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Review of Rykon Volta’s “Arondite” – A Fascinating Exploration of a Hypothetical Future History, With Relevance to Our World – by Gennady Stolyarov II

Review of Rykon Volta’s “Arondite” – A Fascinating Exploration of a Hypothetical Future History, With Relevance to Our World – by Gennady Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II


 

Arondite by Rykon Volta offers a fascinating exploration of a hypothetical trajectory of humankind’s future history, in which Hugo de Garis’s dire predictions of an “Artilect War” had come to pass. As in de Garis’s narrative, so in Volta’s, the anti-technological reactionary Terran faction initiates that war to assail emergent sentient artificial general intelligences and their philosophical allies, the pro-innovation Cosmists. Rather than allow such artificial general intelligences to develop, the Terran General Vantus destroys the entirety of the Earth in the year 2071 and binds the remnants of humanity to an Artilect Protocol, which imposes the harshest punishments on any humans who experiment with genetic modification, cybernetic implants, or artificial intelligence.

The story of Arondite takes place 500 years later, in 2571-2572. Humanity has, over the course of five centuries, risen slowly from the ashes of the Artilect War, and multiple competing societies and governments have taken hold in the Solar System – particularly the Martian Republic and the Jovian Empire, who are now on the edge of major war. The historical narratives at the beginning of each chapter are among the most intriguing aspects of Arondite and serve to add great depth to the world in which the events of the plot transpire. Indeed, the historical scenario presented by Volta is reminiscent of two epochs already experienced by humankind: the emergence of Classical Antiquity after a gradual recovery from the Late Bronze Age Collapse, and the rise of Medieval and then Renaissance societies after the Dark Ages following the fall of the Roman Empire. Every such recovery of civilization is a testament to human ingenuity in the face of immense adversity, and in the world depicted by Volta, the hardships of outer space certainly magnify those constraints for the remnants of humanity. Yet by developing extensive settlements both on multiple planets and in space, as well as advanced spacefaring vessels on which much of the book’s plot takes place, humans demonstrate irrepressible innovation by advancing in practically the only directions available to them. Still, the harsh boundaries imposed by the Artilect Protocol are beginning to fray, and indeed, would need to be overcome in order for further progress in the Solar System to be possible.

The protagonists of Arondite are a group of space pirates – Peron, Ashlyn, and Carlile, as well as their various and situationally shifting allies – who are quickly drawn into matters far weightier and more perilous than they could have expected, as they unwittingly find themselves at the epicenter of the struggle by multiple major powers for the Arondite Chip – a map to one of the few artilects rumored to remain. Without revealing the specific details, the plot features numerous rapid developments in this struggle – filled with shifting allegiances, sudden changes of fortune, and revelations of hidden motives which diverge from surface appearances. The reader is kept wondering throughout as to who will gain possession of the Arondite Chip – the pro-artilect Acliate Brotherhood, the Martian Republic, the Jovian Empire, the tense and ever-precarious alliance of the protagonists who must resist pressures from each of these forces, or perhaps someone else entirely. Characters from every faction, however, are united in their recognition of the vast transformational power of an artificial general intelligence; some fear it and wish to destroy it, whereas others wish to harness it for their own objectives. But will the protagonists be not only capable enough to locate this artilect, but wise enough to truly understand its capabilities and nature – and respect its autonomy?

The events of Arondite are driven strongly by all-too-familiar flaws of human character – from irrational fear to the desire for the subjugation of others to the perception of existence as a zero-sum struggle of all against all. Because of the prohibitions of the Artilect Protocol, these flaws have persisted and become endemic within the societies of 2571; after all, no fundamental improvements upon human nature had been made available via technological pathways. Thus, for all of humankind’s spacefaring progress, the aforementioned deleterious vestiges of the suboptimal evolution of the human mind had not been corrected; another major war looms on the horizon and threatens to undo centuries of hard-earned advancement. However, the rediscovery of the artilects might just open an entirely different and more hopeful set of possibilities for the future of civilization.  One can only hope that, in our own civilization, that set of possibilities can be opened much sooner and with major conflicts averted.

