Fantastic voyage: live long enough to live for ever
Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman
London, UK: Rodale | 2005 | 451 pp | £17.99 (HB) | ISBN 1405077603
Reviewed by Clare Boothby
Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman want to live forever. They believe that with an understanding of biochemistry and a bit of luck, people alive today can take advantage of impending scientific advances and prolong their lives indefinitely.
The first two chapters of this book review the state of the art and lay out the authors' three 'bridges'. Bridge one is a diet and lifestyle plan, supported by extra information and updates on the authors' website. It draws heavily from current thinking, with all its controversies and changing views, and is extremely well referenced back to the original research.
If you're looking for a diet book then this one is probably more sensible than most, although with its recommendations for 'aggressive supplementation' - one of the authors takes 88 pills a day, the other over 250 - it's not for the faint-hearted.
However, if you're interested in the science behind health, ageing and potential immortality you'll be disappointed. Take for example the chapter on methylation, which begins by carefully explaining that this is the replacement of a hydrogen atom by a CH3group. It then dives immediately into listing the problems caused by defective methylation and the pills you can take to alleviate them, without pausing to explain how or why these problems occur or to discuss the role of methylation in a healthy body.
Bridges two and three, the biochemical and nanotechnological revolutions respectively, are particularly disappointing. We are promised discussion of scientific progress to come, but alas this is limited to uninspiring descriptions of current research and poorly thought through future 'advances' (eg download DNA updates from the internet while you excrete into your nanobot-assisted belt). The bridges could have provided the opportunity to explore the many exciting possibilities biochemical research offers; instead they are little more than a thin veneer of science over yet another diet book.