BIG THOUGHTS HERE.
1) There is plenty of evidence that classical and medieval thinkers regarded a natural life-span as going to the mid-70s, with perhaps an extra decade or so for the atypical cases, even if, yes, the average death date, even among the upper classes, was somewhere in the 40s-to-50s range, really right up to the late 1800s.
2) The barrier to having everyone live with vigor up through the 70s, and then hanging on for another 30 or 40 seems likely to be more social (the economic math won’t add up, for one thing) than technological.
Someone–not me so much–might say that worrying too much about the economic math is a display of insufficient faith in technology. (See Peter Thiel.) It’s true that until lately all the thinkers have been taking the national life span as a given, and they’ve tried to ennoble it by calling it a “complete life.”
I’ll bet they’ll also say that some lives must be more complete than others.
Montaigne says, “To die of old age is a death rare, extraordinary, and singular, and therefore, so much less natural than the others `tis the last and extremest sort of dying: and the more remote, the less to be hoped for. It is indeed, the bourn beyond which we are not to pass, and which the law of nature has set as a limit, not to be exceeded: but it is, withal, a privilege she is rarely seen to give us to last till then. `Tis a lease she only signs by particular favor, and it may, be to one only in the space of two or three ages, and then with a pass to boot, to carry him through all the traverses and difficulties she has strewed in the way of this long career. And therefore my opinion is, that when once forty years we should consider it as an age to which very few arrive.” and I love him for it.
In a recent conversation, a friend said that if he could live (like a lobster?) without serious deterioration, extended age would be worth the trouble. I argue that life would become tedious. However, those that I know who are advanced in age, even when infirm, do not seem eager to discard the body that betrays them every chance it gets.
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