September 26, 2013

Four Longevity Scenarios for 2030s and beyond

Future Tense (Slate, New America, University of Arizona) will host an event in Washington, D.C., on how increases in human lifespan could transform public policy, society, and the economy.

They have four longevity scenarios for 2030.

Some pertinent historical facts that shape The Washington Longevity Scenarios for 2030:

* For the last 160 years, life expectancy in the developed world has been increasing like clockwork at the rate of a quarter of a year, every year, according to the U.N. Population Division. Thank technologies like clean water, sewage, reductions in child mortality, more and better nutrition, vaccines, antibiotics, and information-fueled advances against the current big killers—cancer, heart disease, and strokes.

* For the last half-century, the amount of computer firepower you can buy for $1 has been doubling every 18–24 months. This is called Moore’s Law.

* Recently, this curve of regularly doubling change has been matched or exceeded by the genetics, robotics, and nano revolutions that are spin-offs of information technology.

Scenario A: Small Change - adding 3-5 years of life expectancy based on continuing existing trends
Scenario B: Drooling on Their Shoes - lifespan is increased but healths gains lag.
Scenario C: Live Long and Prosper - 150 year lifespans

150 year lifespans could not be truly proved before about 2060-2070. The oldest living person is 115 years now. If the supercentenarians (110+ years old) stop dieing then a cohort could reach 150 by 2048. However, there was one person who lived to 122 years with accepted documentation. A few more reaching that age or a bit beyond to 125 years would not be accepted as heralding THE breakthrough. I think it would require many well documented people reaching 130 years of age or clear evidence of comprehensive health rejuvenation or dropping the death rate by 20% or more.

To add just 5 years to life expectancy, we would need to slash the mortality rate by more than 40%. To add 40 years, the mortality rate in the oldest people would have to be about 1.68%. To add 50 years, the mortality rate in the oldest people would need to drop to about 0.6% of current levels. This would be statistical evidence that in 2030, a massive breakthrough in longevity had occurred.

Scenario D: Immortality - They refers to Actuarial Escape Velocity (aka) Methuselarity.

Scenario C and Scenario D would be tough to differentiate in the 2030-2070 timeframe. Although instead of having 50 million deaths per year it went to 2 million or 100,000 that would be clear. However, vaccination is not universal yet. This has taken decades and will still take 2-3 decades. Even getting complete deployment in advanced countries (US, Europe, Japan, Canada etc...) would take time.

I have covered extreme life extension possibilities.

Only medical treatments with the cost profiles of clean water and vaccination will become truly universal before at least 2035

It is taking until about 2025 to make vaccination truly universal. So any new medical or public health treatment would need to not be more costly or difficult to deploy until at least 2035.

Significant life extension possibilities

SENS repair of aging damage. The estimates are that it would add 30 years to maximum lifespan. It would be quite expensive initially and then could be adopted into the developed world's national health systems over perhaps 10-20 years. Any SENS procedure costs would be displacing and delaying the need for the expensive medical procedures associated with end of life diseases. SENS is going to 5 million per year of funding and in 5 years could be at the $15-50 million per year funding level (increased funding likely because of Google Calico). Human SENS treatments could arrive in the 15-35 year timeframe.

Recently Google started Calico to research and then develop extreme life extension. This will likely

Telomere extension (immortalized cells), stem cells and tissue engineering. There is the possibility significant progress and efforts towards life extension with stem cells and tissue engineering. I think significant treatments could arise in this area in the 5-25 year timeframe. These procedures look like they would remain relatively costly. However, a global middle class where everyone has over PPP $30,000 per person could be achievable for 75% of the world population by about 2035 and 90% of the world population by about 2045.

An intensive surgery procedure that could be combined with stem cell and synthetic biology neuron rejuvenation is full body transplantation. This would likely remain very expensive even with massive adoption of more advanced and affordable robotic surgery. How much would people complain about massively costly and invasive treatments for life extension of the elite ? An example is Dick Cheney received a heart pump in 2010 and has had more than one bypass operation since 1988 and had an implantation of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator in June, 2001. Cheney also had a heart transplant in 2012. Only a very wealthy person could have undergone this level of treatment to add 25 years and counting. It appears that Cheney could last another ten years for a total of 35 years as the result of privileged medical treatment levels.

George Church is working on synthetic biology approaches to achieving indefinite lifespans. George's idea is to bring in sections of DNA from exotic organisms or genes that are rare for humans to enable all people to have desired genetic capabilities. He describes capabilities such as immunity to all viruses and cellular immunity to radiation and creating immunity to diseases. They are working to sequence and determine the genetic basis for long lived animals and humans and determine how to engineer longer lived people. They are working on approaches to rejuvenate different kinds of cells including the neurons of the brain.

Synthetic biology costs are rapidly falling, so success in this area could rapidly become affordable after the initial development.

George has had a number of commercial successes using synthetic biology to develop biofuels and industrial products. The costs and precision of gene synthesis and gene therapy are rapidly falling (falling faster than Moore's law lowering the cost of electronics). I think significant treatments could arise from the synthetic biology area in the 7 to 30 year timeframe.

Molecular nanotechnology has the potential to enable radically improved nanomedicine. Molecular nanotechnology could be used to make any SENS therapies more effective and could enhance the effectiveness and affordability of synthetic biology. There are significant capabilities now with DNA nanotechnology. I believe that full blown molecular nanotechnology will be developed in 10-40 years.

Countries now with life expectancy at about 80 or higher

The countries with higher life expectancy (80 or higher) are not weaker economies or economies with less dynamic innovation than those countries with life expectancy below 70.

Note that there is also nearly a 100% gap between the longest lived people and the shortest. The shortest have life expectancy in the 40s while many people have life expectancy in the 80s and even 90s (some sub-populations). Medical treatment and wealth enables wealthier people to live 6 years longer within the same country and 30 years longer between countries. There has not been global or national unrest related to that particular topic. There have been demonstrations like the occupy movement and economic injustice but not specifically focused on life extending medicine. There are some demonstrations and political movements for access to medical care but those are a fraction of the amount for jobs or to protect jobs or against high food prices.

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