Browsed by
Tag: life extension

The Overpopulation Myth – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Overpopulation Myth – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Of all the objections to life extension, one of the most pernicious is that there are too many people on Earth. Indeed, this objection in particular is rather harmful not just because it appears to advocate for suffering and death, but also because it appears to be a valid objection on a surface level.

Visions of mass starvation, billions of people living in deplorable conditions, and wars over resources, help fuel the popularity of this objection. However fascinating these sorts of overly dramatic, sensational Hollywood scenarios may seem to some people, believing in the inevitability of these scenarios would be ignoring the countless ways that science and technology have allowed us, time and again, to exceed our limitations, improve health outcomes, and create a better environment for humanity to thrive in.

There are many reasons why these dreadful scenarios continue to exist in peoples’ minds. One of the reasons why doomsday thinking has managed to remain a part of our zeitgeist is because the entertainment industry is addicted to it, constantly proliferating nightmarish scenarios of technology being a destructive force hell-bent on the devastation of humanity and the world. A less obvious reason is also because some well-meaning influential people have been fabulously wrong and have continued to double-down on being wrong over the years.

Biologist Paul Ehrlich famously said in 1968 that “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

Looking at this statement more than 50 years later, Paul Ehrlich wasn’t just wrong, he was completely wrong. None of his Malthusian predictions even came close to being true. I suppose that supporters of this sort of doomsday thinking will say in response that even though Ehrlich has been wrong for decades, he will one day be right. Even if a broken clock is right twice a day, we shouldn’t base the future of humanity on such faulty thinking. While it is possible for these horrific scenarios to come true, it does not mean that these scenarios are destiny. Humanity has weathered challenges and difficulties en route to coming up with amazing technological and medical innovations that have improved the quality of life for billions of people. And while challenges such as climate change should be taken very seriously, the fact that these challenges exist does not mean that humanity is doomed. It simply means that we need to make adjustments and to utilize science and technology to their fullest in order to resolve these threats.

Further, rather than extrapolate wildly and bring forth doomsday scenarios, we should bring forth data and facts to support our arguments. As I mentioned in a previous article, according to The World Bank and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the worldwide population growth rate is slowing down and is projected to eventually stabilize and begin falling. Nowhere is this more apparent than in countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Russia, and even the United States, where birth rates are below the 2.1 live births per woman required to just maintain population equilibrium. Additionally, even countries such as India, which used to have a very high birth rate, have seen huge declines in birth rates in recent years. Finally, according to a study published in the Lancet, the global population is expected to peak at 9.73 billion in 2064, before dropping to 8.79 billion in 2100. As a result, more than 23 countries are likely to see their populations halve by the end of this century. This includes countries such as Spain, Italy, Ukraine, and China.

Even if the above trends were somehow reversed, and human beings suddenly began reproducing more, we would be able to accommodate the increased population through solutions such as seasteading, vertical farming, 3D printing, and nanotechnology. Indeed, these technologies, and more, are among the many that would allow us to overcome limitations and alleviate potential threats resulting from an increased population. And I have not even begun speaking about space exploration.

The simple fact is that there is no fixed number of people who should be living on Earth at any given moment. In fact, we should rightfully be laughed out of the room if we asked the question, “What should the world’s population be?” We may as well ask how long a piece of string is. How many people is too many people? Further, how does one decide how many people is too many? Do you see how absurd this sort of thinking is? Even if we were to run detailed calculations on how many people the Earth could accommodate at any given point in time, what is true right now may not be true later, as planet Earth is dynamic, human beings are dynamic, and the forces of physics are dynamic. More importantly, we would be ignoring the awesome power of technology to allow us to do more, with less.

Therefore, let us move away from the pessimism, the doomsday scenarios, and the lack of vision, and move toward data, facts, science, and technological innovations that have allowed us, and will continue to allow us, to accommodate the needs of humanity. This does not mean that we should ignore challenges and perils and hope that everything will work out in the end. It does mean, however, that we should recognize the threats humanity is facing, and then take swift, concerted action toward eliminating those threats by using advancements in science, technology, and modern medicine.

