USTP Director of Scholarship Dan Elton’s Letter to the FDA’s Vaccine Committee Meeting on the Emergency Use Authorization of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

USTP Director of Scholarship Dan Elton’s Letter to the FDA’s Vaccine Committee Meeting on the Emergency Use Authorization of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

 

Daniel C. Elton, Ph.D.


The public can comment on the FDA’s committee meeting tomorrow (February 26th) to discuss the Emergency Use Authorization for the Johnson & Johnson / Janssen vaccine candidate. Members of the public can submit comments via an online system here or via the mail. Attached is my letter. The main theme is transparency.  

 

To the VRBP Advisory Committee:

I am writing to request the FDA exhibit full transparency and show their cost-benefit calculations which justified such a long delay in approving the J&J/Janssen vaccine. Taxpayers deserve decisions that are made on the basis of rational cost-benefit analysis informed by the best science and data available. There is an incredible fog around key decisions that have greatly affected Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic – such as the FDA’s decisions that made it hard for at-home tests to be approved, HHS & FDA decisions not to pursue or support human challenge trials, and the FDA’s deadly decision to delay approvals of life-saving vaccines, most shockingly the AstraZeneca vaccine. With 2,000 – 3,000 Americans dying every day and millions of Americans desperate for life-saving vaccines (as evidenced by long lines across the country) it is only fair that taxpayers know the reasons for the FDA’s delays.

In a relentless pursuit of safety the FDA has ironically ignored the greatest safety concern to the American people – the SARS-CoV2 virus, and many have died needlessly as a result. Beyond normal expected utility based utilitarian calculations, the proactionary principle(s), developed by philosopher Max More and extended by Steve Fuller and others provide a good blueprint for conducting rational cost benefit analysis. It is my belief that the procedures the FDA have used to decide if and when to approve this vaccine have not utilized even the most rudimentary cost-benefit analyses, and lives have been lost as a result. I am open to changing my mind, however, if the FDA can produce a cost-benefit calculation that informed their decision making.

The interim Phase III collection period for the Janssen vaccine ended January 22 and they submitted their EUA application on February 4th. The American people have had to wait 22+ days for the EUA to be granted. Between February 4th – 26th, around 52,500 Americans will have lost their lives to COVID-19 (extrapolating the death rate forward 2 days from February 24th). In that time, countless others will have suffered under the ravages of the disease and the numerous sequela of “long COVID”. Even among those who have been lucky enough not to have their bodies invaded by the virus, most have suffered brutal economic and psychological effects from the pandemic.

As economist Tyler Cowen points out, it is a fallacy to think that manufacturing is the main bottleneck to getting life-saving vaccines to American people. Millions of doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were available when the FDA finally approved them, showing that FDA approval was a larger constraint than manufacturing. While J&J may not have as many vaccines produced by February 26th as Moderna & Pfizer did at their EUA, if an expectation of an earlier EUA had been set by the FDA the company would have had a stronger incentive to ramp up production. It is incorrect to view the manufacturing and approval as independent – both are linked, with the timeframe set for one affecting the timeframe for the other. In economic terms, the elasticity of manufacturing to demand is not zero. Production of J&J’s vaccine began long ago so they could provide vaccines for their Phase I/IIa trial which began on July 22, 2020. While the company has faced production setbacks, a GSA report (GAO-21-265) estimates they will have 2 million doses available on February 26th.

The government of South Africa announced on February 10th that they would start administering the J&J vaccine to frontline health care workers. Now imagine if the FDA had made the J&J vaccine available just two weeks prior and assume that 2 million doses could therefore be distributed two weeks earlier as a result. At the current monthly rate of deaths, the average american has a 1/9,410 chance of dying from COVID-19 every 2 weeks. The risk of dying from the J&J vaccine, by contrast, based on the Phase I/II data and our prior knowledge about similar vaccines, is at most 1/1,000,000 (likely an overestimate). Assuming the vaccine is 100% effective at preventing death from COVID-19 (a safe assumption based on the current science), delivery of 2 million J&J vaccines 2 weeks earlier could save 212 lives and reduce suffering in many more. However, this number is obviously an underestimate because the vaccines will be distributed to the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions first, who have a 10x – 100x higher chance of dying from COVID-19 than the average American. So, the true number of lives that would have been saved is in the ballpark range 2,120-20,120.

The FDA’s decision to delay approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine by demanding additional American Phase III trial participants represents an even more egregious decision which surely cost thousands of Americans their lives. To be respectful of the purpose of the meeting at hand, however, I have restricted my discussion here to the J&J vaccine alone.

I ask that the FDA produce a cost-benefit analysis and clearly explain the reasons for the following decisions:

  • The reason the FDA did not allow the J&J vaccine to be made available via the FDA’s Expanded Access Program after excellent Phase I/II safety & immunogenicity data was published The Lancet on January 13th, 2021. (side note: see this article in STAT)
  • The reason the FDA did not recommend and/or advocate that those with a high risk of dying from COVID-19 obtain the J&J vaccine via the Right-to-Try pathway prior to EUA.
  • The reason the FDA, in October, created a requirement for a median 2 month follow up period in Phase III trials.
  • The reason the FDA decided not to recommend J&J use challenge trials to demonstrate the efficacy of their vaccine in a faster manner.
  • The reason the FDA decided not to allow pre-distribution of the J&J vaccine prior to EUA to speed up distribution.
  • The reason the FDA did not implement rolling reviews for the J&J vaccine.
  • The reason the FDA decided it needed 22 days to review J&J’s EUA application.

