The search for the secret of eternal youth and the quest for immortality have endured since humans life began—some would say this is part of our intrinsic survival instinct and is hardwired into our genetic code, which has evolved since life on earth began, about 3.6 billion years ago.
How did life begin? Where do we come from? Where do we get this insatiable curiosity that drives us, making us want to live longer, and for some of us, even forever?
These are questions I have been fascinated with ever since I was a little girl. I used to draw a lot, which helped me work out my ideas and process my obsessive curiosity about life. My drawings were everything from religious images depicting Jesus and Mary to anatomical drawings from textbooks on obstetrics showing the birth process. I thought I was destined to be a doctor, but then fell into a very different path after studying genetics.
Years later, with three sons born, through complete serendipity, I saw Sir Ken Robinson's wonderful TED Talk "Schools Kill Creativity." Seeing this 20-minute talk resulted in an epiphany moment—I suddenly realized what was "holding back" my middle son in school (hyperactivity, it turns out, which is a gift in so many ways, but not necessarily at school when you have to sit still at a desk for hours!). Compelled to read Robinson's book The Element, I realized for myself what was holding me back and what I was really interested in too.
Fundamentally, it is what drives people, and how they can either be blocked (though archaic educational systems, stultifying workplaces, or slow-moving institutions, for example) or be released, enabling them to achieve big things from seemingly small and inauspicious places when they find their purpose and their passion.
Just look at Greta Thunberg! Most people know her as the climate change activist that she is—most recently named by Time Magazine as the "Person of the Year." But did you know that she has Aspergers, was very depressed, and had no interest in eating, until she found her cause?
Will and purpose are what drive us to want to live longer. And I am not sure this is hardwired into our genes, like the survival instinct clearly is.
For me, I re-discovered my purpose when I hit "middle age" by going back to my entrepreneurial proclivities and becoming a sort of social entrepreneur. I started a social enterprise to inspire young people in science and technology; two years later, I started an innovation business in health, and then a year later I co-founded another venture in longevity.
A lot of what I do is about making connections with ideas and with people to drive change. Some of the stories from the extraordinary people I have met are in this book. I talked to scientists, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, politicians, activists, and even the world's strongest man.
We all have our own exquisitely unique way of figuring out the path we take in our lives—and our personalities shape whether we follow, create, or destroy these paths in this most intricate map of life.
So back to the first question: how was life first created? Let's turn to the science.