L.A. Gavrilov, N.S. Gavrilova

A common objection against starting a large-scale biomedical war on aging is the fear of catastrophic population consequences (overpopulation). This fear is only exacerbated by the fact that no detailed demographic projections for radical life extension scenario were conducted so far. What would happen with population numbers if aging-related deaths are significantly postponed or even eliminated? Is it possible to have a sustainable population dynamics in a future hypothetical non-aging society? This study explores different demographic scenarios and population projections, in order to clarify what could be the demographic consequences of a successful biomedical war on aging.

Analysis of already existing computer programs for population projections revealed that many of them are based on short-sighted assumptions of small incremental changes in human life span, and they do not allow making detailed projections for the oldest age groups of the population (which are often collapsed into one single 85+ year category). For this reason, many already existing computer programs of population projections are not well suited for the purpose of this project. Therefore, with the support of the Methuselah/SENS foundation, a new demographic projection software has been developed in this study, which was then validated for consistency of results with traditional approaches. This new demographic software is based on generally accepted cohort-component method of population projections. A number of different demographic projections is considered in this project, assuming several scenarios of life extension.

A general conclusion of this study is that population changes are surprisingly slow in their response to a dramatic life extension. For example, we applied the cohort-component method of population projections to 2005 Swedish population for several scenarios of life extension and a fertility schedule observed in 2005. Even for very long 50-year projection horizon, with the most radical life extension scenario (assuming no aging at all after age 50), the total population increases by 35 percent only (from 9.1 to 13.3 million). Moreover, if some members of the society reject to use new anti-aging technologies for some religious or any other reasons (inconvenience, non-compliance, fear of side effects, costs, etc.), then the total population size may even decrease over time. Thus, even in the case of the most radical life extension scenario, population growth could be relatively slow and may not necessarily lead to overpopulation. Therefore, the real concerns should be placed not on the threat of catastrophic population consequences (overpopulation), but rather on such potential obstacles to a success of biomedical war on aging, as scientific, organizational and financial limitations.

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Keywords (Optional): 
demographic projections
cohort-component method
war on aging
SENS Research Themes: 
Ending Aging: