fbpx

Welcome to this podcast about breaking the limitations of our bodies to achieve healthy aging with our special guest, the man, the legend, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a most influential thinker in the field. He is Chief Science Officer of the SENS Research Foundation which he cofounded in 2009, VP of New Technology Discovery at AgeX Therapeutics, and Adjunct Professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

Timestamps

I was interested in artificial intelligence research… 00:58

 

People just don’t even agree on the definition of aging. I mean, come on… 7:56

 

The reason why the logic I just described for future medicines against aging doesn’t work today is because the medicines don’t work… 14:28

 

Perhaps the most egregious example of that right now is Calico, the company that Google set up to address aging. They put astronomical amounts of money into it, and… 21:00

 

Researchers don’t help because they know that they have to work within this system, and therefore they kind of perpetuate it… 26:07

 

The reasons why both the younger generation and the older generation tend not to be particularly receptive, are the same reason: namely, they are thinking about themselves… 32:03

 

Script

♪ tune

 

Intro

Arian Hi guys, how’s it going?

Did you know that the excreted rubbish that plants left behind over millions of years is the only reason we can breathe? Their photosynthesis by-product, oxygen, reshaped the atmosphere of the Earth. Didn’t see that coming, did ya? ♪ tune

 

Who Is Aubrey de Grey?

Arian Welcome to this podcast about breaking the limitations of our bodies to achieve healthy aging with our special guest, the man, the legend, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a most influential thinker in the field. He is Chief Science Officer of the SENS Research Foundation which he cofounded in 2009, VP of New Technology Discovery at AgeX Therapeutics, and Adjunct Professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

The SENS Research Foundation internship for undergrads was actually my personal gateway into lab research, and an amazing experience which also enabled me to meet Aubrey back in 2013; some would call him the long-bearded icon of the movement against illness and death which comes from the processes of aging, and his work has been covered in countless publications including The Times, Metro, RT, the Financial Times, The Guardian, BBC News, Fox News and many others; a real inspiration and an absolute pleasure to have on the podcast, specially for our lovely biology student audience, and beyond. Aubrey, welcome!

Aubrey Thank you very much for having me.

Arian Thank you so much for joining me. You graduated in Computer Science in 1985 from Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge, and after going deeper into biology, you wrote your book The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Ageing which formed the basis of your PhD in biology, awarded in 2000. There are so many obstructions to doing science today, where being a scientist requires a PhD, and obtaining a PhD requires a degree, that it seems so rare to get a PhD for a book written on a different subject to your degree. How did it happen, and do you have any interesting anecdotes about that process which would be useful to students today?

Aubrey Well, how did it happen? Essentially, what happened was that after I graduated in computer science, as you say, I went into computer science research. Specifically, I was interested in artificial intelligence research, and I worked for several years on an area of artificial intelligence called self-aware verification, and that went pretty well, I was making good progress, and you know, making breakthroughs that people didn’t know were possible, so that was all nice, but during that time I met and married a biologist; and this biologist was a lot older than me, she was already a senior professor in California, and she was actually in England on sabbatical, and through her I – first of all, I accidentally learned a lot of biology, over the dinner table kind of thing – but also I ended up realising gradually that she just wasn’t interested in aging!

And indeed, that the other biologists I was meeting were also not interested, they didn’t think it was very important. And I was completely horrified by this. By this time, early to mid 1990s, I had, you know, been able, by essentially a lot of luck, to get myself into a position where I was able to pay the bills with a very undemanding job, and thereby to do research in my spare time. I was spending that time, of course, doing my AI research but I essentially repurposed my spare time so as to create an entirely new career for myself, and I was able as I had hoped, to come up with new ways of looking at the problem of aging that were not really quite so natural for people who had been career biologist.

So it all kind of worked out very nicely. In terms of the second part of your question though, well I’m not really very sure I can say anything, because so much of what I was able to do was a case of, on one hand just being very lucky in various ways that I’ve just described, and also just being in the right place at the right time. I don’t really think that the field needs another Aubrey de Grey to come along and, you know, create the next paradigm shift, because, you know, we’re already on the right paradigm now and we just need to get on with it.

