There is a lot of speculation about whether new medical science will allow not just newborn babies to live until 100, but even people who are up to 40 years old today. But how much of it is realistic?
At first glance, human life expectancy appears to have risen greatly from ancient times :
Neolithic Era : 22
Roman Era : 28
Medieval Europe : 33
England, 1800 : 38
USA, 1900 : 48
USA, 2005 : 78
But upon further examination, the low life expectancies in earlier times (and poorer countries today) are weighed down by a high infant mortality rate. If we take a comparison only of people who have reached adulthood, life expectancy may have risen from 45 to 80 in the last 2000 years. This does not appear to be as impressive of a gain rate.
But, if you index life expectancy against Per Capita GDP, then the slow progress appears differently. Life expectancy began to make rapid progress as wealth rose and funded more research and better healthcare, and since Economic Growth is Accelerating, an argument can be made that if lifespans jumped from 50 to 80 in the 20th century, they might jump to 100 by the 2020s.
But that still seems to be too much to expect.
We hear that if cancer and cardiovascular disease were cured, average lifespans in America would rise into the 90s. We acknowledge that medical knowledge is doubling every 8 years or so. We see in the news that a gene that switches off aging has been found in mice. We even know that the market demand for such biotechnology would be so great - most people would gladly pay half of their net worth to get 20 more healthy, active years of life - that it will attract the best and brightest minds.
Yet something within us is doubtful.....
(stay tuned tomorrow for Part II)