What could be most reasonable explanation for rapid increase in life expectancy for all people on earth?

Some points:

  • Effect can be increased over time: 100 years in 2020, 140 - in 2030.. and so on, till it reaches about 250 years of life expectancy.
  • It must be applied for all (most) people on earth in natural way.
  • There is no magic.
  • Side effects are possible
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    $\begingroup$ I don't have time to elaborate an answer right now, but you could do some research about Turritopsis nutricula $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    Oct 18, 2017 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ An article you might be interested in. Transdifferentiation, Metaplasia and Tissue Regeneration The thought 'controlled cancer' comes to mind. $\endgroup$ Oct 18, 2017 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ "in natural way" - do you mean that new medical treatments and inventions are unacceptable? It has to be a gift of nature? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that life expectancy can increase faster than time itself. If it's 100 years in 2020, it can't be 40 years higher in 2030, right? People can have only lived 10 more years. $\endgroup$
    – JPhi1618
    Oct 18, 2017 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @JPhi1618 Actually, it can. Life expectancy is a calculated value. So it is not uncommon for it to increase faster than time goes by in countries where conditions are rapidly improving. Although in this case 140+ years lifespan would have no precedents. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Oct 18, 2017 at 21:33

17 Answers 17


Cure for cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease

These three are the big natural killers.

Cheap, clean, ubiquitous and plentiful energy sources

Air pollution is the biggest non-natural killer. The biggest source of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels and biomass.

If for instance Polywell nuclear fusion turns out to work, then we can remove something that kills millions every year.

Yes, this is a real picture, of a real fusor... EMC2 Corporation's WB8 test reactor.

enter image description here

Polywell reactors give energy, save lives, and look totally sci-fi:ishly awesome

A good secondary effect is that a good and plentiful energy supply solves things like famine, and fresh water shortage as well.

A tertiary effect of that is that it greatly decreases the risk of resource wars (like for oil).

Telomere rejuvenation

Telomeres are what keeps our cells from being infinitely renewable. If we can find a way to replenish teleomers, we are good to go for a very long time.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Oct 20, 2017 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ Can answers be down-voted for being "too broad"? $\endgroup$
    – wetcircuit
    Oct 21, 2017 at 12:08
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    $\begingroup$ @wetcircuit You can downvote for any reason you want, no matter if it very well founded or if it is plain pettiness and malice. If you think you can come up with a way to improve the answer or make a better one you are of course free to state that in a comment or answer of your own, which would be infinitely more productive and helpful than just a downvote which will be overshadowed by and lost among the upvotes.. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Oct 21, 2017 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ I already did, @MichaelK. I count at least 7 unrelated scattershot "answers" above, none with any detail. If this is bad for questions, how can it be valid for answers? $\endgroup$
    – wetcircuit
    Oct 21, 2017 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ @wetcircuit Ah, I see. And the way your answer was not too broad was by saying "Telomere rejuvenation, by way of bio-engineered food"? $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Oct 21, 2017 at 12:21

Viral infection

Something like flu will spread globally thanks to air travel and reach eventually almost entire species and if it has a side effect of increasing life span this will get the effect you want more or less.

How could flu increase your life span?

Simplest explanation would be that it suppresses something that is reducing our life span at the moment. Just say that it invokes an immune response that purely by coincidence (surface proteins happen to be similar) also kills something that has been living apparently harmlessly in our guts at least since the neolithic period.

And all of a sudden everyone who got the bug and survived feels much better and healthier than anyone has within the recorded history. And lives longer too. Turns out our natural aging was actually caused by a partially suppressed immune response to that totally harmless bug. Oops.


Bioengineer a food source that extends the life of telomeres.

Telomeres are at the ends of our DNA strands. They don't seem to contribute to our genetics. They are a repeating sequence of DNA at the ends of the chromosomes, like a start/stop signal for protein building. The way our chromosomes divide and replicate, they don't copy the full telomere and some of that repeated signal is left off the next generation of chromosomes. This means your chromosomes can only replicate about 40-60 times until there is not enough telomere left to begin the replication process, called the Hayflick Limit.

