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The Future of Pensions – Article by Nicola Bagalà and Michael Nuschke

The Future of Pensions – Article by Nicola Bagalà and Michael Nuschke

Nicola Bagalà and Michael Nuschke


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by Nicola Bagalà and Michael Nuschke of the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF), originally published on the LEAF site on May 15th, 2019.  The article brings attention to and responds to concerns related to the impacts of increased longevity on pension systems, a possible result of our mission of ending age-related diseases, which the U.S. Transhumanist Party supports as part of our policy goals.

~ Brent Reitze, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, June 15th, 2019


If you work in social security, it’s possible that your nightmares are full of undying elderly people who keep knocking on your door for pensions that you have no way of paying out. Tossing and turning in your bed, you beg for mercy, explaining that there’s just too many old people who need pensions and not enough young people who could cover for it with their contributions; the money’s just not there to sustain a social security system that, when it was conceived in the mid-1930s, didn’t expect that many people would ever make it into their 80s and 90s. Your oneiric persecutors won’t listen: they gave the country the best years of their lives, and now it’s time for the country to pay them their due.

When you wake up, you’re relieved to realize that there can’t be any such thing as people who have ever-worsening degenerative diseases yet never die from them, but that doesn’t make your problem all that better; you still have quite a few old people, living longer than the pension system had anticipated, to pay pensions to, and the bad news is that in as little as about 30 years, the number of 65+ people worldwide will skyrocket to around 2.1 billion, growing faster than all younger groups put together [1]. Where in the world is your institution going to find the budget?

That’s why, whether you work in social security or not, the words “life extension” might make you feel like you were listening to an orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with forks on a blackboard; we’re likely to have a pension crisis on our hands as it is because of the growth in life expectancy, and some people have the effrontery to suggest that we should make life even longer?!

Why, yes, some people do have the effrontery, and believe it or not, it may actually be a good idea—possibly, and only apparently counterintuitively, the idea that will prevent the pension crisis from happening in the first place.

Why retirement?

Suppose for a moment that human aging never existed and that, barring accidents and communicable diseases, people went on living for centuries—their health, independence, and most importantly, ability to work, remaining pretty much constant over time; in order to tell apart a 150-year-old from a 25-year-old, you’d have to look at their papers.

In a scenario like this, it’s difficult to imagine why any government would go through the trouble of setting up a pension system that works the way the current one does. It would make sense to have measures in place to support people who couldn’t work after being paralyzed by injuries, but paying out money to perfectly able-bodied people to do nothing for the rest of their lives just because they’re over 65 would make no sense at all. It’s surely possible that, after 40 years of work, you’d rather be on vacation forever, but it’s somewhat unrealistic to expect that your country would be prepared to pay you a pension for centuries to come, in exchange for a meager 40 years of contributions, simply because you’re tired of working.

In other words, if people past a certain age have a right to retire until death and receive a pension, it’s essentially because, past that certain age, their health tends to worsen to the point that they’re unfit for work, and it can be expected to worsen in the following years; it’s not because the government or insurance companies feel like sending people on indefinite paid vacations. Depressing, perhaps, but true.

Of course, you could try to put a positive spin on this and look at retirement as a time of financial independence, when, either because you receive a pension or you have enough savings, you can enjoy life without having to go to work every day. This is a much better way to look at it, but we must account for the fact that most people who retire do so either because they hit retirement age or because other circumstances, such as ill health, forced them to retire early [9]—not because they managed to save up enough to retire in their 40s. The health of average retirees doesn’t interfere just with their ability to work but also to enjoy life in general. Most people over the age of 65 suffer two or more chronic illnesses [2,3,4]; the risk of developing diabetescancercardiovascular diseasesdementia, and so on skyrockets with age [5], and your financial independence (not to mention your life in general) would be a lot more enjoyable if you didn’t have to put up with any of these.

Retirement 101

The takeaway here is that retirement exists out of necessity more than desire, and even if you try to look at it from a different angle, you’ve still got the problem of the burden represented by age-related diseases. Given these facts, it’s important to understand how retirement works before we can establish if and why the feared pension crisis expected in a few decades from now is actually going to happen and whether life extension will make the problem better or worse.

