Those reading blogs on the future have all asked themselves the same question. Am I going to see the great (or sometimes horrible) things that we futurists predict? Or am I going to die before it comes to happen? Will I stand on the surface of Mars or Pluto? Will I leave the Solar System one day to see other worlds and stars close up or will I travel with light speed, leaving the galaxy? Will I see the age of intelligent machines where we merge with them in order to become an immortal race spawning the universe?
Or will my kids see it? Is there a way to preserve my parents so they can see it too?
I was born in 1969 which makes me 46 years old by now. By conventional methods of calculating life expectancy, my turn in this universe is more than halftime over. One more me time-wise and I am dead meat and all that remains from me is worm’s fodder.
Life expectancy for a man today is about 80 years. That said, life expectancy numbers are averages that include birth accidents, childhood diseases and much more that cannot strike me anymore. My average therefore must be higher.
But whatever it is, it will only add a few more years to my life. Generally said, the human race adds about 3 months of life expectancy every year that passes through sheer medical and technological progress. This means that when I am 55 years old, life expectancy would be around 83 – I remain with the 80 example for the sake of argument. The real number will be slightly different but we are roughly in the ballpark.
Further pushed this means that when I am 65, it will be 86 and when I am 75 it will be 89. By 85 there will be another 3 years on top making it 92 but mathematically at least I won’t make the jump to 95 as I still age quicker than medical and technological progress makes life expectancy grow.
But those 3 years are not cast in iron. It’s a moving target and over the last 100 years it has increased steadily. There were times when we just added weeks or even days to our timeline or we even receded back.
Average life expectancy for a human person in the Stone Age was around 45 years. In the Roman Empire it was 28 and in the Dark Ages around the year 1000 after Christ it was a measly 18 years. The reason for the fall from Stone Age to the Roman Empire was that nutrition and lifestyle changed. Humans became sedentary and did not roam the plains anymore which reduced wear and tear on the body which also made us less healthy. I will produce another post on this topic and the reasons why wear and tear reduce our lifespan.
Another reason was the changed diet humans suddenly gobbled up. We are built for what nature bestowed on us in the plains. Our diet mainly consisted of lots of protein and fat and very little carbohydrates. We had meat and fish, grasses, leafs and roots and occasionally fruits as a source of carbs. Grain and milk as we consume them today in huge volumes were not part of our diet.
Humans were also subjected to long bouts of little or nothing at all to eat and moments of feasting on huge volumes of food as copious food was not always available. None of this is impacting on the human body anymore but we were built for it so we are less healthy.
The second reduction of life expectancy has to do with measly hygiene, famine, war and other plights humans brought upon themselves and which held wide sway over humankind in the mid ages.
We have overcome many of the self-made plights in the Mid Ages (at least in what we used to call the Western world and many other parts of the planet) and growing awareness on human health has incited many of us to life a more active and hence healthier lifestyle which has allowed us to claw back some of our primal resistance to decay and death.
Today’s big contributor to increased lifespans has become technology and here we start go get real quick as the pace of development accelerates.
Anything that does not linger in perfect stasis and hence evolves is subject to the curve of accelerating returns. This is as true for technological evolution as it is for the natural kind. And in technology we have reached a point where we start to see the curve bend upwards very perceptibly.
500 years ago it took centuries for great developments to happen. In the 19th century, this had reduced to decades in order to become years in the 20th century and now we are at the point where not a month passes without great new developments in science and technological development. Much of it happens under the hood but trust me, it’s there.
It is said that humanity has progressed more in the last 50 years than in all human history before 1964 taken together. And that we will progress even more in the next 25 years.
This in turn means that the 3 months for every year are not cast in iron either ands slowly grow to 4 months, then 5 and on and on. One day, the pace of technological development and modern medicine will add more than 12 months of life expectancy for every year we live which means that as we age, technology is able to counteract the effects of this ageing quicker than we age which in fact freezes our biological age at the point where we are when it happens and then slowly starts to roll it even back making us younger again. The point of inflection is called Escape Velocity by Aubrey de Grey.
The question will then be – will I see the point of inflection? Will escape velocity save my life and/or that of my children or my parents?
Let’s start with my parents. My father is 80 years old which means that his mathematical lifespan is more or less used up. Looking at him on the other side makes me confident that he is healthy enough to last another 10 to 15 years.
But 15 years are almost certainly not enough to get him tom the point of inflection which means that he will still die. Same is true for my mother with slightly different dynamics. The only way to preserve them would probably be to get cryogenically preserved in liquid nitrogen as some companies offer it today. This means that the body will be frozen at near absolute zero in order to stop any decay processes in the body very soon after death.
This is done in order to preserve the molecular structure of body and mind (there is no spirit – it’s all bioelectricity) in order to be brought back to life at a time when technology would be able to deal effectively with whatever killed him in the first place. It’s not perfect but it’s the best chance available to us right now.
At me more sprightly age of 46, I have at least 4 decades before me and if I applied my own reasoning there is good reason to expect that we will be closer to add more than 6 months to our timeline every year that passes in about 25 years which would give me a timeline that stretches well beyond a hundred years. This in turn means that I am not even half time through and also that the acceleration does not stop in 25 years.
There is a strong chance that I will see the point of inflection in high age and hence be able to postpone death indefinitely. For my children which are 5 and 7 years respectively, I am sure for this to happen.
Now, what if I die from an accident or other sudden life enders before I get there. Right now there is little that can be done except trying to avoid danger and not engaging in reckless behavior but whatever one does, there are things we have no control over such as being a third party victim in an accident (even if you don’t even drive) or falling from the skies (I am flying right now).
There will be technologies that will be able to zero out any danger – even planetary cataclysms but when those hit us we will be immortal already and will not worry about escape velocity anymore.
So stay healthy and don’t do stupid things as there might be a real chance that you will enjoy life for a really loooooong time.