The way our DNA replicates itself can be compared (roughly) to the zipper on a jacket. When the jacket is zipped closed, there are two sides of the zipper locked together. In the process of chromosome replication, the zipper pull slides down the length of the zipper unlocking the two sides and attaching a new matching strand for each side, but a little piece of the telomere ends are not replicated. The analogy is like a zipper that has lost it's end tab, preventing you from threading the zipper pull.

enter image description here

Stem cells in embryos do not suffer from telomere depletion. Neither do most cancer cells, therefore they can go on replicating (theoretically) forever. Telomeres are an intense focus of research, so it's very likely there will be several life-extending discoveries in the near future.

My suggestion is that after a series of scientific discoveries in cancer research where we learn how this process works, a food source like rice or grain will be genetically modified to extend the life of telomeres. That food source will be patented at first, but eventually the patents expire and the GMO grain becomes widely available.

Since this "cure" extends only the amount of telomeres you have left (it does not replace what you've already lost) people who have eaten the GMO grain from childhood experience drastically longer lives than people who began eating the grain as adults.

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    $\begingroup$ That last paragraph helped me on a different issue I was having with my story aging process. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Oct 18, 2017 at 17:31

The first step is to bring the 3d worlders up to 1st world standards: very doable in theory. Once the health / longetivity playing field is level you will need to invent ways to get thru the reasons that old wealthy 1st worlders die.

  • Health care for all. The main causes of death for most of the world are preventable - diseases from dirty water, diseases from communicable disease, death in childbirth. If maximally effective health care is available for all, this would lift life expectancy to that achieved in Western European countries where health care is available for all.

  • Birth control. If you can be confident your kids will grow up, you do not need to have as many. If women are empowered to control reproduction there will be fewer births. Fewer people mean remaining people are richer. Less population pressure means less war and consequent death / chaos.

  • No smoking. Smoke is responsible for much cardiovascular disease and much preventable cancer.

These things achieved, you now have the situation of Japan where people live into their 80s then die of cancer or dementia. Medical technology has done well against cancer over recent decades. You can invent plausible breakthroughs with improved cancer treatments, then improved dementia treatments, then schemes to address the underlying reasons for cancer / dementia that break through the wall at 120 years.

I think it would be good to have a completely new cause of death be what eventually takes people at age 250. Sort of like the boss fight at level 11. You did not know what that boss looked like because no-one has ever reached level 11; 6 is as far as most people make it but a couple of people have gotten to 8.

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    $\begingroup$ Level 11 boss possibilities sounds like a new subgenre of medical fiction headed our way. $\endgroup$
    – N2ition
    Oct 19, 2017 at 0:18

There isn't really a reasonable way

The issue already is between ages 60-100 the human brain begins to degrade rapidly, to prolong that to age 250 is going to take some neuroscience beyond our current understanding.

Normally, I would suggest a battery of genetic engineering and or nanotechnology for synthetic organs but the critical issue is always "what about the brain?".

Maybe you could engineer humans such that neurons can have greater longevity or resilience, but then what do you do about the people already alive and how do you get everyone to accept GE? Maybe you could find a way to digitize the brain (which I think we will eventually get to) but then you are conflicted with the ethical question of 'is it still him?' and 'is he still alive?'.

  • $\begingroup$ I have downvoted this, as it is widely regarded to be possible within the scientific community. There are methods currently being tested in mice that show promising results. Just because you can't think of a way, doesn't mean there isn't one. Read the other answers! $\endgroup$
    – Korthalion
    Oct 19, 2017 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ According to this, there is no general rapid decline associated with ageing. There are certain deficiencies in brain functioning, but from the looks of it, much of it can be compensated with improved general health and personalised training. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Oct 19, 2017 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Olga NOOOOOO, did you read that article, ignoring the fact it had a self contradictory argument pattern and relied heavily on its ambiguous usage of "sharp", it clearly acknowledged the brains degradation over time. What it presented was how to direct one's efforts to retaining as much cognitive ability with respect to their generation. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Oct 19, 2017 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Up-voted because you are undoubtedly correct. I suspect the answers depend on your age. I would posit, if you asked a 100-year-old if they wanted to live for another 150 years, doing the same thing, living the equivalent of their past lifespan plus another half, they would probably say that they were ready for the end. It really does start to get boring, doing the same old same old over and over. Kids are raised, grand-children are raised, education completed, career accomplished. Do it ALL over again? And again? And again? 100 years of living is a lot. 100 years of MEMORIES is even more. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2017 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ ctd But if you ask a 30-year-old, who does not have a lifetime of pain, they might wish to live to be 250. They just have no idea of what it is like to live to be 100, let alone 250. They just have no concept. Immortality? Sure. They have so much to accomplish, so many achievements to make, so much living to do. They have not been saturated with life experiences yet. They have not raised kids yet. They have not established a career yet. They have not accomplished anything. They are so naive. It is the psychology of aging that has to be dealt with, not the medical aspect. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2017 at 15:14

