In just ten years, many of today’s older citizens might look in the mirror and ask, “Who is that gorgeous person?” Their reflection would reveal a revitalized body overflowing with enthusiasm, sporting a dazzling smile, wrinkle-free skin, perfect vision, natural hair color, real teeth, and an amazing mind and memory.
Welcome to the future world of biotech enhancements, which many future watchers believe will become widely available and affordable as we move into the 2020s.
With clinical trials now launching almost daily, experts predict that by 2022, doctors will be able to use stem cells, bio-printing, and genetics to replace aging skin and strengthen frail bones and muscles. These medical wonders also promise to cure, or at least make manageable, nearly all age-related disorders, including the two major killers: heart disease and cancer. Singularity University's Daniel Kraft explains.
Institute for Global Future's James Canton believes a trillion dollar enhancement market brought on by these new technologies is about to evolve. Dr. Canton expresses his futurist views in this 3-minute video.
Some enhancements are already available. Fertility science, prosthetic limbs, wonder drugs like Prozac and Viagra; even steroid use, are all designed to improve human performance. Last year, 12 million opted for plastic surgery in their quest to look better, giving the cosmetics industry its largest success ever.
However, over the next ten years, stem cells, gene therapies and bio-printing, initially developed to cure sicknesses, will dwarf what can be accomplished with the knife; see video. These procedures promise less intrusive means to achieve that 'younger' look. 'Boomers and seniors choose to go beyond today's limitations of age and health; they welcome technologies that enhance looks, stamina, and intelligence.
We currently fight heart disease with drugs that reduce cholesterol buildup; but with new technologies predicted for the 2020s, we will simply grow new veins or hearts where necessary. In fact, nearly all of our organs, bones, muscles, hair, and skin can be replaced as these new procedures become available.
In this fascinating 18-minute TEDx presentation focused on regenerative medicine, Wake Forest University's Anthony Atala explains how his team of 300 researchers use stem cells and bio-printers to rejuvenate aging and worn tissues and organs, with hopes of eliminating most of today's aging diseases.
Ray Kurzweil, in his best-selling book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, confirmed that we are in early stages of a medical revolution. "By 2026," Kurzweil says, "biotech upgrades will add more than one year of life expectancy to our lives each year." Experts predict that older people may soon enjoy a disease-free indefinite lifespan with only accidents and violence as the primary causes of death.
However, the concept of enhancing bodies to reject aging causes some to ponder. On one end, human nature includes a natural instinct to improve oneself. On the other end though, it is through natural human form that we perceive ourselves. Conservatives believe that eliminating the 'older look' in our senior citizen populations could risk undermining our identity and dignity as human beings.
Nevertheless, advocates counter that no one wants to suffer the pain and agony of growing old with failing health; and Kurzweil reminds us that we are the species that always seeks to extend our abilities.
Throughout history, improvements in healthcare, diet and environment have resulted in an increased average human lifespan. Today, healthy people can expect to live into their 80s and beyond, but advances predicted for the 2020s could extend both health and life to an indefinite time. During this next decade, positive futurists see an era of huge excitement for science and great hope for humanity.
The smart, sexy, strong years, once thought long lost, might soon be recaptured as we move closer to this future time. We will soon have at our disposal, an awesome array of innovative medical technologies that promise to improve health and provide us with a lifespan that will one day approach immortality.
Will abilities to extend life progress like this? Stem cell advances, genetic breakthroughs, bio-printing, and medical nanotech discoveries occur almost daily. Most positive futurists agree: "The dream of a younger-looking you by 2022 can and will be realized." Comments welcome.
Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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