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How Humans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Death – Article by Jaeson Booker

How Humans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Death – Article by Jaeson Booker

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Jaeson Booker


Okay, for this, we have to go back. Way, way back. Before we made history, before we made civilization, before we humans did a lot of things. We may not have even been fully human at the time this happened. But at some point, we became self-aware. This process probably took some time, I doubt it was an “AH-HA!” moment that suddenly changed everything. But we then had the ability to comprehend ourselves: to view ourselves as an independent entity, separate from others, and could reflect on this. And, amid all of this self-revelation, with so many new existential possibilities, we got mauled by a second revelation: we saw other people dying. They got old, they got sick, they stopped moving, and then other animals and bugs started eating them (or, perhaps, we were the ones doing the eating; see “Cannibalism Normal for Early Humans?” by John Roach, National Geographic News, April 10, 2003). And we acknowledged that they were like us, that we one day would meet the same fate.

Well… that sucks. All of this possibility, all of these questions, a whole world to explore, and it turns out we’ll cease to exist before we get to experience even a small fraction of it. Damn. Well… what can be done of it? This question, as soon as humans figured out more advanced communication, was probably many times on their minds. From here, there seem to be three routes.

The first and most depressing, yet also the most pragmatic at the time: accept it and enjoy the time you have. “S**t happens. There ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.” This prospect was probably hard for many to face, causing them to try not to think about it instead (a habit many people still have today). But at the same time, it was probably the only realistic-seeming prospect for some time. Death happens. What can be done of it? No use feeling bad about something that can’t be controlled. Are you going to throw a fit every time it rains?

The second, and easiest to adopt: telling yourself it’s not true. Acknowledging you and everyone you love won’t exist one day is a tough pill to swallow, a pill many don’t want to take. But if nothing can be done about it, the only way around the pill is either ignoring death or believing differently. Over time, believing differently got easier and easier. It probably wasn’t done intentionally, but any idea we might not die when we shed our mortal coil probably spread faster than smallpox. Flowers came back every spring, after ‘dying’: where did you go? Trees went stark and bare, but came back to full health in the spring. How do we know this doesn’t happen to humans? Perhaps we were in our winter, and one day, human spring would come, and all the dead humans would sprout back up like daisies.

Over time, the resurrection pill probably went from easy-to-swallow to a-bit-more-difficult-to-swallow. Generations passed, with the stories being told, but human spring never came. We understood that seeds were the reason plants came back, and that it wasn’t an actual resurrection after all. And if you chopped-down a tree, it didn’t turn green next year. This is all speculation, of course, but at some point humans invented a concept that fixed this: the soul pill.

Ah, the soul, man’s best friend. Suddenly the body had nothing to do with all of those things people really cared about. All of those things humans tied so closely with their identity: emotions, reason, consciousness itself, all of these things the soul had covered for us. You could get pierced by a sword, fall off a cliff, be burned in a forest fire, but none of these perils could kill a soul. Whatever happened, no matter how bad things got, you were, ultimately, okay – because your soul would live on. To quote the Iron Giant: “Souls don’t die”.  Ah, death, thou shalt die at last.

But after a while, things started to change. We were starting to learn a lot, and a bunch of the earlier myths were turning-out to be false. Lightning wasn’t the wrath of any deity, the sky didn’t lead to any spirit world, humans weren’t created by anything but instead evolved, and a whole lot of the things we associated with “the soul” could be explained by a thing called a brain. Worse still, when this brain was changed, so did our personality. (See the Wikipedia entry on Phineas Gage.) This was depressing for many who saw the signs. And that soul pill, once so easy to swallow, was becoming harder and harder to get all the way down.

Which brings us to where you walked in. Many of us are still having issues with that soul pill, but many still don’t want to swallow that “we’re all gonna cease to exist” pill. For those who rejected the soul pill, many instantly grabbed a glass of water and hurriedly swallowed the other pill. They were proud of swallowing that tough pill, and annoyed with those struggling with the soul pill for not being brave-enough to do what they did. They found new ways to discover meaning, despite knowing they would die. Death was natural. Population had to be kept under control. They could live on through other means: their children, their legacy, the people they helped. The last thing these tough-pill-swallowers wanted to do was regurgitate something that had been so hard to get down in the first place. Which is why both types of pill-takers really hate the third pill.

The third pill: actually doing something about it. This solution had started around the time of the other two, but after a brief flare-up of popularity, had quickly died down due to failing to produce any results. Magic, the philosopher’s stone (the dream of the alchemists), blood sacrifices, breathing the air of virgins, and cannibalization of the young: these were all very embarrassing failures of this pill. After these blunders, no one really wanted anything to do with it anymore. And this is how things stayed for a long time. But even though the mentality toward this solution has stayed relatively the same for a long time, it’s potential was slowly changing. We were starting to understand how the body worked, and improve people’s health. We learned we were made up of these tiny things called cells, and that those cells were manufactured using even smaller things called DNA and RNA. And with all of this new-found knowledge, many were starting to wonder if discarding the third pill might have been a bit premature.

Up until very recently, the response has not been very nice to advocates of the Do-Something-About-It pill. And even today, there are many who call such advocates insane, immoral, greedy, and anything else you that’s meant to sound bad or misguided. The advocates of the soul-pill and the tough-pill could finally agree that this other pill had to go. Religions declared such aspirations evil and against God’s will. Scientists worked hard to separate themselves from these advocates as much as possible, not wanting to be lumped in with what sounded to many like some sort of icky cult.

So, the swallowers of the first two pills march forward, parading ideas of death and aging being natural, that seeking anything else is wrong and selfish, and we should just accept our situation. It is these two pills that have enabled people to justify a holocaust that is occurring every day – a holocaust that will one day claim us all, unless the third pill is ever swallowed and digested properly by humanity. Aging has killed more than all wars, famines, and plagues combined, yet most march onward, without making any attempts to halt it. Governments invest in fighting cancer, heart disease, and countless other ailments—ignoring the underlying cause of most of these problems, which is aging itself. Every year, there are drives for charities to fight different cancers, entire months and hues devoted to some (See “Pink porta-potty fundraiser aimed at flushing breast cancer“, CBC News, October 2, 2017), yet none toward combating aging. People stake trillions of dollars toward remedies to make them look younger, but almost none to aiding the effort of actually making them younger. They plan out their wills, their life insurance, and their funerals, but ignore opportunities to preserve themselves (for instance, cryopreservation, as offered by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation or the Cryonics Institute) for a chance to keep living, even if it is more affordable than they think.

But, despite the opposition, this solution has been making progress. We have seen progress in stem cells (“Anti-aging stem cell treatment proves successful in early human trials” by Rich Haridy, New Atlas, October 23, 2017 ), biotechnology (“A Silicon Valley scientist and entrepreneur who invented a drug to explode double chins is now working on a cure for aging” by Nikhil Swaminathan, Quartz, January 6, 2017), and machine learning used to better understand the aging process and how to treat it (“Artificial Intelligence uncovers anti-aging plant extracts” – Press Release by Insilico Medicine, October 31, 2017). The third pill is getting more and more enticing. Many older people, having swallowed one of the first two pills decades ago, have no desire to change their existential outlook now. But many younger ones, those who have not yet chosen a pill, and finding the other two inadequate, are starting to wonder if the third pill is for them. Time will tell which pill will ultimately win out, if any, but for now, for the first time ever in human history, the Do-Something-About-It Pill has an actual chance to shine and show what it is truly capable of.

Jaeson Booker is a software development engineer who has worked as a journalist. He earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Political Science from Salisbury University, a Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) degree in Molecular Biology from the Texas A&M Univerisity in Corpus Christi, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Wilmington University.

Long Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey by Ariel VA Feinerman

Long Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey by Ariel VA Feinerman

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Ariel VA Feinerman
Aubrey de Grey


This interview was originally published here

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 previous undamaged — young — state of an organism, we can really rejuvenate it! 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 cold, rainy Saint-Petersburg and warm, sunny Mountain View, we meet a famous person. I hope everyone knows Aubrey de Grey — the man who fell to Earth in order to change our vision of ageing, to fight with and to finally save us from it! For those of you who are not familiar with him, here is a brief introduction.

Dr. de Grey is the biomedical gerontologist who researched the idea for and founded SENS Research Foundation. He received his BA in Computer Science and Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Cambridge in 1985 and 2000, respectively. Dr. de Grey is Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, is a Fellow of both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Aging Association, and sits on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of numerous journals and organizations. In 2011, de Grey inherited roughly $16.5 million on the death of his mother. Of this he assigned $13 million to fund SENS research.

