Interview with pioneer rejuvenation
This sphere, as before, is considered by the majority to be not quite a science, something really impossible, and we really need to change that.On January 3, 2018, Aubrey de Gray, chief scientist at the SENS Research Foundation and leading anti-aging specialist, joined Erich Prince of Merion West to discuss the state of his current research, his bold prediction that living people are likely will be able to live for 1000 years, and respond to a few common criticisms about the fight against aging.
Erich Prins : Thank you for being with us today, Dr. de Gray. I would like to begin by reminding our readers of a bold prediction that you shared with the world in your 2005 TED Talk interview that there are people today who will live 1,000 years. Do you still think so?
Aubrey de Gray : Yes. Of course, I always made it clear that I think it is possible. I believe that it is very important to emphasize how with any new technology it may happen that the problem will be more complicated than we thought. There is a chance of at least 10%, I would say that this will not happen. However, I still think that there is a 50% chance that this will happen.
Erich Prince: Could you provide our readers with an overview of some of the groups working on life extension goals? For example, there is the Baka Institute. Have your organization, SENS. In Russia there is a movement "Initiative 2045". How similar is your organization or different from them?
Aubrey de Gray : Yes, you are right. Now pretty much happening. But still not enough; I must emphasize this first. This sphere, as before, is considered by the majority to be not quite a science, something really impossible, and we really need to change that.
But yes, the process goes. Some of the initiatives are much bolder than what the SENS Research Foundation does; I do not necessarily say this in a derogatory sense - they try to do things that are much more difficult and at an earlier stage than anything we try to do.
For example, the initiative 2045 is connected with loading, transferring one's own consciousness and individuality to a hardware carrier. And it would be an exaggeration to say that this is completely impossible, and I think that various ways are offered that are worthy of being taken seriously. But I still believe that they relate to a much more distant future than the boring medical approach to which we aspire.
You mentioned the Buck Institute, a very important organization. They are engaged in a very interesting job. But historically, their work has been very conservative, in the sense that they are focused on studying aging better and better, but not really focused on trying to use this knowledge.
The advantage of this, however, was to develop interventions that allow us to stay healthy for a longer time and, therefore, of course, be alive for a longer time. Over the past few years, step by step, they have moved in a more practical direction, and we are increasingly working with Buck because of this.
So yes, we are somewhere in the middle, if you want. We just do medical research; we do nothing beyond that. But at the same time, we are very applied. We are always focused on developing methods that truly change aging.Moreover, we are not just interested in slowing down aging, but in its treatment, repairing the damage caused by aging, in order to return people to a more biologically more youthful state than they were on the eve of therapy.
Erich Prins : I know that this is a question that you answered earlier, perhaps because this is such a strong example. Could you clarify the idea that you call the “Longevity escape velocity” and what do you mean when you use this rather vivid term?
Aubrey de gray: The reason for which I believe that people living today will probably live for thousands of years, alas, is often simplified and misunderstood. It sounds as though I’m saying that over the next few decades, in other words, for living people, we have good chances of developing a therapy that will completely eliminate all aspects of aging, and we will only have to die for reasons that do not have relationship to how long ago we were born - for example, hit a truck or our planet collided with an asteroid or something like that.
But this is not what I said at all, and I never said that. In fact, I say that over the next few decades, we have good chances of developing drugs that will give people, perhaps another 20 or 30 years of extra life, rather than a thousand.
However, since treatments that I think will work are methods of rejuvenation, this means that they will be applied to people already middle-aged or older, and they will buy time. And since these people will rejuvenate, their biological age will be less than on the eve of therapy until 30 years have passed, for example.
Now the damage that they have accumulated will be more complex than the damage that they had 30 years ago, because by definition it will be damage that therapies could not repair. However, 30 years is a very long time for everything, including medical research. So, in my opinion, for sure in these 30 years we will improve the initial therapy, which I called SENS 1.0. By doing this, we will be able to rejuvenate these same people with the help of working methods of treatment, even if they are more complex.
And, of course, this general concept can be repeated. Therefore, I think that we will actually see living people who have lived for thousands of years. I think that we will never have, probably, treatment methods that can fully recover every bit of damage that the body inflicts throughout life, but we will approach this level of excellence quickly enough to get the same result. what we would have if we had this perfection.
Erich Prins : I am interested in your opinion, because last month I asked a similar questionZoltan Istvan. I was inspired by an essay written by political scientist Francis Fukuyama, a member of George Bush’s bioethics council from 2001 to 2004. In his opinion, and possibly in the opinion of some other people, life extension technologies are limited: a) Who gets them? b) Is it possible that in a world where some people have access to these technologies and others do not, a two-tier hierarchy can be created between those who have them and those for whom they are not available?
Aubrey de gray: Yes, this is one of the standard objections that arise in connection with this, and they have arisen from time immemorial. And I answered them from the same immemorial times. Honestly, I’m upset that people - I’m not talking about people like you, I know you have to ask these questions - but people like Fukuyama continue to insist on these problems, despite the fact that they never gave any denials on my objections.
