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Month: May 2019

Why Non-Existence is Suffering, and Why We Shouldn’t Accept It as a Given – Article by Sarah Lim

Why Non-Existence is Suffering, and Why We Shouldn’t Accept It as a Given – Article by Sarah Lim

Sarah Lim


My friend Alexey Turchin, a fellow supporter of the mass technological resurrection, has made an eyebrow-raising claim in one of his recent presentations: non-existence is a form of suffering. That in itself appears to be an oxymoronic claim. How can an individual suffer when they have no conscious experiences at all, since personal consciousness is permanently annihilated forever upon bodily death? Philosophically speaking, this is impossible. You need to be conscious to be able to experience either pain or pleasure. However, Alexey argues that the permanent cessation of consciousness can be considered the ultimate form of suffering because it means that the individual will forever be deprived of any further opportunities to experience the physical world. This means literally never existing ever again; which makes it doubly worse if you happened to get an unfortunate lot in this current life. This is a grim reality that atheists across the entire world must contend with.

Being an atheist in the late modern period is a very unique experience in its own ways, especially for those who fell out of the womb into religious abodes. The Richard Dawkinses of the world can attest to the extent of the cognitive dissonance that comes with a life trajectory of being repeatedly told that an all-loving, all-powerful deity exists and that everything your religious tradition says is truth that must be accepted at face value — only to go to a secular public school and receive a proper education in history, critical thinking, and good ol’ science.

The shattering of your entire worldview and belief system can be likened to coming home at the end of the day to find your wife in bed with a Mickey Mouse impersonator who works at Disneyland, while he’s still fully clad in the Mickey suit. The realization of absurdity that comes with an overhauling of one’s worldview this radical can range from breeding quiet cynicism, to full-blown distress and an existentialist crisis. This depends on the degree to which your previously held religious convictions held sway over your life. Both Michael Shermer and I went down this same route (although I was fortunate enough to have my transformative moment at a considerably younger age than Shermer). Shermer was previously in pursuit of a PhD in theology when he lost his faith; I was cajoled into a far-right radical Calvinist sect when I was 13, by an online friend who had convinced me that if I didn’t proselytize my faith to everybody else in Singapore, God would force me to watch my family get repeatedly eviscerated with hot iron blades for all of eternity. My church strongly discouraged women from pursuing higher education and regularly reminded its female parishoners that God would like them to obey their husbands. When I was 16, I was propositioned by a 21-year-old male youth group member who strongly hinted that I was at the appropriate age where he could ask me to become his wife.

And then when I was 17, I studied enough philosophy to find out that the whole damn thing was made up by a bunch of people as they were going along and that Heaven wasn’t real. And that every single human being who is born will naturally be destined to spend all of eternity in an empty, dark void once each of our individual brains cease all neural function. Needless to say, I didn’t take to this revelation well.

Understandably, most atheists aren’t chuffed about the idea of spending the next 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years being unable to see, hear, feel, smell, or think anything at all. But most of us still consider that a veritable improvement from spending the next 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years being fully conscious while being boiled in a pit of sulfur as punishment for not tithing or sharing a kiss with someone of the same biological sex. The choice between eternal oblivion and eternal torture isn’t a hard one to make. But it still doesn’t make it all that easy for atheists to accept their permanent annihilation. While some psychological studies claim that atheists apparently fear death considerably less than their religious counterparts, I’d also say that atheists tend to be more frank with themselves in openly discussing their fear of eternal oblivion. It’s only been very recently that I’ve begun visiting online atheist forums and was surprised to find that “how do I cope with my fear of non-existence?” is an exceedingly common question.

The typical suggestions given to deal with this extreme existentialist dread are, more often than not, “you were dead for 13 billion years before you were born, so it shouldn’t bother you that you’ll be dead for the next 13 billion years after you’re dead (again).” Or trying to convince the original poster that death is no different from being under general anesthesia for all of eternity (“if you’ve already undergone surgery, you have nothing to fear!”) Or just plain ol’, “suck it up; the entire universe is going to perish in heat death, anyway, and it’s taking all of us with it.” While I applaud my fellow atheists for being thoroughly honest with themselves in facing the most terrible prospect all of humanity has ever faced, I can’t help but feel that this is a form of very pained resignation. I’ve met numerous other atheists who have had to undergo cognitive-behavioral therapy and take psychiatric medication because their thanatophobia (fear of death) is so severe that they’re terrified to leave their own houses on a daily basis and that they’ve developed severe insomnia because they can’t fall asleep regularly without having panic attacks.

How should the atheist community cope with the biggest question any human being will ever face? Should the acceptance of the permanent annihilation of consciousness continue to be the modus operandi for the atheist and scientific community for the rest of humanity’s existence?

Or should we dare to stick our necks out and consider the very far out possibility of a third alternative, that is neither the acceptance of eternal oblivion nor delusional faith in the promises of a spiritual life in a castle in the sky?

What if we reconceptualized the way we see non-existence? What if this is the next great paradigm shift that humanity will eventually come face-to-face with?

Up till the very recent modern period in human history, slavery and wife-beating were seen as perfectly normal facts of life that just had to be accepted. It was considered a given fact that some men (and the overwhelming majority of women) were effectively going to be someone else’s property and could be completely at their mercy. Try holding a similar attitude today in a developed nation. Try, in 2019 A.D., to stand on a soap box in the middle of California and scream at the top of your lungs that women should be denuded of all their political rights and that the government should make it legal for you to sell your teenaged daughter into prostitution so that you can pay off your mortgage.

“BECAUSE THAT’S HOW IT’S ALWAYS BEEN DONE.”

Try yelling at the top of your voice that slavery should be re-institutionalized and that Caucasian Americans should be granted the legal right to forcibly capture their African-American, Native American and Latino neighbours, have them shackled in chains and put them up for auction in a human market.

“THIS IS HOW IT’S BEEN GOING ON FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, SO THERE’S NO REASON FOR US TO BREAK THE HABIT.”

Everyone can obviously guess how that’s going to go down. Good night, and good luck, to whomsoever endeavors to try this out.

Given that modern human civilization is approximately 10,000 years old, the shifts in moral attitudes that have occurred over the last 200 years can be considered astronomical in every sense of the word. And if technological progress continues to press forth, who knows what on earth our descendants will think of us at present?

I personally had never remotely considered reconceptualizing the way I view death and aging until I was first introduced to the transhumanist movement when I watched a documentary on it, featuring Ben Goertzel.

