Evanston RoundTable, April 18, 2018
The arc of life is simple and inexorable: we are born, grow up, age and die. But what if we could change that, could live forever, or at least for a very long time?
Living longer, healthier lives is a hot topic these days. A February article in Time magazine described how food is the new medicine, targeting illnesses as a critical part of a patient’s medical care “that can have as much power to heal as drugs.”
A March story in the Wall Street Journal titled “The A.I. Diet” described how algorithms could select the best foods for every person’s unique biological profile.
Silicon Valley corporations and billionaires have been busy funding and exploring the science to extend healthy lifespans well beyond what is possible today.
The Palo Alto Longevity Prize, established by hedge fund president Joon Yun, will pay $1 million to the first team to “hack the code” that regulates health and lifespan. Dr. Joon also donated $2 million to launch the National Academy of Medicine Aging and Longevity Grand Challenge.
In 2013 Google established Calico to “harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan.” Funding is already in place for what the company calls an “unprecedented level of interdisciplinary effort.”
Human Longevity Inc., founded in 2014 by biologist Craig Venter, is building a database of 1 million human genome sequences to study the biology of “supercentenarians,” extremely long-lived and healthy individuals.
Tech billionaires in the anti-aging field include Larry Ellision, founder and chairman of Oracle; Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal; and Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google.
Their initiatives have already produced some big anti-aging breakthroughs. The supplement resveratrol and drugs such as metformin (used for diabetes) and rapamycin (used in cancer treatments and organ transplants) have shown potential to extend life in both animals and humans.
Of course, the goal is not just to extend life but to achieve an active, alert and contented old age.
My formula for longer life is part practical and part fantastical. The practical part is obvious: exercise regularly, eat healthy foods in moderation, stay active and surround yourself with loving friends and family. Don’t stress over inconsequential matters and don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh and smile often. Strive to enhance the lives of others.
The fantastical part goes like this: 120 seems to be the current age limit to human life. From there, it’s possible to become almost immortal. Since the aging process slows as we get older, the goal is to get to 100. This is entirely feasible: there are currently more than 70,000 centenarians nationwide, and the number is projected to increase to almost a million by 2050. From 100, keep going. Like a rocket that breaks through the earth’s atmosphere and cruises gravity-free in space, once you celebrate 120, you’re home free.