To be old and decrepit is a condition we all want to believe we’ll never have to face, but people do die of old age and they suffer much leading up to that last breath – 110,000 people die of old age every day.
Dr. Aubrey de Grey, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer for the SENS Research Foundation, has made it his life’s mission to end biological aging and the suffering that goes with it. SENS is a charity that has as its goal to build the industry that will cure the “disease of aging.”
De Grey is a biomedical gerontologist — a scientist that studies aging.
De Grey the gerontologist is so optimistic about the progress of scientific understanding of the aging process that at a Virtual Futures event in London he proclaimed that the first human being to live to the age of 1,000 has already been born. This was reported by Inverse that attended the event, and you can see the video below.
De Grey is well-informed to make such an outsized optimistic statement – his organization researches the application of regenerative medicine to age-related disease that causes the damage to the body’s tissues, cells and molecules which leads to death.
In other words, SENS is working on technology that will ensure that our bodies don’t degenerate.
Specifically, SENS is working on solving seven types of aging damage that curtails human life: tissue atrophy, cancerous cells, mitochondrial mutations, death-resistant cells, extracellular matrix stiffening, extracellular aggregates, and intracellular aggregates.
How could humans possibly live to 1,000 years?
De Grey explained to Tara Loader Wilkinson of BILLIONAIRE that such a long lifespan will happen in stages as science progress.
The first phase consists of the therapies that SENS Research Foundation is working on along with parallel initiatives that combine to restore the molecular, cellular structure and composition of the middle-aged (or older) body, and thereby its function (both mental and physical), to how it was as a young adult, explains De Grey.
However, De Grey expects only 30 years to be added to the average life by these therapies.
His prediction of four digits comes from the second phase, which arises from the critical fact that phase one buys time. If you’re 60 and you get a therapy that makes you biologically 30, then, yes, you will be biologically 60 again by the time you’re chronologically 90. That is 30 years down the line in which technology would have had time to develop more advance therapies that you could benefit from, rendering you younger again, he explains.
As De Greys says: “These therapies won’t be 100 percent perfect, but they won’t need to be; they will just need to be good enough to ‘re-rejuvenate’ you so that you won’t be biologically 60 for the third time until you’re chronologically 150 or whatever. And so on.”
De Grey told Inverse that he foresees a future where we will regularly visit rejuvenation clinics to reboot ourselves to be our younger selves again. He predicts that in the beginning only the superrich will be able to afford these clinics and their services, but that they will quickly become accessible to anyone.
In fact, De Grey foresees that governments will be forced to get on board: “It will become impossible to get elected unless you have a manifesto commitment to have a real war on ageing. Not only in getting the therapy developed as quickly as possible, but also putting in place the infrastructure.”
If fewer people are going to die of natural causes, aren’t we heading for overpopulation at an untenable level?
De Grey says this objection is based on the assumption that we won’t be able increase the planet’s capacity to accommodate people at the same time as we increase people’s lifespan.
“But we seem to be doing rather well in developing renewable energy, artificial meat, desalination — the list goes on. So is it a plausible scenario that in decades to come the population would increase faster than the carrying capacity increases? Of course not,” De Grey told BILLIONAIRE.
Is living for a thousand year something that one would want to do though? While most people would like to have a longer life, especially if it’s a healthy one, how would it affect society if people live to 1,000 years?
Some would argue that a limited lifespan is part of what it means to be human and to try to extend human life to such an extent is purely narcissistic fantasy. The fact that we know our lives come to an end gives it value, gives us goals to aim for, things to achieve during that limited and precious time.
What do you live for if a thousand years stretch before you?