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The Boredom Objection to Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Boredom Objection to Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


One of the most widely used yet most baseless objections to life extension is the idea that if people had longer lifespans, they would somehow be bored, or, that they would not be motivated, since the finite amount of time each person has is what is supposed to make them more motivated. Indeed, when this objection is uttered, images of people watching hours of television every day while drinking soda, eating junk food, and being unproductive, come to mind. However, as I will demonstrate below, boredom and motivation are not related to the length of life, but rather, are based on other factors.

The reality is that there are already plenty of people who claim to be bored, or who struggle with motivation. Therefore, shortening their lives or preventing them from living longer and healthier is not likely to make them less bored or improve their motivation. In fact, it is likely to do the opposite – to result in the person becoming demoralized, and, more than likely, very depressed, knowing that their life expectancy has been decreased, that there is no hope for rejuvenation, and that the end is closer still.

Being bored or unmotivated isn’t related to the length of one’s life; it is related to a person’s mindset, thoughts, beliefs, actions, life situation, and other factors that are not related to lifespan.

I can speak for myself and say that I would do plenty of things if I had a longer lifespan, including, but not limited to, starting new hobbies, enjoying the additional time with friends, family and loved ones, performing charity work, delivering even more value to others, and more. Wouldn’t you like to have a few extra years of a healthy life so that you could spend it with the people you love, doing things you enjoy?

Life being short isn’t a good thing, just like failure isn’t a good thing, and just like going bankrupt isn’t a good thing. The difference here, though, is that if you fail, you can probably try again, just like if your business goes under, you can probably try again at some point. In those scenarios too, one could make the argument that you might learn something from the failure or bankruptcy. However, if you die, you can’t try again, and there’s nothing to learn from it. It’s all over.

Just because some people believe that a longer lifespan would result in lethargic, lackadaisical behavior in certain people, doesn’t mean we have to damn all of humanity to a short, brutish lifespan full of disease and suffering, especially in the last few years or decades of life. Therefore, even if some people waste the time that they have, this does not mean the rest of us who do cherish the time we have should have less of it available to us.

Indeed, there are more hobbies, activities, educational tools, opportunities for personal development, and forms of entertainment available to us, than ever before. Therefore, if someone is truly bored, the boredom is more than likely not related to the length of their life, but rather, the quality of their life. It seems difficult to argue that an enthusiastic, passionate, and motivated person would all of a sudden become demotivated if they had more years of a healthy life ahead of them. On the other hand, it may very well be true that an unmotivated or depressed person would not be helped by having a longer life. However, this does not mean that the longer life is the reason for their boredom. There has been much research conducted on motivation, and the research seems to suggest that motivation is driven by intrinsic factors, such as purpose and the opportunity for self-improvement, and not necessarily by the length of life. Given these factors, it would be difficult to argue that adding a few years of healthy life would suddenly make someone demotivated.

Someone who feels bored or unmotivated with the valuable gift of life is calling out for help. We should help them come to a better understanding of what it means to be alive, what it means to be human, and, if possible, help them develop a purpose and goals in life so that they feel more motivated on a daily basis. Shortening the length of their life is unlikely to help them feel less bored, or more motivated. In my view, instead of attempting to prevent progress, opponents of life extension would be better served by spending their time helping others find meaning or purpose in life.

Furthermore, imagine not conducting valuable research into longevity just because of the objection that people would be bored with a longer life. While there is really no way to quantify just how damaging this objection could be to performing research into life extension, I imagine it has prevented some progress in treating aging-related diseases. Could you imagine the ensuing outrage if our teachers, business leaders, medical professionals, and parents came out publicly and said that we should stop treating or trying to cure illnesses? Similarly, we should be outraged by simplistic arguments against life extension, especially if they are not backed up by solid evidence. And, of course, we should certainly be glad that the men and women who have dedicated their lives to improving the human condition and curing devastating illnesses did not succumb to boredom or a lack of motivation.

