Fortunately for society as a whole, the hype about anti-ageing is largely unsupported by real science despite claims to the contrary. While it may be hoped that new and important knowledge will be won from the multi-billion dollar investments currently being made in various aspects of ageing, it’s extremely unlikely that anything much will turn up to “defeat death.”
Here’s why: ageing is a complex process in which a great many factors interact. Thus there won’t be any simple “switches” we can flick to suddenly make a massive difference. It’s easy to engineer results in model organisms but people always forget that 99% of what works in mice fails entirely to work in humans. That’s one of the reasons why so many billions are wasted by pharmaceutical companies.
Let’s remember that the near-doubling of human life expectancy occurred because of two simple developments: improved sanitation and improved post-birth survival rates. Add in antibiotics (which may soon stop working, thanks to bacteria evolving resistance) and we can account for 98% of lifespan increase. Therefore we can’t extrapolate from this event because we’ve already accomplished the easy gains.
That’s why Larry Ellison of Oracle spent $650 million and achieved precisely nothing in return. Ageing is a multi-faceted problem and not amenable to quick-fixes based on a handful of metabolic pathways.
Today most people make atrocious lifestyle choices and are over-medicated in a desperate attempt to mitigate their ailments. One can only imagine the cost of trying to prolong the lives of hundreds of millions of obese indolent individuals who prefer to sit on the sofa binge-watching Netflix and cramming Kentucky Fried Cancer down their throats than to eat healthy foods and get out and take meaningful exercise. No society will be able to afford to give these people another ten or twenty years of ill-health.
So we can all relax and stop worrying about large-scale social impacts caused by 150-year-long lifespans. Fact is, for the last several years US lifespans have been decreasing because of all the poor lifestyle choices people make. So if anything, we’ll live shorter lives, not longer ones.