But to go back to the topic, and frame the argument in a simpler way, one might want to ask proponents of the overpopulation myth whether they would have wanted their own parents to hold the same views about there being too many people on Earth. Of course, such critics of life extension would never want this to be the case, because it would mean that they themselves would not exist.

I would urge those who are critical of life extension to refrain from trying to decide how many people should be living on Earth. Indeed, rather than playing judge, jury, and executioner, I would recommend them to take a look in the mirror and appreciate the tremendous gift they were given – the gift of life. Had their parents held the faulty belief that there are too many people on Earth, these critics wouldn’t be able to offer their criticisms now. I am not suggesting that people should not offer valid criticisms of life extension. Nor am I suggesting that we gloss over the present and future challenges the Earth is facing. I am suggesting, however, that critics provide data, facts, and valid arguments to support their conclusions, rather than paint doomsday scenarios and claim that there are “too many people already.”  Indeed, the next time you hold a loved one in your arms, think about how you would feel if this person had never been born, or if this person was mercilessly ripped away from you.

So far, the likes of Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich have been completely wrong with their predictions, though it is possible for them and others like them, to be right someday. However, we should not take pleasure in being right, we should take pleasure in being better people. Being right is not what is important – being able to actualize oneself, improve the human condition, and make the world a better place to live, is what is important. And we cannot do that if we extrapolate wildly, spread fear, and insist that humanity is doomed. The truth is that humanity’s future hasn’t even been written yet. But when we do write it, we should do so utilizing the best that science and technology have to offer, in order to improve the human condition.  Overpopulation, calamity, and starvation are not destiny – but human improvement is, and has been, since the dawn of time.

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

Judge, Jury and Executioner Syndrome – Article by Arin Vahanian

Judge, Jury and Executioner Syndrome – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Transhumanist Party Logo

Steve Hill


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Age is the #1 risk factor for COVID

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

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

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

Why I hope to be alive at 75

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rejuvenating the immune system

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

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

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

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

Therapeutic plasma exchange

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Liz Parrish Becomes Vice-Presidential Nominee for Charlie Kam’s 2020 U.S. Presidential Campaign

Liz Parrish Becomes Vice-Presidential Nominee for Charlie Kam’s 2020 U.S. Presidential Campaign


PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Gennady Stolyarov II
Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party
E-mail: gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com

August 21, 2020 – Charlie Kam, the candidate for President of the United States endorsed by the United States Transhumanist Party (USTP), has announced his selection of Elizabeth (Liz) Parrish as his Vice-Presidential running mate.

Elizabeth (Liz) Parrish

Remarking on his selection, Charlie Kam stated, “Elizabeth (Liz) is the embodiment of what it means to be a Transhumanist. She is the Founder and CEO of BioViva, a company committed to extending healthy lifespans using cell technologies. Liz is a humanitarian, entrepreneur, innovator, podcaster, and a leading voice for genetic cures. As a strong proponent of progress and education for the advancement of regenerative medicine modalities, she serves as a motivational speaker to the public at large for the life sciences. She is actively involved in international educational media outreach. Along with all of that, Liz is a good friend whom I’ve known for years, and I look forward to campaigning together to promote the ideas and values of the USTP!”

USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II remarked that “The U.S. Transhumanist Party is honored to be represented by such an articulate, passionate, and intrepid advocate of longevity and medical science as Liz Parrish. Liz Parrish is one of the world’s leading proponents for the development of gene therapies to treat a variety of diseases, including biological aging. Anyone who follows the field of rejuvenation biotechnology knows that, in 2015, Liz Parrish became the first human to receive a combination gene therapy as ‘patient zero’ in her own experiment. This was an immensely courageous decision which showed leadership by example, led to greatly enhanced public awareness, and inspired many to advocate for this burgeoning field of research and human benefit. Liz Parrish speaks powerfully about the imperative to cure diseases and minimize the horrific suffering that many – from children to the elderly – undergo today because of various common and rare ailments. Her voice and energy will be tremendous assets to the Charlie Kam campaign and to the USTP as we spread the essential message of the feasibility and desirability of significant life extension during our lifetimes and cultivate public awareness and support for the policies and projects that could get us there.”

