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Increasing Human Lifespan

Several Demographic Implications of Life Extension

More than two decades ago, researchers in the fields of aging and molecular genetics began to unlock clues to the genes, mechanisms, and processes of aging.  And by 1993, Cynthia Kenyon and her colleagues succeeded in doubling the lifespan of an experimental laboratory organism,

                            Caenorhabditis elegans
                                        (from 20 days to 40 days)
And by 2005, Kenyon was able to report further work that had allowed researchers to multiply the lifespan of individuals within this same species six-fold
                                         (from 20 days to 120 days)
An equivalent six-fold increase in
humans would

                         approximately 500 years
   (a)  and at the same time, of course, other researchers
          have been investigating life extension by means 
          such as calorie
restriction, resveratrol, and other
   (b)  furthermore, other research has found that many
          of the same or similar mechanisms have worked
          in other laboratory organisms such as flies, mice,
          and yeast

   (c)  in addition, ongoing research in health and medicine
         (which promise to prevent and/or cure disease) may
         also reward us with dramatic increases in longevity
So where might all of this be heading?  At what  pace?  And what far-reaching  implications may await?
First, let us consider our track-record over the past 100 years as scientists and scholars have pursued one new field and technology after another.  Again and again, we have proceeded from an initial breakthrough to rapid advances and proliferation with breathtaking speed.
   Think, for example, of the advances and trajectories
    seen in computers,
communications, medicine, DNA
    technologies, and genomics
For now, however, think of the Wright brothers, who in 1903 flew, for the first time, a heavier-than-air vehicle  for twelve seconds and 120 feet.
Consider next that just sixty-six years later
                     the astronauts
                      of Apollo 11

      traveled to the moon and back
           in a little
over one week
Which brings us back to 1993 and the initial doubling of lifespan in individual members of C. elegans.

If we envision,
      beginning in 1993,
               a life-extension progression
           similar to that seen in aeronautics
then 1993, when extended 
              sixty-six years into the future,
                                       would bring us to 2059

Even if a real possibility of a six-fold/500 year life-extension for humans were to (or might actually) exist, the exact details and the exact amount of lengthening are of less importance than the fact that

          (a) such research is occurring, and
          (b) that some degrees of dramatic
               success may not just be possible,
                  but may well be probable

Thus, if even a fraction of that
                             500 year human equivalent
                   were to emerge in the
                       decades ahead
                              imagine, perhaps, a forty
                                or fifty year extension
then today's optimistic U.N. population projections that envision a stabilization of world population


                            or that envision a total world population
of  nine billion around 2050


                                                   would go 
                                        right out the window
Finally, if you think that China's one-child policy is strict, should a 500-year human lifetime ever actually emerge,
              then replacement-level fertility
             may have to

            to just 4/10 ths of a child per woman
                          ...  per century ...
Note that the propositions and examples below are
offered as stimulants to thought,
implications, insights,
and caution  -  not as advocacy
Suppose that a woman were to live for 500 years:  If she were to restrict herself to just 4/10ths of a child per century

                              this would result in a total of two children over the
                                       course of her five-hundred year lifetime
                                       ( 0.4 per century  x  five centuries  =  2 )
                                one child to replace her upon her death, and a
                               second child to replace the father upon his death

   It is all somewhat astounding.  Visit this site again 
       as we
explore these many thoughts further


Given our current demographic trajectories, a
Franklin Roosevelt /
Winston Churchill
level of mobilization

should have begun two decades ago
Copyright 2009, Randolph Femmer.
All rights reserved.