So said Ben, “one day, our descendants are going to look back at us and be unable to believe that we let our elderly folks die of aging and accepted it as being natural. They’re going to think it’s absolutely barbaric that we accepted death so unquestioningly. It’s going to be how we now look at our forebears and remember that they thought rape and murder were pretty much okay.” Needless to say, I was pretty flabbergasted when I first heard this. It’s taken me some time to really think over the implications of what death really is, and just how great the potential for human society to shift its values and conceptions of the world is.

And funnily enough? The exact same thing can be said for the entire atheist movement. It isn’t much of a miraculous coincidence that religious “nones” are the fastest-growing worldview demographic in contemporary developed nations which place a premium on the scientific enterprise. Understandably, all the way up till the industrial revolution, people didn’t really think too hard about whether or not God really existed and if we really did evolve from monkeys, because most people were too busy trying to survive and feed their eight children (six of whom most likely wouldn’t survive till adulthood). Famines, plagues and warfare were a norm rather than exceptions that remain unimaginable to most of us living in developed nations today.

“No afterlife, no problem,” is an attitude that has only developed amongst modern atheists in very recent times. You can tell people to be content with just having one shot at an 80-year-long life, because that option is actually available to them now. If you have the good fortune to be born into a middle-class family without any significant disabilities or health issues, and you stand a fairly good chance of living a happy, fulfilling life without any significant hardships. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for the better part of the last 9900 years of human civilizational history. Wishing very badly that something could be true doesn’t make it true, of course. But we should at least be able to sympathize with the reasons our forebears had, and many people currently living in hardship still have, for clinging on fervently to the hope of a second chance in an afterlife.

Nevertheless, atheists today should begin to see humanity’s dreams of immortality not as a slice of pie in the sky; we should see it as a challenge and a goal post we will eventually cross with the aid of science. It’s a big dream and one that may seem impossible at the moment. But that hasn’t stopped humanity before. Transcending our biological limitations and striving for a better world than the one we currently live in has been the whole narrative of the human story. Our dreams of greater things will always seem absurd, until available technological advancements arrive to deliver them. But those dreams are what keep us pressing forward.

This essay is dedicated to Nick Bostrom and Giulio Prisco, who are my philosophical inspirations.

Due to space constraints, this essay has not dealt with the issue of overpopulation and resource depletion which are alleged by some come with indefinite lifespan extension. Other transhumanists such as Gennady Stolyarov II have addressed such concerns in other writings and videos.

Sarah Lim is a fourth-year political science major at the National University of Singapore. She is a proud supporter of the transhumanist movement and aims to do her best to promote transhumanism and progress towards the Singularity.

In Defense of Human Exceptionalism and Immortalism – Article by Sarah Lim

In Defense of Human Exceptionalism and Immortalism – Article by Sarah Lim

Sarah Lim


This essay will be attempting to rebut some of the main objections raised to indefinite lifespan extension, technological immortality, and technological resurrection. The overwhelming majority of the objections to immortalism are based on arguments from naturalism. Devotees of religious traditionalism argue that death is a doorway to an afterlife or reunion with a higher deity in the spirit world. Some atheists argue that death is unavoidable because the limit of the human lifespan is the result of natural selection, and should thus be unquestioningly accepted. However, what if a different perspective were taken on death and the natural limits of the human lifespan?

This essay will primarily attempt to go toe-to-toe with scientifically-based objections against immortalism raised by prominent atheists like Massimo Pigliucci and Michael Shermer. As an atheist myself, I think that the objections to the claims of religious traditionalists that a spiritual afterlife exist are already well-worn and solidly established. Modern neuroscience has solidly established the fact that consciousness is wholly generated by the brain and that there is no empirical evidence to substantiate the claim that immaterial souls exist. Nearly the entire atheist and scientific community accepts this as having been conclusively proven time and again (in spite of this, those who believe in the existence of a spiritual afterlife still make up the vast majority of the world’s population).

One of the major scientifically-based objections to immortalism is the charge that human beings should not be spared from death because we’re not God’s special people, but merely a bunch of apes that were lucky enough to get smart. This is the argument against human exceptionalism or anthropocentrism. There are plenty of other natural entities that have far longer lifespans than human beings do. The turritopsis dohrnii, the famous immortal jellyfish, is known for being able to naturally live indefinitely. Bristlecone pine trees are known to live up to 5000 years old. To quote Michael Shermer, “even stars die,” although they can live for billions of years. But what separates you from the turritopsis dohrnii, or a star? Well, for one thing, the turritopsis dohrnii can’t create self-driving cars and pioneer the practice of modern dentistry. Stars, including our own sun, are wonderful and all, but they can’t do the mathematics and quantum physics necessary to give a full account of the Big Bang theory and the Planck epoch. Human exceptionalism exists because of the sheer degree of human intelligence, compared to every other existing organism in our solar system. There might ostensibly be highly advanced alien civilizations far more intelligent than us residing somewhere in the Milky Way, or in any other of the 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, but we can at least pat ourselves on the backs for being the smartest meat robots in our own solar system.

As Ernest Becker and pretty much everyone else in the history of modern homo sapiens has realised, two things set human beings apart from every single other species that has ever existed. These are the ability to question the story of our origin, and the ability to be cognizant of the termination of our own consciousnesses. Unless, of course, one day zoologists devise a way to read the minds of animals with perfect accuracy and will be surprised to find out that penguins and dolphins believe in heaven, hell, and reincarnation. But with that particularly odd possibility off of the table, homo sapiens are the only known creatures to be actively cognizant of the Eternal Oblivion all of us must face when our consciousnesses are terminated at bodily death. This is the basis of Becker’s arguments regarding terror management theory, and the basis of every single afterlife belief in every single culture throughout human history. Human beings have attained such a developed state of cognitive function that we can actually comprehend the concept of eternity; and we can comprehend the horrors of ceasing to exist for all of the rest of it.

But we shouldn’t think we’re special, the nihilistic atheists argue. We shouldn’t think we’re special because we’re just insignificant specks of protein within an extremely vast, indifferent universe that doesn’t give a rat’s hide about whether we exist or go extinct. Nothing human beings do matters, because we’re so ridiculously insignificant in the grand cosmological scheme. If that argument were taken to its logical conclusion, I can tell you about something else we can stop giving a damn about: the whole of the scientific enterprise. If nothing we do matters, all of us can happily abandon the scientific method and go back to believing that the Earth was made 6000 years ago, in seven days. If nothing we do matters, we can all happily wrap up our efforts to combat global warming and to prevent the utilization of nuclear weapons. For all intents and purposes, I’ve yet to actually meet a nihilist who will willingly let themselves and their family members stand directly in front of an oncoming truck.

