I agree with Peter Thiel on many things, but not when it come to his belief that anti-aging will be beneficial. It could be that my concerns are wrong. Or maybe anti-aging is inherently interesting to some people who want to live to see flying cars and no rational critique would dissuade them.
Impossible tree pruning:
Getting older involves building up a world view that allows you to exploit gaps in the world and use them as a way to make money. In order to do this you build a mental model (a tree) of skills based on where you think there’s demand for skills like your own. Each layer takes time to develop. Everyone else is also building up this tree for themselves. What happens over your career is that everyone in the world changes the world in some way that creates new gaps that may not fit into the tree you’ve imagined. Further, the gaps in the world that used to exist become filled. In short, the best approach would be to rebuild your tree from scratch. This is why having kids is more efficient than just having more time on earth.
Even if birth rates went down to replacement rate tomorrow, improvements in longevity would result in more people being on the planet at any given time. This would be because the window of possibly alive people would expand to include older and older people. For the people worried about population growth it may not be as big a concern as growth caused by families having 4 kids. It might still be worth mentioning.
Arguably, one of reasons young people are frustrated with modern politics is that boomers are still very much in the driver’s seat. I think large demographic shifts are likely to create instability. An increase in productive years could lead to an increase in a more drawn out decline. If so, we’ll need more senior care. This may become a costly burden on future generations. We may also have to consider assisted suicide for people who would be dead if it weren’t for technology. Should we keep them alive because we can?
My point is not that people should stop doing this type of research, it’s just that I personally don’t find the benefits to outweigh potential costs. I believe a better understanding of human biology would inherently aid in anti-aging anyways while also increasing our chances of sustaining more human life on the planet, or even supporting life on Mars.