What if you could hit the pause button on ageing? Live to 120 without feeling a day over 80? More radical still, what if you could cheat death? Would you do it? “Life extensionists” would. That’s the name modern immortality seekers now go by, and devotees range from those who’d like to live healthier lives into old age to the more extreme, who ardently believe that humans can, and should, overcome death the same way we’ve overcome, say, smallpox or tooth decay. Life expectancy for women in Australia has risen steadily from 74 in the 1960s to 84.5 today*. But life extensionists want more. They want to be cognitively and physically healthy for decades, if not centuries.
Life extensionist is, by nature, an ambiguous term. The spectrum ranges from health nuts to scientists who want to slow down, or possibly reverse, ageing through processes such as cell regeneration. And, overall, the movement is growing – especially among the tech set and Goop enthusiasts.
The pitch for immortality is everywhere: from supplement companies spruiking nootropics (aka “brain drugs”) to Ambrosia, a Silicon Valley start-up charging baby boomers around $10,300 for blood transfusions from under-25s. It’s all just a small part of the booming wellness industry, which has become a roughly US$3.7 trillion market. The field of ageing research has advanced significantly in the past few decades. Scientists have discovered specific longev