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'We will be able to live to 1,000'

from Falcon - Tuesday, November 06, 2007
accessed 811 times

Cambridge geneticist Aubrey de Grey: "The first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already"

Life expectancy is increasing in the developed world. But Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey believes it will soon extend dramatically to 1,000. Here, he explains why.

Ageing is a physical phenomenon happening to our bodies, so at some point in the future, as medicine becomes more and more powerful, we will inevitably be able to address ageing just as effectively as we address many diseases today.

I claim that we are close to that point because of the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) project to prevent and cure ageing.

It is not just an idea: it's a very detailed plan to repair all the types of molecular and cellular damage that happen to us over time.

And each method to do this is either already working in a preliminary form (in clinical trials) or is based on technologies that already exist and just need to be combined.

S Jay Olshansky
Nothing in gerontology even comes close to fulfilling the promise of dramatically extended lifespan
S Jay Olshansky

Read full article
This means that all parts of the project should be fully working in mice within just 10 years and we might take only another 10 years to get them all working in humans.

When we get these therapies, we will no longer all get frail and decrepit and dependent as we get older, and eventually succumb to the innumerable ghastly progressive diseases of old age.

We will still die, of course - from crossing the road carelessly, being bitten by snakes, catching a new flu variant etcetera - but not in the drawn-out way in which most of us die at present.

I think the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already

So, will this happen in time for some people alive today? Probably. Since these therapies repair accumulated damage, they are applicable to people in middle age or older who have a fair amount of that damage.

I think the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already.

It is very complicated, because ageing is. There are seven major types of molecular and cellular damage that eventually become bad for us - including cells being lost without replacement and mutations in our chromosomes.

Each of these things is potentially fixable by technology that either already exists or is in active development.

'Youthful not frail'

The length of life will be much more variable than now, when most people die at a narrow range of ages (65 to 90 or so), because people won't be getting frailer as time passes.

There is no difference between saving lives and extending lives, because in both cases we are giving people the chance of more life
The average age will be in the region of a few thousand years. These numbers are guesses, of course, but they're guided by the rate at which the young die these days.

If you are a reasonably risk-aware teenager today in an affluent, non-violent neighbourhood, you have a risk of dying in the next year of well under one in 1,000, which means that if you stayed that way forever you would have a 50/50 chance of living to over 1,000.

And remember, none of that time would be lived in frailty and debility and dependence - you would be youthful, both physically and mentally, right up to the day you mis-time the speed of that oncoming lorry.

Should we cure ageing?

Curing ageing will change society in innumerable ways. Some people are so scared of this that they think we should accept ageing as it is.

I think that is diabolical - it says we should deny people the right to life.

The right to choose to live or to die is the most fundamental right there is; conversely, the duty to give others that opportunity to the best of our ability is the most fundamental duty there is.

There is no difference between saving lives and extending lives, because in both cases we are giving people the chance of more life. To say that we shouldn't cure ageing is ageism, saying that old people are unworthy of medical care.

Playing God?

People also say we will get terribly bored but I say we will have the resources to improve everyone's ability to get the most out of life.

People with a good education and the time to use it never get bored today and can't imagine ever running out of new things they'd like to do.

And finally some people are worried that it would mean playing God and going against nature. But it's unnatural for us to accept the world as we find it.

Ever since we invented fire and the wheel, we've been demonstrating both our ability and our inherent desire to fix things that we don't like about ourselves and our environment.

We would be going against that most fundamental aspect of what it is to be human if we decided that something so horrible as everyone getting frail and decrepit and dependent was something we should live with forever.

If changing our world is playing God, it is just one more way in which God made us in His image.

Aubrey de Grey leads the SENS project at Cambridge University and also runs the Methuselah Mouse prize for extending age in mice.

Reader's comments on this article

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from neez
Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 21:37

This would change everything.
But honestly, can you imagine this sort of stuff ever being made available to every(even rich) Joe?

I can only begin to imagine the amount of money corporations would lose. Not to mention stuff like credit/insurance companies, banks, the education system etc all being affected.

Would you make your kids waste their youth in school if they could live to 1000? Would you still worry about stuff like life/health insurance? And imagine the interest on your savings after a couple centuries, or the rate on a 500 year bank loan. 300 year credit rating anyone? The mind boggles.

It would be worse than what goes on with the oil companies stopping alternate fuels.

