A puzzling part to the equation has emerged. While humans are in fact living longer lives on average, the oldest age that the oldest people reach seems to be stubbornly and oddly precisely cemented right at 114.
A person born in the US at the turn of the 20th century could expect to live 49.2 years. Their ancestor born in 2003 could reasonably expect to see their 77th birthday. But while average lifespans continue to lengthen, the oldest of the old appear to be encountering a rather powerful limiting factor.
In 1990 there were 3,000 people 100 or older, the oldest of them being 114. Twenty years later the number of people aged 100 and over had grown to around 44,000, but the oldest was still 114.
Longevity researcher Aubrey de Grey, author of “Ending Aging,” was asked about this:
“Time and time again over the decades past demographers have been brutally misled by short-term phenomena, by statistics gathered only over a few years. Blips happen for all manner of impenetrable reasons. In this case we’re talking about people born in a small segment of time, around 1900, and most of them born in particular countries and going through certain types of life they might not have gone through had they been born 20 years previously or 20 years later.”
This week, 1X57 is heading North by Northwest to Vancouver for the World Future Society‘s annual conference, World Future 2011, to kick off a new phenomenon we’ve co-produced, Futurists:BetaLaunch – an innovation showcase slash tech petting zoo featuring 12 ideas in beta that offer an exciting vision of the future.
Although this is 1X57’s first time to World Future and we’re not really sure what to expect, we’re pretty stoked. Earlier in the year, we were invited as guests of the World Future Society to an exclusive reception and screening of the Ray Kurzweil documentary, Transcendent Man, with uber-futurist Ray Kurzweil himself and the Director/Producer Barry Ptolemy. Hearing Ray speak in person was tantamount to doing mental crack. He didn’t talk about common DC hot topics like LIvingSocial or big data (not that these are inherently unexciting) but for me, they pale in comparison to contemplating the bigger picture of what life will be like once we can physically achieve immortality or once AI surpasses human intelligence. These are gnarly questions that like it or not, we as a race are moving towards having to answer.
In our adventure, we’re bringing some friends – Tech Cocktail and Disruptathon – who will be adding an additional layer of awesomeness to F:BL. Disruptathon will be providing the platforms and the technology to collect real-time feedback from World Future attendees about each BetaLauncher and Tech Cocktail will be hosting an evening reception that will feature the BetaLaunchers alongside 12 local Vancouver start-ups.
We’re also looking forward to meeting two special guests, Dale Dougherty and Brian Wong. Dale is the co-Founder of O’Reilly Media and editor and publisher of MAKE magazine and will be doing a fireside chat on the maker revolution as a lead-in to the evening Tech Cocktail event. And Vancouver’s own Brian Wong, touted the next Mark Zuckerberg and the youngest entrepreneur to receive VC funding (for his brainchild Kiip) will be joining us on Saturday evening at Tech Cocktail to check out the innovations and start-ups.
Then there’s the content of the conference itself. Steve and I will be joined by our friend, Kirby Plessas, to discuss living content and how open communication and content platforms are molding the future. And there are several talks we’re looking forward to attending, including the Sunday keynote by scientist and Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Gray on the Prospects for Defeating Aging.
With everything that will be going on, I think I’m most excited about being in an environment that contemplates the future and asks not can we get there, but how – because ultimately that is how the future is made.