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tv   Steven Johnson Extra Life  CSPAN  August 3, 2021 11:21pm-12:24am EDT

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brother and wife and three girls lived and that they had people in the neighborhood and if i didn't stop telling lies about the election, something bad was going to happen. i'm katie from green light and we are thrilled to host steven johnson presenting his new book a short history of livingin longer so we will be talking. before we start i just want to say a huge thanks to stephen, randall and the team for making this happen and all of you for showing up. we are
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not able to host events the community is still here. we are grateful for your support and for the chance to make the conversation and connection. before we getct started a few housekeeping things. you can see the speakers but they cannot see or hear you. you can see the fellow attendees depending what kind of device you're using. there's a couple different ways you can interact in the event which we highly encourage but first the chat you can click on and you can post your comments and thoughts as a t great way to share your appreciation to the author and fellow attendees. if you have a specific question you would like answered please put that in the community module and you can click on the icon that looks like two balloons. we will have questions from the q and a so please make sure youare putting your questions te and not in the chat. the book is available for sale
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you can shop in person 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the weekend to purchase the book and many others on site including the most recent that comes out in paperback tomorrow or you can order online for a quick pick up anywhere in the u.s. to sign copies of the book so you can get a signed book make sure to indicate and look for signed copies when you visit the store. if you care about the authors and ongoing existence of independent bookstores buying tonight is a great way to show your support. the interviewer tonight is the author of a number one "new york times" bestseller what if and how to do, the question and answer what if and web comic. he left the agency in 2006 to draw on the internet full-time. hent lives in massachusetts.
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he will be speaking with the fees featured author the best-selling author of 13 books including farsighted and the ghost path. he's the host and cocreator of the bbc series how we got to now and host of the podcast american innovation. he lives. in brooklyn new york and california with his wife and three sons. his new book extra life is a surprising and important story how humans have doubled our expectancy in just 100 years. he's going to tell a bit about the book and then he will be talking with all of you. please take it away, stephen. >> thank you. appreciate it. i'm delighted to be here. this is actually the first official book tour event of the extra life world tour which is taking place entirely from this room. it's really wonderful that we are doing this with green light
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in brooklyn. i'm in brooklyn right now. it's a perfect way to start out this adventure so thank you for having me and it is a total honor to be here with randall. we are huge fans, everyone in my household is a fan of his work. he's the only author that all three of my sons have actually read all of his books. so in the household he's a big deal. this is a treat for me. s i just want to start with a couple of words about this project because it is kind of a multiplatform project that started with the book. it's also a tv series that premieres tomorrow night as well on pbs at 8:00 which i cohost with david running for four episodes every tuesday night. the project goes back about four
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or five years. i had written many years ago a book called the ghost map which is a story about cholera in the 19th century and one of the reasons i wrote that book is to remind people of how much progress we have made in terms of health and safety and reductions in mortality over the last hundred and 50 or hundred and 70 years ago and it goes back about waterborne disease and how 150 years ago in a big city you could drink a glass of water and be dead and 48 hours. that was just the reality of life so with that book and many years ago i tried to remind people we made a lot of progress and tried to kind of celebrate that progress and also point out some of the most important innovations in life are not just smart phones or zumba or whatever it is. sometimes it's something like clean drinking water which really changes our lives.
