This is the second in a series of articles on living to 100 and beyond. This post was originally published on May 26, 2010.

Hourglass

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/giuliag/2271337743

Living to 100 and beyond… is it a dream, or is it something we can achieve in our lifetimes? Last week, I introduced the concept of living to 100 and beyond, and I talked about how it will affect your retirement plans. In this post, I’m going to go into a bit more detail on what will help us reach 100 and beyond, and how the coming changes will affect us.

What is so great about extending our lifespans? Well, the biggest thing that most of us lack for is time; with time, just about anything can be accomplished, and just about any hurt can be undone. Unfortunately, we all have a biological limit, which gives us only a limited amount of time and energy to accomplish our goals and dreams.

Think of all the great things you could do with more time in your life. You could go visit every country in the world, for instance. You could also pick up a new hobby, such as playing the guitar, and master it. You could learn five different languages, and speak them all fluently. The changes coming ahead will not only give us more time to do all of these things, but it could even require less time for us to do them (think Matrix-style learning — hey, it’s not completely unreasonable).

One hundred years and beyond — how will we get there?

Increased effectiveness against cancer

One step on the road to extended lifespans is reducing and eliminating the things that kill us before our time. Now that we’ve greatly reduced (but not eliminated) the incidence of death via malnutrition, infection, and death at a young age from violence and disease, cancer has risen to become one of the biggest killers. Cancer is a difficult disease to treat; treating cancer often means undergoing grueling chemotherapy, which destroys many healthy cells along with the cancerous cells.

New technological improvements are greatly improving the means by which cancer can be fought and treated. There are new machines which can target a malignant tumour which significantly more precision than older methods. In the future, there will be more advanced robots which will be small enough to enter the bloodstream and kill cancerous cells as they form.

Improved reparation of the body

Even if we can reduce cancer and disease, accidents and old age can still get us. We could still get shot in an armed robbery, or a car could hit us while we are crossing the street. Stem cells hold great promise to help regenerate and regrow body tissues, and they no longer have to be extracted from embryos, either: they can be created from your own cells. Need a new liver or a new heart? No problem, just grow a new one from scratch. Look at this video on growing a new jawbone using stem cells.

Everything you see above is more or less possible today; the technology just needs to be refined, perfected, and made available to the masses. Further on in the future, those same miniature robots which will help protect us from cancer and disease could also be called upon to perform emergency repairs on our body should the need arise, as well as perform regular maintenance. Come to think of it, the same concept could be applied to vehicles and other machines, which means they would be self-healing and self-maintaining, and would not require regular maintenance nor repairs.

Increasing symbiosis between biological and non-biological systems

Even if we will live longer, do we really want to spend so many years with the body that we were born with? It’s one thing to repair and maintain your biological function, but what about extending your body beyond its biological limitations? One step on the biological side of things would be gene therapy and modification, but how about introducing non-biological elements; in effect, becoming a cyborg? How about a bionic eye, giving you eagle-like vision? How about artificial muscles, giving you strength far surpassing the biggest weightlifter but at a fraction of the size? How about peer to peer telepathy, based on wireless networking? These technologies will alter how we experience life in the future.

Retirement planning

So, short of World War III or something on that scale occurring, it is safe to say that life spans will be extended indefinitely into the future. We therefore need to make our “retirement” plans with that in mind. Why do I put retirement in quotes like that? Simply because I think the definition of that word is going to be changing a lot over time. Even today, the idea of working at a company for 40 years and then retiring with a pension is starting to fade away.

I personally define retirement as “getting out of the rat race“. This means that you are no longer required to work for a wage, but have the freedom to start your own business, build up your own passive income, or simply do whatever interests you. In order to reach this point, a nest egg is still required, so retirement planning isn’t going to go away. It will simply be done with a broader purpose in mind.

How scarcity will change

What are we building up our nest egg for? I believe that with the coming changes ahead, the ways in which we spend and use money will be significantly altered. For instance, we can expect the future era to be one of abundance. In the past, we spent most of our efforts on simply producing enough food for everyone to eat. Today, food production is but a small portion of our total efforts as a society. Nonetheless, due to distribution and equity issues, people in some parts of the world starve, whereas people in other parts of the world still need to toil away many hours in hard manual labour, just to get enough food or money to survive. Even in the rich western nations, a significant portion of the population is employed in boring and tedious work.