Let’s be clear – death does not give life meaning any more than tearing down a house gives meaning to the house. Therefore, when we hear the objection that life extension would lead to boredom and demotivation, we should call it for what it is: an insult to the sanctity of life and something to be banished for eternity, just like the plague of aging and disease.

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

 

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.

Anti-Aging: The Growing Popularity Of Radical Life Extension – Article by Kimberly Forsythe

Anti-Aging: The Growing Popularity Of Radical Life Extension – Article by Kimberly Forsythe

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Kimberly Forsythe


There are numerous anti-aging therapies, which are used to slow the aging process in humans. Each of these therapies has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, there are anti-aging processes such as anti-oxidants, anti-aging nutrients, anti-aging exercise programs, anti-aging diets, and anti-aging supplements that are said to extend a person’s lifespan. Aging is said to be a natural process that cannot be slowed or reversed once humans undergo it, and which accelerates greatly after puberty and early adulthood; however, some experts do not agree with this. There are several theories on the subject of aging that have varying outlooks on the actual causes of aging.

What Causes Aging in Humans?

There are various theories that explain the causes of aging, but they do not all agree. While we are making new discoveries all the time, we still do not have definitive answers on what causes aging. Some researchers believe that oxidative damage is what causes aging, and others believe genetics are involved in causing aging.

The evidence for the oxidative damage by sunlight, poor diet, and poor exercising habits is strong. For example, if your parents or grandparents had a shorter lifespan than the average person, it’s possible that part of the reason was that they didn’t have a good diet, they didn’t exercise, or they didn’t avoid the common environmental hazards we encounter today. That certainly makes some sense.

You might think that they all contribute equally, which is certainly plausible. Consider how much impact the food we eat has on our health. If the foods we eat are generally unhealthy, then the oxidative damage done to our cells will be greater, and our lifespan will be shortened. If the foods we eat are rich in antioxidants and are beneficial to health, then we will be healthier, and the oxidative damage we do to our cells will be lessened.

So, one could say that oxidative damage is what causes aging, and the antioxidants are what counteract it. But that’s too simple. Actually, free radicals do more damage to our cells than oxidative damage, so it stands to reason that free radicals add to the damage. In other words, instead of wearing away at the cells in a chemical process, free radicals cause cell death.

However, the evidence for genetics is also strong. When the telomeres within the protective shell of the cell are damaged, they become shorter. As a result, the “RNA” within the telomere becomes too short. The second factor which causes aging is cell senescence, or aging at the cellular level.

There are many different forms of cell senescence, but the main ones are in peripheral tissues such as skin, muscles, and blood vessels. If this continues, then the total number of cells may start to decline. The decline in cell numbers is partly what causes aging in general.

Another factor is called DNA damage, and this is caused by exposure to radiation and to chemicals used during manufacturing. This is a big problem, because DNA is responsible for the repair of cellular damage, and if it gets damaged, it can stop replicating to produce new cells altogether. This would mean that the aging process could not be stopped, and the body will just keep getting older without any real control.

What is Radical Life Extension?

Radical life extension is the process of using anti-aging technology to reverse age-related processes that are already underway. Anti-aging techniques rely on a combination of knowledge and understanding of the aging process, as well as on modern-day scientific breakthroughs. Scientists are only just now beginning to unlock many of the mysteries surrounding the mechanisms of aging.

In theory, we could live forever if we found a way to completely rejuvenate ourselves after we passed the age of sixty. Some people are under the impression that curing or reversing aging is impossible. But at the very least, we might be able to make ourselves better, or at least age gracefully. It is not known how far the search has come, but some of the results so far have been very promising.

When Will Aging be Cured or Reversed?

To cure or reverse aging, it will be necessary to find some way to increase the lifespan of humans. Many questions surround which scientific approach to anti-aging will be the most beneficial to humans. Perhaps we will lengthen lifespans by curing all of the diseases that we are prone to, or perhaps by using genetic engineering to insert new genes into the human genome. For some transhumanists, the ultimate aim would be to live forever. Others, however, wish only to increase the number of healthy years.

