"You have more years ahead of you than your peers in past centuries." How long can we live
"You have more years ahead of you than your peers in past centuries." How long can we live

Thank you very much for the progress.

"You have more years ahead of you than your peers in past centuries." How long can we live
"You have more years ahead of you than your peers in past centuries." How long can we live

If you are worried that environmental problems or unnatural foods are shortening your life expectancy, you should read the new book by Stephen Pinker, a renowned scientist and popularizer of science.

In “The Enlightenment Continues. In defense of reason, science, humanism and progress”, he tells in detail that progress has not stopped - our life is still getting better. And longer. Pinker writes about this in the fifth chapter, which Lifehacker publishes with the permission of the publishing house "Alpina non-fiction".

The struggle for survival is the primary aspiration of all living things, and people use all their ingenuity and perseverance to postpone death as late as possible. “Choose life, so that you and your offspring may live,” the Old Testament God commanded. Rebel, rebel when the light fades, Dylan Thomas exclaimed. Long life is the highest good.

What do you think is the life expectancy of the average inhabitant of the planet today? Keep in mind that global averages reduce premature deaths from hunger and disease in densely populated developing countries, in particular infant deaths, which add many zeros to this statistic.

In 2015, the response from the World Health Organization. Global Health Observatory (GHO) data. was like this: 71, 4 years. Was your guess accurate? A recent study by Hans Rosling found that fewer than one Swede in four named such a large number, and this figure is not too different from the results of other surveys in which people in different countries were asked about their assumptions about life expectancy, as well as levels of literacy and poverty.

All of these polls were conducted by Rosling as part of his Ignorance project, whose logo depicts a chimpanzee, which he himself explained as follows: “If for each question I wrote the answer options on bananas and asked the chimpanzees in the zoo to choose the correct one, they would have done better than my respondents. These respondents, including students and professors in global health departments, were less ignorant than vicious pessimism.

Life expectancy, 1771–2015
Life expectancy, 1771–2015

Shown in fig. Chart 5-1, compiled by Max Roser, shows the change in life expectancy over the centuries and reveals a general trend in world history. In the leftmost part of the figure, that is, in the middle of the 18th century, life expectancy in Europe and the Americas was about 35 years, and this indicator remained almost unchanged for all those previous 225 years for which we have Roser, M. 2016. Life expectancy. Our World in Data; estimates for England 1543: R. Zijdeman, OECD Clio Infra. data. In the whole world, life expectancy was then 29 years.

Similar values are typical for almost the entire history of mankind. Hunter-gatherers lived an average of 32.5 years, and among the peoples who were the first to take up agriculture, this period was probably shortened due to the starch-rich diet and diseases that people picked up from their livestock and from each other.

In the Bronze Age, life expectancy returned to mid-thirties and remained Hunters and Gatherers: Marlowe 2010, p. 160. Estimates are given for Hadza where infant and child mortality rates (largely explaining the variation among most populations) are identical to the average in the Marlowe sample of 478 gatherer tribes (p. 261). From the Early Farmers to the Iron Age: Galor, O., & Moav, O. 2007. The neolithic origins of contemporary variations in life expectancy. No Improvement in Thousands of Years: Deaton, A. 2013. The Great Escape: Health, wealth, and the origins of inequality, p. 80. such for millennia with small fluctuations in individual centuries and in certain regions. This period of human history, which can be called the Malthusian era, is a time when the effect of any progress in agriculture and medicine was quickly nullified by the subsequent sharp increase in population, although the word "era" is hardly appropriate for 99.9% of the life of our species …

But since the 19th century, the world began its Great Escape - this term was coined by Angus Deaton, describing the deliverance of mankind from the legacy of poverty, disease and early death. Life expectancy began to rise, and in the 20th century the rate of this growth increased and still shows no signs of decline.

Economic history scholar Johan Norberg notes Norberg, J. 2016. Progress: Ten reasons to look forward to the future, pp. 46 and 40. that it seems to us that "with every year of life we are approaching death by a year, but during the 20th century, the average person in a year approached death by only seven months." It is especially gratifying that the gift of a long life is becoming available to all people, including those in the poorest regions of the world, where this is happening at a much faster rate than it once was in rich countries.

Johan Norberg Specialist in the history of economics.

Life expectancy in Kenya has increased by almost ten years from 2003 to 2013. Living, loving, and fighting for a decade, the average Kenyan hasn't lost a single year of his life in the end. Everyone became ten years older, but death did not come a step closer.

As a result, the inequalities in life expectancy that arose during the Great Escape, when a few of the wealthiest powers took the lead, are blurring as other countries catch up. In 1800, no country in the world had a life expectancy of more than 40 years. In Europe and the Americas, it had grown to 60 by 1950, leaving Africa and Asia far behind.

