The Ageing Phenomenon

imageThey say Al-Khidr (the Green Man) was with Hazrat Ibrahim(as). A millennia later, he was a teacher, of Hazrat Musa(as) as stated in Surah Kahaf. And then, so many auliya have testified they met him over the ages. Al-Khidr has been eternal. We also know Hazrat Nuh lived 950 years in his long struggle for righteousness. Eternity has long been a desire of humans, but we realise it is not a physical possibility for us commoners. At the least, we can crave an extension of our present day life and so we endeavour to achieve this dream.

Science has reached a stage where digitalisation of medicine will lead us to that extension of life expectancy. With the mapping of the human genome, we are able to predict in advance illnesses and counter them. Also with the concept of stem cells, we are experimenting developing human organs. So, when organs fail, then we shall replace those organs – imagine hearts and livers being replaced with new ones. Its almost like a factory, with machinery parts being repaired and sometimes replaced.

The above does not guarantee the quality of existence, as we slow down with age. Therefore, a further push to actually reduce the ageing effect on the body is underway. Age registers on us, because excess air enters between cells during a lifetime. This makes cells sluggish and causes ageing. Scientists are in search to find a cure and expectation is eventually we shall live long with little signs of the deadly age virus.

Already countries like Japan are facing this health and age revolution. It is just the beginning! A life expectancy of 100-120 years is well on the cards. A new world and the behavioural, societal and economic impact is unimaginable.

An ageing population means the demographics will change dramatically. The population base will be lopsided. Older people, fewer births and therefore fewer younger ones. The behavioural changes are just mind boggling. From conversation, to social intercourse, to motivation of life will all change. Imagine fewer laughs, less adventure, more measured behaviour, the need for entertainment will change. People will interact very differently and that will lead to a new set of behaviours, especially in the social media age.

The second effect will be societal. Today generally people work upto 40 years and by the end of which attrition has taken over and they retire. Mostly, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs set in and humans then search for self actualisation. This is so with an average life expectancy of mid 70s. What if this climbs to well over a 100? The societal impacts are staggering. People could be working an average of 60 years and the work force will have several generations in it. From a young person of 20 to an older one of 85, with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z all part of same set up. What would happen to sports participation and viewing. How would change be accommodated by older people, for instance rampant technological innovation. Harmony between several generations of society could be a huge problem. Society structures will change.

Economic impact will be the biggest challenge. Demographic tilt towards old age means that the pyramid of burden will reverse. Fewer will carry the responsibility of the whole. Pensions and health services will be really stretched. Many more aged will use these services and many less young will have to finance it. As few will be working (the population ages) much reliance will be on automation and computers with cognitive artificial intelligence. Thus the labour force will be dramatically changed and this will also effect corporate working. In an unimaginable corporate world, HR systems will be altered drastically, as the hunt for suitable young talent will be cut throat. How that effects the psychology of an employee is an unknown area. Maybe most humans shall want to forego responsibility and not work at all. Naturally as resources are shifted to different areas of the economy, the planning experts will have to manage this restructuring, when fiscal and money resources are reallocated. This will not happen without much resentment, hence there may be world-wide generational conflicts.

My only conclusion is, I am content that this is beyond my time.

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In the expiry of nations

In the expiry of nations

When Halagu ripped Baghdad into shreds in 1257, he was leaving a message of history, not unlike those left before. For a time thereafter, he kept the Abbasid Caliph in a cage and fed him his palaces gold crockery. When the Caliph protested, Halagu enquired what was the purpose of these plates? Had these assets been used to pay an army, then today I would be in the cage and you would be sitting outside. The caliph went to his eventual fate, pondering this question. Mankind too has never quite got to grips with this question.

By my count, 9 major nations ruled in the last 2500 years. The lifecycle of a nation starts with birth from humble beginnings, then a natural cohesion, later much larger than life aspirations (vision), success against the odds, leading to a period of glory and power, decline and then death. The events of final destruction are few and far between, occurring on average once every few hundred years. When it does happen it is cataclysmic, but it is decades or centuries in the making.

It is with this stage of decline, I am most concerned here. Rome born on the banks of the Tiber circa 500 BC, flowered and ruled via their wars and subjugation of enemies. But some 400 years before they were destroyed in 451 AD, Nero was already fiddling while Rome burned to its core. Caligula professionalized deviancy, while other Caesars and cohorts wallowed in the same mire for centuries. Only when the structure of Rome was moth eaten, did Attila destroy the empire totally.

During this 400 year period of decline, Rome still was the ultimate economic and military power in the world. The story is repeated over and over. In all the 9 cases, these nations have ruled on while huge fissures had formed inside. A social scientist evaluating these societies, would pick the tell tale signs of decay, but obviously no one listened. Despite Halagu’s lesson!

So Ottoman society was in decline in the 17th century, but expired in 1921. The Pashas court was a minefield of politics, conspiracy, deviancy and lots of other evils. Similarly in Victorian times, British morality and social norms declined, with the elite living off the fat created by previous generations. The nationalistic desire to fly the flag world over was consigned to the heap and more hedonistic motives led to self-indulgence. Again a social scientist in second half of 19th century would have said the nation is declining. But soft, they still survived two world wars almost a century later!

That is the crux of the matter, while societies decline great nations survive on economic and military strength way beyond, when their spirit has been broken. The house of cards can take long to collapse.

Now just look around and do you see something familiar happening in the last 50 years? On the North American continent is a nation born some 400 years ago, which has aspired and reached greatness and won wars and influence. When its Baby Boomer generation existed, it was a land of harmony and enjoyment, the nation was at one with itself – an envy for the rest of the world. Since then, in the last 5 plus decades, its society shows all the signs of deviancy that mankind can think of. It started with the breakdown of the family institution, leading to one parent families. Its people now focus on consumerism, just like the Abbasid Caliph in 1257 and they live for enjoyment. They do not create and manufacture things and have tolled these out to ‘inferior countries in Asia’. The country has indulged in economic wars, which it has not won, because its people do not want to take part in these wars.  Its people are forever fighting for their personal rights in court and it has become a country of litigators and litigants. It has very high rapes per capita and the most legal suits ratio. The people eulogize themselves, through items like Miss Universe and the Oscars. They have become a people lacking depth and wisdom and their media screens issues based on share of viewership rather than importance of topic.

For those who keep looking for Green Cards and American nationalities, I would suggest think again. You do not want your children and descendants growing up in a country which is on the skids. The end seems nigh.

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