A pension is a regular payment typically paid monthly to retirees. It can be paid to individuals by governments or employers, or it can come from personal savings, often in the form of special individual retirement accounts that provide some tax incentive to save. This three-pillar system, devised around a hundred years ago, exists in several countries around the world. The purpose is to provide an income after people stop working, i.e. during retirement until death.

Often, pensions can be received only after a certain age or number of years of work and would be deferred if you retire before the minimum is reached; if you decide to retire at age 30, well before you hit retirement age or have worked anywhere near the minimum number of years that you were supposed to, you’re going to wait for a while before you see a dime from your pension.

The funding of a pension depends on the type of pension. In the case of government pensions, like those paid by Social Security in the U.S., the funding is a combination of individual contributions (paycheck deductions) and government funding. Federal and state regulations are in place to ultimately ensure that the future pension income “belongs” to each individual contributor, but of course, contributions that you pay out today aren’t simply set aside for thirty years until you can collect them; they’re used to pay the pensions of present-day retirees; similarly, the money owed to pay your pension will come from the contributions of the workforce at the time of your retirement.

Why a crisis might be on its way

This pension system works well under the assumptions made back when it was devised, but, a hundred years later, things aren’t quite the same anymore.

For example, in the 1930—when the US Social Security system was conceived—the average life expectancy at birth was about 58 for men and 62 for women, whereas the retirement age was 65. This doesn’t mean that everyone checked out before they could cash in, because life expectancy at birth was pulled down by a higher infant mortality; in reality, people who reached adulthood had respectable chances to make it to retirement age and go on to collect their pensions for up to about 13 years; that is, just about before they hit age 80. However, in the year 2015, life expectancy at birth in the US was 79.2, which is around the maximum age that people were expected to reach at the dawn of the pension system; in 2014, the remaining life expectancy at age 79 of people in the US was 8.77 years for men and 10.24 for women. Therefore, in a worst-case scenario, people today can expect to live at least well above the maximum expected lifespan of the 1930s, and, in a best-case scenario, ten additional years. (From the point of view of the pension payer, best- and worst-case scenarios are probably the other way around.) The global average life expectancy in 2015 was 71.4, and even though the remaining life expectancy at that age varies depending on the country, it’s not difficult to see why the funding costs of pensions are mushrooming—simply put, people are living for longer; therefore, they need to be paid pensions for longer—longer than the pension system was designed to handle.

This spells trouble already, but there’s more bad news. As noted above, the global number of people over age 60 is projected to increase significantly in a few decades’ time, more than doubling between 2017 and 2050 (from 1.0 to 2.1 billion), whereas the 10-24 age cohort is expected to increase by a meager 200 million (from 1.8 to 2.0 billion) and the 25-59 cohort by 0.9 billion (from 3.4 to 4.3 billion) [1]. In particular, the number of people aged 85 and above is projected to grow more than threefold, from 137 million to 425 million, over the same span of time. Speaking of pensions alone, this is like having a piggy bank that a fast-growing number of people keeps drawing from and a slow-growing number of people puts money into. (As a side note, the number of children aged 0-9 is projected to stay the same between 2030 and 2050—that is, in twenty years’ time, we won’t have any more future contributors than we used to, while the people needing those contributions will have grown by 0.7 billion over the same 20 years.)

These two facts—the increase of life expectancy and the decrease of fertility rates—constitute what is known as population aging, which is pretty much the core of the problem; external factors that make matters worse, as some people maintain, are poor decision-making and unrealistic promises by politicians and, in general, the people managing pension systems. These might be the result of a lack of understanding of the problem or simply not genuinely caring about the consequences, but, in any case, making clear decisions on the actions to be taken is not an easy task, as tinkering with policies and rates relies on hard-to-predict information, such as the average lifespan of pensioners of a specific pension plan.

