Could humans someday live to be 1,000 years old? Life extension is a rising topic of conversation among futurist circles (including several prominent Big Think experts). What's important now is that wealthy tech entrepreneurs are beginning to listen and the promise of major potential breakthroughs in the coming decade has their ears ever-widening. Christian Borys writes over at The Daily Beast about several current projects in place that hope to achieve what is commonly called radical longevity:
"One of the new leaders of the movement is Joon Yun, a hedge fund manager who has created a $1 million prize called the Palo Alto prize to initiate the development of breakthroughs in the science of human longevity. Instead of accepting that humans all have to die by the age of 120, he wants people to consider the possibility of maintaining the wellness of our 20s far past our 120s. In other words, he believes we can be as healthy in old age as we are in youth."
Yun's focus is on homeostatic research. You're likely familiar with the concept of homeostasis. If not, Borys explains:
"Homeostasis is like a control system for the human body and as you age, this control system naturally erodes. It’s like an old engine that gradually loses strength, until one day, it stops working."
If you think of homeostasis like the utilities that feed a house: As a house ages, the pipes begin to rust, wires fray, and suddenly your radiator decides it doesn't want to work anymore. What Yun wants is a way to maintain upkeep of the body's utilities so that everything still works at 100 like it did at age 20.
Meanwhile, Borys writes that The Singularity is Near author Ray Kurzweil shares this sense of optimism:
"Kurzweil says scientists have the opportunity to work on the fundamental structure of the body in the same way that an engineer can develop software. Armed with genetic code, scientists may have the ability to reprogram humans."
Another Big Think expert quoted in the piece is Aubrey de Grey of the SENS research foundation, who argues that doubters of radical longevity fail to see aging and death as medical issues that can be cured.
While the above is all tremendously intriguing, the theory and pursuit of radical longevity remains a contentious issue within scientific communities. Here's Borys again:
"However, many scientists do not agree with de Grey and are quite vocal about it. Dr. Richard Miller, who has a Ph.D. in Human Genetics from Yale, has been critical of de Grey’s work for quite sometime. Miller, along with many colleagues, published a scathing review of de Grey. In it writing that 'the idea that a research programme organized around the SENS agenda will not only retard ageing, but also reverse it — creating young people from old ones — and do so within our lifetime, is so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all within the informed scientific community.'
That said, there are still plenty of innovative minds at work toward or invested in achieving life extension. Venture capital trickles in here and there — the SENS research foundation has a modest though not insignificant $5 million annual budget — but the promise of potential breakthroughs in the coming decade would almost certainly mean more investment in this type of work. As with many fascinating ideas explored on Big Think, all that we can really do is wait and see.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
In the video below, futurist and tech entrepreneur Peter Diamandis discusses efforts in gene sequencing that could one day make 100 years old the new 60.
Photo credit: Vahan Abrahamyan / Shutterstock