I know some atheists who will respond to this with the retort that, “the universe doesn’t owe you a significantly longer lifespan just because human beings wish for it.” Well, the universe doesn’t theoretically owe us effective root-canal treatments, general anaesthesia, Reebok sneakers, hearing aids, or iPhones, but here we are, anyway. The universe may not owe any particular aforementioned desirable to human beings, but that shouldn’t in any way stop us from trying to attain it through our own ingenuity.

Death and a lifespan under three digits might be natural, but guess what else is? Giving birth without epidural. And cancerous tumors. And dying prematurely from various diseases in the absence of medical care. And spending your life stumbling about and squinting if you’re short-sighted but aren’t fortunate enough to have access to laser eye surgery or spectacles.

And plenty of our forebears accepted those aforementioned ailments as such. In every single pre-modern culture, a whole crapbundle of ailments we now have readily available medical treatment for were seen as “God’s will”. The agonizing pain of natural childbirth was, up till very recently, seen as the “curse of Eve” and a burden all women had to suck up and bear as punishment for being women. And then came epidural, and that long-held belief went right out the window. Ostensibly, cancer and viral infections are great ways for the forces of natural selection to keep human population in steady state; but that still hasn’t stopped us from inventing anti-viral medication and chemotherapy.

To quote Alan Harrington, “We must never forget that we are cosmic revolutionaries, not stooges conscripted to advance a natural order that kills everybody.”

Sarah Lim is a fourth-year political science major at the National University of Singapore. She is a proud supporter of the transhumanist movement and aims to do her best to promote transhumanism and progress towards the Singularity.

 

SVAI Undiagnosed-1 Collaborative Genomics Research Case: A Call for Bioinformatics and/or Computational Biology Researchers to Get Involved

SVAI Undiagnosed-1 Collaborative Genomics Research Case: A Call for Bioinformatics and/or Computational Biology Researchers to Get Involved

SVAI


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party provides this announcement to encourage any of our members and allies with expertise in bioinformatics and/or computational biology to contribute their talents to resolving the medical conundrum of one of our longtime loyal members, John – referred to in the Patient Case Background below as JCM – who has suffered from an undiagnosed condition his entire life. The Undiagnosed-1 Collaborative Genomics Research Case, arranged by the non-profit, volunteer-run organization SVAI, will take place on June 7-9 in San Francisco.  Find out more about this effort at breakthrough medical diagnosis – which could make a lifetime’s worth of difference to John – here. Even if you cannot attend the event in person, you can apply to participate in the research online here. John has generously provided for his data to be made available in an open-source manner so that future researchers into rare diseases could benefit from it and advance the state of medical science. Researchers have already agreed to study the data; one of them, longtime life-extension advocate Kevin Perrott, the CEO and Founder of OpenCures, a company located at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging that helps individuals performing self-directed research to access technologies and education, wishes to use mass spectrometry-based metabolomics and proteomics to find biomarkers of aging, and John has agreed to be a part of that project. John’s quest to discover the causes of his own ailment can thus lead to beneficial insights that could be used to research ways the extend the lifespans of all. The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party fully supports this noble effort and is heartened that many prominent researchers have already stepped forward to participate. However, there can never be enough trained and talented minds working on such endeavors, so, if you have the relevant expertise, we strongly encourage you to get involved.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, May 21, 2019


PATIENT CASE BACKGROUND

  1. Our patient, JCM, is a 33-year-old Caucasian male suffering from undiagnosed disease(s).
  2. As an infant, the patient, JCM reports a history of vomiting after breastfeeding and Failure to Thrive (FTT).
  3. Since childhood, JCM has had a significant issue in weight gaining despite adequate caloric intake, though his height has remained on the curve. As a child, he also has reported nausea, stomach aches and an overall aversion to food.
  4. In his 20’s, JCM’s GI issues became more severe as he began to have daily lower abdominal pain characterized by burning and nausea. He began to develop chronic vomiting daily and would vomit as many as 5 times per day.
  5. At his current age, JCM is 5’10” tall and weighs 109lbs. He is easily fatigued due to his limited muscle mass and low weight.
  6. He reports several issues: pain and weakness in his knees, a couple of disc herniations, and shoulder dislocations. His GI issues and pain prevents him from attempts on building muscle masses with lifting and protein intake.

Learn more about the Undiagnosed-1 Collaborative Genomics Research Case here. You are encouraged to share this information with others who may be interested and qualified to assist.

 

The Transhumanist Party Presidential Process Can Change the World – Post by Zoltan Istvan

The Transhumanist Party Presidential Process Can Change the World – Post by Zoltan Istvan

Zoltan Istvan


As the 2016 U.S. Transhumanist Party Presidential candidate, I encourage everyone to take part in the USTP’s 2019 process for selecting its 2020 nominee for the office of President of the United States.  Please take the time to learn about the candidates, support the ones you favor most, become a member of the USTP for free, and help put science, health, and technology at the forefront of American politics!

I can attest to the effectiveness of transhumanist political activism as the candidate who trafficked 5th or 6th in the media for large swaths of the end of 2016 elections, making an enormous difference to life extension, which coincidentally now has many billions of dollars flowing into it – far more than when I started my campaign. One of these candidates above can win the Presidency and bring the Transhumanist Party to power as well along the way.

I would like to counter the critics who accuse the Transhumanist Party Presidential process of being “distractive nonsense” – and yet “distractive nonsense” is exactly what those critics are preaching. People have a right to push forward their ideas and political values regardless. And we may just find that it was the Transhumanist Party and its candidates that changed the world far more than the 4 or 8 years of Trump.

We are going to run into a lot of people who aim to deny Americans their right to vote and support whom they want to choose. I want everyone to know that the Transhumanist Party candidate can be powerful and historic. We must always maintain the right to support who we want, win or lose. I absolutely despise this idea we are stuck with only left or right. There are many reasons to run for the Transhumanist Party – reasons that could prove far more important than a single Presidency.

This is really important in 2020. The Libertarians, Greens, Transhumanist Party folks, and other third parties and independents have as much a right to win the Presidency as anyone. That’s what America is about. In 2020, because of what happened in 2016, this will be a big topic. We must defend our right to exist and thrive as much as possible. We must fight to keep America free and politically diverse.

