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Judge, Jury and Executioner Syndrome – Article by Arin Vahanian

Judge, Jury and Executioner Syndrome – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


The topic of life extension seems to bring forth strong emotions from people. While living longer and healthier is a goal that nearly all people say they have, there are critics of life extension who have become quite vociferous in their opposition to extending the human lifespan.  The truth is, living a longer and healthier life shouldn’t be controversial at all. After all, it is what we humans have been trying to do since day one.

However, when the topic turns to living a healthy life indefinitely, critics seem to come out of the woodwork, citing various reasons why humans should not live radically longer. While each of the major objections to life extension deserves its own space (and its own rebuttal), one objection, in particular, is rankling in its lack of substance – that human beings already live long enough.

As ridiculous as this objection is, we need to address it, not only because of the amount of damage it does to humanity by limiting life-extension research, but also because it causes unnecessary pain and suffering. People who present this objection have what I like to call “Judge, Jury, and Executioner Syndrome.”

I can’t imagine that people in the 14th century suffering and then dying from the Bubonic Plague at age 20 or 30 would have considered their life to have been “long enough.” In the same way, nor could I imagine that someone would actually find declining and then dying from an aging-related disease such as dementia at age 75 to be desirable.

But how long is long enough? Is it 40 years, like it used to be in 19th-century England? Or is it 82 years, as it is in modern-day Japan? Or is it 100 years?

It is difficult to answer this question, because there is no correct answer to the question.

However, rather than going down a rabbit hole, the best way to answer such critics is to ask them why they get to decide how long people should live. Of course, they have no right whatsoever to decide how long the human lifespan should be. This should end the conversation right then and there, but sadly, in some cases, it does not.

To go further, one might want to ask these critics whether they believe their parents or grandparents, if they are still alive, have lived too many years and whether they would want them to die quickly because they have already lived “long enough.” Or, even better, we should ask critics of life extension how many years they think their children should live (if they have children). Of course, no one, other than a psychopath, would wish such suffering and death upon their loved ones.

Therefore, it appears that people who oppose life extension on the basis that humans already live long enough, tend to only hold this view toward other people, and not themselves or their loved ones. This seems to me to be horribly cruel, not to mention illogical. However, we should not consider those who claim they are satisfied with the 82-year lifespan for themselves, as being nobler or more altruistic than other people. After all, they are still trying to play judge, jury, and executioner!

The argument that human beings already live long enough attacks the very core of what it means to be human. Human beings are designed to want to survive, and to continue living. Otherwise, we would have stopped trying to live longer a long time ago, and as a consequence, we would have stopped trying to find cures for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. The very fact that we are so dedicated to finding cures for conditions that have ravaged humanity is proof that we are dedicated to living longer and healthier. There is no rule that says that human beings can only live until 100 years old, or that they are not allowed to try to live longer.

Of course, just as no one may decide how long the human lifespan should be, neither should we force those who do not want to live longer and healthier, to live longer and healthier. This is a personal choice that everyone must make for themselves. But opponents of life extension do not have the right, nor do they have the ability, fortunately, to decide how long the human lifespan should be.

Even if there is some unalterable limit to how long a human lifespan can be, wouldn’t it be better to come to this conclusion and obtain closure after conducting medical and scientific research, rather than hastily quitting, and in the process, damning all of humanity to pain, suffering, and death, solely to satisfy a falsely held belief that humans already live long enough?

I understand that no matter what I may be arguing in this article, there will always be people who do not want to live much longer and healthier than they do now, for whatever reason. While I respect their decision to not want to extend their own life, I also ask them to respect my wishes to live longer and healthier. Surely this seems like a fair position to take.

There is absolutely no reason at all to apologize for wanting to live a healthy life indefinitely. No one should be asking, “Why do you want to live longer?” Rather, we should be asking, “How can we live longer and healthier?” This sort of inclusive, optimistic, and honest approach will go a long way toward removing some of the obstacles to life extension, thus putting humanity just a bit closer to attaining what it has been seeking since the beginning of time – to live a longer, healthier life.

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

Anti-Aging: The Growing Popularity Of Radical Life Extension – Article by Kimberly Forsythe

Anti-Aging: The Growing Popularity Of Radical Life Extension – Article by Kimberly Forsythe

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Kimberly Forsythe


There are numerous anti-aging therapies, which are used to slow the aging process in humans. Each of these therapies has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, there are anti-aging processes such as anti-oxidants, anti-aging nutrients, anti-aging exercise programs, anti-aging diets, and anti-aging supplements that are said to extend a person’s lifespan. Aging is said to be a natural process that cannot be slowed or reversed once humans undergo it, and which accelerates greatly after puberty and early adulthood; however, some experts do not agree with this. There are several theories on the subject of aging that have varying outlooks on the actual causes of aging.

What Causes Aging in Humans?

There are various theories that explain the causes of aging, but they do not all agree. While we are making new discoveries all the time, we still do not have definitive answers on what causes aging. Some researchers believe that oxidative damage is what causes aging, and others believe genetics are involved in causing aging.

The evidence for the oxidative damage by sunlight, poor diet, and poor exercising habits is strong. For example, if your parents or grandparents had a shorter lifespan than the average person, it’s possible that part of the reason was that they didn’t have a good diet, they didn’t exercise, or they didn’t avoid the common environmental hazards we encounter today. That certainly makes some sense.

You might think that they all contribute equally, which is certainly plausible. Consider how much impact the food we eat has on our health. If the foods we eat are generally unhealthy, then the oxidative damage done to our cells will be greater, and our lifespan will be shortened. If the foods we eat are rich in antioxidants and are beneficial to health, then we will be healthier, and the oxidative damage we do to our cells will be lessened.

