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

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

Arin Vahanian


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Hill


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

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


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

Developing anti-aging therapies in dogs is the first step

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene therapy trial for mitral valve disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

About  Steve Hill

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

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

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

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

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

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

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

David Wood


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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Futuristicamente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working together

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving faster

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

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

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

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

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

Time for action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Aubrey de Grey Accelerates His Estimates – Article by Steve Hill

Dr. Aubrey de Grey Accelerates His Estimates – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, Mr. Steve Hill highlights a recent webinar where Dr. Aubrey de Grey, the Biogerontology Advisor of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, revised his projections for the arrival of rejuvenation treatments in a more optimistic direction. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, April 16, 2019


On January 28, 2019, we held a webinar with the SENS Research Foundation as part of a new ongoing series of research webinars. During the webinar, we asked Dr. Aubrey de Grey how close we might be to achieving robust mouse rejuvenation (RMR) and robust human rejuvenation, and his answer was somewhat surprising.

RMR is defined as reproducibly trebling the remaining lifespan of naturally long-lived (~3 years average lifespan) mice with therapies begun when they are already two years old.

Dr. de Grey now suggests that there is a 50/50 chance of achieving robust mouse rejuvenation within 3 years from now; recent interviews and conversation reveal that he’d adjusted this figure down from 5-6 years. He has also moved his estimation of this to arrive from around 20 years to 18 years for humans.

So, what is the basis for this advance in schedule? Dr. de Grey is more optimistic about how soon we might see these technologies arrive, as the level of crosstalk between damages appears to be higher than he originally anticipated a decade ago. This means that robust mouse and human rejuvenation may be easier than he previously believed.

We also asked Dr. de Grey which of the seven damages of aging was the most challenging to address. Originally, he thought solving cancer through OncoSENS methods was the biggest challenge in ending age-related diseases. However, intriguingly, he speaks about his enthusiasm for immunotherapy and how it may potentially solve the cancer issue and negate the need for Whole-body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres (WILT), which was always considered a last-resort approach to shutting down cancer.

There are two main components of the WILT approach. The first is to delete telomerase-producing genes from as many cells as possible, as human cancers lengthen telomeres through one of two available pathways, and the second is to avoid the harmful consequences of our cells no longer having telomerase by periodically transplanting fresh stem cells, which have also had their telomerase-associated genes knocked out, to replace losses.

This approach has always been considered extreme, and Dr. de Grey has always acknowledged that this was the case. However, over a decade ago when Dr. de Grey and Michael Rae originally proposed this in the book Ending Aging, immunotherapy was simply not on the radar. Now, there are alternatives to WILT that show true potential and less need for radical solutions, and it is reassuring to see that Dr. de Grey is so enthusiastic about them.

He now suggests that MitoSENS is probably the most challenging to tackle of the seven types of damage in the SENS model of aging. This is no surprise given that DNA and mtDNA damage are highly complex issues to fix.

On that note, we asked Dr. Amutha Boominathan from the MitoSENS team which mitochondrial gene was their next target after they had successfully created nuclear copies of the ATP-6 and ATP-8 genes.

MitoSENS will be launching a new fundraising campaign on Lifespan.io later this year with the aim of raising funds to progress to more of the mitochondrial genes. This time, the aim will be to move the approach to an animal model and demonstrate how it could be used to correct mitochondrial defects.

Finally, if you are interested in getting involved directly with these webinars and joining the live audience, check out the Lifespan Heroes page.

About  Steve Hill

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

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

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

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

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

In Defense of Resurrecting 100 Billion Dead People – Article by Sarah Chowhugger

In Defense of Resurrecting 100 Billion Dead People – Article by Sarah Chowhugger

Sarah Chowhugger


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party has published this manifesto by Sarah Chowhugger to bring attention to a prospect for a more distant future – the technological resurrection of those who have already died. This idea has been posited by such proto-transhumanist thinkers as the Russian Cosmist Nikolai Fyodorov and is involved to various degrees in transhumanist projects such as cryonics, the creation of mindfiles, brain preservation, and the pursuit of various approaches toward mind uploading. There also arise various philosophical dilemmas as to the identities of such hypothetically resurrected individuals. Would they indeed be continuations of the original individuals’ lives, or, rather, close replicas of those individuals, with similar memories and patterns of thinking but distinct “I-nesses” which would come into being upon “resurrection” instead of continuing the “I-nesses” of the original individuals? For a more detailed exploration of this question, please see the essay “How Can Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” (Gennady Stolyarov II, 2010). Nonetheless, even if a “resurrected” individual is a distinct person from the original, it may be valuable to have that person’s memories and patterns of thinking and acting available in the future. However, the question of the continuity of identity is crucial for addressing the issues of justice raised in the article by Ms. Chowhugger. For example, if a “resurrected” individual is not the same person as the original, it would not appear to be justified to hold that individual responsible for any transgressions committed by the original, previously deceased individual. Thoughts on these and other relevant questions and ideas are welcome in the comments for this article.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, March 24, 2019


One of the long-term goals of the transhumanist movement is the physical resurrection of every single human being who has passed away since the beginning of homo sapiens as a species. This would entail using highly advanced technology to resurrect approximately 100 billion people. This sounds implausible. This sounds absolutely mad. But I would argue that it still has to be done. This is not only a potential project humanity must consider; it must be an absolutely imperative goal. In my argument below, I will explain some of the reasons why humanity needs to consider the scientific resurrection of every deceased human being in history to be an imperative long-term goal for all of humanity.

If there’s no afterlife, we have to make one for ourselves.

Unless there is some completely unforeseen breakthrough in science providing conclusive evidence that human consciousness can survive outside the brain beyond there, it is safe to say that developments in neuroscience have very much proven that all religious notions of the afterlife do not exist. If you take an agnostic position about the afterlife and claim that there is still a possibility that a physically-manifested afterlife could exist out there and one day be scientifically proven, fair enough. But I personally believe that we have a higher likelihood of finally being able to travel to a parallel universe only to discover that it is entirely inhabited by sentient Pikachus or clones of Brad Pitt.

An unfortunate position which currently plagues the modern atheist community is one of existential nihilism. The vast majority of atheists acknowledge that the afterlife does not physically exist.

But that’s defying the laws of nature!

And since when have things being unnatural stopped us from recognizing and utilizing their beneficial aspects? Birth control is unnatural; so is laser eye surgery. So are motor vehicles, and so is all of modern medicine. At this point I would like all our readers that there are people out there adamantly trying to stop their children from being vaccinated against measles on the grounds that vaccination is “unnatural”. Perhaps one day our descendants living in an age when technologically-enabled resurrection is as common as Botox shots or bypass surgeries are today will look back at us in condescending amusement.

You have a personal stake in it; so does everyone you love. If you had the option to be revived and continue living indefinitely after your initial demise, would you choose it?

You might ask, “What value is there in resurrecting a random Chinese peasant from the 15th century?” but one day in the far future, our descendants who actually have the viable technology to execute this may ask the same of you and your family.

It’s the economy, bruh.

Consider this final practical implication of the mass technological resurrection of 100 billion deceased people: it’s going to need a lot of manpower and a lot of resources to carry out. And it’s going to be a very long-term process from start to finish. One of the biggest concerns amongst economists right now is the possibility that artificial intelligence will leave the vast majority of the human population unemployed, or underemployed. Imagine the vast number of jobs that could be created if the governments of the world collaborated to undertake a massive resurrection project. We would not just need scientists and engineers to complete the biological process. A major implication our future descendants will have to deal with is the moral re-education of those who lived in more backwards societies or time periods. Imparting modern notions of racial and gender equality to the vast majority of people born before the 1900s is going to be no mean feat. So will educating them about the major historical events and technological advancements that have taken place since their passing.

The ultimate reparative justice

The current run-up to the 2020 US presidential elections has reignited the debate about whether or not African-Americans should receive reparations as a form of compensation for the injustices done to their ancestors during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Shashi Tharoor caused an international stir with his claims that Britain has a moral obligation to pay reparations to India for the economic damage and loss of lives caused by the ravages of british colonialism. However, I would now like to propose an even more radical solution to the question of reparative justice for historical systemic injustices. What if we resurrected all 25 million slaves who were captured and trafficked during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and then awarded compensation to each one of them? What if we resurrected all 26 million Russians killed during the Nazi invasion of the USSR and offered personal compensation to them, as well as telling them of the satisfying knowledge that the Nazis were the losers at the end of World War II. Zoltan Istvan has remarked that he himself has Jewish acquaintances who would be happy to see Hitler get resurrected if only to see him get officially tried in court and sentenced (presumably to an exceptionally harsh prison sentence like 6 million years of hard labor). Through resurrecting victims of past injustices, we could pursue the a direct form of reparative justice and give them the peace of mind they have been waiting decades, centuries, or even millennia to receive.

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

This Was No Victory – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

This Was No Victory – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

R. Nicholas Starr


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party has published this dissenting view by our member R. Nicholas Starr, in response to the USTP’s efforts to mitigate the harms of the proposal in Nevada’s Assembly Bill 226 (AB226) to ban participation in voluntary programs for the implantation of microchips. The USTP issued a statement regarding the success of our efforts here. We would recommend that our members read both the USTP’s statement and Mr. Starr’s dissenting point of view and arrive at their own thoughts as to the extent to which, if any, AB226, as amended, would continue to pose barriers, risks, and/or inconveniences to research efforts and attempts at personal self-improvement through technology which the USTP wholly supports. It is also noteworthy that AB226 has not yet been enacted into law. It will still need to come before a vote of the full Assembly Floor Session, after which the bill would move to the Senate, where a public hearing and a Senate Judiciary Committee work session would need to be held before a full Senate vote. The public hearing in the Senate would be the opportunity of those with remaining concerns to testify on AB226. Furthermore, the Nevada Legislature website allows members of the public to submit their opinions about specific bills, and it is also possible to contact Assemblyman Richard “Skip” Daly,  the sponsor of AB226, as well as the Assembly Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee to express one’s views. AB226 can also be monitored on NELIS, the Nevada Legislature’s online informational system.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, March 17, 2019


TL;DR- Nevada still intends to ban voluntary NFC/RFID implants.

