After the last death: Doctors, academics debate the possibility, value of a 150-year lifespan | News | Palo Alto Online |


After the last death: Doctors, academics debate the possibility, value of a 150-year lifespan

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Halloween was approaching and Dr. Joon Yun was explaining why he wanted someone to hack our bodies.

"Every day 150,000 people die worldwide and the majority of them (are) due to age-related illness," Yun, 46, said while seated in the board room of Palo Alto Investors LLC, an investment management company of which he is president. "We've got the technology to hack the aging code and end aging. Question is not 'if' but 'when' we want it to happen."

Yun, a bespectacled physician turned investor, is the benefactor of The Palo Alto Longevity Prize, a $1 million science competition aiming to end aging by restoring the body's homeostatic capacity and promoting the extension of a sustained and healthy lifespan.

The Prize is the latest in a spate of anti-aging efforts being mounted throughout the Bay Area. Google's Calico Project has gained the most attention because of the corporate brand and the impenetrable secrecy surrounding it. The Buck Institute in Marin County was featured in The Atlantic's October cover story "What Happens When We All Live to 100?"

The same issue featured an essay by Ezekiel Emanuel, "Why I Hope to Die at 75." Emanuel dismisses efforts to extend healthy longevity and equates age with decrepitude, an attitude that longevity experts including Yun consider laughably outdated.

"I've gotten so many emails from people linking to the story," Yun groaned. "Somebody should start a new magazine called The Pacific. The Atlantic is an old way to think of things. Look west; look to the future."

Six teams of scientists and medical researchers from around the country are competing for the Longevity Prize's two $500,000 awards, the Homeostatic Capacity Prize and the Longevity Demonstration Prize. The former will go to the first team to demonstrate that it can restore homeostatic capacity of an aging mammal to that of a young adult. The latter will go to the first team that can extend the lifespan of its mammal by 50 percent of acceptable published norms using an approach that restores homeostatic capacity.

Homeostatic capacity refers to the ability of one's physiology to self-correct and stabilize in response to stressors. Young people typically have a strong homeostatic capacity; it's what allows their bodies to heal from injuries and recover quickly from illnesses.

Yun and the researchers leading the teams believe that homeostatic capacity erodes with age. Diabetes, hypertension and other afflictions that correlate with age may be consequences of an aging body's inability to self-stabilize.

So what if the erosion of homeostatic capacity can be stalled or reversed? Would it end aging as we know it?

"Nobody wants to live another 40 years in bad health," Yun said. "We want to make life longer and healthier. Imagine being 70 years old and as healthy as a horse."

Of course, the ultimate goal is to apply any successful findings by the teams to humans. A 50 percent increase in today's average lifespan would take today's baby boomers to around 110 years. The oldest person in recorded history lived to 122. It's already common to hear that today's young people will have an average lifespan of 100 years, which would take them to 150 years if the Longevity Demonstration Prize's results were successfully applied in time.

While Yun would welcome a healthy 150-year lifespan, even that is a baby step compared to what he thinks is, at least theoretically, possible: a healthy lifespan beyond biblical proportions. A normal 25-year-old has a one in 1,000 chance of dying from outside forces in a given year. If declining homeostatic capacity were not a factor, a 1,000-year healthy lifespan is theoretically achievable. The mortality rate of a healthy 15-year-old is 0.01 percent in a given year, which could theoretically translate to a 10,000-year lifespan.

To be sure, immortality is not the explicit goal of the Prize, but the successful abolition of aging would certainly make death the next target.

"We hope that, if we are successful ... sustained homeostatic capacity will have the consequence of making death a statistic rather than an inevitability," Yun said.

In that world, people would still die. Externalities like accidents, wars and crimes would still claim lives. But the hope is to make natural aging and death a thing of the past. In short, the fight is, ultimately, not just against disease and aging but about the very notion of longevity itself.


In fact, there already exists something that is proven to slow the erosion of homeostatic capacity and increase healthy longevity: exercise. Dr. Walter Bortz, 84, is a physician and author who teaches medicine at Stanford University. He is best known for being an advocate for a 100-year lifespan and has written dozens of articles and several books on the topic.

"Aging is not a disease!" said Bortz, as he and his wife, Ruth Anne, sipped wine and looked out over Palo Alto from the hills of Portola Valley recently.

"Neither is aging the same as frailty. Frailty and bodily decline are a result of disuse. These conditions considered to be aging-driven diseases — Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension — are not related to aging at all; they are a result of lack of energy," he said.

