obvious solution would be war, then birth control and space exploration.

The second question would be memory. A brain is unlikely to remember a whole eternal life. Internet, search engines and big data farms are a first solution before the development of implanted transhuman devices.

Current religions could evolve regarding this new power: Is it a gift from God? Does it break the cycle of reincarnations? Should I choose NOT to take the immortality pill?

Is an antidote available? If so, is it available to the public or is it considered as a weapon of mass destruction?

Does the formula also work for animals? grasshoppers? mosquitos? Thus becoming a risk for mankind?

A side effect could also impact banking system: what about compound interests on very long time periods?

$\endgroup$
8
$\begingroup$

Issues

There are patents, and there are trade secrets. There are no drugs that once a sample comes into possession of a competitor can't eventually be recreated by the competitor - and for something like this there is no limit to the funds they'd spend trying to duplicate the drug. In other words, the creator of the drug likely cannot create a fake scarcity or control its distribution once they start distributing it.

So you have to assume that if it ever falls into public knowledge, it will eventually become available to everyone - the rich and famous first, and ultimately it will become inexpensive enough for everyone unless there's a natural limitation or scarcity of some sort.

The government will be too late to the table unless it was discovered in their own labs.

It's probably hard to test for. We might already have a drug that extends life by 3-5 years but unless we do a long term study we might miss it. Even if a new drug comes out with similar characteristics, until hundreds of people live and die after taking it, there's no possibility of such a study. Say you develop the drug - it could take a year or more of animal testing prior to determining that it does extend life in animals, then years before it can be tested in humans. Again, this long process means that more people know about it long before it's ready.

Further, research is rarely a sudden, unexpected, and unforeseen "eureka!" moment. A lot of research takes place in deliberate steps towards a goal. Interesting results are read by other researchers and eventually someone pulls a bunch of research together, builds a hypothesis, and works towards a goal.

Lastly, human connections are very, very, very strong and often result in people choosing other people over rules and laws. In other words, once a person is aware of the drug, it's unlikely that they won't try to share it with their significant other, their children, grandchildren, and other close friends. The only thing that might overcome this is fear of getting caught, and that only if the drug is hard to make (natural scarcity) and is vigorously accounted for - which necessarily requires more people know about it in order to police each other. They would have to enter an agreement that binds their lives in the deal - immortality is great as long as you follow the rules and aren't killed by someone else also trying to protect, or worse - control - the source of immortality.

Conclusion

An immortality pill, therefore, wouldn't likely be controlled by the government, wouldn't likely by known only to a very small group of people, and wouldn't likely stay in a lab under lock and key without some additional forces.

Mitigating factors

So what you need to decide first is what you want to have happen, then craft the immortality pill and its creation in a way that allows your story to develop according to your desires.

For instance, introducing natural scarcity might be your biggest ally. If the process to create it is expensive and/or time consuming, such as requiring exposure in a new fusion reactor for weeks or months, or has to be created in a zero G environment for a long period of time (ie, space), or requires a particle accelerator then you may find that only a handful of pills can be created per year. It's notable that processes can also fend off competitors, particularly if the company is savvy and buys all the people or equipment available in the world that can possibly be used to create the drug. Further, as long as they don't patent the process, they can keep it a trade secret and possibly control it for far longer than scarcity obtained through other means.

If the ingredients are very rare, or do not naturally occur and must be created - such as the various radioactive elements that can only exist briefly after creation, or off-world elements (unobtanium), or materials that are government controlled (nuclear materials), etc then again, only a handful of pills might be available per year.

You'll need to decide whether the drug is something that must be taken continuously, or is a one-and-done type of situation. If it's continuous, then it can be used as a method of control, and given or denied. It also increases scarcity, but increases the number of pills available to competitors for testing and duplication.

One and done is interesting, particularly if it completely stops the aging process immediately - one would take it at their "prime" physical condition. The politics and social rules of giving them to children or babies to prevent them from ever "growing up" would be a unique topic. Perhaps it instead prevents aging beyond the prime of life, so can be given at any point prior. Perhaps it rejuvenates old cells and brings even those in their later years to a previous youthful condition. If it rejuvenates old cells, does it increase healing? Maybe if you lose a finger, or even a limb, it would eventually grow back.