But since then, in Asia, this indicator began to grow at a rate twice as fast as in Europe, and in Africa - one and a half times as much. An African born today will, on average, live the same as a person born in North or South America in the 1950s or in Europe in the 1930s. This figure would have been higher were it not for the catastrophic AIDS epidemic, which caused a monstrous decline in life expectancy in the 1990s - until the disease was controlled with antiretroviral drugs.

This recession, fueled by the African AIDS epidemic, serves as a reminder that progress is not an escalator that continually raises the quality of life for all people around the world. It would be magic, and progress is the result of problem solving, not magic. Problems are inevitable, and at different times, parts of humanity have faced nightmarish setbacks.

Thus, in addition to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, life expectancy was decreasing Influenza pandemic: Roser, M. 2016. Life expectancy. Our World in Data. American White Mortality: Case, A., & Deaton, A. 2015. Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. among young people around the world during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919; and among non-Hispanic and middle-aged white Americans with no college degrees in the early 21st century.

But problems have solutions, and the fact that life expectancy continues to increase across all other demographics in Western societies shows that the problems facing underprivileged white Americans are also fixable.

Life expectancy is increasing most of all due to the reduction in mortality among newborns and children - firstly, because of the fragility of children's health, and secondly, because the death of a child reduces the average rate more than the death of a 60-year-old. Rice. Figures 5-2 show what happened to infant mortality since the Enlightenment in five countries that can be considered more or less typical of their continents.

Life expectancy of children
Life expectancy of children

Take a look at the numbers on the vertical axis: this is the percentage of children under 5 years of age. Yes, in the middle of the 19th century in Sweden, one of the richest countries in the world, from a quarter to a third of all children died before their fifth birthday, and in some years this proportion was close to half. In the history of mankind, such figures seem to be something ordinary: a fifth of the children of hunter-gatherers died Marlowe, F. 2010. The Hadza: Hunter atherers of Tanzania, p. 261. in the first year of life, and about half - before puberty.

The jumps in the curve until the beginning of the 20th century reflect not only random fluctuations in data, but also the unpredictability of then life: a sudden visit of an old woman with a scythe could be caused by an epidemic, war or famine.

Tragedies were not spared and quite wealthy families: Charles Darwin lost two children in infancy, and his beloved daughter Annie at the age of 10.

And then an amazing thing happened. The infant mortality rate fell a hundred times, to a fraction of a percent in developed countries, from where this trend spread to the whole world. Deaton wrote Deaton, A. 2013. The Great Escape: Health, wealth, and the origins of inequality, p. 56. in 2013: "Today there is not a single country in the world where the infant and child mortality rate was not lower than in 1950."

In sub-Saharan Africa, child mortality rates fell from one in four in the 1960s to less than one in ten in 2015, and the global rate fell from 18% to 4% - still too much, but it will surely become less if the current trend towards improving the quality of healthcare throughout the world continues.

There are two important facts behind these numbers. The first is demographic: the fewer children die, the fewer children are married to couples who no longer need to reinsure themselves against the loss of all their offspring.

Therefore, the concern that a reduction in child mortality will lead to a "population explosion" (the main reason for the environmental panic in the 1960s and 1970s, when calls were made to limit medical care in developing countries), as time has shown, is unfounded - the case Situation Decreasing the volume of care: N. Kristof, Birth Control for Others, New York Times, March 23, 2008. just the opposite.

The second fact is personal. Losing a child is one of the hardest experiences a person can experience. Imagine one such tragedy; Now try to imagine it a million more times. This will be a quarter of those children who did not die in the past one year, but would die if they were born fifteen years earlier. Now repeat this exercise about two hundred more times - according to the number of years when infant mortality is declining. Graphs like those shown in Fig. Figures 5-2 show the triumph of human prosperity, the scale of which is defiantly beyond comprehension.

It is also difficult to appreciate the coming victory of man over another example of the cruelty of nature - over maternal mortality. The invariably merciful God of the Old Testament spoke to the first woman like this: “By multiplying I will multiply your sorrow in your pregnancy; in illness you will give birth to children. Until recently, approximately 1% of women died in childbirth; a century ago, pregnancy was represented by M. Housel, 50 Reasons We’re Living Through the Greatest Period in World History, Motley Fool, Jan. 29, 2014. for an American woman, about the same danger as now - breast cancer. Rice. Figures 5–3 show the change in maternal mortality since 1751 in four countries typical of their regions.

Human Life Expectancy: Maternal Mortality, 1751-2013
Human Life Expectancy: Maternal Mortality, 1751-2013

Since the end of the 18th century, the rate of such mortality in Europe has decreased three hundred times, from 1.2% to 0.004%. This decline has spread to other parts of the world, including the poorest countries, where maternal mortality rates have declined even more rapidly, but due to a late start for a shorter time. For the whole world, this indicator, having fallen almost twice over the past 25 years, is now equal to the World Health Organization. 2015. Trends in maternal mortality, 1990 to 2015.0, 2% - about the same as in Sweden in 1941.