Worldwide Peace

Wars dramatically affect human lives. The main cause of shorter lifespans is not so much killing (unless we are talking about something like WWII) but a huge number of refugees and deteriorating living conditions. Displaced populations suffer from physical and mental stress that greatly reduce their chances to live long and productive lives.

Just establishing peace (no matter how bad it is) would greatly increase life expectancy.

Worldwide Food and Clean Water Security

Just providing the entire global population with access to food and clean water would dramatically increase the average life expectancy on the planet.

Universal Medical Care and Emphasis on Preventative Care

Many deaths could be avoided or at least postponed if people had access to medical services. Preventative care is more effective at prolonging lifespans than symptomatic care. It also highly increases chances of early diagnosis hence required treatments are less invasive and more successful.

Universal Access to Education

Educated people make better choices (when it comes to health) and live longer. They also better understand risks involved and are better equipped to handle them.

Decrease in Lifestyle Diseases

Obesity, smoking, stress, etc. lead to decreased lifespans.

Egalitarian Society

Gender equity leads to longer lives. The most obvious reason is that all genders have equal access to education, reproduction control, medical care, etc. Gender equity might also reduce stresses and contribute to better lifestyle choices.

Changes in Position of Seniors in the Society

Seniors that are actively involved in social life and pursue an active lifestyle (travel, dance, exercise, intellectual activities, etc.) tend to live longer and be healthier. We do not understand the mechanisms yet, but physical and intellectual activities frequently delay the onset of senile disorders. They also positively correlate with cognitive ability (reasoning, memories, decision-making, etc.).

Seniors should be more involved in society. Perhaps a retirement age can be increased. Some services and activities for seniors could be introduced. But most importantly, seniors must feel needed, having a significant role in society.

Everything above can be done right now. In many cases, it only boils down to political will.

The following will require some innovation.

Medical Breakthroughs

Regeneration, cancer cure, and slowing down ageing are the best bets for increasing human lifespans.

Brain tissue regeneration and connectivity will become one of the most sought-after treatments once the worldwide life expectancy reaches about 100 years old. Neurons do not divide as readily as other cells in our body and cannot be replaced as easily (some new neurons are produced in the hippocampus but it is an exception). They also lose the ability to form new synapses as we age. Although, there is some research suggesting that this process can be slowed down by intellectual activities combined with moderate exercise.

A completely different approach would be a development of cloning and personality transfer. Ethical considerations aside, that would potentially lead to immortality.

Environmental Safety

Clean energy, no chemical waste, stable climate, thriving biosphere should be the main goals in establishing the environmental safety.

Governments should also have better contingency plans for epidemics, natural disasters, technological catastrophes, and so on. A swift and well-organised response can save thousands of lives.

Social Changes

Many contributing factors to the shorter lives have nothing to do with physical conditions. Social isolation of seniors, age discrimination, a cult of youthfulness, and similar phenomena negatively affect the quality of life. A change in social attitudes would lead to longer lives.



Think about a viral pandemic in reverse: Instead of a virus killing everyone (or turning everyone into zombies) one of the research centers develops nanobots which move inside their hosts' organisms looking for signs of ageing and cancer and fixing that. They are made of proteins - so basically they're big benevolent viruses - and so they are capable of building their own copies out of elements existing in human blood. But their primary function is to keep their host healthy so they do that only to keep their population stable. It means that they are able to communicate with each other, sending simple messages and responding to them.

The research was sponsored by a few very wealthy people wanting to become immortal, but the nanobots got out and spread across the Earth. In a few decades almost everyone, except for a few isolated communities, is infected. Nanobots are not able to prevent death from all causes, but people stop ageing significantly and the rate of death from cancer drops almost to zero.


Tobacco going extinct would give you +15 almost immediately.

