Do You Want to Live to Be 150?

Tonight at 10 p.m. E.D.T., ABC will broadcast a Barbara Walters special about longevity — or, really, super-longevity — that tries to sort out the many medical, social, and economic ramifications. I was interviewed for the show and apparently I appear toward the end of the hour.

Most of the questions I was asked concerned the consequences, unintended and otherwise, of the ongoing longevity boom. Most of my answers were what I would call informed speculation, since I don’t think anyone will live to 150 in my lifetime.

My research reading included papers about longevity and life-cycle savings, the voting impact of a larger elderly demographic, and the ability of elderly people to maintain expert performance. If none of that strikes you as very sexy — well, we talked bout the potential changes in elderly sex markets as well.


Bruce M

Here in Canada we have a very successful program that has allowed Canadians to live an average of two years longer than Americans. It's called Single Payer Health Care--y'all oughta try it!

Vancouver, BC Canada

Dom E.

I've researched this topic. The vital thing to stress here is that age-extension technologies are also youth-extension technologies. Mice, with a few genetic tweaks can live to about twice their normal lifespan, but they stay healthy for a greater proportion of it.

They experience something called "compressed morbidity", which in humans would translate to something like this: You look and feel like you're in your 20s or 30s until one day when, I don't know, you're 160 and you just keel over and die. If there's physical/mental deterioration, it's over a much shorter period.

Thus, we're not talking about 85 years of retirement, as one commenter suggested, but more years of being healthy and productive. Anti-aging technologies actually have the possibility of solving Medicare and Social Security solvency problems because of this effect. (Less money spent on healthcare for the frail, more people staying in the work force, etc.)

Quite frankly, I'd gladly stay in the work force for an additional 75 years if it meant I could stay young and healthy!

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Lord

The problem with such predictions is they are a measure of our ignorance rather than our knowledge. All manner of problems to these solutions arise to prevent us from reaching that, at least over a short period of time. I expect we will continue lengthening lifespans but it will continue to be exceeding difficult.

Yes, it is possible to work 40 years and retire for 85. It is even possible to work less than 40 years and retire forever. Early retirees do so all the time (other than forever). All one needs to do is amass sufficient capital to live off of the returns to that capital. Generally, that means 25 times expenses. Now it wouldn't be possible for everyone to do so without young people to do the work, but 5% of the population already does so.

Alex

"If none of that strikes you as very sexy - well, we talked bout the potential changes in elderly sex markets as well."

Did Barbara Walters blush when this came up?

PaulG

The article that AaronS mentions is here: http://www.wired.com/medtech/drugs/magazine/16-04/ff_kurzweil

It's a fairly mind blowing concept. As long as we've got decent surf and compound interest, why stop?

AaronS

I read that one futurist is working very hard to stay healthy, for he believes that if he can last until a certain point in the future, there will be medical advances that will enable thim to live for, say, 150 years...and by that time, medical science will have advanced so far that he could virtually live forever.

I finally figured out how long I want to live. I would like to be there every day of my son's life...and not a day longer.

Timbo

Another step in the ever-increasing social and cultural divide between the classes. The rich will be able to afford medical technology to enable them to live for unprecedented periods, amassing yet more wealth and tightening their grip on the world's wealth and power. Certainly there will be some trickle down effects, and everybody's life expectancy will rise, but I say no thanks.

Noah

As it turns out, all this stuff about "emerging technology" is an elaborate April Fool's joke, as it has existed for many years. Barbara Walters, in fact, is 178. Check the Library of Congress to hear her doing a phonograph of "Most Fascinating People: 1879". I hear Alexander Graham Bell was a real card.

Kevin

I want to live as long as I want to. Plain and simple. If life is worth living, I want to live it.

What makes life worth living? The people in your life and being able to experience the things you want to experience.

Contrary to the way some commenters appear to feel, I believe that my continued existence would be a net positive in the world. I would continue to be compassionate and help others, create works of value and engage the future with an optimism that can work through the problems facing humanity.

I believe the world is better off WITH me than without, and I work hard every day to prove that assertion.

I guess the question could be better framed, given good health and another sunset to see, or loved one to hug, book to read or place to explore, when is it that I would like to die? The answer is simple..

Never.

AlexW

I'd only want to live to 150 if my wife were there with me. Otherwise I'd rather be dead and rockin' out in my old 30 year old body in Heaven.

deepbuzz

most people don't know how to really live for 80 years, an extra 70 years of existence seems a waste.

Bill McGonigle

Did you talk about how gene therapy threatens to extend the life of a large set of the Baby Boomers an extra 20 years or more, and we're gonna be on the hook for their Social Security and Medicare? Compound the bankruptcy - the current government models don't account for any quantum leaps in medical technology.

Mario C

I am turning 40 in the fall. I am stressing to death over what I'm going to do the next 5 years, and I have to worry about a plan for 100 years? Screw that!
Live this life while you have it. I just have to figure out how to do that and I'll be happy.
Love the blog!

Apply food stamp

I wanted to research this subject and write a paper. Your post what a thousand words would not. Nice job.