We will live for ever
Associate since 1991
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January 19, 2009
LONDON - Perhaps after all, the healthy ones among us in the Western world and the middle class in the Third World have a chance of living for ever. Already, according to the World Health Organisation, a child born today has a 50% chance of living until 100.
But by the time they reach 100, medical science will have continued its immense strides forward and they could easily make 200. In fact for those who will make 95 without Alzheimer's the same goes.
Look at the graph of medical discoveries, life saving drugs and surgery, the graph is geometric. Over the next 100 years it will become vertical. What can stop it? - AIDS or an epidemic of universal flue or some malign reaction to a drug like Thalidomide? Look at this graph and they are just minor blips.
So why haven't the great professors of medicine taken such findings to the Lancet or the New England Journal of Medicine? Because it wouldn't be published. These esteemed magazines won't publish unless the experiments can be proved to be true. And there are no experiments.
What about the earth's carrying power? Forgotten your Malthus? Over the last 50 years the doomsayers have said that the world is running out of food. In George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman the returned Irish-American, Malone, insists on calling the great famine 'the starvation'
"Me father died of the starvation in the black '47."
Maybe you've heard of it? The famine? No, the starvation. When a country is full of food and exporting it, there can be no famine. "Me father was starved dead and I was starved out to America in me mother's arms."
But where will all the people live? 98% of the world's surface is uninhabited and often uninhabitable - the poles, the tundra, the tropical forests, the deserts, much of the insect-infested savannah and, not least, the seas. But we have time on our side. Over the 250 years since the Agricultural Revolution science and human ingenuity have enabled us to bring vast amounts of once undeveloped land into cultivation. The process is now accelerating faster than ever before. The seas with its fish and protean-rich plankton should pose no problem. Neither will growing vast amounts of food in our gardens.
Remember at this stage we are only discussing the so-called rich world and the middle class in such countries as India, China and Brazil, a small percentage of the world population. But even today the three most overcrowded countries in the world - Barbados, Belgium and Holland - have vast areas of free land.
Beyond that, as high powered medicine moves to poorer peoples, including many of those in the rich countries, larger numbers will join the longevity crowd. But this will happen infinitely slowly. Besides they too will benefit from the above.
Let's be optimistic and say this will take 150 years. By then we will have reached deep into our galaxy. Does anyone seriously think, even if there is no life on one of the trillion upon trillion of planets, there won't be one habitable to mankind, even if there are no green men?
Can we live infinitely? Many of us already can - the really healthy and those under 90 without Alzeimers. How will we look?- like wrinkled, aged, Father Christmases? Definitely not. Researchers are already hard at work on finding drugs that can slow the ageing process. Before long it they will be able to stop it in its tracks and within 50 years unwind it.
The benefits will be huge - apart from removing the fear of death. The older one gets the wiser, the more sensitive and compassionate one is. This should enable the cessation of wars, the fast removal of tropical diseases, the ease of dealing with problems that come up such as climate change, criminality and a thousand of other traits of humankind that bug us now and in the future.
What will we do with our time? Plenty apart from space exploration. All of us will become highly educated and technically proficient, enabling discoveries we can't even imagine. We will become more cultured, interested and involved in the many thousands of Brontes and Tagores that will exist in the world. We will become highly sophisticated in the creation of music, art, literature. There will be millions of budding Shakespeares, Mozarts, Brontes and Tagores, Beatles and Michelangelos.
The world will become a much more beautiful and liveable place. Of course, one thing that can't be changed is the burning out of our sun and then we all go. But that is trillions of years ahead. We can be pretty sure that some of us, and soon the world, can live that long.
Copyright © 2009 Jonathan
Jonathan Power can be
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and e-mail: JonatPower@aol.com
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of Humanity” poses eleven questions for our future progress, ranging
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hurdles yet to be overcome. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, London, 2007.
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