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Evolution Won’t Stop Aging Any Time Soon, but Medicine Might – Article by Sedeer el-Showk

Evolution Won’t Stop Aging Any Time Soon, but Medicine Might – Article by Sedeer el-Showk

Sedeer el-Showk


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party publishes this article by Sedeer el-Showk, originally featured by our allies at Lifespan.io, in order to highlight the fallacious nature of many media outlets’ responses to a recent study about the “invariant rate of aging”. As Mr. el-Showk eloquently explains, this study does not refute or undermine the possibility of pursuing the reversal of biological aging, but simply suggests that this needs to be done through medical and technological means, and that without such means, overcoming the limitations of the current maximum human lifespan would not be feasible. Many of us in the longevity advocacy community have known this for a long time already, but it is important to spread accurate information to prevent an unjustified decline in public confidence in the feasibility of radical life extension.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, July 25, 2021


Aging is not unstoppable, despite misinterpretations of the new study.

A new study [1] about the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ has led to reports that aging is unstoppable and that we cannot cheat death. However, this reporting is based on a misunderstanding of what the study actually says.

The misinterpretations

The study shows that “immortality and everlasting youth are the stuff of myths,” according to The Guardian. The article goes on to say that “an unprecedented study has now confirmed that we probably cannot slow the rate at which we get older because of biological constraints.” Other outlets published similar conclusions, with Futurism saying that the study shows “an ‘invariant rate of aging’ that won’t slow down”.

These reporters seem to have gotten tripped up on the idea of an ‘invariant rate’, which has the key implication that biological constraints determine the rate of human aging. This led to the conclusion that aging is fixed, inevitable, and immutable, but that’s not at all what the study shows, as the paper itself directly says.

What the study actually says

The study aimed to investigate the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis, which proposes that the rate of aging is fixed within a species. The idea is that aging has evolved in concert with a suite of other traits, such as birth rate and metabolic rate, and this concerted evolution has led to the rate of aging being relatively fixed within a species.

In this context, ‘fixed’ is used as the opposite of ‘plastic’. It doesn’t mean ‘set in stone’. It means there’s relatively limited variation in this trait within a species because biological factors have a stronger effect on it than environmental factors. A good example might be the number of digits on a limb – environmental factors don’t really affect it, and there’s very little (but some) variation.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers created a statistical model of the age-specific risk of death in species from seven primate genera. They used data from various studies to set the parameters of their model, which is how they tested the amount of variation.

The model included parameters for infant and juvenile mortality, age-independent mortality, and senescent mortality. Variation in the biological rate of aging would be reflected in the senescent mortality parameter, since it captures what we normally think of as ‘aging’, while the infant and juvenile morality parameter reflects the misfortune of dying young.

The study’s first finding is that most of the gain in human lifespan so far has come from reducing mortality at younger ages. There’s also variation in the infant and juvenile mortality parameter, both between societies and at different times.

This also shows up in the relationship between life expectancy and lifespan equality. Media reports generally got this part of the study right, and you can look at the report on SciTechDaily to get more details about these findings.

Unlike the infant and juvenile mortality parameter, the senescent mortality parameter varied very little within each species. In fact, changing this parameter in their model shifted the mortality and demographic data of one species to look like another.

Changing the other parameters led to minor shifts in age distribution, but changing senescent mortality made it look like data from a different species. What this means is that within a given species, biological factors are the ultimate determinants of longevity.

Changing the environment to reduce mortality at younger ages (as we have in most parts of the world) affects demographics, increasing life expectancy and lifespan equality. However, accomplishing more than that will require tackling the evolved biological constraints on lifespan.

This study, therefore, doesn’t show that the rate of aging cannot be changed; it shows that there’s a limit to how much change can be realized without biological interventions, which is precisely the challenge that longevity research aims to overcome.

The paper itself closes on that note, though you wouldn’t know it from the way it’s been covered: “It remains to be seen if future advances in medicine can overcome the biological constraints that we have identified here, and achieve what evolution has not.”

Abstract

Is it possible to slow the rate of ageing, or do biological constraints limit its plasticity? We test the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis, which posits that the rate of ageing is relatively fixed within species, with a collection of 39 human and nonhuman primate datasets across seven genera. We first recapitulate, in nonhuman primates, the highly regular relationship between life expectancy and lifespan equality seen in humans. We next demonstrate that variation in the rate of ageing within genera is orders of magnitude smaller than variation in pre-adult and age-independent mortality. Finally, we demonstrate that changes in the rate of ageing, but not other mortality parameters, produce striking, species-atypical changes in mortality patterns. Our results support the invariant rate of ageing hypothesis, implying biological constraints on how much the human rate of ageing can be slowed.