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so i always have that kind of theme as an interest and it occurred to me about four years ago that the story of life expectancy would be an interesting framing for a book that you could really talk about that number as a change over time as a powerful indication of just how much progress we've made. when i was first thinking about it three or four years ago i thought well we are coming up on the centennial of the end of the spanish flu, the end of the great influenza which ended in 1920 depending on how you date it and that was the last point at which there was a serious kind of sustained drop in global globallife expectancy and aftert point there was extraordinary progress around the world really particularly the last 30 or 40 years and we effectively doubled the average human lifespan and that period which if you think about it it might be the most remarkable thing that we havee
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ever done as a species. extraordinary thing with so many positive consequences but also some negative ones as well in terms of population and things like that. so i thought if this book comes out maybe we can do a television series and it will come out around 2020 and that will be the anniversary of the centennial of the spanish flu so the timing will be good and so i wrote the book and in early 2020 we were starting to get together the kind of television show and all of a sudden the world was transformednd by covid. this thing that happened 100 years ago suddenly we were right in the middle of one of the most important events in the history just written a book about it and was working on this television show. so many of the themes that are in the book are about what's
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happened over thene last year. there is the central kind of opening chapter and at the show tomorrow night it's about vaccines and the history of vaccines. there's a lot about public health data collection and a lot about how we develop therapeutics for emerging illnesses. it's just of the world we've been living in kind of front and nlcenter suddenly had a newfound relevance. so i kind of come to think about this project now that we're living here in 2021 as the kind of 200 year history of right now. that's kind of how i visualize it now in my head. and in hope it's not interpreted as a victory lap. there is a lot of encouraging trends that are celebrated in this book and a lot of heroes thatot i think could be more celebrated and achievementse tht
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should be widely known. the eradication of smallpox which we can probably talk about a little bit more is one of the most lamented the things we've ever done and yet most people know much more about the moon landing than they do about the eradication of smallpox. so trying to remind people we are capable of these great achievements but it's also recognizing that it's not inevitable that this will continue, the lifespan will not keep marching upwards if we don't pay attention to the signs and to the importance of public health and changes to our behavior that can enhance our lifespan and those around the world so hopefully it is a book that inspires people to keep workingd at this. that is my opening spiel. let me turn it over to randall. congratulations on the launch of the new book even if it isn't exactly when you expected. it's a really cool book i've really enjoyed it so thank you
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for inviting me to come talk about it. so, when are we going to die? [laughter] i can list the numbers individually for everyone if they want. [laughter] >> it's always funny looking at life expectancy because it is such a weird number. it's not really how long you arp expected to live or anyone is expected to live, it's how long you live if this years death yeh rates continue forever so it's kind of nice my life expectancy goes up at' little bit every yer lthat i live. there were a bunch of things in your book that caught my interest and i was curious to hear more about. so, i ran i an estimate many yes ago. i don't know if this came from
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maybe another one of your books or maybe somewhere else, but it tried to pick out the year at which on average people who went to a hospital were better because of it. broadly speaking when did going to see a doctor start helping you more than it hurt? >> i don't know if we fully know the answer to that. it was very obvious but that was one of the things that was the most striking to me in doing the research for the f book is how late medicine kind of arrived as a useful intervention in the story so to give a little bit of context to this until about 1750, it really didn't matter where you were in the world,
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which station in the world, life expectancy was pretty much evenly distributed at about 35 and that was a factor of largely 40% of children would die before they reached adulthood and also less likely if you made it through childhood it was rare that you made it to 70 or 80. other people did but it was unlikely today. so, before the kind of takeoff begins around 1750, there is a tremendous wealth inequalityin n the world but there's no health inequality. you could be the richest person in the world or the poorest person. it doesn't have an impact on your health outcome and the paradox of the story life expectancy is when we start to see progress for the first time and it opens up this gap and you start to see the elite longer than the working poor and industrial companies go backwards for about a hundred years so you have this kind of long period where it starts to
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get better and then in the second half of the 19th century, the kind of industrial working class starts to improve their life expectancy as well and you see the entire population of countries in europe and the united states actually living longer lives and that goes on steadily until brief interruptions of the spanish flu until recent times. so the t impact of medicine, gog to the doctor and getting a pill to live longer is sometimes should be cured of the disease or to get rid of an infection really doesn't have an impact on till antibiotics so the kind of boost penicillin era. that's 1945, 1950 so up until that point there's some fun in i the book looking at these old catalogs of the catalogs from like 1910. it's like every medicine
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contains mercury and arsenic and cocaine and 37 different types of packaging. it's a tremendous amount out there so you think of medicine as being one of those pillars of progress but actually we solved a lot of problems and invented, you know, airplanes and radio and television and a bunch of things before we started making functional drugs to improve our lives. >> one thing that's really i think then driven home for a lot of us in the last year but has always seemed impressive is just the randomized controlled trial. there's no substitute for it and you will hear the doctors talking about this now on tv yeah you can get this observational data but there's all these biases and statistics are hard to figure out what's
