What world are you going to retire into?

All the money bloggers talk about retirement. How much should I save? Which investment strategy should I follow? How can I save more by reusing plastic bags? Should I turn off the burner after I’ve brought the spaghetti to a boil to save on energy costs?

But what if the world is going to change so radically that our current idea of retirement/old age is completely irrelevant? Thinkers like Ray Kurzweil, Joel Garreau, and Eric Drexler believe that technological innovations such as molecular nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and genetic manipulation are going to radically extend our lifespan, allowing us to live hundreds of years if not forever -- not to mention ending scarcity of all kinds and completely transforming our understanding of economics.

I once spoke with Christine Peterson, head of the Foresight Institute, at a conference. My boyfriend and I asked her if we should be saving for retirement, and she looked at us like we were insane. “Of course not!” she told us. She agreed that for now it’s good to have money, so we should be saving something, but argued that a better investment would be to spend resources on improving ourselves.

In a future where nanotechnology has ended economic scarcity, such thinkers argue, humankind will value intelligence, knowledge, skill, and creativity. With time and money scratched off the list of limited commodities, your personal reputation and ideas will be far more important than your Vanguard balance.

Of course, no one knows whether such a radically different future awaits us, or at least which one, but it’s well-worth thinking about. Read Radical Evolutionand let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

I've been looking for this article forever! I've read Ray Kurzweil's book. Right now I'm working my first full time job and I was wondering whether I should start saving up for retirement. 'guess not.

I wonder what will happen to all those people who will put money into retirement but never decay enough to collect it. There'll be enough of those people that something will be done... maybe reimbursement + inflation. Maybe I should put money into retirement anyways, hoping that the government will solve my problem ;)