The introduction of radical life extension technologies will only exacerbate current social and economic disparities already blindingly apparent to anyone willing to peek beyond the binders of the cult of unfettered capitalism. Like any other kind of health care, unlimited access to the best and most effective treatment is limited to the very rich, and what is virtual immortality if not the extremity of medical care?
Immortality by way of virtual existence (“brain upload” in all of its variants) or physical existence (slowing the biological clock to a near stop), will be – much like the very best in cancer treatment, or priority access to organ transplants, or a thousand other technological answers to the woes of the flesh – an option for the very wealthy and powerful first, and maybe the rest of us later – but only at an extremely high price.
Rise of a vampire nation:
Imagine if you will the economic bloodsuckers and bluebloods – the alpha predators of the American savannah – granted a hundred lifetimes to accumulate even more wealth and power: A family of aristocratic vampires that would leave Dracula trembling in fear. Do you think that these techno-nosferatu (technosferatu!) will want competition from your humble little family? No, but like all vampires, they’ll want your blood.
A Transylvania of the soul:
The media will continue to sell the false narrative of the American Dream to all of us lumpen proles – Your own home! Economic prosperity! Everyone be a millionaire, or a CEO or president! – Only with the addition of a new variant: “You’ll see your great grandchildren become grandparents themselves!” It’ll be a trap, though: As Dracula said to Jonathan Harker, “Welcome to my house! Enter freely, and of your own will!”
“Welcome afterlife tech support. How can I help you?”
Presuming that some variant of radical life extension trickles down to the working class at all, it will be in the form of golden manacles: immortality on the installment plan. Want to scan and upload your consciousness? Well that’s great! Forget Siri, now that you have forever, do you mind spending half of it embedded in a cell phone providing driving directions to the nearest Pinkberry for the sociopathic spawn of the immortal elite? How about disembodied customer service or bill collection or tech support? Have you considered a career in the expanding field of drone pilotry? No? You don’t want to die, do you? Go home and tell your 200 year-old children that daddy is going away forever. You’ll be back.
“You get pretty good at flipping burgers after three hundred years.”
The same kind of virtual slavery will evolve for those still encased in flesh. Imagine something like student loan debt….forever. A mortgage payment with an extremely stiff penalty for default – death. Better keep those payments coming in, and Kurzweil help you if you’re not up to competing with the wealthy, Ivy League Skull-and-Crossbones immortals gunning for what’s left of a highly competitive marketplace.
“Send in the droids. And Crisco.”
Of course, this is all highly contingent on whether or not true artificial intelligence evolves. Vlad Tsepish, CEO, won’t have any need of you little meat puppets when he has an army of highly armed pleasure slaves at his disposal – and an unlimited lifespan to improve on their sexy-time algorithms. You’ll be in the way. And you worried about being made “redundant” at work!
“Do you like being food for the immortals?”
I can see it now, a dystopian vampire Earth: Glittering Xanadus of decadence, the likes of which could only be built by jaded immortals for which death is but an abstraction and a creatures with lifespans of 70 or 80 years is hardly worth considering at all. Outside the pearlescent, blood-soaked walls the parched remains of a world sucked dry of its resources, and a mortal humanity whose only option is slavery or a nasty, brutish life in the badlands.