On March 15, 2019, the USTP claimed victory against legislation intended to ban all “microchip” implants. And while our last-minute action produced a result, it wasn’t one of any substance. If anything we fell victim to smart political wordsmithing, and I guess we’re supposed to be happy about that.

Nevada AB226 is a bill that, when it was first introduced, banned forced implantation of RFID/NFC tags, which they like to call microchips. On March 4th the bill’s original author, Skip Daly (D – Sparks), added an amendment banning voluntary implantation as well. This bill went to an Assembly Work Session on March 15th, where the amendment was modified, accepted, and passed out of Committee for vote on a later date. But to be clear, the modification of the amendment did nothing to stop a ban on voluntary NFC/RFID implants. Let’s examine the new language, which is contained in Subsection 3.

3. For the purposes of this section “microchip implant” means a near field communication technology that allows wireless communication of electronic devices over short distances where the device is intended to act as an identification marker.
(a) The term does not include any non-transmitting device, implant or marking for medical or for self-expression purposes or;
(b) Any transmitting medical device or implant provided the transmitting medical device or implant is not used as an identification marker and records or sends only the information necessary to carry out the primary purpose of the transmitting medical device or implant.

At the top of this section we see their definition for a microchip implant; that’s a pretty standard definition. The exception for medical devices in paragraph (b) also seems fairly well-thought-out and provides no issues. Subsection A is where the problem lies. It clarifies an exemption for NON-TRANSMITTING devices, implants, or other markers for medical or self expression purposes. Why are we talking about non-transmitting implants in a bill that is specifically about transmitting implants?

It’s a clever attempt by the author to placate naysayers with something that looks like a concession, if you skim past key words. And judging by the reaction of many over the past several days, it worked. The State of Nevada doesn’t have a problem with voluntary implants that don’t transmit anything. Just visit any strip club in the state if you want graphic proof of that. What is a non-transmitting implant? Breast augmentation, silicone horns, transdermal piercings… you get the idea. Inert stuff that we have been shoving under our skin for aesthetic purposes for a very long time now. These are all already legal and have their own regulations. They didn’t need to be included in the bill. The only purpose of adding this “exception” was to distract from the fact that they still want to ban implantable RFID/NFC tags.

And lots of transhumanists have these tags, myself included! We get these tags because they transmit a signal, given power by a reader, to complete various tasks. Many of us in the Party are actively using and developing this technology, and on March 15 the Party failed them – not for valiantly trying to stop the amendment, but for claiming victory over meaningless words that changed nothing. This was not a victory, and I’m embarrassed that anyone would say so. We got played.

But you know what? This does prove something that every transhumanist should consider. Providing remarks during public comment is not enough. We need active politicians who can use legislative tools and face-to-face debate to identify and stop attempts to placate us with empty words. Force them to look at the facts and stop them from doing damage to an individual’s freedom, especially in fear-based preemptive bills like this. To take a step in that direction, I have developed a Proposal to Establish a Legislative Action Framework on which I encourage input from our members.

Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party and the founder of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado

Bait and Switch on Nevada AB226 – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

Bait and Switch on Nevada AB226 – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

R. Nicholas Starr


TL;DR – Nevada Assembly Bill 226 is an attack on bodily autonomy hidden in a good idea.

On February 22nd, 2019, Assemblyman Skip Daly (D-Sparks) presented AB226 for review and debate. The act, in its original form, is a good thing. It prevents against forced implantation of a “microchip or other identifying marker”, punishable as a class C felony (up to 5 years in prison and/or $10,000 fine). Fantastic! No one should be forced to do anything to their bodies they don’t want to do! But on March 4th Daly proposed an amendment  to his own bill that also bans VOLUNTARY implantation. This is a staggering attack on bodily autonomy and self determination. To be clear, the exact language of the bill and amendment is below.

1. An officer or employee of this State or any political- subdivision thereof or any other person shall not~

(a- original language) Require another person to undergo the implantation of a microchip or other permanent identification marker of any kind or nature. 

(b- amendment) Establish or participate in a voluntary program for the implantation of a microchip or other permanent identification marker of any kind or nature.

2. A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

3. Each day or part of a day during which a violation of this section is continued or repeated constitutes a separate offense.

First of all, I find this amendment suspicious. Why would the original author amend his own bill that he said was inspired by a company’s voluntary program? It appears to me that the amendment’s ban on voluntary implantation was always the intent, but Daly knew that it would never pass on its own. And he’s right! Such a blatant attack on a person’s bodily autonomy, even under the pretense of privacy concerns, would certainly create resistance. And let’s be clear, today’s implants pose no privacy threat. They actually help maintain an individual’s privacy and data security. We also aren’t talking about dangerous devices or chemicals. These implants are extensively tested and biosafe. Any attempt to say otherwise is either deliberate, or ignorant, fear mongering.

