Welcome to Throw Forward Thursday. My name is Graham Codrington, and every week we take a journey into the future. If you watched last week’s episode, you might not have thought there was a future and there possibly might not be. We do need to deal with climate change and take it a little bit more seriously than our team did last week. And so, this week’s topic might surprise you, because I want to talk about the 100-year life, maybe even the 1000-year life.
Right now, as I record this in 2021, here’s a statistic to just focus your mind. More than half of all the people who have ever turned 80 are still alive. Yeah, that’s right. We are the first generation of humans on this planet who think that 80 is a little bit young to die. Somebody that you know, dies at the age of 80, you’d probably say, oh, they died a bit young, didn’t they? Or they’re probably had complications and medical conditions. Just 100 years ago, 80 was something that only the super wealthy and the rich could expect to reach. And most of human history people, the average age that people have died has kind of been in their 40’s and 50’s. And yet here we are living in a world where life expectancy has increased dramatically over the course of our lifetimes, and it is now highly likely that anybody under the age of 30 today will see their 100th birthday. It’s more likely than not. Half of all the young people in the world today will reach their 100th birthdays. And that’s, of course, assuming that climate change doesn’t blow the planet up, that a global pandemic doesn’t just decimate the population. So, there are a few things that could get in the way of this. But most trends in terms of our understanding of the human body, our ability with medical science to engage, we’ve talked about this on the show before, mRNA and some of the new technologies with CRISPR and genetic engineering are pushing the boundaries there. We now have the ability to replace body parts to, you know, to ensure that we can live in better shells. Because it’s not our consciousness that finishes its time, it’s this physical shell in which your consciousness resides that gives up the ghost. And so, if we can extend that, we can increase life expectancy dramatically. And so, we’re throwing forward into the future where it has become normal and natural for people to be thinking about a 100-year life and think about what that does in terms of when you get married or what you study and when you think you’re studying will be finished.
What do you think of in terms of a career and what retirement might look like? It’s going to change dramatically. I think one of the big things that will happen is instead of having an education and then finish education, instead of having a career that gradually goes up and then drops, so all of the graphs look the same, they do the same drop. You’ve got cycles up and down and up and down. Why not study for three years, develop your career, do your career for a decade, decade and a half, take a year’s break, study again for another three years, start a new career, do that for 10, 15 years and do it one more time before you get to the end.
Now, you might be thinking, oh, that doesn’t sound right. I don’t want to live to 100 and that’s because you are picturing today’s 100-year-olds. You’re picturing old people and who wants to be older longer? I don’t! What we need is to be younger longer. And that is the promise. Aubrey De Grey is one of the world’s leading gerontologists. He might even have come up with that label, it’s the people who study ageing. And in one of the most, if not the most cited scientific article of all time, he has suggested that there are only seven ways that our cells are degraded. Now, I’m not a biologist. I’m not going to go into the detail here. But for instance, the wall of the cell can get harder, or the wall of the cells can get softer and then the cells collapse. The cell can stop replicating or the cell can replicate too much, that’s cancer. So those are four of the seven, I don’t know the others. And his argument, and he’s put it out in a scientific journal and said to people, prove me wrong, is that there are only these seven ways that our cells degrade and that we have currently with our current science, we have solutions to every one of those seven degrading or ageing properties of cells. We cannot just stop, but also reverse every one of those seven.
Now, the trick is that some of them are too expensive, or they are difficult to put into your body en masse. But the point is we have the technology available not only to stop ageing, but to reverse ageing. So, I’m going to throw forward even further than 100-year life. I’m going to throw forward to a time where you decide how long you want to live because you can replace the parts that you can’t reverse ageing on, and on most of the parts you can keep yourself at whatever age you want to in terms of your cellular integrity. There are other ways to die. And we might have to talk about the choice of life or death a little bit more in that future.
Fascinating, isn’t it? And I think it is within our grasp to do these things. This is not a science fiction few centuries from now conversation, it is the people who are alive today who will be able to live in a world where ageing is something very, very different from what it’s been before. Throw Forward Thursday, you never know where we’re going to go, but it’s always in the future and it’s always interesting.
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I’ll see you next Thursday. We’re going to keep on this theme of what it’s going to take to live longer, live more healthy. We’re going to talk about Smart Foods next week. I’ll see you then.
Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.