So, one could say that oxidative damage is what causes aging, and the antioxidants are what counteract it. But that’s too simple. Actually, free radicals do more damage to our cells than oxidative damage, so it stands to reason that free radicals add to the damage. In other words, instead of wearing away at the cells in a chemical process, free radicals cause cell death.

However, the evidence for genetics is also strong. When the telomeres within the protective shell of the cell are damaged, they become shorter. As a result, the “RNA” within the telomere becomes too short. The second factor which causes aging is cell senescence, or aging at the cellular level.

There are many different forms of cell senescence, but the main ones are in peripheral tissues such as skin, muscles, and blood vessels. If this continues, then the total number of cells may start to decline. The decline in cell numbers is partly what causes aging in general.

Another factor is called DNA damage, and this is caused by exposure to radiation and to chemicals used during manufacturing. This is a big problem, because DNA is responsible for the repair of cellular damage, and if it gets damaged, it can stop replicating to produce new cells altogether. This would mean that the aging process could not be stopped, and the body will just keep getting older without any real control.

What is Radical Life Extension?

Radical life extension is the process of using anti-aging technology to reverse age-related processes that are already underway. Anti-aging techniques rely on a combination of knowledge and understanding of the aging process, as well as on modern-day scientific breakthroughs. Scientists are only just now beginning to unlock many of the mysteries surrounding the mechanisms of aging.

In theory, we could live forever if we found a way to completely rejuvenate ourselves after we passed the age of sixty. Some people are under the impression that curing or reversing aging is impossible. But at the very least, we might be able to make ourselves better, or at least age gracefully. It is not known how far the search has come, but some of the results so far have been very promising.

When Will Aging be Cured or Reversed?

To cure or reverse aging, it will be necessary to find some way to increase the lifespan of humans. Many questions surround which scientific approach to anti-aging will be the most beneficial to humans. Perhaps we will lengthen lifespans by curing all of the diseases that we are prone to, or perhaps by using genetic engineering to insert new genes into the human genome. For some transhumanists, the ultimate aim would be to live forever. Others, however, wish only to increase the number of healthy years.

There is a great deal of interest in the subject of radical life extension, and there is considerable money involved. Investors are piling in to fund research to unlock more theories about aging and the mysteries that scientists are trying to unravel. There are, unfortunately, many unfounded claims and charlatans out there misleading the public about how we may be able to cure or reverse aging.

Some people have made the mistake of thinking that radical life extension is magic, or of taking a magical pill that will turn you into an immortal. While there is promising research for medications that can reduce biological age, the notion that it will be an immediate and instant cure is likely a distortion of the truth. We need to understand that aging is just one of the processes that occur within us, but there are many ways we can counter these processes. It is possible to extend your life significantly, but this requires an understanding of the aging process as a whole.

Overall, the more resources we put into studying the aging process and search for effective ways of curing or reversing aging, the faster we will find answers to questions that humans have sought after for ages. The “Fountain of Youth” may arrive sooner than we think. It is important that we collectively understand the implications of reversing aging and take steps to address these issues as soon as possible.

Related reading:

Healthier, longer lifespans will be a reality sooner than you think, Juvenescence promises as it closes $100M round

2021 New Year’s Message by Victor Bjoerk

2021 New Year’s Message by Victor Bjoerk

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Victor Bjoerk


2021 has arrived, and it’s time for my yearly New Year’s message!

Since we all know how the world has been affected this year, there’s no point in mentioning the virus, but quite a few things happened for me.

At the beginning of this year and spring I was living in San Francisco and working on aging at BioAge. However, BioAge had to temporarily shut down because of COVID, but this wasn’t a big deal for me since I was able to transfer to Ichor Therapeutics in Syracuse, New York, which remained operational. So I got to work at two awesome leading biotech companies in the Longevity field, where I gained a lot of specific know-how which I am very grateful for!

I returned to Europe a few weeks ago, and shortly I’ll have some more exciting things to announce that I will be working on!

So yes, a lot of lemons were handed out this year worldwide, but I felt I did a decent job at making lemonade out of them. I’m a very positive person with a grand vision of wiping out all age-related disease within the next few decades, so that everybody can live as long as they want in a 25-year old body.

Some do not have that approach, they think “Longevity” means some slight health improvement by diet/exercise. Others study some aspect of aging because they want a PhD and some academic credentials (using aging as an excuse to refer to for that); however, this causes a generalized lack of a big-picture perspective for what’s going to work.

That is not me. I robustly and consistently keep up the interest until the mission is fully accomplished. In my personal roadmap I’ve developed for impacting aging, I emphasize the transdisciplinary scientific fields that are going to produce good outcomes (that may be hidden as, e.g.,“proteomics” rather than explicitly stated as “anti-aging”).

I also put an equal weight on the “business aspect” here, since your impact won’t be that big without the correct biotech business know-how, especially as AI and robotics wipe out the lab workers. Drug development and clinical trials are complex fields with 15-20 years from initial discovery to approved product. In addition, raising capital and advocacy to the public are as important as knowing the basic biology itself.

A lot of things in history have also been grotesquely mismanaged and squandered because of predictable human error, not because of the intrinsic difficulty of the science itself. There are a lot of golden nuggets laying around the labs in the world right now, and lots of resources and techniques are at our fingertips, but how will they be combined and implemented into an individual in order to cure them from aging? And how will this cocktail of interventions that forms the ultimate cure of aging be implemented across the world just like the efforts currently underway with the COVID vaccine?

A lot of setbacks are reversible and temporary, such as a lack of money and success or whatever people feel this year has caused them; aging is profoundly more serious.

