Dr. Aubrey de Grey (Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey to be exact, age 50) came to Israel for the first time to take part in the 8th European Congress of Biogerontology (fallback link) organized this year by Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Utopia, the Tel-Aviv International Festival for Science Fiction, Imagination and the Future, organized an informal lecture and Q&A session with de Grey in Tel Aviv, to which I had the privilege to join.
The first part of the lecture was dedicated to a short description of de Grey’s research on regenerative and preventative medicine to thwart the aging process (his work at the SENS Research Foundation). The rest of the lecture was based on questions from the crowd about radical life extension.
Good news, everyone! One day in the future, we
will may be allowed to drink and smoke, and go to McDonald’s! de Grey claims that the damage from these unhealthy activities, “a lifestyle that departs from what your mother told you to do…“, is the same damage our bodies accumulate anyway, just by breathing and eating, only faster. This means that we’ll have to get the same preventative treatments and “tune-ups” more often, or more thoroughly.
However… de Grey emphasizes: “Don’t do it yet! We don’t have these therapies yet. I don’ t know how soon we’re going to have them – I think there’s a 50/50 chance of getting them in the next 20-25 years, but at least 10% chance of not having them for 100 years.” It’s kind of hard to predict technological progress. (0:39:25)
One interesting question was “aren’t you trying to fight entropy?”, to which de Grey answered that all of life, all of the living world, is already fighting entropy very successfully just by being alive for as long as it is. Being alive requires exporting entropy – transferring entropy to the environment, all the time. We are trying to improve the comprehensiveness of that process of exporting of entropy. At the moment, there are certain parts of the process of metabolism where entropy is created and is retained in the body, and that is exactly the accumulation of damage. (0:50:50)
“Purple Shirt“, that was me, asked a “great question”. Basically, I asked if it’s true that the pharmaceutical industry only develops treatments to diseases, rather than cures, because that’s how they make their money. de Grey rephrased my question to “Won’t the medical industry be opposed to these therapies because they will stop people from getting sick, and the industry makes its money out of sick people?” (0:36:00)
Oded Carmeli wrote an interesting article on Time Out Tel-Aviv (pp. 112-116).
“One word of notice before we begin, all the the technologies you’re going to see here, now, are real…”
Nano-robots that fix tissues and control drugs have been envisioned for over 30 years. Now, using DNA origami and molecular programming, they are reality. These nanobots can seek and kill cancer cells, mimic social insect behaviors, carry out logical operators like a computer in a living animal, and they can be controlled from an Xbox. Ido Bachelet from the bio-design lab at Bar Ilan University explains this technology and how it will change medicine in the near future.