Through the plot of Arondite, Volta illustrates the futility of attempting to impose restrictions on technological progress – restrictions which only serve to mire humankind in an escalating war of all against all. The protagonists are thrust into such an all-encompassing struggle, but because of their relative naiveté (despite being space pirates) are able to keep their minds open to alternative possibilities and thus have a chance to bypass the numerous hostile forces and machinations standing in their way. There is a broader message contained in this kind of narrative – the ability of an earnest individual, who is not altogether experienced with “the way things are done” in a given field, to significantly influence that field and overcome institutional barriers that had hitherto prevented progress past a certain point. Both in the world of Arondite and in our world, Volta shows that the philosophy of transhumanism, with its openness to technologies that can radically transform the human condition to remedy age-old flaws, is the way forward, transcending the destructive power struggles which needlessly stunted the advancement of humanity in the past.

Gennady Stolyarov II is the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. 

Arondite is available on Amazon in hard-copy and Kindle formats here

Watch the U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Enlightenment Salon of  July 19, 2020, when Rykon Volta was the guest of honor and discussed Arondite and the ideas surrounding it with the U.S. Transhumanist Party Officers.

 

Skyships as Bridges Between Earth and Space – Article by Michael Herschman

Skyships as Bridges Between Earth and Space – Article by Michael Herschman

Michael Herschman


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party publishes this article by Michael Herschman to illuminate his creative idea for the development of skyships that would act as permanent human habitats and transitional platforms between Earth and space, benefiting the infrastructures and development of both of these realms. The skyship concept echoes the floating structures observed above the Earth and other worlds in the paintings of Robert McCall, and it would be an impressive feat of human progress for them to be brought into concrete reality. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, April 17, 2021


Physics evolves, and we can soon expect our advances in engineering. They rarely come, but they never leave. Voices can evolve from turmoil or from excess: People do not often think about science in terms of moral progress… However, there is no holiness of the mind that does not seek happiness. If we choose to look into the sky rather than at the ground, we will find more area for expansion. To a degree, our economy has developed an association with buoyancy. Self-reflection will take you far, but aviation can take you further.

Individuals try to want what is right. Most people never consider human-governed celestial action. NASA, Blue Origin, and SpaceX are influences toward limitless human engineering capacity. To not engage is to hold on… We face gravity as a creative people: Skyscrapers are natural, airplanes are natural, space rockets are natural. Skyships are natural. We need to defy current electronic constraints. It is the natural imperative of every individual to understand according to their capacity the truth of climate change. We see our Earth becoming more and more deceased from carbon. And we use carbon-dioxide-emitting rockets as we leave Earth. By our current standards, the safety and integrity of life on Mars is absurd.

Rendering a sustainable life in the sky is a real and true objective. It is a necessary structure for our next aeronautic epoch. Having a structure between skyscrapers and a space station will bring both closer. Common flying vehicles will proceed from skyship systems and intellectual scaffolding. Its existence will temper its surroundings. And its inhabitants will contribute to society. Everyone on the ship will have the goal of improving life on terrestrial Earth. It is Earth that got them there. They will serve Earth.

Skyships will come about naturally. They are a platform for energy freedoms and personal flight vehicles: so we are guided toward their construction. During the ship’s existence it will help society. Nothing onboard will languish from lack of attention or ability. The ship will be composed of givers that learn and share and provide examples for human structure. The ship will be bound by holistic healthy associations. Craft inhabitants will cure diseases.

We already have airships. A skyship is an airship that can be lived on indefinitely. They will be buoyant and provide protection and can be lived on indefinitely. They will be assisted by fuels and electricity but have no carbon footprint. They are bound to give to society.

Michael Herschman is a writer and poet who wants to learn and relearn STEM, and invent. His Instapoetry and books are available from https://www.whaleshift.com/ and @mkherschman

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.

Petition by Biogerontology Global to Declare Aging the Top Global Risk

Petition by Biogerontology Global to Declare Aging the Top Global Risk

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Biogerontology Global


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party encourages its members to support the petition created by our allies at Biogerontology Global, which aims to declare aging the largest global risk. The U.S. Transhumanist Party holds significant life extension as its first Core Ideal, and biological aging is the greatest barrier to significant life extension. Overcoming biological aging through the progress of science and technology is therefore the greatest moral imperative of our time.