Zoltan Istvan is the founder of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and its former Chairman (October 7, 2014 – November 16, 2016) and 2016 Presidential candidate. In 2018 he ran as a Libertarian for Governor of California. Zoltan Istvan is a renowned journalist, entrepreneur, and transhumanist. He writes transhumanist-themed columns: “The Transhumanist Philosopher” – a blog for Psychology Today, and “Transhumanist Future” for Vice’s Motherboard. He has also worked as a reporter for the National Geographic Channel and is a blogger of futurist, transhumanist, and atheist topics for The Huffington Post. He is the author of The Transhumanist Wager, a philosophical science fiction novel.

U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Announces Six Candidates for Its 2019 Presidential Primary

U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Announces Six Candidates for Its 2019 Presidential Primary

The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) is pleased to announce the candidates who have put themselves forward for consideration for the USTP’s endorsement in running for the position of President of the United States of America. To become eligible to vote for any of these candidates in August 2019, please register for free as a member of the USTP, no matter where you reside. Only those who register for membership through August 10, 2019, would be eligible to take part in the USTP Electronic Presidential Primary.

Because of the formidable hurdles to political-party ballot access on the State level, the candidates seeking the USTP’s endorsement would need to officially run as independent candidates. However, if those candidates qualify for inclusion on their States’ ballots, then, in approximately half of the jurisdictions in the United States, it would be possible to use a “political party designation” of “Transhumanist Party” to accompany the candidate’s name on the ballot.

Learn About the Candidates

The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) has asked all of its declared candidates for its 2019 Presidential Primary to answer the same essential questions so as to inform the USTP membership of the candidates’ stances on key issues and provide each USTP member the opportunity to make an informed decision, including through comparisons of the candidates’ answers. The USTP will endeavor to pose the same questions and generate profiles for all of the candidates who make their intentions known to us via the Presidential Candidate Declaration of Interest Form.

The USTP has not, at this time, endorsed any Presidential candidate. Such an endorsement will occur as a consequence of the USTP Electronic Primary, which is intended to be held in August 2019. At this time, all contents of the candidate profiles are for informational purposes only, in order to contribute to a more informed membership and enable knowledge of the candidates and their positions to spread.

The order of presentation of the candidate profiles below is alphabetical by first name. It is not intended to indicate any preference or lack thereof for any of the candidates.

Brent

Reitze

Charles

Holsopple

Dan

Good

Johannon

Ben Zion

Natasha

Vita-More

Rachel

Haywire

Endorsement and Electronic Primary Process – Anticipated Timeline

The following timeline is approximate and subject to change as circumstances may necessitate. However, it is intended to provide an overarching impression of the sequence and desirable speed of steps for reaching an endorsement of a candidate for President of the United States.

– April 5, 2019 – July 5, 2019: Candidates declare their intention to seek the USTP Presidential endorsement and begin to campaign through channels of their choosing (online and/or in person) to attract supporters and spread awareness of their messages.

– July 6, 2019: First Transhumanist Presidential Debate (Virtual)

– July 6 – August 3, 2019: Candidates continue to campaign; the USTP will introduce structured questions on various issues of interest for the candidates to respond to in writing. The candidates’ answers will be spread by the USTP, which will have the effect of further raising awareness of the candidates and their stances.

– July 16, 2019: The Transhumanism Handbook (edited by Newton Lee) is expected to be released. It is hoped that candidates will read this book (or significant portions thereof) and reference the ideas therein as part of their public outreach and campaign-related discussions.

– August 3, 2019: Second Transhumanist Presidential Debate (Virtual)

– August 3-10, 2019: Final week for candidates to campaign prior to the electronic primary.

– August 11-17, 2019: Electronic ranked-preference primary (7-day voting period, simultaneous for all USTP members).

– August 18-24, 2019: Votes from the electronic primary are tabulated and released. The candidate winning the USTP endorsement is announced simultaneously with the release of the results.

– August 24, 2019 – November 3, 2020: The candidate winning the USTP endorsement continues to campaign until Election Day 2020. The other candidates may seek the USTP’s endorsement for other federal, state, or local offices.

– August 24, 2019 – September 30, 2019: Potential separate campaign and primary process for the selection of the USTP Vice-Presidential nominee.

– Early October 2019: Potential for the candidate winning the USTP endorsement to deliver an official acceptance speech in a venue with a large number of attendees.

– October 15, 2019 – November 30, 2019: Selection of a Transhumanist Cabinet to assist the USTP Presidential nominee to demonstrate a model of governance and constructive policymaking in the event of a Transhumanist Presidency.

The USTP is committed to running a fair, transparent, and (small “d”) democratic election with no predetermined outcome. Each of these candidates has the opportunity to make his or her case to the USTP membership and to recruit new members prior to the August 10, 2019, cutoff date for registration. We find each candidate to be insightful, intelligent, accomplished, and representative of perspectives that constitute the transhumanist movement in all of its variety and will help shape that movement in the years to come. Accordingly, it is important that this election give voice to these perspectives and do so in a civil, orderly, and constructive manner. We will have true competition in this election – genuine debates, discussions of issues, consideration of the candidates’ similarities and differences. The candidates will be free to utilize the means, methods, and personal styles at their disposal to engage in such competition. At the same time, we will also have true structure in this election – an objective process that will apply equitably to all and provide a framework for different points of view to be articulated, with an aim of educating the public, raising the profile of the transhumanist movement, and hopefully resolving some key differences along the way, by means of the process itself.

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

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

Arin Vahanian


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Aging Gene Therapy for Dogs Coming This Fall – Article by Steve Hill

Anti-Aging Gene Therapy for Dogs Coming This Fall – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by Steve Hill of the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) originally published on the LEAF site on May 8th, 2019.  The article brings attention to a new program that aligns with our mission of ending age-related diseases, which the U.S. Transhumanist Party supports as part of our policy goals.

~ Brent Reitze, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, May 10th, 2019


In an article last May, we covered how Rejuvenate Bio, a startup biotech company led by Professor George Church, was planning to reverse aging in dogs as a step towards bringing these therapies to us. Those plans are now starting to move forward with news of a trial launch in the fall later this year.

Developing anti-aging therapies in dogs is the first step

Back in 2015, the Church lab at Harvard began testing a variety of therapies focused on age reversal using CRISPR, a gene editing system that was much easier and faster to use than older techniques. Since then, Professor Church and his lab have conducted a myriad of experiments and gathered lots of data with which to plan future strategies for tackling aging.