But really, why bother with all this ongoing medication crap when in a few years we will be able to clone ourselves at home with nothing more then a PC, a thermonuclear generator, and a decent sized bathtub.
(reply to this comment)
From neez
Monday, November 12, 2007, 21:56

* I can only begin to imagine the amount of money medical/pharmaceutical/Bush companies would lose.(reply to this comment
From conan
Tuesday, November 13, 2007, 11:34

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
As if that would be a bad thing! First of all, let's pause and realize that this hypothetical possibility of living 1000 years or so is just that, a hypothetical possibility. Our planet and society is not ready emotionally or psychologically to have the ability to transcend 'natural aging processes'. The irony in all of this is that for those Christians who take the Bible's word so literally think that living longer than a single century due to medicinal breakthroughs and/or genetic science would be blasphemous to their religion in the sense that humans are 'playing god' forget that in their precious book, aging into the multiple century mark was normal, as was having children well into your 3rd and 4th centuries prior to the earth being destroyed via flood.

But, digression aside, this is simply not an option that I could see being carried out unless the world universally adopted certain birth/population control laws as well as the pharmaceutical companies in 'modern civilization' being curbed as far as their reaching effects into the every day lives of the medically insured human constituency.

As far as the preposterous notions raised by several people on here about being able to explore other reaches of our galaxy and space beyond, the limits of our capabilities is that we have not developed technologically sound devices to transform our entities into pure light which is what would need to happen if were to realistically have any chance at deep space colonization. We know that our solar system isn’t capable of supporting life outside of our tiny planet’s existence, and the only planets we’ve discovered that would potentially be habitable to human kind are thousands of light years away, meaning of course that if were able to travel at the speed of light, or propel ourselves into some sort of vacuum or space/time continuum that would enable our matter to travel at close to the same speed as particles of light, it would take more than a thousand years to reach the nearest star system capable of housing planets that would be suitable to maintain human life creating other obvious conundrums to the dilemma of aging and conquering death on other planets, solar systems, galaxies, etc.

I know that I have already said that the notion of living 1000 years seemed cool and with the realm of human potential, but I was thinking more on an isolated basis with the general population having no involvement or participation as the ensuing complications that would arise with the availability of trans-century life would cripple society and or lead to the eventual elimination of millions and billions of people which is too morally reprehensible for the majority of human minds to wrap themselves around, even if it was for the greater good and survival of the species. The moral flexibility required to levee such options on the universality of our species is one that would receive immediate comparisons to Hitler and other genocidal, ethnically cleansing oriented figures of our brief history.

While I do believe that the human mind is capable of discovering wonderful, fantastic, extraordinary and (currently) incomprehensible things, I fear that the mind of the herd is far too limited to ever embrace such opportunistic occurrences on a scale that would be necessary for such happenings to occur on the commonality scale that would be required to make a lasting alteration on the multiple dissention that is our species.
(reply to this comment
From neez
Wednesday, November 14, 2007, 01:00

What wouldn't be a bad thing? Privatised medical systems losing billions? If so, I couldn't agree more.

Actually, long-windedness aside, I agree with most of your post. I think this research is probably a bit past the hypothetical stage though.

So lets say hypotheticaly that the aging process is succesfully reversed tomorrow by some government funded geek, but(surprise surprise) humans still aren't "ready emotionally or psychologically" to have access to it. What happens to the greatest discovery of all time then? Who determines when the public is ready for it? Would they even be able to stop that big a discovery forever, overpopulation or not?

Christians(and other idiots) have tried to stop similar research like stem-cells and cloning etc. But all they've managed to do is delay them a bit.

The connection between prolonging life, and living on another planet escapes me. One thing at a time people.(reply to this comment
from exfamily
Thursday, November 08, 2007 - 00:36

I would love to live 1000+ years, merely to be around for all the breakthroughs in science that will inevitably come about. For example (as mentioned previously), travel (if colonization is too far off) to other planets, detecting alien life, a theory of everything, creation of life from inorganic matter, and all the rest of the exciting discoveries that could happen in a thousand years - plus being able to experience everything this life has to offer.

I don't want to die. I don't want to cease to exist. I am a mere speck on consciousness existing for a blink of an eye, after which I will be extinguished. I am nothingness floating in this unimaginably vast expanse of space called the universe. Yet I want to see, to know. There is so much to know. Imagine all the wonders that lie elsewhere in the universe. If I lived and died 1000 years ago, what I would have experienced had I lived another 1000 years! Things unimaginable at the time. Imagine then what we will miss in the next thousand years.

