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.”
You find the now so yawn…what’ll be hot in a few months from now meh…transporters and nanobots and the singularity can’t get here soon enough.
In all seriousness (not that I was joking in the previous paragraph), I think futurists, and futurism, scare a lot of people. And it’s not because futurism challenges deeply held precepts of traditionalists.
No, I think it’s because people can barely handle their current reality, let alone the idea of ones in the future. Of course you’re going to think Ray Kurzweil is a kook if you cling onto the past or even worse, can’t come to terms with it.
Futurists are not people who live in fear, who aren’t so mired in reality they can’t envision what the future looks like. Futurists are dreamers and even more, they are believers in their own dreams. They are inventors and they are creators and they are problem-solvers.
Wikipedia defines futurists as “scientists and social scientists whose speciality is to attempt to systematically predict the future, whether that of human society in particular or of life on earth in general.”
But I don’t believe futurists are so much predictors of the future as they are drivers of it. Thomas Edison was just as much of a futurist as Martin Luther King. They had an inherent, insatiable need to create change based on an undying discontent with their current surroundings and circumstances. To quote Edison, “Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”
So does future make the man or does man make the future? I think futurists make the future. One is able to predict the future by creating it. So the real question is, what kind of future do you want to create?
PS – Tomorrow (Wed, Apr 20) I predict a large group of people will gather at Public Bar in DC to talk about futurism, the future and Japan: dcfuturists.eventbrite.com