In addition, unrealistic investment expectations add to this growing pension crisis. The higher the assumed rate of future investment returns, the less funding is needed to have a “fully funded” pension plan. Currently, the high assumed rates reduce the apparent problem. For instance, the average rate of return on US state pension plans is assumed to be 7.5% per year; meanwhile, investment experts would say a return expectation of 6.5% is much more realistic, and if this assumption is correct, then even more pensions are in danger of running out, and others, previously thought to be only somewhat underfunded, become drastically underfunded. The result is that there is much talk of pension reforms, but the political unpopularity of touching retirement pensions or reducing the unrealistic promises causes continued procrastination.

The situation is depressing, in the U.S. and in several other countries. While U.S. Social Security is running low—with the average retiree having only 65.7% of their Social Security benefits remaining after out-of-pocket spending on medical premiums, for example—and expected to run out of money in 2034, Citigroup estimates that twenty OECD countries have unfunded or underfunded government pension liabilities for a mind-boggling total of $78 trillion; China, for example, is expected to run out of pension money shortly after the US, in 2035. In a September 2018 report, the National Institute on Retirement Security warned that the median retirement account balance among working-age Americans is zero and that nearly 60% of working-age Americans do not own any retirement account assets or pension plans. In the press release of the same report, the report’s author, Diane Oakley, stated that retirement is in peril for most working-class Americans, and according to an analysis by Mercer, in a World Economic Forum report, there’s plenty of reasons to believe her, as the US pension funding gap is currently growing at a breakneck rate of $3 trillion a year, reaching $137 trillion in 2050.

The icing on the cake: geriatrics

Pensions constitute quite a bit of money paid to people for around two decades until they die, and whether or not we can afford this, it would still be better if we weren’t forced to spend so much money in this way; even worse, we effectively throw even more money out the window by paying for geriatrics, something that most retirees are worried about.

Money spent on healthcare is generally money well spent, but only if it actually improves your health. The problem with traditional geriatrics is that it acts on the symptoms of age-related diseases rather than their causes. The diseases of aging are the result of a on complex interaction between different, concurrent processes of damage accumulation taking place throughout life; this means that, as a rule of thumb, the older you are, the more damage that you carry around. This means that any treatment aimed at mitigating age-related pathologies that does not act on the damage itself or its accumulation is destined to become progressively less effective, like shoveling water with a pitchfork out a lake while a river continually dumps more in.

Generally, geriatric treatments don’t directly affect the damage or its accumulation, so they cannot eliminate age-related diseases and become less and less useful as you age. Some kinds of geriatric treatments are actually geroprotectors—that is, they are able to interfere with the damage or the accumulation of damage and may help prevent diseases—but are often administered too late in the game, when pathologies have already manifested. Geriatrics is decisively not the best bang for the buck, even though it is presently better than nothing at all.

It doesn’t come cheap, either; according to a MEPS report, in 2003, the elderly constituted less than 25% of the Medicaid population but 26% of Medicaid spending; the report finds, unsurprisingly, that chronic conditions contribute to higher healthcare costs, and among the top five most costly conditions are diabetes and heart disease, two diseases typical of old age. Even less surprisingly, in 2002, people over 65 constituted 13% of the US population but accounted for 36% of total US personal health care expenses.

A 2004 study in Michigan found that per capita lifetime health expenditures were $316,000 for women and $268,700 for men (part of the discrepancy is to be attributed to women’s longer lifespans), of which one-third is incurred during middle age and more than another third is incurred after age 85 [6] for people fortunate enough to live that long. Again according to MEPS, in 2016, the average health spending in the US for people over the age of 65 was $11,316; for comparison, the sum total of all the other age cohorts from 0 to 64 was $13,587, only about $2,200 more. The cumulative spending for the 65+ cohort—that is, the average total of yearly expenditures for a US citizen at least 65 years old—was nearly $170,000. Again in 2016, people aged 65 and over accounted for 16% of the US population while constituting 36% of the total health spending.

report by Milken in 2014 found that, in 2003, about $1.3 trillion was thrown out the window in the US because of the treatment costs and lost productivity related to chronic diseases; the same report projects that, in 2023, the loss will amount to $4.2 trillion.