I will explore the work aspect in more detail a bit later, but first let’s look at the main reason why we need to work so much: It is because even in this rich world of ours, resources are still essentially scarce, in relation to the amount of people on this planet. They are also not distributed very evenly. To not work is to live a life of relative poverty, if not one of absolute poverty. Granted, many of the “poor” in the rich western nations have access to decent housing and some amenities such as TV, but they still don’t live a very good life, especially in relation to their peers.

So, what material changes can we expect?

  • Consumer goods will continue to fall in relative price. This extends to cars, TVs, computers, even homes (as far as material costs go).
  • The dominance of oil in our economy is going to be broken at some point; with the huge amount of potential energy available in the universe, there is no need for high energy prices to be the mainstay of our future.
  • Within the next few decades, we will see a shift to a true carbon economy, in that carbon will be the main building block for materials of the future. As molecular manufacturing becomes realized and energy costs come down, so our consumer goods will also become simpler; there will be no need to use rare and exotic metals for catalytic converters when there is no need for a catalytic converter in the first place.
  • Scarcity will still exist in the medium to long-term future. In the medium term, there will still be a scarcity in land; indeed, one can expect land prices in relative terms to skyrocket as everything else becomes cheaper in real terms. With increased mobility and improved communications, we can also see a “globalization” of property values; those areas with a nice climate and good governance can be expected to rise in value, whereas those areas with poor climate and/or bad governance can be expected to stagnate or decline in value. The main driver here will likely be the quality of governance, since climate can always be adapted to and will be less of a problem with future technologies.
  • New technologies such as sea steading and charter cities will expand the area of desirable land, helping to alleviate the pressure. In the long term, space colonization will provide new habitats for us physical creatures, and virtual worlds which appear as real as the real world can be expected to greatly disrupt the whole concept of attachment to the physical world.

Investing in your future

I mentioned earlier that the idea of working at a company for fourty years and then collecting a pension is outdated. Even if you are lucky enough to have such a job, it’s quite possible that it won’t provide you with the skills you will need to truly prosper in the future. In order to do that, you need to invest in yourself now, to help ensure that you are well-positioned to ride the trends of the future.

As technology takes over more and more of the mundane work out there, this means that highly skilled and creative work will be increasingly valued in the future, as well as those types of jobs that will not be foreseeably replaced by machines anytime in the near future. Some examples would be masseur/masseuse, life coach, team leader, etc….

What’s next

In the next post on this topic, I will look at the financial planning aspect of things; I will take a look at growing the portfolio and then preserving it in order to pay you dividends in the future, thus helping you achieve your goals of ending the rat rate (the true definition of retirement by my standards).

Further reading

Yakezie
Amazon

So, how do you feel about the upcoming changes? What do you think is going to come, and how are you positioned to ride the coming waves? I’d love to hear about it!

This post was originally published on May 26, 2010.

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About

Kevin has left the office, and he is currently fighting the rat race by working on his own business. He enjoys exploring unvisited places around the world and gaining new experiences. He believes that by properly managing our energy and time, we can learn to invest our lives wisely.

38 Comments Kevin on May 21st 2012

38 Responses to “Living to 100 and Beyond: The Changes Ahead”

  1. An insightful and interesting read Kevin. I certainly agree with your points about scarcity. I believe the “world is going to get a whole lot smaller” as Jeff Rubin wrote in his recent book. If you’re interested or intrigued by theories of peak oil; check it out. Maybe you already have?

    I don’t think I’m going to see 100 (I don’t want to if I don’t have quality of life; currently 36) but I do know that I’ll try to make most choices with the future in mind and keep diet and exercise and everything else in life, in moderation in hopes of aging gracefully with distinction.

    I look forward to your next well-written post. Cheers!
    .-= Financial Cents´s last blog ..How to avoid ATM fees =-.

  2. Nice post Kevin,

    I especially agree with this quote: “I personally define retirement as “getting out of the rat race”. This means that you are no longer required to work for a wage, but have the freedom to start your own business, build up your own passive income, or simply do whatever interests you”

    I think people get old when they stop “working”. And work can be training for the Ironman, building a hobby, or working at an enjoyable job. Like you, I want the “choice” to either work or not. Financial freedom will give me that choice.

    The cancer thing is interesting. In most cases, cancer is on the rise because modern diets are poor, pesticide-filled, and rushed. Unless we change those things, I think the next generation will have shorter lifespans, not longer ones, despite medical intervention.
    .-= Andrew Hallam´s last blog ..Beating the Market with Bonds =-.