For each point, a cost-benefit calculation should be provided including a list of costs and benefits to the action vs the opposite action, ideally expressed in terms of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) saved or lost.

Finally, I ask that in their communications and messaging the FDA focus on the efficacy of the J&J vaccine against hospitalization and death, especially against the South African variant, so Americans are informed first and foremost about the most important benefits of this vaccine.

Respectfully,
Daniel C. Elton, Ph.D.

 

Dan Elton, Ph. D., is Director of Scholarship for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.  You can find him on Twitter at @moreisdifferent, where he accepts direct messages. If you like his content, check out his website and subscribe to his newsletter on Substack.

Micronationalism and Seasteading – Tools for a Better Future – Article by Jan-Olav Spiekermann

Micronationalism and Seasteading – Tools for a Better Future – Article by Jan-Olav Spiekermann

Jan-Olav “Joe” Spiekermann


The way any kind of government works, no matter if you live in a communist dictatorship, an absolute monarchy, or a so-called Western democracy, is through force.

Governments think that they do have the right to do with people whatever they want. Taking your money, your private property, your freedom, your dignity, or even your life – no problem, the government is allowed to do so.

Private persons are only allowed to violate the physical integrity, the private property, or even the lives of other persons in order to defend themselves against a current assault. And even then you have to pay attention to the proportionality of the defense measures.

If you look around the world like that, it looks like the current forms of political and social coexistence are not working well. Rather, it looks like our current forms of state coexistence are repeatedly leading to outbreaks of violence, crime, misery, and decline.

A key aspect of transhumanism is the wish to improve health and longevity. The goal is, in the end, to defeat death.

But the circumstances we live in are literally so sick and destructive, that they, on the contrary, create and spread suffer and death.

Nearly every second a person gets cancer, for example. So many people are unable to live without pills. Stress, pressure, political conflicts, and pollution definitely contribute to making many people ill and causing their premature deaths.

We have to look for better, more humane, and sustainable political and social forms of coexistence. Within the structures of the existing nations, this is pretty hard, as governments determine too many aspects of private life, and and too many people are trapped in their hamster wheels and neither willing nor able to question fundamental aspects of their lives.

Micronations are a way for pioneers to try out something new. Indeed, micronations connect people from many different cultures from all over the world.

Micronations can really change something in the minds and lives of those, who participate in them. But micronational projects nearly always have one fundamental weakness: Their scope of action is of course severely restricted by the government of the respective macro-nations on whose territory they are located. So little practical knowledge can be gathered about alternative forms of living together.

There are only three land parts of the earth that could be called “terra nullius”: Bir Tawil between Egypt and Sudan, Marie Byrd Land in West Antarctica, and some pieces of land between Croatia and Serbia, that are unclaimed due to a border conflict, which is a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. These few territories are all claimed by micronations.

A solution to this lack of available land is to create micronations on seasteads within international waters.

Our planet Earth is also called the Blue Planet. Why? Because the majority of this planet is not land – it is water. And in international waters, especially outside of the exclusive economic zones, there is no macronational authority. If you create a seastead, e.g., a platform, an artificial island, or a floating house, you may do whatever you want. And if many people come together on seasteads, they can start new nations. These seastead-micronations would be de facto fully sovereign states.

The people of these ocean-based seasteads would be able to try out new concepts of good government. And there would a competition between the new governments as to who can provide the best form of society in order to attract new seasteaders. This competition would be greater than exists on land because, if a seastead-micronation consists of many separate, movable units that are owned by their residents, people could even move from one seastead-micronation to other seastead-micronations, if they do not agree with the way things work.

Another aspect of seasteading within international waters is that people could also find ways of self-governance without any kind of nation or government.

In any case, the practical experiences gained from the creation of seastead-micronations or other self-ruled forms of seasteading would help people all over the world to improve their way of running countries and to create a better, more humane, and sustainable future for all of us.

Opponents of the concept of small political entities often say that city-states simply do not work and are unable to survive. Well, just think about the city-states of ancient Greece. They influenced the world like very few other states did.

The scientific, cultural, political, artistic and philosophical achievements of ancient Greece are immortal. Even the great Roman Republic, which was at first a city-state, was largely influenced by ancient Greek culture. It is certainly possible that future seastead-micronations will have a similar impact.

Jan-Olav “Joe” Spiekermann is the U.S. Transhumanist Party Advisor on Seasteads and Micronations. Find out about Mr. Spiekermann here

A Polite List of Requests to the FDA – Article by Dan Elton

A Polite List of Requests to the FDA – Article by Dan Elton

Daniel C. Elton, Ph.D.


A List of Requests to President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,
HHS, FDA, and Congress: 

Approve the following vaccines for emergency use immediately: 


Give people the right to try the following vaccines: 

Seriously study and consider these actions: 

  • Allow hospitals and pharmacies to start stockpiling unapproved vaccines so they can be rapidly disseminated upon approval. 
  • Allow Moderna to give fractional doses. Data from Moderna’s clinical trials have illustrated that people between ages of 18 and 55 who received two 50-microgram doses showed an identical immune response to the standard of two 100-microgram doses.
  • Allow all age groups to get the vaccine. Research published in the journal Science indicates that as of October 2020, “individuals aged 20-49 are the only age groups sustaining resurgent SARS-CoV-2 transmission with reproduction numbers well above one”. Thus, targeting vaccines at these groups may accelerate the end of the pandemic and save more lives than continuing to restrict the vaccines to the elderly and vulnerable.
  • Consider making “First Doses First” national policy.


