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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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Become a Member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. 

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Transhumanist Bill of Rights

U.S. Transhumanist Party Constitution 

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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Become a Member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. 

Become a Foreign Ambassador

Transhumanist Bill of Rights

U.S. Transhumanist Party Constitution 

 

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.

Why I Am Future-Positive on My Birthday – Article by Steve Hill

Why I Am Future-Positive on My Birthday – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by our guest Steve Hill, originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) on June 7th, 2019. In this article, Mr. Hill discusses how he feels great about being over 40 years old, instead of the depressing feeling that many tend to have on their birthdays, because he is very aware of how close medical science is to curing age-related diseases. He goes on in discuss, in his opinion, two of the most promising research methods being sought by various companies to defeat age-related diseases.

~ Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, July 7, 2019


Not so long ago, it was my 44th birthday, and I’ve finally decided to write something that I’ve been reflecting on for a while. To some people, a birthday is a cause for celebration; for others, it is viewed as a bad thing.

Yes, if you take the negative view, you could see it as simply a reminder of being another year older and another year closer to the grave. However, this is not how I see it; in fact, I think quite the opposite. I see it as another year closer to our goal: the defeat of age-related diseases due to the progress of rejuvenation biotechnology that offers longer and healthier lives.

From my point of view, viewing birthdays, or, indeed, the passing of time, as a positive or negative thing is largely a question of knowledge and understanding of the aging research field, which ties in with what I want to address today.

Knowledge is power

During my work as a journalist, people often ask me how things are progressing in the field. This is, of course, a perfectly reasonable and understandable question to ask. While I am always more than happy to talk about the field and answer this question, I also urge people to delve deeper into the field so that they can learn and evaluate for themselves rather than simply taking my word for it.

Our website, including the Rejuvenation Roadmap, is a good resource to start learning and to hear the latest news, as are places such as FightAging and the SENS Research Foundation website. Conferences such as Ending Age-Related Diseases and Undoing Aging are also valuable places to learn more about what is happening in the field.

Sometimes, I encounter people outside, but also fairly frequently within, the community who can be somewhat pessimistic about the field and its progress. It is perfectly natural to be cautious about the unknown, but there comes a point at which caution becomes unwarranted pessimism. The “Science Will Not Defeat Aging in My Lifetime, so Why Bother?” argument is a classic example of this, and much of this is caused by a lack of knowledge and understanding of the field.

The Latin phrase scientia potentia est, meaning “knowledge is power”, is particularly apt here. Knowledge and understanding allow us to better evaluate a situation or a proposal and reach a conclusion. It is hard to reach an accurate conclusion about anything without all the facts in place, yet I often see people doing it. Of course, there are always people who will not put in the time and effort required to learn about a topic properly, so they make predictions without all the facts, but there really isn’t much we can do about these people.

However, as advocates and supporters, we can do our best to learn about such things ourselves, and this will also come in useful when speaking to others about the field, as there is nothing like having a good understanding of the topic to help you convey it to others. That does not mean you need to become a biologist and understand things to such deep levels but even a solid understanding of the basics can be a huge help when it comes to engaging with others on the subject and also for understanding where we are currently progress wise.

Future-positive

This relates to a second question people often tend to ask me, which is if I think that they or we have a chance of living long enough to see these technologies arrive.

Obviously, no one can predict the future, so this question, by its very nature, is a tricky one to answer. I generally avoid being too specific on the timeframe in which we will reach the goal of longer lives through science, but I am optimistic that people in my age group, even perhaps older, have a reasonable chance of making the cut.

The reason that I am generally optimistic about the future is mostly that, as a journalist who speaks to hundreds of researchers, each focused on a part of the puzzle, I get an almost unique picture of the field. I can see the broader landscape and how and where things in the field or related fields connect or may connect in the future. A breakthrough in a related medical field may not have immediately apparent utility in aging research at first glance, but a deeper look could reveal hidden potential.

This fairly unique insight, combined with the knowledge that I have collected over the years working in the field, makes me fairly optimistic about the future and my place in it. As I have said a number of times in the past, the defeat of age-related diseases will not suddenly happen overnight; there is unlikely to be a single moment at which humanity goes from having no choice about aging to having control. It is far more likely that there will be steady progress, with incremental breakthroughs along the road, that will ultimately reach the goal.

Reasons to be cheerful

I would like to touch upon two of the most promising therapies that I am most interested in and believe may have a big impact in the near future (10-20 years) and that may help pave the way for major changes to how society thinks about and treats aging. Both of these therapies directly address one of the nine proposed causes of aging and thus if they work they have the potential to be transformative in healthcare. Of course, there are more therapies in development and at various stages of progress which also address the other causes of aging but these two are what I am most enthusiastic about presently. I urge you to explore the provided links to resources and learn more about each one.

Senolytics

No list of promising technologies would be complete without talking about the senescent cell-clearing drugs and therapies known as senolytics. Senescent cells are aged or damaged cells that should destroy themselves via a process known as apoptosis but, for various reasons, do not do so; instead, they hang around, sending out inflammatory signals that harm nearby healthy cells, block effective tissue repair, and contribute to numerous age-related diseases.

One proposed solution to these problem cells is to remove them by causing them to enter apoptosis, as originally intended, by using senolytic drugs and therapies. Removing these cells in mouse studies has produced some remarkable results, with mice often living healthier and longer lives as well as reversing some aspects of aging.

The race is now on to bring these drugs to people, and a number of companies are developing them right now. So far, UNITY Biotechnology has seen the most progress, and the company is already conducting human trials of its lead candidate drug (UBX0101) for the treatment of osteoarthritis. It has another candidate drug (UBX1967) closely behind; this drug is poised to enter human trials for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Based on recent comments from UNITY, we are anticipating the initial results of human trials in the next few months; hopefully, the news will be positive.

With the number of companies working on these therapies, it is fair to be optimistic about their potential to address multiple age-related diseases given that senescent cells are a proposed root cause of aging. You can also check out the Rejuvenation Roadmap to see which companies are working on senolytics and how they are progressing.

