A Profile Piece on Michael Rose, Aging Research, Radical Life Extension

The Orange County Register recently published a profile article on the work of biologist Michael Rose, author of "The Long Tomorrow." Some obnoxious free registration acrobatics might be required to view it, or alternately, if reading this post within the next few days, you can jump to Google News and click right through. The article is notable for being the first mainstream piece I've seen in which Rose puts figures to his thoughts on the timescale for radical life extension:

In 400 years, people will live to be 1,000. Michael R. Rose knows his prediction sounds ridiculous. To most people, it probably seems unbelievable. But, after working on aging for 30 years, the UC Irvine professor and scientist says we'll be playing golf in our 900s.

...

"You can't be in the NFL anymore. You can't be Britney Spears," Rose says. But you can be middle-aged for a long, long time, if that's what you want.

"People will look back on the 20th century as one of the last ages where you could fall apart without anybody doing anything about it," Rose says.

"I figure this project will go on for 200 years. I don't expect to be around."

Needless to say, I think there's a good chance that we can do much better than this prediction, or I wouldn't spend as much time as I do on advocacy in support of longevity research. The key concept to consider when thinking about the future of life, health, medical technology and longevity is actuarial escape velocity - every round of improvements brings more healthy years in which to await (or help to advance!) further improvements. Thus comparatively modest initial gains in technology and life span can be the first step on a road that is a long as you'd like it to be. This is far from a universally accepted idea, but it makes sense to me.

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Comments

Comments about multiple centuries from today always strike me as naive for failing to consider: (i) Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns and (ii) the potential for a global catastrophe. Most comments, such as Rose's, seem to imply that achieving escape velocity will take a long and gradual progress, but that eventually achieving it is inevitable. Considering how often Rose meets and talks with less moderate life-extensionists (e.g. Aubrey de Grey), one would have thought that he would have recognized these truths by now.

Posted by: Kip Werking at January 11th, 2006 4:34 AM

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