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The Power of Making Friends with Ideological Enemies – Article by Sean Malone

The Power of Making Friends with Ideological Enemies – Article by Sean Malone

The New Renaissance Hat
Sean Malone
September 10, 2017
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Daryl Davis can be a model for how to change people’s minds.

“How can people hate me, when they don’t even know me?”

This is the question that drives the subject of a fantastic new documentary on Netflix called “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race, and America,” directed by Matt Ornstein.

For the past 30 years, soul musician Daryl Davis has been traveling the country in search of an answer in the most dangerous way possible for a black man in America: by directly engaging with members the Ku Klux Klan.

He’s invited KKK members into his home, he’s had countless conversations, and as unlikely as it seems, now considers a number of them to be his friends.

Daryl might say that he’s not really even doing anything special besides treating his enemies with respect and kindness in the hopes of actually dissuading them from their hateful views.

Yet, that’s something almost no one else has the courage to do, even when the risks are considerably lower.

Disagreements are stressful and difficult, and the more horrifying someone else’s viewpoint is, the easier it is to dismiss the people who hold those beliefs as inhuman garbage who simply can’t be reasoned with. Social media has also made dehumanizing people considerably easier, as we all get to interact with people from around the world without ever seeing their faces or considering their feelings.

As a result, we live in an increasingly polarized time when a lot of people are saying that the only answer to hate and awful ideas is to meet them with even more hate, more anger, outrage, and even violence.

And it’s not just a problem when dealing with the worst ideas in human history like racial supremacy and fascism. Some people now take this approach for even trivial and academic disagreements.

Don’t like a speaker coming to campus? Silence them and prevent them from getting into the auditorium.

Don’t like what a Facebook friend has to say? Block them.

And of course, if you think someone you meet is a white supremacist or a neo-Nazi, the only thing left to do is punch them in the face.

Punching Doesn’t Work

But consider that most of human history is filled with people allowing their disagreements to turn into bloody, horrific warfare; it’s only our commitment to dealing with our adversaries peacefully through speech and conversation that has allowed us to become more civilized. So escalating conflicts into violence should be seen as the worst kind of social failure.

And besides, punching people who disagree with you doesn’t actually change their minds or anyone else’s, so we’re still left with the same deceptively difficult question before and after:

When people believe in wrongheaded or terrible things, how do we actually persuade them to stop believing the bad ideas, and get them to start believing in good ones instead?

Judging by social media, most people seem to believe that it’s possible to yell at people or insult and ridicule them until they change their minds. Unfortunately, as cathartic as it feels to let out your anger against awful people, this just isn’t an effective strategy to reduce the amount of people who hold awful ideas.

In fact, if you do this, your opponents (and even more people who are somewhat sympathetic to their views, or just see themselves as part of the same social group) might actually walk away even more strongly committed to their bad ideas than they were before.

The evidence from psychology is pretty clear on this.

We know from studies conducted by neuroscientists like Joseph LeDoux that people’s amygdalas — the part of the brain that processes raw emotions — can actually bypass their rational minds and create a fight-or-flight response when they feel threatened or attacked. Psychologist Daniel Goleman called this an “Amygdala Hijack,” and it doesn’t just apply to physical threats.

People’s entire personal identity is often wrapped up in their political or philosophical beliefs, and a strong verbal attack against those beliefs actually creates a response in the brain of the target similar to a menacing lunge.

Even presenting facts or arguments that directly conflict with people’s core beliefs or identities can actually cause people to cling to those beliefs more tightly after they’ve been presented with contrary evidence. Political scientists like Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler have been studying this phenomenon for over 10 years and call it the “Backfire Effect“.

And when the people whose minds we desperately need to change are racists and fascists (or socialists and communists, for that matter), a strategy that actually backfires and pushes more people towards those beliefs is the last thing we need.

Principles of Persuasion

The good news is that in addition to knowing what doesn’t work, we also know a lot about how to talk to people in ways that are actually persuasive — and the existing research strongly supports Daryl Davis’s approach.

In the psychologist Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, he describes what he calls the “Principles of Persuasion.”

One of these principles is called “reciprocity”, and it’s based on the idea that people feel obliged to treat you the way you treat them. So, if you treat them with kindness and humility, most people will offer you the same courtesy. On the other hand, if you treat them with contempt, well…

Another principle Cialdini describes is the idea of “liking”.

It’s almost too obvious, but it turns out that if someone likes you personally and believes that you like them, it’s easier to convince them that your way of thinking is worth considering.  One easy step towards being liked is to listen to others and find common ground through shared interests. This can be a bridge – or a shortcut – to getting other people to see you as a friend or part of their tribe.

You might think somebody like Daryl Davis would have nothing in common with a KKK member, but according to Daryl, if you “spend 5 minutes talking to someone and you’ll find something in common,” and if you “spend 10 minutes, and you’ll find something else in common.”

In the film, he connects with several people about music, and you can see these connections paying off — breaking down barriers and providing many Klan members with a rare (and in some cases only) opportunity to interact with a black man as a human being worth respecting instead of an enemy.

