Browsed by
Month: July 2018

Choose Your Own Story – by Nicola Bagalà

Choose Your Own Story – by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


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

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


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

Story 1: A day in 2140

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story 2: A day in 2078

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Nicola Bagalà

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

Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey by Yuri Deigin

Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey by Yuri Deigin

logo_bg

Yuri Deigin
Aubrey de Grey


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuri: Can you comment on Human Regeneration Biotechnologies?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aubrey de Grey: That’s right!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aubrey de Grey: Yup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aubrey de Grey: Absolutely.

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

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

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

Head in the Clouds – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

Head in the Clouds – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

logo_bg

R. Nicholas Starr


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Katrin Weston



Commentary by Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party: “Graceful” is a watercolor painting by Dr. Laura Katrin Weston, a.k.a. Katrin Brunier, the original exemplar which I received in November 2017 due to my donation to the successful MouseAge crowdfunding campaign by Lifespan.io. 

This vibrant watercolor image of a hawthorn tree in bloom illustrates that beauty and longevity are indeed compatible. Hawthorn trees can live for up to 700 years – another demonstration that there are no insurmountable obstacles to this kind of graceful longevity. Science and technology must, however, advance, to enable us to maintain vitality for centuries to come.

Artist’s Description: There is a cold, hard truth in humanity that we don’t often like to admit. There is no shame in wanting to remain beautiful, graceful, and vibrant for as long as we can. Yet these feelings are often belittled as being selfish or vain.

There is nothing wrong with being healthy for as long as possible. Perhaps we have grown so used to the frailties and sickness that come with time that we might not know how to react without it.


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

Benefit for U.S. Transhumanist Party Members: Discounts Offered for Treatments from AmpliCell Medical

Benefit for U.S. Transhumanist Party Members: Discounts Offered for Treatments from AmpliCell Medical

AmpliCell Medical


The U.S. Transhumanist Party is pleased to announce that any member who joins us for free via our online application form will also be eligible to receive discounts on procedures from AmpliCell Medical, one of our Allied Organizations, located in the Los Angeles area and specializing in regenerative medicine and stem-cell therapies.

Members who join will receive a confirmation e-mail, which will be sufficient to provide to AmpliCell Medical at the time of a consultation. 

• 40% Discount off of Stem-Cell Treatments: The standard cost is $8,900 for the first treatment and $4,500 for follow-up treatments (if needed). The therapy is investigational and done as part of a clinical trial according to Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved protocols. With the 40% discount, the first treatment would cost $5,340, and a follow-up treatment would cost $2,700.

• 10% Discount off of Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement – First Consultation: The standard cost is $495 for the first consultation. With the 10% discount, that cost would be reduced to $445.50.

Of course, the U.S. Transhumanist Party is not itself a medical organization and does not provide medical advice. Each reader should take account of his or her own individual circumstances, health, medical history, skills, and knowledge when evaluating which courses of action to pursue, and also consult a medical professional with regard to decisions that may have a major impact on health. However, for those individuals whom stem-cell therapies could help, membership in the U.S. Transhumanist Party now offers the opportunity to achieve significant cost reductions in particular treatments.


Description from AmpliCell Medical. Learn more at http://amplicellmedical.com/:

The Fountain of Youth is no longer a myth. It is found within you, in the form of your very own stem cells. Stem cells are our bodies’ own, built-in healing cells, which naturally reside within certain tissues of the body. They start out in a dormant state and are “switched on” by the chemical signals produced by damaged tissues, acting to repair and regenerate damaged cells. Stem cells derived from your own tissues may well be the next major advance in medicine.

While early stem-cell research has been associated with the controversial use of embryonic stem cells, at AmpliCell Medical we use adult mesenchymal cells extracted directly from your own fat. We use a sterile closed surgical system to process 50 cc of fat from a mini-liposuction procedure in order to isolate and implant your own source of regenerative cells on the same day. “Closed surgical system” means that it never comes in contact with the outside world and is kept in a completely sterile environment. The regenerative cells are found in the SVF (stromal vascular fraction) that contains autologous mesenchymal stem cells, macrophage cells, endothelial cells, immune regulatory cells, red blood cells, and important growth factors that promote stem-cell activity. Our technology allows us to isolate high numbers of viable cells.

