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Why Aren’t We Afraid of Death?: The First Step Toward Defeating Aging – Article by Alex Kadet

Why Aren’t We Afraid of Death?: The First Step Toward Defeating Aging – Article by Alex Kadet

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Alex Kadet


The pain of those fighting to extend human life expectancy

Science articles frequently mention the search for the “elixir of eternal youth.” What a pleasant thought! While we are busy living our lives, the science of extending them is moving at a dizzying pace, and we need only to wait until the international science community plates the solution, ready to serve, right? This statement illustrates how perceptions of reality are skewed toward desired outcomes.

Ask any reputable scientist, activist, or entrepreneur interested in extending human life about the subject, however, and you will learn that the reality is very different. For instance, here is a quotation from Aubrey de Grey, founder of the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Research Foundation and pioneering researcher in the science of aging:

Aubrey de Grey

“. . . if I got a billion dollars today, we would probably bring forward the defeat of aging by about ten years. And it’s a lot of lives, maybe four hundred million.”

I suppose we all understand how insignificant one billion dollars is compared with the global annual expenditures on health care and science. The cost of health care in the United States alone exceeded 3.3 trillion dollars in 2016 and is growing rapidly.

What do these numbers mean? That, without a doubt, humanity is not even close to curing aging, even in the twenty-first century.

Longevity advocacy

At a glance, it seems odd that the idea of extending human life needs advocacy, but longevity scientists and advocates understand that the only obstacle to the development of a cure for aging is a lack of resources: time and money. The dollar has strong voting power, and human lifespan extension is not at the top of the ballot.

For some reason, not enough people are willing to do what objectively seems rational, to overcome the obstacles and diseases that aging causes. What appears to transhumanists, scientists, and researchers to be an undeniable benefit for humankind seems unimportant or even detrimental to others. Dying of old age seems dignified to some people, but in truth it is honorable only in the movies. Therefore, advocacy needs to be prioritized over seemingly more practical immediate problems.

Many people who work in the field of longevity studies are tormented by a fundamental question: If one acknowledges one’s mortality, isn’t working toward radical life extension a most rational use of one’s time? After all, millions of people, with trillions of dollars combined, have a nonzero chance of radically extending life expectancy within the next ten years.

A primary goal of longevity advocates is to attract investments and endorsements from international organizations, including scientific foundations and businesses, and increase the visibility and appeal of research on anti-aging therapy. We aim to market anti-aging science effectively, and raise the prestige of working in our industry to that of working for a venture-capital or tech startup.

Large-scale work must begin now, for a simple reason.

The population of the planet is rapidly aging.

The average age of the world populace is increasing at an alarming pace. Globally, the demographic comprising people aged sixty years or older is growing faster than any other group. If this trend continues, by 2050 the number of seniors in the world will more than double, from 962 million to 2.1 billion. Such a significant change in the composition of the population will inevitably affect economies and societies.

Throughout the history of humankind, aging has been viewed as an inevitable process, leading not so much to illness and suffering (which have always been treated as if separate from aging) but rather to physical death.

Let me draw your attention to the importance of distinguishing between improving the quality of life of the rapidly aging population and developing a treatment for aging.

It is also important to understand that when we talk about defeating aging, we do not put it as equal to immortality. Extending longevity will largely take the form of increasing productive life span and preventing suffering — not only fatigue, reduced physical strength, and impaired memory, but also the internal conflict of remaining young at heart and full of ambition in an aging body. Longevity specialists believe that victory over suffering is achievable and will be a victory over an absolute evil.

Why do we work so hard to treat the effects of aging while doing almost nothing to slow aging itself? Aging is literally a matter of life and death, and yet it commands almost no attention.

Life-Extension Myths

The vast majority of people and organizations (including the World Health Organization, billionaire entrepreneurs, the United Nations, and entire nations) do not include addressing the problems of aging in their short- or long-term agendas. They do not consider aging to be a real and distinct problem. Why not?

Maybe extending human life would be unnatural?

The answer is no.

  • Self-preservation is characteristic of all organisms and is one of the so-called “basic instincts” [1]. All organisms achieve self-preservation by purposefully reducing their own entropy (that is, using external resources to compensate for inevitable energy loss) and maintaining homeostasis (steady internal conditions).
  • People tend to consider aging and age-related diseases to be separate and distinct phenomena, as if aging is different from other abnormalities of the human body. Such thinking is fundamentally flawed. Most people do not have ethical problems with using medicine to treat suffering, but cognitive dissonance often produces ethical objections to therapies designed to treat aging, which is widely treated with dignity and respect, even viewed as sacred.
  • As the seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza wrote in his Ethics, “The mind, both in so far as it has clear and distinct ideas, and also in so far as it has confused ideas, endeavors to persist in its being for an indefinite period, and of this endeavor it is conscious” [2]. It is human nature to attempt to survive as long as possible.

[For the interested reader: philosophical and ethical issues that inevitably arise in the fight against aging are discussed in detail in Steven Horrobin’s The Future of Aging, chapter three, “Towards Naturalistic Transcendence: The Value of Life and Life Extension to Persons as Conative Processes.”]

Perhaps the problem is that it is simply impossible to stop the human body from aging?

I don’t think so.

Gerontologists (people who study the science of aging) agree that slowing or preventing aging (that is, eliminating the faults of and repairing the accumulated damage to the body) is a purely technological problem and can be solved. Additionally, the existence of several animal species that are closely evolutionarily related to humans but live much longer than we do demonstrates that extended longevity is possible.

A “road map” for achieving longevity escape velocity has already been developed in the form of a series of specific steps and studies [4], [5]. We cannot predict which research will result in the elongation of the human life span, as there are multiple hypotheses to be tested, but if any current or future research yields actionable results, our most daring imaginings could be surpassed.

But what if we succeed in extending longevity and the resulting future is undesirable?

No, we will not die due to overpopulation.

  • The world’s human population has increased almost fourfold in the past one hundred years, and far from suffering as a result, we now live longer and enjoy greater quality of life than ever before. In fact, natural population decline is causing its own problems in several countries. In the 1970s, adherents of Thomas Malthus’s belief that unchecked population growth inevitably exhausts resources and yields poverty and degradation predicted a worldwide famine and demographic catastrophe by the year 2000. Their predictions did not come true, as they hadn’t taken into account the rapid expansion of agriculture and food production that did occur [6].

Decades will pass before the demographic consequences of victory over aging begin to impact our lives significantly. We will have enough time to adapt to the new circumstances [7].

No, the secret world elite cannot capture the “philosopher’s stone” and enslave the rest of us.

