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Suppose in all types of medicine will be sufficiently advanced to enable very long life spans (many thousands of years +). I imagine that a cure for pretty much all diseases, disorders and morbidities would be developed (including those to combat aging). Nevertheless, these people will still be vulnerable to other risks (car crashes, being murdered, falling in the shower and so on). What would these people's attitudes towards these risks be?

One hypothesis is that since there is so much to lose, these people will be so risk averse that it will cripple what we consider to be normal life. Few will want to risk a very long life so few will want to cross the street, take up dangerous professions, or even drive or travel through space.

One counterpoint to consider is that if this hypothesis were true (that those with more life-years to lose are more risk averse) we would expect fewer young people than older people would be risk-taking. But obviously more younger people bungee jump, skydive and do generally riskier things than older people.

Perhaps the life-years risked by young people today are just too few for this risk aversion effect to really arise, but given a sufficiently great life-extension, it is plausible that having many years ahead will make people very risk averse.


This has been put off-topic as opinion-based, but as an economist, I know that risk attitudes can be rigorously studied. Obviously my question is highly speculative (as are most questions on Worldbuilding) but I don't consider it necessarily opinion-based.

A comment suggested that humans might be irrationally risk-taking because (perhaps due to cognitive biases and other cognitive limitations) we fail take into account the far future. Moreover, it's quite common for people to fail to internalize 'tail-risk' (i.e. low probability events). However, I expect that this sufficiently advanced society could cognitively enhance themselves, and improve this ability. (To some extent this is already happening, with the development of useful concepts about rationality and risk).

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    $\begingroup$ Purely my opinion, which is a problem with this question, that's all anyone can give you, but I don't think humans can actually think in the timescales involved so you wouldn't see any appreciable change in behaviour. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 30 '17 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ Are they all cyborg clones? If not, everyone will have a different attitude depending on relgion, cultural background, personal philosophy, experiences in life ... Asking about how much % of them will be bungee jumping (which was a short fad over a decade ago, I guess less with every year) is simply unpredictable. This is one of those questions that cannot be answered because who could possible know that? That means in your story, you can do whatever you like with it - nobody can ever prove you wrong $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 30 '17 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ You may be interested in What are the disadvantages of a long living race? which deals with similar time scales as your question does (average life span 5,000 years). Fair enough disclosure: One of the higher voted answers is my own. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 30 '17 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ Is there evidence that humans today (life expectancy > 60yr, maximum span > 100yr) are on average more risk-averse than the ancient Greeks? This should provide at least a factual ground for the statements in the question. $\endgroup$ – NofP Oct 30 '17 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ Shifting on the paradox, all deaths are caused by being alive. Remove that and there will be no risks! $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 30 '17 at 11:22
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Do young people tend to engage in risky behavior because they're young, or just because their bodies are more adapted to it? In this case if you have anti-ageing treatments, it could be that the rate of participation in risky activities actually increases.

Consider that for most people, parachuting is a "bucket list" item, something they want to do eventually, when they have time and money.

But as we know, young people have time and health but no money, middle aged people have money and health but no time, and old people have time and money but no longer the necessary vitality. If the last part is no longer true (because people have essentially centuries to accumulate money and vacation time without their health deteriorating), it's likely everyone will eventually try parachuting, or white water rafting, or whatever kind of high-risk activity that people usually put to later.

It's easy to maintain this "one day.." mentality and end up missing a 10 year window where you could realistically have pulled it off. It's harder when the window is 200 or 500 years. If anything, eventually you would be bored of everything else.

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It is likely that even with extremely long lifetimes, young people will still be less risk averse. Understanding the reasons why is fairly simple. First, being risk averse is a matter of good judgement. Judgement is partially a result of integrating experience. So making mistakes (that you survive) becomes part of the basis for later having more sound judgement. Secondly, the perceptual basis is different. A teenager will complain that waiting a year for something, say a drivers license "is forever". A year to a fifteen year old represents 6and 2/3 percent of their life. A fifty year old for whom that same period is 2 percent of their lifetime, is more likely to say, "ok I'll wait another year for whatever it is."

I think comparing the statistics for the number of overweight people today, with the insurance company actuarial data for death related to heart disease and diabetes should provide enough insight into human nature to see that medical advances won't change behavior that much.

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