 ~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, August 21, 2020

Sign this petition on Change.org here


TL;DR: You have a terminal disease and so does everyone you love. Human aging kills more people (100,000 per day), causes more suffering, and harms society more than anything else – by a large margin. Scientific discoveries and technological advancements are making it clearer by the day that given enough funding and effort, human aging can be cured. In other words, we should cure aging and we can cure aging. For that to happen, however, a large cultural shift must take place in favor and support of the idea – which currently faces significant opposition and neglect. The Global Risks Report is an annual publication released by the World Economic Forum that ranks global risks. It is read by a large portion of world leaders and citizens alike. If human aging were to top this list of risks or, at the very least, make the cut, it would help the world see aging as an urgent threat and potentially save the life of whomever is reading this. Sign this petition if you want to help declare aging the top global risk.

Detailed Description:

Each year, the World Economic Forum, with support from Marsh and McLennan Companies, releases a Global Risks Report. This report, as the name suggests, includes detailed analyses and rankings of the greatest threats facing the world each year. Each major threat is referred to as a risk. The two-part centerpiece of this report consists of a ranking of the top 5 risks in terms of likelihood, and another ranking of the top 5 risks in terms of impact. There are also “trends”. Per the World Economic Forum, a “trend” is defined as a long-term pattern that is currently evolving and that could contribute to amplifying global risks and/or altering the relationship between them. Simply put, trends are not seen as the major global threats, but instead as factors that may influence them. In past years “population ageing” has sometimes been recognized as a trend, but nothing more.

The purpose of this petition is to get the World Economic Forum to not only recognize human aging as a global risk but as the global risk. Human aging kills approximately 100,000 people per day. In developed countries, 90% of all deaths are at the hands of age-related disease. How could it be that the largest cause of human death (by an immense margin) is not seen as the most pressing issue in the world? Not to mention, the amount of human suffering caused by the diseases of old age is arguably unparalleled. Why is this mass suffering and death justified rather than fought?

In 2020, the top 5 global risks in terms of likelihood were all environmental. Solving aging would significantly lessen these risks. Without human aging, people would not be planning to die. They would have a stake in the long-term future of the environment. This radical sociological shift could be the push humanity needs to start consistently making environmentally beneficial decisions. Overpopulation should not be a concern, as we have more than enough land and resources to accommodate a much larger population on planet Earth. More efficient methods of resource allocation are the remedy for current problems that are often falsely attributed to a growing global population. Additionally, emerging agricultural technologies such as hydroponics, which can boost crop yields by up to 11 times, and vertical farming, which can further maximize that factor, will continue to make it even easier to feed more people.

Without human aging, we would no longer have such a substantial portion of society that is sick and unable to work or enjoy the activities that they so loved in their youth. This could work wonders for global productivity. Not to mention, people who are not gripped by old age and stay in the workforce much longer than they do now would become more experienced than the workers of today, boosting global productivity even further.

People would be happier in a world without death by aging. They would have much more time with their loved ones. They would be able to have and achieve long-term goals without the inevitability of death by aging to get in the way. They would have the time to live fuller lives. Happier societies commit less crime, so that is another societal ill that curing aging could help dismantle.

Many of humanity’s greatest threats are directly or indirectly the result of human aging. If we were to solve aging, many of the global risks mentioned in past Global Risks Reports would no longer be major issues.

We tend to think of death by aging as an inevitability of life. However, scientists in the field of biogerontology (the study of biological aging), billionaire businesspeople and philanthropists, technologists, and many other professionals/activists are working to make death by aging optional. Science and technology have already drastically improved lifespan and health in recent years by a considerable margin; however, it can do more. The molecular mechanisms by which we age (The Hallmarks of Aging) have been identified by scientists. Interventions such as senolytic drugs have already been proven to counteract some of these mechanisms. Cellular pathways have been genetically modified to extend the lifespans of model organisms to the equivalent of 500 human years. Google has launched and given over a billion dollars to its subsidiary, Calico, which researches aging. Many other companies and nonprofits, including the SENS Research Foundation and Methuselah Foundation, are tackling aging or its subparts. Growing support and advancement makes it clear that humanity will cure aging eventually, but so many people die each day of aging that eventually is not good enough. We must cure aging as soon as possible to save ourselves and those we love.