  • In the first years after antibiotics were discovered, they were available only to the rich. Similarly, today such complex and expensive medical interventions as organ transplantation are not widely available, but this is not a reason to ban them [7]. The treatment of aging will likely be very expensive initially, but as soon as the technology becomes known, endeavors to optimize it and expand its availability will inevitably begin. This is an axiom in modern society. It is already impossible (sometimes frighteningly) to keep significant information secret, and in the case of longevity studies, humanity will benefit.

In view of the preceding, we have no reason to doubt that victory over aging is achievable and will be favorable for humanity.

[For the interested reader: you can find more debunked myths here.]


Scientists and science advocates are working to dispel the above myths, but unfortunately their work has not yet produced the desired outcomes. Although it would seem that the possibility of a cure for aging would attract large amounts of resources and greatly impact human worldview and actions, we simply haven’t seen such an effect.

What if the motivation for our inaction doesn’t come from a rational place?

I believe that the general lack of interest in treating aging comes from a lack of fear of aging, as humans tend not to be consciously afraid of death. Where there is no fear of a phenomenon, there is no aim to eliminate it.

So, why aren’t we afraid of death?

  • Fear is a basic emotion based on the self-preservation instinct. It precipitates as a sudden cognitive and behavioral change stimulated by imminent danger [8].
  • Fear can reinforce social connections, such as when an escape for help calls for collective defense [9]. There are many threats in the world, and fear encourages us to change our behavior and unite in order to protect ourselves against them.

Cancer, terrorism, war, air crashes, environmental degradation, global climate change: these and many other dangers have been accounted for in the multibillion-dollar budgets of individual countries, international organizations, private foundations, and nonprofits. Aging is not on the list. I believe I know why.

In his Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Denial of Death, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker explored the hypothesis that civilization is based not on the suppression of sexuality, as Sigmund Freud believed, but on the suppression of the inherent human fear of death.

Becker argued that at one extreme, civilization is a way for humankind to contain the anxiety of death, and at the other extreme, an individual’s character can be viewed as a complex of defenses against fear of death. In other words, all of our motivation, the whole set of human cognitive attitudes and emotional experiences, is aimed at avoiding the awareness of our own mortality [10].

Despite the fact that we will die someday, few of us think about mortality on a regular basis. In one way or another we become acquainted with death while still children, but our psyche is unable to process the phenomenon fully. Consequently, according to Becker, the unconscious mind forms a complex of balances and defenses that prevent contact with the horror of death.

The existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom holds a similar point of view on the structure of the human psyche. In his book Existential Psychotherapy, he explores in detail how fear of death permeates the whole being, and how much of human activity implicitly results from this fear.

Mental defenses allow us to maintain mental health and keep from sliding into madness. On the other hand, the same defenses limit our freedom and program our reactions. Dependencies, workaholism, daily rituals, narcissism, anxiety, depression . . . The list of such defenses is long, and we utilize them to reduce our fear of death [11]. Becoming aware of one’s own defense strategies is the first step toward freedom from the limitations of the psyche and cognitive distortions.

Ernest Becker’s theory has been further developed and experimentally confirmed in the framework of terror management theory (TMT) [12]. For the first time in psychology, the horror of death has been studied as an experimental variable. In one study, researchers effected a horror of death in participants, activated their awareness of the inevitability of death, and studied the resulting defense mechanisms. Having experienced the anxiety of facing their own mortality, participants were asked to evaluate punishments for violators of cultural norms; these participants chose far more severe punishments than did the control group [13].

After thirty years of research, terror management theory maintains that the most basic reason death is upsetting and motivating is because it undermines the most basic motive of all, which is a prerequisite for all other need satisfaction — staying alive. More specifically, death is a unique motivator because (1) most of an organism’s biological systems function to keep the organism alive, thus averting death; (2) death must be avoided to enhance opportunities for reproduction and care of offspring, both of which are essential for gene perpetuation; (3) death is the only absolutely inevitable future event; and (4) death threatens to undermine all desires, whether for pleasure, belonging, certainty, meaning, control, competence, self-actualization, or growth [14]. I will discuss these facts in more detail in forthcoming articles.

Cultural worldview (religion, nationalism, etc.) and self-esteem are two common buffers that protect our unconscious from the anxiety of death. Almost every religion is predicated on a belief in an afterlife, thereby allowing adherents to control fear by ignoring or denying death. Also, self-esteem and culture fill life with value, helping us to surpass death symbolically by creating the illusion of continuing to exist through the contributions we make that will outlive us or because the community we identify with will continue to exist after our personal death [15].

Cognitive distortions, such as magical thinking or the denying to believe in our own mortality, push out existential questions from our conscious mind, gently urging us to concentrate on the less painful questions of being [12].

To begin truly active work on increasing human life expectancy and defeating age-related diseases, humankind needs to realize the finiteness of life.

Demystifying common defense mechanisms and the tricks our minds play to make us disregard our own mortality will be necessary in the fight against aging. Increasing awareness is often enough to motivate people to examine their defense mechanisms and resolve the cognitive distortions that make work on aging so unapproachable.

Right now, with modern science making possible technologies that had not even been imaginable before, it’s time to face our fear — to recognize the problem of human aging, and frame it not as a philosophical question of being but as an engineering challenge.

Readers of this article will probably not instantly become gerontologists (scientists specializing in the biology of aging) or sponsors of fundamental scientific research; however, an awareness that aging and death are real can only increase mindfulness for anyone who dares to face it, thus making them happier in the long run [16].

P.S.: Become a Radical Life Extension Hero! Support my research on the Patreon!

I am open to any discussion on the topic of longevity studies. Also, I am preparing a speech on the psychological effects of suppressing the fear of death. Experience shows that even a brief overview of this topic stimulates interest in the treatment of aging.

Furthermore, I am beginning research in the field of experimental social psychology and plan to use TMT techniques to identify optimal ways for delivering the message of longevity activists. If you are interested in collaboration of any kind, feel free to contact me here.

I’d like to thank Ekaterina Gorbacheva and Zachary Vigna for their editorial help.

Alex Kadet is a transhumanist, longevity activist, entrepreneur, and expert in death studies. He is also a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party.

Sources:

[1] Pavlov I. P. “Twenty years of experience in the objective research of the higher nervous activity.” Science, Moscow, 1973: p. 237.

[2] Spinoza, B. Ethics. Part 3, proposition 9. 1677.

[3] Vishnevsky, A. G. “Reproduction of the population and society.” Мoscow, 1982: p. 110.

[4https://www.lifespan.io/the-rejuvenation-roadmap/

[5https://www.ted.com/talks/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_aging

[6] Trewavas, A. “Malthus foiled again and again.” Nature, 418 (6898), September 2002: pp. 668–670

[7] Sethe, S. & de Magalhaes, J. P. “Ethical Perspectives in Biogerontology.” In: Ethics, Health Policy and (Anti-) Aging: Mixed Blessings, ed. Schermer, M. & Pinxten, W. Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands, 2013: pp. 173–188.

