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Author: Laura Katrin Weston

“Shattered” – Art by Laura Katrin Weston, a.k.a. Katrin Brunier

“Shattered” – Art by Laura Katrin Weston, a.k.a. Katrin Brunier

Laura Katrin Weston


Commentary by Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party: “Shattered” is a print by Dr. Laura Katrin Weston, a.k.a. Katrin Brunier, the original exemplar which I received in November 2017 due to my donation to the successful MouseAge crowdfunding campaign by Lifespan.io. Along with the three other artworks that I acquired from Dr. Weston – “Teeming”, “Graceful”, and “Squeak” – this print is featured as part of my Longevity Wall.

This work depicts how the forces of ruin can lead once-ornate and beautiful things to become eroded and deteriorated. This process, unfortunately, afflicts human organisms and minds as well, causing much of value to be lost or at least faded with time. Even with age, there remain in everything and everyone traces of the former splendor that can yet potentially be reclaimed – if humanity reconsiders its priorities and decisively commits to the war on ruin, including the quest to overcome aging and death.

Artist’s Description: “Time ravages even the greatest of minds, shattering them into a chaotic cloud of misfired potential. Once simple tasks become impossible, we become unable to live without aid, to live for ourselves any longer.

“I don’t know about you… But I don’t want that future. We have the power to change that. All we need is more support.”

You can find more work by Dr. Laura Katrin Weston at the Katrin Brunier Gallery, an Ethical Investment-Grade Art Gallery for the Neo-Renaissance Era (see its Instagram page). Proceeds from art sales at the Katrin Brunier Gallery will go to support causes such as medical research and conservation.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Invites Candidates to Apply for Endorsement

U.S. Transhumanist Party Invites Candidates to Apply for Endorsement

Gennady Stolyarov II


The United States Transhumanist Party continues to invite independent or nonpartisan candidates for elected office who seek our endorsement.

To apply, please e-mail Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com. We will put any potential endorsement before a vote of the members and will consider endorsing any candidate who shares many of our values and who is not running on behalf of another non-transhumanist political party.

In your e-mail, please include (i) your name; (ii) the office you are running for; (iii) a description of your platform and/or the goals of your candidacy; and (iv) why you seek the endorsement of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

If you do not wish to run yourself but would wish to recommend other candidates to our attention, please, likewise, e-mail Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com.

In the following states, candidates may even be able to use the “political party designation” of “Transhumanist Party” to affiliate with us without the Transhumanist Party needing to obtain ballot access:

Review of Ray Kurzweil’s “How to Create a Mind” – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Review of Ray Kurzweil’s “How to Create a Mind” – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II


How to Create a Mind (2012) by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil sets forth a case for engineering minds that are able to emulate the complexity of human thought (and exceed it) without the need to reverse-engineer every detail of the human brain or of the plethora of content with which the brain operates. Kurzweil persuasively describes the human conscious mind as based on hierarchies of pattern-recognition algorithms which, even when based on relatively simple rules and heuristics, combine to give rise to the extremely sophisticated emergent properties of conscious awareness and reasoning about the world. How to Create a Mind takes readers through an integrated tour of key historical advances in computer science, physics, mathematics, and neuroscience – among other disciplines – and describes the incremental evolution of computers and artificial-intelligence algorithms toward increasing capabilities – leading toward the not-too-distant future (the late 2020s, according to Kurzweil) during which computers would be able to emulate human minds.

Kurzweil’s fundamental claim is that there is nothing which a biological mind is able to do, of which an artificial mind would be incapable in principle, and that those who posit that the extreme complexity of biological minds is insurmountable are missing the metaphorical forest for the trees. Analogously, although a fractal or a procedurally generated world may be extraordinarily intricate and complex in their details, they can arise on the basis of carrying out simple and conceptually fathomable rules. If appropriate rules are used to construct a system that takes in information about the world and processes and analyzes it in ways conceptually analogous to a human mind, Kurzweil holds that the rest is a matter of having adequate computational and other information-technology resources to carry out the implementation. Much of the first half of the book is devoted to the workings of the human mind, the functions of the various parts of the brain, and the hierarchical pattern recognition in which they engage. Kurzweil also discusses existing “narrow” artificial-intelligence systems, such as IBM’s Watson, language-translation programs, and the mobile-phone “assistants” that have been released in recent years by companies such as Apple and Google. Kurzweil observes that, thus far, the most effective AIs have been developed using a combination of approaches, having some aspects of prescribed rule-following alongside the ability to engage in open-ended “learning” and extrapolation upon the information which they encounter. Kurzweil draws parallels to the more creative or even “transcendent” human abilities – such as those of musical prodigies – and observes that the manner in which those abilities are made possible is not too dissimilar in principle.

With regard to some of Kurzweil’s characterizations, however, I question whether they are universally applicable to all human minds – particularly where he mentions certain limitations – or whether they only pertain to some observed subset of human minds. For instance, Kurzweil describes the ostensible impossibility of reciting the English alphabet backwards without error (absent explicit study of the reverse order), because of the sequential nature in which memories are formed. Yet, upon reading the passage in question, I was able to recite the alphabet backwards without error upon my first attempt. It is true that this occurred more slowly than the forward recitation, but I am aware of why I was able to do it; I perceive larger conceptual structures or bodies of knowledge as mental “objects” of a sort – and these objects possess “landscapes” on which it is possible to move in various directions; the memory is not “hard-coded” in a particular sequence. One particular order of movement does not preclude others, even if those others are less familiar – but the key to successfully reciting the alphabet backwards is to hold it in one’s awareness as a single mental object and move along its “landscape” in the desired direction. (I once memorized how to pronounce ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ as a single continuous word; any other order is slower, but it is quite doable as long as one fully knows the contents of the “object” and keeps it in focus.) This is also possible to do with other bodies of knowledge that one encounters frequently – such as dates of historical events: one visualizes them along the mental object of a timeline, visualizes the entire object, and then moves along it or drops in at various points using whatever sequences are necessary to draw comparisons or identify parallels (e.g., which events happened contemporaneously, or which events influenced which others). I do not know what fraction of the human population carries out these techniques – as the ability to recall facts and dates has always seemed rather straightforward to me, even as it challenged many others. Yet there is no reason why the approaches for more flexible operation with common elements of our awareness cannot be taught to large numbers of people, as these techniques are a matter of how the mind chooses to process, model, and ultimately recombine the data which it encounters. The more general point in relation to Kurzweil’s characterization of human minds is that there may be a greater diversity of human conceptual frameworks and approaches toward cognition than Kurzweil has described. Can an artificially intelligent system be devised to encompass this diversity? This is certainly possible, since the architecture of AI systems would be more flexible than the biological structures of the human brain. Yet it would be necessary for true artificial general intelligences to be able not only to learn using particular predetermined methods, but also to teach themselves new techniques for learning and conceptualization altogether – just as humans are capable of today.

The latter portion of the book is more explicitly philosophical and devoted to thought experiments regarding the nature of the mind, consciousness, identity, free will, and the kinds of transformations that may or may not preserve identity. Many of these discussions are fascinating and erudite – and Kurzweil often transcends fashionable dogmas by bringing in perspectives such as the compatibilist case for free will and the idea that the experiments performed by Benjamin Libet (that showed the existence of certain signals in the brain prior to the conscious decision to perform an activity) do not rule out free will or human agency. It is possible to conceive of such signals as “preparatory work” within the brain to present a decision that could then be accepted or rejected by the conscious mind. Kurzweil draws an analogy to government officials preparing a course of action for the president to either approve or disapprove. “Since the ‘brain’ represented by this analogy involves the unconscious processes of the neocortex (that is, the officials under the president) as well as the conscious processes (the president), we would see neural activity as well as actual actions taking place prior to the official decision’s being made” (p. 231). Kurzweil’s thoughtfulness is an important antidote to commonplace glib assertions that “Experiment X proved that Y [some regularly experienced attribute of humans] is an illusion” – assertions which frequently tend toward cynicism and nihilism if widely adopted and extrapolated upon. It is far more productive to deploy both science and philosophy toward seeking to understand more directly apparent phenomena of human awareness, sensation, and decision-making – instead of rejecting the existence of such phenomena contrary to the evidence of direct experience. Especially if the task is to engineer a mind that has at least the faculties of the human brain, then Kurzweil is wise not to dismiss aspects such as consciousness, free will, and the more elevated emotions, which have been known to philosophers and ordinary people for millennia, and which only predominantly in the 20th century has it become fashionable to disparage in some circles. Kurzweil’s only vulnerability in this area is that he often resorts to statements that he accepts the existence of these aspects “on faith” (although it does not appear to be a particularly religious faith; it is, rather, more analogous to “leaps of faith” in the sense that Albert Einstein referred to them). Kurzweil does not need to do this, as he himself outlines sufficient logical arguments to be able to rationally conclude that attributes such as awareness, free will, and agency upon the world – which have been recognized across predominant historical and colloquial understandings, irrespective of particular religious or philosophical flavors – indeed actually exist and should not be neglected when modeling the human mind or developing artificial minds.

One of the thought experiments presented by Kurzweil is vital to consider, because the process by which an individual’s mind and body might become “upgraded” through future technologies would determine whether that individual is actually preserved – in terms of the aspects of that individual that enable one to conclude that that particular person, and not merely a copy, is still alive and conscious:

Consider this thought experiment: You are in the future with technologies more advanced than today’s. While you are sleeping, some group scans your brain and picks up every salient detail. Perhaps they do this with blood-cell-sized scanning machines traveling in the capillaries of your brain or with some other suitable noninvasive technology, but they have all of the information about your brain at a particular point in time. They also pick up and record any bodily details that might reflect on your state of mind, such as the endocrine system. They instantiate this “mind file” in a morphological body that looks and moves like you and has the requisite subtlety and suppleness to pass for you. In the morning you are informed about this transfer and you watch (perhaps without being noticed) your mind clone, whom we’ll call You 2. You 2 is talking about his or he life as if s/he were you, and relating how s/he discovered that very morning that s/he had been given a much more durable new version 2.0 body. […] The first question to consider is: Is You 2 conscious? Well, s/he certainly seems to be. S/he passes the test I articulated earlier, in that s/he has the subtle cues of becoming a feeling, conscious person. If you are conscious, then so too is You 2.

So if you were to, uh, disappear, no one would notice. You 2 would go around claiming to be you. All of your friends and loved ones would be content with the situation and perhaps pleased that you now have a more durable body and mental substrate than you used to have. Perhaps your more philosophically minded friends would express concerns, but for the most party, everybody would be happy, including you, or at least the person who is convincingly claiming to be you.

So we don’t need your old body and brain anymore, right? Okay if we dispose of it?

You’re probably not going to go along with this. I indicated that the scan was noninvasive, so you are still around and still conscious. Moreover your sense of identity is still with you, not with You 2, even though You 2 thinks s/he is a continuation of you. You 2 might not even be aware that you exist or ever existed. In fact you would not be aware of the existence of You 2 either, if we hadn’t told you about it.

Our conclusion? You 2 is conscious but is a different person than you – You 2 has a different identity. S/he is extremely similar, much more so than a mere genetic clone, because s/he also shares all of your neocortical patterns and connections. Or should I say s/he shared those patterns at the moment s/he was created. At that point, the two of you started to go your own ways, neocortically speaking. You are still around. You are not having the same experiences as You 2. Bottom line: You 2 is not you.  (How to Create a Mind, pp. 243-244)

This thought experiment is essentially the same one as I independently posited in my 2010 essay “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self”:

Consider what would happen if a scientist discovered a way to reconstruct, atom by atom, an identical copy of my body, with all of its physical structures and their interrelationships exactly replicating my present condition. If, thereafter, I continued to exist alongside this new individual – call him GSII-2 – it would be clear that he and I would not be the same person. While he would have memories of my past as I experienced it, if he chose to recall those memories, I would not be experiencing his recollection. Moreover, going forward, he would be able to think different thoughts and undertake different actions than the ones I might choose to pursue. I would not be able to directly experience whatever he choose to experience (or experiences involuntarily). He would not have my ‘I-ness’ – which would remain mine only.

Thus, Kurzweil and I agree, at least preliminarily, that an identically constructed copy of oneself does not somehow obtain the identity of the original. Kurzweil and I also agree that a sufficiently gradual replacement of an individual’s cells and perhaps other larger functional units of the organism, including a replacement with non-biological components that are integrated into the body’s processes, would not destroy an individual’s identity (assuming it can be done without collateral damage to other components of the body). Then, however, Kurzweil posits the scenario where one, over time, transforms into an entity that is materially identical to the “You 2” as posited above. He writes:

But we come back to the dilemma I introduced earlier. You, after a period of gradual replacement, are equivalent to You 2 in the scan-and-instantiate scenario, but we decided that You 2 in that scenario does not have the same identity as you. So where does that leave us? (How to Create a Mind, p. 247)

Kurzweil and I are still in agreement that “You 2” in the gradual-replacement scenario could legitimately be a continuation of “You” – but our views diverge when Kurzweil states, “My resolution of the dilemma is this: It is not true that You 2 is not you – it is you. It is just that there are now two of you. That’s not so bad – if you think you are a good thing, then two of you is even better” (p. 247). I disagree. If I (via a continuation of my present vantage point) cannot have the direct, immediate experiences and sensations of GSII-2, then GSII-2 is not me, but rather an individual with a high degree of similarity to me, but with a separate vantage point and separate physical processes, including consciousness. I might not mind the existence of GSII-2 per se, but I would mind if that existence were posited as a sufficient reason to be comfortable with my present instantiation ceasing to exist.  Although Kurzweil correctly reasons through many of the initial hypotheses and intermediate steps leading from them, he ultimately arrives at a “pattern” view of identity, with which I differ. I hold, rather, a “process” view of identity, where a person’s “I-ness” remains the same if “the continuity of bodily processes is preserved even as their physical components are constantly circulating into and out of the body. The mind is essentially a process made possible by the interactions of the brain and the remainder of nervous system with the rest of the body. One’s ‘I-ness’, being a product of the mind, is therefore reliant on the physical continuity of bodily processes, though not necessarily an unbroken continuity of higher consciousness.” (“How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self”) If only a pattern of one’s mind were preserved and re-instantiated, the result may be potentially indistinguishable from the original person to an external observer, but the original individual would not directly experience the re-instantiation. It is not the content of one’s experiences or personality that is definitive of “I-ness” – but rather the more basic fact that one experiences anything as oneself and not from the vantage point of another individual; this requires the same bodily processes that give rise to the conscious mind to operate without complete interruption. (The extent of permissible partial interruption is difficult to determine precisely and open to debate; general anesthesia is not sufficient to disrupt I-ness, but what about cryonics or shorter-term “suspended animation?). For this reason, the pursuit of biological life extension of one’s present organism remains crucial; one cannot rely merely on one’s “mindfile” being re-instantiated in a hypothetical future after one’s demise. The future of medical care and life extension may certainly involve non-biological enhancements and upgrades, but in the context of augmenting an existing organism, not disposing of that organism.

