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

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

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Alex Kadet


The pain of those fighting to extend human life expectancy

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

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

Aubrey de Grey

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

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

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

Longevity advocacy

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

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

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

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

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

The population of the planet is rapidly aging.

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

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

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

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

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

Life-Extension Myths

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

Maybe extending human life would be unnatural?

The answer is no.

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

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

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

I don’t think so.

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

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

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

No, we will not die due to overpopulation.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

So, why aren’t we afraid of death?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club

USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club

Gennady Stolyarov II
Roen Horn


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, was interviewed on December 14, 2019, by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club. Topics discussed included recent developments in transhumanist politics, the Presidential campaign of Johannon Ben Zion, transhumanist elements in the candidacies of Zoltan Istvan and Andrew Yang, how to persuade religious individuals to be more receptive to the ideas of transhumanism and life extension, prospects for the transhumanist movement to find a spokesperson regarding life extension as influential as Greta Thunberg has been regarding climate-change activism, preservation of the self and “I-ness”, existential risks, and longevity themes in film and literature.

References

Ben Zion 2020 Campaign Website
Johannon Ben Zion Candidate Profile

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Click here to apply in less than a minute.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Meeting at RAAD Fest 2019 – October 6, 2019

U.S. Transhumanist Party Meeting at RAAD Fest 2019 – October 6, 2019

Gennady Stolyarov II
Johannon Ben Zion
Brent Reitze


On October 6, 2019, the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party held a meeting in Las Vegas at RAAD Fest 2019, with approximately 45 members of the public in attendance. USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II, Presidential Candidate Johannon Ben Zion, and Director of Publication Brent Reitze provided an overview of the recent 2019 Electronic Primary and the lessons learned from it and solicited ideas from the attendees about how to improve public recognition of transhumanism and arrange for activism with similar impact to Zoltan Istvan’s 2016 Immortality Bus campaign. A vigorous but civil and thought-provoking discussion ensured for approximately 90 minutes. Watch the video recording of the meeting here.

References
U.S. Transhumanist Party 2019 Electronic Primary Results – Johannon Ben Zion Endorsed as Candidate for President of the United States
U.S. Transhumanist Party 2019 Primary Election Results and Johannon Ben Zion Acceptance Speech 

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Click here to apply in less than a minute.

RAAD Fest 2019 Announcement of U.S. Transhumanist Party 2019 Primary Election Results and Johannon Ben Zion Acceptance Speech

RAAD Fest 2019 Announcement of U.S. Transhumanist Party 2019 Primary Election Results and Johannon Ben Zion Acceptance Speech

Gennady Stolyarov II
Johannon Ben Zion


At RAAD Fest in Las Vegas on October 6, 2019, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP), announced the results of the 2019 USTP Electronic Primary for President of the United States, and introduced the winner of the Electronic Primary and the USTP-endorsed candidate for President of the United States in 2020, Johannon Ben Zion.

Watch the video recording of the announcement and Candidate Ben Zion’s acceptance speech here.

See the detailed results of the 2019 USTP Electronic Primary here.

Read about USTP’s endorsed candidate, Johannon Ben Zion, here.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Click here to apply in less than a minute.

U.S. Transhumanist Party 2019 Electronic Primary Results – Johannon Ben Zion Endorsed as Candidate for President of the United States

U.S. Transhumanist Party 2019 Electronic Primary Results – Johannon Ben Zion Endorsed as Candidate for President of the United States


October 1, 2019 – The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) hereby announces the results of its 2019 Electronic Primary for the USTP’s endorsement of a candidate to run for the office of President of the United States. Detailed results have been tabulated here.

