This interview was conducted by Venessa Posavec on Dec. 14,
V: What do you do and how is that related to the future?
A: I’m a biologist, mainly, and I’m focused on the development
of future therapies that will be able to postpone human aging a
very great deal. By postpone, what I really mean is, repair the
accumulating molecular and cellular damage that causes aging, and
really is aging. The various things that happen, the side effects
of our normal metabolic operations, so to speak, throughout our
lives that will eventually cause things to go wrong with us.
V: And what is the Methuselah Foundation?
A: The Methuselah Foundation is the main vehicle through which I
pursue these goals. It’s a 501©(3) nonprofit registered in Virginia
and it was founded by me and a businessman called Dave Gobel who
has a very distinguished career in a variety of different high tech
industries over the years, so it’s very complimentary so to speak
since I’m on the science side. We have been able to build up the
foundation into a very prominent organization that both promotes
the general merits of seriously combating aging, and also directly
fund research in universities around the world to actually make
that happen. We obtain the money for that research from the general
public, and from wealthy individuals.
V: Where do you see the foundation heading in the future?
A: The main thing that it really has to do is to grow. At the
moment we’re not nearly big enough. There’s masses of research that
needs to be done, that isn’t being funded by anybody else, because
people think it’s too ambitious or they don’t understand the goals
or whatever, and it’s not being funded by us because we don’t have
the money yet. My my main purpose, my main focus at the moment is
to expand the foundation, to get more money in so that we can put
more money out.
“If you consider the first person who will reach the age
of 200, in approximately what year was he or she
The above question was posed by Daryl on the comment
thread of our recent Aubrey de Grey
article on life extension. Please vote and if you do be sure to
explain your reasoning in the comments section!
And for the sake of argument, let’s not include cryonics. So the
rules are that the person can not have already been dead. :)
Well it’s official, Big Pharma is in the anti-aging game.
Yesterday’s news of GlaxoSmithKline buying anti-aging biotech
company Sirtris for a whopping 84% premium over the share price
marks the cloaked entry of big pharma into the anti-aging arena.
Of course they won’t or can’t admit that that is their goal –
they will say that is in service of treating age related diseases –
but this is the beginning of an inevitable trend that will result
in billions of dollars being poured into anti-aging research.
does not consider aging a disease that requires treatment. This
has stemmed the flow of capital into this area and what has come in
has always been (and continues to be) under the very real guise of
treating diabetes, metabolic disorders and other diseases
associated with aging. This is about to change.
The demographic bubble of aging Baby boomers combined with a
growing class of seniors ahead of them already benefitting from
life expectancy rates that continue to approach the magical
threshold of one year of gain for every year that transpires
quotes Ray Kurzweil as putting the current number at three months
per year), will lead to an explosion of investment into this area.
By Dick Pelletier
Scientists predict that over the next three decades,
technologies will bring about enormous changes in our physical and
mental abilities. By as early as 2035, experts say, we could be
living in a powerful disease-free, youthful body with tiny nanobots
roaming throughout every cell maintaining optimum performance
levels for all our daily activities.
Nano-enforced bones and polymer muscles will empower us with
physical abilities almost beyond belief. We could outrun a horse,
jump from the ground to a one-story roof, and focus our eyes to
view microscopic creatures as small as dust mites. Cutting edge
brain enhancements will provide even more super-abilities. We will
control lights, security systems, and electronics with just our
thoughts, and even perceive objects behind solid walls.
Intellectual property expert Fred Hapgood predicts that we will
also enjoy “cell phone implants (which allow virtual telepathy) and
memory backups (downloading memory to a computer disk) will also
become available in this bold future”. Hapgood adds that it may be
possible to upload and download entire minds in and out of bodies,
achieving a sort of immortality.
Many of these abilities, experts say, are a long way off, but
none are thought to be impossible. Most people embrace enhancements
that would make them healthier, happier, and more able, but a few
conservatives oppose this radical progress as not being
Ignoring this future though, may not be an option. If
co-workers, friends, or competitors can search the Internet during
conversations; remember exactly who said what, when and where; or
control machines with just their thoughts, the only choice may be
to join them or retire. The corporate world will definitely favor a
neurotech-enhanced workforce in the future. (cont.)
Opinion by Dick Pelletier
Some of you have heard me talk about prospects for extreme life
extension – “To live in a healthy body continuously until I choose
to die; to not be killed by disease or aging.”
