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The Case for Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Case for Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


“I wish I could live 10 to 20 years less,” said no one ever. In fact, I have never met anyone who didn’t want to live at least a few more years of a healthy, active life. Yet, incredibly, there appears to be some controversy about the topic of life extension. Specifically, there seems to be some pushback from critics, who have attacked life extension as “irresponsible” and “harmful,” cite overpopulation and resource constraints, and in turn paint doomsday scenarios that would occur if human beings were to live longer lives.

With this article, I hope to begin a discussion to eventually lay this controversy to rest, as well as assuage any concerns the general public may have about the growing life-extension movement. For the desire to live longer and healthier is not only natural to the human condition, but I believe it is one of the noblest goals for human beings to strive for.

There are many good reasons to support life extension, but here I shall provide a few reasons why, just to get the conversation started. Firstly, many people already support life extension. Anti-aging products as well as hormone replacement products and therapy generated about $50 billion of revenue in 2009 in the United States alone, according to the American Medical Association. If this isn’t an indication that people are very interested in life extension, I don’t know what is. While the efficacy of some such products and therapies has come into question, that in itself would be a good reason to develop this field so that more efficacious and better products could be developed. This would ensure that we adequately address the enormous demand for life-extension products and therapies.

Not only are many people already interested in life extension, but extending the human lifespan is something we have been working on for quite a while. In fact, the global average life expectancy has more than doubled since the year 1900. This necessarily raises the question,”Why should we stop now?” It seems illogical, unreasonable, and, in fact, inhumane to me to stop working on something so crucial – increasing life expectancy so that more people can have more of what is the most beautiful experience on Earth, the human experience. Therefore, why not dedicate more resources and funding to something that most people are already interested in, consider to be a huge priority in their lives, and which we have already been working on for a very long time?

Also, as I pointed out in a previous article on aging, there are practical reasons why we would want to support life extension. Making progress in life extension means each of us will have additional time with which to do things that are important to us. Imagine if you had an additional 10 to 20 young years of life. Think about all that could be accomplished during this time. The additional time you have in your life might help you come up with a cure for cancer, help eliminate poverty, or fulfill some other important accomplishment that humanity would benefit greatly from. As I mentioned in my article on aging, extending the human lifespan would result in us being able to work on other things that are important to the human race, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of improvement and progress. Imagine the number of world-changing ideas and products that never came to fruition because someone passed away. Let’s make sure that humanity is never robbed again of something it needs, just because of the untimely end of people who could have made a positive contribution.

In addition to logical and practical reasons why we should support life extension, it turns out that concerns about overpopulation and resource scarcity have been overblown. According to biologist Dr. Aubrey de Grey, life-extension therapy could postpone or eliminate menopause, thereby allowing women to space out their pregnancies over more years. What this would do is decrease the yearly population growth rate.

Further, according to Dr. Max More, CEO of Alcor, not to mention numerous other reputable sources, including 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.

In terms of resource scarcity, according to the World Food Programme, while it is true that an estimated 124 million people in 51 countries are facing food insecurity, this is due to reasons such as conflict and political instability, rather than food shortages. In fact, according to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, the problem of malnourishment is a distribution problem, rather than a production one. Indeed, India actually has a food surplus, but wastes an extraordinary amount of food, leading to a large number of undernourished people. Therefore, the problem is a supply-chain and political problem, rather than a resource problem, and we are not running out of food, as some people have claimed.

Finally, according to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. No matter where you might live, taking a quick glance around you will likely reveal that this is indeed the case. While there are a litany of causes of obesity, lack of food is not one of them. Thus, we actually have too much food around the world, rather than not enough. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations demonstrated, in a landmark study, that per capita food availability for the world as a whole has risen in recent decades, and the number of chronically undernourished people has been cut by more than 50 percent in just a few decades. Therefore, we have more than enough food to feed everyone.

The same exaggerated fears have been stoked about other resources, such as energy, water, and land, and all have been overcome or handled over the course of human history. It turns out that human beings have been remarkably successful at coming up with solutions to these challenges over the years, and I do not think that we will, all of a sudden, lose this resourcefulness, dedication, and ability to master our environment.

