Further Information

Prospects for Human Longevity | S. Jay Olshansky, Bruce A. Carnes, Aline Désesquelles
Article Published: 2001

Type: Statistical Demographic
Published By: Science 2001 February 23; 291: 1491-1492

Further Information

The current obsession with health and long life – the 21st century version of the search for immortality – is brought down to reality by this interesting article.

We seem to be ready to surrender any pleasure and any liberty in life in exchange for a handful of extra statistical days, but we are facing the same cost-to-return phenomenon encountered by audio buffs: if a very good stereo system costs $1,000, a slightly better system – maybe capable of reproducing frequencies that only a dog can hear – may cost two or three thousands: the next small step of improvement comes at great cost.

By the same token, after the defeat of the large-scale infectious diseases that shortened life, we have seen a great prolongation of life. Now, with absurd regulations and lifestyle control, we delude ourselves that we can extend life even further, and by amounts as long as those obtained during the last century.

Not so. Apparently, the only thing that we extend is misery and oppression. As the authors explain:

“There are no lifestyle changes, surgical procedures, vitamins, antioxidants, hormones, or techniques of genetic engineering available today with the capacity to repeat the gains in life expectancy that were achieved during the 20th century. If there is going to be another quantum leap in life expectancy at birth (20 to 30 years or more), these large gains will have to come from adding decades of life to the lives of people who reach the ages of 70 and older. Modifying endogenous biological processes to achieve this goal, although theoretically possible, will be much harder than reducing children’s death rates from infectious and parasitic diseases.”

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