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Are increasing life spans a good thing?

Last year, I read a book called Factfulness by Hans Rosling. This book has, to an extent, changed my perspective on human evolution. It has provoked thoughts in me, led me to read up more on where we as the human race are heading, and given me a number that I’m fixated on —

The world population will peak at 11 billion people.

This gives us a great way to think of the future. You can use this number to size opportunities of all kinds. Also, you can also calculate how much resources (food, water, housing, internet bandwidth, carbon emissions, etc.) we need in order to sustain a good life. Sure, you won’t be accurate in predicting, but you would be able to get a general sense of how much more we need.

The book also talks about how human life expectancy improved from 35 about 2 centuries ago to 70+ years currently.

The reason I am writing this essay just now is because of an equally interesting concept I came across a few weeks ago. In this video, Anshumani Ruddra (Chief Product Officer at Hotstar) speaks about how we need to constantly innovate to stay relevant these days. One relatively smaller point he did talk about was the concept of retirement at 60.

With our life expectancy increasing, retirement at 60 will no longer be viable in the future. We will live longer, thus needing more food and resources, thus needing more money in our later years, so our retirement savings would have to increase. Chances are – to increase wealth, we will likely work for many more years.

We might work until 70, some will work till even 80 (Amitabh Bachchan, please don’t stop ever!). From our graduation age of 22 to the age of 70, we will work for 48 years of our life. Now this is interesting for many reasons:

  1. What would a “working life” for seniors look like?
  2. Can we create work environments for seniors that are not as taxing?
  3. How many jobs would we need to create to sustain the economy?
  4. Or, would universal basic income come as a solution to all the above problems?
  5. And many more…

In the decades to come, as machines do more of what we do as “work” today, we will need to find ways to stay relevant.

This is a thought-provoking concept that presents with itself several opportunities that one can think of.

If you want to learn where the world is headed, I highly recommend taking a look at Factfulness.


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By Hemant Joshi

I'm Hemant Joshi. I write short stories and essays about how our lives are rapidly changing with technology

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