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causing what and then so that's why the trial is the gold standard. that also sounds like it was pretty recent. like when did we come up with that and you know where does that rank on the list of accomplishments? >> very high. and it's really not a coincidence. basically the control trials are developed. they emerge at the same time as penicillin and the antibiotics emerged and it's really not an accident at some level. what it's enabled you to do people understand this but the basic idea is you can do these trials where you have a control and then you have the drug that you are testing and nobody knows including the people running the trial which subject is in which
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group and that prevents against bias and all these things. it's the first mechanism that enabled people to figure out if something is working or s not ad that was a crucial breakthrough and if you go back and look at the role of the fda in regulating drugs up until the 60s, there's never a question of efficacy. they were not required to show that their drug worked until the 60s. initially all they had too show is the ingredients listed on the bottle were in fact the ingredients in the medicine. that was the standard so if you wanted to put arsenic in your medicine it was fine as long as you listed it on the bottle and then it became make sure that it doesn't do any actual harm to the patient. but they didn'tt have to prove that it was effective and one of
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the reasons is that there wasn't really a way to measure its effectiveness so that was a major shift forward and i think we underestimate this theme in a couple chapters in the book when we think about the breakthrough we look for physical objects. the needle with the vaccine, the magic bullet, penicillin, x-ray machine. but a lot of involve data analysis and new ways to see patterns and that is what it was. there is an interesting thought experiment there's no reason that they couldn't have been developed earlier and there is there'ssome precedents for themn these experiments done in the 1700s and things like that but no one had a formalized it as a
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technique until around 1950. so there's an alternate history where somebody actually invents the rtc in 1850 instead of 1950 and perhaps medicine improves a little bit faster because there is a way of measuring what works and what doesn't. >> if we had gotten those earlier and we had been able to look at the things we were doing to treat specific conditions and check which ones worked what do youu think would be the most helpful thing we would have stopped doing earlier? >> mayg be bloodletting perhaps. [laughter] it wasas recommended well into e 20th century by kind of reputable doctors saying then you want to bleed the patient. so that would be pretty high on the list.
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>> just the list of toxins that were given to treat king george famously went insane for a period of time in a wonderful movie and play. one of the early signs of his illness was that he was raging against his doctor saying he was poisoned by his doctor and years later they found a lock of hair and analyzed it and he had unbelievably think arsenic poisoning based on the medicine he was given. there are a lot of things that would have been quickly exposed as being dangerous if we had access to that. >> you mentioned the penicillin discovery, and so it always
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seemed weird to me as a general concept that here is this mold oli'm going to rub it on this wound. i always thought of that as the example that had the biggest difference between how good an idea it is and how good of an idea it seems. but i've always figured it's not like i can just go to the grocery store and find a cucumber and take it home and get medicine that way, right? >> it's funny that you say that because there is a part of the story that does involve that. although we are not recommending that young do that the penicilln story and it's the centerpiece of the second episode of the show that comes out next tuesday
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the classic story that a lot of people know is alexander fleming accidentallyer discovers there s a mold that is causing the staff bacteria. bacteria killer in the name of penicillin and 15 years later gets a nobel prize. we will come across the things like that so people that love the story, i like that story. but it turns out it is just a tiny part of the story because the real problem with penicillin
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is making enough of the stuff, first proving that it could cure a bacterial infection which wasn't just given from what fleming's was looking at but then it was hard to make enough of it and that was an extraordinary venture that didn't start for another 12 years later or involved fleming at all and it involved this amazing global collaboration in the middle of world war ii as the extraordinary scientists in england and in the united states were racing the clock to scale up the production because they knew so many soldiers were dying of infection in hospitals and so if you could get a drug that could cure those infections, you would have a an advantage in the war. and it was top-secret in the development and so part of what i say about this is that it just
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shows you our priorities as a culture when you think of what is the famous top-secret military project during the war that involves the collaboration of scientists around the world you think manhattan project. but the pill and penicillin project was just as riveting as a story and just as important and yet it involved a life-saving medicine, not a weapon of mass destruction so i wonder why we don't tell the story as much as the manhattan project. but to get back, one of the things t they started to think about was maybe there are other molds that are out there that could actually be replicated more effectively so they sent soldiers all around the world to see if there was promising mold
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in the world earth all around the world but they also sent a biochemist who is nicknamed moldy mary in illinois, peoria illinois to look in the supermarkets and she found the cantaloupe and one of the supermarkets and to this the day most of the organically produced penicillin in the world sent from that one cantaloupe. >> i'm literally from peoria. i like when you can trace back the specific originan of somethg and be like this copy of this came from that one spot.