At AmpliCell Medical we are committed to helping people with wide variety of degenerative and inflammatory conditions. We offer a state-of-the-art minimally invasive procedure that utilizes autologous adipose (fat) derived stem cells.

Diseases and conditions currently being studied:

  • Orthopedics: Neck Arthritis, Back Arthritis, Knee Arthritis, Hip Arthritis, Elbow and Hand Arthritis, Shoulder Arthritis
  • Neurology: Lyme Disease, Peripheral Neuropathy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Strokes, ALS Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy
  • Cardiac/Pulmonary: COPD, Post-MI Myocardial Infarction, Congestive Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy, Chronic Lung Diseases, Asthma
  • Urological and Digestive: Interstitial Cystitis, Peyronies Disease, Erectile Dysfunction, Male Incontinence, Crohn’s Disease
  • Cosmetic Applications: Hair Loss, Skin Health
  • Others: Wellness and Anti-Aging, Hormone Balance, Sport Injuries

THE STUDIED BENEFIT OF STEM-CELL THERAPY

  • Regenerate cells, tissues and organs
  • Repair and reconstruction of joints and strengthening
  • Increase flexibility of joints and articular disc
  • Optimize the immune system
  • Alleviation of menopausal symptoms
  • Improve hormone secretion
  • Increase alertness and mental awareness
  • Refine skin for a healthy glow
  • Improve skin texture, elasticity and thickness
  • Improve sleep pattern
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Enhance stamina and energy
  • Renew sexual abilities and performance
  • Accelerate thinking ability; improve memory

How are stem cells deployed?

There are varying methods for deployment of stem cells based on the condition being treated. The stem cells can be injected directly into joints or even organs as needed, intravenously into the veins, or even into spinal fluid. All redeployment methods are minimally invasive and can be done in outpatient procedures. Since we are using a patient’s own cells, there is no risk of rejection or allergenic reactions that are common in many other procedures.

Will my treatment work, and how long will it take?

Adult stem-cell treatments are currently considered experimental and are not completely understood, how well a patient responds to our treatments will be different in each case and depends greatly on the disease or condition and how severe the case may be. There are regulations by the FDA which will not allow AmpliCell Medical to make any direct claims about the curing or treating any diseases specifically, but, if you want to consult about the procedure, we can lay out expectations based on research data and actual cases prior to treatment.

Stem cells are part of your body’s natural healing process and can take time for effects to take place; however, some conditions can see immediate results.

Who is eligible as a candidate for treatment?

Only specific medical conditions and problems are being treated by AmpliCell Medical at this time. Patients who want to have the treatment done must be medically stable and may be not be able to participate due to the nature and severity of their condition. Any patients that have uncontrolled cancers or active infections are not able to undergo the SVF (Stromal Vascular Fraction) procedure and must have their conditions treated before undergoing the procedure. Another consideration is that patients with bleeding disorders or taking blood-thinner medication must be evaluated before having treatment. When a patient is selected for the procedure, they must keep in mind that they are taking part in patient-sponsored research, and there are no other incentives other than possible results of the treatment.

Read more at AmpliCell Medical’s FAQ here

U.S. Transhumanist Party General Discussion Thread for the Third Quarter of 2018

U.S. Transhumanist Party General Discussion Thread for the Third Quarter of 2018

logo_bg


The purpose of this post is to facilitate member comments pertaining to transhumanism and the U.S. Transhumanist Party, which might not specifically fit the subjects of any other post or article on the U.S. Transhumanist Party website. This is the place for members to offer suggestions or converse about any areas of emerging technologies and their political, moral, societal, cultural, and esthetic implications. The general discussion thread is also an ideal location to suggest or propose platform planks that may be considered for future platform voting.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party will endeavor to open one of these general comment threads per quarter. This comment thread pertains to the months of July, August, and September 2018.