The FDA has not moved fast enough given the gravity of the situation we face. Consider the following: 

  • Pfizer sent its paperwork to the FDA on November 22, 2020, but rather than immediately convening its panel of experts, the FDA scheduled a review meeting for December 10. During that three-week wait, 27,000 Americans died of COVID-19. According to Dr. Marty Makary, a professor of public health policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who has conducted over a hundred clinical studies during his career, the FDA “could have done the approval in 24-48 hours without cutting any corners”.  The slow rollout that followed after the FDA approved the vaccine on December 11 was not due to delays in production – Pfizer had millions of doses produced and sitting in cold storage at the time of the approval. 
  • While Americans were waiting for the Pfizer vaccine that millions of their taxpayer dollars had been invested in, the FDA went dark for 4 days during the Thanksgiving holiday, with almost all of its 17,000 employees taking that time off, including those working on critical COVID-19-related work. 
  • Moderna sent its paperwork to the FDA on November 30, 2020. As with the Pfizer vaccine, the FDA needlessly delayed the approval by scheduling the review meeting for December 17. 
  • The FDA’s equivalents in the EU, Canada, Switzerland, UK, Israel, and Singapore all use rolling reviews, evaluating data as it becomes available for the sake of efficiency. The FDA does not. 
  • The Sputnik V vaccine was approved September 4, 2020, over 150 days ago. In a paper in The Lancet, phase III results indicate it has an effectiveness of 91.6% and excellent safety profile. 
  • China began administering the CanSino Biologica vaccine to its military in June after Phase I and Phase II clinical trials established safety and immune response. (The phase II results were published in The Lancet on July 20th, 2020). China approved the vaccine for their public on December 24, 2020. 


Here’s what public-health experts are saying:
 


“The F.D.A. needs to catch up to the science… They are inadvertently killing people by not following the science.” – Michael Mina, Epidemiologist, Immunologist, Physician, Harvard Medical School.

“We’ve gone from ‘Operation Warp Speed’ to develop a vaccine to ‘Operation Turtle Speed’ to review it… The FDA needs to stop playing games and authorize the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.  It’s safe, cheap ($2-$3 a dose), and is the easiest vaccine to distribute.”Marty Makary, M.D., a professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 

I do think we’ve been too conservative… companies that potentially make public health diagnostic tests did not feel that there was, for example, a pathway to get those approved at the F.D.A.”Vivek Murphy, President Biden’s nominee for Surgeon General.

“We’ve already bought 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. We’ve paid for it — over a billion dollars — so let’s use it… I know we have some of that vaccine stockpiled.”Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the lead developer of a COVID-19 vaccine being produced in India.


More quotes from notable public figures: 

“For years the FDA was focused on, don’t repeat thalidomide. Drugs must be safe. AIDS forced a hard reckoning. The people who are dying while you wait matter. But this is a third, even harder conceptual change. Stopping the spread of the disease matters. And the FDA does not have the years it took to make the AIDS change of mindset.”John Cochrane, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. 

The new strains spread quickly. The speed of our countermeasures will decide our fate. What feels like reasonable delays in our normal experience of time — a few weeks here for Congress to debate a bill, a few weeks there for the F.D.A. to hold meetings — could lead to the kind of explosive infections that overwhelm our hospitals and fill our morgues.”Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox.

“The US failure to authorize the AstraZeneca vaccine in the midst of a pandemic when thousands are dying daily and a factory in Baltimore is warmed up and ready to run is a tragedy and dereliction of duty of epic proportions. The AZ vaccine should be given an EUA immediately and made available in pharmacies for anyone who wants it while continuing to prioritize Moderna and Pfizer for the elderly and essential workers.”Alex Tabarrok, Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics, George Mason University. 

“It’s amazing that not only is this vaccine (AstraZeneca) not approved, there’s no political pressure to approve it.”Matthew Yglesias, author of One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger.

“The UK has authorized #AstraZeneca vaccine for #CV19 but #FDA won’t “because of questions about its efficacy among older people.”
Then authorize its use for younger people!
Dear FDA: Get out of the way!
Over 7,000 Americans died of CV19 in the past two days!
You are murdering us!”
– @Robert Zubrin on Twitter, author of The Case for Mars and The Case for Space.

Further reading: 

Dan Elton, Ph. D., is Director of Scholarship for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.  You can find him on Twitter at @moreisdifferent, where he accepts direct messages. 

U.S. Transhumanist Party Secretary Pavel Ilin Protests in New York City Against Vladimir Putin’s Regime

U.S. Transhumanist Party Secretary Pavel Ilin Protests in New York City Against Vladimir Putin’s Regime

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Pavel Ilin


In late January 2021 I joined a protest against political persecution at the Russian Consulate in New York City and at Times Square.

The reason I wrote what I wrote on my sign is that Vladimir Putin’s regime is very dangerous not only for the people of Russia (spoiler alert: it is dangerous for everyone who is within reach of the current Russian state). It’s dangerous for humanity. This regime is a source of a whole bouquet of existential risks.

