Crazy futurism speculation here—
The presence of children is important to a lot of humans. It’s probably innate. Some adults feel like things are weird and off if no kids are ever around, even if they don’t know that’s what’s throwing things off. I certainly felt a bunch of weirdness from being in a dead city for a few days.
Lots of adults know perfectly well that that’s what’s wrong with their surroundings. My parents were bugging us for grandkids for quite a while before my sister finally jump on board. Indeed, many parents really look forward to being grandparents and having children around.
The developed world is in something of a demographic collapse right now, which has implications for psychological health. I’m not terribly worried about the usual fears around demographic collapse, because if our species survives the next two decades I’m pretty damn certain we’ll have solved biological aging. My actually worry-related musings are the effects of there just being very few children around in a world full of un-aging adults who still have a deep-seated need to have children around.
Of course, once people realize this is a thing that’s making them miserable, and we’re mostly post-scarcity, it seems reasonable to think people will just have a bunch of children to solve this problem. But that really only makes the problem worse. Because twenty years after every couple has a child we’re back to no one having children and needing to have another kid to stay happy, plus 50% more adults with the same problem.
Yes, it’s post-scarcity-ish, so we can just keep expanding off-world and into the stars, but there’s gotta be a more elegant solution available.
No, not the one where we hack our base psychology to remove that particular quirk, although I’m sure plenty of people will do that.
If we’ve solved biological aging, we don’t need to wait until people are fully developed to arrest the aging process, do we? Couldn’t we stop it at any point?
Forever Really Young
Rather than making the problem 1.5 times worse every 20 years, why not make children that will remain children forever? A four year old that will always stay a four year old, developmentally, even after centuries. Or a seven year old, or ten year old, etc.
I’m not sure about this idea, but it doesn’t seem reprehensible on its face.
A lot of people had very happy childhoods. If you are one of them… would it honestly suck to get to have the carefree joy of being a child forever? Some adults even wish to return to childhood right now! It may be a better life than being a dumb grown-up, tbh.
Yes, these children would be eternal dependents. Laws would exist that anyone who brings such an eternal child into existence would be responsible for their care indefinitely. Taking care of a
snakeeternal child is a big responsibility!
People already own pets. Some pets are as intelligent as children up to ages 3 or 4. This isn’t significantly different! Aside from the fact that eternal children would likely have a LOT more rights and protections than non-humans.
This fulfills a biological need of many humans without forcing us into drastic self-modification that some would consider un-humanizing, and without forcing us into geometric growth that isn’t sustainable past even a few billion years.
Worst case scenario, if this sort of thing really is beyond the pale, at least we could slow down development. For every year that a child ages currently, we could instead stretch that so it takes a decade or a century instead, so childhood lasts for 140-160 or 1400-1600 years. This buys us a lot of time.
(and as people start living millions of years, over time they’ll become more comfortable with stretching childhoods to tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of years)
The few people I’ve mentioned this to are rather against the idea. It seems that part of the project of child-rearing for a parent isn’t just “having a child around,” it’s the activity of shaping/guiding/developing a nascent human into a complete, self-sustaining, independent adult.
That’s great and all, and I understand the fulfillment of achieving such a feat… but it’s a goal of necessity right now. It doesn’t have to be the goal in our post-singularity future. Simply having children around because it is psychologically healthy for adults to have humans of many different developmental levels around, and because being a kid with loving parents in a safe society freakin’ rocks, sounds like it would be really great! Why this rush to push people out of that? Feels like status quo bias to me.
This seems diametrically opposed to what I recall your views being on rights/independence for young adults.
There is the issue of informed consent here too, but no one gets asked if they want to be born, so *shrug* I guess.
Aiming for longer gestation periods might slow aging in a way that preserves demographic ratios. Seems like low hanging fruit to me.