During the year I read, as usual, many hundreds of scientific papers to keep up with the aging field, and also I have several publications I’ve produced, coming out now during 2021 (unfortunately peer-review takes time). I participated in many aging conferences, including one in Curacao, which meant a week of swimming in the tropics (how enjoyable!).

So yes, I felt I did many things well despite the challenges. Of course, things could always have been done better in retrospect, but that’s what one always says.

My New Year’s celebration this year isn’t very special because of all restrictions, but I wish you all a happy new year!

I have some typical New Year’s resolutions like getting fitter (but not motivating with all gyms and pools being closed, so some coaching is required), and of course continuing with the aging mission. So I’ll leave the question now to the reader: What have you done this year, and what good do you feel you can do for next year?

Victor Bjoerk has worked for the Gerontology Research Group, the Longevity Reporter, the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie, BioAge, and Ichor Therapeutics. He has promoted awareness throughout Europe of emerging biomedical research and the efforts to reverse biological aging. In his honor the U.S. Transhumanist Party organized the Victor Run 2020 Virtual Race on June 5-7, 2020. 

The Poverty Crisis and a Case for Universal Basic Income – Article by Brent Ellman in TAFFD’s Magazine

The Poverty Crisis and a Case for Universal Basic Income – Article by Brent Ellman in TAFFD’s Magazine

Brent Ellman


Editor’s Note: U.S. Transhumanist Party member and long-time USTP supporter Brent Ellman has published a piece in TAFFD’s Magazine on Universal Basic Income (UBI). Our friends at TAFFD’s (https://taffds.org/) were nice enough to give us permission to cross-post the article here in full format. Brent is an entrepreneur with a diverse background and currently serves as director of marketing at TAFFD’s. Originally from New York, he has lived in Colorado since 2008. 

~ Dan Elton, Director of Scholarship, United States Transhumanist Party, December 27, 2020


Excerpt: In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced in his State of the Union Address that, “This administration, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” How does one fight a war against poverty, though? What exactly does poverty even mean? As of 2019 in the United States, an individual who makes under $12,490 annually is considered to be living in poverty. A family of 3 earning under $21,330 also falls under the category of living in poverty.

In Denver, Colorado, 15.1% of the population lives below the poverty level, according to a recent Census Bureau ACS 5-year estimate. That estimate found that 101,000 out of 666,000 people are living below the poverty line. To put this further into perspective, as of July 2020, according to RentJungle.org, the average price to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Denver is $1468 per month. According to RentCafe only 5% of rentals listed in Denver are priced at less than $1000 per month. We’ve been waging America’s unconditional war on poverty for 56 years, and this is how far we’ve come.

How might poverty actually be solved in the United States? Read Brent Ellman’s full article here.

The Curative Education and Research Initiative (CERI) – Proposal by R. Nicholas Starr

The Curative Education and Research Initiative (CERI) – Proposal by R. Nicholas Starr

R. Nicholas Starr


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party (USTP) has published this view by our member R. Nicholas Starr in order to invite discussion on the issues he raises, although the USTP Platform does not endorse his proposal to tax religious institutions at this time. Indeed, the USTP Platform, in Section XXXVI, states that “The United States Transhumanist Party supports the elimination of graduated taxation and income taxation more generally. Instead, the United States Transhumanist Party advocates a flat percentage-of-sales tax applicable only to purchases from businesses whose combined nationwide revenues from all affiliates exceed a specified threshold. This tax should be built into the price of goods from such large businesses and should not impede transaction efficiency in any manner. Transactions pertaining to wages, salaries, gifts, donations, barter, employee benefits, and inheritances should remain completely untaxed, as should transactions involving solely individuals and/or small businesses, for whom the establishment of a tax-reporting infrastructure would be onerous. Furthermore, all taxes on land and property should be abolished.” An income tax on religious institutions, which primarily derive their income from donations, would be a tax on donations that the USTP Platform does not support. Moreover, it would create the need for a new tax-reporting infrastructure, and the USTP Platform tends toward the opposite approach of leveraging the reporting capabilities that already exist to create a seamless tax system that is barely noticed by ordinary people as they go about their daily lives. Furthermore, in Sections XX and XXV of its Platform, the USTP indicates support for religious tolerance and openness to religious individuals who may be receptive to technological progress and therefore may be valued allies and participants in the transhumanist movement. While we agree with Mr. Starr that additional science education and improved scientific literacy among the population would be highly beneficial, we would invite discussion of other ways in which it might be achieved. Also, we would invite any religious transhumanists to respond to Mr. Starr’s article with their own perspectives. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 27, 2020


The Curative Education and Research Initiative (CERI)

Religion is the father of all existential risk. To reverse its damage, I propose a 2.5% federal income tax on religious institutions to fund public school education and scientific research. Support for this can be found throughout the USTP Platform, but specifically Sections II, VII, XII, and XXXII.

America needs more science! Not just “traditional” sciences like biology or chemistry, but social sciences and their companion the arts as well. And while the USTP has identified many areas that are lacking scientific attention or funding, we should also address scientific illiteracy, and even resentment, in the United States. New research means very little if the average American does not understand the research, results, or how it benefits them and the rest of humanity.

The US also needs to improve research and public education of social sciences. Anthropology and sociology are relegated to fringe college courses when it should help form the core of American education system. Cultural ignorance and hatred restrict the free exchange of ideas and thus future research needs. And when elementary schools glorify figures like Christopher Columbus and marginalize the indigenous people he and those who came after him oppressed, how can we expect society to move forward?