  • Russia possesses a massive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. This fact should concern us not only because Putin can give orders to use these weapons. This situation is dangerous because of the degradation of all social institutions in Russia, a tendency which increases the probability of accidents. 2020 was full of messages about ecological disasters in Russia. Sooner or later something will go wrong with nuclear technologies that have such poor oversight.
  • Putin uses every opportunity to escalate conflicts around the world – starting from the Second Chechnya War, which allowed Putin to become president in first place, then direct invasion of Georgia and Ukraine, and frequent sending of Wagner private militaries (“they are not there”) to Syria, Libya, Mozambique, and other conflict zones.
  • This regime uses every opportunity to create conflicts remotely. A troll factory in St. Petersburg is working day and night to create and support fake news around the globe. They create divisions among people to spread chaos. And while the world struggles against othering and is moving towards encouraging belonging, these trolls support conservative-nationalistic groups.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial general intelligence (AGI) are becoming more and more powerful. Even despite the regime’s practice of pushing talented people to move outside of its borders, Russia has a very strong pool of specialists who have technical ability to develop sophisticated AI systems. And Putin’s regime is going to use such abilities to create a “Digital Gulag” (“sovereign Internet”) and lethal autonomous systems.
  • Last but not least, the regime distracts human potential and resources from solving important problems like aging, climate change, income inequality, existential risks, othering, and numerous other major issues. Instead the operatives of the Putin regime create a system of oppression, more police, more prisons, more private militaries, and more luxury palaces for Putin and his friends. (The approximate expense of Putin’s palace in the south of Russia is $1,327,500,000.)

Humanity needs a free, prosperous, and responsible Russia! Humanity needs a Russia which will be able to help solve world problems, not to add to them. That’s why Putin and his kleptocratic administration has to leave right now!

Pavel Ilin is the Secretary of the United States Transhumanist Party. 

How We Can Judge the Safety and Efficacy of New Vaccines Prior to Phase III Data and Why We Must – Article by Dan Elton

How We Can Judge the Safety and Efficacy of New Vaccines Prior to Phase III Data and Why We Must – Article by Dan Elton

Daniel C. Elton, Ph.D.


A common refrain we hear from public intellectuals about vaccines prior to Phase III data is “we don’t know anything about the safety or efficacy of vaccine X”. This attitude is both false and misleading to the public, instilling uncertainty and fear about vaccines. To see why it is false, consider if a normal vaccine safety study was done, but by coincidence all of the vaccines were given in hospital rooms that were painted blue. Could we conclude on the basis of such a study whether the vaccine would be safe if administered in rooms painted red? Yes, we can, and we should. We can utilize two forms of reasoning to conclude that the vaccine is safe if given in red rooms, even though we have no data on the matter.

The first form of reasoning roughly approximates the way an ideal Bayesian statistical reasoner would function to compute what is called a “prior probability distribution”. Under this form of reasoning, we consider the millions of doses of similar vaccines (called the “reference class”) that have been administered. For instance, we might consider the vaccines developed for very similar coronaviruses like SARS and MERS.  We note that if the color of paint did affect the safety of those vaccines, this would have likely been detected over the course of prior studies and over the course of millions of doses given previously. Of course, there is a chance the correlation might have been missed. To figure out how big that is, we can go a level deeper and consider a reference class of “things people might notice or fail to notice in medical studies”. We can conclude that for prior vaccines, if such correlations existed they would generally be picked up. On the basis of this and the fact that no such correlation was ever discovered in the reference class of prior vaccines we can conclude that the probability of vaccines like the COVID-19 vaccine being dependent on the color of paint is very small. 

The second type of reasoning, which happens to be much more straightforward in this situation, is what the physicist David Deutsch calls “reasoning from our best explanation of the world”. According to the philosopher of science Karl Popper, we should reason using our explanatory theories of the world which have survived the most rounds of attempted falsification, and which have the highest degree of falsifiability (this rules out non-testable explanations like “vaccines work via invisible ghosts”). In more prosaic terms, this simply means reasoning using the best scientific theories which make predictions in the domain under consideration. We note that our best theories of vaccine function do not anywhere depend on the color of paint in the room. Instead they depend on things like T-cells, binding affinities of molecules, the concentrations of certain molecules in the body, etc. So, we decide that the vaccine is safe regardless of the color of paint in the room where it is administered. 

Both of these forms of reasoning are valid and both are foundational to science, rationality, and human progress. Both of these types of reasoning can be used to say that vaccines under development are likely to be safe and effective before any data comes in. It’s why a reporter who interviewed numerous top scientists reported that they all told him that “they expected the vaccines were safe and effective all along.” Yet instead of proudly sharing this important knowledge with the public, we rarely hear scientists say publicly that they expect the vaccines are safe and efficacious. Instead, they hedge, saying “we have to wait until the data comes in”. This is unethical both on Kantian grounds (they are lying) and on consequentialist grounds, because it leads to undue caution and the public being afraid of vaccines. 

Unfortunately, there is little incentive for scientists to tell the truth about what the likely risks and benefits are with new vaccines before full Phase III data is published. If, for instance, one or two people suffer severe side effects in a Phase III trial (which is rare, but has happened) a scientist who said they suspected it was “very safe” might receive harsh criticism for making a premature assessment. On the other hand, the same scientist will get no pushback for saying “we need to wait for data to make a judgement”. Indeed, they are likely to even be praised for exhibiting the virtues of “caution, prudence, and scientific skepticism”. Moreover, under no scenario should someone be allowed to get a vaccine until the full data comes in, even though it’s fine to allow people to sign up for studies where they have a 50-50 chance of getting the vaccine. Not very consistent, eh?

