The Value of Modest Breakthroughs

Question: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your work?

Aubrey de Grey: I’ve been extremely lucky when it’s come to encountering and overcoming obstacles in my work. When I was working in artificial intelligence, I was essentially learning how to do research, and I could easily have become disillusioned if I had long periods of lack of progress which most researchers do in their formative years when they’re doing their PhDs and so on. I was very lucky that I was able to make modest breakthroughs sufficiently frequently to keep my spirits up sort of speak and to give myself the sort of intellectual resilience that one needs in order to work on really hard problems. Once I’ve got into working on the biology of aging, I’ve been facing both scientific problems and of course political and other problems in persuading people that my work is worthwhile, but again, I’ve been able to make steady progress in both areas. So I really haven’t had big obstacles, big if you like psychological barriers to keeping going and maintaining my morale.

Recorded on:  October 2, 2009

Aubrey de Grey explains why savoring small victories is the key to overcoming seemingly impossible challenges in science.

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