Liz Parrish is involved in numerous organizations and projects in addition to her role at BioViva. She is the Advocacy Advisor to the USTP and a founding member of the International Longevity Alliance (ILA). She is an affiliated member of the Complex Biological Systems Alliance (CBSA), which is a unique platform for Mensa-based, highly gifted persons who advance scientific discourse and discovery. The mission of the CBSA is to further scientific understanding of biological complexity and the nature and origins of human disease. Liz Parrish is the founder of BioTrove Investments LLC and the BioTrove Podcasts, which is committed to offering a meaningful way for people to learn about and fund research in regenerative medicine.

Commenting on her new role as the Vice-Presidential candidate endorsed by the USTP, Liz Parrish stated, “I believe now is the right time in human history to further the transhumanist mission. Our planet, our species, and the survival of all other species are in our hands now. People are tired of division and divisiveness. Humans must convene, start a new conversation, and work toward bettering our condition and that of our planet through the transhumanist mission.”

The USTP looks forward to numerous opportunities to inform, educate, and galvanize the public in the United States and the world through the Kam-Parrish 2020 U.S. Presidential ticket. Any individual in the world who is capable of forming a political opinion and who agrees with the three Core Ideals of the USTP is welcome to join the USTP as a member for free.

“During the next ten weeks, Charlie Kam and Liz Parrish will show the world that a better future, and a better approach to political discourse, are possible and are on the horizon. They will also bring attention to the technologies and policies that will enable as many people as possible to live to see that future,” remarked Chairman Stolyarov. “Supporting the Kam-Parrish 2020 ticket is the prudent, foresighted choice for those who wish for the transhumanist vision and values to become an everyday reality for all.”

Transhumanism: The Important Gray Area Between the Madness of the Two-Party System in America – Article by C. H. Antony

Transhumanism: The Important Gray Area Between the Madness of the Two-Party System in America – Article by C. H. Antony

logo_bgC. H. Antony


What’s missing from politics today? Some will leap to simple responses like “integrity”, “honesty”, “education”. But I say it’s worse than all that. However, I will not spend paragraphs going into the various conspiracies and fear-mongering – that is behavior more fitting for the main two political parties. What I would like to accomplish here is to propose the values and intentions of the United States Transhumanist Party (USTP) as solutions. 

To begin, we must examine the current most pressing issue, that of human rights. As you read this, many thousands have taken to the streets in every major city and 18 countries around the world to scream at their governments that enough is enough – that they will not be duped into economic caste systems, race wars, or trafficking schemes. Whether the battle cry is “Black Lives Matter” or whether it is a cry against manufactured poverty, or a call to defund the police and reallocate resources toward fundamental solutions over enforcement, the message is clear: humanity is ready to move on. Here at the USTP, we have assembled a comprehensive Platform and identified areas for reform such as sentient rights, improved economic policy, medical technology and accessibility, and, of course, the imperative to recognize death as a limitation to overcome. While those are just some examples of the body of work offered by the USTP, I believe they are the most important foundations, as from them, all other potential improvements for the human condition are possible. 