Partial cellular reprogramming

Cells can be reverted back to an earlier developmental state, known as induced pluripotency, using reprogramming factors, and this process effectively makes aged cells functionally young again in many ways. Ever since its first discovery, there has been a great deal of interest in this area of aging research.

The problem with inducing pluripotency is that the cell loses its identity and forgets what cell type it currently is, as it becomes a new kind of cell capable of being guided into changing into any other cell type, much like our cells during development. This is great for early human development, but as adults, having our cells forget what they are is bad news. Therefore, researchers have wondered if it is possible to reset a cell’s age without resetting its cell memory, and the answer appears to be yes!

Thankfully, during the reprogramming of a cell back to pluripotency, the cell’s age is one of the first things to be reset before the cell memory is wiped, and it appears possible to partially reprogram the cell so that only aging is reset. We have talked about the potential of partial cellular reprogramming and how it is similar to hitting the reset button on aging in a previous article, but, needless to say, if we can find a way to safely partially reprogram our cells, it could have a dramatic impact on how we age and may allow us to remain more youthful and healthy.

In terms of progress, partial reprogramming has already been demonstrated in mice, and now a number of groups, including Turn.Bio, the Salk Institute, Life Biosciences, Youthereum Genetics, and AgeX, are developing therapies based on partial reprogramming, which is essentially the resetting of cells’ epigenetic states (what genes are expressed) from an aged profile to a more youthful one, again directly targeting one of the proposed root causes of aging.

This approach is likely to be quite a few years away, but I think it is plausible that it could be in human trials in the next decade, and it is probably the approach that interests me the most in the field.

In closing

The truth is we cannot predict the future because it is not set in stone, so we cannot be totally certain if or when rejuvenation technologies will arrive. The best we can do is learn as much as we can about the field and try to reach a reasonable conclusion based on the situation as it is now.

The field is advancing steadily, and we should be optimistic but not complacent about progress. We should be mindful of being too negative and, equally, of being too positive without ample justification. Blind optimism is as bad as blind pessimism, and we should always strive for informed optimism.

That said, given the progress being made, I am optimistic about my chances based on the evidence to date. This is why I do not mind birthdays and why I find them positive experiences rather than negative ones. Arm yourself with knowledge, and perhaps you too will agree with me and understand why I am future positive.

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.

A Chance Encounter in a Graveyard – Short Story by Nicola Bagalà

A Chance Encounter in a Graveyard – Short Story by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this short story by our guest Nicola Bagalà, originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) on August 10, 2018, August 17, 2018, and August 14, 2018. In this story, Mr. Bagalà describes the experiences of a man discovering how salient it is to NOT biologically age and die. This was originally written in three separate parts, but combined in this single article. I hope you find commonalities in your life while reading this story so that you can be motivated in helping our species cure all diseases through innovations in science and technology.  

~ Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, July 6, 2019

This is a fictional story about a man realizing for the first time, under rather unusual circumstances, that he has a deep desire not to age and die.

Part I

It’s been a few months already, yet that day still feels like yesterday. I am still not convinced that I didn’t lose my mind that day, and even if I didn’t, it’s changed my thinking quite a bit.

I was in a green grove in the local cemetery, sitting on a bench. As it is the piece of nature closest to home, I used to go there quite often. A small group of men, all at least in their 40s and wearing black suits and ties, had passed by just as the bells in the nearby church began ringing.

A new member joins the club, I thought, meaning the graves all around me.

Spending eternity in a place like that mustn’t be that bad, I observed, as another, larger group of people was heading presumably to the same funeral as the previous group. There were no preoccupations, no problems, only greenery and quiet as far as the eye can see; nothing but birds singing, squirrels slipping away from tree to tree, and people strolling as they came to see their dead. There certainly are worse things than this, I said to myself, especially if you’re alive.

“Very nice indeed, or so it would seem,” a voice from behind suddenly said. The person then came to sit right next to me as I looked at who was talking. I looked her up and down for a moment, trying to establish whether it was safe to remain seated or if I should spring up to my feet.

It was a really beautiful girl, about twenty years old. She had red hair reaching to her shoulders and icy blue eyes. She was leaning forward, her elbows on her knees, staring at the graves before us; she didn’t seem to care about my startled look. Judging by her attire, I’d say she too was going to the funeral, although she seemed to be in no rush to go anywhere.

“Indeed, I’m not,” she said, as if she’d read my thoughts, still looking at the headstones. “It’s pleasant here.”

“I beg your pardon?” I finally stuttered.

“It’s pleasant,” she reiterated, slightly turning her gaze towards me for a moment, and then back to the graves. “Isn’t it? It looks like a nice place.”

“Undoubtedly,” I nodded, hesitantly. She said nothing. She had a slight, intelligent-looking smile, which made her look somewhat pleased with herself, though not arrogant. It was as if she were waiting for me to say anything, as if she knew that I had something to ask.

The bells rang again.

“I’m sorry, miss,” I commented, uncertain, “but did you mean that the graveyard is nice or just that it seems to be?”

“It depends on your point of view.” I would have asked more, but she continued. “Are you in a hurry to go?”

Her question caught me off-guard. “Me? No,” I stammered, thinking for a moment she must be one of those young girls trying to hit on men one or two decades older. “It’s Saturday afternoon, and—”

“That’s not what I meant,” she interrupted me, looking away from me towards the church.

“Then what?” I asked, even though I should perhaps have left, annoyed by the way she was talking to me.

“You’re right,” she replied, apparently ignoring what I had asked her. “It’s a quiet, pretty place, perfect if you need to relax or reflect. However, I wouldn’t like spending here more than an hour or two. How about you?”

“Well,” I said, asking myself once again why I was even still having that absurd conversation, “that would depend on what else I had to do at—”

“How about if you were dead?” she interrupted again, still gazing at the many headstones, as if I wasn’t even there. “You wouldn’t have much to do if you were dead. How much time would you like to spend here, if dead?”

“What a silly question,” I replied firmly, trying to conceal how her mentioning my own death had upset me somewhat. I told myself that it was an absolutely normal reaction, and her question was really silly anyway. “Excuse me, miss, but if I’m dead, then it’s obvious I’ll be spending eternity in the graveyard, be it this one or another.”