You may be wondering if the drop in infant mortality does not explain the entire rise in life expectancy shown in Fig. 5-1. Are we really living longer, or are we just much more likely to survive as infants? After all, just because until the beginning of the 19th century, life expectancy was 30 years, does not mean that everyone fell dead on their thirtieth birthday.

A large number of child deaths dragged the statistics down, overlapping the contribution of those who died of old age - but there are elderly people in any society. According to the Bible, “the days of our years are seventy years”, and Socrates was the same in 399 BC. e., when he accepted death - not from natural causes, but after drinking a cup of hemlock. Most hunter-gatherer tribes have enough old people in their seventy or even eighty. At birth, a Hadza woman has a life expectancy of 32.5 years, but when she reaches forty-five she can count on Marlowe, F. 2010. The Hadza: Hunter atherers of Tanzania, p. 160. for another 21 years.

So are those of us who have experienced the trials of infancy and childhood living longer than those who have done the same in previous eras? Yes, much longer. Rice. Figures 5-4 show the life expectancy of a Briton at birth and at different ages from 1 to 70 years over the past three centuries.

Life expectancy: UK 1701-2013
Life expectancy: UK 1701-2013

It doesn't matter how old you are - you still have more years ahead of you than your peers of past decades and centuries. A child who survived a dangerous first year would live to an average of 47 in 1845, 57 in 1905, 72 in 1955, and 81 in 2011. A thirty-year-old man could expect to live another 33 years in 1845, 36 years in 1905, 43 years in 1955, and 52 years in 2011. If Socrates had been pardoned in 1905, he could have counted on nine more years of life, in 1955 - ten, in 2011 - sixteen. In 1845, an eighty-year-old man had five more years in reserve, in 2011 - nine.

Similar trends, although not (so far) with such great indicators, can be observed in all regions of the world. For example, a ten-year-old Ethiopian boy born in 1950 was expected to live on average to 44; today, a ten-year-old Ethiopian boy can expect to die at 61.

Stephen Reidlet The Economist.

The improvement in the health of the world's poor over the past few decades has been so great in scale and scope that it can be called one of the greatest achievements of humankind. It is very rare that the basic well-being of such a large number of people around the world is improving so much and so quickly. Yet very few people even realize that this is happening.

And no, these additional years are not given to us to sit powerlessly in a rocking chair. Of course, the longer we live, the more time we spend in a state of old age with all its inevitable sores and hardships. But bodies that are better at coping with the onslaught of death are better able to cope with less dire adversities like illness, injury, and general wear and tear. The longer our life is, the longer we remain energetic, even if the size of these winnings does not coincide.

A heroic project called the Global Burden of Disease attempted to measure this improvement by counting not only the number of people who die from each of the 291 diseases, but also the number of years of healthy life lost by patients, taking into account how much that or another disease affects their condition. According to the project, in 1990, on average in the world, a person could count on 56.8 years of a healthy life out of 64.5 in general. By 2010, at least in developed countries, for which such statistics are already available, from 4, 7 years that we added Healthy life expectancy in the world in 1990: Mathers, CD, Sadana, R., Salomon, JA, Murray, CJL, & Lopez, AD 2001. Healthy life expectancy in 191 countries, 1999. The Lancet. Healthy life expectancy in developed countries in 2010: Murray, C. J. L., et al. (487 coauthors). 2012. Disability djusted life years (DALYs) for 291 diseases and injuries in 21 regions, 1990–2010: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease study 2010. The Lancet; Chernew, M., Cutler, D. M., Ghosh, K., & Landrum, M. B. 2016. Understanding the improvement in disability free life expectancy in the U. S. elderly population. Healthy life expectancy, as opposed to life expectancy, has risen in the United States in recent years. over these two decades, 3, 8 were healthy.

Figures like these show that people today live in good health longer than our ancestors in total. In the perspective of a very long life, the threat of dementia looks the most frightening, but even here we are waiting for a pleasant discovery: from 2000 to 2012, the probability of this disease among Americans over 65 decreased by a quarter, and the average age at making such a diagnosis rose G. Kolata, U. S. Dementia Rates Are Dropping Even as Population Ages, New York Times, Nov. 21, 2016. from 80, 7 to 82, 4 years.

The good news doesn't end there. The curves in Fig. 5–4 are not the threads of your life, which two moiraes unwound and measure, but the third one will cut off one day. Rather, it is a projection of today's statistics, based on the assumption that medical knowledge will be frozen in its current state. Not that anyone really believes this, but since we are unable to predict the future of health care, we are left with no choice.

