In the “Future of Longevity Impact Roadmap” that was recently created by Longevity Vision Fund team in partnership with XPRIZE, we came up with four scenarios to bring to life the possible futures of longevity — dystopian, business as usual, incremental, and transformative — each of which is plausible in its own way. The purpose of these future scenarios is to encourage us to think about some of our choices today, as well as where they could lead us. Each scenario contains a different mixture of grand challenges that have gone unheeded as well as certain breakthroughs that have helped to mitigate them. Let’s look at these four scenarios ranging from more pessimistic options to optimistic ones and make conclusions about what actions we want to take to achieve the desired future.
Scenario #1: The Collapsed Future
The global elderly population has more than doubled in proportion, with massive negative implications to society and infrastructure. Attempts to provide adequate healthcare and housing to the aging population have failed miserably. Few people believe in the concept of healthy life extension or age-reversal. The scientific foundations necessary for achieving longevity breakthroughs are not yet successfully laid or accepted. Governments refuse to accept aging as a treatable condition or fund research in the field in any significant way. Pharmaceutical firms generally ignore research and development in the field of life extension and age-reversal. Most aging-related diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and recently discovered illnesses, remain without a cure.
Scenario #2: Business as Usual
More and more people believe that life extension and even age-reversal will become possible in a few decades. The public is, therefore, both aware of the potential and excited about the prospects for the future. Disagreement among the academic and medical community, however, has led to difficulties in achieving a standard set of aging biomarkers. As no robust theory of aging has been conceived, there is no holistic understanding of the aging process. Early longevity treatments are ineffective at best or act as placebos at worst.
Scenario #3: Incremental Change
The public is generally excited about longevity prospects, thanks to a few successful clinical demonstrations of reversing aging in tissues in human trials. These demonstrations reinvigorate funding to discover new options for regenerating or growing whole organs in the lab. However, the most advanced treatments have yet to be approved by the regulators, delaying their release into the market.
A small number of longevity treatments of limited efficacy— demonstrated in in-silico trials to extend lifespan by less than 10 years—have made it to market. Due to the scarcity of such treatments, drug providers can maintain wildly high prices, meaning they are inaccessible to most of the population. Governments are unwilling to subsidize existing treatments due to their limited impact on the conditions of aging.
Scenario #4: The Transformational Future
Many people enjoy the early treatments of the longevity revolution, which postpone the onset of aging-related diseases and conditions by decades. The theoretical and basic scientific understanding of aging has been mostly achieved. Schools and universities curriculums cover healthy aging and longevity science, and the public understands the great potential of longevity research and treatment. Sergey Young and audacious innovators are encouraged to take part in the innovation of scientific processes, and their ideas can be translated rapidly into actual treatments. Ideas for new treatments can be tested quickly and effectively on in-silico and in-vitro models, dramatically accelerating the research and development and approval processes. Powerful age-reversal and life extension treatments are still reserved for pets and farm animals but will soon be translated for human use as well. Treatment prices remain low due to fierce competition between pharmaceutical firms and governments’ willingness to provide subsidies for their elderly population. Treatments are thus accessible to nearly everyone, and governmental coffers receive a net gain from the defrayed costs of extended morbidity. Geriatric clinics are increasingly transforming into youth extension clinics, and the maximum lifespan has moved to 130 years, with new records expected soon.
At Longevity Vision Fund, my team and I see more than 200 companies each year. We are excited by how many health and longevity breakthroughs are on the way. With promising tech advances emerging so fast, the “Transformational Future” scenario (the one we all want) is looking quite realistic! But, whether this scenario actually plays out in reality or remains only a possibility, is completely up to all of us.
So, what should we do differently to step into the future we want? What should we do right now to make it happen? Over to you!