This petition recognizes that a cultural shift at every level of society is necessary for leaders and organizations in this space to garner enough support to cure human aging within our lifetimes. If this petition were to succeed, that cultural shift would come easier. Between the large portions of world leaders and citizens that read and respect the Global Risks Report, many more people would recognize aging as a problem they can solve and should solve if the report were to name aging as a global risk. This would lead to increased funding to cure aging, more talented scientists and technologists joining the space, and a greater opportunity to cure aging within our lifetimes!

Aging is objectively the largest global risk to humanity in terms of likelihood and impact. We ask that the World Economic Forum recognize this and act accordingly.

Sign this petition to help forge a better existence for yourself, your loved ones, and all of humanity.

Learn more at @biogerontology on Instagram.

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.

Review of Jamie Metzl’s “Hacking Darwin” by Dan Elton

Review of Jamie Metzl’s “Hacking Darwin” by Dan Elton

 

Dan Elton


Our inaugural  book review of 2020 covers Hacking Darwin by Jamie Metzl. As a  happy coincidence, David Wood of the London Futurists recently had Metzl speak to his group, and you can watch a recording of the event here.  This book is an exploration of how we might genetically engineer our children, why we might want to do so, and what the consequences might be.

The fact is, some people are already “hacking Darwin”. The first “test-tube baby” was born in 1978. This set the stage for preimplantation genetic testing, which became popular in the 1990s and widely used today. But “hacking Darwin” had already been occurring earlier due to genetic testing. A striking example Metzl discusses is the rapid decrease in Tay-Sachs disease in the  Ashkenazi jewish community.  Tay-Sachs is a genetic disorder which has devastating effects on the nervous system. By age 2, children with Tay-Sachs start to experience seizures and decline in mental functioning. Sadly, most die in agonizing pain by the age of five. About one in twenty seven Ashkenazi Jews carry the Tay-Sachs genes. Remarkably though, since the 1980s, the prevalence of the disease among Ashkenazi Jews has been very low, due to extensive genetic testing and family planning. Marriages between people who have tested positive for the disease were discouraged, and when they do occur, the couples tended to adopt rather than risk having a child born with the disease. The result was a great reduction in needless suffering, which is hard to argue against.

One of the major objections to genetic engineering is that it is “unnatural”. Metzl points out that a better term is “unfamiliar”. He points out that many things that seem natural are actually very “unnatural” – for instance, if you went back a few thousand years, you wouldn’t find anything resembling today’s corn or bananas – they are human concoctions from centuries of selective breeding. It seems that the queeziness people feel, which they label as due to “un-naturalness” is actually just due to unfamiliarity, which naturally invokes anxiety. History shows us that any radical technology or new idea naturally experiences widespread pushback. But history also shows that acceptance of a radical new idea or technology can be remarkably fast notwithstanding.

In-vitro fertilization provides an interesting case study of how public opinion can shift. Initially it was demonized, but public acceptance of it rapidly changed over the course of only a few years.

The next technology that will come down the pipeline, according to Metzl, is iterated embryo selection. Embryos are already inspected visually to select the one that is least likely to result in a miscarriage, and as noted in some cases preimplantation genetic testing is performed to check for a few genetic illnesses. This process can be scaled up and improved dramatically. Instead of having 10-15 eggs fertilized, a hundred might be, and instead of just doing visual checks, the genome of each embryo might be sequenced to screen out certain genetic disorders and select for certain traits. The process could also be “iterated”, using induced pluripotent stem cells (IPCs) from the embryos to create new gametes (eggs & sperm) which could be combined to create new embryos.

Fig. 1 – The Cost of Sequencing a Human Genome.

Source: National Human Genome Research Institute

 https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/Sequencing-Human-Genome-cost

The benefits of expanding IVF and embryo selection could not only eliminate unnecessary suffering but also result in large financial savings which will allow money to be redistributed elsewhere in our healthcare system. The current cost of taking care of the current number of people born with genetic diseases each year was roughly estimated by Metzl to be $48 billion, spread over 37 years into the future.