The consequences of violating this act, in its amended form, are also extreme. I certainly support felony charges against a person forcing implantation on another. But voluntary implantation carrying the same punishment? That is beyond extreme. Let’s examine Sections 2 and 3 in a realistic scenario. DEF CON, an annual conference held in Las Vegas, has hosted biohacking and implantation during the event since 2015. Indeed, many have traveled to the conference to get their implants. If each implant is a separate offense, and each offense carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, the person performing the implantations could effectively earn a life sentence by lunch! All for agreeing to implant a biosafe tag in a person who volunteered and given their informed consent. 

Bodily autonomy and free determination: these are human rights that guarantee control over your own body. Getting “chipped”, or not, has always been a choice left to the individual with zero known incidents of forced implantation. Mr. Daly’s concern, while appearing noble on the surface, has no basis in reality, but rather arises out of fear and fiction. Sadly, those are two things easily sold these days. Let’s make sure we set the record straight and prevent a crisis where it doesn’t exist.

Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party and the founder of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado

 

Transhumanism and Tolerance – Article by Arin Vahanian

Transhumanism and Tolerance – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


In the midst of working on challenges as daunting and complex such as reversing aging, curing disease, and alleviating poverty, many people involved in Transhumanism understandably often do not have much time to stop and focus on other topics. This includes those not necessarily related to science, engineering, or medicine.

However, if we are to expand Transhumanism, change public perception, and debunk the claim that Transhumanism is a niche movement, I believe we should also explore themes that are less scientific or technical in nature. Indeed, we should focus not only on how Transhumanism is perceived among the general public, but we should also look at ourselves to see what sort of messages we are communicating through our daily words and actions.

If we agree that the main goal of Transhumanism is to ethically use science, technology, and other subjects in order to improve the human condition, then we are implying that Transhumanism can, and should, benefit all humans, and not just those who call themselves Transhumanists.

If this is true, then we must also take a deep look at whether our thoughts, beliefs, and actions are enabling all humans to partake in the benefits that we are advocating for, or whether we are unwillingly creating a gulf between those who agree with the goals of Transhumanism and those who disagree.

While terms such as “deathist” (used for people who argue that death is natural, inevitable, and even desirable) and “Luddite” (used for people who are opposed to new technologies) are usually well-intentioned, they come across as derogatory and might even dissuade people from getting involved in our movement and ultimately seeing its many benefits.

Indeed, nearly no one becomes receptive to a new idea if they feel they are being attacked. Rather, it is human nature to retreat and perhaps even become defensive when we feel that we are being criticized or when our worldview is being challenged.

We can find evidence to support nearly any conclusion. But rather than engage in mental gymnastics and become embroiled in needless debate, it is better to demonstrate one’s findings through action, with the intent of inspiring and enlightening, rather than lecturing and criticizing.

Transhumanism isn’t only for Transhumanists. It can be for anyone, whether that person is male, female, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, and no matter what occupation they hold or what their socioeconomic background may be. Indeed, a movement that promotes something as personal as morphological freedom (the right for one to modify their body as they wish) is a movement that is inclusive and empathetic to the needs of all humans, and not just a few.

Therefore, my call to action today is for us to be more tolerant of opposing viewpoints while at the same time demonstrating to the world the many benefits of Transhumanism and how it can improve the quality of life for humanity. Rather than vehemently arguing that a certain position is correct (while another is incorrect) with the hope that we will change people’s minds, we should calmly and rationally display how Transhumanism can improve the human condition, and then allow people to make up their own minds.

As much as it saddens me, there are plenty of people I have spoken with who say they do not wish to live indefinitely, and who do not believe the human life should be dramatically increased (even if that increase occurred alongside good health). No one can force anyone else to live healthier or longer. We must respect other people’s opinions, even if they differ from our own, and we must not take it upon ourselves to convince the whole of humanity to go down a certain path in life. Each person is responsible for their own life, and this includes the decision to take steps toward living longer and healthier.

What we should be focusing on, rather, is helping those who really want to be helped, while at the same time leaving the door open in the event that those who disagree might someday change their minds and decide to get involved in Transhumanism.

A movement, worldview, and philosophy with the word “human” in it shouldn’t be for a select few people. It should be for all humans, regardless of where they come from, what their socioeconomic background is, or what their religious or spiritual beliefs may be. This is because humanity, since the beginning of time, has strived to overcome challenges and transcend its limitations, and this desire isn’t limited to a small group of people.

Wanting to become a better person is part of being human. Defining ourselves as more than the sum of our limitations is what’s natural. If one of the goals of Transhumanism is to create better and more evolved humans, then we ourselves must be better and more evolved. We must set an example for the world of what is possible with the Transhumanist movement. And that begins with displaying traits such as tolerance, compassion, enthusiasm, and kindness, while working on projects and endeavors that will lead to improving the condition and quality of life for all humans.