[8] Izard, I. The Emotions of Humans. Мoscow, 1980: p. 52–71.

[9] Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. Ethology: The biology of behavior. Oxford, England, 1970

[10] Becker, E. The Denial of Death. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1973.

[11] Yalom, I. D. Existential Psychotherapy. Basic Books, New York”, 1980.

[12] Greenberg, J., Pyszczynski, T. & Solomon, S. “The causes and consequences of a need for self-esteem: A terror management theory.” In: Public Self and Private Self, ed. R. F. Baumeister. Springer-Verlag, New York, 1986: pp. 189–212.

[13] Rosenblatt, A., Greenberg, J., Solomon S., Pyszczynski, T. & Lyon, D. “Evidence for terror management theory: I. The effects of mortality salience on reactions to those who violate or uphold cultural values.” J. Pers. Soc. Psychol., Vol. 57, 1989: pp. 681–90.

[14] Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Greenberg, J. L. “Thirty Years of Terror Management Theory: From Genesis to Revelation.” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 52, 2015: pp. 1–70.

[15] Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Greenberg, J. L. (2015). Thirty Years of Terror Management Theory: From Genesis to Revelation. In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 52, pp. 1–70): Psychological Mechanisms Through Which Thoughts of Death Affect Behavior

[16] Killingsworth, M. A. & Gilbert, D. T.. “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind.” Science, Vol. 330, issue 6006, 2010: p. 932.

2020 New Year’s and New Decade’s Message by Victor Bjoerk

2020 New Year’s and New Decade’s Message by Victor Bjoerk

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Victor Bjoerk


Picture of the M87 Black Hole – First-ever image of a black hole and a major accomplishment of the 2010s

Happy New Year and Decade, everyone!

I celebrated it this year in San Francisco, as I managed to get an opportunity in aging research here. I’ve always celebrated in Sweden before, with relatives or friends, and the last years’ celebrations have been with AI researcher Anders Sandberg. However, I’m certainly not stuck to any routine to mark it, and who knows where one may be in the future, if one may celebrate it in space even!

I still recall thinking about what would happen in the future back in 1999. Although, of course, our time calculation is completely arbitrary and not rooted in anything the universe cares about, we nonetheless like to set certain dates of when X event will happen when writing the history of humanity.

Back then I was a small child, and while I lacked a particular interest in aging research, I certainly read a lot of popular science and liked to think about what would happen during the upcoming millennia. Certainly, genetic enhancement of humans was high on that list and its happening now! Look, for example, at Luxturna and Zolgensma, the 2 approved gene therapies so far.

We should all be very happy to be alive now instead of during the previous 4 billion years life has existed. It’s been the best decade in history, ever. We have not only the basic logistics for keeping most people alive on a day-to-day basis with a good quality of life, but this also leads to a lot of spare time to develop technology.

Back in about 2008, when working in a nursing home as a teenager, I realized that I did not want to end up in that state within the next few decades. I did not feel that age-related disease belonged in an otherwise advanced high-tech society that respected human rights reasonably well. Since then, on most days, I’ve probably read new scientific papers on the topic, I went to university and studied molecular biology, I became director of Heales – which is a scientific think tank in Brussels – and set up the biannual EHA (Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging) conference series together with Sven Bulterijs.

I never intended to become a scientist for the sake of it; I just want to get the biggest problem in the history of humanity solved.

There are a lot of reasons for optimism. The 2010s saw unprecedented investment in this area, and many therapeutic aging interventions emerged. Among the ones most well-known are innovations in clearing senescent cells with senolytic drugs, leading to aging reversal.

So I just hope this trajectory of advancement continues as the public also becomes more informed. I’ve learnt that hype comes in cycles; lots of buzzwords and overoptimistic speculation flow around, but eventually also real products come out of the research (yes, even in biotechnology). The question is when enough therapies can be put together into an old person and systemically bring that person back to youth.

So I wish everyone a happy new year and decade, whatever your pursuits are, hoping that at the end of this decade we can summarize it, saying that we did what was possible.

I hope everyone had a fun celebration!

Victor Bjoerk has worked for the Gerontology Research Group, the Longevity Reporter, and the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie. He has promoted awareness throughout Europe of emerging biomedical research and the efforts to reverse biological aging. He is now a molecular biologist and working for BioAge in San Francisco. 

Rejuvenation Research Is Now a Mainstream Topic – Article by Steve Hill

Rejuvenation Research Is Now a Mainstream Topic – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, originally published on August 26, 2019, by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), Mr. Steve Hill reviews an MIT Technology Review article authored by David Adam. Mr. Adam gives his view of the research field of aging, and Mr. Hill is impressed by the factualism compared to the MIT Technology Review’s previous articles that covered the topic. Mr. Hill goes on to discuss aging and lifespan in other species and address the question: Is aging a disease, and does it really matter?

~Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, September 9, 2019


It is a sure sign that the tide has turned when mainstream news outlets and magazines start publishing positive articles about aging research and the prospects of rejuvenation.

A refreshing change

Today, I want to highlight an article in MIT Technology Review in which the author, David Adam, gives a sensible and measured overview of what is happening in the field and manages to sidestep the usual negativity and misconceptions that often plague popular science pieces.

Since ancient times, aging has been viewed as simply inevitable, unstoppable, nature’s way. “Natural causes” have long been blamed for deaths among the old, even if they died of a recognized pathological condition. The medical writer Galen argued back in the second century AD that aging is a natural process.

His view, the acceptance that one can die simply of old age, has dominated ever since. We think of aging as the accumulation of all the other conditions that get more common as we get older—cancer, dementia, physical frailty. All that tells us, though, is that we’re going to sicken and die; it doesn’t give us a way to change it. We don’t have much more control over our destiny than a Cyclops.

But a growing number of scientists are questioning our basic conception of aging. What if you could challenge your death—or even prevent it altogether? What if the panoply of diseases that strike us in old age are symptoms, not causes? What would change if we classified aging itself as the disease?

The article skips the sensationalism and assumptions that many journalists typically make about aging research; instead, we get a solid piece of factual journalism. This is in stark contrast to the reporting done by this outlet a few years ago, as it had published irrationally skeptical and frequently negative coverage of the field and the science behind it.

This may be partially due to changes to the editorial staff at the magazine, which happened in 2017, but it is also indicative of the wider acceptance of the idea that we may be able to do something about aging. The same magazine has even published a special issue entitled Old Age is Over! – If you want it, which takes a deeper dive into the topic, though this is paid content.

