When Thomas Hobbes described the life of seventeenth-century mankind as "brutish and short," he was not being so much unkind as merely painfully accurate. But Hobbes's description is no longer applicable to human life on this planet. Over the last century, average life expectancy across the globe has increased dramatically, creating a "Superlongevity Revolution" that is expected to accelerate throughout the twenty-first century. This trend's impacts will be felt throughout a number of cultural, social, and economic institutions, including work and family life, and force a reconfiguration of the human life cycle.
A fledgling "immortality industry" is already materializing. It is composed of companies and individuals developing technologies and products that will enable us to live longer, healthier lives; that is, to achieve superlongevity. This budding industry also includes those who invent ways for the longer-lived cohorts to maximize their extra decades on the planet. This industry includes pharmaceutical companies as well as companies and individual practitioners researching the aging process.
These companies are involved in cloning, cryogenics, tissue research, genetic engineering, bionics, and stem-cell applications. Included here are Advanced Cell Technology, a leading pioneer in cell repair and regeneration, as well as Infogen, a company involved in accelerating advances in human cloning. Alcor and other companies have been trying to promote freezing as a way to live after death and, in a certain sense, to travel to the future. (A full-body freezing costs $120,000, but Alcor runs a special--the price is only $50,000 for those wanting to freeze just their head.) The new corporation Cell Factors plans to supply tissue-specific "neural-derived cell-lines" for a diverse range of pharmaceutical life-extension applications. The Geron Corporation of Menlo Park, California, contends that it has identified and located the "immortality cell," which regulates the process of aging itself.
In October 2002, the first ever Anti-Aging Drug Discovery & Development Summit was held in San Francisco, California. The conference's purpose was purportedly to discuss scientific aspects of the aging process and evaluate efforts to discover and develop antiaging therapies.
Companies and products at the forefront of a life-enhancement industry can potentially net hundreds of billions of dollars. I include here companies such as Pfizer, producing the sexual-rejuvenation drug Viagra. This category also encompasses companies producing and delivering products such as Botox and various growth-hormone drugs, including GBH. Botox, the controversial wrinkle-smoothing injection, has become a metaphor for all kinds of vanity and health products and services increasingly popular with maturing baby boomers yearning to look young into their 50s, 70s, and even 80s.
Let us now examine more closely the profound impacts that the Superlongevity Revolution will have on important aspects of our lives--work, family, leisure, and education.
Until recently, most people's lives have followed a fairly conventional and predictable career pattern. A person trains for a career for a set period of time (e.g., college, technical training), works in that career for 30 to 40 years, and then retires to pursue leisure interests, hobbies, etc. Superlongevity will change many of these old rules governing how people pursue their careers. People anticipating a career spanning nine or ten decades might choose to pursue schooling, career, a career hiatus or sabbatical, re-schooling, re-careering, retirement, re-schooling, and so on, in sequences varying greatly from person to person.
Superlongevity will affect the career choices of individuals at every stage of the life cycle. Realizing that their careers might extend for 50 years or more, younger careerists, even those not yet ready for full-time employment, will experiment with unique career patterns. …