For evidence of the connection between exercise and healthy aging, look no further than the Bortzes: They've been doing marathons for decades and are regularly seen running in their neighborhood.

To be sure, they are no fans of getting older and being reminded of their age, but they are adamant that getting older is separate from being healthy.

"I just turned 84, and it was horrible," said Ruth Anne Bortz, lamenting her accumulation of years and the approach of 100.

"Better than being dead at 84," her husband quipped dryly.

Unlike Yun, Bortz is doubtful that an extended lifespan is possible through scientific intervention.

"There is no 'switch' that can be hacked and flipped to stop aging," he said. "The decision to live a good lifestyle, to exercise, eat well, and most of all have a good mental attitude can make health persist regardless of age."

According to Bortz, exercise initiates the expression of genes that help maintain a healthy physiology. He is not alone in connecting exercise to healthy longevity.

"The science on exercise and its effects on healthy aging are truly remarkable," said Dr. Laura Carstensen, director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University, a think tank focused on "redesigning long life" and building a culture that supports it.

The Center researches science and technology that can be used to solve problems facing the aged, particularly relating to mental acuity, physical mobility and financial security.

Yun does not deny that exercise and good habits contribute to maintaining health, but he believes it can't go far enough.

"The problem is that people have been doing that for thousands of years and they are all dead," Yun said. "The grand slam would be to maintain a young person's capacity, and I'm not sure if we could accomplish that through only conventional behavioral methods including exercise and a balanced diet. To truly restore homeostatic capacity would require an intervention at the programmatic level."

But Bortz is deeply skeptical of efforts to extend life beyond 120 years. The author of "The Roadmap to 100" doesn't think a book titled "The Roadmap to 150" will ever be written.

"Not possible. We've been a species for eons, and the oldest person to have ever lived in recorded history is 122. There are only 120 super-centenarians (people who are 110 or older) worldwide. Why is that? Because there is a finitude due to entropy," he said.

Still, Yun points out that science may break his way — and possibly in a way more provocative than the idea of a 1,000-year-old person.

"Our cells are programmed to deteriorate and die, a process called apoptosis. However, some of these cells that are programmed to die are mutating and programming out their apoptosis genes. Today we call that phenomenon cancer," he said. "Cancer cells are essentially immortal. Today, cancer is considered one of the worst scourges in human history, but what if it holds the key to persistence rather than death?"


Sonia Arrison, a founder, academic adviser, and trustee at Mountain View's Singularity University and a member of the Palo Alto Longevity Prize's Advisory Board, has already written the book Bortz thought would never be written. "100 Plus" is about what society will be like when, not if, people live to an average of 150 years. (See sidebar.)

"I wrote the book because I want people to be aware of the technology that is making its way and not to be complacent," said Arrison, 42, whose company's mission is "to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity's grand challenges."

"All of this longevity technology will happen, but the question is 'Will it happen to you? Do you want to be the last generation that only got to live to 80 or part of the first generation that got to live to 150?'" she said, her bright eyes as optimistic as her book.

A 150-year average lifespan would force changes in the economy and even relationships, but according to Arrison they'll be similar to what society is already seeing, just more dramatic.

"We'll likely have serial long-term relationships, more changes in friendships, more marriages. The nuclear family will be less common," she said.

All the benefits she foresees are centered on choice: more choices for family structures and planning, more choices for career structure, and more economic prosperity.

Of course, a longer lifespan will force challenges on society — the biggest one, according to Arrison, being a "longevity divide."

"We already see it today. A person in Atherton lives to their mid-80s and a person in East Palo Alto lives to only their mid-60s. It's likely that, at least in the short term, when longevity technology hits the market that the divide will increase," she said. "But I think, as with all other technology, it'll become cheaper over time until just about everyone can access it if they choose. But I would take all the challenges increased longevity will pose over death and aging and disease any day."


But such radical change in human longevity in such a short period of time could cause radical societal blowback. The last major extension of longevity occurred when average life expectancy nearly doubled from around 40 years in the beginning of the 20th century to nearly 80 by the millennium. This created generational conflicts that culminated in the 1960s and '70s.

The teenagers and college students of 1968 were the first generation to live under an "oligarchy of the old." The counterculture was, in many ways, the young attempting to shift the balance of power away from their parents and grandparents. In a demographic light, the young were rebelling against the consequences of extended longevity.

