It takes 20 years, give or take, for a new technology to move through multiple cycles of development, commercialization, and competition necessary to evolve from experimental prototype to widespread maturity. A look back at the past few decades of medical progress suggests that 30 years is more likely in that field - there's one effect of regulation for you, a slowing of the technologies that manage to make it over the regulatory hurdle in the first place.
What does this pace of progress in medicine mean for middle-aged and younger people today? It means that the 2030s will see widespread, cost-effective use of the medical technologies you presently read about in the science press. A small selection:
- Replacement organs will be grown to order from your own cells.
- Stem cells will be created, manipulated, and transplanted to direct extraordinary regeneration
- Age-damaged immune systems will be wiped clean and replaced afresh.
- Gene therapy will be a mature technology, and genetic disorders curable.
- Everyone will know their DNA sequence, and have access to a vast database of knowledge that describes risks, therapies, and best practices.
- Cancer will be detected early, and even late-stage metastasis cured with few side-effects by nanoparticle-based, viral, or other therapies.
- The important mitochondrial DNA will be replaced when damaged by disease or age.
- Many of the biochemical processes underlying the benefits of exercise, calorie restriction, and known human longevity-associated genes will be reproduced by cheap drugs.
These are just a few that spring to mind after watching the technology demonstrations in laboratories across the past few years. I've left out much that is promising but not confirmed - and notice that many technologies required for the repair of age-related damage are not yet at the stage where we can be confident that they'll be solved, mature, and widespread 30 years from now. The technology demonstrations haven't yet occurred, or there are too few research groups presently working on the science.
We have years - not too many, but some - to do something about that problem. I'm sure we all know what sort of capabilities in medicine we'd like to see awaiting us 30 years from now. No-one wants to be sick and crippled by age-related degeneration. But based on a survey of work taking place today, there is much left to do before we can look ahead with great confidence.
Remember that even if specific goals in medicine are possible, and even if this is an era of general progress in biotechnology, people still must work to deliberately bring those goals to fruition. The world is filled with examples of the possible and the plausible that have failed to come to pass because no-one has worked to make them real. We'll all be sorry if plausible rejuvenation technologies remain no more than a vision in the decades ahead due to lack of deliberate effort.