All Americans need to come together to plan for and fight against any number of issues and existential threats that science is currently researching or that may arise in the future. Racism and societal intolerance not only affect the free exchange of ideas, but also stifle research of problems in specific communities that many Americans deem “undesirable” and not worthy of study (drugs, sex work).

The biggest existential threat to humanity isn’t climate change, racism, or nuclear war. The greatest threat is the mindset that begat them. When “God” gave dominion over the planet to man, the church set climate change in motion. When holy texts tell their faction they are superior to the others, this creates habits of oppression and subjugation. In short, humanity is still paying for the fiction turned perceived fact created millennia ago. The time for it to end is now.

Science is the silver bullet to ignorance and superstition. A well-educated public gets us there.

To fund this initiative I propose a 2.5% tax on religious institutions to fund public-school education and scientific research. Payment of this tax does not grant any new access from churches into schools (school prayer, previously excluded religious clubs, proselytizing, recruitment, etc.), input or direction of scientific research being funded by these taxes, or any previously prohibited religious involvement in government. The purpose of this tax is to fund programs that benefit all people living in the United States, as decided by the scientific data, and advance social and scientific understanding in the classroom and in every day life.

Why tax religious institutions?

  • Religion in America is a 1.2-trillion-dollar untaxed industry. A 2.5% tax would add $30 billion annually in federal tax revenue. Note: enforcing property taxes on all religious institutions would provide approximately $500 billion.
  • Tax breaks for religious institutions is a form of government subsidy. This forces all tax-paying Americans to support the church regardless of their religious beliefs.
  • Religious organizations have a long history of prohibiting or stifling scientific research, something that continues to this day (e.g., with stem cells).
  • Religious organizations claim to financially support charity work, but there is no mandate to do so or requirement for how much is spent on charitable efforts. Additionally, what each organization considers charity may be detrimental to marginalized communities (LGBTQ conversion camps) and humanity internationally (missionary work overseas, historical support of slavery).
  • Religious institutions have been, and continue to be, safe havens for misogyny, racism, intolerance, and violence. They owe a debt to society for the harm caused.

What should be funded with this money

  • Public education (current federal education budget is $64 billion)
    • Science
    • Social Studies
    • Arts
  • Federal entities for science and the arts
    • National Science Foundation (NSF – current budget of $8.3 billion)
    • National Institutions of Health (NIH – current budget of $39 billion)
    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA – current budget of $22.6 billion)
    • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA – current budget of $5.35 billion)
    • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA – current budget of $162 million)

As the primary objective of this proposal is to improve public education, it should be required that the largest sum of money should be put into public schools. However due to ever-changing financial needs, how this money is split shall be redetermined every two years by the legislative body. These numbers are based on the federal budget, but should this proposal be modified and adopted for state use, funding shall be sent to public education and scientific organizations that provide similar services as those noted above to the state.

This is controversial proposal. But it is also a modest tithe that can do a lot of good to change the country, and the world, for the better. Our country has gone above and beyond when it comes to supporting religious institutions and their members while asking for nothing but promises in return. It is time for these organizations to support the whole public.

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

Opinions From Around the World: Obah Isaac Ebuka – 3D-Printing Organs for Transplant

Opinions From Around the World: Obah Isaac Ebuka – 3D-Printing Organs for Transplant

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Obah Isaac Ebuka


Editor’s Note: It is extremely important that supporters of transhumanism understand the opinions of peoples from every nation. I, Kimberly Forsythe, decided to reach out to people from other cultures and asked them to give me their opinions on the topic of transhumanist tech. My goal is to better understand why some may object to the idea based on various cultural differences.

As I receive the essays, I will publish them. My hope is that we can work together to build more international bridges and achieve progress that works for as many people as possible. This essay regarding the promises of 3D-printing of organs and the remaining challenges of implementing this technology was written by Obah Isaac Ebuka. 

~ Kimberly Forsythe, Member, United States Transhumanist Party, December 13, 2020


3D-Printing Organs for Transplant

What if it was possible to mass-produce organs – to grow hearts and lungs in a lab, readily accessible by the hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for organs? The affirmative answer to that question has been the goal of many researchers over the years, and their results are very promising.

The Promise of 3D-Printing

In 1988, a researcher modified a basic HP inkjet printer into using cells instead of regular ink and used the printer to write on a surface using cytoscribing technology. Now in 2019, scientists in Israel have been able to print a miniature human heart complete with contracting blood vessels using human cells. A lot of work and technology through the years led up to this incredible feat of human bio-engineering.

3D-printing organs is still not completely perfected, but the technology at present shows that it is possible. Current biotechnology makes it possible to print incredibly complex organ scaffold structures that mimic the structures of human organs and tissues with high anatomical precision using synthetic but biocompatible materials. These scaffolds can then be used as the spatial matrix on which cells can be built upon to create life-sized vascularized organs that possess the vital microstructures of real organs.

Current Challenges for Bioprinting

Biological Complexity

There are still many challenges to bioprinting that are yet to be addressed. One of these is that human organs are more incredibly complex than current technology can create. It might have been possible to create a miniature heart with the major aortae and coronary arteries, but scientists have yet to replicate vessel structures like the millions of capillary networks which are micrometers in diameter and essential to the life of organs.

Also, organs are much more than their structures and shapes. There a lot of details about organs that we are yet to understand such as how certain genes, hormones, and other factors in the body interact with organs and vice versa. An example of this is how the heart is an endocrine organ and not simply a blood pumper. So a true heart replacement also has to be able to create Atrial Natriuretic Peptides (ANP), which lower blood pressure.

