Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Time is a weapon

I am not a politician, nor am I an economist. I am a scientist. But it seems appropriate to hypothesize here that a future where life-extension technology is available only to those who can afford it, or to those whom society considers useful, will look very different to a future where life-extension technology is more broadly available.
This sentiment is directly pertinent this week to two instances concerning people I know and difficulty in accessing and/or affording specialized treatment. One instance ended in suicide, as the pain without treatment was too terrible to bear; the other instance may not be ended yet, but has thus far wrought nothing but misery.

Think about it. Imagine a disease that everyone is subject to. Imagine there's a cure and it's proven, not merely theoretical or experimental. But only some people have access to it. Their privilege is not based in their genes or any other innate factor (not that that should make a difference). It's based on a social construct: money. Shouldn't everyone have a right to the cure? The same access to it?

In the case of this novella, the disease is aging.

Everything Belongs to the Future, by Laurie Penny — journalist, writer, activist, feminist — has some big things to say about big pharma. Also about aging, ageism, and gerontocracy. And time.

In 2099, the Earth is still a viable habitat, due in no small part to the fact that people expect to be around in a couple hundred years. Mother Earth is no longer a problem to be pawned off on your children; you have to deal with it yourself. But it's not all easy.

Life, and death, are now, more than ever, political. One faction chooses to redistribute the cure. Other people embrace their natural lifecycle, but almost in protest.

It's a short, easy read. The storytelling is a bit workman-like, and while the story ignores many of the implications of its premise, the food for thought is worth the price of admission.
Meanwhile: consider that time is a weapon.

Before the coming of the Time Bomb, this was true. It was true before men and women of means or special merit could purchase an extra century of youth. It has been true since the invention of the hourglass, the water clock, the wrist watch, the shift-bell, the factory floor. Ever since men could measure time, they have used it to divide each other.

Time is a weapon wielded by the rich, who have excess of it, against the rest, who must trade every breath of it against the promise of another day’s food and shelter. What kind of world have we made, where human beings can live centuries if only they can afford the fix? What kind of creatures have we become?

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