Conclusion

Ultimately, this wasn’t a study about longevity or the inevitability of aging. It was research to understand what affects the rate of aging – how much it results from evolved biological processes versus the effects of the environment. That’s important science not only for longevity research but also for evolutionary biology. It’s undoubtedly valuable, but unfortunately, its message has been misconstrued.

Far from showing that aging is inevitable, this research instead demonstrates that, ultimately, we’ll run out of environmental improvements and will have to turn to biological interventions to affect aging.

Literature

[1] Colchero, F. et al. The long lives of primates and the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis. Nature Communications (2021), doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-23894-3

Sedeer el-Showk became a professional science writer after finishing a degree in biology. He also writes poetry and science fiction and fantasy, and somehow juggles an ever-growing list of hobbies from programming to knitting to gardening. Eternal curiosity and good fortune have taken him to many parts of the world, but he’s settled in Helsinki, Finland for the moment. He hopes he’ll never stop learning new things.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II’s Update Interview on the Archer Report – July 24, 2020

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II’s Update Interview on the Archer Report – July 24, 2020

Gennady Stolyarov II
Steele Archer


U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II’s July 24, 2020, appearance on the Archer Report with Steele Archer, was an opportunity for a fascinating 130-minute conversation about the forthcoming U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Enlightenment Salon with Dr. David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, Charlie Kam’s 2020 U.S. Presidential campaign, concerns about public reactions to the pandemic, and major issues with the contemporary media ecosystem, both with legacy and social media.

References

Trump challenged by radical presidential candidate hoping to REVERSE ageing” by James Bickerton. Daily Express. July 6, 2020.

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Transhumanists and the U.S. Transhumanist Party Condemn Jeffrey Epstein and Urge Accurate Reporting About Transhumanism

Transhumanists and the U.S. Transhumanist Party Condemn Jeffrey Epstein and Urge Accurate Reporting About Transhumanism


August 5, 2019 – Members of the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party and the transhumanist community roundly condemned the reprehensible, criminal behavior of convicted abuser Jeffrey Epstein, a man who does not represent, and has never represented, the values and principles of transhumanism or any aspect of the transhumanist philosophy, worldview, or movement.

“Jeffrey Epstein was never a participant in the transhumanist community that I know,” said Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP), whose membership comprises 1,680 individuals. “Epstein was never a member of the USTP and did not have any interactions with it. Indeed, I was not even aware of his existence prior to the recent news coverage of the scandals surrounding him. I understand, from said coverage, that Epstein was a prominent financier of many other causes – but if the leadership of the world’s largest transhumanist political organization had no knowledge of him, this is strong evidence that he was not involved in transhumanism to any significant extent. He is merely a criminal abuser and deserves his sentence. His conduct was also deeply antithetical to the transhumanist philosophy and the value that philosophy places on dramatically improving the human condition for all through reason, science, and technology. Epstein’s fate should reinforce the principle that wealth and power do not confer license to mistreat one’s fellow sapient beings, all of whose rights must be protected. The foundational values of the Transhumanist Party, as well as key documents such as the USTP Platform and Transhumanist Bill of Rights, point toward an inspiring future where the Epsteins of this world could have no sway.”

The USTP also fundamentally opposes criminal violence of all sorts as part of the Immutable Operating Principles of its Constitution. Article I, Section III, Operating Principle 2, reads, in part, that “The Transhumanist Party renounces all violence, except in self-defense against a clear, immediate act of physical aggression. In particular, the Transhumanist Party holds that violent political activism is never permissible or just. The Transhumanist Party commits to always pursuing its goals in a civil, law-abiding manner, respecting the legitimate rights of all persons. The Transhumanist Party shall not condone and shall necessarily and automatically disavow all violent criminal acts. Any person who commits a violent criminal act is automatically disassociated from the Transhumanist Party in all respects until and unless that person has made appropriate restitution or has fully undergone the appropriate penalties pursuant to applicable law.” Chairman Stolyarov remarked, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party considers the opposition to criminal violence to be so important that it has enshrined a strong condemnation of it within the portion of its Constitution which may never be changed. The criminal abuse of minors, in which Jeffrey Epstein engaged, clearly amounts to the kind of violent coercion which we condemn in the strongest terms. Perpetrators of such behavior would always become automatically disassociated from us – although Epstein was never associated with us to begin with.”

Renowned transhumanist philosopher and USTP member David Pearce remarked that “a commitment to the well-being of all sentience as enshrined in the Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009) is hard to reconcile with some of the traditional male primate behaviour of Jeffrey Epstein.”

