December 29, 2010
10 Million British To Live To 100th Birthday

With a population of about 62 million people nearly one in six are expected to reach the age of 100.

In the first official projection of its kind, the Department for Work and Pensions today forecasts that almost a fifth of Britons will celebrate their 100th birthday.

Of the 17 per cent of the population who will become centenarians, about three million are under the age of 16, and 5.5 million are aged between 16 and 50.

Predicting the rate of increase of life expectancy used to be much easier because the rate of increase did not vary much. But some areas of biotechnology are increasingly driven by the same kinds of advances that make computer power increase so rapidly.

Just as computer circuits kept getting smaller and more dense biological instrumentation is undergoing a similar revolution where microfluidic devices and gene chips do work previously done with human hands wielding flasks, pipettes, and petri dishes. So, for example, DNA sequencing costs have fallen by orders of magnitude and that trend continues. In a similar vein large numbers of cells are manipulated individually in microfluidic devices.

It is difficult to look down the road 20 years and guess every way that biological manipulations will speed up by orders of magnitude or which treatments will become very easy as a consequence. But it seems reasonable to expect that in the 21st century we will experience a revolution in biotechnology in par with the revolution in computer technology that began in the middle of the 20th century and continues to this day.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 December 29 09:16 PM  Aging Trends

ProfBob said at December 30, 2010 2:33 AM:

It makes us more aware of the problems set out in that popular free ebook series ""In Search of Utopia" ( Who is to pay for their retirement and medical costs. At 78 I have already taken more from my retirement and medical insurance than I paid in--and I'm hoping to live to 100!!

PacRim Jim said at December 30, 2010 11:31 AM:

100 years? Is that base 10?

Bruce said at December 30, 2010 11:49 AM:

Unfortunately, many of them froze to death this winter.

"Half a million pensioners were thought to have spent Christmas in bed to keep warm, new figures have disclosed"

Randall Parker said at December 30, 2010 5:02 PM:


That's tragic.

Even large numbers of affluent people do not save enough money toward retirement while working. You've got to do that. As the percentage of the population that are retired keeps going up governments are going to cut back on what they pay out per retiree. Prepare yourself. Live more cheaply and save more for your retirement.

Bruce said at December 31, 2010 2:40 PM:

Randall, governments that mandate using the most expensive energy possible (wind, solar etc) instead of allowing the market to choose coal, NG are mass murderers when winter cold kills the old because they can't afford to heat their homes.

That includes the UK government.

Carl Pham said at January 4, 2011 11:06 AM:

Predicting the rate of increase of life expectancy used to be much easier because the rate of increase did not vary much. But some areas of biotechnology are increasingly driven by the same kinds of advances that make computer power increase so rapidly.

These two sentences represent a non sequitur. There is no evidence -- zero, zip, nada -- that the rate of increase of life expectancy among the very old (or at birth) has changed in even the slightest degree. So the implication of the first sentence that methods that worked in the past to do so aren't working now is false. The second sentence implies that "areas of biotechnology" which are rapidly increasing in power and sophistication must, ipso facto, lead to similar accelerations in life expectancy. But that is a wholly undemonstrated connection, and is, the Second Law being what it is, much more likely to be false than true.

After all, I well remember in the 60s and 70s optimists looking at the acceleration of understanding in physics and microelectronics and prophesizing that immortality was (or at least intelligent robots, starships, and cities on the Moon were) right around the corner. The connection between basic science and specific technological achievements is far more tenuous and tortuous than pundits think, which is why venture capital investing is still a game of hunch and luck.

not anonymous said at January 4, 2011 11:29 AM:

I'm trying to save. Hungary, Argentina and Bolivia, however, faced with increasing fiscal demands, have forced pension savers to transfer their pension accounts to the government. How am I supposed to save, when my savings will be taken to pay for those who haven't?

Anonymous said at January 4, 2011 12:31 PM:

Not anonymous,

Bingo! That's why the 2nd Amendment is important. Because if they come for your 401(k), all you've got is your shotgun and a politician's home address.

John Campbell said at January 4, 2011 1:43 PM:

If you think you can retire at 65 or even 70 and live to 100 or more without major planning - dream on.

For me, I am 52 and I intend to live past 100 and perhaps retire or change careers in the 80's.

Life is likely going to be extended a great deal in the future. I think we are now witnessing the extension of adolescence and young adulthood - longer in school and longer to leave home.

I intend and hope to extend my middle age for another 3 decades at least. Extended life must mean extensions in all phases of life - not just a longer period of older age.

This takes some planning before you begin to break down too much. Your car can last a lot longer too, but you can't drive it into the ground and then expect the repair shop to jump in and restore it easily and affordably.

Randall Parker said at January 4, 2011 8:38 PM:

Carl Pham,

You are using the wrong time frame. In 1970 there was no evidence for an increased uptake in the use of personal computers as compared to 1960 or 1950. But 10 years later there was.

Lots of technologies go thru S-shaped curves. There's a point where over a short period of time the slope suddenly starts going up sharply. The use of microfluidic devices and other miniaturized techniques for manipulating the very small is bringing us up on a point where our ability to manipulate cells and get them to do our bidding will increase by orders of magnitude. So life expectancy projections today based on historical methods used by actuaries won't predict life expectancies 30 or 40 years hence.

The 1960s and 1970s: Lots of optimists have been premature about many predictions that have since come true. It is easy to be off by a decade or two or three. But today we've got the types of advances happening (e.g. the many orders of magnitude drop in DNA sequencing technologies) that will make it possible to manipulate cells to get them to fix us. That's not 22nd century, that's 21st century. Look at what is already being done to lab animals.

John Campbell,

If you do not die from cancer in the next 20 years I think your prospects for reaching 100 and beyond are pretty good. We are still in the era when heart disease and cancer can kill us. But I see light at the end of the tunnel. I hope I reach that tunnel opening before dying. But it is hard to know what parts will break when. A friend's co-worker just died at age 38 due to undiagnosed heart defect. That sort of thing can kill you any time.

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