A 2018 study focusing on out-of-pocket spending for retirees found that the average household that turned 70 in 1992 will incur $122,000 in medical spending over the rest of their lives, and that the top 5% and 1% will incur $300,000 and $600,000, respectively [7]. This paper also found that Medicaid significantly helps the poorest households with their expenses, and it must be noted that, past a certain age, remaining lifetime healthcare costs stop growing and tend to stabilize (for no other reason that the people in question don’t have much life left during which they could spend money on healthcare), but whether the money spent on geriatrics, nursing homes, and so on is a lot or a little, or is spent by you personally or by the government, somebody is going to spend it on something that will not give your health and independence back and is not going to make your life much better. If we must spend it, we might as well do so on something that will actually restore your health.

To top it all, when you consider that American workers aren’t saving that much, a single major medical event past retirement could wipe however little they had set aside.

The costs of caring for older people don’t stop here; they affect their family caregivers as well. As highlightedby the National Center on Caregiving, taking care of a disabled family member may impact the caregiver financially, emotionally, and even health-wise; caregivers are more likely to suffer from stress and depression, are prone to illness themselves, and lose, on average, nearly $700,000 over their course of their lives. When you take into account population aging, it’s clear that this trend can only worsen and put more strain on society.

Life extension: friend or foe?

Now that we have a clearer idea about the potential pension crisis looming ahead and the costs of pensions and geriatrics, it’s time to discuss whether life extension would make the problem better or worse.

It all depends on how you understand life extension. The term per se is somewhat misleading, in that many people often imagine a longer, drawn-out old age in which ill health and the consequent medical expenses and pensions are extended accordingly, just as in the nightmares of social security planners. This is most definitely not what life extension is about, and it’s obvious that extending old age as it is right now would not be a solution to the problem of pensions (or even desirable for whatever other reason). Simply prolonging the duration of life without also prolonging the time spent in good health (if at all possible to a significant extent) wouldn’t solve any problem, and as a matter of fact, it would worsen existing ones; people would be sick for longer, thereby increasing the already exorbitant amount of suffering caused by aging, and they would need pensions and palliative care for longer, probably pushing our social security systems well over the edge. (As a side note, this is what geriatrics does: it delays the inevitable, prolonging the time spent in ill health by making you a wee bit less sick for a longer time.)

However, lifespan and healthspan—that is, the length of your life and the portion of life you spend in good health—aren’t causally disconnected; you don’t just drop dead because you’re 80 or 90 irrespective of how healthy you are. The reason we tend to die at around those ages is that our bodies accumulate different kinds of damage in a stochastic fashion; as time goes by, the odds of developing diseases or conditions that eventually become fatal go higher and higher, even though which specific condition will kill you depends a lot on your genetics, lifestyle, and personal history. The idea behind life extension isn’t to just “stretch” lifespan; rather, the idea is to extend healthspan, that is preserving young-adult-like good health well into your 80s or 90s, and the logical consequence of being perfectly healthy for longer is that you will also live for longer. Significant life extension only follows from significant healthspan extension, and it’s very unlikely that it could ever be otherwise.

Again, the fundamental reason that pensions exist is to economically support people who are no longer able to do it themselves. We need to have such a system in place if we don’t want to abandon older people to their fate. If life extension treatments take ill health and age-related disabilities out of the equation entirely, pensions as we know them today will no longer be needed, because you will be able to support yourself through your own work regardless of your age.

Some people might shudder at the thought of working at age 90, but we can’t help but wonder if they actually realize that the alternative is literally to get sicker and sicker and eventually die; if they prefer that to continuing to work, they probably have more of a problem with the specific line of work they’re in than life extension itself, and they should ask themselves whether they’d trade their health and life in their 40s if it meant that they could quit working earlier. There is, though a better angle to look at this from, and it’s what we mentioned before: retirement as financial independence. Being perfectly healthy for the whole of your life, however long it may be, does not mean you must work each and every moment of it. A longer life spent in good health may more easily allow you to attain sufficient financial independence to retire at least for a while. Unless you’re a billionaire, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be able to retire for centuries in the current economic system; still, you might be able to enjoy a few years off, and then, say at age 100, celebrate your first century of life in perfect, youthful health by starting off an entirely new career with the same energy and vigor you had when you started the first one in your 20s.

