Life Expectancy

By Shae Hadden | Bio

I’m
intrigued by the popularity of online life expectancy calculators. Like
reading tea leaves, tarot cards or astrological charts, many people
seem to be fascinated with the idea of predicting their future. This
compulsion to ‘know how much time we have’ is closely tied with a
desire to re-engineer our lives to reduce or eliminate aging
altogether. As if each of us has an expiry date that we can scan so we
can know when we’ll be used up!

The concept of ‘life expectancy’
is based on statistical projections, which are based on past history.
When you think about it, the whole idea is based on the premise that
the past is an accurate predictor of the future. And yet we know this
is not the case. Even within the last few decades, the key indicators
for life expectancy keep shifting the stats. As we look back in time to
evaluate how long we’ve been living, we know that what we see today
will not be what we witness tomorrow. We are looking into the rearview
mirror in an attempt to navigate the road ahead.

Admittedly,
gene therapy, stem cell research and the biotech revolution may push
average life expectancy numbers up in the next decade. Some scientists
are even looking to cure aging itself. Biogerontologist Aubrey de Gray
has proposed a controversial program called engineered negligible senescence that would have us focus on addressing what he considers to be the seven causes of aging:

  1. Cell loss or atrophy (develop therapies to replace lost cells)
  2. Functional mutations of genes in a cell (develop cure for cancers)
  3. Mutant mitochondria (move the DNA of mitochondria within a cell to avoid cellular degeneration)
  4. Cellular senescence (develop a vaccine or therapy to destroy senescent cells)
  5. Extracellular cross-links (develop drugs or enzymes to break links that are weak or brittle)
  6. Junk
    outside cells (develop ways to eliminate toxins and accumulations of
    useless things which cannot be removed by natural digestive/elimination
    processes)
  7. Junk inside cells (develop therapies that allow enzymes to eliminate useless things accumulated inside cells)

Yet,
in spite of these potential advances in terms of personal life
expectancy, we as a species may be jeopardizing our very survival.
Global warming, the possibility of bioengineering disasters, nuclear
warfare, and pandemics could change our world in ways we can’t even
imagine.

I’d suggest we not focus on how much time do we as
individuals have left…but what will we do right now to ensure the
unborn generations that could follow us will have a life. 

I recall Sachel Paige’s famous quote, "How old would you be if you
didn’t know how old you was?" I guess a correlate is "How long would
you live if you didn’t know how long you’d live?" I guess the Zen
answer to both questions is about as old as you are and about as long
as you’d live!

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