Wired has a new interview with Aubrey de Grey

Wired has a new interview with Aubrey deGrey. Aubrey is the champion for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. It is focused on anti-aging.

Here are what I consider the highlights :

* A month or two ago, one of Aubrey’s colleagues, Tony Atala, who runs an enormous group working in tissue engineering at Wake Forest, was on Oprah. He’s on my research advisory board and is associated with my journal and so on. Even though his work is not mainly focused on aging, the show was basically about aging. He was very, very gung-ho about the potential for regenerative medicine to postpone aging in the relatively foreseeable future.

* SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) progress rate -It took a whole regular-sized chapter just to cover one year of development across all of the various SENS components when making the softcover book update

Scientists don’t necessarily always think like technologists. The people who were actually interested in it and actually knew that Chlamydomonas didn’t have very many protein-coding genes in their mitochondria DNA didn’t care about doing anything with the information! They just were bloody hypothesis merchants. They just wanted to bloody find things out for the sake of finding things out. Wankers!

So I got up and generally railed at this. And it worked! One person in the audience was mitochondrialist Mike King, a professor at Thomas Jefferson who wanted to know more about my question. Six months later, he rang up a biologist in Mexico and started a collaboration. And after a couple of years, all these things duly were found in sequence, and they duly told us some awfully interesting things. That was my first success in actually embarrassing so-called real scientists into doing the obvious thing.

How come SENS has not gotten a lot (more than the few million it has) of money?

Aubrey’s answer is simply that you need three things for a high-net-worth individual to put money into something like this, whether it be as a donation or an investment: 1) You’ve got to believe the goal is valuable. 2) You’ve got to believe the plan to solve that goal is feasible or at least promising. 3) You’ve got to believe the organization you’re thinking of giving the money to actually has the ability to execute it.

That’s why I’m optimistic right now. Splitting the foundation is the first step toward that. It has allowed us to really refine our messaging, but it also means we were able to bring people in new people. Now, as a team, we can inspire a vastly greater amount of confidence in the people who already are familiar with what we do, but have been holding back.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a very good thing more research is going to be done on Parkinson’s Disease. Sergey Brin discovering he is susceptible to Parkinson’s and promptly began plugging some insane amount of money into research. It’s an absolute disgrace it takes personal risk to get someone as supposedly intelligent as Sergey Brin to actually do something. And the only excuse I can give him, since he’s been aware of my stuff since like 2003, is that he looked at me and my organization and said, “Hmm, like the goal. Like the plan. Don’t like the organization.” And he hasn’t told me this face to face, but that’s my guess.

I see these people a lot. I go to TED, and there’s no holding back when it comes to 1) the desirability of the goal, and 2) the demonstration of sufficient comprehension of what I’m talking about to understand they believe the plan is feasible. So yes, absolutely [they did not like the organization]

When do you think the NewOrgan Prize might be awarded?

de Grey: The answer depends on the final rules in terms of regulatory approval and clinical trials and availability and so on. In terms of the underlying technology to create an organ, to make an organ that can be transplanted and work without any follow-up treatments like immunosuppression or anything, I think we could be quite close. I would say there’s at least a 50/50 chance the prize will be won in five years.

Wired.com: You’ve said that when these treatments become a reality, they should be free and available to all.

de Grey: It’s not a matter of should. I’m not making a political opinion here. I’m saying it’s inevitable they will be.

Wired.com: Right. Governments would minimize the costs of taking care of the elderly by investing money up front.

Wired.com: You claim three groups have been particularly supportive of your work: IT Professionals, libertarians and Canadians.

de Grey: It’s really a little bit broader than IT professionals. It includes mathematicians, for example. But if you think like a technologist, extrapolation comes naturally. Libertarians: Well, I guess they’re just good at being contrarian. It probably helps that most people think I’m crazy, right? I don’t think there’s much more to it than that. Canadians, however, I totally don’t get it.

I guess I am three for three, being a Canadian, libertarian IT professional.

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