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

James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Part 5) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Part 5) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

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Ojochogwu Abdul


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 5: Belief in Progress vs. Rational Uncertainty

The Enlightenment, with its confident efforts to fashion a science of man, was archetypal of the belief and quest that humankind will eventually achieve lasting peace and happiness. In what some interpret as a reformulation of Christianity’s teleological salvation history in which the People of God will be redeemed at the end of days and with the Kingdom of Heaven established on Earth, most Enlightenment thinkers believed in the inevitability of human political and technological progress, secularizing the Christian conception of history and eschatology into a conviction that humanity would, using a system of thought built on reason and science, be able to continually improve itself. As portrayed by Carl Becker in his 1933 book The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers, the philosophies “demolished the Heavenly City of St. Augustine only to rebuild it with more up-to-date materials.” Whether this Enlightenment humanist view of “progress” amounted merely to a recapitulation of the Christian teleological vision of history, or if Enlightenment beliefs in “continual, linear political, intellectual, and material improvement” reflected, as James Hughes posits, “a clear difference from the dominant Christian historical narrative in which little would change until the End Times and Christ’s return”, the notion, in any case, of a collective progress towards a definitive end-point was one that remained unsupported by the scientific worldview. The scientific worldview, as Hughes reminds us in the opening paragraph of this essay within his series, does not support historical inevitability, only uncertainty. “We may annihilate ourselves or regress,” he says, and “Even the normative judgment of what progress is, and whether we have made any, is open to empirical skepticism.”

Hereby, we are introduced to a conflict that exists, at least since after the Enlightenment, between a view of progressive optimism and that of radical uncertainty. Building on the Enlightenment’s faith in the inevitability of political and scientific progress, the idea of an end-point, salvation moment for humankind fuelled all the great Enlightenment ideologies that followed, flowing down, as Hughes traces, through Comte’s “positivism” and Marxist theories of historical determinism to neoconservative triumphalism about the “end of history” in democratic capitalism. Communists envisaged that end-point as a post-capitalist utopia that would finally resolve the class struggle which they conceived as the true engine of history. This vision also contained the 20th-century project to build the Soviet Man, one of extra-human capacities, for as Trotsky had predicted, after the Revolution, “the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise”, whereas for 20th-century free-market liberals, this End of History had arrived with the final triumph of liberal democracy, with the entire world bound to be swept in its course. Events though, especially so far in the 21st century, appear to prove this view wrong.

This belief moreover, as Hughes would convincingly argue, in the historical inevitability of progress has also always been locked in conflict with “the rationalist, scientific observation that humanity could regress or disappear altogether.” Enlightenment pessimism, or at least realism, has, over the centuries, proven a stubborn resistance and constraint of Enlightenment optimism. Hughes, citing Henry Vyberg, reminds us that there were, after all, even French Enlightenment thinkers within that same era who rejected the belief in linear historical progress, but proposed historical cycles or even decadence instead. That aside, contemporary commentators like John Gray would even argue that the efforts themselves of the Enlightenment on the quest for progress unfortunately issued in, for example, the racist pseudo-science of Voltaire and Hume, while all endeavours to establish the rule of reason have resulted in bloody fanaticisms, from Jacobinism to Bolshevism, which equaled the worst atrocities attributable to religious believers. Horrendous acts like racism and anti-Semitism, in the verdict of Gray: “….are not incidental defects in Enlightenment thinking. They flow from some of the Enlightenment’s central beliefs.”

Even Darwinism’s theory of natural selection was, according to Hughes, “suborned by the progressive optimistic thinking of the Enlightenment and its successors to the doctrine of inevitable progress, aided in part by Darwin’s own teleological interpretation.” Problem, however, is that from the scientific worldview, there is no support for “progress” as to be found provided by the theory of natural selection, only that humanity, Hughes plainly states, “like all creatures, is on a random walk through a mine field, that human intelligence is only an accident, and that we could easily go extinct as many species have done.” Gray, for example, rebukes Darwin, who wrote: “As natural selection works solely for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress to perfection.” Natural selection, however, does not work solely for the good of each being, a fact Darwin himself elsewhere acknowledged. Nonetheless, it has continually proven rather difficult for people to resist the impulse to identify evolution with progress, with an extended downside to this attitude being equally difficult to resist the temptation to apply evolution in the rationalization of views as dangerous as Social Darwinism and acts as horrible as eugenics.

Many skeptics therefore hold, rationally, that scientific utopias and promises to transform the human condition deserve the deepest suspicion. Reason is but a frail reed, all events of moral and political progress are and will always remain subject to reversal, and civilization could as well just collapse, eventually. Historical events and experiences have therefore caused faith in the inevitability of progress to wax and wane over time. Hughes notes that among several Millenarian movements and New Age beliefs, such faith could still be found that the world is headed for a millennial age, just as it exists in techno-optimist futurism. Nevertheless, he makes us see that “since the rise and fall of fascism and communism, and the mounting evidence of the dangers and unintended consequences of technology, there are few groups that still hold fast to an Enlightenment belief in the inevitability of conjoined scientific and political progress.” Within the transhumanist community, however, the possession of such faith in progress can still be found as held by many, albeit signifying a camp in the continuation therefore of the Enlightenment-bequeathed conflict as manifested between transhumanist optimism in contradiction with views of future uncertainty.