We Transhumanists are the gray area in between the madness that is the two-party system in America. We unfortunately inhabit the very system we were warned about in our earliest days as a country. We offer rational and compassionate alternatives to the systems Americans have been repeatedly manipulated into accepting. Where other parties seek to polarize the citizenry, we seek to unite it with scientific and technological solutions to the issues that have us at each other’s throats. With respect to urgency, I will only illustrate existing or easily obtainable technologies here. Consider, for example, the abortion issue. To us, it is no issue at all, as there already exist ample resources for preventing unintended pregnancy. The education and social studies are there to better inform young people of the consequences of irresponsible behavior.  We are steady in our call that life is the most important argument and support those approaches which lengthen the lives and improve the health of all humankind, regardless of any differences. If a few more million dollars were devoted to the works of visionaries like Aubrey de Grey, aging and disease could be eradicated in a few short years. With some more million dollars, we could eliminate the arguments regarding abortion by making the practice obsolete with technologies such as indefinite stasis and ectogenesis. Such advances would render divisive moral arguments moot. 

The incorporation of artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) assistance and oversight  into governance and healthcare could virtually eliminate malpractice and marginal qualification in both fields. Justice can be free of bias with ANI incorporated into the process; lawyers and judges and even jurors can be in complete understanding of the law and precedents in question. This could shrink the margin for abuse and error to nearly null in real time. With medical assistance ANI, doctors can access the diagnostic power of the sum total of human medical knowledge instantaneously, never leaving a patient undiagnosed or misdiagnosed until it’s too late to save that individual. In matters where interaction is the essential element, such as international relations, local law enforcement, or conveying your symptoms to your doctor, language and communication need no longer be a divider riddled with misunderstanding and lost cultural context. Imagine how these three simple applications of technology could change the fabric of society, and it is ready and applicable right now. Right now, humans are fighting in the streets for equal justice, equal access, and equal treatment; the wise application of artificial intelligence systems can deliver on those demands and act as a safeguard against those that currently engage in the manipulation of those systems or underperform and cost lives. How many loved ones are in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, but hadn’t the resources to fight the argument the state was infinitely capable of delivering? How many loved ones are dead because the doctors in the local hospital were either prevented from accessing other techniques or unaware of them? How many people are dead under the knee or boot of a government that has no meaningful oversight or accountability to the people it was constructed to serve?

We at the USTP believe that human suffering must end, but moreover, it can end if we begin actively applying the advancements we have right now. This isn’t some far-flung future fiction we’d all like to see someday; indeed, “someday” for much of this was ten years ago. So while we are out there advocating for rights and justice, let’s begin to embrace the tools that can ensure the equal application and universally competent execution of these goals. Let us be the tool users that we’ve evolved to be. 

C. H. Antony is Vice-Secretary of the United States Transhumanist Party.

Proposal for Argentina to Declare a Mandate for Longer Life Spans and the Reasonable Treatment of Aging as an Ailment

Proposal for Argentina to Declare a Mandate for Longer Life Spans and the Reasonable Treatment of Aging as an Ailment

logo_bg


A National Techno-Progressive Policy Proposal for Argentina to Declare a Mandate for Longer Life Spans and the Reasonable Treatment of Aging as an Ailment

Respectfully Submitted to the Ministry of Health of Argentina

The United States Transhumanist Party (USTP) has been associated with public health initiatives and emerging-technology policymaking since 2014; we have many State-level parties, associates, partner organizations, and foreign ambassadors around the world. At this time in history and out of a sense of duty to the future, we are compelled to submit this public-policy proposal designed to not only enhance the public health and prosperity of Argentina, but also to make it a model for techno-optimistic progress around the world.

As such the USTP humbly submits this proposal to the Minister of Health of Argentina to work together to assure the prevention of future pandemics and jointly tackle broader health concerns with life extension as its goal. It is our intention with this proposal to encourage the Minister of Health of Argentina to declare a mandate for longer life spans and the reasonable treatment of aging as an ailment.

Purpose: This declaration promises to generate accolades from the global community for the Minister of Health particularly and Argentina generally as forward-thinking and serious leaders in the future of human welfare and scientific development. It will ensure that Argentina will be recognized as the world’s first techno-optimistic, progressive constitutional democracy. 

Benefit to the Argentine Government from accepting this proposal: The USTP holds that this bold declaration will further enhance Argentina’s status in the Western Hemisphere. Aside from the importance to humanity that this declaration provides in the name of Science, it will act to promote tourism and investment, and to encourage more civic undertakings from an increased interest in Argentine affairs.  

The USTP will be approaching the governments of San Marino and Liechtenstein to persuade them to make similar declarations in the wake of this worldwide pandemic. However, we are reaching out to the home country of Salvador Mazza to champion this cause to inspire other nations to follow your lead and provide citizens with a new level of public health services and longer lives. 

We look forward to your response and the potential of working with Minister Ginés González García and his capable team.

Signed, 

Gennady Stolyarov II, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party

J. Ben Zion, Vice-Chairman and 2020 U.S. Presidential Candidate, United States Transhumanist Party

Charlie Kam, Director of Longevity Outreach and 2020 U.S. Vice-Presidential Candidate, United States Transhumanist Party

Tom Ross, Director of Media Production, United States Transhumanist Party

Pavel Ilin, Secretary, United States Transhumanist Party

Daniel C. Elton, Ph.D., Director of Scholarship, United States Transhumanist Party

David Shumaker, Director of Applied Innovation, United States Transhumanist Party

Arin Vahanian, Director of Marketing, United States Transhumanist Party

B.J. Murphy, Director of Social Media, United States Transhumanist Party

Dinorah Delfin, Director of Admissions and Public Relations, United States Transhumanist Party

John J. Kerecz, Campaign Director, United States Transhumanist Party

Brent Logan Reitze, Director of Publication, United States Transhumanist Party

Dr. Christian Meniw, United States Transhumanist Party Foreign Ambassador in Argentina

Henry Hoyos, United States Transhumanist Party Foreign Ambassador in Bolivia

Keoma Ferreira Antonio, MSc, Ph.D. Student, Philosopher, United States Transhumanist Party Foreign Ambassador in Brazil

Bill Andrews, Ph.D., President and CEO, Sierra Sciences, Biotechnology Advisor to the United States Transhumanist Party

José Luis Cordeiro, MBA, Ph.D., Technology Advisor to the United States Transhumanist Party, United States Transhumanist Party Foreign Ambassador in Spain

Alexey Kadet, United States Transhumanist Party Foreign Ambassador in Latvia

Ojochogwu Abdul, United States Transhumanist Party Foreign Ambassador in Nigeria

Peter Wang, United States Transhumanist Party Foreign Ambassador in China

Paul A. Spiegel, J.D., Legal Advisor to the United States Transhumanist Party

Micah Redding, Advisor on Religion to the United States Transhumanist Party

Elizabeth Parrish, CEO, BioViva, and Advocacy Advisor to the United States Transhumanist Party

Newton Lee, Chairman, California Transhumanist Party, and Education and Media Advisor to the United States Transhumanist Party

Rich Lee, Biohacking Advisor to the United States Transhumanist Party

Daniel Yeluashvili, Climate Advisor to the Ben Zion 2020 Presidential Campaign

Michael Murray, Director of Environmental Science, California Transhumanist Party

Dr. Efi Roboti, Obstetrician-Gynecologist Surgeon and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Romina Florencia Cabrera, UNLP-UBA-UM-USAL,  Abogada,  Investigadora-Docente-Asesora-Consultora, Argentina, Chile e Iberoamérica

Raiany Romanni, Harvard Medical School, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Natasha Vita-More, Ph.D., Executive Director, Humanity+

Maria Entraigues Abramson, Global Outreach Coordinator, SENS Research Foundation

David Kekich, President and CEO, Maximum Life Foundation

Ben Goertzel, Chief Scientist and Chairman, Novamente, LLC, Chairman, OpenCog Foundation, Chair, Humanity+

Sergio Martínez de Lahidalga Tarrero, President, Alianza Futurista

Alex M. Vikoulov, Founder, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief, Ecstadelic Media Group

Michael Hope, Biogerontologist

Matthew Schenk, Geroscientist and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

John Marlowe, Advocate for Rare Disease Research, Regenerative Medicine, and Rejuvenation Biotechnology

