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End of aging: life in a world where people no longer grow old and die
Dick Pelletier   Mar 19, 2013   Ethical Technology  

If predictions by future thinkers such as Aubrey de Grey, Robert Freitas, and Ray Kurzweil ring true - that future science will one day eliminate the disease of aging - then it makes sense to consider the repercussions a non-aging society might place on our world.

For example, if aging were to end today, the social, cultural, and economic issues would be burdened with a multitude of risks. Let's assume that without aging, the average person would live for 1,000 years.

How would we treat bad people sitting in jail? A 20 year prison term would make little sense to someone who expects to live a thousand years. Moreover, what about life sentences, could the state afford to house and feed inmates over a millennium? Some say neuroscience research may offer solutions such as modifying neuron activity in criminals to alter their behavior. Will it work? Stay tuned.

And there's overpopulation. In some countries, burgeoning populations already pose problems, such as food and water shortages, global warming, and economies depleted by eldercare obligations.

However, molecular nanotech enthusiasts believe that tomorrow's technologies will create worldwide resources in abundance. As this techno-future develops, more nations will join an affluent society.

But the end of aging could also impede new thoughts. Without need to retire, stagnant ideas from a stubborn mature sector may become overly influential in technological progress. Innovations from the young, which in the past has proven extremely valuable in developing advances in technologies, such as Nanotech, Biotech, Infotech, and Cognitech, might be suppressed in a society dominated by older minds.

Of course, ending aging is not all bad news. People will be happy to avoid age-related illnesses such as, heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer's and other brain ailments. And eliminating programs like Social Security, Medicare, and other expenses that maintain wellbeing for the elderly, would be beneficial.

In addition, children will no longer need to care for ailing parents or grandparents, which will free them to pursue a more productive lifestyle. All people will be able to select multiple careers as we trek through a thousand year lifespan. The value of human life will rise exponentially as average lifespan grows from 80 years to 1,000. Psychologists believe this could slash today's skyrocketing murder and suicide rates.

So when might we expect the dreaded human scourge of aging to be eliminated?

Aubrey de Grey believes aging could be stopped in 40 years or less. His idea to conquer aging includes regenerative medicine therapies researched by SENS recipient, Wake Forest's Anthony Atala, who has already created replacement bladders for nine children and recently demonstrated in a TED presentation, how to grow a human liver formed from stem cells developed in a bio printer.

In their book Transcend, co-authors Terry Grossman and Ray Kurzweil advocate a radically different concept, utilizing a three-step 'bridge' program that extends a healthy lifespan immediately.

Step one, maintain the best health possible using today's medicine and therapies. This gives our body a chance to bridge into step two, when biotech breakthroughs expected during the 2020s can replace damaged organs and other body parts with replacements formed in the lab; some even inside the body.

Finally, step three, predicted availability in about 25 years, utilizes nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, with tiny nanorobots whizzing through veins correcting or replacing damaged cells, keeping our bodies forever healthy and youthful appearing.

Nano-pioneer and researcher Robert Freitas describes in this article, how nanorobots will one day halt the disease of aging with chromosome replacement therapy. Freitas believes the science could appear in clinical trials as early as late 2020s and become a routine affordable medical procedure by the 2030s.

Regardless of which method will be at the forefront of ending the scourge of aging, one day, humans will look forward to a much longer lifespan without the inevitability of growing old and dying. And, this non-aging future may become reality in time to include most people reading this article.

Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.



COMMENTS

“Skyrocketing murder and suicide rates”? Where?

The city that I live in, Las Vegas NV is experiencing high records of murders and suicides. See this YouTube Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soJZ_syCICU

Many other communities worldwide are also suffering higher rates of deaths from murder and suicides.

Dick,
now you’re cooking with gas and the more obvious needs to be mentioned: we can communicate with high brows, middle brows- but with the maddening crowd; with criminals; etc., there’s the rub. Also, ultra-mystics are of course going to be difficult to get through to; difficult in general.
Good news is h+, space-interest, can be mainstreamed (and we both remember how space-interest grew rapidly in the wake of Gemini, Apollo). However we need the right touch in dealing with the public.

Intomorrow, I think you have it about right.

I will admit, my vision of the future may be a bit optomistic, but who knows? Miracles might happen!

@Dick: Isolated pockets may be experiencing upsurges, but the trend, both across the US and the globe, is a definite decrease.

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