Life goes on without you after death, and for you it will be as if you never existed - because you won't exist. That's perhaps the main thing I wish were true about religion/new age crap, the idea that we have a spirit. I wish it were true, so that I could see the outcome of the world. I wish it were true, so that I would not miss anything. But all things being as they are, it isn't; and I must resign myself to the knowledge that I will soon be snuffed out, just like the rest of you and everyone else. This technology is a pipe dream for the moment. But it's certainly an interesting field of research.
(reply to this comment)
from madly
Wednesday, November 07, 2007 - 21:18

I agree that it is amazing how far science has come and it is fascinating. Even if I could, would I want to live to be 1000? Hell no! I don't even want to live to be 60. This life is so overrated. On the other hand it would be amazing to live that long, be able to travel, get a masters degree in every subject and more than anything, gain the wisdom to use such learning. You could ultimately get this thing called life figured out, or, knowing me, just get even sicker of it, more confused, totally lost and end up, mad as a hatter. Who knows? 1000 years is a very long time to live and it reminds me of that god awful movie called “Bicentennial Man”. If living that long is anything like having to sit through that movie, I think not.

I sure wouldn’t want to live in a crowded world and I don’t for a second believe that natural disasters and accidents would kill off enough people to avoid overpopulation.
People are supposed to die in order to make way for the young to have their chance. If less people died, this planet would cease to exist just out of us literally sucking its life and depleting all of the earth’s natural resources.

What will happen with this is that it will be taken advantage of by the wealthy, because they will be the only ones able to afford it. This will eliminate the issue of overpopulation; however, I foresee a different kind of issue. These wealthy, healthy people, living almost forever, will eventually, because of time alone, take over their parts of the world. The wealthy will dominate the planet because they will have 1000 years to buy up land and invest until they will have a monopoly over everyone. Now the rich, to some extent, already dominate the planet, but not on the scale that I believe this could possibly lead to. The control that they would have and the pull in government, laws, etc would change the world to their advantage. It would almost be like having dictators, or worse, because they would never die, it would be like having Gods.

Maybe I am taking it too far, but it was fun doing so. When it comes down to it, I don’t really give a damn because I would have been dead for a very long time before any of this came about. Still, very interesting and fun to read. Thanks.
(reply to this comment)
From Falcon
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 22:34

But I imagine if one lives that long they will witness man expanding to other planets and galaxies. Judging by how quickly technology is developing, and how quickly the planet is deteriorating, I believe our species will eventually spread like the virus we are when this world becomes too "overpopulated" or uncomfortable. And I would love to be there for that!
And like I said below, just because you can live that long doesn't mean you will or have to. You have the power to choose your death. When you're tired of it, just bow out on your own time and terms. Why not?
Also I think if one has the brains and can acquire so much knowledge, they have the time and intelligence to build their own financial empire. Who knows what the monopoly game of the future will entail?(reply to this comment
From if
Thursday, November 08, 2007, 00:10


I love your question "Who knows what the monopoly game of the future will entail?"

However, my personal wager would be that factors other than prolonged life expectancy will be the factors determining changes, if any, in that "monopoly game" (assuming that prolonged life expectancy became reasonably widespread, and if it were not, well then it is still Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and Sultan something and the Queen of England etc. who will buy it, so it's a whole 'nuther analysis).

I think time is and would remain very relative (absent something happening that is beyond this life expectancy change), kind of like wealth is now. It is less of an advantage the more people have it.

And I certainly agree that "just because you can live that long doesn't mean you will or have to. You have the power to choose your death. When you're tired of it, just bow out on your own time and terms. Why not?"

But how is that different from now?

If it changed, it would be to a separate factor, such as a change in peoples' beliefs about selecting/controlling one's own death -- or to put it bluntly, the suicide taboo.(reply to this comment

From madly
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 23:29

"Also I think if one has the brains and can acquire so much knowledge, they have the time and intelligence to build their own financial empire. Who knows what the monopoly game of the future will entail?" That was exactly my point... they will have all the time in the world to dominate. Will that be a good thing? (reply to this comment
From JohnnieWalker
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 23:07

I think that would probably be one of the few occasions in which living to be 1000 would be worthwhile--to explore other planets.

Even at or near the speed of light, the travel time alone to reach the nearest *possibly* habitable planet (for carbon-based lifeforms) would take decades or even centuries. With an average lifespan of 78 years, a 50- or 60-year round trip would be impossible. With a lifespan of 500+ years, it would be quite feasible.(reply to this comment
from conan
Wednesday, November 07, 2007 - 16:31

Finally, something interesting to talk about!

I think this is a fascinating article and I am thrilled at the prospect. I’m sure it will not be possible in my lifetime, but think of the implications.