Carstensen, who was a teenager during that period in American history, remembers the generational animosity.

"At Woodstock we considered old people, and at that time it was 30 and up, to be oppressive. We felt we had the answers and that we would be moral and fix the problems. As boomers aged we went off and did other things and kind of lost that. It would be interesting to me if boomers came to be the change agents for longevity, which would be great and ironic," she said.

For Carstensen, lifespan gains made in the last century are more than just a biological phenomenon.

"Longevity is one of the greatest cultural achievements in human history," she said.

However, the achievement has outpaced institutions and cultural evolution, which, having been very slow to adapt, could lead to various crises. There's little reason to believe society and institutions would catch up to yet another doubling of longevity in a timely manner, which would only dramatically compound today's challenges.

"We continue to live our lives as if our life expectancy is what it was before. Our education system still ends for the majority of people before reaching age 23.

Working for 40 years, then retiring for another 30 years, is becoming economically unsustainable as well as damaging our well-being," Carstensen said.

The health care system is what is most in need of dramatic change.

"Recent scientific advances have been largely about solving acute diseases not chronic diseases, which are the ones we are now facing," she said. "Our system and institutions are organized to attack separate diseases rather than addressing what seems to be the underlying cause: unhealthy aging."

Displayed on a shelf next to her desk is a board game based on Hasbro's Game of Life but with a few alterations: Instead of life beginning in school and ending in a retirement home, it begins at birth and ends at death. It's also structured to not be a race to the finish; in some parts it benefits players to take longer routes.

"Preparing for a long, stable, fruitful life does not begin in old age; it begins at the very earliest stages," Carstensen said.

The point is not just rhetorical; there are more pediatricians than geriatricians associated with the Center on Longevity.

However, the Center is not interested in extending life, and Carstensen doubts the teams competing for the Palo Alto Longevity Prize will realize its ultimate goals of a radically longer health-span.

"We thought long and hard on calling ourselves the Center on Longevity rather than the Center for Longevity. I'm largely on the fence about increasing lifespan. I see a real need for improving the quality of our lives and accommodating the years we've been given," she said.

Nonetheless, Carstensen said she believes the efforts of the six teams could lead to discoveries that will make healthy aging easier.


Silicon Valley technologists are neither the first nor only ones to joust at aging and death. Philosophers and writers of all times and places have deeply considered the condition and implications of decay and mortality. The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats, famous for having written his poems late in life, is often quoted as saying, "Sex and death are the only things that can interest a serious mind."

In the present day, poet and Stanford professor Kenneth Fields has just completed a new collection of poetry that considers aging. The 75-year-old bears the physical marks of a tumultuous life lacking in both health and boredom, which brings to mind Hunter S. Thompson's quip about how the body of someone who lived a full life should arrive, thoroughly used up, at the grave.

"Aging is the diminishing window of time between when you feel like urinating and when you actually are urinating," Fields wryly remarked during a poetry reading on campus. However, while he would welcome restored physical health, he is not sure he would want an extended life, much less the abolishment of natural death.

"Things are beautiful because they are transient and don't last forever," he said. "I'm reminded of Sappho's Hymn to Aphrodite. Sappho has had her heart broken and asks the immortal goddess Aphrodite for help. And Aphrodite is amused by her. 'Who is it this time that's broken your heart?' she disinterestedly asks Sappho. It makes the point that Aphrodite can't take these powerful, human emotions personally or seriously because she is immortal."

"It's questionable whether death is 'evil'," said Huw Duffy, a second-year doctoral philosophy student at Stanford. "You could say that death is bad for many or most people without concluding it would be good if we did not die after a couple hundred or thousand years or ever."

Duffy turns to "The Makropulos Case," in which Bernard Williams wrote about why immortality would be unappealing.

"There are two alternative outcomes of immortality or a radically long lifespan: extreme boredom to the point of not wanting to live or loss of identity or psychic connection with your earlier self," Duffy explained. "It's not at all clear that we would still want to go on being the same person for much more than 100 years."

According to Williams, in order to have the desire to live for another lifetime, one would have to radically change one's identity at the most fundamental level. That may sustain a meaningful life, but the idea of how different a person could be from who he or she is now should lead to questions of why a person should care about a future self staying alive in the first place.

Carstensen and Bortz share in the skepticism.