How to Create a Mind is highly informative for artificial-intelligence researchers and laypersons alike, and it merits revisiting a reference for useful ideas regarding how (at least some) minds operate. It facilitates thoughtful consideration of both the practical methods and more fundamental philosophical implications of the quest to improve the flexibility and autonomy with which our technologies interact with the external world and augment our capabilities. At the same time, as Kurzweil acknowledges, those technologies often lead us to “outsource” many of our own functions to them – as is the case, for instance, with vast amounts of human memories and creations residing on smartphones and in the “cloud”. If the timeframes of arrival of human-like AI capabilities match those described by Kurzweil in his characterization of the “law of accelerating returns”, then questions regarding what constitutes a mind sufficiently like our own – and how we will treat those minds – will become ever more salient in the proximate future. It is important, however, for interest in advancing this field to become more widespread, and for political, cultural, and attitudinal barriers to its advancement to be lifted – for, unlike Kurzweil, I do not consider the advances of technology to be inevitable or unstoppable. We humans maintain the responsibility of persuading enough other humans that the pursuit of these advances is worthwhile and will greatly improve the length and quality of our lives, while enhancing our capabilities and attainable outcomes. Every movement along an exponential growth curve is due to a deliberate push upward by the efforts of the minds of the creators of progress and using the machines they have built.

Gennady Stolyarov II is Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. Learn more about Mr. Stolyarov here

This article is made available pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author, Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II). 

Whatever Future Comes, Life Extension Will Improve It – Article by Nicola Bagalà

Whatever Future Comes, Life Extension Will Improve It – Article by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: In this article originally published by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF),  Mr.Nicola Bagalà makes a persuasive case for optimism regarding the role of technology in the future. While the future will certainly have problems as well, technological progress – including progress in greatly increasing human health and longevity – can only contribute to solutions and improved quality of life. It is time to reject defeatism and build the future we wish to inhabit.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, August 12, 2018


Right now, as I write this article, I’m sitting in a machine that, about 120 years ago, was laughed at as a pipe dream. The machine is a plane, by the way. The onboard wi-fi leaves much to be desired, but if you had told people living in the early 1900s that you could type an article on a paperless portable device while flying in a huge metal cabin at an altitude of 10.3 kilometers and a ground speed of 904 kilometers an hour (that’s what the huge metal cabin is magically telling my portable device through thin air), they’d have had you in a straitjacket before you could finish your sentence.

Talking about computers and planes in these terms today often feels cringeworthy, because we’re all familiar with this technology. We’re used to having all these cool devices and machines doing stuff for us; it isn’t surprising or awe-inducing in the least anymore. However, it’s not a bad idea to remind ourselves how what we now nearly shrug at wasn’t even conceivable not too long ago. Examples include a 27-kilometer ring buried underneath Geneva where ridiculously tiny particles are smashed together at near-lightspeed to unravel the inner workings of the universe and tools that allow us to modify the basic building blocks of your cells with unprecedented precision—neither of which would’ve made you come across as particularly sane, had you conjectured them in a conversation, say, 200 years ago.

This is not to say that people in the past lacked imagination; scientists and visionaries did try to predict what the future might look like—sometimes getting quite close to the mark and other times ending up embarrassingly far from it—but the average joes who had to tend their crops the whole day or work at some kind of drudgery 70 hours a week probably weren’t too optimistic about a future with sophisticated machines of all sorts that make your life much easier and open unthinkable possibilities. They were too used to the standards of the age in which they lived. In a similar way, people of today sometimes tend to look at the future as something that isn’t going to be much different from the present, as if most of what our species could realistically achieve—not only in terms of science and technology but also as a society—was already achieved, and all you could look forward to in the future was just more of the same, except perhaps with slightly fancier tools.

It’s easy to think that way when your days are taken up by a job you’re not crazy about, when you’ve got bills to pay, or when you don’t find world news too encouraging. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that being alive 100 years from now wouldn’t be worth the trouble and just start looking forward to retirement and bowing out instead, but that’s all it is—a mind trap. A good chunk of the 1900s was a rather messy time to be alive, and people who witnessed not one but two World Wars had all the reasons to think that humanity was going south on them and that getting old and checking out was preferable to seeing whatever catastrophe the future might have in store. However, the world has been getting better and better since then as well as since the beginning of recorded history; if you’re not convinced of that, I recommend checking out Our World In Data and Gapminder, two excellent resources that demonstrate how our pessimism comes mostly from a tendency to focus on the negatives and disqualify the positives.

This is my answer to anyone who argues that longer lives would mean more time spent in an increasingly worsening world: The data simply don’t support this claim. At this point, a convinced pessimist would start throwing news items at me: world politics, climate issues, the refugee crisis, etc. I’m not denying the existence of these problems, nor that they may well have the potential to cause serious trouble if left unchecked; but their existence doesn’t mean that the world is getting worse. It only means that it is not getting better all at once; the state of human affairs isn’t improving at a uniform rate, but if you look at the general trend, you’ll see that it’s going up, with crests and troughs. Extrapolating from this general trend, it’s sensible to believe that things are likely to continue improving, but we cannot take for granted that things will get better of their own accord. That would be just as wrong as focusing only on the troughs in the graph and conclude that they signify that things are inevitably going to go downhill.

Now is a good moment to remind ourselves that life extension means, first and foremost, preserving our youthful health irrespective of our chronological age; any longevity benefits deriving from it would only be more than welcome side effects. Given this fact, even assuming that living on Earth will eventually be so intolerable that death would be preferable, it really makes no sense to wait for it to happen because of aging and go through about twenty years of declining health, thus adding insult to injury. To put it bluntly, people who really have had enough of life generally seek to terminate it quickly and painlessly; not too many choose pneumonia or ebola as a way out. Wanting to die of aging because you think the world won’t be worth living in beyond your “natural” lifespan is no different from wanting to die of pneumonia because you think that the world won’t be worth living in six months from now.

Eliminating the diseases of aging can only make life better, and it’s a different matter if it’lll be good enough to be worth living—that’s a personal choice that has nothing to do with whether life extension should be developed or not. To be completely honest, if you lived your entire life in a country torn by war, or fighting over food, then I would understand if you were pessimistic about the benefits of a longer life; however, when I hear people living reasonably comfortable lives in industrialized countries claiming “Living longer? Good God, that would be awful!” just because they don’t like their jobs or some other silly pretext like that, I can’t help thinking that they’re just having a bad case of first world problems.

Besides, what is a defeatist attitude going to accomplish? Assuming that life extension isn’t worth bothering with because the future won’t be worth it makes two more assumptions. The first is that the world is going to be too horrible to live in within the handful of decades of a currently normal lifespan, and the second is that it won’t really improve significantly after that point, so pulling through the bad times in the hopes of seeing better ones would be a waste of effort. If it really were that way, then we might as well throw in the towel, stop worrying about making the world a better place, stop having children, who could only expect to live in a world worse than we did, and just let everything collapse.

If we did this, the defeatist attitude would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but thankfully, we don’t really do anything like that. We might be tempted to think like that when we feel discouraged, but throughout our history, we’ve always picked ourselves up and continued, not matter how dire the times, and always managed to make the world a little better than it was before. The right attitude is neither “the future will certainly be great” nor “the future will certainly be horrible”; the right attitude is “we don’t know for sure what the future will be like, but we are capable of making it better”. The data’s with us on that one.

About Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà  is a bit of a jack of all trades—a holder of an M.Sc. degree in mathematics; an amateur programmer; a hobbyist at novel writing, piano, and art; and, of course, a passionate life-extensionist. After his interest in the science of undoing aging arose in 2011, he gradually shifted from quiet supporter to active advocate in 2015, first launching his advocacy blog Rejuvenaction before eventually joining LEAF. These years in the field sparked an interest in molecular biology, which he actively studies. Other subjects he loves to discuss to no end are cosmology, artificial intelligence, and many others—far too many for a currently normal lifespan, which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension.

Sophia the Humanoid Robot Wants to Meet You at RAADfest – Video by Hanson Robotics

Sophia the Humanoid Robot Wants to Meet You at RAADfest – Video by Hanson Robotics

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Hanson Robotics
Coalition for Radical Life Extension


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party encourages our members to attend RAAD Fest 2018, where we will have our own conference room, and technological marvels such as Sophia the Robot, as well the visionaries who make these technological advances possible, will be present. Over the coming weeks we hope to offer other videos highlighting some of the key features of this unique gathering in furtherance of the Revolution Against Aging and Death.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, August 10, 2018

Message from the Coalition for Radical Life Extension:

Meet Sophia, the latest robot from Hanson Robotics. She will be attending (and performing!) at RAADfest 2018.

Sophia was created using breakthrough robotics and artificial intelligence technologies developed by David Hanson, Dr. Ben Goertzel and their friends at Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong; and is being used as a platform for blockchain-based AI development by SingularityNET Foundation.

RAADfest is the largest event in the world where practical and cutting-edge methods to reverse aging are presented for all interest levels, from beginner to expert.

RAADfest is organized by the non-profit Coalition for Radical Life Extension.

-More about RAADfest: http://raadfest.com/

-More about the Coalition for Radical Life Extension: http://www.rlecoalition.com/

-More about Sophia: http://sophiabot.com/

-More about Hanson Robotics: http://www.hansonrobotics.com/

The New Way of BioViva – Interview with Liz Parrish by Ariel VA Feinerman

The New Way of BioViva – Interview with Liz Parrish by Ariel VA Feinerman

Ariel VA Feinerman
Elizabeth Parrish


Interview with Liz Parrish, CEO of BioViva

Liz Parrish, CEO of BioViva

Preface

What is ageing? We can define ageing as a process of accumulation of the damage which is just a side-effect of normal metabolism. While researchers still poorly understand how metabolic processes cause damage accumulation, and how accumulated damage causes pathology, the damage itself — the structural difference between old tissue and young tissue — is categorized and understood pretty well. By repairing damage and restoring the previously undamaged — young — state of an organism, we can really rejuvenate it! Sounds very promising, and so it is. And for some types of damage (for example, for senescent cells), it is already proved to work!

Today in our virtual studio somewhere between Saint-Petersburg and Seattle, we meet a famous person! Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of BioViva, is a humanitarian, entrepreneur, innovator, and a leading voice for genetic cures. As a strong proponent of progress and education for the advancement of regenerative medicine modalities, she serves as a motivational speaker to the public at large for the life sciences. She is actively involved in international educational media outreach and is a founding member of the International Longevity Alliance (ILA). She is an affiliated member of the Complex Biological Systems Alliance (CBSA), which is a unique platform for Mensa-based, highly gifted persons who advance scientific discourse and discovery.

The mission of the CBSA is to further scientific understanding of biological complexity and the nature and origins of human disease. She is the founder of BioTrove Investments LLC and the BioTrove Podcasts, which is committed to offering a meaningful way for people to learn about and fund research in regenerative medicine.

Interview

Ariel Feinerman: Hello, Ms. Liz Parrish!

Liz Parrish: Hello, Ariel Feinerman!

Ariel Feinerman: Honestly, I have planned to offer you the idea of building the whole infrastructure for delivering therapies from manufacturers via clinics to the patients. Because we really need such an infrastructure! By the way, when I looked at BioViva web page, I could see that you already do that! Very nice surprise for all. Can you say, when and why you realised that making therapy is not enough and that to build a viable alternative to the usual regulatory path, we need such a platform and a whole parallel infrastructure?

Liz Parrish: I realized that quite early in my journey, but it took us a while to organize the right team, and our collaborations.

Ariel Feinerman: How optimistic are you that other companies will follow your way?

Liz Parrish: Very. We think that the anti-ageing and regenerative market with growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 8.4% over the next 5 years, and the total market valuation will reach approximately $500 billion by 2022. We have no doubt that this will encourage many companies all over the world to find innovative ways to capture market share by providing unprecedented value to customers. We hope those companies will use our platform and we can use our years of experience to assist them.

Ariel Feinerman: We already have many amazing results in the lab which can save human lives just now, but lack of funding and the over-regulated medical system don’t give them any chance to be in clinics in coming years. With the current pace of progress, they will already be outdated even before clinical trials. Do you think that translational research becomes the bottleneck?

Liz Parrish: Yes and no. Part of the the bench-to-bedside translational process needs to be expedited, whilst other parts need better oversight, and due-diligence, and yet other parts of the process need to be built from the ground up. BioViva is collaborating with biotech companies, researchers, clinicians, and regulators to put together all these pieces of the translational puzzle in the right place at the right time for the right set of patients to benefit.