Do you think anyone in his or her right mind wouldn’t want to live forever? Isn’t that what drives most people to do anything? Because they’re afraid they won’t live long enough to enjoy what they work so hard to get, or their lives aren’t that valuable to them because they know that they’ll die either way that they willingly put their bodies in harms way or take risks that ruin the future of their existence, etc.

Imagine the mystery gone. I mean, if you knew that barring an accidental (or otherwise) violent death you would live to be a thousand, wouldn’t you want to? Imagine what you could accomplish! Imagine what you could learn, what you could see, places you could go and the things and people you’d do.

Religion would most likely disappear as a mainstay and be sequestered amongst extremists and fringe members of society (where it belongs) as the need for absolution wouldn’t be as prevalent or whatever it is that drives people to faith. Civilization and education would have to dominate, as it would be clear that the survival of the species rests with them and not with the most willing or capable to reproduce.

If our planets most brilliant minds worked on aging as a disease instead of trying to figure out the best way to keep the dick working and how long to maintain a safe erection, and such, it could be a legitimate possibility (in my mind) of something our species could accomplish.

(reply to this comment)
From Falcon
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 17:00

I absolutely agree. Not to mention the changes in the quality of life. Imagine if you worked hard the first couple hundred years, built up a solid cash flow to last the rest of the 800 years which you could spend living a relaxed, idealistic lifestyle. And imagine the knowledge one could acquire over that time. (reply to this comment
From if
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 23:16


I think that by the time enough people are living to 1,000, it will make no difference in the cash flow people would be able to secure for the remaining several hundred. All the same mechanisms that kick in now will result in similar opportunities an obstacles as well as needs, all of which will change in scope.

As a more pessimistic aside, all of the people who abused us will also live 1,000 years.

I guess however that all of the above would be affected by how fast this extended living expectation kicked in. Possibly, if it were sudden, the adjustments regarding savings and such would have more of an effect than if the life expectation increase crept up on people.

I would wonder then, how much higher for example the rates of substance abuse and behaviors like excessive eating, spending or sex would be in the more sudden change scenario.

And how about the murder rate, and other crime rates. One one hand, if laws did not adjust in time, you would have tons of time left after jail, so who cares. If they did though, 980 years locked up may be a better deterrent than 65 years in jail. Maybe the death penalty would become even more widespread due to murderers standing a chance of living longer. Maybe people who would kill a person would be more willing to do so given the prospect if they don't.

I think for certain this would make dynasties of power and money much more influential (yes, if that were possible). Unless somehow the secrets of the haves were perfectly transmitted to the have-nots.

What I would be most interested in knowing, however, is: would childhood last longer too?

That would be critical.

(reply to this comment

From madly
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 23:25


No... I don't think that makes any sense. Why would it effect childhood in anyway? They aren't talking about slowing down or stunting growth, but sustaining life. I believe the more significant question might be: Would women be able to have children into their hundreds or would menopause still occur in a woman's 50s and 60s? This would make all the difference.

(reply to this comment

From if
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 23:56


What makes no sense?

Why would it delay menopause but not puberty/adolescence?(reply to this comment

From if
Thursday, November 08, 2007, 00:14


Oh, and what "age" (as known now) would we be during those years? Would it be proportional or disproportional?

That would also be critical, at least for my "brain" which may well be a pea brain (at least until Alex the brilliant pea is discovered (see Alex the smart (and late) parrot)).(reply to this comment

from JohnnieWalker
Wednesday, November 07, 2007 - 07:13

"[...] as medicine becomes more and more powerful, we will inevitably be able to address ageing just as effectively as we address many diseases today."

When you consider that there is hardly a single medicine out there that does not have adverse side effects and can cause serious damage to the body if taken regularly, that statement begins to sound ironic.

Ever notice how the people who live past 100 are rarely sickly or medicated? And how people who constantly take medication never seem to get better?

I'm not exactly a health freak or anything, but I'm almost positive that natural remedies and changes in food and pollution regulation laws not medicine alone will become the key to longevity.

If becoming a multi-centenarian requires dependence on medicine to keep me alive, I would much rather die at 90 having lived a healthy life.
(reply to this comment)
From lotstoforget
Thursday, November 08, 2007, 15:58

You've got it Johnnie!

All the rest is just wishful thinking. Living to be a thousand years is just BS - nothing else! Quality of life - my ass! Living on tubes and wires? Not my idea of becoming immortal - for sure.