Arian Exactly.

Aubrey And at the same time, you know, it would not even be possible to try to follow my career path because so much of it was just serendipitous.

Arian I think there is so much truth in that, and you mentioned you were also working on all this artificial intelligence work, and I was wondering: Was AI as big of a deal then?

Aubrey Well, it depends whether you mean in terms of how well it was going or how important it was. Certainly, it wasn’t going nearly so well as it is now. You know, back then then whole idea of using neural networks and deep learning, that kind of idea, to achieve any kind of performance had been pretty much abandoned. People just tried to make it work, tried simple things that might have had some kind of promise and then they had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth it. And so the predominant, prevailing way of thinking back then was what’s often called good old-fashioned AI, essentially working everything out symbolically and writing it out and trying to analyse things and introduce them to actual mathematics.

And that was the approach that I followed in fact. So yeah, back then things were very slow. But my reason for working in that field in the first place was that I felt that it was a really important problem, that people have to spend so much of their time, you know, doing stuff that they wouldn’t do unless they were being paid to do it, so the problem of work is a real problem. And of course, I always knew that it wasn’t nearly such a serious problem as the problem of aging but, on the other hand, I had discovered when I was a teenager that I was a damn good programmer, and so I thought, you know, let’s play to my own strengths.

I had no reason to believe that I would be a particularly good biologist. So that’s why I chose to go into that area back then. And it was only when I discovered that the people who were good biologists were just neglecting their most important problem, that I thought, well, I couldn’t carry on this way and switched.

Arian I can totally relate to that, I probably would’ve ended up doing psychology had I not got better grades in biology and thought I should just do what I happened to seem to be good at instead of what I think I want to do. Let’s just turn to medicine. Medicine is experiencing major shifts in how health and illness are approached. We’ll find out Aubrey’s take on all of this in just a second. ♪ tune

 

What’s the Link between Aging and Disease?

Arian Healthcare has evolved around the detection and treatment of disease. The problem is that there are just too many diseases, and some only reveal themselves in specific circumstances, that we may not even know about yet. Certain lifestyle-sensitive cancers and a lot of aging-related diseases like Alzheimer’s would have been totally unknown to us some time ago, as other mystery illnesses of the future are unknown to us today.

Therefore, what do you think about the opposite approach of measuring and defining health itself, and maintaining it, and in doing so, automatically pre-empting the development of any imaginable ill state? Do you think we are close to being able to apply this type of healthcare?

Aubrey I’m not really sure that that is the right way to be thinking about this. The fact that there are so many different diseases is not inherently a problem because early in life you get the diseases one at a time, and we can address them one at a time, and we seem to be fairly successful in that. The problem with the health problems of late life is that they all happen more or less simultaneously and they happen gradually, the chronic progressive problems. And therefore there’s a much stronger amount of interaction and exacerbation between them than there is in the case of infectious diseases or whatever that might affect people in childhood or early adulthood. That’s really where a lot of the problem comes from.

But also, I mean, from the point of view of, if you like, the semantics, the terminology, the way we actually describe these things, one’s got to be able to make sure that one describes them in a way that demystifies the problem rather than just adding to the confusion. And I believe that a lot of the problem that we’ve had over the past many decades in figuring out how to address aging is by failing to see this. Failing to see that that’s such an important thing to do. One really important aspect of that people just don’t even agree on the definition of aging. I mean, come on! You know, aging has been the predominant preoccupation of humanity since the dawn of civilisation, you know, it’s a bit sad.

So yeah, I take the view that the starting point has to be a clear and useful definition of aging, and the way I define it is the combination of two processes. First of all, a lifelong process that literally starts before we’re born, whereby the network of processes that keep us alive from one day to the next lays down a variety of different changes to the molecular and cellular structure and composition of the body; and then a second process later in life where these changes start to overwhelm the body. So I call those changes damage precisely because the body is set up to tolerate only a certain amount of it and eventually that threshold is exceeded, and the performance of the body both mental and physical starts to decline and eventually, of course, to cease entirely.