Even better, over time, forming these relationships has had an interesting side-effect.

In the last couple decades alone, over 200 of America’s most ardent white supremacists have left the Ku Klux Klan and hung up their robes and hoods for good.

Many of those robes now hang in Daryl’s closet.

And in a lot of cases, these individual conversions have much bigger consequences and end multi-generational cycles of bigotry. When a mother or a father leaves the darkness of the Klan, they’re also bringing their kids into the light with them. A few of these cases are profiled in “Accidental Courtesy”, and they’re indescribably moving.

Daryl Davis can be a model for how to change people’s minds and with everything that’s going on in the world today, we need successful models now more than ever.

Making Friends From Enemies

There’s another point to all of this that I think often goes unsaid.

Unlike Daryl, most of us aren’t actually interacting with KKK members or trying to change people’s minds away from truly evil ideologies, and yet we all fall to the temptation of yelling and name-calling, and using all those techniques of influence that have the opposite of our intended or desired effect.

It’s easy to allow outrage and emotion carry us off into treating other people as inhuman enemies to be crushed rather than human beings to be persuaded.

But if Daryl’s techniques can work to convince die-hard white supremacists that a black man — and perhaps eventually all black people — are worthy of respect, imagine how effective they can be when disagreements crop up with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers who don’t actually hate you or the things you stand for.

Who knows, if you have more genuine conversations with people outside your bubble, you might even find yourself changing a little bit for the better as well.

“Accidental Courtesy” teaches us that the way to deal with wrong or evil ideas isn’t shouting them down or starting a fight; it’s having the courage to do what Daryl did and making a friend out of an enemy.

Sean Malone is the Director of Media at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). His films have been featured in the mainstream media and throughout the free-market educational community.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Question-and-Answer Session – July 15, 2017

U.S. Transhumanist Party Question-and-Answer Session – July 15, 2017

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II
B.J. Murphy
Bobby Ridge
Scott Jurgens
Martin van der Kroon

July 15, 2017


In this interactive question-and-answer session, scheduled for 11 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time on Saturday, July 15, 2017, U.S. Transhumanist Party Officers answered members’ and the public’s questions about the ongoing activities and objectives of the United States Transhumanist Party and also discussed other issues of interest that relate to emerging technologies and how to ensure the best possible future for sentient entities.

The following Officers were present for this Q&A session:

– Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman
– B.J. Murphy, Director of Social Media
– Martin van der Kroon, Director of Recruitment
– Bobby Ridge, Secretary-Treasurer
– Scott Jurgens, Director of Applied Innovation

Because of an unexpected technical difficulty, the video stream was split into two portions.

Watch Part 1 here.

Watch Part 2 here.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out our membership application form at https://goo.gl/forms/IpUjooEZjnfOFUMi2.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website at http://transhumanist-party.org/.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USTranshumanistParty/.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Twitter page at https://twitter.com/USTranshumanist.

Activating Transhumanism – James Strole Interviews G. Stolyarov II on RAAD Fest

Activating Transhumanism – James Strole Interviews G. Stolyarov II on RAAD Fest

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II and James Strole
June 24, 2017
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U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II was interviewed by James Strole regarding the forthcoming RAAD Fest 2017 in San Diego, California, which will occur on August 9-13, 2017. This interview addressed Mr. Stolyarov’s impressions of RAAD Fest 2016, his goals for the transhumanist movement in politics, and how various perspectives within the transhumanist and life-extensionist movement can benefit from interfacing with one another. Watch the video of the interview on YouTube or below.

At RAAD Fest 2017, Mr. Stolyarov will be moderating a panel consisting of transhumanist philosophers, researchers, and activists – including Zoltan Istvan, Dr. Ben Goertzel, Dr. Max More, and Dr. Natasha Vita-More. You can see the full RAAD Fest schedule here.

The panel moderated by Mr. Stolyarov will occur at 10 a.m.  on Friday, August 11, 2017. Machine augmentation of human bodies and minds will be one topic of discussion; transhumanist politics will be another. As previously announced, Mr. Stolyarov will inaugurate the panel with a brief presentation entitled “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity”.

Members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: When registering for RAAD Fest, you can use the special discount code TRANSHUMAN, which will now reduce the cost of registration to $497.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Life Extension – February 18, 2017

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Life Extension – February 18, 2017

 

The New Renaissance Hat

Listen to and download the audio recording of this panel discussion at http://rationalargumentator.com/USTP_Life_Extension_Panel.mp3 (right-click to download).

For its second expert panel, the U.S. Transhumanist Party invited Bill Andrews, Aubrey de Grey, Ira Pastor, and Ilia Stambler to discuss life extension and the quest to reverse biological aging through science and technology.

This two-hour panel discussion, moderated by Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II, took place on Saturday, February 18, 2017, at 10 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time. In this interactive venue, many opportunities for fresh discourse arose on the possibility of achieving dramatically greater longevity within our lifetimes. The substance of the discussion begins at 4:25 in the recording.