I've heard a little about the effects of Cosmic Rays, causing DNA decomposition and therefore cancer. If background cosmic radiation (for some reason) dropped, cells could live longer in general, and natural aging processes could be prolonged.

Accomplishing this would be difficult to the point of being hand-wavey; Cosmic Rays are very energetic. And cellular mechanisms don't depend on CR's so much as deal with them, so there would have to be something else prolonging lifespans.

  • $\begingroup$ While you are technically correct, both CBR and Cosmic Rays are two of the last carcinogens you would have to deal with (as long as you are on a planet with a magnetic field). $\endgroup$
    – Imperator
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ I agree: this is an answer that works better for sci-fi than hard SF. Too much handwavium and, er, telomeric elongation. But that's kind of built-in to the question: we actually don't know how to get people to live 200 years. $\endgroup$
    – Neal
    Oct 19, 2017 at 13:31

If humans lived to be 250 years old, the greatest cause of death would be boredom. Depression. Losing the will to live. How long can you keep doing the same thing, over and over? Learning and re-learning? Working at the same nine to five job? Traveling to the same places, over and over? Seeing the same things, the same politics, the same societal problems?

What would you DO for 250 years?

And how would you pay for it? Living in poverty for that long is not an attractive proposition. It would perhaps be okay for the top 1%. But living under oppression? Struggling day to day, and no end in sight? Living hand-to-mouth? Being bullied?

The medical issues are just the beginning of the problem. If you don't address the psychological, economic, and social issues, I posit that not a lot of people would voluntarily stay around for that long, and suicide would be the major cause of death.

  • $\begingroup$ You perfectly described the situation I want to build my story about. $\endgroup$
    – Markus
    Oct 19, 2017 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ It's traditional to up-vote an answer that you like. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2017 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ But what about this is likable? Question: how do I get medically to the point where people are living for 250 years? Your answer: don't worry about it--people will just commit suicide. You completely ignore the actual question and instead tell the asker something the asker was already considering. This is a really long comment rather than an answer. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Oct 29, 2017 at 4:45
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    $\begingroup$ @ Brythan Depression IS a medical illness. The point you seemed to miss is that the greatest cause of death the OP will have to overcome to get life expectancy to 250 is suicide - a MEDICAL condition. Without dealing with this MEDICAL condition, average human lifespan will not be extended to 250 years. Expected lifespan includes death from ALL causes. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2017 at 14:07

This is a bit of a lateral-thinking answer.

The world's governments are in trouble over pension payments, healthcare for the elderly and other benefits that have been tied to the age of people. They use the recently increased life expectancy (due to better healthcare and other factors) to argue for the increase in retirement age and the reduction of per-year benefit amounts. So called life expectancy factor.

However, for unrelated reasons the world is also heading towards less open government and less oversight on governmental finances. The people in control see their opportunity and corruption increases, so fast that money is rapidly running out.

The life expectancy factor provides an excellent way out. Only thing that remains to be done is to fool people that life expectancy is increasing. The actual number is just a calculation by statisticians, who can be easily enough bribed. Up to some 120 years of age, just ensuring media coverage of well-to-do centenarians gets quite far in convincing the population. In a suitable dystopia, eliminating any dissenting opinions should be easy enough.

Eventually people will realize that the life expectancy is just a lie. But it is a lie that you are not allowed to speak about, even when the government keeps raising the number to ridiculous 150, 200, 250 years. People are essentially forced to work until their death, and the typical obituary reads "A hard worker and a loving father, he was taken from us too soon, at the young age of 80".


I would say that there is no physical reason why humans should not live almost indefinitely, save for accidental death. Obviously this is not going to happen any time soon, but the issues faced are more of unravelling the highly complex than breaking any physical laws.

In nature everything is balanced and we humans have evolved the life span we have based on several balancing reasons. It might be assumed that it would be an evolutionary advantage to live indefinitely, in some ways this is true, but there are reasons why this does not happen.

One reason might be that evolving a much more sophisticated DNA repair system is costly in term of resources. If every cell has to include a multitude of repair and monitoring systems then it will require more material to build and maintain.

This would not be a show stopper except for the fact that humans evolved in a relatively dangerous environment and accidental death (being predated, starving, falling off a cliff / tree etc etc) was highly likely, so the benefit of having all those repair and monitoring systems was marginalised as few lived long enough for them to have any effect.