Last year, we learned that Rejuvenate Bio had already conducted some initial studies with beagles and were planning to reverse aging using CRISPR gene therapy. The goal was to move these studies forward to a larger scale as a step towards bringing similar therapies to humans to prevent age-related diseases. Professor Church was so confident that his team would find a solution, he even suggested that he may be one of the first human volunteers once therapies finally reach people.

“Dogs are a market in and of themselves,” Church said during the 2018 Radical Wellness event in Boston. “It’s not just a big organism close to humans. It’s something that people will pay for, and the FDA process is much faster. We’ll do dog trials, and that’ll be a product, and that’ll pay for scaling up in human trials.”

Choosing to develop therapies for dogs helps pave the way for therapies that address the aging processes in humans and could support their approval, which would otherwise be much more challenging. Currently, if you were to tell the FDA that you want to increase lifespan in humans by 20 years, you would need to come back in 20-30 years with the data, which just isn’t practical.

However, if Rejuvenate Bio can produce robust data in dogs showing that some processes of aging have been reversed, it lends considerable justification for human trials. The company is also taking a different tack; instead of focusing on increasing lifespan, it is instead targeting an age-related disease common in dogs, which should be cured if age reversal occurs.

This is based on the concept that in order to treat age-related diseases and cure them, you need to target the root causes of those diseases, which are the underlying aging processes themselves. If Rejuvenate Bio is successful, this would lend additional supporting evidence that directly treating aging to prevent age-related diseases could also work in humans.

Gene therapy trial for mitral valve disease

Rejuvenate Bio has now announced that it will be launching a gene therapy trial in dogs during the fall this year to combat mitral valve disease (MVD), a condition commonly encountered in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed and directly caused by the aging processes. The study will initially focus on this particular breed and expand to include other dogs with MVD as time passes.

We are developing a novel cardio-protective gene therapy to stop the progression of heart failure in dogs. As a part of the technical development, we will launch a study in dogs with Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) in the fall of 2019. This study will provide valuable information that will aid our effort to address MVD.

MVD is due to the failure of the mitral valve in the heart, a one-way valve between the two chambers of the heart that prevents the backflow of blood as it is pumped around the body. As aging occurs, the mitral valve can degenerate, which allows backflow to occur, leading to left atrial chamber enlargement, congestive heart failure, and, ultimately, death.

This gene therapy is focused on adding a new piece of DNA into the cells of the dogs in order to halt the buildup of fibrotic scar tissue in the heart, which is linked to the progression of MVD and other forms of heart failure. Fibrotic tissue is the result of imperfect repair, which occurs when a more complete repair is not possible due to a lack of replacement cells or high levels of inflammation.

The researchers are keen to point out that this new piece of DNA is not passed onto the offspring of the animal and cannot transfer between dogs. This is because the therapy does not alter the DNA in the germline cells, the cells that are involved in reproduction and passing on genetics to an organism’s offspring.

If you wish to enroll your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the trial coming this fall, then register your interest with Rejuvenate Bio to learn more about eligibility and how to apply.

Conclusion

This is a very exciting study and, as the company discusses on its project page, the therapy may also be useful for other heart conditions, such as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). If the initial results are successful, it would be highly likely that we could see more dog breeds included as well as other conditions, including DCM, added to the program.

We wish Professor Church and Rejuvenate Bio every success, as this forms the basis for potentially moving such therapies into human trials more quickly as well as potentially helping our furry friends to live longer, healthier lives as well. We love our pets, and it is only logical that we should want the same healthy and longer lives for them as we do for ourselves, and the process for them is the same for us: new medical innovations that target the aging processes directly in order to end age-related diseases.

About  Steve Hill

As a scientific writer and a devoted advocate of healthy longevity technologies, Steve has provided the community with multiple educational articles, interviews and podcasts, helping the general public to better understand aging and the means to modify its dynamics. His materials can be found at H+ Magazine, Longevity reporter, Psychology Today and Singularity Weblog. He is a co-author of the book “Aging Prevention for All” – a guide for the general public exploring evidence-based means to extend healthy life (in press).

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

In 2014, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting increased healthy human lifespan through fiscally sponsoring longevity research projects and raising awareness regarding the societal benefits of life extension. In 2015 they launched Lifespan.io, the first nonprofit crowdfunding platform focused on the biomedical research of aging.

They believe that this will enable the general public to influence the pace of research directly. To date they have successfully supported four research projects aimed at investigating different processes of aging and developing therapies to treat age-related diseases.

The LEAF team organizes educational events, takes part in different public and scientific conferences, and actively engages with the public on social media in order to help disseminate this crucial information. They initiate public dialogue aimed at regulatory improvement in the fields related to rejuvenation biotechnology.

Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum at the Nevada State Legislature – Scheduled for May 15, 2019

Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum at the Nevada State Legislature – Scheduled for May 15, 2019


If you are interested in transhumanism, life extension, biohacking, prosthetics, implantable technologies, advances to help the disabled, and the political and philosophical implications of all of these areas, then you are encouraged to come to the Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum at the Nevada State Legislature in Carson City, Nevada, on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. This promises to be the first event of its kind – a great opportunity for advocates of emerging technologies to communicate with legislators, lobbyists, media, and the general public, and educate them about transhumanism and its technological dimensions while also dispelling common fears and myths.

The Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 15.

Address:

Nevada State Legislature Building

401 S Carson St, Carson City, NV 89701

Second Floor Atrium (See the Second Floor Map)

Co-organized by the Future Grind podcast, the Nevada Transhumanist Party, and magician Anastasia Synn (who testified against Assembly Bill 226 at the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee), and supported by the Nevada Technology Association, the Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum will feature practical demonstrations of emerging technologies, such as implantable microchips, in order to dispel common fears and myths about those technologies and educate the public about their capabilities and limitations. Also, the event will feature a discussion of technological augmentations, transhumanist philosophy, the uses of technology to overcome disabilities and extend longevity and health, the directions of technological evolution in the coming decades, and the policy implications stemming from these developments.

Most of the event will be in a conversational format as participants will interact with visitors and answer their questions.

If you could either travel to Carson City, Nevada, on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, or share this event with other transhumanists and life-extensionists who you think might be able to do so, it would be greatly appreciated. Even if you cannot attend yourself, you can help by spreading information about this event to others who might be in a position to attend – especially if they live in Northern Nevada or Northern California (but we welcome others who would have to travel farther!).