"You are going to die; get used to it," Bortz said. "All of us hate the idea of oblivion. It's antithetical to our sense of self. But I take solace in the fact that when you die, you leave behind ripples as the atoms in your molecules are transferred back to the world. All of life is energy transfer, from the sun to everything else. I think 100 years is plenty of time."

Said Carstensen: "We humans have been searching for the Fountain of Youth since we realized we are mortal. We've gone from going on sailing expeditions to the laboratory, but the aim remains the same. To be honest, I don't find such efforts even interesting.

"I study motivation, and I think a lot of human motivation comes from the idea of a bounded life. If we were limitless there wouldn't be any urgency. I think death is what makes life precious. We have to do what we can because we don't have all the time in the world," she said.

These qualms are fine and good to Yun and Arrison. For them it's about choice.

"We are not proscribing this for anybody; all we are doing is providing the option," said Yun.

Arrison writes as much in her book while being decidedly opposed to any government involvement (outside of urging the FDA to ease its approval processes) in funding and developing anti-aging technology, fearing that it could ultimately lead to government-mandated eugenics. She believes the free market will do a good enough job distributing any longevity-increasing technology.

For his part, Yun finds moral support for having a choice in poetry, particularly Dylan Thomas's "Do not go gentle into that good night."

"Thomas, pained from the death of his father, rages against death. It is a call to action. I think when people take death to be inevitable they create stories for themselves that console them and make it seem acceptable," Yun said.

But for all Yun's and Arrison's moral fervor, the notion of choice without guarantee of equal access is unsatisfying to Stanford University Assistant Professor of Philosophy Jorah Dannenberg.

"This may start out as the sort of thing anyone will be able to decide to opt-out of if he or she doesn't want to do it. But when enough people decide to do something like this, it will result in all sorts of social and economic pressure on anyone who may have reservations.

"Look at smartphones," he said. "They certainly have an upside, but the fact that they're nearly ubiquitous in certain circles generates certain powerful expectations that are difficult or impossible for any one person to cancel. The choice to significantly extend one's life strikes me as that kind of choice, except the stakes are so much higher. The social and economic effects of others' choices will make it hard or even impossible for those who might really prefer not to do it."

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Like this comment
Posted by Jamie
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jan 9, 2015 at 9:56 am

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by 150--No, thanks.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 9, 2015 at 11:05 am

At 55, I have begun to feel some of the infirmities of old age--arthritis, vision changes. I'm pretty sure I don't want to live to 150.

To the point, "All of us hate oblivion." I don't. If it ends and all fades to black. So be it. But the possibility of something is else is interesting. This life is wonderful, and I feel blessed to have enjoyed it. I'm curious about what might come next.

I have filled out the paperwork. Do not resuscitate.

1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2015 at 11:23 am

The main plus about living longer, i.e. way into old age, would be
to understand that our bodies have more or less stopped evolving.
Our evolution has now moved into our machines and our stored
experience in writing, science, art, video, theater, etc.

If I had to estimate, I'd say it takes a person about 50 year to really
get any idea about what is going in on our planet in the human
space. You need to learn how think, then you need to have experience
and then you need to develop wisdom and integrate that into
your life and the lives of others you care about, and extrapolate
that to the planet if you evolve to that point.

If you die at 70 that gives you 20 years to have a rationalizing
postive effect on the planet and for humans. Is it is coincidence
that where we see the most chaos, crime, anti-social behavior
and destruction are in places where people don't live so long.

Wisdom in this day and age is extremely important to bring to
bear on the problems we face, and face it, most young people do
not have the understanding, time, energy, resources, money or
wisdom to contribute much aside from their labor and what they
can be sort of programmed into believing and going with.

Anyway, just a thought on the importance of a long life in a
democratically driven society. In fact it might be interesting to
do some mathematical models that would go back and tally
how past elections and referendums would have turned out
had votes cast been weighted by age in some way. That is
give everyone the number of votes equal to the number of
years they have lived, or even decades.

Face it, in one generation without external information and
culture the entire planet could be wiped clean or organization
and undertanding ... it is our older people who have the
responsibility to talk about what is going on and suggest
fixes and alternatives.

1 person likes this
Posted by Ralph C
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jan 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

Ask the population of those of us who are over 70 whether we'd like to live to 150 and we'll say it sounds like a cruel joke. The planet can't support its human population now, let alone care for the elderly (or the young) with current life expectancies.

