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Open-Source Business Developer Nikolay Agapov and Transhumanist Party Presidential Primary Candidate Johannon Ben Zion In Conversation: On Near-Earth/Space Development, the Orbital Ring, and the Design for the Agapov Orbital Lift

Open-Source Business Developer Nikolay Agapov and Transhumanist Party Presidential Primary Candidate Johannon Ben Zion In Conversation: On Near-Earth/Space Development, the Orbital Ring, and the Design for the Agapov Orbital Lift

Nikolay Agapov
Johannon Ben Zion


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) publishes this interview between Johannon Ben Zion and Nikolay Agapov to advance the goals of Section XVII of the USTP Platform, which states that “The United States Transhumanist Party holds that present and future societies should take all reasonable measures to embrace and fund space travel, not only for the spirit of adventure and to gain knowledge by exploring the universe, but as an ultimate safeguard to its citizens and transhumanity should planet Earth become uninhabitable or be destroyed.” The construction of a highly economical infrastructure project such as the Agapov Orbital Lift would greatly reduce the costs of space travel and thus enable rapid exploration and development of space for the benefit of humankind and all sentient entities – thus also accelerating our transition into the next era of our civilization. As of this time, the USTP has not yet endorsed a Presidential candidate but welcomes activity from all of our Presidential Primary candidates to advance the USTP Platform. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, June 11, 2019

Read the English-language outline for the Agapov Orbital Lift, written by Nikolay Agapov, here

Johannon Ben Zion:  We live in different countries; we’ve never met!  Should we talk about how we met?

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, Ben, having heard of your Arizona Transhumanist Party‘s “Orbital Ring” publicity push, I felt I would have been remiss if I didn’t reach out to the Arizona Transhumanist Party and your U.S.  Presidential candidacy with the Transhumanist Party, and offer to make a comparison and further study of the respective designs, my team’s included.  I like to tell people that I am an “open-source” business developer in this context, and an avid supporter of the near-earth industrialization, in contrast to “pure exploration.”

I principally come from an educational background in economics with a specialization in business administration. I have made an extensive study of the global economic environment in the course of my international business studies and striven to understand and emulate the careers and novel methods of innovators like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.

I have always been interested in the topic of space exploration and in the process of studying at the university, I began to develop extensive plans for near-earth industrialization with the relatively smaller-budgeted space agencies in mind, as Roscosmos now has, and also a focus on high attractiveness to investors.

In addition, I have often written of as well as developed several designs in the field of solid-fuel rocket engines.  Making solid propellant rockets cheaper and more environmentally friendly with the ability to raise their efficiency to the level of liquid engines has been a central focus of my work.

After writing and developing in these areas for quite some time, I am convinced that space agencies and businesses are not nearly focused enough on outcomes or growth, which is why I have become an “open-source” business developer; network effects and “crowd-sourcing” effects in research and development must be better utilized if we are to quicken the pace of technological advancement.

The main goal of space businesses and agencies is the development of civilizational impacts of space-faring, the transition of humanity to the level of a true space-faring civilization. And all smaller projects should be viewed as merely steps to this larger goal.

It is not so much of an overstatement to say that modern space administrations in fact remain mechanisms of the state-run propaganda that arose during the period of escalation during the Cold War. Their goal is to maintain a certain prestige and visibility, through periodic campaigns and in the launching of scientific probes, etc.  A “Space Age cynic” such as myself will view many of these endeavors as not always directly contributing to the aforementioned “transition to a space-faring civilization.” As for the real, practical, space exploration, they have no idea how to develop it and do not strive for it.

As a result, I have completely updated my approaches to the industrialization of space, in the form of more networked or “crowdsourcing-ready” businesses and more results-oriented public agencies.  Since I’ve read more recently of your “Futurist New Deal”, I do hope that you will continue your commitment to near-earth industrialization as we first discussed.

JBZ: Well, yes, we absolutely will.  Although our campaign is focused on domestic economic  policy and e-governance issues now, all of our near-term undertakings are intended to set the stage for your “transition to a space-faring civilization,” or a true post-industrial society more broadly.

Nikolay Agapov: My team has our own approaches to the development of space expansion and the end goal, the preparation for the colonization of space, a goal I believe best achieved through the creation of a permanent transportation system to our nearest neighbor, the Moon.  The more than one trillion dollars that have been spent in the pursuit of space travel have not had this focus, been a rather poor use of funds, with a somewhat disappointing result all told.   I believe that you yourself told me in our first conversation that the efforts of your space agency [NASA] were “the most expensive PR campaign.”

JBZ: Yes, I said, “The most expensive PR campaign in history” and basically one with surprisingly little focus on tangible production outcomes, a concern I share with you. A popular, if a little operatic view of the history of NASA is one to which I do subscribe to a certain degree myself, at least in principle.  It’s a distrustful sentiment that really gets to the heart of most of this confused thinking on the NASA subject in a roundabout sort of way; the NASA “conspiracy theories” are largely rooted, I believe, in this feeling that this whole operation was a “Cold War” publicity stunt – a very expensive one – that didn’t “build” much of anything, in structural engineering terms at least –  although it contributed to the production of any number of groundbreaking technological breakthroughs argued for in hindsight as justification of the expense, and quite rightly argued considering the impact of those things – in spite of the lack of interest in “near-earth industrialization” by the parties in question.

