The Global Forum for Longevity is an industry-sponsored forum taking place later this month; fairly mainstream, no talk of radical life extension or other forms of futurism that might lead to intellectual discomfort for some. I mention it because it is a symptom of the growing interest in biogerontology on the part of the vast insurance industries of the world - which should not be a surprising phenomenon. To find people likely to pay close attention to the future of longevity science, you want to look amongst the folk who stand to gain or lose a great deal of money due to changes in human life spans. Life insurance, pensions, and other forms of making money through managing statistical risks on life expectancy data are, taken together, a very big business indeed.
So here an insurance conglomerate is, as many of them are, sponsoring an event to help spread knowledge through the system: from scientists to actuaries to risk managers and other decision makers in the food chain. Building bridges and forming communities is in and of itself a form of risk management in the long term: it is a way to lower the likelihood of unpleasant surprises by trying to better understand what the scientific community believes are likely outcomes for longevity science over the decades ahead.
Some quotes from the conference site:
We are living in an era of radical change. Longevity offers us all an opportunity to make more ambitious life choices and look to the future with renewed hope. This is why it is vitally important that we move quickly to meet the challenges which it poses for our society.
Drawing on its expertise as an insurer, AXA is playing its part by creating a space to convene an exchange between decision-makers and experts working to ensure this phenomenon is better defined and fully grasped: the Global Forum for Longevity.
Our conviction as an insurer and observer of demographic and societal changes worldwide, is that longevity is not a fate to be endured but instead an opportunity. We need to respond quickly in order to meet the challenges which it poses to our society.
"Challenges." One thing to bear in mind here is that the big insurance groups are inextricably tied in to the unsustainable pension promises made by politicians past and present in many countries around the world - unsustainable even with modest increases in longevity, never mind what is likely to result from the biotechnology revolution. So there is a certain amount of long term public relations work being undertaken by various parties so as to avoid becoming the sacrificial goat in the end when the system of entitlements collapses. You can make your own decision as to how much of the motivation behind this conference falls into that bucket versus the knowledge transfer aims discussed above.
Empires end when an entrenched elite can spend from the public purse and take on debt without immediate consequence or forethought, destroying the value of their currency in the process. Assuming (perhaps optimistically) that present economic empires survive the next couple of decades, a combination of foolish promises and increasing human longevity will be the rock that sinks them.