Naturally, over the last few decades, not to mention centuries, doomsday prognostications by people such as cleric and scholar Thomas Malthus, biologist Paul Ehrlich, and economist Stephen Leeb, have not come true, and in fact, in many cases, have been utterly debunked.

Finally, on a moral, ethical, and indeed, human level, it seems cruel to inhibit human beings to living a certain amount of time, and no more. To this end, I have a simple question for those who are opposed to life extension based on the idea that there is a predetermined amount of time that all humans are supposed to live.

Would you tell a parent being ravaged by stage 4 cancer or a sibling suffering from cystic fibrosis that they do not deserve to live any longer because their time is up and that this is the “natural order of things”? Everyone deserves to live a dignified, healthy, and fulfilling life, and it is cruel for us to appoint ourselves judge, jury, and executioner.

So I ask people who are vehemently against life extension, “Do you believe that we are qualified to decide how long others should live?” Further, if you support cancer treatment that would prolong the life of a loved one by a few months or few years, why would you not support treatment that would prolong their healthy life for a few more years?

Since the beginning of time, humans have always strived to improve their lot in life, to seek growth in many aspects of the human experience, and to overcome challenges and hardships. Just as it would be absurd for someone to say that they want to regress, devolve, and live a shorter life, it would be equally absurd for us to say we would not want to live longer, healthier lives. Thus, it is natural for humans to support life extension, if not for themselves, then at least for others who desire it, because to reject it would be equivalent to rejecting life, and rejecting the experience of being human.

Anyone who truly cherishes life and how valuable it is, should at least consider the vast number of possibilities that life extension would bring. Of course, it is up to each person to decide for themselves whether they would want to live healthier and longer lives, and we are not the decision-makers for everyone else. This is a personal decision that must be explored by each individual. I am confident that the more we communicate our message that life extension is natural as well as desirable for the development of human beings and the planet, the more people will be on board with something that is frankly very obvious: life extension is a noble cause, and one that is very much worth exploring.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Why Toyota Is a Transhumanist Company – Article by Arin Vahanian

Why Toyota Is a Transhumanist Company – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


When people think about the company that most embodies Transhumanism, Google certainly comes to mind. With subsidiaries such as its R&D facility Google X (dedicated to launching ambitious technologies that aim to make the world a better place), and its biotech company Calico (dedicated to combating aging and associated diseases), not to mention other projects it is involved in, Google seems to be well-poised to carry the Transhumanist torch.

However, one company that I believe has been flying under the radar in this regard, but also embodies Transhumanism, is Toyota. While it might not be the first organization many people think of when they think about Transhumanism, and while its products are not nearly as revolutionary as Google’s, it would be unfair to not also include Toyota among the firms most responsible for spreading the values of Transhumanism.

The main reason why I believe this to be the case is related to the Japanese art and science of continuous improvement, called Kaizen. As I wrote in my book Kaizen for Men, the philosophy of Kaizen assumes that our way of life, which includes our work life, social life, and home life, should be constantly improved. We do this by taking small steps toward improving processes, products, services, habits, and actions. In essence, the spirit of Kaizen is that there should be some sort of improvement every day.

There are many ways in which Toyota uses Kaizen, but here I shall specify a few ways the firm approaches continuous improvement, and then relate it to the philosophy of Transhumanism.

First, the Toyota Production System is dedicated not only to improving products and processes, but also to eliminating waste and inefficiencies in an organization. Just as Toyota uses PDCA, an improvement cycle methodology to solve problems found on the shop floor, and just as Toyota seeks to eliminate different types of waste in its manufacturing process (such as defect correction, inventory, and overproduction), Transhumanists seek to find ways every day to improve the human condition, and to eliminate waste and inefficiency from our lives. An example of this would be the Transhumanist pledge to improving the quality of life through increased funding for science and technology, as well as support for inventions such as bionic prostheses, which now allow people who previously lost limbs, to live more productive lives, and to better function as members of society.