Scarcity would be necessary if you wanted to make researchers and others in-the-know enter a pact of secrecy for any reason.

It's possible that the drug was discovered spontaneously, or secretly in the basement of a researcher stealing from his company. If only one person knows about it, they could take it themselves, and give it to their friends and family. They could even administer it to others secretly so no one else knew that they had become immortal.

You might also consider risks and side effects. Usually the most powerful drugs have the worst risks and side effects. Consider the Dune series - taking the spice could end up killing you, or making you more powerful. How would your world change if the drug caused death in 10-20% of those taking it, and there was no way to test for compatibility? Perhaps it causes certain physical infirmities. Acne, arthritis, reduced vision or blindness, tinnitus, mental problems such a bipolar, depression, ADD, Autism, etc.

Also, consider the impact to religious belief. Those with beliefs in the afterlife would see the drug as closing the door to their spiritual glory (for however that might be defined for them). They may see it as an offense, or blasphemy to change the laws of their deity, and may make war on those creating or using the drug.

Does the drug cause a visible effect on the person? Can you tell visually that someone has taken it and is therefore immortal? Can you tell if you have been given it - does it cause a different sensation or feeling in the body that is readily identifiable by the user?

Socially this changes what human life means - once it's widespread, and thousands of years pass, people must be getting bored. Why not enter a medically induced coma for a century or two, or based on certain events happening, such as off-world transportation or teraforming of another planet? Wars would fundamentally change. There would be an even greater pressure on the limited resources of earth, and chances are good birth control laws would be enacted (though this wouldn't be much of an issue if the drug caused infertility).

Perhaps there would be a schism between the mortals and the immortals - either due to cost of the drug, or due to religious/political beliefs. Over centuries the two would be opposing the other. Could be interesting if evolution caused the mortals to pass by the immortals in some significant way, leaving the immortals the "lessor" race.

Of course this assume the originator(s) are ethical people without any reason to mis-use the drug.

What if they instead wanted to use it for purposes of torture? "You are now immortal, and have been sentenced to 3,000 years of daily torture."

You can take this in so many directions, so a better question to ask is probably, "What impact do I want this drug to have on the world" and then design the drug to have that impact.

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

Before I address the social implications, I need to address some of the biological implications - specifically, how the drug works.

Aging

Aging is, essentially, a three part process:

  1. Before birth, a human grows from a zygote (a single cell) to a baby with the right number of arms, eyes, lungs, and so on - ready to live without direct support (that is, nutrients from the mother). The process takes roughly 9 months. After birth, babies spend roughly two decades growing into an adult. The DNA map is followed further; while the exact length of time varies, most humans stop physically changing by their mid 20s.
  2. At that point, the body is complete. Cells die and are replaced, and for the next several decades, humans don't change very much.
  3. As cells are replaced, there are occasional copy errors - cellular mutations. Eventually, the mutations pile up and begin to affect the body: wrinkles, muscle atrophy, and so on. Given enough copy errors, entire organs can fail, eventually resulting in death.

For immortality through cell regeneration, lasting for enough time, mutations would have to either be stopped before they start, or be removed, replaced, or repaired.

Stopping mutations

If the immortality process stops mutations, then whoever took it would immediately stop aging, apart from normal wear-and-tear. Illness, heart disease, and even cancer would still be deadly; even if your heart is fine on a cellular level, if your arteries get stopped up with plaque, you'll still have a heart attack. Still, the process would be safe; it could be administered to anyone at any age.

Children, even unborn babies, would be able to grow up normally, even with the immortality treatment in place. The elderly wouldn't benefit from the drug nearly as much, because they already have cellular mutations; there would be no way to "turn back time".

A discovery like that would take decades, if not centuries, to create and test. Keeping something like that a secret would be nearly impossible; as it progressed, I'm sure many companies would begin testing their own 'immortality treatment'. It would most likely be released slowly and updated over time, gradually extending life rather than a sudden switch where no one dies. One decade, most people live until they are 80; the next, 85, and the next, 100. The change would be slow enough that the implications of longer lifespans would have time to sink in to civilization at large - and anyone opposed to it would have to fight gradual change, which is a very difficult process. One or two generations in, and most resistance would be gone.