Elena Rusyn, Founder, AmpliCell Medical, and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Joe Bardin, Essayist, Playwright, Communication Strategist, RAADfest Communications Director, and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Dr. Ilia Stambler, Chairman, Israeli Longevity Alliance

Brent NallyEntrepreneur, Interviewer, Longevity and Health Enthusiast, and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Didier Coeurnelle, Co-Chair of Heales.org (Healthy Life Extension Society), Vice-Chair of the Association Française Transhumaniste Technoprog, and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Kelvin Ogba DafiaghorCEO, Ogba Educational Clinic

Osinakachi Akuma Kalu, Founder, Transdisciplinary Agora for Future Discussions, and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Negash Alamin, Head of CAMIDRCS Nature Media and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Orji Ama Chinedu, Attorney in Lagos, Nigeria

Victor Bjoerk, Heales.org (Healthy Life Extension Society) and Gerontology Research Group

Martin O’Dea, Partner, Longevity Accelerator, and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Kevin Perrott, Entrepreneur and Co-Founder, Methuselah Foundation and SENS Research Foundation

Yifei Sun, President and CEO, International Institute for Innovation and Development

Brandon Michael King, Co-Founder and Organizer, Longevity Party United States, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Eric Schulke, Activist with the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Maitreya One, Transhumanist Hip-Hop Artist and Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Jennifer Huse, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Tom Hite, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Kimberly Forsythe, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

James Kohagen, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Daud Sheikh, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Amanda Stoel, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Montie Adkins, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Mike DiVerde, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Chet Fontenot, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Christopher Browning, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Nick Dunn, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Art Ramon, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Renato Galindo Caceres, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Marcus Dreitzler, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Alexander Taylor Clayton, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Jason Geringer, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Dawn Gilroy, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Adam Perrotta, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

AtmaJodha Singh, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Andrew Eckley, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Allen Crowley, USA LTC (Retired), Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Erin Reeve, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

William G. Echevarria Fernandez, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Brent Ellman, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Thomas James O’Carroll, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Luis J. Arroyo, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Simon Stiel, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Alexandria Black, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Michał Szymacha, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Corbin Stefan, Dosimetrist, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Anthony Bruce, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Rima Martin, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Jiri Jelinek, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Quinn Cummins-Lune, Member, United States Transhumanist Party, Member, The Futurist Foundation

Mike Cockrill, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Zach Richardson, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Chris McAulay, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Justin Fontenot, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Valerie Handlers, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Jessica Gifford, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Joshua Gifford, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Zipporah Naomi Pecot, Member, United States Transhumanist Party

Hugh Ching, BS, MS, ScD

C. JoyBell C., Science Writer

Michael Beight

John Greenwood

Azure Michalak

Ryan Moisik

Kari Alatalo

Billy McCarthy

Fabian Pudlo

Walter H. Crompton

Adam Moser

Steven Mejia

Jeffrey Mercer

Marius Fusariu

Patricia A. Ray

Brett Mvrk

Kris McHale

Audrey Joyce

Mario Thibert

NOTE TO READERS: If you would like to digitally sign this proposal, please indicate this in the comments, or send an e-mail to USTP Chairman Stolyarov here. Please note that, if this is your first instance commenting on this website, your comment will go through moderation, but we will approve it in the near future and add your signature to the list above.

Transhumanism and the Promise of Being More Human – Article by Arin Vahanian

Transhumanism and the Promise of Being More Human – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Human beings have had an interesting relationship with technology. On the one hand, nearly everyone rightfully applauds and appreciates technology’s ability to make life more convenient, help us save time, and generally improve the quality of life and standard of living on Earth, among many other benefits. On the other hand, there are some people out there who believe that technology somehow threatens to rob us of our humanity.

However, I shall not attempt to argue with those who feel that technology is inherently detrimental to the human condition. Indeed, no matter how many benefits technology brings us, and no matter how much it improves our lives, there are no doubt people out there who will lament the time when technology was less ubiquitous.