1 person likes this
Posted by helen
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 9, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Me I'm going to stay on this earth as long as this earth will have me. Ill health? Who cares! I want to be around when ETs finally make contact, when someone figures out whether the universe really is expanding or just looks that way. Absent unbearable pain, oblivion can't hold a candle to being here.

2 people like this
Posted by Claude Ezran
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm

So that takes care of death; but what about taxes?

1 person likes this
Posted by Joe Btfsplk
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm

There's not enough joy to cause me to want to live to 150.

I can't think of any economy in the world that could support significant numbers of its population living comfortably to 150.

Like this comment
Posted by A Lumsdaine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2015 at 2:21 pm

The interesting philosophical issue here for me is that wisdom along the lines of compassion and forgiveness comes not just from age, but from experience and overcoming hardships along the way, such as illness. Old age doesn't automatically make one wise. If we simply extended life to 150, those who lived longer might not be the most wise among us or the most capable of providing some compensating benefit to society (presumably wisdom) that makes the "exchange" of longevity worthwhile (for a healthy and sustainable population with lots of centenarians). We might unnaturally be favoring selfishness to our ultimate detriment.

Or, maybe not, maybe people who live a really long time will be more compassionate on the whole for having loved and supported others through hardship. Or maybe we can just place a higher value on teaching compassion and peacemaking and thus use education to teach what will be lost from (hopefully) a lack of hardship from greater homeostatic capacity across the population.

The prospect of everyone being healthy and vital to 100 or 150 may seem unnatural, and yet if it is from improved homeostatic capacity in a changing world, perhaps it is the "right" thing. If everyone lives longer but is healthy, they might each use fewer resources than we imagine now -- people use a lot of resources in decline -- it's hard to imagine what will happen because it's so hard to imagine the case of a lot of centenarians with high homeostatic capacity. If this were to happen, would this extend childbearing years? Would people be able to have multiple lives, as it were?

I have long wondered if the loss of homeostatic capacity with age (and other traits like heart disease) might be a human GROUP advantage/survival trait (as opposed to individual survival/fecundity traits). (Please be gentle in your response and criticism of my ideas, I am an armchair geneticist, or perhaps Darwin prize aspirant ;-) )

Just as "negative" genes can only persist in populations to a large degree if they offer some compensating benefit, I have long wondered if we (all of us, or some of us, depending on the trait) have genes as individuals that may compromise us as individuals, even doom some people (depending on the trait and circumstance), but be involved in our success or survival as a group, or have been in the past (and sadly for us, offer no advantage to us or our group in the present). For example, why does eating "rich" food result in diseases like gout and heart disease? Why wouldn't our bodies simply pass through the extra calories when we get to that point, it would be better for us individually? Individuals who consistently take more than their share over a long period of time might not be the best ones to survive to 100 for our group (or so "say" our genes?)

There was some recent research (off the top of my head) on the impacts of food deprivation or overplenty during early puberty to the grandchildren or greatgrandchildren of men -- and it seemed to underscore the above. Web Link

From the Weekly article:
"Yun and the researchers leading the teams believe that homeostatic capacity erodes with age. Diabetes, hypertension and other afflictions that correlate with age may be consequences of an aging body's inability to self-stabilize."

If extending a high level of homeostatic capacity for everyone now, rather than after we (perhaps) evolve to it, is just compensating for nature's taking a lot longer to get to that result "naturally", then we would be using technology to do the "right" thing that nature would do eventually, should modern conditions persist and become more prevalent. Is decline in homeostatic capacity just wear, inevitable from life, or is it because we are this way for reasons that have to do with group adaptation traits?

If the latter, then Dr. Yun's research seems to hold the promise of overcoming a kind of genetic curse that we would otherwise have to simply ride out as a population as the world changes. (I have long thought there are other disease problems we could better solve from that perspective. What is the thinking in the scientific community on group genetic adaptation, where traits might not favor the survival or success of the individual, but might hedge the bets for the group? And be totally out of place or unhelpfully negative in a present modern context? Is that so for many of the aspects of aging we consider natural, even in healthy aging?)

1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm

> Old age doesn't automatically make one wise.

Water doesn't automatically make something wet, but without water something will not get wet at all.

Like this comment
Posted by A Lumsdaine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Maybe, but I have to say, the phrase "out of the mouth of babes" comes from somewhere :-)

I know a lot of wise 5-year-olds who got a lot less wise as they came of age...