All three of the candidates competing in the 2019 Electronic Primary for the USTP’s endorsement for President of the United States also strongly denounced Epstein’s behavior.

Candidate Charles Holsopple, founder and CEO of the Project 222 Human Rights Campaign, stated, “As a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, I adamantly refute Jeffrey Epstein’s connection in any way. His selfish, immoral, harmful, and grossly illegal behavior disqualifies him from belonging to any group of integrity and noble purpose. In no way is he associated with the Transhumanist Party.”

Candidate Rachel Haywire, musician, writer, and producer of the Extreme Futurist Festival held in 2011 and 2012 to showcase transhumanist arts and culture, emphasized that Epstein engaged in “appalling behavior that should never be tolerated in our community. Who cares if someone has big money and a ranch in New Mexico? If they are raping children, that is an obvious no. Transhumanists do not disregard human life. We expand it.”

Candidate Haywire further noted, “Yet transhumanism is not about people like Epstein, and his behaviors do not reflect the behaviors of a transhumanist. What transhumanism is about is transcending our limitations and creating a species in which we flourish in the future through art, culture, and visionary technology.”

Candidate Johannon Ben Zion, Chairman of the Arizona Transhumanist Party and author of The Futurist New Deal for America, observed, “We at the Transhumanist Party know what we stand for: longer life spans, better public health outcomes, and human development – a more techno-progressive and highly automated society.  The association with eugenics-minded people like Jeffrey Epstein is horrid.  This cannot be overstated.   This is, however, a blip in the news cycle and one with which people outside of our community are not as preoccupied as I believe many of us are suggesting.”

Candidate Ben Zion expressed his view that “Still, the best approach to this kind of situation is to discuss it, salacious though it may be, not shy away from it – but rather to approach it with the appropriate explanations about how this is not true transhumanism and then describing our own views, and, more importantly, giving people some new ideas about the near-term prospects for life extension and other positive techno-futurist outcomes.”

Zoltan Istvan, who founded the USTP in 2014 and ran for office as its 2016 Presidential candidate, agreed with Ben Zion and offered the encouragement that “Transhumanists need to speak up about what their vision of transhumanism is so others and media know what it really is about.” Istvan also observed that “the transhumanism movement is vastly different than how Epstein interpreted it in 2011.”

USTP Officers echoed Istvan’s and Candidate Ben Zion’s call for discussion of the media coverage of the Epstein situation and the need to emphasize the genuine values of transhumanism. Pavel Ilin, Secretary of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, emphasized that transhumanism is not eugenics. Rather, Ilin explained that “transhumanism stands for original humanist values like the value of human life and individual freedom – and transhumanism definitely condemns any kind of violence, demeaning of human dignity, and neglecting of human rights. Also transhumanism is strongly against such terrible practices as eugenics and any sort of coercive breeding of people. Transhumanism emphasizes the ethical use of technology to improve the condition of human existence for everyone who chose any sort of improvement by free will.”

In elaborating upon what transhumanists stand for, Dinorah Delfin, the USTP Director of Admissions and Public Relations explained that the “USTP’s Officers are professionals and volunteers of various backgrounds and world-views. What we all have in common, however, is a desire, and I think the discipline, to help make the world a better place, not just for the human species, but for all sentient beings.”

Justin J. Waters, the USTP Legislative Director, noted that an application of transhumanist ideas might have prevented Epstein’s misbehavior: “Epstein was in need of moral bioenhancement. If after his 2008 conviction he was required to undergo court-ordered biohacking, i.e., involuntary chemical or surgical castration, he may have not committed his subsequent crimes.”

Many USTP members took exception to certain media outlets’ blanket associations of Jeffrey Epstein with transhumanism. Transhumanist hip-hop artist Maitreya One noted that “Transhumanism is about ending suffering, not causing it”.

USTP member Adam Perrotta called to task National Review author and long-time critic of transhumanism Wesley Smith for the unwarranted associations between Epstein and transhumanism. Smith’s article in the National Review had referred to Epstein as a “narcissistic transhumanist”.

However, Perrotta replied that “Transhumanists are horrified and sickened by Epstein, who has never been considered to be a serious transhumanist. [Cognitive psychologist and author] Steven Pinker called Epstein an intellectual imposter.” Perrotta asked, “What exactly is the problem with wanting to live a long healthy vibrant life? Transhumanists, with their commitment to rejuvenation and life extension, are advocates for the elderly. Death is not a biological program. It is the culmination of biological error.”