As with several occasions in the past, humanity is, again, currently being spun yet another “End of History” narrative: one of a posthuman future. Yuval Harari, for instance, in Homo Deus argues that emerging technologies and new scientific discoveries are undermining the foundations of Enlightenment humanism, although as he proceeds with his presentation he also proves himself unable to avoid one of the defining tropes of Enlightenment humanist thinking, i.e., that deeply entrenched tendency to conceive human history in teleological terms: fundamentally as a matter of collective progress towards a definitive end-point. This time, though, our era’s “End of History” glorious “salvation moment” is to be ushered in, not by a politico-economic system, but by a nascent techno-elite with a base in Silicon Valley, USA, a cluster steeped in a predominant tech-utopianism which has at its core the idea that the new technologies emerging there can steer humanity towards a definitive break-point in our history, the Singularity. Among believers in this coming Singularity, transhumanists, as it were, having inherited the tension between Enlightenment convictions in the inevitability of progress, and, in Hughes’ words, “Enlightenment’s scientific, rational realism that human progress or even civilization may fail”, now struggle with a renewed contradiction. And here the contrast as Hughes intends to portray gains sharpness, for as such, transhumanists today are “torn between their Enlightenment faith in inevitable progress toward posthuman transcension and utopian Singularities” on the one hand, and, on the other, their “rational awareness of the possibility that each new technology may have as many risks as benefits and that humanity may not have a future.”

The risks of new technologies, even if not necessarily one that threatens the survival of humanity as a species with extinction, may yet be of an undesirable impact on the mode and trajectory of our extant civilization. Henry Kissinger, in his 2018 article “How the Enlightenment Ends”, expressed his perception that technology, which is rooted in Enlightenment thought, is now superseding the very philosophy that is its fundamental principle. The universal values proposed by the Enlightenment philosophes, as Kissinger points out, could be spread worldwide only through modern technology, but at the same time, such technology has ended or accomplished the Enlightenment and is now going its own way, creating the need for a new guiding philosophy. Kissinger argues specifically that AI may spell the end of the Enlightenment itself, and issues grave warnings about the consequences of AI and the end of Enlightenment and human reasoning, this as a consequence of an AI-led technological revolution whose “culmination may be a world relying on machines powered by data and algorithms and ungoverned by ethical or philosophical norms.” By way of analogy to how the printing press allowed the Age of Reason to supplant the Age of Religion, he buttresses his proposal that the modern counterpart of this revolutionary process is the rise of intelligent AI that will supersede human ability and put an end to the Enlightenment. Kissinger further outlines his three areas of concern regarding the trajectory of artificial intelligence research: AI may achieve unintended results; in achieving intended goals, AI may change human thought processes and human values, and AI may reach intended goals, but be unable to explain the rationale for its conclusions. Kissinger’s thesis, of course, has not gone without both support and criticisms attracted from different quarters. Reacting to Kissinger, Yuk Hui, for example, in “What Begins After the End of the Enlightenment?” maintained that “Kissinger is wrong—the Enlightenment has not ended.” Rather, “modern technology—the support structure of Enlightenment philosophy—has become its own philosophy”, with the universalizing force of technology becoming itself the political project of the Enlightenment.

Transhumanists, as mentioned already, reflect the continuity of some of those contradictions between belief in progress and uncertainty about human future. Hughes shows us nonetheless that there are some interesting historical turns suggesting further directions that this mood has taken. In the 1990s, Hughes recalls, “transhumanists were full of exuberant Enlightenment optimism about unending progress.” As an example, Hughes cites Max More’s 1998 Extropian Principles which defined “Perpetual Progress” as “the first precept of their brand of transhumanism.” Over time, however, Hughes communicates how More himself has had cause to temper this optimism, stressing rather this driving principle as one of “desirability” and more a normative goal than a faith in historical inevitability. “History”, More would say in 2002, “since the Enlightenment makes me wary of all arguments to inevitability…”

Rational uncertainty among transhumanists hence make many of them refrain from an argument for the inevitability of transhumanism as a matter of progress. Further, there are indeed several possible factors which could deter the transhumanist idea and drive for “progress” from translating to reality: A neo-Luddite revolution, a turn and rise in preference for rural life, mass disenchantment with technological addiction and increased option for digital detox, nostalgia, disillusionment with modern civilization and a “return-to-innocence” counter-cultural movement, neo-Romanticism, a pop-culture allure and longing for a Tolkien-esque world, cyclical thinking, conservatism, traditionalism, etc. The alternative, backlash, and antagonistic forces are myriad. Even within transhumanism, the anti-democratic and socially conservative Neoreactionary movement, with its rejection of the view that history shows inevitable progression towards greater liberty and enlightenment, is gradually (and rather disturbingly) growing a contingent. Hughes talks, as another point for rational uncertainty, about the three critiques: futurological, historical, and anthropological, of transhumanist and Enlightenment faith in progress that Phillipe Verdoux offers, and in which the anthropological argument holds that “pre-moderns were probably as happy or happier than we moderns.” After all, Rousseau, himself a French Enlightenment thinker, “is generally seen as having believed in the superiority of the “savage” over the civilized.” Perspectives like these could stir anti-modern, anti-progress sentiments in people’s hearts and minds.

