Ageing and Longevity

What if: you’re still alive in 2100?

Image: A girl walks next to an elderly woman selling plants at the entrance of a pedestrian subway in the centre of Kiev REUTERS/Konstantin Chernichkin

Keith Breene
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Ageing and Longevity

From reversing the effects of ageing on the brain and editing genes to prevent disease to artificial intelligence and downloading thoughts and memories, scientists are pushing the boundaries of the human lifespan. What would be the impact on life, love and work if you could live to 150 or even live forever?

The implications would be enormous both for the individual and society as a whole. The UN predicts the world population will reach nearly 10 billion by 2050. And with the number of people over 60 expected to double by the same year, the World Health Organisation says the world needs to undergo radical societal change. So what kind of societal change would be needed if we were to double our existing life expectancy?

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Assuming that most of those additional years are healthy ones, working life would have to increase dramatically with retirement age likely to be well past the age of 100. Politics may come to be dominated by the old, who would surely be tempted to vote themselves ever more generous benefits for which the young must pay. There is speculation that older populations would be more conservative too.

There is a risk that socioeconomic differences would be exacerbated with the well-off having longer to accumulate and hold on to assets. Or perhaps social mobility would increase with the disadvantaged having many more decades to ‘catch up’.

Almost every aspect of life as we know it would need to be re-examined. Would people still want to marry if they were faced with over a century of life together? What age would people want to have children? How many generations could expect to be alive at the same time?

Humans have always been fascinated by the idea of living longer. The notion of eternal youth is as old as the human race and permeates our fairy tales and popular culture. But as we slowly extend expected lifespan further and consider the possibility that there may be more dramatic increases possible in the near future, we must consider what this could really mean for the human race.

Vote in the poll above and continue the conversation on Wednesday, January 20th at 10:15 EST / 16:15 CET. Tune in for a livestreamed discussion on the possible, plausible and probable impacts of significantly extended lifespans at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.

The session was developed in partnership with TIME.

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