Practicability

Hindrances from a bioengineering perspective aren’t the only things to worry about. It is also very challenging to design clinical trials that will test the longevity and compatibility of these experimental organs in humans. There is also the challenge of securing sustainable sources of cells, biocompatible material, as well as large-scale manufacturing capabilities needed for 3D-printing to be a viable and affordable replacement for real organ transplants.

Ethnic and Religious beliefs

Ethnicity and religious belief inhibit technological changes. In Nigeria, a country in western Africa, some groups of religious fanatics believe that each organ is sacred and would not have their organs changed. This view is not only shared in Nigeria particularly, but it is commonplace and widespread for natives to abhor mending or replacing what they come to see as natural.

Proposed solutions to these barriers

Natives should be enlightened. They should be taught the need for bioprinting organs, seeing that the ultimate aim is to save lives.

Author: Obah Isaac Ebuka

Abuja, Nigeria.

Twitter handle: @AiTweet01

Opinions From Around The World: Mert Basoglu – The Cautionary Tale of Neuralink

Opinions From Around The World: Mert Basoglu – The Cautionary Tale of Neuralink

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Mert Basoglu


Editor’s Note: It is extremely important that supporters of transhumanism understand the opinions of peoples from every nation. I, Kimberly Forsythe, decided to reach out to people from other cultures and asked them to give me their opinions on the topic of transhumanist tech. My goal is to better understand why some may object to the idea based on various cultural differences.

As I receive the essays, I will publish them. My hope is that we can work together to build more international bridges and achieve progress that works for as many people as possible. This commentary on Elon Musk’s Neuralink was written by Mert Basoglu from Istanbul, Turkey.

~ Kimberly Forsythe, Member and Assistant Editor, United States Transhumanist Party, December 11, 2020


The Cautionary Tale of Neuralink

Elon Musk has been in the public eye with his innovations and ambitious projects in various fields such as aerospace, electric car manufacturing, and lately, neurotechnology. Even though I find most of his ideas and innovations worthy of admiration, I believe Neuralink and brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), in general, are somewhat problematic at this stage of human evolution.

First and foremost, I am all for Musk’s idea of treating neurological diseases that used to be untreatable. In consideration, Neuralink’s benefit to society in terms of both physical and mental health would be undeniable if it’s used correctly and responsibly. But, given our history of violence, abuse, and exploitation, I believe we are not ready for this kind of invention as of yet. It is an irrefutable fact that (BMIs) such as Neuralink are highly prone to being misused and weaponized for self-interests or political reasons. This may be a pessimistic view; however, I think of it as a realistic one, as there are oceans of such examples in our history. As a result of this, I think Neuralink or other (BMIs) are revolutionary and great inventions that should have emerged in the future, when our collective consciousness and empathy as a society hopefully progressed further.

Apart from these topics, there are many other concerns regarding Neuralink that beg to be discussed and solved. One example could be the topic of individualism; the paradox of creating a ‘database’ or ‘network’ that is filled with our ‘individual’ thoughts. It begs the question; what happens to the sense of self? Are our thoughts impersonal now? If we transcend humanity, become a collectively transhuman entity, where does our inevitable evil and hunger for destruction go?

To end on a positive note, I would love Neuralink or other BMIs to be useful inventions that we regularly use in our daily lives, but I think we, as humanity, have to cut our afflictions at the roots first.

– Mert Basoglu

Istanbul, Turkey

State of AI 2020 – Article by Pavel Ilin

State of AI 2020 – Article by Pavel Ilin

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Pavel Ilin


This summary is prepared based on the State of AI Report 2020, which was crafted by Nathan Benaich and Ian Hogarth.

The AI industry is very diverse in its application, and it’s going through a transformation from the magical-wand stage to the plateau of adequate development. Let’s take a look at what is happening in the AI industry.

Research

We haven’t come up with new super-smart algorithms. Progress in model performance keeps being driven by big computational budgets and huge data sets. Training of the GPT-3 language model, with its 175 billion parameters, cost approximately $10 million. At the same time larger models require less data to achieve the same level of performance. With a deep-learning approach we are getting close to the point when the cost of training will grow outrageous with incrementally smaller improvements of the model.

An important fact is that the code base of most artificial intelligence systems remains closed. Only 15% of papers publish their code. This raises a lot of concerns about reproducibility and AI safety. AI explainability remains a critical issue for AI safety research; there are promising avenues of exploration such as Asymmetric Shapley Values, but so far it’s unknown how AI systems make decisions. 

Natural language processing (NLP) models successfully simulate common scenes and linguistics, but they fail dramatically with understanding problems and context and forming knowledge. 

Talent

Talented people with skills in math and computer science are the drivers of the progress in the AI field. More and more US professors are being recruited by tech companies. This affects the quality of education that US universities can provide. We already can see a decline in the level of entrepreneurship among recent graduates. At the same time Universities are creating AI-related degree programs.

The US keeps its position as the main attractor of talented individuals. For example China contributes to the talent pool of AI developers, but after publication of their first results, talented people are most likely to move to the US. 90% of international PhD graduates stay and work in US universities and corporations. Demand for AI talent remains much higher than supply, even despite COVID-19’s impact on market growth.  

Industry

AI keeps progressing not only on a theoretical and research level. Many real world applications are already in use, and they are affecting the industries in various ways.

New drugs are being designed by AI, and they are already in clinical trials. For example AI-designed drugs for OCD treatment are out for testing in Japan. AI drug-discovery startups keep raising funds. Also big pharma is teaming up with startups around preserving privacy during drug discovery. For example OpenMined uses federated learning to preserve privacy with medical data. Viz.ai presented the first product which was approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the US. Their product analyzes tomography scans and alerts specialists who can treat patients before they receive damage that leads to the long-term disability. 