Next, Toyota’s dedication to finding the root cause of problems (through tools such as the 5 Whys method and the Cause and Effect diagram), rather than just addressing the symptoms, is similar to the way Transhumanists are addressing the challenges brought forth by aging, cancer, and rare diseases. The hope is that by finding the root cause of these issues, as opposed to just prescribing medication and hoping for the best, that we can eradicate illnesses that have been plaguing humanity for centuries.

Further, at Toyota, the practice of Hansei, or self-reflection, involves acknowledging one’s own mistakes and pledging improvement. For instance, at Toyota, even if a task is completed successfully, teams hold a self-reflection meeting, whereby team members help identify failures experienced along the way and create a plan for future efforts. This insistence on acknowledging current limitations and stressing improvement in order to build a better future is exactly what Transhumanists have been dedicated to since the very founding of the movement.

Finally, Toyota is not just Transhumanist in the way that it builds products or helps its employees improve. It is also Transhumanist in the way that it communicates its values and markets its products. The slogan for Lexus, Toyota’s luxury line of automobiles, is “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.” What could be more Transhumanist than this? When most people think of Toyota, they think of high-quality, reliable, well-designed products sold at a reasonable price. For better or worse, the automobile has become a staple of modern living for many decades now, and few things seem as normal to us now as getting into a car and driving away to some destination, be it our workplace, a friend’s house, or a vacation destination.

Therefore, just as the automobile has become commonplace in our lives, and just as Toyota has become known as a reputable company releasing quality products that meet the needs of many people, so Transhumanism must become the most popular philosophy when it comes to improvement and self-actualization. Transhumanism isn’t a fringe movement, it’s the human movement.

After all, I imagine that almost all people would consider improvement to be quite positive, and would consider actualizing oneself to be one of the most rewarding and valuable goals in the human condition.

This is the promise of Transhumanism. Just as Toyota seeks to be better every day, and to release better products every day, so we must all decide to be better every day, and to seek continuous improvement. This is why I believe that Kaizen and Transhumanism are linked at the core. Because just as we must take steps every day toward releasing better products and services, we must work every day toward being better human beings and building a future our children would want to live in.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

 

 

Why I Believe in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

Why I Believe in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Someone asked me why I decided to join the Transhumanist Party, and indeed, why I support a movement, which, at first glance, appears to be a fringe movement with members who are out of touch with the needs of the general public.

The truth, however, is far different from what is reported in the media, in books, or even in scholarly articles. Because Transhumanism is the only movement that cares enough about improving the human condition and about building a better future to dedicate itself completely to these monumental tasks. Being human, the human condition is all that we have, and as such, we should cherish and treasure it. Further, the future will be built, but unless we build it in such a way that reflects our values and ethics, we may not be happy with the outcome. This is far too important an outcome to leave to chance, and that is why Transhumanists are so passionate about building a better future.

Going back to the topic of this article, the reason I joined the Transhumanist movement is simple: I love life, and I am dedicated to helping increase the quality of life for every human being on Earth. This is the single most important purpose for me to be working on right now.

Despite what you may have heard, Transhumanism isn’t about becoming a machine; it’s about becoming a better human being.

Since joining this movement, I have been struck by how optimistic, open-minded, and welcoming everyone has been to me. I’ve been accepted with open arms, and people have gone out of their way to help me. It’s a tight-knit community full of passionate, intelligent, and dedicated people who want to work on resolving problems that plague humanity. What could be a more noble purpose?

Despite the negative coverage our movement has received in the media and books, one characteristic that is so consistent across our movement is that our members absolutely adore the sanctity of life. When someone asks me why I am so obsessed with goals such as reversing aging, increasing the human lifespan, dramatically increasing investment in medicine and science, and expanding the human consciousness and intellect, I reply that I am completely and utterly in love with the human experience.

But why do we Transhumanists persevere with such goals?

