Living longer – to do what?

Dr. David Sinclair is at the leading edge of understanding, and possibly not only slowing but reversing the ageing process. I leave several links to podcasts and science papers at the end of this blog. Maybe you watched my recent 3 minutes response to a question of future-skilling for project in 2030 {LinkedIn or here}. With Sinclair’s 2017 book Lifespan in hand, my own perspective was to challenge the relatively recent phenomena of retirement as a social norm. Whether a longer life, even as a possibility, should be the societal prompt to rethink the second half of life. To which the question of a contemporary up skill seems suddenly almost a necessity if a 40 year career suddenly becomes 60 years or more.

This is neither a science-fiction dystopia or utopia. This is science today. The science literature is deep, and widespread across top tier academia. Dr. Sinclair and his lab for example are at Harvard Medical School. He is pretty adamant that humans are already walking among us who will live to 150. Controversial, but mainstream in discourse. Some of the everyday practices that are promoted are as simple as fasting, low to no meat diets, exercise, and supplements that are already available on the high street. We are also promised something more is in the ether. For now however, simply living a lifestyle that the longest living communities on earth have followed for generations – with some 21st Century science – is all that is deemed necessary for now.

My lingering questions are already shifting toward societal implications. Imagining the impact of a whole workforce gifted time to retrain, re-educate, reset, rather than retire. Seeking to be self motivated in endeavour into a much deeper term in life. The value we could all add with more time. But is that really what we will be doing with such a gift? Or such a curse?

One thing it will do is recalibrate social consciousness. Maybe I’m too idealistic in my hope that this will be for the better. But few pensions could hope to last long – and trust funds may not get passed on quite so quick. What would therefore emerge? An even greater desire to accumulate more materials, consume more, do less on harder working cash. Or does a sense of purpose become more central to a longer time at the wheel?

Most projects have a forced time line. Derived from hidden agenda of something or someone we never get to see. Does time become more valued – as a tool not a constraint – if we have more of it available? Do asset management decisions become more long-term? Is asset life-cycle and whole asset life thinking finally to see the light of day? Now that we are potentially not only still alive but also still involved when it comes to the long-term impacts of short-term decisions? Imagine having to explain your decisions from 50 years ago and still be threatened with societal scorn for 50 years more. What would our politics look like if we were to start demanding accountability of the long-term goals? Demanded because we were still likely to be around to pay the toll. Do we cry foul more reverently when its our future at stake? What happens when our parents and our children are all grown up and actively working – 3 generations looking the same age? The saga holiday replaced by the 18 to 80 holiday. Do the wider imbalances in society and globally become more exaggerated or diluted as lifetimes of grudges never fade, or altruistic sentiments are given longer to take centre stage. Does the planet now have a say? Or does our political map end our play?

There is a psychology theory that states our decision options are directly related to our sense of mortality. It’s an interesting experiment you can all play at home. Introduce the idea of death into a conversation. The “Terror” of death psychologically directing a more colloquial point of view. In this context, is a more distant death a gateway to a more rational account of what we really cannot live without.

I’ve no interest in living that long. But I’m happy enough to plan to be working on. And well into the days that others have to assume it is them – not their children’s children – that must work these 21st Century realities out.

Below: David Sinclair website and podcast. Plus one paper that offers some of the science, dated 2014.

The Intersection Between Aging and Cardiovascular Disease. North, Brian J ; Sinclair, David A PHILADELPHIA: American Heart Association, Inc Circulation research, 2012-04-13, Vol.110 (8), p.1097-1108