Columns 12.6.2018 08:15 am

History is the best guide to the future

A statue of Frankenstein's monster in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: AFP

A statue of Frankenstein's monster in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: AFP

To look 200 years into the future is almost impossible. But looking back 200 years gives us a good indication of the kind of change we can expect.

So, the first person to live to be 200 years old has already been born, scientists tell us. That’s a long time. And one thing we know about time: it brings about change.

To look 200 years into the future is almost impossible. But looking back 200 years gives us a good indication of the kind of change we can expect.

In the year 1818 Anno Domini, James Monroe was the fifth US president. Considering Donald Trump is president number 45, it means the US has had 40 presidents since.

Back then, the US also only had 20 states. In fact, on April 4, 1818, the US congress adopted the flag having 13 red-and-white stripes and one star for each of the 20 states, with additional stars to be added whenever a new state was added to the Union.

That same year also saw the towns of Beaufort West and Cradock founded in SA.

It was roughly 58 years before the telephone was invented and about 67 years before the automobile saw the light of day. Considering World War I ended 100 years ago, the changes expected in 200 years are incomprehensible.

Even more unbelievable, British scientist Aubrey de Grey believes the first person to live for 1 000 years will be born in the next two decades.

De Grey is a biomedical gerontologist and chief scientist of a foundation dedicated to longevity research. He claims that within his own lifetime, doctors will have the tools they need to cure ageing.

According to an article in the Daily Mail online, De Grey sees a time when people will go to their doctors for regular maintenance, which will include gene therapies, stem cell therapies, immune stimulation and a range of other advanced medical techniques to keep them in good shape.

But let’s not look forward. Let’s peek back 200 years again.

In 1818, a 21-year-old woman who dreamt of creating life and immortality, created a fictional character that has not only survived 200 years, but has acted as a warning that life is not something to be tampered with.

Her name was Mary Shelley. And this year, her creation, Frankenstein, celebrates his 200th birthday.

Danie Toerien.

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