Aubrey De Grey Getting More Optimistic on Life Extension

For a long time, the world’s most recognizable proponent of radical life extension – not to mention significant scientist in his own right, and not just in gerontology – kept refraining from giving any quantitative predictions of when we would reach “longevity escape velocity.”

However, I notice that he has been getting a great deal more bullish in the past couple of years.

/r/Futurology AMA in 2018, which I mentioned at the time:

Worth noting that he is getting distinctly optimistic about timelines for mouse rejuvenation and has (for the first time that I am aware of) started attaching probability distributions to various scenarios – 80% of achieving longevity escape velocity if you are currently aged 25.

By February 2018, he had given a 50% chance of RBM (Robust Mouse Rejuvenation) in about half a decade.

Now, he believes it is just 3 years away:

He now places Robust Human Rejuvenation at 2037.

There’s a good discussion about this at /r/longevity.

I am not qualified to assess to what extend this newfound optimism is justified (I read De Grey’s Ending Aging and didn’t get large parts of it). But we should have a much better idea about that come ~2022.


  1. I find the scenario where our elites never die off to be kind of disturbing. Maybe, it wouldn’t be that bad though – maybe it would be like true conservatism. Supposing, of course, current elites were first replaced with real conservative ones.

    Maybe, it would lesson the desire to bring in hordes of people from the 3rd world.

  2. What are some drugs/devices/etc. that only the rich could afford fifty years ago, and only the rich can afford today? (I’ll stipulate things that involve large scale, like mansions, islands, yachts, etc., or things that are artificially expensive, like a massive cocaine habit)

    Because I can name a shit-ton of stuff that only the rich could afford at one time, only to see it selling cheaply at retail stores a few decades later.

    IOW, life extension will be on Wal-Mart shelves for 19.99 within fifty years of the rich buying it. I’ll stipulate that it’ll probably come with legally-mandated sterility drugs…

  3. Don’t count on it.

    These people obviously want to be immortals very badly.

    But Ray Kurzweil said, in 1999, that by 2019 we would be at actuarial escape velocity. By contrast, life expectancy in advanced economies has barely risen since that time (the US is actually regressing due to the fentanyl situation). Aubrey du Grey has little to show for 20 years of research. The same goes for George Church, Dave Gobel, and others.

    Remember that humans are not essential to the progress of technology. If AI can advance without human assistance, technologies that increase human living standards will plateau.

  4. Maybe, it would lesson the desire to bring in hordes of people from the 3rd world.

    Most of the ‘third world’, except perhaps SS Africa, will be prosperous by today’s standards long before some magical elixir of youth is available (i.e. probably never).

  5. songbird says

    Kurzweil is crazy. You have got to be off your rocker to take as many pills as he does.

    I’m not sanguine about the prospects of Venezuela, or a lot of other places outside Africa. Puerto Rico was part of the US for over a 100 years, but it is totally dysfunctional, and the US is becoming more like it every day.

    But who knows? Maybe, there is futurist answer to some of these problems.

  6. Mr. Hack says

    Having a ‘normal’ interest in life extension, I try to use supplements and foods known to support a healthy heart function (carnetine, ubiquinol,), fluid blood circulation and low blood pressure (olive leaf extract, garlic, hawthorne), foods high in vitamin C to help fight any cancer building plaques (peppers, citrus other fruits and vegetables) and also flax seed. Occasional supplementation with magnesium and wobenzyme. Of course it could all be over tomorrow as I drive to work and get T-boned by an absent minded driver who doesn’t see the red light at the intersection. Am I missing something here? Also, I drink a lot of spring and mineral water…?…

  7. YetAnotherAnon says

    Is Aubrey de Grey related to the Walsingham baronetcy? Can’t find a birth record (some say born London, others say Cambridge) for either him or his mother.

    Seems like a pretty bright guy, at all events.

  8. advancedatheist says

    Wealthy people don’t have access to some kind of super-medicine that (1) works, and that (2) the rest of us don’t know about or don’t have access to. If Jeff Bezos’s doctor wrote him a prescription for a generic drug like an ACE inhibitor, a statin or a beta blocker, he could buy a month’s supply costing the ordinary man’s pocket change.

    And billionaires notoriously waste fortunes on quackery.

  9. advancedatheist says

    I wonder what Kurzweil’s fans will say when he dies pretty much on schedule. He reminds me of these kook preachers who waste their lives expecting the rapture, like the late Tim LaHaye. The actuarial tables still have the far better track record in predicting the individual’s fate than any of the current transhumanist nonsense, much less “bible prophecy” about the end times.

    Also I just laugh at the illogic of the transhumanist predictions that we’ll become immortal, or words in that vicinity, by arbitrary dates in this century like 2029. Plenty of people alive now, in 2019, will live another ten years any way through natural maturation and aging; they won’t mysteriously become capable of “living forever” on January 1, 2029.