Between 8:30 p.m. Pacific Time on September 21, 2019, and 6:00 p.m. on September 30, 2019, 312 members of the USTP cast their ballots in the first-ever competitive USTP primary election among candidates. Consistent with the USTP’s commitment to ranked-preference voting, which is superior and more representative than single-choice plurality voting, this ballot required voters to rank-order all candidate options (nine candidates and “None of the Above” – which could have been selected as first, last, or in the middle of your options). While candidate Kimberly Forsythe withdrew from the race as voting was ongoing, candidates Johannon Ben Zion, Kristan T. Harris, Rachel Haywire, Charles Holsopple, John J. Kerecz, Jonathan Schattke, Matt Taylor, and Vrillon remained as choices on the ballot for voters to select until the end. The first 170 ballots that included Candidate Forsythe were subject to a de facto instant runoff where, after the removal of Candidate Forsythe, all of the choices which voters ranked less favorably than her were elevated by one ranking.

All votes cast during the election process were manually validated to ensure that they originated from genuine USTP members. While several duplicate votes were discarded, the USTP leadership believes that those votes were inadvertent and the result of technical difficulties or misunderstandings experienced by a small number of members. Detailed monitoring of the votes cast did not detect any voter fraud, sock-puppet accounts, or mass attempts by non-members to vote. USTP leadership is thus confident that election security was appropriately preserved.

After the entire 312 ballots were cast, an instant-runoff process was undertaken, and seven rounds of instant runoffs were required before a candidate achieved a numerical majority of reassigned votes. The instant-runoff process, along with the entirety of the anonymized individual ballots (ordered by randomly assigned Voter IDs to protect individual voters’ privacy), has been documented in this spreadsheet. The “manual” (Excel-based) instant-runoff process was externally validated by another, automated mechanism:  the open-source Instant-Runoff Voting Tool, developed by Peter Grassberger and available at https://petertheone.github.io/IRV/. The linked text file contains the inputs entered into the Instant-Runoff Voting Tool to produce output that exactly matched the results obtained through the USTP’s own internal calculation process. USTP leadership is thus confident in the accuracy of the instant-runoff calculations.

Below is a summary of the voter rankings given to each candidate that remained on the ballot until the conclusion of the election.

The candidates accordingly began the instant-runoff process with the following vote totals.

Round 1: Tally of First Choices

Johannon Ben Zion: 109 votes – 34.94%
Rachel Haywire:          72 votes – 23.08%
Kristan T. Harris:       35 votes – 11.22%
Charles Holsopple:     30 votes – 9.62%
John J. Kerecz:            19 votes – 6.09%
Matt Taylor:                  17 votes – 5.45%
None of the Above:     13 votes – 4.17%
Vrillon:                           9 votes – 2.88%
Jonathan Schattke:     8 votes – 2.56%

In Round 7 of the instant-runoff process, candidate Johannon Ben Zion achieved a majority of the reallocated votes.

Round 7: Tally of First Choices after Reassignment

Johannon Ben Zion: 160 votes – 51.28%
Rachel Haywire:              97 votes – 31.09%
Charles Holsopple:         55 votes – 17.63%

Therefore, Johannon Ben Zion has won the USTP 2019 Electronic Primary. Candidate Ben Zion is both the ranked-preference winner and the plurality winner of the election. Moreover, his lead in both absolute and relative terms is substantial and remained the case throughout the voting process.

In accordance with the preferences of the USTP membership, on October 1, 2019, USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II declared pursuant to his authority in Article II of the USTP Constitution that the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party hereby endorses Johannon Ben Zion for President of the United States in the 2020 general election.

Officially Candidate Ben Zion will be running as an independent candidate and will be personally responsible for any fundraising (should he choose to engage in it) and compliance with registration and campaign-finance requirements. However, the USTP and its team of Officers and volunteers will assist Candidate Ben Zion in any manner that is lawful and practicable. Moreover, if Candidate Ben Zion qualifies for inclusion on any States’ ballots, then, in approximately half of the jurisdictions in the United States, it would be possible to use a “political party designation” of “Transhumanist Party” to accompany the candidate’s name on the ballot.

