Vicky Collins Online

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How to Live Forever

Want to live to be a thousand years old? It’s not far fetched at all if you ask theoretician and geneticist Aubrey de Grey. He believes within the next 25 years there is a 50/50 chance we’ll have the technologies to extend human life indefinitely. I learned of Aubrey and his ideas in 2005 and immediately pitched the story to NBC’s Today Show. They were intrigued. With the help of correspondent Kerry Sanders and the London bureau, we went out and interviewed Aubrey in a pub in Cambridge. When we finished the story we sent it in to the show. It was promptly killed. Too out there for a mainstream audience. Plus it didn’t help that Aubrey looked like Methuselah.

Aubrey de Grey at his SENS Foundation laboratory in Mountain View, CA.

Fast forward to 2011 and there Aubrey was in the news again.  This time I pitched the story to HDNet’s World Report. The program is always looking for stories that deal with interesting issues and are not widely told. This time correspondent Willem Marx met up with Aubrey in a pub in Cambridge and also went punting with him on the Thames River. For my part, I finally got to meet Aubrey at his SENS Foundation laboratory in Mountain View, California. He is tall and wiry and moves like someone with no time to lose.  He lovingly strokes the beard which hangs almost to his waist. I asked him if his distinctive look helped or hurt him as he went out in the world trying to win over scientists and venture capitalists to support his work. He said it helped because people looked at him and saw a guy who is not materialistic in the least. It’s very clear to them that he is not doing this to get rich.

Through his SENS Foundation non-profit, Aubrey and the scientists who work with him are creating an intersection between research on the biology of aging and regenerative medicine. By doing experiments with the building blocks of cells they hope to someday develop treatments that repair the damage caused by aging, and restore people to a state where they are biologically younger than they were when they started. In other words, people could live out their entire lives as healthy as young adults. Five years ago, the scientific community considered his ideas kind of kooky but now the research is catching up with his theories and Aubrey is gaining credibility. “This is not science fiction anymore, this is science forseeable,” Aubrey proclaims.

Of course the implications are mind boggling but Aubrey brushes them off. “People always say hang on. If we stop the problem of aging we’re going to have a whole lot of other problems. We’re going to have overpopulation or dictators who live forever, or how will we have the pensions, or won’t it be boring. If I want to be flippant, I say those are problems I’d like to have, thank you very much. Ultimately I don’t see people who want to get cancer or Alzheimer’s disease or cardiovascular disease or Type 2 Diabetes or any of these things we are going to prevent by curing aging. I don’t meet people who want any of those things so I find it frustrating when people take the view we’re going to create the problems and refuse to adopt any sense of proportion about this and accept the problem we have today is a big one, a problem that kills 100,000 people every day, most of them after a long period of ill health and disease and debilitation and dependence and decrepitude. It’s pretty clear that the problem we would solve is quite a big one, and yes, the transition to a post aging world is going to be a big one, and the more forward planning we do to make it less turbulent the better, but the transition to the industrial revolution was pretty turbulent too, yet there aren’t many people who believe the industrial revolution was a mistake.”

If you want to learn more about Aubrey de Grey and his work and vision tune in to HDNet’s World Report on Tuesday, May 17th at 9 p.m. ET/7 p.m. MT.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

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The Camel and the Cell Phone

Andres from Switzerland, his girlfriend, Paola from Brazil and I were riding on camels in the Thar Desert outside of the western Indian town of Jaisalmer. We were in a spot as remote as I’ve ever been, 21 hours by train from Delhi, just 60 kilometers from the border with Pakistan. It’s a flat, arid locale, punctuated by sand dunes and populated by only villagers, camel wallas and shepherds with their flocks of sheep and goats. To me it was a place that time forgot, more like the Middle East than India. It probably hasn’t changed much at all in a thousand years. I felt like a silk or spice trader heading west into the desert. I was deep into my reverie on a camel named Michael when suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by the Nokia ringtone. Dadadadadadadadadadadadada. It seemed our guide, Ali, was a very popular man. For the entire camel safari his cell phone rang. It rang on the sand dunes, it rang under the tree where we stopped to have our vegetables and chapati lunch, it rang at sundown while we were drinking our beer. It rang after we went to bed under the stars and it was the first sound I heard at sunrise. The Nokia ringtone, piercing the tranquility of the desert.

