Two Interviews with Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey de Grey is the co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation and the originator of SENS, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. To my eyes SENS is the most important of present initiatives aimed at producing treatments for degenerative aging: de Grey has led the production of a work of synthesis, drawing together important research from widely disparate reaches of the medical research community, produced by researchers often unaware of the relevance of their work to aging or the efforts of scientists in unrelated fields. The sum of this joined research supports (a) the identification of specific forms of cellular and molecular damage as the causes of aging, and (b) sound and detailed research plans for the production of means to repair this damage, and thereby reverse the effects of degenerative aging.

Synthesis is an often overlooked and important activity in the sciences: someone has to survey the diverse strands of progress in a field as complex as medicine, draw the connections that are rarely apparent to researchers at the cutting edge, deeply immersed as they are in advancing their own narrow but deep specialties. It isn't just a matter of joining puzzle pieces, however. Synthesis also means establishing ties between researchers who will benefit from an exchange of knowledge, but would not have become aware of one another without outside intervention. All fields of science go through periods of fragmentation and exploration, accompanied by a rapid expansion in knowledge, but this also tends to create divides of mutual ignorance and lack of communication between specialties. This is only natural: there are only so many hours in the day, and no one person can know everything there is know about what thousands of researchers in hundreds of laboratories are up to. Thus forming the foundations for the next phase of development in medical science requires initiatives that focus on synthesis, networking, and review: building connections and identifying which pieces of the puzzle join together.

Aubrey de Grey is of course only one of the more visible folk involved in the work of the SENS Research Foundation. There are scores of researchers and other people in a broad network involved in creating better odds for the development of rejuvenation therapies in our future, which is not to mention the thousands of donors who have helped to raise millions of dollars to fund the initial stages of research. As in all such initiatives someone has to be the visible spokesperson, to raise awareness and present the goal of defeating aging to a public that is only just starting to think of this as a possibility.

Here are a couple of recent interviews with de Grey; one audio podcast from Radio New Zealand, and a video from the St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland.

Aubrey de Grey: extending longevity

English author and theoretician in the field of gerontology, and the Chief Science Officer and co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation. Duration:  45′ 58″.

One-on-One: an investigative interview with Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey de Grey (GB), Chief Science Officer & Co-Founder, SENS Research Foundation. Topic Leader: Stephen Sackur (GB) Presenter HARDtalk, BBC Broadcasting House.

The St. Gallen interview was one of the worst I have ever seen. Almost everyone in the building was pessimistic (typical European directionless "why bother?"/focus on the negative attitude). The interviewer was self-absorbed, close minded, and completely ill prepared. Aubrey did a great job.

Posted by: johnathan at May 21st, 2014 6:20 PM

At around 10 minutes, and before Aubrey de Grey develops his arguments, the host asks the crowd what they think about the idea of being able to live hundreds of years. An overwhelming majority is against. That's pretty discouraging...

Kind of like asking prisoners whether they entertained the idea of getting out of their cells more than an hour per day, only to hear them expressing their disinterest...

Posted by: Nico at May 21st, 2014 6:20 PM

@jonathan: "(typical European directionless "why bother?"/focus on the negative attitude)".

I'm afraid you're making gross generalisations here.

Posted by: Nico at May 21st, 2014 6:24 PM

Aubrey himself admitted it was a fairly average audience and many of them changed their mind at the conclusion of the interview. That's what I had taken away from it.

You can find all this stuff and more at the reddit link on the SENS website.

The New Zealand interviewer seemed to have done her research which was interesting. Most interviews are a little more superficial.

Something else I've noticed on the Reddit Link were these tokens to raise awareness for research. A bit pricey and I would definitely get one if I weren't already donating.

Posted by: Michael at May 21st, 2014 7:10 PM


It was suppossed to be a gross generalization. I don't think all Europeans are pessimistic or indifferent but MOST are. It's evident in the politics, businesses, investments, and lack of innovation (relatively).

It's also well documented (tons of other polls/research available):

I wondered why the response was abnormally poor and that was the best answer I could think of. You or anyone else is free to disagree but I will not comment on it further. These type of discussions have been beaten to death.

Posted by: johnathan at May 21st, 2014 10:15 PM

Aubrey is doing an amazing job of keeping up interest in anti-aging medicine. I think the whole area is really awaiting some technological demonstrations in living animals.

Right now Aubrey (and everyone else on both sides of the possible/impossible) argument are still at the stage of the debate of the MIT Technology Review controversy back in 2005.

No one really doubts that a lot of the proposed SENS therapies are possible, they doubt that we have the technological framework to implement them right now.

For example the first sustained powered heavier than air flight was made in 1903. Leonardo da Vinci made drawings of human powered gliders back in the 1480s. With life extension and damage repair compared to flight are with in the 1880s or 1480s? We won't know until we have tried and failed or tried and succeeded. Which is one of the reasons I read blogs like this regularly, I am hanging out for those hints of a technological demonstration in a living animal.

Posted by: Jim at May 21st, 2014 10:40 PM

"Almost everyone in the building was pessimistic (typical European directionless "why bother?"/focus on the negative attitude)."

Unfortunately, Americans have in recent decades also adopted this risk averse, status quo biased mentality. Not only do people have a "why bother?" response to life extension but they also carry assumptions that any radical technological breakthrough will carry at least as many downsides than upsides.

So they respond to anti-aging programs like SENS by voicing concerns about over-population, resource depletion, climate change, and existential philosophical quandaries.

Posted by: Cahokia at May 21st, 2014 10:57 PM

Actually, I think the Gallen interview was pretty good. It was long enough to get through most of the normal 'idiot questions' that come up, the interviewer did a good job of making the questions seem challenging, the interviewer was graceful about handling unexpected answers, and a lot of people changed their minds.

Remember, the goal isn't to 'win' the argument, or to encourage true believers, or to allow us to feel superior because we know something others don't. The goal is to change minds and advance the project, and this interview did that.

Posted by: Dennis Towne at May 22nd, 2014 2:33 PM

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