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 are the risks and benefits of curing aging?
Aubrey de Grey: It’s important to appreciate that there are big distinctions – big differences – in the reaction to my proposals from different communities. Let’s first of all take the wider world … people who are not biologists and who are just wondering about the consequences of success in these ventures … whether it would be a good idea to combat aging or to defeat aging. The predominant reaction is people are … have fear of the unknown. People appreciate that a post-aging world will be unbelievably different from the world that we know today. And in some ways they appreciate that, yes, there would be some good things. There would be much less suffering because, of course, aging doesn’t just kill. It kills people really horribly. People appreciate, you know, that it would be economically very valuable that … that people can carry on contributions to society rather than concealing … by virtue of medical care. That would be good. But on the other hand people are very scared about things like overpopulation or dictators living forever, boredom, or whatever it might be. Now these are legitimate concerns, but they’re overblown. People are essentially abandoning any semblance of sense of proportion when they make these suggestions, because ultimately we’re talking about saving lives here. We’re talking about the fact that 100,000 people die every single day in the world from aging . . . from causes that young people essentially never die of.