Do you want to live forever? - Aubrey De Gray

This is a fascinating documentary about Aubrey De Grey, the eccentric computer scientist turned biologist who predicts that we will be able to live forever in the foreseeable future.  The documentary covers a lot of ground including the scientific debate over the validity of his claims, the ethical issues, including overpopulation, and his underlying psychology and passion.

It mentions the M Prize (Methuselah Prize) which offers several million dollars to anyone who can double life span of a middle aged mouse. It also touches on the tradition of prizes to spur scientific advancement including the Orteig Prize that resulted in Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a solo non-stop flight. It makes me think of other prizes like the X Prize, which, among other things, has challenged people to build private space ships and was won in 2004. It also brings to mind the google lunar x prize which is so far unaccomplished.

It takes you on  a tour of Alcor, a company that uses Cryonics to store your body (or just your head) after you die.

It also mentions the diet caloric restriction (CR) that claims to extend life expectancy. CR is also mentioned in the fascinating book, Microtrends.

Regarding the scientific debate, it's largely inconclusive.  There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that increased life expectancy is possible.  Currently the record for a human is 122 years old held by Jeanne Calment. The average life expectancy of some tortoises is 200 years. Then there is hydra, which regenerates and never dies.  The documentary is light on the actual science which is extremely complex...  although you can read up on SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescense) , his plan for curing human aging.

One striking point made in the documentary is a lot of the most high profile people that believe his claims are involved in computer science, like Ray Kurzweil, and Marvin Minskey, not biology. His critics claim he is offering psuedo-science and  invoke an interesting term coined by Richard Feynman,  cargo cult science.  That is where primitive tribes near landing strips built their own landing strips and towers hoping planes would come. 

1 comment:

Ben said...

Not to nitpick, but just so as not to confuse people who maybe are unfamiliar with Aubreys ideas, he's actually NOT talking about living forever. He's talking about using medical interventions so as to repair the damage caused to the body by the aging process, which would in theory provide us with an INDEFINITE lifespan. But having an indefinite lifespan is not the same as being immortal. There will still be infections, traffic accidents, suicides, etcetera. Aubrey is talking about the end of ageing - not the end of death.