Where Art and the Art World are Right Now

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the remarkable advances that have refashioned art and the art world – and why today we’re living in one of the most momentous moments in art since the Renaissance.

I’m back! And I invite you to join me for my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Where Art and the Art World are Right Now.

Art remains the greatest operating system our species has ever invented. We’re living today in one of the momentous moments in art since the Renaissance.

And I’ve got a lot more than five things to declare!

Art remains a means of exploring consciousness, seen and unseen worlds. It is an instrument, medium, matrix, or miracle that transforms old impressions into new thoughts; that makes a thousand insignificant details light up and draw you out. But the first two decades of the 21st century have seen dramatic disturbances in the art world. Massive trees have fallen. The center is not merely holding but continually expanding, multiplying, superheating and cooling all over again, threatening to atomize or collapse, but ever re-forming. All of this has happened against the collapse of one of the longest lasting movements in art history: Modernism.

What does this all mean? Where are we now? What does every art lover need to know?

Join me as I share what seem to me the most essential changes of the last two decades. These remarkable advances have refashioned art and reshaped the world art that lives in. So much so, in fact, that today:

  • The Art World Begins Again: The Art World changed more in the last 22 years than it did in the last 500 years. From 9-11 through two contested US elections, the Bush Cheney War Machine, the arc of history turning momentarily to justice with America’s first Black President, to the re-onset of the Long American Night in 2016, to a world pandemic, none of the art made in this century has been made under “normal” conditions. On top of that the ideology of the longest art movement in art history, Modernism, collapsed. We’ve learned that history isn’t linear.
  • Mega is Everything: We discovered what happens when art and money have sex in public.Starting in the early 2000s money rushed into the art world; galleries mutated into mega-galleries with outlets all over the world; museums expanded exponentially; prices mushroomed; art fairs and biennials sprang up all over the world; auctions became big news; an iffy Da Vinci was sold for 430-million dollars. A filter of decadence hardened into entertainment culture and cynicism.
  • Size Matters: Art has become huge and forward facing. Criticism has become about liking everything.The size and money and global scale of the art world meant more art from more places than ever before in the art world. We see a return of subject matter and new narratives centering around social justice, personal agency, identity, and global geopolitics. Museum atriums and biennials have filled with this art and the very long wall labels that explain this art – even when the wall label and the art seemed to have nothing in common. Criticism adapted to this change by becoming uncritical and liking everything. This led me to a new form of criticism – online. For free. Writing for the reader, not the artist, art world, collector, academia, or institutions.
  • We are still responding to three pandemics, and they’ve changed the Group Mind. In 2015 came a rise of populism and ethno-nationalism. In March of 2020 came Covid. As the angel of death walked among us, we all returned to a condition of the caves, where art was made from the near at hand, in smaller spaces, where the studio and kitchen, living room, and children’s playrooms were the same room. In May 2020, George Floyd was murdered. The world rushed out to the streets again, demanding change. 
  • The beginning of the end of art-world-apartheid is now underway. After more than 60 years of liberals talking the talk, the art world’s has finally started to walk the walk. The system was broken; everyone knew it. For the first time in history more women and underrepresented artists are now being shown, sold, and written about. This is changing what art is seen and the audiences seeing it. This is already changing art. This is creating fantastic new tensions in art. We are finally seeing 51% of the story by women. We are seeing new narratives of discontinuity; the taking back of Africa and other ideas and isms. This is a rewriting of art history itself.

You and me. Two hours. That’s what we’ll be touching on as we touch digital antenna.

There will, of course be more, much more. I’ll share ideas from my new book, Art is Life; I’ll take your questions; and with luck, I’ll leave you asking many more.

Please come; the last time I was here, I had a blast.

– Jerry Saltz

Thinking and Writing about Citizenship

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about American citizenship – what it means, the obligations it places upon us, and the uglier way our shared ideals sometime work in practice.

Hi, I’m Phil Klay and I’m excited to invite you to join me for Five Things I’ve Learned Thinking and Writing About Citizenship.

I served in Iraq, in the United States Marine Corps as a public affairs officer, and since I got back I’ve been obsessed with two things—the war I served in, and the suddenly strange country I returned to. I wanted to engage people in conversations about just what exactly I was representing when I went, armed, through the cities and towns of a foreign country in the midst of a brutal insurgency, with an American flag on my shoulder.

Since then, I’ve written short stories and a novel about modern warfare which have been read by generals and government officials and at least one modern President, and I’ve also written essays and pieces of journalism for publications like the New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker and the Washington Post. Much of that work has been aimed at thinking through American citizenship—what it means, what obligations it places upon us, how it works as an ideal, and the uglier way it sometimes works in practice. And so, in this class I’ll be discussing what I’ve learned over the past fifteen years about how think about to communicate about our citizenship.

Some of these lessons will be about the practical nuts and bolts of writing. How do you structure a longform essay in a way that doesn’t just preach at a reader, but rather invites them in to think through a complex subject with you? How does one take a seemingly dry subject—like Congressional decisions that have changed how we wage war—and present then in a narrative that is emotionally compelling and intellectually rich? I’ll expose my own writing process, and talk through the choices I make while editing work.

But I really want to focus in detail about the way I’ve chosen to approach the subject itself. American democracy is on the one hand a system involving rules for elections, separation of powers, and large bureaucracies. But it is also an ideal, forged in the bloodshed of the American revolution and entailing a commitment to self-rule, to sacred words like freedom, and equality. Anyone writing about citizenship has to be able to work on both registers, while never losing track of deeply personal human narratives at the heart of the story.

I’ll talk about the resources I’ve drawn on from history—not just the way in which I do research but also how I think about history in the work I do. In any nation we cobble together our notions of who we are, and what our country can be, from the stories about history we’ve inherited. Sometimes these stories are false, or incomplete, but sometimes you can uncover luminous bits of history peeking through from the past, and offering a way forward in the future.

And finally, I’ll talk about the necessity of confronting the hard cases, the ideological opposition, the aspects of American life and history you’d rather not think about—and doing so with a searching openness. A commitment to common citizenship means making a principle out of engagement with the uglier parts or our history. It also means engaging with other viewpoints and emotions that make you personally uncomfortable, but which demand expression and debate in a democracy. I’m interested in and engaged in politics, but not in the team sport of partisanship, and I’ll talk through why that matters to me, and how I think about walking that line in my work.

The conversation will be a rich one, moving from a contract murder in Kentucky to a hero of the First War, from grassroots organizations helping process refugees in the wake of the fall of Afghanistan, to George Washington rethinking national defense in the wake of the Battle of Brooklyn.

It’s a strange, painful time for American politics. And I do hope you’ll join me, and challenge me in the Q&A, as we think through how to talk about our shared citizenship, and how to open up deeper, broader conversations capable of cutting through the noise. 

– Phil Klay

How to Write about Ideas

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how to write about ideas – how to take complicated concepts and make them accessible; and how, in the process, to enlighten and entertain.

My name is James Surowiecki. I’m a journalist and an author, and I’d like to invite you to my new class, Five Things I’ve Learned About How to Write About Ideas.

I’ve been a writer for almost thirty years, and in that time I’ve written a lot of different kinds of stories for a lot of different kinds of publications. I’ve written short essays, op-eds, profiles, pieces of cultural criticism, long narrative essays, and so on. I’ve also written scripts for television and I’ve written documentary films. And pretty much all the various pieces I’ve written had one thing in common: at heart, they were about ideas.

That’s true, I think, of a lot of the best nonfiction writing. Journalism is often thought of as a matter of Who, What, When, and Where. But some of the most interesting and important writing does something different: its central focus is on Why and What Does It Mean? It looks at the deeper causes of human behavior, digs into the concepts that influence and shape us, uses insights from other disciplines to explain the seemingly simple, but actually complex, aspects of everyday life.

And so that’s what we’ll be focusing on in this two-hour class: how to write about ideas in an engaging and compelling way; how to take complicated concepts and make them accessible (without dumbing them down); how, as the saying goes, to both enlighten and entertain.

So we’ll take a big-picture look at what makes for good writing about ideas. And we’ll also go over concrete, practical advice on how you come up with interesting ideas, how to write strong openings and endings, and how to structure pieces so that the reader doesn’t lose the thread of your argument.

As part of this, we’ll also look at writers like Michael Lewis, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Joan Didion, and David Foster Wallace to see how they’re able to write about ideas in memorable ways, and how they use story, anecdote, and structure to bring the ideas they’re exploring to life.

My hope for the class is that it’ll make you more adept in the way you use and explore ideas. And it’ll help you figure out how to write more effectively about the ideas you’re interested in, whether you want to craft sharper social-media posts or write for magazines.

I hope you’ll join me!

-James Surowiecki

The Nature of Songs

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover Five Things I’ve Learned about some of the essential elements that enable music to communicate, cohere, and endure.

Hi, I’m Robbie, and I’m a musician and a songwriter. Most of my songs are in the old-school country and bluegrass vein, but I also love jazz, blues, rock-and-roll, R&B, gospel, folk, and other American styles. I let anything and everything flow into my head when I’m making songs — all sorts of music and books and ideas and memories — which makes my stuff sound like me alone, I think and hope. But my voice and playing technique are definitely Appalachian-tinged, which delimits me usefully.

I’ve been playing shows since 1979 and touring and making records since 1989. I also write a little about music, and I occasionally teach camps and classes in songwriting and guitar playing, and I’m working on a book about the function of songs (aesthetically, socially, anthropologically, historically, biologically). All these somewhat disparate threads of thought and on-the-ground experience will feed into my “Five Things” class.

I want to think about the nature of songs with you. It’s a huge topic. What are songs “for,” if anything? Obviously the ones we like make us feel good, and they’re a way for people like me to make a living, but maybe there’s more going on than good vibes and profit motive. We all know about words as carriers of meaning and building blocks of ideas and stories, but what about the other two big song elements, tone and rhythm, why are those so appealing and powerful? When a song strikes us as a standout in its compositional grace, what are the characteristics at play?

There’s a temptation — I’ve certainly indulged it from time to time — to assert: “this [song/style] is better than that [song/style].” Over time I’ve become convinced that aesthetic opinions are unsupportable by proof or reason, and relatedly, that allegedly rock-solid principles of songwriting and composition are time-stamped vogues. That what we like is simply what we like, depending on where and when we’re born, what we’re exposed to early on, what was on the radio when we fell in love, etc. With that in mind, I’m going to try to avoid opinionating much during the session (slight exception in the premise of #5 below), because I don’t want to waste time spinning wheels. Also I’m hoping that people of widely varying tastes will feel welcome and get something out of the session. We’ll ecumenically explore the properties of songs that make them cohere, endure, and communicate emotionally. Of course my reference points will be the set of all the songs I’ve heard, which means more Lennon and McCartney than trap and drill, more Merle Haggard than madrigals.

It’s a fascinating subject! And I’d love to hear your feedback as we go. I’ll stick to the rule of five, but I’d like to wander pretty widely, between subjects one and five. This might make the session feel a little scattershot, thematically. But music’s all over the place! Songs are a slippery, multifarious subject.

Here are my five things:

— The grammar of pop songs. I learned the “Nashville number system” as a Music Row writer in the 1990s, and it improved my work instantly. We’ll leverage a simple do-re-mi scale to understand chords as musical building blocks with in-built relations. If you’ve been to Berklee, it’ll be useless; if you’re mathematically hard-to-reach, it might be challenging; for most of you, I think I can make it grok-able. And if you happen to be a guitar-based songwriter who doesn’t know this system, I promise this will be of great use.

