Aubrey de Grey
Chief Science Officer, SENS Foundation

What is human nature?

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Aubrey de Grey says that our survival instinct may play into human nature but doesn't necessarily define it.

Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey de Grey, PhD, is Chairman and Chief Science Officer of the Methuselah Foundation. The core of his research is the identification of all forms of cellular and molecular damage whose accumulation contributes to human aging, and the design of interventions to remove, repair, replace, or render harmless all such damage so as to arrest or even reverse the biological aging process. He has published extensively on these and other areas of gerontology in the scientific literature, and is also Editor-in-Chief of the high-impact journal Rejuvenation Research, the only peer-reviewed academic journal focusing on intervention in aging.


Question: What is human nature?

Aubrey de Grey: The survival instinct is one thing. The urge to reproduce certainly exists well, and I think it’s part of this … the innate human nature. But again, it’s something that can be overstated. A lot of people would say, “Well, it’s crazy that we would ever use birth control.” You know, the idea if you asked people 200 years ago whether they would actually submit to the concept of limiting their procreation in order to control population or whatever, people would have said it was a crazy idea. But sure enough, when infants start dying very often, you know, we all did it. And it’s only because children are expensive. We … laws or anything like that. So if we look at the … same sort of thing. We see a fall in … rate in pretty much all of the … world, and even in the wider world. Like China’s below replacement level already. India is plummeting, and they haven’t had a “one child” policy or anything. They’re nearly down to replacement level. More than that, even women who are having children, they’re having them later . . . as if they’re delaying until they have to have children because of menopause and, you know, problems with Down’s Syndrome and so on and …. So I think that’s really good news. It means there actually are, you know … Our presumption that there is this innate drive to have kids, quite often, may not be so strong as we may have been brought up to believe. And that actually, if we were to eliminate menopause and the … you know, the decline of quality of egg cells, and therefore the decline of the safety of having kids, then women would actually – professional women anyway – would continue to delay their procreation even further. So we might actually not be correct in thinking there would be a serious overpopulation problem if we eliminated aging.


Recorded on: 6/22/07