How Long Will We Live in 2069?
Naked mole rats, the Church of Perpetual Life, and the quest to discover what the future holds for the human lifespan
There was a time when San Diego’s Town and Country resort was considered a posh destination. These days, it’s best known for its marquee along Interstate 8, which features one-liners like “There’s no way that everyone was kung fu fighting” and “Welcome archery conference — free ear piercing.”
When I visited in September 2018, the property felt suspended between nostalgia and oblivion. Huge swaths of the late-1960’s-era complex, including the fitness center and hundreds of rooms, were shuttered in preparation for a massive renovation. The areas in operation were decorated with a hodgepodge of kitsch: A large Ron Burgundy poster hung on the wall by the front desk, a flock of plastic lawn flamingos were planted in a patch of artificial turf, and faded pop-art murals painted the elevator doors.
But for the approximately 1,000 people who had paid between $395 and $1,995 to attend the third annual Revolution Against Aging and Death Festival, or RAADfest, the visit to Town and Country was their ticket to a virtually endless future. “We’re on a mission,” James Strole, RAADfest’s fast-talking, silver-haired impresario, told the assembled crowd at the event’s opening ceremony. “We’re creating a new world together — a world without pain, sickness, and death.”
Strole wasn’t speaking hyperbolically. Within the next few decades, he said, it will be normal for people to live for hundreds of years in perfect health. “We’re not talking about life in some decrepit state. We’re talking about life getting better and better and better,” he told his audience, most of whom were already well into their retirement years. “Everybody in this room has that opportunity, no matter what condition you’re in. Your body is miraculous, and it can be turned around.”
Strole was followed onstage by a colorful collection of stem cell cowboys, transhumanists, and robot enthusiasts. The weekend’s biggest draws included Aubrey de Grey, a biogerontologist and anti-death evangelist known for an unruly beard that stretches below his chest and his claim that the first human to live to 1,000 is already living among us; Bill…