Even if you don’t manage to save enough to retire by yourself, we should not forget that a pension system where people retire for a few years and then go back to work, producing wealth once more rather than just consuming it for decades, is the Holy Grail of social security; governments would have a much easier time paying for your pension for, say, five years, knowing that in five years, you’ll be making your own living again. Your insurance, or whoever pays for your medical expenses, would also be extremely happy to know that you have no chronic conditions to be taken care of—and most importantly, so would you. In a situation like this, a pension crisis is unlikely to happen because pensions would not be a necessity anymore. Even if it happened that pension funds ran dry for whatever reason and push came to shove, people would be able to support themselves through their own work—they’d have to postpone their retirement for some time, but that would be okay, because whatever their age they’d still be fully able-bodied.

This is the best-case scenario: a world where aging is under full medical control, just like most infectious diseases today. There’s also a possibility that this won’t come to pass as soon as we’d like and that we’ll achieve only partial control over aging, for example by successfully extending your healthspan by a few years. Even in this more modest scenario, the financial benefits would be enormous, with an estimated value of over $7 trillion over the course of fifty years [8], which is a benefit worth pursuing whether a pension crisis will happen or not.

Of course, it’s a good idea to sit down and attempt to do the math on a case-by-case basis to see for a fact which countries would effectively have significant economic incentives to endorse, and perhaps even financially support, rejuvenation therapies for their own citizens, but a 2018 report of the International Longevity Centre in the UK provides reasons to be rather optimistic. Titled Towards A Longevity Dividend, the report discusses the effects that life expectancy has on the productivity of developed nations, based on nearly 50 years of demographic and macroeconomic OECD data of 35 different countries; the results of this analysis can be summarized easily: life expectancy is positively correlated with a country’s productivity across a range of different measures. Indeed, the analysis found out that life expectancy seems to be even more important for a country’s productivity than the ratio of young (working) versus old (retired) people. The conclusions of the report’s author are that a longevity dividend, i.e. global economical benefits derived by an extension of healthy lifespans, may be there for society to reap.

We should also not forget that life experience is an asset; while work experience may easily become obsolete time and time again over the course of a very long lifespan, the wisdom and knowledge that older workers may have accumulated may make them excellent mentors and drivers of further progress and innovation.

Summing up

If life extension were simply the prolongation of the period of decrepitude at the end of life, it would make little sense to pursue it. It would do nothing to improve our health, and to add insult to injury, it would exacerbate an already uncertain global financial situation. However, life extension is not this; it’s a significant extension of our healthspan, from which an extension of lifespan logically follows, and as such, it has the potential not just to rid us of age-related diseases altogether but also to solve the financial problems caused by the necessity of pensions and geriatrics by mitigating or eliminating our need for them.

People working in social security can probably sleep more soundly if the undying elderly of their nightmares are replaced with rejuvenated, productive, and independent elderly whose health no longer depends on how long ago they were born.

About Nicola Bagalà

Nicola is a bit of a jack of all trades—a holder of an M.Sc. degree in mathematics; an amateur programmer; a hobbyist at novel writing, piano, and art; and, of course, a passionate life extensionist. After his interest in the science of undoing aging arose in 2011, he gradually shifted from quiet supporter to active advocate in 2015, first launching his advocacy blog Rejuvenaction before eventually joining LEAF. These years in the field sparked an interest in molecular biology, which he actively studies. Other subjects he loves to discuss to no end are cosmology, artificial intelligence, and many others—far too many for a currently normal lifespan, which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension.

About Michael Nuschke

For over three decades, Michael pursued a financial planning career and specialized in retirement income planning – how to ensure you don’t run out of money before you run out of life. Meanwhile, as an avid follower of science and technology, he realized that normal assumptions about retirement needed to be changed. Planning retirement gets tricky if you live well past age 100 in good health! Michael now calls himself a “Retirement Futurist” and is working to change how we think about retirement and life planning. He has contributed chapters for two books on the future and writes on the retirementsingularity.com blog. As a long-time meditator, he believes that meditation is a key discipline to enable clear thinking.

