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Transhumanism and a Cure for Depression – Article by Arin Vahanian

Transhumanism and a Cure for Depression – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


In the quest to transcend humankind’s limits and take humanity to its next level of development physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, much is written and discussed about topics such as life extension and human augmentation. And this is for good reason, as humans have strived, since the beginning of time, to overcome their limits, do more, and be better. This includes, of course, living longer and healthier, which is among the most noble of all human goals.

However, in the midst of all this, there is a topic that is seldom discussed in Transhumanist circles, and that is the topic of depression, a condition which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), affects more than 300 million people worldwide.

Making matters worse is the fact that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, a major contributor to disease, and in some cases, leads to suicide.

Given these facts, one would think more should be done to combat the plague of depression, but alas, we appear to be stuck with outdated treatments for a condition that cripples large segments of humanity and for many, threatens the very possibility of living longer and healthier.

Contrary to what many people may believe, an individual suffering from depression cannot simply “snap out of it,” and there is, as of yet, no established cure for depression, as there is for diseases such as smallpox. Indeed, depression is a particularly thorny problem to solve for many reasons, which include the fact that diagnosing it isn’t as cut and dried as other conditions, but also that the treatments for it have thus far not been very efficacious.

Those treatments include pharmacological (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft), non-pharmacological (cognitive behavioral therapy), and technological (cranial electrotherapy stimulation) solutions. However, if we are honest with ourselves, the data reveals that what we have been doing hasn’t been very effective, given that depression is on the rise worldwide. According to the WHO, the total estimated number of people living with depression worldwide increased by 18.4 percent between 2005 and 2015 to 322 million. Even if this increase is due to better and more accurate diagnoses, the incidence of depression isn’t decreasing, which is cause for concern.

Given these statistics, it is time to do something other than what has been done before. It is time for a new approach and a new way of thinking when it comes to treating and curing depression. Transhumanism may offer that light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, Transhumanism may very well be humanity’s best hope for a cure for depression, because it leaves no stone unturned in the quest to live a life of fewer limits, as well as improved health, and greater happiness and fulfillment. Imagine what could be done to solve depression if we approached treatment and a cure not in the standard ways, but by harnessing the full power of science and technology to do whatever it takes to assist the hundreds of millions of people who are suffering.

For instance, why is the technology of deep brain stimulation approved for treating Parkinson’s Disease, which, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation, affects 10 million people worldwide, but not approved for treating depression, which affects more than 300 million people globally? Scientific and technological breakthroughs should be leveraged to relieve the suffering of all people, and not just a few. This is the promise of Transhumanism – that all humans are worthy of a cure for what ails them, and therefore, all people inflicted with depression should get the help they need so that they can transcend the condition that threatens to wreck their lives.

Why is it that the most commonly-prescribed treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which are the SSRIs Paxil and Zoloft, require daily dosing for many weeks to months, and have little to no effect in curing PTSD? On the other hand, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), has been proven to treat PTSD successfully in two to three sessions, yet it remains illegal as a Schedule 1 drug. This is the promise of Transhumanism – that we should look for creative, out-of-the-box ways to relieve suffering, which includes pharmacological, non-pharmacological, technological, and scientific methods.

If we are really serious about curing depression, as opposed to just putting bandages on a gaping wound in humanity’s well-being, we will have to do much more than we are doing right now, and we will have to reassess the way we are treating depression.

But why focus on depression, besides the fact that it destroys the lives of many millions of people and the treatments so far have been ineffective in curing it? Because depression does not care whether you are young or old, whether you are black or white, whether you are rich or poor, and whether you are physically healthy or not. Depression is an equal-opportunity destroyer of life. While heart attacks and pancreatic cancer may end lives quickly, depression ends lives slowly, ruthlessly robbing people of their happiness, sadistically stripping away their dignity, and mercilessly beating and drowning them in a dark, dreary swamp with little hope for a better future.

It is inhuman to ignore the plight of those suffering from depression and to give up the fight for a brighter, happier future for every individual on Earth. Transhumanism not only offers hope for a better future through inspiring and motivating humans to transcend their limits, but it also encourages us to look at problems from many different angles, and to dedicate our efforts toward actually resolving the challenges that humanity is facing.

Many Transhumanists are, understandably, focused on life extension and reversing aging, since life is the most precious thing we have. But life is a lot less beautiful when one is trapped in an inescapable labyrinthine nightmare, enfeebling one’s mind and tormenting one with endless movie-like scenes of their perceived past failures. In a sense, some people with depression feel there is not much point in attempting to extend their lives when they are continuously engulfed in profound sadness.

But the truth of the matter is that it is not people suffering from depression who have failed; it is we as a society who have failed them.

One of the ways we can rectify this situation and offer a real solution for those battling depression is by advocating for and creating breakthrough technologies and medicines that will successfully treat and cure this dreadful condition that has ruined so many precious, promising lives. Transhumanism is not just about advocating for life extension, it is also about advocating for a better quality of life through leveraging advances in science and technology to treat conditions such as depression.

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

Consumerism Qua Materialism: A Modern Confusion – Article by Kaiter Enless

Consumerism Qua Materialism: A Modern Confusion – Article by Kaiter Enless

Kaiter Enless


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party has published this article by our member Kaiter Enless, originally posted on the Logos website,  to illustrate the importance of clarity in the use of philosophical terms. Mr. Enless articulates a distinction between materialism and consumerism that is often missing from contemporary discourse; this is particularly needed, as popular thinking regarding materialism indeed tends to be quite muddled and too often associates materialist philosophical frameworks with the kind of consumerism that is alleged to be problematic. Many transhumanists are ontological materialists and seek to more effectively harness the material world and its workings for human benefit. If the false equivalency between this approach and stereotypical consumerism can be dispelled, this would assist with the public acceptance of the transhumanist worldview and aspirations. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, January 9, 2019


Materialism has become a rather dirty word, principally through its connection to consumerism. Indeed materialism seems to have become so thoroughly conflated with consumerism as to be wholly indistinguishable. For example, in the study, Changes In Materialism, Changes In Psychological Well-Being: Evidence For Three Longitudinal Studies & An Intervention Experiment, the authors write: “Studies 1, 2, and 3 examined how changes in materialistic aspirations related to changes in well-being, using varying time frames (12 years, 2 years, and 6 months), samples (US young adults and Icelandic adults), and measures of materialism and well-being.”

It would be mistaken to conflate a philosophy of materialism, with mere consumerism as behavioral practice. I am not here suggesting that this is what the authors of the document have done (indeed, it appears as if they are simply using ‘materialism’ as a placeholder for ‘material object; principally, those objects manufactured and distributed in modern western society’), however, at first glance, it is difficult to tell and this is the crux of the problem. When one word is conflated with another, after a sufficient period of usage the two become implicitly associated, regardless of whether they are actually interlaced in any meaningful way. Thus, when one deploys the term ‘consumerism’ one instantly thinks of ‘materialism’ and vice-versa. This, I shall argue, is wholly mistaken; however, before proceeding, let us define our terms.

Consumerism is a term which rose to prominence in the 20th Century with the advent of mass production and denotes a social order wherein goods are purchased and used (‘consumed’) in ever increasing quantities. It has a few other more technical definitions, however, this is generally the explicit meaning of the term when it is negatively deployed (and it is almost always negatively deployed, at least, as of this writing, though positive variations of the term were used, such as by J. S. Bugas who deployed the word to refer to consumer sovereignty). In this negative characterization, consumerism is keeping-up-with-the-Jones or Patrick Batemanism — normative behaviors which privilege non-noetic objects over noetic ones with the exception of the referent consumer (the individual who is consuming the non-noetic objects, who naturally does so, not because they care solely about the objects themselves, but because they gain something from the consumption of those objects).