Population would change, but since it would be a gradual change of tens or hundreds of years, the impact wouldn't be very severe; the end result would be a high population of healthy, useful adults, which would boost productivity, science, and technology. Fears about the drug may crop up, but overall people would most likely trust it.

Remove, Repair, Replace

On the other hand, if the treatment repaired existing mutations, such as by using some sort of template to remove "bad DNA", the elderly would benefit tremendously. As their cells naturally were replaced, the new cells would be free of mutations; their wrinkles would vanish, their hair would regain its color, and their muscles would begin to regrow. Limbs wouldn't grow back, but diseases like cancer would be eradicated. Unlike the other drug, this would be a "miracle cure". In months or even days, the elderly would be returned to their prime of life; everyone would look like they were in their late 20s, where their cells had the lowest number of mutations in their adult life.

However, the process would be incredibly dangerous to children, especially before birth. The processes the human body uses to grow limbs and organs in a child is much different than the normal maintenance cycle of an adult human. The treatment would most likely destroy a zygote before it ever had a chance to mature, meaning that mothers would have to stop the treatment to have any chance of giving birth naturally. If the process were a one-time event, rather than an ongoing course, it may permanently stop natural birth.

Because this process would be a sudden, immediate change, and would result in fast, obvious results (cells could be observed reproducing error-free within minutes in a lab), it is possible that this process could be developed in secret - indeed, it could be an accidental discovery. Testing, of course, would be found to cause sterility in women, which would require more testing. If information got out, there would immediately be two sides: those that want immediate immortality and demand the immediate release of the drug, and those that want to save the children and call for its eradication.

The result would be who won in the end: either be a select few "immortals", who purchase the drug on the black market and hide their age, or a planet populated entirely by immortal adults, with no chance to even have children.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

What kind of story do you want to tell, or world do you want to build?

Any of your answers could work, and be plausible.

What might happen in the real world would, in my opinion, depend heavily on the characters involved, and their motivations. BigPharmCo(tm) presumably sets out to develope this drug (not an accidental discovery) to make money, which they can't do if they don't sell it. Assuming it is legit research, there are drug trials, and some public/scientific awareness as it develops until it is tested, and found to work. Cat is out of the bag, people know about it, and money is made. Maybe there are riots, maybe not.

Now, assume on the other hand, it's an accidental discovery by one lone social do-gooder. It's easy to make and produce and just requires you mix some common household chemicals together. It gets posted on the internet, an din 24 hours is around the world, and everyone has it. That's a very different story.

Third option, it's developed in secret by the Illuminati Cabal of Evil, given only to their trusted inner circle. Anyone who finds out about it gets killed with extreme prejudice to keep the secret. No population pressure, but you get a great mystery story of power, politics and intrigue with immortal schemers.

So, I go back to the question, what kind of world do you want to build, and what kind of story do you want to tell?

I think the consequences of the potion's discover will be intimately tied to the motivations of the characters who discover it.

p.s. The old television show "Babylon 5" had an episode where a character created an immortality potion which required the death of other sentients to make. She wanted to give it to the Earth gov as revenge for destroying her people, knowing we would fall upon each other, killing our own kind just to make some of us immortal.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Another potential story is that the work and raw materials involved means that it is pricey - not impossibly pricey but pricey. For instance, imagine a treatment that costs (the inventor / company, that is before their margin) $750k in raw materials and work. What happens then...? $\endgroup$ – JDelage Dec 14 '14 at 16:19
2
$\begingroup$

If a company discovered this they would immediately patent it, market it, and market it hard.

Just think how much people are willing to pay for creams that claim to reduce the effect of aging and do basically nothing.

How much would they pay to really reverse aging?

The company could release it at $100,000 dollars a dose and rich people would still pay.

If a dose lasted more than a year then insurance/national health services/etc might even be willing to pay out at $100,000 as it will reduce the cost of covering age-related illness. Ironically people healthy in old age might be left to age unless they can afford the drug themselves while people who start declining would get it provided for them.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

I think that in the real world, the desire for immortality is over-estimated.

Think about how this would actually work. The miracle pill would have to be taken frequently (probably daily) so that new cells could be exposed to it. And because rich people would be able to afford it, it would be expensive. There wouldn't be some conspiracy to keep it out of the hands of ordinary people; drug companies would simply maximize their profits by keeping it expensive and exclusive.