Life's to be lived, but death is the consequence of birth. Some of these folks here, so gung-ho about living, haven't felt the pain of age and the satisfaction and relief about a soon home going.

This is almost becoming religious! I guess we all remember that Geezus promised everlasting life - but not in an kaput and decrepit old body. It was meant to be spiritual. Start the howling, oh ye lovers of this life... Rest assured the moment of the last breath will come - for some sooner than they think!(reply to this comment
From Fish
Thursday, November 08, 2007, 18:16

"Home going"? How Familyesque.(reply to this comment
From Falcon
Friday, November 09, 2007, 09:53

'Some of these folks here' - another Bergism. This guy is making it sound like loving this life is wrong. There's plenty of life hating going on for the people who await some kind of better after life. It's thinking you're getting somewhere better after death, that makes you detest the only life you're going to get in the here and now. As far as I'm concerned, my death will mean the cessation of my existence. You must understand then, why I embrace life - this one. (reply to this comment
from rainy
Wednesday, November 07, 2007 - 00:35

But what will we do about overpopulation?
(reply to this comment)
From Falcon
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 10:16

Just because one could live that long doesn't mean they will. There will still be wars, killer diseases, natural catastrophes, poverty, etc., which would balance it. Also doubtful, at least initially, that everyone could afford it. (reply to this comment
From vacuous
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 08:49


Overpopulation isn't everywhere, in places like Russia, Italy, or Germany there is a massive decline.

(reply to this comment

From thatata
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 11:48


Overpopulation; can these countries feed themeselves, do they need to import food? Does a decline have to mean: they are not being overpopulated, and were not overpopulated; so where is the overpopulation?

(reply to this comment

From Fish
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 09:41


I would like to see some hard evidence to back these unbelievable claims before I started considering the consequences. Besides, even if something of this sort was to be discovered, the obvious question would be: who can afford it? I wonder what price tag they would slap on immortality.

Imagine a future filled with long lived pusillanimous white people in constant terror of the short lived and therefor more aggressive and audacious Muslims. Wait, that's not the future, its already happened. (reply to this comment

From Falcon
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 10:21

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Wait a second, first off you're insinuating that it would only be white people affording this. It would have to be a certain class of white people, as, I don't know which whites you know, but at least from what I've seen, there's a massive white population who are poor, white trash. Secondly, with the advent of globalisation, it is less about colour anymore, then about the haves and the have nots. There are loads of rich Asians, Arabs and Blacks across the globe. You sound racially misinformed. (reply to this comment
From Fish
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 19:19

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Hypothetically, were this technology created, it would most likely be created in the west, and thus my allusion to white people. Sure there are rich Arabs, Asians etc..., but the percentage is very small. Arab and Asian countries also lack any form of socialism, where as it is common in many western (white) countries. Compare Norway with China or Egypt. Were this technology to emerge, in a socialist country there would certainly be a movement to make it available for all, where as in most Asian or Arab countries they would never dream of it.

Kindly refrain from using nauseating 'politically correct' terms such as "racially misinformed". If you think something is racist, come out and say it; if not, hold your peace.

(reply to this comment

From Falcon
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 20:55

Okay, you're right in that such a "cure" to aging would probably be developed in the West, but then again, why not Japan? And it is also more likely that even were it to be developed in the West, it would still be a matter of those who could afford it, and those able to afford it could be of any racial ethnicity, not necessarily white. Take a rich Western city like London, for instance, and the racial diversity found there, hence my reference to globalisation and the 'haves and have nots'. Just because it may be 'available for all' in the West, does not mean 'affordable by all'. I do not think you are racist, which is why I did not use the term, nor was I questioning your obvious intelligence. This is simply a 'fun' debate. (reply to this comment
From Samuel
Thursday, November 08, 2007, 03:28


Plus some one who is a "have not" and wants to be in the "have" category could percievably take out a loan to get the money they need to pay for this treatment, cure, pill, whatever you want to call it.

Is it possible that governments that provide socialized medicine might pay for this also? What would this do for ones ability to work? Would they quit working and retire at the same age that they do now?

(reply to this comment

From Fish
Thursday, November 08, 2007, 00:55

Clearly you've never experienced the vicissitudes of the Japanese medical system.(reply to this comment
From Samuel
Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 20:18


I believe "racially misinformed" is a way of saying someone is not cultured enough to be familiar with race relations and know the differences between races. Being racially misinformed is different from being racist, in my opinion. Being racist is a choice, but someone who is racially misinformed might simply never have left their home town. Would you have liked it better if she had torn into you and called you a racist?

(reply to this comment

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