The Era of Living Longer

For so long as the present prodigious rate of technological progress keeps up, we will continually be entering the era of living longer. Each new generation benefits from medical technology unavailable to their parents, and accumulates the biochemical wear and tear of degenerative aging more slowly as a result. A recent New Scientist article contains this demographic factoid:

Of all the people in human history who ever reached the age of 65, half are alive now.

This is the result of a grand increase in wealth across the world over the past two centuries: more people, higher living standards, technological innovation, and better medicine combining to yield a steady increase in human longevity. Slow and steady might be slow and steady, but it soon enough creates a world very different from that inhabited by our grandparents when they were young.

Yet there is every reason to believe that what lies ahead is not more of the same, but a far more rapid leap in capabilities and outcomes. We don't stand on a flat slope of progress, but rather on the flatter, earlier sections of an exponential curve. The biotech revolution of the 21st century will do for our lifespans what the computing revolution of the past fifty years did for human communications:

It's quite likely that we'll all be wildly, humorously wrong about the details of implementation, culture and usage, but - barring existential catastrophe or disaster - [these technological capabilities] will come to pass. The human brain will be reverse engineered, simulated and improved upon. The same goes for the human body; radical life extension is one desirable outcome of this engineering process. We will merge with our machines as nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing become mature technologies. Recursively self-improving general artificial intelligence will develop, and then life will really get interesting very quickly. And so forth ... the question is not whether these things will happen, but rather when they will happen - and more importantly, are we going to be alive and in good health to see this wondrous future?

Whether we get to see medical technologies capable of repairing the damage of aging in the human body is very much up to us. The path is clear, but too few researchers are presently working on it. The public at large are not particularly aware yet that the possibility exists, or that meaningful progress is plausible within their lifetimes. So we will see the future of greatly increased longevity and the reversal of aging if we work for it, and we won't if we sit back and let things slide.

Have you donated to Methuselah Foundation or SENS Foundation recently? You might give it some thought.

Comments

Great piece. Very exciting. I disagree about the "all stand up for funding" bit if it implies "government funding.

The wealth you eloquently speak about was created by free enterprise. The biggest enemy of free enterprise is confiscatory taxation to which we have become subject in the last 80 years or so.

If we are free to create wealth, the funds will be available for research. Taxing ourselves to death in order to live forever is an illusion.

Posted by: William Walsh at April 12th, 2010 7:08 AM

Thanks for your prompt, on point response. I'm new to your site and now consider myself a fan.

Posted by: William Walsh at April 12th, 2010 8:12 AM

@William Walsh
That sounds like a very Irish name are you located in Ireland?

Posted by: Louis at April 13th, 2010 6:08 AM

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