So how are you going to pay for this expensive miracle pill every day for the next few centuries? You're not going to be able to retire, so you'd have to spend the rest of your life (i.e. eternity) working unless you have enough money that you can live off interest forever.

Meanwhile all of your friends and family are dying, either because they get cancer, get hit by a bus, or can't afford the miracle pill. Remember, this miracle pill would only help people who would otherwise die of "old age". It wouldn't stop every other form of death.

Would you want to spend eternity working, with few friends or family? I wouldn't. Maybe I would could go 100-200 years, but not much more than that.

So the only people who would really be "immortal" would be the ones rich enough to not have to constantly work and don't mind the ever-decreasing circle of friends and family. I think that in reality the number of "immortals" would number in the thousands or millions -- not enough to have significant social implications.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Depending how drug will be expensive, only some parts of the clan of rich will receive it - and because they do not die, their children might hire hitmen to force inheritance. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Dec 13 '14 at 22:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That doesn't make sense - you make new friends. Rich people's friends and family are generally rich themselves (not all, but enough of a core group). Also, you don't maximize profits by making things expensive and exclusive - sometimes this is a valid strategy (branded luxury goods), sometimes it isn't. $\endgroup$ – JDelage Dec 14 '14 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ @JDelage: This pill would keep you from dying of old age, but not disease or injury (or maybe running out of money to be able to afford the pill anymore). I suspect most people over 200 years old will have trouble finding friends they can relate to. And remember, people who aren't rich wouldn't be able to retire, so they wouldn't even want the pill, meaning that mostly rich people will buy it, meaning that it will be expensive. $\endgroup$ – Gabe Dec 15 '14 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Gabe - OK, I missed the fact that it was just about aging. On the other hand, age-related death is generally some kind of disease... $\endgroup$ – JDelage Dec 16 '14 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @JDelage: Sure, but not all diseases are age-related -- anybody can die of pneumonia or flu. On the other hand, something like type II diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and plaque in the arteries are age-related illnesses that would be fixed with an immortality pill. $\endgroup$ – Gabe Dec 17 '14 at 4:29
2
$\begingroup$

Well, as others have said it could depend greatly on who discovers it.

Right now there are several different studies into anti-aging treatments. It's hard to find the links because there is so much crap on the internet but in the last couple months I've read several different articles with promising treatments for different areas to prevent aging. The last one has to do with keeping the cells healthy and continuing to replace themselves. They have been successful in 'reversing' aging in mice.

Any company that is having any success or even believes they will have any success broadcasts this information to the world. Why? Primarily for stock prices and funding. The first company that can scientifically prove to push back aging even a dozen years will be unbelievably wealthy. It keeps people interested in the company and keeps the stock prices going up.

Now if a government is developing this, it will likely try to keep it secret and if successful, likely succeed in keeping the secret for a few decades. But knowledge will grow and more and more people will know and eventually, maybe even a foreign government will steal the secret and it will continue to spread. Likely causing riots in the country that kept the secret, maybe purging all the 'lucky' ones who had the treatment.

Of course the big problem for distribution will be how easy is it to produce and how long does a single treatment last? If they come up with a process that makes it as easy as aspirin then it will become very common quickly. Is is something that would need to be taken daily for optimal effect? or one dose a year or a decade?

No matter what things would have to change socially and very fast in order to deal with the dramatic reduction in deaths from old age. If the treatment is something regulatable then forcing mandatory sterilization after 1-2 children could happen, or some other population control. Getting people off this rock we call Earth would become a MUCH higher priority, and considering the lifetimes we might be able to enjoy, traveling to a nearby star system might become more palatable.

The rich would certainly start putting money into space habitation, for self-preservation if nothing else.

But ultimately if more than a handful of people know about it, the knowledge will spread, it might take decades and it might take a while to make it easy to spread to the masses, but it would happen. Depending on how fast it could happen, say it's an aspirin pill you take twice a year, and in 5 years say %80 are taking it, social reforms would need to be drastic and fast, making the Chinese look pedestrian in comparison or in less than 10 years we'd be seeing a lot of pressure for resources, not the least of which would be retirement benefits.

Patricide and Matricide might go up a bit as children discover they want what is 'theirs'. People having more than 2 kids will become pariahs'. Retirement might only become possible for those who have made enough to become independently wealthy. Especially until a new 'life expectancy' settles in.

