Among the many alarming statistics presented by Olshansky, he noted that as a person ages their risk of dying doubles every 7 years. And as the expense required to keep people alive continues to escalate, society could be in for some serious economic trouble. Olshansky estimates that by 2030 the medical costs in the
To deal with this pending crisis, Olshansky suggests that we need to keep people healthy by working to develop more meaningful interventions in life extension, whether it be genetics, insights gained from the effects of caloric restriction, or the development of compounds with properties that appear to slow aging. Ultimately, the goal is to extend maximum healthy life span and drive medical costs down.
At the same time, Olshansky critiqued the tendency towards an explicit “anti-aging” sentiment. Quite interestingly, he sees aging as a positive and wisdom-endowing process. His goal is more modest than those of the transhumanists who which to eliminate death altogether. Instead, Olshansky urges that we should simply strive to extend maximize healthy lifespan as much as possible.
But not everyone at the symposium agreed with Olshansky. Gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, while supportive of Olshansky’s work, was skeptical that a focus on the longevity dividend would result in a decrease in medical costs. As de Grey argued, there will still be costs -- if not considerable costs -- even in a world in which senescence has been greatly retarded. The goal, says de Grey, is to work towards the development of anti-aging interventions intended to eliminate death altogether.
The case for radical life extension continues to mature.
Read Ronald Bailey’s recap of the symposium.