“The Science and Technology of Growing Young”: An interview with Sergey Young

By A. S. Deller | 25 July 2022
Medium

Are you ready to live to 150? It’s happening whether you’re ready or not.

Sergey Young is a leading longevity investor and visionary who tackles high stakes questions on the current and future state of longevity research in his 2021 book The Science and Technology of Growing Young.

Young is founder of the $100M Longevity Vision Fund — one of the few life extension-focused funds in the world. In The Science and Technology of Growing Young, Sergey demystifies the longevity landscape, cutting through the hype and showing readers the practical steps they can take now to live longer — and gives an insider’s perspective on what cutting-edge breakthrough technologies are on the horizon. In the book, he makes the important case that splashy headlines about stem-cell therapies and “young blood” transfusions make advances in anti-aging seem unattainable to all but the Silicon Valley billionaires among us, but in fact, we have more longevity resources at our disposal than we realize. Gathering research and insights from world-leading scientists, doctors, inventors, and health entrepreneurs, Growing Young shows why the prospect of living to 200 years old might not be science fiction anymore.

Young took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his mission, research, and the book:

(A.S.Deller) What set you on your mission with the Longevity Vision Fund?

(Sergey Young) When I think about how my interest in longevity started, two events in my life instantly come to mind. 6 years ago, at a regular checkup, my doctor drew a very pessimistic picture of my future: premature death or medicine every day for the rest of my life. This bleak concept was not something I would just accept, so instead, I set out on a quest to learn everything I could about health and longevity. I managed to find a way to gain back control of my health without pills, dangerous surgeries, or incessant treatments.

Another episode that made me think about health was my father’s illness. At the age of 60, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. After long and exhausting therapy, he survived, but the quality of his life never fully recovered.

Those events made me think about the healthcare system, its current state and its future, and the extent to which each of us can influence the number and quality of years we will live. All the research and reflection I have done helped me determine my mission — to make longevity accessible and affordable and help one billion people live longer, healthier, and happier.

Longevity Vision Fund, which backs companies working on solving the problems of aging, is an investment vehicle that brings me closer to fulfilling that mission, as well as my recent book “The Science and Technology of Growing Young.”

(AD) In your book, you consider two important milestones: reaching average longevity of 150 years as a “near horizon” and then reaching 200-year lifespans as a “far horizon”. What would you say are the key developments needed for us to reach 150 and then 200 years?

(SY) You mention a framework I use to map the stages of longevity innovation, each leading to progressively longer life spans. We are moving from acceptance of aging as an inevitable reality to a precise and scientific understanding of the biological process of aging — and are therefore one step closer to “treating” aging as a reversible disease. Much of this technology exists today, but truly extraordinary advances are just around the corner, set to arrive in a matter of years, not decades. The Near horizon of this framework comprises artificial intelligence (AI) for discovery of new drugs and for advanced diagnostics, gene therapy and editing, regenerative medicine, including organ and tissue regeneration. Advances in all these areas will potentially extend our lifespan to 150 years.

The Far Horizon is based on innovations and advancements that will potentially augment humans such as brain-computer integration, nano-robots, and the Internet of Bodу (IoB), and what I call “longevity in a pill’ — medication that will address all or some hallmarks of aging potentially resulting in average life spans of 200 years (or maybe more!)

(AD) Some people have a well-founded apprehension that truly powerful longevity technologies may only be available to the wealthy. What is your prediction on how this might play out, and how would you hope such access plays out in a best-case scenario?

(SY) As I mentioned above, my mission is to make longevity accessible and affordable to all. This is precisely what drives my team and I at Longevity Vision Fund. We believe that the power of these technologies and their exponential growth will make today’s scientific breakthroughs accessible to pretty much everybody. A good example to illustrate my idea is the cost and availability of human genome sequencing. Dr. Eric Green, the decade long director of the National Human Genome Research Institute who worked on the project of the first genome sequencing since its inception, said that, “the first genome cost us about a billion dollars.“ Now when we sequence a person’s genome, it’s less than $1,000. This is a pure example of just how quickly this technology can become accessible.

(AD) Longevity can be seen as being both completely biological or a combination of our biology with technology, part of the concept that is known as transhumanism. You write about many of these possibilities in your book. Which of these “beyond-biological” technologies are you most excited about and why?

(SY) Whenever humans are able to achieve extreme longevity, we are unlikely to be precisely the same as the humans we are today. I believe that man and machine will become more-or-less one. The most elementary way this will show up is through bionic body parts.
Damaged or worn-out organs that cannot be regenerated biologically will be replaced by mechanical hearts, kidneys, lungs, and limbs that work even better than the originals. Other technologies that I am excited about are nano-robots — tiny machines that will be incorporated into the body to assist some inadequately functioning organs; humanoid and digital avatars that will drive the transformation of a human into a robotic body; brain-computer integrations establishing a connection between the nervous system and electronic devices.

(AD) You dedicate some time in the book to the barriers faced by longevity technology advancement. If we aren’t in a position to invest heavily and early on in longevity startups, what can we do to support these efforts?

(SY) Regardless of their association with the longevity or healthcare industries, everyone can take back control and responsibility for their own health and the heath of their loved ones. Everyone should also do their best to preserve the planet’s health, save the environment, and make the world a better place, so there is a place for us to live our long and happy lives.

(AD) The real world is full of constant tiny steps forward, where each step is a little bit of “science fiction” being made reality. What are the next few tiny steps that you see as coming just around the corner in the next 10, 20, 30 years?

(SY) Gene therapies will become accessible to everyone; personalized healthcare devices will be used by each of us daily to monitor and record physical changes. These devices will be integrated with a global health database. A new set of drugs will be developed specifically to address the aging process itself and not just separate diseases.

(AD) What do you think you might be doing on your 200th birthday?

(SY) Hopefully enjoying my birthday surrounded by a rather extended group of family members and friends.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

A. S. Deller is a Sci fi, Fantasy and Science writer. Follow him at Medium and Twitter.

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