#4. Governments Will Pay You to Bone
Have you ever dreamed that the government would pay you to have babies? You know, like the opposite of what China does? If you're the ghost of Ronald Reagan, you'll argue that the government already tried that project and called it "welfare." If you're the ghost of Rush Limbaugh, you'll say "Good one, sir!" and have an existential crisis, since you shouldn't exist yet. But the whole fundamental problem with an aging population is a drought of young, able-bodied workers. So at some point, they'll have to start providing incentives to get busy making more.
You see, when Social Security got up and running in the United States, there were 42 workers for every retiree, but because fewer people are having kids and old people are living longer, by 2030 that number is expected to be two. That's two workers trudging into the daily grind and putting in their share of taxes to help one retiree get by. And Europe is looking at the same numbers.
Germany came up with a final solution (sorry) -- "reasonable incentive," paying women up to $35,000 for a year of child care leave. Australia straight up gives out cash money for new babies -- up to $6,000. Newly re-elected Russian president Vladimir Putin pledged to give $221 a month and housing priorities to Russian moms who were willing to have a third kidsinzki. And with good reason -- after suffering through two world wars, the Cold War and the rule of a genocidal maniac, Russia is now suffering through its worst population decline ever, with the U.N. predicting that they'll lose 31 million people by 2050.
"OK, it's all come down to Pyotr."
In other words, in the future Russia might be nothing more than a vodka-soaked wasteland where our greatest enemies used to be. Because in countries where new working humans can't be spawned fast enough ...
#3. We'll Desperately Need Foreigners to Do Our Work
True story: In 2011, Georgia farmers were forced to let millions of dollars' worth of food rot in the fields because they didn't have enough laborers to harvest it. The same thing happened in Alabama and Washington and in the 1984 Sally Field tearjerker Places in the Heart.
The reason for the labor shortage was an illegal-immigration law that spooked migrant workers from showing up to work the fields. So why didn't native-born Americans looking for work offer to pick crops? Ha ha. Stop being hilarious with that knee-slapper. Because native-born Americans aren't used to doing physical labor for the wages it takes to keep a farm going.
"And you can't make tortillas for shit, either."
What does this have to do with the surreal future of living among the walking not-yet-dead? Elderly, decrepit nations need young bodies to keep the wheels of society turning, and until we start harvesting octopi to do our bidding, facilitating the movements of both skilled and unskilled immigrants is going to be in everyone's interests.
Maybe it sounds harsh to our First World ears: "Oh hey, let's import unwhites to do our labor! Why don't we bring back slavery and dial-up Internet service while we're at it?" But chances are your ancestors took a very similar opportunity to get you to a place where you can feel bad about the fact that you'd rather stand on a sidewalk wearing a Statue of Liberty costume than pick blueberries off a farm. Are you embarrassed that your great-great-grandparents sold their good china and doctor diplomas for a chance to slop pig innards in the slaughterhouses of Chicago? No way -- that very specific story is part of your narrative, you probably wrote an essay about it in school.
Or at the very least, did a prop speech that really freaked everyone out.
And ultimately all this people movement is a good thing, because it speeds up globalization, which eventually extends life expectancies and global wealth all around. Remember, even now we live in a world where there are more elderly citizens than there are people to take care of them. Which is why one German state started training sex workers to fill nursing home positions. As they put it:
The retraining of prostitutes is an obvious move since prostitutes possess good people skills, aren't easily disgusted and have zero fear of physical contact.
"Hey, baby, how much for an enema?"
Plus, everybody gets a happy ending.
#2. Everything Will Be Engineered for the Old
You didn't think Google's driverless cars were just for drunks, did you? Trust us, you don't want to be on the interstate a few decades from now when the average driver can't go over 45 without everything turning into a confusing blur, the line of their creeping cars one long string of ever-blinking turn signals.
But that's just the start. Have you ever had to childproof your home? Plugs have to be covered, gates erected, breakables moved, cabinets locked, knives dulled, bullets replaced with blanks, etc. Fifty years from now you'll find yourself living in a world where that process has been reversed to keep the world accessible not for babies, but for the elderly. Most of us are going to be walking around in bodies that are slowly failing us. We'll have backs hunched by osteoporosis and spinal compression, arms that can't fully extend, legs that can't carry the weight of our own bones longer than a few minutes, eyes that have yellowed and dulled and can no longer differentiate between James Franco and James Marsden, no matter how hard they try.
"Get that gun out of my face, Stinkeye, or I'll feed it to you."
We'll have to rethink everything -- every appliance and piece of furniture and lawnmower will need to be built to be operated by people with limited mobility. But how do you test the stuff without capturing hundreds of old people and forcing them to use your invention until they injure themselves? Well, one way is with tools like MIT's AGNES suit.
It really bunches in the crotch.
AGNES stands for Age Gain Now Empathy System, presumably because Me Be Old One Day was already taken by Harvard's aging department. AGNES is a suit that helps young people feel old, not by hiking their pants teats-high and making them eat at a buffet, but by physically limiting their bodies with the same limitations that the elderly experience.
One German car maker is using AGNES to figure out how to make their cars easier to get in and out of, retail manufacturers are using the suit to make their packaging more accessible and one grocery chain is using AGNES to make their stores safer for future customers. It's like babyproofing the world -- but the babies will be us.
"Dare me to ramp it?"
#1. Oldness Could Lead to World Peace
War is a young man's game. Not just in the sense that you rarely see old guys tearing it up on the battlefield outside of Stallone movies, but because armies need money to operate. And there will likely come a time when nations will have to spend so much money on the upkeep of their elderly population that sending soldiers out to do war will fall way down on the list of national priorities. If you don't know what we mean, look at the United States federal budget:
Mmmmm ... pie.
See that whole bottom half that says "Health Care" and "Pensions"? That's Medicare and Social Security, aka Programs for Old People. As the population ages, those wedges only get bigger and bigger. Leaving less room for things like "Defense." We'd have to start borrowing money or something.
It's not just the U.S. -- according to researcher Mark L. Haas, the world is heading into a perfect storm of peace and good times, thanks to governments so overwhelmed with the cost of keeping Grandma alive that they won't have money or political willpower to mess with their neighbors.
And Canadians did rejoice.
The exceptions are the underdeveloped countries, where the birth rates are high and lifespans are low, so we can't rule out all conflict. But, according to Haas, the U.S. "will be less able to realize key international objectives, including preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, funding nation building and engaging in military humanitarian interventions." That really does seem to eliminate a lot of the reasons the U.S. has had to go to war for the past 100 years or so.
Haas calls it a "geriatric peace," and it might be the closest thing we ever get to teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony and buying them a Coke. Ooooor history's greatest atrocities are yet to come, because the U.S. will be so focused on getting Grandma to her bonsai classes that we don't notice that an entire hemisphere has taken up arms against each other. It could go either way, really. Keep your fingers crossed!
And Canadians did prepare.
For more things you need to know about old people, check out 6 Obnoxious Old People Habits (Explained by Science) and 19 Things Old People Suspect About Modern Culture.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 5 Reasons the YOLO (You Only Live Once) Meme is Wrong.