The main issue is how fast and how far will we be able to push the biological sciences. This is unclear, but I suggest that, based on recent progress, that over a period of hundreds of years human life span potentially might be pushed far enough to give some people an indefinite life span (immortal except for accidents or deliberate acts such as war / suicide).

So to answer the question specifically, the most reasonable explanation for a rapid increase in life expectancy would be progress primarily in the biological sciences. This would be greatly enhanced by improvements in our abilities to manage, feed and protect ourselves. So advances in political and social structures, the technology of food production and prevention of disease. These would also need to be accompanied by world-wide social norms that ensured the birth rate was roughly equal to the accidental death rate. A tall order but not impossible.

This issue is also covered in more detail here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indefinite_lifespan

Some species have already evolved near immortality (barring accidents) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest-living_organisms

  • $\begingroup$ If humans lived indefinitely, then we would not be able to reproduce. There would be no need for it. Reproduction and having children is all about keeping the population going, in spite of our mortality. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2017 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Justin Thyme It depends what is meant by indefinitely. I avoided using the words for ever as accidents will always happen and some will want to end it all regardless. So there would always be a need for some children but at a very low level. Managing that would be very difficult. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Oct 19, 2017 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @anon So who gets to have kids, you or I? Draw straws, or do we do it by genetic screening? Incidentally, consider the implications of a psychopath living indefinitely. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2017 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme It would be a difficult one to organise, but yes perhaps a lottery for those who were interested. An undetected psychopath could boost the number of lottery options! $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Oct 19, 2017 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ It's a moot argument,because we both know that wealth would be the determining factor, but can you imagine if the psychopaths somehow always won the lottery? $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2017 at 17:42

If humans live to be 250, it will be because of advances in psychology and brain science. Our mind fills up after only 80 years. If it is to keep going for another hundred, somehow a lot more memory must be made available. Either that, or we have dementia for the last 150 years or so.

I think the 'will to live' is going to be extremely important after 150 years. Are we going to remain reproductive after that? It was longevity, not a rise in birth rates, that led to the baby boom. People lived longer, stayed around longer. Four, five generations were alive at the same time instead of just two or three. For 250 years, that is a LOT of generations alive at the same time.

There is an evolutionary advantage to the human life span. It is what it is for a reason. The human mind is geared to fit that evolutionary limit. So extending it to 250 years is going to take a lot more than just extending the life of human cell replication - the number of times that human cells can replicate without degradation. It is going to take major changes in human psychology.

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    $\begingroup$ Not everybody gets dementia, though. Some people manage to keep their wits about them for a much longer time than just 80 years. Apparently, centenarians are especially good at it. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Oct 18, 2017 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ No one has lived past 150 to know if they get dementia or not. But memory loss is very real in the elderly. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2017 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ According to WHO, dementia is not a part of normal ageing. Even though many seniors over 65 get it. As for memory, current research suggests that some changes in brain indeed happen and they do affect retrieval of information. However, much of it can be compensated with memorization techniques and training. Moreover, there is no problem of the limited storage space. Of course, no one lived to 200 years and we do not know how it will be. But the prognosis is optimistic. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Oct 19, 2017 at 3:54

In addition to all the wonderful answers above such as improving health, eradicating poverty, world peace, I believe the great secret of longevity lives within us. Well-respected scientists from every health-related discipline have researched the power of meditation to influence general health and provide natural ways to ward off disease and aging. https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/how-meditation-increases-your-longevity/ http://www.garmaonhealth.com/meditation-increases-lifespan/

  • Mediation calms our parsympathetic nervous system, resulting in what Harvard researcher Dr. Herbert Benson terms The Relaxation Response, the result being that you become calmer and more relaxed, and become able to bring this mind state into whichever previously stressful situation you desire.

  • Meditation improves our immune system by boosting our “killer cells” (white blood cells that destroys infected or cancerous cells) and antibodies (a protein produced used by the immune system to identify and neutralize pathogens such as bacteria and viruses).

  • Meditation can reduce systemic inflammation through the combination to the above two cites actions, in that stress can lead to inflammation, which in turn is linked to heart disease, arthritis, and various skin conditions such as psoriasis.

  • Meditation reduces the risks of heart disease by enabling the blood vessel lining (the “endothelium”), to expand and contract, thus making it more pliable and less ridged and calcified.


Breed for longevity.

