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Month: August 2019

A Dialogue on the Simulation Interview with Dan Faggella: A Case for Responsible Stewardship – Article by Dinorah Delfin

A Dialogue on the Simulation Interview with Dan Faggella: A Case for Responsible Stewardship – Article by Dinorah Delfin

Dinorah Delfin


Voice by Terence McKenna

Last week I published an article, Programmatically Generated Everything – The Intelligence/Love Paradox” in response to an interview with Dan Faggella for Allen Saakyan’s Simulation series.

Dan’s thoughtful response to my article was highly stimulating as he was able to mindfully elaborate on, and critique my thoughts. So grateful for the opportunity to have this exchange of insights – Thank you!

Dan hypothesizes that human civilization might be heading towards a future subordinated by “substrate digital monopolies”, and as a result, becoming more disconnected from real human interactions, nature, and a truer sense of reality.

From this exchange, we expressed agreement on three fundamental areas:

1. A future controlled by substrate digital monopolies is one we don’t want, and therefore should mitigate.

2. We need to agree on a global set of values to enable responsible and sustainable technological development.

3. Emerging technologies such as virtual realities (VR), brain-computer interfaces or brain-machine interfaces (BMI), and artificial general intelligence (AGI) will benefit humanity and all sentient life, if used responsibly.

1. Predicting undesirable futures

For the record, this world of substrate monopolies is not something I hope for, strive for, or wish for. Rather, I consider it likely (read the full essay on the matter). It’s a hypothesis – and more than anything – a warning against a kind of power conflict that I fear. Such virtual worlds could be amazing and beneficial, but the conflict of controlling the substrate is a reality I foresee to be likely, not a reality I foresee to be preferable.” — Dan Faggella

Given our global market dynamics, sadly, substrate digital monopolies are likely to happen. The greater the disconnect between meaningful human interactions and nature, the longer we’ll perpetuate the destructive narcissism and lack of care driving society to an accelerating ecological and moral crisis. Could it be that a greater disconnect from a Truer sense Self and of Reality could put at odds the stability of all natural systems – including intelligent life itself?

Though I embrace the idea that we, technological creatures, have an inherent right to have full sovereignty over our individual evolution and senescence through the means of science and technologies, I’m also aware that many things can and will probably go wrong if we don’t properly educate ourselves or have the right policies in place.

How could we redirect the destructive forces of a global arms race for digital dominance towards instead a thriving technological era of creative and ecological flourishing? What would it take for market forces to adopt systems that are in service of all stakeholders?

By understanding where we come from – historically, biologically, and energetically – we will be better equipped at thinking and solving problems holistically and sustainably.

2. On the issue of context and values

During my years in Business School at Baruch College N.Y., a class that had the most impact on my education was “Social Entrepreneurship”.

As we become more dependent on automated processes, we ought to also device outlets for people to participate in Creative Processes that involve both the fulfillment of drives and pleasures and the accumulation of virtues and sound moral values. The better we are at mastering Self-Leadership, the better we will be at designing social systems that operate under the Highest Ethical Standards.

How can businesses and corporations profit from making the world a better place? How can we inspire young entrepreneurs to find True meaning in Life so that our drives and intentions are aligned with maintaining a more Harmonious Universal Ecosystem?

“Most of what we believe to be moral tenets and insights are contextual”, says Dan. I agree. It is a postmodern sensibility based on the universal natural principle of Relativism, which means, everything is essentially an opinion and nothing could be iron truth.

Some things are More truthful than others however, for example, when supported by empirical evidence. Context isn’t fixed. A set of values need not be static. (The USTP’s Bill of Rights, for example, is a living document which can be amended via votes by the U.S. Transhumanist Party members.) 

In response to last week’s article, fellow USTP Officer, Ryan Stevenson, shared the following observations:

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the issues you raise about the relationship between human intelligence/reason/technology and goodness recently, and what you’ve written here is really insightful. It seems that’s it’s rather easy to forget that technology isn’t a panacea, and there must be (as you put it) ‘humane’ intentions guiding its use.  

A number of the distinctions you put forward reminded me of an early Christian philosopher, Maximus the Confessor. Maximus was one of the first individuals in Western thought to grapple with the nature of technology and, unlike his fellow Christians, saw its potential for making human beings more human.  Obviously, his thought exists in a theistic context, but maybe Maximus belongs in our list of Transhumanist forebears. If you’re interested, here’s an article that touches on some of his philosophy dealing with techne…

I also support advocating for a proactive policy with regards to BMI and VR at international bodies like the UN.  Building a transorganizational coalition with other groups would be a good step forward – labor and time-intensive, but important and doable.  It would be great to get that conversation going.” 

