Interview: Aubrey de Grey 12/14/07

February 26 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 14

This interview was conducted by Venessa Posavec on Dec. 14, 2007

V: What do you do and how is that related to the future?

A: I’m a biologist, mainly, and I’m focused on the development of future therapies that will be able to postpone human aging a very great deal. By postpone, what I really mean is, repair the accumulating molecular and cellular damage that causes aging, and really is aging. The various things that happen, the side effects of our normal metabolic operations, so to speak, throughout our lives that will eventually cause things to go wrong with us.

V: And what is the Methuselah Foundation?

A: The Methuselah Foundation is the main vehicle through which I pursue these goals. It’s a 501©(3) nonprofit registered in Virginia and it was founded by me and a businessman called Dave Gobel who has a very distinguished career in a variety of different high tech industries over the years, so it’s very complimentary so to speak since I’m on the science side. We have been able to build up the foundation into a very prominent organization that both promotes the general merits of seriously combating aging, and also directly fund research in universities around the world to actually make that happen. We obtain the money for that research from the general public, and from wealthy individuals.

V: Where do you see the foundation heading in the future?

A: The main thing that it really has to do is to grow. At the moment we’re not nearly big enough. There’s masses of research that needs to be done, that isn’t being funded by anybody else, because people think it’s too ambitious or they don’t understand the goals or whatever, and it’s not being funded by us because we don’t have the money yet. My my main purpose, my main focus at the moment is to expand the foundation, to get more money in so that we can put more money out.

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Aging Exponentially

July 11 2008 / by Jeff Hilford / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 13 Hot

One of the themes on Future Blogger and for fans of accelerating change in general is life extension and the prospect of relative immortality. We covered this topic in our very first interview with Aubrey de Grey and Dick Pelletier has addressed it many times. One of the core arguments in this debate is that, regardless of increasing life expectancy rates, humans have an upper limit. This is probably best categorized as the Hayflick limit argument . That there is a maximum number of years that a human can live and if nothing gets to you before reaching that threshhold, when you do, that’s it – it’s over. That limit is about 120 years of age, with the oldest documented lifespan being the 122 attained by Jean Calumet

Increases in life expectancy are ultimately discounted by this assumption. In response to Jack Uldrich’s recent piece on the prospect of living to 1000, John Frink correctly points out that the radical increase in life expectancy that developed societies have experienced over the last 170 years or so (roughly doubling) is largely due to advances in health/medicine and hygiene. He cites the vast reduction in the infant mortality rate as being of particular note. But that is more reflective of initial gains and merely part of a larger trend at work. (cont.)

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Healthcare 2.0 Solutions for Tomorrow

November 19 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: 2015   Rating: 12 Hot

Improving the delivery of healthcare is arguably the greatest challenge facing the United States and the global community particularly with regards to aging populations. Next generation healthcare services also represent one of the largest growth sectors for applied information and communication technologies that improve access and quality while reducing costs for patients and healthcare institution.

Is Healthcare 2.0 preparing for prime time?
This notion of applying advanced technology systems is not new, but widespread applications might be much closer to mainstream adoption than is currently reported.

This notion of next generation healthcare services has been explored by a number of forward looking physicians such as Dr. S. Vincent Grasso who organized a recent symposium at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey titled: ‘Enhancing the Delivery of Healthcare Services to an Aging U.S. Population.

Among the many topics explored by experts were: forecasts of diseases common to aging populations, and solution platforms based on low cost video conferencing to connect Doctors, patients and families, commercialization of easy to use imaging and sensing systems for remotely based diagnosis equipment, standards for patient records, and healthcare facilities management.

Next generation Home Healthcare

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The Future of Health Care: Part 1

April 12 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

Last fall, I had the opportunity to give the keynote presentation at the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s annual meeting. The title of my talk was “The Future of Health Care.” At the behest of the conference organizer, I provided an advance copy of my presentation so that they could make copies for the participants. The only problem was that the organizers asked for my presentation a few weeks in advance and the pace of technological change – especially as it relates to the health care industry – is so rapid that I was compelled to update a number of slides prior to my talk.

As proof of the accelerating pace of technological change, I’d like to just walk you through a few weeks of technological and scientific advancement in the health care industry. In October, researchers at Chonnam National University in Korea announced that they had created a microscopic robot small enough to travel through blood vessels. The robot is so capable that once it is inside a blocked artery it is able to release drugs to dissolve blood clots. According to this 2007 study, deaths from severe heart attacks after hospital admission have already been halved in the past six years. As a result of advances such as this microscopic robot, it is reasonable to believe that we will continue to make even more progress.

In early November, researchers at the Institute for Advanced Bioscience in Tusuroka, Japan successfully demonstrated that they had used inkjet printers to “print” human stem cells. The significance of this advance is that society is now one step closer to creating implantable organs. (cont.)