There may be a choice about how we age

For millennia, it has been assumed that aging is a one-way street and that we must simply accept that there is nothing we can do about it, aside from facing age-related ill health with stoicism. However, the situation has somewhat changed. As researchers have discovered more about how aging works, the processes driving it, and the results from model animals, it has become increasingly clear to many people that something might be done about aging in order to delay, prevent, or potentially reverse age-related diseases.

We already know that a number of species do not age; this phenomenon is known as negligible senescence. This simply means that the organism does not show a decline of survival characteristics, such as muscle strength, mobility, and senses. Such species also do not experience an increased mortality rate with advancing age or a loss of reproductive capability with age.

These species tend to have much more efficient repair systems that are capable of offsetting and repairing damage rapidly enough to prevent it from accumulating and snowballing out of control as it does in humans. We are relatively long-lived as a species, but, compared to some longevity champions, such as the bowhead whale at 200 years plus, the Greenland shark at 400 or more years, and the ocean quahog clam, which lives at least 507 years, our lifespan is relatively brief.

So, the race is now on to see if we can develop therapies to repair age-related damage, slow down how fast that damage accrues, and see if we can emulate these kings of longevity. The key take-home message here is that there is no biological reason that humans might not live longer, healthier lives if such therapies are developed.

Exactly how long that might be is a matter of speculation; it could be a few years, a decade or two, or perhaps more. The key point is that the researchers who are developing these therapies are aiming to make those extra years healthy ones, and that is surely something that most people can get behind.

Is aging a disease, and does it really matter?

Some researchers propose that aging is a disease, and while this is a somewhat contentious view, it has some merit and is absolutely worthy of further discussion. We discussed if aging is natural or pathological in a previous article, and while the case can certainly be made that aging is a disease, it may more accurately fit the description of a co-morbid syndrome: a group of symptoms that consistently occur together and a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms.

Whether or not they believe in either the disease hypothesis or maximum life spans, most experts agree that something has to change in the way we deal with aging. “If we don’t do something about the dramatic increase in older people, and find ways to keep them healthy and functional, then we have a major quality-­of-life issue and a major economic issue on our hands.” – Dr. Brian Kennedy

This matter is largely a matter of semantics, and the important thing is that, from a regulatory point of view, including aging as a disease state or syndrome would make it easier to develop therapies that directly target the aging processes themselves. Currently, therapies must focus on single diseases in order to progress through clinical trials, which is not the most optimal approach.

However, it is my personal view that this situation will not change much until the first successful human demonstration of rejuvenation therapy occurs. Until then, researchers will continue to work within the current regulatory system, and while this is, by its nature, slower, it does not prevent progress being made. Fortunately, there are now a lot of companies working in this space, and a number of therapies are quite far along in development.

A therapy that works in humans against one age-related disease by targeting an aging process directly could potentially treat a slew of other related diseases, and so any successful therapy making it through the system would likely rapidly see off-label usage for other, similar conditions.

Conclusion

In closing, it is refreshing to see more balanced and fair reporting on the field and the science of aging rather than the negative and highly biased material that this outlet had published prior to 2017. Reasonable skepticism is perfectly understandable, especially in a field as cutting-edge as rejuvenation biotechnology, which is charting unknown waters and attempting to do what has long been thought impossible.

However, the weight of evidence, the results of a myriad of animal studies demonstrating age reversal, and the rapid increase of scientific understanding should balance that skepticism in anyone interested in science and the actual facts. A magazine devoted to science really should be at the top of its game when reporting the facts, and this and other recent articles on the topic have been much closer to this mark. Oh my, how times have changed.

Steve Hill serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic as well as attending various medical industry conferences. In 2019 he was listed in the top 100 journalists covering biomedicine and longevity research in the industry report – Top-100 Journalists covering advanced biomedicine and longevity, created by the Aging Analytics Agency. His work has been featured in H+ Magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Keep Me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project. In 2015 he led the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) for the International Longevity Alliance and in 2016 helped the team of the SENS Research Foundation to reach their goal for the OncoSENS campaign for cancer research.

Jonathan Mark Schattke Candidate Position Paper

Jonathan Mark Schattke Candidate Position Paper

Jonathan Mark Schattke


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) publishes this position paper by one of our Presidential primary candidates, Jonathan Mark Schattke (Jon Schattke) in an informational capacity, to enable our readers to consider specific policy analyses germane to our member-adopted documents, such as the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 3.0, and the USTP Platform. The USTP has not yet endorsed any Presidential candidate, as such endorsement will occur as a consequence of the forthcoming Electronic Primary in late September 2019. However, in the meantime, the USTP strives to provide accurate information about our candidates’ viewpoints and any content that constitutes a thoughtful analysis of the USTP’s existing documents.  

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, August 18, 2019


“Free your immortality” is not just a slogan, it is a guide to achieving what every transhumanist wants – the transcendence of current limits on mental ability and physical bodies.

I am a futurist and firm believer in technology’s power to advance life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Consistency with this means that each being must have ownership of themself, and of their own efforts, and the fruits thereof. Nothing provided by someone else’s labor or capital can therefore be compelled of them to fulfill someone else’s “right.” All a “right” must guarantee is that government will not interfere with the pursuit of the good or service.

I agree with the Transhumanist Bill of Rights. I would like to clarify a couple points.

Sapience must be able to be measured. To qualify for protection, the candidate must ask for it. Nascent sapients, such as children, should be protected also, from the point that their growth to sapience is clearly started. Inactive sapients should be protected if there is a reasonable expectation of reactivation and they have not expressly desired not to be reactivated – “death” should not be treated as an end unless the person has specifically stated they wish to die. This does not mean that an inactive sapient’s property should be under some sort of third-party stewardship; their assets should be put in revocable trust and their heirs appointed trustees.

“Article VII. All sentient entities should be the beneficiaries of a system of universal health care. ” This must not be construed to include a system of third party payer health care; such systems decrease personal cost to zero, increase demand to infinity, and thus introduce rationing by the third party via either wait times or “need assessment.” This is a path to destruction and needless death. Compound this with the problem of calculation of costs in a full government program, and you have societal expense way out of line with societal benefit. “Universal” must merely mean than anyone has the ability to bargain for the service in a free market.

Article XVIII would literally bankrupt any group trying to implement it through government. I believe the Salvation Army model, perhaps with a bit more privacy, would be an effective means – if people need housing and food, have hostels funded by donation and endowments which provide it. This is both more efficient and more just than taxing and redistribution programs.

Regarding Article XIX I believe the “other resources” clause is one I can support. I fully support providing housing and food for those who choose to receive it. However, your well-being may be cared for; your dignity is your own problem. Do not expect dignity while living off the generosity of others.

Now, on to the Platform of the Transhumanist Party. By and large, I am wholeheartedly behind all sections which support individual self-ownership and the extension of this to all sapients.

