Will aging soon be “treatable”? Futurists declare ‘victory over death’

To see not only one’s own grandchildren, but also their grandchildren: Eternal life, an ancient dream of humanity. Image: iStockphoto / Artem Peretiatko

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09.10.2022, 09:4610/09/2022, 10:05 am

Evelyn Pol

Who wouldn’t want that, a long and above all healthy life? Assuming we can extend our lifespan by many years in the very near future, it shouldn’t be that utopian. In recent years, advances in science and technology in the study of human aging have accelerated.

Aging may be a thing of the past, but are we ready for it? Futurist José Cordeiro and his co-author David Wood believe so.

Authors José Cordeiro and David Wood say: That

The authors José Cordeiro and David Wood say “eternal life” is within reach. They are not alone in this.Image: José Cordeiro / David Wood

The technology expert from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has co-authored a book with University of Cambridge mathematician and transhumanist Wood on the current state of research into extending life. Your conclusion:

“‘Victory over Death’ explains how we can evolve towards a better world for everyone, how we can use the ‘longevity dividend’ to live longer, healthier, richer, safer and better for everyone on our planet.”

Watson spoke with the authors about their vision for the future, the challenges and possible consequences of eternal life.

“Death is optional in 2045.”

Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google quoted by Jose Cordeiro

watson: Do you think humanity is really ready for some kind of eternity?

Wood: We will have to rethink our worldview. Rather than imagining a possible paradise in an afterlife, we should learn to focus on a possible paradise in this life.

Cordeiro: Was humanity ready when life expectancy doubled from an average of 20 to 40 years more than a century ago? Will humanity be ready if we double life expectancy again from 80 to 160 years? We adapt, we adapt, we will adapt. We are in the midst of a technological revolution that will soon lead to a radical extension of life and unlimited life expectancy for all who are interested. According to futurists like Ray Kurzweil, technical director at Google and co-founder of Singularity University, death in 2045 is optional.

“What is within our reach is overcoming the number one cause of death, which is biological aging.”

David Wood, author of “Victory Over Death”

Will there also be problems with the social acceptance of life-prolonging therapies?

Wood: There will be a period of turbulence before widespread adoption. Everyone tends to think two ways about the possibility of life-prolonging therapies. On the one hand, we have a deep instinct that life is good and that aging and death must be counteracted. On the other hand, we are suggested by society that it is somehow “mature” and “honorable” to accept aging and death. People often don’t allow themselves to follow their first instinct.

Cordeiro: Big technology companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM or Microsoft are entering the field of biology, health and medicine and seeing it as the biggest business opportunity of the future – Google founded Calico, Jeff Bezos and other billionaires founded Altos Labs. The longevity industry will be the largest industry in human history for the next 20 years.

What will enable us to conquer death?

David Wood: What is within our reach is overcoming the number one cause of death, which is biological aging. In recent decades, biologists have confirmed that the life expectancy of a species can be altered by genetic and epigenetic changes, as well as other factors. Because biological aging consists of a series of damage at the cellular and molecular level in the body. Research is making progress in finding ways to systematically replace, repair or reprogram this damage.

Jose Cordeiro: Aging is humanity’s common enemy and causes more deaths than all other causes combined. Cell and organ rejuvenation have already been scientifically proven. Aging is a disease, but fortunately it can be cured. Aging is a medical condition that is treatable and seemingly reversible.

“The motto is: live long enough to live forever.”

Biomedical Scientist David Wood

If we could soon live much longer, would we need to take extra care of our bodies?

Cordeiro: In fact, now more than ever, we need to take care of our bodies as we may soon be able to reverse aging. This is the most exciting time to live and stay. In the next two decades, we should be able to control and reverse aging.

Eternal life and the way there: José Cordeiros and David Wood outline it in their book.

Eternal life and the way there: José Cordeiros and David Wood outline it in their book.photo: publishing house of financial books

Wood: More and more people are realizing that if they take better care of their health in the coming decades, they may still be healthy enough to benefit from powerful rejuvenation therapies as they become available. The motto is: live long enough to live forever.

“Lifetime therapies will be available to everyone, probably as part of Social Security.”

Jose Cordeiro

How expensive will an extended life be?

Cordeiro: Currently, about 80 percent of medical “costs” occur in the last 20 percent of life, but people are still dying. In the future, we will use 80 percent of medical “investments” in the first 20 percent of human lifespan so that aging is under control. Thanks to the ‘longevity dividend’, we could actually reduce health care spending as people stay healthy and young, thus avoiding the diseases of old age. So long-term therapies will be available to everyone, probably as part of Social Security — just as vaccines will be available for free to anyone who wants them.

Fit and healthy in old age: a healthy lifestyle and therapies for longevity will soon make it possible.

Fit and healthy in old age: a healthy lifestyle and therapies for longevity will soon make it possible. Image: iStockphoto/DuxX

Wouldn’t the world soon be overpopulated?

Wood: There are many ways the world can cope with a larger population than it is today. This includes the conversion of agricultural meat production. The same biotech innovations that allow for a much longer lifespan will also enable the production of cultured meat without the need for live animals. Compared to current cultivation methods, new methods will consume much less resources in the future.

“We live between the last mortal generation and the first immortal generation!”

Jose Cordeiro

Evolution means, among other things, that the strongest and best adapted survive. Does medical victory over death invalidate this concept?

Cordeiro: We are moving from the old biological evolution to a new technological evolution. Humanity will evolve, but not just by trial and error, but by shaping our future. The proof that biological immortality is possible is that it already exists in nature. There are immortal cells, such as germ cells and cancer cells, and also immortal organisms, such as hydras (freshwater polyps) and immortal jellyfish.

Immortality is a pre-existing concept in nature: the sea wasp is an immortal jellyfish.

Immortality is a pre-existing concept in nature: the sea wasp is an immortal jellyfish.Image: iStockphoto / Duangkamon Panyapatiphan

In your book you describe the fear of death as one of the main driving forces of human civilization. Wouldn’t that be in danger?

Wood: Indeed, fear of death has led many people to make amazing contributions to human civilization. But it’s not the only reason people have made progress. Little children do many wonderful things without being driven by the fear of death.

Cordeiro: We must move from the fear of death to the joy of life. We live between the last mortal generation and the first immortal generation!

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