We need more transhumanists in attendance at this event! Please send an e-mail to U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman and Nevada Transhumanist Party Chief Executive Gennady Stolyarov II if you wish to participate as one of the speakers educating people about transhumanism and emerging technologies. The more representation we have, the better! No matter what your areas of expertise or what flavor of transhumanism you espouse – whether you seek to pursue biological life extension, mechanical/electronic augmentations, policy reforms, or all of the above – your involvement and perspectives will be welcome. This is a unique opportunity for transhumanists to access policymakers and render them aware of the imperative of protecting the rights of technological innovators and creating an environment conducive to an acceleration of beneficial technological progress.

Supporting the SomosMiel Revolution: Time to Act – Article by David Wood

Supporting the SomosMiel Revolution: Time to Act – Article by David Wood

David Wood


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by David Wood, Chair of the London Futurists and Secretary of Humanity+.  He argues in support of the Somos Miel party and their work in Spain, initiatives which are similar to work supported by the US Transhumanist Party in the United States. This article was originally posted on David Wood’s blog on April 24, 2019.

~ Brent Reitze, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, May 2nd, 2019


 

The most important changes often arise from the bold actions of outsiders.

Those of us who desire positive humanitarian change need to be flexible enough to recognise which outsiders can be the best vehicles for the transformations we want to see in society.

And we need to be ready to get behind these opportunities when they arise.

Consider the key example of the transformation of healthcare, towards a new focus on the reversal of aging as providing the best route to better health for everyone.

For those of us who hold that vision of the forthcoming “abolition of aging”, what are the most practical steps to make that vision a reality?

Here’s my answer. It’s time to get behind “Somos Miel”.

Futuristicamente

Miel is a recently formed political party, which is taking part in Spain in the elections on the 26th of May to the European Parliament.

The word “miel” has two meanings. First, it’s the Spanish for “honey”. Somos Miel means “We are honey”. The association of honey with improved health exists in many cultures around the world.

Second, MIEL is the abbreviation for “Movimiento Independiente Euro Latino”. Translating from Spanish to English gives: “The Independent Latin Euro Movement”.

Heading the party’s list of candidates is José Cordeiro, described as follows in the introduction of his Wikipedia article:

José Luis Cordeiro is an engineer, economist, futurist, and transhumanist, who has worked on different areas including economic development, international relations, Latin America, the European Union, monetary policy, comparison of constitutions, energy trends, cryonics, and longevity. Books he has authored include The Great TabooConstitutions Around the World: A Comparative View from Latin America, and (in Spanish) El Desafio Latinoamericano (“The Latin American challenge”) and La Muerte de la Muerte (“The death of death”).

Cordeiro was born in Caracas, Venezuela from Spanish parents who emigrated from Madrid during the Franco dictatorship…

He’s evidently a man of many talents. He’s by no means a European political insider, infused by the old ways of doing politics. Instead, he brings with him a welcome spread of bold outsider perspectives.

When asked if he is from “the right” or “the left”, his answer, instead, is that he is from “the future”. Indeed, he often appends the greeting “futuristicamente” after his name, meaning “Yours futuristically”.

José is also known as a vocal advocate for “revolution” – a revolution in the potential of humanity. He has the courage to advocate ideas that are presently unpopular – ideas that he believes will soon grow in public understanding and public support.

Working together

I first met José at the TransVision 2006 conference in Helsinki, Finland. I remember how he spoke with great passion about the positive possibilities of technology in the next stage in the evolution of life on the earth. As the abstract from that long-ago talk proclaims:

Since the Big Bang, the universe has been in constant evolution and continuous transformation. First there were physical and chemical processes, then biological evolution, and finally now technological evolution. As we begin to ride the wave into human redesign, the destination is still largely unknown but the opportunities are almost limitless.

Biological evolution continues but it is just too slow to achieve the goals now possible thanks to technological evolution. Natural selection with trial and error can now be substituted by technical selection with engineering design. Humanity’s monopoly as the only advanced sentient life form on the planet will soon come to an end, supplemented by a number of posthuman incarnations. Moreover, how we re-engineer ourselves could fundamentally change the ways in which our society functions, and raise crucial questions about our identities and moral status as human beings.

Since that first meeting, the two of us have collaborated on many projects. For example, we both sit on the board of directors of Humanity+. José has spoken on a number of occasions at the London Futurists events I organise – such as TransVision 2019 which will take place in London on 6-7 July. And we are named as co-authors of the Spanish language book La Muerte de la Muerte which has attained wide press coverage throughout Spain.

Another thing we have in common is that we are both impatient for change. We’re not content to sit back and watch impersonal forces operate in society at their own pace and following their own inner direction. We believe in doing more than cheering from the sidelines. We both believe that the actions of individuals, wisely targeted, can have a huge impact on human affairs. We both believe that inspired political action, at the right time, can unleash vast public resources in support of important transformational projects.

We also recognise that delays have major consequences. Each single day that passes without the widespread availability of reliable treatments for biological aging, upwards of 100,000 people die as a result of aging-related diseases. That’s 100,000 unnecessary human deaths, every single day – preceded in almost every case by extended suffering and heartache.

Moving faster

On a positive note, there is considerable good news to report, regarding progress with regenerative medicine and rejuvenation biotechnology. The Undoing Aging conference in Berlin last month contained an encouraging set of reports from a host of world-leading scientists working in this field. Keep an eye on the Undoing Aging channel in YouTube for videos from that event. For a review of the human implications of these scientific breakthroughs, the forthcoming RAADfest in Las Vegas in October will be well worth attending – to hear about “the most powerful information and inspiration for staying alive”.

But the opportunity exists for progress to go much faster, if more elements of society decide to put their weight behind this project.

That’s where Miel comes in. José is a well-known figure in Spain, due to his many media appearances there. Current indications are that he stands a fighting chance of being elected to the European Parliament. If elected, he’ll be a tireless public advocate for the cause of rejuvenation healthcare. He’ll promote studies of the economic implications of different scenarios for the treatment of aging. He’ll also champion the creation of a European Agency for Anti-Aging, to boost research on how addressing aging can have multiple positive benefits for the treatments of individual aging-related diseases, such as dementia, cancer, and heart failure.

You’ll find a number of articles on the Miel blog about these aspects of Miel policy. For example, see “Within 25 years, dying will be optional” and “I’m not afraid of artificial intelligence, I’m afraid of human stupidity”.

