There's an old saying that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. I can't see the plight of taxes ever changing, but a company run by Google known as Calico, has brought together a team of scientists with a single mission to try to solve death. Most of us would be quite happy to live longer, especially if we maintain our health and mobility. The question then becomes: for how much longer? Would living to 150 sound about right? How about to 500?
The Calico team and other scientists see death as a solvable problem; they think of death as a technical problem and like most problems, they're tasked to discover a technical solution. Medical science, through vaccinations, antibiotics and so on has already eradicated many diseases that all but guaranteed a life expectancy of about 40 at the start of the 20th century. So if we have managed to double life expectancy in the last 100 years, is it conceivable to double it again in the next 100? Some may say that medicine has not been the prompt to improving our life expectancy (Michelangelo after all died in 1564 at the age of 88) but it has managed to aid us in solving premature death.
In 1967 two million people died of smallpox of the 15 million that were infected. Forty years later, smallpox essentially no longer exists. The Black Death starting in 1397 killed more than 20 million people, whereas the SARS outbreak of 2002 killed only 1,000 globally, and the Ebola outbreak in 2014 that the World Health Organization described as the most severe health emergency in modern times, was contained to 11,000 deaths globally. Indeed medicine, communication and technology have already come a long way in containing the spread of disease - the thing that usually ends up killing us.
Team Calico believe that in the next 100 years medicine will learn to re-engineer the internal makings of the human body to a point where internal organs and tissues will simply re-generate, or even be replaced. Could it be that genetic engineering, nanotechnology and regenerative medicine will ensure that cell degeneration will slow down if not stop completely?
Yuval Noah Harari, in his fascinating book Homo Deus, writes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN after WWII states that the right to life is humanity's most fundamental value. Harari concludes that since death violates this right, that death is therefore a crime against humanity. The Declaration does not state that humans have a right to life to the age of 90, it says we have the right to life full stop!
The bad news is that chances of a life expectancy beyond 150 will not materialize until after 2100 (if at all), so like you, I'm out of luck! It sounds absolutely crazy to think humans may live into the ‘100s, but think of all the other crazy technological advancements that we have witnessed in the last 50 years? Think of how our whole societal structure would change if we were to live to 150 - does that mean you retire at Freedom 135? How about marriage? Congratulations dear, here's to 130 years! My wife may break out in a cold sweat at that thought, however she would have great great great grandchildren to keep her busy!! And if your life expectancy is in the hundreds (barring unforeseen accidents), does that mean we will be programmed to be risk adverse? As a twenty year old are you going to risk death skiing a big mountain or surfing near sharks? Boy, so many considerations! Probably you would just experience surfing virtually from the safety of your sofa. Good luck to Google and the longevity team at Calico - I hope they are successful sooner than later.
Many thanks for reading.