They never say, “Oh no, this answer to my objections really won't work.” They simply repeat the question, which, of course, is not fair. The actual answer is very simple. There is no chance we really get this gap.The reason is the striking contrast between the medicine we are talking about with the current medicine — high-tech medicine for the elderly, which costs a lot — unlike the medicine I’m talking about, it will really work. In other words, it will really keep people young and healthy throughout life, which will also become much longer.
This means that this medicine, unlike the current one, will pay for itself. Because it will allow people to whom it is applied to continue to contribute to the well-being of society, instead of growing old and retiring.And the young will be more productive, because they will not need to look after the sick old parents. Even if you look very pessimistic about what the price of rejuvenation will be, it is obvious that for any country that refuses to provide its older citizens with such therapy under the available conditions, it will become an economic collapse.
I know, from the American point of view, this sounds strange, because the US doesn’t like taxes, but the fact is that you are already doing this, all countries are already doing it with respect to many things. A good example is free schooling. School education is free for everyone, even in the USA. It requires a cost from the state. But if you do not learn your children in time, in 20 years you will have no one to work with. Thus, this is actually a completely erroneous fear, I said it a long time ago, and I would prefer that people recognize the answer to it.
Erich Prince: Let us turn to the issue of political implications, given that Merion West is mainly a political magazine. One of the main obstacles that Zoltan Istvan spoke about is that he believes that religiosity among some government officials and their faith in the afterlife can prevent them from directing funding to anti-aging organizations like yours. Do you agree with this assessment that religiosity can be an obstacle when it comes to financing?
Aubrey de gray: I agree and disagree. I agree in the sense that initially it could be an obstacle: some concerns that could make politicians initially cautious about [investing in rejuvenation]. However, I disagree in the sense that, in my opinion, this is an even simpler problem than access inequality, which you mentioned earlier, because in this case we have a huge advantage that if someone forms an opinion based on religions, they form it based on what is written in the texts.
All religions have sacred texts, and this is very convenient in our case, because it means that you can just go to the Holy Scripture in question and say, “Well, what does the Book really say that we should do Of course, you can argue differently about whether there is any natural limit to life and so on, but there are two things that come from holy scripture that are extremely clear and that completely refute this concern. The first is that we don’t need to worry “whether we are playing God” - whatever that means - because, as I understand it, God must be omnipotent and can strike you with lightning whenever he wants, no matter how healthy you are.
Therefore, if we think that we can live longer, this is just what we think. This does not affect what God can do. But the second thing, which is perhaps even more important, and what the Holy Scripture says quite unambiguously - and I think I can speak for any Holy Scripture, although I have not read many of them - this is what we should try to reduce suffering . What we should do while we are here, in fact, is to improve the quality of life of our neighbor.There is no doubt that aging causes much more suffering than anything else, so it would be a sin not to work on it. Again, I used this argument many times, and, again, no one came back and said, “No, in fact this is not true for this or other reason.” Of course, people will keep silent or change the subject or something else.
Erich Prins : The last question, and you mentioned it a little while talking about universal health care, what are the general political changes that you would like to see in order to make the national climate more susceptible to the technologies that you are promoting?
Aubrey de grayA: Honestly, I do not think this is the right question. I do not think that we need changes in government and so on for new technologies. I think we need a bit of a long-term forecast, because the fact is that one way or another we will get these technologies. It is only a matter of time.
But the second question is how prepared we are for their implementation, as well as for their dissemination and orderly implementation? We all know that the industrial revolution was a bit turbulent, and it looked like it could not be otherwise. We suddenly had new cars, and we suddenly had a lot of people without work. No one really foresaw this; they could not have foreseen.
But we can foresee, for we have all this work in the laboratory, and it is published a lot. This means that the moment will come when we will receive this therapy, and people will see how it is coming. For example, it can come much earlier, perhaps in five years, only. When the results in the laboratory are so impressive that the general public will begin to believe that, yes, all this “rejuvenation”, all this “Longevity escape velocity” will probably happen soon.
And at this moment, in fact, it will no longer matter who is right and who is wrong, who is optimistic and who is pessimistic. The only important thing is that it will be a complete rethinking of life. Everyone will change his life priorities, how he spends his money and stuff because of the changes that will occur in how long he expects to live.And if governments, alas, stick their heads in the sand right up to this point, not listening to people like me who tell them that this is coming. It will be much more chaotic and turbulent than if, starting from today, they begin to pay attention to the approaching wave and how it will unfold.
Erich Prins : Thank you very much for joining us, Dr. de Gray. It was nice to know your vision of this incredibly interesting and, probably, misunderstood field of science.
Aubrey de Gray : Thank you for accepting me.
Translated by Nick Sestrin , SENS Volunteers Group