Maximus the Confessor’s theistic approach to this early reference to critical and ethical Transhumanism is a compelling reminder that one of the most fundamental uses of technology is to help humans become More Humane. In this article, it is argued that technology is meant to assist us in “stewarding creation across the cosmos” and that the tradition of “natural law reasoning” can help “ground a global ethic for sustainable and integral development”.

Could natural law reasoning based on empirical evidence be a viable tool to articulate norms and ideas of universal understanding?

Growing up as a Christian, for example, I often wondered about the meaning of the “holy spirit”. Devoid of mythology, the concept is one of transition towards self-awareness – Ape-to-Human – the idea of “self” becoming apparent to “sinless” primates whose awareness might have increased from introducing bone marrow and mushrooms to their diet, leading to an miraculous evolutionary transition from fearful subjects of nature’s will, to responsible masters and designers of our individual and collective destiny. 

The un-learning of one’s convictions to exercise novelty and expanded new perspectives (the dissolution of limiting beliefs) is one of the most challenging of human endeavors, but the only way to true freedom and collective harmony.

3. Love and god as universal natural phenomena; not as romantic ideas of love, or a culture’s perception of a “moral” “entity”.

In an age of powerful technology, it becomes poignantly obvious that while a personal and social ethic remain necessary—albeit altered to reflect emerging understandings of personhood and relationality—they are also increasingly not sufficient. If as humanity, as one global culture, we are to order complex ecological changes effected through human (and possibly even non-human) agency and manipulation, natural law reasoning must be more profoundly cosmological. This implies, that natural law must consider as much as possible, the ‘total ecology’ in view of its finality as New Creation, but also our human obligation to steward the flourishing of creation in all its rich, inter-dependent diversity. This ultimately is what Laudato Sì calls for when it promotes an ‘ecological conversion’ for an authentic integral flourishing.” Nadia Delicata, “Homo Technologicus and the Recovery of a Universal Ethic: Maximus the Confessor and Romano Guardini”, 2018.

Concepts of Order and Chaos are as deeply ingrained in Quantum Mechanics as in Theological, or Natural Law, reasoning. Quantum theory suggests there are many dimensions to reality, and the Noosphere has been referred to as a natural phenomenon of “transhuman consciousness emerging from the interactions of human minds.”

Love exists in many forms as the inherent “sacred”/“intelligent” programming driving natural systems towards reproduction and survival. Positive feelings like joy, love, care, trust, or instinctual arousal and mating, for example, all produce chemical reactions and high vibrational frequencies in the brain, linked to growth and a strong immune system. Stress, depression, anxiety, which make the body sick and susceptible to degenerative diseases, are linked to lower vibrational brain frequencies.

While we envision a future where sentient life blooms into higher forms of understanding and expression, I believe it is safe to say that the Transhuman Era we desire is one that encourages humanity to be more caring and to think more holistically.

Dinorah Delfin is an Artist and the Director of Admissions and Public Relations for the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party. 

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Success at the XPRIZE Foundation – Article by Keith Comito

Success at the XPRIZE Foundation – Article by Keith Comito

Keith Comito


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by Keith Comito of the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), originally published on the LEAF site on May 20th, 2019.  The article brings attention to a new project from XPRIZE, focusing on Human Longevity, which the U.S. Transhumanist Party supports as part of our policy goals.

~ Brent Reitze, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, August 4, 2019


On April 29th and 30th, the XPRIZE Foundation hosted an event at its headquarters in Culver City, California that could have a profound effect on the evolving landscape of biorejuvenation research: the Future of Longevity Impact Roadmap Lab.

For those unfamiliar, the XPRIZE Foundation is famous for designing multi-million-dollar, global competitions to incentivize the development of technological breakthroughs, perhaps the most well-known being its first: the Ansari XPRIZE, which offered a $10,000,000 award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.

With this event, the purpose of which was to gather subject matter experts to brainstorm a potential longevity-research prize, XPRIZE has turned its focus towards solving the critical problem of age-related diseases on society and extending healthy human lifespan for all. As I was fortunate enough to directly participate in this exciting meeting, I’d like to share some of my experiences with you all.