I will not ask Dr. Aubrey de Grey any of those stupid questions that journalists usually annoy him with, about his appearance, overpopulation and so on. Instead, we will talk about science and engineering that will rejuvenate our bodies and allow us to be healthy and live longer (I mean really much longer). Because of the recent breakthroughs in many fields, from bionics and applied physics to molecular biology and regenerative medicine, it can (and, I am sure, will) be sooner than you think.

Interview

Feinerman: Hello, Dr. de Grey!

de Grey: Hi — thanks for interviewing me.

Feinerman: In 2012, I read an article by David Sinclair, where he described reversing the loss of mitochondrial function in old mice cells by using NAD+. I felt this was a major change. The past five years have been remarkable! Now every day I read new articles and news about age reversal. In three years, there has been the creation of a few dozen new bioengineering companies whose main goal is to reverse ageing. Billions of dollars are now invested in this area. I believe we will remember 2016–2017 as the most important years. Do you share this feeling?

Note: The first Phase 1 human ageing reversal trials (GDF, Myostatin) will be in a year or two, and George Church discusses how to affordably rejuvenate the whole body! The first version of human CRISPR/Cas9 was created in 2013, and now it is ready for use. In 2015 eGenesis began to work on pigs for xenotransplantation and now they claim they have created retrovirus-free pigs! In 2016 Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte has reprogrammed cells by using special factors and reverted back the biological clock in live mice. And this is only a tiny fraction of news!

de Grey: Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that there are indeed more and more exciting breakthroughs being made in the lab — and of course I am very proud that SENS Research Foundation is responsible for some of them. But no, in the sense that there is still a terribly long way to go; we need to fix a lot of different things in order to get rid of ageing, and for some of them we are still at a very early stage in the research.

Feinerman: George Church said that his lab is already reversing ageing in mice and that human applications may only be a few years away. He said: “We have 65 gene therapies that are being tested in mice and larger animals. If they go well, we will go straight into human trials.” Church predicts that age reversal will become a reality within 10 years as a result of the new developments in genetic engineering. However, he warns that age reversal at a molecular level doesn’t necessarily mean that everything else rejuvenates. No one knows what age reversal will mean for humans. Anyway, all that sounds very promising?

de Grey: George is exactly right, both in his urgency and optimism, and also in his caution about how much we don’t yet know.

Feinerman: You have really changed the world’s opinion, but now you are behind the scenes. I regularly read about new breakthroughs in the news while I don’t see much about your work, even though research in SENS is more fundamental in general! When I went to the SENS web page, I was wondered how much you do. This seems like an injustice and can it be fixed?

de Grey: Oh, I’m still quite prominent — I’m still doing just as many talks and interviews as ever. If, to some extent, my contributions are now being overshadowed by other people’s breakthroughs, that’s a good thing! I have always said that my goal is to advance the crusade far enough that I can retreat into glorious obscurity because others are doing my job better than me.

Feinerman: For many people, their appearance is as important as their health. When you say that SENS 1.0 panel of therapies can rejuvenate people from 60 to 30, do they look like 30? Or can they look like 30?

de Grey: Definitely yes. When we thoroughly rejuvenate the inside of the body, the outside is the easy part!

Feinerman: Can we now say that biomedical engineering and biotechnology have entered an exponential phase?

de Grey: I think we can just about say that, yes. It’s very exciting.

Ending Aging Revisited

Feinerman: Your famous book Ending Aging was published 10 years ago. Would you like to make a new version?

de Grey: I probably should, at some point, but it’s not a priority, because the overall approach that we described in that book has stood the test of time: we have made plenty of progress, and we have not come across any unforeseen obstacles that made us change course with regard to any of the types of damage.

Note: If you have not read Ending Aging yet, I suggest you to do it as soon as possible, and to be more comfortable with the ideas we are discussing below, I highly recommend you to read the short introduction to SENS research on the SENS Research Foundation web page. Also, if you are interested in recent news and up-to-date reviews about [anti]ageing and rejuvenation research, the best place to look for is the Fight Aging! blog. Finally, if you are an investor or just curious, I highly encourage you to take a look at Jim Mellon’s book Juvenescence.

Feinerman: You look for bacteria who feed on dead animals to find enzymes capable of breaking glucosepane. Do you consider insects? They can eat nearly everything — and much faster!

de Grey: Nice idea, but we’re looking for a different sort of eating. Insects eat stuff and excrete what they can’t digest, just like us. Bacteria are much more versatile.

Feinerman: Many insects have no special enzymes; instead, they rely on bacteria who do all the work. In any case they are a nice place to look for the enzymes!

de Grey: Yeah, well, not really. Insects have commensal bacteria, yes, but so do we. In general, though, bacteria that are living freely in the environment are more diverse than those in the guts of animals.

Feinerman: How do you find useful bacteria?

de Grey: We are using a “metagenomic” strategy for identifying enzymes that can break glucosepane: we take standard E. coli bacteria, we break one or two of their genes so that they become unable to synthesise one or another chemical (in this case typically arginine or lysine) so that they need to take it up from their surroundings, and then we add random DNA from the environment (which could come from any bacteria, even unculturable ones) and add bits of it to the E. coli. Very occasionally the new DNA may encode an enzyme that breaks glucosepane, and if so, the bacteria will grow even without any arginine or lysine in the environment, if (but only if) we give them glucosepane instead and they break it to create arginine and lysine.

Feinerman: In your book you proposed Whole-body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres (WILT) — the removal of telomerase in all cells in order to prevent cancer and reseed the stem-cell population regularly. Is there any success in that? And wouldn’t it be simpler to use non-integrating telomerase therapy to safely lengthen telomeres, like the approaches developed by Sierra Sciences and BioViva?

de Grey: We are making progress there, yes; in particular we have shown that telomerase-negative stem-cell reseeding works for the blood. However, no, the problem with non-integrating telomerase is that it will extend cancer telomeres just as much as normal cells’ telomeres. I support that research, though, not least because there may be breakthroughs in combating cancer in other ways (especially with the immune system), in which case it would be much safer to stimulate telomerase systemically.

Feinerman: Now we have very precise CRISPR, and removing genes is easier than inserting ones, because you can target the same cell more than once. When we solve the delivery problem, would we be able to apply WILT?

de Grey: Yes, certainly.

Feinerman: Why can’t we remove telomerase locally in compromised tissue?

de Grey: It’s being tried, but it is very difficult to make the removal selective.

Feinerman: There is growing evidence that epigenetic changes are highly organized and may be one of the causes of ageing. This allows some researchers to claim that ageing is a programme. It does not matter, however, how researchers see such changes — as a programme or as damage. By restoring the previous epigenetic profile by means of special reprogramming factors, we can turn an old cell into a young cell, and by resetting the profile, we can turn an adult cell into a pluripotent stem cell. Experiments show that restoring the epigenetic profiles of many cells in vivo rejuvenates an entire organism. What do you think? Maybe should we consider epigenetic changes as another type of damage in the SENS model, calling it EpiSENS?

de Grey: We need to be much more precise with definitions in order to answer your question. Epigenetic changes can be classified into two main classes: shift and noise. Shift means changes that occur in a coordinated manner among all cells of a given type and tissue, whereas noise means changes that occur in some such cells but not others, increasing the variability of that type of cell. Shifts are caused by some sort of program (genetic changes to the cell’s environment), so yes, they can potentially be reversed by restoring the environment and putting the program into reverse. Noise, on the other hand, is not reversible. And we have for several years worked on determining whether it happens enough to matter in a currently normal lifetime. We have not got to a definitive answer, but it’s looking as though no, epigenetic noise accumulates too slowly to matter, other than maybe for cancer (which, of course, we are addressing in other ways).

Feinerman: Should we use reprogramming factors to reverse the epigenetic programme?

de Grey: Probably not. There may be some benefits in doing so, as a way to restore the numbers of certain types of stem cells, but we can always do that by other methods (especially by direct stem cell transplantation), so I don’t think we will ever actually NEED to dedifferentiate cells in vivo.

Feinerman: One thing keeps me out of bed at night: the fear that stochastic nuclear DNA damage and mutations may play a big role in ageing. Ten years ago you proposed that most of the cells which have critical DNA mutations either undergo apoptosis, become senescent, or become cancerous. But if mutations are not critical, cells will live, accumulate them — one broken protein here, another one there — and it will finally lead to malfunction of the organ.

de Grey: Don’t worry. These mutations don’t accumulate nearly fast enough to harm us, because they are prevented by the same machinery that prevents cancer for a currently normal lifetime, and cancer can kill us as a result of only one cell doing the wrong thing, whereas non-critical mutations would need to affect a huge number of cells in order to affect the function of a tissue.

