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The Unnatural Objection to Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Unnatural Objection to Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Of all the objections to life extension, perhaps the most banal one yet is the argument that it is not natural for humans to want to live longer and healthier than they currently do. Of course, not only does this actually go against human nature itself, but it is also an insult to the immense progress we have made in improving the human condition throughout the course of history. In fact, this opposition to life extension also flies in the face of the entire medical industry, which is focused on keeping people alive, and any other industry that contributes to the betterment of the human condition, of which there are many. The fact is, opposing life extension is what is unnatural, because it is a natural human desire to want to survive, and to continue living in a healthy manner.

And let me be clear – just because something is natural does not make it good. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that getting poisoned by a plant, mauled by a wild animal, drowned by a tsunami, or crushed by a landslide are scenarios that are to be avoided at all costs. That these sorts of events are now relatively rare speaks volumes about the progress we have made in battling the destructive forces of nature.

Similarly, cancer, heart attacks, and strokes are natural too, yet no one would say that these conditions are desirable or good. In fact, many billions of dollars and resources are spent on finding a cure for these diseases, and for good reason – these diseases are deadly and contribute to massive suffering and pain.

To be sure, the environment is precious and should be protected. After all, to be able to walk through a forest and appreciate the flora and fauna is refreshing. Being able to visit a beach and feel the cool ocean breeze on one’s skin on a late summer afternoon is lovely. However, we should also be very wary of romanticizing nature, mostly because nature is entirely indifferent to the human condition. Indeed, nature does not care one bit about our happiness or fulfillment. Earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis and hurricanes are part of nature, but no sane person would argue that these events are positive or that we should experience more of them.

Just because something exists in nature does not make it desirable or good. Conversely, just because something was developed outside of nature does not make it undesirable or bad. In fact, more often than not, science and technology have contributed to massively improving the quality of life for human beings. Imagine how much worse life would be without electricity, life-saving medicines, medical procedures, and computer technology.

How many people now would say that the tuberculosis vaccine, stents, or pacemakers are bad and should be abolished? Of course, all these discoveries were “unnatural,” but no sane person would wish to be inflicted with a deadly infectious disease or suffer a heart attack.

But going back to talking about the environment, climate change is a very real threat to planet Earth and humanity, and we should do all we can to protect our planet, the human race, and members of the animal kingdom. However, the solution to climate change is not going to arrive automatically as part of a natural process. Neither is the answer to stop evolving as a species or to stop all technological innovation and progress and revert to the Dark Ages, and in turn have humanity experience economic collapse and widespread suffering. In fact, humanity’s best hope for battling climate change will likely come from science and technology.

Further, attempting to control nature is what has allowed us to come up with inventions such as indoor plumbing, safe and comfortable shelter, and weather forecasts, all of which have improved the quality of life dramatically. Suppose that we had just let nature run its course in these scenarios. I don’t think I need to spell out what would have happened to humans had we allowed that to happen.

But even after we have thoroughly debunked this ridiculous objection to life extension, critics may then move on to other objections, such as the idea that a human life is already long enough, or that we may become bored if we were to live longer, or that the Earth will become overpopulated. Fortunately, we have answers to these objections as well. And what about the argument that sickness and death are inevitable and that we should just accept things the way they are? This topic deserves its own discussion, but for the moment we can respond by saying that catching an infectious disease and dying at the age of 20 or 30 was once the way things used to be, but it is fortunately no longer the case.

The fact is that it is entirely natural for humans to want to live longer and healthier. Indeed, it is what we have been trying to do since the dawn of time. It is human nature to want to survive and thrive. For the first time in human history, we have the potential to overcome nature itself. Limiting ourselves to what is natural means we deny ourselves the opportunity to be better and to do better. Dying at 20 years of age due to cholera, measles, or malaria wasn’t our destiny as human beings, and therefore we overcame infectious illnesses and significantly increased our life expectancy. Now, we are at a crossroads where we get to decide if we wish to continue suffering for years and then dying due to aging-related illnesses such as dementia, heart disease, and cancer, or, whether we will dedicate this next stage of human development to overcoming these horrific illnesses.