Demonstrating still why transhumanists must not be obstinate over the idea of inevitability, Hughes refers to Greg Burch’s 2001 work “Progress, Counter-Progress, and Counter-Counter-Progress” in which the latter expounded on the Enlightenment and transhumanist commitment to progress as “to a political program, fully cognizant that there are many powerful enemies of progress and that victory was not inevitable.” Moreover, the possible failure in realizing goals of progress might not even result from the actions of “enemies” in that antagonistic sense of the word, for there is also that likely scenario, as the 2006 movie Idiocracy depicts, of a future dystopian society based on dysgenics, one in which, going by expectations and trends of the 21st century, the most intelligent humans decrease in reproduction and eventually fail to have children while the least intelligent reproduce prolifically. As such, through the process of natural selection, generations are created that collectively become increasingly dumber and more virile with each passing century, leading to a future world plagued by anti-intellectualism, bereft of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, coherence in notions of justice and human rights, and manifesting several other traits of degeneration in culture. This is yet a possibility for our future world.

So while for many extropians and transhumanists, nonetheless, perpetual progress was an unstoppable train, responding to which “one either got on board for transcension or consigned oneself to the graveyard”, other transhumanists, however, Hughes comments, especially in response to certain historical experiences (the 2000 dot-com crash, for example), have seen reason to increasingly temper their expectations about progress. In Hughes’s appraisal, while, therefore, some transhumanists “still press for technological innovation on all fronts and oppose all regulation, others are focusing on reducing the civilization-ending potentials of asteroid strikes, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology.” Some realism hence need be in place to keep under constant check the excesses of contemporary secular technomillennialism as contained in some transhumanist strains.

Hughes presents Nick Bostrom’s 2001 essay “Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards” as one influential example of this anti-millennial realism, a text in which Bostrom, following his outline of scenarios that could either end the existence of the human species or have us evolve into dead-ends, then addressed not just how we can avoid extinction and ensure that there are descendants of humanity, but also how we can ensure that we will be proud to claim them. Subsequently, Bostrom has been able to produce work on “catastrophic risk estimation” at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford. Hughes seems to favour this approach, for he ensures to indicate that this has also been adopted as a programmatic focus for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) which he directs, and as well for the transhumanist non-profit, the Lifeboat Foundation. Transhumanists who listen to Bostrom, as we could deduce from Hughes, are being urged to take a more critical approach concerning technological progress.

With the availability of this rather cautious attitude, a new tension, Hughes reports, now plays out between eschatological certainty and pessimistic risk assessment. This has taken place mainly concerning the debate over the Singularity. For the likes of Ray Kurzweil (2005), representing the camp of a rather technomillennial, eschatological certainty, his patterns of accelerating trendlines towards a utopian merger of enhanced humanity and godlike artificial intelligence is one of unstoppability, and this Kurzweil supports by referring to the steady exponential march of technological progress through (and despite) wars and depressions. Dystopian and apocalyptic predictions of how humanity might fare under superintelligent machines (extinction, inferiority, and the likes) are, in the assessment of Hughes, but minimally entertained by Kurzweil, since to the techno-prophet we are bound to eventually integrate with these machines into apotheosis.

The platform, IEET, thus has taken a responsibility of serving as a site for teasing out this tension between technoprogressive “optimism of the will and pessimism of the intellect,” as Hughes echoes Antonio Gramsci. On the one hand, Hughes explains, “we have championed the possibility of, and evidence of, human progress. By adopting the term “technoprogressivism” as our outlook, we have placed ourselves on the side of Enlightenment political and technological progress.”And yet on the other hand, he continues, “we have promoted technoprogressivism precisely in order to critique uncritical techno-libertarian and futurist ideas about the inevitability of progress. We have consistently emphasized the negative effects that unregulated, unaccountable, and inequitably distributed technological development could have on society” (one feels tempted to call out Landian accelerationism at this point). Technoprogressivism, the guiding philosophy of IEET, avails as a principle which insists that technological progress needs to be consistently conjoined with, and dependent on, political progress, whilst recognizing that neither are inevitable.