Feinerman: If it is proved that nuclear DNA damage and mutations play a role in ageing, do you have something in your pocket? I believe you already thought on that. How will we fix the problem? Maybe, extensive stem-cell therapy (like the proposed Whole-body Induced Cell Turnover)?

de Grey: Right. But they don’t play a role.

Note: Whole-body Induced Cell Turnover (WICT) consists of the qualitative and quantitative coordination of targeted cell ablation with exogenous cell administration so as to effect the replacement of a patient’s entire set of endogenous cells with exogenous cells (of the same quantity and cell type as the ablated endogenous cells they are replacing) derived from human pluripotent stem cells and directionally differentiated in vitro prior to their administration. The idea of WICT was firstly proposed in 2016 and improved in 2017.

The aim of WICT is the removal from the organismal environment of accumulated cellular and intracellular damage present in the patient’s endogenous cells, including telomere depletion, nuclear DNA damage and mutations, mitochondrial DNA damage and mutations, replicative senescence, functionally deleterious age-related changes in gene expression, and accumulated cellular and intracellular aggregates.

Feinerman: What do you think on the WICT? Combined with WILT, it looks like an all-in-one solution when implemented.

de Grey: The general idea of accelerating cell turnover is definitely a good one. It is a bit like the idea of replacing whole organs: if you replace the entire structure, you don’t need to repair the damage that the structure contains. However, also like replacement of organs, it has potential downsides, because evolution has give us a particular rate of turnover of particular cells, and the function of each of our cell types is optimised for that. So it may end up being complicated, with many pros and cons.

Feinerman: While other rejuvenating therapies (excepting, maybe, OncoSENS) are achievable in the near future and don’t involve special genetic surgery, full allotopic expression has a really long way to go. What do you think of the mimic approaches, for example, NMN, which raises the NAD+ level and restores mitochondrial function in a cell?

de Grey: It may help to preserve health a little, but I think it is very unlikely to extend life by more than a year or two on average (and it could be even less than that). But we are working hard to develop better methods of gene therapy that may make allotopic expression practical sooner than people think.

Feinerman: Oh, can you unveil the mystery?

de Grey: Well, basically we are combining two technologies that are both very very safe (in the sense that they have very low incidence of random DNA damage) but they have complementary limitations. One is CRISPR, which can make small changes very safely to a chosen location in the genome but cannot insert more than very small amounts of new DNA. The other is a very neglected system called BXB1, which can insert large amounts but only into a location that does not exist in the mammalian genome. Our idea is to use CRISPR to insert the BXB1 “landing pad” at a good location and then to use BXB1 to insert our chosen engineered genes at that location. We are developing this at the Buck Institute in Brian Kennedy’s lab.

Feinerman: Thank you for your explanation! However, there is a big problem with all genetic therapies. We need to target every cell in the body, and now it is nearly impossible. Our best delivery systems involving adeno-associated viruses (AAV) available today have only 10–50% efficiency. We should honestly admit that we still have no universal instrument for introducing new genes in an adult human. How will you solve this problem?

de Grey: We believe that the approach I described in my earlier answer will achieve a much higher efficiency, and because its lack of off-target effects, it means it can be used at much higher titer.

Feinerman: The main SENS approach is to rejuvenate our own bodies, but also there is a regenerative medicine which involves tissue and organ engineering. Won’t it be easier to print or grow new organs instead of rejuvenating the old ones? Of course, we cannot replace everything, but we can replace some critical parts: we can grow a new heart, liver, muscles, and, indeed, skin.

Note: Tissue and organ engineering is among the most fast-growing areas of regenerative medicine. Engineers have already bio-printed or grown in bioreactors almost all human organs. Now they are used mostly for testing new therapies or drugs. The main problem why they cannot be used for transplantation now is the vascularisation challenge. While engineers can bio-print or grow arteries and big vessels, they are still unable to create the vasculature — the web of tiny vessels and capillaries within the organ. Companies like Organovo pursue this goal and promise to solve it within next decade.

de Grey: That’s absolutely correct. I expect that in the early days of implementing SENS, some organs will be easier to replace than to repair. However, of course, replacing an organ requires invasive surgery, so we will want to develop repair eventually.

Feinerman: You emphasize that stem-cell research is already a well-advanced field, and SENS has not needed to get involved in this area. As far as I know, many stem-cell therapies are for very specific diseases and not for rejuvenation. Or will we get it as a side-effect?

de Grey: As you know, I don’t think that “diseases of old age” should be called diseases at all — they are parts of ageing, so their treatment is definitely part of rejuvenation. A great example right now is Parkinson’s disease — there are several stem-cell clinical trials in progress or in preparation for it.

Feinerman: Do you mean they are parts of ageing like a runny nose and cough are parts of flu? So treating them separately is as foolish as treating a cough without addressing the flu virus.

de Grey: It’s even worse than that. Treating runny nose and cough makes some sense, because the body will get on with attacking the flu virus anyway, and it makes sense to be less miserable during that time. But with ageing, we’re just talking about different parts of a phenomenon that the body does not know how to attack.

Feinerman: What in your opinion will be the order of arrival of rejuvenating therapies?

de Grey: Well, a lot of the stem-cell side of things is in clinical trials already, and removal of amyloid is there, too, in the case of Alzheimer’s. Next on the list will probably be senescent-cell ablation, which Unity are saying will be in the clinic next year, and removal of intracellular garbage for macular degeneration will also be, courtesy of our spinout Ichor. The other three are harder, but they are all chugging along!

Feinerman: There are about twenty various types of amyloids, we can see some success in removing transthyretin and beta-amyloid. What about others? Can we scale success in removing the above two on the others?

de Grey: I’m very confident that the removal of other amyloids can be achieved using more or less the same methods that have worked against those two. The next one on my list would be islet amyloid, which contributes to diabetes.

Feinerman: As far as I know intracellular junk in the eyes is not lipofuscin per se but A2E, oxidized form of vitamin A. Is there any progress in removing true lipofuscin — the more widespread form of intracellular junk?

de Grey: We have funded some preliminary work on that, but it’s still early. The difficulty is that lipofuscin is very heterogeneous, made up of many different components. Our strategy is to target it more like the way we target the extracellular matrix: rather than breaking it down, we want to identify some key crosslinks that are protecting it from being degraded by our existing lysosomal machinery.

Feinerman: Now everyone is obsessed with “ageing biomarkers” and the “biological clock”. Are they valid conceptions? Is it possible to have a single “clock” for the whole body? Maybe can we just use every type of damage as a biomarker and keep it below certain threshold?

de Grey: I agree with you — ultimately, we still need to fix the damage, so there is not much more that indirect proxy measures can tell us. These indirect measures are useful today, though, when we don’t have those repair therapies, because they help us to see what interventions may (slightly) slow down the accumulation of damage.

WHO, FDA, and New Medicine

Feinerman: FDA has a very long approval for new therapies or drugs. What do you think on medical tourism and biohacking as an alternative way?

de Grey: There have always been places with less restrictive regulatory systems for new drugs — medical tourism is nothing new. 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.

Feinerman: Do the SENS Research Foundation or any associated companies hold regular meetings with the FDA to inform them and clear the way for the new rejuvenation medicine? Some components of the SENS 1.0 panel are already in development or clinical trials, and others will arrive during next 20 years. These new coming medicines use completely different, repair-based rather than compensatory, approaches and need different clinical-trials protocol and a whole new health-care paradigm. The transition period has already begun, and we should use it wisely, otherwise the US may become an outsider in the medical world.

de Grey: I look forward to the day when we have such meetings, but that’s a little way off. That’s OK, though, because companies that are pursuing various components of SENS are indeed having such discussions. The FDA and its counterparts worldwide are being kept up to speed.

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

Note: Even though 90% of US deaths and at least 80% of US medical costs are caused by ageing:

National Institutes of Health budget ($M): ~30,000
National Institute of Aging budget: ~1,000
Division of Aging Biology budget: ~150
Spent on translational research (max): ~10
SENS Research Foundation budget: ~5

These numbers speak for themselves; they are all you need to answer the question of when all of the discussed amazing therapies will be available in the clinics.

de Grey: I think things are improving. The idea of real rejuvenation is becoming more and more accepted. At this point, therefore, I would say that the main bottleneck is still at the earliest stage: the funding for work that is not yet investable.

