Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The future of aging

Peter Huber writes on technical and scientific issues, and his archive is a worthy bookmark. In this article, he investigates trends in medicine, and concludes that we may be around to watch them for a long, long, time.

Within a decade a mother in the early stages pregnancy will routinely direct her obstetrician to extract and stash away some embryonic cells for the future benefit of her unborn child. When the child gets to be 40 and has early Parkinson's or some other degenerative disease, another doctor will pluck those cells out of the freezer and cultivate a perfect cure.

It doesn't stop there. After all, what is a "disease" and what is "health"?

It depends on what your baseline is.

And if instead the child is fated to suffer nothing but the degenerative disease of old age, why then, he or she will have the option of curing that affliction, too. Restarting the biochemical clock for the body as a whole when you're 80 will be as straightforward as restarting it for any one specific tissue or organ when you're 40.

Most people I've talked with say they wouldn't want to live forever. Fine.

Let's postulate a medical treatment that grants another ten years of healthy life. Who'd turn that down? And when that ten years is running out, how many would decline the offer of another ten years?

Do that a handful of times, and you're well into your second century. Keep scheduling a treatment every tenth annual physical, and habit might carry you well into four digits.

Technology becomes cheaper as it gets older. A treatment affordable only by the super rich today will be routine, albeit a significan investment, in a decade or so. In fifty years, it'll be sold over the counter for pocket change in the drug stores.

Lifetime tenures, life sentences, and even "lifetime warranty" will take on a whole new meaning.

The future will be a very interesting place.

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