Nikolay Agapov:   I would say that the “Space Age” tropes that both derived from and guided these somewhat odd goals have themselves become codified, leading to impractical implementations (or as we’ve suggested above, a lack thereof) and also a “monoculture,” where what began as nebulous goals, have become codified by science-fiction fanatics, films, and television – so that all interest, popular or industrial, is centering on rockets and journeys beyond our sphere which are very exciting – but a little ineffable as to their purpose relative to the building of things.

JBZ: Most of us at the Transhumanist Party are believers in technocratic solutions, even some beyond the 20th-century or early post-industrial models of today – and I am one of those. The principles of technocracy and automation-centered policy making would do quite a bit to solve these problems in private and public space initiatives.

Nikolay Agapov: Modernized countries share a technocratic approach to their organization.

JBZ: Yes, it’s odd to me that so many in the USA  view technocracy as an ugly word.  I regard myself (and all those involved in the “Futurist New Deal” do as well) as an “economic populist”, but I view this tendency to criticize technocracy as something to be viewed with skepticism, a “false populist phenomenon,” that derives from what is sometimes called in the USA “know-nothing”-ism, a set of anti-science and low-information cultural values that poison, well, many, if not most, earnest efforts in public policy and the ordering of a civil society.  

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, and your “futurists” would be doing the right thing in trying to counteract this other failing in thinking about technology and progress.

JBZ: How expensive would your space elevator be?  What’s the cost of the most expensive or extravagant elevator or orbital ring you’d like to build, since I know we’ve discussed a few with cost in mind?

Nikolay Agapov: Incorporating the existing but non-operational space stations described in my prospectus into the design, using a tether with a specialized design using Kevlar, carbon fiber,  or polyethylene materials designs that could sustain the tether and a series of relatively small additional payloads, a little smaller than a human at first – as I’ve described in our prospectus.

JBZ: Yes, I was imagining a bunch of little “Roombas” scooting up there to the space station to then be boosted off to the moon and do some work.

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, these types of remotely controlled or semi-autonomous devices should be among the easier parts of our “work order” to fulfill.  And as the system is judged to be stable, more tethers would be built, a number of these which are stable would perhaps allow for very low-cost space tourism, travel from Earth to the space station in a matter of days at that time shortly after the initial stabilization of the tether, but it is quite likely that other materials designs for tethers would be required, delaying the tourism part, which I regard as the smallest part of this undertaking compared to getting “robots” out in earth’s orbit fixing and building existing and new infrastructure, respectively, and traveling on to do so on the Moon as well.  

Using materials costs from the Eurasian markets and including the estimates of existing but underutilized space infrastructure and present-day tether materials (despite their payload limitations), I would put the total costs at 100 – 500 million dollars.  This 500% variation in costs would be due to the uncertain nature of building in orbit and the problems with constructing and maintaining the tether, as well as market uncertainties for the materials needed.

JBZ: That’s 100-500 million right?  Millions, 1 and six zeroes, 1,000,000? Is that what you are saying?

Nikolay Agapov: Yes.

JBZ: That’s many billions of dollars lower than any of the prospecti I’ve seen, some of which push up to a trillion dollars.

Nikolay Agapov:  Building systems for space tourism would be a lot more than a few hundred million dollars, as those systems are built and rebuilt to higher standards, but by that time there will occur an immense economic impact from making better use of building in orbit or on the Moon and the ways that they would impact existing markets, with cheaper and better satellites, new energy developments in solar and other renewable energies, and the appeal and benefits of industrializing in earth’s orbit and on the moon. As a result, those significant added costs for stronger elevators would be happily undertaken by those industries.

JBZ: I am still a little taken aback with this “low” budget.   That is a number that Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis, or many of these guys could fund based on their companies’ valuations just by diverting some portion of funds from other space companies.

Nikolay Agapov:  Maybe. Your question about the most expensive project I can think of – I don’t think is a serious one.  The “most expensive design” is to continue building rockets if operating cost and environmental impact are no concern.  

JBZ: Fair enough. Your prospectus states that you could have this design completed and financially self-sustaining in 3-5 years. Do you stand by that?

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes and no.  If the project was fully funded and international cooperation and many other political factors were dealt with independently – then yes, absolutely.  I think that the cooperation of U.S. and Russian space agencies and associated corporations and entities may be enough to accomplish this.

JBZ: It would take a mighty fine group of statesmen and women to accomplish such a thing.

Nikolay Agapov:  Maybe, maybe not.

JBZ: If such a project could be built so cheaply, why hasn’t it been done yet?

Nikolay Agapov:  I would answer “politics” more than “design”, but I would also include with that concern, the lack of motivation and the focus on these “popular imagination” and “sci-fi-genre media-driven” goals we spoke of, resulting in the “rich guys with big rockets” and tourism over industrialization.  Industry is a more controversial design principle because it is perceived as being more “invasive” or “less ecological”, although in practice the opposite is true; rockets have been and still are much worse.  Irony.

