Monday, June 13, 2005

Rule by ElderBoom

How old is old anymore? "Seniors" want their benefits to start at 50 but their perception by society as old people to start at 85. Ken Dychtwald argues that the longevity revolution will be the impact wave of the 21st century, having the same magnitude as the industrial revolution.

It does seem true that being 60 these days and in the years to come will not be at all like it was when our grandparents were 60. At minimum, it will be about the usual myriad of choices that all modern life is about.

Dychtwald's pastoral idea of the 6 generation family gathering critically omits integrating the fertility bust. 100 and 120 year olds may be around, but with precious little human capital to succeed them and provide goods and services. Japan has the right idea with robotic elder caretaking and companionship programs but grander scale and quicker technological alternatives are needed.

As Jeremy Siegel probably more accurately points out, the developed nation demographic ElderBoom trend is already completely in motion and neither population stimulation policies nor rampant immigration would help. The issue is who - what human (and technical!) capital - is going to provide the goods and services demanded by the ElderBoom. He argues that the only way for the ElderBoom demands to be satisfied is by a huge transfer of productive assets to the developing world. Flip-flopping a significant chunk of the 90% of productive capacity controlled by the developed world to eager entrepreneurs in the developing world. Buy schemes need to be worked out since the developing world entrepreneurs cannot pay developed world prices but this is a detail.

Siegel's solution sounds good except that with the transfer of assets goes the transfer of power, control and influence, the specialties of human goading. With cultural value system prejudice on the global rise (witness recent European Union constitution vote-downs), xenocism may prevent substantial asset transfer and create quite the feeding crisis for the ElderBoom.