#189 – David Sinclair: Extending the Human Lifespan Beyond 100 Years | Lex Fridman Podcast

Key Takeaways

  • “If you’re not using AI in biology right now, you’re getting left behind.” – David Sinclair
  • Wearables are the intersection of machines and humans with the potential to revolutionize medicine
  • “We’re living through what’s going to be seen as one of the biggest revolutions in human health through the gathering of data about our bodies.” – David Sinclair
  • The goal is to have a world where doctors will be able to look at a dashboard of our body base don swabs, blood tests, and biosensors and make real-time, tailored recommendations
  • Top causes of aging: broken chromosomes, cell stress, smoking
  • Lifestyle methods to slow aging: fasting (skip 1-2 meals per day), eat more vegetables and less red meat, exercise, get good quality sleep (quality more important than quantity)


Dr. David Sinclair (@davidsinclair) is a biologist, professor of genetics at Harvard, author, and expert on aging and longevity. His research and biotech companies focus on understanding why we age and how to slow its effects.

In this episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, Lex and guest David Sinclair discuss the determinants of why we age, solving aging, the trend of wearables and tracking health data, artificial intelligence, social perspectives of lifespan , and death, and lifestyle factors to improve lifespan.

Host: Lex Fridman (@lexfridman)

Book: Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by David Sinclair

Artificial Intelligence & Immortality

  • We live in a time we can leverage data to have the pieces of the life of people we can gather using technology, beyond just written books
  • AI makes it possible to bring back people that we love in some way and in essence achieve immortality
  • AI can be used to build experience, thoughts, speech
  • AI uses in aging: generate biological clocks, predict protein folding, assemble genomes, predict longevity in mouse in response to stimuli, diagnosing a virus

David Sinclair Interest And Predictions On Wearables

  • Wearables represent the merging of machines and humans  
  • Wearables help us collect biological data about our bodies
  • We can use data to keep ourselves in optimal shape
  • “Picture a future where you’re monitored constantly so you wouldn’t have a heart attack, you’d know that was coming.” – David Sinclair
  • It’s feasible that wearables and similar technology will indicate what antibiotic or medication to take, what to eat, etc. – and augment physicians who would just need to sign off on the protocol
  • COVID-19 accelerated biological technologies & medical advances
  • There will be day doctor’s use wearable technology to send patients home for monitoring instead of keeping them in the hospital
  • Wearables will revolutionize medicine – it can collect data which can be used to predict sickness, diagnose disease


  • InsideTracker: David Sinclair co-founded a company that creates personalized and actionable plans to help people optimize their bodies through nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle
  • Connects scientific papers to individual data and make recommendations for lifestyle
  • InsideTracker leverages hundreds of thousands of human data points and thousands of scientific articles to create a formula of what works and what doesn’t for your body
  • Recommendation of food and nutrition was better than leading drug at treating type 2 diabetes
  • Soon, the current model of medicine is going to outdated as machines and data will know us better than our doctor
  • “We wouldn’t drive a car without a dashboard so why would doctors do the same?” – David Sinclair

How And Why We Age

  • Aging is both a feature and bug of evolution
  • We only need to live as long as we need to in order to replace ourselves – some breed slowly and build a body that lasts, some breed quickly and die quickly
  • We can do better at aging
  • Hallmarks of aging include: loss of telomeres, senescent cells, loss of energetics
  • Defining factor of aging: preservation of information and loss of entropy
  • “Loss of information in our bodies is a root cause of aging.” – David Sinclair
  • We have information regulator genes in our bodies – upregulation could preserve health
  • Information in cells = DNA and epigenome
    • DNA is usually intact in animals and humans over time
    • Epigenome: regulators of genetic information
  • Question of importance: is there a repository of information in the body to restore from?
  • Antagonistic pleiotropy: a system built to keep us alive when we’re young but has damaging effects later in life
  • Causes of aging: (1) broken chromosomes and (2) cell stress – smoking also dramatically accelerates biological age
    • It’s hard to repair something that’s constantly breaking: we have 1000 chromosome breaks per day – the break is recognized by proteins and is usually fixed but not always
  • You can slow down aging using three embryonic genes to reset the age of tissues to a certain point – but if you don’t do it right it can cause tumors  

Data Sharing In Biology

  • “We’re living through what’s going to be seen as one of the biggest revolutions in human health through the gathering of data about our bodies.” – David Sinclair
  • Ultimately, we’re all going to be monitored
  • There will be a reversal where blamed will be assigned for not collecting data
  • Decisions are made based on very few tests when we have the opportunity to collect more
  • Consumer health is going in the direction of the patient having access to better data than the doctor (through private lab tests, biotech companies, etc.)
  • Doctors are becoming excited and interested about seeing and using privately collected patient data to make more informed decisions
  • The U.S. currently spends 17% of GDP on healthcare – we can save money by monitoring using wearables and prevention
  • Ideally, we can create a system where we can share data as we’d like and keep what we wouldn’t

Lifestyle Methods To Slow Aging

  • Fasting is one of the oldest ways to improve health – we need to optimize how long and the frequency
  • “If there’s one thing I can recommend to anybody to slow down aging it’s to skip a meal or two a day.” – David Sinclair
  • Note: David Sinclair is a big fan of one meal a day; the carnivore diet has made Lex feel really good
  • When you eat seems to be more important than what you eat
  • Data says plant-based foods are better than meat-based foods
    • People who live longer tend to eat Mediterranean diets with little red meat
    • High meat consumption stimulates mTor
    • Could take rapamycin to counteract effects of meat
    • Meat produces immediate health benefits (muscle, energy) but potentially at the expense of long term effects
  • Eat a diet full of leafy greens, avoid spikes in sugar, possibly explore supplementing with resveratrol
  • Exercise clearly extends longevity
  • You don’t need much exercise to get great benefit – exercise aerobically a few times per week (even 10 minutes) and lift weights a few times per week
  • Sleep is critical for longevity to avoid premature aging and adverse health outcomes
  • Sleep quality seems to matter more than quantity
  • The brain is the center for longevity so we have to take care of stress levels, mental health

Data Collection Methods

  • We’ll likely work to moving away from blood draws for data
  • Currently: swab and ship to the lab to test hormones, stress levels, blood glucose, etc.
  • In the next 10 years: spit on paper and stick in a machine for analysis
  • Home tests are really easy and scalable if they can become democratized (price reduced)

Realistic Goals Of Lifespan

  • If you start eating cleaner in your 20s, that has been shown to improve lifespan in animal models
  • If you are in your 20s, aim to reach 100
  • There’s no maximum limit to human lifespan

Death & Denial

  • We seem to draw meaning from life being rooted in our existence – most of us find it distressing to face our own mortality
  • All living beings have evolved to want to live and survive
  • It’s possible we evolve to naturally deny aging because we need to use our energy and focus for innovation and life instead of death
  • It might be easier to be lazy if you are immortal

Note: Wearable Oura ring was referred to multiple times throughout the show

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