S. Jay Olshansky – Can Science Extend Human Life?

September 10, 2010

At a recent conference in Lake Tahoe, demographer S. Jay Olshansky presented a roomful of technologists with an exciting prospect. Through a concerted scientific attack on the problem of aging, he suggested, we might be able to extend human life by as much as 7 years on average.

Olshansky’s strategy is not simply to keep battling individual diseases, like cancer, in isolation. Rather, it’s to go after the underlying process that brings on those diseases to begin with.

The field of aging has long been beset by questionable claims—by hucksters try to sell us the fountain of youth. By contrast, Olshansky suggests there may be a modest, but scientifically attainable, version of human life extension that would benefit us all. On this episode of Point of Inquiry, he discusses how it might be possible, and what a world in which we all live significantly longer would look like.

S. Jay Olshansky is a Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His work focuses on estimating the upper limits to human longevity and pursuing the scientific means to slow aging in people.  Dr. Olshansky is the author, with Bruce Carnes, of The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging.

Above photograph by Kevin Miyazaki.