Materialism, broadly, briskly and vulgarly speaking, is a philosophical position generally characterized by substance monism, which holds that because everything which has been observed is energy and matter, it is rational to conclude everything that exists is (or is likely to be) composed of energy and matter (the same inductive reasoning is at work in expanding the theory of gravity to all places in the universe, even those wholly unobserved). As a school of thought, it has gone through numerous incarnations ranging from Democritus the atomist, to the cosmic mechanists prior to Newton, to the scientistic physicalists of the modern age (such as Hawking, Krauss and Dawkins).

More rigorous, sophisticated and logically defensible forms of ontological naturalism (sometimes referred to as ‘realism’ in contradistinction to ‘idealism’) which have been referred to as various materialisms can be found in the work of such philosophers as Wilfrid Sellars, John McDowell and Jeremy Randel Koons, and the neuroscientist, Paul M. Churchland.

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the ontological assertions or arguments of any variation of materialism – atomist, mechanist, Sellarsian or eliminativist – it should be clearly noted that consumerism is a descriptive set of social practices, not a holistic formal ontology. One may be a Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or Daoist and still be a consumerist. Indeed, the vast majority of those who have ever lived western consumerist lifestyles within modern society have been Christians (principally Catholics and Protestants), not scientistic materialists (as is sometimes alleged); this is demonstrable simply by reference to religio-demographic composition, as most consumer societies were, from their inception, constituted by Christians who are, obviously, non-materialists (philosophically speaking). Of course, it is perfectly possible to be a stalwart materialist (in the philosophical sense) and still be a consumerist, but it is not intrinsic to the position.

Drawing a clear distinction between materialism and consumerism is important given that because consumerism has become so thoroughly disdained, referent to it likewise besmirches any materialist ontology through negative moral assignation, RATHER than through rigorous logical refutation, thus engendering an impairment, not only of the thorough-going materialist diagrams, but also of critical, logical thought itself.

Kaiter Enless is the administrator and principal author of the Logos website and literary organization.

The First Step Toward Reversing Aging and Curing Disease – Article by Arin Vahanian

The First Step Toward Reversing Aging and Curing Disease – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


The dawn of every new year brings renewed hope and numerous promises made by individuals across the world to improve their lot in life, whether through increased exercise, a new diet, or a career change. However, according to extensive research conducted on the topic, most of these resolutions are seldom kept long-term, and many people eventually revert back to old habits and modes of thought.

While failing to keep a promise to oneself to find a new job may not have catastrophic consequences for that person, an entire society or parts of the world falling short of goals such as reversing climate change may have disastrous implications for the rest of the world.

However, this article isn’t necessarily about saving the world. It’s about a topic that is very near and dear to me; specifically, personal responsibility, especially when it comes to longevity.

Whether we read about this topic, discuss it with others, watch interviews with experts and laypeople, or read polls, almost everyone would agree that the idea of living longer and healthier is very appealing to them.

Why is it, then, that observing people’s actions reveals that many of us do things that will prevent us from living longer and healthier? Why do so many people who claim longevity is important to them turn around and engage in behaviors such as overeating, smoking tobacco products, not exercising regularly, and so on?

Thankfully, there are some people out there who take longevity and health seriously, and these individuals eagerly follow new developments and hope for the scientific breakthroughs that will finally reverse aging and cure debilitating diseases that have plagued humankind for so long.

However, the first step toward curing disease and reversing the process of aging does not start with the chemists who come up with new medicines or the gerontologists who study aging or the governments that fund projects; it starts with the individual.

If you don’t believe me, simply take a closer look the next time you are at a restaurant or supermarket and observe what many people are purchasing and putting in their bodies. You may well be shocked at the sorts of things we are consuming on a daily basis. Several decades ago, there was a fear that humanity would face starvation on a global scale, but that threat never materialized. In fact, we now have far more food than we know what to do with. Indeed, our problem isn’t that we do not have enough food, it is that we have too much food, and too much of what we consume is unhealthy, thus reducing our life span and health span.

Even if we may not want to admit it, the first step toward living a longer and healthier life is entirely in our hands.  The actions we take on a daily basis determine, in no small part, whether we can put ourselves in a situation to take advantage of the advances in medicine and technology that may cure us of disease and reverse the process of aging in our bodies and minds.

In my humble opinion, it is irresponsible for someone to neglect their health and well-being while at the same time waiting and hoping for a cure for aging or disease. There is, currently, no magic pill one can take that will cure them of poor health or magically reverse aging. Thus, the impetus is on each person to do all they can to take care of themselves and their health, while the organizations and individuals that are working on curing disease and reversing aging come up with the requisite scientific and technological breakthroughs. In fact, we could even argue that in addition to managing one’s health and diet very closely, we should do more to support the organizations and individuals dedicated to curing disease and reversing senescence, but that is perhaps another topic for another time.

Of course, by focusing on personal responsibility, I do not wish to ignore the numerous situational and socioeconomic factors that may contribute to people being unable to fully take responsibility for their health. Some people, due to conditions such as extreme poverty, are not in a position to take control of their lives in the way those of us in developed countries are able to. Similarly, though, I do not wish to ignore the plight of many residents of developed countries who face hardships (of the medical variety or otherwise) every day that prevent them from fully taking the advice in this article. Life is not black-and-white, but rather, gray, and I would never advocate for the law of the jungle in any society.

Thus, I also want to make clear that we as a society should do whatever we can to ensure that people who need medical care receive the care that they need, in a cost-effective and dignified manner. In a world of abundance, there is no reason why people suffering from curable conditions (or otherwise) should go untreated, and no reason why anyone should be bankrupted by medical bills. However, these are not the persons I have dedicated this article to. A tragedy of modern life is that so many people are easily able to make changes in their life that would lead to a healthier and longer life, but instead choose to not do so, and continue engaging in destructive behaviors.

Regardless of your views on disease and aging, it is not unreasonable to say that we should, at the very least, do whatever is in our power to take care of our own health.

Therefore, the next time you think about gorging yourself on donuts and guzzling the soda offered at the next company party, you might want to reconsider, because what many people are eating and drinking is literally killing them.

The next time you decide to sit at home and watch TV instead of doing 20 minutes of light exercise at the park or the gym, remember that lethargy has consequences.

The next time you tell yourself “I’ll quit smoking someday,” or “I’ll start exercising when I have more time,” please pause for a moment and ask yourself whether you are really being honest.

I do not wish to insinuate that we should try to be perfect all the time when it comes to health, diet, and exercise. Indeed, there is no way to get it right all the time, and the occasional piece of cake or glass of beer won’t derail your journey toward good health if you’re consistently and methodically taking good care of yourself. Rather, what I believe we should strive for is doing the best that we can on a daily basis, and if we need to make minor changes, to take small steps toward improvement every day.

There is a famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi that goes, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I agree wholeheartedly, and would add that we must be the change we wish to see in ourselves. Because no one is more responsible for your own personal well-being than you. And no one can do as much for your own longevity as you can.

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

Blockchains Instead of Beggars: Could Cryptocurrencies Unleash Universal Basic Income? – Article by Nicole Sallak Anderson

Blockchains Instead of Beggars: Could Cryptocurrencies Unleash Universal Basic Income? – Article by Nicole Sallak Anderson

Nicole Sallak Anderson


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by Nicole Sallak Anderson as part of our ongoing integration with the Transhuman Party. This article posits a creative approach toward fulfilling one of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s objectives – the achievement of a Universal Basic Income (which is advocated for in our Platform and in the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 3.0). We advocate a wide variety of emerging technologies, including cryptocurrencies, as well, and we endeavor to contemplate ways in which such technologies can solve deep-rooted societal problems by altering people’s incentives, hopefully in positive directions. This article was written in February 2018, just past the peak of the cryptocurrency bubble, but it looks beyond that bubble and envisions more sustainable functions for cryptocurrencies beyond speculation – for instance, achieving the goal of providing a basic income and integrating activities that create external value in the community with rewards for the individuals who engage in such activities. We continue to encourage our members to contemplate possibilities for implementing a Universal Basic Income in realistic ways that would harness new technologies for incremental progress toward the goal and would not require revolutionizing the entire world at once. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, January 6, 2019


Cryptocurrencies are America’s latest capitalist playthings—from Bitcoin’s Christmas surprise of over $14K per coin, to the Bitcoin Cash fork of August 2017 and BitFury’s success in negotiating blockchain contracts in both Georgia and Dubai, cryptocurrencies, and the technology that powers them, went from being anarchists’ obscure hobby to the latest shiny object that the financial markets are drooling over. While cryptocurrencies are still a ways off from becoming actual currencies that can be used to exchange goods, they have proven to be valuable assets in today’s markets. Moreover, the blockchain technology that underpins said currencies has begun to gain momentum as an advanced application for the encryption and storage of data. Many see it as the natural evolution in the digital age.