There is a great deal of interest in the subject of radical life extension, and there is considerable money involved. Investors are piling in to fund research to unlock more theories about aging and the mysteries that scientists are trying to unravel. There are, unfortunately, many unfounded claims and charlatans out there misleading the public about how we may be able to cure or reverse aging.

Some people have made the mistake of thinking that radical life extension is magic, or of taking a magical pill that will turn you into an immortal. While there is promising research for medications that can reduce biological age, the notion that it will be an immediate and instant cure is likely a distortion of the truth. We need to understand that aging is just one of the processes that occur within us, but there are many ways we can counter these processes. It is possible to extend your life significantly, but this requires an understanding of the aging process as a whole.

Overall, the more resources we put into studying the aging process and search for effective ways of curing or reversing aging, the faster we will find answers to questions that humans have sought after for ages. The “Fountain of Youth” may arrive sooner than we think. It is important that we collectively understand the implications of reversing aging and take steps to address these issues as soon as possible.

Related reading:

Healthier, longer lifespans will be a reality sooner than you think, Juvenescence promises as it closes $100M round

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews James Strole Regarding RAAD Fest 2019 and Life-Extension Advocacy

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews James Strole Regarding RAAD Fest 2019 and Life-Extension Advocacy

James Strole
Gennady Stolyarov II
Johannon Ben Zion


On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II invited James Strole of the Coalition for Radical Life Extension and People Unlimited to discuss the upcoming RAAD Fest 2019 in Las Vegas on October 3-6, 2019 – the fourth RAAD Fest in history – https://www.raadfest.com/ – and the first in a new venue. Mr. Stolyarov and Mr. Strole discussed the importance of unity in the transhumanist and life-extensionist movements, as well as what opportunities for education and inspiration RAAD Fest will offer to those who wish to live longer and healthier. They also addressed audience questions and were briefly joined by Johannon Ben Zion, Chairman of the Arizona Transhumanist Party. Watch the interview on YouTube here.

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

Watch some of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s prior appearances at RAAD Fests in 2017 and 2018 below.

RAAD Fest 2017

The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity – August 11, 2017

RAAD Fest 2018

The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Four Years of Advocating for the Future – Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018 – September 21, 2018

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018 – September 21, 2018

U.S. Transhumanist Party Meeting at RAAD Fest 2018 – September 22, 2018

Andrés Grases Interviews Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era – September 23, 2018

Register for RAAD Fest 2019 here

From Darwinian Greed to Altruistic Greed: the Strangest Period So Far in Our Planet’s History – Article by Hilda Koehler

From Darwinian Greed to Altruistic Greed: the Strangest Period So Far in Our Planet’s History – Article by Hilda Koehler

Hilda Koehler


We are smack-dab in the middle of what might be the oddest period of our planet’s history thus far. The last 200 years have seen more rapid technological and scientific advancement than all the 3.5 billion prior years of life on Earth combined. And that technological progress is set to increase even more exponentially within our lifetimes. In the span of my grandmother’s life, humanity has put a man on the Moon, and now we’re having serious discussions about Moon bases and terraforming Mars to start a colony there. Within my own life thus far, I’ve gone from using a dial-up box-shaped computer in my kindergarten years to learning about the exponential progress made in quantum computing and the invention of a material that could potentially be a non-organic substrate to download human thoughts into.

I think that John L. Smart is essentially correct in the theories he puts force in his evolutionary-developmental (“EvoDevo”) transcension hypothesis. There seems to be a kind of biological Moore’s law that applies to human intelligence. If you chart the developments in human evolution from 200,000 years ago till the present, the jump from hunting and gathering to civilization occurred at an immensely fast rate. And the subsequent jump from pre-scientific civilization to the contemporary technological age has been the most astronomical one thus far. And with that astronomical jump in humanity’s technological progress has come an incredible leap in humanity’s moral progress.

