as Germany, Great Britain, and the United
States, life expectancy is increasing by three
months per year, or six hours each and every day, he says; and half of German babies
born today can expect to live to age 105.25.
If, going forward, life expectancy keeps
increasing six hours per day, who knows
how long Germans or Americans may be
living a few decades from now?
Over the past 200 years, longevity
growth has been linear, according to Vaupel: life spans have been steadily increasing, but the rate of increase has not. That
may be changing. Thanks to the biotech
revolution, linear may be giving way to
geometric, with gains that come faster
and faster. That’s the view of Ray Kurzweil, author of Fantastic Voyage: Live Long
Enough to Live Forever. Using his “Law of
Accelerating Returns” – which accurately
describes exponential progress in electronics, communications, DNA sequencing, and other high-tech fields – Kurzweil
predicts that by 2022 we’ll be increasing
life expectancy by an average of one year
for every subsequent year.
If a person can keep alive until then,
medical breakthroughs will be restoring
health faster than aging degrades it, he
says. Kurzweil bases his prediction on rapid progress in gene modification and bio-nanotechnology, with testing now being
done on animals. This progress, though in
its infancy, is geometric, not linear.
Another proponent of radical life-extension, Aubrey de Grey, is a gerontologist and
Chief Science Officer of the SENS Foundation. He views aging as a disease that can
be cured like any other disease. His mission
is to find and promote age-slowing and reversing technologies of all types.
He aims to counter the accumulated
side effects from metabolism that eventually kill us, asserting that the basic knowledge we need is already here.
Let’s take a closer look at the high end of
life expectancy projections. It could be decades before we see any significant “
accelerating returns” across the broad population,
but that’s not long in actuarial time. Consider 60-year-olds who buy LTC insurance
today. It could be 2041 before they become
eligible for benefits – 30 years from now.
Multi-decade thinking is called for. Those
Most experts agree that life
spans are increasing, but
estimates of how fast vary
widely. According to the
U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050
the average American life
expectancy at birth will reach
an estimated 83.1 years, up
about 5 years from today’s
seeking insurance are well-advised to plan
well ahead; and insurers face the difficult
task of making sure policy features stay in
sync with light-speed developments. Imagine the advances that could be possible in
30 years. In 1981, we didn’t have the World
Wide Web, ubiquitous cellphones, or robotic surgery. What if genetic healthcare and
life extension technologies are progressing as fast as computer chips? Electronic
memory has been doubling its capacity
about every two years. Fifteen doubling’s, in
30 years, mean more than a 16,000-fold increase in capacity. If even a fraction of such
progress happens in medical technology,
the impact is hard to imagine today.
In light of the uncanny accuracy of
Kurzweil’s electronic-industry predictions,
his life-extensions estimates should not be
lightly dismissed. If we achieve even a fraction of the projected medical technology
progress, significant changes in behavior
may be expected. Embracing the view that
their healthy years could be extended by
decades, millions might be inspired to
jump on the life-extension bandwagon –
suddenly in the market for conventional
prevention as well as cutting-edge biotech.
The health food, organic farming, fitness,
preventive medicine, and longevity/LTC
insurance industries could boom.
Compelling Fact 3: Millions could be living
not just longer in good health, but longer in
GREAT health, with enhanced capabilities.
Modern prevention and emerging biotechnology promise not only to give us
more peak-performance years, but higher
peaks during those years.
Prevention alone holds great promise.
It is well known that proper exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management and other
lifestyle practices can make us physically
stronger, increase our endurance, reduce
accident-proneness, increase alertness,
remove blocks to creative thinking, and
improve moods and outlooks.
A single night of good sleep, for example, may result in a safer drive to work
and brighter contributions in a meeting.
Over-indulging at lunch can make for a
foggy afternoon, while a light, nutritious
meal can revive body and mind. Results of
positive choices can be immediate as well
as accumulative. The literature on the potential of prevention is immense and need
not be detailed here.
The point is that prevention has the
power to elevate us to a physical and mental level much higher than the one we normally experience. Add to that the health
enhancement potential of the new genetic, nano- and biotechnologies. Thanks to
these we could be even stronger physically, even brighter mentally, even more
focused in purpose and persistence28.
What might be the economic impact
of this? Imagine 20-somethings, 40-some-
things, and 80-somethings performing not
just well but spectacularly -- in a state of
super-health. They will be in a position to
contribute to society not just longer, but
more significantly too, with greater productivity, more projects completed, more
innovations, fewer avoidable errors, and
more accomplishments of all kinds.
One’s “life’s work” or contribution
could dwarf that of today’s shorter-lived
citizen. Today the “peak performance”
years extend over perhaps 45 years. In the
relatively near future that may seem brief.
Imagine reaching 60- or 70-something,
with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom,
and feeling even more energetic, enthusiastic, creative and ambitious than today’s
20-somethings. Wouldn’t you want to keep
on achieving and contributing?
Prevention and biotechnology promise