  3. Very nice post. You touch on many points that are exciting and possibly concerning. For me, it would be exciting to be able to travel even when I am older – so much to see. On the other hand, will we have enough to live longer. This is a primary reason why I plan on retiring from investment income and not just from a large sum of money accumulated and then just spend it. I have heard from acquaintances that for some, their retirement plan is basically the value of their house when they are ready to retire. I doubt it will ever be enough and that they considered the potential long life they could have.

  4. Kevin says:

    @Financial Cents

    I’ve read quite a few articles on peak oil, no books though. I do love to read though, so I could check it out. Are you referring to “Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization”?

    I think that oil is going to be a serious constraint in the intermediate years, especially since it is simply used in so many places: food production, transportation, materials (i.e. plastic), however, there are actually a LOT of sources of oil and gas that can be used if the need is there: coal can be transmuted, garbage can be converted, and we can reduce oil consumption by shifting transportation usage and patterns, etc….

    Peak oil likely means that our living standards will be reduced as energy becomes more expensive, but those same economics are going to make alternative sources that much more attractive, and drive that much more development to them. There will be increased hardship, but I don’t foresee a collapse or regression to the middle ages.

    @Andrew

    I agree with you; I never want the kind of retirement where I stay at home all day and just play games or things like that. I already had more than my share of days like that, and it gets old ;) It’s all about the choice.

    The quality of the modern diet is definitely a serious problem. Have you seen Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution? The so-called Green Revolution has been instrumental in preventing mass starvation, but at the cost of sustainability and quality.

    Have you checked out “A primal blueprint”? The guy makes a compelling case that meat is an integral part of our diet, while excessive carbs are not, but at the same time, conventionally raised meat and fast food are a big part of the health and obesity epidemic. Do we have enough land and resources to feed everyone with pastured grass-fed beef and pesticide-free produce? I’m not so sure about that.

    Modern agriculture is also heavily reliant on oil, which goes back to the peak oil problem that Financial Cents mentioned. There are other issues that bother me… I find it wrong that a farmer can be held hostage to a corporation because the wind blew a few patented seeds onto his field.

    I also don’t know why a nation which has an obesity problem stuffs its shelves with all kinds of carb-loaded dessert foods, frozen foods, and huge portions of chips, snacks, etc…. I don’t mean to be prejudiced but when you go to a Walmart Supercenter in the states and you see people that are so obese that they need a motorized shopping kart, and the first three aisles are full of garbage food, then you have to wonder. There is a clear link there, and people need to start changing their habits if they want to remain healthy enough to make it to the coming technology revolution! This is what Jamie Oliver is trying to do. Only after medical science has advanced enough can they get away with eating anything they want, knowing that they can always fix the damage later. ;)

  5. Hey Kevin,

    It’s funny that you mentioned the WalMart shocker. I saw that when visiting friends in Virginia a few years ago. It was unbelievable.

    I totally agree with you about the carbs. They convert to sugar, which feeds cancer. Red meat, on the other hand, is generally considered a pariah for cancer patients as well. I haven’t found any cancer related research that doesn’t suggest that it should be completely avoided, or almost entirely avoided. There’s a direct correlation between cancer and red meat consumption. That said, cancer researchers haven’t determined whether it’s the meat itself or the crap they feed/inject the cows. For that reason…no more red meat for this cowboy, just in case. Ahhhh, but I do miss the odd burger.
    .-= Andrew Hallam´s last blog ..Beating the Market with Bonds =-.

  6. Kevin says:

    @The Passive Income Earner

    Thanks! I would also love to spend a lot of time traveling someday and see as much of the world as I can. Have you ever read 7million7years? There’s a post on there that recommends not having more than 20% of your net worth tied up in your primary home, and I can agree with that. A home can be a decent inflation hedge, but it shouldn’t be considered an “investment” since over the long runs, the capital gains won’t be significant after adjusting for inflation, unless you are in the up phase of a bubble (you can flip), the area you live in appreciates as a whole, or you are going through a highly inflationary period and have leveraged the home with low interest (fixed) debt.

    At the same time, a home can be a launchpad, since you can get up to 5 to 1 leverage with it, with a 20% downpayment. You can pay down some of the home, and then re-withdraw that equity and use it to invest in dividend paying stocks or rental real estate (with the same 5 to 1 leverage if you do a 20% downpayment). I know that Americans can already deduct their interest from their taxes, but for Canadians, this is also a way to convert the interest into being tax-deductible. It is dirt-cheap money from the bank that is hard to come by otherwise.

