On Friday (June 25), Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was posed a question that made me winced at the insensitivity of the questioner. It was at the dialogue held mid-way thru the 37th anniversary dinner of Association of Banks in Singapore.
MM Lee was asked by one of the dinner guests how he sees Singapore in 45 years’ time. The veteran politician answered that he isn’t a futurologist and didn’t know. Even when he took over the reins 45 years ago, he didn’t envisaged the glittering Singapore of today.
I thought it’s an insensitive question to ask an 87-year-old man, though I’m sure MM Lee isn’t at all sensitive about his age or about longevity.
Then, voila, today I heard on the BBC’s One Plant program that one day, maybe not tomorrow, OK, living to 1,000 years may become a reality.
“In due course we will be able to defeat ageing. We’ll be looking at a lifespan in the region of 1000 years,” Dr Aubrey de Grey –one of the world’s leading thinkers in the field of gerontology or the study of aging — told One Planet about the ethics and practicalities of age prevention.
Dr de Grey said that in due course “we may be able to defeat ageing with periodic repair and maintenance at the molecular and cellular level” and so “reverse the accumulation of damage.”
No, he isn’t promising immortality as there would be deaths through accidents and other causes. He’s just working on the one preventable cause that kills two thirds of people: ageing.
He sees that in the next 3 decades there would be a good chance to keep people healthy and youthful and, ultimately, giving them a life-span in the region of 1,000 years, “subject to side effects such as accidents”.
The specialist in regenerative medicine said 150 years ago infant mortality was 40% in the UK — and this has since been whittled down to 2%. Working on preventing ageing is about defeating another cause of death.
I say hurrah to that.
Incidentally, Dr de Grey’s target makes the People’s Association’s membership age limit of 120 years (about which I’ve written in this blog) very conservative and pessimistic.
Further 1,000-year target also makes the question posed to MM Lee not necessarily insensitive but one that assumes that he has many good years still with us.
And I say hurrah to that too!