A few notes on my governance philosophy are in order. I believe strongly that bureaucratic methods of providing goods or services must fail, because they do not have clear demand signals, they do not have any motivation for efficiency, and they do not have accountability. Furthermore, a government is based on force, and so must limit its actions to those things where the force is defensive; using taxes or even tariffs (forced payments) to fund things will morally corrupt even the most wholesome idea. I believe that many current government agencies could and should be spun off into voluntary funded charitable organizations.

I find Section XL particularly poignant considering the current state of affairs in social media. But, hearkening back to individual liberty, we must not solve big tech censorship by stealing their capital or using force to get them to provide services they do not want to. The solution lies in the market-driven alternatives. However, those companies with a government monopoly over any portion of technology should lose their protection immediately should they discriminate on political topics.

Section XXI can be achieved by privatizing the police force, and removing all strictures for victimless violations. If no one is harmed, then it makes no sense to introduce deadly force into the mix (an example is seat-belt laws – people have been killed because of seat belt stops – such actions are literally insane).

Section XXXIV is a must. I have previously advocated for third-party archiving of all government employees’ actions at all times they are on the clock. Any action they take which does not have this video record must be treated as private, and not protected from legal or criminal prosecution. Shoot a person with your camera off, and face murder charges like any other private citizen.

Section IV might be well-intentioned but short-sighted. It should be noted that no nuclear powers have ever engaged in direct war (the most intense conflict between Nuclear Powers to date being the Kashmir conflict), and the acquisition of nuclear weapons has deterred open war against states, most notably the cessation of Arab hostilities against Israel in the 1970s after they acquired nuclear technology and it became known. It might, therefore, be best for all stable states to become nuclear powers.

Section XII is great – until you commit to third-party paying from force. I believe enough people are behind higher education that a privatized Department of Education would be able to fund grants, loans or college-level donated class time for those who are needy and deserving.

Section XXVII, on abolishing the Electoral College, might be a mistake, but it is obvious that the system as provided is failing in some aspects. I, however, fear the tyranny of the ballot box and unbridled democracy.

Section XXXVI states that “the United States Transhumanist Party advocates a flat percentage-of-sales tax applicable only to purchases from businesses whose combined nationwide revenues from all affiliates exceed a specified threshold.” This can clearly bee seen as a fee for service, the service being having existence as a limited liability corporation.

Section LXXIII would seem to be an infringement of the Second Amendment as written. And the temptation of a government with an active armed rebellion to trace the weapon locations of suspected belligerents would be enormous, and we have seen that constitutional and statutory limits on powers mean nothing to governments, especially when at war.

Jon Schattke is one of the candidates for the office of President of the United States, competing for the USTP’s endorsement in the 2019 Electronic Primary. 

An Open Letter to the Transhumanist Community – Article by Arin Vahanian

An Open Letter to the Transhumanist Community – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


During the events that have transpired over the past few weeks, many of which have affected (and not in positive ways, sometimes) the USTP, Humanity+, and other organizations in the Transhumanism movement, I have mostly refrained from sharing my opinions and thoughts. However, I feel it is time now to share something that has been on my mind for a while.

But before I do so, I would like to express my disappointment at the level of discourse I am seeing in our community as a whole. Just a few days ago, the USTP released a statement condemning the vicious, vindictive manner in which someone in the Transhumanist community treated other members, as well as USTP Officers.

Instead of using this as a rallying cry for greater cooperation, an opportunity for increased self-awareness, as well as coordination on our shared goals, we now, yet again, have a candidate attacking another candidate, insulting their intelligence, not to mention their physical appearance.

Such petty, cruel behavior not only reflects negatively upon the person engaging in such behavior, but also reflects negatively on Transhumanism as a whole.

The sad truth of the matter, and what has been on my mind for a long while, but which I have been reluctant to share, is that many of the things that members of the general public dislike about Transhumanism, we have displayed here with great fervor, whether intentionally, or not.

Indeed, in some ways, we ourselves have become our worst enemies, treating each other with disdain, pretending that we are somehow more intelligent than others, disregarding the legitimate objections people have brought forward about the consequences of technology, ignoring how bizarre or unhinged some of our behaviors and actions may appear to the public, and being generally disconnected from the needs of the population as a whole.

However, it is not only a single candidate or person who is responsible for helping to create an environment in which arrogance, narcissism, unstable behavior, a lack of civility, pettiness, and a lack of empathy have persisted.

Sadly, we in the Transhumanist community are all responsible, because we have all allowed this sort of behavior to continue, over many months and many years. To be sure, this sort of behavior has been around long before this current USTP Presidential campaign started, but it continues, nonetheless.

One thing I have been passionate about and dedicated to from day one is to change the public’s perception of Transhumanism. To grow a movement that is small, into a worldwide force that is capable of great positive change, requires us to have a finger on the pulse of the views of the general public.

Vitriol is still vitriol, and venom is still venom, whether we sling it with bows and arrows, or whether we drop it like a bomb. We have no business complaining about the lack of civility in politics, in any country, when we ourselves are guilty of incivility. We should not lament the proliferation of cyberbullying when we ourselves engage in the same behavior.

We could say, once again, that the way we conduct ourselves in front of the general public influences greatly their opinions about Transhumanism, but this message has been nearly as ineffective as advocating for peace in the Middle East. We could say, once again, that we are a team, and that the shared goals we have are far more important than our disagreements with each other, but that doesn’t seem to have helped very much. We could say, once again, that humanity could benefit greatly from increased longevity, improved health, and the complete eradication of poverty, but even this, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to register with some people.

So let me put it this way, instead – the next time you think about hurling abuse at someone in our community, the next time you feel like getting even with someone for their past transgressions, consider the fact that in just a few decades, unless we achieve our objectives with anti-aging research and life extension, everyone here will likely be dead.

Dead, as in, they will no longer be able to hold a loved one in their arms. Dead, as in, they’ll never again feel the warm rays of the sun caressing their face on a summer morning. Dead, as in, they’ll never have the pleasure of tasting their favorite food again, or any food, for that matter.

In many ways, the movement has never been stronger. Transhumanism has been garnering more press coverage, thanks to the efforts of people like Zoltan Istvan. USTP membership has grown substantially in recent weeks and months, thanks to the leadership of Gennady Stolyarov. The work that pioneers such as Fereidoun Esfandiary (also known as FM-2030), Aubrey de Grey, Nick Bostrom, and Jose Cordeiro have done over decades has helped built the foundation for what we are able to do now.

Every time we attack each other, we dishonor the legacy the hard-working people in our movement have created. Every time we attack each other, it sets us back from important work we could be doing to help humanity with its greatest challenges.