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>> so, you, there's all these different things that we have done that have improved our life expectancy and a lot of them are not like a device. it's like a realization we should do things differently and a better habit or better piece of infrastructure or something. so from where we arere right no, if you are put in charge and you can convince everyone to do something differently somewhere like new york or massachusetts or something and you want to bump up life expectancy and you can go into each house and give a ten minute seminar or you can pass a law that as long as it isn't too unreasonable people follow. what would you do if you are just trying to in prove how long
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everyone lives here? >> today i would say that they should get this vaccine that has been developed. one of the big issues just thinking about people around me, we were talking earlier how you get this introduction of lifespan inequality, that should be our focus right now. there's a lot of focus on how far can we extend life and we can talk about that if you want. but the kind of can we push the envelope all the way past 120 or so that seems to be as far or
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can we get everyone to live to 100 and those are important things to look at, but it's the gap that is we want to spend our focus on and where i live in brooklyn you can travel three stops on theai train and the average life expectancy and when you get out in the neighborhood is 80 years less than in my neighborhood and in manhattan the expectancy would be five or six years higher than it is where i live. that's the most fundamental form. how much time dodo you have do u get to live to see your grandkids or great grandkids. so i'm dodging the question a little bit because it's hard what would the most important thing be but i'm not dodging the
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sense that our ability to keep track of those kinds of inequalities and our ability to measure them and build a public record and say these people are living longer than these people. why? that is one of those advances we were talking about. it wasn't about a vaccine. it was about a way of looking at numbers. but when you see these outcomes, when you see the impact it's completely out of whack. to be able to see that gap is important because it forces you to ask questions about why things are happening so there is this new really interesting development a number of folks have written about that shows up a little bit in the book and in the show which is this idea that one of the reasons why youw see african-american communities for
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instance in the united states having these lifespans is because there is a slow steady impact of chronic stress on the body that comes from living in poverty or from dealing with discrimination and that over time is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes or driving a car 100 miles per hour without seatbelts but it's built out of these slower more incremental social crisis s and problems not actual toxins in the environment although there are toxins in the communities that are also an issue so the idea is the kind of psychological burden of living in that situation could have a material impact on your lifespan. that is a genuinely new idea and i think that's one of the things we want to think about so the answer is we should eliminate racism and poverty. that would be the thing that would help us a lot.
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but it's a serious point becausg it's saying it's not just about the traditional factors we think about when we think about health but it's also a political factor. >> i think that's a really good point. and that's something that comes out a lot in reading the book is how much the story of life expectancy of the cap first opening up and then closing. so why did that? >> i was surprised to read about the study from the dickinson and talking about the introduction of agriculture. and i hear people bringing this up now and then and it seems like such a strange idea but really interesting.