For those of you who don’t know what blockchain technology is read here, or if you’re interested in cryptocurrencies in general, read here. People much savvier than I can teach you the technical details. Today I want to discuss practical implementations.

In the past two years, cryptocurrencies have made a lot of young people, and already rich old people, very rich. Cryptocoins and blockchain applications are the latest innovation to encourage the American rags-to-riches mythos, and I don’t see their bubbles popping anytime soon. Yet is seems like all of this is creating just another set of 1% who are wealthy, while most miss the boat completely, and this is the complete opposite of what many of the early adopters had envisioned—rather than creating a new cryptoclass, the blockchain was supposed to emancipate humanity.

This has me thinking…how could blockchain technology be used to create currencies that support a universal income? I’ve written before about universal basic income, from both a practical perspective and a feminist perspective. Most people argue there isn’t enough money out there to create a sustainable world where everyone is fed. I’ve long called bulls**t on this. Technologically we can now feed the world, so what’s holding us back? The food can be farmed in labs and it can be distributed to the most remote locations on Earth. Why then, does much of it rot in holding areas? Or never even get planted, while children die of starvation in our streets? Even in America, child poverty is rising with 30.4 million children daily in our country using the National School Lunch Program in their schools.

To me, the growing poverty in the “Land of Opportunity” is a universal lack of love on every citizen’s part, not a money problem. However, if everyone’s convinced that there aren’t enough American dollars to go around so that we can guarantee housing, food, and clothing to our fellow brothers and sisters, then perhaps it’s time to make more money, and not the kind you can hold in your wallet.

The way to create a new economy based on care and commonwealth may be to create a new currency with community as its only goal, rather than profit and greed, and what better way to do this than with a cryptocurrency? Why not build a crypto-token that is secure, hard to hack and trackable, whose purpose was to provide liquid resources to the most vulnerable members of society?

This last feature – traceability – is very important.  In principle it would be a clear advantage over fiat currency welfare systems, since the cash economy is only partially measurable in terms of mapping demographic groups to purchase/usage patterns. For fun, let’s call the new currency, LifeCoin, created not to get a bunch of miners and traders rich, but instead to be shared from person to person, growing as we all grow in wealth, a true peer-to-peer network both technically and socially.

A currency whose aim is to provide a universal basic income would need to have the following properties:

1)      It would need to be easily distributed to all citizens in the network 18 and over. Thus, a wallet that accepted LifeCoin, identifiable by the currency platform would need to be created.

2)      It would need to be accepted by all businesses that provide shelter (banks, landlords, etc.), food, clothing and healthcare. Thus a networked payment system that accepted LifeCoin and linked up to user’s wallets would need to be created. It needs to be seamless and provide incentives to services providers for honoring the LifeCoins as currency, thus the traditional fee structures in place for money exchange would need adjustment.

3)      It would need the ability to be changed into other currencies at the owner’s discretion. Thus the LifeCoin would need to be accepted on a decent number of exchanges.

This is a minimum list of technological needs, but at its most basic, a currency needs to be able to flow throughout the society if it’s going to be a true universal basic income solution.

Essentially there are two ways the LifeCoin could be created, either by the government, or by us, the citizens in an act of goodwill.

How could a government create and issue LifeCoin responsibly? There are probably many answers to this, but I think LifeCoin could be implemented by local governments that are looking to use blockchain technologies to manage and secure their data. Governments collect more than taxes, they’ve long been keeping track of our data, such as births, deaths, marriages, land titles, county employee information, driver’s license information, school information, health information and even voting registration and ballots. All of this information needs to be managed, and many governments are starting to consider using blockchain technology to do just that. Take the country of Georgia, who has uploaded over 100,000 land titles to a blockchain network created by BitFury. They have decided that using blockchain smart contracts will help them prove land ownership as Russia slowly begins to occupy more and more of their land. Dubai has also decided to use the Ethereum architecture to manage its data and bring their country into the 21st century.

Many other countries have taken notice. In Haiti, for example, after the earthquake in 2010, the first building to fall into ruin was the building that held all of their public records. In seconds, all the paperwork that documented who owned what land was gone. My own town of Santa Cruz, CA, is always under earthquake threat, could moving their local government data to a blockchain system help them in the long run? Of course it can.

Money will be saved by adopting these new technologies for data management. According to an article in August 2017, the government of Dubai expects to, “Reduce the cost of document processing by billions of dollars through eliminating manual processing of residencies, passport documentation and visas through a partnership with ConsenSys.

Billions of dollars, eh? And what to do with those savings? Why not redistribute them back into the community as a universal basic income? This can be done by tokenizing the endeavor, and backing the initial release of the coins with the savings the governmental entity receives.

As governments begin to implement various blockchain schemes to manage their data it is the ideal moment for them to tokenize the blockchain ledger they’re creating and distribute those tokens to their citizens as a universal basic income.

Consider Santa Cruz. Recently named the fourth most expensive place to live in the nation, it is estimated that our cost of living is 81% higher than the national average and our housing costs are 208% higher than the national average. When I drive down the street near town, I see tents nestled in along the highway, back near the fences and hidden in tall grasses. At night, when you pass our city hall, the courtyard is filled with people in sleeping bags, trying to find a place to sleep. Beggars line our downtown mall. Truly if any town needed a universal basic income, it’s ours.

Perhaps UBI begins at home with our local city council opting to invest in building a blockchain ledger using Ethereum to manage all contracts regarding land in the county as well as all legal documentation and contracts stored in the courthouse. The project includes tokens that are backed by the city at first with the monies annually saved by efficiently managing and securing their data. These tokens are distributed evenly to every citizen over 18 on a monthly basis.

As time goes on, more data can be added to the ledger and with each savings by switching from the manual handling of the data to digital networks doing the job, that money is used to issue new coins to citizens. The basic income could start at one number, say $500/month with the intention of growing to a final amount that can sustain a human being within the county.

In addition, more tokens are created as incentives to encourage people to enter the system as miners to help maintain the ledger. This is the decentralization aspect, the data is stored across hundreds of servers rather than just one. Thus everyone gets a set amount, but those who mine create more coins that they can use to purchase items in the community, or trade on the exchange, thus increasing the value of the tokens. Tokens can also be given to businesses as a means of encouraging them to accept LifeCoin as payment for their goods and services. With time, the currency spreads throughout the city and county, and as a result is accepted at more and more locations. None of this is because we “took” money from somewhere else. Using blockchain technologies, money was freed up to invest in a new currency, one that exists for the sole purpose of providing a living to our citizens.

Now, this is a very basic sketch of the system, and one I’m not able to complete. I’m merely putting it out there as something to debate and discuss, with the hopes that minds much more crypto than mine can see that their work has this potential. And perhaps to get the political dialogue rolling. This has to start somewhere and we can’t wait for our federal government to help. I also realize that as with any monetary system, cryptocurrencies may not be able to address the potential inflation and deflation associated with a universal basic income.