Contrary to what some people may think, the work that Transhumanists are doing does not only benefit the Transhumanist community; it benefits people who don’t even know about us. It benefits people who are suffering from a rare disease and feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It benefits people who are struggling with crippling poverty, having to make a choice between starving to death or being homeless.

The indignation we may feel, righteous or not, at the lack of awareness and acceptance of our movement among the general public, isn’t the general public’s fault. It is simply because we have been unable, thus far, to clearly demonstrate, with a compassionate and unified voice, the many worthy and noble projects we are engaged in, as well as our vision, mission, and purpose. But there is no rule that says that this state of affairs has to continue.

Being able to demonstrate to the world the optimistic, humanitarian, and thoughtful goals of Transhumanism requires us to take a good look in the mirror and decide who we are, and who we want to be. But most importantly, it requires us to be optimistic, humanitarian, and thoughtful, ourselves. How we treat others is an indication, on some level, of how we look at the world as a whole.

Requesting that people be treated with respect, dignity, and kindness is not authoritarianism or fascism. It is called being a better human being. And one of the core tenets of Transhumanism is being a better human being. So let us start today, right now, by being better, not just to ourselves, but also to each other.

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

Responsible Media Reporting and the Epstein/Transhumanist Fallacy – Article by Dinorah Delfin 

Responsible Media Reporting and the Epstein/Transhumanist Fallacy – Article by Dinorah Delfin 

Dinorah Delfin


The USTP’s leadership has just issued a statement addressing a New York Times’s recent article associating Transhumanism, a progressive global philosophical movement, with Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced con-artist and sex offender.

Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the USTP, stated:

Epstein was a prominent financier of many other causes – but if the leadership of the world’s largest transhumanist political organization had no knowledge of him, this is strong evidence that he was not involved in transhumanism to any significant extent. He is merely a criminal abuser and deserves his sentence. His conduct was also deeply antithetical to the transhumanist philosophy and the value that philosophy places on dramatically improving the human condition for all through reason, science, and technology. Epstein’s fate should reinforce the principle that wealth and power do not confer license to mistreat one’s fellow sapient beings, all of whose rights must be protected. The foundational values of the Transhumanist Party, as well as key documents such as the USTP Platform and Transhumanist Bill of Rights, point toward an inspiring future where the Epsteins of this world could have no sway.

Many transhumanists criticize the NYT’s “unwarranted” and “irresponsible” association between Epstein and transhumanism as being “a modern-day version of eugenics”.

This appears to be a case of certain media outlets interpreting some of Epstein’s personal idiosyncratic proclivities as somehow being transhumanist – even though such interpretation is based on a highly deficient understanding of what transhumanism actually means and stands for.

– Chairman Stolyarov

Associating transhumanism with eugenics is a logical fallacy; like associating environmentalism with being anti-human. It is news reporting that seems to be more concerned about being sensational and controversial, than about accuracy, integrity, or solving problems; not adding more.

Even if Epstein perceived himself to be a transhumanist, this kind of sensationalist media reporting doesn’t serve the general public nor the greater good, as it keeps people misinformed and uneducated about emerging sciences and technologies.

What suffers from this approach is the characterization of a fundamentally benign worldview, as well as thousands of people who abhor Epstein’s behavior and stand for noble aspirations and principles of conduct. Criticism and debate regarding transhumanism are well within the realm of legitimate public discourse, but smearing good people by association is not.

  – Chairman Stolyarov

Renowned transhumanist philosopher and USTP member David Pearce remarked that “a commitment to the well-being of all sentience as enshrined in the Transhumanist Declaration (19982009) is hard to reconcile with some of the traditional male primate behaviour of Jeffrey Epstein.”

Humanity+ has also released a statement to clarify Epstein’s donation, which reveals that the time they accepted the donation, Humanity+ “had no knowledge of Mr. Epstein’s horrific alleged criminal activity.”

It should be known that Epstein was never a member of Humanity+, nor affiliated with any known transhumanist organization. Epstein’s egocentric ideas about eugenics ardently conflict with the philosophy of transhumanism and the express directive of Humanity+ that aims is to prevent coerced practices. Instead, Humanity+ encourages exploring the use of genetic engineering to save lives and mitigate diseases that affect all humanity, such as sickle cell anemia and other horrific illnesses.

Humanity+ is an international nonprofit membership organization that advocates the ethical use of technology and evidence-based science to expand human capabilities. You can learn more about transhumanism at https://www.humanityplus.org.

– Humanity+

Members of the USTP and other representatives of the transhumanist community call for more objective and responsible media reporting and fewer “hyperboles” and “nebulous generalizations”.

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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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.

Programmatically Generated Everything: The Intelligence/Love Paradox – Article by Dinorah Delfin

Programmatically Generated Everything: The Intelligence/Love Paradox – Article by Dinorah Delfin

Dinorah Delfin


To Love or Not To Love?” Illustration by Dinorah Delfin

Yesterday, while still in excitement about Elon Musk’s recent announcement of Neuralink’s first human trials starting next year, I came across an interview by media host and science communicator Allen Saakyan with Dan Faggella, founder of Emerj (a market research platform focused on AI), and I’d love to share some thoughts!

Mr. Faggella is deeply passionate about Virtual Reality, Brain-Machine Interfaces, and Artificial Intelligence. Like myself, he is also driven by a desire to address ethical questions regarding the application of emerging advanced technologies in everyday lives – He has established communications with the UN to discuss sustainable plans for the future and avoid a potentially destructive arms-race global dynamic towards a digital monopoly.

Mr. Faggella talks about two crucial questions for humanity to address: what is the trajectory of human intelligence (what is the point of it), and how do we get there without killing each other?

I believe the role of Human Intelligence is to become ever more complex (whatever form this may take) so that LIFE has a better chance to spread across the Universe. I also believe in a mathematical, fractal, and cyclical reality. Our connection and relationship to the macro and microcosms is no accident, it is physics. We have had a basic understanding of the world of atoms, and beyond, for thousands of years, not from digital computers, but from observation and exploring Nature. 

Recently, I’ve been studying Dante’s Divine Commedia, and I have learned that the central issue in the poem is the role of Intelligence and Reason. This complex and multi-dimensional literary masterpiece centers around the idea of “conversion” – the main character realizing he wasn’t part of the solution, but the problem. The poem illustrates a stark contrast between the faculty of knowing and the faculty of choosing – If we don’t know things it is hard to make the right choices, but even if we know the right things, we don’t always make the right choices (humans usually strive to lower this probability).