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was farming a mistake? [laughter] [inaudible] that development? >> it's a really fascinating question. i.e. alluded to it at the end really. the book starts with this opening chapter about what i call the long ceiling that there's basically what i mentioned before the average life expectancy around the world was about 35 it didn't matter where you were. we basically believe that that is the case all the way back into the kind of preagricultural times and that from studying hunter gatherers and also excavating archaeological sites and things like that. but about 30 years on average and had a similar childhood
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mortality rates to people in europe until 1700 or 1835 to 40% so we aren't really all that different from pre- civilization human beings until about 300 years ago. there's really no progress on that front. the one point where there seems to be a noticeable trend in that early history is precisely the moment where agriculture arrives in a large urban settlement for the first time ended said not period and this is what you see in the lounge where there is actually a noticeable decline in and the outcomes in terms of health and life. it dropped to somewhere as low as kind of 19 and some of these communities as far as we can tell. and you can see this kind of physical of those that have to
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adopt this farming lifestyle so people like jared diamond and others have made the argument that the rise was the greatest mistake in human history and basically for thousands of years until he kind of rose our way out of the original standard of living that we had as hunter gatherers. and it is a fascinating questiof if it was a mistake. if it was a downgrade for humans in terms of quality of life and length of life why did people keep making that choice. what was it that kind of drove the lifestyle would have seemed like such a bad deal and that is a whole other thing we can talk about another time. but i brought it up in the book.
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it shows up at the end of the book because i wanted to remind people that it isn't inevitable. it n isn't just going to keep on happening if we don't look at the evidence and continue solving the problemsnc that we have and we are facing things like climate change that may pose a serious threat if we may have overpopulation problems and in the coming years we have mass migration problems and resource problems and resurgencera to famine. two because life expectancy to go backwards for long periods of time, we've done it before and we did it for a while in the industrialba age, tomac. so it isn't enough to just sit
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back and be like we solved it all and we just got to watch the science continue. >> there's a passage towards the end of the book that i thought was really striking. if you don't mind i can just read here. >> you talked about how you have this really impressive list of here are the things that have saved hundredsds of millions of lives and innovations like the bifurcated needle, refrigeration, toilets and sewer andd so on. and i tried to put together lists like that how few of those
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came from what we think as in the current sense the private sector companies coming up with things and selling them to people and then also things we were selling to people were doing exactly the opposite. selling cigarettes or cars without seatbelts and you point out most of these have, instead activist struggling for reform from the university-based scientists spreading new scientific breakthroughs in thew income countries around the world. i thought that was a really interesting point and i'm
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curious it's why they seem so technological and so kind of so many take the form of things that you interact with in the end and why do they all follow that route. >> i think it has changed a little bit as that passage eludes to. like the vaccines are a good example of that where you have the model moving more towards this public-private partnership where you have some science done and then you have some private sector tapped into and scaling capabilities that the big corporations have and that's a pretty potent combination that may be the future.
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the lowest of the important research was done in the academic context in the military as well but it was a private sector engagement in that as well. before that point, in some cases the big interventions like something like smallpox eradication that really changed the world but there was no private sector company that was goingpo to be able to build a profitablete business vaccinatig villagers in bangladesh so
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you're dependent on different kinds of institutions like the who and in the book one of the things i argued was the invention of institutions like that, global institutions and who, t that is as important. we didn't use to have the organizations that can do that and now we do. and then there's a weird thing about medicine. you would think with medicine there would be the basic mechanism in the market where if a pharma company made junk medicine that didn't do anything, the market would punish that and would reward medicine that worked. so there would be a financial incentive even before the fda came along to regulate it, to steer pharma towards better drugs. but medicine is different from all others some think that
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taking pills makes them better some of the time, disproportionately to get better. but also people have their own internal pharmacies if you sell them a bogus pill, they will often just get better onte their own. there is something fundamentally tricky about the traditional object and the outcome.
