Knowledge is the engine that drives human development – and it has been throughout history. Knowledge expanded in the hunter-gatherer days with the invention of fire. In those days, a human obtained all its food by foraging. Although the source of food did not change, fire allowed humans to cook food and consume more calories. The human brain expanded with this caloric increase, and soon we invented language – the first in a series of innovations that drove the growth of knowledge.
One of the paradigm shifts on the future scenarios curve is healthy life extension. When I mention to an audience that the first person to live to 200 has already been born – it gets quite the reaction. Extending our healthy lives has many implications to very long held beliefs. These challenges to our belief systems are the reason I believe humanity is heading towards another Tipping Point – that moment in time where intuitions and beliefs built over long periods experience a considerable shift. It is the reason I titled my presentation “A Journey through the Looking Glass”.
Through the looking glass is a metaphorical expression. It means: on the strange side, in the twilight zone, in a strange parallel world. It comes from the idea of Lewis Carol’s novel: “Through the Looking–Glass“, and the strange and mysterious world Alice finds when she steps through a mirror. I firmly believe we are stepping through the looking glass.
Healthy life extension is a great example of a scenario on the curve upending long standing institutions. As visualized below, multiple building blocks converge to deliver this scenario.
Healthy life extension is a future scenario depicted on this emerging future visual. In this era of genomics, precision medicine, and rejuvenation biotechnology, extending our healthy lives is not only possible, but likely. It is believed in some circles that the first person to live to 200 may have already been born. This animated video was developed to support a recent event on the topic of life and health. It closes with a quick glimpse of TCS capability via a next generation sequencing facility and an analytics platform for genomics and metagenomics.
I saw a glimpse into a possible future in a book titled Homo Deus, written by Yuval Noah Harari in 2016. Before his journey forward, the author explores the past. His conclusions challenged my core belief system in a very uncomfortable way. His arguments were logical and thoughtful (whether I agree with them or not), and based on a foundation of life science, algorithms, and biotechnology. This look forward once again raises the question of Ethics. The author himself makes this point when he says:
“The rise of AI and biotechnology will certainly transform the world, but it does not mandate a single deterministic outcome. All the scenarios outlined in this book should be understood as possibilities rather than prophecies. If you don’t like some of these possibilities you are welcome to think and behave in new ways that will prevent these particular possibilities from materializing.”
I’ve given the main themes of this possible future a label and provide a quick look using excerpts directly from the book. You decide for yourself if this future represents an enhanced or diminished humanity.