U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Announces Six Candidates for Its 2019 Presidential Primary

U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Announces Six Candidates for Its 2019 Presidential Primary

The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) is pleased to announce the candidates who have put themselves forward for consideration for the USTP’s endorsement in running for the position of President of the United States of America. To become eligible to vote for any of these candidates in August 2019, please register for free as a member of the USTP, no matter where you reside. Only those who register for membership through August 10, 2019, would be eligible to take part in the USTP Electronic Presidential Primary.

Because of the formidable hurdles to political-party ballot access on the State level, the candidates seeking the USTP’s endorsement would need to officially run as independent candidates. However, if those candidates qualify for inclusion on their 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.

Learn About the Candidates

The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) has asked all of its declared candidates for its 2019 Presidential Primary to answer the same essential questions so as to inform the USTP membership of the candidates’ stances on key issues and provide each USTP member the opportunity to make an informed decision, including through comparisons of the candidates’ answers. The USTP will endeavor to pose the same questions and generate profiles for all of the candidates who make their intentions known to us via the Presidential Candidate Declaration of Interest Form.

The USTP has not, at this time, endorsed any Presidential candidate. Such an endorsement will occur as a consequence of the USTP Electronic Primary, which is intended to be held in August 2019. At this time, all contents of the candidate profiles are for informational purposes only, in order to contribute to a more informed membership and enable knowledge of the candidates and their positions to spread.

The order of presentation of the candidate profiles below is alphabetical by first name. It is not intended to indicate any preference or lack thereof for any of the candidates.

Brent

Reitze

Charles

Holsopple

Dan

Good

Johannon

Ben Zion

Natasha

Vita-More

Rachel

Haywire

Endorsement and Electronic Primary Process – Anticipated Timeline

The following timeline is approximate and subject to change as circumstances may necessitate. However, it is intended to provide an overarching impression of the sequence and desirable speed of steps for reaching an endorsement of a candidate for President of the United States.

– April 5, 2019 – July 5, 2019: Candidates declare their intention to seek the USTP Presidential endorsement and begin to campaign through channels of their choosing (online and/or in person) to attract supporters and spread awareness of their messages.

– July 6, 2019: First Transhumanist Presidential Debate (Virtual)

– July 6 – August 3, 2019: Candidates continue to campaign; the USTP will introduce structured questions on various issues of interest for the candidates to respond to in writing. The candidates’ answers will be spread by the USTP, which will have the effect of further raising awareness of the candidates and their stances.

– July 16, 2019: The Transhumanism Handbook (edited by Newton Lee) is expected to be released. It is hoped that candidates will read this book (or significant portions thereof) and reference the ideas therein as part of their public outreach and campaign-related discussions.

– August 3, 2019: Second Transhumanist Presidential Debate (Virtual)

– August 3-10, 2019: Final week for candidates to campaign prior to the electronic primary.

– August 11-17, 2019: Electronic ranked-preference primary (7-day voting period, simultaneous for all USTP members).

– August 18-24, 2019: Votes from the electronic primary are tabulated and released. The candidate winning the USTP endorsement is announced simultaneously with the release of the results.

– August 24, 2019 – November 3, 2020: The candidate winning the USTP endorsement continues to campaign until Election Day 2020. The other candidates may seek the USTP’s endorsement for other federal, state, or local offices.

– August 24, 2019 – September 30, 2019: Potential separate campaign and primary process for the selection of the USTP Vice-Presidential nominee.

– Early October 2019: Potential for the candidate winning the USTP endorsement to deliver an official acceptance speech in a venue with a large number of attendees.

– October 15, 2019 – November 30, 2019: Selection of a Transhumanist Cabinet to assist the USTP Presidential nominee to demonstrate a model of governance and constructive policymaking in the event of a Transhumanist Presidency.

The USTP is committed to running a fair, transparent, and (small “d”) democratic election with no predetermined outcome. Each of these candidates has the opportunity to make his or her case to the USTP membership and to recruit new members prior to the August 10, 2019, cutoff date for registration. We find each candidate to be insightful, intelligent, accomplished, and representative of perspectives that constitute the transhumanist movement in all of its variety and will help shape that movement in the years to come. Accordingly, it is important that this election give voice to these perspectives and do so in a civil, orderly, and constructive manner. We will have true competition in this election – genuine debates, discussions of issues, consideration of the candidates’ similarities and differences. The candidates will be free to utilize the means, methods, and personal styles at their disposal to engage in such competition. At the same time, we will also have true structure in this election – an objective process that will apply equitably to all and provide a framework for different points of view to be articulated, with an aim of educating the public, raising the profile of the transhumanist movement, and hopefully resolving some key differences along the way, by means of the process itself.