Questions the panelists considered include the following:

(i) How would you characterize the current state of efforts to reverse senescence / lengthen human lifespans?
(ii) How does progress in the areas of research you have delved into compare to your expectations approximately 10 to 15 years ago?
(iii) What are the most significant challenges and obstacles that you perceive to exist in the way of achieving serious reversal of biological aging?
(iv) What key technologies and methods of delivering treatments to patients would need to be developed in order for longevity escape velocity to be affordably achieved society-wide?
(v) What political reforms and societal / attitudinal changes would you advocate to accelerate the arrival of effective treatments to reverse biological aging and lengthen lifespans?
(vi) Are you concerned about any current political trends and how they might affect the progress of research into combating biological aging?
(vii) What can laypersons who are sympathetic to your goals do in order to hasten their realization? How can the effort to defeat aging become as popular and widely supported as efforts to defeat cancer and ALS are today?
(viii) What lessons can the history of anti-aging research offer to those who seek to advocate and help achieve effective scientific breakthroughs in this area in the coming years and decades?

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free. Apply here.

References

Genetic stabilization of transthyretin, cerebrovascular disease, and life expectancy” – Paper by Louise S. Hornstrup, Ruth Frikke-Schmidt, Børge G. Nordestgaard and Anne Tybjærg-Hansen. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2013;33:1441-1447, Originally published May 15, 2013.

Recognizing Degenerative Aging as a Treatable Medical Condition: Methodology and Policy” – Paper by Ilia Stambler. Aging and Disease.

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Panelists

Dr. Bill Andrews is the President and CEO of Sierra Sciences – http://www.sierrasci.com/. As a scientist, athlete, and executive, he continually pushes the envelope and challenges convention. In his 35-year biotech career, he has focused the last 23 years on finding ways to extend the human lifespan and healthspan through telomere maintenance. As one of the principal discoverers of both the RNA and protein components of human telomerase, Dr. Andrews was awarded 2nd place as “National Inventor of the Year” in 1997.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey is the biomedical gerontologist who researched the idea for and founded SENS Research Foundation – http://www.sens.org/. He received his BA in Computer Science and Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Cambridge in 1985 and 2000, respectively. Dr. de Grey is Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, is a Fellow of both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Aging Association, and sits on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of numerous journals and organizations.

Ira Pastor has 30 years of experience across multiple sectors of the pharmaceutical industry, including pharmaceutical commercialization, biotech drug development, managed care, distribution, OTC, and retail. He is the CEO of BioQuark, Inc. – http://www.bioquark.com/ – and Executive Chairman of ReAnima Advanced Biosciences – https://reanima.tech/.

Dr. Ilia Stambler is a researcher at Bar Ilan University, Israel. His research focuses on the historical and social implications of aging and life-extension research. He is the author of A History of Life-extensionism in the Twentieth Century – www.longevityhistory.com. He is actively involved in advocacy for aging and longevity research – www.longevityforall.org.

Discussion on Life-Extension Advocacy – G. Stolyarov II Answers Audience Questions

Discussion on Life-Extension Advocacy – G. Stolyarov II Answers Audience Questions

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, answers audience questions regarding life-extension advocacy and possibilities for broadening the reach of transhumanist and life-extensionist ideas.

While we were unable to get into contact with our intended guest, Chris Monteiro, we were nonetheless able to have a productive, wide-ranging discussion that addressed many areas of emerging technologies, as well as trends in societal attitudes towards them and related issues of cosmopolitanism, ideology, and the need for a new comprehensive philosophical paradigm of transmodernism or hypermodernism that would build off of the legacy of the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free. Apply here.

Changing the View of Aging: Are We Winning Yet? – Article by Reason

Changing the View of Aging: Are We Winning Yet? – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
June 28, 2015
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Peter Thiel, who has invested millions into the SENS rejuvenation research programs over the past decade, has of late been talking much more in public on the topic of treating aging. Having wealth gives you a soapbox, and it is good that he is now using it to help the cause of treating aging as a medical condition. One of Thiel’s recent public appearances was a discussion on death and religion in this context.

In the struggle to produce meaningful progress in rejuvenation research, the tipping point can come from either a very large amount of money, hundreds of millions of dollars at least, dedicated to something very similar to the SENS research programs, or from a widespread shift in the commonplace view of aging. At the large scale and over the long term, medical research priorities reflect the common wisdom, and it is my view that public support is needed to bring in very large contributions to research. The wealthiest philanthropists and largest institutional funding bodies follow the crowd as a rule; they only rarely lead it. They presently give to cancer and stem-cell research precisely because the average fellow in the street thinks that both of these are a good idea.

So it is very important that we reach a point at which research into treating degenerative aging is regarded as a sensible course of action, not something to be ridiculed and rejected. Over the past decade or two a great deal of work has gone into this goal on the part of a small community advocates and researchers. It is paying off; the culture of science and the media’s output on aging research is a far cry from what it was ten years ago. When ever more authorities and talking heads are soberly discussing the prospects of extended healthy life and research into the medical control of aging, it is to be hoped that the public will follow. Inevitably religion is drawn in as a topic in these discussions once you start moving beyond the scientific community:

Quote [Source: “Peter Thiel, N.T. Wright on Technology, Hope, And The End of Death” by Max Anderson – Forbes/Tech – June 24, 2015]:

The Venn diagram showing the overlap of people who are familiar with both Peter Thiel and N.T. Wright is probably quite small. And I think it is indicative of a broader gap between those doing technology and those doing theology. It is a surprise that a large concert hall in San Francisco would be packed with techies eager to hear a priest and an investor talk about death and Christian faith, even if that investor is Peter Thiel.

