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Month: July 2021

Transhumanist Art by Luis Arroyo

Transhumanist Art by Luis Arroyo

Luis Arroyo


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this set of three artworks by our member Luis Arroyo in order to highlight the creative variety and diversity in political views that exist among our membership base. Luis Arroyo’s work combines influences from art history, transhumanist philosophy, and political thought with an aspiration to achieve a transhuman future. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 26, 2021


Transhumanism – Digital Artwork by Luis Arroyo

Description by the Artist: Some basic edits along with the term “transhumanism” in front of a black blocked like background; the  the sculpture of the statue is David Prime by Imagine Lion.

 

FM-2030 – Digital Artwork by Luis Arroyo

Description by the Artist: “A photo of the Iranian-American FM-2030 as indicated by the texts with some basic edits over it. FM-2030 is most notable for his book Are You a Transhuman?

Let’s Seize the Newest Means – Digital Artwork by Luis Arroyo

Description by the Artist:This photo was made from a very leftist perspective hinting towards the possibilities if today’s technologies were used for the sustaining and prosperity of the human species instead of the maximization of profit, reasonably one can expect such policies that transhumanists could support to be passed given the general human notions to advance ourselves and society.

Evolution Won’t Stop Aging Any Time Soon, but Medicine Might – Article by Sedeer el-Showk

Evolution Won’t Stop Aging Any Time Soon, but Medicine Might – Article by Sedeer el-Showk

Sedeer el-Showk


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party publishes this article by Sedeer el-Showk, originally featured by our allies at Lifespan.io, in order to highlight the fallacious nature of many media outlets’ responses to a recent study about the “invariant rate of aging”. As Mr. el-Showk eloquently explains, this study does not refute or undermine the possibility of pursuing the reversal of biological aging, but simply suggests that this needs to be done through medical and technological means, and that without such means, overcoming the limitations of the current maximum human lifespan would not be feasible. Many of us in the longevity advocacy community have known this for a long time already, but it is important to spread accurate information to prevent an unjustified decline in public confidence in the feasibility of radical life extension.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 25, 2021


Aging is not unstoppable, despite misinterpretations of the new study.

A new study [1] about the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ has led to reports that aging is unstoppable and that we cannot cheat death. However, this reporting is based on a misunderstanding of what the study actually says.

The misinterpretations

The study shows that “immortality and everlasting youth are the stuff of myths,” according to The Guardian. The article goes on to say that “an unprecedented study has now confirmed that we probably cannot slow the rate at which we get older because of biological constraints.” Other outlets published similar conclusions, with Futurism saying that the study shows “an ‘invariant rate of aging’ that won’t slow down”.

These reporters seem to have gotten tripped up on the idea of an ‘invariant rate’, which has the key implication that biological constraints determine the rate of human aging. This led to the conclusion that aging is fixed, inevitable, and immutable, but that’s not at all what the study shows, as the paper itself directly says.

What the study actually says

The study aimed to investigate the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis, which proposes that the rate of aging is fixed within a species. The idea is that aging has evolved in concert with a suite of other traits, such as birth rate and metabolic rate, and this concerted evolution has led to the rate of aging being relatively fixed within a species.

In this context, ‘fixed’ is used as the opposite of ‘plastic’. It doesn’t mean ‘set in stone’. It means there’s relatively limited variation in this trait within a species because biological factors have a stronger effect on it than environmental factors. A good example might be the number of digits on a limb – environmental factors don’t really affect it, and there’s very little (but some) variation.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers created a statistical model of the age-specific risk of death in species from seven primate genera. They used data from various studies to set the parameters of their model, which is how they tested the amount of variation.

The model included parameters for infant and juvenile mortality, age-independent mortality, and senescent mortality. Variation in the biological rate of aging would be reflected in the senescent mortality parameter, since it captures what we normally think of as ‘aging’, while the infant and juvenile morality parameter reflects the misfortune of dying young.

The study’s first finding is that most of the gain in human lifespan so far has come from reducing mortality at younger ages. There’s also variation in the infant and juvenile mortality parameter, both between societies and at different times.