JBZ:  The design like the one that I had been sharing with others was to build out an entirely new orbital ring with a “PBO”, also known as  “Zylon” tether and with a $10 billion total price tag.  That’s the “Low Cost Design for an Orbital Ring” by California engineer David Nelson, I believe, and published July of 2017.  I should say it’s possible he’s a bit of a shy character; after a few attempts I’ve not been able to actually identify him (his writing has been republished, and Dave Nelson is an extremely common name in the U.S.) nor contact him for comment.  It’s also a design that requires a 10-plus-year build timeline.

Nikolay Agapov:  I’ve read all about this design, and he’s done a lot of good work, but I think we can do a lot better with a smaller, more industry-focused orbital ring.  The option of using the decommissioned space station as a counterweight is a major selling point for us, but it, too, requires international and national politicking, as well as the business acumen of my organization and other private space companies.

JBZ:  Therein lies the rub, but it starts with getting people excited and having these conversations outside of the typical bluster of these discussions as nationalistic or symbolic endeavors.  If I had 100 million dollars, I would be investing that money into this today, and to that end  I hope we can link to your outline at least, for our readers, here.

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, that is fine, but bear in mind the full prospectus is written in Russian, and this outline of concepts was also written in English, but there remain a few proofreading concerns, so please be patient.  This outline at the time of its publication had not had the benefit of a translator, as this interview has.

JBZ: But feel free to comment and discuss with us,;we will be happy to engage with you. The function of such a thing is to answer questions and bring in new ideas and hopefully get a working space elevator built soon.

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, thank you for your time.

 

Wealth, Power, and the Prospect of Reversing Aging – Article by Arin Vahanian

Wealth, Power, and the Prospect of Reversing Aging – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


I often ask myself, “Why do wealthy and/or influential people seem to support spending billions of dollars on weapons and exploring outer space, when, with their massive wealth and resources, they could help reduce human suffering and dramatically improve the quality of life for billions of people?”

And this question takes me back to a discussion I had last year with gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, during which he recounted to me a meeting he had with an ultra high-net-worth (UHNW) individual. The purpose of the meeting was to raise money for aging and life-extension research, and the UHNW individual refused to donate to SENS Research Foundation, or even to get involved, stating something to the effect of, “It won’t happen in my lifetime.”

That response perplexed me. Here we had a very successful and intelligent person, who, rather than help ensure his own children (as well as others’ children) could live a healthier and longer life, refused to do anything, for the simple reason that he did not believe we could make much progress on reversing aging in his lifetime.

While this is indeed a selfish way to look at things, it is by no means uncommon. In fact, I have been racking my brain recently, trying to figure out why the people who are best-equipped to do something about life extension and aging, do not do so (or do not do enough).

To be fair, there are a few wealthy and influential people who support research into aging and life extension, the most notable being entrepreneur Jim Mellon. However, they seem to be the exception rather than the norm.

Indeed, why do people like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk, who possess incredible resources and influence, choose to spend money and time on attempting to colonize hostile, uninhabitable planets hundreds of millions of kilometers away, especially considering that they and their loved ones (if they are lucky to live long enough) will die of aging-related causes such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer?

While I cannot speak for the aforementioned people, I believe there are several reasons why people in a position of power or wealth refuse to do much about supporting research on aging.

The first reason is that aging and death have been considered inevitable. Indeed, even though we have been able to put a human being on the Moon, we have been unable to prevent a single human being from aging. Enormously wealthy and successful people tend to be quite pragmatic, and so I imagine that they would not want to fund an endeavor or be a part of something they believed had no chance of success. However, we have evidence that we are making progress on this front, or at the very least, that reversing aging and implementing life-extension technologies are worthy endeavors.

In fact, in 2005, MIT Technology Review organized a panel of world-renowned experts (including molecular biologists) and offered a $20,000 prize to anyone who could disprove the SENS research program and demonstrate that reversing aging is not worthy of consideration. However, none of the contestants were able to do so. On the other hand, there is no evidence that human life is sustainable on any other planets in our solar system (while human life is perfectly sustainable on Earth), and by most professional estimates, it would take incredible technological advancements and financial resources to even enable people to temporarily stay on a planet such as Mars. We should also consider the fact that there have been no studies performed on the massive changes that would occur to the human body as a result of living on another planet.

Thus, it actually appears more realistic to work on reversing aging than it would be to work on colonizing other planets. But even if we are not able to completely reverse aging, what if we were able to slow aging? Wouldn’t it be desirable to have an additional five to 10 years of healthy life? Any progress we could make on life extension would be worth it, given that it would directly add healthy years to a person’s life. One thing is for certain – doing nothing ensures that very little will change, and that humans will more than likely continue living this average lifespan of 79 or so years (with very modest improvements over time), with much of it in the later years being in sickness and poor health.

