Me: Good morning.
Venture Capitalist whose funding I seek: Hey. So what are you working on?
Me: Well, I think human life expectancy has become too long. We need shorter life expectancies.
Venture Capitalist: You’re saying you want people to die?
Me: Well, that’s not the most flattering way to put it. I’m saying that I want the average person in our society to have a younger age, without needing a constantly growing population to achieve that. Can I ask you a question?
Venture Capitalist: Shoot.
Me: If you’re really honest, what was your happiest period in life? When were you most free of worries?
Venture Capitalist: I know where you’re going with this, but the happiest age is generally thought to be when people are in their early thirties.
Me: Alright, but take a look at this:
[I show him this chart]
You can see here the prevalence of depression by age. Besides the fact that prevalence is growing every year, we can see that it increases as we age. And there seems to be a quite plausible explanation for this: The chemicals your brain needs to grow, are the same chemicals that make you happy. Most serotonin receptors in the brain seem to decline by around 8% per decade. It becomes harder for you to experience radically new pleasurable things as you grow older, so your sources of happiness decline. Meanwhile, your physical beauty and vitality gradually decline once you enter your late twenties.
Venture capitalist: And yet I would still say that the average forty year old doesn’t think killing him is a good idea.
Me: That’s the wrong way of looking at it. Let’s say the Earth has a fixed carrying capacity, a rough ceiling at the number of people it can simultaneously feed, house and clothe. Let’s say that in the absence of non-renewable resources, that’s around two billion people. If 20% of those people are under twenty, there would be less happiness on this planet, than if 80% of people are under twenty.
Venture capitalist: This sounds awfully reductionist to me. Am I supposed to believe that people would be happier in a society where they may live to see their own healthy siblings and children die?
Me: Look at it this way. Would we have made it into this era, if we were cripplingly traumatized whenever we had to bury a child? Would people even have had such large families as they did, if they were morbidly afraid of having to bury a child? You rationalized it, the way we do with pets today. “The child is in heaven now.” And you don’t know what that means, but you make peace with it.
Venture capitalist: And yet I recall reading studies that say 90% of marriages don’t survive an infant death and people consider it their biggest trauma.
Me: Misery is when things work out far worse than you had expected them to. In a context where you’re quite sure that you’ll see your child become an adult, being the only person in your extended social circle with a dead child is a massive traumatizing shock.
Venture capitalist: I like progress more than I like burying my own children.
Me: I like progress too, but I don’t consider it progress when I can go back a century and see healthy children playing in the street, but now I see people with swollen prostates that make them pee their pants, people who need chemical castration to stay alive, people who can’t walk to the other side of the street. That makes me think the quality of humans is going down.
Happy qualia in the brains of humans are the end product our entire capitalistic system is supposed to produce. The rollercoasters we build, the TV shows we produce, they don’t exist for themselves, they exist to produce a phenomenon called happiness, that is expressed in the brains of human beings under the right circumstances. Reducing the average age of the average human being would increase the amount of happiness in society.
Venture capitalist: How about we cure aging instead of trying to kill old people?
Me: It’s an interesting idea, but how much success have we had at slowing down the rate at which people age?
Venture capitalist: We’ve sought to increase our life expectancy for thousands of years, but only accomplished real success after the industrial revolution.
Me: Yes, but there’s a difference between increasing life expectancy and preventing the misery associated with aging. You could try to keep minds sharp, breasts plump, penises hard, prostates small and bellies flat, but you can’t keep the rate constant at which people continue to have meaningfully novel experiences as they age. As you grow older, everything you experience is a variation of something you have already experienced. And yet, it’s through substantially novel experiences that we experience pleasure. I would say that this is the essence of what it means to age: The decline in substantial novelty you experience in life.
Venture capitalist: And yet I would rather just delete memories to experience more novelty, than to cease to exist.
Me: And there’s the difference between you and me. You fly across the world to take Ayahuasca, but I get the impression you’ve never experienced Ego death. You’re already everyone, you’re ever conscious entity that has ever existed. Death is what we’re using, to enable us to experience this massive rapidly declining curve of novelty again in a novel incarnation.
Venture capitalist: So what do you propose we do?
Me: Well, I have this colleague in Wuhan who’s really excited about corona viruses… but hold on, I’m not done yet.
Venture capitalist: Go on.
Me: Wealth inequality. Where do you think it comes from?
Venture capitalist: Yeah I’ve read about that. Wealth accumulates over generations and as we age.
Me: Yes, but it also disseminates, because the elite have more children than most people, or leave it to charity after death. There are positive feedback loops involved here, where wealth accumulates as people age, but as the life expectancy of the elderly increases, housing shortages increase too, which further increases the value of the assets the elderly own, which further increases the wealth disparity between the young and the elderly. The elderly generally reach net worth escape velocity at some point in their lives, where their assets appreciate in value fast enough to pay for their living expenses, but as their life expectancy increases the time period they spend in net worth escape velocity increases and they can accumulate dynastic wealth. So with a shorter life expectancy, we’re going to massively reduce wealth inequality.
Venture capitalist: Fair argument.
Me: But give this some thought too. Men tend to like women a few years younger than them and women like men a few years older. Take a look at the medieval demographic pyramid:
Venture capitalist: Every man can marry a woman and secretly visit the village tramp while his wife is asleep.
Me: That’s one way of putting it. And then the STD’s that cause infertility would keep the population low I suppose. Hurray for promiscuity! But when I read radical feminist literature, they’re proposing that the share of men as a portion of the general population needs to be reduced. And they seem to have a point if you look at it from the perspective of evolutionary biology: We’re supposed to be a species where women outnumber men. Women are pretty, because they’re descended from women who were in competition with each other over men.
And ultimately, I would say that children have their own culture that has a right to survive. It can’t survive in a society that is dominated by the elderly. Children play their own games, have their own legends and their own dialects, but it can survive about as well in a society dominated by the elderly and their desires as the culture of peasants can survive in sterile grey cubicles.
Have you ever heard about the legend of Jenny, the vampire with the iron teeth?
Venture capitalist: No?
Me: Hundreds of Scottish children in Glasgow in 1954 organized vampire hunts that lasted for days, looking for a vampire with iron teeth. It traces back to the 19th century, but the legends were told from older children to younger children and so they survived throughout the decades. But it can’t survive in a society where the main priority for children is to become factoid memorizers and number-crunchers who can make their parents proud by getting higher grades than the other children. Besides having their future stolen from them through environmental pollution, there’s a de facto cultural genocide ongoing against those who have not spent a lot of time on this Earth yet.
Venture capitalist: So what do we do?
Me: I don’t know, it would be great if we could inject all the elderly with something that will prematurely send them to their maker I suppose, but I doubt they would go along with it.
Venture capitalist: Yeah I can’t imagine such a thing happening.
Me: Yeah they’d never be dumb enough to fall for that. You’d have to really terrify them with all sorts of horror stories about what happens if they don’t get the injection and then completely censor all social media they use to keep them from figuring out what’s going on. Good luck with that.
Venture capitalist: Yeah, not going to work.
Me: Well shoots, I’ll see if I can think of something else. I’ll let you know when I have an idea.
Venture capitalist: Yeah, be sure to let me know! Good luck!
[I now step out of the elevator. I’m guessing it’s the Burj Khalifa because this elevator pitch is rather long.]