Feinerman: The current WHO’s agenda is kind of a shame! They know that the fire is coming, but they prepare gasoline to put it out with. Do you agree that the conception of “healthy ageing” is a nonsense? Ageing cannot be healthy because if you are healthy you, well, do not age. The WHO forces people to be more comfortable with ageing instead of fighting with it. They recommend to spend billions to build more nursing houses and buy more wheelchairs instead of investing these money into rejuvenation biotechnology! It’s ridiculous!

de Grey: Well, I think we need to do both things: we need to maintain older people’s quality of life as best we can with the limited tools we have today, and we also need to develop better tools. Terms like “healthy ageing” are indeed double-edged: on the one hand there is, indeed, obviously no such thing, but on the other hand the terminology helps to emphasise that the purpose of all our work is to extend healthspan, with the extension of lifespan being simply a side-effect.

Rejuvenation Research Won’t Fund Itself

Feinerman: When I ask people to donate to SENS Research Foundation, they often say that their a few bucks don’t matter. Of course, they are wrong! Every dollar, even every cent matters! For example, how many people may read this? We assume 10,000. Well, if every of you will donate $50, only $50, per month, it will be over $5,000,000 per year! This sum will double current SENS budget. So, united we can change the world. We cannot and should not wait when governments and big pharma will fund rejuvenation research. (In fact they won’t; they will wait and see the first results.) We can do it ourselves! What can you say to our readers to encourage them?

de Grey: You are saying it really well. One way to say it is to calculate how many dollars it would take to save a life by donating to SENS. I estimate that a budget of $50 millions per year would let us go three times faster than now and would bring forward the defeat of ageing by about a decade. About 400 million people die of ageing in a decade, so that means donating to SENS has a bang-for-the-buck of roughly one life per dollar. No other cause comes anywhere near that.

Feinerman: Another doubt that people usually express is how does SENS Research Foundation do anything meaningful with such a small budget? While NIH and many others have hundreds of millions per year and cannot defeat ageing, SENS has only $5 millions per year. I answer that SENS is a highly efficient organization, goal-directed and result-oriented rather than process-oriented. Everyone can go through the SENS webpage and read last year’s annual report.

de Grey: Thank you! — that is indeed correct. Almost all research that is funded by governments is almost useless, because its effects on health will be tiny. SENS is different because it is a coherent, comprehensive plan for bring ageing under complete medical control.

Note: Unfortunately, I agree with Dr Aubrey de Grey. If you take a close look at NIH or NIA funded work… well… You will find hundreds of publications about obesity, lifestyle, air pollution, and their impact on longevity. Don’t you know that obesity, smoking, and much drinking of alcohol are bad for you? How can this information help us create a new cure against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, or atherosclerosis? Do we really need another paper on it?

Also you can find many publications about calorie restriction and various genetic manipulations on worms and other model organisms that mimic it. Calorie restriction is everywhere! In the meantime, we have known for twenty years that CR does not work for humans. In 2015, $500,000 was given to projects like “A Large Randomized Trial of Vitamin D, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cognitive Decline”. It’s not a joke, it’s a real research work! You can find more here. All that is useless because you cannot use it to produce working rejuvenation therapies. Only a small part of this work is useful in the sense of defeating ageing. Do you know what is the most interesting? It’s all your taxes, all your money! Now you know that.

At the same time really important research projects like work on glucosepane breaker therapy (which will end many ageing pathologies like arterial stiffness, chronic inflammation, hypertension, strokes, and will save many lives) in Spiegel Lab at Yale is permanently underfunded and would be closed last year without financial support from SENS Research Foundation and German entrepreneur Michael Greve. Finally, the cost of implementing the working rejuvenation treatments in old mice would by current estimates be only 1–2% of the Apollo Program. And the same amount of money and time was already spend on Sirtuins which have obviously produced nothing.

Feinerman: Can you say what Project|21 is, why it is so important and how people can help?

de Grey: Project|21 is our name for our appeal to wealthy individuals. We of course welcome donations of any size, but at present it remains the case that most of our income is donated by a small number of wealthy donors, so it stands to reason that we are doing all we can to attract more of those. What other people can do to help is easy — donate what you can, and encourage donations by friends who are wealthier than you!

Note: Project|21 is a new initiative created by SENS Research Foundation to end age-related disease through human clinical trials, starting in 2021, through investment in rejuvenation biotechnology.

Through three new programs, the Bridge fund, The Center of Excellence, and The Alliance Program, Project|21 will deliver the perfect environment for this fusion of opportunity and investment.

$50 million in total funding is required for Project|21, at least half of which will come from the members of SENS Research Foundation’s Group|21. Group|21 will bring together 21 philanthropists, each donating between $500,000 and $5 million. Grants, grassroots efforts, and matching-fund strategies will provide the remaining support. $5 millions was already donated by German Internet entrepreneur Michael Greve. Thank you, Mr. Greve! You are our hero!

Feinerman: Some people prefer to donate not to the whole organisation, but rather to concrete project or lab. Of course, it is not among the most convenient and efficient ways to manage money, but anyway do you consider such an option?

de Grey: Certainly yes. We sometimes have projects that cannot be funded because there is too little “unrestricted” money to go around, but for the most part we are able to make it work, so absolutely, if anyone wants to restrict a donation to a particular project, we are totally happy to work with that.

Feinerman: Now cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies allow completely new and efficient ways for crowdfunding and investment. We can see as various no-name companies easily raise tens of millions dollars via ICOs for clearly doubtful projects. This occurs while really important areas like generative medicine, rejuvenation biotechnology, or bionics are permanently experiencing an acute thirst of money. Do you consider an ICO for Project|21? I believe it perfectly fits into ICO conditions and requirements!

de Grey: It’s definitely important for us, and we are working closely with various people who are experts in cryptocurrencies. Vitalik Buterin, who created Ethereum, is actually a donor. We very much hope to bring in substantial funding via that route.

Human Psychology, Not the Science, is the Key Issue in Defeating Ageing

Feinerman: When I ask people whether they want to live hundreds of years, many of them say, “No”, but when I ask them, whether they want to look and feel like 30, while being 70, they say, “Yes, of course!” I hope, you got my idea: people are afraid of big numbers. People don’t want to live forever; they just want not to be sick forever, even though big numbers logically emerge from not being sick. Have you ever regretted your claims about big numbers and 1000-year lifespans? People usually understand them in the wrong way. Some your colleagues say that without such claims, your ideas would be much more popular.

de Grey: It has always been a difficult decision. Yes, people are afraid of big numbers, and they are really bad at reasoning about the distant future. But the most important thing, in the long term, is that I am saying what I believe to be true and that I can always give very thorough, logical answers to any challenges. If I had gone out in 2005 saying that we could live to 150 with rejuvenation tech, and people had said why not 250, I would not have had a good answer, and people would not have trusted me. In the end it always works best if you tell the truth.

Feinerman: What do you think of 2013 work “The hallmarks of ageing”, which is obviously inspired by your seven types of damage? They look more sophisticated, and harder to deal with. Anyway, does it mean that researches finally demystified ageing and recognised it as a solvable problem?

de Grey: You’re right, it was definitely a reinvention of SENS. It had quite a few mistakes, but the basic idea of divide-and-conquer damage repair is identical. It is not at all more sophisticated; it’s the same. And yes, it means that mainstream researchers have finally accepted that ageing is now pretty well understood and is solvable.

Feinerman: Although biomedical gerontologists are not afraid to speak about ageing any more, as was the case 10 or even 5 years ago, which itself is a very big step, they are still very skeptical — at least publicly — about our ability to put ageing under medical control in the foreseeable future. You know many of them in person. Is it their real opinion? Maybe, face to face, they are more optimistic?

Note: I think that gerontologists should take a lesson from physicists and engineers. When physicists realised that our Sun uses a nuclear fusion reaction, they were excited by the idea to build a fusion reactor. Being full of courage, they started to work and immediately came across many obstacles. Although the reaction itself is very simple, the processes behind it are complex.

However, engineers haven’t given up or said: “We don’t fully understand these processes, so let’s stop working and study the Sun for 100 years.” They continued to work as hard as they could, built many working prototypes, and now we are much closer to commercial nuclear fusion reactor than ever before. And they are full of optimism! If you ask any physicist, whether it is possible to build such a reactor, the answer would be, “Yes, of course!” And if you ask an engineer, “When can we build it?”, he would probably say: “20–25 years, and it can be much sooner, if we have enough funding.” Sounds similar, doesn’t it?

Ageing is the same. But when you ask a gerontologist whether we can defeat ageing, he would likely call you a crazy. Why? They are both engineering problems!

de Grey: Well, maybe some of them are slightly more optimistic in private than they are in public, but really no — the problem is that they are basic scientists, so they are trained not to believe anything for which they do not have direct evidence. They just don’t like to speculate about time frames, even in private.