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

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

Steve Hill


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

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


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

Developing anti-aging therapies in dogs is the first step

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene therapy trial for mitral valve disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

About  Steve Hill

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

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

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

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

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

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

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

David Wood


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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Futuristicamente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working together

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving faster

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

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

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

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

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

Time for action

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2020 Undoing Aging Conference Will Take Place May 21 to 23 in Berlin, Germany – Announcement by Undoing Aging

The 2020 Undoing Aging Conference Will Take Place May 21 to 23 in Berlin, Germany – Announcement by Undoing Aging

Undoing Aging


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this announcement by the Undoing Aging Conference, a joint project between the SENS Foundation and the Forever Healthy Foundation,  originally published on their site on April 2, 2019.  The Undoing Aging Conference is focused on the cellular and molecular repair of age-related damage as the basis of therapies to bring aging under full medical control. Undoing Aging 2020 will once again bring together scientists and startups from around the globe, all pioneers in their respective fields, who are leading the charge in maintaining and restoring full health in old age. Such research is supported by the U.S. Transhumanist Party as part of our policy goals.

~ Brent Reitze, Applicant for Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, April 4, 2019


April 2, 2019  Mountain View, California / Berlin, Germany

After the incredible success of the 2019 Undoing Aging Conference, SENS Research Foundation and Forever Healthy Foundation are pleased to announce Undoing Aging 2020, which will take place on May 21 – 23. As UA2019 was sold out with nearly 500 participants from over 30 countries, Undoing Aging 2020 will be moving to a larger venue.

Picture

The Undoing Aging Conference is focused on the cellular and molecular repair of age-related damage as the basis of therapies to bring aging under full medical control.  Among the 40 brilliant speakers at Undoing Aging 2019, there were giants in regenerative medicine such as: Dr. Nir Barzilai, Dr. Jerry Shay, Dr. Evan Snyder, Dr. Judith Campisi, and many more. Undoing Aging 2020 will once again bring together scientists and startups from around the globe, all pioneers in their respective fields, who are leading the charge in maintaining and restoring full health in old age. To accommodate the exciting growth of the emerging rejuvenation biotechnology industry, Undoing Aging 2020 will add a dedicated forum and exhibition space for rejuvenation biotech companies to present themselves to prospective investors and industry partners.

Additionally, the 2020 conference will add a special “Rejuvenation Now” session highlighting the first generation of human rejuvenation therapies that are either currently in clinical trials or are available today.

Undoing Aging 2020 is not only open to the scientific community, but also welcomes startups, investors, the general media, and all interested members of the broader rejuvenation movement. The conference will feature a student poster session showing the work of innovative undergraduate and graduate students in the field of damage repair.

“The accelerating rate of progress in rejuvenation research is now unmistakeable at all levels: publications, transfer into rapidly-funded startup companies, and even into the clinic. One marker of this is the worldwide proliferation of conferences focused on it. But I have no doubt that Undoing Aging will maintain its pre-eminence among them, with its strong focus on the most cutting-edge science, its long history dating back to my first Cambridge conference in 2003, and above all its steadfast support from Forever Healthy,” said Dr. Aubrey de Grey, CSO of SENS Research Foundation.

“We are very excited to work with SENS on Undoing Aging,” stated Michael Greve, founder, and CEO of the Forever Healthy Foundation. “Forever Healthy has two key goals for this conference: To support the remarkable scientific community and the rejuvenation biotechnology startups already working on repair of age-related damage and to create an unique opportunity to experience that bringing aging under complete, genuine medical control is realistic, achievable, and, indeed, beginning to happen.“


About Forever Healthy Foundation
Forever Healthy is a private, non-profit initiative with the mission to enable people to vastly extend their healthy lifespan and be part of the first generation to cure aging.