    @Andrew

    True, you have been through this ordeal so you know about this stuff very well. I have also read that sugar feeds cancer, and I have also seen the links between red meat and cancer. I also wonder if it’s all the crap that we feed our cows, but since grass-fed beef is hard to find, not to mention very expensive, I try to limit my consumption in general. Do you know if the same issues affect pork? I would imagine that they do, but I have not looked too greatly into health issues specifically linked to pork.

    As always, thanks everyone for the comments; one of my favorite parts about blogging is reading the new comments!

  7. I agree Kevin,

    I also love reading the comments. And to answer your question, the Muslims have this one right: pork is deadly.

    I was eating grass fed beef from New Zealand for a few years. In fact, that’s all I was eating, after learning how much better it is for you. My priorities about expensive organic foods have definitely changed—naturally. I can’t think of a better place to spend my money: supporting organic farms and hopefully extending my own life.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
    .-= Andrew Hallam´s last blog ..Beating the Market with Bonds =-.

  8. Ryan Martin says:

    Don’t know if I want to live until 100, that would mean my wife would be living that long too… what will my sex life look like then? Something else to think about besides cancer, etc.

    Anyhoo, great all around topic, but you know I love this stuff. Can’t say I agree with you about other energy sources though. Yes, we have many, but I think there is going to be a serious collapse or war if our current system doesn’t change. I know I started taking my finances REALLY seriously when I discovered peak oil, and I believe Jacob too at ERE feels the same way: that there is a need (fear) to prepare for the worst. The documentary Collapse sums this up well. You know I’m a fan of Jacque Fresco, so a part of me does hope for the best.

    I look forward to your investing advice. I think we have different “systems”; At the moment I’m not a dividend investor, but I want to learn about it.

    Ryan
    .-= Ryan Martin´s last blog ..Top Tools to Help with Your Investing Strategy =-.

  9. Kevin says:

    @Andrew

    Sometimes I think that I wouldn’t mind running my own little farm, growing my own organic produce. Maybe one day when I’ve exited the rat race. ;)

    @Ryan

    LOL… with the medical technologies in place, 100 will be the new 30. Don’t try to imagine two old geriatric people going at it… don’t go there. ;) About peak oil, I believe the biggest problems will be due to an inability of large social structures (i.e. governments) to adjust, and they will crash into the iceberg like the Titanic. Some will be able to get off the boat but some will sink with the ship.

    There will certainly be problems and unrest as higher energy prices come, but everyone has too much to lose by starting a global conflict (which would require a lot of oil to even fight). Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point. Higher energy prices will provide more of an impetus to wean ourselves off of oil dependence, so that is where I remain optimistic.
    .-= Kevin´s last blog ..Living to 100 and Beyond: The Changes Ahead =-.

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  18. Taline says:

    Another well written post! That’s a large reason I don’t only rely on my pension and have built numerous passive income streams. I think it will help me become better prepared for any major changes that may come my way :)

    • Kevin says:

      Agreed! I live and invest under the assumption that I’ll get $0 from the government when it comes to that day. That might be overly pessimistic, but then again, it might not be. If I do get something, it will be a bonus, and if not, I will still be prepared.

  19. If I lived to be 100, I’d probably die of disbelief. If the whole gene therapy thing works out like you say and my body is ready and able to function, it may not be such a bad thing to look forward. Imagine all the things you would see and be able to talk about within a 100 year time span!

    • I think anyone younger than say, 50-60 today and healthy can probably expect to make it to 100 and beyond. It just gets better for our kids and their kids as med tech keeps improving.

  20. Jai Catalano says:

    I am in a lot of pain at 40 because of my 2 little ones. I don’t know if I can make it to 100 with this same body. Can I sell it on Ebay?

  21. Do you know how they say – life is like a play. Does not really matter how long is it, is it well played?

    Living up to 100 years and still retiring at 60 means that you have to have a sustainable income to live independently.

    The next would be -saving up to 50% of your earnings and get a hands on profession – plumber, for example. You will get a lot of money working weekends..

  22. Nunzio Bruno says:

    I am excited to live past 100. Only my hopes are that it’s more like the future where Robbin Williams goes from being a robot to being a real person – and those organs work to help keep us around and active longer. I think there could be some real benefits to family units, the economy, and even to consumer spending. Just a thought :)

    • I’m not sure, all bets are off past 50 years out I think! Curing aging is really just the first step; there’s still a huge explosion of growth to come.

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