People didn’t live very long before the 19th century. The average life expectancy before the year 1800 fluctuated between 30 and 40 years old and saw no trend upwards. It was only from 1850, the time of the Industrial Revolution, that life expectancy increased dramatically across large parts of the world. Life expectancy in the UK today averages around 79 for men and 82 for women. Japan has the highest life expectancy, with men at 81 and women at 87. Japan also has the highest percentage of centenarians, with 0.048% of its population over a hundred years old.

People started living longer in the 19th and 20th century because far fewer children died young, we built homes that were better insulated, ate better food and started washing our hands (amongst other new sanitary habits).

But I’m not interested in past or current life expectancy. Nor am I interested in how we could push current life expectancy a few years further. I’m interested in whether we can beat aging and become immortal.

Aubrey de Grey, co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation, explains in his 2005 TED talk how we can beat aging and why we should talk about it. It’s a TED talk well worth watching, if only to get a better understanding of de Grey’s flamboyant personality. He believes we will be able to stay alive for hundreds of years, not because we will suddenly understand how to be immortal, but because science will progress faster than our biological bodies will age.

This idea is called the Longevity Escape Velocity (LEV). Everyone currently around 50 years old will likely just about make it. When you’re 50 years old, science is projected to add more than 30 years of life to the average lifespan, before 30 years have passed.

So how can we prolong our lifespan and speed up the LEV? I believe we will increasingly alter our bodies to become less biological, until we are entirely independent of the vessels of our bodies. This might sound strange, but we already alter our bodies with foreign substances such as drugs, stitches, pacemakers and titanium metal. The transition will continue to be entirely natural, and swallowing nanobots to destroy cancer cells will be as normal as taking a pill.

Additionally, the line between real and digital life is becoming very blurry. We externalize our knowledge to Google Maps and Evernote. We find love on Tinder (arguably) and we live through social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram. It’s as if we almost create a real-time copy of ourselves digitally.

Fast forward a few decades and I can imagine a future where we upload our thoughts to a server connected to the Internet. We would get rid of our biological body altogether and so also of our biological age limit. Our existence would be entirely digital, although I’m sure we would be able to temporarily inhabit bodies just for the pleasure of physicality.

Apart from digitizing ourselves and merging with technology, we will also strongly enhance our current capabilities by merging with the powers of artificial intelligence. Not only would this mitigate the danger of AI taking over humanity (because it wouldn’t be a separate entity), but the increased brainpower would allow us to find solutions to some of the complex logistical and ethical problems that would arise if we lived hundreds of years.

The above is of course entirely speculative. However, it’s a possible future that I’m excited about. It would be so incredibly strange.