In charting the essay towards a close, Hughes mentions his and a number of IEET-led technoprogresive publications, among which we have Verdoux who, despite his futurological, historical, and anthropological critique of transhumanism, yet goes ahead to argue for transhumanism on moral grounds (free from the language of “Marxism’s historical inevitabilism or utopianism, and cautious of the tragic history of communism”), and “as a less dangerous course than any attempt at “relinquishing” technological development, but only after the naive faith in progress has been set aside.” Unfortunately, however, the “rational capitulationism” to the transhumanist future that Verdoux offers, according to Hughes, is “not something that stirs men’s souls.” Hughes hence, while admitting to our need “to embrace these critical, pessimistic voices and perspectives”, yet calls on us to likewise heed to the need to “also re-discover our capacity for vision and hope.” This need for optimism that humans “can” collectively exercise foresight and invention, and peacefully deliberate our way to a better future, rather than yielding to narratives that would lead us into the traps of utopian and apocalyptic fatalism, has been one of the motivations behind the creation of the “technoprogressive” brand. The brand, Hughes presents, has been of help in distinguishing necessarily “Enlightenment optimism about the “possibility” of human political, technological and moral progress from millennialist techno-utopian inevitabilism.”

Presumably, upon this technoprogressive philosophy, the new version of the Transhumanist Declaration, adopted by Humanity+ in 2009, indicated a shift from some of the language of the 1998 version, and conveyed a more reflective, critical, realistic, utilitarian, “proceed with caution” and “act with wisdom” tone with respect to the transhumanist vision for humanity’s progress. This version of the declaration, though relatively sobered, remains equally inspiring nonetheless. Hughes closes the essay with a reminder on our need to stay aware of the diverse ways by which our indifferent universe threatens our existence, how our growing powers come with unintended consequences, and why applying mindfulness on our part in all actions remains the best approach for navigating our way towards progress in our radically uncertain future.

Conclusively, following Hughes’ objectives in this series, it can be suggested that more studies on the Enlightenment (European and global) are desirable especially for its potential to furnish us with richer understanding into a number of problems within contemporary transhumanism as sprouting from its roots deep in the Enlightenment. Interest and scholarship in Enlightenment studies, fortunately, seems to be experiencing some current revival, and even so with increasing diversity in perspective, thereby presenting transhumanism with a variety of paths through which to explore and gain context for connected issues. Seeking insight thence into some foundations of transhumanism’s problems could take the path, among others: of an examination of internal contradictions within the Enlightenment, of the approach of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s “Dialectic of Enlightenment”; of assessing opponents of the Enlightenment as found, for example, in Isaiah Berlin’s notion of “Counter Enlightenment”; of investigating a rather radical strain of the Enlightenment as presented in Jonathan Israel’s “Radical Enlightenment”, and as well in grappling with the nature of the relationships between transhumanism and other heirs both of the Enlightenment and the Counter-Enlightenment today. Again, and significantly, serious attention need be paid now and going forwards in jealously guarding transhumanism against ultimately falling into the hands of the Dark Enlightenment.


Ojochogwu Abdul is the founder of the Transhumanist Enlightenment Café (TEC), is the co-founder of the Enlightenment Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria (H+ Nigeria), and currently serves as a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party in Nigeria. 

James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Part 4) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Part 4) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

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Ojochogwu Abdul


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 4: Moral Universalism vs. Relativism

James Hughes’ essays on the problems of transhumanism continue with a discussion on conflicts, borrowed from the Enlightenment, between universalism and relativism within transhumanism. The Enlightenment event (European and global), in addition to its attack and severance of the roots of traditional European culture in the sacred, magic, kingship, and hierarchy, thereby secularizing all institutions and ideas, also (intellectually and to some extent in practice) effectively set on course the demolition of all legitimizing basis of monarchy, aristocracy, woman’s subordination to man, ecclesiastical authority, and slavery. These were replaced with the principles of universality, equality, and democracy. Included in this was also an argument for moral universalism, a position that ethics and law should apply equally to all humans.

Now, despite profound differences of outlook among the Enlightenment thinkers, there was a wide area of agreement about some fundamental points, i.e., the reality of natural law (in a formulation that signaled a departure from the language of orthodox Catholic or Protestant doctrine), of eternal principles the adherence to which alone could make humans enjoy wisdom, happiness, virtue, and freedom. For theists, deists and atheists, for optimists and pessimists, and for puritans, primitivists, as well as believers in progress and the finest fruits of science and culture, only and just one set of universal and unalterable principles governed the world. These laws were the principles that governed inanimate and animate nature, facts and events, means and ends, private and public life, as well as all societies, epochs and civilizations. Humans degenerate into crime, vice and misery only by failing to follow them. There may have been differences and disagreements among the Enlightenment thinkers about the nature of these laws, the process of their discovery, or who even possessed the qualification to expound them; but that these laws were real, and could be known, be it with certainty or probability, was the widely accepted and central “dogma” of the entire Enlightenment.

Enlightenment thinkers proposed that all humans should be accorded the Rights of Man, though the legitimacy itself of universal, equal rights was advanced by several varieties of argument within the Enlightenment. John Locke, for example, as Hughes explains, argued for universal rights on the grounds that in the human state of nature, as created by God before civilization, we were given possession of our bodies. All humans, therefore, possess these natural rights equally, and interference with individual rights violates natural and divine law. Thomas Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” rested upon this logic.

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