100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith (2013) by Sonia Arrison looks at how likely dramatically extended lifespans are and what their consequences would be. Arrison is founder and is connected with Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity University.
The idea of dramatically enhanced, or even indefinitely enhanced longevity is really interesting. It’s physically possible, it’s plausible and there is even a trend, that of increasing life span that makes it seem quite possible. Indeed, in 2000 leaving India and spending a day in Bangkok I met a man who was about 40 and firmly believed that he was not too old too see such change, provided he kept himself in really good shape.
Life expectancy has been rising for about 200 years but this has mainly been due to a reduction in child mortality and improvements in basic health. However recently various technologies are starting to promise a dramatic extension in longevity. The sequencing of human genome, AI and the increase in computing power and stem cell research are producing some incredible breakthroughs that may well lead to radical change. Growing replacement organs is going to happen, stem cell replacement and change of cells may well lead to huge change.
The book looks at this and has a lot of interesting information about these technologies, however the book makes the assumption that these changes will happen. It’s a big leap. While it may well happen it’s far from certain.
Beyond that the book looks at the social changes that extended longevity could produce. A lot of ground is covered and it’s fairly well done. Changes in work, finance and even religion are considered. Arrison is very optimistic about the consequences of extended lives and gives good arguments for this optimism. The chapter on religion is also good in that it is respectful of religion and points out that religious people would probably accommodate life extending technologies. The book also discusses people who think that extended longevity is immoral. Interestingly Arrison describes how many of the new technology rich are putting large amounts of money into longevity research. She also complains about how little government work is going into researching life extension
100 Plus is an interesting read, it makes a big assumption that lives will be dramatically extended. This isn’t completely unreasonable but it’s important to note that book isn’t about pondering how likely dramatic life extension is. The facts about the current changes in technology and the well thought through discussion of the consequences of life extension are well presented and most interesting to think about.