If you want to break into the tech industry, a good area of focus is finding ways to help humans live longer. Some of the most auspicious areas of technology today include healthcare advancements such as the IoT and wearable tech, and for good reason.
Not more than 150 years ago, the average human lifespan was just about 40 years. Modern medicine has managed to double our average lifespan over the past 150 years by solving simple health problems and expanding treatment options. Who’s to say we couldn’t double it again in another 150 years by adding technology to the equation?
That’s the question that many of today’s technology companies are working to answer. Wearable tech, artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data are all lending their assistance to the goal of cheating death.
Many of the major players in today’s tech industry are on the ball, devoting millions of dollars toward life-extending initiatives. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has donated $50 million to Parkinson’s research, while Google’s umbrella company Alphabet has put more than $730 million toward Calico, a company singularly focused on lengthening the human lifespan. Jeff Bezos and Peter Thiel have entered the life extension game as well, funding Unity Biotechnology, a company designing drugs and treatments to keep aging individuals disease-free as long as possible.
Health Maintenance Through Telemedicine
Today, it’s easier than ever to manage our health. “The theme of healthcare is going to be changed completely through simple things like connecting data from heart monitors, blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, and even by understanding how someone’s moving around their house,” says Geoff Gross, founder and CEO of Medical Guardian. He believes connected care — that is, connected devices and the data they provide — will continue to transform healthcare for the better.
Virtual doctor visits and advances in wearable sensors all help us prioritize our well-being. The modern healthcare landscape makes connecting with our healthcare providers as easy as picking up a smartphone, tapping a wristwatch, or enabling a webcam.
Preventive care is the name of the game, and it’s where today’s tech really shines. We no longer have to wait until our yearly physical or rely on our own self-assessment to gauge the state of our bodies. Wearable tech and an aggregation of data from the population at large can begin to do the work of raising red flags for us, helping keep our bodies on a long-term path to wellness.
Harnessing Robotics and 3D Printing
While technology is improving practices for sustaining our bodies, it’s also helping us rebuild them. 3D printing advances are already hitting the market, helping us reconstruct worn-out pieces of our physical frames. 3D-printed organs and tissues and robotic replacements for failing organs are quickly taking a leading role in longevity efforts.
Robotics and 3D-printed human parts are likely to become commonplace therapies and may even help us enhance our human capabilities to become improved versions of ourselves. Robotics are being developed to perform surgeries, help patients relearn how to walk, and even transfer drugs and linens throughout hospitals.
It’s no secret that organ donor lists fall short; supply cannot meet demand. 3D printing is working to close that gap, too. The goal is that cells will be printed exactly where they’re needed to better treat burn victims, and replacement parts from earlobes to functioning organs will be printed on demand.
Treating the Mind, as Well as the Body
To really tackle longevity, though, tech efforts to develop medical monitoring and treatment options must extend beyond physical symptoms to treat not just the body, but also the mind. This need is all the more urgent because the average U.S. life expectancy has actually been declining in recent years, due in large part to unexpected spikes in drug overdoses and suicides. The body is important, but if we want to live longer, we must also manage our mental health.
Telepsychiatric services are at the forefront of mental health advancements, and they remain a promising potential tool for treating addiction and helping those at risk of suicide. The “2019 State of Mental Health” report by Mental Health America found that 56 percent of individuals with mental health problems are still not receiving treatment. Introducing telepsychiatry removes a common barrier to treatment — namely, access to care — making individuals much more likely to seek the help they need.
While tech is making virtual mental health services available, the fact that health insurance providers aren’t always required to cover any of the cost presents an additional barrier for Americans. Thirty-two states have legislated that private insurance cover telemedicine in an effort to build a technological support system into standard medical care. Hopefully, this trend will continue to make the most of the tech available to us.
Improving Health Through Agtech
The benefits that technology can lend to our life extension efforts don’t stop at healthcare. Technology can also improve food production and keep our populations well-fed and healthy.
The quality and quantity of food available throughout the world today is an impressive feat of modern agriculture. As the average lifespan lengthens, however, our population will undoubtedly grow. This means we must learn how to develop more nutritious, bountiful, and longer-keeping food on less land.
Smart farming is now possible with the use of new technological solutions such as drones, AI, and other monitoring systems that can help manage crops and livestock and collect data that can be used to improve future farming practices. Companies are cropping up everywhere (no pun intended) with new technologies to improve efficiency and productivity in agriculture. For example, Harvest CROO automates strawberry harvesting, GreenIQ automates sprinkler systems, and Plantix evaluates soil conditions.
Until recently, hunger and starvation had been on the decline. Sadly, the number of people facing food insecurity has risen around the world in recent years. The market for ag-optimizing tech is growing, and it’s poised to become not just a passion project, but a must-have if we hope to support a growing population.
Some of our biggest tech moguls are tuning in to the life extension effort, and any tech company willing to tackle the challenge will have no shortage of peers to keep it company. A future where we no longer have to say early goodbyes to loved ones is more than a pipe dream. In today’s tech industry, another game-changing increase to the average lifespan could be no more than a few technological hurdles short of a promise.