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i wanted to mention if anyone has any questions i know we've gotten a couple but if you want to open the q and a tab you can feel free to ask anything you want and we can go to those in a minute. i did want to ask you mentioned a tv show a couple of times. i believe that's coming out. you've got your first episode coming out. >> it's basically it does an interesting thing it bounces back and forth between the history and the present tense of covid so we talked about the origins of the vaccine and the predecessor and then i'm sitting in a room talking with anthony fauci on the day that it came
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back. it has a very unique, i haven't seen a lot of programs to do this, learning a lot of history but seeing it in the context of the present moment. the challenge was we made it all last fall and early winter of this year so everything that my cohost was in the middle of england that was on major lockdownck and so it was logistically this enormously complicated process to get it made butic we were right in the middle of the story and we did manage to get it done so that comes out tomorrow night as well. >> i know we should move on, but i'm stuck on you were talking to doctor anthony fauci the day that of the motor and the results came out. could you tell -- did he know what they were going to be? >> he had announced to them, it's possible that he had known
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a day or two before but it was presented like he had just learned them. he like bounced intoo the room. at one point he said i've had a lot of breaks in my career but we got a great break with this one. we would have taken 60%. we had 95, just so off the charts. he is very charming on the show. >> you mentioned a book, i've enjoyed a couple of your books but tell me about this one. >> my last book that came out a
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year ago it's enemy of all mankind. it's a single narrative who pulls off this heist and triggers a global crisis that leads to the first manhunt in the history of the world. it's about the birth of global capitalism and the clash between the older regimes in india and imthe rising corporations like e company with the pirate kind of in the middle of it. it's a fun story. if people aret interested it's out on paper back and a lovely father's day gift i would like to say the tale of history for father's day.
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>> it's like my brain was derailed by the mentioning of pirates. it's like the real-life version of the rabbit hole. you told me that little bit and now i'm like i know we are doing an event, but i want to read more. [laughter] so we have a couple of questions here in the q-and-a and people can feel free we will get to those if we have time here. the first question was coming back to what we were talking about earlier. you mentioned life expectancy didn't do very until 1750 and then began to and so asking why he is not, why does that start? >> the big change that is central to the vaccine the story story isthat there is a techniqt
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precedes vaccinations. he gets a lot of credit like the famous story but in fact there's this earlier basically involved taking an actual bit of a smallpox scab from someone who has smallpox and inserting that either through a powder through someone's nose to give them a very mild case of smallpox and it's more dangerous than the vaccination. 2% of people the average general smallpox was so deadly that it was the better and safer choice which is incredibly lethal.
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this technique had been developed outside of the west. we don't know where it was first developed. we think it was independently discovered in india, china, africa and it had made its way in to turkey. a british aristocratic woman had randomly moved and her husband was the ambassador to the ottoman empire. she saw and learned there wasn't a lot of smallpox there that which was devastating london and england at that period. she brought it back as a technique and it basically spread is a technique through the kind of elite because of this woman who was an evangelist for it and you start to see this
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reduction and a lot of those were children. so because child mortality is a big driver of life expectancy decline so the average goes down quickly that's when you first start to see that increase because basically the children of the elite are not dying of smallpox. >> you mentioned child mortality and this is a question i feel like there are different ones youu hear like we used to live o 38 and now we live to 70 or 80 and then the it's a just child mortality. and ron tomlinson asked in the q-and-a how much is it what is
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the life expectancy at 30 or 40 how much is it dominating the status flex. >> there is a regular response from people it hasn't really changed it's just today old babies are not dying anymore and that isn't true, that is in the explanation. it's true infant mortality has gone down but it's more complex than that. there are two things i would say. first we took childhood mortality from 40% down and that was an amazing advance because we forget that it was an incredibly dangerous time just 100 years ago, 150.
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two out of five of your children would die and that was just part of the course so it was the most peerless point of your life until you got very old. so think about all that's been transformed. we shouldn't dismiss that but we also know the difference. if you live 220, your life expectancy at that point would be 60 so the overall would be 42 because a bunch of kids were dying but if you made it to 20 that is the kind of childhood you could expect to live another 40 years and now if you live to 20f in the uk you could expect o live about 85 years. so that is 25 extra years that the grown-ups got and that iser
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the difference between meeting your grandkids and great grandkids. it's a huge advantage and now in recent years the older part of the specter we got as much as we can out of producing childhood mortality and infant mortality. there's not going to be a lot of big games there. people that live over 100-years-old are attempted to be the fastest growing demographic age wise. >> so and so village and they
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live 130 yearsnd and so how helpful or hurtful is that mindset and why do some seem to have long life spans and is there anything to that? >> there does seem to be some variation. there is some long jevity components that make it easier for the populations to live longer. environment and diet and lifestyle are obviously huge factors as well. one of the things that's interesting about when they try to figure out how long the hunter gatherers lived when they dwould do an observation, and it's a great story in the book about this study i'm going to not pronounce it properly, there
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is a sound you're supposed to make at the beginning that i can't make. they would b go down and the demographers would try to understand how long people were living. they didn't look very old because they got a lot of exercise and they were out and about and so they were not sitting in a desk the same way and they looked really fit. the system stopped at three so there was no way if you asked them how old they were they were older than three the lifestyle made a huge difference.
