Transcript for 60 Minutes on Radical Life Extension, Aubrey de Grey

I just finished watching biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey's appearance on 60 Minutes, with scientists Jay Olshansky and Christian Sell providing the opposing viewpoints, in a segment entitled "Immortality." How far we've come in the past few years - that the opposing view in a mainstream media publication is now that radical life extension will happen, just not so much and not so fast! Overall, it was one of the most positive mainstream pieces on healthy life extension I've seen; good job all round.

The transcript of the segment can already be found online. A few choice quotes:

"The first generation [of anti-aging therapies] will give us maybe 30 extra years of healthy lifespan," says de Grey. "So, beneficiaries of those first therapies will still be around to benefit from improved therapies that will give them another 30 or 50 years and so on. So this is basically staying one step ahead of the problem." ... "What I'm after is not living to 1,000. I'm after letting people avoid death for as long as they want to," he says.


What I like about Aubrey is, he's not selling anything except ideas. He's set forth a series of testable research hypotheses, which is what science is all about, and he said 'test them'. I love that. That is what we should be doing in the world of science," Olshansky says. "I just wouldn't hold out immortality or 5,000-year life expectancies as the end result or the promise of what you're going to get from this."


"We're talking about saving 100,000 lives a day. And it takes a lot of problems to match that," says de Grey.

De Grey acknowledges that some people will say those 100,000 lives lost a day are just in the nature of things. "But, you know, it didn't stop us from using treatments for infectious diseases when we found out how to develop them," de Grey responds.

People are chained to their blogs nowadays; a nice brace of posts on the 60 Minutes show can already be found with a little hunting:


Being less than a novice when it comes to science - either theoretical or applied - I'm not one to evaluate anyone's biological and genetic claims. It certainly does pique my interest, however, when apparently intelligent and well-qualified scientists make claims about extending life expectancy for several centuries

Superior beardage:

I find all this talk so fascinating. I mean, to live well past 100 seems so out of reach, but then again, at one point man couldn't even conceptualize the technology that would enable us to go into space. Given the speed with which science is expanding (think about the past 10 years even. Look at how much better your PC is now compared to then. Medical treatments: AIDS drugs, cloning, mapping of the human genome, etc.), the possibilities are exciting.

immortality makes me tired:

Maybe someone who expects to live to the ripe old age of 874 will plan out things accordingly, postpone childbirth for a couple hundred years. But if, at 74 and standing on the golf course, I find out I've got almost a thousand more years to shave some strokes off my game, I might not be able to feign excitement.

Fiction may speak truth:

Now, this research is in very preliminary stages. It's not likely that any practical, effective results will be obtained in my lifetime (but neither is it impossible that they might be). It's just fascinating to me that something I read about in a work of science fiction a couple of decades ago might someday actually become reality. Wouldn't that just be the coolest thing?

The Methuselah Foundation volunteers are very pleased, and rightly so. Hopefully this will be first of much positive media attention in 2006.

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Somebody ought to get Aubrey de Grey together with Zsallia at Methuselah's Daughter ( She even has the Methuselah Mouse project ( in her blogroll. Even as a work of fiction it's an interesting take on immortality.

More seriously, until now I always thought de Grey was a kook, a prejudice he very thoroughly put aside in that segment. It's going to be an interesting century.

Posted by: john at January 2nd, 2006 7:34 AM

Yes, the hurdle is always to get people to look closely enough at what is actually being said to overcome their instinctive prejudices. Hopefully, this 60 Minutes appearance achieved that goal for a large number of people.

Posted by: Reason at January 2nd, 2006 12:14 PM

"If you have difficultly imaging this, think about the situation with houses. With moderate maintenance they stay up, they stay intact, inhabitable more or less forever. It?s just that we have to do a bit of maintenance to keep them going. And it's going to be the same with us," says de Grey.

A poor analogy I think (or perhaps just scarily true). A house requires maintenance, I'll even buy 'moderate' however it also requires a lot of replacement parts (eventually pretty much everything) because it is only the thing we call a house that seems to live forever. The orginal thing that was built will not.

I'm not against the notion of longevity, however it is just such analogies that suggest it isn't as easy as switching some gene(s) -- everything wears out -- what happens when the brain wears out? Do I want that replaced or even augmented? I'm not so sure.

Posted by: Dave Kinchlea at January 3rd, 2006 8:04 AM

Dave, your entire body is already replacement parts. There are very few, if any, atoms that were present in your body at birth that are still in your body today. Your patterns persist, but the atoms that make those patterns don't.

Posted by: Raymund at January 3rd, 2006 1:21 PM

Right, and I'm breathing the same air as Adam & Eve -- that's not the point. You don't 'maintain a house' at the atomic or even basic material level, you replace macro parts -- windows not sand & sodium.

The analogy does not hold up at all, the work of longevity is not like that of maintaining a house -- I am not a nay-sayer (though I am not at all certain *I* want to live that long), just that the analogy works against not for the premise.

Posted by: Dave Kinchlea at January 3rd, 2006 3:33 PM
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