Thiel has spoken elsewhere about the source of his optimism about stopping and even reversing aging. The idea is to do what we are doing in every other area of life: apply powerful computers and big data to unlock insights to which, before this era, we’ve never had access. Almost everyone I talk with about these ideas has the same reaction. First there is skepticism  – that can’t really happen, right? Second, there is consideration  – well those Silicon Valley guys are weird, but if anyone has the brains and the money to do it, it’s probably them. Finally comes reflection, which often has two parts – 1. I would like to live longer. 2. But I still feel a little uneasy about the whole idea.

The concept of indefinite life extension feels uncomfortable to people, thinks Thiel, because we have become acculturated to the idea that death, like taxes, is inevitable. But, he says, “it’s not like one day you’ll wake up and be offered a pill that makes you immortal.” What will happen instead is a gradual and increasingly fast march of scientific discovery and progress. Scientists will discover a cure for Alzheimer’s and will say, “Do you want that?” Of course our answer will be “Yes!” They will find a cure for cancer and say, “Do you want that?” And again, of course, our answer will be “Yes!” What seems foreign and frightening in the abstract will likely seem obvious and wonderful in the specific. “It seems,” Thiel said, “that in every particular instance the only moral answer is to be in favor of it.”

One of Wright’s objections was to articulate a skepticism about whether the project of life extension really is all that good, either for the individual or for the world. “If [I] say, okay I’ll live to be 150. I’ll still be a sinner. I’ll still be conflicted. I’ll still have wrong emotions. Do I really want to go on having all that stuff that much longer? Will that be helpful to the world if I do?” This roused Thiel. “I really have to disagree with that last formulation…it strikes me as very Epicurean in a way.” For Peter Thiel, Epicureanism is akin to deep pessimism. It means basically giving up. One gets the sense he finds the philosophy not just disagreeable but offensive to his deepest entrepreneurial instincts and life experience. “We are setting our sights low,” he argued, “if we say everyone is condemned to a life of death and suffering.”

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 
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This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

Why Do We Advocate for Rejuvenation Research? – Article by Reason

Why Do We Advocate for Rejuvenation Research? – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
November 24, 2014
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Yesterday, I had occasion to spend six hours or so in the emergency room of a medical center largely focused on treating serious conditions that are most prevalent in old people. A part of that experience by necessity involved listening to the comings, goings, and conversations of those present. These are not private places: they are typically divided visually by screens but with no way to avoid overhearing the staff and patients. The people there are generally not too concerned about privacy in the immediate sense in any case, having far more pressing matters to focus upon.

So, by proxy, one gets to experience small and somewhat wrenching slices of other people’s lives. It is very easy for even those who follow aging research and speak up for rejuvenation treatments to forget just how hard it is to be very old. It’s one thing to know about the catalog of pain, suffering, and loss of capabilities, the conditions we’d like to find ways to turn back, and another to watch it in action. It is, really, a terrible thing to be frail.

A fellow was brought in a little while after I arrived, a 90-something man who looked a lot better on the exterior than perhaps your mental picture of a 90-something individual might be. Tall, and surprisingly lacking in wrinkles stretched out on the rolling gurney under blankets, a mess of cables, and an oxygen mask. That he had fallen was what I heard from the conversation of the medics, and was in pain. He cried out several times as he was moved from the gurney. It took some time and care to do it without hurting him more, given his weakness.

He seemed confused at first, but that was just my misperception: you try being 90 and in pain some time and see how well you do while you’re being moved around and told to hold this and let go of that. The fellow answered the bevy of questions the receiving staff had for him, but the thing that caught at me was the time he took with the answers, and the questions he just missed. He was coherent, even quite sharp at times, not on any more painkillers than a handful of Tylenol, as I later heard, but he clearly struggled with something that we younger folk all take for granted: parse the question, find the information, form up a reply and speak it. Cognitive ability in all these areas becomes ever less efficient with old age, and there’s something hollowing about hearing what is clearly a capable guy set back for a dozen seconds by a short question about one of the details of his fall. The medic repeated the question a few times and in different ways, which was clearly just making the information overload worse.

It sticks with you to be the observer in this situation and clearly and suddenly realize that one day that faltering older person will be you, trying and often failing to force your mind into the necessary connections rapidly enough for the younger people around you. I know this, but knowing it and having it reinforced by being there are two very different things. An aged person is no less intelligent, far more experienced, wiser and all the rest, but the damage to the structure of the brain that occurs even in those without dementia means that making use of all of that in the way it deserves is near insurmountable.

