In the Long Run, Even Baseline Humans Will Live for a Very, Very Long Time

It is at present somewhat out of style to point out that, yes, obviously, it will be possible in the future to ensure that humans live for a very, very long time. That will be true for even baseline humans lacking all of the various genetic modifications one might propose a future scientific community to be capable of, modifications to introduce the numerous distinct forms of resilience to the mechanisms of mammalian aging exhibited by naked mole-rats, whales, elephants, bats and so forth. Control over aging is a subset of control over molecules and their positions. To be as reductionist as possible, degenerative aging is a matter of the wrong molecules in the wrong places. In the bigger picture, our technological capabilities are inexorably heading in the direction of far greater control over all matters relating to the arrangement of molecules.

However, we now have a longevity industry that is very focused on the short-term, the next step on what will likely be a very long road towards biotechnologies that will completely control aging. For reasons that remain unclear to me, the cultural complex of media, academia, regulators, and industry is allergic to considering both the short-term and the long-term in the same few breaths. Near all talk of imposing visions vanishes in favor of incrementalist rhetoric as the venture funding ramps up and regulators become involved. Thus it is pleasant to see that at least some few individuals are still willing to stand up and say the obvious: that people will absolutely live for thousands of years at some point in the future, and that what we do now in research and development for the treatment of aging is a part, a small part, but a part nonetheless, of the continuum of technological progress that will lead to that outcome.

How Old Can Humans Get?

How long can human beings live? Although life expectancy has increased significantly over the past century, thanks largely to improved sanitation and medicine, research into hunter-gatherer populations suggests that individuals who escaped disease and violent deaths could live to about their seventh or eighth decade. This means our typical human life span may be static: around 70 years, with an extra decade or so for advanced medical care and cautious behavior. Some geneticists believe a hard limit of of around 115 years is essentially programmed into our genome by evolution.

Other scientists in the fast-moving field of aging research, or geroscience, think we can live much longer. A handful of compounds have been shown to lengthen the life spans of laboratory animals slightly, yet some scientists are more ambitious - a lot more ambitious. João Pedro de Magalhães, a professor of molecular biogerontology at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham in England, thinks humans could live for 1,000 years. He has scrutinized the genomes of very long-lived animals such as the bowhead whale (which can reach 200 years) and the naked mole rat. His surprising conclusion: if we eliminated aging at the cellular level, humans could live for a millennium - and potentially as long as 20,000 years.

"I actually did some calculations years ago and found that if we could "cure" human aging, average human life span would be more than 1,000 years. Maximum life span, barring accidents and violent death, could be as long as 20,000 years. This may sound like a lot, but some species can already live hundreds of years-and in some cases thousands of years [such as the hexactinellid sponge and the Great Basin bristlecone pine]. If we could redesign our biology to eliminate cancer and evade the detrimental actions of our genetic software program, the health benefits would be mind-boggling. I think it's possible. Is it going to happen soon? I think it's quite unlikely. Even if you can figure out how aging works, it is not easy to develop interventions."


Unrelated but ( imo) exciting news.

Many well known longevity experts including AdG, Peter Diamandis, and Sergey Young will be in it. Imo, if it is successful, benefits include bringing this topic to the masses and more revenue to the longevity field.

Longevity.Technology: The movie, which is set to be released early next year, features a host of top experts, scientists, researchers and startup CEOs, as well as celebrities and critics in the longevity space. This range of opinion lends credibility to the project - presenting an unbiased view to allow the viewer to reach their own conclusions. This straightforward approach is of wider benefit, too; by hearing a variety of viewpoints and discussion the issues, the film is sure to generate wider debate and foster discussion, leading to new perspectives and hopefully new funding for the space

Posted by: Robert at August 9th, 2023 2:58 PM

I suppose making us live much longer by tweaking genes (boosting dna repair) is going to be a lot more doable than trying to reverse damage already done (10 trillion cells each with a random set of errors).

At age 50 (a healthy fit 50 mind you, but still.. 50)... I begin to wonder if my generation is the one that only gets a glimpse at this future.

Posted by: matt at August 9th, 2023 6:49 PM

Young blood therapy shows that damage already done is easily reversed and you don't even have to know how it works.

Give the right signal and the body takes it from there. A whole lot easier than us trying to jack around with every one of the things individually.

Posted by: Lee at August 9th, 2023 8:14 PM

Seeing recent studies and previous ones removing/diluting plasma and adding extracellular vesicles from young mammals should really give a nice health span effect but getting most people much past that 100 year mark is going to take some big breakthroughs.

Posted by: Mike Best at August 9th, 2023 8:33 PM

Talks about 20 kilo years lifespan are too remote. Just for perspective:
Anatomically modern humans appeared some 70k years ago. Modern humans(complex tools, art , etc ) are only 40 k years old.
first towns and proto civilizations appeared less than 10k y ago. First written systems appeared about 5000 years ago . Bronze age really started 2500 years ago. Compared to this 20 000 years is virtually forever


I suspect that we will hit quite a few psychological barriers from 200 to 700 hundred years old. But let's get stuck on that bridge when we get there.

And for sure, barring human extinction humans entirely 6 will live a few hundred years. Even just because we breed ourselves into mid to old age parents for purely social reasons. So if the age of first child now is 30, the next generation can be 40. A few more generations and the young couples will have their first babies in their sixties. All this with minimal medical advances.

Of course this scenario would take a few generations.

Posted by: Cuberat at August 10th, 2023 12:11 AM

Bold predictions for the future are premature

This page was posted on august ,9 2023 - it is the anniversary of bombing of NAGASAKI
78 years ago- it was a nuclear Holocaust in which hundreds of thousands humans died and many more suffered shortened lives.
There are still many nuclear bombs which can explode at any time and drastically shorten lives of the majority of humans.
The future is bleak - predictions of extreme longevity is cock-eyed optimism, narscicism

To have extreme longevity - we should have a long lasting peace and total elimination of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons are not a deterrent to anyone.

Technology requires a lot of funding - no guarantee that funding will continue in the future.

Call me a sober pessimist, or a realist.

Posted by: Nicholas D. at August 10th, 2023 9:30 PM

The current Earth population is at 8.1 Billion. The population has grown almost 4X in my Dad's lifetime (he is still alive). Without colonization of other planets, what do you think would happen to the size of the global population if life was extended on average by just 10 years? We already have a crowded, polluted world. Crowds and Pollution would likely increase

I get it that there is plenty of uninhabited land, but we would need to cut into that (more than we are already doing) to feed a growing population.

One study found that for every person on the planet there are 21,000 plastic pieces floating in the ocean. Regardless of whether that is true, more people means more plastic pollution everywhere. All you need to do is to go to any beach to notice that this is a problem. I doubt that there is any pristine beach left on the planet. Plastic is probably floating everywhere.

I originally posted this under the wrong article.

Posted by: Brad at August 13th, 2023 11:33 AM

". . .research into hunter-gatherer populations suggests that individuals who escaped disease and violent deaths could live to about their seventh or eighth decade"

People who eat a standard American diet and do no regular exercise often live to or past their seventh or eighth decade. A hunter gatherer lifestyle (high step count, natural diet) only gives one the longevity of a long lived twinkie eating, couch potato?

Posted by: Brad at August 13th, 2023 8:34 PM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.