    If these transhumanist goofs wanted to set a date which makes logical sense and shows ambition, they should aim for a year in, say, the 24th Century. If you could make it to a year like 2319 in good shape, you have probably solved the really hard problems involved in radical life extension.

  10. I wonder what Kurzweil’s fans will say when he dies pretty much on schedule.

    Kurzweil’s entire body of writing culminates with a view that a Technological Singularity will arrive in 2045. Kurzweil himself is born in 1948, so it is evident that he does not see himself living past 100 despite whatever extreme measures he is taking.

    The Futurist is a much more measured blogger who provides a considerably later date : 2060-65 :

    He also says that radical life extension for humans is extremely unlikely to ever arrive. This is because technological megatrends are not subservient to humans (i.e. nature does not care if you are happy or sad).

  11. AlphaZero would seem to be a definite step toward and indication that Artificial General Intelligence will arrive before Kurzweil could break the human longevity record. The Futurist says there is no way of knowing whether the Singularity (which AGI would, I think, be needed for) will result in the massacre of mankind. He seems remarkably incurious.

    We are either unique in the history of the not-so-young Universe, or our world will end presently. With countless biological life forms on the myriad planets in the Universe, a proportion having the time and potential for intelligent life, creating technology and spreading through through space over a billion years, none have done so. The logical conclusion is there is a certain hurdle to be crossed before colonising the Universe, and hitherto no one has got past it. Maybe the Earth is unique, but that seems like the kind of thinking the very young do about themselves; the idea that we are oh-so-special fades as the years go by.

  12. Abelard Lindsey says

    If anything, Aubrey is probably being conservative. The most significant point to keep in mind about bio-engineering is that it is inherently cheap. That lady who developed two CRISPR gene therapies from scratch on her own did so in essentially a garage lab with $200K. That Chinese guy who did the CRISPR girls last fall pay $100 (yes, seriously) for the gene therapy vector.

    The rate limiting issue in technology development is the money needed to do it. If developing any given new technology requires a multi-billion dollar facility or operation, there will be relatively few players and the rate of innovation will be slow. If it can be done for, say, $1 million, there will be lots of players and the rate of innovation will be quite rapid. Unlike semiconductors, the cost of the laboratory instruments and apparatus gets cheaper, with the performance getting better. This would be like if each new generation of semiconductor fab technology was actually cheaper than the previous generation.

    My point is that if something is cheap, it WILL be done. This is indisputable. It is for this reason alone that the elimination of aging by 2050 is a near certainty that you can bet on. The only thing that could stop it would be a major planetary disaster that wipes out civilization or a good portion of it.

    The reason why Aubrey is now more optimistic than he was 3-4 years ago is that all of the seven SENS strands are now fully funded by either start-up companies or non-profit research organizations. People I know in the field from the late 80’s always told me that it was a lack of money that held progress up. There are lots and lots of people who want to do the actual work (cure aging). They just didn’t have the money. Now they do.

  13. I agree that aging can probably be solved with genetic editing because I think Mitteldorf’s arguments that aging is genetically programmed are persuasive, but there are major problems with the genetics approach imo:

    (1) You can’t edit many genes with CRISPR, while ageing is sure to be highly polygenic, like intelligence.

    (2) Further complication: Natural human genetic range of lifespan only goes up to around 120, so even if we identified all the alleles contributing to longevity, average LE would only go up from 80 years to around 100-110. Which is nice, but not a cardinal difference.

    So you’d really need to either somehow find appropriate variants from other, very long-lived mammal species (naked mole rats?) or figure out de novo ones. Which seems like a much, much harder problem.

    SENS is largely about making periodic mechanical repairs. Might also work, but success seems to be far less certain. As I understand it, anyway, which is not very well.

  14. So you’d really need to either somehow find appropriate variants from other, very long-lived mammal species (naked mole rats?)

    The longest-lived mammal is the Bowhead Whale, at an estimated 200 years.

  15. True, though naked mole rats are relatively more impressive as they live 10x longer than other rodents – and, more importantly, their mortality rates don’t seem to increase with age.

  16. DreadIlk says

    Man all this talk of longer life is seducing. I am putting my money on making at least four kids everything else is secondary.

    Also interesting how the human chart for mortality is less jagged.

  17. Abelard Lindsey says

    I don’t believe aging is genetic, at least not nuclear genomic based. In fact, I think it has nothing to do with genetics at all.

    It’s a combination of mitochondrial dysfunction and epigenetic processes. Telomere shortening is a result, not cause, of aging. Telomere shortening is a regulated process that is a part of the autophagic mechanism biological systems use to purge themselves of damaged cells. This is why I think telomere elongation, by itself, will not have much anti-aging effect.

  18. ImmortalRationalist says