Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Methuselah" Nation on the Horizon? The Numbers Don't Support It!

Every day it seems, another pie-eyed concept or proposal gets column or air time in the corporo-media. These knuckleheads never once think of running the numbers before they publish most of this crap. Then, it's touted as if it bears some inherent, underlying gravitas.

The latest example of this human hubris appeared in The Weekend WSJ ('Living to Be 100 and Beyond', p. C1) in which it is claimed gerontologists and other scientists are working "furiously to make it possible for humans to achieve Methuselah life spans". The paragraph goes on to describe the range of strategies being studied, including diet, drugs and genetic therapy as well as replacing worn out organs. One guy, an Aubrey de Grey, actually has the chutzpah to boast:

"The first humans to live for 1,000 years may have already been born"

Really, Mr. Genius Gerontologist? And where do you suppose we will put all these millions of Methuselahs?

As noted already, in previous blogs, the commodities indices have been telling us something else: namely that the stores of resources, materials to support even the EXISTING human lives, are not there! One of the best indicators for this is provided by the Global Footpoint Network, at:

According to this site, we currently need not one but one and one half EARTHS to sustain our current rate of consumption. This means it requires on average 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the resources humanity currently uses in one year! Thus, even if the estimate is high, we find that with current growth rates we'll soon reach the actual limits defined and dictated by this number - which means a tipping point and crash. See also:

Which goes one step further and discusses how the soon upon us Peak Oil will cause population to plummet!

Let us say, then, that this Methuselah scheme garners vast research funds and manages to even alter current American lifespans - extending them to 150 years or more. What then? Well, their claim is that all these additional oldsters won't be drains at all since "they'll be healthy and able to find productive work". Horse manure!

You are looking at a putative effect of adding some 600,000 people to the nation every 6 months who would otherwise have died. That is 1.2 million a year, this on top of the additional 10 million or so incoming immigrants and more like 35 million if their nations also undertake this Methuselah research and confer benefits to them. That translates into an additional 36 million-odd new Americans added each year! That means, assuming this Methuselah patch is emergent by 2014, we will have as many people as China (1.1 billion) by 2025.

And yet the economic growth prognostications call for only 140,000 jobs likely added per month for the next eight years - and it may not even be that much if the new austerity budget trend is enacted. Note that number is the "population replacement" number, meaning that there is no net gain in jobs if 140,000 is the maximum net jobs created each month. Now, add an effective number of 100,000 oldsters - presumably frisky and ready to work - and you will need at least 240,000 jobs created per month. But wait, there are younger people in the population too, and we can estimate that at least 300,000 per jobs a month will be needed to get all of them employed. That means we're looking at a total jobs production to support all these folks of at least 540,000 jobs created per month!

Now, maybe in another parallel universe this level of jobs is being created in an alternative America, but not in this one! Not with the low aggregate demand we're facing and forecast low growth the next 5-10 years. (For next year alone, economists at JP Morgan Chase & Co. have forecast a net loss of 1.8 percentage points in growth if the current austerity -belt tightening template is pursued.)

Apart from jobs, there is the competition for other resources and social services, the most critical of which (and the most expensive) is medical care. I mean, those yearly added 1,200,000 geezers (who are presumably not really geezers) will want to maintain themselves with whatever medicine promises, so you're now looking at medical inflation going through the roof. These geezers will likely want spare parts or organs replaced out the wazoo.

Then there is the food and water. If the world population grows by another 300 million per year, because of these Methuselah finds, where are all the livestock going to come from - not to mention grains- to feed them all? Where are the materials going to come from to build them houses, or even bicycles to get from place to place (forget about cars, in a Peak Oil world there won't be the oil to support them)? A recent Economist article ('The Revenge of Malthus') actually made the point that Paul Ehrlich - author of 'The Population Bomb' - would have won his original bet with Julian Simon (of the CATO Institute) in regards depletion of five key commodities: copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten....if the bet were re-calculated today. (Of course, as the piece notes, Simon died in 1998).

All of the indices show we are facing catclysmic shortages in supply, which is to worsen as our global population possibly grows toward 10 billion by 2050. But, of course, if the Methuselah pushers succeed, we'll be looking at possibly 30 billion by then! Far from just the 5 key commodities, I'd be worried about where all the drinkable water is going to come from (never mind the amounts needed for agriculture) especially given the continued ravages of climate change and the prolonged droughts arising from it.

Last but not least, what use at all is living to 150 or "1,000" if Alzheimers makes formidable incursions? Right now, some researchers estimate as many as 15% of aging boomers could get Alzheimers, and no cure or solution has yet been found. If even just 10% of the yearly added 1,200,000 "Methuselahs" ends up with Alzheimers, you're looking at 10,000 new cases per month! Shit, there aren't that many nursing homes on the planet to care for them all!

Oh, and what about retirement and pensions? Or Social Security? The article in the W/E WSJ makes light of this, simply claiming that nearly all these Methuselahs will be "self-sufficient". Yes, well I suppose that's feasible if one can live off of air (assuming it isn't too fouled by all the extra pollution and greenhouse gases) or money grows on trees!

Maybe these gerontologists need to contact the Heritage Foundation group that made the proposal some years ago that the nation needs to encourage more older people to adopt unhealthy habits, like smoking, to render higher probabilities for EARLY demise, to save the assault on pension funds, Social Security, etc.

And here's one more suggestion: maybe instead of trying "furiously" to extend human life and multiply the quantity of elder folk, you idiots figure out more ways to render existing elders' years more quality -filled.

How about you then put more money and effort into finding a cure for Alzheimers, or at least what the precise dynamic is that incepts it? As opposed to finding a way for humans to add to the planet's carrying capacity (and rate of resource depletion) by adding too many unnecessary years to life.

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