The Room Where It Happens

The first thing I noticed upon entering the XPRIZE headquarters was how impressive it is, both in terms of size and in its almost museum-like quality of showcasing innovations in which the foundation has had a hand over the past few decades — statues, trophies, a large rocketship model hanging from the ceiling. Simply put, it is a facility designed to make you think “big things happen here”, and the significance of the fact that attendees such as myself were gathered here to “discover innovative and accessible ways to radically extend everyone’s healthy lifespan” was not lost on me. The times are changing, and changing fast — the tide is turning.

The second thing I noticed was just how diverse the group of attendees was, a veritable who’s who of the broader pro-longevity movement: researchers such as Drs. Steve Horvath and Greg Fahy, investors such as Sergey Young (board member of XPRIZE and creator of the $100m Longevity Vision Fund), long-time advocates such as myself, Aubrey de Grey, and Jim Strole, global policy makers, journalists, cryonicists such as Max More, transhumanists such as Zoltan Istvan and Natasha Vita-More, and of course XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis.

I confess that I was not initially sure how this eclectic group would gel together in the brainstorming sessions to follow, but what was clear to me was that this could be the beginning of a watershed moment for overcoming the diseases of aging. This is the kind of room where it happens.

The Task at Hand

After the stage-setting opening talk by noted futurist Ray Kurzweil, the proceedings quickly shifted to the stated purpose of the gathering: brainstorming the most impactful and audacious ideas to overcome the negative aspects of aging and age-related disease on society.

To facilitate this, the attendees, numbering approximately 70, were divided into tables of four or five — each person tasked with generating a preliminary idea for a longevity-focused XPRIZE and further charged with convincing the rest of their table that their proposed idea should be the one put forth by their table to the rest of the group for consideration. My table happened to include Aubrey de Grey, and thus I knew that a lively discussion was all but assured.

Before beginning to debate the design of an ideal contest, however, it is necessary to understand what qualities and parameters typically make for an effective XPRIZE, and, as such, we were presented with some examples of these — having clearly verifiable goals, the ability to catalyze new markets by targeting specific industry failures, projecting a telegenic vision of hope that the public can rally behind, etc.

The entire group of attendees was also engaged to discuss how the realities of healthy life extension might relate to these various parameters, and, in this exercise, I am glad to note how instrumental the analytical work done by our outreach and writing departments at LEAF was in providing actionable information to the group. One example: when the XPRIZE team asked how the concept of gender inclusivity might relate to an ideal longevity-focused prize, the work of our team allowed me to quickly relay relevant statistics such as how a high percentage of family healthcare decisions are made by women, polling data on the desirability of life extension for both men and women, and how disparities in perception of increased longevity alter depending on how the topic is framed.

When it came time to begin brainstorming, many interesting ideas were discussed at our particular table, including the development of composite biomarkers to validate therapies targeting the aging process, and ways in which blockchain technologies could be used to accelerate drug discovery.

The idea I personally put forth was a conceptually simple one: meaningful physiological remediation of dementia (not just proxy diagnostics or biomarkers) by 2030. I thought this was well suited to the the XPRIZE qualities of “bold, but feasible” and “define the problem, not the solution”, and it has several other  factors in its favor, namely that dementia is by far the most damaging aspect of aging in terms of protracted emotional suffering and large-scale socioeconomic effects, it is the one aspect of aging that everyone already unequivocally believes is horrific and needs solving, the existing system has failed to solve it for decades, many promising therapy angles have no traditional profit motive and thus will not come to market without additional incentive, success would be clear to validate, and curing it would create an amazing and hopeful narrative with which to enlist the entire world in overcoming all of the diseases of aging.

Aubrey apparently agreed, and with his vote of confidence, this idea became one of the prize concepts pitched to the entire group for consideration. Ideas arising from the other tables’ groups covered a wide range of topics as well, included growing fully functional organs from stem cells, demonstrating the arrest of epigenetic markers of aging, successful brain transplantation, creation of an ageless mouse, and restoration of homeostatic and damage repair mechanisms in the elderly. After the completion of these presentations, it was time for lunch, with the expectation that upon their return, each attendee would join the table of whichever idea they believed in the most and help to refine it.