So this is a really simple definition of aging and it works. It’s a definition that actually does encapsulate what we need to know about aging; furthermore, it even shows you that aging is not something that’s specific to living organisms, it’s just the same if I wanted to define aging of a car or an aeroplane, and this really helps. It helps us to see that the approach that we take, that I pioneered 20 years ago, of essentially repairing that damage rather than trying to slow down the rate at which the body generates it, is actually the common sense approach, it’s the approach that we already use in cars and so on, you know, we don’t stop cars from rusting, what we do is we remove the rust periodically before the doors fall off.

And that’s a much more practical approach. It’s pretty shocking that it took so long for anybody to really come along and say this is the way we ought to be thinking, but it really is.

Arian Absolutely, I think there’s a lot of psychological barriers that you also talked about, about how people prevent themselves from even beginning to think about it, and then if they try to think about it they would see that actually it’s not as crazy as it seems.

Aubrey Right. I mean, in a way it’s psychological in the sense that, you know, people have had, as I said, since the dawn of civilisation, this knowledge that there’s this absolutely ghastly thing that’s going to happen to them at a reasonably predictable age if nothing else happens to them in the meantime, like being eaten by a lion, right. And so they’ve got to put it out of their mind and get on with their miserably short lives and make the best of it. And, of course, the best way to do that is to somehow trick themselves into thinking that aging is some kind of blessing in disguise, and the only way to do that is to kind of fail to define aging properly.

So that’s how, I believe, we’ve got ourselves into this crazy situation of subdividing aging into, on the one hand, the so-called diseases of old age like Alzheimer’s, and on the other hand the things that we life to call aging itself like, you know, rather nebulous things like frailty. When in fact this is biologically meaningless. That there is only a semantic difference between those two categories, and if we were to recognise that, then we would have a far better chance of actually developing medicine that addresses both sides of that divide.

As it is, we think we can cure Alzheimer’s disease and such like the same way that we cure tuberculosis, and therefore we spend huge amounts of money trying to do so, when in fact it’s totally impossible because Alzheimer’s is part of aging. And on the other hand we feel that things that we call aging itself are so different than disease that they’re somehow almost off-limits for medicine and that we shouldn’t even be thinking about outing proper money into doing something about it. It’s absolutely tragic.

Arian It is. I’m just going to go a little bit into how healthcare works right now in the world, and how accessible it is. Even today, basic medicines are not evenly distributed to people around the world. I’m going to ask Aubrey how he sees the drugs of the future fitting into this landscape, in just a tick. ♪ tune

 

Will the Latest Healthcare Become Exclusive?

Arian Crucial drugs on the World Health Organisation Model List of Essential Medicines have made their way to the remotest, poorest corners of the globe, at close to free prices relative to those in developed countries, which is a proportionate, fair way of making drugs available to everyone on Earth. However, these are the most basic medicines, and the broader healthcare infrastructure required for full, comprehensive access to the best and latest technologies is still wildly disparate between parts of the world, and even within the same country. How do you think the first rejuvenation technologies will fit into this landscape, and do you envision a day when some of them will make it to the World Health Organisation Model List of Essential Medicines, and be available for half a penny a pop?

Aubrey Well I’ve got some pretty good news here, or at least I think I do. This is the way that I look at this question. At the moment, as you say, there are some medicines which have become almost free in the developing world because they need to be and because they can be. In other words, because they really do cost very, very little to actually produce, and they can save a lot of lives. And of course this applies not only to medicines per se, but also to other preventive measures like mosquito nets, you know. So this is all wonderful.

But then we need to look also at the case of relatively expensive medicines in the sense of expensive to produce, and how well they are being distributed in the developing world. The obvious example, of course, is antiretrovirals against HIV. Now, at the moment, things are looking pretty good, I’ve actually just come back last week from South Africa where I was speaking to a bunch of different audiences, and of course South Africa has seen a huge incidence of HIV and deaths from AIDS in the past decade or more, but the death rate as of now is less than half of what it was at its peak, so that battle is definitely being won albeit not fast enough.

