CCST9060 Scientific and Technological Literacy
Exploring Human Longevity

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘The Quest for a Meaningful Life’ / ‘The Universe and the Question of Meaning’.]


Course Description

Human life expectancy has significantly increased in recent generations. The oldest verified person lived to 122 years. Progress in science and technology relating to ageing and disease now predicts the possibility of a longer lifespan. Our current understanding of the science of ageing, chronic disease, regenerative medicine, emerging technologies and how our lifestyle influences ageing are coming together to tackle the challenges of longevity. Increased human lifespan will have a momentous impact on the life course of the individual, on the structure of society, and on our environment.

In this course, we will explore the intersection between science, technology, ageing and longevity. Reviewing how modern medicine and science have already influenced a longer human lifespan, we will take an evidence-based approach to evaluate the science behind ageing and the promise of emerging technologies relating to prolonging life, ageing, and chronic diseases. We will investigate the implications of how a longer living population has affected our society; discuss the impact of an increased lifespan on the community, societal infrastructure, and our environment; and explore how innovative technology industries are intersecting with traditional healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Finally, we will critically analyze the constraints of human longevity, breakthrough technologies, and strategies for challenging the maximum limits of a healthy lifespan. This course will use an interdisciplinary evidence-based learning approach that does not require prior specialized knowledge.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Discuss the various definitions of “age” and “longevity” from the context of scientific, sociological and philosophical perspectives and how they may intersect.
  2. Differentiate the impact of the extended lifespan on the individual’s quality of life, on society’s infrastructure and its community networks, and environmental resources.
  3. Evaluate scientific evidence for the efficacy of past, present and emerging technological claims for extending human lifespan and its relationship to the individual, society, or the environment.
  4. Integrate diverse perspectives on longevity by engaging with the community to discover similarities or better understand differences between individuals, cultures and communities.
  5. Propose, conduct, and collaborate an inquiry-based solution to the challenges arising for the individual, society and the environment from extending human lifespan for a sustainable future

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Film screen and discussion 2
Reading / Self-study 40
Assessment: Class disucssion and debates (incl preparation) 20
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 4
Assessment: Video production 30
Total: 130

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Group presentation 20
Video production 35
In-class assessments 45

Required Reading

  • Blackburn, E., & Epel, E. (2017). The telomere effect: A revolutionary approach to living younger, healthier, longer (1st ed.). New York: Grand Central Publishing. [Chaps. 2, 3]
  • Borel, B. (2016, March/April). Aging: What we’ve learned, and what we can do about it. Popular Science. From
  • Dong, X., Milholland, B., & Vijg, J. (2016, October 13). Evidence for a limit to human lifespan. Nature, 538, 257-259.
  • Gratton, L., & Scott, A. (2016). The 100-year life: Living and working in an age of longevity. London: Bloomsbury Information. [Chaps. 1, 8]
  • McDaniel, S., & Zimmer, Z. (2013). Global ageing in the twenty-first century: Challenges, opportunities and implications. United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
  • Passarino, G., De Rango, F., & Montesanto, A. (2016, April 5). Human longevity: Genetics or lifestyle? It takes two to tango. Immunity & Ageing, 13(12).
  • Telenti, A, Pierce, L. C, Biggs, W. H., di Iulio, J., Wong, E. H., Fabani, M. M., Kirkness, E. F., Moustafa, A., Shah, N., Xie, C., Brewerton, S. C., Bulsara, N., Garner, C., Metzker, G., Sandoval, E., Perkins, B. A., Och, F. J., Turpaz, Y., & Venter, J. C. (2016, October 18). Deep sequencing of 10,000 human genomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(42), 11901-11906.
  • The Economist. (2016, August 13). Longevity: Adding ages. From  
  • Wu, J., Liu, Y., Li, S., Huang, P., Liu, Y., Wang, Y., & Tang. H. (2016). Metabolomics insights into the modulatory effects of long-term low calorie intake in mice. Journal of Proteome Research, 15(7), 2299–2308.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr C.C. Ho
School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 3917 9501
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr C.C. Ho
School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 3917 9501
Dr J.A. Tanner
School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 3917 9472