Ariel Feinerman: What therapies do you offer now?

Liz Parrish: BioViva doesn’t offer any therapies. We partner with clinics, and other companies, including Integrated Health Systems (IHS), that offer patients treatments in various places in the world. Please contact IHS to receive their treatment details for patients.

Ariel Feinerman: As far as I remember, BioViva worked on telomerase earlier. Does your company work on any therapy now?

Liz Parrish: Our company partnered with Integrated Health Systems (IHS) earlier this year. Our partner company offers treatments in various parts of the world, while BioViva collects and analyses patient data.

Ariel Feinerman: What are your requirements for a bioengineering company that wishes to use your program? How do you ensure that their therapy is safe and effective?

Liz Parrish: We are not a body-hacking or bioengineering company. We collect data from treatments offered at clinics selected by our partner company mentioned above. IHS demands that the clinics conform to their countries’ regulations and medical personnel involved have adequate training, as well as high standards of hygiene and equipment. IHS only works with clinics that have an excellent reputation. US-trained doctors also regularly inspect clinics working for IHS to ensure that standards are maintained.

Ariel Feinerman: I mean can you say how your platform works?

Liz Parrish: Our company business is done by contract. Unfortunately I cannot elaborate on this point because it is not public information. Our goal, when setting up our platform, is to speed up regulation by getting as much early human data as possible that will hopefully make cutting-edge technologies available to those who need them as soon as possible. Ageing kills 100,000 people a day, so we cannot humanely afford to drag our feet; we must get treatments out as soon as they are available.

Ariel Feinerman: Investors usually fear uncertainty which follows companies who choose any alternative to the mainstream regulatory way. Is this improving? How do you solve this problem? Do you help bioengineering companies to look for loyal investors?

Liz Parrish: Any investment in new methods is risky. No risk, no gain. Medicine cannot progress if no one is prepared to take a risk. This applies as much to investors as to patients. Recently however we notice a trend in favour of investments that would have been considered high-risk five years ago but that today are regarded rather as medium-risk. The reason is the increase in computer capacity which in turn allows for more data and therefore for more data analysis. When it comes to data, more is synonymous with better. Lots of data allow investors to better predict the returns on their investments, so more money is invested in endeavours involving lots of data.

Ariel Feinerman: Dr. Aubrey de Grey has said: “I think the key thing we should be doing more of is making better use of those who choose to go abroad to get treated: we should make it as easy as possible for them to report on what treatment they received and how well it worked, any side-effects, etc., for a long time after the treatment, so that such information can be analysed and used to guide future research. The people who provide experimental therapies don’t have any incentive to gather such data themselves, so it usually never gets gathered.”

Do you or your partner clinics gather such information or follow your patients?

Liz Parrish: As I said above, BioViva’s task is the collection and treatment of data. This is what we do. We collect data before and at the time of the treatment, and then at various times after the therapy. We hope to gather much data from each patient we treat, and to gather much data from many, many patients. This is the only way to assess if a treatment works, whom it works for, after how long, how many times, etc.

Ariel Feinerman: Some people express concern that many therapies via medical tourism will be available only for small groups of people, because of lack of information, need to go abroad, lack of established clinic networks, and so on. What can you argue? How can you plan to make them more available?

Liz Parrish: All novel therapies are expensive because the R&D enabling them is still ongoing. The small group of people who can afford them are benefiting from what at the time of their treatment is cutting-edge medicine, but they are simultaneously funding the R&D that will assess these therapies, and later make them affordable to a larger number of people. This is just as true of organ transplants or surgical bypass, now routine but once unaffordable to most, as it is of gene therapy.

The fact that a treatment takes place abroad does not necessarily imply lack of information. All clinics proposed by IHS have websites with detailed information about their facilities. IHS is the clinical network, that hitherto has been lacking, which will connect patients needing treatment to clinics all over the world, one or two of which may have just the treatment a certain patient requires.

For sure, there is less information about the clinical results of some of the treatments they propose, and how could it be otherwise? Those treatments are pioneering, and therefore off the beaten track in novel territory. This novel territory requires patients to explore it, provide data for BioViva to analyse and in this way make the new treatments available to more people.

Ariel Feinerman: Thank you very much for your answers, hope to see you again!

Liz Parrish: Thanks you, it was my pleasure.

Ariel VA Feinerman is a researcher, author, and photographer, who believes that people should not die from diseases and ageing, and whose main goal is to improve human health and achieve immortality.

Message from Ariel VA Feinerman: If you like my work, any help will be appreciated!

PayPal: arielfeinerman@gmail.com

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Ideas for Technological Solutions to Destructive Climate Change – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Ideas for Technological Solutions to Destructive Climate Change – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II


Editor’s Note: What follows is a preliminary identification of potential constructive solutions to the problems of deleterious climate change. They are intended for discussion and perhaps eventual incorporation into the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform, along with other member-generated suggestions, if supported by a vote of the members. At present, though, the priority is to generate and discuss potential effective solutions that do not run into the common pitfalls of Neo-Malthusianism and Neo-Pigovianism, but rather embody the transhumanist Proactionary Principle and remain compatible with continued improvements in the length and quality of human lives. It is our hope that the U.S. Transhumanist Party will eventually emerge at the forefront of generating solutions to the climate-change issue that come to be widely recognized as feasible, effective, and palatable to the majority of people. Accordingly, the list identified in this article is open to revision and expansion in accordance with reader-generated solutions that adhere to the two major constraints specified herein. Both the initially identified potential solutions and these constraints are compatible with the existing related provisions in the Constitution of the U.S. Transhumanist Party (Article III, Sections VIII, IX, X, XI, and XXXVIII), as well as  Article XXII of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 2.0.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, August 5, 2018


Destructive climate change is no longer a hypothesis or mere possibility; rather, the empirical evidence for it has become apparent in the form of increasingly frequent extremes of temperature and natural disasters – particularly the ongoing global heat wave and major wildfires occurring in diverse parts of the world. In each individual incident, it is difficult to pinpoint “climate change” as a singular cause, but climate change can be said to exacerbate the frequency and severity of the catastrophes that arise. Residing in Northern Nevada for the past decade has provided me ample empirical evidence of the realities of deleterious climate change. Whereas there were no smoke inundations from California wildfires during the first four summers of my time in Northern Nevada, the next six consecutive summers (2013-2018) were all marked by widespread, persistent inflows of smoke from major wildfires hundreds of kilometers away, so as to render the air quality here unhealthy for long periods of time. From a purely probabilistic standpoint, the probability of this prolonged sequence of recent but consistently recurring smoke inundations would be minuscule in the absence of some significant climate change. Even in the presence of some continued debate over the nature and causes of climate change, the probabilities favor some action to mitigate the evident adverse effects and to rely on the best-available scientific understanding to do so, even with the allowance that the scientific understanding will evolve and hopefully become more refined over time – as good science does. Thus, it is most prudent to accept that there is deleterious climate change and that at least a significant contribution to it comes from emissions of certain gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere as a result of particular human activities, the foremost of which is the use of fossil fuels. This is not an indictment of human beings, nor even of fossil fuels per se, but rather an indication that the deleterious side effects of particular activities should be prevented or alleviated through further human activity and ingenuity.

Yet one of the major causes of historical reluctance among laypersons, especially in the United States, to accept the findings of the majority of climate scientists has been the misguided conflation by certain activists (almost always on the political Left) of the justifiable need to prevent or mitigate the effects of climate change with specific policy recommendations that are profoundly counterproductive to that purpose and would only increase the everyday suffering of ordinary people without genuinely alleviating deleterious climate change. The policy recommendations of this sort have historically fallen into two categories: (i) Neo-Malthusian, “back to nature” proposals to restrict the use of advanced technologies and return to more primitive modes of living; and (ii) elaborate economic manipulations, such as the creation of artificial markets in “carbon credits”, or the imposition of a carbon tax or a related form of “Pigovian tax” – ostensibly to associate the “negative externalities” of greenhouse-gas emissions with a tangible cost. The Neo-Malthusian “solutions” would, in part deliberately, cause extreme detriments to most people’s quality of life (for those who remain alive), while simultaneously resulting in the use of older, far more environmentally destructive techniques of energy generation, such as massive deforestation or the combustion of animal byproducts. The Neo-Pigovian economic manipulations ignore how human motives and incentives actually work and are far too indirect and contingent on a variety of assumptions that are virtually never likely to hold in practice. At the same time, the artificially complex structures that these economic manipulations inevitably create would pose obstructions to the direct deployment of more straightforward solutions by entangling such potential solutions in an inextricable web of compliance interdependencies.

The solutions to destructive climate change are ultimately technological and infrastructural.  No single device or tactic – and certainly no tax or prohibition – can comprehensively combat a problem of this magnitude and variety of impacts. However, a suite of technologically oriented approaches – pushing forward the deployment and quality of the arsenal of tools available to humankind – could indeed arrest and perhaps reverse the course of deleterious climate change by directly reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases and/or directly alleviating the consequences of increased climate variability.

Because both human circumstances and current as well as potential technologies are extremely diverse, no list of potential solutions to deleterious climate change can ever be exhaustive. Here I attempt the beginnings of such a list, but I invite others to contribute additional technologically oriented solutions as well. There are only two constraints on the kinds of solutions that can feasibly and ethically combat deleterious climate change – but those constraints are of immense importance:

Constraint 1. The solutions may not result in a net detriment to any individual human’s length or material quality of life.

Constraint 2. The solutions may not involve the prohibition of technologies or the restraint of further technological progress.

Constraint 1 implies that any solution to deleterious climate change will need to be a Pareto-efficient move, in that at least one person should benefit, while no person should suffer a detriment (or at least a detriment that has not been satisfactorily compensated for in that person’s judgment). Constraint 2 implies a techno-optimistic and technoprogressive perspective on combating deleterious climate change: we can do it without restrictions or prohibitions, but rather through innovations that will benefit all humans. Some technologies, particularly those associated with the extraction and use of fossil fuels, may gradually be consigned to obsolescence and irrelevance with this approach, but this will be due to their voluntary abandonment once superior, more advanced technological alternatives become widespread and economical to deploy. The more freedom to innovate and active acceleration of technological progress exist, the sooner that stage of fossil-fuel obsolescence could be reached. In the meantime, some damaging events are unfortunately unavoidable (as are many natural catastrophes more generally in our still insufficiently advanced era), but a variety of approaches can be deployed to at least prevent or reduce some damage that would otherwise arise.

If humanity solves the problems of deleterious climate change, it can only be with the mindset that solutions are indeed achievable, and they are achievable without compromising our progress or standards of living. We must be neither defeatists nor reactionaries, but rather should proactively accelerate the development of emerging technologies to meet this challenge by actualizing the tremendous creative potential our minds have to offer.

What follows is the initial list of potential solutions. Long may it grow.

Direct Technological Innovation

  • Continued development of economical solar and wind power that could compete with fossil fuels on the basis of cost alone.
  • Continued development of electric vehicles and increases in their range, as well as deployment of charging stations throughout all inhabited areas to enable recharging to become as easy as a refueling a gasoline-powered vehicle.
  • Development of in vitro (lab-grown) meat that is biologically identical to currently available meat but does not require actual animals to die. Eventually this could lead the commercial raising of cattle – which contribute significantly to methane emissions – to decline substantially.
  • Development of vertical farming to increase the amount of arable land indoors – rendering more food production largely unaffected by climate change.
  • Autonomous vehicles offered as services by transportation network companies – reducing the need for direct car ownership in urban areas.
  • Development and spread of pest-resistant, drought-resistant genetically modified crops that require less intensive cultivation techniques and less application of spray pesticides, and which can also flourish in less hospitable climates.
  • Construction of hyperloop transit networks among major cities, allowing rapid transit without the pollution generated by most automobile and air travel. Hyperloop networks would also allow for more rapid evacuation from a disaster area.
  • Construction of next-generation, meltdown-proof nuclear-power reactors, including those that utilize the thorium fuel cycle. It is already possible today for most of a country’s electricity to be provided through nuclear power, if only the fear of nuclear energy could be overcome. However, the best way to overcome the fear of nuclear energy is to deploy new technologies that eliminate the risk of meltdown. In addition to this, technologies should be developed to reprocess nuclear waste and to safely re-purpose dismantled nuclear weapons for civilian energy use.
  • Construction of smart infrastructure systems and devices that enable each building to use available energy with the maximum possible benefit and minimum possible waste, while also providing opportunities for the building to generate its own renewable energy whenever possible.
  • In the longer term, development of technologies to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide and export it via spaceships to the Moon and Mars, where it could be released as part of efforts to generate a greenhouse effect and begin terraforming these worlds.

Disaster Response

  • Fire cameras located at prominent vantage points in any area of high fire risk – perhaps linked to automatic alerts to nearby fire departments and sprinkler systems built into the landscape, which might be auto-activated if a sufficiently large fire is detected in the vicinity.
  • Major increases in recruitment of firefighters, with generous pay and strategic construction of outposts in wilderness areas. Broad, paved roads need to lead to the outposts, allowing for heavy equipment to reach the site of a wildfire easily.
  • Development of firefighting robots to accompany human firefighters. The robots would need to be constructed from fire-resistive materials and have means of transporting themselves over rugged terrain (e.g., tank treads).
  • Design and deployment of automated firefighting drones – large autonomous aircraft that could carry substantial amounts of water and/or fire-retardant sprays.