But if we look now at how we got there in sub-Saharan Africa, fact is it is scandalous how long it took for the pharmaceutical industry to be essentially coerced into making these drugs affordable enough for those populations. And so inherently one might be, you know, a little bit pessimistic with regard to future high-tech medicine against the health problems of late life, but I’m not. I believe actually, the simple fact we’ve done it once, albeit that it took us scandalously long to do it, will actually make it far easier to do it the second time.

We only really have to ask ourselves what is the motivation. And the motivation is very clear, it happens at many levels, it’s not just humanitarian, it’s not just, you know, that 100,000 people will die every day worldwide from the health problems of old age. It’s also the economic imperative. The fact that the elderly, at the moment, consist of a huge sink on the economy, they consume a very large amount of money in both medical care and in their inability to contribute wealth to society; and these things will no longer be true when they’re able-bodied; quite apart from the indirect cost like the fact that the kids of the elderly will be more productive because they won’t have to be looking after their sick parents, things like that. Now, this economic argument, because it is just a completely mercenary one that doesn’t rely on any humanitarian conscientiousness or anything, seems to me to be very likely to actually work, and actually bring these medicines to be available to pretty much everybody who’s old enough to need them, pretty much as soon as they become available to anybody; in other words as soon as they’re developed.

The contrast, of course, which makes people not think this way, is with today’s high-tech medicine for the elderly, which certainly is limited very strongly by ability to pay even in the industrialised world. And of course, that’s true in every country in the industrialised world, it’s not even something that results from, for example, the private healthcare system of the US, it’s everywhere. So we must ask what’s the difference. Well, the difference is obvious. The fact is that the reason why the logic I just described for future medicines against aging doesn’t work today is because the medicines don’t work.

There’s medicines that we have today to look after the elderly just, you know, modestly postpone, if you’re lucky, the point at which you start to come down with the chronic progressive conditions of late life, and then maybe extend the time that they stay alive in those conditions, so it’s just money down the drain for no actual economic gain, and that will not be true in the future.

Arian That is actually a brilliant point. Basically, you cannot compare the present situation to the future one because the actual effects of those drugs and therapies are going to be, basically the opposite of what they are currently.

Aubrey Precisely. The economic arithmetic will be completely unrelated.

Arian That is brilliant. Let’s talk a bit about the research that actually leads to these hopefully new drugs and therapies. The thing is, we can’t really predict what type of research will lead to the most impactful therapies for people. We’ll delve more into this in just a sec. ♪ tune

 

Should Research Always Serve a Purpose?

Arian Academic work has been quite separate from commercial applications, to the point where universities have started opening Translational Research Offices to connect academics to their pharma counterparts to leverage their work. On the other hand, claiming to research bacterial defence mechanisms against viruses, to apply it to human gene therapies would have seemed both unsubstantiated and unlikely, and yet that is exactly what has happened with CRISPR, where open-ended research fields were pursued with no inkling that they may potentially prove so significant down the line. Do you think research should remain application agnostic, or seek greater integration with enterprises for more immediate outcomes?

Aubrey I’m absolutely certain that research should not remain application-agnostic, at least not in relation to the biology of aging. I believe that, in fact, we have suffered quite a lot, and are continuing to suffer from a failure of a lot of people to actually appreciate this. Perhaps the most egregious example of that right now is Calico, the company that Google set up to address aging. They put astronomical amounts of money into it, and they’ve got plenty more that they could put in if they wanted to, and they probably will, but what they’ve done is they’ve created a company that has its own internal valley of death. It has a curiosity-driven research paradise of a large number of very highly qualified and very skilled researchers finding things out for the sake of finding things out and just hoping for the best, and then at the other end of the spectrum it has essentially Genentech mark 2, a biotech company set up to turn proven concepts into products, and that’s wonderful; but it’s got nothing between the two.