The USTP leadership congratulates Johannon Ben Zion on his victory and looks forward to working with his campaign to maximize public awareness of the ideas of transhumanism and the many constructive policy applications to these ideas can be put. The USTP also encourages all of its members, and all transhumanists generally, to support the Ben Zion 2020 campaign and unite as a movement in advocating for the ideas of transhumanism to the general public. The candidacy of Johannon Ben Zion, with appropriate input and guidance from a broad spectrum of transhumanists – including those who supported other candidates in this election – can become a powerful vehicle for mainstreaming transhumanist aspirations. No matter whom you voted for in the primary, we welcome your support in this next stage of our endeavors – and we welcome other candidates continuing an active role in the projects of the USTP, including potentially pursuing other political offices.

Gennady Stolyarov II and Johannon Ben Zion Discuss a Transhumanist Vision for U.S. Policy

Gennady Stolyarov II and Johannon Ben Zion Discuss a Transhumanist Vision for U.S. Policy

Gennady Stolyarov II
Johannon Ben Zion


Johannon Ben Zion of the Futurist New Deal Podcast interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II regarding the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s recent efforts, visions for the future of American politics, technological progress and technological Singularities, the importance of life-extension advocacy, open-source approaches to innovation, and overcoming challenges such as information overload and overly slow and cumbersome approval processes for innovative medical treatments. Mr. Stolyarov and Mr. Ben Zion also discussed in general terms the upcoming USTP Presidential Primary Election, for which voting will open on September 22, 2019.

This interview was filmed in Burbank, California, on August 24, 2019, following the Wellness and Longevity Seminar that was hosted there to mark the publication of The Transhumanism Handbook.

References

– “Progress in the Politics of Abundance” – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II
U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel – Burbank, California – August 24, 2019
The Transhumanism Handbook
– “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” – Mr. Stolyarov’s chapter in “The Transhumanism Handbook” – available for free download
Free Transhumanist Symbols
Futurist New Deal Podcast videos
Johannon Ben Zion – Candidate in the 2019 U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Presidential Primary

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Those who join by September 22, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the Presidential Primary.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel – Burbank, California – August 24, 2019

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel – Burbank, California – August 24, 2019

Johannon Ben Zion
Gennady Stolyarov II
Arin Vahanian
Charles Holsopple


On August 24, 2019, many leading transhumanists gathered in Burbank, California, to commemorate the publication of The Transhumanism Handbook. Subsequent to the seminar and book-signing event marking that occasion, the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) held a discussion panel hosted by Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II and featuring Director of Marketing Arin Vahanian and USTP Presidential Primary candidates Johannon Ben Zion and Charles Holsopple. Subjects of conversation included assessments of the public’s receptiveness to transhumanist ideas, approaches toward spreading transhumanism, common misconceptions and challenges to overcome, as well as the upcoming Presidential primary election, for which voting will begin on September 22, 2019.

Find out more about The Transhumanism Handbook.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Those who join by September 22, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the upcoming USTP Presidential Primary.

See the USTP Platform here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov’s chapter in The Transhumanism Handbook – entitled “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” – for free here.

Progress in the Politics of Abundance – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II

Progress in the Politics of Abundance – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP), delivered this presentation, entitled “Progress in the Politics of Abundance“, during the August 24, 2019, Wellness and Longevity Seminar in Burbank, California, to commemorate the publication of The Transhumanism Handbook. Mr. Stolyarov spoke to update the audience on recent USTP activities in 2019 since the writing of his chapter, entitled “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” which is available for free download.

Some of the subjects addressed in Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation are the necessity and challenges of overcoming the evolved mindset of scarcity – the zero-sum mentality – in politics, the USTP’s #IAmTranshuman campaign, its successful effort to amend Nevada Assembly Bill 226 to remove the prohibition against voluntary microchip implantation, and its Transhumanist Symbols project, of which the products are freely available here.

The presentation slides are not fully visible in the video but can be accessed and downloaded here.

Find out more about The Transhumanism Handbook.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Those who join by September 22, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the upcoming USTP Presidential Primary.

Transhumanists Need New Symbols – Statement by Gennady Stolyarov II

Transhumanists Need New Symbols – Statement by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II


Transhumanists: we need new symbols in place of “H+ / h+” – which are not the best representations of our movement as a whole. We need inspiring, meaningful, unambiguous symbols that are developed through grassroots efforts within our community and made freely available for anyone to use.