Feinerman: Yeah. With the current pace of progress, anything beyond 2030 is an uncertainty. However, what I know exactly is that if we want to have something working in 2030, we should work very hard in the right direction right now. So why do many [anti]ageing researchers consciously or unconsciously choose the most inefficient and ineffective way — altering metabolism via genetic manipulations or medications to only slightly possibly modestly slow down ageing — and use that as a proof (!) that we cannot radically extend human health and lifespan? Such an example is ridiculous by itself and nearly impossible in any research or engineering area, except biomedical gerontology!

de Grey: That is not something specific to anti-ageing research. In all research areas, the leaders always think they are right and take a long time to understand radically new ideas.

Feinerman: Maybe that is the reason? Maybe we need to have fewer gerontologists who merely study ageing and more biomedical engineers who repair damage? In other words we should switch our focus from ageing research to rejuvenation engineering. Since ageing is an engineering problem, then from the gerontologists’ point of view it looks like “not my job” to reverse it.

de Grey: Exactly. The main problem is that until “only” 17 years ago, no one had any coherent plan for fixing ageing, so it made sense to carry on treating gerontology as a basic science in which the priority was to discover more about it rather than to manipulate it. And 17 years is not very long in science, so the people who are most senior and influential are still the people who formed their mindset in the pre-rejuvenation era.

Feinerman: Unfortunately, the vast majority of biomedical engineers, those who do actual rejuvenation research, do not want to be associated with any [anti]ageing business and life extension, are not involved in longevity discussions, and usually keep silence. When pressed, they, however, are not very optimistic about life extension. It’s quite surprisingly to hear such claims from cutting-edge researchers, especially from those who recently promised to print or grow all vascularised human organs by 2035 and grow new limbs by 2030. If it is not about life extension, then what is it all about? Why do they behave in such a manner? Because of the pro-ageing trance? Or because they are too specialised and cannot see the whole picture?

For example, cell engineers make predictions as though there will be no progress in bionics, and bionics engineers make predictions as though there will be no progress in cell engineering. Each technology alone will not likely be te game changer, but when combined their impact will be enormous!

de Grey: You’ve got it. These technologies are developed largely independently of each other, so their leaders are largely unaware of how much progress is being made in the other areas. Since SENS is a divide-and-conquer approach, one cannot be optimistic about the overall outcome unless one is informed about all the components. That’s the main reason why I ran the Cambridge conference series starting in 2003, which is being revived in Berlin in March 2018 — to bring the leaders of these fields together.

Feinerman: Thank you very much for your amazing interview! Our conversation was wonderful! I wish you all your wishes come true as soon as possible. When we succeed, I hope we will shake our hands one hundreds years from now, walking along the waterfront of Mars City, which Elon Musk has promised to start to building in 2020s. Ah, and when you meet with him, remind him, please, that we will not be able to colonise Mars until we defeat ageing — because microgravity and cosmic radiation have the same implications on the human organism as premature ageing!

de Grey: Thank you for your support!

Afterwords

We live in the exciting era, The Era of Very Rapid Progress in science and technology — an era when many things which were merely science fiction only five years ago are common now, and things that are no more than science fiction now will be common in next five years. At the same time we live in The Era of Great Uncertainty — an era when our small everyday life decisions may have a huge impact on next several decades. One step to the right — and we may defeat ageing in twenty years. One step to the left — and the whole research areas will stagnate for another twenty years (as occurred in the case of glucosepane research).

New rejuvenation medicine is still very young and fragile, like the first spring flower after a dry and cold winter. In these days it especially needs our support! Even in such relatively advanced fields like stem cell or cancer research, there are gray, underfunded, and under-researched areas we need to care of.

Of course, you wish to know the time frames — when will we defeat ageing? You wish to know, will you personally benefit? Nobody knows. I intentionally did not ask Dr. Aubrey de Grey about the time frames and predictions. There will be no more time frames. Enough. Because they give you an illusion that some good clever guy will do all the work needed, while you may just relax, wait when he finishes, and “live long enough to live forever”. But he won’t! It is too big, too ambitious a project for one person. Now you know — your future is only in your hands. Not “live long enough…” but “work long enough…”! I always say that scientific and technological progress is a function of efforts — not of the time. The only way to get rid of a painful uncertainty and get to the definitive answer is to support meaningful rejuvenation research right now!

How can you help? Well, if you are a researcher yourself, then spend your time and money on the meaningful repair-based approach, which will produce working rejuvenation therapies in the foreseeable future. If you are a businessman — donate money to the SENS Research Foundation and its allies — Project|21, Methuselah Foundation, Forever Healthy Foundation, Life Extension Advocacy Foundation, or directly support research groups. Invest in the associated rejuvenation companies or found your own. If you are a celebrity, then use your fame to give attention to the problem and such research. If you are an ordinary person, well, you can encourage your more influential friends and do almost the same — just scale your abilities!

Some of you may ask: is it real? I hope we gave you enough evidence. Yes, of course, it’s real. Mover, it’s already happening! The right question, however, is whether it is happening fast enough to help us — currently living adult persons. And the answer is, probably, no. Of course, there may (and likely will) be many unexpected breakthroughs, but we should not rely on probability and scientific serendipity when we talk about human lives (especially our own). We should rely on a well-written plan, a reasonable budget and our efforts.

So the next question is, “Can we speed up the progress?” Yes, we can! All we need to do is what Dr. Aubrey de Grey said many times before and what I have just said above — unite against our main enemy and help researchers. But will we? Although people rarely think and behave rationally, I prefer to be cautiously optimistic! See you on Mars!

https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/12/wake-up-people-its-time-to-aim-high.html

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.

Directed Duties and Inalienable Rights: A Brief Summary – Article by Daniel Yeluashvili

Directed Duties and Inalienable Rights: A Brief Summary – Article by Daniel Yeluashvili

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Daniel Yeluashvili


Editor’s Note: This guest article by Daniel Yeluashvili is being published in order to further discussion on the nature of rights and how rights might look in the future. It does not, however, represent any official position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. We recognize that different members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party may approach the subject of rights, and whether inalienable rights exist, from a wide variety of philosophical frameworks and backgrounds. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, September 14, 2017


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words were written by our Founding Fathers in 1776, on a document that, despite having no binding legal powers of its own, has not only served as a touchstone of hundreds of legal cases in America but inspired subsequent Documents of Freedom to be written, namely, the Constitution and appended Bill of Rights. However, contemporary political philosopher Hillel Steiner has upended the foundation of America’s moral codex in his essay “Directed Duties and Inalienable Rights” by positing, nimbly but firmly, that inalienable rights do not and cannot exist. Therefore, no aspect of American laws or rights comes from a God of any kind, in direct contradiction to much of the fundamentalist rhetoric heard throughout America today. Steiner proves this point in three ways: first, by deriving his conclusion from the presupposition of the cogency of the Will Theory of rights, second, by doing the same from the Interest Theory, and third, casually proving that he never needed to work with either theory in the first place and constructing an independent argument he calls the Moral Primacy Thesis. This thesis is derived from the work of Wesley Hohfeld, a prominent legal theorist who used a form of logic designed for ethical concepts to prove that nobody has an inherent “right,” in the conventional sense, to anything.

Steiner begins his argument with the Will Theory, a legal theory of moral rights supported by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Carl von Savigny, and Steiner himself. The Will Theory, given its emphasis on granting rights through the power of personal choice, grants the power to demand and force someone to perform an action or, alternatively, willingly give up the right to make that demand in the first place. Per the Will Theory, nobody’s rights can forcibly be taken away, but they can be voided through one’s own inaction or inability to make a choice. By its very definition, inalienable rights within the framework of the Will Theory cannot exist.

By contrast, the Interest Theory takes a different approach. Championed by the likes of notable philosopher Jeremy Bentham, the Interest Theory suggests that rights exist solely to protect one’s personal interests rather than to exert liberty or choice of any kind. While such rights can’t be given up as easily as within the framework of the Will Theory, Steiner makes the case that, per the second page of the attached essay, “a necessary and sufficient condition of being a rights-holder is that those interests would be adversely affected by the breach of a duty.” A duty, in this context, refers to whichever demand one make make of someone else. If you demand of someone, for example, that they not look at your browser history to protect the interest of hiding your mind-uploading memes from the world and they do it anyway, this would be a breach of a duty on their behalf. This is no better than the Will Theory: instead of personally rescinding one’s rights through incompetence, now they can be taken away by others. Once again, no rights within this framework would be genuinely inalienable.

