How close are we to achieving breakthroughs that make people live healthier and longer?
We aren't talking about public health improvements that make average human lifespan steadily increase, which is cool, but well... a little boring. How can we enable even more dramatic advances in health and lifespan?
The experts have spoken, and there are at least three key technologies that appear increasingly likely due to research progress:
REGENERATION- Refers to any drug or treatment that causes regeneration of the human body. For our purposes, regenerative medicine is deemed effective once it enables you to consistently be less likely to die a non-accidental death than you were in prior years (achieving “actuarial escape velocity”).
SINGULARITY- Refers to the development of greater-than-human computer intelligence, which could lead to dramatic breakthroughs in nearly all technological fields including medicine (IBM’s Watson is the tip of the iceberg).
CRYONICS- This is the low-temperature preservation of people done with the hope of resuscitating them in the future once additional medical advances have been made enabling successful resuscitation and further regeneration.
These are the technological solutions, and there is research underway in diverse academic fields including artificial intelligence, biochemistry, and regenerative medicine that will affect how soon they can be achieved.
Yes, but, what will "success" even look like?
REGENERATION- Demonstration of meaningful whole-body regeneration would occur in a clinical trial. Depending on how effective the treatment is, and the patient population that is enrolled, such a clinical trial could take months or years. Currently, there are no treatments that effect regeneration in this way, and much time and energy must also be spent satisfying regulators, physicians, and trial sponsors that a treatment is worth testing. It is far simpler to perform initial testing using animal models. In fact, a prize is already setup by the Methuselah Foundation, called the MPrize, and more specifically the MPrize Rejuvenation Prize (http://www.mprize.org/?pn=mj_mprize_learn), which rewards researchers for finding treatments that rejuvenate aged mice. If success is to occur in human rejuvenation, it likely will occur first in mice, and so tracking the MPrize Rejuvenation Prize may be used as a bellwether.
SINGULARITY- When artificial general intelligence or greater-than-human intelligence is created, given the proper tools, it could create solutions for global warming, poverty, cancer, and eventually even traffic in Los Angeles. As for making people live longer and healthier, in whatever form, it certainly seems possible, too. Unfortunately, given our feeble human brains, it's also hard to predict what this future looks like.
CRYONICS- Many consider one of the most significant hurdles for cryonics to be the preservation of our neural structure. The Brain Preservation Foundation has setup a technology prize for the first team to rigorously demonstrate a surgical technique capable of inexpensively and completely preserving a human brain for long-term storage (>100 years), with such fidelity that the structure of every neuronal process and every synaptic connection remains intact and traceable (http://www.brainpreservation.org/content/technology-prize). If someone can win this prize, cryonics will seem a lot more realistic.
To what degree does current research impact these technologies? How fast is the research moving?
That's what we're here to find out. When we analyze different companies, researchers, or research fields, we'll try to frame the analysis in terms of how likely, how soon, and what resources are required for these companies, researchers, or research fields to make a difference.