Of course, even after admitting that aging-related illnesses and natural disasters are devastating and should be avoided at all costs, opponents of life extension may still argue that they are entitled to oppose life extension. Of course, they are entitled to their beliefs, no matter how faulty their reasoning and logic may be, but we supporters of life extension are also entitled to advocate for the defeat of aging-related illnesses and to improve the human condition through advancements in science and technology, even if these advancements are not part of nature.

I would urge those who oppose life extension technologies because they are unnatural to revisit their stance after burying a loved one who dies from cancer, or after witnessing a calamitous natural disaster that destroys entire towns and kills thousands of people.

If nature held all the solutions to life, then we would not need to build earthquake-resistant buildings, we would not need to develop anti-cancer drugs, and we would not need spend money, time, and resources on reducing human suffering and improving the human condition.

Nature is how we started as human beings, but nature is not where we need to end.

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

The Overpopulation Myth – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Overpopulation Myth – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opinions From Around the World: Obah Isaac Ebuka – 3D-Printing Organs for Transplant

Opinions From Around the World: Obah Isaac Ebuka – 3D-Printing Organs for Transplant

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Obah Isaac Ebuka


Editor’s Note: It is extremely important that supporters of transhumanism understand the opinions of peoples from every nation. I, Kimberly Forsythe, decided to reach out to people from other cultures and asked them to give me their opinions on the topic of transhumanist tech. My goal is to better understand why some may object to the idea based on various cultural differences.

As I receive the essays, I will publish them. My hope is that we can work together to build more international bridges and achieve progress that works for as many people as possible. This essay regarding the promises of 3D-printing of organs and the remaining challenges of implementing this technology was written by Obah Isaac Ebuka. 

~ Kimberly Forsythe, Member, United States Transhumanist Party, December 13, 2020


3D-Printing Organs for Transplant

What if it was possible to mass-produce organs – to grow hearts and lungs in a lab, readily accessible by the hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for organs? The affirmative answer to that question has been the goal of many researchers over the years, and their results are very promising.

The Promise of 3D-Printing

In 1988, a researcher modified a basic HP inkjet printer into using cells instead of regular ink and used the printer to write on a surface using cytoscribing technology. Now in 2019, scientists in Israel have been able to print a miniature human heart complete with contracting blood vessels using human cells. A lot of work and technology through the years led up to this incredible feat of human bio-engineering.

3D-printing organs is still not completely perfected, but the technology at present shows that it is possible. Current biotechnology makes it possible to print incredibly complex organ scaffold structures that mimic the structures of human organs and tissues with high anatomical precision using synthetic but biocompatible materials. These scaffolds can then be used as the spatial matrix on which cells can be built upon to create life-sized vascularized organs that possess the vital microstructures of real organs.

Current Challenges for Bioprinting

Biological Complexity

There are still many challenges to bioprinting that are yet to be addressed. One of these is that human organs are more incredibly complex than current technology can create. It might have been possible to create a miniature heart with the major aortae and coronary arteries, but scientists have yet to replicate vessel structures like the millions of capillary networks which are micrometers in diameter and essential to the life of organs.

Also, organs are much more than their structures and shapes. There a lot of details about organs that we are yet to understand such as how certain genes, hormones, and other factors in the body interact with organs and vice versa. An example of this is how the heart is an endocrine organ and not simply a blood pumper. So a true heart replacement also has to be able to create Atrial Natriuretic Peptides (ANP), which lower blood pressure.

Practicability

Hindrances from a bioengineering perspective aren’t the only things to worry about. It is also very challenging to design clinical trials that will test the longevity and compatibility of these experimental organs in humans. There is also the challenge of securing sustainable sources of cells, biocompatible material, as well as large-scale manufacturing capabilities needed for 3D-printing to be a viable and affordable replacement for real organ transplants.

Ethnic and Religious beliefs

Ethnicity and religious belief inhibit technological changes. In Nigeria, a country in western Africa, some groups of religious fanatics believe that each organ is sacred and would not have their organs changed. This view is not only shared in Nigeria particularly, but it is commonplace and widespread for natives to abhor mending or replacing what they come to see as natural.

Proposed solutions to these barriers

Natives should be enlightened. They should be taught the need for bioprinting organs, seeing that the ultimate aim is to save lives.

Author: Obah Isaac Ebuka

Abuja, Nigeria.

Twitter handle: @AiTweet01