The fellow’s 60-something daughter arrived a little later to provide support and fill in more of the details. A story was conveyed in bits and pieces: that he was near blind now, and just about too frail to walk safely, even with a frame. The blindness explained a great deal of what had sounded to my ignorant ears as confusion in the earlier part of the fellow’s arrival: we assume all too many things about those around us, such as the use of sight in an unfamiliar environment, or the ability to walk, or think quickly – and all of this is taken from us by aging. The fellow lived with his wife still, and she was of a similar age to him. His wife was not there because she herself was too frail to be undertaking even a short trip at such short notice. That seemed to me a harsh blow on top of the rest of what old age does to you. At some point you simply cannot do everything you’d want to as a partner. You are on the sidelines and at the point at which your other half is most likely to die, you are most likely unable to be there.

In this case the fellow was in no immediate danger by the sound of it. By good luck this was in no way likely to be a fatal accident, but rather another painful indignity to be endured as a part of the downward spiral of health and ability at the end of life. Once you get to the point at which simply moving from room to room bears a high risk of accident, and this is by no means unusual for a mentally capable person in their 90s, then it really is just a matter of time before you cannot live for yourself with only minimal assistance.

When talking with his daughter while he waited on a doctor and medical assistants to come and go with tests and updates, the fellow was much faster in his responses, though this was interrupted by a series of well-meaning but futile attempts to ease his pain by changing his position, each as much an ordeal as the move from the gurney had been. The conversation between father and daughter had the sense of signposts on well-worn paths, short exchanges that recapitulated the high points of many discussions that had come before. She wanted her father to move into an assisted living facility, and this fall was the latest in a line of examples as to why it was past the time for this – she simply could not provide all of the support needed on her own. She wasn’t even strong enough herself to be able to safely get him back up on his feet after a fall. He was concerned about cost and the difficulties of moving, uncertainties and change. They went back and forth on this for a while. “We have to accept that it’s just going to be more expensive as we get older,” she said at one point, and he replied “I think you’re getting the picture now,” and laughed. There wasn’t much to laugh about, but we can all do it here and there under these circumstances. I believe it helps.

I walked out of there after my six hours of hurry up and wait was done. They were still there, and whenever it is he leaves to go home it is unlikely it will be on his own two feet. But this is a scene I’ll no doubt be revisiting at some point in the future, some decades from now, playing the other role in this small slice of life. What comes around goes around, but I’d like it to be different for me, and more importantly to be different for millions of others a lot sooner than my old age arrives.

Which leads to this: why does Fight Aging! exist? Why do we do this? Why advocate, why raise funds for research programs into ways to treat aging that may take decades to pay off? We do this because we can help to create a future in which there will be no more emergency rooms like the one I visited, no conversations about increasing disability, no pain, and no struggles to answer questions as quickly as one used to. No profound frailty. All these things will be removed by the advent of therapies that can effectively repair the causes of aging, curing and preventing frailty and age-related disease, and the sooner this happens the more people will be spared.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 
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This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

The Slowly Spreading Realization That Aging Can Be Defeated – Article by Reason

The Slowly Spreading Realization That Aging Can Be Defeated – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
May 21, 2014
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At some point in the next ten to twenty years the public at large, consisting of people who pay little attention to the ins and outs of progress in medicine, will start to wake up to realize that much longer healthy lives have become a possibility for the near future. The preliminaries to this grand awakening have been underway for a while, gradually, and will continue that way for a while longer. A few people every day in ordinary walks of life notice that, hey, a lot of scientists are talking about greatly extending human life spans these days, and, oh look, large sums of money are floating around to back this aim. There will be a slow dawning of realization, one floating light bulb at a time, as the concept of radical life extension is shifted in another brain from the “science fiction” bucket to the “science fact” bucket.

Some folk will then go back to what they were doing. Others will catch the fever and become advocates. A tiny few will donate funds in support of research or pressure politicians to do the same. Since we live in an age of pervasive communication, we see this process as it occurs. Many people are all to happy to share their realizations on a regular basis, and in this brave new world everyone can be a publisher in their own right.

Here is an example that I stumbled over today; a fellow with a day-to-day focus in a completely unrelated industry took notice and thought enough of what is going on in aging research to talk about it. He is still skeptical, but not to the point of dismissing the current state and prospects for longevity science out of hand: he can see that this is actionable, important knowledge.

What if de Grey and Kurzweil are half right?

Quote:

I think these guys – and the whole movement to conquer aging – is fascinating. I am highly skeptical of the claims, however. Optimism is all well and good, and I have no off-hand holes to poke in their (very) well-articulated arguments. But at the same time, biology is fiendishly complex, the expectations beyond fantastical.

Still though, I have to wonder: What if guys like de Grey and Kurzweil are half right, or even just partially right? What if, 30 years from now, it becomes physically impossible to tell a 30-year-old from a 70-year-old by physical appearance alone? It sounds nutty. But it’s a lot less nuttier, and a lot closer to the realm of possibility, than living to 1,000 – which, again, some very smart people have taken into their heads as an achievable thing.

