This blog is the beginning of a series of blogs about the advances being made in curing and even eliminating age and disease. Most likely we'll have the option to live longer than a mere 200 in the not-so-far-future. Even further out - immortality? It's not so impossible.
People ask, "Why would anyone ever want to live longer if it just means spending more time with the ravages of old age and disease?
Even if people live longer and longer, what about population growth? Transportation, food, waste, space, crime? How can our communities and more importantly our planet ever support that outrageous supposition anyway?
Good questions. And I have some answers. From Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near" to physicist Michio Kaku's videos to Scientific American's issues on these topics to research done by the following companies.
A few of the leading firms in this area of research are: Maximum Life Foundation, The Sens Foundation, Sierra Sciences, the Buck Institute, Ageing Research, Genescient, Manhattan Beach Project, Telomeres And Aging, and the Max Plank Institute in Europe.
The following questions and answers are from the Maximum Life Foundation:
1. Won’t extension of lifespan increase population and tax our planet’s resources?
Actually, without life extension the reverse is actually possible. World population growth rates have been falling precipitously since 1960. Many western countries will soon begin to feel the effects of these drops.Because of increasing modernization, It is very likely that world population will stabilize by 2050 and may even begin to fall.This will represent a challenge to nations as their populations grow older and they scramble to prevent wide spread labor shortages.
In addition, as technology extends lives, it makes life more livable for larger populations. Since the Industrial Revolution, alarmists have screamed doom and gloom about overcrowding and limited resources (backed by misinterpreted "statistics"). However, the opposite has happened. The population increased by 750% since then, and standards of living soared. It's not so much a question of resources as education, individual productivity and distribution - social engineering problems, not life extension problems. As long as people produce more than they consume, it's impossible to run out of resources.
However, even though our known resources could support at least 6 billion more people, these concerns should be addressed. Reducing the birth rate rather than depriving people of a chance to live longer might be a better concern.
2. Are there ethical problems with longevity research?
What about antibiotics, organ transplants, laser surgery and all the other "miracles" we take for granted today? We heard these same arguments against such advances as anesthesiology for childbirth. Should we not use the ability to alleviate human pain and suffering if we have it? Shouldn't we give everyone the opportunity to choose a longer, healthier life? Wouldn't it be immoral to suppress life giving technologies?
Cancer, heart disease and tooth decay and are part of the aging process. Is any rational person against curing or avoiding those?
3. Why would anyone want to live forever?
“Forever” is a long time, and we're not suggesting that. Most people who enjoy life can't get enough of it. Even most of those who claim they don't want to live longer than "natural" will go to the ends of the earth to cure themselves of cancer, heart disease and injuries when they get stricken. Modern drugs, surgical techniques and diagnostic tools are life extension technologies that few refuse.
4. Shouldn’t we spend our resources feeding the hungry, rather than keeping people alive longer?
Our best resource is knowledge. The elderly own most of it. By making them productive for extra years, many of those resources can be channeled to solving problems such as hunger. Besides, our planet can accommodate over 6 billion more people before resources are taxed. This doesn't account for future technologies such as new clean energy sources, enhanced food production, efficient water desalinization, and nanotechnology.
5. How can you expect to solve something as complex as aging, when we can’t even cure cancer?
For a couple of reasons. We already have some pretty compelling clues as to what causes aging. Enough, in fact, to put our version of a biological "Manhattan Project" to work right now. We even know how to extend average life spans by up to 20 years in many people. Recent giant technology and computational leaps give us the tools today that made unraveling the aging process an unrealistic project just a few years ago. These tools will only get better.
6. Won’t longer life spans threaten the Social Security system, Medicare and pension plans?
Yes, as they're structured today. But remember, average life spans have increased steadily and dramatically most of this century. In fact, average life spans increased by 32 years since 1900. Governments and industry successfully adjusted to it. Change sometimes hurts, but aren't millions of premature deaths a high price to pay to keep retirement and entitlement plans static? Besides, shouldn't each individual be offered that choice for his or her life? Wouldn't it be immoral to suppress or withhold life-extending technology, because some people want to protect the status quo?
7. What will we do with all the “old people”?
"Old people" can be our most valuable resources. We generally acquire more experience, knowledge, wisdom and skills as we age. Rather than putting us "out to pasture" or in nursing homes, wouldn't society be better off if we kept ourselves youthful and productive? 32% of our country's medical expenses are spent on the elderly (over age 69). Annual healthcare costs for people over 65 years of age are 400% of those 65 years of age and younger.
8. You don’t need modern technology. Won’t medication, yoga, exercise, fath and pure food, air and water accomplish the same thing?