The irony of our strange epoch

One of the most ironic aspects about the current climate crisis I like to point out is this: thank goodness that the climate crisis is happening now, and not in the 1500s. That seems like a rather ironic or even flippant thing to say. But thank goodness that the two greatest existential threats to all sentient life on Earth, the existence of nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and global warming, are occurring in the 21st century. Because we are living in a time period where democracies are the most common political model across the globe. Public protests such as those led by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg’s climate strike movement have proliferated across the globe. Can you imagine what would have happened if this order of climate catastrophe had occurred a thousand years ago, when monarchies were the default political model? Can you imagine what would happen if you had tyrannical monarchies across the globe, with kings and lords as the primary stakeholders in climate-destroying corporations? It doesn’t seem likely that Greta Thunberg and her ilk would have made much progress in pushing for a pro-climate action zeitgeist in a regime where criticizing the reigning monarch automatically meant decapitation.

Furthermore, we’re extremely fortunate to be living in an era where science is accelerating fast enough to pioneer carbon-capture technology, and more recently, the geoengineering as a viable solution. To paraphrase Michio Kaku, “the dinosaurs got wiped out by the meteor shower; but they didn’t have advanced technology which could detect and disintegrate meteors long before they enter the Earth’s orbit. That’s something current human beings can work on building.” The same is true of the current scramble for climate engineers to churn out anti-pollution and temperature-lowering technologies.

How the technological pursuit of a post-scarcity world is encourages altruism and egalitarianism

I often write about how the last 150 years of global society have seen an exponential jump in the perpetuation of universal human rights. And that’s because it’s nothing short of amazing. Most of the world’s major civilizations which had political and economically subjugated women, ethnic minorities, and the working class for the past 6,000 years suddenly had a change of heart overnight, seemingly. It’s no coincidence that the proliferation of universal civil rights and the criminalization of interpsersonal violence against women and minorities coincided with the Post-Industrial Revolution. As resource scarcity has been drastically reduced in the contemporary technological era, so, too, has the Darwinian impetus towards domination and subjugation of minority groups.

We have shifted from a violent Darwinian greed in the form of the colonization of minority groups, to a kind of altruistic greed. Altruistic greed is characterized by an unabetting desire for ever-higher qualities of life; but which can be made widely available to the masses. The clearest example of this is the advent of modern healthcare, beginning with the mass administration of vaccinations for diseases like polio. As Steven Pinker points out, infant mortality rates and deaths from child birth have plummeted throughout that world in the last 50 years. Across the world, the proliferation of technological infrastructure has made public transport systems faster and safer than they ever were before. Altruistic greed is a major driving force for many in the transhumanist community. Most transhumanists are advocates of making radical life extension and cutting edge medical therapies affordable and accessible to everyone. The fundamental driving principle behind transhumanism is that humanity can transcend its biological limitations through rapid technological advancement; but the benefits reaped must be made as accessible as possible.

A reason often cited by nihilists who say that we should accept human extinction is on the grounds that human beings hold the glaring track record of being the most gut-wrenchingly cruel of all the species on Earth. This is empirically and philosophically indisputable. No other species shares a historical laundry list of genocide campaigns, slavery, rape, domestic abuse, and egregious socio-economic inequality on par with human beings.

But since the post-World War II era, something miraculous happened. We became kind and peaceful; and this impetus towards kindness and peace proliferated globally. After 10,000 years of treating women as the property of their husbands, it became possible for women to get voted into positions of power across the globe, and marital rape became criminalized in an increasing number of countries. After 10,000 years of holding corporal punishment as an essential part of child-rearing in nearly every human society, an increasing number of democracies have begun to enact child-abuse laws against striking children.

We still have long ways to go.

Sweatshop labor exploitation and the sex trafficking of females remain major human-rights issues today. But an increasing number of international law bodies and humanitarian groups are cracking down on them and fighting to eradicate them permanently. They are no longer seen as “business as usual” practices that are essential parts of human society which shouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye; despite the fact that slavery has been a staple institution of nearly every civilization for the last ten millennia.

