Being able to live for ever sounds like a concept that belongs on the pages of a science-fiction novel, one as implausible as time travel or becoming invisible.
However, that could all be about to change, according to a guest at the Dubai Future Forum.
Futurist Dr Jose Cordeiro said anyone who is still alive by the year 2030 has a good chance of living for ever.
Dr Cordeiro told the forum that the key to immortality was finding a way to reverse the ageing process.
“We are very close to figuring it out. Ageing is a technical problem that we understand and can probably reverse,” he said, speaking to The National on the sidelines of the forum.
“It’s a likelihood that people will soon be able to live for ever, rather than a possibility.
“I personally don’t plan to die.”
While his remarks might sound like pie in the sky, humans are gradually living longer.
According to James C Riley, professor and author of several books on the global history of health, between 1800 and 2000 life expectancy rose from about 30 years to a global average of 67 years, and more than 75 years in some countries.
This dramatic change was called a health transition, characterised by a change both in how long people expected to live, and how they expected to die.
The logical next step
The increase in life expectancy, with people now living an average of more than 70 years, is often attributed to medical advancements, improved diets and better awareness of harmful habits.
Dr Cordeiro was adamant that immortality is simply the next logical step in the human journey and that stopping the ageing process is a matter of simple engineering.
“We never used to be able to fly but now we’ve even been able to go to the Moon,” he said.
One critical event that needs to happen in the race for immortality is reaching what is known as "longevity escape velocity".
This refers to a situation where life expectancy is improving at a rate faster than people are ageing.
That point could be reached as soon as 2029, according to Dr Cordeiro, meaning everyone alive afterwards could theoretically live for ever.
The immortal jellyfish
The solution to finding a way to live for ever could lie in our oceans, he said.
Last month, researchers at Spain’s University of Oviedo sequenced the genome of the Turritopsis dohrnii, more commonly referred to as the immortal jellyfish.
The moniker is no coincidence as the creature, which is smaller than the nail on the smallest human finger, is able to reverse its lifespan.
It does this by shrinking in on itself when physically damaged or experiencing stresses such as starvation, reabsorbing its tentacles and losing the ability to swim, according to the UK’s National History Museum.
It then settles on the ocean floor in a blob-like cyst before re-emerging in a new body within 36 hours.
“We are studying why there are certain life forms that do not age. Now that we are able to study the immortal jellyfish, we will be discovering things very quickly,” Dr Cordeiro said.
One of the major issues will be humanity coming to terms with the possibility of living for ever, after millennia of living with the knowledge that death was an inevitability.
“There are mental issues that need to be resolved as we have become accustomed to the fact we will all die, since the beginning of humanity. But it does not need to be that way any more,” he said.
Super wealthy pushing progress forward
He pointed to the work being carried by high-profile tech-billionaires into anti-ageing as another example of how immortality could be around the corner.
Last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos invested in Altos Labs, a start-up with the goal of extending human life.
In 2016, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced a $3 billion plan to erase all diseases by 2100, while in the same year Microsoft said it was using computer science to “solve cancer” within a decade.
Earlier in the week, a UAE medical group unveiled plans to help the population reach a life expectancy of 101.
Pure Health chief executive Farhan Malik announced a scheme to make Abu Dhabi a centre of research when it came to longevity.
At an event in Louvre in Abu Dhabi he said that “when we talk about longevity, we don't just mean increasing lifespan but making people healthier for longer”.
Over the past decade, billions of dollars have been invested in anti-ageing research, with Google's Calico, the American National Institute on Ageing and Saudi Arabia's Hevolution Foundation being some of the names in the industry.