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The Chronicles of Extreme Future Part 1: On Demand Medicine

May 05 2008 / by Fictionthis / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2015   Rating: 9 Hot

Steve has had a long day. He is tired despite having taken the anti-fatigue pill “Alert” to get through the last web conference on the company’s newest video unit.

Steve has had a long day. He is tired despite having taken the anti-fatigue pill “Alert” to get through the last web conference on the company’s newest video unit. A happy hour beer-fest at an Alfa lounge sounds tempting, but just after leaving the building; a sharp chest pain stops him mid step. The pain finally subsides, and he quickly speaks to his cell phone, activating his personal health record by uttering the word, “Emergency”.

Immediately, Steve is routed via the internet to his health plan’s Clinical emergency centre for diagnosis. This Involves answering a series of yes or no questions about the symptoms and vital signs asked by a Med-Tech on duty computer. Steve places a finger on the screen of his cell phone where his bio-signature converts his bio-scan signals and sends them instantly to the Emerg-Med Team via virtual Net Centre many time zones away.

The GE Cyberdoc decides that Steve’s condition maybe acute cardiac ischemia and dispatches a clinic mobile to his exact location. En route to the nearest emergency-care unit, a battery of tests, including another bio-scan, are performed and transmitted immediately through a wireless devise in real time to a lab for interpretation. (cont.)

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The Future of Fertility: Lose Weight, Fix Bad Sperm

October 07 2008 / by Lani / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: Beyond   Rating: 8 Hot

Here’s another good reason to lay off that super-sized combo with extra fries: bad sperm. Besides being the cause of diabetes, heart disease, and back problems, a large waistline can also affect fertility. And not in a good way.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen conducted a study involving the sperm of more than 2,000 men who were having trouble conceiving. The results, presented at a recent conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona, revealed a substantial difference between the sperm of obese men and those of normal weight. The men were divided into four different groups, depending on Body Mass Index. Men with an optimal BMI of 20 to 25 had a healthy level of normal sperm, while the opposite occurred with heavier men. Findings show obese men produce more abnormal sperm as well as lower volumes of seminal fluid.

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Simulations Poised to Accelerate Learning

March 12 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 7

It was recently announced that hospitals in Isreal have begun using virtual reality programs to diagnose and treat patients with brain injuries. The patient tries to catch a virtual tennis ball being thrown on a screen, their actual hand movements are recorded, and the information is fed into a computer program. The program then diagnoses whether the person has had a traumatic brain injury or stroke (with 90-98% accuracy!), and run a series of simulations to determine what will be the most effective treatment and rehabilitation methods.

This is a huge step in demonstrating the value of virtual environments and simulations to do real good in the world. For almost all of the decisions we make, we run simulations in our brain without even thinking about it. “If I do A, then B is a likely and desired outcome.” Through trial and error, our simulations get more accurate over time – we may call it “wisdom”. But, in some situations, such as the above brain injury example, even our best human guesses for the right course of action may be wrong. By running computer simulations, we can take that guesswork out. Instead of creating a rehabilition therapy that may not only be ineffective, but downright harmful, doctors will now be able to implement the most effective therapies according to the patient’s level of injury.

As computer processing speed continues to increase, and we methodically quantify the underlying systems that drive everything around us, we’ll see simulations popping up as tools for increasing efficiency in all fields. I can see this being used to improve learning and skill development in both education and the workplace.

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Revised Thoughts on the Demise of Death

September 05 2008 / by Mielle Sullivan / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

A follow-up to last week’s Demise of Death

My post last week on the Demise of Death received so many thought provoking comments that I feel compelled to further the discussion in another post. The new information and perspectives contained in the the comments have transformed the way I intend to approach parts of the debate.  With such a fertile discussion ground, I felt I would be remiss if I did not give attention and thanks to several of the eloquently expressed ideas.

Here’s the point-by-point update:

Nanotech & Biotech Will Not Necessarily End Death: That death may remain even if aging is cured was a point raised by a few of the commentors.  If our bodies did not deteriorate into death, fatal accidents, acts of violence etc. could still bring about mortality.  I realize that my rationale for thinking we may be able to conquer death altogether was somewhat obscure in my first post.  One theory proposed by futurists and transhumanists, is that to truly conquer aging, we will not be able to rely merely on stem cells, genetic therapies and drugs. 

These treatments can, the theory argues, only go so far to combat cellular deterioration.  If we are to truly end, and not merely delay aging, we would eventually have to develop nanobots capable of precisely repairing cells.  My own logic followed that if we are able to create effective cellular-repair nanobots, we will have mastered nanotechnology and it will serve a number of other functions beyond cellular repair. 

Prolific poster Dick Pelletier has pointed out a few times that if nanobot technology were mastered, we could, in theory, surround ourselves in a sort of thin nanobot shield that could, in theory, protect us from violence and accident.  Perhaps I have taken this rationale too far. It does not logically follow that by ending aging we will necessarily end death by accident or violence, but I think it is at least a reasonable possibility.