While I fully recognize that runaway technology left in the wrong hands poses a danger to humanity, debating the pros and cons of an increasing technological future is not the focus of this article, though it is a very worthy (and necessary) discussion in its own right.

Rather, today I shall present an entirely different argument: that technology, and, in a narrower sense, Transhumanism, can accentuate the aspects and characteristics that make us human, and indeed, allow us to better enjoy the experience of being human.

At first glance, this may appear to be a controversial argument. After all, as some critics ask, aren’t developments like robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence at odds with being human? And, according to some detractors, isn’t Transhumanism a movement that will lead to people becoming less human and more machine-like?

Of course, both statements above are absurd, and complete red herrings. If we accept the fact that Transhumanism is a movement and philosophy focused on improving the human condition, then we must also accept the premise that Transhumanism strives to use technology to improve the human condition.

What makes we humans special is not just our ability to communicate deeply using language, but also, traits such as empathy, reason, and logic, as well as the ability to love. I would argue that we will be able to leverage future improvements in technology to improve all these areas.

While one could come up with a near-endless list of ways technology could help improve the human condition, I will offer just a few here, to spur discussion.

One way that comes to mind immediately is using technology to help the countless millions of people who are suffering from physical disabilities, and as a result, are unable to live a productive, normal life. The robotic limbs and exoskeletons you have heard and read about would go a long way toward allowing people to be mobile again, and would emancipate people from being bound to a bed or a wheelchair.  Imagine the happiness on the face of a child who is able to walk for the first time thanks to a robotic limb. One of the most heart-wrenching things for us to see is children who are suffering from physical disabilities. In reality, being disabled is an undignified way to go through life, no matter what one’s age. But not only would such technologies drastically improve the quality of life for people suffering from physical disabilities, they would also benefit humanity on an economic level, allowing people to be more productive members of society. It is for this reason that Transhumanists support unequivocally technologies that help people make full use of their physical, mental, and emotional faculties.

But if that example was too obvious, let’s take conditions such as autism and social anxiety disorder, for instance. While current treatments include behavioral therapy and medication, neither one of those has been very effective, and at best, neither is a cure. On the other hand, a technological solution would likely be much more efficacious. One such example of a potential solution that does not currently exist, but might be developed in the future, is the Computer-Assisted Social Interaction Enhancer, or CASIE, as introduced in the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution. A real-life use case for such an enhancement could be to allow people who suffer from autism to have improved social interactions, not to mention vastly improved communication skills. The implications of having good social and communication skills are enormous, not just in one’s career, but in one’s social life in particular. Part of what makes us human is the ability to connect with and relate to others. When we are robbed of this most human quality, this threatens to impact our quality of life quite negatively. What is most interesting is that it was a Transhumanist video game that proposed a potential technological solution to such social disorders.

And how about curing diseases through gene therapy? While some people are frightened of the prospect of gene modification, I imagine very few people would reject a cure for dementia, cystic fibrosis, and leukemia, especially if they and/or their loved ones were suffering from any one of these horrible conditions. To go further, I would venture to say that nearly no one in their right mind would argue that we should not cure devastating conditions such as dementia, cystic fibrosis, and leukemia, never mind the biggest killers, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Transhumanists have been campaigning for improving the human condition and curing disease through gene therapy and similar technologies. I would argue that there are few endeavors in life that are more humane than working on curing disease.

However, despite the fact that Transhumanist causes such as curing disease and improving the human condition are among the most noble causes we as humans can work on, detractors may respond with the objection that the requisite technologies do not currently exist, and that even if they did, they would be used for harm rather than good.

My response to this is quite simple: electricity did not exist, until it did. Vaccines did not exist, until they did. Many things we take for granted now did not exist until someone or some people worked together to create them. There is no reason why we cannot leverage science and technology to provide a cure for many of the conditions that afflict us today. At the very least, we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to try.

