The Invincible Man

Aubrey de Grey, photographed at San Francisco's airport, created the Methuselah Foundation to support scientific research into extending the life span, oh, 900 years.
Aubrey de Grey, photographed at San Francisco's airport, created the Methuselah Foundation to support scientific research into extending the life span, oh, 900 years. (Thor Swift/Post)

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By Joel Garreau
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Aubrey de Grey may be wrong but, evidence suggests, he's not nuts. This is a no small assertion. De Grey argues that some people alive today will live in a robust and youthful fashion for 1,000 years.

In 2005, an authoritative publication offered $20,000 to any molecular biologist who could demonstrate that de Grey's plan for treating aging as a disease -- and curing it -- was "so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate."

Now mere mortals -- who may wish to be significantly less mortal -- can judge whether de Grey's proposals are "science or fantasy," as the magazine put it. De Grey's much-awaited "Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime" has just been published.

The judges were formidable for that MIT Technology Review challenge prize. They included Rodney Brooks, then director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer of Microsoft; and J. Craig Venter, who shares credit for first sequencing the human genome.

In the end, they decided no scientist had succeeded in blowing de Grey out of the water. "At issue is the conflict between the scientific process and the ambiguous status of ideas that have not yet been subjected to that process," Myhrvold wrote for the judges.

Well yes, that. Plus the question that has tantalized humans forever. What if the only certainty is taxes?

* * *

Dodging death has long been a dream.

Our earliest recorded legend is that of Gilgamesh, who finds and loses the secret of immortality.

The Greek goddess Eos prevails on Zeus to allow her human lover Tithonus to live eternally, forgetting, unfortunately, to ask that he also not become aged and frail. He winds up such a dried husk she turns him into a grasshopper.

In "It Ain't Necessarily So," Ira Gershwin writes:

Methus'lah lived nine hundred years


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