How Long Can Humans Live?

Sep 19 2013 @ 10:31am

Google just launched a biotech company, Calico, to combat disease and dramatically extend longevity:

Calico will trying and take a different perspective on medical research by focusing on by using data analysis to solve existing problems. Take cancer, for instance. Cancer kills roughly 7.6 million people per year, according to the Center for Disease Control, and despite millions of dollars poured into research a cure remains elusive. Cancer is a small project in Calico’s greater plan for things. “One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy,” Page told Time. “We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.”

Aubrey de Grey suspects the new company is a turning point:

The “beginning of the beginning” of the war on aging  began in the 1990s. Since then, the battle for hearts and minds as to that quest’s feasibility—especially among the high-profile academics who occupy the pinnacle of opinion-formation—has been proceeding at full tilt. With Google’s decision to direct its astronomical resources to a concerted assault on aging, that battle may have been transcended: once financial limitations are removed, curmudgeons no longer matter.

Sonia Arrison looks at the economic impact of longer and longer lives:

As people work longer and spend money longer, the economy will grow. Health begets wealth, and according to University of Chicago economists Kevin Murphy and Robert Topel, gains in life expectancy over the last decade (30 years) are worth over $1.2 million to the current population. They also found that “from 1970 to 2000, gains in life expectancy added about $3.2 trillion per year to national wealth.” While these numbers are staggering, what might be more important is the issue of longevity gains as a competitive advantage.

In a paper titled “The Health and Wealth of Nations,” Harvard economist David Bloom and Queen’s University economist David Canning explain that, based on the available research, if there are “two countries that are identical in all respects, except that one has a five-year advantage in life expectancy,” then the “real income per capita in the healthier country will grow 0.3–0.5% per year faster than in its less healthy counterpart.” These percentages might look small, but they are actually quite significant, since it is known that between 1965 and 1990 countries experienced an average per capita income growth of 2% per year, and Bloom and Canning’s numbers are based on only a five-year longevity advantage. If a country had a 30 or 50-year advantage then having a longer-lived population could generate enormous differences in economic prosperity.