In the interview, Dan and Allen talk about how to ensure that the Transhumanist transition happens in a way that maximizes humanity’s potential towards indefinite permanence. Mr. Faggella offers several responses: “The best possible scenario would be through uploading or some degree of Brain-Machine Interface.” … “The very idea that cognitively enhanced people would get together and agree on things on earth is completely inviable.” … ”Our expansion of vastly greater degrees of creativity and capabilities have to happen in the virtual world because if it happens in the physical world, we are killing each other.” … “People don’t want what they say they want, they just want the fulfillment of their drives.”

Is the future Mr. Faggella illustrates – a society driven by the “fulfillment of drives” controlled by “substrate digital monopolies” – one we want? This future, as Mr. Faggella remarks, has nothing to do with the accumulation of virtues or the preservation of what makes us not just Humans, but Humane – e.g. Reciprocal Love. 

Without LOVE there is no reason for LIFE to continue. Literally. Love relates more to Intelligent Creation than to Intelligence. Feelings of love, or high vibrational frequencies, enable GROWTH, complexity, creativity, and a strong immune system. Low vibrational frequencies are linked to stress and high anxiety levels which make the body sick and susceptible to all kinds of degenerative diseases. Love exists in many forms throughout all living systems – As above so below.

Digital technology, just like any tool, is meant to help humans maximize our innate capabilities, and Planet Earth is to be regarded as one of the Most precious legacies and source of wisdom. All sentient beings matter, and Humans, in particular, want to be in full control of our lives and destinies. 

Our physical, carbon-based reality isn’t a perception, but a re-interpretation of ideas. Technologies like VR’s and BMI’s are best when used to enhance our physical reality and relationships with other beings. Humans desire to safeguard our Individual Psyches and Sovereignty over our Individual Consciousnesses and Physical Expression. Let’s aim towards a future where we use advanced technologies not only to teach our body to leverage, on-demand, the power of universal wisdom to heal and regenerate itself, but also to leverage this universal wisdom to design systems that will protect all sentient beings from any suffering.

In the interview, Mr. Faggella talks about establishing Sustainable Development Goals with the United Nations for humanity “to get on the same page on what is after people (posthumans), and to figure out a way to have a non-arm-race global dynamic to get there”. As an active member of the Transhumanist Movement and an Officer of the United States Transhumanist Party, I’d like to kindly extend an invitation to discuss these very important and pressing topics and, along with Mr. Fagella, get involved with the UN and similar organizations.

There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future – there is no limit to where our imagination can take us. Dante’s Divine Commedia is, after all, a reminder that Epic Transpersonal Meta-Narratives also come with happy endings. 

Here is a link to Dan Faggella’s Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyBGgE6wYR0

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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An Interview with Sergey Young by Nicola Bagalà

An Interview with Sergey Young by Nicola Bagalà

Sergey Young
Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by our guest Nicola Bagalà, originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) on July 4, 2019. In this article, Mr. Bagalà interviews Sergey Young, a board member of XPRIZE and the creator of the $100 million Longevity Vision Fund. They cover a number of topics, such as the longevity companies that Sergey has invested in, the Longevity Xprize, Sergey’s new book, callled Growing Young: A Simple Guide to Age Reversal, along with many more topics. I highly recommend this read.

~ Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, July 8, 2019


We recently had the opportunity to interview Sergey Young, a board member of XPRIZE and the creator of the $100 million Longevity Vision Fund.

When did you first become interested in healthy life extension, and why?

My interest began with a routine visit to a doctor. Five years ago, at the age of 42, my blood tests – which I neglected for 7 years, thinking I was in perfect health – showed that my cholesterol was extremely high, putting me at risk of one of the most common killers: heart disease.

The only treatment offered by my doctor at the time was to take statins (cholesterol-reducing medication) for the rest of my life. However, this seemed unnatural and potentially dangerous for the body, and I definitely did not want to “live” on a pill forever. I refused to accept this as the only option (the doctor even made me sign a waiver for refusing treatment) and kept pushing for alternatives. Eventually, the doctor suggested I try a Mediterranean-style diet (based around healthy fats, cutting out sugar, etc.), which worked in bringing my cholesterol down to a normal range without any medication at all.

It’s a pity that doctors, even well-meaning ones, do not start with dietary changes first. Since then, I developed an interest in diet and a lifestyle-based approach to health and longevity, and hope I can share this knowledge with as many people as possible.

However, it was the meeting with Peter Diamandis last year in Vatican City at a conference on regenerative medicine, which was also attended by the Pope, that really kickstarted my mission in longevity. Peter is such an inspiring individual, and his XPRIZE Foundation served as a great example of how you can make a difference on a large scale. It was the perfect platform to make my interest in longevity serve to the benefit of society as a whole.

In your opinion, what are the most important reasons why the pursuit of healthy longevity should be a priority for human society?

Our lives are like “Groundhog Day”: we spend most of our lives working until we decline into old age and illness – possibly without having had the time or health to enjoy life to the fullest.

However, pursuing healthy longevity can potentially extend our lives by 25% or more. Having an extra 25 years of lifespan gives us the opportunity to pursue our dreams, spend more time with our children and grandchildren, and do the things that really matter – but that we have not had time for.

This cause is so close to your heart that you’re actually writing a book about it—no easy task. Is it your first book?

Yes, this is my first book. Hopefully not my last.

I am putting a lot of time and effort into making longevity as practical and easy to read about as possible. I see it as a way of helping as many people as possible learn about life extension and making their lives more longevity-friendly. If this leads to follow-on books, covering longevity diets, or longevity exercises, for example, I would be happy to fulfill the readers’ requests.

What made you decide that it was time for you to write one?

When I first got into longevity, there were only two types the longevity books available: either 300-page books with a single hypothesis drawn out, or “encyclopedias” that were nearly impossible for the general population to read without a specialized degree.

That’s why I decided to write “Growing Young: Simple Guide to Age Reversal” – something well-researched and comprehensive, yet simple and engaging for the general reader.

I understand that we’re some way from finding your book on the shelves; can you give us a sneak peek by telling us a little about what topics you’re going to cover?

The book is heavy-packed with a lot of varied content. Here is a taster of some of the topics included:

  • Technological longevity breakthroughs – what is already available that can extend our lifespans by up to 10 years, and technologies that could emerge in the near future to extend our lifespans even further
  • Ethical trade offs of living to 200
  • Economics of longevity

Has a release date, or time frame, for the book been decided yet?

Our planned release date is spring 2020.

You’re the founder of the Longevity Vision Fund, whose goal is to accelerate longevity breakthroughs and make them affordable for as many as possible as soon as possible. Many people fear that life extension would be only for the rich, so what’s your plan to make your vision come true, especially regarding affordability?

The focus of Longevity Vision Fund is on affordable and accessible technology. As with every area of technology, it undergoes a democratization process, becoming progressively more affordable to a wider range of people. The mission of Longevity Vision Fund is to enable and speed up the democratization of longevity-related technology by investing in companies and services that have the potential to become scalable, accessible, and affordable for the general population.