And although a technology such as CASIE does not yet exist, imagine the implications if such technologies did exist. While these technologies could no doubt be used for nefarious means, we cannot simply deny billions of people the possibility of having improved relationships, better health, and a better quality of life, just because the possibility exists of a few unscrupulous people using technology to hurt others.

Equally important, technologies such as life extension, gene therapy and anti-aging medicines will allow people to spend more time with loved ones by granting them healthier, longer lives. I would imagine that living more years of a healthy life is an outcome nearly everyone would want.

As computer scientist Dr. Kai Fu Lee says in his monumental book AI Superpowers, “we must forge a new synergy between artificial intelligence and the human heart, and look for ways to use the forthcoming material abundance generated by artificial intelligence to foster love and compassion in our societies.” One could replace the term “artificial intelligence” with “technology”, and it would be just as true.

Technology can and must be used as a force for good. Similarly, Transhumanism, which promises to improve the human condition, can help make us be even more human by accentuating our human qualities, thus elevating us to be even greater than we are right now.

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

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

logo_bg

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.

2020 New Year’s and New Decade’s Message by Victor Bjoerk

2020 New Year’s and New Decade’s Message by Victor Bjoerk

logo_bg

Victor Bjoerk


Picture of the M87 Black Hole – First-ever image of a black hole and a major accomplishment of the 2010s

Happy New Year and Decade, everyone!

I celebrated it this year in San Francisco, as I managed to get an opportunity in aging research here. I’ve always celebrated in Sweden before, with relatives or friends, and the last years’ celebrations have been with AI researcher Anders Sandberg. However, I’m certainly not stuck to any routine to mark it, and who knows where one may be in the future, if one may celebrate it in space even!

I still recall thinking about what would happen in the future back in 1999. Although, of course, our time calculation is completely arbitrary and not rooted in anything the universe cares about, we nonetheless like to set certain dates of when X event will happen when writing the history of humanity.

Back then I was a small child, and while I lacked a particular interest in aging research, I certainly read a lot of popular science and liked to think about what would happen during the upcoming millennia. Certainly, genetic enhancement of humans was high on that list and its happening now! Look, for example, at Luxturna and Zolgensma, the 2 approved gene therapies so far.

We should all be very happy to be alive now instead of during the previous 4 billion years life has existed. It’s been the best decade in history, ever. We have not only the basic logistics for keeping most people alive on a day-to-day basis with a good quality of life, but this also leads to a lot of spare time to develop technology.

Back in about 2008, when working in a nursing home as a teenager, I realized that I did not want to end up in that state within the next few decades. I did not feel that age-related disease belonged in an otherwise advanced high-tech society that respected human rights reasonably well. Since then, on most days, I’ve probably read new scientific papers on the topic, I went to university and studied molecular biology, I became director of Heales – which is a scientific think tank in Brussels – and set up the biannual EHA (Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging) conference series together with Sven Bulterijs.

I never intended to become a scientist for the sake of it; I just want to get the biggest problem in the history of humanity solved.

There are a lot of reasons for optimism. The 2010s saw unprecedented investment in this area, and many therapeutic aging interventions emerged. Among the ones most well-known are innovations in clearing senescent cells with senolytic drugs, leading to aging reversal.

So I just hope this trajectory of advancement continues as the public also becomes more informed. I’ve learnt that hype comes in cycles; lots of buzzwords and overoptimistic speculation flow around, but eventually also real products come out of the research (yes, even in biotechnology). The question is when enough therapies can be put together into an old person and systemically bring that person back to youth.

So I wish everyone a happy new year and decade, whatever your pursuits are, hoping that at the end of this decade we can summarize it, saying that we did what was possible.

I hope everyone had a fun celebration!

Victor Bjoerk has worked for the Gerontology Research Group, the Longevity Reporter, and the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie. He has promoted awareness throughout Europe of emerging biomedical research and the efforts to reverse biological aging. He is now a molecular biologist and working for BioAge in San Francisco. 

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.