As US Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II has described in detail in an an earlier publication on this site, all of this is the result of a deeply flawed and deadly ethical principle called the precautionary principle, which unfortunately many people have fallen under the sway of. The principle originates in the environmentalist movement but is widely applied in medicine, and was instrumental in decisions such as the Bush administration’s ban on stem-cell research and decisions to ban life-saving GMO technologies such as golden rice. It has been formulated to varying degrees in several different ways. The United Nations World Charter for Nature (1982) issued one version of the principle, stating: 

Activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination; their proponents shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature, and where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed. 

The principle starts off OK but dives into serious error in the last line. The issue is that the precautionary principle only focuses on the potential adverse effects of proceeding and ignores the potential adverse effects of not proceeding, i.e., the effects of delay. As should now be clear in the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, not proceeding can sometimes be much more deadly than proceeding! There is often a high but unclear risk to not proceeding, and a low but unclear risk to not proceeding. (Picture two probability distributions, both wide (unclear) but one with a mean that is distinctly higher than the other). That’s where the precautionary principle throws expected utility theory (cost-benefit analysis) out and says we cannot proceed. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Freeman Dyson stated the issue as follows: 

The Precautionary Principle says that if some course of action carries even a remote chance of irreparable damage to the ecology, then you shouldn’t do it, no matter how great the possible advantages of the action may be. You are not allowed to balance costs against benefits when deciding what to do.” — Freeman Dyson, Report from the 2001 World Economic Forum

Imagine an alternative world in which our society and government was not under the sway of the precautionary principle. In this alternative world, scientists would give their truthful assessment of new vaccines to the public, stating that they are likely safe and effective, using one or both of the reasoning methods mentioned above. In such a world, given the clear potential harms of inaction, the public would be allowed to purchase new vaccines if they wanted, if the companies manufacturing them were comfortable doing so, and if they were fully informed prior to their decision that they were taking an unapproved product that carries potential risks but also potential benefits. Initially, only a few people would purchase the vaccines, perhaps on the basis of Phase I results. These would be folks like those who injected themselves with a DIY vaccine over the summer, and the tens of thousands who were willing to participate in clinical trials as early as last spring. Companies would be incentivized to survey those who took the vaccine and collect self-reported data on their outcomes, which is very cheap and easy to do. After a few months going by without any of those people keeling over and dying, and with very few (likely none) of those people getting hospitalized for COVID-19, more people would feel comfortable getting the vaccine. Things would quickly snowball, with more and more people becoming willing to get the vaccine. During this time the distribution system would have been stood up and become operational, with on-site stockpiles building up ahead of the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (currently, the FDA does not allow hospitals to stockpile unapproved vaccines ahead of their EUA). To present this case in its strongest form, in a future post I plan to estimate how many lives would have been saved, assuming many vaccines had become available to those who wanted them last March or August. However, I hope it’s easy to see that thousands of lives would have been saved in this alternative world.  

For more on the transhumanist alternative to the precautionary principle, the proactionary principle, see Max More’s excellent book chapter as well as the Wikipedia article and references therein.

Dan Elton, Ph. D., is Director of Scholarship for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.  You can find him on Twitter at @moreisdifferent, where he accepts direct messages. 

The Overpopulation Myth – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Overpopulation Myth – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Of all the objections to life extension, one of the most pernicious is that there are too many people on Earth. Indeed, this objection in particular is rather harmful not just because it appears to advocate for suffering and death, but also because it appears to be a valid objection on a surface level.

Visions of mass starvation, billions of people living in deplorable conditions, and wars over resources, help fuel the popularity of this objection. However fascinating these sorts of overly dramatic, sensational Hollywood scenarios may seem to some people, believing in the inevitability of these scenarios would be ignoring the countless ways that science and technology have allowed us, time and again, to exceed our limitations, improve health outcomes, and create a better environment for humanity to thrive in.

There are many reasons why these dreadful scenarios continue to exist in peoples’ minds. One of the reasons why doomsday thinking has managed to remain a part of our zeitgeist is because the entertainment industry is addicted to it, constantly proliferating nightmarish scenarios of technology being a destructive force hell-bent on the devastation of humanity and the world. A less obvious reason is also because some well-meaning influential people have been fabulously wrong and have continued to double-down on being wrong over the years.

Biologist Paul Ehrlich famously said in 1968 that “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

Looking at this statement more than 50 years later, Paul Ehrlich wasn’t just wrong, he was completely wrong. None of his Malthusian predictions even came close to being true. I suppose that supporters of this sort of doomsday thinking will say in response that even though Ehrlich has been wrong for decades, he will one day be right. Even if a broken clock is right twice a day, we shouldn’t base the future of humanity on such faulty thinking. While it is possible for these horrific scenarios to come true, it does not mean that these scenarios are destiny. Humanity has weathered challenges and difficulties en route to coming up with amazing technological and medical innovations that have improved the quality of life for billions of people. And while challenges such as climate change should be taken very seriously, the fact that these challenges exist does not mean that humanity is doomed. It simply means that we need to make adjustments and to utilize science and technology to their fullest in order to resolve these threats.

Further, rather than extrapolate wildly and bring forth doomsday scenarios, we should bring forth data and facts to support our arguments. As I mentioned in a previous article, according to The World Bank and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the worldwide population growth rate is slowing down and is projected to eventually stabilize and begin falling. Nowhere is this more apparent than in countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Russia, and even the United States, where birth rates are below the 2.1 live births per woman required to just maintain population equilibrium. Additionally, even countries such as India, which used to have a very high birth rate, have seen huge declines in birth rates in recent years. Finally, according to a study published in the Lancet, the global population is expected to peak at 9.73 billion in 2064, before dropping to 8.79 billion in 2100. As a result, more than 23 countries are likely to see their populations halve by the end of this century. This includes countries such as Spain, Italy, Ukraine, and China.

