This is actually not the first time we’ve approached Health Care in a Science Fiction Today post. So I want to try to avoid hitting all the same territory, and instead tackle one of the big health care stories recently: longevity. As in, they’re really starting to think that people are going to be able to live way into the 150+ year range.
And I’ll admit: I haven’t actually read any of the articles. I don’t feel I need to for this. We’re looking to the future – to science fiction. So what does long life look like in science fiction?
Really, it’s not often in science fiction (or fantasy) that you see really long-lived, health-repaired people. What you do see are immortals. Generally not many of them, either. Whether it’s the fountain of youth, vampirism, or body-replacing technology, generally only a few can live forever in stories. So the tension is often about how does this long-lived character deal with relationships with mortals?
And whether it’s fantasy and you’re looking at someone like Drizzt Do’Urden, who has watched all of the non-elves in his life passing away (after over 20 books), or a science fiction character like The Doctor, we get to watch the heartbreak as they move on from those closest to them. However, these are naturally long-lived or immortal characters.
So when it’s science augmenting life, we see all sorts of methods used. Cloning, cryogenic freezing, body replacement. Virtual lives like in Surrogates. And what these things seem to have in common? They’re for the rich. It’s not what everyone does. And the other thing the rich have? Enough money to afford to live for that long.
How Much Retirement Do We Need?
What scares me is not the sad, sad stories of characters living forever, watching mortals die around them. I’ve read Tuck Everlasting. It was great. And not the thought of the rich living for ages – after all, if they live that long, it’s hard to pass on their fortunes to their heirs, right? That could get interesting.
The frightening option instead for me is that science gets us to a point where a great many of us are living to the mid-100’s. Still aging. Hey look, I’ve finally gotten to health care! Because what will life look like in this scenario?
What sorts of health devices will we need, mobility devices? New tests? And my heading is a really good point – how much money are we going to need to work and save up if we spend half of our lives or more in retirement?
Or will we be in retirement – or working? What will work look like if we’re working over 100 years old?
I genuine don’t know that I have the answers, and I’m not thinking of science fiction examples to answer the question. So I’ll ask you – what do you think we’ll do? And, do you know any science fiction stories that explore this topic? Discuss in the comments below!
This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!