Infinity Ankh by Nic Nassuet

The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) calls upon graphic designers, artists, marketing experts, philosophers, and other interested individuals to design a series of new symbols representing transhumanism in general. There is no limit to the number of symbols developed or the kinds of artistic and design directions that are pursued. The only condition of this collaboration is that any resulting symbols be released into the public domain in entirety and become available for free download, reuse, and upload to popular image repositories such as Wikimedia Commons. Ultimately, it will be user preference that will determine which symbols will achieve widespread adoption – but the USTP encourages a thousand (symbolic) flowers to bloom.

TH Symbol by Gennady Stolyarov II

 

Please join us in this collaboration. View the many symbols generated in response to it thus far here. We expect numerous new symbols to be added to our gallery over time.

You may submit your symbols via e-mail to USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II here, as well as link to them in the comments on this article or post them on any social-media thread where this article is being shared. By contributing symbols in response to this project, you grant your consent to have those symbols released freely into the public domain and to be used by any individuals at no monetary cost to them worldwide and in perpetuity, without the right to use those symbols being limited to any particular individual(s) or organization(s) or subject to the control of any such individual(s) or organization(s). You agree that no person, at any time in perpetuity, would be able to claim any intellectual property rights over the symbols generated in response to this collaboration.

Infinity Arrow by Michael Murray

 

The USTP also encourages all transhumanists to abandon the use of any variants of the “H+ / h+” symbols for the purpose of referring to transhumanism generally or as a whole, for numerous reasons which shall be explicated below. In November 2016, when leadership of the USTP passed to Chairman Stolyarov, the USTP made the decision to discontinue the use of “H+ / h+” and to replace it with its current “exponential infinity” logo. Now the USTP calls upon all other transhumanists – including candidates competing for the USTP’s endorsement in the forthcoming Electronic Primary – to replace any uses of “H+ / h+” with original and unrelated symbols which are likely to better represent what transhumanism stands for.

Transhumanist Wolf by Michael Passavant

1. The “H+ / h+” symbols are ambiguous and can refer to many other matters besides transhumanism. Many of these uses are, in fact, better known than transhumanism. In chemistry, “H+” refers to a hydron, the most common of which is the simple proton. In physics, “h+” refers to an electron hole. Among mobile-phone networks, “H+” stands for Evolved High-Speed Packet Access, the fastest of the 3G networks. Even the streaming service Hulu uses the “h+” symbol while an entire chain of “H+ Hotels” has been established across Germany. Surely, transhumanists can do better than a derivative symbol which has many other, mostly unrelated uses and will be overshadowed in the public mind by those uses.

2. The “H+ / h+” symbols were attempted substitutes for transhumanism; we need to openly embrace transhumanism instead. The symbols originated in the course of the 2008 rebranding of the World Transhumanist Association into Humanity+, yet the USTP holds that symbols depicting the transhumanist movement should be focused on promoting and reinforcing connections with the word “transhumanism”. Transhumanism is the technically accurate name for our philosophy advocating the dramatic improvement of the human condition through science and technology. We should not shy away from the term “transhumanism” – but rather we should proclaim it proudly and articulate it accurately. Intellectually honest persons with dispositions open to truth and learning will understand and appreciate this unabashed transparency, and they are the allies we should seek to cultivate.

We do not need to fear misunderstandings from the public but should rather challenge those misunderstandings when confronted with them. Transhumanism is our philosophy, and we should advocate it clearly and openly by that name.

3. The use of the “H+ / h+” symbols is largely limited to the United States, whereas transhumanism is a global and cosmopolitan movement. Consistent with the spirit of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, transhumanism includes the promise of a better life for all sentient entities, not limited to a particular culture or any particular national boundaries. Our symbols also need to be universal, cosmopolitan, and inclusive – encompassing both today’s humans as well as sentient entities and forms of intelligence and sapience that have yet to arise.