“I didn’t  ask you how long you’d be here,” she clarified. “I asked how much time you’d like to spend here.”

Her remark seemed to suggest she wasn’t too sound of mind. I quickly glanced around, desperately looking for people who might be short of a crazy relative on their way to paying the last respects to the dearly departed. Not a soul was in sight—except those that the graves were standing in for.

“I doubt my preferences would make any difference,” I said shaking my head, smiling as I would to anyone too mentally unstable to be safe to contradict.

“That’s true,” she nodded. “Then again, it doesn’t matter, does it? It’s such a pretty place that one would gladly spend eternity in it. I mean, there are worse things than this, especially if you’re alive.”

As I noticed the similarity between her words and my own earlier thoughts, I felt a lump forming in my throat. I was tempted to ask her what the devil she wanted from me, but then I told myself there was no reason to lose it for a simple coincidence, however disturbing.

“Indeed,” I nodded nervously.

She took a few steps toward a tall headstone nearby and knelt before it, seemingly to read the epitaph. That would’ve been the perfect chance for me to take my leave, but she managed to anticipate my move once again.

“Of course, there’s a small problem with this theory,” she said distractedly.

“What would that be?”

“If you’re dead, whether the place is quiet or pretty doesn’t matter to you.”

“Of course not,” I said, starting to feel fed up with all those truisms.

She turned toward me, feigning perplexity. “Then why did you agree with me, when I said one would gladly spend eternity here?”

“That’s just a set phrase,” I replied. “Things people say.”

“Correct. Good.”

It felt as if she thought she was the teacher and I the schoolboy.

“But anyway, what does it matter?” I went on, feeling I should retort something. “You just implied that if you were buried in the worst place in the world, you wouldn’t care in the slightest.”

She turned again, with an almost naughty smile, and she moved closer to me. “Normally, people don’t talk to me like that.”

What cheek! As if she hadn’t been agitating me this entire time!

“They don’t like talking about it, but it’s almost as if they feared me, you know?” she continued. “Almost reverentially, one would say.”

Who wouldn’t be afraid of such a nutter, I thought.

She turned abruptly and slowly started walking away with her arms behind her back. After taking a few steps on the grass, she asked out of the blue, “Say, are you afraid of death?”

“Excuse me?” I said, even though I had got that perfectly.

“You heard me,” she replied promptly, as she kept walking slowly away from me. I kept following her, telling myself the only reason I was doing so was that, clearly, she was disturbed, and it would be irresponsible of me to just leave. I was convinced that she should be attending the funeral at the nearby church. She was probably a relative of the deceased, and her relatives were understandably too shaken up by their loss to notice that she wasn’t there. I wasn’t certain I was right, but even if I was, I certainly couldn’t just pop up and interrupt the funeral to ask whether someone was short of a daughter or a sister. I decided I’d wait until the end of the ceremony, as it probably wouldn’t last much longer. Meanwhile, I’d try to understand whether my intuition was correct.

“So?” she insisted. “Are you afraid of death or not?”

“If you really want to know, I’m not,” I replied. “I see no reason to worry about something I cannot be aware of in any way.”

“You keep answering questions I never asked. I asked if you’re afraid of death, not of being dead.”

“So you mean the act of dying? I’m not afraid of that, either. Granted, I’d rather it be painless and not too drawn-out, but—”

“I really cannot take into account individual preferences. Be as it may, you say you’re not afraid?”

“I’m not,” I reiterated, ashamed of my own apprehension.

She hummed pensively. “I see. Then what reason do you have to sugar the pill?”

“What?”

“Your set phrase. One of those things people say, that which we were talking about a moment ago. There are worse things than spending eternity in such a nice place. Why do people say things like that?”

Now I was starting to see things more clearly. She just had to be a close relative or friend of the person whose funeral was taking place right now. She must be so much in shock that she couldn’t even join the mass, her pain and anger fuelling all the bizarre things she kept saying. Notwithstanding that, she mustn’t have been too sane even prior to her loss.

“They say them to console who suffered the loss of a loved one,” I replied in an almost fatherly tone.

“How about to dispel the fear of one’s own death?”

“Well, that too, I guess…. In some cases…”

“You just told me you’re not afraid of death.”

“Indeed I’m not, but—”

“Then why were you thinking that it wouldn’t be too bad to spend eternity here? Why do you need to tell yourself that if you’ve got no fear to dispel or people to console?”

I stood speechless.

The graveyard was almost entirely silent, except for the incessant chirping coming from the treetops. I couldn’t help but wonder whether that girl, very weird at best, was just unbelievably perceptive or if she really could read my mind. Did she know that I had indeed thought that before, or was that just a lucky deduction?

I really didn’t know what to tell her, nor did I like the idea of having to justify my unexpressed thoughts to a complete stranger; thus, I tried to change the subject. Once more I had an uncomfortable feeling that she knew I was in a tough spot and wasn’t expecting me to answer her question.

“Are you here for the funeral?” I asked, bobbing my head to point at the church.

“No,” she replied.

“Was it a relative of yours, or…”

“I have no relatives, nor anything more to do with this funeral.”

“Anything more?” I asked puzzled, although ever more convinced she was lying, denying the truth to deny her pain. As she was used to, she ignored my question and changed the subject.

“Come,” she said. “I want to show you something.” She then headed off to a trail among the graves, as sure about where she was going as the cemetery’s caretaker would be, without even turning to see if I was following her—which I was, though in frustration.

She led me to an eye-catching headstone with a low-relief angel holding his forehead in despair. There was an inscription, too, which I guessed was a quote from the Bible or the Gospel.

I waited for her to say anything, but as she kept mum, I resolved to ask: “So?”

“The inscription. Read it.”

I couldn’t hold back a short grumble, annoyed as I was at her manners, but then I began: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.” Once more, she kept silent, so I pressed her: “Well?”

“Do you believe that?”

“No,” I answered, happy that there appeared to be at least one thought in my mind she hadn’t already read. “I’m not a believer.”

“A great deal many others are, though.”

“Yes. So what?”