Progress in self-driving cars stays limited. Only 3 companies in California have permission to conduct testing of self-driving cars without a safety driver. Self-driving mileage remains microscopic compared to human drivers (2,874,950 miles for self-driving cars versus 390,313,739,000 miles for humans). The research and development process for self-driving cars remains very expensive. The major companies in this field raised around $7 billion since July 2019. Tesla chose to approach gradually adding self-driving features to its cars, but human drivers still remain in the loop. Recent approaches such as supervised learning do not perform well enough. To make dramatic breakthroughs, new approaches are required.

Computer vision unlocks faster accident and disaster recovery intervention. It also reduces the amount of human hours spent using a microscope, which could lead to acceleration of development processes and reduction of product costs.

AI drives sales and at the same time reduces costs in supply chains and manufacturing. Robotic process automation and computer vision are the most commonly deployed techniques in the enterprise. Speech, natural language generation, and physical robots are the least common. Recently IBM partnered with health insurance company Humana. IBM implemented natural language understanding (NLU) software which is already live and handles calls. It not only redirects calls to the different queues; it’s able to answer basic questions, such as “How much will the copay be to visit a specific specialist?” without human intervention.

Modern AI, in order to perform well, requires a lot of computing resources. Specialized AI hardware keeps progressing, and companies are now presenting second generations of their products. Graphcore M2000 offers faster training time to drop the cost of state-of-the-art models. Google’s new TPU v4 delivers up to a 3.7x training speedup over their TPU v3. NVIDIA will not rest either; it has achieved up to 2.5x training speedups with the new A100 GPU vs V100. Increasing interest towards machine learning devOps is a signal that the industry shifting its focus from how to build models to how to run them.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, investments keep coming into the industry. Private funding rounds of greater than $15 million for the AI-first companies remain strong.

Politics

Usage of AI for facial recognition tasks is extremely common around the world. Around half of the world allows facial recognition. This has become a recognizable political and ethical problem, especially when use of this technology leads to the wrong arrests. There were two highly publicized cases of wrong arrest in the US (which is probably just a tip of the iceberg). In May 2019, Detroit police arrested Michael Oliver who was wrongly accused of a felony for supposedly reaching into a teacher’s vehicle, grabbing a cellphone and throwing it, cracking the screen, and breaking the case. In January 2020, Detroit police arrested Robert Williams as a shoplifter who allegedly stole five watches from Midtown’s trendy Shinola store in October 2018. In both cases charges were dismissed but harm was done. 

Industry took a more thoughtful approach as a reaction to the AI mistakes. Microsoft deleted its database of 10 million faces, Amazon announced a one-year pause on letting the police use its facial recognition tool Rekognition. IBM announced it would sunset its general purpose facial recognition products. Washington State in the US introduced requirements to acquire warrants to run facial recognition scans. The ImageNet, a popular image database, is making an effort toward reduction of the biases in its image collections.

As Deep Fake technology produces more and more realistic media, it becomes illegal to use in certain states in the US. California passed a law, AB 730, aimed at deep fakes, which criminalizes distributing audio or video that gives a false, damaging impression of a politician’s words or action. Many other US state bills have been passed, addressing different risks. For example Virginia law amends current criminal law on revenge porn to include computer-generated pornography.

The US government keeps pursuing implementation of the military AI systems. DARPA organised a virtual dogfighting tournament where various AI systems would compete with each other and a human fighter pilot from the US military.

AI nationalism is on the rise. Countries tend to pursue protectionist policies to scrutinize acquisitions of AI companies by the players from other countries.

Every year AI plays a more and more noticeable part in our lives. It becomes cheaper, and you learn how to do new things. But we have to remember that at the moment AI is still a tool. And there are some philosophical and methodological difficulties which we have to overcome before it will be possible to deliberate about the potential sentience of the AI. It’s very important for the policy makers to make informed decisions based on how technology actually works and not on magical understanding formed based on popular sci-fi.

Pavel Ilin is Secretary of the United States Transhumanist Party. 

 

Opinions From Around The World: Abdeldayem Hassanein – Bionics and Other Emerging Technologies

Opinions From Around The World: Abdeldayem Hassanein – Bionics and Other Emerging Technologies

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Abdeldayem Hassanein


Editor’s Note: It is extremely important that supporters of transhumanism understand the opinions of peoples from every nation. I, Kimberly Forsythe, decided to reach out to people from other cultures and asked them to give me their opinions on the topic of transhumanist tech. My goal is to better understand why some may object to the idea based on various cultural differences.

As I receive the essays, I will publish them. My hope is that we can work together to build more international bridges and achieve progress that works for as many people as possible. This first essay was written by Abdeldayem Hassanein, an MD and medical writer from Egypt.

He was already familiar with some aspects of transhumanism, especially the areas of bionics and nanotechnology. I asked him to write a piece from his point of view. Here is Abdeldayem’s essay in its entirety.

~ Kimberly Forsythe, Member, United States Transhumanist Party, December 4, 2020


“A person can never be broken. Our built environment, our technologies, are broken and disabled.”

~ Hugh Herr

Hugh Herr, a victim of leg amputation, said the above sentence during a presentation where he expressed his opinion about bionics. Bionics are prostheses that combine the qualities of both technology and biology. The bionic leg has three attachment layers to the human body: mechanical, biological, and electrical. Joints are supplemented with a special metallic blade sensitive to body voltage. With voltage zero, the blade relaxes while with 1-degree voltage, the blade stiffens, enabling the handicapped to walk without support. The equipment is attached to the nerve ending at the site of amputation. Hugh was injured by frostbite after falling while he was climbing a mountain. [3]

Bionics are categorized under the “Human+” outlook, a philosophy encouraging innovation and updating. Yet, some nations hate some aspects of this philosophy like its seeking for immortality on Earth, age conversion, as well as its experimentation with genetic materials.

