Imagine living to a thousand years. What would you do? How would you live your life? How many different careers spanning 20 years each would you try out? How many degrees could you get? How many countries would you visit? How many kids would you have? Sounds like science fiction but it is about to become reality in the next 5 to 10 years.
In the last 5 years, scientists have gained a much greater understanding of what causes ageing and ultimately death. After something like 30 years of research, they are about to unlock the secret to immortality. They are about to turn us all into modern day Methuselahs. In case you don’t know, Methuselah is the man recorded in the Bible to have lived the longest; 969 years.
Ageing overtakes us because beyond 25 years of age, the body reduces its ability to accurately reproduce DNA when cells are regenerated to replace old ones. Cells in your body make new copies of themselves to replace old cells the same way a photocopier works.
But the new copies are not identical to the original and suffer from degradation over time due to being shorter each time a copy is made. Try photocopying a document and then use the copy to make another photocopy and so on. Do that 60 times and the final result will be nothing like the original. That’s the same process in the human body where cells can only replicate themselves about 60 times before they stop.
Scientists have discovered that an enzyme called Telomerase allows DNA to copy itself accurately by allowing DNA to replicate at full length. So if your DNA replicates accurately, your body will not age and you can remain frozen at 30 years of age for one thousand years and more. The only “catch” is that Telomerase is also responsible for causing cancer cells to be immortal. But a solution has been found in which the cancer cells can be suppressed.
Clinical trials of these techniques have been tested on mice and humans with astonishing results. Scientists genetically engineered mice that age quickly and die. They applied Telomerase and the cancer cell inhibitors to the mice and they regenerated from certain death to become younger, stronger and more fertile, producing several large litters.
In humans, experiments spearheaded by MIT and Stanford University on humans have yielded similar results. Not only will ageing be reversed and immortality made possible, but even fertility will improve, immunity will increase and the biggest benefit is that the whole of humanity will be more productive for much much longer.
Imagine the implications for humanity. All the great Einstein problem solvers will be able to be useful to mankind for a very long time. The downside is that despotic leaders like Robert Mugabe and other undesirable characters will be able to cause mischief for a very long time until they die for another reason.
There is a mad rush to get this technology to the masses with clinical trials going on at various stages in USA, UK, Japan, etc. Whichever companies perfect it will make a lot of money and make some investors extremely rich.
In a related development, Nanotechnology is also on the crest of a wave. Engineers and Scientists are working on creating “nanobots”, tiny robots the size of a human cell that can be injected into the body and remove viruses, bacteria or dangerous chemicals. All diseases will be instantly eliminated in the entire human population.
Nanobots will be able to carry out internal surgery in your body, including complicated procedures like brain surgery to remove tumors or clots that cause strokes. They will monitor your body and look out for Cancer cells and zap them while feeding data to the Internet of Things. This will enable many conditions to be picked up and treated early. But it gets better.
Some nanobots will be designed to mimic red blood cells and carry Oxygen around your body, but at least 20 times more efficiently. This will enable you work longer without getting tired. You will be able to do a 100m sprint for 15 minutes straight or hold your breath underwater for 30 minutes.
I envision nanobots being used to get rid of pesky insects and other pests. They will be able to fly and kill flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, mice, army worms and anything else we can imagine. What effect this will have on the ecosystem is yet to to be determined.
Once downside of Nanotech is that it will be easy to track people and kill them using nanobots. You can be sleeping and a nanobot enters your nose and kills you off and self destructs and there will be no way of knowing who sent it. Governments will be able to spy on people and take out political enemies and get away with it. Technology is almost always a double-edged sword.
I have always been amazed at human ingenuity and its ability to solve the most complex problems such that in the end, it all looks so simple. We are on the cusp of a tidal wave of enormous scientific breakthroughs in the next 5 to 10 years. If you think we have achieved a lot, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.