4. Transhumanism is much more than a single organization. A movement and a philosophy cannot be confined to a particular corporate entity; to confine it thus is to stifle its growth and transform a living, open philosophy into a staid and centrally controlled dogma. This is not in itself a criticism of the Humanity+ organization, but rather a recognition that the movement as a whole is not the same as any given organization within it. It is confusing to have symbols that could potentially refer to a single organization but also to the movement as a whole. A cleaner approach would be to leave the “H+ / h+” symbols to the Humanity+ organization – since its rebranding occurred long in the past and is a fait accompli – while adopting new, more creative, and more representative symbols which anyone could use in the capacity of referring to transhumanism as a whole – much like anyone may use a cross to refer to Christianity, a crescent to refer to Islam, a Star of David to refer to Judaism, a torch to refer to liberty, a red flag or red star to refer to socialism, or a fleur-de-lis to refer to France. No one owns these symbols, and their meanings transcend any particular individual or group. It is for this reason that the USTP calls for the new symbols of transhumanism to be released into the public domain; they will also not be confined to the USTP itself but will rather be usable by any transhumanist to refer to all of transhumanism – including those parts of the transhumanist movement which are outside the USTP.

5. Transhumanists may become unable to use the “H+ / h+” symbols anyway. It has come to the USTP’s attention that the Humanity+ organization has recently embarked upon a campaign to enforce its trademark in a broadly construed manner. Humanity+ owns a trademark to a stylized lowercase “h+” logo but has, per the understanding of the USTP, taken the position that any use of “H+” or “h+” in the context of transhumanism is sufficiently similar to be an infringement of that trademark. The USTP considers this position to be overly reaching and impracticable to enforce completely, given that Creative Commons versions of “h+” symbols which are distinct from the Humanity+ logo have been available and used in at least tens of thousands of instances for over a decade. However, the USTP as an organization does not have a direct stake in this matter and has already differentiated itself in its logos and other graphics. Out of an abundance of caution, the USTP recommends that transhumanists discontinue using the “H+ / h+” symbols more broadly.

Our more general concern is that there is always a danger with a broader intellectual movement resorting to essentially proprietary symbols. Proprietary symbols can potentially lead to intellectual “gatekeepers” emerging and restricting the growth of the movement – whether or not this is any entity’s current intention. A philosophy which can potentially be adopted by anyone should also utilize symbols that could potentially be adopted by anyone without the need to seek permission or approval. In order to continue the remarkable growth that transhumanism has experienced in recent years, it is therefore prudent for all transhumanists outside of Humanity+ to immunize themselves by discontinuing the use of the “H+ / h+” symbols. By ceding the ground of those symbols to Humanity+, transhumanists in all areas of the movement gain the much more important territory of intellectual freedom in preventing the gatekeeper phenomenon from emerging. No single transhumanist organization, including the USTP itself, should become the gatekeeper of the transhumanist movement as a whole.

6. Transhumanists needs to embrace techno-optimism and pursue a more hopeful, heroic vision of the future. In practice, the “H+ / h+” symbols are insufficiently connected with radical life extension and the potential for technology to solve many of today’s pressing social problems. While there is nothing inherently wrong with toned-down variants of transhumanism as such, they should not be the only ones. When perceiving the “H+ / h+” symbols, one does not immediately associate them with the heroic ambitions that ought to characterize the transhumanist movement – ambitions toward biological immortality (or indefinite life extension), radical abundance, and humankind seizing control of its own evolution – ambitions toward solving, within our (hopefully greatly extended) lifetimes, every problem that afflicts the contemporary world.

Since 2013, through grassroots advocacy by a newer cohort of transhumanists, including the USTP’s founder Zoltan Istvan, a more exuberant, direct, and techno-positive vision of transhumanism has gradually emerged to the forefront of public awareness and inspired many to consciously seek to transform the flawed contemporary world into a new Transhuman Era of our civilization. The new Transhuman Era needs new symbols which properly convey the spirit of techno-optimism and indefinite, open-ended improvement of length and quality of life in all respects.