This also shows up in the relationship between life expectancy and lifespan equality. Media reports generally got this part of the study right, and you can look at the report on SciTechDaily to get more details about these findings.

Unlike the infant and juvenile mortality parameter, the senescent mortality parameter varied very little within each species. In fact, changing this parameter in their model shifted the mortality and demographic data of one species to look like another.

Changing the other parameters led to minor shifts in age distribution, but changing senescent mortality made it look like data from a different species. What this means is that within a given species, biological factors are the ultimate determinants of longevity.

Changing the environment to reduce mortality at younger ages (as we have in most parts of the world) affects demographics, increasing life expectancy and lifespan equality. However, accomplishing more than that will require tackling the evolved biological constraints on lifespan.

This study, therefore, doesn’t show that the rate of aging cannot be changed; it shows that there’s a limit to how much change can be realized without biological interventions, which is precisely the challenge that longevity research aims to overcome.

The paper itself closes on that note, though you wouldn’t know it from the way it’s been covered: “It remains to be seen if future advances in medicine can overcome the biological constraints that we have identified here, and achieve what evolution has not.”

Abstract

Is it possible to slow the rate of ageing, or do biological constraints limit its plasticity? We test the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis, which posits that the rate of ageing is relatively fixed within species, with a collection of 39 human and nonhuman primate datasets across seven genera. We first recapitulate, in nonhuman primates, the highly regular relationship between life expectancy and lifespan equality seen in humans. We next demonstrate that variation in the rate of ageing within genera is orders of magnitude smaller than variation in pre-adult and age-independent mortality. Finally, we demonstrate that changes in the rate of ageing, but not other mortality parameters, produce striking, species-atypical changes in mortality patterns. Our results support the invariant rate of ageing hypothesis, implying biological constraints on how much the human rate of ageing can be slowed.

Conclusion

Ultimately, this wasn’t a study about longevity or the inevitability of aging. It was research to understand what affects the rate of aging – how much it results from evolved biological processes versus the effects of the environment. That’s important science not only for longevity research but also for evolutionary biology. It’s undoubtedly valuable, but unfortunately, its message has been misconstrued.

Far from showing that aging is inevitable, this research instead demonstrates that, ultimately, we’ll run out of environmental improvements and will have to turn to biological interventions to affect aging.

Literature

[1] Colchero, F. et al. The long lives of primates and the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis. Nature Communications (2021), doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-23894-3

Sedeer el-Showk became a professional science writer after finishing a degree in biology. He also writes poetry and science fiction and fantasy, and somehow juggles an ever-growing list of hobbies from programming to knitting to gardening. Eternal curiosity and good fortune have taken him to many parts of the world, but he’s settled in Helsinki, Finland for the moment. He hopes he’ll never stop learning new things.

The Unnatural Objection to Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Unnatural Objection to Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Of all the objections to life extension, perhaps the most banal one yet is the argument that it is not natural for humans to want to live longer and healthier than they currently do. Of course, not only does this actually go against human nature itself, but it is also an insult to the immense progress we have made in improving the human condition throughout the course of history. In fact, this opposition to life extension also flies in the face of the entire medical industry, which is focused on keeping people alive, and any other industry that contributes to the betterment of the human condition, of which there are many. The fact is, opposing life extension is what is unnatural, because it is a natural human desire to want to survive, and to continue living in a healthy manner.

And let me be clear – just because something is natural does not make it good. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that getting poisoned by a plant, mauled by a wild animal, drowned by a tsunami, or crushed by a landslide are scenarios that are to be avoided at all costs. That these sorts of events are now relatively rare speaks volumes about the progress we have made in battling the destructive forces of nature.

Similarly, cancer, heart attacks, and strokes are natural too, yet no one would say that these conditions are desirable or good. In fact, many billions of dollars and resources are spent on finding a cure for these diseases, and for good reason – these diseases are deadly and contribute to massive suffering and pain.

To be sure, the environment is precious and should be protected. After all, to be able to walk through a forest and appreciate the flora and fauna is refreshing. Being able to visit a beach and feel the cool ocean breeze on one’s skin on a late summer afternoon is lovely. However, we should also be very wary of romanticizing nature, mostly because nature is entirely indifferent to the human condition. Indeed, nature does not care one bit about our happiness or fulfillment. Earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis and hurricanes are part of nature, but no sane person would argue that these events are positive or that we should experience more of them.