People who don’t take care of themselves are insane. Ok, not actually “insane.” But seriously, given the potential rewards AND the risks, not taking care of your body and mind – not treating both with the utmost respect and care – seems absolutely nuts. At the poker table I see these young kids whose bodies are already turning to mush, and a part of me just wants to grab them by the shirt collar and say “Dudes! What the hell is WRONG with you!!!”

If it is possible – just realistically possible, mind you – that I could still be kicking ass and taking names at 125 years old, then I want to be working as hard as I can to preserve and maintain my equipment here and now. No matter what miracles medical science will achieve in future, working from the strongest, healthiest base possible will always improve the potential results, perhaps by an order of magnitude. Individuals who go into old age with fit, healthy bodies and sound minds, and longstanding habits to maintain both, may find potential for extended performance at truly high quality of life that was never before imaginable.

As the foundations of rejuvenation biotechnology are assembled and institutions like the SENS Research Foundation continue to win allies in the research community and beyond, the number of people experiencing this sort of epiphany will grow. The more the better and the sooner the better, as widespread support for the cause of defeating aging through medical science is necessary for more rapid progress: large scale funding always arrives late to the game, attracted by popular sentiment. The faster we get to that point, the greater our chances of living to benefit from the first working rejuvenation treatments.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 
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This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

The Boon to Longevity Progress Will Be Increased Activism, Advocacy, and Lobbying – Article by Franco Cortese

The Boon to Longevity Progress Will Be Increased Activism, Advocacy, and Lobbying – Article by Franco Cortese

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
November 17, 2013
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When asked what the biggest bottleneck for progress in life extension is, most thinkers and researchers say funding. Others say the biggest bottleneck is breakthroughs, while still others say it’s our way of approaching the problem (i.e., seeking healthy life extension, a.k.a. “aging gracefully”, instead of more comprehensive methods of radical life extension). But the majority seem to feel that the largest determining factor impacting how long it takes to achieve indefinite lifespans is adequate funding to plug away at developing and experimentally verifying the various alternative technologies and methodologies that have already been proposed (e.g. Robert Freitas’s Nanomedicine [1], Aubrey de Grey’s Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence [2, 3, 4], Michael R. Rose’s Evolutionary Longevity [5, 6]). I claim that Radical Longevity’s biggest bottleneck is not funding, but advocacy, activism and lobbying.
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This is because the final objective of increased funding for Radical Longevity and Life Extension research can be more effectively and efficiently achieved through public advocacy for Radical Life Extension than it can by direct funding or direct research, per unit of time or effort. Research and development obviously still need to be done, but an increase in researchers needs an increase in funding, and an increase in funding needs an increase in the public perception of indefinite longevity’s feasibility and desirability.

There is no definitive timespan that it will take to achieve radically extended life. How long it takes to achieve Radical Longevity is determined by how hard we work at it and how much effort we put into it. More effort means that it will be achieved sooner. And by and large, an increase in effort can be best achieved by an increase in funding, and an increase in funding can be best achieved by an increase in public advocacy. You will likely accelerate the development of Radically Extended Life, per unit of time or effort, by advocating the desirability, ethicality, and technical feasibility of longer life than you will by doing direct research, or by working towards the objective of directly contributing funds to life-extension projects and research initiatives.

In order to get funding we need to demonstrate with explicit clarity just how much we want it, and that we can do so while minimizing potentially negative societal repercussions like overpopulation. We must do our best to vehemently invalidate the clichés that promulgate the sentiment that life extension is dangerous or unethical. It needn’t be either, and nor is it necessarily likely to be either.

Some think that spending one’s time deliberating the potential issues that could result from greatly increased lifespans and the ways in which we could mitigate or negate them won’t make a difference until greatly increased lifespans are actually achieved. I disagree. While any potentially negative repercussions of life extension (like overpopulation) aren’t going to happen until life extension is achieved, offering solution paradigms and ways in which we could negate or mitigate such negative repercussions decreases the time we have to wait for it by increasing the degree with which the wider public feels it to be desirable, and that it can very well be done safely and ethically. Those who are against radical life extension are against it either because they think it is infeasible (in which case being “against” it may be too strong a descriptor) or because they have qualms relating to its ethicality or its safety. More people openly advocating against it means a higher public perception of its undesirability. Whether indefinite longevity is eventually achieved via private industry or via government-subsidized research initiatives, we need to create the public perception that it is widely desired before either government or industry will take notice.

The sentiment that the best thing we can do is simply live healthily and wait until progress is made seems to be fairly common as well. People have the feeling that researchers are working on it, that it will happen if it can happen, and that waiting until progress is made is the best course to take. Such lethargy will not help Radical Longevity in any way. How long we have to wait for indefinite lifespans is a function of how much effort we put into it. And in this article I argue that how much funding and attention life extension receives is by and large a function of how widespread the public perception of its feasibility and desirability is.