This means that you can most likely expect to live to a more solid age - perhaps much more solid - than what you see on the vertical axis.

People will find cause for dissatisfaction in everything, and in 2001 George W. Bush created the Bush Administration's Bioethics Council: Pinker, S. 2008. The stupidity of dignity. New Republic, May 28. Bioethics Council to Address the President's Threat to Biology and Medicine Advances in Health and Longevity. Council chairman - physician and public intellectual Leon Kass - stated L. R. Kass, L'Chaim and Its Limits: Why Not Immortality? First Things, May 2001. that "the desire to prolong youth is an expression of an infantile and narcissistic desire, incompatible with concern for the welfare of future generations" and that the added years to our lives will not be worth it. ("Will a professional tennis player really be happy to play a quarter more matches in his life?" He asked.)

Most people will choose to decide this for themselves, and even if Cass is right that “life matters because of its finiteness,” longevity does not imply immortality at all. However, the fact that experts' claims about the maximum possible life expectancy have been repeatedly refuted (on average, five years after publication), makes one wonder whether the human life expectancy will grow. Forecast of life expectancy is constantly growing: Oeppen, J. & Vaupel, JW 2002. Broken limits to life expectancy. Science. unlimitedly and will he slip out one day beyond the dark edge of our mortal destiny. Should we worry in advance about a world inhabited by boring old people aged several centuries, dissatisfied with the innovations of ninety-year-old upstarts and who are ready to completely forbid giving birth to these annoying children?

Several Silicon Valley visionaries are trying the Engineering Approach to Mortality: M. Shermer, Radical Life-Extension Is Not Around the Corner, Scientific American, Oct. 1, 2016; Shermer 2018. to bring this world of the future closer. They fund research institutes that seek not to gradually fight death, conquering one disease after another, but to reverse the aging process itself, to update our cellular equipment to a version without this bug.

As a result, they hope to increase the duration of human life by fifty, one hundred, or even a thousand years. In his 2005 bestseller The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil predicts that those of us who live to 2045 will live forever thanks to advances in genetics, nanotechnology (for example, nanobots that will circulate through our blood system and restore the body from the inside) and artificial intelligence, which will not only figure out how to achieve all this, but will recursively and endlessly develop itself.

For readers of medical journals and other hypochondriacs, the prospects for immortality look markedly different. We, of course, rejoice at individual incremental improvements like a reduction in cancer deaths of about 1% per year over the past twenty-five years, which in the United States alone has saved Siegel, R., Naishadham, D., & Jemal, A. 2012 Cancer statistics, 2012. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 62. Lives of a Million People.

But we also regularly get frustrated with wonder drugs that work no better than placebos, treatments with side effects worse than the disease itself, and sensational advances that crumble to dust when meta-analyzes are conducted. Medical progress in our time resembles Sisyphean labor more than a singularity.

Without the gift of prophecy, we cannot say whether scientists will one day find a cure for death. But evolution and entropy make such a development unlikely.

Aging is embedded in our genome at every level of organization because natural selection prefers the genes that make us energetic when we are young, rather than those that keep us alive longer. This imbalance is due to the asymmetry of time: at any moment there is a certain possibility that we will become the victim of an unavoidable accident, such as a lightning strike or an avalanche, which will nullify the usefulness of any costly gene for longevity. To open the way for us to immortality, biologists would have to reprogram thousands of genes or molecular pathways, each of which possesses a skepticism about immortality: Hayflick, L. 2002. The future of aging. Nature; Shermer, M. 2018. Heavens on earth: The scientific search for the afterlife, immortality, and utopia. small and imprecisely defined impact on life expectancy.

And even if we had such a perfectly tuned biological equipment, the onslaught of entropy would still undermine it. As the physicist Peter Hoffman put it, "life is a deadly battle between biology and physics." In their chaotic shuffling, molecules constantly spoil the mechanisms of our cells, including the very mechanisms that fight entropy, correcting errors and repairing damage.

As damage accumulates in the various systems designed to control damage, the risk of collapse increases exponentially. Sooner or later entropy will destroy us: P. Hoffmann, Physics Makes Aging Inevitable, Not Biology, Nautilus, May 12, 2016. to the fact that any protection invented by biomedical sciences against constantly looming dangers like cancer or organ failure …

In my opinion, the outcome of our centuries-old war with death is best predicted by Stein's law: "What cannot last forever will end sooner or later," but with Davis's addition: "What cannot last forever can last much longer. what you think."

The book about human life expectancy "Enlightenment continues"
The book about human life expectancy "Enlightenment continues"

"The Enlightenment Continues" is Bill Gates' new favorite book, and is also praised by political scientist Ekaterina Shulman and renowned biologist Richard Dawkins. You might like it too.