— The social function of songs. This is something I haven’t exactly “learned” in a systematic or scholarly way, but am in process of learning about, and I’d like to share some of my findings and speculations. I’ll touch on songwriting in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, and medieval France; the Renaissance as a pivot in perspective; the invention of the phonograph and rise of the music industry as a revolution in song consumption and production.  

 — “The singer not the song.” A “song” is, among other things, a blueprint and a performance (in the flesh or on a recording). I’ll explain why I think performance is an actuality that trumps “composition” which is a potentiality and always subject to change.

— Storytelling in song, using “non-relatable” details. Think of the “warm smell of colitas” in Hotel California,something no one can relate to because it’s not even a thing; or, if you’ve heard Doug Kershaw’s Louisiana Man, the names of his family members that are included in the storyline. On the surface, it doesn’t stand to reason that popular songs can reference things that listeners can’t hope to get a handhold on. But there’s a lot about songs and stories that doesn’t “stand to reason.”These last 15 years, I’ve evolved from a detail-skeptic to an unabashed pointillist. I’ll talk about why.

— Good songs keep giving. And in any broad theorizing about music, we should keep concrete examples close to hand, to make sure we know what we’re yakking about and don’t stray off into the clouds. I’ll play and analyze a song whose construction I think is brilliant: “Still Crazy After All These Years” by Paul Simon.

Please join me!

-Robbie Fulks

The Two Hollywoods

View the archive of our 90-minute class and discover the Five Things We’ve Learned about the people and values that shaped the movie business – and all we uncovered while compiling the comprehensive oral history of Hollywood.

There’s an old saying: Everyone has two businesses. Their own and the movie business. But how much do we really know about Hollywood? Or rather, about the two Hollywoods. The glory days of old Hollywood characterized by fun, flexibility, and familial good; and the Hollywood of today – a business shaped by agents, corporations, and global interests.

In writing our new book, Hollywood: The Oral History, we discovered that even though we call both periods “Hollywood,” they are distinct in nearly every way. We read transcripts of more than 3,000 American Film Institute seminars – candid, largely undiscovered sessions featuring some of the most important figures in movie history. And time and again we were delighted to discover that these figures championed and benefited from many of the American values and attitudes too often absent in the movie business today. We also found abundant evidence to contradict widely held contemporary beliefs about the way the business operated and key facts we’ve mistakenly come to take for granted about the figures such as the studio heads Louis B. Mayer and Harry Cohn, stars Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, and many, many others – personalities whose lives and work have been obfuscated by historical fantasy.

It’s this important story about the real American values that shaped the movie business that we want to share with you in our 90-minute class, Five Things We’ve Learned about the Two Hollywoods. We read thousands of never-before-published interviews with stars, directors, producers, designers, studio executives, and craftspeople. In the process, we gained unique, unprecedented insight into the real life of a workaday Hollywood that no longer exists. 

We’re excited to share with you all we learned about:

– How Hollywood’s founding studio heads, contrary to the popular misconception, were not tyrannical;

– How studio-era Hollywood, contrary to the popular misconception, represented women in front of and behind the camera;

– How the studio system, contrary to the popular misconception, represented values of family, fun and flexibility;

– How studio-era filmmakers, contrary to the popular misconception, enjoyed an uncommon degree of creativity and autonomy;

– Finally, why has the history of Hollywood been misconstrued for so long and why it’s essential that we get it right.

We’ll share these discoveries and more in our time together. This earlier era is a Hollywood to love, one that will make you marvel at the visionary talent, spirit of collaborations, forces of will and repeated innovation that created one of the world’s enduring fascinations: the American movie business. 

Please join us!

– Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson

Freedom, from Frederick Douglass

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the meaning and value of freedom by studying the life and writing of Frederick Douglass.

My name is Nicholas Buccola and I am honored to invite you to join me for a class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Freedom, from Frederick Douglass.

As you may know, Douglass was born into slavery. From his earliest years, he recognized the wrongness of life without freedom and devoted himself to escaping from its terrors. After he was able to do so at the age of twenty, he devoted most of his next six decades to agitating on behalf of the freedom of all people. Douglass is primarily remembered, of course, as an abolitionist, but the abolition of slavery was but one of many causes to which he was committed. He also fought on behalf of women’s rights, the rights of immigrants, and the rights of religious minorities. He once said that his understanding of freedom contained within it “an encyclopedia of argument” with “manifold applications.”

