Life extension (longevity) is the idea of extending the human lifespan, either modestly – through improvements in lifestyles, sanitation and medicine – or dramatically by increasing the maximum lifespan beyond its generally settled limit of 125 years. Beyond this 125 years barrier, the technology currently does not exist today. But is this about to change, and what are its societal implications?
Breakthroughs in tissue rejuvenation, stem cells, regenerative medicine, molecular repair, gene therapy, pharmaceuticals, and organ replacement (such as with artificial organs or xenotransplantations) will eventually enable humans to have greatly improved lifespans. Through complete rejuvenation to a healthy youthful condition (agerasia), perhaps indefinite lifespans. The discovery of the “fountain of youth,” has been the dream of humans for millennia. What are some examples?
An enzyme-blocking molecule can extend the lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans roundworms by as much as 45%, largely by modulating a cannabinoid biological pathway, according to a study from scientists at Scripps Research. It introduces a powerful method for applying chemical probes to lab animals such as worms to discover biology that may be relevant to humans.”
Senolytic compounds can be drugs, peptides, or plant extracts that act to cleanse the body of senescent cells. In human cell and animal studies, consistent findings show that removing senescent cells from the body improves various markers of aging and prolongs lifespan in some models. Another promising life longevity technology.
Google’s ultra-secretive Calico Labs announces a significant discovery – the naked mole-rat is the first and only non-aging mammal and shows little signs of aging as it gets older. With wrinkly skin and completely bald, the naked mole-rat is one of the ugliest creatures around but lives an exceptionally long life for a small mammal. It rarely develops the chronic diseases of aging such as cancer and lives 10 times longer than regular rats. The study of animals like these may hold the key to life longevity – if you don’t mind looking bald and wrinkly.
Worldwide, the average life expectancy at birth is about 71.5 years (68 years and 4 months for males and 72 years and 8 months for females). But life expectancy by country varies widely – near 55 to 90 years of age. The figures reflect the quality of healthcare in the countries listed as well as other factors including ongoing wars, obesity, and HIV infections.
Predictions of life longevity seem to be growing by the passing of years (see inset chart). News Forecasters believes over the next 20 years life longevity breakthrough technologies will become available to the general public – the results of this may take another 30 years. Not an issue for today’s generation, but will be for the next. So what will be the implications if the average life span is 150 years?
The first an obvious consideration is pension liabilities as discussed already by News Forecasters. This will just exacerbate an already difficult situation. Early life longevity technology most likely will do just that, get people to live longer – the quality of life may not be suitable enough to allow longevity in work life, thereby adding to this pension liability issue.
Society will also go through some challenges. Imagine having 3 or 4 generations all living at the same time. Extended social family dynamics could be challenging. One area here is in inheritances. Inheritances will come slowly to the next generation. Many next-generation family members will not be receiving the capital to get them started in life. It will make upward economic mobility more difficult.
The cost of life longevity technologies and the lack of inherited upward economic mobility will exasperate the wealth inequality, causing even more political challenges. Economic generational wars may start. New generations will frustrate with older generations, as they will not be giving up control as quickly as in the past. News Forecasters believes this will become one of the top issues for society to deal with (next 50 years) – something not really a concern today.
A video presentation of this subject: