You’d be surprised to learn just how paradoxical and contentious the topic of human longevity is. On the one hand, almost every single person in this world wants to live longer. On the other hand, mainstream opinion generally holds nihilistic and dystopian views of a future where everyone lives longer. But the balance is gradually tilting as more and more people in different fields are seriously pondering the question of what society would look like if we had a longer lifespan and healthspan. In this episode of The Futurist Society Podcast, we are joined by one of the pioneers in the longevity space, Aubrey De Grey. One by one, Aubrey dispels the most common myths around longevity and the arguments often presented by naysayers to dispute the wisdom of extending the human lifespan. He also talks about the amazing developments in the field that show us that a post-aging society is indeed just out in the corner. Tune in for more!

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The Future Of Our Lifespan – A Conversation With Aubrey De Grey

In this episode, we have Aubrey de Grey, who is a pioneer and leader in the longevity space. Aubrey, the man, the myth, the legend, has had a very illustrious career. He’s no stranger to conflict, to scandal, to all sorts of highs and lows, but the work that he’s doing is amazing. We’re going to be getting into it. Aubrey, tell us a little bit about where you are now with longevity. I want to talk about this conference that you’re having in August 2023. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about what you’re most excited about?

I’m excited about the acceleration that has happened over the past few years in the pace of the longevity movement in the laboratory and also in the wider world in terms of changes that are coming along in the regulatory environment, taking seriously the idea that aging is a medical problem that we are within striking distance of solving. You said I’ve been around for a little while. I’m proud to have been able to contribute a certain amount to the progress that’s being made. I lead an organization, a nonprofit that is focused on doing, especially the things that other people are not doing typically because these things are not aligned with the incentive structure of other groups perhaps where they are funded entirely by philanthropy.


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That means that we don’t have to worry about things like patenting things or application priority and such so we can talk about experiments that we’re doing while they are in progress, which is something I certainly like to do. We do ambitious audacious work, and we’ll talk about this. The flagship project is a huge lifespan experiment in mice looking at binding a bunch of regenerative treatments. That’s what I do.

I honestly think that now there’s a lot of excitement around the longevity space because people finally are accepting of it. Over the course of the past few decades that you’ve been talking about this, I’m sure you’ve probably seen a lot of people saying a lot of negative things about this. Years ago, people didn’t think that it would work. Now we’re proving that this is something that has potential benefits that are real and something that is technologically capable for us as a species.

Even now, I get a lot of people just saying like, “I would never want to live to 100 years.” I’m just like, “Why?” I don’t understand it. What are the things that you say to those people? It makes so much sense to me to live for a long time, but for a lot of people, it’s a scary thing. What do you say to those people?


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People have different ways of saying that they don’t want this. A huge part of the way that I go about addressing that concern is to emphasize that this is not about longevity. I don’t work on longevity. I work on health, same as you do. You’re a surgeon. You’re an MD and I’m a PhD, but we both work on health. That’s all. This longevity business is a side effect of health because people die from being sick by and large. Now in the developing world now, the number one cause of being sick is having been born a long time ago. That’s all it’s about. You never see people saying, “I’m terribly scared of not getting Alzheimer’s disease. I’m scared of not getting cancer or atherosclerosis or whatever.”

This longevity business is the side effect of health because people die from being sick by and large. And the number one cause of being sick is having been born a long time ago.

They do seem to be scared of the consequence of not getting any of the things that go wrong with people late in life. Namely that you will wake up tomorrow and carry on waking up tomorrow as long as there are a lot of tomorrows. The only reason people are feeling that way is they have things they don’t like about their lives and they don’t want to think about that going on a long time. That doesn’t make them suicidal. It doesn’t make them treat themselves. In those rare occasions when someone does feel they want to not live very much longer, even though they are healthy, both physically and mentally, we try to change their minds, and we feel fairly good that we’re changing people’s minds about that.

It’s learned helplessness if you like, but it’s also a way of putting all of this out of one’s mind because people have had to live with the inevitability of aging since the beginning of civilization since they figured out that aging happens at all. It’s only been very recently that we’ve got enough knowledge to have been able to formulate a pretty clear plan for how to bring aging under comprehensive medical control.

Until that plan was in place, there was no way to put any even probabilistic timeframe on how long it would take before we could succeed in this venture. As such, it was rational. It made sense to rationalize aging out of one’s mind, however irrational the rationalizations now where it doesn’t make sense at all. Now that’s a huge part of the problem. It’s just that it’s a very entrenched, ingrained habit that humanity has.



When I talk to people who are very intelligent and are afraid of this, they’re worried about being 100 years old and having the health of a 100-year-old person. In the longevity movement, correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s this idea of lifespan and healthspan. You want to be as healthy as you can be in old age as well. That’s one of the things that I like about your philosophy, which is not the extension of life, but reversing the effects of aging. Where are we at with that from a scientific perspective? What are some different targets that you have in your research that you’re looking at that we could talk about?

Before I answer that question directly, let me say a little more about what you said in the preamble to the question. You’re right that people do constantly insist, “I don’t want to live a long time in a poor state of health,” which completely misses the point that I made a moment ago. Life span is a side effect of health span. The thing is, it’s not as if it isn’t completely obvious you’re not going to live a long time unless you are healthy and that being sick is risky. That’s completely obvious. Furthermore, not only I but also many of my colleagues have been saying it on stage and on camera for years. It’s not as if people haven’t been exposed to this fact, yet they succeed in somehow putting it out of their minds.

They want to believe that aging is a blessing in disguise and that death is a good thing because you’re going to get sick. It is complete nonsense. Coming back to the question, the single biggest contribution that I’ve made scientifically over these years was a couple of odd years ago when I realized that it’s going to be easier to reverse aging than to slow it down. Reversing aging means repairing the self-inflicted damage that accumulates in the body as a consequence of our normal metabolism throughout life. That eventually becomes abundant enough to be pathogenic.

It’s easier to reverse aging than to slow it down.

We understand in pretty good detail what that damage is at the molecular and higher level. What are the actual differences in molecular structure and composition between a 20-year-old and a 50-year-old? The other huge advantage is it’s technically easier to repair that damage rather than to slow down the rate at which the body creates it. It means that these therapies are going to be very applicable to people who are already in middle age or older. Whereas if you’re only slowing down the creation of subsequent damage, then people are not going to get biologically younger again.

I like everything that you said, but one of the things that I did want to talk about is the science behind the reversal. I’m familiar with these Yamanaka factors, which are things that they apply to cells to reverse age them on the cellular level where you can take a skin cell and make it into a stem cell. What is the science behind all this stuff? How are we doing this?

Let me go to that question vaguely chronologically. When I first began to think about the idea of addressing aging with damage repair rather than slowing down the creation of damage, the only way that I could decide whether that was a sensible idea was to crystallize it into what the damage is and how we can go about repairing it. Now, the body is an insanely complicated machine. Lo and behold, it damages itself in a lot of different ways. The first thing I did was I thought, “Let me think about all the types of molecular damage that I know about, classify them into categories, and see how many categories we get.” The number of categories ended up being pretty manageable. I ended up with seven. What’s the purpose of this classification?

The basic purpose is to describe a corresponding list of damage repair modalities of how you would do the damage repair. The idea was that within each category, there might be a lot of examples, but the same generic approach to addressing to repairing those examples would be applicable across the entire category. However, between categories, you still need different intervention. Parenthetically, let me say this was a big paradigm shift for the field many odd years ago. It took me ten years to get the field to understand what I was saying and to acknowledge and appreciate that it was a good, productive, and promising way to think about the issue.

That’s very much mainstream. Over the past couple of years, there have been a number of papers that have come out from other groups that are very credentialed mainstream people, essentially saying the same thing as I had said back in 2000 to 2002. One thing that I don’t think that most people have got the message on is the need to have this correspondence between the category and the damage repair not emphasized enough. That is the point if you don’t say that. Let me come back to this category. One of the categories in my original formulation was cell loss. That just means cells dying and not being naturally replaced by the division of other cells. Mostly, that comes down to stem cell loss because cells can be replaced by the division and differentiation of stem cells.

In some cases, it’s important for the individual cells to be long-lived. In the brain, for example, the brain works because neurons are individually long-lived and there’s very little neuronal replacement. Similarly in the heart, you’ve got cardiomyocytes that just do their thing. By and large, stem cells are quite important to replenish things. In some tissues like the blood, you’ve got stem cells dividing regularly pretty infrequently because there’s a lot of amplification of cells that go on during the differentiation process, but still regularly. In other tissues, you’ve got stem cells that hang out and don’t do anything unless there is some injury or some stress that happens that causes them to need to divide.

Nevertheless, the idea of using stem cell therapies to replace cells that are not being replaced automatically seems like a good idea. The most conspicuous example that I like to use is Parkinson’s disease, where you’ve got one particular type of neuron in a particular part of the brain. It’s a very small place, the substantia nigra. The rate of death of those neurons is very much faster than it is in the rest of the brain simply because dopaminergic neurons do a lot. They work hard and they die a lot. Stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease was explored in the clinic many odd years ago in Sweden. There was a clinical trial, and there were a couple more in the US. It works occasionally.

The occasional part is quite important. The reason why it only worked occasionally was that we didn’t have any idea how to manipulate stem cells in the lab back then. These patients were given stem cells isolated from broadly the right part of the brain or fetuses and were very hit-and-miss. Occasionally, when these patients got the right stem cells, the response was unbelievably strong. They basically had no Parkinson’s symptoms for more than a decade, despite being completely taken off L-DOPA and so on. It was extraordinary. However, because it was impossible to know whether you had the right stem cell, essentially this whole approach was abandoned until now. Now we have the ability to create stem cells of pretty much any type we like using IPS technology for example.

We can now, therefore, do a much more rationally designed clinical trial, and that is indeed happening. A trial is going on already in Japan, and there are a couple more starting up in the US. People are very optimistic about this approach. Why I mention all this in response to what you said about the Yamanaka factor is it’s because, in the past decades, there has been a lot of progress in using the Yamanaka factors in vivo. What you might be able to achieve is to increase the number of stem cells of a particular sort or of many different simultaneously in the body without injecting stem cells. They’re stem cells, but they’ve lost some of their stemness through whatever and now restore that stemness.

This was first tried in just a proof of concept experiment by a great friend of mine named Manuel Serrano. He didn’t try to do it in a therapeutically relevant way. He made some mice and made them constitutively overexpress the Yamanaka factors. He wanted to know whether it would work and whether this would cause differentiation to occur in vivo in mice. He knew that if it worked, then the mice would be very unhappy because they would get these things called teratomas, these particular types of cancer that you get yourself. That’s exactly what happened, teratomas all over the mice. That was great. Manuel was doing other things. He had other interests so he didn’t pursue this any further.

Instead, the person who ran with this and did the natural next step was another Spaniard named Carlos Belmonte at the Salk Institute in San Diego. He did exactly the same experiment except that he made his genetic constructs for the Yamanaka factors drug inducible, which means that he was able to turn the Yamanaka factors on and off and to explore different frequencies of the turning on and off. He was able to hit on a frequency. It was something like two days a week to express these things that caused clear benefits arising from improved regenerative capacity without causing teratomas exactly what you want. Lo and behold, this has become the most fashionable thing in the whole biology of aging.

There are huge amounts of money that come into it. Jeff Bezos created a company called Altos Labs, which has got $3 billion. There’s a company called NewLimit created by the Founder of Coinbase. We’ve also put in nine digits. There’s another company called Retro. It’s one of its major areas that’s been funded by Sam Altman to the tune of nine digits. We’re talking proper money that’s going into this area.

I would pay for it.

I do want to manage expectations a bit here because there is a very clear potential issue with this. This is an issue that always arises when one is manipulating regenerative potential, which means we might end up increasing the risk of cancer. Unfortunately, here talk about normal cancers, not retirements. The risk here is that in cell culture, you can do a whole bunch of stuff. When you do something in vivo that’s being done indiscriminately to all cells, you’ve got the problem that you and I are full of cells that have already accumulated most of the mutations necessary to be cancer, most of them.

That still means that if you like the network of machinery that stops them from dividing inappropriately is more fragile than is in a healthy cell, that hasn’t got the mutation. What you’re doing with the Yamanaka factor is, fundamentally, you are smacking the regulatory machinery with a sledgehammer. If that is already more fragile than normal, occasionally, you may end up turning the cell into a proper cancer. The problem is that you can’t ask this question in mice because they just don’t live long enough. Mice die of cancer a lot. You probably know that. The cancers they die of are ones that emerge that started out early in the life of the mice because that’s the only way they can grow far enough to kill the mice in a normal lifetime.

If you’re taking mice that are already in middle age and you’re making cells cancerous, those cells are not going to kill the mice. You’re not going to find out because they haven’t got time. They’re going to be killed by other things first. I believe that this is a big question. That’s why I’m still very interested in the possibility that there might be other ways to do partial reprogramming to do in vivo differentiation but do not involve the young artifact that involves gentler factors that can potentially make cells more regenerative but not so regenerative as to be pluripotent. There’s a very important transition that happens during early development called the embryonic fetal transition.

Maybe week eight, something like that in humans, is a time when tissues switch from having a regenerative response to injury into having a fibrotic or a scarring response. This transition, if you can make cells not do that, then you’ve got a hugely improved regenerative capacity. Indeed, amphibians more or less do this. Salamanders are well known to have this enormous regenerative capacity. They stay in the embryonic state. They don’t go through this transition. That’s a transition that some of my colleagues in a company named AgeX have been looking at. I feel that needs to be explored more. I should emphasize I have no financial interest there. I just think it’s very exciting technology and it’s being scandalously neglected.

Excitement is something that is felt even by someone who’s not involved with it. To give you an idea, I live in Cambridge, just a stone’s throw from MIT. There was a conference here that the gentleman you spoke about, Carlos, was there and there were so many people there that the fire department had to be called in. They had to kick people out. The excitement is now emanating outwards such that everybody’s interested in this stuff.

I’m tangentially interested in futurism and stuff like that. The real thing that I get excited about is longevity. The fact of the matter is that it seems not only a moonshot but also so reachable. We’re making progress, and respected people are talking about it. How is it for you in that space experiencing all this excitement? What are you most excited about when it comes to the different things that are happening?

You’ve put your finger on it. The thing I’m most excited about is the increasing excitement in the wider world. I’m just a scientist. I’m doing my best to come up with the best ideas, to take the science forward, and to oversee great teams of people who are doing this. What matters is to have large numbers of people doing this. Not because science needs a diversity of ideas, but also because it’s not just the development of these therapies. It’s their dissemination. We need policymakers, decision-makers, and opinion formers around the world to take this as seriously as it merits, as it deserves, and to ease people out of the irrational rationalizations that we were talking about earlier.

Those irrational rationalizations are out there. I was talking with another professor at Tufts University where I teach. I was telling her, “I’m going to be speaking with Aubrey de Gray. I’m excited about this whole idea of lifespan. Don’t you want to live to be 100?” She said, “I don’t want to be that.” She’s going down the list of all these issues. I want you to tell me somebody who’s in this space about what the downstream benefits are for humanity. Selfishly, I want to live to be 100, but there are so many benefits that are out there. People look at overpopulation. They’re worried about the resources. Being in this space, you must see some of the positive responses to these negative comments.

There’s a positive consequence of not getting sick and certainly is miserable. People will suffer. In fact, it’s very clear. It’s unequivocal that aging is the major source of suffering in the world these days by a huge distance. Forget about the death part, just the suffering that happens first. If you want to try and say that would be a bad idea, then you’ve got to try and say that the problems that will be created as a consequence of solving the problem we have now would be even worse than the problem we have now. That’s a high bar. Coming to what you were asking, you’re right. There would be this or that problem created as a consequence of solving the problem we have now. It is complete transparent nonsense. It’s trivial to explain why they are nonsense. It’s a case of wanting not to hear the answers.

It is unequivocal that aging is the major source of suffering in the world today by a huge distance.

What about overpopulation? That’s the number one response because I talk about this at dinner parties and stuff like that. I’m like, “Aren’t you so excited about it?” That’s the number one response that I get is that people are worried about overpopulation.

It is the single most common one. Let’s look at it. First of all, we have to ask. What would be the demographic consequence of eliminating aging? It certainly would mean people living longer. In other words, fewer people die in any given calendar year. We’ve got to look at a couple of things here. Look at what’s happening in the population these days. We see about 150,000 people dying every day, but there are about 350,000 people being born every day. Even if we just halved the birth rate, we would already have a declining population. People would say, “I want to have kids.” Do you? Let’s look at that. In every society that has gone through what’s often called the demographic transition, women have the point of having enough education, emancipation, and prosperity.

The birthrate plummets the average number of kids that a woman has in their life. Also, they have those kids later, which means that if we didn’t have aging anymore, one of the things we wouldn’t have would be menopause. You’d be able to turn it on and off. Women could have kids safely at whatever age. The immediate reaction of go, “That means the overpopulation’s going to be terribly bad?” The thing is, if you can have your kids later, then maybe you’re going to choose to have your kids later. That’s what we already see when any society goes through that demographic transition to having fewer kids, they also have the kids later. As of now, only a little bit later because of menopause. The same logic is going to apply.

On top of all of that, and perhaps the most fundamental reason why this overpopulation thing is a complete red herring is the other population we have these days is a big problem. It’s not a problem with having enough space. You do the numbers, and you’ll easily see that as of now, with eight billion people on the planet, every single person could have their own acre without even going anywhere that’s not much fun to live. We’ve got the amount of land that exists in the world overall, something like 60 billion acres or 40 billion acres, which means everyone could have 5 acres. If you overuse the most agreeable 20% of the land mass of the world, then you’ve still got an acre each.

The real problem is pollution with the fact that we’re popping out a whole bunch of greenhouse gases and doing things that can’t be recycled and so on, but that’s all being fixed as well. Carbon capture, desalination, and all of these things, these technologies are coming sooner than anything that I’m working on. The so-called overpopulation problem is going to get less bad whether or not the population increases a little bit faster than otherwise would.

When I hear those negative responses, it’s a matter of perspective. People are only looking through their lens of what exists now and they’re not taking into account all of these other breakthroughs that are happening in all these other fields. We are on an exponential growth rate and change rate as a species, unlike anything that we’ve ever seen before. Things like AI and electric cars and all of this other stuff that we looked at as science fiction are now science facts. Who knows what we’ll be capable of in the future? That’s a personal opinion. Either you look at that open-ended possibility with excitement or with a negative sentiment. That’s something that I hope people start to change their idea of what’s capable in the future.


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It’s important to say that thing a little bit carefully because it’s easy to say it in a way that opens oneself to the accusation of being a dreamer, just like saying, “It will be all right on the night.” It’s very important not to do that. Who knows what technology’s going to come along to make everything fine? Rather, look at specific technologies and say, “Based on what we already have now and what we already know, what is the probability that these technologies will come along in such a timeframe?” I do that in relation to anti-aging technology in the first place. I also think we need to do it in respect to all these other technologies.

Quite a lot of the answers to the other concerns that people bring up are just like the other population in the sense that other technologies, which the problem doesn’t arise. Another one that often comes up is, “How do we pay all the pensions?” You just mentioned AI, which is the area I used to work in before I became a biologist. The whole humanitarian purpose of AI is automation. It’s to solve the problem of work, the problem that people have to spend so much of their time doing stuff that they would not do unless they were being paid for it. It’s coming a lot faster than this aging stuff. That means we will not have an economy that is based on the concept of full employment. We just won’t.

I hope that’s the case. I do.

This is important to get across because if one thinks in terms of the shortsighted thing about pensions, then one thinks the economic consequences of defeating aging will be negative when in fact, the exact opposite is true. The economic impact of defeating aging will be astoundingly large. Being sick is expensive. The majority of the medical budget of the Western world goes into the healthcare of the elderly. These things will pay for themselves unbelievably fast and many times over. That’s very important to get across for another reason that comes up. People will say, “It’s only going to be for the rich. These things are going to be expensive, these therapies. Therefore, only the rich are going to get them.” It’s easy to come to that conclusion by extrapolation from these days’ medical care.



There are certainly expensive things that are only available to those who are going to afford them. The only reason society is okay with that is because these therapies do not pay for themselves, largely because they don’t work, especially when we’re talking about therapies for the elderly. They just extend others rather than the health span. Companies make money out of it, but as I said, the only reason society puts up with that is because there’s no alternative. Whereas therapies that do work will pay for themselves and will be demanded by society.

I agree with that. The way that I look at economies in general is you’re trying to maximize human productivity. If you extend people’s health span, you’re going to have people who are more willing and able to do amazing things. This idea of pensions is 20th-century thinking like we’re going to figure it out if we have this new demographic shift. I look at it where it’s going to be great that these older people can care for themselves because that’s what we want. I don’t want to be 90 and have my daughter take care of me. I want her to live her own life. I want to live my own life at 90. I want to travel the world and see all these amazing things. I agree with you that it might sound dreamy and hopefully optimistic, but that’s who I am.

If you extend people’s healthspan, you’re going to have people who are more willing and able to do amazing things.

At baseline, I do a lot of things that are very realistic on a daily basis, and it’s nice to think about the future in these dreamy terms. What are you doing with your conference? I want to talk specifically about that because, in the medical profession, that’s where a lot of thought happens. When surgeons get together in a room, we talk about what the best technology is and how everything is going. What is going on at your conference? What are the things that you hope that get ironed out and talked about over there?

Let me talk about conferences in general a little bit first because I agree with you very much. In fact, I will go further. When I started out, my interest was in coming up with the best plan to bring aging under medical control. My community was researchers, but I spent a lot of time at conferences paying my way to conferences before I became prominent. It made all the difference. A very diverse range of conferences was enormously instrumental in allowing me to come up with the ideas that I did. I became aware very quickly that we needed to get the word out and educate people a lot, build a community, and bring people in who did not feel that this was their thing. I started running my own conferences years ago.

Doing it in Cambridge, I ran six of those every alternate year between 2003 and 2013. They were the absolute epicenter of my ability to build a community. I was already, towards the end of that period, doing a lot of media as well as a lot of public speaking. The conferences were extraordinarily successful. Probably half of the prominent people in this field now who are under the age of 50 are people who were introduced to the community at one or other of my conferences. It’s that much. I have very much carried on doing that. We ran a couple of conferences in California and Berlin. There was the lockdown, which put an end to that for a couple of years. Starting last September, I rebooted my conference series and in this case, it is in Dublin, Ireland.

It was a great reboot. It coincided with the launch of my newest foundation, the LEV Foundation. It was a real celebration. In 2023, the speaking roster is even better. Honestly, it’s probably the single most illustrious-speaking roster I’ve ever put together. It’s got everybody in the field. The important thing about the conference is the unexpected stuff. I’ve always placed a great emphasis on the recreational component of giving a lot of free time, making sure that the bar is free every night and things like that. That’s the magic that happens.

That’s what they say that pushed a lot of companies like IBM and Bell Labs forward in their technological progress when they had a campus and then a place where people could socialize with each other. I’ve seen it firsthand in my own field. You get a bunch of people together who are interested in the same thing. They’re talking about this stuff, and then new ideas spring from that very easily. I would love to talk to you for a long time, but I do know that we’re getting to the end of our time together.

I wanted to do what I do with every guest, which is to end the talk with three questions. I know that this is something that you’ve been passionate about for a long time. The first question that I have for you is, for me, what I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from is science fiction. When I think about the future, I think about all the different science fiction scenarios that happen from Isaac Asimov with robots to Star Trek and this Utopia to all sorts of different things. Is there anything that you draw inspiration from that fuels the passion that you have for this field?

The passion I have is the people around me, my community. I get such inspiration and pride from the fact that there are so many people around whom I look up to because they’re as passionate as me and they work just as hard. They don’t get people coming up to the room in the street and asking for their autographs, but they’re driven anyway. I admire my people. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with science fiction because, by and large, the portrayals of a post-aging world in science fiction, especially in movies these days, are extraordinarily distorted and indeed dystopic handed to the irrationality I was talking about earlier.

Portrayals of a post-aging world in science fiction, especially in movies these days, are extraordinarily distorted and dystopic. They essentially pander to the irrational rationalizations of the naysayers.

To make a scenario that lets the audience walk out of the movie theater with their pro-aging irrationality entrenched in their hearts, I don’t think much of that. There’s one movie I’d like to point out called The Man from Earth. It’s a fantastic movie. Hardly anyone knows it. It portrays the lack of aging in a very positive way. We need much more of this. I have a script idea I occasionally share with directors and so on, and I’m hoping one day somebody will run with it. The idea is you have a post-aging world. The movie starts out with a post-aging world that’s working completely fine and there’s nothing wrong at all.

You can’t do a movie based on that because no dramatic element except that the dramatic element comes from the beginning of the movie, which is that aging comes back. There’s some infection that comes along or whatever, and suddenly everyone’s aging again the way they used to in the 20th century and a huge civilization comes together in the way that it would if it wanted to avoid the Earth being hit by an asteroid or whatever. One could make a movie out of that.

I like that aspect of making a clarification between dystopian and utopian. There are not enough scientists who are interested in the longevity community to make a good utopian view of it. That’s why it’s nice to hear your idea. There are a lot of dystopian and nihilistic views of the future in science fiction, but a lot of the positive aspects outweigh the negative aspects of that specifically.

The second question I wanted to ask is, talking about the future, I always think about the younger generation when I’m teaching the students that I teach and everything like that. If somebody wants to get involved with longevity or if you had a young eighteen-year-old kid, they’re going to college for the first time and they’d look at Aubrey de Grey and they’re like, “I want to help him,” what would you say to that kid?

The first thing is I’m very much a man of the people guy. I have one email address. It’s public, so anybody, whether they’re eighteen or anything else can perfectly well write to me. People of that age come to my conferences because that’s where you meet people and you find out which lab you might want to go into or what you might want to study and so on. There are also other opportunities. I spearheaded and kickstarted a number of educational initiatives where, for example, undergrads will come for a few months in the summer and learn about longevity, lab techniques, and so on.

There’s a new organization that I kickstarted in 2022, which is bringing in not so much focusing on youngsters there, but focusing on people that have credentials and track records already in some other area, like their entrepreneurs for example. They want to get involved in the field, but they don’t know how. They run retreats where you get to meet people, learn stuff, and get collaborations. This is essential. This is very much a very big part of the community building thing. Youngsters, absolutely.

What basic sciences they could go into like biochemistry and microbiology? What are some of the career tracks that are open to people that are interested in this thing?

When people are in high school and they ask me, “What undergrad degrees should I do?” I always say don’t specialize too much. Do a General Biology degree. The reason for that is aging affects the organism at every level of organization. In order to think properly about aging, you’ve got to have a pretty good grounding in everything like genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, anatomy, a lot. Don’t generalize too soon. For example, if they decide they want to do a PhD, I always say think of something that you’re passionate about because research is extraordinarily frustrating and you’re going to have to keep your spirits up, but also ideally working in a relatively small lab so that you won’t be just a small cog in some machine.

Those are the kinds of things I say. Also, don’t just work in things that call themselves the biology of aging because regenerative medicine and damage repair involve a lot of different technologies that are predominantly developed by people for other reasons. You should be creative and think about what you want to do and then look at where you want to do it without going the other way around.

Last question, I didn’t get an opportunity to ask you about this in our talk. I had written it down. The previous person that I had a conversation with was a futurist, and I was talking to Aubrey de Grey, you need to ask him about epigenetics. He said that epigenetics is where he thinks that the real golden chalice is. I know tangentially what he means. Epigenetics is the ability to turn on and off genes. Things like smoking can cause epigenetic changes that can be inherited, and that’s an acquired change to your physiology. What does he mean by that and what are you seeing in regards to the technology that’s exploiting that?

