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The Future of Health

A healthcare revolution is under way. But what will the social, political and financial impact be when people start to live to 150 and beyond?

What if doctors no longer played God and you became CEO of your own health?

What if medicine were tailor-made for your own DNA?

What will the world be like when people start living to 150 – or even forever? If only the wealthy can afford super-longevity, will the growing gap between rich and poor lead to a new form of social inequality?

These are some of the questions Intelligence Squared explored in The Future of Health: When Death Becomes Optional. Massive change is already under way. New tools, tests and apps are taking healthcare away from the professionals and into the hands of the individual. Wearable devices which monitor our fitness and activities are already ubiquitous. Before long they will be superseded by ‘insideables’ – chips planted just under our skin – and ‘ingestibles’ – tiny sensor pills that we swallow. The plummeting cost of DNA profiling means we will soon be entering the era of truly personalised medicine – the right drug for the right person at the right time – instead of the same drug for everybody.

All this means that we will be living longer, healthier lives. Some of the world’s top scientists believe that ageing itself can be treated as a disease, and the race is on to find a ‘cure’. Google and other Silicon Valley giants are pouring billions into longevity research, hoping that they can find the elusive cause of ageing and deactivate it, putting an end to the age-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimers that we tend to die of. If they succeed, the first person to live to 150 may have already been born. And an elite handful of very wealthy tech entrepreneurs have even more ambitious dreams: to make death just another medical problem which technology will sooner or later disrupt.

But what will defying ageing and death mean for society? What will be the impact on our financial, social and environmental resources when people start living well into their ‘second century’? And what will our democracies look like when old people are in the majority and start voting for all the privileges to be channelled to themselves?



Dr Xand van Tulleken

Doctor and television broadcaster

Doctor and television broadcaster. He has presented numerous science shows for the BBC and Channel 4, often alongside his twin brother Chris. He has a background in humanitarian medicine and has recently been volunteering with humanitarian aid groups whose skills are now required on the streets of Britain. His books include How to Lose Weight Well: Keep Weight Off Forever, the Healthy, Simple Way.

Dr Daniel Kraft

Physician-scientist, inventor and entrepreneur

Faculty chair for the Medicine and Exponential Medicine program at Singularity University, a Californian enterprise which aims to help global leaders leverage exponential technologies to develop solutions to humanity’s most difficult challenges.

João Pedro de Magalhães

Reader in ageing, University of Liverpool

Senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool where he leads the Integrative Genomics of Ageing Group. His work focuses on the genetic, cellular, and molecular mechanisms of the ageing process and how we can manipulate it to fend off age-related diseases and improve human health.

Professor Tony Young

NHS’s National Clinical Director for Innovation

The NHS’s National Clinical Director for Innovation (known as ‘the NHS’s disrupter-in-chief’). His work focuses on how big data can be used to innovate at scale.