“Millions, billions of people believe, or believed, that death isn’t the end, and that some kind of afterlife is waiting for them beyond the grave. They believe there’s a place where they’ll somehow be able to live forever without pain or afflictions. If overcoming death is such a cornerstone of long-lasting religions with so many followers, then maybe the set phrases you’ve been saying are meant to console those who say them, rather than those who listen to them, in more than just ‘some cases’.”

“I never said people aren’t afraid of death,” I objected, fearing that I was clutching at straws. “I just said I don’t think that’s very rational, that’s all. People have a lot of irrational fears.”

“And as you said, you’re not afraid of death. That wouldn’t be rational,” she said, nodding slowly, as if she were finally understanding what I had been trying to tell her. “So,” she went on before I could say anything, “if I offered you, here and now, a quick and painless way to die, just as you wish, you wouldn’t be against that, would you?”

My heart skipped a beat as I felt adrenaline rushing down my body like a waterfall. She was crazy, all right, but just how crazy was she? Anyway, as weird as she was, I didn’t believe she was dangerous, nor did it look like she had anything with her that could be used as a murder weapon.

“I said that I don’t fear death,” I hurried to clarify, trying to keep my composure as much as I could, “not that I’m looking forward to death. I don’t wish to die now, but I don’t fear the moment of my death.”

“So you’re saying you would refuse my offer,” she concluded, nodding. “However, given that you don’t fear death, would you refuse my offer as you would if I was offering a meal you’re not in the mood for? Perhaps with a smile, a kind gesture of the hand, and a ‘no, thank you’?”

“Do you realize it’s homicide you’re talking about?” I said drily and quietly, trying to appeal to any shred of rationality she might still possess.

“How interesting that you should appeal to the outrageousness of homicide in a conversation about the irrationality of fearing death.”

Once more, I didn’t know what to counter, but whatever she might be getting at, I had no intention of letting her win the argument. Something unknown inside me was pushing me to prove her wrong at all costs, to show she was mistaken. I passed a hand on the back of my neck, casting another look at the church as I wondered how bloody long it would still take for the funeral to come to a close. The girl, always as cool as a cucumber, resumed her stroll among the graves.

“Listen,” I told her, trying to show compassion, “I understand the pain you must have felt when—”

“I already told you that I have no relatives,” she interjected. “He did, though.” She stopped before another gravestone. “Read his birth and death years.”

The inscription said 1946 and 1951, respectively.

“I see,” I said. “He died still a child.”

“A real tragedy, was it not?”

“It certainly was,” I conceded. Despite her stubborn denial, I thought that contorted discourse might be her way of telling me her story. Perhaps, the person she’d lost had died an equally early death.

“Is it irrational to fear tragedy? When this child realized he was about to die, was it irrational of him to be afraid? What about his parents?”

Since I had met her, each and every of her words had been uttered in the calmest and most peaceful of ways. Not once had she lost her aplomb nor betrayed any anger or sorrow. There was no enmity in her words but no indifference either. From where she was standing, I thought, she was simply discussing a topic that interested her very much, displaying exemplary cool-headedness and firmness.

“This is a special case,” I observed. “His death was very much premature.”

Without ever taking her eyes off me, she moved to a couple of graves a few steps away. “He was 67 when he died,” she said pointing at the epitaph on one of the headstones. “Was he ‘ripe’ enough for death that his passing cannot be considered a tragedy?”

“I… I know nothing about this man,” I attempted to justify myself.

“He took his own life. His health was deteriorating, and he could not cope. So, was this a ripe enough death?”

“How do you—”

“I just know.” The girl pointed to the grave next to the man’s. It bore the same family name as his. “After he died, she lived fifteen more years, though it was no longer the same without him. She had a heart attack, at age 85. Was this a tragedy, or was she old enough?”

“Look, what do you want me to say?” I burst out, spreading out my arms. “I’m sorry for these people, but death is a part of life. You must learn to accept it.”

“Not my problem,” she replied, puzzlingly.

“Oh, isn’t it now?” I asked, simply unable to conceal sarcastic defiance. I sat on the border of a flower bed, shaking my head in frustration and disbelief.

“No, it is not,” she replied, barely shaking her head. “Besides, not all that is part of life is accepted without question. For example, infant mortality. It was a part of life until you found a way to eliminate it almost entirely. Most parents of all times had to accept that, probably, some of their children would never live to be grown-ups. Yet, it is no longer so.”

“Whatever do you mean ‘until you found’? Are you an alien?”

“No,” she said, not bothered in the least by my sarcasm.

“Listen,” I said as I sprung up, determined to make things clear once and for all. “I don’t even know your name, and—”

“You do.”

“No, I don’t,” I went on undaunted, “and I’m getting tired of you acting mysterious. I tried to be patient, because despite your obstinate denying it, it’s glaringly obvious that you suffered a tremendous loss recently—quite likely the person in that coffin right now,” I said pointing to the church once more. “I am sorry for your loss. I mean it. I must admit that façade of absolute tranquillity you put up could fool anyone, but I can tell you’re shaken up. Do you want me to say that death is not a nice thing to think about? Fine, it isn’t. But it is inevitable. And at the end of the day, that’s good, because just like many other unpleasant things in life, death is also necessary.”

“It happens every time,” she nodded musingly.

“What?”

“Every time you begin to realize that death is nothing like the indulgent metaphors you use to describe it, thinking of its inevitability pushes you to look for other ways to justify it. Bearing with a horror that is both inevitable and useless would be too much; and as it can’t be but a horror, you need to find it a purpose.”

“You’re blowing it out of proportion,” I objected firmly. “Granted, diseases, wars, and calamities cause useless deaths. They are horrors, I agree; that’s not the natural end of a human being, and indeed we do our best to avoid those deaths. But the circle of life must close itself for the common good. That’s not a horror but only the natural order of things. An endless life would also be meaningless and would wind up being a sentence to eternal tedium. Besides, it would be so problematic on so many levels I can’t even begin to count them.”

“What’s a human being’s ‘natural end’?” she asked, completely unimpressed by my speech.

I snorted in annoyance. “You’re just pulling my leg now.”

“No.”

“All right, if you really want to play dumb. The natural end of human beings is death by aging. We are born, we grow up, we live our lives, and finally we walk into the sunset. You can see this kind of cycle everywhere. Without it, life itself wouldn’t be possible.”

