Longevity and implications for next generation communities

Axel Meisen (former President of Memorial University and now Chair of Foresight at the Alberta Research Council) challenged us to think about 3 issues “overnight”:

  1. What if we do move past fossil fuel – what are the implications for Alberta?
  2. Digital connectivity + infinite computer power available anywhere, anytime at low cost – global implications?
  3. Life Expectancy increasing – what if there are major extensions 120-150+ years?

Tuesday morning started with a discussion about these 3 high level issues.

Would Alberta leave oil in the ground?

  • How do you evaluate the environmental costs?
  • How do you look at alternative revenue?
  • What about alternative sources:  geothermal, solar?
  • What about research investments in nanotech & genomics?
  • Reference to a 1972 Harvard Business Review article on Marketing Myopia re: Amtrak.
  • It’s all about how Alberta defines itself – what is a rational transition?

What about ubiquitous (more than now) digital connectivity and computer power?

  • We are constrained by our ability to process the information—how do we train our brain to deal with this?
  • Knowledge is a commodity of abundance – we are going to need to re-design how we are going to be at the leading edge of knowledge creation.

And, what about increasing life-expectancy…

  • What are the implications?
  • Is longevity the bi-product of our biotechnology revolution?
  • What about the implications on our carbon footprints – for every person born we have to hand their footprint for twice as long.
  • If we lead a longer life – are we healthier because of improved diet?
  • We have to re-think our power relationships – what about the younger generation?   What about the way research (medical) seems to be moving from children to the elderly?
  • What about the financial infrastructure – fewer people working as needs for the elderly compete for resources.

Good discussion and good questions to ponder.  Many of us are in the so-called sandwich generation — children and parents to look after.  When you listen to David Baxter, our resident Vancouver demographer, you see quite a startling picture of the future.  And he isn’t using Axel’s quite radical speculation on how long we will live.

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