This isn’t simply about our individual desires to live longer. It might be easier to hold the sentiment that we should just wait it out until it happens if we only consider its impact on the scale of our own individual lives. Such a sentiment may also be aided by the view that greatly longer lives would be a mere advantage, nice but unnecessary. I don’t think this is the case. I argue that the technological eradication of involuntary death is a moral imperative if there ever was one. If how long we have to wait until radical longevity is achieved depends on how vehemently we demand it and on how hard we work to create the public perception that longer life is widely longed-for, then to what extent are  100,000 lives lost potentially needlessly every day while we wait on our hands? One million people will die wasteful and involuntary deaths in the next 10 days. 36.5 million people will die this year from age-correlated causes of functional decline. This puts the charges of inethicality in a ghostly new light. If advocating the desirability, feasibility, and blatant ethicality of life extension can hasten its implementation by even a mere 10 days, then one million lives that would have otherwise been lost will have been saved by the efforts of life-extension advocates, researchers, and fiscal supporters. Seen in this way, working toward radical longevity may very well be the most ethical and selfless way you could spend your time, in terms of the number of lives saved and/or the amount of suffering prevented.

One of the most common and easy-to-raise concerns I come across in response to any effort to minimize the suffering of future beings is that there are enough problems to worry about right now. “Shouldn’t we be worrying about lessening starvation in underdeveloped countries first? They’re starving right now. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the problems of today, on things that we can have a direct impact on?” Indeed. 100,000 people will die, potentially needlessly, tomorrow. The massive number of people that suffer involuntary death is a problem of today! Indeed, it may very well be the most pressing problem of today! What other source of contemporary suffering claims so many lives, and occurs on such a massive scale? What other “problem of today” is responsible for the needless and irreversible involuntary death of one hundred thousand lives per day? Certainly not starvation, or war, or cancer, all of which in themselves represent smaller sources of involuntary death. Longevity advocates do what they do for the same reason that people who try to mitigate starvation, war, and cancer do what they do, namely to lessen the amount of involuntary death that occurs.

This is a contemporary problem that we can have a direct impact on. People intuitively assume that we won’t achieve radically extended life until far in the future. This makes them conflate any lives saved by radically extended lifespans with lives yet to come into existence. This makes them see involuntary death as a problem of the future, rather than a problem of today. But more people than I’ve ever known will die tomorrow, from causes that are physically possible to obviate and ameliorate – indeed, from causes that we have potential and conceptual solutions for today.

I have attempted to show in this article that advocating life-extension should be considered as “working toward it” to as great an extent as directly funding it or performing direct research on it is considered as “working toward it”. Advocacy has greater potential to increase life extension’s widespread desirability than direct work or funding does, and increasing both its desirability and the public perception if its desirability has more potential to generate increased funding and research-attention for life-extension than direct funding or research does. Advocacy thus has the potential to contribute to the arrival of life extension and hasten its implementation just as much, if not more so (as I have attempted to argue in this article), than practical research or direct funding does. This should motivate people to help create the momentous momentum we need to really get the ball rolling. To be a longevity advocate is to be a longevity worker! Involuntary death from age-associated, physically-remediable causes is the largest source of death, destruction and suffering today.  Don’t you want to help prevent the most widespread source of death and of suffering in existence today? Don’t you want to help mitigate the most pressing moral concern not only of today, but of the entirety of human history – namely physically remediable involuntary death?

Then advocate the technological eradication of involuntary death. Advocate the technical feasibility, extreme desirability, and blatant ethicality of radically extending life. Death is a cataclysm. We need not sanctify the seemingly inevitable any longer. We need not tell ourselves that death is somehow a good thing, or something we can do nothing about, in order to live with the “fact” of it any longer. Soon it won’t be a fact of life. Soon it will be an artifact of history. Life may not be ipso facto valuable according to all philosophies of value – but life is a necessary precondition for any sort of value whatsoever. Death is dumb, dummy! An incontrovertible waste convertible into nothing! A negative-sum blight! So if you want to contribute to the solution of problems of today, if you want to help your fellow man today, then stand proud and shout loud “Doom to Arbitrary Duty and Death to  Arbitrary Death!” at every crowd cowed by the seeming necessity of death.

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Franco Cortese is a futurist, author, editor, Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, Ambassador at The Seasteading Institute, Affiliate Researcher at ELPIs Foundation for Indefinite Lifespans, Fellow at Brighter Brains Institute, Advisor at the Lifeboat Foundation (Futurists Board Member and Life Extension Scientific Advisory Board Member), Director of the Canadian Longevity Alliance, Activist at the International Longevity Alliance, Canadian Ambassador at Longevity Intelligence Communications, an Administrator at MILE (Movement for Indefinite Life Extension), Columnist at LongeCity, Columnist at H+ Magazine, Executive Director of the Center for Transhumanity, Contributor to the Journal of Geoethical Nanotechnology, India Future Society, Serious Wonder, Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. Franco edited Longevitize!: Essays on the Science, Philosophy & Politics of Longevity, a compendium of 150+ essays from over 40 contributing authors.
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References:
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[1]. de Grey AD, Ames BN, Andersen JK, Bartke A, Campisi J, HewardCB, McCarter RJ, Stock G (2002). “Time to Talk SENS: Critiquing the Immutability of Human Aging”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 959: 452–62. PMID 11976218.
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[2]. de Grey, Aubrey (2003). The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging. Austin, Texas: Landes Bioscience. ISBN 1-58706-155-4.

