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Bradley meets Aubrey de Grey
Gerontologist

Bradley meets Aubrey de Grey | Kidspiration

Would you want to live for a thousand years? Or forever? Aubrey de Grey is a gerontologist, a scientist who studies the ways people grow old and why this happens. He is working on how to keep people’s bodies healthy and running right, so they can live for maybe hundreds of years. Most scientists don’t think it’s possible to stop people from getting old. But Dr. de Grey says that even if we can’t do this today, we should keep studying and learning. In the future, we may be able to live healthy for years and years. And years!

When he’s not studying aging, Dr. de Grey loves to go punting and is quite good at it himself. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat which the punter pushes along the canal or river with a long pole.

In this Episode, Aubrey invites Bradley on a punting trip in Cambridge, England, home of Cambridge University, one of the oldest and most important universities in the world, and also one of the world’s best spots for punting!



Bradley:
Hello. My name is Bradley Ryan. Today we’re here at Cambridge University to speak to Dr. Aubrey De Grey. Aubrey reckons it might be possible with science to allow humans to live way longer than they already do.
He hasn’t quite worked out how yet, but imagine that. Would you like to live forever? So Aubrey, I understand that you’re trying to make humans live for a longer period of time?

Aubrey:
Well actually that’s a rather distorted description of what I’m trying to do. What I’m actually trying to do is stop people from getting sick when they get old. Now, of course, the main reason people die is when they get sick.
So for sure, if we succeed in stopping people from getting sick from the major reasons why people do these days, then there will be this side effect that people will on average live longer.

Bradley:
So Aubrey, how did this idea or theory come along? Did it just pop into your head in the morning, or did you do your calculations first and realise it was possible?

Aubrey:
Most people kind of understood that Alzheimer’s is bad for you and that cancer’s bad for you, and they’re trying to do something about it and they’re spending plenty of money on research and all that.
But, they were kind of missing the point that these things mainly affect people who were born a long time ago. In other words, they are kind of side effects of having been alive. It always was obvious to me that that’s what aging is.
It’s like aging of a car. It’s the accumulation of damage that happens as kind of by-products of the machine’s normal operation. And, of course, the human body is a machine. It’s a really, really, really complicated machine, but it’s still a machine.

Bradley:
Just curious, how long do you think that someone like me would live? A 13-year-old?

Aubrey:
Right. So this is a wonderful question and, of course, everyone’s interested in this whether they’re 13 or 53 or whatever. The answer is I can’t give you a simple answer because this is all research.
We don’t know how quickly the research is going to come to fruition. But here’s the way that I would like you to think about the answer to the question: the way to think about the answer is it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how long you’re going to live.
What matters is you’re going to live longer than your imagination can actually anticipate. Even living to 100 is longer than my imagination can anticipate, and I’m 52 already.
I have absolutely no idea what the world’s going to be like in 48 years, and nor do you, right?
See this rope? This is fun. See that blue rope?

Bradley:
Yeah.

Aubrey:
There’s more of those further up. People like swinging across the river.

Bradley:
Oh, yeah?

Aubrey:
Yeah. Obviously you’ve got to have a rope probably a lot longer than that to get the whole way across, but they have those.

Bradley:
I’ve always wanted to do that; it’s like in the jungle.
Who would you want to meet? Anyone you can, live or dead?

Aubrey:
Well, you see, the wonderful thing about thinking that you might live an awfully long time is that you don’t have to make particular priorities. I’m going to be able to meet everyone that I’d like to meet.
So I’d love to meet Lady Gaga. She’s as good at what she does as I am at what I do, and there’s not many people like that. It would be nice to meet her.
But, I mean, I could go on all day thinking of people I’d like to meet. And luckily, I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to meet all those people, because both I and they are going to live a long time.

Bradley:
What were you like as a child? Were you a very active child?

Aubrey:
Actually I had a rather sheltered childhood. I don’t have any brothers or sisters and my Mum didn’t have any brothers and sisters either, and my father left my Mum before I was born.
So my family consisted of me and my Mum. And, you know, I was actually really socially retarded really for a long time. I really didn’t get much of a handle on how to interact with people until I went to boarding school when I was 13.

Bradley:
So, Aubrey, what is the best advice you would give to children?

Aubrey:
Well if you’re looking at this, you’re looking at our conversation and you’re thinking, you know, I’d love to make a contribution to the defeat of aging, that’s a very specific thing.
If you want me to give advice on how you can do that, then, yeah, I can give pretty clear advice. Someone your kind of age – 13 – has the opportunity to choose what they’re going to be trained to be good at.
Over the next few years before you finish school, you’ve got a lot of time to focus on a particular area as your main topic of interest. And the right thing to do is pretty obvious actually; just learn a lot of biology.
Really get a good feel for what biology is all about.

Bradley:
Just one last question. Star Wars or Star Trek? Which do you prefer?

Aubrey:
I’m quite keen on Star Trek. But, here’s the bad news. I’m really only familiar with the first two series, but I like Star Wars as well.
You know, I – generally I’m good with fantasy. I like the Avengers films and so on.

Bradley:
Yeah. Thank you.

Aubrey:
Thank you.

Bradley:
I’ve enjoyed my afternoon on the river with Aubrey. Who knows, maybe I’ll still be around in the next century to do it again. See you next time.