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An economy in turmoil

By 2218, the way the world worked had transformed as health, ageing and death became more predictable. In Episode 2, Sam examines the previous century’s economic crash, which changed the whole idea of money, of work, and of putting all eggs in one basket with a single economic system. The problems caused by huge advancements in technology, longevity and climate change had resulted in worldwide financial turmoil.

Shifting careers

The future saw artificial intelligence replace human beings in many jobs, and so a different idea of work and money started to appear. Anton Gildenhuys, Chief Actuary and Group Risk Officer of Sanlam, has considered the trends that indicated people would live longer, concluding that a person would have to quadruple their amount of work in a society where jobs would become scarce.

During her 200-year life span, Lesedi had to switch from a linear to a cyclical way of living by completely shifting her assumptions about having a stable career and pension fund. She would study, work hard for a few decades and then take a mini-retirement to relax, travel, and visit family (but never for long periods of time). Lesedi discovered that if she left the working environment for too long, she would be left behind by rapid advancements in artificial intelligence and their ever-evolving role in the working world.

But what does a longer working life mean for the next generation? Would staying in top-tier jobs for longer leave our youth struggling to find opportunities to grow their wealth? Episode 2 also introduced Cebisa Ndaba, a writer and leading activist from 2118, who argued against life extension, believing it to be the ultimate act of selfishness, as generations to follow would have to compete for the little resources and jobs that were left. She was not only a powerful voice for the movement, but also Lesedi’s youngest child from her first marriage.

What Cebisa failed to predict is that preventative medicine and preventative maintenance would gradually reduce the burden of welfare costs. As the pharmaceutical industry shifted, money began to trickle into other aspects of the economy, increasing opportunities for future generations – a phenomenon known as the longevity dividend.

“Whether it’s to do with insurance, life insurance, health insurance, pension, inheritance, even education, all of these things will have to be completely rethought. And of course when I say have to, I mean it will be a very good thing if we can rethink these things.”
– Dr Aubrey De Grey

A changing approach to money

Anton Gildenhuys had also suggested people would approach personal finance in one of two ways. On one hand, society would continue to save towards their pension fund and grow it exponentially, thanks to the long-term accumulation of compound interest.

Pension funds would grow much more, which would mean that there is more capital available in society and that capital then can be put to use, and that will create jobs and so on, so you get a virtuous circle.” - Anton Gildenhuys, Chief Actuary and Group Risk Officer of Sanlam (2018)

Alternatively, we could stop saving completely, due to the concept of retirement becoming redundant. He warned that a society that doesn’t save would lead to a drastic drop in investments, resulting in there being less capital available in society, fewer jobs and consequently, even fewer savings – a vicious cycle that would have a profound impact on our economy.

Anti-ageing pioneer Dr Aubrey De Grey had a different idea, believing that many of our concerns about the future are born from the assumption that only our concept of ageing will change and the rest of our lives will stay stagnant. He argues that as technology pushes society forward, it will give us solutions to potential problems caused by life extension.

What is Lesedi hiding?

Toward the end of Episode 2 of The 200 Year Old, Sam asks Lesedi if he can visit her in person one last time, as the decision whether to try anti-ageing therapies himself has been weighing heavily on his mind. But when Lesedi refuses to see him in person, Sam is driven to find out the truth. What will he discover in Episode 3?

As we celebrate our 100th year, Sanlam will continue to look ahead at what fundamental changes might take place in the world, so we can build a better world for generations to come.

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This podcast is fiction, set in a projected future. Based on current scientific research, it is supplemented by the opinions of present day experts. The expert opinions referenced in these podcasts are those of the experts themselves and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Sanlam.

To find out more about the research that went into this episode, ask The 200 Year Old a question on Twitter on @200YearOld.



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