Question: How do your views on longevity and life extension compare with those of Aubrey de Grey and Ray Kurzweil?
Answer: Parts of SENS urgently should be funded and tested. That being said, I work on sequencing and not on SENS, because our approach to curing aging is first to turn biology into an information science - actually getting to untangling the morass of metabolism that SENS does an end run around. I believe we can get to a complete mechanistic understanding of human biology in only a few decades, which is a timeline more like Kurzweil’s. On the other hand, if SENS were being vigorously pursued today, it might save millions of lives before the total understanding approach avails us. It is good to have multiple bets.
As for Kurzweil, maybe this isn’t fair, and I’d like to hear his thoughts on it, but I’m afraid his books demotivate people who would otherwise contribute to the cause, maybe by giving the impression to some that the Singularity is not only coming, but actually inevitable. Eat right, exercise, take these pills, and don’t worry - those smart hardworking scientists over there will solve everything for you. In contrast, a great thing about Aubrey as a leader is that he harangues people to actually get off their asses and make a contribution.
We might not survive the next twenty years. We may never cure aging. There is nothing inevitable about our success. Everyone who is talented enough to make a contribution should be trying to help, on all fronts, by any ethical means, like it’s life and death - because it is.
Which is well said. The future is what we make it to be - if we sit back and make nothing of it, then we will all suffer horribly, become frail, and die from the same causes and at the same ages as our parents. It is a stark choice: the potential of lives of centuries of good health on the one side, and the certainty of the abyss upon the other.
As I have been known to mention here and there, SENS and related repair-based strategies for reversing aging are the direct and fastest path to the defeat of age-related suffering, frailty and death. Other roads in the life sciences will get there in the end, but that end will arrive decades too late to help those of us in middle age who are reading this today. If we collectively fail to soon build SENS into a research community to rival institutional cancer science in scope and ambition, then many, many millions of lives will be lost as a consequence - our own a few drops amidst the tide. Fifty million deaths each year, repeated for every year that rejuvenation therapies remain unrealized.