Even if the above trends were somehow reversed, and human beings suddenly began reproducing more, we would be able to accommodate the increased population through solutions such as seasteading, vertical farming, 3D printing, and nanotechnology. Indeed, these technologies, and more, are among the many that would allow us to overcome limitations and alleviate potential threats resulting from an increased population. And I have not even begun speaking about space exploration.

The simple fact is that there is no fixed number of people who should be living on Earth at any given moment. In fact, we should rightfully be laughed out of the room if we asked the question, “What should the world’s population be?” We may as well ask how long a piece of string is. How many people is too many people? Further, how does one decide how many people is too many? Do you see how absurd this sort of thinking is? Even if we were to run detailed calculations on how many people the Earth could accommodate at any given point in time, what is true right now may not be true later, as planet Earth is dynamic, human beings are dynamic, and the forces of physics are dynamic. More importantly, we would be ignoring the awesome power of technology to allow us to do more, with less.

Therefore, let us move away from the pessimism, the doomsday scenarios, and the lack of vision, and move toward data, facts, science, and technological innovations that have allowed us, and will continue to allow us, to accommodate the needs of humanity. This does not mean that we should ignore challenges and perils and hope that everything will work out in the end. It does mean, however, that we should recognize the threats humanity is facing, and then take swift, concerted action toward eliminating those threats by using advancements in science, technology, and modern medicine.

But to go back to the topic, and frame the argument in a simpler way, one might want to ask proponents of the overpopulation myth whether they would have wanted their own parents to hold the same views about there being too many people on Earth. Of course, such critics of life extension would never want this to be the case, because it would mean that they themselves would not exist.

I would urge those who are critical of life extension to refrain from trying to decide how many people should be living on Earth. Indeed, rather than playing judge, jury, and executioner, I would recommend them to take a look in the mirror and appreciate the tremendous gift they were given – the gift of life. Had their parents held the faulty belief that there are too many people on Earth, these critics wouldn’t be able to offer their criticisms now. I am not suggesting that people should not offer valid criticisms of life extension. Nor am I suggesting that we gloss over the present and future challenges the Earth is facing. I am suggesting, however, that critics provide data, facts, and valid arguments to support their conclusions, rather than paint doomsday scenarios and claim that there are “too many people already.”  Indeed, the next time you hold a loved one in your arms, think about how you would feel if this person had never been born, or if this person was mercilessly ripped away from you.

So far, the likes of Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich have been completely wrong with their predictions, though it is possible for them and others like them, to be right someday. However, we should not take pleasure in being right, we should take pleasure in being better people. Being right is not what is important – being able to actualize oneself, improve the human condition, and make the world a better place to live, is what is important. And we cannot do that if we extrapolate wildly, spread fear, and insist that humanity is doomed. The truth is that humanity’s future hasn’t even been written yet. But when we do write it, we should do so utilizing the best that science and technology have to offer, in order to improve the human condition.  Overpopulation, calamity, and starvation are not destiny – but human improvement is, and has been, since the dawn of time.

Arin Vahanian is the Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. 

Judge, Jury and Executioner Syndrome – Article by Arin Vahanian

Judge, Jury and Executioner Syndrome – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


The topic of life extension seems to bring forth strong emotions from people. While living longer and healthier is a goal that nearly all people say they have, there are critics of life extension who have become quite vociferous in their opposition to extending the human lifespan.  The truth is, living a longer and healthier life shouldn’t be controversial at all. After all, it is what we humans have been trying to do since day one.

However, when the topic turns to living a healthy life indefinitely, critics seem to come out of the woodwork, citing various reasons why humans should not live radically longer. While each of the major objections to life extension deserves its own space (and its own rebuttal), one objection, in particular, is rankling in its lack of substance – that human beings already live long enough.

As ridiculous as this objection is, we need to address it, not only because of the amount of damage it does to humanity by limiting life-extension research, but also because it causes unnecessary pain and suffering. People who present this objection have what I like to call “Judge, Jury, and Executioner Syndrome.”

I can’t imagine that people in the 14th century suffering and then dying from the Bubonic Plague at age 20 or 30 would have considered their life to have been “long enough.” In the same way, nor could I imagine that someone would actually find declining and then dying from an aging-related disease such as dementia at age 75 to be desirable.

But how long is long enough? Is it 40 years, like it used to be in 19th-century England? Or is it 82 years, as it is in modern-day Japan? Or is it 100 years?

It is difficult to answer this question, because there is no correct answer to the question.

However, rather than going down a rabbit hole, the best way to answer such critics is to ask them why they get to decide how long people should live. Of course, they have no right whatsoever to decide how long the human lifespan should be. This should end the conversation right then and there, but sadly, in some cases, it does not.

To go further, one might want to ask these critics whether they believe their parents or grandparents, if they are still alive, have lived too many years and whether they would want them to die quickly because they have already lived “long enough.” Or, even better, we should ask critics of life extension how many years they think their children should live (if they have children). Of course, no one, other than a psychopath, would wish such suffering and death upon their loved ones.

Therefore, it appears that people who oppose life extension on the basis that humans already live long enough, tend to only hold this view toward other people, and not themselves or their loved ones. This seems to me to be horribly cruel, not to mention illogical. However, we should not consider those who claim they are satisfied with the 82-year lifespan for themselves, as being nobler or more altruistic than other people. After all, they are still trying to play judge, jury, and executioner!