It’s got nothing that can actually translate what we know, what we already know, into those proofs of concept. Of course, that’s the sort of thing that SENS Research Foundation does. So the only, you know, ray of hope on the horizon, it’s more than a ray right now, it’s become a really big one, is that the work that SENS Research Foundation has pioneered has really become not only mainstream in terms of how people think about it, but also, it has moved forward a great deal in terms of actually generating these proofs of concept. Perhaps the best demonstration of that is the fact that the private sector is really heavily involved now, where the number of companies that we can see working in genuine rejuvenation biotechnology, damage repair, the SENS approach, is proliferating exponentially, and it’s able to do so because the amount of money that’s coming in from angel investors, seed investors and even more established investors in venture funds and so on, is also exploding exponentially.

Some of those companies are actually spinouts from SENS Research Foundation. We have so far taken about half a dozen projects and transferred them into start-up companies so that they can obtain far more funding in investment than we would have ever been able to provide philanthropically. So this is really the way it’s going, and it’s extremely heartening that, at least in many of these cases, we no longer need to say that the availability of sufficient financial resources is the rate limiter.

There are still certain projects, absolutely, that still need to be pursued in the philanthropic sector by SENS Research Foundation and others, and those projects need to have that because they have not yet reached the sufficient level of proof of concept to be investable even in the eyes of the more high-risk, high-reward types of investor that we tend to talk to; but those ones are getting there as well, and if we can just push on for another few years, we may be in a position where the private sector side of things is essentially doing everything really that needs to be done, and the philanthropic side can be more focused on other aspects like education and advocacy.

Arian It’s so great to see how this has evolved over time from, as you said, something that was on the end of spectrum of things with the philanthropy side of things, and trying to push this thing through, and now for it to kind of be ready to fly the nest and just be, sort of a thing that exists in its own right and does not need to be pushed so hard anymore because it’s already reached that critical mass

Aubrey Now, I will say that, from my point of view, as not only the pioneer of this way of attacking aging, but also as a big, high-profile spokesman in this area, it doesn’t feel as though it’s got all that much easier in some ways. You know, the big thing that has not adequately changed yet is people are still desperate not to get their hopes up. So they’re still coming out with the crazy rationalisations for aging that have always existed, and this is still slowing things down.

There’s no question that we should, at this point, be putting a hell of a lot of effort not just into hastening the speed of the research, but also into essentially preparing for the success of the research. You know, developing infrastructure, training medical personnel on much greater scales than what we have right now, so that there will be the capacity to deliver these therapies to everybody who is old enough to need them when the therapies come along.

Arian Actually in the last question we’ll touch on that as well, I think that’s probably the most interesting question really. But before that, let’s just go a little bit into education. Students are still being taught separate sciences like biology, chemistry and physics. I’ll ask Aubrey what interdisciplinarity means to him, coming up next. ♪ tune

 

How Does Interdisciplinarity Impact Therapies?

Arian You spoke of research not being very interdisciplinary as one of the hurdles in accomplishing great medical breakthroughs. I think efforts are being made to address this, for example my PhD programme was specifically created to offer Interdisciplinary Biosciences training where I actually combined your original fields of computer science and biology, alongside other courses and institutes such as the CRI Centre for Interdisciplinary Research, in Paris. Do you think that we are starting to overcome this hurdle, and at which level is it most important to change things, be it education, research funding or elsewhere?

Aubrey So I want to answer that question at two different levels. First of all, let’s talk about the interdisciplinarity and the cross-disciplinary fertilisation that can exist between whole areas of human endeavour, like for example computer science and biology. That’s, of course, something I benefited from a great deal; I was able to bring in a whole new way of thinking to the problem of the biology of aging, and it paid off pretty quickly and pretty effectively. And, of course, I’m by no means the first person to have that kind of experience. The most celebrated example would be the fact that the whole of molecular biology was created by a bunch of physicists back in the 1950s led by Max Delbrück and Francis Crick and people like that.