My good friend and fellow Medium writer, John Eden, put it perfectly:

“My view is that the real worry about crypto-powered UBI has nothing to do with the power of the blockchain from a tech POV.  The problem is that any economic system with a fixed or variable amount of tokens can and will experience inflation and deflation.  To me, this basic economic fact can’t in any way to neutralized by blockchain.  The implication of this is that the token one designs for UBI must be created in partnership with some pretty thoughtful economists so that a method of adjusting the value of the token relative to the wider economy is built into the token infrastructure.  After all, you don’t want to create LifeCoin only to see inflation ruin it’s core purpose – i.e., giving the most vulnerable members of society the ability to live a decent life.”

I’m not sure where we’d find those thoughtful economists. Can our local governments implement a token system to help the poor while keeping in mind the long term economic monetary policy goals? The blockchain might not save us from this issue, but the currency created can be set up with a new set of rules than our regular fiat, especially since it would be it’s own new market, individualized at the local level. We’ve been manipulating the markets forever, is it any different for a township to create it’s own currency to establish a standard of living?

We could also leave the government out of this and instead take responsibility as private citizens, creating a universal reward token ourselves. Private citizens can create a coin that is then given to those who need it. This work has already begun. GrantCoin was established in 2015 with the intent of providing a UBI to those who meet their criteria. However, this feels more like charitable handouts than a true UBI, for it’s still based on need, which requires judgement by a group of people who get to determine whether or not you really need it. Universal Basic Income is not only about providing the basics to all in a world of plenty, it’s also about freeing us from the judgments of others. We all receive a universal basic income, that’s what makes it universal, and we’re trusted to do what we should with it. Still, GrantCoin is a good start.

Another idea that caught my eye was the concept of gamifying cryptocurrencies as a means of deploying them. In an incredibly passionate plea to save cryptocurrencies from big business, author Daniel Jeffries writes,

By gamifying money distribution, we spread it far and wide across the playing field, as fast as possible, and guarantee that the system becomes viable. We bootstrap the system from banana republic to global powerhouse. That will bring powerful economic players into the system, who will then be incentivized to protect it and expand it.

If we move swiftly, we can unleash the true power of the blockchain to unlock the frozen reserves of human potential, rise from the ashes of our crumbling political systems and rocket into a whole new level of economic potential and development.”

He goes on to explain how by using a killer gaming app along with a universal reward token, one could possibly build a cryptocurrency that is completely decentralized with the possibility to not only fund life, but allow the movement to build into smart contracts and other aspects of civilization. Instead of the government initiating the move to the blockchain, private citizens do it for each other, via games so fun to play, we play them for a living. His article is a worthy read if this sort of idea floats your boat.

This may seem a bit pie in the sky, and on some level it is, but when thinking about the future of money we have the ability to write a whole new story, so why not base it upon joy and games?

Regardless, as financial firms explore the possibilities that platforms like Ethereum bring, it may benefit us to begin to probe our local governments into doing the same. However, instead of keeping the profits for themselves, they could the adventure to create new systems of money that promote life and health for all citizens.

Nicole Sallak Anderson is Computer Science graduate from Purdue University, and former CTO for a small Silicon Valley startup, turned novelist and blogger, focusing on the intersection of technology and consciousness. In addition to rebooting her eHuman series, she recently sold a historical fantasy trilogy about the Great Egyptian Revolt of 200 B.C. She currently lives in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains in California with her husband and teen-aged sons, where she raises goats and bees. She enjoys spinning, knitting, playing the bass, and dancing, particularly the tango. Visit her blog at eHumanity: The Intersection of Consciousness and Technology

The Singularity: Fact or Fiction or Somewhere In-Between? – Article by Gareth John

The Singularity: Fact or Fiction or Somewhere In-Between? – Article by Gareth John

Gareth John


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by our member Gareth John, originally published by IEET on January 13, 2016, as part of our ongoing integration with the Transhuman Party. This article raises various perspectives about the idea of technological Singularity and asks readers to offer their perspectives regarding how plausible the Singularity narrative, especially as articulated by Ray Kurzweil, is. The U.S. Transhumanist Party welcomes such deliberations and assessments of where technological progress may be taking our species and how rapid such progress might be – as well as how subject to human influence and socio-cultural factors technological progress is, and whether a technological Singularity would be characterized predominantly by benefits or by risks to humankind. The article by Mr. John is a valuable contribution to the consideration of such important questions.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, January 2, 2019


In my continued striving to disprove the theorem that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, I shall now proceed to ask one. What’s the consensus on Ray Kurzweil’s position concerning the coming Singularity? [1] Do you as transhumanists accept his premise and timeline, or do you feel that a) it’s a fiction, or b) it’s a reality but not one that’s going to arrive anytime soon? Is it as inevitable as Kurzweil suggests, or is it simply millenarian daydreaming in line with the coming Rapture?

According to Wikipedia (yes, I know, but I’m learning as I go along), the first use of the term ‘singularity’ in this context was made by Stanislav Ulam in his 1958 obituary for John von Neumann, in which he mentioned a conversation with von Neumann about the ‘ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue’. [2] The term was popularised by mathematician, computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological advancement, or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity. [3]  Kurzweil cited von Neumann’s use of the term in a foreword to von Neumann’s classic The Computer and the Brain. [4]

Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 [5] whereas Vinge predicts some time before 2030 [6]. In 2012, Stuart Armstrong and Kaj Sotala published a study of AGI predictions by both experts and non-experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. [7] Discussing the level of uncertainty in AGI estimates, Armstrong stated at the 2012 Singularity Summit: ‘It’s not fully formalized, but my current 80% estimate is something like five to 100 years.’ [8]

Speaking for myself, and despite the above, I’m not at all convinced that a Singularity will occur, i.e. one singular event that effectively changes history for ever from that precise moment moving forward. From my (admittedly limited) research on the matter, it seems far more realistic to think of the future in terms of incremental steps made along the way, leading up to major diverse changes (plural) in the way we as human beings – and indeed all sentient life – live, but try as I might I cannot get my head around these all occurring in a near-contemporary Big Bang.

Surely we have plenty of evidence already that the opposite will most likely be the case? Scientists have been working on AI, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, robotics, et al., for many years and I see no reason to conclude that this won’t remain the case in the years to come. Small steps leading to big changes maybe, but perhaps not one giant leap for mankind in a singular convergence of emerging technologies?

Let’s be straight here: I’m not having a go at Kurzweil or his ideas – the man’s clearly a visionary (at least from my standpoint) and leagues ahead when it comes to intelligence and foresight. I’m simply interested as to what extent his ideas are accepted by the wider transhumanist movement.

There are notable critics (again leagues ahead of me in critically engaging with the subject) who argue against the idea of the Singularity. Nathan Pensky, writing in 2014 says:

It’s no doubt true that the speculative inquiry that informed Kurzweil’s creation of the Singularity also informed his prodigious accomplishment in the invention of new tech. But just because a guy is smart doesn’t mean he’s always right. The Singularity makes for great science-fiction, but not much else. [9]

Other well-informed critics have also dismissed Kurzweil’s central premise, among them Professor Andrew Blake, managing director of Microsoft at Cambridge, Jaron Lanier, Paul Allen, Peter Murray, Jeff Hawkins, Gordon Moore, Jared Diamond, and Steven Pinker to name but a few. Even Noam Chomsky has waded in to categorically deny the possibility of such. Pinker writes:

There is not the slightest reason to believe in the coming singularity. The fact you can visualise a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible… Sheer processing is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems. [10]

There are, of course, many more critics, but then there are also many supporters also, and Kurzweil rarely lets a criticism pass without a fierce rebuttal. Indeed, new academic interdisciplinary disciplines have been founded in part on the presupposition of the Singularity occurring in line with Kurzweil’s predictions (along with other phenomena that pose the possibility of existential risk). Examples include Nick Bostrom’s Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University or the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge.