I have spent a good part of the last two decades studying Douglass. What began as an essay I wrote for a graduate school seminar grew into my doctoral dissertation on Douglass, and then a first book about him. I have also served as the editor of a collection of his writings and speeches. Indeed, as I write this, I am gearing up for yet another trip across the country to share what I’ve learned about Douglass with several audiences. For about twenty years, I’ve thought about Douglass just about every day and I am excited share some of what I have learned with you. 

In this 90-minute class, I’ll share all I’ve learned about the ways in which Douglass’s life and work can help us today to gain a deeper understanding of what he can teach us about freedom. Among other things, we will consider what Douglass:

·      Can teach us about the ways in which our freedom depends on something within each of us

·      Can teach us about the ways in which our freedom depends on our connections to other people

·      Can teach us about the relationship between freedom and equality

·      Meant when he said each of us had the freedom to engage in “self-making”

·      Can teach us about the relationship between fairness and freedom

I hope you join me on a quest to discover some of the wisdom that Frederick Douglass has to offer. I believe that he is a quintessential American. His life and work have so much to teach us.

– Nick Buccola

How to Live in a City

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how we can use our city’s structures and energies to improve our well-being and help create a better place for all.

My name is Thomas Dyja. I’m a writer, a Chicago native and a New York transplant, and the books I’m best known for—The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream and New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess, and Transformation—are histories of those two cities during dramatic, even iconic eras. I grew up in Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Chicago, with the smell of the Stockyards still in the air, and then spent more than forty years in New York as it evolved from Fiscal Crisis to Luxury City. Both were cities in constant crisis, but they also both managed to be, in some very important ways, triumphant.

Not many people are talking about triumph these days, though, when it comes to any city. Instead we’re asking fundamental questions about them, not just because of Covid, but because of climate change and inequality, with some pundits and politicians even asking whether cities themselves are somehow….over, which is, of course, nothing new. Go all the way back to Ur and you’ll find that cities have always been used to scare people. They’re thought to be dirty and dangerous; greedy, sinful, and lonely. They’re places to escape, survive, or— if you’re strong and ruthless enough — conquer at the expense of everyone else fighting for their own spot in the line for the next overpriced apartment or trendy donut.

Well, after a life lived in cities, I heartily disagree. And that’s why I hope you’ll join me for Five Things I’ve Learned About How to Live in a City. Cities do need to change. But as we talk about what we want our cities to be in the years ahead, we need to see that while business and government build the buildings and lay the highways, it’s People who make the city. Though my books have shown how Chicagoans and New Yorkers created the cultures and communities that define those places, it’s true of Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, London, Paris, and Lagos too. The buzz, the friction, the exchange comes from us. Cities are the product of our connections to each other, how we the people exist in our cities not just as demographics, but in how we live with each other.

During my 90-minute class, I’ll offer strategies for an engaged, even enlightened, kind of urban life that involves more than just finding a job and a place to live. I’ll show how to use the structures and energies of cities to improve your own well-being, and in the doing, make your city a better place for everyone. We won’t be discussing policy points; we’ll be looking at living in a city as a kind of practice. I’ll share insights for new arrivals – from the need to learn local history and exchange knowledge with humility, to creating your own networks. More importantly, though, I want to reawaken long-time residents to the potential of their surroundings. Some of it’s as simple as celebrating with others and walking more, but we’ll also talk about the deeper, tougher realities of urban life. How friction creates meaning, for example, and how to invest in your community without embracing fear and exclusion. How power starts with small things and why gardens—both real and figurative—matter.

For our cities to work, we need to stop waiting for the Powers That Be to do the right things. We have to consciously make them work, ourselves. Not only can we live in cities in ways that are active, generative, and democratic, but given estimates that almost 90% of the world’s population will live in one by 2050, frankly we must.

I very much hope you’ll join me.

– Thomas Dyja

The Power that Comes from Connecting Generations

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover Five Things I’ve Learned about the great things that happen when generations come together.

My name is Marc Freedman. I am the founder and co-CEO of Encore.org, an organization that elevates innovators and ideas that bring generations together. I founded Encore because I believe that the best way for older adults to find fulfillment and happiness is to connect with the next generation. Working together forges a legacy of love that lives beyond us.

This call to action brings both my personal and professional life full circle. I started out working with an organization that helped kids in growing up in poverty. I co-founded Experience Corps (now managed by AARP) to mobilize people over 50 to improve the school performance and prospects of low-income elementary school students in 22 U.S. cities. I’ve always seen older adults as an untapped resource. And I’ve seen the power of mentorship. (I even wrote a book about it). I originated the encore career idea linking second – or even third – acts to the greater good. Now, every day, I see people come together in ways that reverse the false narrative that pits the generations against each other. 

My own first-hand experience with mentorship began at Swarthmore College when a dean helped me navigate the shoals of academia, something I was ill-prepared for. Another mentor, John Gardner, the Secretary of Health and Human Services under LBJ, helped me launch Experience Corps. John was 85 at the time. Now that I am a parent of three teens, I relish the relationships they have forged with older neighbors whose grandchildren live hours away. All of us thrive because of it.

One thing I know for certain: We are what survives us.

I hope you will join me for my 90-minute class, Five Things I’ve Learned about the Power that Comes from Connecting Generations. I’ll share the foundations upon which I’ve built my own life and, most recently, Encore.org. I’ll also share what I believe are the personal and social consequences of some remarkably simple facts that have deep consequences for us all:

  • America today is the most age diverse society in history.
  • The real fountain of youth is the fountain with youth.
  • Age apartheid won’t get us where we need to go.
  • We need to be as creative bringing people together across age–as we’ve been at splitting them apart.
  • It’s time for a movement of ‘modern elders’ and ‘old souls.’

I’m very much looking forward to what I think will be an inspiring and rewarding session. I hope you’ll join Kris Rebillot and me. We’re both looking forward to it!

– Marc Freedman


View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about ageism – and about cheering up, pushing back, and living the life you want to live.

I’m Ashton Applewhite, an author and activist. I’m working to help catalyze a movement to make ageism—discrimination and stereotyping on the basis of age—as unacceptable as any other prejudice. I’ve written a book called This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, and gotten a standing ovation on the TED mainstage. Most importantly, I’ve learned that – because we live in such an ageist world – our fears about growing older are way out of proportion to reality.

I hope that you’ll join me for my upcoming 90-minute class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Fighting Ageism, where I’ll share all that I’ve found most helpful when confronted with the ageist stereotypes that – left unchecked – frame two thirds of our lives as an inevitable decline.

I’ll tell you how I’ve discovered that:

  • The first, hardest, and most necessary step in confronting ageism is to examine our own attitudes. Unless we challenge the stereotypes that we’ve grown up with, we feel shame and embarrassment instead of taking pride in the accomplishment of aging.  
  • By blinding us to the benefits of aging and heightening our fears, ageism makes growing older far harder than it has to be. It damages our sense of self, segregates us, diminishes our prospects, and shortens our lives.
  • Ageism feeds on denial and our reluctance to acknowledge that we’re going to get old. In fact, aging isn’t something sad or boring that old people do. We begin aging the minute we’re born.
  • All prejudice relies on “othering”—seeing a group of people as “other” than us—other color, other nationality, other religion. The strange thing about ageism? That “other” is us. Ageism is prejudice against our own future selves.
  • Older people can be the most ageist of all, because we’ve had a lifetime of absorbing these messages without ever thinking to question them.