In 2017, eye bionics appeared. An elder patient with an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, with decades of blindness, all of a sudden shouted in happiness after a surgical operation where sensors were implanted in his eye retinae and were combined with eyeglasses supplemented with a camera. He found himself capable of differentiating between orange trees and apple trees. He could watch TV but without color discrimination. [4]

Scientists in the Biotechnology department in one bionic center spent 200 days evaluating the mode of manufacture of a leg for a female dancer  who lost her leg after a blast injury in Afghanistan. She could successfully return to her beloved dancing. [2]

Hand prostheses previously were only cosmetic. With bionics, however, the amputated person can play with cards, open a door with a key, shake the hand, count the currency precisely, and drive a car. It was a dramatic moment when a pretty girl of 20 years old, who was born mute due to congenital anomalies in her ears, started to hear after implantation of metallic sensors near the eight cranial nerves – devices which provided her with sound magnifiers. [1] [5]

It appears that science is a double-edged weapon. Aspirin, the first drug lowering fever, was abused during the Spanish Influenza pandemic and caused a lot of toxicities from an overdose. Thalidomide, a drug supposed to calm pregnant ladies, was an investigational drug under the supervision of German and American researchers. The German regulatory body was in hurry to pass Stage 3 of evaluation and allowed German citizens to use thalidomide while pregnant, while the American regulators preferred to postpone its usage for further evaluation. The result was the birth in Germany of a couple of babies with serious congenital anomalies called Phaecomalia, where the baby lacks both arms and legs.

Transhumanists are not always welcomed. The so-called Haredi Jews in Jerusalem are conservative to the degree that they disallow TV inside the home, allow Internet only at work, and disallow couples meeting except in the dark. Such a style makes them resistant to many activities of the Transhumanists. [7]

Some historians think that science alone is not sufficient to lead humans to utopia. Also, the classic way of research, including meta-analysis, systematic review, and even experimental studies would not be sufficient to alleviate all human sufferings. Scientists made a lot of efforts in search for COVID-19 vaccine, while a only little effort was devoted to investigating the disappearance of half a trillion bees inside the USA during only the past 14 years, a phenomenon is known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Bees are required for forest pollination and hence may help reduce ground-level ozone pollution by supporting forests that absorb ground-level ozone. Without this effect, the phenomenon of global warming may be accelerated.

However, there is some hope in regard to adoption of emerging technologies throughout the world. For example, nanotechnology supplies gold nanoparticles to treat cancer of the female genital tract, and the materials are considered cheap. Some hospitals use nano-painting due to its bactericidal effects. [8]

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[1] Connolly, Christine. “Prosthetic hands from touch bionics.” Industrial Robot: An International Journal 35, no. 4 (2008): 290-293.

[2] Rouse, Elliott J., Nathan C. Villagaray-Carski, Robert W. Emerson, and Hugh M. Herr. “Design and testing of a bionic dancing prosthesis.” PloS one 10, no. 8 (2015): e0135148.

[3] Herr, Hugh M., and Alena M. Grabowski. “Bionic ankle-foot prosthesis normalizes walking gait for persons with leg amputation.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279, no. 1728 (2012): 457-464.

[4] Coffey, Valerie C. “Vision accomplished: the bionic eye.” Optics and Photonics News 28, no. 4 (2017): 24-3.

[5] Kral, Andrej, and Thomas Lenarz. “How the brain learns to listen: deafness and the bionic ear.” Neuroforum 21, no. 1 (2015): 21-28.

[6] Kribs-Zaleta, Christopher M., and Christopher Mitchell. “Modeling colony collapse disorder in honeybees as a contagion.” Mathematical Biosciences & Engineering 11, no. 6 (2014): 1275.

[7] Friedman, Menachem. “The Haredi (ultra-orthodox) society: Sources, trends and processes.” Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (1991).

[8] Naddafi, K., H. Jabbari, and M. Chehrehei. “Effect of nanosilver painting on control of hospital air-transmitted microorganisms.” Journal of Environmental Health Science & Engineering 7, no. 3 (2010): 223-228.

Why I Hope to Be Alive at 75 – Article by Steve Hill

Why I Hope to Be Alive at 75 – Article by Steve Hill

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Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: In this article, originally published on November 13, 2020, by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), Steve Hill explains why the attitude of Joe Biden’s new advisor on COVID-19 strategy, Ezekiel Emanuel, is supremely counterproductive. Emanuel infamously wrote in 2014 that he hopes to die at age 75. Given that COVID-19 is a disease whose toll is greatly amplified by biological aging, Emanuel’s statements render him uniquely ill-suited  to remedy the ravages of the ongoing pandemic. Moreover, his pessimism toward what life is like at age 75 is no longer justified, in light of emerging medical advances that could enable rejuvenation and biological youthfulness for those who are in late middle age today. Perhaps, if he sees these advances become a reality in the not-too-distant future, Emanuel might change his mind regarding the desirability of longer lifespans.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, November 17, 2020


2020 has been a strange year for a variety of reasons, but the societal changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has created are probably the strangest. However, it is perhaps even stranger that Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel has been appointed to advise Joe Biden on COVID strategy.

Emanuel is best known for writing a controversial article in the October 2014 edition of The Atlantic, headlined “Why I Hope to Die at 75”, in which he strongly rejects the desire to live beyond the age of 75 and expresses his opinion that continuing to live after such an age is meaningless.

Living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived.

