Can We Live to 150? This Scientist Said So, but Now He’s Not so Sure

July 18, 2018 - 5 minutes read

Alex Zhavoronkov is a computer scientist, MedTech developer, and researcher. When he was younger, Zhavoronkov publicly announced that he expected to live to be 150 years old. But as he’s grown older and seen the way politics influence technology growth, he’s not so sure if he will make it to 150 anymore.

Zhavoronkov does think we’ll reach 150 years at some point in the future, but it won’t be within his lifetime or maybe even his children’s lifetime.

Politics: The Problem?

One of the biggest hurdles in politics is that no one sees pursuing longevity as a worthwhile goal. Zhavoronkov believes that longevity should be a fundamental right for humanity, and improving longevity would improve suffering, lower medical bills, and promise happier lives as we spend time with our great-great-great grandchildren.

But Zhavoronkov knows the government, especially the current administration, won’t listen to either an economic or a moral argument. He says, “This is very frustrating. But this is the nature of today’s society. People in the developed countries have most of their basic needs already satisfied but instead of focusing on securing the future, they focus on today’s events.”

Pharmaceutical companies continue to consolidate their resources and money by merging, and in doing so, they remain complacent, rather than continuing to innovate. For 2019, the U.S. government is promising $886 billion to the military. But less than $69 billion is dedicated to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is a drastic cut of 21% over 2017’s budget.

With rising medical care costs and living costs in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City, Zhavoronkov says the government isn’t prioritizing the right things and is moving too slowly to make a real impact.

Tapering Expectations

He adds, “I don’t think there will be such a thing as standalone longevity pharmaceuticals. There will be integrated diagnostic, therapeutic, and clinical procedures. And to get there we need scale and we need the companies like Amazon and Alibaba that know a lot about us to enter the field.”

Zhavoronkov says he was way off with his initial prediction about his own lifespan. “Previously, I have been more optimistic and careless with the predictions. While the rate of progress is close to exponential, we are still too far from seeing tangible longevity interventions where you can see it to believe it.”

At one point, when he was younger, Zhavoronkov considered becoming a doctor after getting obsessed with the idea that diet, exercise, and meditation would extend lifespan. But he quickly found out that wasn’t true. “Diet, traditional medicine, exercise, and yoga will not help overcome aging, only postpone some of the processes and delay the onset of age-related diseases…

“The 122.5 year record belongs to a woman who quit smoking in her 100s and never dieted. What is the purpose of hard work, exercise, and life in general if you cannot continuously improve yourself and the environment around you?”

Different Perspective, Different Results

Zhavoronkov believes that big data companies need to collaborate with pharmaceutical companies. His company developed artificial intelligence-powered algorithms that can design new molecules to boost longevity.

Recently, the team also published a paper that connects the muscle aging process to specific genes. Even if no one has a big use for that type of data now, it’s easy to see that it’s valuable and certainly important to the overarching longevity research.

Zhavoronkov understands more about the human lifespan than most pharmaceutical executives. He wisely says, “The limitations come from our current understanding of technology and will not be there in the future. We need to focus on what is available today at the very cutting edge and take it to the next level.”

For his part, Zhavoronkov believes that “there is nothing more important than longevity research in this life.” And one day, as we live well into our 150s or even 200s, we might look at Zhavoronkov as the Father of Human Longevity for his lifelong passion in extending our lifespan. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

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