The cost of sequencing is dropping dramatically (see Fig. 1). This is allowing for larger genome-wide association studies (GWASs). Using big data, statistical methods, and machine learning, many outcomes can be predicted by analyzing the many genes which can influence most traits. Already, the height a child will grow to can be predicted to within an inch (assuming they get adequate nutrition) by analyzing thousands of genes.

Two major types of enhancements which will benefit our offspring are discussed in length by Metzl – increased intelligence and increased healthspan, and it’s worth discussing some of his main findings here. (Other possible enhancements he notes are increased empathy, supersensory capabilities, increased physical stamina and strength, increased beauty, increased ability to extract nutrition from foods, and better ability to tolerate mircrogravity and  radiation.)

Regarding intelligence, the Minnestota Family Twin study found that 70% of IQ is genetic. More recent works put the number somewhat lower (about 50%), but a surprising amount is hereditary, and the variance due to genetics is significant (about 15 points of IQ in each direction). The rest seems to be largely due to things like childhood nutrition and having a rich environment as a kid. Higher IQ provides many benefits. Among them is a better ability to adapt to change and work in a dynamic environment where you constantly have to learn new skills. Statistically, people with lower IQ tend to work jobs with a regular routine, such as service positions. Currently, those with low IQ can still have a great life (there’s no evidence IQ correlates with happiness), and low-IQ people can learn a trade where there is reliable demand, become very good at it, and be valued by society. With the advent of AI and robotics, this is rapidly changing, and the risk of large-scale technological unemployment is real. Metzl asks, in light of this, is it really fair that we are trusting the economic wellbeing of our children to the genetic lottery of sexual recombination? It’s already not easy to compensate for a bad draw in the genetic lottery. Additionally, if other parents are doing it, why would any parent want to risk their child being far behind their peers? According to Metzl, the choice will be clear for parents in the future.

The second major area where genetic engineering will have an effect is aging. The diseases of aging were not something evolution cared much about, so there are likely genetic hacks that are possible but were just never selected for – it’s an area ripe for optimization.  For a glimpse of what is possible, Metzl has us consider the naked mole rat, a species which is remarkable in many ways (click here for a  full list of ways this species is special). Most notably, naked mole rats don’t exhibit the normal signs of aging, and they don’t get cancer. Thus, as odd as it may seem, the naked mole rat is the subject of intense research, and this humble species even serves as a sort of touchstone increasing the confidence of venture capitalists investing in longevity biotech startups in Silicon Valley. According to Metzl, “Calico, Google’s San Francisco–based life-extension company, maintains one of the world’s largest captive colonies of naked mole rats to see if it can uncover biomarkers of aging and unlock the secrets of naked mole rat longevity.”

It seems that genetic engineering will eventually be accepted as the ethically superior way of creating children – no one will want to leave something as important as the health and economic wellbeing of their children to blind chance. Human beings naturally crave control and certainty where possible — that’s why we give our kids vaccines and parents spend thousands of dollars on prophylactic dental procedures such as orthodontics or the removal of wisdom teeth. Yes, there will always be some hold-outs who will want to stick with “traditional conception”, but after reading Metzl’s book I can’t help but think that eventually the numbers will be quite small. Consider, for instance, that even the Amish use modern medicine.