After so clearly formulating two arguments against the existence of inalienable rights, Steiner throws them out the window by constructing a new one entirely: the Moral Primacy Thesis. This thesis is based on Hohfeldian deontic logic, a system of logic designed for ethical concepts which, ipso facto, does not universally guarantee a right without the possibility of said right being taken away. The four most basic types of rights that Hohfeld defines are powers, immunities, privileges, and claims. Privileges give access to something without guaranteeing the safety and stability of said privilege, meaning that they are ephemeral and may be taken away at any time. A more stable version of privileges would be claims, which restrict others from gaining the same access that is guaranteed by one’s privileges. Claims can be countered in two ways, by oneself or others, one in the short term and one in the long term. The short-term counter to a claim is a power, which waives, annuls, or transfers said claim. The long-term counter to a claim, which prevents it from being modified in the future, is an immunity. Even by this logic, no rights are inherently inalienable. If they were, such a legal concept would be politically omnipotent and illogical. Thus, no aspect of America’s ostensibly “God-given rights” has any bearing on political philosophy or moral theory.

Daniel Yeluashvili is a student at San Francisco State University and a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

A Future History of Mankind: Speculations of a Clever Ape – Article by Michael Hanson

A Future History of Mankind: Speculations of a Clever Ape – Article by Michael Hanson

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Michael Hanson


Long ago and very, VERY far away, the universe that we find ourselves in today was born. For billions of years, the universe has been completely inhospitable to life as we understand it. This remains the case today throughout much of the known universe, including right here in what we have come to believe is a “safe haven” for us.

Yes, the Earth that gave birth to us appears to be safe – for now. It is clearly much more hospitable to life than even the space just beyond our atmosphere. Make no mistake, however – danger lurks at every corner. Gamma rays from exploding stars millions of light years away; massive solar flares from our own beloved star; planet-obliterating asteroids; sociopathic world leaders armed to the teeth with megaton warheads; and superintelligent robots gone mad are just a few potential threats to the survival of life on this tiny speck of nothing floating in a vast ocean of cold indifference.

Have no fear, though. One of these things is not like the others. It could be the reverse of what we imagine it to be; it very well could be our saving grace.

“Superintelligence.” A term coined to describe the future of man-made technology. It is essentially the natural outcome of the very thing that makes us human: our deep-seated need to understand and master our surroundings. For millions of years now, mankind has made a somewhat steady march towards this goal.

We now stand on the brink of The Singularity – the point in spacetime where humans will be able to integrate the culmination of their millions-of-years-long pursuit of knowledge directly into their physiology. The benefits of this unspeakably beautiful possibility are immeasurable, and yet most of us fear it as much as – or more than – any other event imaginable.

Whether we fear it or not, The Singularity is inevitable. We would not be humans if we collectively decided to stop understanding and mastering our surroundings. If we somehow manage to dodge all of the other doomsday scenarios, we WILL see The Singularity come to fruition.

While it is extremely difficult to speculate what life will be like post-Singularity, it seems silly to think that life will remain as it is now. When every snot-nosed toddler has direct access to computational power exponentially greater than Albert Einstein could have ever hoped to have, diseases – including old age – will be a morbid footnote in the annals of spacetime. When the Neil deGrasse Tysons and Elon Musks of the world have instantaneous access to the accumulated knowledge of the last few hundred years, and the ability to research and master any subject in milliseconds, we will have very few problems.

It is likely that, with our new capabilities, humans will cease to be what we think of as humans altogether. We will be transhumans, a forced step forward in the evolutionary process. Once we transcend evolution, we transcend nature. In essence, we become “supernatural beings” – gods in our own right.

Where does this path lead us, and what does it mean for the “inhospitable” universe out there? Will we conquer “the final frontier” with our god-like powers? This also seems inevitable.

Imagine if we had the ability to “upload” our consciousnesses onto tiny, nearly weightless microchips. The problem of escaping this doomed planet seems ridiculously simple at that point. With no bodies requiring nourishment, being subject to radiation poisoning, or even weighing a spaceship down, it would be extraordinarily easy to transport thousands of sentient beings across vast expanses of spacetime in a vessel no larger than a modern automobile. With no threat of death due to the passage of time, the only real threat at that point is collision with comets and the like.

What would our problems be without any real threat of death? The scarcity of energy comes to mind. Without energy, everything dies. In space, the temperature is near Absolute Zero. This means that energy is NOT abundant, at least not in any form that we’re used to utilizing.

In fact, there is a finite amount of useable energy in the universe. It seems inevitable that our next great mission after The Singularity is to find useable energy throughout the universe and maximize its utility. We will view the destruction of useable energy as the greatest waste imaginable, similar to how we view the wasting of time now. Alas, before The Singularity, we are forced to view time as the most precious resource because we are tragically bound to expiration dates. When time is no longer a hindrance, energy will become vastly more precious.

What then, would be our likely solution to the need to collect and conserve as much energy as possible? Visions of stars wrapped in energy nets, and entire planets converted into generators dance in the head. Eventually, we may even convert entire solar systems, then galaxies, into energy farms to feed our superintelligent descendants. With the conversion of the energy of entire galaxies into fuel for self-evolving gods, all connected through an intergalactic internet which obliterates our notion of a separate “self,” it would not be long before the entire universe is made up of a single, omnipotent, omnipresent being.

It is possible that the end result of the universe is what we call “God.” This is the transposition of the Alpha and the Omega. It is possible that, rather than the universe being created by a supreme being, the opposite is true: the universe could be the womb wherein a supreme being is gestating.

In the end, it seems silly to worry about the “consequences” of our technological advances. Either way, we are destined for eradication in our present form. Whether by our own doing, or simply because the universe is indifferent to our desire to survive, the human race will eventually come to an end. Why not utilize the very essence of our species to escape this fate? What have we really got to lose in the end?

And they all lived happily ever after…

Michael Hanson founded the Transhumanist Research and Support Foundation and endeavors to assist the Transhumanist Party’s efforts in New Hampshire. 

Copyright 2017 Live and Live Free Media, LLC

The Cure For Everything – Article by Nicholas Huerta

The Cure For Everything – Article by Nicholas Huerta

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Nicholas Huerta


Note from the Editor: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by the student writer Nicholas Huerta to illustrate the growing interest in the transhumanist movement among college and university students. While the positions in this article are not necessarily the positions of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, there are some similarities, and the article is intended to provoke thinking and discussion about how to motivate transformations in societal attitudes toward the embrace of emerging technologies. ~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, U.S. Transhumanist Party, July 26, 2017

If you or a loved one had cancer and someone offered you the cure, would you take it? Colloquial society would answer “yes”. Cancer is one of the many problems facing our society today. Other such problems include socioeconomic issues, hunger, natural disasters, climate change, and inept leaders leading an inept society. Through our research, we hope to show society what true epistemology entails and the realm of possibilities it opens up for the advancement of mankind. The scientific method (SM) is the closest we can get to determining truth, which is substantiated by thinking about another method. Attempting to disprove the SM would require its use, resulting in circular reasoning. The SM can be of great value to humanity outside of traditional science. Using data to support or reject a claim should be used throughout society. Life must observe the environment in order to survive and humans are conscious beings, with the capacity to think about these observations more so than other species. Since the dawn of the scientific age 400 years ago, society has been against science (observe the opposition to facts regarding 4.5 billion-year-old earth, heliocentrism, round earth, genetically modified organisms, and climate change, to name a few). I have not yet discovered the reason for this, but it may be due to many people’s inability to comprehend the scientific method, which ultimately results in changing conclusions / truths / beliefs based off of ever-changing data and observations. This means the SM is rather progressive in nature, and many people tend to dislike change or unfamiliarity. Many scholars will say the SM does not yield truth, but simply provides data to confirm or reject a hypothesis with an infinite number of null hypotheses. A truth entails no change. I posit that the SM yields objective facts. It may also be due to a group of powerful individuals suppressing society similar to the way the Catholic Church (and historical societies in general) condemned new scientific ideas, such as heliocentrism, rather than test them. They are not particularly suppressing science, but rather epistemology. For example, governments do this to citizens through lack of transparency, which hinders data collection (Snowden and WikiLeaks are glimmering examples). Contemporary society fails to realize how far modern science has gotten our species in the last 400 years, and especially in the last 20 years, while we enjoy the comforts of being able to walk into a store and buy food rather than hunt for it.

