Flamboyant pop music icon Prince celebrated his 53rd birthday in 2011. Yep, you read that right. Our planet has experienced decades of "Purple Rain," and no matter how old and busted that makes you feel, it's clear that Prince's genes didn't get the memo. The man looks as youthful as ever. Will he ever age? And if he does, will he ever die?
Sure, the human species evolved to reach maturity, pass on some genes and then exit stage left. But thanks to the ongoing breakthroughs in the field of gerontology (the social, psychological and biological study of aging), it all might eventually become a thing of the past. Just think of life as an endless Prince and the New Power Generation concert with infinite encores.
Noted gerontologist Aubrey de Grey is one of the foremost advocates of this view of ageless, healthy human life. In his headline-catching research, de Grey takes the historically futile war against aging and breaks it down to seven individual battles, ranging from brain cell death to cancer. Each of these battles, he argues, is surmountable given sufficient scientific advancement.
Ultimately, de Grey paints a picture of a world in which a barrage of regular medical procedures can stave off aging for decades, centuries or even longer. It's not quite immortality as people would still be susceptible to accidental or intentional death, but it would certainly change the face of mortality as we know it.
Thanks to evolving brain-mapping technology and our growing understanding of the human mind, we may even learn to defeat the various neurological and psychological problems that come with an older brain. Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project to create a virtual model of a working human brain, believes that by 2020 we'll reach the point where a computer model will be able to diagnose our emotional state. Other experimental procedures, such asLund University's experiments in reprogramming skin cells into fresh brain cells, may mean that our 200-year-old descendants might walk around with both the healthy bodies and brains of a 30-year-old.
How will the end of aging change the way we live? How will it change the world?