Become part of the effort to shape the vision for the new Transhuman Era of our civilization by helping to create its symbols. Deploy your skills and imagination to help us represent our aimed-for future of indefinite lifespans, perpetual progress, and unending prosperity for all – and exemplify the spirit of radical abundance by sharing your creations freely with the world.

Gennady Stolyarov II is the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party. Find out more about him here

A Dialogue on the Simulation Interview with Dan Faggella: A Case for Responsible Stewardship – Article by Dinorah Delfin

A Dialogue on the Simulation Interview with Dan Faggella: A Case for Responsible Stewardship – Article by Dinorah Delfin

Dinorah Delfin


Voice by Terence McKenna

Last week I published an article, Programmatically Generated Everything – The Intelligence/Love Paradox” in response to an interview with Dan Faggella for Allen Saakyan’s Simulation series.

Dan’s thoughtful response to my article was highly stimulating as he was able to mindfully elaborate on, and critique my thoughts. So grateful for the opportunity to have this exchange of insights – Thank you!

Dan hypothesizes that human civilization might be heading towards a future subordinated by “substrate digital monopolies”, and as a result, becoming more disconnected from real human interactions, nature, and a truer sense of reality.

From this exchange, we expressed agreement on three fundamental areas:

1. A future controlled by substrate digital monopolies is one we don’t want, and therefore should mitigate.

2. We need to agree on a global set of values to enable responsible and sustainable technological development.

3. Emerging technologies such as virtual realities (VR), brain-computer interfaces or brain-machine interfaces (BMI), and artificial general intelligence (AGI) will benefit humanity and all sentient life, if used responsibly.

1. Predicting undesirable futures

For the record, this world of substrate monopolies is not something I hope for, strive for, or wish for. Rather, I consider it likely (read the full essay on the matter). It’s a hypothesis – and more than anything – a warning against a kind of power conflict that I fear. Such virtual worlds could be amazing and beneficial, but the conflict of controlling the substrate is a reality I foresee to be likely, not a reality I foresee to be preferable.” — Dan Faggella

Given our global market dynamics, sadly, substrate digital monopolies are likely to happen. The greater the disconnect between meaningful human interactions and nature, the longer we’ll perpetuate the destructive narcissism and lack of care driving society to an accelerating ecological and moral crisis. Could it be that a greater disconnect from a Truer sense Self and of Reality could put at odds the stability of all natural systems – including intelligent life itself?

Though I embrace the idea that we, technological creatures, have an inherent right to have full sovereignty over our individual evolution and senescence through the means of science and technologies, I’m also aware that many things can and will probably go wrong if we don’t properly educate ourselves or have the right policies in place.

How could we redirect the destructive forces of a global arms race for digital dominance towards instead a thriving technological era of creative and ecological flourishing? What would it take for market forces to adopt systems that are in service of all stakeholders?

By understanding where we come from – historically, biologically, and energetically – we will be better equipped at thinking and solving problems holistically and sustainably.

2. On the issue of context and values

During my years in Business School at Baruch College N.Y., a class that had the most impact on my education was “Social Entrepreneurship”.

As we become more dependent on automated processes, we ought to also device outlets for people to participate in Creative Processes that involve both the fulfillment of drives and pleasures and the accumulation of virtues and sound moral values. The better we are at mastering Self-Leadership, the better we will be at designing social systems that operate under the Highest Ethical Standards.

How can businesses and corporations profit from making the world a better place? How can we inspire young entrepreneurs to find True meaning in Life so that our drives and intentions are aligned with maintaining a more Harmonious Universal Ecosystem?

“Most of what we believe to be moral tenets and insights are contextual”, says Dan. I agree. It is a postmodern sensibility based on the universal natural principle of Relativism, which means, everything is essentially an opinion and nothing could be iron truth.

Some things are More truthful than others however, for example, when supported by empirical evidence. Context isn’t fixed. A set of values need not be static. (The USTP’s Bill of Rights, for example, is a living document which can be amended via votes by the U.S. Transhumanist Party members.) 