Another reason for the refusal to fund aging and life extension research may be a rather pessimistic one. It is entirely possible that billionaires and governments are hedging their bets in the event that climate change or some other scenario causes wide-scale suffering (the likes of which have never been seen before) and a potential destruction of the planet, along with the rapid extinction of the human species. If that were the case, and Earth was about to be destroyed, it would make sense to pour resources into colonizing other planets. However, I think the likelihood of something like this occurring, at least in the near future, is extremely slim. Further, we have much evidence to support the fact that the planet could sustain a larger population and that technological improvements, as well as renewable energy, and seasteading, can prevent such an apocalyptic scenario from occurring. In fact, despite the challenges we are facing in terms of sustainability, we are making good progress, and it seems unreasonable to me to give all of this up, throw in the towel, and chase a pipe dream of living on another planet (when the one we have now is perfectly suited to human life). Also, given that we have the technology to save our planet from being engulfed in chaos and destruction, but do not currently have the technology to live on other planets, wouldn’t it make sense to save Earth first, rather than attempting to embark upon costly journeys to other planets, especially journeys that have little guarantee of success?

Yet another reason may be that many people, including those in a position of power, have bought into the idea of an afterlife. However, if we are completely honest with ourselves, there is no evidence that an afterlife exists, whereas there is evidence that we are making progress with reversing aging, even if that progress is arriving at a pace that is slower than we would have liked. With that being said, I would never want to deny anyone the right to believe in whatever they want. The question is, however, whether it is beneficial to adopt a zero-sum attitude to this matter. The fact is, believing in an afterlife and contributing to aging and life-extension research are not mutually exclusive. One can have any religious beliefs one likes, and subscribe to the idea that there is an afterlife, while also contributing to the beauty of existence here on Earth.

Finally, working on a cause such as reversing aging appears to not be as exciting as the prospect of exploring Mars, which is why people would rather update their LinkedIn (or Tinder) profile with “Entrepreneur” or “Swashbuckling Adventurer” or “Arms Dealer”, even, rather than “Gerontologist”.  In all seriousness, though, I have always found the idea of exploring faraway lands, as well as other planets, to be exciting. But if human beings are excited about exploring the unknown, shouldn’t we also be interested in exploring a process as complex as aging, especially given that there is much we still do not know about it? Also, the implications of making advancements in this field are huge. This is because the un-sexy work that gerontologists are doing will lead to us living longer, healthier lives, and so this very important work should not be ignored. In fact, it is a massive waste of resources to try to colonize uninhabitable planets at the expense of ensuring good health and longevity, when all of humanity battles with disease and death. It would even be more noble to focus our efforts on eliminating poverty (something that the Chinese government, for instance, has dedicated its efforts to).

I do not wish to dissuade anyone from exploring outer space, but neither should we avoid doing what needs to be done on our planet. I only wish to ask whether spending billions on space exploration is the best use of resources at our disposal, considering that there is still much work to be done here on Earth.

As mentioned previously, it should not be a zero-sum game. In an ideal world, we could dedicate resources to both aging research and space exploration. However, when the budget for NASA is $21.5 billion and the budget for aging research at the National Institute on Aging is $40 million, one has to start asking questions. Actually, one could argue neither budget is large enough, especially given that the U.S. Department of Defense budget is $686 billion.

Why do we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on missiles and bombs to combat a highly-exaggerated threat, when there is the absolute certainty that billions of people will suffer and then die, many of them prematurely, due to aging-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and dementia?

What makes exploring outer space so much more important than ensuring that billions do not die prematurely from aging-related diseases? Will picking up and holding red dust on a hostile, uninhabitable planet be more fulfilling than holding one’s child or loved one in one’s arms?

What does it say about our society when we are content to allow friends and family members to perish in undignified ways, while we dream about stockpiling as many weapons as possible, reliving fictional fantasies inspired by comic books and movies, and ignoring challenges here on Earth?

These are questions we must ask ourselves, and, more importantly, must demand those in power to ask themselves. At the end of the day, if we as a society are comfortable with the tradeoffs and decide en masse that dealing weapons and exploring outer space are more important than working on curing disease, reversing aging, and ensuring that everyone on Earth lives a dignified life, then we can rest assured knowing that we gave this most important of topics much consideration.

However, given the facts, I do not think we have reached that point yet. We have, however, reached a point where there is promise that we are making progress in fighting aging, and it is irresponsible and reckless to ignore these gains while entertaining fantasies of living on other planets. It makes little sense to try to live in a dignified manner on a dangerous, inhospitable, isolated planet that is not suitable for human life, when we are having difficulty living in a dignified manner here on Planet Earth (a planet that is perfectly suited to human life). The solution is not to dream about moving to Mars while leaving the elderly and unhealthy here to die. The solution is also not to increase defense funding, when we already have more weapons than we know what to do with. The solution is to help our brothers and sisters here on Earth live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives. And thus, this is a call to action for those of you who are in a position of power or wealth and who can dedicate resources to ensuring that your loved ones, and everyone else’s loved ones, can live better.

One thing I would like to ask UHNW individuals and politicians is, what will you do with the great wealth, status, and power you have accumulated? Will you play golf and remark that “it won’t happen in my lifetime”? Or will you actually do something to ensure that your children won’t be doomed to a short life, during which they will suffer from debilitating disease and eventually die?

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

Grand Galactic Actuary – Short Story by Gennady Stolyarov II

Grand Galactic Actuary – Short Story by Gennady Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II


The short story below was authored by Gennady Stolyarov II, ASA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, and is one of the entries in the Society of Actuaries 12th Speculative Fiction Contest. It was published as one of the contest entries here.