What he means by it is essentially something we’ve already touched on these days, namely partial reprogramming. Making a cell more stem-like and turning back its differentiation clock is an epigenetic change. It’s turning different genes on and off than what was on and off before. Indeed the same as what happens in the fertilized egg. These factors were discovered because of their role in early embryogenesis. They essentially wipe the epigenetic slate clean and start from the pluripotent state. It’s become exciting now, not just because of the progress that’s been made in partial reprogramming, but also because of the progress that’s been made in developing these things called epigenetic clocks which estimate one’s biological age from the state of one’s epigenome.

It’s no surprise the $3 billion that Jeff Bezos decided to drop on partial reprogramming has been used not only to hire the top people in partial reprogramming, including Belmonte and Serrano and the people we mentioned earlier but also the top people in epigenetic clocks like Steve Horvath and Morgan Levine. That’s what it’s all about.

I said that was going to be the last question, but I got to get this out there because I remembered while we were talking. I’ve followed you for a while. Historically, you’ve always said that you’re not doing anything in particular to delay aging and that you don’t have a regimen in yourself. Has that changed at all? Are you doing anything different? That’s where a lot of the people that are in the space will say like, “I do A, B, and C.” Dr. Attia is talking about exercise being his number one thing. Dr. Sinclair has his own regimen. Anything that you’re doing now since the last time I’ve heard you speak, that is different delay aging at all?

I don’t do anything, but I don’t say that’s because it’s inappropriate to do things. It’s that it’s so different from one person to the next. The person that I most often get contrasted with in this regard is Ray Kurzweil, who takes a couple of hundred supplements a day or something like that. The thing is he’s going a bunch of short straws. He’s got a lot of cardiovascular disease in his family. He came down with Type 2 diabetes in his 30s, which is not exactly common. He’s been able to bring these things under control and very strongly normalize his rate of aging. Whereas I’m on the other end of that spectrum, I’m just lucky. I can eat and drink exactly what I like and nothing happens. I’ve never put on weight. I don’t have to exercise.

It’s extremely important to regulate one’s sleep patterns. It is correct that sleep is important, but I sleep like a baby pretty much whatever happens. I don’t have to do anything in order to have good stable sleep patterns. Everything that people like Peter Attia and David Sinclair and so on say it’s perfectly fine. It’s different things for different people. The only general advice that one can give is to pay attention to your body. If I had drawn some short straws, I would be doing things that other people are doing.

As time goes on, maybe I will need to do some of these things that I don’t need to do now. The other thing to bear in mind is that even if you do exactly what’s right for you, you’re only going to gain a little bit relative to generically living the way your mother told you to, not getting overweight, not smoking, and having a reasonably varied diet. Therefore, the emphasis has to be on developing things that don’t yet exist that will be able to benefit humanity and postpone the health problems of late life by a far greater amount than we can do now by anything.

The emphasis has to be on developing things that don’t yet exist that will be able to benefit humanity and postpone the health problems of late life.

A good thing to talk about is that everybody is different. The starting point for everyone should be to go see your physician and get the test that you need to make sure that you’re avoiding some of these short straws that you’re talking about. Thank you so much for speaking with us for our audience. It’s been nice having you. I look forward to seeing you guys again in the future. Thanks again, everybody.


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About Aubrey de Grey

FSP - DFY 15 | Future LifespanDr. Aubrey de Grey is a biomedical gerontologist based in Silicon Valley, California, USA, and is the founder, President and Chief Science Officer of LEV Foundation, a biomedical research and advocacy charity focused on repairing the molecular and cellular damage of aging. He received his BA in computer science and Ph.D. in biology from the University of Cambridge. His research interests encompass the characterisation of all the types of damage that constitute mammalian aging and the design of interventions to repair and/or obviate that damage. Dr. de Grey is a Fellow of both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Aging Association, and sits on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of numerous journals and organisations. He is a highly sought-after speaker who gives frequent invited talks at scientific conferences, universities, companies in areas ranging from pharma to life insurance, and to the public.


By: The Futurist Society