Disaster Prevention

  • Recruitment of large brush-clearing brigades to travel through heavily forested areas – particularly remote and seldom-accessed ones – and clear dead vegetation as well as other wildfire fuels. This work does not require significant training or expertise and so could offer an easy job opportunity for currently unemployed or underemployed individuals. In the event of shortages of human labor, brush-clearing robots could be designed and deployed. The robots could also have the built-in capability to reprocess dead vegetation into commercially usable goods – such as mulch or wood pellets. Think of encountering your friendly maintenance robot when hiking or running on a trail!
  • Proactive creation of fire breaks in wilderness areas – not “controlled burns” (which are, in practice, difficult to control) but rather controlled cuts of smaller, flammable brush to reduce the probability of fire spreading. Larger trees of historic significance should be spared, but with defensible space created around them.
  • Deployment of surveillance drones in forested areas, to detect behaviors such as vandalism or improper precautions around manmade fires – which are often the causes of large wildfires.
  • Construction of large levees throughout coastal regions – protecting lowland areas from flooding and achieving in the United States what has been achieved in the Netherlands over centuries on a smaller scale. Instead of building a wall at the land border, build many walls along the coasts!
  • Construction of vast desalination facilities along ocean coasts. These facilities would take in ocean water, thereby counteracting the effects of rising water levels, then purify the water and transmit it via a massive pipe network throughout the country, including to drought-prone regions. This would mitigating multiple problems, reducing the excess of water in the oceans while replenishing the deficit of water in inland areas.
  • Creation of countrywide irrigation and water-pipeline networks to spread available water and prevent drought wherever it might arise.

Economic Policies

  • Redesign of home insurance policies and disaster-mitigation/recovery grants to allow homeowners who lost their homes to natural disasters to rebuild in different, safer areas.
  • Development of workplace policies to encourage telecommuting and teleconferencing, including through immersive virtual-reality technologies that allow for plausible simulacra of in-person interaction. The majority of business interactions can be performed virtually, eliminating the need for much business-related commuting and travel.
  • Elimination of local and regional monopoly powers of utility companies in order to allow alternative-energy utilities, such as companies specializing in the installation of solar panels, to compete and offer their services to homeowners independently of traditional utilities.
  • Establishment of consumer agencies (public or private) that review products for durability and encourage the construction of devices that lack “planned obsolescence” but rather can be used for decades with largely similar effect.
  • Establishment of easily accessible community repair shops where old devices and household goods can be taken to be repaired or re-purposed instead of being discarded.
  • Abolition of inflexible zoning regulations and overly prescriptive building codes; replacement with a more flexible system that allows a wide variety of innovative construction techniques, including disaster-resistant and sustainable construction methods, tiny homes, homes created from re-purposed materials, and mixed-use residential/commercial developments (which also reduce the need for vehicular commuting).
  • Abolition of sales taxes on energy-efficient consumer goods.
  • Repeal or non-enactment of any mileage-based taxes for electric or hybrid vehicles, thereby resulting in such vehicles becoming incrementally less expensive to operate.
  • Lifting of all bans and restrictions on genetically modified plants and animals – which are a crucial component in adaptation to climate change and in reducing the carbon footprint of agricultural activities.

Harm Mitigation

  • Increases in planned urban vegetation through parks, rooftop gardens, trees planted alongside streets, pedestrian / bicyclist “greenways” lined with vegetation. The additional vegetation can absorb carbon dioxide, reducing the concentrations in the atmosphere.
  • Construction of additional pedestrian / bicyclist “greenways”, which could help reduce the need for vehicular commutes.
  • Construction of always-operational disaster shelters with abundant stockpiles of aid supplies, in order to prevent the delays in deployment of resources that occur during a disaster. When there is no disaster, the shelters could perform other valuable tasks that generally are not conducive to market solutions, such as litter cleanup in public spaces or even offering inexpensive meeting space to various individuals and organizations. (This could also contribute to the disaster shelters largely becoming self-funding in calm times.)
  • Provision of population-wide free courses on disaster preparation and mitigation. The courses could have significant online components as well as in-person components administered by first-aid and disaster-relief organizations.
Choose Your Own Story – by Nicola Bagalà

Choose Your Own Story – by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: In this set of short stories originally published by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), Nicola Bagalà illustrates  through convincing scenarios of possible futures why we should take seriously research and activism into rejuvenation biotechnology. It may make the difference between our own survival and flourishing into the indefinite future, or the painful suffering and demise that currently accompany old age.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 30, 2018


Today, I would like to tell you two short stories describing what your far future might look like, depending on the choices that you—though not only you—will make in the near future. Feel free to leave a comment to let others know which one you’d rather have as your real future.

Story 1: A day in 2140

The blinds in your bedroom slowly whirr open, as a gentle melody gradually fills the environment. Ferdinand—your AI assistant, to whom you decided to give a far less extravagant name than most other people do—informs you that it’s 7:30, your bath is ready, and so will be your usual breakfast once you’re done in the bathroom. Getting up that early is never too easy, but your morning walk in the park is always worth it, because it puts you in a good mood.

As you enter the bathroom, you step into the health scanner, and, after a few seconds, a couple of charts and several biomarkers show up on the display—the final report says that you’re a perfectly healthy 137-year-old whose biological age is about 26. It’d be enough by itself, but you think the charts and the data look cool; Ferdinand knows that.

You’ve got one of those awesome bathrooms with HyperReal WallScreens—well, nearly everyone does anyway—so today you’re taking your bath in the rainforest. As you enjoy your hydromassage, you’re listening to the latest news; your heart almost skips a beat when you hear that the Stephen Hawking Deep Space Telescope, the one that NASA and the African Space Agency sent pretty much to the edge of the solar system, has finally confirmed earlier observations: JSS “Jessie” 431 c, an exoplanet 95 light-years away, harbors multicellular life. They’d been chasing “Jessie” for a while, and now the chase is over; it’s an unprecedented discovery, and while it took surprisingly long to finally get this data, this is a world-changing breakthrough, and it leaves you yelling and splashing around in joy embarrassingly loudly. As you quickly get out of the tub, you imagine that all the geeks at work won’t be talking about anything else.

Your breakfast, freshly out of your molecular assembler, is as delicious and tailored to your specific nutritional needs as Ferdinand got you used to, but you’re too hyped today to spend too much time eating. Ferdinand casts a virtual, disapproving glance at you as you quickly gobble your food up and leave the flat. Your usual walk is cancelled as well, you think as you get into the elevator, because you’re too eager to discuss the news at work. As Ferdinand leaves room for Alice—the building’s AI janitor—you look through the glass walls of the cabin, gaining inspiration from the several other elegant skyscrapers towering over your beautiful city. After a quick descent from the 87th floor, you’re finally on the ground and ready for the commute to work—a quick trip of about 400 kilometers, which, when you were in your 20s for real, would’ve been anything but quick.

At the time, the world was so very different, you think to yourself. Take work, for example: your life depended on it, in pretty much the literal sense of the word. Nowadays, although the word “work” stuck, it is just something you really enjoy doing and you’re good at, and people look back at the whole “having to earn a living” idea in pretty much the same way as they looked at hunter-gatherer tribes when you were a child. It’s unnerving to think that you could’ve missed all of this by a hair’s breadth; when you were in your early 20s, the social movement for the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies really started to pick up, and therapies eventually followed suit. If it hadn’t—and that might well have been—right now you’d be six feet under, just like your poor grandma. She’d have loved the world today, your father always says.

Anyway, there’s no time to get melancholic now; another great day awaits you.

Story 2: A day in 2078

If this story had the same year as the previous one, it’d be very short: you’re dead, and you’ve long been such. The end. However, that’s not how it’s titled, so it is going to be a little longer than that. Whether that’s better or not, I’ll leave up to you to decide.

You wake up in your hospital bed to the beeping coming from multiple monitors and sensors, which by now have become your most consistent companions. It’s not even morning: you fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon, and now that you think about it, some of your family was there with you. Probably, as you fell asleep, they decided it was best to let you rest.

Not that you’re that much awake, anyway. You feel barely conscious, and most of what you can feel is either pain or tiredness. Up until a month or two ago, you could still sort of manage with some difficulty, although with the help of your caregiver or your children, but then everything changed. You’ve been waking up in the same hospital bed ever since you passed out that day, and one of the first things you heard when you woke up right after they brought you in was that, at 92 years old, you’re lucky to be still alive.

You’d like to know what time it is, but you can’t quite make out the clock on the wall nor any of the screens around you. You could ask the computer in the room, if you had any breath left, but you don’t. If nothing else, it probably has alerted the doctors that you’re awake, and maybe someone will turn up soon. Spending energy to push the damn button doesn’t seem worth it, what’s the point, anyway, you wonder—today might well be your last day, and given the outlook, it’d be as good a day to go as any.

That’s too bad, though, you think, saddened. You’d really have wanted to see your great-grandkids grow up, and all in all, the world has surprised you, turning out much better than you expected. Not perfect, granted, but you’re genuinely curious to know how things will change in the coming decades, with all these advancements in technology and science—and the overall political situation looks okay, too. Well, looks like you’ll be taking your curiosity to the grave with you, because these advancements didn’t happen quite everywhere in science, nor did the bureaucrats do much to make them happen. Tough luck.

Bitterly, you think this was at least a little bit your fault too. You didn’t do much to make them happen either. When you were in your early thirties, there was a lot of talk about rejuvenation biotechnology, and the talk intensified somewhat by your late thirties, but the whole thing never really saw the light of day. Oh, you tell yourself, it’ll happen eventually, but not any time soon. It certainly didn’t happen in time to spare yourself what you’re going through right now—thankfully, it’s almost over.

Back in the day, you were in the “unsure” camp, tending to “best not to mess with nature.” In hindsight, you’re not so sure you actually agreed with that view; possibly, you only said so because so many other people said the same and you didn’t feel like being one of those fruitcakes who wanted to change everything, or something like that—what the heck, that was 60 years ago and the memories are foggy. You do remember, though, that when you saw your own parents go through an ordeal very similar to yours, some thirty years ago, the thought that you might have misjudged the “fruitcakes” crossed your mind, but it was already too late.

Unfortunately, by then, populist discourse appealing to the cycle of life, a bunch of other, supposedly more important issues, and “the future of our children” had won over the crowd, and rejuvenation research had taken a back seat, making way for better services for the elderly instead; they’re not bad, but maybe, if a choice was available between better machines to take you to the toilet and drugs that kept you able to walk there on your own, the latter might have been preferable.

The future for your great-grandchildren is similarly rosy, as they get to watch their own parents and grandparents turn into almost-vegetables and then die, not to mention the financial burden—not just on individual families, but the world as well. With so many old and dependent people, and fewer and fewer young people, the economy doesn’t look so okay. The way they’re going about this is by offering financial incentives for families with kids, which, coming from the very same people who opposed rejuvenation for fear of overpopulation among other things, is quite ironic.

Maybe, you tell yourself, you should’ve listened. Maybe you should have taken the whole issue more seriously and helped the early advocates somehow, rather than having dismissed the idea of rejuvenation. Maybe, if you had helped, and if others had too, it’ll have happened in time to save you, or at least your children—they’re in their sixties and seventies now, and if rejuvenation didn’t happen in the past sixty years, despite the initial wave of enthusiasm, you can bet that it isn’t going to happen in the next twenty years when nearly nobody cares.

You turn your head slightly towards the door. Nothing. No one’s coming, but then again, you’ve only been awake for ten minutes tops, and the doctors have got plenty of other geriatric patients in this wing. Your eyelids are becoming heavy again, and as you won’t accomplish much by staying awake anyway, you decide to let them go down. Who knows if they’ll open again.

Both of these stories are fictional, though the first one contains more fiction than the second, because it describes a future that might or might not come to be. The first story is perhaps overly optimistic and even a tad too Star Trek-ish for your taste, but it’s just my happy story—you are free to replace it with whatever positive future you’d like to see. It’s just a possible scenario, and for all we know, the future might be nothing like that and more like a dystopia. It’s hard to tell for a fact.

However, the second story contains much more reality than the first, because it’s pretty much what it means to be in your 90s these days; depending on a number of factors, even being in your 70s and 80s can be not much better, even if you’re not bedridden. Unless we do something about it today, a story similar to this will be our story—your story—too, just like stories of infectious diseases killing millions would’ve still been very much current even today if we hadn’t done anything to change those stories before they could unfold.

I’ve already chosen my favorite version of the story a long time ago. The question is, which one is yours?

About Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà has been an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of rejuvenation science since 2011. Although his preferred approach to treating age related diseases is Aubrey de Grey’s suggested SENS platform, he is very interested in any other potential approach as well. In 2015, he launched the blog Rejuvenaction to advocate for rejuvenation and to answer common concerns that generally come with the prospect of vastly extended healthy lifespans. Originally a mathematician graduated from Helsinki University, his scientific interests range from cosmology to AI, from drawing and writing to music, and he always complains he doesn’t have enough time to dedicate to all of them which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension. He’s also a computer programmer and web developer. All the years spent learning about the science of rejuvenation have sparked his interest in biology, in which he’s planning to get a university degree.

Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey by Yuri Deigin

Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey by Yuri Deigin

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Yuri Deigin
Aubrey de Grey


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party is pleased to publish this in-depth interview by Yuri Deigin of Dr. Aubrey de Grey, the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Anti-Aging Advisor. Herein Dr. de Grey offers original, in-depth insights regarding the current state of research and public opinion regarding the pursuit of advances in rejuvenation biotechnology that will hopefully achieve significant life extension, one of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Core Ideals, within our lifetimes.  This interview was originally published in the Russian language here. The English-language version was first published by one of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Allied Organizations, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), here

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 29, 2018

Note from the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF): Today we have an interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey from the SENS Research Foundation. This interview conducted by Yuri Deigin, CEO at Youthereum Genetics, was originally published in Russian language and he has kindly translated it into English so our audience can enjoy it, too.


Yuri: Aubrey, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. Why don’t we dive right in? I am sure everybody asks you this: how and when did you become interested in aging, and when did you decide to make it your life’s mission to defeat it?

