For years, futurists have attempted to predict when, in the future, we will finally achieve the “technological singularity’’ — a technological breakthrough so profound, it changes the course of humanity. Specifically, futurists have been talking about the moment when super-human artificial intelligence becomes reality. Or — to put it simply — when computers become smarter than people.
However, at Centaura, we believe that the world needs to prepare for a different singularity — one that might arrive even before super-human intelligence. It’s the moment when humans have the power to slow down — and even reverse aging.
Stepping back: what the “singularity” is
The idea of the “singularity” first became popular nearly thirty years ago by the science fiction writer Vernor Vinge. In his essay The Coming Technological Singularity, he famously declared, “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”
Today, the idea of the “technological singularity” is highly debated — both in terms of its theoretical possibility and its ethical consequences. Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, for example, suggested that we would still be wondering whether or not artificial intelligence that surpasses human capabilities is possible by the end of the century.
Even if we do reach the “singularity” in the near future, it is still unclear what that will actually look like.
Perhaps the bigger takeaway from the entire “singularity” debate is that technology and science are evolving at an unprecedented pace, making what once seemed impossible — possible.
The “aging” singularity
Perhaps no problem has vexed humanity more than the problem of aging. Whether it’s finding a cure for cancer or the development of new vaccines against deadly diseases, increasing longevity — the number of years a person lives — has long been a staple of modern medicine.
More recently, however, scientists have been attempting to not just increase humans’ lifespans, but actually slow — and even reverse — the degenerative processes altogether. And at Centaura, we believe that the only way to do that is to tackle the root causes: to uncover the biological origins of age-related diseases and then develop targeted therapies to combat them. What’s more, the ability to make that goal a reality is closer than you might think.
In just the past few years, scientists have made major advances in anti-aging science. They were able to extend the lifespan of worms by 45% with an enzyme-blocking molecule and extended the life of fruit flies by 65% with probiotics. Even more promising — a single dose of gene therapy stopped an aging disorder in mice.
These experiments prove that aging can be tackled by modern science, and by 2035, Centaura aims to bring the first anti-aging treatments to humans. That’s only fifteen years away. And when it happens, humans will have the ability to radically extend both their lifespans and their healthspans (the number of years spent in good health). Few technological advances have as much potential to radically change civilization.
Imagining an ageless future
The world has an “aging” problem. Nearly every country faces a growing proportion of individuals aged 65 and older, and the number of people aged over 80 is expected to triple by the year 2050. This is creating enormous pressure on public health and social welfare systems.
Unfortunately, without treating aging as a “disease” — one whose cure needs to be found — developed countries around the globe are facing a grim future: one where pension and healthcare systems are overburdened and the workforce is not large enough to support the national economy or infrastructure.
Imagine then that people lived longer. Living to one hundred would no longer be an achievement, but the norm. More importantly, even at 120, you would have the health and strength of a 40-year-old.
Progressively better health would ease the burden on already taxed healthcare systems. What’s more, if individuals are living until they’re 150 or 250 years, retirement at age 65 no longer makes sense. They’ll need to think longer term in terms of both their financial and mental health, and their continued contributions to the workforce will only serve to stimulate the economy and push for improved global decision-making. Think about it: the world becomes more complex by the day and those best suited to tackle the complexity are those with a wealth of knowledge and years of experience — in other words, older generations.
Of course, these same individuals will also get to reimagine their futures — without limits. With an extra 100 to 200 years in good health, regrets could become a phenomenon of the past. Those who are 60 will have a chance to try the one or two careers they didn’t get a chance to try earlier in life, while at 80 they might decide to run their first marathon or cross off that final destination on their travel bucket list.
When people have the time to enjoy several lifetimes worth of experiences, the world is not only a more productive place — but a happier one.
The other side of the coin
But wait, if healthcare systems are already taxed, won’t more elderly only exacerbate the problem? That’s the myth of the“aging society”.
Right now, the phenomenon of aging is equated with physical and mental decline. The problem isn’t so much that people are living longer; it’s that they’re living longer in a state of continuously declining health. Those who are aging aren’t contributing economically to society and, at the same time, require more extensive healthcare treatment for age-related diseases.
However, if we increase not just people’s lifespans but their healthspans, we have a demographic situation like that described above: people will continue to contribute to the economy as they get older, all without needing costly healthcare treatment.
As Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics at London Business School, puts it: think of it like inflation. If people only paid $1.18 for two movie tickets in the 1950s and now tickets cost $9.11 per person, has going to the movies really gotten more expensive, or are we just making more money?
Similarly, just because society is becoming chronologically older doesn’t mean society has to become physically and mentally older.
The next 15 years
A singularity is coming — it’s just not the one scientists and futurists have long foretold. Recent advancements in anti-aging science have proven that halting degenerative processes is possible. And, once the root causes of aging are identified, scientists like those at Centaura can craft treatments to stop aging at the source. Of course, the first step in significantly extending your lifespan is taking care of your health, and that needs to happen right now. 2035 isn’t that far away, and by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercising and eating right, today, when the first anti-aging treatments finally do arrive, they’ll have a greater impact.
The fact is: a new future is coming. But rather than preparing for one where the robots take over, we need to start preparing for one where people are living 150–200 years long, all in good health. What will that mean at an individual, local, and national level? What will people be able to accomplish with all that extra time? What does an ageless future look like?
It’s time we all began dreaming bigger.