Given the above and returning to my original question: how do transhumanists taken as a whole rate the possibility of an imminent Singularity as described by Kurzweil? Good science or good science-fiction? For Kurzweil it is the pace of change – exponential growth – that will result in a runaway effect – an intelligence explosion– where smart machines design successive generations of increasingly powerful machines, creating intelligence far exceeding human intellectual capacity and control. Because the capabilities of such a super intelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is the point beyond which events may become unpredictable or even unfathomable to human intelligence. [11] The only way for us to participate in such an event will be by merging with the intelligent machines we are creating.

And I guess this is what is hard for me to fathom. We are creating these machines with all our mixed-up, blinkered, prejudicial, oppositional minds, aims, and values. We as human beings, however intelligent, are an absolutely necessary part of the picture that I think Kurzweil sometimes underestimates. I’m more inclined to agree with Jamais Cascio when he says:

I don’t think that a Singularity would be visible to those going through one. Even the most disruptive changes are not universally or immediately distributed, and late followers learn from the dilemmas of those who had initially encountered the disruptive change. [12]

So I’d love to know what you think. Are you in Kurzweil’s corner waiting for that singular moment in 2045 when the world as we know it stops for an instant… and then restarts in a glorious new utopian future? Or do you agree with Kurzweil but harbour serious fears that the whole ‘glorious new future’ may not be on the cards and we’re all obliterated in the newborn AGI’s capriciousness or gray goo? Or, are you a moderate, maintaining that a Singularity, while almost certain to occur, will pass unnoticed by those waiting? Or do you think it’s so much baloney?

Whatever, I’d really value your input and hear your views on the subject.

NOTES

1. As stated below, the term Singularity was in use before Kurweil’s appropriation of it. But as shorthand I’ll refer to his interpretation and predictions relating to it throughout this article.

2. Carvalko, J, 2012, ‘The Techno-human Shell-A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap.’ (Mechanicsburg: Sunbury Press)

3. Ulam, S, 1958, ‘ Tribute to John von Neumann’, 64, #3, part 2. Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. p. 5

4. Vinge, V, 2013, ‘Vernor Vinge on the Singularity’, San Diego State University. Retrieved Nov 2015

5. Kurzweil R, 2005, ‘The Singularity is Near’, (London: Penguin Group)

6. Vinge, V, 1993, ‘The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era’, originally in Vision-21: Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace, G. A. Landis, ed., NASA Publication CP-10129

7. Armstrong S and Sotala, K, 2012 ‘How We’re Predicting AI – Or Failing To’, in Beyond AI: Artificial Dreams, edited by Jan Romportl, Pavel Ircing, Eva Zackova, Michal Polak, and Radek Schuster (Pilsen: University of West Bohemia) https://intelligence.org/files/PredictingAI.pdf

8. Armstrong, S, ‘How We’re Predicting AI’, from the 2012 Singularity Conference

9. Pensky, N, 2014, article taken from Pando. https://goo.gl/LpR3eF

10. Pinker S, 2008, IEEE Spectrum: ‘Tech Luminaries Address Singularity’. http://goo.gl/ujQlyI

11. Wikipedia, ‘Technological Singularity; Retrieved Nov 2015. https://goo.gl/nFzi2y

12. Cascio, J, ‘New FC: Singularity Scenarios’ article taken from Open the Future. http://goo.gl/dZptO3

Gareth John lives in Mid-Wales; he is an ex-Buddhist priest with a MA in Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol. He is also a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party. 


HISTORICAL COMMENTS

Gareth,

Thank you for the thoughtful article. I’m emailing to comment on the blog post, though I can’t tell when it was written. You say that you don’t believe the singularity will necessarily occur the way Kurzweil envisions, but it seems like you slightly mischaracterize his definition of the term.

I don’t believe that Kurzweil ever meant to suggest that the singularity will simply consist of one single event that will change everything. Rather, I believe he means that the singularity is when no person can make any prediction past that point in time when a $1,000 computer becomes smarter than the entire human race, much like how an event horizon of a black hole prevents anyone from seeing past it.

Given that Kurzweil’s definition isn’t an arbitrary claim that everything changes all at once, I don’t see how anyone can really argue with whether the singularity will happen. After all, at some point in the future, even if it happens much slower than Kurzweil predicts, a $1,000 computer will eventually become smarter than every human. When this happens, I think it’s fair to say no one is capable of predicting the future of humanity past that point. Would you disagree with this?

Even more important is that although many of Kurzweil’s predictions are untrue about when certain products will become commercially available to the general public, all the evidence I’ve seen about the actual trend of the law of accelerating returns seems to be exactly spot on. Maybe this trend will slow down, or stop, but it hasn’t yet. Until it does, I think the law of accelerating returns, and Kurzweil’s singularity, deserve the benefit of the doubt.

[…]

Thanks,

Rich Casada


Hi Rich,
Thanks for the comments. The post was written back in 2015 for IEET, and represented a genuine ask from the transhumanist community. At that time my priority was to learn what I could, where I could, and not a lot’s changed for me since – I’m still learning!

I’m not sure I agree that Kurzweil’s definition isn’t a claim that ‘everything changes at once’. In The Singularity is Near, he states:

“So we will be producing about 1026 to 1029 cps of nonbiological computation per year in the early 2030s. This is roughly equal to our estimate for the capacity of all living biological human intelligence … This state of computation in the early 2030s will not represent the Singularity, however, because it does not yet correspond to a profound expansion of our intelligence. By the mid-2040s, however, that one thousand dollars’ worth of computation will be equal to 1026 cps, so the intelligence created per year (at a total cost of about $1012) will be about one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today. That will indeed represent a profound change, and it is for that reason that I set the date for the Singularity—representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability—as 2045.” (Kurzweil 2005, pp.135-36, italics mine).

Kurzweil specifically defines what the Singularity is and isn’t (a profound and disruptive transformation in human intelligence), and a more-or-less precise prediction of when it will occur. A consequence of that may be that we will not ‘be able to make any prediction past that point in time’, however, I don’t believe this is the main thrust of Kurzweil’s argument.

I do, however, agree with what you appear to be postulating (correct me if I’m wrong) in that a better definition of a Singularity might indeed simply be ‘when no person can make any prediction past that point in time.’ And, like you, I don’t believe it will be tied to any set-point in time. We may be living through a singularity as we speak. There may be many singularities (although, worth noting again, Kurzweil reserves the term “singularity” for a rapid increase in artificial intelligence as opposed to other technologies, writing for example that, “The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains … There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine.” (Kurzweil 2005, p. 9)

So, having said all that, and in answer to your question of whether there is a point beyond which no one is capable of predicting the future of humanity: I’m not sure. I guess none of us can really be sure until, or unless, it happens.

This is why I believe having the conversation about the ethical implications of these new technologies now is so important. Post-singularity might simply be too late.

Gareth

2019 New Year’s Message – A Call for Medical Progress and Preservation of the Good – Article by Victor Bjoerk

2019 New Year’s Message – A Call for Medical Progress and Preservation of the Good – Article by Victor Bjoerk

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Victor Bjoerk


I celebrated the end of 2018 like normally with neuroscientist Anders Sandberg and several other “transhumanists” or “technoprogressive people” in Stockholm!

Why am I in that place to start with? Well, I’m quite frustrated with the human condition in the first place; I’ve always questioned everything from social norms and different kinds of problems in the world, and there’s still so much misery around that we need to unite and fix. (I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true!)

