More evenly distributed - The future of longevity and what it means for businesses

In this interesting TED talk by futurist Ray Kurzweil, he talks about the "singularity", the point where human intelligence and machine intelligence are merged. This is one of the longer-term pathways we're heading towards and certainly one of the big stepping stones in the increasing capacity of AI. One consequence of having incredibly intelligent machines, is the ability for those machines to play a part in creating even more advanced machines.

This is what is known as "escape velocity", a term borrowed from physics, where something is able to outrun its constraints.

What is interesting is how advanced AI, plus advanced health care technologies may influence longevity. Futurists and demographers love to point out that demographics trump all other factors. But this assumption gets overturned if what we think are the normal constraints on longevity are completely obliterated.

We do know that as the baby boomer generation heads into the last phase of their life, fully exiting the workforce and consuming a massive amount of economic potential as they try to extend their lifespans, that what we know about longevity could change.

And this is something that businesses should be preparing for today.

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Focus Issue - The future of longevity and what it means for businesses

The world is on the cusp of significant advances in longevity. Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that by the early 2030s, humans will have the capacity of a large language model inside their brains and that we are approaching longevity escape velocity, where life expectancy increases by more than a year per year. The field of biogerontology is making strides in understanding the genetic modifications that can extend lifespan and healthspan by focusing on gerontogenes, genes involved in DNA repair, insulin/IGF-1 and mTOR signalling pathways, long non-coding RNAs, sirtuins, and heat shock proteins.

These advances in longevity will have profound implications for businesses and the economy. Addressing the leading causes of death like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes could lead to blockbuster drugs and huge market opportunities. Longevity can also improve every other industry by keeping customers alive and increasing their lifetime value. Society has a choice to spend trillions on early death or make trillions by investing in extending healthspans.

The aging population and declining birth rates mean that businesses need to adapt to cater to older consumers. The 50+ demographic holds significant purchasing power that companies can tap into by updating their sales and marketing strategies. Caddis eyeglasses has successfully embraced this "Q3" consumer market.

The workforce is also aging, with a projected increase in employees over 55. Companies need to become longevity fluent in their culture and systems to effectively recruit, retain and develop older talent. Schneider Electric's "Future Ready" program engages and personalises career plans for its "Q3" employees. Combating ageism in the workplace will require diversity training, legal pressure and other solutions.

To prepare for this longevity economy, businesses need to build longevity literacy in leadership, become longevity fluent in culture, and update systems to be intergenerational. Portugal's Catolica Lisbon business school has launched the first executive program focused on the implications of increased longevity. The changes brought by longevity will impact everyone, not just the elderly, and present opportunities to improve life for all ages.

In a post-singularity world, the fusion of humans and technology will be critical. While the future may be deterministic, it is ultimately unknowable until it unfolds, even for AI. The limits to growth are not yet foreseeable. Businesses that recognise the opportunities of increased longevity and adapt their strategies for older consumers and workers will be well-positioned to thrive in the coming longevity economy. The implications are profound - not just for individual companies, but for the future of work, the structure of the economy, and society as a whole. Forward-thinking leaders need to start preparing today.

Consider these strategic insights:

  • Develop Products and Services for the Aging Population: With the increasing purchasing power of older consumers, consider creating offerings tailored to their needs and preferences. This could include age-friendly packaging, accessible product design, or services that cater to their specific requirements.
  • Implement Longevity-Focused Employee Programs: As the workforce ages, introduce initiatives that support and engage older employees. This may involve personalised career development plans, mentorship opportunities, or flexible work arrangements to retain valuable skills and experience.
  • Invest in Longevity Research and Partnerships: Collaborate with biotech firms, research institutions, or startups working on longevity solutions. By investing in or partnering with these organisations, businesses can gain early access to groundbreaking technologies and position themselves as leaders in the longevity economy.
  • Develop Longevity Education and Training: Offer workshops, seminars, or online courses to help employees and leadership understand the implications of increased longevity. This can foster a culture of age diversity, combat ageism, and prepare the organisation for the challenges and opportunities of an aging workforce and customer base.

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