I’ll also share with you what I’ve found to the biggest, most essential antidotes for challenging agism in our own lives:

  • Awareness: Recognizing our own prejudices helps us to see that “personal problems”— not being able to get a job or being belittled or feeling patronized, for example—are actually widely shared social problems that require collective action.
  • Integration: Making the effort to connect with people of all ages helps us to take steps to build equitable society for all ages – one that genuinely benefits from intergenerational collaboration.
  • Activism: Watching for ageist behaviors and attitudes, challenging them, and create language and models that support every stage of life, can make immediate differences for us and for others around us.

We have a lot to talk about!  Please join me in conversation with Kris Rebillot. We’ll take your questions and I’ll share how I’ve taken steps to cheer up and push back to live the life I want to live. And, I’ll share how you can, too.

See you soon!

– Ashton

The New Science of Longevity

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the scientific hacks that can improve your health, increase your life span, and make it possible for you to Age Later.

I’m Dr. Nir Barzilai. I’ve made it my life’s work to tackle the challenges of aging and to delay or prevent the onset of all age-related diseases. I’m especially focused on the “ big four”:  diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. I hope that you’ll join me in my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned about the New Science of Longevity. I want to share with you the most important things I’ve learned about aging. Most importantly: Aging is not a certainty, but a phenomenon – one that can be targeted, improved, and even cured.  

My interest in aging was sparked by youthful interactions with my beloved grandfather, when I realized that I will probably one day look like him. Our change with time became my biggest, most lasting, mystery of life. Later, my wife’s grandmother Frieda – a Polish immigrant whose late-life vitality was in stark contrast with people twenty years younger – spurred my focus on the biology of longevity. She lived to be 102. Was there some biological “secret sauce” that kept Frieda wearing high heels well into her 90’s?  

My book, Age Later, shares my own research and that of my colleagues to demonstrate the science behind our confidence that we can ‘hack’ aging. As I’ll explain in our time together, there are already many innovative treatments and approaches being developed to help us “stop the clock” of aging.

What have I learned that makes me so optimistic?

  • Our lifespans will continue to increase. Today, most people die in their 80’s (after suffering from an average of three diseases) but the maximum lifespan is likely around 115 years. For most of us, this means we have 35 extra years we can start realizing now! 
  • Aging, as we know it, is over. Current innovations will allow people to stay healthy for an additional ten to twenty years. The most common side effect will be living to 100 or beyond.
  • Exercise is essential. Hands down, the most important intervention we have for aging is exercise. Eating less and partially fasting may also lead to more healthy years.
  • Genes do matter, especially for centenarians who don’t have “perfect” genomes. Many eat whatever they want and don’t exercise.  ‘Longevity genes’ slow their aging and keep them healthy.
  • Our DNA blueprint to be young isn’t harmed or diminished by age. Put another way, the ability to reverse aging is already contained, right within the human body.

During our time together, I’ll detail these discoveries. I’ll share with you, too, some of my most rewarding work, which has involved so-called “SuperAgers” ­– centenarians who remained remarkably healthy well past their tenth decade, even though some had endured extreme hardships earlier in their lives. (Many were Ashkenazi Jews who either fled Europe or endured the horrors of Nazi concentration camps). It turns out that SuperAgers have genetic benefits that elude most of us. Fortunately, technology has allowed us to identify some of the genes and the resulting molecular pathways that bestow long life to this lucky cohort (and, we’ve discovered, to their offspring). I’m now developing drugs and nutraceuticals that mimic those benefits for rest of us.

I’ll also detail the focus of much of my current effort: metformin. This well-known FDA-approved drug has been safely used to treat diabetes for more than 60 years. Metformin targets all the hallmarks that impact aging. Its effects demonstrate that aging can be targeted and that it’s possible to accelerate our abilities to age later. The FDA has given us the go-ahead to test metformin in a clinical trial. If the trial proves successful, it will pave the way for even better, more effective drugs.

Please join Kris Rebillot and me for what I’m sure will be an exciting class. We’ll take your questions and share the personal habits scientists now know give us the best shot at being healthy as long as possible. I look forward to talking with you.

– Dr. Nir Barzilai

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