In response to last week’s article, fellow USTP Officer, Ryan Stevenson, shared the following observations:

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the issues you raise about the relationship between human intelligence/reason/technology and goodness recently, and what you’ve written here is really insightful. It seems that’s it’s rather easy to forget that technology isn’t a panacea, and there must be (as you put it) ‘humane’ intentions guiding its use.  

A number of the distinctions you put forward reminded me of an early Christian philosopher, Maximus the Confessor. Maximus was one of the first individuals in Western thought to grapple with the nature of technology and, unlike his fellow Christians, saw its potential for making human beings more human.  Obviously, his thought exists in a theistic context, but maybe Maximus belongs in our list of Transhumanist forebears. If you’re interested, here’s an article that touches on some of his philosophy dealing with techne…

I also support advocating for a proactive policy with regards to BMI and VR at international bodies like the UN.  Building a transorganizational coalition with other groups would be a good step forward – labor and time-intensive, but important and doable.  It would be great to get that conversation going.” 

Maximus the Confessor’s theistic approach to this early reference to critical and ethical Transhumanism is a compelling reminder that one of the most fundamental uses of technology is to help humans become More Humane. In this article, it is argued that technology is meant to assist us in “stewarding creation across the cosmos” and that the tradition of “natural law reasoning” can help “ground a global ethic for sustainable and integral development”.

Could natural law reasoning based on empirical evidence be a viable tool to articulate norms and ideas of universal understanding?

Growing up as a Christian, for example, I often wondered about the meaning of the “holy spirit”. Devoid of mythology, the concept is one of transition towards self-awareness – Ape-to-Human – the idea of “self” becoming apparent to “sinless” primates whose awareness might have increased from introducing bone marrow and mushrooms to their diet, leading to an miraculous evolutionary transition from fearful subjects of nature’s will, to responsible masters and designers of our individual and collective destiny. 

The un-learning of one’s convictions to exercise novelty and expanded new perspectives (the dissolution of limiting beliefs) is one of the most challenging of human endeavors, but the only way to true freedom and collective harmony.

3. Love and god as universal natural phenomena; not as romantic ideas of love, or a culture’s perception of a “moral” “entity”.

In an age of powerful technology, it becomes poignantly obvious that while a personal and social ethic remain necessary—albeit altered to reflect emerging understandings of personhood and relationality—they are also increasingly not sufficient. If as humanity, as one global culture, we are to order complex ecological changes effected through human (and possibly even non-human) agency and manipulation, natural law reasoning must be more profoundly cosmological. This implies, that natural law must consider as much as possible, the ‘total ecology’ in view of its finality as New Creation, but also our human obligation to steward the flourishing of creation in all its rich, inter-dependent diversity. This ultimately is what Laudato Sì calls for when it promotes an ‘ecological conversion’ for an authentic integral flourishing.” Nadia Delicata, “Homo Technologicus and the Recovery of a Universal Ethic: Maximus the Confessor and Romano Guardini”, 2018.

Concepts of Order and Chaos are as deeply ingrained in Quantum Mechanics as in Theological, or Natural Law, reasoning. Quantum theory suggests there are many dimensions to reality, and the Noosphere has been referred to as a natural phenomenon of “transhuman consciousness emerging from the interactions of human minds.”

Love exists in many forms as the inherent “sacred”/“intelligent” programming driving natural systems towards reproduction and survival. Positive feelings like joy, love, care, trust, or instinctual arousal and mating, for example, all produce chemical reactions and high vibrational frequencies in the brain, linked to growth and a strong immune system. Stress, depression, anxiety, which make the body sick and susceptible to degenerative diseases, are linked to lower vibrational brain frequencies.

While we envision a future where sentient life blooms into higher forms of understanding and expression, I believe it is safe to say that the Transhuman Era we desire is one that encourages humanity to be more caring and to think more holistically.

Dinorah Delfin is an Artist and the Director of Admissions and Public Relations for the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party. 

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