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Consequences of a larger population and longer life


Will humans live longer and longer?
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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One problem that we... I hope we’ll have to face is that people can continue to live longer and longer. Let’s look at the longevity situation at the moment. And it’s pretty interesting because in the last 60 years or so – since penicillin and things like that, which go back to the 1940s – the average lifespan of a person in the so-called developed countries has been increasing roughly at one year every four – or three months per year, and so forth – so, if you take the 60 years since 1950, people are generally living 15 years longer. Which doesn’t seem like very much, but it’s the difference between 75 and 90. That sort of life expectancy. And that ought to keep increasing as medical discoveries are made. And there’s a big difference in the range of predictions about that. So that some optimists predict that there will be huge increases. Other... pessimists think that we may be reaching the limit of the easily controlled diseases and degenerative conditions and the fact is that virtually no one has lived past the age of 120. Just two or three people in recorded history have gotten to 123. And that doesn’t seem to be changing, but of course the records aren’t very good and one doesn’t know. But I think it will change and that longevity probably will grow and that’s very nice.

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016) was one of the pioneers of the field of Artificial Intelligence, founding the MIT AI lab in 1970. He also made many contributions to the fields of mathematics, cognitive psychology, robotics, optics and computational linguistics. Since the 1950s, he had been attempting to define and explain human cognition, the ideas of which can be found in his two books, The Emotion Machine and The Society of Mind. His many inventions include the first confocal scanning microscope, the first neural network simulator (SNARC) and the first LOGO 'turtle'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: life, ageing

Duration: 2 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 13 May 2011