The scientific and technological path to a much more healthy world, with much less suffering and longer, healthier lives is clear. There are straightforward steps we can take to reduce congenital ailments, for instance. However, there’s a real chance we may delay even this for decades, causing much needless suffering. Part of the reason is that any discussions of the subject immediately bring up a lot of cultural baggage from the horrible legacy of eugenics. The horrors of eugenics form an unfortunate negative emotional halo around any discussion of genetic engineering. While the eugenics movement is largely dead, the subject is so important that Metzl rightly devotes a large part of the book to it. Concerns about a re-emergence of the horrors of eugenics are legitimate, but conflation of what is being proposed with those horrors is not. Eugenicists advocated forced sterilization, whereas nobody is proposing that today. Instead, all that is being proposed is that parents have a choice in how their children are conceived. However, there is a real concern that parents will voluntarily choose children with certain biases, such lighter skin and heterosexuality. There are also concerns that the creation of genetically engineered “super children” would lead to a caste system of some sort, leading to a highly in-equitable society where the non-genetically-engineered are constantly discriminated against and made to feel unworthy. Metzl acknowledges each of these risks as real, but he also points out that none of the scenarios are inevitable and asks the reader to consider the benefits of genetic engineering as well, some of which we previously discussed. He notes that our current world is already very unequal in terms of genetics. Might a bit more genetic inequality be acceptable, Metzl asks, if the children created make enormous contributions to the arts and sciences which benefit all of humanity? Regarding whether a caste system might form, Metzl suggests that we must work to ensure the technology is widely distributed (at one point I recall he suggests insurance companies might have an incentive to provide genetic engineering as it would reduce health costs later on). A bigger horror, Metzl suggests, is not genetic inequality, but perfect genetic equality – the creation of a uniform generation of cookie-cutter children, where misfits and non-neurotypicals (which have historically contributed so much) have been selected out.  Each of these concerns are real, and Metzl doesn’t try to argue otherwise.

While ethical concerns may stifle the development of genetic engineering, a different scenario is a genetic arms race. In other areas such as AI, China is making more aggressive investments in genetic technology – a “$9 billion, fifteen-year investment to improve national leadership in precision medicine”. Metzl points out that the Chinese seem to have far fewer hang-ups around the subject and are blazing full steam ahead.

While the author is sympathetic to genetic engineering, the book presents a balanced treatment and never waxes too polemical. The first part of the book is mostly about the science. The later sections, on the ethical concerns and the genetic arms race scenario, are the most thought-provoking and are parts I may re-listen to at some point. Overall, this book is a very timely and thought-provoking introduction to the subject.

Dan Elton, Ph. D., is Director of Scholarship for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. 

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

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

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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. 

New Decade’s Message for the 2020s by USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II

New Decade’s Message for the 2020s by USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II


As 2019 draws to a close, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, expresses hope that humankind will emerge from the “Crazy Years” and offers ten concrete resolutions for human achievement during the 2020s. This message was recorded on December 31, 2019, and is available for viewing here.

As 2019 draws to a close, let us bid farewell and good riddance to a decade which could, in retrospect be referred to using the prophetic Robert Heinlein term, “The Crazy Years” – a turbulent, conflicted decade during which, while glimmers of hope appeared on multiple fronts of technological advancement, society and culture have clearly declined due to the rise of incivility, tribalism, authoritarianism, identity politics, and mass breakdowns of sanity. It is no secret that I had hoped for humankind to have been farther along the path of advancement by now than it has actually come. The great conflict of our decade – between the marvels that have been built by the creative and rational higher faculties of the human mind and the biases, fallacies, vulnerabilities, and atrocities spawned by its darkest evolved recesses – between the Apollonian heights and the Dionysian depths of human nature – will carry on into the 2020s and perhaps beyond. To win this conflict, those of us who desire a brighter future need to advocate for more progress, faster innovation, greater rationality, higher standards of civility and morality, and a long-term outlook that seeks to cultivate the best in human beings.

As the winds of fortune shift, some of us individually will rise, and others will fall. This certainly was the case this past decade. In so many respects, for me, it has been marked by colossal achievements and improvements, but also tectonic shifts in my own life which were not of my initiative – to which I needed to respond and adapt and preserve what I valued in the aftermath. Reflecting back on the end of 2009, and comparing it to today, I realize that absolutely everything about the circumstances of my life is now different… and yet I myself am essentially the same. I believe that it is this core of myself, this fundamentally constant and consistent identity, which has carried me through the crises and enabled me to defy adversity and arise stronger every time – to pursue new endeavors and take on new roles while remaining the same essential individual, to learn from the empirical evidence before me while maintaining the same convictions and understanding of the good. The events of the 2010s have illustrated for me that, indeed, peace and stability in life must ultimately come from within – although it is not a matter of withdrawal into the self or mere self-affirmation, as some popular creeds would claim. Rather, it is the self that must devise and implement solutions to the crises of the day while pursuing consistent improvement in as many dimensions as possible, and preserving that essential core intact.