Become a dictator, forbid everyone to get children naturally and use the sperm of the oldest males to artificially impregnate your female population. Do this over several generations and the health and longevity of your population should be significantly increased. You could also add some other requirements apart from old age, like mental or physical fitness.

I wonder I if there have ever been experiments with animals to breed for longevity?


Some further musings to consider.

There is good solid evidence that, for the first time in centuries, life expectancy is going down, not up. The reason is not disease, but lifestyle choices. Obesity, hardening of the arteries, risk-taking, violence, junk food, drug usage. The problem with lifestyle choices is that they are choices made by people, voluntarily. To reverse this trend, you need to get people on board. The problem is, how? Legislation? It worked for smoking and seat belts. Not so much for drugs. And your criteria seems to indicate it has to be world-wide. Maybe a world government that has teeth, and is willing to make the hard political decisions to force people into healthy life styles. Education sure doesn't work. So how do you universally enforce correct lifestyle choices in the entire population?

You are also up against a genetic barrier. It's not just telomeres that determines our life span. It is that cell reproduction is not perfect. It doesn not produce exact duplicates. The degradation of skin tissue, for instance, leading to wrinkles and dryness, is caused in part by the degradation of the cells through repeated replication. We don't have 'baby soft' skin at 80 because they are not the same cells - they have degraded in their DNA (or at least in their expressed DNA). It is possible to get creams and such to alleviate some of the damage (sun, for instance, and pollution), but to work on a global scale, people have to voluntarily use them. It is not a passive solution, it is active. People have to actively consciously decide to use them.

There are some genetic modifications that can increase longevity, but for these to become widespread in the population, it would take centuries, not decades. Unless, of course, there was a widespread policy of a genetic breeding program. For instance, if the population of the earth was reduced to just 1%, and this 1% was good genetic stock for longevity (the Japanese, for instance) there would be a dramatic increase in life expectancy for the survivors, but extending it to 250 years in the global population would take several generations of selective breeding. Maybe a world-wide plague that those who had longevity genes were immune to, by coincidence, and were the only survivors.

Some cancers are apparently caused by viral action, and cancer is the classic 'longevity' mechanism. If Cancer could be controlled, then cells would be made to reproduce indefinitely, just like cancerous cells do. In fact, it is posited that, for true longevity, cancer would not be cured, it would be made rampant, but controlled. Cancer research is the key to understanding the regeneration of tissue, and even stem cell activation. This, of course, is what cancer is - the uncontrolled reproduction of cells. But again, you have the issue of making this universal in all humans. A controlled cancer virus? Something that mutated? Doing this by genetic selection, again, would take umpteen generations, unless there were some mechanism for extinction of non-mutated humans. But a cancer virus, that caused a widespread controlled cancerous growth in all cells? The viral removal of or deactivation of the 'self-destruct' mechanism in cells that leads to the eventual death of the body, when they all decide to self-destruct without replication? (That, really, is what causes a natural death - cell death exceeds cell replacement, and there just aren't enough working cells to keep the body functioning).

Someone mentioned meditation. How about hibernation, where the entire metabolism, including cell reproduction, slows down? Say humans hibernated (suspended animation?) for four months out of twelve. Would this extend our life expectancy by the same ratio? Again, this could perhaps be done using drugs (that choices thing) or a long-term genetic modification approach (Inserting hibernation genes into the human genome) but is living to a calendar age of 250 the same thing, if you aren't conscious for one third of it? We live longer, but we don't get any experiential benefit from it. Of course, we would live long enough to see our great-great-great-great-great grand children, and would witness the advances of technology and of civilization. But living to be 250 just to say we lived to 250? What about quality of life? Would we choose to? That life-style thing - how to make it passively universal.

You could, of course, pull a Stephen King, and just assume longevity, without explanation. Stephen King did some really weird unexplained and unexplainable things in his novels, but really didn't do it in a fantasy or sci-fi way. He just wrote his novels based on considering them as part of normal, every-day experience, and didn't worry about science. It would not be beyond such an author to posit that, two universes had become super-imposed, one with a value of the constant c that we are familiar with, and another with a drastically reduced value for c, and humans living in each one, side by each. Relativistically, through time dilation, the high-cee group would apparently experience time going by much slower than the low-cee group. That is, one group would see the other group moving in very slow motion, and the other group would see the first group moving extremely quickly. Comparatively, one group would live for 250 years, and the other for 150 years, in the same relative life span. It would be like one group had left on a generation ship for 250 years, and then came back to earth. People on earth would experience 250 years gone by, but people on the ship would experience only, say 150 years. This would be stretching and bending things, but not really violating any laws or theories that have not been proposed by string theory and such. Stephen King would be proud.

