Radical Longevity and Its Impact on Life
Dr. Steve Tucker, oncologist and Chief Medical Advisor to LumenLab, MetLife’s first-and-only innovation centre, often reminds us of the black swan possibility that humans unlock the key to radical longevity. It can be defined as the phenomenon of life expectancy increasing to the point where humans live significantly longer, every year. Let’s call this increase in life expectancy e. As of today, e=73 days according to SingStat. He believes that in the next fifteen years, advances in medical science will compound and we may have the ability to slow down, reverse, transplant, and re-program “youth” into our old, tired bodies. This may lead to a breakthrough in annual lifespan increases of e=180 days or more. Ray Kurzweil who founded Singularity University is a believer that rewriting the software of the homeostasis system could hold the key.
As a math geek, I started to look at what would happen at e=176 days. This would mean that in 2050, the mean life expectancy in Singapore would be 100. When e=365 days, we have reached escape velocity or indefinite lifespan.
The SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) research foundation’s Aubrey Grey, PhD has been working hard on reimagining ageing. Paraphrasing Grey, there are two things we can do to extend e:
- We can work on solving incremental problems that normal people have like fighting Type II diabetes or increasing the amount of sleep; and/or
- We can work on funding research to reverse ageing by repeatedly reducing the state of senescence in the organism.
At LumenLab, we are focusing on the former. We make people aware of the lifestyle choices that affect health outcomes. We provide nudges and increase the strength of feedback loops for people with dementia (sleep more! socialize more!) and those with Type II diabetes (GlycoLeap). But we haven’t really considered what may happen to Life Insurance if de Grey et al succeed at making therapeutic advances that affect homeostasis. Perhaps there is a need for health insurance or a financing solution to allow people to afford life-elongating therapies? While it may seem highly improbable, even science fiction according to many credible naysayers, if the statistical mortality of death as we age remains at the level of a twenty year-old, then we will need to rethink Life Insurance from being a “What If” contract to a “So How?” enabler.
Zia Zaman, Founder of Lumen Lab and Chief Executive Officer. Zia also serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer of MetLife Asia.
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