The argument that human beings already live long enough attacks the very core of what it means to be human. Human beings are designed to want to survive, and to continue living. Otherwise, we would have stopped trying to live longer a long time ago, and as a consequence, we would have stopped trying to find cures for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. The very fact that we are so dedicated to finding cures for conditions that have ravaged humanity is proof that we are dedicated to living longer and healthier. There is no rule that says that human beings can only live until 100 years old, or that they are not allowed to try to live longer.

Of course, just as no one may decide how long the human lifespan should be, neither should we force those who do not want to live longer and healthier, to live longer and healthier. This is a personal choice that everyone must make for themselves. But opponents of life extension do not have the right, nor do they have the ability, fortunately, to decide how long the human lifespan should be.

Even if there is some unalterable limit to how long a human lifespan can be, wouldn’t it be better to come to this conclusion and obtain closure after conducting medical and scientific research, rather than hastily quitting, and in the process, damning all of humanity to pain, suffering, and death, solely to satisfy a falsely held belief that humans already live long enough?

I understand that no matter what I may be arguing in this article, there will always be people who do not want to live much longer and healthier than they do now, for whatever reason. While I respect their decision to not want to extend their own life, I also ask them to respect my wishes to live longer and healthier. Surely this seems like a fair position to take.

There is absolutely no reason at all to apologize for wanting to live a healthy life indefinitely. No one should be asking, “Why do you want to live longer?” Rather, we should be asking, “How can we live longer and healthier?” This sort of inclusive, optimistic, and honest approach will go a long way toward removing some of the obstacles to life extension, thus putting humanity just a bit closer to attaining what it has been seeking since the beginning of time – to live a longer, healthier life.

Arin Vahanian is the Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. 

Anti-Aging: The Growing Popularity Of Radical Life Extension – Article by Kimberly Forsythe

Anti-Aging: The Growing Popularity Of Radical Life Extension – Article by Kimberly Forsythe

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Kimberly Forsythe


There are numerous anti-aging therapies, which are used to slow the aging process in humans. Each of these therapies has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, there are anti-aging processes such as anti-oxidants, anti-aging nutrients, anti-aging exercise programs, anti-aging diets, and anti-aging supplements that are said to extend a person’s lifespan. Aging is said to be a natural process that cannot be slowed or reversed once humans undergo it, and which accelerates greatly after puberty and early adulthood; however, some experts do not agree with this. There are several theories on the subject of aging that have varying outlooks on the actual causes of aging.

What Causes Aging in Humans?

There are various theories that explain the causes of aging, but they do not all agree. While we are making new discoveries all the time, we still do not have definitive answers on what causes aging. Some researchers believe that oxidative damage is what causes aging, and others believe genetics are involved in causing aging.

The evidence for the oxidative damage by sunlight, poor diet, and poor exercising habits is strong. For example, if your parents or grandparents had a shorter lifespan than the average person, it’s possible that part of the reason was that they didn’t have a good diet, they didn’t exercise, or they didn’t avoid the common environmental hazards we encounter today. That certainly makes some sense.

You might think that they all contribute equally, which is certainly plausible. Consider how much impact the food we eat has on our health. If the foods we eat are generally unhealthy, then the oxidative damage done to our cells will be greater, and our lifespan will be shortened. If the foods we eat are rich in antioxidants and are beneficial to health, then we will be healthier, and the oxidative damage we do to our cells will be lessened.

So, one could say that oxidative damage is what causes aging, and the antioxidants are what counteract it. But that’s too simple. Actually, free radicals do more damage to our cells than oxidative damage, so it stands to reason that free radicals add to the damage. In other words, instead of wearing away at the cells in a chemical process, free radicals cause cell death.

However, the evidence for genetics is also strong. When the telomeres within the protective shell of the cell are damaged, they become shorter. As a result, the “RNA” within the telomere becomes too short. The second factor which causes aging is cell senescence, or aging at the cellular level.

There are many different forms of cell senescence, but the main ones are in peripheral tissues such as skin, muscles, and blood vessels. If this continues, then the total number of cells may start to decline. The decline in cell numbers is partly what causes aging in general.

Another factor is called DNA damage, and this is caused by exposure to radiation and to chemicals used during manufacturing. This is a big problem, because DNA is responsible for the repair of cellular damage, and if it gets damaged, it can stop replicating to produce new cells altogether. This would mean that the aging process could not be stopped, and the body will just keep getting older without any real control.

What is Radical Life Extension?

Radical life extension is the process of using anti-aging technology to reverse age-related processes that are already underway. Anti-aging techniques rely on a combination of knowledge and understanding of the aging process, as well as on modern-day scientific breakthroughs. Scientists are only just now beginning to unlock many of the mysteries surrounding the mechanisms of aging.

In theory, we could live forever if we found a way to completely rejuvenate ourselves after we passed the age of sixty. Some people are under the impression that curing or reversing aging is impossible. But at the very least, we might be able to make ourselves better, or at least age gracefully. It is not known how far the search has come, but some of the results so far have been very promising.

When Will Aging be Cured or Reversed?

To cure or reverse aging, it will be necessary to find some way to increase the lifespan of humans. Many questions surround which scientific approach to anti-aging will be the most beneficial to humans. Perhaps we will lengthen lifespans by curing all of the diseases that we are prone to, or perhaps by using genetic engineering to insert new genes into the human genome. For some transhumanists, the ultimate aim would be to live forever. Others, however, wish only to increase the number of healthy years.