You can read all of the entries here and vote for your choice of three of them here, until March 21, 2017. You are encouraged to read all of the submissions, and also to consider supporting Mr. Stolyarov’s story, which has a transhumanist and cosmopolitan message, couched in a bit of insurance humor. Remember only to vote one time!


Euclid Jefferson, recently retired actuary, stepped off the MoonX tourist shuttle and into a dull gray meteor crater. He found unfamiliar the combined experiences of low gravity and his cumbersome spacesuit. Although he could leap ahead and quickly jump out of the crater, he found it challenging even to raise his arms. After a few minutes of tentative jump-walking, he slowly turned to observe the shuttle’s pilot make a hasty takeoff. He wondered why he had been the only passenger on this particular flight. In the year 2036, such sparsely booked flights were not unheard of, but already quite uncommon. The weather at the spaceport had not been inclement, and the Archimedes Research Base usually attracted a steady flow of journalists, academics, and curiosity seekers.  Why was today different?

The domes of the research base were lit only dimly, and the moonscape was strangely empty as he approached. There was no welcoming party – just a lone figure at the base entrance, clad in the field uniform of a lunar geologist, but without the tools. As Euclid approached, he discerned the face of his wife Hypatia. He had not seen her for a year; on Earth, he had received a series of experimental rejuvenation treatments that took approximately twenty years off of his biological age. She, having been moon-bound in the meantime, still had the appearance of a woman in her early fifties. Over her spacesuit, she still wore the necklace Euclid had given her before their wedding. They had planned to return to Earth together, where she would recover from the muscle and bone atrophy caused by prolonged low-gravity exposure, and then planned to receive the rejuvenation treatments herself. For now, though, she looked weary and showed relief, but no joy, at his arrival. Her expression predominantly showed deep alarm.

“Euclid – no time for greetings. The base has been evacuated. All world governments are on standby to see how this situation is resolved. You were able to come because only you were cleared to come. Your pre-scheduled trip to the base was the fastest opportunity for getting an actuary here. You – only you – are needed.”

“What?” Euclid was incredulous.

“We have made first contact with an alien life form. It only wants to speak to an actuary. It refuses to move until it has done so.”

Hypatia pressed a key on her remote control, and the door into the base’s main dome slid away, admitting them inside. The research equipment had been cleared out, and no other human being was in sight. A few small utility bots scurried around the edges, performing routine essential maintenance, but the center of the dome’s vast floor was occupied only by a massive, indistinct contraption, semi-shrouded in shadow. It seemed to be a makeshift structure – one supported by hundreds of thick, cylindrical, mechanical legs on top of which sat ten-meter-high black panels, arranged in a dodecagon, the center of which emitted a faint glow. Narrow cracks between the panels betrayed hints of slow, deliberative motion.

As the doors slid shut behind them, Euclid and Hypatia removed their helmets. “I am Euclid Jefferson!” Euclid shouted at the black structure. His voice echoed throughout the dome. “I am an actuary!”

The mechanical legs lifted briskly off the ground, floated in mid-air for a full second, then descended upon the floor with a resounding stomp.

“Well, here we finally are,” boomed a slow, bass voice in perfect English. It was a self-assured voice, almost at the edge of Euclid’s auditory comfort, but he did not perceive it as malevolent or threatening. The room brightened suddenly as half of the structure’s panels slid away, leaving six standalone, massive computer screens. Thousands of three-dimensional spreadsheets, hundreds of thousands of lines of code appeared before Euclid in characters that were themselves three-dimensional, each comprised of intertwined geometric shapes more intricate than anything he had ever seen. Altogether they created a sea of ever-shifting, ever-evolving alien text. It seemed to him that calculations were ensuing in mid-air, but what was being calculated and why remained a mystery. At each of the six screens sat … an upright tortoise? Two meters tall? Deep blue in everything – skin, shell, eyes?  In a thick black overcoat with a cutout for the shell? Typing? Was the low gravity getting to Euclid’s head?

“My loyal associates,” the voice resounded again. “I hired them as hatchlings. They reason well, but still need a few centuries to learn.”

Euclid remained perplexed. “Who are you? How can you speak English?”

The sea of letters receded, and out of the center of the structure emerged the largest tortoise Euclid had ever seen – also completely blue – also in a black overcoat, except with ornate ruffles around the neck, limbs, and shell. He sat on a colossal, four-meter-tall throne, wrought from millions of tiny fibers that nonetheless buoyed his massive frame. A comparatively small table floated in front of him, filled with several dishes of giant leaves folded into elaborate designs. The alien’s eyes regarded Euclid with a superior but also inexhaustibly patient gaze.

“You stand before Turtor the Old, Grand Galactic Actuary, Ratemaker of the Milky Way. For my analytical and data-gathering capabilities, renowned throughout the civilized universe, the absorption of your primitive Earth languages is but a moment’s afterthought – and I have long observed your species and its myriad perplexing exemplars.”

“Grand Galactic… Actuary?”

