In this series of posts, I aim to highlight four people who have really stuck out to me as people doing something truly important for humanity. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is fully detailed, but I think it shows you the power just one person can have.
If you are wondering what to do with your life and you know you want to make a difference to the world somehow, reading what these four people are doing could give you some ideas about what problems you think are the most important to solve, where you could provide the most benefit, and what the future might look like.
Over the last few years I began asking myself what I really wanted out of life. I knew that, whatever I chose to do, I wanted to make a difference to the world. There are lots of ways to make a difference, but there are some people who are helping the world on a global and transgenerational scale. These are the sort of people and deeds I want to emulate in the future. If you want to make a difference with your life, try to think bigger than just your local community — your efforts might be able to make a bigger difference addressing more important or more prevalent issues.
The four people I have chosen are doing things that are important on a global scale. Truly important, not “well somebody needs to be the cleaner”, and not even ‘doctor/nurse’ important. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as I’m relatively narrow-focussed at the moment and haven’t conducted outside research. A better way of describing this list is a collection of people I believe are actually doing something important with their lives.
In each post I will outline what each person is doing that I think is so important, and the reasons why I respect them. The posts will not be exhaustive lists of their achievements and ambitions. I will highlight sources for further information if you would like to find out more about them.
4 People Making a Difference — Part 2: Aubrey de Grey
- Chief science officer and co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation
- Cambridge awarded Aubrey de Grey a PhD in biology in 2000
- Editor-in-chief of the academic journal Rejuvenation Research, author of The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging (1999) and co-author of Ending Aging (2007)
- He is known for his view that medical technology may enable human beings alive today to live indefinitely
Why He Is in This List
|Aubrey De Grey first came to my attention through a number of TEDx talks and YouTube videos (see one below) where he spoke of ageing as damage that accumulates as a side effect of living, and which could, in theory, be reversed as technology progresses.
Aubrey is getting the word out about regenerative medicine to encourage funding for further research and development. It’s interesting to see the progress made between the older and newer videos on YouTube.
The problem of death through ageing has already been mentioned in my post How Long Do You Want to Live For?, where I noted that about 150,000 people die every day and about 100,000 of those are from age-related diseases. This is another one of those pressing issues that we need to solve, along with sustainable energy, existential risk, and friendly AI1.
Put simply, if you can stop 100,000 people from dying every day against their will by preventing the fragile and limited state of body and mind associated with the elderly, you’re doing a brilliant job of improving the world and making a difference.
Aubrey claims that the first person to live to 1,000 is alive today. Think about that. The technology to end ageing might well be on its way, and you have the ability to help ensure that it does sooner rather than later. If you’re looking at a future career path, perhaps entering a career in biomedical research could directly help with this issue. If you want to help without getting into biomedical research, you can donate, lobby policymakers, and create awareness that death by ageing need not be inevitable.
If you want your career to make as big a difference as possible, check out 80,000 Hours, a site that helps you choose a career with a greater social impact.
The SENS Research Foundation’s website has a lot more information on the theories and research on regenerative medicine. I encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in furthering your understanding of the topic.
Aubrey de Grey does a lot of talks in his efforts to spread the word that ageing is not inevitable, and that the faster we get funding and research into regenerative medicine, the faster we can end our declines in health and (currently) inevitable death. If all else fails, you should have cryonics as a backup. Here is one of the more popular (by views) videos on YouTube:
Subscribe below to keep up to date with the next posts in the series on the four people I think are making a real difference to the world.