Taking Control of Your Fate Opens Pandora’s Box: Let us consider my original conjecture is incorrect and that we will be able to bring an end to aging, but not death by accident or violence.  If this becomes true, we will, in effect be gaining a greatly extended life at the expense of knowing that death will certainly come either by violence, violent accident or suicide.  I cannot help but think these are all troubling ends. 

Admittedly, most deaths now are troubling.  Death by disease and aging is most often the end of a long, painful, degrading, messy battle.  But, at present, we can at least hope to be one of the lucky few to die comfortably, unknowingly in their sleep.  This hope will be eliminated if aging is defeated. 

Even to me the benefits outweigh the downsides, but it is deeply disturbing to know you will one day kill yourself if you aren’t hit by a bus or murdered first. This is in part what I meant when I wrote that I considered myself a part of nature and do not wish to be removed from the natural process.  Taking your fate out of the hands of nature results in some very difficult decisions.

Accepting Suicide? This idea of death occurring either by chance or choice is tied to another point raised in the comments.  Johnfrink said, “I’m pretty sure if we conquer death eternal life will not be forced on anybody.”  And I am inclined to agree.  It is unlikely that in a future without aging, omniscient police will parole the streets taking into custody all those thinking of ending it all.  But that doesn’t mean suicide will be any more desirable than it is today. 

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[Video] Nanopore based DNA Base Sequencing Shows Potential of 'Wet-Dry' Nano Systems

February 23 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

One of the most exciting areas of 'Nano-bio' research is the engineered integration of 'wet' and 'dry' nanoscale systems that might revolutionize research in genetics and proteomics (Study of Proteins).  But how do you explain this breaking down the barriers of biological and human-made systems? Through 3D animation videos on YouTube, of course!

ScienceBlogs has featured a video of Oxford Nanopore Technologies's new label free DNA sequencing system that reads A-C-G-T segments as they pass through a nanopore.

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The Chronicles of Extreme Future Part 2: The Strength Suit

May 06 2008 / by Fictionthis / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 6 Hot

It was the summer of 2022 and I was invited to go rock-climbing with some friends. I had never attempted this exercise before, so naturally, I was concerned.

My friends simply dismissed my unease, saying “rock-climbing is not what it used to be”.

They were right.

Body line pressurized suits have been in use since 2012; first in NASA spacewalks and then were quickly introduced to the public. At first they were simply pressurized and used as a space suit based wrap. It increased mobility and decreased its size. Since then electronic fibers were introduced to manipulate the structure of the “smart” fabric thus magnifying the strength of movement while wearing the suit. Making the user of it, astoundingly stronger. I knew that hours in the gym would not be needed for what would be a grueling rock-climbing trip, because my hire suit enhanced my strength five fold. The trip turned out to be great, getting to the top was definitely worth the now-easy trip. Next month we will go kite surfing, I think I might need hire the suit again.

Virtual Skylight Makes It Easier to Live In Cramped Cities

November 04 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2008   Rating: 5 Hot

Some great science fiction movies have depicted the protagonist sitting in front of a beautiful landscape with chirping birds and incredible gardens (Aliens, Total Recall, etc). Spooky Science Fiction has yet again struck close to reality.

Called the SkyCeiling, it uses high resolution imagery on embedded image tiles to give the looker a true 3D experience. Some of the technology they use in developing the SkyCeiling is used currently to treat seasonal depression. It provides “daylight-balanced light (the same light used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder) for rich color rendition and recognition as ‘natural’ daylight.” The hope is that the product would help sooth and calm people in hospitals who are unnerved by the white and sterile environment.

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The Future of Health Care: Part 3 (Robotics)

April 22 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

Paul Saffo recently gave a talk to the Long Now Foundation entitled: Paul Saffo recently gave a talk to the Long Now Foundation entitled: “Secret’s to effective forecasting.’ In it, Saffo argued that “inflection points are tiptoeing past us all the time.” To make his point, he used the example of how no robotic cars finished the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004, but all 23 cars started and finished the race just a year later. (For readers interested in a more in-depth look at this exponential-like progress, I’d recommend this old post).

Saffo went on to advise forecasters to look for things that don’t fit. Using the earlier example, he noted how at the same time robotic cars were achieving their extraordinary progress; there was a massive 108 car pile-up of “human-driven” automobiles on a highway in California. Saffo’s point was that the two events point to a possible future scenario whereby robotic-driven cars become more feasible.

Well, I recently had a similar experience but instead of noting the progress in robotic cars, I have witnessed a flurry of articles documenting the amazing amount of progress being made in the field of surgical robots, and this progress juxtapositions nicely against the news suggesting that there is a growing shortage of trained health care professionals to serve America’s growing geriatric populations. (cont.)

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