Type in your comments below. Please note that, to protect against spambots, the first comment by any individual will be moderated. After passing moderation, a civil commenter should be able to post comments without future moderation – although we cannot guarantee that the technical aspect of this functionality will work as intended 100% of the time.

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.

The Longevity Film Competition – Announcement by SENS Research Foundation, The Healthy Life Extension Society, and International Longevity Alliance

The Longevity Film Competition – Announcement by SENS Research Foundation, The Healthy Life Extension Society, and International Longevity Alliance

SENS Research Foundation
The Healthy Life Extension Society 
International Longevity Alliance


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party encourages its members to participate in the Longevity Film Competition, whose official website can be found here. The more original attempts exist to convey to the general public the feasibility and desirability of indefinite life extension, and to dispel common misconceptions about it, the sooner we will have the critical mass of public support needed to bring about this most vital goal. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 15, 2018


Contest Introduction: 

We are living in very interesting times, times of constant change. The scientific community is telling us that soon we could enjoy much healthier and longer lives thanks to technological advancements happening at an accelerated rate. The future can be bright and healthy, and we want more people to know about this amazing prospect and want them to get involved in this important mission – the mission of healthy longevity.

However, describing something potentially beautiful is not always easy. We think you can help by making a (very) short movie conveying that a longer and healthier life thanks to sustainable medical interventions, will be a very positive thing for citizens and society alike.

Help us spread the word in the right way, help us make sure people understand this is about health and that for the first time in history the possibility of tackling aging is not science fiction, but science fact.

Join us in this crusade by entering our competition presented by the SENS Research Foundation, The Healthy Life Extension Society and the International Longevity Alliance and not only potentially help saving lots of lives, but also win the first prize of $10,000!

We look forward to your ideas on how to better communicate this important message to the world.

– The Longevity Film Competition team

Contest Guidelines: 

Even though putting aging under medical control is probably desirable to most humans, this concept is not always clear to everybody.

One of our goals is to use this competition as a vehicle to clarify and demystify some of the misconceptions we hear very often.

You can choose just one or all of them and explain them in any way you choose, using your own language and ideas.

Misconception #1

“Aging and disease are two separate things.”

CLARIFICATION:

— Aging causes disease, and they should be treated as one. —

As we age, we lose our health. We cannot age and become elderly without eventually getting ill as a result of it. If we live long enough, we will all get sick of one or several of the diseases of aging and eventually succumb to them. When we talk about eliminating aging, we talk about putting this process under medical control so that we don’t have to get sick as we age.

Misconception #2

“If I live to a 150, I will be living for a long time in an old, sick body.”

CLARIFICATION:

— If these new therapies help us live to a 150, it will only be because they will keep us strong and healthy. —

When we talk about extending our lifespan, we are talking about extending our health. The extension of our life will not happen unless we fix the health problems that come with aging. Once we do this, more longevity will happen as a “side benefit” of being healthier. As we said before, we get sick with aging, and that’s why most of humans die of old age.

So, if we will still be alive at 150, this will mean we will have a better control of the aging process through medical interventions – hence we should not be living in an old sick body.

Misconception #3

“Aging is natural, and we shouldn’t tamper with the natural.”

CLARIFICATION:

— Combating aging is a great challenge for Humanity, and we have a long history of getting great benefit from tampering with many natural things. —

It is proven that there are endless ‘unnatural’ things created by humans of enormous value and positive outcomes, and we can imagine only a minuscule number of people who would choose to live without them — especially when it has to do with suffering, disease and death.

A few examples of unnatural things we use all the time without questioning much are: pacemakers, antibiotics (to kill natural bacteria), painkillers, cochlear implants, dialysis, plastic surgery, airplanes (it is not natural for us to fly), hair coloring, prosthetic limbs, contact lenses, birth-control methods, and the list goes on forever.

