This is a very interesting topic. When it comes to some of the technology we see in science fiction, this is one of the ones that is really and truly on the horizon, if it is not here already. Genetic Modification or Genetic Engineering is something that could be truly obtainable within the next few years and could certainly change the future of our species.
I have written about this topic a few different times and much of what I have said before is mentioned in the video below. It is nice to know that I am not crazy and much of what I said is true or at least something that someone else has thought about. There are so many ideas to consider when it comes to genetic modification that it is truly hard to grasp them all. I think the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is the prevention and possible cure of any number of diseases. This is also mentioned in the video.
I love these videos and there are a ton of them on YouTube, on a variety of different topics. Not only do they have great info but really make it simple to understand and the most important thing is that none of them are that long. They usually range anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes for the most part. Really cool!
This would be an amazing feat if we could achieve it, and as I said I think this is somewhat within our grasp. Recently I put up a post about telomeres and how we are close to extending the lives of our cells, which would intern extend our lives. This is all well and good, but what is the point of living longer if you will still be plagued by any number of diseases. A good point to consider, as I certainly would not want to extend my life only to have more decrepit years at the end of my life. The goal would be to keep your cells health for longer so you would hopefully extend the good years. Maybe you would feel 25 well into your 40’s, then in your 50’s is actually your 30’s. So basically take half of whatever your actual age is and that how you feel and how your body looks and reacts. This is just one of the many feats that could potentially be on the horizon with any sort of genetic engineering. This could drastically increase our lifespan as well as potentially change the human condition, even some of our societal norms. One of the main ones could be waiting till later in life to have children. I am not sure what the long term consequences, if any, this could have on society, but if you look at the statics this is already happening.
Something else to think about is how long would you want to life if you could choose? This is somewhat more of a philosophical question than a real one as there are an extreme number of factors to think about. But what if there is a limit on human lifespan and no matter what we do that at a certain age it is in our DNA to expire and or die. Some scientists think that number might be 122 years old, as this is the oldest recorded human age. No one in history has lived longer than 122 years. I also found this article that states, “Their model predicts that the likelihood of a person exceeding the age of 125 in any given year is less than one in 10,000.” Those odds do not seem that astronomical to me, but I barely passed statistics in college with like an F+. So someone with who knows probabilities would know more about what this means.
That is pretty amazing and for me I am not sure I would want to live that long as I would imagine at around age 85-90 things are falling apart. I cannot imagine what they would be like after another 30 years! BUT we can extend lives in our current age relatively easy. We can give people a new heart, or perhaps replace worn-out valves on the old one, a new kidney, what have you. In a more primitive time having an issue with one of these organs was more or less a death sentence. No a days we can extend the lives of people with debilitating diseases. Think of those who have lost limbs either in combat or an accident. Think of animals that are born with a deformity in the wild they are usually the first eaten by predators or rarely survive to adulthood. But in our culture we can help ensure that even those people have long and normal lives through artificial means.
So now think about the 122 years max life span. While I think there could be some validity to what the scientists have said, I think that that could be the maximum lifespan without any artificial means. But I would have to say that if all the right factors (genetic, lifestyle, eating, exercising and so on) I think the max human life span could still be longer. To me I think somewhere around 150 is probably the true maximum WITHOUT any artificial means, and that number is based on absolutely no scientific research. I think if you breed centurions (people that live to 100) and potentially created a human with all the right longevity genes and they had the perfect lifestyle for longevity, I think 150 could be the max. BUT as I keep saying that is with no artificial help.
What I mean by artificial help is basically humans using technology to prolong life, in particular through genetic engineering. So instead of breeding to get these genes to show up in a person, we can make sure that every human has them through a medical procedure either at birth or later in life. If we now take this technology into account then I am not really sure what the upper limit on human lifespans are. I have a hard time saying that we could be immortal but I think a realistic outcome could be to, at the very least, double the average human lifespan. So that means 78 years is the average life expectancy, so now that would be 150 or so! That is a long time to be here on the planet, but still just a drop in the bucket in terms of the cosmic timescale. I know my lifespan without genetic engineering is the same as the new average life span with genetic engineering. The important distinction is that 150 could be the new average, meaning that most people reach this age. This would also mean that there are those that could also reach double centurion age or near 200 years. The overall point is that we double the average life expectancy, that is would be a major feat in and of itself.
The problem here is that there are too many unknowns when it comes to this science. But regardless of the technology I do not think our flesh and blood bodies will be immortal, no matter the technology. You have to look at this on the cellular level as that is what we are all made of, and it is easy to forget that when looking at the big picture. I do not think a cell can be kept alive and in good working order indefinitely, now that may change in the future but I still find it hard to fathom. But if we can find a way to make an indestructible cell that does not age, or die, then at that point we could potentially become immortal. I would also argue that even a catastrophic accident would not kill us, and we could have super human healing capabilities. This would be amazing as I would imagine we would be indestructible living organisms, and honestly I do not think this is possible.
Genetic Engineering does seem to be the more economical avenue to travel down than other possibilities. The other possibilities include transferring consciousness and or slowly making the transition toward mechanical bodies and or mechanical parts. The latter two are farfetched in terms of available technology. So for the time being and the near future (100 years) I think if we can completely crack our genetic code and engineer certain shortcomings of nature, then increased lifespan is within our grasp. What is interesting is how soon this will come about. I am currently 31 and believe there is a greater than 50% chance that some significant genetic engineering breakthrough will happen in my lifetime. The problem is I will probably be too old when it happens to take full advantage of it, which it totally disappointing.