“Are you sure,” she inquired, “that what you’re talking about isn’t just the umpteenth item on the long list of obvious and incontrovertible truths that were such only until someone had the effrontery to prove them false?”

“What the devil are you—”

“Can you claim without fear of contradiction that it is absolutely necessary for everyone to die, sooner or later, in order for life to continue? Are you ready to prove to anyone old enough that their death is as necessary as is due? If it was possible to avoid age-related decline and death, would you oppose that on the grounds of your convictions, thereby sentencing to death every human being present and future? Are you so sure of your stance that you would deem reasonable, right, or acceptable, to ask everyone to sacrifice themselves in its name?”

Under any other circumstances, I would have thought that this rapid-fire sequence of questions was pompous, arrogant, and rhetorical. I would have laughed right in her face, called her haughty, and left. However, she had spoken candidly, without an ounce of arrogance or conceit. She had uttered those words with the same tone as any other word since I had met her—the tone of someone patiently waiting for you to realize that maybe you share the same views as her.

“I don’t feel like I can make this kind of moral judgement,” I stammered after a moment. “Maybe… Maybe I wouldn’t be so sure about it, but anyway…”

“Yes?” she encouraged me.

“…I don’t think it matters. I don’t think anyone would want to live forever. Yes, yes, I know what you’re about to say: myths, stories, films, and what have you have been talking about eternal life for centuries. I know you were about to say that; I figured out who I’m dealing with by now.”

“Not yet,” she smiled, “but you’re getting there. Please, do go on.”

I didn’t even attempt to understand what she meant, and I continued: “In fiction, the gift of eternal life appeals to many. It’s an attractive prospect, but it always turns out to be a double-edged sword. Nobody who has seriously reflected on it could ever really want to live forever. Sooner or later, we would lose motivation; there would be nothing new to do, see, or learn. Knowing that life is endless would make us unable to appreciate it, just like we would be unable to appreciate a nice sunny day, if all days were.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s obvious!” I stammered again, angrily, after a few moments spent looking for a more convincing argument to no avail. “After a century or two, what do you think there would—”

“If two people having this same conversation three centuries ago had been alive today, they would have had innumerable things to do, see, and learn that weren’t even imaginable at the time. Are you sure that human progress on all fronts has already come to an end? Do you believe that life can be appreciated only if it’s short? Maybe these are just assumptions that you make to help you banish your fear of death from your mind. If there was a moment when one is tired of life, wouldn’t you rather decide for yourself when this moment has arrived? Death may come when your desire to live is still strong or long after you had already lost it, without asking for your opinion first—just like I didn’t before I began this conversation.”

Something in the way she pronounced that last sentence sent shivers down my spine. Speechless and short of breath, I peered at her for a few moments, trying to understand what was the answer to what I had thus far avoided to ask her. She held my stare without flinching. Finally, I resolved to ask.

“Listen, what the hell do you want from me?” I burst out, surprised by the hatred I felt for her. “Why don’t you go and dump your pearls of wisdom on somebody else?”

I had to defend myself. That’s what I felt. That was the reason for my hatred. I didn’t know why, but I felt threatened. The threat could be averted only by putting an end to the conversation and forgetting about all that bloody nonsense.

“There is only you and me here,” she noted, as if she was pointing out the obvious.

Indeed, the cemetery was absolutely deserted, and thinking about it, it didn’t seem as if anyone at all had passed by during our conversation, which I had estimated to have lasted about an hour. I must have got carried away more than I thought, since I hadn’t even noticed that the nice blue sky of that day had turned a leaden shade; roaring thunders announced an upcoming storm.

“Then go back to your relatives at the funeral,” I went on irritated. I was no longer showing her any respect, as I thought she had proved herself unworthy of it. “What’s taking them so long?!”

“There is no funeral,” she said. “There never was.”

“I’ve got enough of your rubbish!” I growled, quickly moving closer to the church door. “Of course there’s a funeral, look at the…”

The funeral announcement was gone, as were all the funeral wreaths. There was no sign that anything at all had happened in that church on that day.

“What the devil—they couldn’t just finish and clear out that quickly without us noticing!” I said nervously, looking all around the church for any sign that anyone at all was there. “They must have taken out the coffin, how could I have missed that? We’ve been here the whole time!”

She followed me, and looking at me compassionately, she said: “I told you. There was never any funeral.”

“Rubbish!” I shouted as a lightning bolt loudly tore the sky open. I probably looked much crazier that she was, and I was surprised that she didn’t seem to be afraid of that.

“What the hell do you want?! What the hell do you want?!” I shouted again.

“I only want you to understand something that, deep inside, you already know.”

“What? That death is horrible? A tragedy? A disgrace? That there is some kind of holocaust going on without anybody noticing? What do you know if that’s what I think?”

Once more, she stared at me silently. Her silence was worth a thousand words.

“Moonshine!” I shouted in her face. “Everything is completely normal, and it’s perfectly fine as it is! Am I going to be dead someday? Everyone is? Fine by me! There is no holocaust, no disgrace, and no tragedy!”

“I wonder if you would still think that,” she mused, asking herself more than me, “if rather than by headstones we were surrounded by the poor bodies buried underneath.”

I didn’t know why, but suddenly I felt terrified that that horrible scene might be happening right behind me, as if driven by some kind of supernatural force. Petrified and short of breath, I stood silently, listening to her once more, jolting at the slightest sound coming from behind.

“It gives life its meaning and makes you appreciate it, spares you the tedium of too long an existence, even begins the afterlife… it’s the end of a cycle, a relief from the chores of life, a sunset, a quiet and peaceful rest, an eternal sleep…” The girl chuckled. She was wearing the same benevolent expression she always had, which made her even more unsettling. I said to myself that, if the dead were really rising from their graves behind me, I’d rather know than let them take me by surprise.

I turned abruptly.

The headstones were exactly where I had left them. I sighed deeply, in relief, slightly shivering at every blow of the cold wind from the upcoming storm.

“Is this how you imagine me?” I heard her ask from behind.