On the other hand, here are some natural things that are definitely bad for us: earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides, tornadoes, infectious microorganisms, poisonous plants, predators, venomous creatures, fire, gravity (when we fall), tsunamis, radiation, meteor impacts, etc.

It is time to reason and understand that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “good”.

Misconception #4

“These therapies will only be for the rich.”

CLARIFICATION:

— Healthy longevity therapies are being developed for everybody to access. —

Rejuvenation therapies could be as little reserved for rich people as mobile phones, cars, electricity, or vaccination may have been in the beginning. Like for most technological progress, the research may be complicated and expensive, but once the technology becomes available, it will become available for everybody. One good example is that the first Human Genome took $2.7 billion dollars and almost 15 years to complete. In 2001 the price of sequencing a genome was 100 Million dollars; today is under 1000 dollars, and it will keep going down without a doubt. Humanity has never stopped advancing just because it was harder and less cost-effective in the beginning; if we had thought like that, we would probably not have most of the technology that is available for everybody today. That’s one more reason why it’s so important not to delay the development of these cures.

Official Rules

  1. Concept of film: The submitted piece should show that medical progress for a healthier and longer life is generally a good thing for citizens and society alike. You will achieve this by using the list of common misconceptions provided in the Guidelines section above. You must choose at least one and may also choose all of them.
  2. Length: The length of the film should be a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 20 minutes.
  3. Visual art style: All kinds of visuals are allowed:
    Films, computer animations, whiteboard drawings, live action, infographics, stop and motion, cartoons, typography, screencast, etc.
  4. Genre: All genres are allowed. Science, fiction or science-fiction, a story, sad or funny, a docufiction, a documentary, etc.
  5. Copyright: All material used in the video should be original, or you should own the copyright for it. You may not use copyrighted material for which you don’t have the rights. If you fail to follow this rule, your film will be automatically disqualified.
  6. Submission: The submission deadline is 23:59 GMT September 15, 2018. The final work should be uploaded to the Internet, and a link to watch it should be provided to us via email at contact@longevityfilmcompetition.com, together with your last name, first name, and the proposed title of the work. The winners will be announced October 1st (International Longevity Day).
  7. Language: The official language is English. Videos can also be submitted in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian and Dutch but would need to have English subtitles.
  8. Work Originality and Permissions: a) Films must be the original work of the applicants, and they must be unpublished before July 1st, 2018. b) If a film is based upon another person’s life or upon a book or other underlying work, applicant(s) must secure any necessary rights to make such adaptations. c) By entering the competition, you represent that you have secured all necessary rights. d) Applicants are solely responsible for obtaining all necessary rights and permissions for third-party materials included in their films, including but not limited to music, trademarks, logos, copyrights, and other intellectual property rights. e) Longevity Film Competition (LFC) expressly disclaims all liability or responsibility for any violations of the foregoing. f) If your submission is selected for a prize, you agree that SENS Research Foundation (SRF), The Healthy Life Extension Society (Heales), and the International Longevity Alliance (ILA) use your movie without restriction to promote the mission of curing the diseases of aging. SRF, Heales and the ILA can show your work on the internet or by all other means. g) SRF, Heales and the ILA are non-profit organizations and may use the films to drive donations from the public, which will be used to advance the mission of healthy longevity. Any funds raised though the films will support scientific research, outreach, and/or education programs.
  9. Selected Films and Winners: a) LFC has no obligation (other than as stated in these rules or on our website) to disclose any of the following information: i) identities of screeners or judges; ii) notes, feedback, or information relating to the submitted project; and/or iii) details regarding the submission review or selection process. b) LFC explicitly disclaims any liability or responsibility for any comments, notes, or opinions expressed about a submission, whether by LFC or by its volunteers.  c) Winners will be announced on October 1st, 2018. The judges’ decision is final. Winners receiving cash prizes are solely responsible for payment of all applicable local, state, and federal taxes.
  10. Legal action: In the event of litigation the competent courts will be those of the Brussels jurisdiction in Belgium.
  11. Additional information: For all issues not mentioned above, the members of the jury will decide. They must decide in equity and with the same rules for all competitors.