OK in all seriousness,

Agree with you there. But if people getting to be 100 or 150 in pretty good health is the norm, are we going to have a lot of "dry" immortals?... Or can we provide the water in a nicer way?

1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Heyer
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2015 at 4:22 pm

As a former resident of Midtown, I found this an excellent article laying out the issues in extended lifetime. Having moved to Panama in 2007, we now have a much lower stress lifestyle which affords us in fact greater personal productivity and satisfaction.

In addition, having reached 67 myself, neither of us has visited a doctor for a malady in seven years. No prescription drugs, no antibiotics, just a healthy diet, active life and happiness. I have a growing list of ways I am healthier now than when I was 40. Our community is filled with survivors. 160 years? 700 years? Being it on!

Most people have the view that retirement is a destination. In reality, retirement is a transition - just like adolescence. Those who understand the concept of multiple lives embrace the changes and prosper. Those who don't, die.

The government supported social welfare programs are obviously not designed to work in a world where people contribute to the system for 20 years and draw from it for 60 more (at a minimum). Every person who adopts the long life philosophy also accepts that they will be responsible for their own financial welfare for longer than they actually worked in the "young" workforce.

However, given the wisdom of age and absent the necessity to send children to college, buy expensive cars and houses, pay absurd taxes, work for despicable companies and avoiding the health/industrial complex, you can live a better and happier life style on far less money. All the while doing art, building things, helping society prosper or whatever floats your boat.

So my friends, it's not about how many years but how you value and care for your own life.

"The master in the Art of Life does not distinguish much between his work and his play, his work and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He barely distinguishes which is which. Simply, he perceives his vision of excellency in everything he does, leaving others to decide if he is working or playing. To his own eyes, he is always doing both."

Live long and prosper,

From the mountain rain forests of Panama,

Mark Heyer

1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 9, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I'm a recent widower. My wfe died last June from several underlying complications but the killer was dementia. My hope is that no more money be put into this bizarre research (and ridiculous awards) effort until they come up first with a solution for dementia of all kinds. And then listen to us who question how many people our planet can support. I question the sanity of the people that are doing this research and those who are supporting this effort. If we can tamper with the original way of creating and dying, copulating to procreate, and then letting our progeny carry on...when we die...with hopefully our best gene contribution...we are a lost people. I don't subscribe to this...but rather than tampering with our genes, let wars, muderers, and deaths from many other causes take their place in reducing our world population.

I can't believe we're even talking about this anymore.

2 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 9, 2015 at 4:43 pm

All silliness. Medicine has not cured any genetic conditions. None. Not even ones involving single genes. The idea that it's not a question of if but when is something only someone who is a modern-day snake oil salesman could say. Yun has already won $$ and I'm sure will convince other suckers to give him more. Good luck to him. I'm sure he'll amass a fortune before he dies, just like the rest of us.

1 person likes this
Posted by A Lumsdaine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Gale Johnson,

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, and what you went through with your wife's illness. I have close-to-home experience with dementia and agree that solving diseases and quality of life should be the priority.

I think such research above has a lot of promise in that regard, at least the group looking at homeostatic capacity. I think there's a lot of humility inherent in that endeavor — we don't nearly have the ability to understand healing the way our bodies do naturally, and figuring out if we have a way to extend that capacity to an older age could possibly reduce dementia (and a lot of other diseases associated with aging) without our even understanding first what dementia is.

I don't think it's so simple to say that people living longer will be more of a burden anymore than it has been in first-world countries with longer-lived healthier residents versus third-world countries where people were having more children because of higher mortality rates. What if longer, healthier lives meant more people put off having children until they were, let's just think really out of the box here, 60, 65? The wealthier more educated people get, the more likely they are to put off having children into their 40's, and the fewer children they have, and that has a beneficial impact on population if a lot of people do.

1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2015 at 6:12 am

mauricio is a registered user.

If humans lived to be 150, it would cause an environmental disaster that would end up killing everybody, including those much younger. The planet cannot support a doubling and tripling of its population, and there not enough natural resources to feed and sustain such a population. How would people in their 100's support themselves financially? They would need to keep working, making it much harder for younger people. Having people live this long would be a disaster on all levels, environmentally, financially and socially. It would be one of the worst things we could do.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 13, 2015 at 11:53 am

All this is driven by fear of death.Or rather avoidance at all costs. All dies, even universes. We, in the West, would do really well for ourselves to accept this.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jixxer
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 13, 2015 at 3:29 pm

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The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 10, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details