There is a great deal of interest in the subject of radical life extension, and there is considerable money involved. Investors are piling in to fund research to unlock more theories about aging and the mysteries that scientists are trying to unravel. There are, unfortunately, many unfounded claims and charlatans out there misleading the public about how we may be able to cure or reverse aging.

Some people have made the mistake of thinking that radical life extension is magic, or of taking a magical pill that will turn you into an immortal. While there is promising research for medications that can reduce biological age, the notion that it will be an immediate and instant cure is likely a distortion of the truth. We need to understand that aging is just one of the processes that occur within us, but there are many ways we can counter these processes. It is possible to extend your life significantly, but this requires an understanding of the aging process as a whole.

Overall, the more resources we put into studying the aging process and search for effective ways of curing or reversing aging, the faster we will find answers to questions that humans have sought after for ages. The “Fountain of Youth” may arrive sooner than we think. It is important that we collectively understand the implications of reversing aging and take steps to address these issues as soon as possible.

Related reading:

Healthier, longer lifespans will be a reality sooner than you think, Juvenescence promises as it closes $100M round

2021 New Year’s Message by Victor Bjoerk

2021 New Year’s Message by Victor Bjoerk

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Victor Bjoerk


2021 has arrived, and it’s time for my yearly New Year’s message!

Since we all know how the world has been affected this year, there’s no point in mentioning the virus, but quite a few things happened for me.

At the beginning of this year and spring I was living in San Francisco and working on aging at BioAge. However, BioAge had to temporarily shut down because of COVID, but this wasn’t a big deal for me since I was able to transfer to Ichor Therapeutics in Syracuse, New York, which remained operational. So I got to work at two awesome leading biotech companies in the Longevity field, where I gained a lot of specific know-how which I am very grateful for!

I returned to Europe a few weeks ago, and shortly I’ll have some more exciting things to announce that I will be working on!

So yes, a lot of lemons were handed out this year worldwide, but I felt I did a decent job at making lemonade out of them. I’m a very positive person with a grand vision of wiping out all age-related disease within the next few decades, so that everybody can live as long as they want in a 25-year old body.

Some do not have that approach, they think “Longevity” means some slight health improvement by diet/exercise. Others study some aspect of aging because they want a PhD and some academic credentials (using aging as an excuse to refer to for that); however, this causes a generalized lack of a big-picture perspective for what’s going to work.

That is not me. I robustly and consistently keep up the interest until the mission is fully accomplished. In my personal roadmap I’ve developed for impacting aging, I emphasize the transdisciplinary scientific fields that are going to produce good outcomes (that may be hidden as, e.g.,“proteomics” rather than explicitly stated as “anti-aging”).

I also put an equal weight on the “business aspect” here, since your impact won’t be that big without the correct biotech business know-how, especially as AI and robotics wipe out the lab workers. Drug development and clinical trials are complex fields with 15-20 years from initial discovery to approved product. In addition, raising capital and advocacy to the public are as important as knowing the basic biology itself.

A lot of things in history have also been grotesquely mismanaged and squandered because of predictable human error, not because of the intrinsic difficulty of the science itself. There are a lot of golden nuggets laying around the labs in the world right now, and lots of resources and techniques are at our fingertips, but how will they be combined and implemented into an individual in order to cure them from aging? And how will this cocktail of interventions that forms the ultimate cure of aging be implemented across the world just like the efforts currently underway with the COVID vaccine?

A lot of setbacks are reversible and temporary, such as a lack of money and success or whatever people feel this year has caused them; aging is profoundly more serious.

During the year I read, as usual, many hundreds of scientific papers to keep up with the aging field, and also I have several publications I’ve produced, coming out now during 2021 (unfortunately peer-review takes time). I participated in many aging conferences, including one in Curacao, which meant a week of swimming in the tropics (how enjoyable!).

So yes, I felt I did many things well despite the challenges. Of course, things could always have been done better in retrospect, but that’s what one always says.

My New Year’s celebration this year isn’t very special because of all restrictions, but I wish you all a happy new year!

I have some typical New Year’s resolutions like getting fitter (but not motivating with all gyms and pools being closed, so some coaching is required), and of course continuing with the aging mission. So I’ll leave the question now to the reader: What have you done this year, and what good do you feel you can do for next year?

Victor Bjoerk has worked for the Gerontology Research Group, the Longevity Reporter, the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie, BioAge, and Ichor Therapeutics. He has promoted awareness throughout Europe of emerging biomedical research and the efforts to reverse biological aging. In his honor the U.S. Transhumanist Party organized the Victor Run 2020 Virtual Race on June 5-7, 2020. 

U.S. Transhumanist Party General Discussion Thread for 2021

U.S. Transhumanist Party General Discussion Thread for 2021

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The purpose of this post is to facilitate member comments pertaining to transhumanism and the U.S. Transhumanist Party (USTP), which might not specifically fit the subjects of any other post or article on the USTP website. This is the place for members to offer suggestions or converse about any areas of emerging technologies and their political, moral, societal, cultural, and esthetic implications. The general discussion thread is also an ideal location to suggest or propose platform planks that may be considered for future platform voting, and/or bring our attention to emerging legislative and societal developments that may affect the course and impact of emerging technologies.

The USTP will endeavor to open one of these general comment threads per year. This comment thread pertains to the year of 2021.

Type in your comments below. Please note that, to protect against spambots, the first comment by any individual will be moderated. After passing moderation, a civil commenter should be able to post comments without future moderation – although we cannot guarantee that the technical aspect of this functionality will work as intended 100% of the time.