Two eccentric scientists struggle to create eternal youth in a world they call "blind to the tragedy of old age." As they battle their own aging and suffer the loss of loved ones, their scientific quest ultimately becomes personal.
The basic concept of this video, which apparently is to give some insight into the lives and thinking of two very unusual persons, is engaging. The reality of the finished product, while still quite good, is a bit short of what might be hoped for.
Since the focus was so much on the people at the center of all this, I would've liked to find out much more about both de Grey and Andrews. Here are some questions I found myself pondering:
--How does Adelaide (de Grey's wife) view his efforts? I've heard she's not in agreement, despite her feelings for him personally.
--Why is Andrews driven to his extreme Himalayan hikes? Clearly, he pursued them to a very hazardous degree. An interest in exercise makes great sense (although it's looking very much as if simply not spending too much time on your kiester may be more important to preserving health than serious physical exertion); but carrying it to nearly killing yourself is something I have real trouble understanding.
--Why does Aubrey drink all that beer? Does he actually think it's good for his health? And if not, isn't that totally with odds with an interest in life extension? And how much does he drink, anyway?
--The personal lives of these two are really none of our business--except, of course, that they made them our business by putting them on film. So I think it's fair to ask how his relationships with three women of widely varying ages relate to his quest for long life.
--More broadly, what is Aubrey's philosophy of life in general; and how does it relate to his desire to beat aging, and his polygamous habits?
--Superficially, in some ways de Grey seems a lot like a '60s hippie. But what I know of hippies (50 years ago, or now) suggests that most of them have a primitivist opposition to much that we think of as modern. But de Grey's ideas are inseparable from advanced technology. So is his "hippie style" just a superficial affectation, or does it really say something about him?
--The two men have different theories about the cause of aging. Do they have any common ground?
--Have their views on theories of aging changed at all over time?
Questions aside, for quite a while I have been thinking there are two things about Aubrey de Grey that are especially worth paying attention to. One of them increases my confidence level, and makes me think he's really on to something; the other gives me major doubts about him. The encouraging thing is his identification of the "seven deadly sins," the seven core causes of aging-related damage. As far as I know, no one, even his most severe detractors, has stepped forward to point out additional factors that stand as root causes of aging. As far as I know, the centrality of those seven things has endured all challenges; and if so, that should make anyone sit up and take notice.
The opposing concern I have is that de Grey is said to have chosen to have himself frozen at death (at least his head), in the hope of thawing and restoration in a future when whatever kills him will, he hopes, be curable. As you might think, I find de Grey's SENS program at least plausible on a first pass. But cryonics--GMAB! First, when you are deep-frozen, however it's done, you are ALREADY dead! It's one thing to think you might be frozen and later frozen successfully, if it's done right (though that's a huge "if"). But if you're already DEAD, then presumably there is so much pervasive damage from your diseases, especially if they're from old age, that it's hard to see all that being repaired successfully, in addition to the inevitable trauma of the freezing and thawing. Beyond that, if there is pervasive damage to the brain from ice crystals, as there is in all present freezing techniques, then you have information loss in your brain that would be so profound that your essential personal characteristics could hardly survive. It doesn't matter how good your techniques during and after thawing are: If the essential information is lost, it's simply gone forever. So why would Aubrey de Grey, or anyone else, hold our hope for success with such an approach?
I enjoyed the film, and it made me think, but I'd like to probe much farther.
Aging is a serious problem that's actually fixable, and I think if you're trying to reach an audience, you want to hit on that fact. I don't think that movie does that enough, and it just makes these people look like lone eccentrics trying to achieve an impossible dream. If the problem was just tackled by these those individuals, it would certainly be an impossible challenge. I think we need more of the science and the teams of scientists working on this problem to dispel this notion, like the Harvard studies increasing the lifespan in mice, or whatever. The movie would also benefit from the inclusion of at least some mention of Google's Calico, which is devoting really huge amount of resources and expertise to the problem of aging. Moreover, the fact that that there are extremely intelligent billionaires (Larry Ellison, Peter Thiel, etc.) who support this kind of research.