That old chestnut “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind, but nevertheless there are those who are convinced that massive leaps in longevity are upon us. Andrew Romano reports for Newsweek on a face-off between two competing experts, Walter Bortz and Aubrey de Grey:
NEWSWEEK: My inspiration for embarking on this story was, strangely enough, a Prudential insurance billboard. “The first person to live to 150,” it reads, “is alive today.” Have you seen it?
Bortz: You can’t miss it.
De Grey: It’s all over.
NW: And what was your reaction to it?
Bortz: I’m sure they varied.
De Grey: Go on, Walter. You first.
Bortz: I didn’t believe it. Maybe a couple thousand years from now it might happen. One of my reference points is the International Supercentenarian Registry. It’s a list of people who are 110 or older. We know there are about 80 supercentenarians out there. And my take-home from seeing photos of them recently was this: you don’t want to be a supercentenarian.
De Grey: As things stand.
Bortz: Right. But as things stand now has been going on for quite a while. I’m not convinced that I want to be 120 or 130.
NW: What was your reaction to the billboard, Aubrey?
De Grey: My reaction was the exact opposite of Walter’s. I predict that the first person to live to 150 is probably already in middle age, and that most people who are in their 20s now will probably live to at least that old. But the reason I say that is only because of the specifics of the type of biomedical technology that I think is going to come along.
NW: What kind of biomedical technology are we talking about?
De Grey: The work we do at the SENS Foundation is all about regenerative medicine. It’s not about slowing down aging at all, but actually, bona-fidely reversing aging—repairing the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage that builds up throughout life, as a side effect of the body’s normal operation, and eventually kills us. Now, if we can do that fairly comprehensively—and it has to be comprehensive, because if we only do half of it, the other half kills us anyway—then it’s not just people who are born at that time who are going to benefit. It’s people who are already in middle age or older who are going to benefit. Someone who is in their 30s right now, they’ll be in their 60s 30 years from now. I think we have a good chance at being able to repair them so well, rejuvenate them so well, that we will be able to take them back to being biologically 30 or 40. And furthermore to do that repeatedly so that people can stay genuinely youthful for a lot longer. And of course, health is the main risk factor for death, so if we can keep people youthful and healthy, then we’re going to stop them dying…
[continues at Newsweek]