USTP Director of Publication Brent Reitze noted the irresponsibility of the July 31, 2019, article in The New York Times, wherein the authors stated that “Critics have likened transhumanism to a modern-day version of eugenics” – an assertion that, as Reitze noted, was “just thrown out there with no reference.” Perrotta similarly observed that “No transhumanist advocates the elimination or enslavement of individuals with diseases or disabilities (that is what eugenics is). We acknowledge and advocate for the dignity, rights, and freedom of every person.”

Perrotta expressed concern that the unwarranted association of Epstein with transhumanism in sensationalist media headlines could do real damage to the progress of life-improving technology. Contrary to Smith’s assertions, Perrotta explained that “Transhumanists do not worship science or technology. We view these things as tools that can aid humanity. We do not fear technology because it might be misused. We do fear that promising technology could banned because uninformed people get uncomfortable.” Perrotta emphasized that the essence of the transhumanist worldview needs to be accurately characterized: “Transhumanism is a benevolent philosophy that advocates the use of science and technology to better mankind and the world. Period.” USTP member Cybor Dre concurred and stated, “Transhumanism isn’t just about technology. It’s about elevating humanity and bringing the best of humanity along with us, raising our morals. It’s about being our best selves and striving for that.” Derek Leonard, owner of Transhuman Tees, agreed: “Transhumanism seeks to advance the human condition, to improve the quality of the life of people. Epstein demonstrated – by his actions – that he had no interest in such things.” Transhumanist Vyvian Looper remarked that “Transhumanists are motivated by the advancement of humanity” and that “Transhumanists are humanists at core but believe that societal benefit can be achieved through intelligent means” – aspirations that Epstein contravened repeatedly.

Other USTP members articulated that whatever Epstein might have personally thought about transhumanism – to the extent that this can even be known – should not be imputed to the transhumanist movement as a whole; rather, accountability for Epstein’s actions remains with Epstein as an individual. USTP member Daniel Yeluashvili stated, “Transhumanism is a people’s movement. As such, the actions of individuals who support it do not tarnish the morality of the ideology. We are transhumanists not because we are better than anyone else but because we value self-improvement.” USTP member David Miller noted that “The misrepresentation of good ideas to justify bad actions is as old as our species. If we are to advance as a species, it is time we began to differentiate bad actors in every ideology.” USTP member Jessica Clark observed that “All too often, subcultures attract human waste like Epstein. They use whatever power they gain to hide their intolerable behavior. It’s absolutely vital that they’re not only condemned personally, but such behavior is condemned as a whole. As a member of the Transhumanist Party, I am happy our community is taking a hardline stance against Epstein and his ilk.” USTP member Lennox Niece noted that the actions of “past mal-intentioned individuals such as Epstein should not dictate the future and face of the newer transhumanist movements. The USTP is an order of magnitude or more separated from the evils of Epstein. I have hope that the face of USTP, and other transhumanist organizations, won’t be tarnished by association with someone with whom the USTP does not associate: Epstein.”

In the wake of the overwhelming denunciations of Epstein within the transhumanist community, Chairman Stolyarov questioned the quality of the media reporting that associated Epstein with transhumanism. “This appears to be a case of certain media outlets interpreting some of Epstein’s personal idiosyncratic proclivities as somehow being transhumanist – even though such interpretation is based on a highly deficient understanding of what transhumanism actually means and stands for. Even if Epstein perceived himself to be interested in transhumanism, these media outlets have inflated any such interest massively out of proportion. This would be similar to a hypothetical situation where, if Epstein had occasionally shopped at a particular department store, the news headlines would be all about his ‘connection’ to the store – even though, as a shopper, he might not have done anything that typical shoppers would not do, and the store certainly had nothing to do with his crimes. Having bizarre personal views on genetics and the proliferation of one’s own genome is certainly not the same as adhering to the transhumanist philosophy. Unfortunately, media outlets are not always objective, and sensationalistic click-bait articles abound. While department stores are largely uncontroversial, transhumanism does have its critics. It is likely that the authors of these articles intentionally sought to add to the controversy surrounding Epstein by bringing transhumanism into the mix. What suffers from this approach is the characterization of a fundamentally benign worldview, as well as thousands of people who abhor Epstein’s behavior and stand for noble aspirations and principles of conduct. Criticism and debate regarding transhumanism are well within the realm of legitimate public discourse, but smearing good people by association is not.”

Chairman Stolyarov called for more objective and factually grounded reporting of the reprehensible behaviors of Jeffrey Epstein: “It is clear that transhumanists from all walks of life have denounced Epstein’s criminality. Media outlets need to take this into account and also to thoroughly check their statements and avoid nebulous generalizations. Any journalists who seek to learn about what transhumanists actually stand for are welcome to reach out to the U.S. Transhumanist Party as well as to various other representatives of the transhumanist community.”