An extension of this, is to somehow speed up the earth. Time would go slower. (Incidentally, the reverse is happening - since the earth is slowing down, time is going faster on earth today than it was when the earth was first formed). How this could happen would be another Stephen King - you just assume it happened, with no explanation. The mysteries of physics. If they want us to believe in black holes, why not this? (Basically, that is Stephen's answer). The emphasis is on the human reaction, not the science. What reader takes the time to question the science in a Stephen King novel - they are too busy being either scarred or shocked or otherwise engaged in the story?

But this brings up another unresolved issue. Consciousness. Within the last ten years or so, credible scientists with excellent credentials (Nobel prizes) are seriously positing that consciousness is a result of quantum phenomena. We know that life itself makes extensive use of quantum techniques. Things that biologists could never understand, are explained by quantum tunneling (ion transfer across membranes, photosynthesis, birds detecting magnetic fields, for example). Quantum theories have done more to explain day-to-day mysteries here on earth than Einstein's theories ever did. So, something that has never been tested - what does time mean to quantum biological events? Planck had a very different idea of time than did Einstein.

We know that live plants and humans sent into space are not as 'old' as their equivalents on earth, when they come back, but what is the conscious experience of the organism during this time? What is their biological experiential age when they come back? Does the astronaut really feel any younger than he would have if he stayed on earth? Do they grow as if they are still on earth, in the same time frame? Time is not the same concept for conscious experience as it is for physical phenomena. We talk about 'that day went fast' or 'this month is really dragging', as if the passage of time is variable, relative to something else besides physical reality, the 'clock'. That is why there is a definite movement to consider quantum time as something different than relativistic time. In quantum physics, nothing is defined until it is consciously experienced. Is it the same with time? That time has to be consciously experiences to have any definition?

What would conscious time be like for a human that lives to 250? How would they experience the passage of time? How would a human on a generation ship experience the passage of time? Would their quantum consciousness be so connected to their earth foundations (entangled, as it were) that they experience that they really were traveling for 250 years?

We know physical time is relative, but what about biological conscious time? Call it biological quantum consciousness time. Is that relative and if so, to what?

How would humans experience life and the passage of time if they lived to be 250? How does a bowhead wale experience its 200 year life span? If they can live to be 200, there is no real biological impediment to a human living to be 250.

These issues and ideas are all fair game for a novelist to explore, when dealing with positing a life span of 250 years for a human. Is the issue all about science, or is it about character development and social repercussions, human issues?


People stop eating bread and milk.
People start using air filters.
People take their medicine.
People go to see a doctor more often and listen to their advice.
People take their flu shots.
People go vegetarian which mean consuming less cancerous meat and using less chemicals to grow veggies because there is more place for veggies.

Pick one.

  • $\begingroup$ Free universal health care. That alone adds ten years. $\endgroup$ Oct 18, 2017 at 19:37

Introduction of gun control and reliable self-driving technology

Motor vehicle accidents and death by shooting are both in the top ten leading causes of death in the US.

Eliminate them, and you automatically increase overall life expectancy (albeit without a corresponding actual increase in life spans).

  • $\begingroup$ I didn't downvote, but this really does not answer the question at all, which is about extending natural life expectancy. $\endgroup$
    – barbecue
    Oct 18, 2017 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ @barbecue - I still hold to my answer. The question doesn't specify natural, just life expectancy, and removing either of these would have a significant effect. Road accidents is actually a realistic thing to be dealt with as well: Self-driving car technology is on the verge of reality. Given that over 90% of RTAs are driver-error, the widespread adoption of this tech could potentially trigger a steep fall in the death rate over a short period of time. $\endgroup$
    – Simba
    Oct 19, 2017 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ I think you need to re-check your sources...gun deaths aren't in the top 10. And accidents are #4, take care of the top 3 first and you get a lot more bang for your buck. medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php $\endgroup$
    – Rdster
    Oct 19, 2017 at 15:37

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