Will living to 150 become the new normal?
There is a universal desire in all socioeconomic groups in the world’s 196 countries to live good lives for longer. But, what is a simple mission statement raises some of the world’s most thought-provoking questions. At what point do our ethics stop pushing our biological limits through experimental science? How much is too much?
Medical and scientific experts unequivocally agree that humans’ average life span can continue to rise, but there is little consensus on exactly how much. There are few comparisons to work off. Humans’ current average life expectancy has doubled since 1900 to 71.4 years. This is long when compared to mayflies’ lifespan of one day, short when compared to a 400-year-old Greenland shark and a blink of an eye when compared to a 11,000-year-old deep-sea sponge. Chimpanzees, with whom 98.5% of our DNA is identical, typically live
under five decades.
Aubrey de Grey, the Chief Science Officer of the California-based Sens Research Foundation (SENS), argues that society has a fatalistic attitude to longevity and that the first person to reach 1,000 years old could already be alive. Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the Nobel Prize in 2009 for research on telomeres and the genetics of ageing, said raising the average lifespan to triple digits is not overly ambitious.
A study by scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine said it may not be possible to extend life beyond the ages that have already been recorded, with 115 years likely being humans’ maximum average limit. The odds that in any given year at least one person in the world will live past their 125th birthday are less than 1 in 10,000. Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who is the world’s oldest person having lived for 122 years and 168 days up to 1997, may be the record holder for a long while.