The Slow Spread of Ideas

I'm always pleased to see the basic concepts of healthy life extension - and its relationship to scientific research and development - out there in the wild, as it were. Even if folk have it a little wrong, or are overenthusiastic, or overly pessimistic, they are still talking about longevity and the prospects and scope of progress. Facts a little askew are a whole lot easier to correct than the complete absence of interest, opinions and knowledge.

The normal way of looking at life is to believe that death comes closer as we grow older. This seems quite logical because it is usually old people rather than young ones who die. We talk of life expectancy as if life were like a clock that was counting down our allotted time on earth.

Very depressing.

Until one realises that life expectancy increases as one grown older.


By the time today's twenty year old had reached sixty (in 2047) your life expectancy will have reached one hundred.

In other words, when you were born you could look forward to sixty years of life- but at the age of sixty you find yourself in almost the same position! You now have forty years ahead of you- possibly more.

Here is where it gets really strange.

A man who is sixty in the year 2047 can expect a further forty years of life- until 2087. This will mainly be due to 'survivorship bias' and improvements in conventional medicine. It will be about this time that stem cell therapy becomes viable. This is a process by which stem cells may be injected into an injured area and will form themselves into a new organ just as they do in the womb.

Initially this will be used to repair people who have been injured but the main role will eventually be life extension.

There is indeed a great deal wrong with this at the detail level - regeneration is not rejuvenation, for one, and I'll be greatly surprised if tissue engineering of whole organs, immune systems and the like for replacement is not commonplace in the 2020s. Even the conservative scientists are looking to 2050 for these sorts of medical technology. But there's much more to the repair of aging than replacement of parts in this manner.

The concept of ever increasing life expectancy with time and progress is an important one, however, and I'm pleased to see it repeated more often. This is why we should strive for incremental improvement now even when we know that complete victory over aging will take decades more - the early gains, if large enough, will see us through to that victory. Our life expectancies will increase into the far future, marching alongside progess in bio- and nanotechnologies, if we beat the curve.

Which brings me to the most important error in this piece - it treats this future as a given, when it is not. The future is built by our actions, and if we fail to advocate, support and fund large-scale longevity research, then we will degenerate, suffer and age to death just like our ancestors.

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