Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Transhumanism Kills

I am often chided for taking so seriously the ridiculous claims of transhumanists and other Robot Cultists. But of course ridiculous ideas regularly distort public debates, especially when ridiculous ideas are congenial to rich and powerful minorities at the expense of precarious majorities. A case in point:
During an interview with the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, [Indiana Governor Mitch] Daniels claimed that raising the retirement age makes sense because people will eventually live to be 100 years old by “replacing body parts like we do tires…” Aside from the obvious folly of raising the retirement age now in anticipation of human body-part replacement technology that may or may not exist at some undetermined point in the future, Daniels is basing his policy preference on the same faulty understanding of American life expectancy espoused by loads of would-be Social Security reformers. While average life expectancy has indeed been rising, it is largely as a result of increases among upper income earners working in white-collar jobs. Middle- and low-income workers [who actually do exist --d] have not seen the same increases and would be disproportionately affected [adversely, in the real world and in the real present --d] if the retirement age were raised.

Emphases added.


Martin said...

You know, I just thought of something. Life expectancy today is 78 years, but 72.8 for African Americans. In 1940, when SS started, life expectancy was 63.3 years, however it was closer to 50 years for Africa Americans. Setting the retirement age to 65 was an effective way to exclude them.

If the retirement age were set appropriately to the life expectancy of different races, ethnicities, or groups, people would complain about preferential treatment. So, once again, poor people pay social costs for rich people, who disproportionately use retirement benefits.

jollyspaniard said...

You also get a lot of people objecting to taking action on climate change because some magical technological fix will appear in the future. Why go to the effort of solving a problem now that will be magicaly solved tomorrow?

Dale Carrico said...

Quite so. They call it "geo-engineering"!

Martin said...

Interestingly, if we set the retirement age in the same way that it was set in 1940 (a little above median life expectancy), it would have to be 80 today. Very few people are capable of working that long. Obviously, while our lifespans have increased by 15 years over the last 50 years, our healthspans have not.

Dale Carrico said...

Of course, the key issue is just who gets included in that pronoun "our" when speaking of our lifespans, our healthspans, our working lives... Btw, I think James Galbraith's proposal to lower the retirement age right about now makes enormously good sense.