 

Ali and his cell phone

 

The Lonely Planet guide book said the power generating wind turbines that have sprouted around Jaisalmer were altering the historic and mystical qualities of the area, that they made it harder to transport yourself to another time and place. But I barely noticed them. I found it was Ali’s cell phone that kept me coming back to now. I had a similar experience while working at the Olympics in Beijing. Dean, Jim and I took a day trip to hike the Great Wall of China. We climbed in Hebei Province, in Inner Mongolia, about two and a half hours outside of Beijing. We took a 10 kilometer trek from Jinshanling to Sumatai. Up and down stairsteps in a place far out of the way. Yet there was cell service. No place this remote would be served by AT&T in the U.S.A. My colleague, Jim, who probably shouldn’t have been on the adventure because he was so busy with his Olympic assignment as the head technical supervisor of the Bird’s Nest Stadium, spent the entire trip talking on his cell phone. I have no idea how he managed to catch his breath as he scrambled up and down the mountainside. It was truly the most difficult physical challenge of my life, yet he yakked the whole way on his mobile.

We have gotten to a place where we are so interconnected that you can no longer escape, even in some of the most remote spots on earth. While in India I have stayed in touch with friends by Skype, email and Facebook. I tuned in to an computer chat on http://msnbc.msn.com that my friend, Kerry Sanders, a correspondent for NBC News, was holding as he covered the rescue of the miners from Chile. There was really no update from family, friends and colleagues that was inaccessible to me from a half a world away. And even though I am grateful for all the technology and connectedness at my fingertips, and understand the need of the camel walla to stay in touch with his people when he travels through the desert too, I still wish the only sounds that day were my thoughts, the wind and the camels, and not Ali’s incessant Nokia ringtone.

For more on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Haiti Earthquake: Telling the Story

Woman in Rubble of Haiti Earthquake

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times are doing a great job reporting a backstory in Haiti.  Their journalists are telling how broadcast and cable news handled the incredible logistics of deploying their people to Port Au Prince to cover the story.  This is not to diminish the role of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and cell phones, but to get people like Anderson Cooper of CNN, Brian Williams of NBC and Katie Couric of CBS, along with their entourages, to a country with no infrastructure and then see them on the air within 24 hours after the disaster is an incredible feat.  I am watching my friend Kerry Sanders, who is based in Miami for NBC News, cover this story and it looks like he is taking this disaster personally.  Through exhausted eyes and a sick heart, he is reporting about a country and people he cares about deeply.  In one poignant report he said “this city is now the saddest place on Earth.”

What strikes me about the comments following these articles is the vitriol and nastiness aimed at these first responders.  Sure these are the “celebrities” of the networks but they go because this is a story of such tremendous magnitude and their reporting is touching people who are in turn helping to open the floodgates of aid to Haiti at this most terrible time.  I am shocked that anyone would be critical of these efforts.  They are allowing all of us to bear witness and stay informed.  They are moving us to reach for our wallets when we are powerless to do anything else.  Who cares if the broadcasts are rough?  Who cares if Al Roker is doing the weather from the tarmac?  He is also interviewing the people from all over the world who are arriving to roll up their sleeves.  Why shouldn’t Ann Curry be desperately trying to get on a chopper?  Why shouldn’t she rush to the scene along with rescuers and NGOs to cover one of the greatest catastrophes ever?  They’re not getting in the way.  They’re making sure the Haitian people are not forgotten.  I wish I was there with them.  Get real, people.     

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-haiti-media14-2010jan14,0,3499947.story

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/worlds-news-media-enters-port-au-prince/

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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BeadforLife on NBC’s Today Show

Thanks so much to my friend, Kerry Sanders, who recognized a good story when he saw one and featured BeadforLife on NBC’s Today Show.  Thanks also to Maryann Zoellner, Jim Bell, DeeDee Thomas and Meredith Vieira for their support.  Phones are ringing off the hook in Boulder today as more women join the bead circle and get involved in the fight against global poverty in Africa.  The women in Uganda send blessings.  OYE!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/30597963#30597963

For more information about Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.