Blogterview with Aubrey de Grey: life extension stories

aubreyeagleAubrey de Grey is the man, who first made serious, scientifically conceptualized life extension speech acceptable within scholarly circles through good timing, well-done strategy and with a little bit of luck. The rest is … (I’ve slightly modified the original question 4 and separated questions concerning the probable technologies of moderate and maximum life extension.)

1. What is the story of your life extension commitment?

I can’t trace when I realised that aging was a bad thing — I must have been so young that I can’t remember. But I was nearly 30 before I found out that most other people don’t think the same, or at least don’t think that it’s important enough to work on. I was in a very lucky situation to be able to make a contribution – I had training in research in a very different field, and I also had quite broad knowledge of biology – so I decide to have a go. My first publication was very well-received, so I kept going!

2. Is it a commitment for moderate or maximum life extension?

Maximum (i.e., indefinite). Aging doesn’t just kill people, it causes a huge amount of suffering in the process. Aging at a later age would also cause suffering, so it’s just as bad. It amazes me that people deny this.

3. What is your favourite argument supporting human life extension?

Well, there are so many that it’s hard to choose! – but I think the one that’s strongest of all is the alleviation of suffering. However, any argument based on the alleviation of suffering cannot stand on its own, because we evidently value the lives of people who are permanently sick as well as people who are healthy.

4. What kind of moderate life extension technologies have the chance to become successful, and when?

I think effective CR mimetics may arrive within a few years. However, I am rather pessimistic about their efficacy – I think they will probably give us only a couple of extra years, even for people who use them all their lives, because I think CR itself will only give about that. I am even more pessimistic about anything else that is currently or imminently available. That’s really what drove me in the direction of SENS, which I think has a good chance of giving 30 years of extra healthy life to those who are already in middle age, within 25-30 years from now (subject to funding).

5. What is the most probable technological draft of maximum life extension, which technology or discipline has the biggest chance to reach it earliest? When?

SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, my own anti-aging plan) is a huge plan incorporating many different therapies to be applied simultaneously to people, thereby rejuvenating all organs at the cellular and molecular level. SENS is divided into seven main categories. It will need very good stem cell therapy and gene therapy technology, as well as probably big advances in tissue engineering. It will also need some very radical new technologies like finding bacterial enzymes that can degrade unusual compounds. Therefore, I think it will definitely not be available for humans for 20 years at least, and probably 25-30 years — and if we’re unlucky and discover new problems, it could be 100 years. But I think a good chance of doing it in 25-30 years is worth trying for! Moreover, we will be able to improve the SENS therapies thereafter, so that they give the same people (beneficiaries of the 30 extra years) another 30, and another, indefinitely – that’s what I call “longevity escape velocity”. I don’t think any other approach that has been suggested so far has any chance at all of doing that. CR mimetics, for example, rely absolutely on the genetic machinery that we already have – they just make the body try its hardest against aging – so they can’t be made better and better, there is an inherent best possible. But I’m all in favour of developing them, because they’ll be here much sooner than SENS and will help some people live long enough for SENS even if they only delay aging by a year.

6. What can blogs and other websites do for LE?

Lots. The timeframes I mentioned above are all SUBJECT TO FUNDING, and that funding won’t happen unless people realise it’s a worthy cause. One huge reason why people refuse to think about the desirability of curing aging is that they don’t believe it’s within technological range. If we can get the word out that we now have a detailed, practical plan for the defeat of aging, and we talk about it again and again and again, we will get more and more people to understand that it’s a battle we should be fighting now, and they will help fund it (if they’re wealthy) or vote for public funding.

Picture: Aubrey in the Watson-Crick Pub. If they discovered the secret of life, than it’s time to discover the secret of life extension or more rationally to reverse engineer and amplify nature’s own regeneration processes.

Further life extension blogterviews:
What can/will You do for life extension? Answer these questions first.
Blogterview with Fight Aging!’s Reason: answers to life extension questions
Ouroboros’s Chris Patil: Part One, Two, Three
Jim Craig: The bioinformatics bet: what can IT folks do for life extension?
John Cumbers’ DIY approach to life extension: personal genomics and synthetic biology
Sand Hill Road Venture Capitalist about life extension as business
Kevin Dewalt’s answers: technology professional, lifestyle life extensionist

25 thoughts on “Blogterview with Aubrey de Grey: life extension stories

  1. Attila,

    Thanks for taking an interest in anti-aging therapies. I am a friend of Baris’s from our Stanford days.

    Aubrey is one of my heros and I’m looking forward to becoming an mprize 300 member this year, I began learning about (as a layman) anti-aging when I was just out of college. Since then I’ve tried to make every practical change to my life possible – dietary choices, supplements, low-stress, exercise, mild calorie restriction – to live as long and as healthy as possible.

    I’ve come to realize that my considerable efforts will add at most 5-10 healthy years to my life. To have a realistic shot at immortality we’re going to need SENS and there is little time to waste.

    Thanks for spreading the word and please let me know if you ever visit the Washington DC area.

  2. Dear Kevin, yours are the type of comment wherefore it is worth to write a post. Thank you. I have a 15-year experience thinking about aging and maximum life extension and I will explore it in my answers to the questions above. As you said “there is little time to waste”, Real collaborators are needed for a real life project. From the next summer I plan to work in the U.S. as a postdoc (I am a stem cell researcher), so I put visiting you on my agenda. Cheers, Attila.

