(Ed. Note: For reader’s interested in Dr. Eliot’s ongoing business analyses about the advent of self-driving cars, see his online Forbes column: https://forbes.com/sites/lanceeliot/)
By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider
What is the secret to achieving old age?
Jeanne Calment, having lived to the age of 122, had attributed her longevity to her diet which was rich in olive oil.
Sarah DeRemer Knauss, an American supercentenarian, lived 119 years and credited her longevity to the aspect that she didn’t let things in life upset her. Indeed, when she first learned that she had become verified as longest known living person in modern history (at that point in time), she apparently said “so what?”
Or, you might find of interest the case of Susannah Jones, she happily consumed four strips of bacon for breakfast each morning, which was included with her scrambled eggs and grits, and was known to eat bacon throughout each day – she lived 116 years.
Does this mean that if you are desirous of reaching a ripe old age that you should rush out to buy lots of olive oil and bacon, along with adjusting your perspective about life to keep from getting upset?
Well, maybe. I can’t say for sure that this won’t help you, but nor can we say with any certainty that it will help you to make it into your hundreds.
One acrimonious debate about old age is whether you are born with the ability to reach it or whether it is your environment that can produce it.
Some say that it has to do with DNA. Your DNA either has some kind of longevity gene or it does not. If you weren’t born with it, you are out of luck in terms of trying to reach the topmost ages. Sorry to say. Of course, merely being born with the proclivity doesn’t guarantee it will bear out. You could perish in an earthquake, get hit by a car, or be involved in a war and die that way.
In this nature versus nurture debate, some would argue that your environment is the primary influencer for successfully reaching old age.
If you live in a place that provides a suitable climate, if you live nearby those that can help care for you when you get older, if you have medical assistance that can apply the latest life extending care, under these conditions you have a chance of achieving older age. Someone that might have a perfectly nature-designed old-age DNA can be readily wiped out sooner by living in a place and time that does not foster living to an older age.
Maybe both nature and nurture intertwine such that we cannot separate one factor from the other.
Perhaps the ultimate environment for aiding aging can keep anyone going, regardless if their genes were suitable per se. The person with super aging DNA maybe can tolerate an environment not quite as suitable and still make it. I’d guess this debate will continue for quite some time to come.
How Old Can We Become
Let’s shift the debate to another equally interesting question, namely whether there is a limit to how old someone can become?
For this question, I’m sure that most of us would say that yes, there has to be a limit. It seems unimaginable that you could just keep living and living and living.
Wouldn’t the human body just plain wear out?
We’ve seen many science fiction movies where they take someone’s brain and place it into another human’s body, a younger body, in order to achieve a kind of immortality.
A study published in Science magazine postulated that maybe we can keep doing things in our environment that can extend old age (see the article on mortality rates: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6396/1459).
Perhaps there is no limit per se.
Upon analyzing various mortality rates, they suggested that once you reach the age of 105 (yes, I think you will!), the mathematically imputed probability of death seems to stop increasing.
One interpretation is that we have not yet reached a limit and we have thus yet to know what the limit is.
This does not necessarily mean that life is going to be limitless in aging, but just that we haven’t found the end point as yet.
Others that have studied aging find this to be a bit off-target in terms of how the study was conducted and the kinds of interpretations to be made of it.
First, trying to assert that there’s no upper limit seems quite speculative and not really the spirit of the data that was collected and assessed.
Second, if suppose that one person can live to the age of 140, would that be construed that we all have a chance of doing so?
In other words, the statistical anomaly of someone out of the billions of people on this planet that happens to make it to some incredible older age should not be falsely used to suggest we all can, or that even many of us can, or even that a few can. It might be a lighting strike kind of occurrence.
However this old age debate ends-up faring, the general rule-of-thumb seems to be that for most of us, we can live to a ripe old age by eating right, watching our health, taking less risks, keep our bodies in shape, and keep our minds in shape.
This is not the secret formula to get you to the hundreds, and instead the traditional advice about how to keep going to some kind of older age.