Also there could be the problem that some people will not be affected by the 'cure' or adversely affected. There are several different sci-fi stories about some percentage of the population having bad things happen. If %10 is unaffected (the still have a normal life-expectancy) then they would have no reason to follow population control, and could be a very resentful population. If the treatment has an adverse affect, maybe it causes some kind of mental instability or dementia. Something else to worry about.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Gems like this really answering societal consequences of the discovery are buried by upvoting trivial issues concerned how inventors will split the profit. +1 for really thinking about changes in society. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Dec 13 '14 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterMasiar Thanks! I was kind of surprised I didn't get any upvotes on this one. But it was a little late and kind of long, that tends to be two strikes against, especially if the higher voted ones are long too. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 13 '14 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, what if many parts of the problem are worked on by different companies, and only the NSA figures out that together they have a useful result? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Dec 14 '14 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ 3 things, the NSA is part of the government and as such everything would eventually leak out. 2nd it is highly unlikely the NSA has the right people who could make such an intuitive leap because of the needed knowledge base. 3rd, despite their reputation they do not hack all the records for every single company out there. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 14 '14 at 13:09
1
$\begingroup$

Assuming everyone has access and is now immortal you'll probably have suicide become legal, childbirth regulation, and maybe even government culling.

I pretty much agree with the other answers on the other points.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Going beyond who and how the drug is distributed, you should also consider (assuming your world is earth based) religious implications of the drug; for example (and this is not definitive just a guess) Christians believe they get their immortality with God AFTER they die, so you can bet your butt they wouldn't take it. They would quite likely see it as blasphemous because it negates God's judgement and do what they could to stop it.

Of course there are other religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, et al) that all probably have their own reasons for thinking the drug is a bad idea; unfortunately I'm not as well versed in those religions to give you any idea.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Sooner or later everyone will get to know about the formula, so unless it is impossible to make enough for everyone, then everyone will have access to it. (This may take many 100s of years to happen.)

So the process of aging has been stopped, but we still need to eat. Some people will still have babies…

So where does all the food come from, repeat for [space, land, energy, etc]

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The acceptation and demand parameters for that drug once it is revealed are multiple

Ethics

How ethical is the production of the drug ? Does it involve principles that are taboo, rejected by a group or a religious community ? (does it involve cloning, stem cells, human trials ? Do it work better on a specific group of individuals ?)

Use

Is it a one-time thing, or do you need a regular fix ? Does it have side effects ? (memory loss, changes in personality, addiction...)

Costs

Obviously, the more complex the refining, the easier it is to maintain a form of monopoly. That would lead to the creation of cheaper knockoffs (with shorter duration/heavier side effects) and a black market.

Skepticism

If someone told in the news they found such a drug, I would be highly skeptical. The acceptation of the drug could be helped by not revealing its full potential (simply indicating that it slows down the aging process, not stops it)

Long term

The very rich having an easier access to the drug, the heirs would never inherit. This could lead to internal conflicts, wars, and redistribution, or on the contrary to a very strong form of aristocracy lead by immortal financial barons. Given their immortal nature, there would be a form of equilibrium to be reached at some point, and possibly a complete stalling of all progress.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

some assumptions first since i cant comment. the discovery was not by accident the scientists really did start out to discover a drug that stops aging

I'll approach from a different perspective:

Now since you did say "organization" then the people in the organization would want access to the drug (for their loved ones parents grandparents) even if they promise to not say that it is an immortality drug, the secret will only last for some decades.

for example if the oldest drug taker is 100. Things will become suspicious when that person is say 130 years. But even then a single person that is 130 years old will only be regarded as some sort of abberation in genetics. (pure luck)

two persons, thre persons 4 or 10 still pure luck.

oh by the way the first person to reach 140 would probably have to be told of this drug because he/she will start becoming really suspicious.

Also, you did not mention whether this drug also makes the old look young again. In which case your breathing room is probably months. You would also have to tell these new immortals the secret (which makes the secret harder to keep)

Ok so now the secret is out

you have a breathing room of decades if age is only arrested. you have a breathing room of a couple of years if age is reversed.

end result: secret will be revealed.

Government steps in and starts regulating.