I believe that science and technology will make extreme life
extension possible for most of us alive today. The prime requisite
is to maintain good health, keep a positive attitude towards the
future, and root for science and technology breakthroughs in the
We will soon experience overwhelming advances in disease
prevention and age reversal through gene therapies and nanotech
breakthroughs. Over the coming years, we will slowly grow into a
body fashioned from “designer genes” that can never age or get
Overpopulation: Prospects for this beautiful future are
not without controversy. Some argue that humans living longer will
cause overpopulation problems, such as expanding poverty and
damaging the environment. However, they fail to realize that
technology – spurred on by commerce (filling needs) – will provide
solutions through improved agriculture, easier access to food and
better use of space resources.
Poor health: Some assume that people will continue to
exhibit signs of aging and be decrepit into their hundreds citing
people who are kept alive for years in terrible health, sometimes
beyond the point at which they wish to live. Merely extending life
without improving health is a bad idea. This is why today’s medical
world focuses, not just on preventing death, but on alleviating the
affects of aging by curing diseases. Discoveries will soon develop
for the reversal of aging, so that elderly people might one day
choose to revert to the mind and body of a healthy 20-something.
A follow-up to last week’s Demise of Death
My post last week on the Demise of Death received so many thought provoking comments that I feel compelled to further the discussion in another post. The new information and perspectives contained in the the comments have transformed the way I intend to approach parts of the debate. With such a fertile discussion ground, I felt I would be remiss if I did not give attention and thanks to several of the eloquently expressed ideas.
Here’s the point-by-point update:
Nanotech & Biotech Will Not Necessarily End Death: That death may remain even if aging is cured was a point raised by a few of the commentors. If our bodies did not deteriorate into death, fatal accidents, acts of violence etc. could still bring about mortality. I realize that my rationale for thinking we may be able to conquer death altogether was somewhat obscure in my first post. One theory proposed by futurists and transhumanists, is that to truly conquer aging, we will not be able to rely merely on stem cells, genetic therapies and drugs.
These treatments can, the theory argues, only go so far to combat cellular deterioration. If we are to truly end, and not merely delay aging, we would eventually have to develop nanobots capable of precisely repairing cells. My own logic followed that if we are able to create effective cellular-repair nanobots, we will have mastered nanotechnology and it will serve a number of other functions beyond cellular repair.
Prolific poster Dick Pelletier has pointed out a few times that if nanobot technology were mastered, we could, in theory, surround ourselves in a sort of thin nanobot shield that could, in theory, protect us from violence and accident. Perhaps I have taken this rationale too far. It does not logically follow that by ending aging we will necessarily end death by accident or violence, but I think it is at least a reasonable possibility.
Taking Control of Your Fate Opens Pandora’s Box: Let us consider my original conjecture is incorrect and that we will be able to bring an end to aging, but not death by accident or violence. If this becomes true, we will, in effect be gaining a greatly extended life at the expense of knowing that death will certainly come either by violence, violent accident or suicide. I cannot help but think these are all troubling ends.
Admittedly, most deaths now are troubling. Death by disease and aging is most often the end of a long, painful, degrading, messy battle. But, at present, we can at least hope to be one of the lucky few to die comfortably, unknowingly in their sleep. This hope will be eliminated if aging is defeated.
Even to me the benefits outweigh the downsides, but it is deeply disturbing to know you will one day kill yourself if you aren’t hit by a bus or murdered first. This is in part what I meant when I wrote that I considered myself a part of nature and do not wish to be removed from the natural process. Taking your fate out of the hands of nature results in some very difficult decisions.
Accepting Suicide? This idea of death occurring either by chance or choice is tied to another point raised in the comments. Johnfrink said, “I’m pretty sure if we conquer death eternal life will not be forced on anybody.” And I am inclined to agree. It is unlikely that in a future without aging, omniscient police will parole the streets taking into custody all those thinking of ending it all. But that doesn’t mean suicide will be any more desirable than it is today.
Much has been made of Caloric Restriction (CR) and how it is the one true life-extension strategy currently available. In countless articles and videos it has been given much attention and there are a bunch of folks whose stomachs are growling as we speak that will be disappointed to learn that this strategy may be flawed.
A new study by Raj Sohal and Michael Forster recapped on EurekAlert! shows that CR is essentially only effective when "an animal eats more than it can burn off." The problem it seems is that it really only works for obese mice and has little or no benefit for those who aren't.
The study looked at two different genetically altered strains of mice - basically a fat mouse and a skinny mouse (I think this may have sitcom potential). The takeaway was that calorie restriction helped the mouse that had been programmed to double its weight over its lifespan while it did not extend the life of the skinny mouse. In fact, when CR is started later in life they found that it actually shortened the lifespans of leaner test subjects. The authors noted that previous studies have also demonstrated that wild mice experience minimal life-extension benefits from CR.