Human longevity and anti-aging treatments are on the horizon. Initially, we will be able to drastically extend the human lifespan, but we will not be able to immediately relieve the 140 Million Americans that currently suffer from chronic conditions. If you can avoid the four main killers (mentioned below), you’ll be able to participate in the treatments that will push your ‘expiration date’ back further and further. Continue reading to learn why our health will be our most valuable asset when we no longer die of old age.
What is happening today
Humanity has extended it’s average life expectancy over the years, with a relatively large jump in the last century. But the key word in that last sentence is ‘average’. Although the average lifespan of one of our ancient ancestors was around 30-35 years, not much in our genetics have changed – just technology and medicine has.
There was no biological reason a stone aged man couldn’t have lived well into his 80’s, but few ever got the chance due to infections, diseases and other dangers. What humans have done is just found ways to treat the diseases that used to kill us. Leaping out of the food chain had obvious benefits as well.
Step into any nursing home in the United States and you’ll see first hand the lengths we will go to extend life. As if the act of not breathing on your own is not a sign of being ready to die, a Medical Director is quick to hook you up to a ventilator that will fill your lungs with air on your behalf. We go to incredible lengths not to die.
But we are still getting old. In 2017, over 15% of the population is over 65 years of age. That is a 3% (11 Million people) increase since 2000. What’s worse is that 140 Million US citizens suffer from chronic conditions – which is also the amount of people that populate Russia.
But we should be able to cure all chronic conditions in the near future, right? Not likely. The American diet and lifestyle has put nearly half of the population on a direct and unavoidable track that leads to chronic diseases such as the four main killers – heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, or neurodegenerative disease – as explained by Dr. Peter Attia in an interview with Tim Ferriss. There is good news and bad news about these killers and other chronic conditions. The good news is that 80% of chronic illnesses are preventable with diet and activity. The bad news is that there is an 80% chance that you will die from one of the four killers if you are over 40 – even if you don’t smoke.
The solution requires two parts – one simple and the other more complicated. Firstly and simply, we need to eliminate the processed, food-like products that we eat and the sugar laden beverages we drink while promoting more activity in our lives. Secondly and more complex, we need to solve the single leading risk factor to virtually every significant disease – age.
What will happen in the future
The first part of the solution (diet and activity) requires a separate blog which you can come back for soon. To continue, I want to spend the remainder of this blog talking about the probability and science of life extension and why good health will be more far more valuable than money, work, and even time.
The future and possibility of dramatic life extension can be summed up in a powerful statement: Every technical problem has a technical solution. Since death and aging is just a technical problem, it has a technical solution.
What is the technical problem behind aging? Inside our cells reside the twisted strands of DNA called chromosomes. At the end of each chromosome is another stretch of DNA called telomeres; which protects all of our genetic data, allows our cells to divide, and keeps our chromosome ends from unraveling. Telomeres were explained to me as the plastic tips that are on the end of shoelaces.
Our cells divide billions of times each day and, unfortunately, each time a cell divides our telomeres get shorter. When a telomere gets too short, the cell can no longer divide and it dies. About 50-70 billion of our cells die every single day. The decline in the rate of regeneration is what causes us to age. It is exactly why our skin becomes wrinkled and our hair turns gray.
The technical solution? Scientists and entrepreneurs are already working on influencing our DNA – from genetic manipulations to “young blood” injections. In 2016, a group of scientist increased the life expectancy in mice by 25% by removing those cells that could no longer regenerate. Even PayPal Co-Founder, Peter Thiel, has begun injecting donated blood from younger individuals. Developing companies like Human Longevity, Inc. and innovators like Peter Diamandis are determined to add 30+ healthy years to your lifespan, giving you the cognition, aesthetics and mobility at 100 years old that you had at 60.
This is not science fiction. There is a real possibility that age old saying, “There are only two certainties in this world: death and taxes”, is only half true. So although the average life expectancy is 72 years today, if you can avoid the four main killers by living a healthy lifestyle over the next few decades, you can reach the “Longevity Escape Velocity” – the point at which, for each year you live, technological advances add more life expectancy than the year that just went by.
What will matter when we don’t age
Now is when I will begin talking about the title of this blog, which is why your health will be your most valuable commodity. Currently, health and well-being is on the lower end of most peoples totem poles. We consume processed foods that do nothing for our bodies except fill our stomachs. Most of our jobs require a sedentary day in front of a computer screen. When we’re not working we hardly move anymore than how much we do at work and just swap a computer screen for a phone or TV. Many of us ignore the importance of sleep and have no consistent schedule. It is fair to say that the mass majority of Americans value things like money, status, image, and leisure time far more than their health and wellness.
But that will eventually change as humans begin living longer and longer and eventually never die from old age. The demand to be mobile and comfortable will skyrocket when we become amortal (can still die, just not from aging). Who would want to live forever while in constant pain and so immobile that it becomes a burden to do anything but spend your days in a virtual environment? In this sense, health and wellness will be more valuable than ammortality itself because there will be such a large supply and abundance of time that demand for it will drop, but demand to enjoy the time in a healthy body will soar.
Staying on the topic of time – it is something that people definitely value today. But, as we will discuss in later blog posts, automation and AI will eventually create a “useless class – a new class of society who is not unemployed, but unemployable” – as explained by Yuval Noah Harari in his book, Homo Deus. With so little time spent at work and an abundance of leisure time, the appeal of having any more extra time will fade. Health will quickly become a priority even over money when a Universal Basic Income (UBI) is required to be put in place when the majority of the working class is no longer needed to produce or work.
It is no secret that even today people enjoy a far richer quality of life when they are in good health. There is hardly anything more fulfilling than having your physical, mental and emotional health in control and thriving: there is your reason to prioritize health and wellness today. If you need another reason to begin valuing it above all else, consider that if you can live well in good health for the next few decades, there may be nothing holding you back from another century. If you continue to prioritize your well-being during that century, there is little reason why you, or some form of you, won’t be able to live well forever.
Liked this blog? Please give it a share and be sure to come back for more. We will continue to discuss what to consider at the intersection between living a healthy/happy life and when future trends, technology and immortality become a reality.