Aubrey de Grey: I became interested in aging and decided to work on it in my late 20s, so, in the early 1990s. The reason I became interested was because that was when I discovered that other biologists were almost all not interested in it. They did not think that aging was a particularly important or interesting question. I had always assumed, throughout my whole life, that aging was obviously the world’s most important problem. I thought that people who understood biology would be working on it really hard. Then, I discovered that wasn’t true and that hardly any biologists were working on it. The ones that were weren’t doing it very well, not very productively as far as I could see. I thought I’d better have a go myself, so I switched fields from my previous research area, which was artificial intelligence.

Yuri: By the way, do you think there are disproportionately many people from computer science in aging research these days?

Aubrey de Grey: There are a lot, and there are lots of people who are supporting it. Most of our supporters are, in one way or another, people from computer science or from mathematics, engineering, or physics. I think the reason why that has happened is actually very similar to the reason why I was able to make an important contribution to this field.

I think that people with that kind of background, that kind of training, find it much easier to understand how we should be thinking about aging: as an engineering problem. First of all, we must recognize that it is a problem, and then we must recognize that it is a problem that we could solve with technology. This is something that most people find very alien, very difficult to understand, but engineers seem to get it more easily.

Yuri: So do you think that people who don’t have such a background, this way of thinking, have a chance of understanding the importance of this problem, or are they better off letting people with an engineering mindset figure it out?

Aubrey de Grey: Well, of course, there is always an overlap. The reason I spend so much time doing interviews and running around the world giving talks is precisely in order to help people, for whom this is not obvious, to think about these things. For any new idea or any new way of thinking, there are always people who understand it first and who then communicate that knowledge to other people.

Yuri: Right. And you have been running around giving talks for a very long time, as I understand. It’s been, what, twenty years?

Aubrey de Grey: Well, at least 15 years that I’ve been doing a lot of it.

Yuri: So between the time in your twenties, when you realized that aging is not something that’s being adequately covered by biologists, and the time when you decided to have a go at it yourself, how many years have passed? And can you give a bit more background on when you founded SENS and what SENS is?

Aubrey de Grey: Sure! The year in which I switched fields properly is probably 1995. For the next five years, I was basically just learning. I was going to all the conferences, getting to know the right people, leaders in the field. Learning a lot of what was known and doing a huge amount of reading, of course. The big breakthrough came in the summer of 2000 when I realized that comprehensive damage repair was a much more promising option then what people had been doing before. Since then, it has been a matter of persuading people of that.

There were a few years when I was just ignored and people thought I was crazy and didn’t think I made any sense. Then, gradually, people realized that what I was saying was not necessarily crazy. Some people found it threatening, so in the mid-2000s, I had a fair amount of battles to fight within academia. That’s normal; that’s what happens with any radical new idea that is actually right, so that happened for a while. This decade, it’s been rather easier. We founded the SENS Foundation; we’ve started getting enough donations into the SENS Foundation to be able to do our own research, both within our own facilities as well as funding research at universities and institutes. Gradually, this research had moved far along enough that we could publish initial results. Over the past two or three years, we’ve been able to spin off a bunch of companies that we have transferred technology to so that they can actually attract money from investors.

There are, of course, an awful lot of people out there who believe in what we are doing, but they fundamentally don’t like charities; they don’t like to give money away. They have been waiting for the point when these projects move far enough ahead that they are investable, and that’s resulting in much more money flowing into these areas.

Yuri: This is a good point you bring up – that a lot of wealthy people for some reason aren’t prepared to spend money on fundamental research on aging but somehow desire a financial return on their investments in this field. Do you know why that is? Why can’t they realize that in their position, it is much more rational to try to convert their wealth into something much more valuable that they cannot yet ever get back, which is years of healthy life. Why do they try to also make money on this research?

Aubrey de Grey: Well, it’s not really a rational decision, and it’s different for every individual, whether it’s for that reason or any other. Let me first say that it actually seems less of a problem in Russia. Our single biggest donor at the moment is Vitalik Buterin, the guy who created Ethereum, who is a Canadian of Russian heritage. Another major donor of ours is a guy named Michael Antonov, one of the co-founders of Oculus. I think maybe Russians have less of a problem with this. However, in general, the kind of people who have a lot of money and who are also visionary enough and understand technology enough, they tend to be the kind of people who made their money by doing certain things; they got it through the capitalist system. So, those kinds of people are inherently biased in favor of that system and against philanthropy. Then, of course, there are many other reasons. There are some people who won’t give us money because they don’t think it’s a good idea to defeat aging. There are plenty of people who want to give us money, but their wives think it’s crazy. I am not kidding! There are at least a couple of our major verbal supporters who I know for a fact that that’s why they are not giving us significant amounts of money. Another reason, I think, is that some people just have overly big egos, so they think they can do better than us even when they can’t.

Yuri: Let me probe you a little bit more on this. You brought up wealthy Russians and people who think they can have a go at aging themselves. Would Sergey Brin qualify as one of those people who decided they know better and founded their own company, Calico, for precisely this reason?

Aubrey de Grey: Yeah, I had a funny feeling you might ask me about that. I have a very low opinion of Calico. The fundamental reason for this is because of Larry and Sergey. In fairness to Sergey, my understanding is that Calico is mainly a Larry project, or at least more so than a Sergey project. Of course, they are both on the Board of Directors, and they both share the responsibility. At the end of the day, Calico is a catastrophe, and it’s their fault. They just created it wrongly.

They’ve known me for fifteen years; they could easily have told me, “Listen. We don’t like charity. We want to create a company, and we want you to run it,” and I would’ve said “No problem!” and they knew that. Instead, they decided to be more traditional about this. I don’t know why. Maybe they don’t like people who have beards.

The fact is that they made an absolute catastrophe of it. They started out reasonably sensibly by hiring Art Levinson, the world’s best biotech CEO, but what they didn’t do was tell him what to do next. They gave him a job to cure aging, and he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to cure aging, and he knows that he doesn’t have the slightest idea. So, he hired someone who he thought would have an idea how to do it and made him Chief Science Officer. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to make that decision either, so he hired completely the wrong person. He hired a completely inveterate basic scientist, David Botstein, who is a fantastic scientist but who doesn’t understand technology. In fact, he went on record saying that he doesn’t have a translational bone in his body. You don’t get that sort of person to run an outfit that’s supposed to be solving a technological problem. Sure enough, they are doing fantastic research that will understand aging better and better as time goes on over the next century, but they will never, ever, if they follow their current strategy, actually make any kind of difference in how long people can stay healthy and, therefore, how long they can stay alive.

Yuri: Why do so few people have a sense of urgency that we need to do everything possible to combat aging within our lifetimes and not centuries to follow?

Aubrey de Grey: There are two answers to that. The David Botstein answer, the Calico answer, is that they just don’t understand the idea of knowing enough. People who work on basic science understand how to find things out, but that’s all they understand. For them, the best questions to work on are the questions whose answers will simply create new questions. Their purpose in life is to create new questions rather than to use the answers for a humanitarian benefit. They don’t object to humanitarian benefit, but they regard it as not their problem. You can’t change that. Botstein is a fantastic scientist, but he’s in the wrong job.

The other part of your question, why people, in general, do not regard aging with a sense of urgency, has a different answer. People weigh up the desirability and the feasibility. Remember that everyone has been brought up to believe that aging is inevitable, I mean completely inevitable in the sense that stopping it would be like creating perpetual motion. If the probability of doing something about this thing is zero, then the desirability doesn’t matter anymore. So, under that assumption, we really ought to put it out of our minds and get on with our miserably short lives. That’s all we can do.

Yuri: So it’s a case of learned helplessness?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, exactly, it is learned helplessness, and it’s a perfectly reasonable, rational thing to be thinking until a plan comes along that can actually solve the problem: a plan that demonstrates that we actually might be within striking distance of genuinely solving the problem. That only happened quite recently. Of course, I have a huge mountain to climb to persuade people that we have crossed the boundary from this being just a recreational, exploratory field to it being a technological, translational field.

Yuri: Have you had success in the past fifteen years that you’ve been climbing this mountain; have you seen that the public’s perception has greatly improved?

Aubrey de Grey: Absolutely. Things have got hugely easier. I mean, there is a huge amount of the mountain still to climb, but we have climbed a hell of a lot of it. Just the nature of a conversation, the kinds of people who want to hear about this. The way in which credentialed scientists with reputations that they need to protect are willing to embrace this. We could not conceivably have created the scientific advisory board that we have now fifteen or even ten years ago. There are thirty people there who are all world-leading luminaries in their fields, and they are all signed up very explicitly to the ideas that comprehensive damage repair is a thing and that it actually has a good chance of genuinely defeating aging. So, I’ve won the scientific argument.

People are even reinventing the whole idea of comprehensive damage repair and pretending it’s a new idea. Five years ago, there was a paper called “The Hallmarks of Aging” published by five very senior professors in Europe. That paper is saying pretty much exactly what I said eleven years before it. The key difference is that unlike my work, this work is being noticed. In fact, it’s been more than noticed. It’s become the definition of what’s useful work to do. This one paper that was only published 5 years ago has been cited more than 2,000 times already. There’s no question that it’s going to be, by far, the most highly cited paper in the whole of the biology of aging this decade, and it has the same ideas that I put forward the previous decade. So that’s fantastic. I’d like to have more credit, but I really don’t care about that; what I care about is that the idea is now in the mainstream.

Yuri: You mentioned your plan for comprehensive damage repair; could you elaborate a little bit more on what the plan actually is?

Aubrey de Grey: Sure. The idea is to emulate what a mechanic would do to maintain a car. We know that this works; there are cars over a hundred years old that are still running and are doing so just as well as when they were built. We know that they are not doing that because they were designed to last that long; they were probably designed to last only ten years. They’ve vastly exceeded their warranty period, and they’ve done so because of comprehensive damage repair.

The only reason that we can’t do this to the human body already is that the human body has more complexity and more types of damage. However, it’s a manageable amount of complexity. In particular, the big thing that led me through to this route was when I realized back in the year 2000 that we could classify all of the types of damage that the body accumulates into seven major categories, for each of which there’s a generic approach to fixing it.

For example, one of the categories is cell loss, which is when cells are dying and not being automatically replaced by the division of other cells. The repair, of course, is stem cell therapy. We simply put cells into the body that have been pre-programmed into a state where they know what to do to divide and transform themselves into replacements for the cells that the body is not replacing on its own. That’s just one of the seven types of damage that I enumerated, and, of course, that direction is very well advanced. We have hardly ever done any work in stem cells because we didn’t need to; other people are doing all of the work that’s necessary.

The other six categories are more neglected; they are in an earlier stage. That’s why we created the SENS Foundation to push them forward. We’ve been very successful. A number of those things have reached a point where we could actually create a startup company and transfer technology into it, so it would attract investment from the kinds of people I was mentioning earlier who don’t like to give money away.

Yuri: So you’ve created several startups, could you elaborate on the ones that have the most potential?

Aubrey de Grey: They’re all doing pretty well. Let me just focus on one as an illustration: Ichor Therapeutics. Ichor is all about macular degeneration, which is, of course, the number one cause of blindness in the elderly. The category in SENS that it comes under is the accumulation of molecular waste products inside cells. They accumulate in different cells in many different ways. It’s a side effect of their normal operation. Different cells accumulate different types of waste products. One of them is a byproduct of vitamin A that is created in the eye as a side effect of the chemistry of vision, and it poisons cells at the back of the eye called retinal pigmented epithelial cells.

What we’ve done is identify enzymes in bacteria that are able to break down this toxic waste product. If they can break it down, the waste product no longer accumulates. We have identified the genes for these enzymes, and we’ve been able to incorporate them into human cells in such a way that they still work. Ichor is pursuing that, and it will probably soon start clinical trials to pursue this as a cure for macular degeneration later this year. This is dry macular degeneration, the major form in the elderly.

Yuri: Could you tell us about some other startups that you’ve spun out from SENS?

Aubrey de Grey: Sure. Ichor was part of LysoSENS. Another one that we’ve spun off is called AmyloSENS. We’ve got a problem of waste products that accumulate not inside the cells but in the spaces between the cells. In theory, those waste products are easier to get rid of, because they’re inherently easier to break down. The way we do it is by actually getting cells to swallow this stuff, internalize it, and then break it down. There are various ways to trick the immune system into doing that. In the case of Alzheimer’s, this was done some years ago, and it’s already working in clinical trials.

Our focus has been on other types of waste products that are similar to the plaques in Alzheimer’s disease, but they consist of different proteins, and they occur in different tissues. We’ve been able to fund a group in Texas that was able to create some antibodies that could break down the extracellular garbage which is actually the number one killer for really old people, people over the age of 110. That’s now been turned into a company.

Another example is a company that’s being run by the person who used to be our Chief Operating Officer. It’s a company focused on organ preservation. It’s well-known that there’s a huge shortage of organs for transplants. Many thousands of people die every year on waiting lists, just waiting for an organ that is sufficiently immunocompatible for them and that happens to be donated by somebody who dies really nearby. That is a requirement for that organ to be given to the recipient fast enough before it breaks down. We want to solve that transport problem and create whole banks of organs with a variety of immunological profiles. In order to do that, we need to be able to freeze them, but in order to freeze them, we need to develop ways that will not cause damage to the organ in the process of freezing. The company we spun out has got a wonderful new technology that is really good at that.

Yuri: Is that Arigos? The company that uses helium persufflation for cryopreservation?

Aubrey de Grey: That’s the one. You are very well-informed!

Yuri: Can you comment on Human Regeneration Biotechnologies?