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you didn't sort of dwell on that question like you talked a little bitn at the end about can we live forever and that was a really interesting discussion, but i do get tired of some of those questions where we found this one key to living forever. how we've kept from dying and all the other steps. i wanted to throw in one other question on my own. i was -- another person i hadn't really learned about was francis kelsey.
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just for the people listening here i wonder if you could give a sentence or two summary of who she was. >> she was basically a figure at the fda who started her career early on and had been involved in this terrible drug poisoning case. i'm forgetting the name of the drug. it predates penicillin and as a graduate student she was involved in that and went on to have a career at the fda and wound up playing a key role as a regulator in keeping the manufacturer. it ended up it was sold as an antianxiety medication and also for morning sickness that ended up causing terrible birth
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defects and costing the lives of millions of, not millions, but thousands of children in europe. it's right in that era in the 60s and at that point it's starting to look at how these work and whether they are dangerous or not and she stopped that drug from getting to the market from the united states and getting a presidential medal of service or something like that from jfk. she's a wonderful figure because it's the kind of things we celebrate there are not a lot of tributes to government regulators that are written like great heroes and narratives of government regulators. it's practically a swearword now and it's used dreadfully or stifling of progress but actually building up that
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infrastructure to oversee things like new drugs is a huge progress in the society and the red tape can be accessible sometimes. the building abovein that institution we should remind ourselves that that is progress. >> andho of course the obvious context we are sitting here with many of us having gotten the vaccines that were developed in the last year and whenever i'm reading through the studies where the clinical trials of the vaccines, i'm struck by how they are just so good and there's also so many ways to do it wrong. reading like the fda documents and reports i'm struck by its
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weirdly inspiring that it's these people that are just working so hard to get at the truth for no reason other than that it will help other people. i appreciate that you celebrated that because it is worth celebrating like in a very obvious and visceral way right now. >> thank you. a lot of what i've been trying to do is figure out ways to make those people and what they do narratively compelling. in a lot of the story is actually youou can do it. it seems unlikely looking at the medical trials that they would be heroic stories but they are kind of mysteries.
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something is killing people. how do we figure out what is. we look at this data and following so there's this detective work and threat. someone trying to subdue the threat by figuring out the nature of the problem and if you have those ingredients, you know, you can build a story. it's possible to do it and then you can get people to think about it and take the time like that's amazing somebody solved that problem. sometimes that's someone coming up with a wonder drug and stopping a dangerous drug from getting on the market because they are relying onng statisticl tools that someone had to invent. >> thank you so much. i think we are just about out of time so i'm going to hand things back over. thank you for taking this time
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to chat. it was a lot of fun and thank you to the audience who asked questions. >> thank you. and i want to be clear everyone should be buying the incredible book [inaudible] it is mind blowing and hilarious. my book is less funny. his book was fantastic though so thank you for joining us. and for green light for the first event. >> thank you. >> thank you both for the fantastic discussion and everybody for joining. don't forget to buy a copy in store or online and look for the recording on youtube later on. thank you so much everybody. have a great night.
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>> welcome to the 2021 virtual book festival. i am honored, humbled and excitedee to be your host for tonight's presentation. before we get started, i would ask that you please consider sponsoring tonight's author by purchasing his book from the bookseller partner politics and prose. you willcu find the purchase lis in the presentation description. if you consider the hardships we have been through over the past year the choice to support local and independent businesses has rarely been more necessary. thank you. i'd also like to extend a thank you to the 2021 sponsor the david michael blair family


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