As people reading this know, the vast majority of human misery worldwide today occurs due to our bodies damaging themselves with the passage of time, the biological process we call aging. This occurs because evolution has no goals and our ancestors died at the age of 30-40 prehistorically, and therefore there was no pressure for evolution to create humans that could repair themselves molecularly to live thousands of years. The closest we get among Eukaryotes/Vertebrates are Greenland sharks, which can live to 500+ years; that is easy to understand since they have no predators and just have to open their mouths to get their daily food. On the opposite side we have as a prominent example the mouse, with a very poor molecular repair system and subsequent 2.5-year lifespan, easy to understand when you realize how dangerous life is in the wild if having a mouse body.

Thanks to our technology, we have created the “paradise Greenland shark scenario” for humans during the past century essentially, creating very comfortable existences where nearly everyone survives.

So if you’re 25 years old, life is really great nowadays in Western countries (unless you like to complain about everything!); the existential risks are so low in the absence of aging that you would live many thousands of years just by being a young person living in Sweden.

So I’ve worked a lot in nursing homes both before and during my studies in molecular biology, and what those people have to endure would be strictly illegal in most countries if we knew how to change it. Imagine if, for example, Saudi Arabia allowed its citizens to age while the Western world had abolished it; wouldn’t Amnesty International intervene?

But what can be done with the human body? Well, I assume quite a lot! We are seeing so many people who can’t stand the medical monopoly and the 17-year bench-to-bedside status quo, which isn’t an abstract academic complaint but which impact their daily lives, so they start self-experimenting with, for example, senolytic medicines to kill their senescent cells, making themselves “younger” in certain aspects, which is pretty cool!

However I’m not someone who constantly calls for change and “progress”; I mean, if something is nice, then why not keep it? As far as I’m concerned, for example, the beautiful architecture from the past can continue to stand for thousands more years. These buildings fulfill their purpose and look nice; I’m quite conservative on those points – but please accelerate the medical research, and it is crucial to spot the techniques that actually do work and to not waste resources on hype!

2018 has brought me many good things, those which one can call “achievements” and those which are not visible. The Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging in Brussels became a success! (And there will be some events during 2019 that I am also announcing for everyone who enjoyed it!)

I’ve been learning a lot about CRISPR and many other techniques both practically and theoretically, though I have not exactly used them to change the world. Medical progress takes forever to achieve, and it’s not exactly helped by a massive web of bureaucracy/hierarchies/prestige/laws, all contributing to slowing down progress for people in need. What can really be done? One needs to focus on the positive and go where the biotech companies can succeed!

So if things are working out for me as I hope now in 2019, I hope being able to really work full time to impact the longevity industry, I really feel like an overripe fruit that needs to get things done, because implementing stuff is what matters and not becoming some passive “longevity encyclopedia”. I’ll keep everyone as usually updated!

So happy new 2019 everyone! And make sure to take good care of yourselves!

Victor Bjoerk has worked for the Gerontology Research Group, the Longevity Reporter, and the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie. He has promoted awareness throughout Europe of emerging biomedical research and the efforts to reverse biological aging. 

What President Trump Should Focus on Instead of the Border Wall – Article by Alex Lightman

What President Trump Should Focus on Instead of the Border Wall – Article by Alex Lightman

Alex Lightman


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party is home to many innovative thinkers who offer more forward-looking and far superior policy solutions than those pursued by either of the major political parties in the United States. This brief article by Alex Lightman, Campaign Director for the California Transhumanist Party, is an example of how even a few constructive, inspiring, big-picture ideas by transhumanists could revolutionize politics for the better and help us construct the next era of our civilization. What could Donald Trump be focusing on instead of his brinksmanship over an unnecessary border wall? Mr. Lightman explores the alternatives here.  

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 24, 2018


I am stunned by this Presidency. If I were President of the United States, I would be obsessively focused on:

 1. Space Migration – Setting up permanent bases and thriving colonies on the moon (for Helium 3, one shuttle load of which could cleanly power the entire US for a few weeks) and Mars (as a base for jumping off to other worlds and mining the asteroid belt).

2. Intelligence Increase – I would focus on raising average IQ from what I believe to be 87 to over 106, equal to the highest national average in Asia. IQ can be raised by 19 points within six weeks.

3. Life Extension – Average life expectancy in the US has dropped three years in a row after 114 years of steady increase that DOUBLED life expectancy. The USA ranks in the 25-50 range in key health measures, including infant mortality. I think a smart Presidency could boost average life expectancy by 5-15 years.

4. Acceleration of Innovation – just implementing the 200-page national innovation plan I was paid to write by the Obama White House would do this. It’s ready to implement and there is nothing comparable to it ever tried by any nation in history.

5. Smart Green Augmented Cities – I can’t understand why Donald Trump, real-estate developer, doesn’t use some of the $20-25 trillion he has to play with during a four-year term to create a novel, brilliant, beautiful, state-of-the-art city that sets a new high standard and serves as an archetype and living laboratory for all future cities.

Instead, the Border Wall is where his head is.

If I were him, I would ask someone like me, “Why are the people from Mexico and Central America coming? What can we do to make their countries successful?” I spent $300,000 or so of my own money figuring this out, and I shared the results with Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Energy, and Director of Sustainability, and they all said my plan made sense.

My point isn’t that I am the only one with a plan. When you are the US government, you can hire thousands of people like me and have them come up with thousands of possible solutions and then implement these solutions.

Trump claims that his art form is the art of the deal. A deal that helped Mexico and Central America be successful would be easy to strike with Democrats.

Alex Lightman, Campaign Director for the California Transhumanist Party, has 25 years of management and social innovation experience and 15 years of chairman and chief executive experience. He is an award-winning inventor with multiple U.S. patents issued or pending and author of over one million published words, including the first book on 4G wireless, and over 150 articles in major publications. He chaired and organized 17 international conferences with engineers, scientists, and government officials since 2002, with the intention of achieving policy breakthroughs related to innovation. He is a world-class innovator and recipient of the first Economist magazine Readers’ Choice Award for “The Innovation that will Most Radically Change the World over the Decade 2010 to 2020” (awarded Oct. 21, 2010, out of 4,000 initial suggestions and votes over 5 months from 200 countries, and from 32 judges). He is the recipient of the 2nd Reader’s Award (the posthumous recipient announced 10/21/2011 was Steve Jobs). He is also the winner of the only SGI Internet 3D contest (both Entertainment and Grand Prize) out of 800 contestants.

Social innovation work includes repeatedly putting almost unknown technologies and innovation-accelerating policies that can leverage the abilities of humanity into the mainstream of media, business, government, foundations, and standards bodies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, Internet Protocol version 6, and 4G wireless broadband, open spectrum, technology transfer to developing countries, unified standards, crowd-sourcing, and collective intelligence, via over 40 US government agencies, over 40 national governments, and via international entities including the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Political credentials include a national innovation plan entitled “The Acceleration of American Innovation” for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, work for U.S. Senator Paul E. Tsongas (D-MA) and on several state campaigns and U.S. presidential campaigns for Democratic candidates (Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt), presentations to the United Nations, and advisory services to the governments of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Japan, China, Korea, and India, as well as to the U.S. Congress, the White House (via the Office of Management and Budget), the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Mr. Lightman is trained as an engineer at MIT and as a prospective diplomat and policy analyst at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Improving Schooling – Ideas to Move Away from the Assembly-Line Method – Article by Lev Polyakov

Improving Schooling – Ideas to Move Away from the Assembly-Line Method – Article by Lev Polyakov

logo_bgLev Polyakov


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this guest article by Lev Polyakov to advance the objectives of Section XII of our Platform, which reads, in part, “The United States Transhumanist Party holds that present and future societies should provide education systems accessible and available to all in pursuit of factual knowledge to increase intellectual acuity; promote critical thinking and logic; foster creativity; form an enlightened collective; attain health; secure the bounty of liberty for all sentient entities for our posterity; and forge new ideas, meanings, and values.” It is clear that contemporary systems of mass education are broken in that they fail to encourage creativity, critical thinking, and even the acquisition and retention of knowledge. However, the ideas provided by Mr. Polyakov – which combine an Internet meritocracy with individualized attention to students and the ability of students to take charge of their learning – offer some promising options for elevating the quality of education and reaching more young minds at crucial formative stages. The U.S. Transhumanist Party encourages its members to consider these ideas and to offer their own perspectives. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 23, 2018


Today’s kids have outgrown the top-down-style assembly-line schools, and many rightfully hate them. While I don’t have exact numbers to quote, I can tell you I was not a fan of this approach for sure, and a change would be especially good for most boys who are missing the male role models they would have been able to get were this whole thing to have been structured differently from the bottom up.