  3. I am fascinated by this topic. Although I am almost 50 years old, most people are shocked when I tell them my age, because they think that I’m in my early 30’s.

    How I did it? Well, everything in moderation, including moderation. Quality over quantity. Avoid bad people and situations if possible. Lots of peace and quiet. Vipassana meditation. A divorce, many decades ago, from mainstream mass media, and its power of suggestion. Staying single, as opposed to marriage. Trying to be a better person. Education every day of your life. Walking 4 miles every day. Ayahuasca-based shamanism. tantra-like sex and love, leading to a kundalini rising. Love of animals, children, and all other people in a platonic way. Lots of humor.

    Needless to say, I will always have lots of flaws, and some of them will be eventually worked out, and others will never change or leave.

  4. “Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” ~ Susan Ertz (1894 – 1985)

  5. Hello, and thank you for sharing this blogterview! I am hugely interested in this subject yet only moderately informed. When I try to share what I do know about it, most people respond with a blank stare and/or a polite, “Gee, do you really think so?”, colored with a condescending tone that tells me, I’m not dealing with an open-mind.

    Am glad to have found this blog (was referred by Boing Boing if you track such things) and will be back to peruse more.


  6. you should check out ASAP plant medicine on the web. they seem to have found something to improve food organically grown.

  7. Interesting, beautifully written. However I have a difficulty to understand why mankind is afraid of sickness, suffer and aging. We live in a two pole environment one side is wellbeing side the other is sick side. Sooner or later we will taste the other side temporarly before mineralization of our body. Then why worry? Human body is made of faulty materials since we have been created with spare parts somehow we manage to live upto 120… Imagine never getting aged walking around and looking for a job and competing with youngers…

  8. “Imagine never getting aged walking around and looking for a job and competing with youngers… ”

    It is reasonable to imagine the situtation with newly learnt professions and not with the same old first profession of yours. With changing jobs it is good, with the same it could be boring. It is not a good counterargument against life extension. We cannot fix the future job situation, so an argument hardly can be based on that.

  9. hi is this true some people will live 1000 years some don t but could this be our future within 15 30 years.both old and young well if i am healthy eat right don t smoke
    then yes other wise no thank you.if people were to live 1000 years could this happen
    in the USA Canada.would the this planet be overpopulated.i here within future some people could
    live 150+ years

    J Heck

    Calgary Alberta Canada

  10. To me, the value of life-extension and physical immortality lies in the opportunity under those new circumstances to undertake a fearless inquiry into the existence of an extra-physical dimension. This inquiry has previously been known as ‘religion’ but the impetus toward defining an extra-physical dimension of conscious awareness has been prejudiced by mortal fear. This is the reason, as I see it, for the resistance from organized religion toward stem cell technology etc, equating the scientific objective with Nazi-era ideology.

    These religious groups instinctively realize that short-lived and mortal physicality are the threat against ignoring the promise of an “immortal” life in the hereafter. They posit that if human beings were to be able to eliminate the conditions of aging and death, then they would not see fit to contemplate an extra-physical existence. Aside from that, they also would posit that without the promise of the reward of an immortal afterlife, human beings would not attempt to fulfil the moral conditions required to inherit the hereafter state.

    Hahahahahah, looking at human history and the glorification of warfare and militarism until today, which has coexisted alongside orthodox religious teachings, the moral situation could never degrade further.

    Rather than being used as a spiritual persuader mortality has instead been used as an exploitative tool by religious leaders who have been covertly in cahoots with political leaders whose own agenda has been the manipulation of human energy for their own psychotic ego gratification under the guise of social improvement.

    Politicians have also profitted from brief human lifespans as by by the time an adult has aquired real psychological maturity they have coincidentally forfeited the physical strength to assert it.

    With life extension, man for the first time will be able to properly evaluate human life and understand coherently its limitations and boundaries both internally and externally. For the first time the preoccupation with the physical dimension will give way to dimension of consciousness. With this quantum shift in values, will arrive a quantum shift in perception and a powerful one at that, as it will not be born of fear but rather pure understanding.

    From this understanding, all life as we know it will be transformed and will become truly civilized for the first time.

    It will not be a matter of extending physical time so that people can eat more food, earn more money, have more sex and watch more TV, and drink more booze. It will end the psychological time continuum and open a door to the timeless.

    Naturally, this will only be possible if we have created more intelligence in the human race along with the gift of physical regeneration.

  11. If we can conceive it and beleive it we can certainly acheive it. Its just a matter of getting a move on.

    Aubrey talks about how nobody else seemed to be getting a move. Now many life extension organizations have sprung up around the web to help push people into getting a move on.

    There is no time for lolli gagging, support this cause today. To paraphrase Eden Philpots, “The universe waits patiently for your wits to grow sharper”.

    Lets extend our lives and give ourselves more of a chance to explore the universe and existence. There is no use in dying if we dont have to.

  12. I am not sure that I understand the whole life extension concept, so maybe you could go into explaining it a bit more. However, this particular post caught my attention!

  13. politicians have also profitted from brief human lifespans as by by the time an adult has aquired real psychological maturity they have coincidentally forfeited the physical strength to assert it.

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