There are, of course, many aspects of ethical progress in which human beings are still lagging sorely behind, besides human trafficking. Although wars are far less common and less glamorized than they were in millennia past, conflicts are still raging on in Congo, and dictatorial regimes still exist. Income inequality is now greater than it was at any other time in human history. Another of the great ironies of the contemporary technological era is that we now produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, but there are still 795 million people in the world suffering from malnutrition. As much as 40% of all the food we produce is wasted unnecessarily.

The exploitation of animals and the thoughtless destruction of their habitats is one respect in which humanity has actually backslid in terms of ethical progress in the last 70 years. Since the Industrial Revolution and the explosion of the human population, humans have radically decimated the earth’s natural biomass, and one million species are now facing the threat of extinction due to human industrial activity.

Nevertheless, one hopes that Steven Pinker is essentially correct in his assessment of humanity’s rapid moral growth over the last 200 years. It could be said that it’s not necessarily the case that primates are inherently more predisposed to cruelty than all other species. Rape, infanticide, and killing rival males during mating season are common amongst many species of birds, reptiles, and mammals, as David Pearce points out. It’s just that human beings have the capacity to inflict exponential amounts on damage on other humans and animals because of our exceptional intelligence. Intelligence makes possible exploitation. Human intelligence has allowed us to exploit other human beings and sentient beings for millennia. But human intelligence is what has also enabled us to radically improve healthcare, longevity, and universal human rights across the globe.

The long history of suffering endured by sentient life on Earth is why the far-flung topic of technological resurrection is a major point of discussion amongst transhumanists. We believe that all sentient creatures which have endured considerable physical suffering, manmade or naturally-inflicted, deserve a second shot at life in the name of humanitarian justice.

There’s still much room for progress.

At present we seem to be entering a bottleneck era where we might have to drastically reduce our currently excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources, in light of the current climate crisis. The good news is that a growing number of us are realizing the looming existential threat of climate change and doubling down on combating it, as I’d mentioned earlier. The even better news is that an increasing number of bioethicists, particularly in the transhumanist movement, are now touting a permanent solution to the worst of humanity’s selfish, overly aggressive monkey-brain impulses. This seems to be just in the nick of time, given that this coincides with an era where humanity has access to nuclear arms capable of obliterating all life on Earth with the press of a Big Red Button.

My biggest hope for humanity is not only that our exponential technological progress will persist, but that our ethical and altruistic progress will continue in tandem with it. We have gotten to a stage of technological development where the forces of nature have become almost entirely subjugated, and our own impetus towards aggression has become the single greatest existential threat. It could be that every single sufficiently advanced alien civilization that is capable of exploiting all the natural resources on its home planets or inventing WMDs is eventually forced to cognitively recondition itself towards pacifism and altruism.

There is an ongoing debate in the existential-risk movement about whether or not SETI or METI could be unintentionally endangering all life on Earth by attempting to make contact with alien civilizations several orders of magnitude more advanced than ours. The analogy commonly cited is how the first European explorers of the Americas massacred scores of indigenous tribespeople who didn’t have guns. But the opposite could also be true. It could be that once other alien civilizations achieve a post-scarcity global economy, the neurobiological Darwinian impetus to colonize less developed groups gets steadily replaced by an altruistic impetus to ensure the survival and flourishing of all sentient species on that planet. We can’t tell for sure until we meet another alien species. But on our part, we’ve yet to ride out the tidal wave of the strangest period of Earth’s history. As we take our next steps forward into a radically different phase of human civilization, we gain an ever greater ability to control our own development as a species. Here’s to Pinker’s hope that we’re going in the right direction, and will do our best to head that way indefinitely.

Hilda Koehler is a fourth-year political science major at the National University of Singapore. She is a proud supporter of the transhumanist movement and aims to do her best to promote transhumanism and progress towards the Singularity.