Combine an Internet meritocracy (master instructors from anywhere) with smaller groups of kids assigned to an apprentice instructor who learns from the master instructors. Instead of sitting in desks facing one direction, the arrangement could be a circle, whose exchange of information the kids can look forward to. Weather permitting, many classes can take place outdoors, and if a kid doesn’t want to participate, he can go and play with some twigs. Eventually, were the class group itself worth being in more than the twig, he’ll come back to the group. The point here is to have these small circles engaging to the curiosity the kids have. And most kids, if they are younger and less jaded by normal school, will have this curiosity. If you don’t put in the effort on your end, the twig wins.

For apprentices new to teaching a group, they would first be the apprentices to a master teacher who would be teaching kids face to face instead of through the Internet. This would involve some travel for the prospective apprentice, depending on how many of these master teachers are in their area. But the understanding is that with time, the apprentice will become the master, and finding a local master teacher in your area will be easier.

These apprentices will also earn various markers based on their performance and what they learn, which will make them more sought after. Certain strengths of theirs can complete a particular neighborhood’s need for this strength. For example, someone good at math in Neighborhood A could more become aware that he or she is needed in Neighborhood B which already has people good at science and geography.

As far as money is concerned, there can be various methods tried out, but in the end, I think it makes sense to have the remuneration be based on the merit of the teacher and results. Perhaps the compensation could even be based on results measured in the long term, as far as the kids giving testimonials about the teachers when they are older, though how this would result in more money is still not clear.

Lastly, classes would start later (giving more time for kids to sleep).


Follow Lev Polyakov’s Twitter account: https://twitter.com/levpo

Visit the video channel co-hosted by Lev Polyakov and Jules Hamilton, “Lev and Jules Break the Rules“. U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II was recently honored to be the first guest ever interviewed on “Lev and Jules Break the Rules”. Watch this interview here

Lev Polyakov is an award-winning independent animation director and conceptual artist, whose films were featured on WNET 13, Channel Frederator, and ShortsHD.

Lev Polyakov has been active in the animation world since 2004, starting as an intern for Signe Baumane, one of New York’s most prominent independent animators, and proceeding to write and direct his own animated films. His first short, Piper the Goat and the Peace Pipe, won the first place at the 2005 Ottawa Animation Festival. For his next film, Morning, Day, Evening, Night… and Morning Again, Lev was awarded a grant and an honorary membership from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. During his junior year at SVA, Lev directed and produced Only Love, a 15-minute animated short that premiered at the prestigious Woodstock Film Festival, and has been shown at more than 30 film festivals around the world, winning many first-place awards.

Lev has done work visually appealing character-driven commercial work such as character design, storyboarding, and animation for Giants Are Small’s “Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood” iPad app in partnership with Universal Music; and for the virtual reality studio, The Glimpse Group.

Lev is currently chair of the Art and Technology Committee at the National Arts Club in New York City.

You can see Lev’s work at http://youtube.com/levpolyakov

Follow Lev Polyakov’s Instagram account: https://instagram.com/levpolyakov/

Creating A Physical Map of the Brain – Article by Zena O’Brien

Creating A Physical Map of the Brain – Article by Zena O’Brien

logo_bgZena O’Brien


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party publishes this article by one of our members, Zena O’Brien, as an example of the creative deliberations we encourage in regard to the design of future technologies and their implementation to improve the human condition. Here Ms. O’Brien writes about a possibility for providing a physical brain map that is both structural and functional through the use of sufficiently advanced cryopreservation techniques. We welcome input from our members regarding this concept.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 22, 2018


AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM:

So I have this vague and speculative idea. I was trying to come up with a way of somehow overcoming the resolution and storage problems of brain imaging and mapping. I think of this in case we fail within our lifetimes in attaining the goal of extending life indefinitely. At first I thought of imaging the brain in high spatial and temporal resolution, but instead of storing the exabytes of information, you’d transmit them into space in the form of radio waves. You could transmit the radio waves towards a star or series of stars to be gravitationally slingshot back to Earth and received in maybe 200 or 400 years total from transmission to reception. By that time Earth should have developed a storage device with the capacity to store the information. This would solve the storage problem because you don’t have to create a storage device with such capacity. All you have to do is wait. However this would require you to image a brain in high resolution in the first place, and we don’t have that technology yet. We’d probably need advanced nanotechnology of some sort.

A Possibly More Feasible Solution. A Physical Map:

I want to reiterate that these ideas are vague and highly speculative. I came up with the idea of a physical map to overcome the resolution problem. Why image a brain in high resolution when you could just cryopreserve it? There are a lot of issues with this idea on the offset, but I think they can be overcome. The first is the formation of ice crystals. There is a solution to this already. It’s called vitrification. It has to do with the addition of cryoprotectants that prevent the formation of ice crystals and keep individual water molecules in place as the brain is cooled below freezing. This prevents a lot of damage to the brain that would occur if it was just cryopreserved without cryoprotectants.

You can learn more about vitrification here.

However, from what I’ve read, there is still a problem with fractures due to the nature of storage and not necessarily the process of vitrification. This problem will have to be overcome somehow for this idea to work. And some individuals are already working on it.

To learn more about fractures and solutions, read here.

If we could overcome this hurdle, then so far we would have a physical structural map of the brain. However, something’s missing: the pattern of neural activity before you died. The brain is a complex system, and to have the connections without the patterns of activity would mean that your last experiences before you died wouldn’t be reproducible. There would be no sense of continuity, AND this could really affect the development of your consciousness. This is why I propose finding “markers” that could be introduced to the extracellular fluid in the brain and somehow enter neurons when an action potential occurs and reliably transfer from one neuron to the next as the neurons fire so that these atomic or molecular markers always end up in the neuron that was last fired upon. They would have to not interact with or damage any part of the brain and be unable to affect the voltage of the cells. If we can achieve this, then when a person dies, these markers would indicate to us where the activity stopped. And if the brain is vitrified without fractures, then we have not only a physical structural map but a functional map as well. No need for advanced neuroimaging techniques or storage devices with high capacity. What do you think?

Zena O’Brien is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, a polymath for social change, and a supporter of life extension. 

A Biohacker’s Letter to Santa – Article by Elena Milova

A Biohacker’s Letter to Santa – Article by Elena Milova

Elena Milova


Editor’s Note: Happy Holidays! If Santa Claus were real, life extension would be the greatest gift that he could possibly give. Elena Milova convincingly illustrates why in this letter, originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

                   ~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, U.S. Transhumanist Party, December 21, 2018

Dear Santa,
My name is Elena Milova, and I am from Moscow, Russia. I am a science popularizer, biohacker, and public health advocate in the field of aging and longevity. I am 39, single, and without children, but if you think that I am reaching out to you to ask for a CRISPR-designed baby, I am not. I believe that this type of wish is rather in the pile of letters from China. I am not asking you for a particular health improvement, as one could not wish for a better HOMA-IR (mine is 0.40, because I greatly reduced fast carbs) or total cholesterol level (below 4 mmol/L). I am fine without a new smartphone, too.

The thing that I am going to ask you for is much more tricky to get. I want everyone on Earth to realize that biological aging is amenable to medical intervention and that treatments targeting various mechanisms of aging are already in human clinical trials. 7.6 billion minds, one idea. That is my only wish.

