(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)
Here's another histogram which may seem a little grim but, I think, is worth contemplating. Suppose someone was born in the year 2004. If the factors which determined mortality in that year remain the same throughout the rest of that person's life, what percentage of his or her contemporaries will still be alive at various points in the future?
You can see that about half the people born in 2004 are expected to disappear by age 80, and from that point on, the number diminishes very rapidly. If you hope to live beyond 80, and you would like to depend on contemporaries for companionship, this may be a problem.
The good news is that the situation has improved. When a similar projection was made in the 1950s for people born in 1949, only 1 person in 5 was expected to live to be 80. We can feel happy that people today are surviving more tenaciously than anyone expected half a century ago.
How will our current prediction turn out fifty years from now? Presumably the answer depends on our priorities. If lives are worth saving, perhaps it will make sense to fund more research into the aging process.