Needless to say, I strongly disagree with this baffling point of view and am somewhat concerned that someone who thinks this way of his own life, and presumably the lives of others, may be appointed to a position of influence for a disease whose primary risk group is the elderly. This seems almost as foolhardy as spending a vacation weekend in a caravan with Hannibal Lecter.

Emanuel listed quite a few methods by which people extend their lives and stated that they were a “valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible,” but his response to them was, “I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive.”

Age is the #1 risk factor for COVID

The scientific evidence clearly shows that the primary risk factor for contracting and dying from COVID-19 is age, with people over the age of 75 at particularly high risk. This is due to the decline of the immune system, which becomes increasingly weak and dysfunctional with age in a process known as immunosenescence.

Globally, the strategy has been to try to shield these vulnerable people as best as possible due to their weakened immune systems and limit their exposure to the disease while vaccines are developed.

Needless to say, I find Biden’s nomination of him to address a disease that mostly affects seniors ironic in itself, given that he thinks the lives of most people beyond 75 are pointless and that they don’t live meaningful lives and would be better off embracing death rather than desperately trying to extend them. Therefore, I hope for the sake of the older people in our society that he has rethought his priorities.

Why I hope to be alive at 75

Predictably, there is already a storm raging on social media around his appointment, so there is no purpose to adding more fuel to that fire. Instead, I am going to talk about why the future of aging could be very different to the grim picture that Emanuel paints.

At age 63, he is getting closer to the age at which he thinks life is pointless, and I believe that a large reason why he is so pessimistic about life beyond 75, whether he realizes it or not, is based on the current state of medicine. This line of reasoning does not take into account how medicine, and in particular how we treat aging could change in the next decade or two.

Current medicine does a great job at keeping people alive for longer, but they often have to live with one or more chronic diseases. Given that, I am not surprised that Emanuel is not enamored with living a long life, especially as that could entail being disabled, bed-bound, or otherwise suffering a poor quality of life as the result of debilitating age-related diseases.

Thankfully, the world healthcare strategy is slowly starting to shift to one of prevention over cure, but right now, the typical approach is to play whack-a-mole with diseases. As one pops up, it is treated, then the next, and the next, and so on. This strategy works great for infectious diseases, but it is an exercise in futility and diminishing returns when applied to the chronic diseases of aging.

However, things could be different in the not so distant future, and being 75 could see the majority of people far more fit, healthy, and vibrant than ever before in human history thanks to advances in aging research. Therapies that directly target aging could potentially make people biologically younger (in particular their immune systems) and much more able to withstand COVID-19 and other diseases.

As explained on LEAF’s What is Aging? page, aging consists of multiple processes (“hallmarks”) that gradually cause damage to organs and tissues and lead to age-related diseases. Rejuvenation biotechnology is advanced medical technology that directly addresses any of the various aging processes in order to restore tissue and organ function to a more youthful state, thereby ameliorating, delaying, or preventing age-related diseases. Let’s take a brief look at some of the promising near-future research that could bear fruit by the time Emanuel reaches 75 and perhaps change his mind.

Rejuvenating the immune system

The decline of the immune system is a key reason why the elderly are most susceptible to infectious diseases such as COVID, and there has been considerable interest in the rejuvenation of the immune system in recent years.

Dr. Greg Fahy from intervene immune has had some early success with thymus rejuvenation in a small human pilot study and demonstrated that it is possible to cause the thymus, which shrinks and loses its capacity to produce immune T cells during aging, to regrow and resume production of those cells. Dr. Fahy is now moving forward into a larger-scale study, and if the results continue to be positive, it is not hard to imagine that thymus regrowth could become a staple of helping the elderly stay healthy.

Another example of immune rejuvenation is currently being developed by Samumed, a biotechnology company that is developing drugs that target the Wnt pathway to restore it to youthful function. The Wnt pathway is a key pathway that regulates the function of our stem cells and ensures that they supply our tissues and organs with new cells to replace losses from injury, disease, and wear and tear.

If successful, this approach would allow the body to resume efficient repair of tissues, and it would replenish aged and failing tissues and organs with fresh, healthy cells supplied by the rejuvenated stem cells.

Therapeutic plasma exchange

Researchers Irina and Mike Conboy at UC Berkeley have been researching blood factors and their role in aging for over two decades. During that time, they have identified a number of factors present in aged blood that appear to regulate aging.

These factors are also present in younger people, but in typically far lower amounts, and tend to serve useful functions. However, during aging, the levels of these proteins become deregulated, and they often rise to detrimental levels and cause damage to the body, which typically involves preventing stem cells from working and tissue from regenerating.

Decades’ worth of research from the Conboy lab has shown that, in mice at least, it is possible to filter out these harmful pro-aging blood factors and bring them back down to a level similar to younger animals. When this happens, the result is rejuvenation of tissues and the reversal of some of the aspects of aging, making the mice more youthful.

This approach uses an already approved technique known as therapeutic plasma exchange to filter and calibrate these key factors and could be readily modified for human use. Should the results seen in animals translate to humans using this approach, it would have a profound effect on our health as we age and potentially delay, prevent, or even reverse some age-related diseases.

Conclusion

These are only some of the examples of why healthy life expectancy could rise significantly in the near future, and there are plenty of reasons to remain future positive. This is the future direction of medicine and healthcare that we support at Lifespan.io, a world where being 75 does not mean you are thrown on the scrap heap and where people like Emanuel will no longer feel that life has no meaning. I am confident that in such a world, being 75 would not be the burden he thinks it will be, and this is why I hope to be alive at 75.

Steve Hill serves on the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) Board of Directors and is the Editor-in-Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, along with attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ Magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, Keep Me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration, which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project.