May 29, 2024

I want to live forever

Longevity Summit convenes in California

What is the world’s most urgent problem? With most of us focused on mundane crises like global warming, or the supply of food, or even the fulfilment of Mayan prophecies in 2012, it’s hard to get worked up over unsatisfactory life expectancies. But that was on centre stage at the Longevity Summit in (where else?) California earlier this month.

A number of scientists, entrepreneurs, and visionaries in the US, were convened by the Maximum Life Foundation. According to a report in the magazine Reason, their goal was to develop a scientific and business strategy to make extreme human life extension a real possibility within a couple of decades.

“Will you be part of the last generation to die from aging, or will you be part of the first generation to enjoy open-ended youth and vitality?” asked the head of the Foundation.

Sixty-one-year-old inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is an evangelist of life extension who wants to see it happen in his own lifetime. “We are very close to the tipping point in human longevity,” asserted Kurzweil to the conferees. “We are about 15 years away from adding more than one year of longevity per year to remaining life expectancy.”

A number of strategies are being pursued. Caloric restriction is one. Mice on strict diets live up to 50% longer. One researcher has bred fruit flies who live the human equivalent of 300 years. He plans to release his first anti-aging supplement next year. Cryonics, or freezing you after death in the hope of a future revival, is another path to immortality.

Embryonic stem cells used to be a candidate for life-extension therapies. However, Michael West, one of the first scientists to claim to have cloned a human embryo, is moving towards induced pluripotent stem cells.

Reason writer Ronald Bailey points out that most people regard living up to 1,500 years as quite loopy. Besides, although the participants in the summit were competent and serious scientists, they are probably outnumbered by the charlatans spruiking diet supplements on the internet. How can life extension burnish its image as a scientifically respectable discipline? Disney executive Oliver Luckett favours Facebook and Twitter and support from celebrities in Hollywood and sports.–, Nov 17

Michael Cook
Creative commons
life extension