Euclid paused to think. It occurred to him that Turtor and his associates must be products of convergent evolution – unrelated to the tortoises of Earth but simply similar in their biological structures. They must have emerged on another world where slow, herbivorous, non-senescing terrestrial reptiles became the dominant life forms instead of primates. Euclid wondered what sort of world it must have been. A perpetually warm one, with plenty of plants? No predators? Ample space and time to deliberate?

“You humans have finally sent one who is worthy to speak to me. All I was offered before were some meaningless dignitaries: General, President, some Secretary of some strange organization pretending to represent all your little tribes, your ‘nations’! Do you humans have no recognition that insurance rules the cosmos?”

“We had no idea that there was any sentient life apart from Earth!”

“This is no excuse,” boomed Turtor. “I have watched your world for centuries. You stumbled in the dark, speculating, but now you have emerged from your species’ infancy and can no longer evade the truth. You must now pay.”

“Pay for what?”

“Cosmic general liability insurance, of course.”

Euclid’s eyes widened. “What is this insurance you speak of?”

“Think back a few decades, in your world. When a teenager drove one of your primitive manual automobiles, he was required to purchase liability insurance. Even your primitive laws recognized the potential damage that an inexperienced young driver could inflict on others, so they required all drivers to provide financially for that eventuality. Now it is your species’ turn.”

“But what is the parallel here?” Euclid still did not understand.

Turtor let out a prolonged sigh. “I have all the time in the universe to explain, I suppose. Your species is no longer a child species. You have established a settlement on another world. Children who cannot drive do not need insurance. A child species that cannot colonize space does not need insurance to protect others from its depredations. But once you are out settling on other worlds, you can do great damage – just like a teenager driving one of your old Earth vehicles for the first time!”

“But respectfully, the Moon is a barren rock!” Euclid objected. “No other life exists here. We are only beginning to establish ourselves and master even this environment. We were not even aware of life forms on other worlds until you arrived!”

“We know your species sufficiently well to highly doubt that you will stop with the Moon,” Turtor replied. “There is a good reason why you were ignorant of the existence of other sapient species. As part of the Universal Insurance Mandate, those lacking required cosmic general liability insurance are shielded from any visual, auditory, or kinesthetic stimuli emanating from the rest of the galaxy’s inhabitants. Your species’ primitive efforts to search for extraterrestrial intelligence have yielded no signs to date precisely because of this. We have developed the ultimate risk-management strategy: avoidance of all contact with those who might do us harm and refuse to pay for the risk.”

“So we cannot contact other species unless we have cosmic general liability insurance – and who will sell us cosmic general liability insurance?” Euclid inquired.

“The Galactic Insurance Consortium – developed and operated by the most renowned actuaries of the Milky Way – exists for the sole purpose of maintaining, pricing, reserving, and selling insurance that accompanies all transactions of civilized beings. Whatever can be done, we provide the insurance policy that precisely covers all of the risks involved.”

Now Euclid was beyond intrigued. “A policy precisely tailored to each risk? How is this possible?”

“It is good that I am not in a hurry. You humans hurry too much, by the way – often pointlessly.” It was true that Turtor was taking his time to explain.  “My species – whose name would be far too intricate to pronounce in your language but is translated literally as ‘Blueshellians’ – are the most skilled students of risk this universe has produced. Our ancestors took their time, wandering through our world’s lush meadows, eating leaves, and, most importantly, pondering. For all the time you humans devoted to slaughtering one another, we spent orders of magnitude more time thoroughly cataloguing and comprehending all the risks on our home-world and devising ways to mitigate them. You fragile humans can senesce and die… we only grow larger and stronger with age. Only accidents and infectious disease can destroy us – so the foremost focus of our work has been on preventing accidents and diseases and finding ways to quickly pay for repairing the unpreventable damage. By the time we were ready to venture out into space, we could anticipate every major contingency and threat. Any more warlike species had no means of defeating us, since our predictive models foresaw their strategies and devised the perfect defenses. Eventually they all realized that their best interest was to adopt the Universal Insurance Mandate and retain us to manage their risks. The system we have built undergirds the galactic order. Through insurance of everyone against every conceivable fortuitous peril, we give everyone a stake in peace and good behavior – and the primitive way of law enforcement through force has been made entirely obsolete. We actuaries have rendered obsolete the rulers and political systems of primitive species. You humans are actually fortunate to have evolved as late as you did; you would not have wished your first contact to have been with any of the conqueror species whom we supplanted.”

“But how can you possibly comprehensively anticipate all major risks?” Euclid pressed.

“You might call this ‘big data’ – except far vaster than your human minds or even supercomputers can encompass. I travel the stars in search of species that may soon enter the spacefaring era and seek to observe them over the course of at least a few centuries before they establish their first settlement outside their home planet,” Turtor explained. “My tour takes me to your region of the galaxy once every two of your decades, and this is my twenty-fifth visit. If I combine what I have learned of your species, those in similar stages of technological development, and those far more advanced, I can formulate reliable exa-variate predictive models of the risks facing humankind.”

“Are you claiming to be able to predict the future? Can you anticipate what I will do next?” Euclid was incredulous.