Riots probably not. Don't we already have people dying because they cant afford hospitalization, and I dont see them rioting in the streets.

There might be some over-reaction on the government regarding population control. But it will find a balance.

People can still die from accident, drug overdose etc. suicide. People can still die of sickness (you did say it only stops aging) so people can still die of lung cancer, heart attack, cirrhosis etc.. Murder, crimes of passion etc.

Once the balance point is determined then population control might ease up.

Extra note from http://www.noeticscience.co.uk/immortality-where-to-put-all-those-accumulating-memories/

But what of memory? Research indicates that there is a certain part of the brain where memories reside. But it is of a finite size. As more and more experiences and memories are accumulated throughout the centuries and aeons of our immortality, that part of the brain will just become clogged and full and unable to absorb any more information. It would also be difficult if not impossible to recall information because there are so many full rooms,corridors and halls all full of filing cabinets, full of folders, full of papers.

If this is true immortals might be forced to retire at age 275. So once again the job market will find a balance point.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The company would announce the discovery right away, and arrange for proper medical testing. Then it would be marketed to the very rich at a very high price. Overtime it would be sold at progressively lower prices to a wider audience, until it would become quite affordable after the patent protection rans out and generics become available.

Rest of answer is really, explanation of why there is no real reason to hide the discovery or otherwise give it special handling.

Religious impact would be bad. IIRC correctly the bible specifically says that after the flood God limited humans to a specific maximum age. I think it was 120 years or so. The specific number is not important, but "unaging" would be a serious case of sacrilege and messing with Gods domain. I think it would be manageable as long as the drug does not reverse aging and using it is voluntary. Fundamentalists would rage about the "mark of the beast" and "signs of the apocalypse" and some would take direct violent action. But that all happens even without the drug. By the time the effects would become significantly different from living longer due to better medical care, people would be upset about something else. Also religious intolerance is almost invariably targeted on the weak; the poor, the minorities, the outsiders. In this case the early adopters would be the rich and powerful. People capable of defending themselves and, more importantly, shaping the public opinion.

Drug that actually reversed aging would be much harder, but since being able to cure the effects of past aging implies being able to also cure past effects of injuries and diseases, the drug would offer true immortality (if not killed), not just unaging. That would be outside the question parameters, so I will simply ignore it.

The economic and social impact would be smaller than people generally assume. This is because the negative effects are simply gradual increases to problems we already have. We already have unsolved issues with population growth and social inequality. All the drug would change is the length of time we have until we can pretend the issues will go away without us having to do anything. That might actually improve our chances of taking effective action. There is no real reason to think it would make the issues more difficult.

Also people do not actually die from old age, they die from diseases and injuries. As long as the drug only stopped aging the effect would be limited. The average lifespan would be increased, possibly significantly, but it would be a difference in degree not kind. And the increase would be entirely in the so called "productive age". The amount of people to support would increase less than the amount of people available to work supporting it. Especially in countries that currently have issues with age distribution.

Some fears are simply pointless. One example is that if the older more experienced people never retire, there will not be space for the young anymore. Work requirements are not stable enough for that to happen. Also why on earth would the unaging people with long careers and decades of savings want to be stuck doing the same job forever? Only reason I can think of is if they have a specific talent for the job and I cannot really see the downside to society with that happening. And even then they'd probably take long sabbaticals and change employers semi-regularly. Or use the money saved over decades of work on something fun or productive instead of retirement.

There would also be economic and social benefits. I already mentioned people with special talents not having to stop working due to age and the increase in the work-age population. Additionally, the quality of decision making concerning issues like climate change would improve if people expected to actually personally see the dire predictions come true. The generation gap would also be reduced not increased since the very old would be less separated from young adults than middle-aged people are now. A 400+ person could easily and naturally have shared hobbies and interests with a 20+ person. Currently people of different generations are in separates stages of their careers and life's, with the drug they'd simply have differences in experience and accumulated wealth. People already have vast differences in experiences and wealth, so this would simply be status quo.

I am not going to elaborate further as the details would be endless and are not really relevant to the question. I'll just sum it up. A drug that stopped aging would not be a major problem and there would be no reason to hide or otherwise restrict it beyond what is normal to patented drugs. A drug that reversed aging... that would be something else..

$\endgroup$

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.