The Atlantic's October Issue: The New Science of Old Age

The October 2014 issue of The Atlantic is now available online—with key pieces summarized and provided below:

Cover Story: “What Happens When We All Live to 100?”
If life-expectancy trends continue, by 2084, the average American will live to see 100. What will that world look like? Contributing editor Gregg Easterbrook explores how an aging population will change the dynamics of society, from how we govern, to spending priorities, to how we approach our most basic social structures. He visits the Buck Institute, a research lab in California dedicated to increasing “health span” by curbing the effects of aging at the cellular level—making real what we once only imagined. The socioeconomic impacts of an aging populace are not far away. Incumbent (graying) politicians strive to maintain the status quo, stifling innovation. Entitlement spending could skyrocket to an unmanageable level. But an older and productive workforce could have benefits: Easterbrook writes that an older population could change the marketplace, restructure our higher-education system, reduce crime, and rebalance family life.

“Why I Hope to Die at 75”
“Seventy-Five. That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.” In a personal essay, the physician and bioethicist Zeke Emanuel explains why he wants his life to end at 75—and why he will cease all medical visits and preventive measures that could keep him well for longer. Rejecting the culture of the “American immortal,” the effort to prolong life through extreme healthy eating and obsessive exercising, Emanuel argues that stretching our life spans will not lead to more years of better health, but in fact, just the opposite: diminishing creativity and memory, lost aspirations, and hardship for surviving family members, an evidenced by his own father’s recent stroke. While he acknowledges that many will disagree with his sentiment, Emanuel firmly stands by his assertion that we should remove ourselves from the global longevity race, arguing that our political and financial capital should be steered in more pressing directions. His argument raises a fundamental question: Should we fight to live as long as possible, or accept a rich life that ends before the lights begin to fade?


Exclusive Interview With Bill Clinton: “I Never Dreamed It Would Turn Out This Way”
On the 10th anniversary of the Clinton Global Initiative, and just ahead of the group’s annual meeting in New York, The Atlantic’s editor in chief and co-president, James Bennet, has an exclusive interview with former President Bill Clinton on the state of the world and of his post-presidency legacy. Clinton freely discusses foreign policy—Gaza, Ukraine, Boko Haram, advents of mobile technology and banking in Africa—philanthropy, and government-funded development. On whether his wife will run for president, Clinton answers: “I have no idea if she’s going to run. I know nobody believes that, but I don’t.” But if she does, the Clinton Global Initiative might stop taking foreign money, to avoid any conflict of interest: “I would bend over backwards to do whatever was necessary. … I think CGI now is enough of a brand, it has enough support, that we can do what we have to do to finance it from American sources.”

“How Gangs Took Over Prisons”
Behind the high security walls of the California prison system, a self-sustaining underworld of checks and balances maintains a quiet, brutal order. Contributing editor Graeme Wood reports on the proliferation of prison gangs and the bureaucratic ecosystem they have come to form. As overcrowding in the 1950s caused demographic shifts, the once-relied-upon “Mind your own business and don’t bother anyone” maxim became defunct. Gangs have since permeated cell walls, turning a profit and enforcing unofficial order on both the inside and out. While guards take meticulously planned measures to retain control over prison populations, Wood writes, inmates’ lack of personal freedom has pushed them to the limits of their own ingenuity.

From Dispatches:

  • Religion: “The Genesis Code”: On a visit to Kentucky’s $35 million Creation Museum, which is devoted to Young Earth creationism, national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg finds himself debating life’s big questions with its “born-again Barnum,” Ken Ham. Goldberg describes the experience as more like “a 3-D hellfire sermon with a food court,” and writes that the museum has become “a forward operating base in the conservative war against legalized abortion, gay marriage, and the belief that man is at least partially responsible for climate change.”
  • Health: “When the Snake Oil Works”: In a new regular health column for the magazine, senior editor Dr. James Hamblin follows one cardiologist in his bid to convince the medical community that chelation therapy, a controversial alternative-medicine practice, could have previously undiscovered mainstream benefits for patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Hamblin also explores the wider issue of the legitimacy of alternative medicine and how to distinguish a quack cure from a true medical breakthrough.
  • Chartist: “How BRICs are Breaking the Glass Ceiling”: Studies show that companies with women at the helm earn higher returns and better organizational-health scores, but worldwide, women still hold fewer than a quarter of senior-management positions. Joe Pinsker looks to economic development as an indicator for gender equality, and finds that the developed world may have something to learn from its BRIC counterparts when it comes to women in power.
  • By Design: “Stop the Bleeding”: After more than a decade of war, battlefield medical technologies have made huge strides. Now, these innovations have the potential to make a big impact in stopping the bleeding stateside.
  • Tech: “Made in America, Again”: After visiting factories during his travels throughout the United States and China, James Fallows outlines three major trends that could shape the future of high-tech manufacturing—and the middle class.
  • Study of Studies: “Status Anxiety”: “Everybody’s like, ‘Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece,” sings Lorde in her pop song “Royals.” What explains the enduring appeal of luxury goods? Status brands impact our society and culture, as studies show.

From the Culture File & Fiction:

  • “The Society of Fugitives”: How does aggressive police surveillance transform an urban neighborhood? The sociologist Alice Goffman spent years doing fieldwork in a poor Philadelphia neighborhood and, in a new book, details how terrible things have gotten. Her subjects were mostly fugitives—in a neighborhood filled with many other fugitives. James Forman Jr., who spent six years as a public defender in D.C., has this review.
  • “Naked on the Page”: In her memoir, Lena Dunham opens a new chapter in her campaign of self-exposure. James Parker describes Not That Kind of Girl as “witty, illuminating, bracingly bleak, and compulsive in its revelations.”
  • Travel: “Where Nudism Took Off”: Tristan Rutherford visits Rab Island, now in Croatia, where the bare-all movement first thrived a century ago.
  • New Fiction: “The Rhett Butlers”: He is 40. You are almost 17. You know his kiss is coming, that day in the classroom, but still it surprises you. Katherine Heiny debuts a new short story in The Atlantic.

The Big Question asks, “What is the greatest scam of all time?” Frank Abagnale Jr., magician Criss Angel, gentleman thief Apollo Robbins, and journalists Matt Taibbi and Katherine Eban reveal their favorite tales of sticky fingers.

These articles and more are featured in the October issue of The Atlantic, available today, September 18, 2014, on and The Atlantic’s mobile apps, and on newsstands next week.