Living Past 115

This is an interesting post that touches on two interesting things. One is the fact we may be reaching the limit of human longevity. Once you eliminate the problems that come from scarcity and then address the basics of medicine, human life spans start to grow. People also get healthier over their lifetime. Humans are far healthier late in life than at any other time. We are probably within reach of solving some of the big killers like cancer, heart failure and dementia. While some may never be “cured” they will be manageable.

For things related to aging, the eeffects will continue to be postponed. Within living memory, a healthy a vigorous 70-year old was something like a miracle. Today it is common. We will certainly be seeing more and more vigorous octogenarians, especially as medicine gets a grip on using things like HGH and SARM’s. Of course, we are already seeing drugs that allow humans to extend their sexual activity into old age and the demand for this stuff will spike as Boomer head into their final chapter of life.

This need to extend life and the quality of life is not without some spooky stuff. Here’s a bit from the linked post.

“The only way to get a person past the “Calment limit” of (say) 125 will be some sort of genetic engineering. This might prove to be, if not easy, at least fairly routine — in technical terms. Fiddling with just a few genes in worms, fruit flies and mice has enabled scientists to extend their lifespan, sometimes up to sevenfold. One recent study in Lausanne found a 50 per cent reduction in the activity of just three genes on Chromosome 2 increased mouse lifespan by about 250 days, and kept them healthy longer.”

Once you start talking about genetic engineering people, the mind quickly moves from the spooky to the sinister. As soon as it becomes possible to alter one’s aging with gene therapy, drugs will be created to give the same effect. If reducing a certain protein extends youthfulness, a clever company will bottle it and sell it. Human nature being what it is, there will come a time when this is not just possible, but considered essential.

Strangely, the naive assumption that people will be ethically constrained in this area is why we will see the genie get loose as soon as it can be uncorked. Matt Riddley, the writer of the linked post, thinks it is hard to imagine any scientists willing to do what is necessary to bring such technology forward, with regards to humans. After all, it will require human trials and that means experimenting on embryos, which will be brought to term. That’s a nice way of saying it will require experimenting on kids.

The fact that China would have zero hangups about doing this is alien to most western ethicists. Amazingly, China remains an inscrutable place for the West. The Russians would probably have no trouble with the ethics either. Even if they were not willing to experiment on their own people, they would happily team up with India or maybe the Iranians to conduct the research on their people. Making fewer better people is probably the next phase of the arms race between peoples.

Riddle asks an interesting question, which suggests something about the Western cognitive elite. “Plus, ethics aside, it is not easy to see where the demand for such a drastic and expensive step would come from. Who would actually want their next child to live past 125, let alone badly enough to go through with it?” There’s that fatigue with living that turns up in the elites, that animates the current culture. The thing is, not everyone is looking to call it quits. That’s the Western disease.