Why this is so important to me

You have probably noticed yourself that your clientele is changing over time. There are more and more people over 60 in the world, and I assume that the number of wishes for recovery from this or that age-related disease are spiking higher every year. This must be a problem for you, as for many diseases of old age, there is still no effective treatment that would actually help to cure people. It must be frustrating to not be able to fulfill a sincere wish of a good person, especially when a child asks for her grandparents to recover so that they can walk and throw snowballs together.

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects 2017 – Data Booklet (ST/ESA/SER.A/401)

By 2050, the elderly will be a quarter of the global population, and these people will likely be suffering from several chronic diseases at once, gradually losing their health, independence and dignity. For so many people, being a burden on their families because of their deteriorating health is unacceptable, which is why the number of suicides in this age group is so high.

Is aging an invisible problem?

The numbers of these voluntary deaths are very upsetting, but what is even more upsetting is that diseases of old age are the major cause of death worldwide and aging kills around 100,000 people every day. This is the population of a small city. Imagine what would happen if everyone in a city like Cambridge, Massachusetts were to die in one day. I bet that there would be a lot of media attention and that thousands of experts would be on television discussing the potential causes of death and ways of preventing this tragedy in the future. Let’s say that the next day, another city becomes deadly peaceful. Take the Russian city of Domodedovo, which has its own airport. Everyone dead. People in neighboring cities would probably be frightened, and some charismatic politicians would be trying to calm down the public and promising to do something about all these deaths. The next day, this happens to yet another city, maybe in India. Then another one in Australia. It would not take long before G20 would set up an urgent conference call to set up an international commission and allocate money and scientists to investigate and solve the problem.

                                                                                                                                              Source: WHO website

Guess what? This type of thing never happens in relation to aging, because people dying from it are spread around the globe, so the disaster does not make the headlines. The public only notices the problem when an actor, scientist, or other significant public figure dies from an age-related disease – most often heart disease, stroke, or cancer. Do you want an example? “Santa Claus, age 90, dies from a heart attack: a critical blow to the industry of giftmaking.”

Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, but you get the point, right? From looking at your pictures, I could suspect that you might have some minor problems with glucose metabolism, but your extensive physical activity during gift delivery should be compensating for that, so you should be fine. For other people aged 60 and older, aging is an ever-increasing problem. Here, we come to the other important issue.

What is aging? How it can be addressed?

You see, aging is the accumulation of damage that happens due to normal bodily functions. This damage builds up over time, normal cell functions erode, and, at some point, this leads to the manifestation of age-related diseases. Normal operations, damage accumulation, disease, more damage, aggravation of disease, death. Simple.

It turns out that at the beginning of this century, British scientist Aubrey de Grey published an article in which he described several types of damage done by aging. He suggested the heretical idea of targeting these damages with medical interventions instead of trying to cure the symptoms of each age-related disease. He argued that age-related diseases are only a consequence of damage accumulation and that it would be much more effective to address the root causes.

The seed that Dr. de Grey dropped into the fertile soil of scholarship produced nice fruit in 2013, which is when a group of famous researchers of aging published The Hallmarks of Aging, a paper in which they described nine types of damage that accumulate with age and could be made into new therapeutic targets.

Comparison of a mouse treated with senolytics (at right) and a same-age mouse of the control group (at left). Source: Baker, D. J., Childs, B. G., Durik, M., Wijers, M. E., Sieben, C. J., Zhong, J., … & Khazaie, K. (2016). Naturally occurring p16Ink4a-positive cells shorten healthy lifespan. Nature, 530(7589), 184.

There were other fruits as well: animal studies have definitively proven that even only addressing one type of damage can extend the healthy period of life, postpone age-related diseases, keep animals more active, and, as a positive side effect, extend lifespan. It is worms that hold the best record so far, as tweaking some of their longevity-related genes has allowed them to live 10 times longer. The results in mice are also impressive – the researchers can extend both their healthy period of life and lifespan by 30-35%. Honestly, I find myself jealous of these mice, sometimes. I would not mind adding another 30% of youthful and healthy years to my life, even if I would have to take some pills or get some regular injections.

Can we control aging in humans?

You see, Santa, where I am going with this. I am sure that you sometimes leave gifts under the trees of people who work for the FDA. Accumulating a critical mass of knowledge about interventions against murine aging made it possible to develop the same type of interventions for people. Now, drugs and therapies addressing some of the root mechanisms of aging are in official human clinical trials. At some point, some of these trials will be successful, and drugs and therapies targeting aging itself will come to market.

If you don’t believe me, here is the short list of people whose chimneys’ stacks are the best source of additional information on the topic: George Church, Anthony Atala, Judy Campisi, Vadim Gladyshev, Maria Blasco, Michael West, Vera Gorbunova, Irina Conboy, Kelsey Moody, Brian Kennedy, Linda Partridge, Alexey Moskalev, Cynthia Kenyon, Claudio Franceschi, Alex Zhavoronkov, Nir Barzilai, and, of course, Aubrey de Grey. He wears a great beard, so you have more in common with gerontologists than you would think.

Listen to these people tell their families about their research, and you will get my point. We are on the edge of a revolution in rejuvenation biotechnology. Yet, most people don’t know about it and don’t realize what kind of potential benefit this advancement holds for them and for our aging society as a whole. Most importantly, as they know nothing, they have no say in decision making. How can people possibly speed up the pace of aging research if they don’t realize that aging is amenable to intervention? How can they foster technology transfer and local production of the cures for aging, such as senolytics, in their countries? How can they control prices and make future distribution and access equal? How can they ensure that old people in their families, who need these new treatments the most, would get them sooner?

Knowledge is power. We hear this in almost every interview, and you should be hearing it every Christmas from the researchers of aging, too. They have golden brains; the only thing they need is an appropriate amount of funding to solve the problem of aging more quickly. A strong public movement for aging research could be a game changer and could act as leverage to allocate government funding towards researching and developing treatments that target the underlying mechanisms of aging.

Ending aging and age-related diseases is possible

It is obvious that you are a kind person, Santa. You are perceptive and generous; you know what people want, and you try to give them what they want. However, if you don’t help me with my information campaign, in a couple of decades from now, you will be delivering billions of adult diapers and wheelchairs all over the globe. Wouldn’t it be nicer if you were to pile these up in your warehouse to be covered in dust while you give people therapies and drugs that prevent aging and wipe age-related diseases out of human lives? Just imagine how much happier people would be if they could remain healthy and independent, enjoy full and productive lives, achieve more, and stay with their families and friends for longer.

I was a good girl the whole year, attending scientific conferences, interviewing researchers, speaking at public events, and supporting our partners and colleagues in every way I could, even if that much socializing makes me suffer from an introvert’s hangover. I was eating healthy food and promoting evidence-based means to slow down aging among my relatives and friends. I deserve a nice Christmas gift.

All you have to do is to let everyone on the planet know that aging is amenable to intervention and that treatments addressing the root causes of aging are currently being created. For real. That would make me the happiest creature on the planet. Thank you in advance!

Sincerely, Elena

Instead of a conclusion

I am 39 years old, and I am an agnostic. There is not much evidence that Santa Claus exists. However, I do believe that miracles happen: the miracles that we create with our own hands. You who are reading these words (thanks for getting this far, by the way!) possess this special power, too. Use it! Let people around you know that science is close to bringing aging under medical control, and let’s build a world where healthy longevity for everyone is a reality.

As a devoted advocate of rejuvenation technologies since 2013, Elena Milova is providing the community with a systemic vision how aging is affecting our society. Her research interests include global and local policies on aging, demographic changes, public perception of the application of rejuvenation technologies to prevent age-related diseases and extend life, and related public concerns. Elena is a co-author of the book Aging prevention for all (in Russian, 2015) and the organizer of multiple educational events helping the general public adopt the idea of eventually bringing aging under medical control.