Hairy and handsome at 21 vs. bald and gray at 65
I recently got an enthusiastic letter from a visitor to my web site who had read the pages about Calorie Restriction (CR) to slow down aging. He had some questions about resveratrol and other nutritional supplements. He also had these other things to say:
Do you really believe that the first person to live to 1000 years could be in their 60’s today? (could it be you?)
I’m 22 and am pretty interested in anti-aging. I’d like to stay 22 for the rest of my life. I think with the help you give on your website and maybe even high doses of resveratrol within the next few years. I could stay young long enough to “cure” and maybe even reverse aging.
I believe there’s so much to live for. Technological singularity, colonizing the moon, terraforming Mars, warping space and traveling light years within hours or minutes. We could occupy the Gliese’s and beyond. Maybe map the whole universe! Isn’t all of this worth trying to live to see?
First of all, I am not in favor of taking large doses of anything. I believe that evolution has fine-tuned the chemical processes in our body and that we can easily upset the balance that gives us life and consciousness. Also, although I am enthusiastic about technological progress, I am very disappointed about how we are treating the Earth and I think that this will eventually reduce the chance of human survival. I believe that our way of life will be significantly altered and all the societies on Earth will see dramatic changes due to global warming in 50 or 100 years. The sea level will rise, and an exodus of people from the coastal areas will begin. There will be scarcities, homelessness, and human tragedies in a scale that will dwarf what happened in New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Some nations will completely disappear under water. Half of Florida will be submerged. The buildings in Miami will serve as reefs for tropical fish. In order to live to the age of 1000 years, we would first need to survive the man-made catastrophes that await us as a result of pollution, overfishing, and deforestation.
Last June, I wrote about Aubrey de Gray who is very optimistic about life extension and thinks of aging as a disease that can be overcome using Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). These are some of his ideas about aging:
Biological aging is a progressive, degenerative process of decay, in which the healthy cellular and molecular order laid down in our youth slowly falls apart in the face of accumulating aging damage to its functional structures. This damage is a series of unintended biochemical side-effects of normal metabolism. As more and more of our cellular and molecular structures suffer this damage, functionality is lost, and health, resilience, and vitality are slowly taken away from us, leading to increasing age-related pathology.
This is Aubrey de Grey’s Engineering Solution to Biological Aging:
Instead of interfering with the metabolic processes that ongoingly cause aging damage (the “gerontological” approach) or fighting a losing battle to keep badly damaged bodies from falling apart altogether (the “geriatric”, conventional medical approach), the “engineering” strategy is based on the direct repair, replacement, or rendering harmless of the damaged structures themselves. In this approach, metabolism still causes ongoing damage, but the total burden of such damage is repaired well enough to prevent eventual pathology indefinitely.
As I look at myself in the mirror and I compare myself to my old photographs, I can see that my first signs of aging started at 25. Should a person start preventive senescence engineering at age 25? If not, how do you get back the hair that you have lost? Another sign of aging is when your hair starts getting gray. The body stops producing hair pigment. This means that something in your body has stopped working. I am not very optimistic about SENS, but if as a first step these scientists come up with a way of preventing baldness and gray hairs, then I will believe that the “engineering” strategy has further potential. Until then, I will remain highly skeptical.