How far can we extend human maximum lifespan, really?

I mean, if we really, really tried.

The oldest known human, Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 at the age of 122. We weren’t trying especially hard to extend her lifespan. Heck, she wasn’t even trying that hard herself. Ms. Calment smoked for nearly a hundred of her years.

I’m thinking the ability to extend a lifespan is affected by personal motivation and also how many other people are trying to keep you alive. What if we had a person who was supremely dedicated to staying alive as long as possible.

Augment this with a large chunk of humanity who fanatically want her alive, no matter what. I’m thinking someone like Queen Elizabeth II, currently aged 87 years.

Suppose all the people in the Commonwealth of which she is the monarch shared this common goal (think North Korea, but with lots more people, technology and cash).

Yes, I realize many people do not care if she lives or dies. But in this hypothetical, they ALL care, down to a man. They are willing to sacrifice anything, willing to give any amount of time and money, even donate their own vital organs without hesitation if it helps in any way.

They’re not pussying around. So ethics and morality may bend, but the ultimate goal does not. For the sake of argument, assume the person they wish to remain alive is similar to Jeanne Calment in terms of natural constitution.

So, what’s the real limit? Can we get someone beyond 200 years?

I don’t think so.

Predictions of 150+ year life spans have been commonplace as long as I’ve been alive, but I just don’t see the Human body having that kind of endurance.

Yes, but your 150 year prediction is for a regular lifespan, based on a statistical bell curve. In other words, a natural life will eventually end with death from natural causes. As was the case with Ms. Calment.

But I am talking about an artificially extended lifespan using any technology we can create, and created by people who really want to push the limits. Where the flesh grows weak, they augment. If the cause of death is a bad ticker, you can bet these people are collectively coming up with a fix whether it’s a mechanical heart implant or a heart harvested from a pig (or a person).

How alive do they need to be? I mean, is it ok if they have low but measurable brain activity and have to live in a refrigerator?

Hmm, good question. Originally, I had thought alive = not dead. Perhaps a better metric is alive = counted by Guinness for the World Record.

How would the Guinness folks treat the low brain activity, living in a refrigerator scenario?

There are two different relevant terms here. One is life expectancy. That is the average age that an individual of a given population can to expect to to live. That has been greatly lengthened over the past century and continues to rise.

The other is life span. Life span is a series of biological mechanisms built into almost all higher level animals including humans. It puts an upper limit on life expectancy because failures of body systems become more likely past certain ages in an exponentially rising curve. Life span has not changed one tiny little bit since modern humans came into being. Human life span is just over 100 years and there have always been certain individuals that lived that long. Science and medicine have done absolutely zero at this point to change human life span.

There may be a way to increase human life span but it will most likely require genetic therapies and the use of things like stem cells rather than the patch and replace strategy that you are asking about. We know the latter will not work because the whole body shuts down at the cellular level past certain ages rather than just individual organs wearing out. You can’t beat process that by replacing individual parts. The question is unanswerable right now because it has never been done and no practical progress has been made. Given the right breakthrough however, life span could become indefinite and life expectancy limited only by the incidence of accidents or other trauma.

I think you’ve raised good points about organ donation and time and money, but you also have to add another factor to the equation.

Sometimes, people die from random accidents (falling down the stairs, getting run over by a bus, etc.) Right now, we live in a world where we can’t predict the future. Nobody knows what will happen to them tomorrow. To be honest, I don’t think technology seen in Minority Report to stop something from happening before it does could actually be created or, if it could, whether it could work 100% accurately.

With this in mind, if we were to focus our efforts on keeping one person alive for as long as possible, that person would need around the clock 24 hour care to prevent random accidents from happening. They would also need high level security in place because such a person could possibly be an assassination target because of their high profile.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would be a very difficult mission to accomplish.

The likelihood of fatal accidents influences life expectancy but not lifespan. Potential lifespan is predetermined by genes and biological processes and there is no known way around it right now no matter how much money or resources someone has. Jeanne Calment had the best known combination of those to date and that allowed her to live to 122 but that is still only about 20% higher than millions of other people. There is no evidence whatsoever that anything could have been done to keep her alive to 123 let alone 130 and beyond based on science, medicine or anything else.

Like I said earlier, you can’t just replace parts as they break like you can with an old car or airplane just to keep it going. The whole body starts shutting down at the cellular level and there is no known way around that right now. There may be ways to stop or even reverse those processes in the future but there simply isn’t right now despite many people’s honest attempts to demonstrate that using themselves as models.

For a given individual, life span is tightly bound to within just a few months or years of the maximum age that their ancestors and close relatives died. You can throw all the money in the world to try to beat that but it won’t work.

Extending human lifespan requires breakthroughs in science and medicine such as enabling DNA to replicate more times than it is programmed to during cell divisions. One of the major causes of aging are DNA strands that wear out and frazzle over time like old shoelaces. You have to beat that process before you can extend lifespan. There is laboratory that suggest it can be done in theory but there is no clinical application that can deliver that today.

There are a bunch of Ray Kurzweil acolytes running around saying we are on the cusp of immortality. I’ve run into these people on more than one occasion. They argue that life expectancy has gone up by one year every four years for the last century. I’ve made the same argument about maximum life span that Shagnasty gave and they dismissed it without explanation.

We are living through a revolution in our understanding of biology, so a breakthrough could happen at any time. I hope so.

But you have to start genetically engineering them from the very beginning.

Good points made above. To my mind, however, the better question is how can we extend the (arguably) more pleasant stages of life. I think we’re doing pretty good on that score via better nutrition, etc. “Middle age” seems to last much longer than even 50 years ago. Even Jonathan Swift was cautionary about extending old age.