Only to a degree. These can all help us live longer, but so far, no one in today's society has ever been proven to live beyond 122 years. We hope to extend the maximum life span, while allowing people to be active and youthful well into "old" age. Meanwhile, keep up your healthy habits such as exercising regularly with these Fat Burning Workouts as well as keeping a well balanced diet.
9. What causes aging?
There are several different theories on what causes aging. It is known that free radicals cause damage to many different systems in your body, so this might be one major cause. There is a cellular aging clock, the telomere that seems to shut down some cell types as we age. Your immune system stops functioning correctly, leading to increased chances of external and internal damage. You stop producing some vital hormones as you age, also causing some systems to not function correctly. The good news for biological researchers is that these different causes all overlap in their effects. The bad news is we have yet to sort out which is the root cause.
10. Name some of the most promising research going on now.
There is a tremendous amount of research going on right now. Recently, a group at the University of Wisconsin developed a technique to locate many genes that are involved in the aging process in mice. This may soon allow us to control the aging process itself. At Geron, a biotechnology company, researchers have been working on shutting off the cellular aging clock, the telomere. There are far too many examples to list them all.
11. When do you expect aging to be cured?
We can only make an educated guess. So much depends on raising enough money, and more importantly - seeing that it's invested in the right projects and making sure the researchers are motivated and focused. Some researchers predict aging can be stopped within 15 years or less if they had the resources to do so. Some of those feel they can actually reverse aging in about 20 years. Some more conservative scientists set their sights on a 20-40 year time frame. Some think it will take much longer. Maximum Life Foundation’s plan is by 2029. Most agree it will be done in stages, first slowing aging, then stopping it... then reversing it. Others have a sensible plan to fix the damage aging does, effectively reversing aging in less than 20 years, rather than solving the aging riddles. Most agree it will be easier to extend the average life span before extending the maximum life span. Some experts predict an integration of the biological sciences will happen first, then completely controlling aging happening shortly thereafter.
12. How much will it cost to control the human aging process?
This is another unknown. Some set the figure as low as $100 to $300 million... less than it takes to develop and bring a new drug to market. Others think it will take $100 billion. Others think over $1 trillion. Some very savvy experts think it will be under $2 billion if invested properly. Maximum Life Foundation thinks it can be done much closer to the $2 billion figure.
13. Who says stopping the aging process is possible?
Most molecular and cell biologists feel that once we have a good understanding of the majority of our genes and the proteins they produce, controlling the aging process is inevitable. The human body is a wonderfully complex machine. Deciphering the aging process is simply a matter of figuring out how that machine works. (see Kurzweil's "Singularity is Near-When Humans Transcend Biology")
14. What can I do now to slow, stop or reverse my own aging?
We have the knowledge and therapies to significantly extend the average human life span right now. Some are as simple as changing your diet, getting regular moderate amounts of exercise and learning to relax. Some more advanced steps are adding supplements to your diet. More aggressive steps could be hormone supplementation and taking selected drugs that may have "anti-aging" properties.
For a more complete report, refer to Maximum Life Foundation's "Life Extension Express".
15. Why isn’t the government doing it?
The NIH does support some anti-aging research. We don't see much evidence of the government being successful in solving major medical problems though. We feel it's going to take a more streamlined entrepreneurial approach. Therefore, The Maximum Life Foundation supports university based and private sector programs.
16. Won’t life be boring if we lived for a long time?
Maybe. If life bores you now, living longer might not help. But it might. Imagine an extended future with unlimited resources, energy, health and wealth. Imagine the possibility of private space travel, undersea exploration and few survival pressures.
17. Would life extending therapies be safe?
Like any other new drugs and treatments for various diseases, they will go through extensive trials before reaching the general public. Life extension therapies would probably be much safer than most risky medical techniques used today. Our understanding of how the human body works is expanding everyday, and therefore newer treatments are more reasoned than ones used previously. Besides, what do you have to lose? The side effect to doing nothing is death.
18. I’m already ____ years old. Isn’t it too late for me?
Not necessarily. Every extra day we live moves us one day closer to the next anti-aging breakthrough. One could happen tomorrow.
19. Why do some people refer to aging as a “disease”? Aging is in reality a collection of degenerative diseases. As a group, these diseases (heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc.) result in the less than optimal function of the human body which eventually leads to death. At one time or another in history all of these conditions were considered "natural processes"
Finally: “Age Me Not” – a futuristic thriller – is my novel-in-the-works for which this scientific research has been an ongoing project for me for over fourteen years. When 2010 rolled around, I knew it was time to get it done. Follow my progress on Scribd.com (LALwriter) and my blog: www.LeighAnneLindsey.Blogspot.com; Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Leigh.Anne.Lindsey; Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/LeighALindsey and my website: www.Leigh-Anne-Lindsey.com.