Aubrey de Grey: That was our first spin-off, actually. It’s now got a shorter name. It’s called Human Bio, and it’s run and funded by a guy named Jason Hope, who was, for some time, one of our most major donors. He’s now focusing his funding on the company. It was initially created to do something very similar to what we’re doing with Ichor in macular degeneration. In that case, it was for atherosclerosis. The target was not this byproduct of vitamin A; instead, it was oxidized cholesterol, and they have kind of run into the sand a little bit on that. We’re trying to reactivate it right now, but they’ve got other interests as well. They’re working on senolytics, drugs that will kill senescent cells. They are potentially going to be quite a big player in a number of different areas at SENS. At the moment, they are a bit stealthy; they don’t need money, because they are funded by this wealthy guy. They are not going around telling everyone all that much about what they are doing, the way that most of these companies are.

Yuri: What about enzymes that are meant to break glucosepane crosslinks? Is there a startup for that?

Aubrey de Grey: We have funded research on glucosepane at Yale University. We’ve funded that for about 4-5 years now. They had a fantastic publication 2 years ago, where they made a huge breakthrough in this area. Essentially, they first had to be able to make glucosepane in large quantities without a high expense. That was published in Science; that’s our highest-profile publication in any area. It was important because it allowed them to proceed with obvious things, such as identifying enzymes that could break it. That was very successful: they have identified half a dozen enzymes that seem to be promising. For a couple of those enzymes, there’s a pretty good understanding of how they work. Now is the right time to create a company out of that, and that’s exactly what’s happening. That company is a month or two from being incorporated, and its funding is established.

Yuri: Great, so we’ll be on the lookout for an announcement for that company to be spun off.

Aubrey de Grey: It’s going to be called Revel.

Yuri: Ah, let’s hope we can one day revel in its accomplishments.

Aubrey de Grey: That’s right!

Yuri: We might have gotten a bit too deep into science for a casual reader. Maybe we can step back and you could elaborate on what you think actually causes aging? I know there are different schools of thought on that in the scientific community so maybe you can share your perspective?

Aubrey de Grey: I get rather sick of this question, actually. You know, there’s nothing that “causes” aging. What causes the aging of a car? You wouldn’t ask that question: you know that that’s a stupid question. All I really want to tell you is that the aging of a living organism is no different fundamentally than the aging of an inanimate machine like a car or an airplane. Therefore, questions like “What causes aging?” are no more sensible for a living organism than they are for a car.

Yuri: If the underlying causes of aging are the same for all organisms, why do you think there’s such a big difference in lifespan between different species: some live for just a few months, while others for centuries?

Aubrey de Grey: The analogy with inanimate machines like cars works perfectly well there too. Some cars are designed to last 50 years, like Land Rovers, for example, but most cars are only designed to last 10 years. It’s just the same for living organisms. Some living organisms have evolved to age more slowly. A perfectly good question is what causes evolution to create this disparity? Some species in a particular ecological niche, say, at the top of the food chain have an evolutionary imperative to age slowly, whereas species that get eaten a lot don’t need to have good anti-aging defenses built into them. That’s really the basis for why there is this variation in the rate of aging across the living world.

Yuri: The more interesting question is when will humanity actually conquer aging?

Aubrey de Grey: It all depends on how rapidly research goes, and that depends on money. Which is why when people ask me, “What can I do today to maximize my chances of living healthy and for a long time?” I tell them to write me a large check. It’s the only thing one can do right now. The situation right now is that everything we have today – no matter how many books are written about this or that diet or whatever – is that basically, we have nothing over and above just doing what your mother told you: in other words, not smoking, not getting seriously overweight, and having a balanced diet. If you adhere to the obvious stuff, you are doing pretty much everything that we can do today. The additional amount that you can get from just any kind of supplement regime, diet, or whatever is tiny. The thing to do is hasten the arrival of therapy for the betterment of what we have today. That’s where the check comes in.

Yuri: Some people probably couldn’t afford to write a sizable check; maybe they can do something else?

Aubrey de Grey: What I always say in relation to that is that the poorer you are, the more people you know who are richer than you. Therefore, the less you can do in terms of writing your own check, the more you can do in terms of persuading other people to write checks.

Yuri: So it’s activism, being vocal about aging research?

Aubrey de Grey: Absolutely. It’s activism and advocacy: it’s all about spreading the word and raising the level of people’s understanding of the fact that aging is the world’s biggest problem.

Yuri: Do you see any increase in funding for longevity research over the past 10 years?

Aubrey de Grey: Things have certainly improved. I mean, there’s more money coming into the foundation, a little bit more money, but there’s a lot more money coming into the private sector, into the companies I mentioned and other companies that have emerged in parallel with us. The overall funding for rejuvenation biotechnology has increased a lot in the past few years, and we need it to increase a lot more. The private sector can’t do everything, not yet, anyway. There will come a time when SENS Research Foundation will be able to declare victory and say, “Listen, everything that needs to be done is being done well enough in the private sector that we no longer need to exist.” For the moment, that’s not true. For the moment, there are still quite a few areas in SENS that are at the pre-investable stage where only philanthropy will allow them to progress to the point where they are investable.

Yuri: It’s great to hear that there is money coming into SENS because from what I understand, there was a time when you had to use your own money to fund the foundation, is that correct?

Aubrey de Grey: That’s right. I inherited 16.5 million dollars of which I donated 13 million. That was back in 2012 before we had any projects that we could spin out into companies. That inheritance was very timely, but the point is that I would still do it even now. If my mother died today, I’d probably do the same thing, because the foundation is still the engine room of the industry. For the foundation, it’s kind of double aid. The more progress we make, the more credible the whole idea becomes, which, of course, improves our ability to bring in money. We are also creating new opportunities where you can invest rather than donate, so it’s kind of a disincentive to donate. There’s a balance there. Of course, every donor is different; some donors are more philanthropically inclined than others.

Yuri: From what I understand, you’ve had some high-profile donors like Peter Thiel who’s been supporting the foundation for a number of years. Is he still a supporter?

Aubrey de Grey: Peter started supporting us in 2006, 12 years ago. He’s actually pretty much phased out now. I understand that. Ultimately, he’s much more comfortable with investing than donating. He wanted to be sure that we’re actually creating something, and sure enough, we are. We speak all the time to his investment advisors, who focus on investment opportunities in the biotech sector, especially in the anti-aging sector. I’m sure that he will continue to contribute financially to this field, though the contributions are quite likely to be focused more on the companies rather than the foundation.

One way in which Peter is donating indirectly right now is that he funded Vitalik Buterin four years ago as a Thiel Fellow under the 20 Under 20 program. That was how and where Vitalik created Ethereum, which of course made Vitalik very wealthy, and Vitalik donated 2.5 million dollars to us a few months ago. He is very much philanthropically inclined. So, Peter is still donating to us by proxy.

Yuri: What about his PayPal co-founder, Elon Musk? Has Peter ever connected you two or maybe you spoke to Elon yourself?

Aubrey de Grey: I have indeed met Elon many years ago, probably 10 years ago. I haven’t met him recently. In general, I think it’s quite unlikely that Elon will get heavily involved in this just because he’s got other things to focus on. It’s a bit like Bill Gates, though in the opposite direction. Bill Gates has pretty much explicitly said that his priority is to help the disadvantaged. He’s much more interested in mosquito nets in sub-Saharan Africa and less interested in people who already have advantages. Elon is kind of at the other end of the spectrum. He is more of a “toys for boys” kind of guy. He’s more interested in space travel and solar energy and so on. The thing is I don’t want to take money away from either one of those two people. I think that both of them are doing fantastic work that really matters for humanity. There are plenty of other people, such as Peter Thiel, who are in the middle, who do understand the enormous value of defeating aging, and who have the vision to understand who is likely to be able to do it, so I don’t want to distract either Elon or Bill from what they’re already doing.

Yuri: Do you think Elon might be moving in a somewhat different direction of mind uploading for circumventing aging?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes and no. I kind of pay attention to what he is doing with Neuralink and what people like Bryan Johnson are doing with Kernel. I am closely connected with those groups. I know a lot of people in that space. At the end of the day, I think they know as well as I do that it’s very, very speculative. Ways in which we might transfer our consciousness, our personality to different hardware, while still satisfying ourselves that we are genuinely the same person after the transfer rather than just creating a new person – those are pretty speculative ideas. There is a long way to go to make them even slightly comparable to something that competes with medical research.

Yuri: So you think that mind uploading, even if theoretically possible, is still far off in the future as something feasible?

Aubrey de Grey: It’s always dangerous these days to say that such and such technology is definitely not going to be developed until some particular number of years in the future. At some point, people said that the game of Go would never fall to a computer, but then AlphaGo came along. However, it is a certainty that the distance that we have to go is much larger in the case of mind uploading than in the case of the boring “wet approach” of medical research.

Yuri: Speaking of AlphaGo and AI, some researchers in the aging space are working AI as a kind of proxy to help us solve biology. What do you think about that approach?

Aubrey de Grey: There is definitely an intersection there. I actually know a lot of people who are at the cutting edge of AI research. I actually know Demis Hassabis, the guy who runs DeepMind, from when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge several years after me. We’ve kept in touch and try to connect every so often. I think it’s reasonable to view these things as very linked. I certainly agree with you that there are some AI researchers who are working on AI precisely because they don’t trust people like me to get the job done by the “wet approach”. That’s fine; they may be right, and if they are right, I’ll be just as happy for them to save my life rather than me saving their lives.

Yuri: Do you think we’re close to having AI help us with biology, or do you think it’s still years away?

Aubrey de Grey: There are some medical AI startups that are looking at ways to use machine learning against aging. One of the most prominent is InSilico Medicine led by Alex Zhavoronkov, which is largely focused on identifying drugs that can work in particular ways. It’s a very important area. I’m sure that we will use AI a lot in medical research in general. Whether we will go as far as supplanting medical research with the mind uploading approach, that’s a different question altogether.

Yuri: One of your most famous quotes is that you think that a person who will live for over 1,000 years has already been born. Do you still think so and what are the chances for, say, a 50-year-old person today to reach what you call Longevity Escape Velocity?

Aubrey de Grey: I certainly think what I used to think, and it is indeed as a result of the concept of the longevity escape velocity. I do not believe that even within the next hundred years, we’re likely to develop therapies that can completely 100% succeed in repairing all the damage that body does to itself in the course of its normal operation. I do believe that we have a very good chance within the next 20-25 years of fixing most of that damage, and most are good enough because it buys time to fix a bit more and then a bit more. The reason it buys time because the body is set up to tolerate having a certain amount of damage without significantly declining function. I think we’ve got a very good chance of getting to that point while we are staying one step ahead of the problem by improving the comprehensiveness of the therapies faster than time is passing.

Yuri: So that is essentially the definition of Longevity Escape Velocity, right?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, to be precise, Longevity Escape Velocity is the minimum rate at which we will need to improve the comprehensiveness of these therapies subsequent to the point where we get the first ones working so they get us a couple of decades of extra life. The good news is that longevity escape velocity goes down with time, because the more we can repair, the longer it takes for the stuff we can’t repair to become problematic.

Yuri: If you had unlimited funding, how long do you think it would take for us to reach Longevity Escape Velocity or the technology necessary for it?

Aubrey de Grey: It’s actually pretty difficult to answer that question because the amount of funding is kind of self-fulfilling. Every increment of progress that we achieve makes the whole idea more credible, makes more people more interested, and makes it easier to bring in the money to make the next step. I think that, at the moment, unlimited funding could probably let us increase our rate of progress by a factor of three, but that does not mean that we will change the time to get to Longevity Escape Velocity by a factor of three, because when we get even a little bit closer to it, it will be easier to get money, and that factor of three will come down. I think that right now, if we got like a billion dollars in the bank, then, in the next year, we would probably do the same amount of work and make the same amount of progress that we would otherwise make in the next three years. In the year after that, only two years of progress, and in the year after that, only a year and a half, and so on. What that adds up to is that if I got a billion dollars today, we would probably bring forward the defeat of aging by about 10 years. And it’s a lot of lives, maybe 400 million lives.

Yuri: Yes, given that 100,000 people die per day from aging-related causes, it’s a lot of lives.

Aubrey de Grey: Yup.

Yuri: So, you said, “if I had a billion in the bank”. The Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative – they said they are prepared to spend 3 billion dollars to eradicate all diseases by 2099. Maybe they can set aside 1 billion for your work. Did you ever communicate with them?

Aubrey de Grey: All I can say is that my email address is not very difficult to find online. No, we have not been in talks, and they have not made it easy for us to get in touch with them.

Yuri: That’s disappointing, especially given your close geographic proximity and the fact that you probably have an overlapping social and professional network.

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, it is very disappointing. Of course, you can argue that it’s not quite as disappointing as the situation with Calico. Because in the case of Calico we are talking about people with equally deep pockets who have known me for 15 years and who have already decided that aging itself is a thing to target. Zuckerberg, first of all, he never met me, God knows how much he knows about what we even do. Certainly, none of the pronouncements from the Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative indicate that they even understand that aging is a medical problem. They may have a long way to get to the point of even considering this.

Yuri: Yes, they do use some odd phrasing, speaking about “eradicating all diseases”, considering that all age-related diseases have one root cause – the aging process.

Aubrey de Grey: This is part of the problem. People simply should not be using the word “disease” for age-related diseases. The fact is that if a medical condition is age-related, then it’s part of aging, as it mainly affects people who have been born a long time ago. That means that it shouldn’t be described using the terminology that makes people think that it’s a bit like infection. People will often tell each other that I say that aging is a disease or a collection of diseases. But that’s completely wrong: I say the exact opposite. I say that not only should the word “disease” not be broadened to include aging, it should be narrowed to exclude the so-called diseases of old age.

Yuri: So that would be cancer, Alzheimer’s and all kinds of heart conditions…

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, and atherosclerosis, everything that’s bad for people who have been born a long time ago but that very rarely, if ever, affects people in young adulthood.

Yuri: So would you call Alzheimer’s a pathology then? If it’s not a disease?

Aubrey de Grey: I would call it part of aging. The problem is the idea of carving up little bits of aging, pretending that they are separate from each other. They’re not; they’re all parts of – consequences of – a lifelong accumulation of damage.

Yuri: Interesting. There’s been quite a large ongoing effort among the aging research advocacy community to persuade WHO to include aging as a disease in its International Classification of Diseases.

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, it seems to be going quite well, and I am very pleased to see that this effort is being led by some Russians: Daria Khaltourina, who is very much Russian, and by Ilia Stambler, who is from Israel but of Russian extraction. Again, the Russians seem to “get it” much easier than most people and it’s very heartening to me.

Yuri: Do you support this inclusion of aging into ICD as a separate disease?

Aubrey de Grey: The ICD is a little bit different. The “D” in the ICD stands for disease, but the purpose of the ICD is to determine which things medicine should be attacking. It really should be the IC of “medical conditions”. We should be distinguishing medical conditions that are extrinsic, such as infections, from the ones that are intrinsic consequences of being alive, that are age-related. I believe that it would be better if we did that by using different words, but medical conditions of old age are medical conditions, and they ought to be listed in the ICD.

Yuri: I see. Thanks for clarifying! Can I ask you about your new role with Michael West at AgeX and BioTime?

Aubrey de Grey: Michael West and I have been friends for 20 years, and, of course, we have very closely aligned goals in life. We’ve never been able to work together in a formal capacity until now, but we’ve been very much mutual admirers. I’ve always looked up to Mike as someone who, way before anyone else, did something that I thought was impossible with the creation of an actual gerontology research company, as was the case with Geron 20 years ago. He’s done it three times by now: Geron, then Advanced Cell Technology, and now with BioTime.

AgeX is a new subsidiary of BioTime that is about to be floated independently on the stock market. The goal, of course, is very much our goal: damage repair. The area that AgeX is focusing on is stem cells. There are two main themes within AgeX. One of them is stem cell therapy in the normal sense: in other words, injecting stem cells. The particular differentiator that AgeX and BioTime have is the ability to create particularly pure populations of a particular type of stem cells, ones that will only do what you want them to do – they are lineage committed in a particular way. That’s something that other organizations don’t have the ability to do nearly so well, and it’s very important; you want to be able to give the people the type of stem cells they need and not give them the other ones in the wrong place, which might do damage. That’s one side.

The other side of AgeX, which is at a much earlier stage of development, so you shouldn’t be looking out for any products on the basis of this yet, is induced stemness. In other words, it’s giving an organism not stem cells per se but rather reagents that would cause cells already in the body to revert a little bit, become more stem-like and be more able to regenerate the tissues. We already have one compound that has this effect, but we have lots and lots more work to do that will allow this to be done safely and effectively.

Yuri: Is this based on Michael West’s work in planarians, axolotls and other animals that demonstrate the ability to regenerate lost limbs even in adulthood?

Aubrey de Grey: No, not really. Certainly, we pay attention to the regenerative capacity of lower organisms, but the main focus of AgeX’s work is on what happens in early development in mammals, particularly the phase change that happens during early development, which we call the embryonic-fetal transition. It’s a little bit imprecise; we are still characterizing it, and there’s still work to do and stuff to be understood. Basically, what happens is that over a relatively short period of time during development, there is a change in the level of expression in a number of genes; some of them go up, and some go down. The particular change that happens across the entire embryo seems to coincide with – and we think it’s causally related with – the loss of regenerative capacity. In other words, before this transition, a particular type of injury to the embryo is entirely reversed by regeneration, whereas after this transaction, the same type of injury is not reversed, it’s rather patched up with scarring. That’s what happens in the adult as well. We believe that this is very indicative of something that’s going on across the whole body and that has a close relationship with the decline in regenerative capacity and repair capacity against various problems within aging.

Yuri: Is that the COX7A1 gene that was described in a paper in conjunction with Alex Zhavoronkov?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, COX7A1 is one of the genes that change expression during the embryonic-fetal transition. We do not yet know, or at least we’re not sure, whether it plays a causal role or whether it’s just a marker. We are definitely looking quite a lot at other genes that also change, but COX7A1 is the one we focused on first and most at this point, basically just because it has the sharpest transition in the cell types that we studied so far.

Yuri: Would gene therapy be the vehicle to deliver to the body a way to modulate that gene?

Aubrey de Grey: It might be. Exactly what you do depends on which cell types you decide matter the most in expressing or not expressing a gene and in terms of what gene you want to express. Yes, we might do it with gene therapy. Of course, there are different types of gene therapy. For example, if you want to knock a gene down, you can do RNA interference, which is something that doesn’t involve integrating a new gene into the cell’s DNA. If you want to knock a gene up, you can sometimes also do it by RNA interference, because you can sometimes find the genes that antagonize the gene you want to knock up. If you knock down the gene that antagonizes the gene you want to knock up, then it happens indirectly. There are lots of tricks that are specific to the details of the genetic network, but in general, we would want to manipulate the level of expression and effectiveness of certain genes that change during the embryonic-fetal transition.

Yuri: Can I ask you about a different potential gene therapy, for example, partial reprogramming using Yamanaka factors? Do you think it has any potential as a systemic anti-aging therapy?

Aubrey de Grey: This is the idea that’s actually very similar to what I just described when I talked about the idea of restoration of stemness that we are pursuing at AgeX. Mostly, we don’t know which way is going to work better. We believe that we have a priority in terms of intellectual property, which, of course, is important for investors, but that’s not my problem; I’m focusing on the science.

Obviously, we don’t know which way is going to work best. There are lots of possibilities. The guys who pioneered the idea of partial reprogramming in vivo – there’s a group in Spain led by Manuel Serrano, who is someone I know very well; he’s spoken at one or two of our conferences in Cambridge. He’s a great guy doing a number of other really useful things; he’s got a brilliant new innovation in terms of killing senescent cells as well, which is a completely different area of SENS, of course. More recently, someone in San Diego named Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte developed a similar technique that he was able to make work, and his technique involved the intermittent inducible expression of the Yamanaka factors. Essentially, what will determine which of these approaches is the best is not just how well it works but how much harm it does, because there is always a possibility with these things that you will cause cells to become more regenerative that you wished were less regenerative, such as cancer cells, and we need to find a way to control that. It’s possible that AgeX will be able to do this better by using different genes.

Yuri: Okay, great. The reason I knew about Arigos earlier is that I am a big proponent of cryonics. I wanted to ask about your views on cryonics and whether you would personally consider it for yourself?

Aubrey de Grey: Cryonics in general – my position is well known. I’ve been a member of Alcor and a member of its scientific advisory board for 16 years now. I am definitely a very strong supporter. I think that it’s an absolute tragedy that cryonics is still such a backwater publicly and that a large majority of people still believe that it has no chance of ever working. Complete nonsense! If people understood it better, there would be more research done to develop better cryopreservation technologies, and more people would have a chance at life.

The question is what can we do to make cryonics work really well? I certainly don’t have a strong philosophical position with regard to what kinds of revival constitute actual revival and what kinds constitute creating a totally new person from information that you got from the old person. I am not a philosopher, so don’t ask me about that. My personal inclination is that if I have to be cryopreserved at all, and I hope not to be just like any cryonicist, then I prefer to be woken up by being warmed up rather than by being rebuilt from some kind of information restored from slicing and scanning my original brain. Therefore, I am really interested in improving the cryopreservation process: in other words, reducing the amount of damage that is inflicted by the process of cryopreservation and therefore would need to be repaired for successful reanimation; of course, this is along with the damage that the body already had that led to it getting declared legally dead in the first place. Arigos, with its helium persufflation approach, is, in my mind, a massive breakthrough, a breakthrough even bigger than vitrification, which was made 20 or so years ago by Greg Fahy and his peers at 21st Century Medicine when they identified a rather elaborate cocktail of cryoprotectants called M22 that allows biological material of any size to be cryopreserved without any crystallization at all. It eliminated over 90% of the damage that cryopreservation would hitherto have done to biological tissues. After that, it had become the standard of care at Alcor, the Cryonics Institute, KrioRus, and elsewhere.

We need more because the fact is that we still got a lot of cracking that happens – large-scale fracturing – and we’ve also got the toxicity of cryoprotectants, which is mild but non-trivial. Persufflation appears to solve both of these problems pretty much 100% by pumping helium through the vasculature, thereby stopping cracks from propagating, and cooling so much faster that you can vastly lower the concentration of cryoprotectants and still get no crystallization.

Yuri: Did you work with Greg Fahy or Mike Darwin at all on this technology?

Aubrey de Grey: I don’t work with any of these people, but I certainly talk to them. I am not sure what Mike Darwin has done, but Greg, as far as I know, had no work with persufflation itself. Obviously, he pioneered vitrification, but persufflation is something that was first explored in the Soviet Union, I don’t know exactly where, decades ago. Rather like parabiosis, it’s an area that was explored in the Soviet Union and then fell into neglect, and then everyone forgot about it for a long time, and then people in California found out about it and started to do something. The big innovation that Arigos has introduced was using helium, which has a number of advantages for cryonics purposes, but we are definitely building on what was originally done in the Soviet Union.

Certainly, Greg Fahy has been involved in the conversation. He has been advising a lot, and my current understanding is that he is very optimistic about the promise of persufflation, which tells a lot about Greg. The fact is that if persufflation works as well as it’s probably going to work, it’s going to blow Greg’s last 20 years of work out of the water. It takes a lot of honor.

Yuri: Absolutely; Greg is an amazing scientist and human being. I think for him, just as for you, it’s all about defeating aging first, and everything else is secondary. In any case, do you have any other cryonics research planned as part of SENS or Arigos?

Aubrey de Grey: Not as part of SENS, but, of course, I talk to all these people all the time. Something that you might be aware of, which happened very recently, was that Alcor received a very large donation of 5 million dollars specifically for research from Brad Armstrong, one of the people who made plenty of money on cryptocurrencies.

Yuri: It’s great to see crypto millionaires donating money to longevity research.

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, 5 million dollars is a hell of a lot of money for research in cryonics compared to what’s been available up until now. I am actively helping Max More, CEO of Alcor, to decide how to spend it.

Yuri: That’s great to hear. Maybe we’ll get some research done on the restoration of brain activity after cryopreservation. I know that Greg Fahy has done some prior work on assessing LTP preservation, but it’s probably outside of the scope of our interview.

Switching topics, there’s a lot of talk about the biohacking community lately, and a lot of people call themselves biohackers these days. Some claim that taking supplements or working out qualifies as biohacking. Do you consider yourself a biohacker; do you take any supplements or nootropics like Ray Kurzweil or Dave Asprey or do anything else that could be considered as biohacking?

Aubrey de Grey: I don’t take any supplements; I don’t do anything special with my lifestyle. I am not saying that that’s my recommendation for other people. My situation is very strongly that I am prepared to listen to my body. I know that I am just a lucky guy. I am genetically built so that my aging is slow, and I am fortunate enough to have been tested for a total of five times now over the past 15 years; they’ve measured 150 different things in my blood and did all manner of physiological and cognitive tests. I always come out really well, way younger than I actually am, so I should be conservative: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I eat and drink what I like, and nothing happens. I will pay attention to the situation when it changes, but it’s not changing yet. There’s a couple of things that I do that are bad for my health, especially the fact that I travel so much that I am not getting enough sleep. I think I’ve been coping with that so far as well, and, of course, the reason I do this is to hasten the defeat of aging with all the work that I do. Maybe it’s a net win. The bottom line is that I’m lucky.

I don’t say that Ray Kurzweil is being dumb in doing what he’s doing. On the contrary, Ray is one of the unlucky people; he came down with Type 2 diabetes in his 30s, and his family has had a lot of cardiovascular problems. It probably makes sense for him to be taking all of these supplements in order to largely normalize his rate of aging. For somebody whose rate is normal or better, there’s no evidence that taking supplements could actually have any benefit.

Yuri: What about the cognitive enhancers that Dave Asprey is recommending? Have you ever found anything that works or that you have considered trying?

Aubrey de Grey: No, I let my brain do what it normally does. Even for jet lag or needing to go to sleep, I don’t need these things. I can get to sleep whenever I am tired, whatever time of day it is. I occasionally thought it might be good to have a stash of modafinil just to be able to get through times when I need to stay awake for a long time, but I managed to work my way around those periods, so I haven’t done that either.

Yuri: Maybe your brain is already overactive – I read that you do math problems for fun, and what was this preprint that you published that made a splash in the media?

Aubrey de Grey: I’ve always played with maths for fun. I am reasonably good with certain types of maths, especially those that don’t need too much background knowledge because I don’t even have a degree in maths like graph theory or combinatorics. Yes, earlier this year, I got lucky and made some progress on a very famous long-standing maths problem called the Hadwiger-Nelson problem, and that got a bit of attention. The thing that strikes me the most about all that is that a number of people said, “I always thought Aubrey de Grey was a bit of a lunatic and never paid any attention to what he said about aging, but now that he made progress in this maths problem, he’s obviously smart, so now I will pay attention to what he says about aging.” I think that’s the most fucked-up logic you can possibly imagine, but I’ll take it.

Yuri: From what I understand, despite your background in computer science and no formal training in biology, you actually also have a Ph.D. in biology for your work in mitochondrial respiration back in the 1990s. Is that correct?