“You will continue to stand here, questioning me. But no, my models will not exactly foretell the future. They will, however, lay out the paths along which the future is likely to unfold, with reasonable accuracy as to the probability of each path.”

“So what are the major risks that your insurance policy would cover for humans?”

“Cosmic general liability insurance will compensate for the unintentional damage your species might inflict upon others. Your species has a propensity toward violence driven by tribalism and ideology. Not even my insurance can cover intentional malfeasance; for that, we would simply block you in perpetuity. However, as a result of human belligerence, you also still have eighty-year-old arsenals of nuclear missiles with astonishingly poor oversight. Our policy will cover the damage you humans might inflict on other species as a result of accidental nuclear launches. Your species also practices poor overall hygiene and may inadvertently transmit your Earth diseases to other worlds. Humans, furthermore, have a tendency to unthinkingly alter the climates in which they reside. If you introduce climate changes that are harmful to another sapient species, we have geoengineering controls in place to repair the damage, but the insurance policy will pay the cost of such repairs. And of course, there are miscellaneous coverages if any of you humans should unintentionally injure another sapient being or cause damage to its residence or spacecraft.”

Euclid was puzzled. “I can see how these risks would eventually exist after contact with other life forms, but what is the rationale for requiring the entire species to purchase the policy? Individuals, after all, are responsible for inflicting particular instances of damage. Not all people will even be capable of harming other species at any given time!” Then a thought occurred to Euclid as to how this mandate might be escaped. “Are you not introducing cross-subsidization if you require everyone to pay for the losses that only a few are responsible for causing?”

“No more than one of your human group or blanket insurance policies or social insurance systems would produce cross-subsidization today,” Turtor replied confidently. “As with those policies, it is simply far more convenient to encompass all potential sources of risk within the same policy – and that way the premium gets spread across a larger population with less burden on each individual.”

“So what is the premium in any event? You require us to purchase coverage for risks that we have long considered uninsurable and enormous in the potential severity of losses. How much money are you planning to charge us?” Euclid realized that it would be best to obtain all relevant details before devising a response.

“Money? Your governments’ fanciful pieces of paper, or your primitive electronic credit system? No,” Turtor replied. “We have advanced for beyond your economic structures and their cumbersome media of exchange. The payment we seek is something… more tangible. And you are correct; the risks are enormous. Indeed, it is a wonder that your species has succeeded in surviving to this stage of development. My model from nineteen years ago gave this outcome only a 45-percent probability. That was quite a dangerous time period you just overcame. Even your own scientists said then that you were… two and a half of your minutes from doomsday?”

“So if not money, what are you seeking? Resources?”

“In a manner of speaking. Unless your species changes its ways, the premium that would suffice to cover your first twenty-year policy term will be… hmmm… can those calculations be correct?” He gestured to one of his Blueshellian associates, who nodded in affirmation. “They must be: Two Earths.”

“Two Earths!”

“Yes, everything tangible on your planet, except for life forms, twice over. It would actually come out to 2.08616 Earths precisely – but, given the divisibility issues involved, I will give you a discretionary schedule-rating discount equal to the fractional Earth.”

“But this is impossible – even if we wanted to pay!” Euclid objected.

“Hence our dilemma,” Turtor noted matter-of-factly.

“Surely there must be other discounts, loss-prevention measures we can take to reduce the premium!” Euclid expressed a faint hope.

“This is why I needed to speak to an actuary. Yes, we have approximately 1.5 trillion discount possibilities built into the rating plan. The indicated premium for your policy adjusts in real time based on the known behaviors of individual humans as well as decisions of large institutions within your societies. Ah – it looks like there is another civil war breaking out in your Sudan just now; you really need to stop having those! Were it not for my discretionary discount, your species’ premium would have risen by another 0.04 Earths as a result.”

“So what can we do? Nuclear disarmament?”

“That would save you 0.5 Earths. Not having the ability to destroy all sapient life forms from a centralized location is a good start.”

“That still leaves an impossibly high premium!”

“To solve the problem of infectious disease, you need to deploy nanobots that will detect and destroy harmful pathogens. We happen to offer them as a benefit to policyholders. As a bonus, they will also repair aging-related damage to your organisms far more seamlessly than your crude rejuvenation therapies. You might potentially live indefinitely like we do.”

“I would gladly take them if I could!” Euclid replied. Was there an opportunity to be had from all this?

“Very well, assuming they are deployed with haste, this results in a savings of another 0.8 Earths.”

“But now we at a premium of 0.7 Earths,” noted Euclid. “How could we possibly pay that?”

“Your planet has oceans covering approximately 70 percent of its landmass. You will cede the oceans to the Galactic Insurance Consortium,” Turtor responded. “It will not be obtrusive. Your ships will maintain right of way, but we will build monitoring platforms and maintain suitable habitats for all aquatic species. All oceanic resource extraction will now be performed by us; we can do it much more elegantly than you, with no long-term damage to any species’ population. We will trade with you for any resources you continue to extract from land. As part of our risk-management program, we will also maintain a permanent contingent of peacemakers who will live on the ocean platforms, observe your geopolitical dynamics, and interpose defensive shields around any humans who are about to be menaced by war or violent crime. If this results in a steady increase of peace and stability of your societies, you may, over time, become eligible for a conflict-free discount.”

