Popular Science

Is living forever going to suck?

We might be too sick to enjoy our extended lifespans.

an old man sitting down

More life does not mean better life.

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The scuttlebutt around Silicon Valley is that soon we'll soon live way, way longer. Former Googler Bill Maris says humans can make it to 500 years old; hedge fund manager Joon Yun thinks 1,000 years is more on the money. Some, such as biotech founder Martine Rothblatt, have even called death “optional.” Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are not the first to be obsessed with longevity—the rich and powerful of many societies have fixated on immortality. But the advances made in medicine and technology over the past century may have positioned today's tech elite to make significant progress toward extending the human lifespan.

There’s just one problem: More life doesn’t necessarily mean a better life. At a certain point, parts of the body stop working properly, making it difficult to enjoy the time you’ve got. Medical conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis can make the final years of one’s life an exercise in suffering. Living for 1,000 years isn’t much of a boon if only the first 80—or even the first 900—are physically pleasant.

Luckily, there are also scientists working to extend the amount of time during which a person is healthy. Some interventions seem more realistic or pragmatic than others, but it’s becoming clear that getting sick with age is anything but inevitable. These approaches might even change the way we think about the very concept of getting old.

“Our goal is not to extend longevity at, a professor of molecular pharmacology and medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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