You’ll also observe from its website how Miel is, wisely, giving voice in Spain to a community that perceives itself to be under-represented, namely the Latin Americans – people like José himself, who was born in Venezuela. Those of us who aren’t Latin Americans should appreciate the potential for positive change that this political grouping can bring.

Time for action

Despite the groundswell of popular support that Miel is receiving, it’s still in the balance whether the party will indeed receive enough votes throughout Spain to gain at least one member in the European Parliament.

I’m told that what will make a big difference is an old-fashioned word: money.

If it receives more donations, Miel will be able to place more advertisements in social media (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc). With its messages in front of more eyeballs, the chance increases of popular support at the ballot box.

In a better world, money would have a lower influence over politics. But whilst we should all aspire to move politics into that better state, we need to recognise the present reality. In that reality, donations have a big role to play.

To support Miel, visit the party’s donation page. Donations are accepted via credit cards, debit cards, or PayPal.

But please don’t delay. The elections are in just one month’s time. The time for action is now.

Interview of Dr. José Luis Cordeiro by Elena Milova

Interview of Dr. José Luis Cordeiro by Elena Milova

Elena Milova
José Luis Cordeiro


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this interview of Dr. José Luis Cordeiro by Elena Milova at LeafScience.Org, originally published on their site on April 19, 2019.  Dr. Cordeiro is working to foster transhumanist-friendly political policies in Spain, a goal supported by the U.S. Transhumanist Party as part of our policy objectives.

~ Brent Reitze, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, May 1st, 2019


At Undoing Aging 2019, jointly organized by SENS Research Foundation and Forever Healthy Foundation, there was a session focused on the ways to make healthy life extension and medical progress a greater part of the global agenda. Among the speakers there was Jose Cordeiro, the vice chair of Humanity Plus, director of The Millennium Project, fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and board member of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Jose earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His thesis was focused on the modeling of the International Space Station. Jose has also studied International Economics and Comparative Politics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and received his MBA in France at INSEAD, where he focused on Finance and Globalization.

Last year, Jose decided to begin his political activities in order to foster the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies in Spain and to work on the integration of Latin American immigrants into Spain’s aging society and thus maintain the country’s productivity. He kindly agreed to give me an interview to discuss more about his ambitious initiative.

Hello, Jose, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. You are currently beginning your campaign to win several seats in the European parliament. This is a very unusual situation, because it’s still rare that transhumanist ideas like significant life extension are part of a political agenda. Before we dig into your political program, I would really want to know more about you as a person and what kind of experiences led you to becoming a transhumanist in the first place. Please tell us a few things about your childhood; what life events or books helped you to develop the vision that you have right now?

My family is from Spain. During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, this country became very poor, and that pushed my family to consider moving to Venezuela. At the time, Venezuela was a prosperous country, so we had moved, and I grew up there. When I was a little child, there was no color TV; it was black and white back then. I remember that the first transmission in color was the moon landing of the Apollo mission. I was so fascinated by the idea that man had gone to the moon and also by the color picture, even though the moon was mostly gray. That sparked my interest in science fiction. My mother gave me books by Jules Verne. To me, he was an idol; I loved his writing. Then, there were other writers, like Isaac Asimov and Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who helped me develop my imagination.

When I was older, I even went to meet Sir Arthur C. Clarke in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It turned out that he had a scuba diving center in Indonesia. You see, he believed that going into outer space and going into the ocean were the ultimate experiences and that they both showed how weak our bodies were. To me, it was one more piece of proof that we really need technology to survive in outer space or in the oceans. I had an opportunity to invite him to talk at the transhumanist conference that I had organized. That was really beautiful.

Speaking of the other books, I also read Robert Heinlein’s books on Mars, and all of this combined really made me go into engineering. I decided to go to MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and I majored in engineering in order to be able to participate in all these fascinating projects of mankind in space. I have been very lucky to have four Nobel laureates among my teachers, and I’ve been always following future trends. Since that time, I read the books of the Club of Rome and the World Future Society. There were many magazines about science, such as Popular Mechanics, Computer World, and others. Then, I learned about Extropians and the World Transhumanist Association when it was being created, and I learned a lot from this community, too.

I lived three years in Japan and four years in California. Then, I met Ray Kurzweil at MIT, as he was one of its board members. He’s a fantastic person, and I read all his books, the Age of intelligent machines was the first one, and then in 1998-99, he published the Age of Spiritual Machines, where he makes all his forecasts of the future.

It seems to me that there is still a huge gap between technology, which involves developing all sorts of machines and engineering, and life sciences, rejuvenation research, and life extension. What were your ideas or some events in your life that actually made you look into this direction as well?

Because of my science fiction reading and my training at MIT, I have been very much a technologist, futurist, and transhumanist. Like Ray Kurzweil, I believe that we will transcend the biological condition and move into a post-biological condition. Arthur C. Clarke said that we are carbon-based bipeds and that we should actually evolve and transcend.

I was not particularly interested in longevity and rejuvenation technologies until 1999-2000, when a friend of mine died. Also, sadly, my father died in 2013, and that really affected my life and my views. I was living in California back when the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela had happened. My father died of something that no one dies of today, which is a lack of access to dialysis. The crisis was so bad that there were no medical services, no food, no clean water, no electricity, no gasoline in the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet. My family had to witness how a bad government can destroy a country and put a whole nation into misery. I consider myself lucky that I managed to take my mother from Venezuela back to Spain, and I am so happy that she is alive. Then I decided to stay in Spain and work internationally.

I am traveling around the globe, as I am giving lectures at major universities in many countries. As you know, I teach in two universities in Moscow: in the MIPT and in the Higher School of Economics. I also teach in universities in Japan and in Korea, focusing on several main topics that are important for shaping the global agenda in a reasonable way. In the Higher School of Economics, I talk about technologies, because economists need to know about emerging technologies, while the MIPT is just the opposite; I talk more about the future of economics, the world moving from scarcity to abundance, and how technology can help with that. I talk about energy, about the necessity to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Actually, I coined the word ‘energularity’: it’s an unlimited amount of energy that we can use for our needs. I talk about longevity, rejuvenation, regenerative medicine, the possibility to control aging and remain healthy for as long as we want. I am teaching the young generation of leaders how to build the future of global prosperity, and I decided to bring my knowledge and my vision to the political arena, too.

Could you please tell our readers about the pillars of your political program? What are the specific goals that you are going to focus on?

Two main things that I plan to focus on are the healthy longevity of the Spanish population and the integration of immigrants from Latin America. Let me explain why I consider these two topics extremely important and how they are intertwined.