It is beyond our power to live a decade over again, but we can harness the best of its aftermath and turn the coming decade into a superior and more rational one. Some of us will create resolutions as individuals, and then pursue plans of varying degrees of specificity and likelihood of success. But perhaps it is best to consider the resolutions we would wish to have for humankind as a whole. It is all well and good, of course, to wish for progress and prosperity, but it is also well-known that the resolutions which have the greatest likelihood of succeeding are those which are accompanied by concrete indicators of fulfillment. Therefore, I propose the following ten resolutions for humankind during the decade of the 2020s, which will enable us to empirically identify whether or not they have been fulfilled at the decade’s end.

  1. Construct the next world’s tallest building – because humankind must always reach higher.
  2. Build a base on the Moon – because it is time to colonize other worlds.
  3. Land a human on Mars – because it is time to expand beyond our orbit.
  4. Establish the first fully operational seastead communities – because it is time for human habitation to expand beyond land and for jurisdictional experimentation to resume in earnest.
  5. Have at least one person live beyond 120 years again – mathematically possible given that 10 of today’s supercentenarians are 114 or older; it is time to begin to approach Jeanne Calment’s longevity record of 122 years once more.
  6. Cut all world nuclear-weapon stockpiles in half – more than this has been done before, and so this is really quite a modest goal, but it is imperative to reverse the trajectory of the current arms race. Complete nuclear disarmament by all powers would, of course, be preferable, to finally dispel the “MAD” cloud of annihilation looming over our species.
  7. Compose 100 tonal symphonies – because it is time to rediscover beauty.
  8. Develop medically effective cures for every type of cancer – because, really, it is decades past time.
  9. End the decade with 50 percent of all vehicles on the road at level 2 autonomy or greater – because road deaths are a travesty and should become a relic of a barbaric past.
  10. Experience at least one year in which no country is at war with any other, with “war” including armed insurgencies and terrorist attacks – because national, ethnic, religious, and ideological warfare needs to be relegated to the past.

Of course, there are many worthwhile objectives not encompassed above, and it is my hope that efforts to reach those goals will also advance in parallel. You may have a list of ten resolutions for humankind that differs from mine, but they may be compatible nonetheless. The overarching aim, however, is to restore humanity’s much-needed confidence in progress, to emerge from the postmodern swamp of self-doubt and deconstruction and return to the heights of ennobling ambition and creation. Concrete benchmarks to track our progress can also serve the dual purpose of motivating people everywhere to undertake great tasks. A certain President has expressed the desire to make America great again, but I would venture to say that he has not selected the proper means for doing so. I challenge everyone during the next decade to make the world great again and demonstrate that the most impressive achievements and the most lasting solutions to our age-old problems are still to come. This is the message of transhumanism, and I hope that it can become the theme of the next decade – so that when I speak to you again at the decade’s end, we can reflect upon the wonders that have been built.

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

How 2020 Can Be the Year of Transhumanist Politics in America: USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Steele Archer on the Debt Nation Show

How 2020 Can Be the Year of Transhumanist Politics in America: USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Steele Archer on the Debt Nation Show

Gennady Stolyarov II
Steele Archer


On November 24, 2019, U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II spoke extensively with Steele Archer on the Debt Nation show regarding recent transhumanist political developments and possibilities to come in 2020, including how 2020 can shape up to become the year of transhumanism in American politics, across the conventional spectrum, with Zoltan Istvan running as a Republican, Andrew Yang running as a Democrat, several Libertarian candidates sympathetic to a highly technological future – with their supporters having the potential to be drawn to the Transhumanist Presidential campaign of Johannon Ben Zion, who will remain in the race all the way to the general election, long after all the other parties’ primaries have concluded.

Watch this conversation here.

Also discussed were subjects such as how transhumanism can give a new sense of purpose and rekindle the belief in progress among Americans, how transhumanism can inaugurate a more rational politics, which seeks creative solutions to replace wedge issues with win-win outcomes, and the key points from the USTP Chairman’s Third Anniversary Message and how they will be implemented so as to further enhance and grow the USTP.

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