In that moment I was sure that, had I turned, I would see the girl transformed into a horrible cadaver. I swallowed hard, and once I found the courage, I turned quickly towards her. Luckily, I was wrong again.

“You really don’t come across as someone who doesn’t fear death,” she commented.

The dim glimmer of rationality left in me insisted that the girl was simply disturbed, and I was just letting the circumstances deceive me. Yet, I could not resist the temptation to finally ask her something that, in truth, I had already been tempted to ask her long before.

“Are you… are you death?”

“Is this how you imagine me?” she asked again, in a particularly eloquent tone.

It could not be. None of it made sense. How could such a beautiful girl ever be—

“I am not as beautiful as you think,” she chuckled almost timidly, looking away for an instant. “I am not a release, a sunset, quiescence, or an eternal sleep. I am nonexistence, oblivion, nothingness, annihilation, the loss of yourselves, destructor of possibilities and dreams. I don’t give life meaning, nor do I give anything; I take without giving. I am what is when you are no more. I am what is when even hope is lost. I am the end of all.”

“It can’t… It cannot be…” I stubbornly denied, shaking my head in panic. “That’s just nonsense… You… You’re crazy!” Quickly, I moved away from her to the exit, walking backwards to keep my eyes on her. She showed no intention of following me. “Stay away!” I ordered, regardless, pointing my finger at her threateningly. “I want nothing to do with you! Stay away!”

“I am glad you finally understand it,” she said, almost relieved.

I quickly turned around and ran away. I crossed the exit gate and kept running, and without ever looking back, I headed to the closest tram stop. I didn’t need transportation to get home, but I had an urge to get far away from that girl, whoever she might be. The passengers on the tram looked somewhat alarmed by my hasty and disorderly entrance, and were casting fleeting and diffident glances at me; regardless, the sight of normal human beings felt like being able to breathe again. I hurriedly collapsed on the first available seat, and only then did I notice with great stupor that it was late at night. I had no idea how that was possible; it was barely past midday when the girl approached me, and there was no chance it could be that late now. Yet, according to my wristwatch, it was past 10 P.M. To hell with it, I didn’t care; all that mattered was getting far away from that unsettling nutter and getting home as soon as possible. I took a deep breath and tried to relax, mentally calculating the stop at which I should get off. I couldn’t help looking around, every now and again, just to make sure she wasn’t there, among the passengers, observing me with that disturbingly benevolent air of hers.

He might have run away from the girl, but he cannot run away from himself.

Part II

I feel ashamed admitting to this, but I proceeded with wariness all the way to my door. That late at night, I didn’t meet anyone in the hallways or in the elevator. At first, I didn’t even want to take the elevator, as I was afraid that the girl might suddenly appear before me when the doors opened as I got in or out; however, for some reason, the idea of taking the stairs felt even worse, nearly terrifying. After hesitating some, I chose to take the elevator. Once I reached my door, I inserted the key in the lock, and after a moment of hesitation, I began turning it. At each turn, which echoed sinisterly in the hallway, I stopped as if to check that the sound didn’t attract the attention of God knows what supernatural creatures lurking in the dark. Absolutely nothing looked different than usual, yet I felt like a character in a horror movie.

I opened a crack between the door and the frame, stuck a hand in, and frantically searched for the light switch on the wall. “Finally home,” I said in an annoyed and embarrassingly loud and shaky voice to no one in particular, while still searching for the switch with no success. Once I found it, I flicked it, and as soon as the light went on, I pulled the door wide open, ran in, and finally slammed the door shut behind me.

I stopped on the doorstep for a moment and looked around, making sure no one was there. I pushed open the sliding door of the coat rack all of a sudden, to catch by surprise whoever might have been hiding in it; relieved that nobody was there, I hung my coat. I took off my shoes and went to the restroom, while still exploring my surroundings guardedly, trying to convince myself I was now calm and no longer afraid.

I washed my face, trying not to look at the mirror for fear that it might show one reflection too many.

Oddly, I wasn’t hungry at all, but I did feel like having a hot drink. I fixed myself a hot chocolate. I left the boiling hot mug on the table and sat down.

That girl was not death. She couldn’t be. Death is not a creature or an entity; it has no legs or arms, and it does not speak. It’s just an abstraction, a metaphysical concept, the name we give to the status of a living being that is no longer such. She was just a poor devil who had lost many of her marbles, or maybe she was shocked by the death of a loved one, or both. Granted, many sinister and unsettling coincidences had happened, and at the end of the day, I am quite impressionable, but it had all been just a trick of fate, nothing more. I wouldn’t be the first person to lose track of time, not notice a storm coming, or just plain not pay attention to what was going on around me. The girl wore black, but maybe she wasn’t there for a funeral. Maybe the funeral was over without me noticing it, or maybe it was true that it never happened—after all, a few suits and ties headed towards a church don’t necessarily mean that anybody died. I wasn’t even sure that I had actually seen any funeral announcements or flower wreaths.

It was an interesting story to tell at my next Halloween party, nothing more.

It was really disturbing how she seemed to be able to read my mind. She had replied to my questions or objections before I could even finish saying them in more than one occasion—sometimes, before I could even finish thinking them up. I’d rather believe she was absurdly intelligent, or even a telepath, than accept that she might actually be death.

Even assuming she actually was death, why would she come to me and speak ill of herself? To persuade me that death is an evil and we should stop sugar coating it? To what end? What would she expect me to do? To “kill” her where she was standing and set the world free from death?

Ridiculous, I thought to myself, shaking my head.

At any rate, that’s not what death—I mean, the girl wanted from me. In her words, she wanted me to understand something that, deep inside, I already knew. But I didn’t share her views at all; I mean, death is part of the natural order of things, I told myself, and even though hardly anyone is happy to die, that’s just the way it is. Death is necessary. Sure, I must admit that the whole of human progress hinges on the search for ways to improve quality of life and avoid death for as long as possible, and there is no reason we shouldn’t prevent deaths that actually are preventable or that happen too soon; that’s why doctors, hospitals, and safety measures exist in the first place, but…

Too soon, I repeated mentally. She had stressed that point a lot. I stood up, leaving my chocolate to cool down on the table, and I took a few steps towards the window, where I stopped to look at the downpour I had barely managed to avoid.