Plus, as per the famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt, old age is like anything else, to make a success of it, you’ve got to start young. Presumably, if when younger you eat poorly, don’t watch your health, take high risks, don’t keep your body in shape, and don’t keep your mind sharp, trying to suddenly change your ways at a later age might be too late. The damage was already done, some say.
AI Autonomous Cars And Maximizing Human Life Spans
What does this have to do with AI self-driving driverless autonomous cars?
At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are developing AI systems for self-driving cars and also keenly interested in how self-driving cars will be used by society.
Here’s a thought provoking assertion: AI self-driving cars will help to maximize human life spans.
I’ve debated this topic at some industry conferences and thought you’d like to know about it.
There are already assertions that AI self-driving cars will reduce the number of car related deaths, which is considered one of the largest benefits to society for the advent of self-driving cars.
I agree that someday it is likely that AI self-driving cars will reduce the number of car related deaths, but I also claim that it is many years into the future and that for the foreseeable future it won’t materially impact the number of car related deaths. Indeed, I argue that this whole idea of “zero fatalities” is a gimmick and misleading or stated by those that are perhaps misinformed on the matter.
See my article about zero fatalities is zero chance: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/self-driving-cars-zero-fatalities-zero-chance/
Even if the advent of AI self-driving cars eliminated all car related deaths, you need to realize that the number of car related deaths per year in the United States is about 40,000.
There are about 325 million people in the United States.
As such, though every life is precious, the saving of 40,000 lives out of a population of 325 million is important but not something that will cure all deaths from happening.
There are an estimated 650,000 deaths each year in the U.S. due to heart disease, and another 600,000 deaths due to cancer. In theory, if we were only looking at number of deaths as a metric, we would say that we should take all the money spent toward AI self-driving cars and put it toward curing heart disease and cancer, since that has a much higher death rate than car related deaths.
The point here is that the AI self-driving car emergence will not presumably alter the likelihood of achieving older age by the act of reducing or eliminating deaths in the population.
That’s not going to move the needle on the old age achievement scale (though, allow me to emphasize that each life lost due to a car accident is a tragedy).
Mobility As A Factor In Longevity
What then might the AI self-driving car be able to do to advance our ages?
One aspect that is touted about AI self-driving cars is that it will increase the mobility of humans.
There are some that say we are going to become a mobility-as-an-economy type of society. With the access to 24×7 car transportation and an electronic chauffeur that will drive you wherever you want to go, it will mean that people today that aren’t readily mobile can become mobile. Kids that can’t drive today will be able to use an AI self-driving car to get them to school or to the playground or wherever they need to go.
The elderly that no longer are licensed to drive will be able to get out of their homes and no longer be homebound, doing so by making use of AI self-driving cars.
See my article about how AI self-driving cars will impact the elderly: https://aitrends.com/ethics-and-social-issues/elderly-boon-bust-self-driving-cars/
So, we can make the claim that via the use of more prevalent mobility, it could allow those that are older to be able to more readily visit with say medical advisers and ensure that their healthcare is being taken care of.
Need a trip to the local hospital? In today’s terms, it might be logistically prohibitive for the homebound elder to make such a trip. In contrast, presumably with ease they will be able to call forth an AI self-driving car that can give them a lift to the nearby medical care facility.
Access And Frequency Of Healthcare
Healthcare can also more readily come to them, including having clinicians that go around in AI self-driving cars and can visit with those that need medical assistance.
If you are willing to believe that having timely medical care is an important factor in achieving and maintaining older age, the AI self-driving car can be a catalyst for that to occur.
Boosting The Spirit And Reduce Isolation
Another case of how an AI self-driving car might contribute to the aging process in terms of prolonging life might be due to increased access to other humans and presumably gaining greater mental stimulation and joy in life.
Want to visit your grandchildren?
Rather than having to arrange for some convoluted logistics, you just get the AI self-driving car to take you to them.
Again, the reduced friction in mobility, some would say it is friction-less (I think that’s a tad over-the-top), allows for trying to keep both body and mind in shape.
Some say that isolation tends to lead to early deaths.
