How old do humans get? The world record is 122 years old. Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist and chief science officer of the SENS Foundation, tells us that eventually and inevitably we will reach “longevity escape velocity” and humans will live to 1000 years old. At a talk in San Francisco in December 2012, de Grey, who is the author of Ending Aging (St. Martin’s Press, 2007), asserted that the emphasis of his work is in “robust human rejuvenation” (vs “human longevity). Human longevity is a by product of health.
How would life spans that reach into the thousands of years change us?
How would it effect family, career, faith, religion, travel, politics, economics, happiness?
The 2011 film, In Time, starring Justin Timberlake described a dystopian future in which “life span” is a consumable that can be bought and sold. These future humans were engineered to stop “aging” (in the sense of manifesting the damages the human body suffers with the passing of time) at the age of 25. They work their jobs and are paid with “time” or “increased life spans” and purchase things with time and decrease their life spans. The rich accumulated millions of years of life but the poor worked daily for their living, literally, just to gain a little more time.
Author, Sonia Arrison, writing in Slate (Don’t be Afraid to Live Longer, Justin Timberlake) believes that In Time got it all wrong.
While the film’s fun, it falls into a dystopian trap, assuming that greater longevity would create a terrifying society. But it gets almost everything about human life extension wrong. Scientists are on the verge of discovering ways to radically extend human life—though they probably won’t figure out how to maintain the pristine looks of 25-year-olds any time soon. In Time seems to argue that we should be concerned about this looming longevity. But there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Arrison, is right. One of the dangers of trend spotting is the tendency to emphasize the negative. However, the point of the movie is not to create a set of alternative scenarios, some negative and some positive. The movie describes one scenario, a dark one. Arrison seems to assume that creating a society in which humans live for hundreds and thousands of years would create a pleasant world. A world not to “be afraid of”. But, how does she know this? Is she not making just as much an assumption as do the filmmakers. (Personally, I hope she’s right). In thinking about the future, we must hold our assumptions weakly or we may get caught by surprise.
Here’s an article from the World Future Society based on de Grey’s presentation to us in Vancouver in 2011. In my next article on human longevity I will touch on Arrison’s 8 ways that longer lives will change us.
How would life spans of 150 years change us?
Or, how would indefinitely longer life spans change us?
What do you think?