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Get Ready to Live a Long, Long Time

Nov 03, 2015

Two of the leading scientists at the edge of the medical revolution believe that our life expectancy could start creeping up toward the triple digits.

David Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, said at the Fortune Global Forum on Monday that he believes that with our current technology humans have the potential to regularly live into their ninth or tenth decade.

Craig Venter, co-founder and CEO of Human Longevity Inc., said there might be no hypothetical limit to how long we can live, but that “we need to make sure we can support extra long life on this planet.”

Huge advancements at the intersection of medicine and technology, such as big data, are making these kinds of developments in aging possible.

Venter explained that when he first sequenced the human genome 15 years ago, there was nothing for him to compare it to. For example, we now know that we vary about 3% from the 6.4 billion letters of DNA that we get from our parents.

Ten years ago, Venter said he wouldn’t have thought that we’d be able to predict someone’s age from their genetic code. We also now know that our genetic code is constantly changing, he said. Men, for example, start losing y chromosomes in their 40s and 50s.

To help crack the big data code in medicine, Venter said he and his team have hired the engineer who designed Google Translate. “We’re using machine learning to try to understand and interpret all that data,” he explained. He said that they now have the capability to generate a photo of someone straight from their genetic code.

So will all this data automatically extend our lifespan. That's a bit more complicated.

“We’re learning new dimensions to each of us every six months,” Agus said. “These dimensions make us more complex.” That means we’re never going to totally understand disease, he added, but we don’t need to understand it to control it.

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