So, you know, that kind of cross-disciplinary fertilisation is really important. It really, it’s much easier for someone to come in and kind of rethink conceptually the way to address particular problems from the ground up if they’re not encumbered by the conventional wisdom that comes with having spent one’s whole career in that area. Of course, you do have to know how to work on really hard problems, but the great thing is that research is a very transferable skill, so, you know, applying, once you’ve learnt how to work on really difficult stuff in one area, applying it to a different area is just a matter of learning what’s already known, really. But the other aspect, which I think is perhaps just as important and which I am not so sanguine about is cross-disciplinarily and interdisciplinarity within a field like biology.

So, what we see at the moment, and here let me even narrow it further and just talk about the biology of aging, what we see at the moment is an active perpetuation of the mistaken conceptualisation of aging that I mentioned earlier on; the idea that there’s some kind of Chinese Wall, some kind of separation between, on the one hand the diseases of old age, as they’re called – which they shouldn’t be – and on the other hand aging itself. This is perpetuated by the system, in other words, first of all there is a structure of for example, the National Institutes of Health, which actively, explicitly divides these problems into institutes. So there’s a National Institute on aging, and there’s a completely separate National Institute for cancer, and for heart disease and for, you know, diabetes and so on.

So this is a huge problem because these agencies essentially allocate money independently of each other, and therefore the researchers who apply for that money need to emphasise the relevance of their own proposed research to the specific institute that they’re applying to, and this creates, you know, a completely artificial and hugely counterproductive Balkanisation between these areas. The worst of it is that the researchers don’t help because they know that they have to work within this system, and therefore they kind of perpetuate it. You know, gerontologists want to be known as gerontologists, and you know, cardiologists want to be known as cardiologists so that the people who evaluate their grant applications will be comfortable giving them money.

You know, and this is something that really has to stop. But actually stopping it is incredibly difficult. A great example of this happened a few years ago now, when the guy who runs the Division of Aging Biology at the National Institute on Aging, Felipe Sierra, created a new initiative which is called The Geroscience Interest Group, and the idea here, the vision was to try to essentially straddle this problem by creating requests for grant applications that were across institutes, that were joint initiatives by different institutes; by the NIA (National Institute on Aging) combined with, for example, the NCI (National Cancer Institute). And, unfortunately, it’s been almost entirely unsuccessful. There’ve been a couple of things that have been pulled off, but basically it hasn’t worked.

And, of course, the reason it hasn’t worked is because there’s no additional money for this; the money that might go to these new RFAs (research funding applications) has to be taken from somewhere else, and the somewhere else – they don’t like it very much. And of course the balance of vested interest is always tipped in favour of the status quo, so it’s all been a bit of a disaster really, and to be perfectly honest this is a political problem that is about as challenging as gaudy and aknot as there is, really, it’s really difficult to see how to solve it.

Arian So, it all just comes down to the system, I love how you put it that way. Let’s continue talking about the system. Social factors play an important role in driving major shifts in perception, and with it, the focus of medical research. We’ll find out more about how different generations are contributing to research into healthy aging, coming up. ♪ tune

 

Aren’t We too Young or Old to ever Worry about Aging?

Arian When thinking about ageing, the younger generations have nothing to worry about, perhaps trapped in an illusion of eternal youth, while the older generations, somewhat understandably and realistically, focus on making the most of their health without expecting miracle interventions in their lifetime. As such, there is a paradox of intervention where no generation is particularly tempted to tackle such a significant, challenging and disruptive issue with the drive required to make a difference and build momentum. Do you think different generations should focus on different things to accelerate the advent of truly comprehensive healthcare that implicitly addresses the deleterious effects of ageing, and which generation do you think will be most instrumental in bringing this forward, when social and political drive combined with scientific progress reach critical mass?

Aubrey The answer to the first half of the question I can give you in one word: yes. You know, absolutely. There needs to be different priorities. I think you’ve summed it up very well because, the way that you’ve summed it up, the reasons why both the younger generation and the older generation tend not to be particularly receptive, are the same reason: namely, they are thinking about themselves. For me, you know, I’m certainly looking forward to the possibility that I might benefit personally from therapies that don’t yet exist but may exist in time for me to avoid getting sick as I get older, but that’s not what gets me out of bed in the morning.