LVF is a rather new initiative; what has it achieved thus far?

Longevity Vision Fund was launched in February 2019, but we have already come a long way. For example, we raised most of the capital in just 3 months. We have assembled an impressive Advisory Board of five leading longevity scientists: Aubrey De Grey, Vadim Gladyshev, Joao de Magalhaes, Richard Faragher, and Morten Scheibye-Knudsen.

We also entered into a collaboration partnership with BOLD Capital (Peter Diamandis’s fund), and LVF has already invested in four companies to date.

What areas of life extension research, or life extension in general, will be LVF’s primary focus?

We like to invest in fields such as AI, diagnostics, wearables & devices, stem-cell treatments, and organ regeneration.

Does LVF have a roadmap, or a tentative time frame, describing when specific goals should ideally be achieved?

As mentioned above, we have already achieved very significant milestones for a fund that has just been launched last year. Our main goal for the future is achieving our mission in stimulating progress in longevity breakthroughs to make them affordable to as many people as possible.

This is a progressive goal, and it would be impossible and irresponsible to make specific claims exactly as to when and by how much lifespans will be expanded.

Let’s talk about XPRIZE a little bit. You’ve been on the XPRIZE Innovation Board for over a year now. What is your job as a member of this board?

In addition to being on the XPRIZE Innovation Board, I am also the Development Sponsor of Longevity XPRIZE. My job is to define the strategy of Longevity XPRIZE, help choose the areas of most impact, and attract and unite the brightest minds that could lead solutions to the world’s biggest problems – aging being one of them, since it affects us all.

What led you to join XPRIZE?

As you probably already know, I am extremely passionate about longevity, and I want to use it to make a difference in the world. I want to help people live longer, healthier, and happier lives. Since meeting Peter Diamandis, XPRIZE has become the perfect high-impact platform for working on the world’s biggest issues

Speaking of XPRIZE, you took part in its recent Future of Longevity brainstorming session, in which our president, Keith Comito, had the pleasure to meet you. Can you share your impressions of the event?

As the Development Sponsor, I could be biased, so I would be more interested in hearing Keith Comito’s thoughts!

On a serious note, I thought it turned out to be a great, collaborative event with a constellation of over 50 of the world’s Longevity Leaders. I am grateful to everyone who came and made it such a success.

The goal of the brainstorming session was to design a Longevity XPRIZE that may further catalyze the development of a thriving longevity industry; our readers already know something about it from Keith’s article, but, as an insider, is there anything more you could share with us, such as when the prize might launch or if more proposals are being evaluated?

We expect to launch next year, and the exact date will probably be announced during XPRIZE Visioneering in October. I am really looking forward to it, since it is a great big event where ideas for future XPRIZE initiatives are discussed. There are also lots of amazing people in attendance – last year, Pharrell Williams and Eric Schmidt were there, for example.

Besides the upcoming Longevity XPRIZE, are you involved in other XPRIZE initiatives?

Yes, I was also involved in the Global Learning XPRIZE, where I coached five finalists in the competition. The result of their work was to give children in African countries a tool to learn English (or their native language, Swahili) by themselves, without an adult, in just 12 months, using an app.

Speaking again of affordability, even if life-extension medicine eventually becomes affordable, we can’t expect that to happen overnight. How long, in your opinion, will it take before it’ll be cheap enough to be widespread?

Life extension is a very complex issue – if there were a simple solution, evolution would probably already have taken care of it.

I expect that various technological breakthroughs, scientific research, and the work of many people around the world (including our small team at Longevity Vision Fund) will collectively contribute to the continuous evolution of longevity and the prolongation of human lifespans. However, as I mentioned before, it would be impossible to predict when exactly this will happen and exactly how widespread we can make life-extension medicine.

Let me ask a few personal questions again. Many people, even life-extension enthusiasts, are not convinced that major breakthroughs will happen during their lifetimes. How about you; do you expect to “make the cut”?

I visualize myself living to 200, and whether I get to live to 200 or not, is arbitrary. The mindset of living to 200 myself stimulates me to live, work, and contribute to longevity to the best of my ability, since I am more passionate about improving the lives of others than focusing just on my own. As Peter Diamandis says, “the best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people.”

Besides that, I definitely expect to see significant breakthroughs during my own lifetime and even bigger breakthroughs in the coming generations.

In your XPRIZE biography, I read that you’re a “happy co-founder of a diversified portfolio of 4 kids.” I take it as a funny way to say you’ve got four children; do you talk to them about life extension? What do they think of it?

I do talk about longevity and life extension to my two oldest kids: the 20-year-old and the 8-year-old. However, they see longevity as their father’s passion rather than something they are interested in as a topic. That’s understandable – hardly anyone under 30 thinks about aging.

As for my two youngest kids aged 5 and 1, I tell them “longevity bedtime stories”: tales involving “good” healthy foods, and avoiding “evil” sugar, sweet drinks, fast food, etc.

You make no mystery of your wish to live to two hundred. Is it just two hundred or at least two hundred?

To most people, both sound equally unbelievable, so with my binary thinking, I just focus on the number “200”.

Many people out there wonder what we’d do if we lived much longer than the current status quo. What would you do with that kind of extra time?

Adding an extra 25 years to our lifespans gives us fundamentally new options: spending more time with children and grandchildren, redefining our lives, getting new careers, and working on solving the world’s problems.

I would, of course, spend more time with my family and continue my work in solving the problems and diseases of aging. But this is a question that everyone can ask themselves. What would you do if your life were extended by a quarter?

As a final question, are there other causes than life extension that you find very important or are personally involved in?

Apart from focusing on doing good on a global scale, as with my work on longevity, I like to make a difference on a smaller scale as well. While it’s important to work on solving global problems, it’s just as important to connect and support communities locally. For example, every New Year’s, my wife, my kids, and I give away festive food sets to families in need. We started with 100 families, and last year, that number reached 300.

I would also like to end this question by thanking LEAF and, in particular, its president, Keith Comito. Thank you for your dedication in promoting life extension and for building such a fantastic and comprehensive longevity platform like LEAF!

Nicola Bagalà is a bit of a jack of all trades—a holder of an M.Sc. degree in mathematics; an amateur programmer; a hobbyist at novel writing, piano and art; and, of course, a passionate life extensionist. After his interest in the science of undoing aging arose in 2011, he gradually shifted from quiet supporter to active advocate in 2015, first launching his advocacy blog Rejuvenaction before eventually joining LEAF. These years in the field sparked an interest in molecular biology, which he actively studies. Other subjects he loves to discuss to no end are cosmology, artificial intelligence, and many others—far too many for a currently normal lifespan, which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension.