An Interview with Aubrey de Grey

A recent interview with Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation, one of the few groups with a focus on accelerating progress towards the medical control of degenerative aging:

C: For those who are not familiar with you, let us know more about your project. What is the core concept of "Ending Aging"? What would you like to achieve through your project?

AG: At SENS Research Foundation we are focused on developing rejuvenation biotechnologies, which means medicines that can not just slow down aging but actually reverse it. We want to take people who are already in middle age or older and restore their physical and mental function to that of a young adult. We aim to do that by repairing the molecular and cellular damage that the body does to itself throughout life as side-effects of its normal operation.

C: What drives you to pursue your mission, spending lots of time and capital?

AG: I've always been driven by humanitarian motives, so I want to work on problems that cause human suffering. Aging undoubtedly causes far more human suffering than anything else. The strange thing is that there are so few people who think that way: lots of people claim to be humanitarian, but hardly anyone thinks aging is really important.

C: How did you get interested in science, gerontology, and aging?

AG: I got interested when I discovered how few other people are interested - even biologists. Until I was about 30, I had totally assumed that everyone understood how serious a problem aging is and that lots of experts were working hard to defeat it. After I married a senior biologist and discovered that that wasn't true, it was an easy decision to switch from my previous career as a computer scientist.

C: How does your experience in computer science help you understand aging and come up with solutions for that?

AG: It was extremely helpful. The first reason is just that computer science is a very different field; quite often in science people have made important breakthroughs after switching fields, because they are not blinkered by the new field's "conventional wisdom". Second, computer science is a very goal-directed, technological field, whereas pretty much everyone else in gerontology back then was much more of a basic scientist - great at testing hypotheses so as to understand nature better, but not so good at seeing how to use existing knowledge to manipulate nature.

C: In order to raise capital for visionary projects and ideas, what are important things for entrepreneurs, scientists, and futurists to remember?

AG: I sometimes give a talk on that topic, called "How to be a successful heretic". The main messages are that one can rise above the crowd only by having a compelling technical basis for one's idea, a clear vision for its benefit to humanity (and, in the case of investments, to the investor) and a comprehensive set of succinct answers to all the concerns that people may have about whether the idea is as valuable as one is claiming.



Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.