COMPETITION LEGAL TERMS

BY SUBMITTING THE MATERIAL PARTICIPANTS  AGREE:

To having read all of the rules, understood, and have complied with these rules.

To warrant that their work is original and that there are no disputes regarding the ownership of their submission.

To warrant that the submitted material does not defame or invade the rights of any person living or dead.

That failure to adhere to the competition rules and regulations will result in disqualification.

That no revisions of materials will be accepted once entry has been submitted.

That to the best of their knowledge, all the statements herein are true and correct.

TO INDEMNIFY, HOLD HARMLESS, AND DEFEND THE COMPETITION, ITS EMPLOYEES, VOLUNTEERS, DIRECTORS, JURORS, REPRESENTATIVES, AND AFFILIATES FROM ALL LIABILITY, CLAIMS, AND DAMAGES IN CONNECTION WITH THE SUBMISSION AND FROM ANY FEES AND EXPENSES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO REASONABLE ATTORNEYS’ FEES, THAT ANY OF THEM MAY INCUR IN CONNECTION THEREWITH.
Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Political Segment: Discussion on Artificial Intelligence in Politics, Voting Systems, and Democracy

Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Political Segment: Discussion on Artificial Intelligence in Politics, Voting Systems, and Democracy

logo_bg

Gennady Stolyarov II
Bill Andrews
Bobby Ridge
John Murrieta


This is the third and final video segment from Mr. Stolyarov’s Fourth Enlightenment Salon.

Watch the first segment here.

Watch the second segment here.

On July 8, 2018, during his Fourth Enlightenment Salon, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, invited John Murrieta, Bobby Ridge, and Dr. Bill Andrews for an extensive discussion about transhumanist advocacy, science, health, politics, and related subjects.

Topics discussed during this installment include the following:

• What is the desired role of artificial intelligence in politics?
• Are democracy and transhumanism compatible?
• What are the ways in which voting and political decision-making can be improved relative to today’s disastrous two-party system?
• What are the policy implications of the development of artificial intelligence and its impact on the economy?
• What are the areas of life that need to be separated and protected from politics altogether?

 

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside by filling out an application form that takes less than a minute. Members will also receive a link to a free compilation of Tips for Advancing a Brighter Future, providing insights from the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Advisors and Officers on some of what you can do as an individual do to improve the world and bring it closer to the kind of future we wish to see.

 

Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Health Segment: Discussions on GMOs, Calorie Restriction, Genetics, Artificial Sweeteners, CBD

Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Health Segment: Discussions on GMOs, Calorie Restriction, Genetics, Artificial Sweeteners, CBD

logo_bg

Gennady Stolyarov II
Bill Andrews
Bobby Ridge
John Murrieta


This is the second video segment from Mr. Stolyarov’s Fourth Enlightenment Salon. Watch the first segment here.

On July 8, 2018, during his Fourth Enlightenment Salon, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, invited John Murrieta, Bobby Ridge, and Dr. Bill Andrews for an extensive discussion about transhumanist advocacy, science, health, politics, and related subjects.

Topics discussed during this installment include the following:

• Why genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are mostly good for you, and most negative perceptions of GMOs should really just be directed at the corporate practices of one company but not genetic modification as a whole.

• What technologies are already aiding the disabled and dramatically extending their capabilities in daily life.

• The role of genetics in longevity and the future of somatic genome editing.

• What the scientific evidence suggests regarding the impact of caloric restriction in humans and other primates.

• CBD and cannabinoids: separating the evidence from the marketing.

• Sierra Sciences’ history of testing over a million compounds for effects on telomerase induction.

• Why artificial sweeteners also should not be maligned, and there is no scientific evidence of their harms.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside by filling out an application form that takes less than a minute. Members will also receive a link to a free compilation of Tips for Advancing a Brighter Future, providing insights from the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Advisors and Officers on some of what you can do as an individual do to improve the world and bring it closer to the kind of future we wish to see.