When is it “too early” to die? In your thirties? Forties? Sixties? I had never thought about it before, but now I couldn’t help but wonder about something that the girl had asked me. Suppose for the sake of argument that we didn’t grow old; imagine that we just grew up and that our health didn’t inevitably begin deteriorating sooner or later. Would we still think it isn’t “too early” to die at age 80? As a matter of fact, one might think that the reason why we normally think it is acceptable to die after your seventies is that it just happens and we can’t do anything to prevent it. Maybe it is not because of wisdom that we accept death at later ages without feeling outraged and without putting up a fight, like we do in the case of “premature” deaths; maybe we are just putting a good face on a really bad game.

No; no. Normally, the average lifespan is more than enough to live your life as a normal human being; it’s more than enough for you to grow up, go to school, get a job, and start a family, for example. Though it is also true, I was forced to admit, that human life is structured as a function of its duration and our health at every age. If we were always perfectly healthy, we would have no need to plan for old age, because in a way, it would never come. Maybe retirement would turn into just a holiday of a few years, and after your batteries are charged again you would be able to start over, perhaps in a different environment or even a new job, maybe.

What about the traditional milestones dictating the rhythm of our lives? Are they all one can aspire to? Is your life complete once you have had a career and grandkids? Is that time to die? What about people who never managed, for one reason or another, to do all they wanted to do before death? If death really must come, why must we first endure years of constant decline and deterioration—not only our own, but also that of our loved ones?

These issues had always seemed to be too far into the future to concern myself with them, but then I realized that, one day, they would be my problem too. It’s not like I didn’t know it; I did. Yet, somehow, the notion hadn’t really sunk in. I had always felt as if there was infinite time between me and old age. Being old and diseased, slowly heading to the grave, had always seemed to be somewhat of an unlikely and fanciful occurrence; laughable, even, and I laughed at it more than once. I had always thought that I laughed at death because I wasn’t afraid of it in the slightest, but now I was growing more and more suspicious that, in truth, I might have been whistling past the graveyard all along.

I suddenly moved away from the window and grabbed the mug on the table, hoping that a few sips of chocolate might help me calm down and ease the pain coming from the lump that had formed in my throat. Swallowing was hard and hurt, as if a tangle of old, withered knobby roots ran through my throat. My breath was heavy and labored, my hands were shaking, and my wish not to be left alone was so strong that even the company of the very girl who had unleashed this nightmare would have been preferable to the solitude of my flat.

I shook my head repeatedly. I wanted nothing to do with any of this. I didn’t give a damn whether the girl was right or not, nor did I care whether I agreed with her or not. All that I wanted to do was to put the lid back on Pandora’s box and bury it deep under the ocean so that it could never be found again. I wanted my old life back, the one I had and was perfectly content with up until that last, cursed morning: my job, my friends, the usual rhythms and milestones that everyone goes through. The ones that everyone goes through because everyone does and no one has much of a choice.

She’d planted the seeds of those thoughts in my mind, and they kept blossoming, nullifying my efforts to extirpate them and convince myself that I was as happy with the finitude of human life as I always had been; anxiety had me in a tight grip as I realized that I was no longer able to believe that old lie. Pragmatically, I told myself that, whether I liked it or not, old age comes for everyone and is inevitable; torturing myself like this would have no point. Debating whether or not it was right or desirable for every life to be abruptly terminated after years of deterioration would accomplish nothing but ruin the time I had left before deterioration would begin for me. I simply had to get over this.

Maybe, the girl would have said that this too was sugaring the pill.

I was exhausted, anxiety eating me alive and thoughts tangled up. Like a huge spiderweb, the more I tried to break free, the more I was enmeshed. I took a sleeping pill and resolved to put an end to that terrible day. The next day, I figured, I would wake up serene, as if nothing had ever happened.

Part III

Right after you wake up, there is a brief moment when you don’t yet know how you feel. That Sunday morning, that moment was even shorter than usual. The same anxiety as the previous night assailed me even before I could get out of bed.

The clock on the shelf said it was 11:30. I had slept almost 12 hours straight, but I wasn’t rested at all. Tired and depressed, I got up with difficulty, with a constant feeling of imminent catastrophe. I cast a glance out the window, and I noticed that the sky was clear and bright again. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the streets too were perfectly dry, as if it hadn’t rained for days. Indeed, the sun seemed to be very hot.

Near the sink was dishware that I hadn’t noticed the night before; I must have left it there at least since Friday night. I hoped some coffee would help cheer me up at least a bit, and I took a mug from the cabinet without even looking.

I left the coffee maker grumbling on the stove and went to wash my face. I looked terrible, which was no surprise, since I had had a terrible night. My sleep had been studded with horrible nightmares, although I hadn’t woken up screaming; rather, I’d been tossing and turning all night, moaning in my sleep nearly incessantly. I recalled a labyrinthine indoor cemetery; people dying of old age all around me, claiming to be very happy about it while I desperately tried to make them understand it was wrong; me and the graveyard girl, together somewhere in my old high school, as if we were classmates; me assisting my mother on her deathbed, listening her accusing me to make excuses for something; and many others which I thankfully almost didn’t remember at all.

I went back to the kitchen to pour my coffee, noticing in passing that I was using the same mug as the previous night. Apparently, I had been so much in shock that I wasn’t even aware of washing it and putting it back in the cabinet.

I drank my coffee and managed to push down a few biscuits. Not only was I still anxious, I hadn’t changed my mind either. That unexpected and visceral desire to avoid old age and death, and the realization that no stale moralism would be enough to extinguish it anymore, were still there where I had left them the night before. At the same time, I had a second, equally strong desire that the former could somehow disappear and take my anxiety down with it, setting me free from that apparently insolvable dilemma.

For some reason, I had an urge to check something on the Internet. According to statistics I found after a few moments spent searching, about a hundred and fifty thousand people die every day, of which about a hundred thousand die of old age. I realized that out there was an army of people who, just like me until the day before, didn’t think that the loss of those hundred thousand lives was a problem at all; rather, they probably thought that it was good that most people died of old age; otherwise, they would have died of something else and thus “prematurely”. This army of people was basically shrugging at two thirds of all deaths that happen every single day. Maybe there really was a constant holocaust to which no one was paying attention.