The SM has brought us civilization, democracy, farming, and industry. How do we know the scientific method works? Richard Dawkins put it very simply when he said, “Planes fly, cars drive, computers compute. If you base medicine on science, you cure people. If you base the design of rockets on science, they reach the moon. It works.” Does it not make sense to build policy and beliefs using the same methods scientists use to test their ideas? If it was not for the SM, we would still be hunting and gathering, living like wild animals (which also use the SM in a much more primitive manner) in a much harsher lifestyle. However, we enjoy comforts of technology so we do not have to live how biological evolution forged us to live. This is posing a whole new set of problems because natural biological processes necessary to survive in the wild as hunter-gatherers are not physiologically active, or, are overactive in modern human bodies, leading to disease and death (diabetes, obesity, coronary artery disease, etc.). Cultural evolution is now playing a major role in shaping the population and will lead us to reach (or not reach) a Type I, and eventually, a Type III society on the Kardashev scale. Our goal is to use artificial selection to cure society of its problems and push past parochialism to a species that can utilize the SM to solve any problem. We hope to show every person the epistemological capabilities of the SM. Essentially the emphasis is placed in current brain power and neuroplasticity.

We have recently concluded that current leaders, along with general society, are incompetent. This is exemplified by holding conservative (unchanging) beliefs and placing time and effort into dangerous and short-sighted pursuits that have implications of ultimately damaging society (climate-change denial, war, exclusive focus on fossil fuels, nuclear weapons, localization, intolerance to valid beliefs). This has led contemporary societies to have unchanging, yet solvable problems. Change must occur for society to advance and for problem-solving to take place. Imagine if all of humankind held unchanging beliefs and were unable to mold their beliefs based on ever-changing observations and data. We would be stuck in the Dark Ages! It is clear that contemporary societies generate prevailing notions of truth from opinions and closed-mindedness rather than obtaining data and reaching valid conclusions. The SM can advance society because it is progressive to its core. It leads to conclusions being reached from evidence and the ability to change conclusions based off of current data and statistical analysis. The SM also relies on peer review. Peer review is an essential component because the same conclusions are true for everyone in regards to data leading to said conclusions. This integral peer-review component prevents data from being fabricated by individuals with special interests. Imagine where society would be if everyone was capable of utilizing the scientific method, and the only factor influencing policy and beliefs was truth (as close as we can get to it). This would be a world where astrophysicists who truly understand the devastation that can occur from nuclear weapons held nuclear launch codes, rather than a politician who has no understanding of basic nuclear principles. This would be a world where factual climate change was widely accepted and people realized mass extinctions have occurred multiple times throughout geologic history. This would be a world where every individual understood our atmosphere is forever changing, where people understand Homo sapiens are not the pinnacle of intelligence, where more money was spent on research rather than defense and war, where people were not constantly consuming carcinogenic “food” and foods contributing to obesity and disease, where someone who has a disease would be researching primary literature to try and find a cure. I have become recently concerned, because as I have been exposed to the world, I see age-old problems that should have been solved long before now, but unchanging beliefs have prevented problem-solving. The past is the present, the present is the present, and the future is the present.

I have always dreamed of creating something meaningful for society and to contribute to our species in an altruistic (or selfish, according to Dawkins) manner, minutely comparable to Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, Watson, Crick, Mendel, and other great thinkers. Through my understanding of modern science, I know what we are capable of as a species (interplanetary travel, sustainable energy, life expectancy of 150+ years, curing genetic diseases, ending animal farms – to name a few achievements possible in the next 10 years). It is blatantly obvious that our advancement into the next great technological age, free of ignorance and solvable problems, is hindered due to corrupt, inept policy makers and an inept population that does not use epistemology to solve problems. This claim is most heavily supported by contemporary society’s reliance on oil, even though the data shows it contributes to climate change that can be detrimental to our species (sulfur dioxide and respiratory problems, nitrous oxides and smog, carbon dioxide and global warming). It can most literally kill us. We rely on this unsustainable product while there are many alternatives being suppressed by the hold Big Oil has on government (it was the 6th-largest lobbying industry in US from 1998 to 2016). It is utter ignorance to believe we need oil for transportation when entities are obtaining successful results using solar energy, wind energy, hydrogen energy, electric energy, and electromagnetic energy (EM Drive, Hyperloop One). I do not blame the policy makers or society for their current predicament. Man does not see things because “he himself is standing in the way: he conceals things” (Nietzsche). My posit, known as Ant Theory, is supported by Nietzsche’s quote. Ant Theory suggests that humans are not capable of comprehending or observing all of the current phenomena in the universe. Would we spend time trying to teach arithmetic to ants? No! They are clearly not capable! It is important for humans to realize this about our species and then realize what humanity is still capable of. We are not the pinnacle of life. Evolution has forged many great organisms, some of which are better than humans at tasks such as memorization or detecting sound or light. Humans today are a product of not only Darwinian evolution, but also cultural evolution based in ignorance, money, greed, and false promises. Through my pursuits, I hope only to convince you of the importance of the SM and that the failure of utilizing it results ultimately in death of our species. We are the most powerful species because of our ability to solve problems. However, we see people and politicians avoiding the SM day in and day out when they spout off incoherent claims with no evidence for support. The first part of the SM is already done for us. Everyone observes the problems plaguing society. We simply need to hypothesize why these problems occur and then experiment with different ways to solve these problems. Only by obtaining data to support conclusions and hypotheses will these problems ultimately be solved.

The cure for cancer is out there, we just need a society willing to use the scientific method to find it. We need to pursue endeavors that advance our species. It starts with education and learning how to reach valid conclusions and make decisions based on observation and analysis. I am not advocating for all of the population to study science. I am advocating for the population to use what science has given us – hypothesizing about current problems and using evidence-based reasoning in reaching conclusions about these problems. I am advocating for the importance of the scientific method in everyday life and the importance of using it to solve the world’s problems. Martine Rothblatt is a visionary whose child was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Through her resources (she held no background in biology), she was able to create a cure and save her child. Imagine allocating resources towards studying societal problems and finding solutions, towards technology, towards finding cures and placing people on Mars. We should be reaching for the longevity escape velocity, not perpetuating unnecessary issues such as war, walls, and exclusive reliance on oil, which cause a myriad of other problems. Racism was law just 60 years ago; what will society look back on 60 years from today and be ashamed of? It takes visionaries who truly believe in the capabilities of the human species to lead and show laymen what we are capable of. It takes visionaries influenced by hope and facts to make policies, which ultimately fosters the societal change required to make these advances. Human nature has led our society into many of our problems. Using the SM, we must transcend human nature and reach our true potential! The adoption of this philosophy comes with many implications I have only begun to ponder. However, if adopted, this philosophy would lead humankind into the next great age of peace, technology and creation.

Nicholas Huerta is a student at California State University – Sacramento, who is studying cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, and philosophy. Mr. Huerta can be contacted here

A Word on Implanted NFC Tags – Article by Ryan Starr

A Word on Implanted NFC Tags – Article by Ryan Starr

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Ryan Starr


TL;DR – CALM DOWN. No one is forcing you to be chipped and you can’t be tracked or hacked.

So, I’ve seen a lot of people lose their minds over a Wisconsin company, Three Square Market (32Market), implanting NFC tags in their employees. Everyone just stop and a take a deep breath. You likely have no actual understanding of what the tag is or how it works, so let me tell you. I got one last year – an xNT, the original implantable NFC tag, from the company Dangerous Things (www.dangerousthings.com). It is exactly the same as what Three Square Market is offering to their employees. I know what it is and is not capable of doing. But let’s back up for a second.

First, the company is not forcing any employee to get it. There are several companies around the world who have offered the same thing (no, they are not the first) and no one has ever been forcibly implanted. Period. EVERYONE I have come across in the biohacking community is vocal about this NOT BEING MANDATORY. It is a choice, and we want to keep it that way. Furthermore, there is a growing political movement that specifically addresses concerns about bodily autonomy and preventing implants from becoming mandatory.

Now, to the most common concerns I’ve seen:

Can your tag be tracked?

NO. It is not a GPS device or even an active piece of electronics. It is a passive chip and antenna that pulls power from the device used to read it. The tag is the size of a grain of rice, and even if we wanted to cram active electronics in there, we can’t.

Can your tag be hacked?

NO. As I said above, these are passive devices that require power from a reader. In order to do so, the reading device essentially has to be placed directly on your tag (typically implanted in the hand) and held there still for several seconds. Also, some readers don’t read very well because of antenna differences. If someone really wanted to steal your stored data, they would have to physically attack you, restrain you, and then read your tag. If that were the case, you have bigger problems than someone reading your 800 bytes of information. But in the very unlikely event that someone did try to do that to you, don’t worry, because you can password-protect your tag.

So what are they good for?

PRIVACY AND SECURITY. Yes, you read that correctly. When I first saw NFC tags being implanted, I had many of the same privacy concerns that many of you do. But then I started actually researching the technology. NFC tags (implanted or not) can be used to lock and unlock devices and are more secure than a password or a fingerprint. Of course, implanting one means you’ll never lose it, and it will never get stolen. You can unlock your android phones, unlock your doors, safes, and padlocks (with specific NFC enabled hardware), and if you’re particularly good with electronics, you can rig up many Arduino or Pi-based devices that read and respond to your tag.