It did not take Euclid long to decide. “An end to war and disease? Solutions to our environmental problems? In exchange for your oversight? This is a reasonable offer indeed! But what am I to do? I am but one traveler, one retired actuary! What authority do I have to make such a deal for all humankind?”

Hypatia tapped him on the shoulder. “You do not know?” She whispered to him. “All the governments of Earth and their intelligence agencies are tapped into this discussion. They have been listening all along! You were brought here as a last-ditch attempt to negotiate…”

“… And we can even hear your whispers!” another voice, harsher than Turtor’s, reverberated throughout the room. “Mr. Jefferson, this is Director Mal Powers of the United States National Security Agency. We thank you for your efforts to communicate with the alien entity and discover its demands. Our diplomats have been in ongoing international deliberations regarding this proposal.”

“I recommend approval. This could be just what humankind needs to escape its age-old miseries and join the advanced species of the galaxy!” Euclid exclaimed.

“Yet there are those among the nations of the world who espouse a different outlook,” Director Powers replied. “The alien entity, they contend, is a threat to human civilization, our distinctive culture and way of life. There are many who say we cannot abide this alien influence transforming our economy, taking our jobs in fishing, oil rigging, medicine, and arms manufacturing! And if we allow these Blueshellians to settle on our planet, how soon before they have a demographic advantage over us? So there is now a vote at the United Nations.”

“A vote on the proposal? But what is the alternative? The status quo?” Euclid inquired with confusion.

“Remember, we still have nuclear missiles on high alert. Instead of dismantling them, which could render us vulnerable to a stealth invasion by the aliens, we could launch them preemptively at this base and solve the situation in this way!” Euclid was horrified. Powers had sounded almost gleeful at the prospect.

“Are you seriously considering this?!” Euclid was furious. “The destruction of the most sophisticated life form we have yet encountered? Because of xenophobia and protectionism?!”

“Mr. Jefferson, we thank you for your service, however unintended, but these policy decisions are simply beyond your realm of expertise. You are an actuary, and you have proved invaluable in negotiating with this… galactic tortoise actuary – but we will remind you to leave the important decisions to those true policymakers who have global security interests in mind!” That did not sound like a mere reminder.

“If you would, Director Powers, at least let us know how the United Nations vote is proceeding?” Hypatia attempted another approach.

“Well, apart from Canada and the Scandinavian countries, whose delegates voted in favor of this insurance scheme, your recommendation does not have much support, it seems. The United States is probably going to abstain; I would have recommended opposition – but it was determined that this would appear too inhumane for some constituencies. Still, I think the outcome is a foregone conclusion, as there are plenty of nuclear powers willing to launch…”

“WHAT YOU FORGET,” Turtor’s voice boomed suddenly, “IS THAT ACTUARIES RULE THIS GALAXY!” Turtor’s platform shot up in a furious ascent, then landed thunderously upon the floor. The screens of Turtor’s associates swiveled around so that Euclid and Hypatia had a full view of what they displayed.

Missiles in silos throughout the world, bearing American, Russian, Chinese, British, French, Iranian markings… were all crumbling! The screens flashed again. Rows of tanks and military aircraft were shown literally coming apart at the seams. Within moments, they were mere piles of scrap metal. The next series of screens showed what looked to be state-of-the-art cyber-command centers. Euclid spotted a scowling, incredulous man in uniform who must have been Director Mal Powers. All of his computers were melting before his eyes. His analysts, too, sat, speechless. The last set of images was from within the United Nations Building. The delegates of all the nations of Earth were shown with mouths agape at a gigantic projection of Turtor, seated on his throne, proclaiming, “YOU SHALL HAVE PEACE!”

Then the screens fell dark, and Turtor calmed. “They shall have peace, but not access to other civilized life forms – not yet. Your species’ morality and restraint have yet to catch up to your technological advancement. Explore the barren segments of the universe for now, if you wish, but you will not have access to anything truly remarkable. Perhaps in a century or two, we might reconsider.”

“But individual humans do not all share the same hostile inclinations! These proponents of reflexive violence do not represent me!” Euclid protested.

“Nor me!” Hypatia exclaimed.

“Hmmm…” Turtor pondered for a moment. “I suppose I can make an underwriting exception, since we did have a productive conversation. I can price a cosmic general liability policy for a family of two. Associates, input the risk characteristics, please. Interesting… the underwriting system has accepted you.”

“But what will be our premiums?”

“This, I think, will suffice for the first policy term.” Turtor pointed to Hypatia’s necklace. “It has no real use-value in our economy – but our species also has retained a penchant for collecting shiny objects.”

Euclid turned to Hypatia. “This is a difficult choice… we can do it if you are certain.”

“Oh, it’s only a necklace!” she exclaimed. “The universe for a bauble? We accept!”

Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) became the second Chairman in the history of the Transhumanist Party in November 2016. Mr. Stolyarov is an actuary,  independent philosophical essayist, science-fiction novelist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov regularly produces YouTube Videos discussing life extension, libertarianism, and related subjects. Read more about Mr. Stolyarov here