Aubrey de Grey: Yes, that’s correct. I benefited from the fact that I’d done my undergraduate degree fifteen years earlier in Cambridge. Of course, that was in computer science, but there’s a system at Cambridge where if you do your undergrad degree there, then you don’t have to be a Ph.D. student to get a Ph.D. from Cambridge. You can just submit published work, it gets evaluated like a dissertation, and you do a thesis defense. Mitochondrial respiration was probably the first area in biology that I got interested in and that I was invited to write a book about, so I did. It included the material for the first six papers of mine, and that’s what I ultimately got my Ph.D. for.

Yuri: It seems that the mitochondrial theory of aging was all the rage back then but has lost a lot of its appeal over the past two decades.

Aubrey de Grey: Yeah, that’s a problem. The reasons why things move in and out of fashion in a biological field are often overly superficial. Nothing’s really changed. Twenty years ago, people were overly breathless about mitochondria and free radicals, and they were neglecting the importance of the shortcomings of those theories, which my first couple of papers helped to repair. I pointed out that you can’t just say “mitochondrial mutations matter because free radicals matter.” You’ve got to flesh it out, and I did flesh it out in a way that nobody else had bothered to do.

Conversely, what happened more recently is that people have swung the other way, saying “there’s various new evidence that free radicals don’t matter, therefore game over.” Again, they are being overly simplistic in the opposite direction. In fact, what this new evidence shows is that certain, particularly simplistic, versions of the free radical theory of aging are not true, but people like me who actually pay attention knew that all along. For me, nothing’s really changed.

Yuri: You make an excellent point that there seems to be some kind of fashion in the field of biology in general or aging research in particular. I wonder why; is it just human nature to jump on the bandwagon and reject all other ideas, or is it groupthink? What is it about science?

Aubrey de Grey: In science, I would say it’s even worse than groupthink. It’s not a question of people just being sheep because they can’t think for themselves. Scientists can think for themselves. The problem in science is that people are forced to follow fashion in order to get money, whether it’s in the form of a grant application, funding, getting promoted, or tenure, which is appalling, because the whole point of science is to go against the grain, to be in the minority of one as often as possible, and to find things out that people didn’t know before. However, the way that the scientific career structure these days actually works opposes that. It’s a tragedy.

Yuri: Indeed, the incentives for going against the grain seem to be misaligned. Is there any way to mitigate this?

Aubrey de Grey: The only solution is to throw a lot more money at science so that people can be career scientists in a way that they used to be 200 years ago when no scientists were without patrons, wealthy noblemen who kept them as pets. They were getting stuff done, and they didn’t have to worry about justifying how they were getting stuff done.

Yuri: Well, let’s hope some philanthropically inclined wealthy noblemen hear you and create more fellowships. Okay, final, semi-serious question: once humanity does reach negligible senescence, what would that do to relationships, family institutions, marriage, and children?

Aubrey de Grey: Nothing at all. The only things that would happen as a result of increased longevity are simply the continuation of societal changes that have already been occurring over the past century. What I see is that as people live longer and stay healthy longer, there’s a rapid increase in the number of divorces, the number of people who have multiple relationships over their lives, and it’s just going to be a continuation of that. It’s not interesting.

Yuri: And overpopulation is never going to be an issue, right?

Aubrey de Grey: This is the one that everybody is worried about, but it’s just so silly that people worry about it. I’ve been saying this since forever – and nobody contradicts my answer, they just ignore it – the answer is that the carrying capacity of the planet, the number of people it can sustain without a problematic amount of environmental impact, is going to go up much faster than the population can possibly go up even if we completely eliminated all death. It’s going to go up as a result of renewable energy, artificial meat, desalination, and all those things. It’s just so painfully obvious, and I’ve been saying this in so many interviews and so many talks, and people just ignore it. I think the only reason people are ignoring my answer is because they need to. They need to carry on believing that aging is a blessing in disguise and thus be able to put it out of their minds, get on with their miserably short lives, and not get emotionally invested in the rate of progress that we will make.

Yuri: Well, let’s hope we can shake them out of their learned helplessness in the face of death and aging.

Aubrey de Grey: Absolutely.

Yuri: Great, thank you so much for this interview! I really look forward to seeing you in Moscow soon and discussing some of these issues in person as well as hearing about your latest achievements in the fight against humanity’s biggest problem!

Aubrey de Grey: Indeed! Thanks so much, Yuri, it’s been great.

Yuri Deigin is a serial entrepreneur and an expert in drug development and venture investments in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Yuri brings almost a decade of drug discovery and development experience from his previous role in a biotech startup where he oversaw research and development of original medicines aimed at treating diseases like Alzheimer’s and rheumatoid arthritis. Yuri has a track record of not only raising over $20 million for his previous ventures but also initiating and overseeing 4 clinical trials and several pre-clinical studies, including studies in transgenic mice. He also has experience in pharmaceutical product launch, promotion, manufacturing, and supply-chain management. Since 2013 Yuri also serves as a vice-president of the non-profit Foundation “Science for Life Extension” whose goal is the popularization of the fight against age-related diseases. To further this cause, Yuri frequently blogs, speaks, writes op-ed pieces, and participates in various TV and radio shows. Yuri holds a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School. Yuri is the CEO of biotech company Youthereum Genetics.

Head in the Clouds – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

Head in the Clouds – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

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R. Nicholas Starr


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party has published this perspective from R. Nicholas Starr as part of the ongoing discussion about the interaction of transhumanism with other ideological frameworks, such as libertarianism and socialism. Prior perspectives in this discussion include Zoltan Istvan’s article, “Transhumanism is Under Siege from Socialism“, and B.J. Murphy’s response, “Why the Transhumanist Movement Needs Socialism“. The U.S. Transhumanist Party remains committed to the principle of transpartisanship, which means we will neither embrace any conventional political ideology, nor distance ourselves from people who hold such ideologies but wish to constructively contribute to our endeavors. Nonetheless, our inextricable embeddedness in the world of contemporary political discourse does render unavoidable the discussion of these ideologies and any logical relationships and tensions. It is hoped that such discussions can proceed in a constructive manner whereby various perspectives can be expressed and perhaps result in some creative, unconventional solutions that would further expand our movement, rather than fracturing it, and establish grounds for fruitful collaboration on endeavors that advance the next great era of our civilization. 

Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Starr’s article? Post your thoughts in the Comments section below. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 29, 2018


TL;DR – If transhumanism is to grow and gain momentum, we need to distance ourselves from libertarian elitism, and Altered Carbon shows us why.

In Zoltan Istvan’s most recent article (1) he presents, in my opinion, a misguided argument on how the transhumanist movement is breaking from its libertarian roots and morphing into a hard-left socialist agenda. When did this partisan prerequisite appear, and how has the party changed?

Zoltan Istvan’s sensational 2016 Presidential campaign brought a lot of attention to transhumanism. If it weren’t for his dramatic tour across America in a coffin bus, preaching about immortality, morphological freedom, and other transhumanist virtues, we would have never attracted the large diversity of members to the party we have today. With the vision of using science and technology to improve the human condition, we have come together to lift humanity up, not to pull it to the left or right. To bring this vision to life, we need our leadership to embrace and act on the input of all members, not just the libertarian progenitors. This is something that current transhumanist party chairman Gennady Stolyarov II, the person Istvan himself selected to lead the party as he made his departure, has done a great job with. 

Since Stolyarov took the reins, he has created an environment where every member can voice an opinion and suggest policy planks. These planks are then voted on by the entire party, giving the members direct control over its course and message. If the party going in a different direction than before, it is because the members have made the informed decision to do so, and its leadership is acting on their votes. Suggesting that transhumanists reject member input because of a perceived socialist invasion is a slap in the face of the democratic process and deters prospective members. It’s also contrary to a science-based organization.

Perception is veiled in opinion and personal bias, and humans too easily fall into its many traps. But an organization building its platform on evidence-based policy needs to stick to hard data. The available information simply doesn’t support the notion that the goals of transhumanists are changing. An analysis of the party’s Constitution (2), which contains all voting data embedded within it, provides the only measurable data available, at least as far as the American organization is concerned. Simply reading opinion pieces from the handful of us with an outlet to do so isn’t enough to suggest a radical change is on the horizon. However what could be changing are the methods of achieving these goals. This can likely be attributed to the current sociopolitical climate. As a political organization working to improve lives, we need to tailor our message to show how a future-focused message can also address their needs for today. Failing to do so leads many to view transhumanism as out of touch.

We should also consider the impact of the radical life-extension platform, the preeminent transhuman subject, and how it impacts the narrative. To be blunt, transhumanists need to tone down the rhetoric on life extension. When a large portion of Americans can’t even afford basic healthcare or life-saving prescriptions, it is incredibly callous to suggest they should be investing in radical life extension. Modern medicine has already taken huge strides in extending human life anyways, and it will continue to do so. Anyone who ignores these two facts to proselytize immortality is begging to be made a fool. To then double down and suggest that billionaires will buy into the immortality market and save us all is callow and turns a blind eye to history. No wonder many fear that only the elite will achieve immortality. We’ve never shown them how it could be accessible to them. What they have seen are countless selfish acts by sci/tech industry leaders that tear down the average citizen while building up their bank accounts. 

Zuckerberg, Bezos, Shkreli, and Trump are all current documentable examples of how the ultra-rich have publicly exploited Americans for personal and professional gain. Consumers have every right to be skeptical of corporate motives when they have been given overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing by many in those positions. And while we certainly can’t paint every tycoon with the same brush, we also can’t blindly put our trust in them. It would be foolhardy to let a handful of CEOs determine the course of future civilization without deep analysis of every product and policy they create. The libertarian opinion that “the market” will some how regulate these corporations or “generous donations” will provide all the public needs is a fantasy, especially when it comes to bleeding-edge science, medicine, and technology. Pride, greed, and ego are too easy a pit to fall into when exploring uncharted territory. To combat this there must be unrelenting third-party accountability, lest we have a world led by Bancrofts with their Heads in the Clouds. 

Richard Morgan’s novel Altered Carbon provides a perfect allegory for this situation. The entire Bancroft family are precise examples of how many see transhumanism becoming. The novel depicts a world where the ultra-rich can live forever and act without impunity simply because they can afford to do so. Even more to the point, it shows us how the wealthy use philanthropy as a means to pad their own egos. Laurens Bancroft’s humanitarian efforts to assist the plague colony are nothing short of self-aggrandizing. Distributing blankets and candy are nice things to do for victims, but they do nothing to solve the actual problem of their illness. He’s so rich that he can even afford to repeatedly resleeve himself after making himself a martyr to their plight. Nevertheless he is worshipped as a god for doing this. He could surely afford to do so much more to end their suffering by bringing them out of the shadows to get 24-hour medical care until they find a cure, or even resleeve them entirely, but he has decided a minute’s smile on their faces is enough because it’s more than anyone else is doing. This is precisely how Americans today feel about tech moguls like Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos. They have made billions turning human beings into nothing more than data and dollars signs. But all is assumed forgiven when Zuckerberg announces he is funding a “biohub” in San Francisco, a city where a staggering yearly income of $105,000 is considered low-income and his own employees are asking for help with rent (3), to develop lifesaving tools. It doesn’t take much effort to determine that this is just another money-making venture, as these are all investments he expects a return on and not outright grants. And if the biohub is successful, who will be able to afford to us the products? Amazon’s Bezos has done even less, placating followers on Twitter (4), only to turn around and bully the city of Seattle out of helping the homeless by the tune of 0.042% of Amazon’s yearly income (5,6). So when a libertarian says, “Don’t worry, the rich won’t let you down,” or “The market will correct this,” it immediately triggers justifiable skepticism and fear among the millions struggling to make ends meet. We shouldn’t hang the lives of millions on a hook of hopes and dreams. That isn’t how government, business, or real life work. A tangible and socially responsible plan is required. But while I think the fiscal libertarian position is folly, we do gain some positive aspects from libertarianism.

Social libertarianism is what I see transhumanism is truly built around. An inherent right to bodily autonomy and self-determination are the pillars that hold the rest of the transhumanist platform up. These also happen to be major components of liberal and 21st-century socialist politics. For example, reproductive rights and morphological freedom are born from the same philosophy. Free and accessible medical care enables life extension for all. Free and continued education is what allows the population to think critically and make informed decisions. We can’t create science-based policy if only a handful understand the science involved! So when self-appointed spokesmen claim that transhumanism isn’t compatible with left-wing goals because of an partisan line they drew in the sand, I have to seriously question their motives and good judgement. It’s divisive and counterproductive to positive change that any sociopolitical movement wishes to achieve. If we truly want to avoid the assorted dystopias science fiction has presented to us, then we must all heed the warnings and take actionable steps to mitigate the risk. If that falls into what some would call a socialist agenda, then fine. But for the record, I don’t see this as socialism; I see it as being an empathetic human being who wants to use science to help everyone. And that’s not a bad thing.

1- Istvan, Zoltan. Transhumanism is Under Siege from Socialism“. July 18, 2018. Available at https://www.themaven.net/transhumanistwager/transhumanism/transhumanism-is-under-siege-from-socialism-UzA2xHZiFUaGOiUFpc0n5g/ 

2- U.S. Transhumanist Party Constitution. Available at http://transhumanist-party.org/constitution/ 

3- Bloom, Ester.”Here’s how much you have to make to be considered ‘low income’ in San Francisco“. May 12, 2017. Available at https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/12/if-you-make-105000-in-san-francisco-youre-considered-low-income.html

4- Bezos, Jeff. “Request for ideas…” June 15, 2017. Available at https://twitter.com/jeffbezos/status/875418348598603776?s=21

5- Barrabi, Thomas. “What Seattle ‘head tax’ will cost Amazon”. May 15, 2017. Available at https://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/what-seattle-head-tax-will-cost-amazon

6- Alcula. Percentage Calculator. http://www.alcula.com/calculators/finance/percentage-calculator/