THE QUICK AND THE NOT DEAD

Life is old, but getting older.

I sense opportunity.

We are constantly told of technology’s disruptive power, its potential to alter the world, remake our life, but which we rarely believe because it almost never happens. Everything is still mostly the same. But imagine, for example, if technology so disrupted the world that it made older people the cool ones, the ones everyone comes to for wisdom, guidance, to seek the truth, to know what to buy, to live as long as possible.

Unlike the growing ranks of nonagenarians and centenarians, those who breach a 12th decade, known as supercentenarians, rarely face protracted illness or disability before they die, a boon that many of them have ascribed to personal habits.

Why is that?

Let’s go to them and find out! Maybe even ask for pieces of themselves.

But even as they indulged the notion that exceptionally healthy longevity can be explained by lifestyle, each agreed to donate DNA to a private effort to find the secrets in supercentenarian genes.

As everything becomes available to everyone, we’re all connected, we all have more than enough to eat, watch, consume, and the robots do life’s heavy lifting, might the very old prove to be the most fascinating among us? The most valuable?

Yes!

If unusual patterns in their three billion pairs of A’s, C’s, G’s and T’s — the nucleobases that make up all genomes — can be shown to have prolonged their lives and protected their health, the logic goes, it is conceivable that a drug or gene therapy could be devised to replicate the effects in the rest of us.

As technology satisfies all our other needs, how much might we alter our economy, politics, and culture to make sure everyone has the chance to live just ten years more? And if that potential lies in the old, the odd, the marginal?

The value paradigm shifts.

An age-defying mutation found in the genes of Amish people appears to be boosting their lifespan. Individuals carrying a single non-functional copy of the gene SERPINE1 live an average of 10 years longer than other members of their communities, according to new research.

I’d rather have that extra ten years than the next five new iPhones.

Does the future belong to the old?

Bill Gates is investing $50 million in venture-backed start-ups which are seeking to find a cure — or more likely, to limit — Alzheimers. Gates makes wizened bets, and it’s easy to imagine that an ecosystem of tech companies looking into the maladies of aging would ultimately lead to interest and expertise and spin-offs in new technologies exclusively for older people, or at least first for older people.

Talk about disruption.

Consider the elephant:

ELEPHANTS AND OTHER large animals have a lower incidence of cancer than would be expected statistically, suggesting that they have evolved ways to protect themselves against the disease. A new study reveals how elephants do it: An old gene that was no longer functional was recycled from the vast “genome junkyard” to increase the sensitivity of elephant cells to DNA damage, enabling them to cull potentially cancerous cells early.

What do the long lived and cancer-free human  among us possess?

Teach us! Show us! Help us be like you!

As we meld flesh with computing, those over age 50, or over age 100, could absolutely represent the next frontier. Old is the new black.

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