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I’m presently ‘resting’ from writing ‘No Precedent’, the midquel of ‘Where’s Sailor Jack’ that I’ve been working on for the last eighteen months. The book is substantially finished but, ending as it does at Christmas 2019, with intertextuality to Brexit and the plight of Bolton Wanderers, I need to know broadly how these things end up before finalising it. One of these two problems is causing me sleepless nights. You can change your wife, your religion and all your international treaty arrangements but you can’t change your football team.
In the meantime, I’ve been reading the New Scientist for some light relief. What with that photograph of a black hole, or more accurately photon activity around a black hole, and gravitons turning up at LIGO on a regular basis, it looks like Physics is becoming sexy again. But the article that’s most aroused my interest was in this week’s edition, read this morning. ‘Anti ageing drugs are coming that could keep you healthier for longer,’ is the cautious title. Apparently, no longer is longevity the aim, but good health until just before you drop off the end. The article does coyly admit that a side effect could well a prolongation of lifespan.
I’m a theist, but this doesn’t make me other than scared of dying. At 73 1/2, and with the drugs likely to be several years before available, these developments may, like the discovery of sex for Larkin, come rather late for me. The article quotes an average lifespan of 85, with the last ten years in a state of decrepitude. I woke up this morning feeling cheerful too. It sounds like I’m going to decline very quickly.
The article assumes rather than explains why healthy living would lead to a very short terminal phase. It sounds intuitively unlikely. I suspect that longevity would be increased, followed by a decrepit stage that would be little shorter than as at present, as further interventions become available. Health spending would need to rise, and the pensions industry would face another crisis.
And what if something does turn up which has say a one in ten chance of doubling longevity, but also a one in two chance of killing you there and then? Do nothing and you’ve got ten years of increasing decrepitude. Do it, and five in ten you live no longer, four in ten you live ten more years, one in ten a further 85 years. That would be a mean life expectancy of 12 1/2 years, of which 7 1/2 years would be in good health. Statistically, it would be the slighty better buy both for you and for the health service, if you can believe the data. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t. And think of the angst as you took the pill, with a 50% chance of dying there and then. It would be a hard enough decision if you did not believe in an afterlife. If you do, then you may conclude it best to let nature take its course, and face your maker when that time comes, even though you would be costing the heath service money. You just can’t easily say who’s the saint and who’s the sinner. Some advances in science might be better never happening. That can’t stop them though. They’re meant well.