To the Hayflick Limit and Beyond!

by Matthew

Ok, first I have to apologize to Dr. Leonard Hayflick and to Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story fame. (Those of you who have children or young of heart would love those movies.)

For those who do not know Dr. Hayflick, he was the first to figure out that human cells are programmed to only divide or reproduce a specific number of times during a human lifetime. His conclusion was that the average lifespan of a healthy human should be approximately 120 years.

Now, of course most of us do not live to 120. But the reality is that our bodies are programmed to live at least that long in the optimum environments.

Our Western society convinces us that we should retire at 65 or so and then live our "Golden Age" in some comfort. Well, for many of us that is still a pipe dream.

If we could live to the wonderful, ripe old age of 120 years or well beyond in great health, mental focus, and vitality, what would that be like?

Many are very skeptical and are justified in being so based on current technology.

What the vast majority of the population misses is the fact that science and technology are advancing in what is called a double exponential curve.

To those that don't understand the mathematical terms or consequences of that phenomenon, it is truly incredible.

As a quick example, I am a cancer survivor. 30 some years ago I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had very invasive surgery that included the removal of one of my testicles, half of my stomach muscles on my left side and half of my left lung.

Today, that is a much simpler surgery and far less destructive to the body. In the future, such procedures could be incredibly minimal but far more effective.

As Dr. Ray Kurzweil points out continuously, the acceleration of technology is hard to really grasp. It is not as if what is possible will be just a little better in a few years, it will be great multiples better.

To put that into perspective, imagine what it would be like if medical technology was 1,000 times more potent than it is now, then try, really try to imagine what it might be if it was a million or a billion times more effective. I bet you cannot do it.

The reality is that these things will come to pass in the next few decades. Technology is more than doubling in many fields every year. Every decade means an increase in efficiency, effectiveness, and more, that equals 1,000 times or more of the current technologies.

It is actually much faster than that. Technology is following a double exponential path, which means that not only does the technology, knowledge, and skills improve on an exponential path, the rate of doubling is increasing as well. It may take some advanced math skills to really appreciate that but trust me, it is an incredible phenomenon and very beneficial to our species and planet.

Sure, there are many challenges and problems in our world and society but there is great promise as well.

Living to great ages might be awful if we live in pain and suffering. But I believe we will have the chance to live incredibly long, healthy, and wonderful lives in the next century.

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