AI self-driving cars have the potential for increasing socialization and reducing isolation.
This is achieved by the ease of mobility. In addition, while in an AI self-driving car, it is predicted that AI self-driving cars will have all sorts of electronic communication capabilities, and during a journey you can be doing all kinds of Skype-like communication with others. Thus, even if in an AI self-driving car and all alone in doing so, you can actually be interacting with others during a driving trip.
Physical Fitness As A Factor
Another factor might be physical fitness.
If you are at home and isolated, you might not be inspired to do physical fitness.
Admittedly there are more and more in-the-home treadmills and bikes that will allow you to virtually interact with others across the globe, but this still doesn’t seem to be as meaningful and motivating as doing so in-person. With an AI self-driving car, you could readily get to some location whereby physical fitness with others is able to take place in-person. It might be to get you to the yoga shop or the local gym.
Food And Nutrition Importance
Food and nutrition seem to be a factor in extending life.
Once again, the mobility aspects of the AI self-driving car can assist.
We already have lots of ridesharing like services emerging today that will bring food to your home. The emergence of AI self-driving cars is going to certainly expand that capability. The so-called “boxes on wheels” will be food delivery vehicles that are being operated as AI self-driving cars. The ease of getting food delivered to your home will be simplified.
This all seems pretty good and an encouragement that AI self-driving cars might have another significant benefit to society, namely extending our life spans.
It is perhaps an indirect mechanism rather than a direct mechanism. I say this because the AI self-driving car itself is not per se extending life. It is the consequences of what the AI self-driving car can provide as capabilities that ties into the factors that presumably lead to longer lives.
I mention this because sometimes someone will argue that it is “unfair” to suggest that the AI self-driving car is extending our life spans – but it isn’t a pill that you swallow, it isn’t something you wear on your back like a special kind of cloak.
Yes, I agree, it’s what the AI self-driving car can otherwise do that counts here.
Other Side Of The Coin
As with anything that can be a benefit, the odds are that there will be potential unintended adverse consequences too.
The AI self-driving car could actually become a life limiter, rather than a life extender.
Suppose that the advent of AI self-driving cars allows people to take greater risks by having the AI self-driving car drive them to cliff diving or to parachute jumping.
You could use the mobility for purposes that put you at greater risk.
Maybe you have the self-driving car bring you fatty foods every day to home and to work. Perhaps you use the self-driving car to avoid having to contend with visitors by never being at home?
You might even become addicted to your AI self-driving car, which is unlikely to aid in your potential quest for longevity.
See my article about being addicted to AI self-driving cars: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/addicted-to-ai-self-driving-cars/
See my framework about AI self-driving cars: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/framework-ai-self-driving-driverless-cars-big-picture/
You’ve likely seen the famous sigmoid graph that shows the typical mortality rate for humans.
It’s a kind of “S” curve that starts up, then stays at a relatively constant rate of increase, and then tails off at the end.
Benjamin Gompertz was the famous mathematician that is most known as the formulator of the “law of mortality” and for which he asserted that the human rate of death is related to age as a sigmoid function. A variant is the Gompertz-Makeham law that includes the sum of age-independent components.
Is there perhaps no true ceiling for human aging?
Is the sky the limit?
Or, do we all have a stamped on us a perishable by date X that we don’t even know is there?
Gompertz’s indication that resistance to death decreases as the years increase might either be an immutable law of nature, or maybe it is something that we can defy or at least extend.
If you are looking for more reasons to want to have AI self-driving cars, one could be that it might aid our societal efforts to maximize our life spans.
Some might see this as a bit of a stretch and be upset that the AI self-driving car itself is not really doing this, and instead it is the consequence of what the AI self-driving car can possibly provide. Either way, it’s certainly an intriguing notion and one that might help us all as we struggle to get AI self-driving cars into suitable shape for aiding society.
The pain along the way might be worth the advantages it can provide once we get there.
I’ll see you on the other side of 150 years of age.
Copyright 2019 Dr. Lance Eliot
This content is originally posted on AI Trends.