It was at this time that I became most uncertain of the future of my own pitched concept, as just prior to the break, one of the organizers mentioned that XPRIZE was already planning an Alzheimer’s-focused contest, and several attendees mentioned during lunch that they had planned to join our table but now supposed that it was better to support a different project instead. Sure enough, when lunch was completed, my table had become empty, but as the contest idea that I was advocating was actually quite different and larger in scope than the mentioned existing initiative, I chose to continue refining it during the ensuing session.

The final activity for the first day was for the team leaders of the newly reorganized tables to present their refined concepts on a poster shown to the entire group of attendees, who would then place stickers to vote for the concepts that they felt most worthy of actually becoming an XPRIZE. There were 18 concepts in total, all interesting, but one that I felt was noteworthy for its difference from the rest was a $5 million “Longevity Peace Prize” for whoever could convince a national government to declare aging to be a disease. This bears similarity to one of the concepts I sent to XPRIZE ahead of the event — to award $10 million to whoever could convince a national government to allocate $10 billion to aging research (a 1000x impact return and in line with other initiatives, such as the Human Genome Project and the Brain Initiative) — and one that I believe is important to have in the running in order to remind the attendees that some of the most impactful initiatives that we could choose may actually not be directly related to research.

When it came time for the actual voting, I confess that my expectations were not high for my own pitched concept, given what had transpired earlier. Thus, I was honestly shocked when it emerged as one of the top three choices along with the arresting of epigenetic markers concept mentioned above and one from Aubrey focusing on limited, but specifically measured, human rejuvenation by 2032.

As some of you reading this may know, the terrors of dementia have had a profound impact on my own family – a story that is now becoming all too common – and it would be a lie to state that seeing the support for eradicating this affliction at an event such as this did not challenge my emotional composure.

Audacity and the Time for Impact

On the second and final day of the event, I happened to meet Aubrey on the road to the venue, as it turned out that both of us preferred to walk from our hotels a few miles away. It was a nice day, and this was a welcome pleasure before returning to meet the rest of the attendees.

Once gathered again at the XPRIZE headquarters, the focus of the group became much narrower than it was on the previous day, as we were tasked to assess the top five highly voted projects from earlier on very specific criteria: How audacious is the concept? How impactful will its success and/or attempts at success be towards achieving the ultimate goal? In what timeframe can we reasonably expect a proof-of-concept? In what timeframe can we reasonably expect wide-scale adoption?

In terms of an ideal XPRIZE contest, the sought-after configuration was maximal impact and audacity, a proof-of-concept expected date achievable within 10 or 15 years, and with the shortest possible time period between proof-of-concept and widespread adoption.

The assigning of these metrics for each proposal involved a discussion among the entire group on each point, and it is interesting to note that, despite the wide diversity of backgrounds represented in the room, there was generally strong consensus on how each concept was ranked in all cases.

When all was said and done, two concepts stood firmly in the upper-right quadrant of the charts that we had collectively made, which denoted “XPRIZE Territory”. These were the aforementioned proposals put forth by Aubrey and myself: limited but specifically measured human rejuvenation by 2032 and meaningful physiological remediation of dementia by 2030.

It was at this time that my emotional composure circuits may have suffered a minor systems failure, but I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.

Now the Turning of the Tide

Of course, with the current exercise completed and the attendees now back to their respective homes and workplaces, it remains to be seen just how the outcome will inform the immediate plans of the XPRIZE Foundation.

Regardless of how quickly a longevity-focused XPRIZE contest is launched, my personal assessment is that this event was an extremely positive one — another clear marker that for whatever battles lie ahead of us to overcome the diseases of aging, some critical battles have already been won. Public perception in terms of the feasibility and desirability of positively affecting the aging processes is profoundly changing, and fast. Influential stakeholders and organizations such as XPRIZE are seeing that the time is now to drive forward a future in which diseases such as Alzheimer’s are just a memory. That is partly because of you, and especially those of you who have been fighting for many years for this cause — take a moment to feel that. Ten years ago, this would not have happened.

Finally, I would like to say that it was a truly humbling and exciting experience to participate in this event, working with a dynamic group of experts to come up with the most impactful and audacious ideas for overcoming the negative aspects of aging on society. Thank you to all who attended and organized; I look forward to meeting again.

Keith Comito is President of LEAF / Lifespan.io and a long-time advocate of longevity research. He is also a computer programmer, mathematician, musician, lover of life, and perhaps a man with too many hobbies. He earned a B.S. in Mathematics, B.S. in Computer science, and M.S. in Applied Mathematics at Hofstra University, where his work included analysis of the LMNA protein.