Thru its ‘Rejuvenation Now‘ and ‘Maximizing Health‘ initiatives, Forever Healthy seeks to continuously identify and evaluate new rejuvenation therapies on risks, benefits, and potential application and to harness the enormous wealth of the world’s cutting-edge medical knowledge to empower informed decisions about health and well-being.

In addition, Forever Healthy supports the development of rejuvenation therapies that undo the damage of aging by funding basic research, bringing together the world’s leading scientists at the Undoing Aging conference and supporting startups that work on actual therapies for human use. For more information, please visit forever-healthy.org

About SENS Research Foundation
SENS Research Foundation is a 501(c) nonprofit that works to research, develop and promote comprehensive regenerative medicine solutions for the diseases of aging. The foundation is focused on a damage-repair paradigm for treating the diseases of aging, which it advances through scientific research, advocacy, and education.

SENS Research Foundation supports research projects at universities and institutes around the world with the goal of curing such age-related diseases as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Educating the public and training researchers to support a growing regenerative medicine field are also significant endeavors of the organization that are being accomplished through advocacy campaigns and educational programs. For more information, please visit sens.org

To stay updated on Undoing Aging, you can follow their facebook page.

Announcing the Longevity Book Club for Lifespan Heroes – Announcement by Javier Noris

Announcing the Longevity Book Club for Lifespan Heroes – Announcement by Javier Noris

Javier Noris


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this announcement by our cohorts at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation, originally published on their site on March 19, 2019.  The program helps bring attention to published works promoting the mission of ending age-related diseases, a mission the U.S. Transhumanist Party supports as part of our policy goals.

~ Brent Reitze, Applicant for Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party, April 2, 2019


As mentioned in some recent articles, we are increasing our efforts to reward our loyal and invaluable monthly patrons that support us as Lifespan Heroes. We previously mentioned a brand-new, exclusive webinar series for Lifespan Heroes, and we want to take this opportunity to also announce another brand-new initiative that will commence in April.

Introducing the Longevity Book Club for Lifespan Heroes

As special thanks to our Lifespan Hero patrons, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new Longevity Book Club, where you can join other longevity enthusiasts in reading the most interesting works that relate to our mission of ending age-related diseases. You will also get the opportunity to listen to discussion panels and take part in Q&A sessions that are focused on books that touch on these important scientific, philosophical, moral and futuristic longevity topics. This is the ideal place to meet like-minded longevity enthusiasts who are working on building their knowledge on longevity and all of the implications that come with ending age-related diseases.

Our first book circle will be reading Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, a New York Times best-selling author.

Here is a brief synopsis of the book:

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century, humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

We feel this is a good book to get started with, as it’s written in a user-friendly style that can appeal to a broad audience and touches on many topics that are directly or indirectly related to our mission of ending age-related disease. As we progress as a group, we will shift into different categories, including philosophy, genetics, biochemistry, ethics, and many more topics that are of interest to our mission and book club members.

As a Hero, you will have the opportunity to join us for the first of many book discussions and have the opportunity to learn about the fascinating knowledge that these authors have to share with us as well as the deconstructed meanings behind the books as seen by our book club members. We’ll email the connection instructions to our Heroes soon, so please check your inbox for our announcement.

Calling all the Heroes

This year, our plan is to reach out to an even wider audience and engage with them about the need to end age-related diseases. We aim to hire another team member so that we can cover more news stories, buy new equipment, produce more films with popular Youtube channels, launch a two-day conference in NYC, and do more online shows, including this new webinar series.

However, to do this, we need your help.

We are very grateful for the support of our monthly patrons, the Lifespan Heroes, and we are asking you to consider joining them today in order to help us achieve our ambitious goals for 2019.

By becoming a Lifespan Hero, you become a monthly patron and can change or halt your contributions at any time. In return for your support, you get access to the Heroes’ private Discord channel, enjoy discounts on our event tickets, get early access to conference videos and live access to webinars, and receive regular reports on our progress and future plans.

Please consider becoming a Lifespan Hero today. We look forward to seeing you at the MitoSENS webinar and our Longevity Book Club meetings.