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Longevity and coping with an ever increasing population

As technology allows us to live forever, or even just significantly longer, short of government enforced euthanasia we’re going to have to find somewhere for the ever increasing population to live. This can be broken down into 3 options: we find more places to live on the planet, we each take up less room on the planet, or we find some more space off of this planet.

Perhaps we can squeeze more people on the Earth; maybe we’re only scratching the surface of occupying the planet. Many a science fiction film shows cities growing high into the air, and others with humans digging down to benefit from the warm interior. So there is plenty of volume available even if it would require significant engineering such as directing sunlight through fibre optic channels to grow food on multiple levels, or as even that is limited it may have to wait until we have mastered nuclear fusion to give us unlimited energy to produce our own mini-suns wherever we need them.

If we do run out of space, can we then take up less space and resources than we do today? Again, maybe. Possibly we will all volunteer to live in a Matrix style world where we can be crammed onto the planet taking up little more room than a coffin each – happily leaving in a virtual world where we can experience more than ever possible in the physical one. Ray Kurzweil is predicting we will be able to upload ourselves by the 2030s so what need would we have for physical space after that?

The final option is to find more space elsewhere in the universe. This may seem like a radical and almost impossible feat, but with improving technology it might still be an option. NASA’s Advanced Space Transportation Program is aiming to reduce lower Earth orbit launch costs to $200 per kilogram by 2025. To remove the 75 million people currently being born every year from this planet would cost in the region of 1.2 trillion dollars which is about 1-2% of global GDP. Sounds a lot, but it’s about the same as the world spends on defence so is achievable with the political will. Obviously there would be more costs to create habitats in space or other planets but in a few more decades the costs would likely fall keeping it a feasibility.

This is an extract from an article written by Adrian Cull for the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies – the full article can be read here: http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/cull20150704

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Advocate

Founder of Live Forever Club. Author of the Live Forever Manual.

Institute

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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