Because it is cruel and dishonest to say to a person with Stage 4 cancer that soon they will no longer be able to hold their son or daughter in their arms, nor hear their sweet laughter, ever again.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a quadriplegic that they will never walk.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell someone suffering from severe depression that they should accept a dark, brooding cloud of misery hanging over their head for the rest of their life.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a child born with a birth defect that they will never live a normal life.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a student with a learning disability that they should make do with what they have and call them a “special needs” student.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell someone they will never make love to their spouse again, nor hear their voice, nor feel their touch, due to a rare illness that will claim their life far too soon.

In short, I believe it is wrong to be so utterly pessimistic about life and about improving the human condition.

We believe in values such as pacifism, expanding the intellect through increased investment in education, improving the quality of life through science and technology, and improving health services and increasing the human lifespan. How on Earth is any of this fringe?

We must have the courage to proclaim our convictions in front of the rest of the world, because these goals are far too important to leave to chance, and because people all over the world genuinely do want to see progress in these areas.  

The fact is that Transhumanism is the movement that is most in touch with the needs of the general public, because most people, unless they are completely insane, would want to live healthier, be disease-free, increase their intelligence, and build a better future for their children. No, we are not a fringe movement. We are the human movement. After all, Transhumanism has the word “human” in it. And that to me means being a better human.

It is wrong to be defeatist and throw our hands up in resignation, because nothing of significance was ever accomplished by being pessimistic, capitulating, or quitting prematurely. Amazing inventions, advances in medicine, and improvements in quality of life came about precisely because we, as humans, did not give up, but rather, fought for what was right. And increasing the quality of life for all humans is right.

I am a Transhumanist because I am a human being, and because I love the human experience. And this is something I will never apologize for. In fact, this is something I will continue to fight for as long as I am alive. Which, hopefully, will be for a very long time.

Why am I a Transhumanist? Because simply put, I love life too damn much.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space – Umberto Boccioni

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space – Umberto Boccioni

Umberto Boccioni


 

The ideas of Transhumanism and post-humanist thought may seem as if they belong to the 21st century, but humans have been capturing such an imagination of the future by means of artistic expression way before they could see the state of technology today.

It was an 1909 when Italian poet F.T. Marinetti laid out the core tenets of the Futurism Movement in his manifesto. Futurism can be seen as one of the points of origin for the beautiful relationship of transhumanism and art. Born out of an era of a growing disdain for the fascist government in Italy and the state of the world at the time, Futurism called upon the prospect of bringing a future of youth, industry, and advancing technology. The Futurist Movement thus gave birth to an era of artists that aimed to capture the essence of a possible future where the lines between technology and human were completely blurred.

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space is a bronze cast sculpture that is heavily regarded as one of the core works that truly represent the aesthetic of the Futurist Movement. It’s creator was Italian artist, Umberto Boccioni. Boccioni was one of the principal figures that shaped the art of Futurism as he advocated the use of dynamic movement and the deconstruction of masses.

In Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Boccioni presents viewers with a human figure with deconstructed masses that appear to be aerodynamic. The figure is engaged in pursuing one direction, almost as if it were its sole purpose; to move forward against the winds of demise. The deconstructed masses and lack of arms, or face for that matter, allows the viewer to perceive something that could be beyond human. It is evident that Boccioni wants us to see our body as nothing but a mere vessel that can be molded and shaped in any way imaginable, allowing us to transcend the boundaries of the physical, organic body. The lack of a discernible face implies that Boccioni believes that we should no longer identify who we are by how we perceive our current physical form. We are not bound by how we look in the mirror.

It is the creative minds like Boccioni that provoke the most profound questions concerning the state of humanity. Art is the very force that propels our human imagination forward. Now that we are nearing the end of 2017, I love looking back at how far we have come as a species despite the abundant setbacks. Art will never cease to encourage the human spirit to move forward because in the end, it is life that imitates art.

Many of the works of Umberto Boccioni and the Futurist Movement can be experienced at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

~ Emanuel Iral, Director of Visual Art, U.S. Transhumanist Party, December 8, 2017