2020s predictions: We're gonna live a whole lot longer

Are our bodies our masters, or can humanity gain the upper hand?

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The first 1,000-year-old person could already be alive, thanks to a potential breakthrough in life extension technology.

“I think we could easily be 10 or 20 years away, or even five years away from something that would let most people who took the therapy extend the lifespan by say, 10 or 20 years beyond it would be otherwise,” Ben Goertzel, founder and CEO of artificial intelligence firm SingularityNET, told Inverse at the Human-Level Artificial Intelligence conference organized by GoodAI in Prague, Czech Republic, last September.

This is #12 on Inverse’s 20 predictions for the 2020s.

The human longevity movement is buoyant in its potential to find a solution to human ageing. Aubrey de Grey, cofounder of the SENS Research Foundation, said in December 2017 that the first human that will live for 1,000 years has already been born. During his Inverse interview, Goertzel said “it’s pretty clear to me” that de Grey is correct to think that.

Inverse predicts that, at some point in the 2020s, a breakthrough will emerge that could pave the way for far longer lifespans than ever before.

Human longevity: the race to end death

De Grey, through SENS, claims to have identified seven types of ageing damage. Resolving them could enable people to beat ageing, topping themselves up on a regular basis through treatment clinics. They are: intracellular aggregates, death-resistant cells, extracellular matrix stiffening, extracellular aggregates, tissue atrophy, cancerous cells, and mitochondrial mutations.

Identifying what causes these processes and curing them would be the focus. Goertzel is hopeful that artificial intelligence would reach the point where it would start triggering its own experiments, which could accelerate the process.

There is big money in trying to find a solution. Calico, a company that sits under the Alphabet parent company that also owns Google, had received $2.5 billion in funding as of June 2018 to help find cures for ageing and related diseases.

Bank of America analysis expects the human longevity market to be worth $600 billion by 2025. The analysts claimed in a May 2019 report that the firms are on the cusp of “bringing unprecedented increases to the quality and length of human lifespans.”

The industry has faced skepticism in the past. Sherwin Nuland claimed in a 2005 edition of MIT Technology Review that he “cannot imagine” trying to push the theoretical maximum limit of human lifespans past 120 years old “will be anything but baleful.”

The firms may be on the cusp of a breakthrough, but it could take some convincing to bring along other researchers.

As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is looking to the future. These are our 20 predictions for science and technology for the 2020s. Some are terrifying, some are fascinating, and others we can barely wait for. This has been #12. Read a related story here.