February 06, 2004



Hanging Around

Last October I read Ray Kurzweil's "Essay for E-School News."
"Human life expectancy is another one of those exponential trends. Every year during the 18th and 19th centuries, we added a few days to the human life expectancy. Now, we are at the intersection of biology and information science. Today, we are adding about 120 days every year to the human life expectancy. With the full flowering of the biotechnology revolution, within 10 years, we will be adding more than a year to the human life expectancy every year. So if we can hang in there for another 10 years, we may actually get to experience the full measure of the profound century ahead."
Many people think this is nonsense - that most of the strides we've made in increasing life expectancy has been by decreasing infant mortality. If in the past you survived infancy you had a shot of living to be as old as we can live today. Ben Franklin lived into his 80's.

But being an optimist, this article inspired me to develop an Excel spreadsheet that predicts life expectancy and the years a person has left as time goes by. What makes this exercise different from normal actuarial chart is that this spreadsheet shows the difference between chronological age and apparent (or biological) age. When life extension technology becomes a reality, the difference between our chronological age and our biological age will increase over time. This spreadsheet also predicts a person's present chance of living to see a particular year.

This project is extremely speculative - perhaps to the point of fantasy. But my hope is that it will serve a purpose like Drake's formula (the formula for calculating the number of extraterrestrial civilizations) to provide a framework for our speculation. And what's the name of this blog again?

Click here for the spreadsheet and here for the instructions.

Posted by Stephen Gordon at February 6, 2004 09:50 AM | TrackBack
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