Just because something exists in nature does not make it desirable or good. Conversely, just because something was developed outside of nature does not make it undesirable or bad. In fact, more often than not, science and technology have contributed to massively improving the quality of life for human beings. Imagine how much worse life would be without electricity, life-saving medicines, medical procedures, and computer technology.

How many people now would say that the tuberculosis vaccine, stents, or pacemakers are bad and should be abolished? Of course, all these discoveries were “unnatural,” but no sane person would wish to be inflicted with a deadly infectious disease or suffer a heart attack.

But going back to talking about the environment, climate change is a very real threat to planet Earth and humanity, and we should do all we can to protect our planet, the human race, and members of the animal kingdom. However, the solution to climate change is not going to arrive automatically as part of a natural process. Neither is the answer to stop evolving as a species or to stop all technological innovation and progress and revert to the Dark Ages, and in turn have humanity experience economic collapse and widespread suffering. In fact, humanity’s best hope for battling climate change will likely come from science and technology.

Further, attempting to control nature is what has allowed us to come up with inventions such as indoor plumbing, safe and comfortable shelter, and weather forecasts, all of which have improved the quality of life dramatically. Suppose that we had just let nature run its course in these scenarios. I don’t think I need to spell out what would have happened to humans had we allowed that to happen.

But even after we have thoroughly debunked this ridiculous objection to life extension, critics may then move on to other objections, such as the idea that a human life is already long enough, or that we may become bored if we were to live longer, or that the Earth will become overpopulated. Fortunately, we have answers to these objections as well. And what about the argument that sickness and death are inevitable and that we should just accept things the way they are? This topic deserves its own discussion, but for the moment we can respond by saying that catching an infectious disease and dying at the age of 20 or 30 was once the way things used to be, but it is fortunately no longer the case.

The fact is that it is entirely natural for humans to want to live longer and healthier. Indeed, it is what we have been trying to do since the dawn of time. It is human nature to want to survive and thrive. For the first time in human history, we have the potential to overcome nature itself. Limiting ourselves to what is natural means we deny ourselves the opportunity to be better and to do better. Dying at 20 years of age due to cholera, measles, or malaria wasn’t our destiny as human beings, and therefore we overcame infectious illnesses and significantly increased our life expectancy. Now, we are at a crossroads where we get to decide if we wish to continue suffering for years and then dying due to aging-related illnesses such as dementia, heart disease, and cancer, or, whether we will dedicate this next stage of human development to overcoming these horrific illnesses.

Of course, even after admitting that aging-related illnesses and natural disasters are devastating and should be avoided at all costs, opponents of life extension may still argue that they are entitled to oppose life extension. Of course, they are entitled to their beliefs, no matter how faulty their reasoning and logic may be, but we supporters of life extension are also entitled to advocate for the defeat of aging-related illnesses and to improve the human condition through advancements in science and technology, even if these advancements are not part of nature.

I would urge those who oppose life extension technologies because they are unnatural to revisit their stance after burying a loved one who dies from cancer, or after witnessing a calamitous natural disaster that destroys entire towns and kills thousands of people.

If nature held all the solutions to life, then we would not need to build earthquake-resistant buildings, we would not need to develop anti-cancer drugs, and we would not need spend money, time, and resources on reducing human suffering and improving the human condition.

Nature is how we started as human beings, but nature is not where we need to end.

Arin Vahanian is Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. 

Pasteurizing the Conclusions of an Anti-Vaxxer – Article by Zach Richardson

Pasteurizing the Conclusions of an Anti-Vaxxer – Article by Zach Richardson

Zach Richardson


I had an unfortunate encounter with a friend of a U.S. Transhumanist Party member who was conducting on his page what I call an “anti-vaxxer drive-by”: shooting out some quick chart with poorly interpreted data that seemingly supports the idea that vaccines make you sick / don’t work / are Bill Gates microchips, etc.

The graphic in question was this one:

The chart in question shows a rise in infection at equal rates from those who got both vaccines, and those who did not receive a vaccine at all. The green bar shows amount of cases where no vaccine was received, and the blue bar amount of cases who again tested positive two weeks after the vaccine. What is the implied conclusion, then? The creator of this graphic wants to convey the message: “Why even get the vaccine, if the rates of infection are just as high 20 days after getting it as they are if you don’t get one at all?”

This post is about why his conclusion is wrong, why his analysis is wrong, and why his ilk are not to be trusted.

I was very lucky to find myself with several free hours of time today, as digging into this took some time. I had to type the source link into the browser a few characters at a time, since it was from an image, and the site itself was in Hebrew. I was pleased to find though, that the site did have the data available for download in a CSV format, which is easily importable into Google Sheets.

The data showed weekly stats on 9 age groups, and how many cases there were in three time periods: one to six days from vaccination, seven to thirteen days from vaccination, thirteen to twenty days from vaccination, and cases from vaccinations more than twenty days ago. This sequence is repeated for cases after dose two of the vaccine. Here is the spreadsheet:

I’ve included the last two weeks in this screenshot, and would like to direct the reader to notice a few things that should stick out sorely after a few moments’ study.

1. For the age range 0-19, the number of youths who reported cases was forty times as high as those who did not.

– Were children perhaps just 40 times as susceptible to infection? This would have been interesting for the person looking at the chart to know.

2. The age range 0-19 actually makes up one-half of the total amount of cases reported.

– Maybe it was just that those who signed up for this study all happened to be children who needed pocket money? That can’t be right…

3. For week the week of June 27 (2021-06-27), excepting the youth group for vaccine 1, not a single case was reported during the weeks 1-20 for any group. The next week never had more than five cases for an age group.

– Ah, good news! Perhaps the vaccine was super effective, if only for 20 weeks.

4. It is not reported how many people total got the vaccine who were NOT sick after 20 days.

-Perhaps the data account for all cases, and all those in the study eventually got reinfected?

There are some big problems with this chart, and the first is that this is a HUGE instance of what we call “self-selection bias”.

Unlike lab rats who have no choice in the matter, humans get to choose whether to participate in studies or not. Adults can easily choose to not report when they are sick; people had to voluntarily “select” themselves to be included in this dataset. Children have less choice. Children are in school, and vaccine testing can be conducted just the same way standardized knowledge testing is: get all the students in the same building, line them up, assign each a number, and have every single one tested. I think this is why youth aged 0-19 outnumber those aged 20-90 combined.

Even more important than that, we do not know how many people got the vaccine who did NOT get sick vs those who did not get the vaccine and did not get sick. Assuming Israel gives out 9,000 inoculations a day, the 30-39 year olds in week 07/04 could have been 248 vaccinated people infected out of tens of thousands who received the vaccine. We don’t have a way of knowing and don’t have that data.

The real plot twist though, comes after one digs into the “README” file attached to the study data right next to the CSV file. Here is the relevant excerpt Google translated:

vaccination_without_positive_Sum – number of verified people detected per week and age group Relevant, and who did not receive any vaccine dose. It should be noted that vaccinated who received the vaccine dose The first on the same day that a positive result was obtained are included in this column.”

What does this mean? It means that the “unvaccinated” group were those who ran to the doctor after they got sick, got the vaccine themselves, and were only THEN added into the dataset. They got the vaccine too!

The charlatan that made that chart was trying to make it seem like he was comparing data from two groups in a randomized controlled trial, and concluding that the data showed you were equally as likely to get sick when taking the vaccine as not. What the data really showed is that it is very easy to test children who are stuck doing what their teachers tell them for eight hours a day, and also that when the chips are down and the unvaccinated finally do get sick, they change their mind and run to the doctor to get the vaccine anyway.

As Director of Publication for the USTP, I would like to reaffirm the Transhumanist Party’s strongly-held pro-vaccine stance. There is far too much of this junk science flying around, and I certainly can’t spend the better part of the afternoon each day playing “debunker”, but you can be sure to expect a series of pro-vaccine material to be republished under the Infinity Banner.

Zach Richardson is Director of Publication for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.