Yesterday, I read a blog post about how rapidly the world is aging and what it means for the future. Stephany Anne Golberg in Smart Set writes:
The number of people who are 60 and older is set to triple in the next 40 years. By 2050, there will be more people aged 65 and older than children under 14 for the first time in history. By 2150, one in three people will be over 65. In developed countries, aging is coming sooner than that. By 2050, half of the people in Spain will be 55 or older. In England, there are already more baby boomers than teenagers. In Japan, the world’s oldest country, more than 21 percent of the population is over 65. The world is getting older and the process, given current trends, cannot be reversed. There may never again be a world that is mostly young.
One interesting question is whether an “old world” will mean a shift in values. If most people are over 65, will society value what comes with that? Or, if youth is rare, will it be more prized than it is now?
And what if the state of being old itself drastically changes? Goldberg praises the ideas of Raymond Kurzweil, who has devoted his life to developing “futuristic technologies such as computer programs that help the deaf and the blind read and speak, and supporting artificial intelligence research.” He aims to expand the limits of human biology:
Kurzweil is especially excited about nanotechnologies and he thinks they will change our very understanding of what it is to be old, that they will let us think about being old in a completely new way… It will be a world where senility could disappear, and an elderly woman could give birth to a child.
If technology allows us to control natural and biological processes, then an aging world could look very different than what we might imagine now. Predictions about the future rarely pan out as expected, however, and nature always seems to have the last laugh.