There are other cool things you can do. You can store links, digital business cards, Bitcoin wallets, or just generic text. But also understand that this technology is fairly new, and associated hardware are even newer. This is ground-level development going on, and because of that we can steer the development to ensure privacy and safety for the user. There is not a greedy corporation running the industry, just passionate hobbyists who are just as concerned about privacy as you are.

If you want more information, I highly suggest just asking someone who actually has an NFC tag or visit www.dangerousthings.com.

Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is the is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado and founder of the Transhumanists of the Sierras

Veterans’ Transhumanist Association Interest – Announcement by John LaRocco

Veterans’ Transhumanist Association Interest – Announcement by John LaRocco

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John LaRocco


I am seeking potential interest in forming a Veteran Transhumanist Association, aimed at military veterans and those with experience working for/with them. In addition to providing a place where transhumanist-leaning veterans could gather, it would also engage in promoting the development and use of open-source and low-cost bionics (and skills necessary to develop and fabricate them) to vets and the public at large. Let me know if you are interested.

Contact Information for John LaRocco

E-mail: jwl54@uclive.ac.nz

Website: http://www.johnlarocco.com

John LaRocco is an electrical and biomedical engineer doing a postdoc at University of Texas. His areas of research interest include neuroengineering, brain-computer interface (BCI), prosthetics, additive manufacturing, sports biomechanics, 3D-printed weapons forensics, digital currencies, synthetic organisms, and historical technology. He has a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Biomedical Engineering from The College of New Jersey, and a Master of Sciences degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Rowan University. His recreational interests include writing, reading, martial arts, finance, folklore, and history.

Transhumanist Society Nightmares: EMPs – Article by Cody Meadows

Transhumanist Society Nightmares: EMPs – Article by Cody Meadows

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Cody Meadows


The electrical grid is a concern for every citizen in our society. Without it, we, as an advancing society, would be thrown backward in advancement or at least heavily thwarted in achievement until we get the problem fixed. Just thinking about how people would begin to act in a situation where the grid went down strikes fear in the hearts of millions. This is supported by the observation that “doomsday prepping” has became more mainstream. This is a situation that could be even more devastating for transhumanists.

An EMP attack strong enough to take out the electrical grid could be the equivalent to a transhumanist having a stroke. Imagine your mechanical arm or leg being shorted from such an attack. It literally could paralyze those who have chosen to or medically needed to utilize such a device. It could also be an equivalent to a heart attack. Integrated devices would no longer work; mechanical hearts, life-supporting technology would be knocked offline. The effects would be devastating. Battery backups, if unaffected, would have limited life spans or have power greatly reduced due to lack of working energy resources to recharge.

Unfortunately this will be a real threat to transhumanists. The possibility of getting all nations to use nuclear power for energy purposes only – especially those that believe they must retain the concept of mutually assured destruction and rouge nations – is slim to none.

Now that I have doomed and groomed us, let me bring some mitigation to the table. We as transhumanists must first advocate for the dismantling of such weapons by all nations in unison. The probability of this happening with such nations a North Korea and Iran is probably very low. Yes, I just brought us some more doom and gloom, but advocating for such a thing should not be overlooked either as the world develops.

The second mitigating factor would be for us to harden the grid. Let us advocate to protect our transformers, power lines, and plants. This can be achieved but will cost the taxpayers. The Foundation for a Resilient Society estimated in a May 13th, 2015, study that the cost to taxpayers of hardening the grid would be between 10-30 billion dollars.*A small tax or movement of existing taxes to protect the grid would be cost-effective and could help protect us from EMP attacks and save lives. This would increase our national security and should be brought to the attention of your lawmakers.

Aside from strengthening the grid itself and advocating for the dismantling of EMP weapons, public or privately made EMP safe rooms should be developed and funded. These would essentially be bunkers for transhumanists who rely on technology for “life” and require electronic equipment not strong or hardened enough to withstand an EMP. Equipment to detect an attack early would also be essential.

I’m sure there are more brilliant ideas out there about how to mitigate EMPs early. But the most important thing to take away from all this is EMPs are a real threat to both transhumanists and those who choose to live a non-transhumanist life. It is our right not to be injured or killed by an EMP. It is our duty to encourage our lawmakers to protect our rights by hardening the grid, developing early-warning systems, developing EMP-safe bunkers for transhumanists and essential sensitive electronic devices, and ultimately advocating for the dismantling of EMP-type weapons.

Source

The Foundation for Resilient Societies. “Fact Sheet on Preliminary Costing Model of The Foundation for Resilient Societies to Protect the U.S. Electric Grid from Man-made Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Hazards and Solar Geomagnetic Disturbances (GMD)“. 2015.

Cody Meadows is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and submitted this article as a guest post.

Transhumanism, Meet Business – Article by Alcott Evans

Transhumanism, Meet Business – Article by Alcott Evans

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Alcott Evans


Being the tech and business enthusiast that I am, I have a weekly subscription for Bloomberg Businessweek, so the latest issue arrived in the mailbox yesterday.

After checking through the front-page index which provides headlines for every major topic, I noticed the title “Do-It-Yourself Transhumanism” under the Technology section of the magazine. The article can be read online here.

“Harbisson, whose U.K. passport shows he’s the first legally recognized cyborg, was born colorblind. He designed his antenna—which translates colors into one of 360 musical tones he’s memorized—back in 2003 with help from a cyberneticist. At first, he connected it to headphones and a laptop. Eventually, he persuaded a surgeon to drill into his skull, implant a chip, and fuse the antenna to his occipital bone.”

The field of human augmentation is rapidly becoming its own corporate industry, and many can openly assert that it already is its own industry; plastic surgery and liposuctions are becoming more and more common as we speak. As time passes and technological breakthroughs become more prominent, we will move from surgically fixing asymmetrical faces and other human cosmetic desires to programming “nanobots” which can dive into our bodies to perform the same tasks with relative ease.

Even in today’s early stage of mental and physical augmentations, we can clearly see the industry growing rapidly as individuals seek freedom of expression, a right granted to us by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Alcott Evans is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and submitted this article as a guest post.

CellAge Fundraiser Update and Donation Matching from LongeCity

CellAge Fundraiser Update and Donation Matching from LongeCity

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Lifespan.io and CellAge


The Transhumanist Party supports Lifespan.io and CellAge in their work towards groundbreaking scientific life-extension research. Finding a way to repair age-related damage to senescent cells would be a fundamental breakthrough for transhumanism, and we offer our best wishes and support for those striving towards these new technologies.

Here is an update from Lifespan.io and CellAge:

If you haven’t already noticed, our latest Campaign, CellAge, has been having a bit of difficulty in reaching its funding goal. So, in order to solve that problem, we asked all our backers from previous campaigns for feedback on how we can improve the current CellAge campaign.

We’ve gotten a staggering number of responses (which we’re still personally replying to) and have compiled all the reasons into one big, dramatic “what could have gone better” spreadsheet.

One of those reasons was that CellAge did not have a fund match.

So we fixed that.


CellAge is now endorsed by LongeCity. And they’re running a Fund Match up to $3000.

For those who don’t know, LongeCity is one of the oldest, most respected international pro-longevity organizations. Their exclusive forum boasts thousands of individuals learning, discussing and sharing latest breakthroughs of anything that has to do with slowing down aging.

Apart from generously contributing $800 right away, LongeCity is also running an internal fund match: anything donated via this special page before the 18th of February, will be doubled up to $3000.

To have them support CellAge means that they understand the significance of its success.

What makes this even more exciting is that CellAge has managed to secure additional external funding for their project, which means that they will be able to achieve the same goals even sooner.

The initial goal will now be $20,000, with all stretch goals being reduced as well.

Having raised over $15,000 so far, along with the fund match, means we’re incredibly close to successfully funding CellAge’s exciting research.

Just a quick refresher: CellAge is using customised synthetic biology to develop cutting edge ways to detect and destroy senescent cells, which contribute to age-related diseases. By developing this technology we will be able to give researchers a superior tool for finding senescent cells, and improving the quality of stem cell therapies.

Ultimately this will lead to a better way to remove problem senescent cells without the side effects traditional small molecules inevitably cause. In short, this technology can help start a revolution in medical research and a leap in how we treat age-related diseases for a healthier future.

If you’re still undecided, remember, every dollar you put into the LongeCity match will become two for CellAge.

Click here for donation match.

-The Lifespan Team