Spain, as you know, is one of the countries with the highest life expectancy in the world. Our people live very long. However, this also means that our population is aging; there is a large and fast-growing share of people who are 65 years old and older, which is now over 20%, and these people have age-related chronic diseases. The medicine of the 20th century cannot restore health, and there are many age-related diseases that remain incurable, causing enormous amount of human suffering. However, it was recently proven in animal studies that by directly targeting the processes of aging, the root causes of aging, we could learn how to cure these diseases, reverse aging, and ensure better health and productivity in later life. If we support scientific research on the mechanisms of aging, we can develop cures for people very soon; in the next 10 years, there will already be several therapies of a new type that will be able to slow down and even partially reverse aging.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Volume II: Demographic Profiles

So, healthy longevity for the Spanish population is my primary focal point. I have three very clear targets. The first is the creation of the European Institute on Aging to work on the problem of aging and on the latest rejuvenation biotechnologies and to put together all the knowledge in different areas and different countries to give our aging society innovative treatments as soon as possible.

The second target is the development of more flexible regulations. I actually like to say that Americans invent things, the Chinese or the Japanese improve things, and the Europeans regulate. Sadly, there is overregulation all over Europe. Let me give you an example. In Japan, if you have already done phase two of human clinical trials, which means that you have already proven that the treatment is safe and it works, even if the experimental group in phase two is not large, a patient can get those treatments, especially if the patient is in critical condition, or, even worse, terminal condition. People in Japan have a chance to use the innovation and a chance to overcome the disease. You can do that in Japan but not in Europe, despite the fact that the pace of population aging in Japan and in Europe is the same; we have many old people around.

The third target is an increase in the science and technology budget of the European Union. For the next framework program, which is called Horizon Europe, beginning in 2021, the budget is expected to increase to 100 billion euros, but I think it should be increased even more, to 120 billion. The projects sponsored by Horizon Europe should be more also focused on regenerative biotechnologies in order to cope with the massive population aging and population decline.

So, you would like to contribute to the creation of a coordination center on aging research, appropriate funding for this research, and on regulatory improvement in order to ensure that the emerging rejuvenation biotechnologies can be available as soon as possible?

That is right, and I have done a great deal preparing the ground for these improvements. As you know, as a proponent of healthy life extension, I have organized many scientific conferences in Spain, and I have invited international luminaries from the field of aging research, such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey, who was the first to recognize the mechanisms of aging as new therapeutic targets.

I have always tried to spread the word about the work of our brilliant Spanish scientists, and I have also written several books on this topic to educate the public on this matter and to allow more people to benefit from the development of rejuvenation technologies; the last one of my 13 books is currently a bestseller in Spain called La Muerte De La Muerte (The Death of Death).

Yes, I have seen it – are you planning to have it translated into other languages?

Yes, it is coming out now in Portuguese, then in Korean, and then in other languages. I hope that there will also be English and Russian translations soon enough.

However, this is only one part of my program. The other one is based on the other pressing issues of Spain. You have heard the motto of my campaign, #SomosMIEL – MIEL stands for ‘Movimiento Independiente EuroLatino’ (the Independent EuroLatino Movement).  Because of the crisis in Latin America, and especially Venezuela, Spain has become a home for many immigrants; around 10% of the Spanish population are immigrants. Think about it. The native Spanish population is aging, our population is declining, and our workforce is shrinking. The immigrants are people with a similar cultural and religious background, who speak Spanish perfectly, and who have a good education and could contribute to the development of the country much better if we removed certain barriers and restrictions.

First, I think we need to eliminate the Schengen visa for people in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia, at least in the case of family reunification. Next, I would focus on extending the approved period of being an independent worker from one to five years. The third target is to contribute to the homologation of titles and degrees in education. When all these immigrants come, even though we speak the same language, their degrees are not accepted. There is already a good precedent of solving this problem in Europe with the Bologna Declaration, the agreement that allows homologation of all titles in Europe. However, now we have to take this to the international level and certainly with Latin America.

There is one more question that I plan to work on: the recognition of Spanish as one of the official languages of the European Union. Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language in the world after Chinese. It is not even recognized in the European Union, which has only three official working languages: English, French, and German.

As we are moving towards a world that is more and more strongly connected, I think it makes perfect sense to facilitate communication and exchange of valuable knowledge and experience between the major regions, such as Spain, the European Union, Latin America, and the United States. There are 50 million Spanish speakers in the United States.

So, technically, what you’re trying to achieve with your program is to remove the barriers that prevent Spanish-speaking society from acting as a whole. One example is the integration of immigrants from Latin America, and the other one is the improvement of cross-border communication by making Spanish an official language of the European Union. I find that fascinating. Because, as we all know, there are these global challenges that we’re dealing with, like climate change, pollution, lack of renewable energy, and population aging, and they require global cooperation. The barriers become increasingly unwelcome, I would say, because these problems just cannot be solved at the level of one country. I find it a very valuable social experiment.

Yeah, that’s a beautiful way to put it. However, we have a long way to go. We live in a world of abundance that is full of opportunities brought to us by technological progress, and it is quite disappointing that we still have poverty, we still have suffering from aging, and we still find ourselves witnessing humanitarian crises like the one in Venezuela that killed my father. Five million Venezuelans have been forced to leave the country, five million. This is not a small number, and we still don’t know how to deal with it in a way that these people can have the decent lives that they deserve. We need to learn how to not leave anyone behind. We have to become more compassionate. This could happen to any country, like it happened to Germany during Hitler’s government. We have to collaborate to make sure that we will not make the same mistakes ever again. We live at the borderline between a fantastic positive future and a horrible, terrible past, and we have to move forward, positively contribute to it, and create a better society, a better world for everybody.

What insights would you like to share with our readers?

Life is so beautiful; it is a fantastic gift. I think everybody should enjoy life, should have a chance to improve and extend life and to do more things. I speak five languages, and I’d want to speak ten if I had the time. I have been to 137 countries, and I would like to go to two hundred more. I would like to write and read more books, watch many movies, and listen to so much more music, and there is no time. Time is so valuable. Ask yourself, who could you become if you had another century of healthy life? Therefore, we need more lifetime so that we can enjoy more, develop and reinvent ourselves to become better people, and make this world a better place. Going into politics for me is my reinvention. I think that I have enough experience to take all these fascinating academic findings and ideas professionally into politics and to make a difference. That is my mission: to bring healthy longevity and profound social integration to Spain. Wish me luck.