[3]. de Grey, Aubrey and Rae, Michael (2007). Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs that Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime. St. Martin’s Press.

[4]. Laurence D. Mueller, Casandra L. Rauser and Michael R. Rose (2011). Does Aging Stop? Oxford University Press.

[5]. Garland, T., Jr., and M. R. Rose, eds. (2009). Experimental Evolution: Concepts, Methods, and Applications of Selection Experiments. University of California Press.

The Last Generation to Die – Article by Reason

The Last Generation to Die – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
September 27, 2013
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The last generation whose members will be forced into death by aging is alive today. It won’t be the youngest of us, born in the past few years – they, most likely, have thousands of years ahead of them. It won’t be the oldest of us either, as even under the plausible best of circumstances we are twenty to thirty years away from a widespread deployment of rejuvenation therapies based on the SENS research program. As to the rest of us, just who is left holding the short straw at the end of the day depends on the speed of progress in medical science: advocacy, fundraising, and the effectiveness of research and development initiatives. Persuasion and money are far more important at this early stage than worrying about how well the researchers are doing their jobs, however.

We live in a world in which the public is only just starting to come around to the idea that aging can be treated, and demonstrations of rejuvenation in the laboratory could be achieved in a crash program lasting ten to twenty years, at a comparatively small cost. But still, most people don’t care about living longer, and most people try not to think about aging, or the future of degeneration and sickness that awaits. They think it is inevitable, but that is no longer true. If you are in early middle age today in the first world, then you have a good shot at living for centuries if the world suddenly wakes up tomorrow and massive funding pours into rejuvenation research. You will age and die on a timescale little different from that of your parents if that awakening persistently fails to happen.

So, roll the dice, or help out and try to swing the odds in your favor. Your choice.

Crowdfunding on Kickstarter and related sites is still the new new thing, the shine not yet worn off. One of the truths that this activity reinforces is that it is far, far easier to raise funding for the next throwaway technological widget than for medical research projects aimed at the betterment of all humanity. Research crowdfunding is a tiny, distant moon orbiting the great mass of comics, games, and devices on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and others. Hell, it’s easier to crowdfund a short film that points out how close human rejuvenation might be to the present day than it is to crowdfund a project to actually conduct a portion of that research. Is this a reflection of rationality? You decide, though it could be argued either way regarding whether a dollar given to raising awareness is more valuable than a dollar given to the researchers at this point in time. Both research and persuasion need to happen.

The Last Generation To Die – A Short Film

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Set in the future when science first begins to stop aging, a daughter tries to save her father from natural death. The story takes place roughly 30 years in the future at the moment when science has first figured out how to stop aging through genetics. It is framed around the gulf between generations that would occur with the first release of this technology. A daughter who works for a company called Aperion Life – the first to bring this new technology to the public – wants to save her aging father. She starts him on the trials but he soon stops coming. The film continues with the conflict rising between them as she wants him to live on with her while he feels a natural ending is more human.The film centers itself around the natural conflict that would exist at this divide. Upon developing this story, I’ve asked many people and I’ve found a pretty even 50/50 divide of opinions strongly on one side or the other- either they want to die naturally and believe there is beauty in finality, or they want to see what the future holds and have more time to explore and learn more in life. I’d like to turn the question to you… Which side are you on? Would you want to live on or die naturally?

I feel this is a film that needs to be made. Asking these questions in the form of art and story will help start the discussion. Our world is changing very fast and the rate of technology is speeding up. What does all of this mean for humanity? Everything we know, from a book to a play to a song, ends… What does it mean when there is no ending? Would we be more complacent? Would life be as meaningful? Is there more of a beauty in the way it has always been with our passing or is there more beauty in our bodies and minds staying fresh and alive for many, many years to come? What about social justice and overpopulation? Would life become boring after living on indefinitely or would you find it exhilarating to have time to learn new languages, instruments, subjects – to read more books, to love more – to live several lifetimes? Would it be worth it if some of your most loved friends or relatives passed on and wouldn’t live on with you? Are you interested in seeing what the future brings in technology and social evolution or are you happy to have contributed and be a part of it for a short time?

Tim Maupin’s Film, ‘The Last Generation to Die’, to Explore Longevity and Life Extension

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Chicago filmmaker Tim Maupin launched a Kickstarter for a short film titled, “The Last Generation to Die.” Maupin thinks now is a great time to start a conversation about life extension. And he’s right. The idea that within decades a genetic fountain of youth may plausibly reverse the aging process, even indefinitely stave off death, seems to be rising up in pop culture. Maupin’s Kickstarter has so far raised over $15,000 – $6,000 more than its initial funding goal. Encouraged by the positive response, they’re dreaming bigger and hope to fund a stretch goal of $25,000 in the last 10 days of the campaign.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.  

This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license.  It was originally published on FightAging.org.

Editor’s Note from G. Stolyarov II: I am proud to have donated $50 to help make the film The Last Generation to Die a success. I encourage all readers to donate during the remaining nine days in which the Kickstarter project is open to accepting funds.