Prospects for extending healthy life
It may seem premature to be discussing approaches to the effective elimination of human aging as a cause of death at a time when essentially no progress has yet been made in even postponing it. However, two aspects of human aging combine to undermine this assessment. The first is that aging is happening to us throughout our lives but only results in appreciable functional decline after four or more decades of life: this shows that we can postpone the functional decline caused by aging arbitrarily well without knowing how to prevent aging completely, but instead by increasingly thorough molecular and cellular repair. The second is that the typical rate of refinement of dramatic technological breakthroughs is rather reliable (so long as public enthusiasm for them is abundant) and is fast enough to change such technologies (be they in medicine, transport, or computing) almost beyond recognition within a natural human lifespan. In this talk I will explain, first, why (presuming adequate funding for the initial preclinical work) therapies that can add 30 healthy years to the remaining lifespan of healthy 55-year-olds may arrive within the next few decades, and, second, why those who benefit from those therapies will very probably continue to benefit from progressively improved therapies indefinitely and thus avoid debilitation or death from age-related causes at any age.