I backed away from my computer. I was blaming people for their indifference, but what else could they do? They were right: if you do not die of old age, it’s because you died of something else first. What was the better option? There didn’t seem to be a third one, and nearly everyone would choose to die later rather than sooner. The girl, I said to myself, would probably have said that this was a sign that the idea of dying is much more disturbing than people like to admit, and it upsets far more people than we think. Apparently, showing distress was acceptable only during a funeral; in any other circumstances, death is either ignored or justified, at least when it comes to death by aging.

The girl indeed.

I really didn’t think I would be able to talk about this with other people without coming across as a lunatic; I myself had thought that the girl had lost her mind. I was full of doubts and questions, and I wanted nothing more than to put an end to that oppressing anxiety. The previous night, I had screamed in her face that I didn’t want anything to do with her any more, but now I felt that, as crazy as she might be, the girl was the only person I could talk to about this. She might be able to answer at least some of the very questions that she made me ask myself.

The problem was that I had no way to find her. I had no idea who she actually was, what her name was, or where she lived. There was no way to trace her. The only thing I could think of was going back to the graveyard, hoping she was still there for some reason. I knew that this was a forlorn hope, and even if I did find her again strolling among the graves, I had no idea how she could actually be of help. I doubted she had any idea on how not to die of old age without dying of something else first. Regardless, I wanted to see her. It was worth a shot.

I left home, heading again to the graveyard. The day was even hotter than I had imagined, and as I had observed before, the flower beds were so dry that it really didn’t seem like it had rained at all during the night. On my way to the graveyard, I noticed that I looked at people differently, whether they were chatting with acquaintances, jogging, or just annoyed because they were late for the bus. It was a day like any other in the life of those people, and probably none of them spent much time thinking that sooner or later those days would be over or that health is in short supply. Equally probably, I thought, nearly all those people would agree that, from their perspective, none of those things was a problem. This thought made me feel as if I were the only sane person in a loony bin—which, paradoxically, led me to question my own sanity.

Then again, if those people had realized what I realized, wouldn’t they just end up like me and become prisoners of their own anxiety and of the thought of being stuck in a horrible situation with no way out? Wasn’t it better to lie to yourself for the sake of serenely living out the time you have left? As the girl had tried to make me understand, maybe this is why most people refuse to take this step: once you do, there is no turning back, and you must accept the consequences.

Lost in my own thoughts as I was, I didn’t realize that I had already made it to the entrance of the cemetery. Distraction wasn’t the only reason, though. The cemetery was hardly recognizable, as it was surrounded by scaffolding, crush barriers, and signs warning away trespassers. By the looks of it, the construction site must have been there for quite some time already; it certainly hadn’t been hastily pieced together that morning. I looked around for a while, confused and stupefied. There was no doubt that I was in the right place; I recognized the very same gate through which I had literally fled the night before, but it was closed and locked, and it bore a sign stating that it had been under renovation since two weeks ago. Dumbfounded, I explored the entire perimeter of the cemetery, but the sign was clearly correct. There was even a notice on the church saying that functions wouldn’t take place for a few weeks, and they had been suspended for a while already.

I was sure then that there had been no funeral the day before. Nor had I actually met that girl, apparently. I couldn’t have even set foot in that cemetery in the previous two weeks.

I stood there where I was, looking at the cemetery speechless, almost dazed, wondering if I had gone mad. After a few moments, I began walking away, heading home again, trying to no avail to find an explanation for the events of the previous day—assuming they had even happened.

Once I was home again, the dishes near the sink caught my attention once more. I thought again about the mug that I didn’t remember washing. Maybe I hadn’t washed it; maybe I didn’t drink that chocolate Saturday night, and maybe I dined at home, neglecting to do dishes. Maybe there had been no cloudburst. If that were the case, then the whole encounter and the rest of the events of that night had all been dreams.

All the neighbors I spoke with confirmed that not a single drop of water had rained the day before; however, I wasn’t brave enough to ask my acquaintances whether they remembered spending the day with me. For days, I kept wondering what had actually happened until I gave up and accepted that the entire experience must have existed only in my mind. Probably, I reasoned, unconscious thoughts had been bubbling up for a while and had finally burst out, making that surreal experience come to life as some kind of a dream. I cannot tell for certain whether I had this dream Saturday night or I had had some sort of hallucination; I can’t explain the extreme realism of the experience, and the only way to explain the amnesia would involve me sleeping through all of Saturday. I spoke to a psychotherapist some weeks later, and although I didn’t tell him everything about my experience, he said that I was sound of mind. I hope that’s true.

Despite my conviction that the girl was a dream or a hallucination, for months, I kept hoping to bump into her again, though in vain. More than once, I was sure that I had spotted her among the crowd, or recognized her as a passerby, barely avoiding making a fool of myself nearly every time.

It’s been months now. I have given up and accepted that the girl doesn’t really exist and that I will never see her again. Maybe I will dream about her, but I haven’t been so lucky thus far. In any case, that girl has profoundly changed me. Now that death herself has come and spoken to me to her own detriment, I won’t be able to look at her as I used to anymore—or rather, as I thought I did. Luckily, my anxiety has been mitigated somewhat, mostly turning into a desire to find a way out of this vicious circle that has cost and still costs millions of people their lives. Unfortunately, at the moment, I don’t even know if this is at all plausible.

The girl will hardly be able to give me any of the answers I need, so I will have to look for them elsewhere. I am afraid that many people would think my point of view on death is presumptuous at best and that they would hardly take me seriously.

However, somewhere in the world, there might be someone else to whom she has spoken like she did to me.

Now a life extension advocate at the beginning of his journey, he finds himself in a tough spot. We don’t know if, in his fictional world, science has begun realizing as it did in ours that aging is amenable to medical intervention, nor do we know if versions of LEAF and similar advocacy organizations exist there as well. Luckily for us, in our world, the situation is much clearer and it’s looking good; our understanding of aging is deep enough to envision interventions against it, and a very supportive community already exists. If you wish to join it, find out how here.

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.