Eternal youth, perfect health possible by 2030, experts say
Gerontologists consider the maximum lifespan for humans to be about 120 years (the world longevity record is held by Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at age 122). But with rising evidence from biotech miracles like stem cell therapies and genetic engineering, and recent nanotech advances that deliver drugs inside cells, some scientists are starting to believe this limit can be increased.
Aging science has always been divided between pessimists and optimists. Pessimists argue that aging is caused by the same inevitable decay that afflicts machines and inanimate objects. They accept that biology has evolved repair mechanisms to mitigate the damage, but insist that these merely delay death long enough to ensure the reproductive survival of the species.
Optimists counter that all animals have immortal reproductive cells (“germlines”), and longevity is determined through systems like these that in theory, can be altered. They argue that biology has the tools to cope with wear and tear indefinitely, and with tomorrow’s biotech and nanotech discoveries, aging could be eliminated completely.
Award-winning author Ray Kurzweil supports this optimistic view. In a recent interview Kurzweil said, “We will soon develop ways to stop and reverse aging.” By 2030 or before, we will program tiny nanobots to travel throughout the body and replace aging cells. They will repair bones and muscles, fight germs, fix mutant DNA, and even make us smarter.
Cambridge anti-aging guru Aubrey de Grey recently stated in a LiveScience interview that by 2030, anti-aging science will enable every adult on Earth to maintain a biological age of a ’20-something, and never suffer death from sickness or aging. When asked if he wanted to live forever, de Grey replied “It’s not really a matter of living forever; it’s a matter of not wanting to die.”
Newcastle University researcher Tom Kirkwood explains how our definition of death has changed. Death used to be defined as the moment heartbeat and breathing stopped. But then it was found that people could be revived from this condition, so the concept of brain-stem death was introduced. Today, even this definition seems inadequate. Many forward-thinkers now believe that death happens when medical competencies expire, and with future science, it may be preventable.
The notion that death might be cured is not part of today’s mainstream thinking. Nearly everyone expects to die. Most people cannot conceive of humanity ever defeating death; but more and more forward-thinkers are beginning to recognize that eternal youth and health is indeed an achievable goal.
Life extension enthusiasts believe that if a crash program similar to the one that put a man on the moon was launched, everyone on Earth could be guaranteed indefinite lifespan by 2030 or before. Science-wise, we are close to realizing this “magical future” – emotionally we have a long way to go.
In addition, there are tough issues ahead. Will life lose its meaning in the absence of death? What will we do on an already crowded planet if people keep getting on, but few ever get off? Solutions for these concerns must be found.
However, consider this – we could be looking at the last generation of humans to die from disease and aging. How exciting is that.
This article will appear in various print media and blogs; comments welcome. See other published work by Futuretalk at http://www.positivefuturist.com/archive.html