First of all, just from a mathematical perspective, you know, the greatest difference that my own work is likely to make to how soon aging comes under proper medical control is 10 years at the absolute outside, and that only changes my probability of making the cut by a relatively small percentage, which is not something that’s particularly motivating. Whereas what does get me out of bed in the morning is the fact that every single day that I can bring forward the defeat of aging, and I would hope I’m doing that at least once a month at this point, you know, I’m saving 100,000 lives. You know, that’s quite easy to get out of bed for. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, the real solution is simply to get people to think not only about themselves. Unfortunately, when people do think about themselves, that can translate into other issues.

I can tell a story without actually naming names, that happened about 20 years ago, 15 years ago anyway, when a wealthy guy was having breakfast with another even more wealthy guy. They were good friends; and the second wealthy guy, let’s call him B, person B, said to person A “I’d like you to support my campaign” in this particular mission, and the mission is the war on the war on drugs, “and I want you to give a million dollars”; now, a million dollars – pocket change to both of these people, right, so it was purely symbolic. So person A said yeah, I’ll do that, no problem, so long as you give me the million dollars back for my cause which is to defeat aging. And person B said “… No.”, and person A said why not? And person B said well, it won’t be on time for me. Person B was in their 70s at this point. Right? So, that’s all very well.

You know, that’s one way of thinking. But what I haven’t told you about this story is that the breakfast did not just consist of these two wealthy people. It consisted of person A and person B and also person B’s own son, who was in his 40s of course. Right, so in other words, this person was perfectly comfortable actually saying that he didn’t give a flying fuck about his own son’s ability to make the cut, you know. So it blows your mind, really. But, anyway, so I mean, this answers the question you had. People are too fixated on themselves, and once they get fixated on themselves, and they decide it’s not gonna work, then they just lose all rationality.

The second part of your question is very interesting. Question is which generation is likely to make the most difference in the long run. And I may surprise you in this. Actually, I believe that the generation that’s gonna make the most difference is the ultra younger generation. People who are currently in, let’s say, their twenties. I have certain, you know, actual data to support this, mainly that a number of our most prominent donors are from that generation. But also I can tell you why our donors, and indeed, some of our other influential supporters are from that generation. It’s simply because they never had to change their minds about aging.

So, our number one, absolute number one donor right now, for the past 12-18 months, is Vitalik Buterin, the guy who created Ethereum. He’s 24 now. Now, he read my book when he was 14. So, he grew up thinking the way you and I think; that aging is obviously a medical problem, it’s obviously a medical problem that can potentially be solved. It may turn out to be really hard to solve, but so the hell what? The harder we work to try to solve it, the sooner we will succeed, and lives will be saved in large numbers. That’s all that Vitalik needs to know, and the fact that I know my stuff, to, you know, write me those cheques.

And that’s gonna happen more and more. I believe that at the end of the day it’s all about psychology. Once you’ve made your peace with a terribly ghastly thing that’s going to happen to you in the future and that you feel there’s nothing that can be done to stop it from happening, then it’s incredibly difficult to re-engage that battle. So, the people that are gonna make the most difference are the people that never did make that peace with it in the first place.

Arian That’s absolutely fascinating. So basically a lot of it comes down to not being self-centred in trying to work on this. I think I have come across a lot of people who seem to be very self-centred, and it’s all about what can it do for me, and, you know, if I’m gonna put money into this, I’m basically doing it for myself, even when they’re already quite advanced into their old age, so statistically it’s probably unlikely, and it just kind of reminded me of this really nice quote “Walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs.” As in, some things you just do for your grandchildren, you don’t do it for yourself but it doesn’t change the fact that you wanna do it.

Aubrey Yeah, totally.

 

Outro

Arian Thanks for joining me Aubrey!

Aubrey Well, it’s my pleasure. Thank you very much for having me, it’s been a great pleasure.

Arian It’s phenomenal having you on The A Level Biologist Podcasts. Thank you for listening, and remember…
Making viable mouse offspring from the eggs of two female mice has been going on for decades now. Byeeee ♪ tune

 

Learn more about Aubrey and SRF at https://www.sens.org