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Andrés Grases Interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era

Andrés Grases Interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era

Gennady Stolyarov II
Andrés Grases

Andrés Grases, the publisher of the Transhuman Plus website ( interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, CA, on September 23, 2018. During the course of this conversation, both the contemporary state of transhumanist politics and future directions are covered – along with the challenges to reforming the educational system, the need to create open access to academic works, the manner in which the transition toward the next era of technologies will occur, the meaning of transhumanism and its applications in the proximate future – including promising advances that we can expect to see during the next several years.

Watch the video here.

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

Third Enlightenment Salon – Gennady Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge, and Mihoko Sekido Discuss Science-Based Advocacy of Transhumanism and Healthy Living

Third Enlightenment Salon – Gennady Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge, and Mihoko Sekido Discuss Science-Based Advocacy of Transhumanism and Healthy Living

Gennady Stolyarov II
Bill Andrews
Bobby Ridge
Mihoko Sekido

The Third Enlightenment Salon, hosted by Gennady Stolyarov II on May 27, 2018, featured excellent conversations on the rise in public awareness of transhumanism and life extension and what can be done to further increase support for life-extending medical research. Dr. Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge (a.k.a. Robert Ridge), and Mihoko Sekido shared insights on medical science, promotion of health, and methods of communicating the forthcoming convergence of advances in a wide array of technological fields. Importantly, we addressed how anyone can get involved in the transhumanist movement and improve public acceptance of the emerging technological future.

The following were some interesting areas of discussion:

– The new Telomere Coin, which will help fund Dr. Andrews’s research efforts –
– Bobby Ridge’s forthcoming new video channel – Science-Based Species
– Aspects of online videos that help increase their reach
– Factors that contribute to longer lifespans among Okinawans
– Motivators for leading a healthier lifestyle and its relation to the recognition of the possibility of indefinite life extension in our lifetimes
– Some potential health effects of metformin and the importance of the ongoing TAME clinical trials
– What anyone can do to promote life extension and other emerging technological fields – including joining the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free on this page.

This video also contains some excerpts from the remaining conversations at the Third Enlightenment Salon, including discussions of science-based medicine, promotion of transhumanism, autonomous vehicles, and responses to the prospect of longevity escape velocity.

Along with the recorded segment, there was much discussion about future directions of transhumanist initiatives, reasonably healthy food in a refined atmosphere, and previews of excellent video compilations that will become publicly available later this year. Mr. Stolyarov looks forward to hosting more Enlightenment Salons to bring together individuals in various fields of expertise and enable them to synthesize their insights into ways of comprehensively improving the human condition.

Blockchain Insurance Company – Short Story by G. Stolyarov II

Blockchain Insurance Company – Short Story by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 2, 2015
This short story by Mr. Stolyarov was one of the entries in the Society of Actuaries’ 11th Speculative Fiction Contest.

“Welcome, Euclid Jefferson,” the metallic voice of Epac, the Electrically Powered Autonomous Car, intoned. The full identifier of Euclid’s vehicle was EPAC-930213, but they all responded to “Epac” for user convenience. “Where would you like to go today?”

“Epac, I would like to go to the San Francisco Hyperloop Station, please.”

“The trip will take approximately twenty-six minutes. Departing now. It is a fine day, and no weather or traffic obstacles are expected. Now is a good opportunity for you to view your insurance options for today. Shall I display them?”

“Epac, display. Anything new?”

“Yes, a major development that could save you money. Would you like a summary view or the full view with narration?”

“I am an actuary, so I am interested in the details of my coverages and prices. Epac, provide the full view, please.”

“Recently retired actuary” would have been a more precise description – though not retired forever. At age 50, Euclid Jefferson had saved enough money to be able to take the next ten years off. He had received his experimental rejuvenation treatments a week ago and was happy to feel as youthful and energetic as he did at the start of his career. After his ten-year break, he planned to receive the next round of treatments, which he hoped by then would become even more targeted and less invasive. He did not know whether his second career would be in another actuarial field, or in something else entirely. In the meantime, he looked forward to taking excursions on the newly constructed branches of the hyperloop network, which could bring him to any major metropolitan area on the North American continent within hours. After that, he would take the MoonX tourist shuttle to visit his wife, a geologist on the new International Lunar Research and Terraforming Base (ILRTB). She was due to retire and undergo rejuvenation treatments in just another six months.

“Displaying. Your automobile insurance policy premium declined by 1.32% over the past year. You have no-fault coverage for bodily injury and physical damage while occupying any vehicle in autonomous mode. You also carry the minimum limits required by the laws of this state for liability coverage in the event you engage manual mode. Your premium is proportional to miles driven. A multiplier of 500 applies to every mile driven in manual mode. I have identified a newly approved insurer who could offer you the same coverage at a 25% lower premium. Are you interested?”

“I am. Epac, what is this company?”

“Blockchain Insurance Company offers autonomous insurance for autonomous vehicles. You are eligible to get an annual policy for only 0.13 bitcoins.”

“Blockchain Insurance Company? I have never heard of it. Epac, is this a new entity?”

“It was just formed and approved to do business.”

“Epac, who owns it?”

“Anyone who contributes capital to the company owns a number of shares proportional to the contribution. The company pays its investors 10% of its profits as a dividend at the end of each year, while the remaining 90% are reinvested into operations. However, if losses exceed the company’s assets, the investors do not have limited liability. They are responsible for their proportional share of claim payments.”

“This is different. Epac, who manages the payments to investors, and who enforces collection of funds from them in the event of a shortfall?”

“There is no management. The company runs itself – on the blockchain. The public blockchain ledger keeps a record of the capital contributions from each account and the corresponding shares issued. A contractual algorithm is built into the blockchain to deposit and withdraw bitcoins to and from each shareholder’s account in proportion to the company’s profits and losses. Each policyholder has an account as well, which is tied to the policyholder’s bitcoin wallet, and from which premiums are drawn on a continuous basis in proportion to miles driven.”

“Epac, this involves very little nonpayment risk, I would imagine.”

“Correct. As long as bitcoins exist in the policyholder’s account, payment will be made. If the account is ever depleted, the policy simply terminates prospectively. Whenever only 30 days’ worth of bitcoins remain in the account, the policyholder is notified in real time via the car’s display screen and any connected mobile device, to give ample time to replenish the funds. The policyholder may also opt to cancel the policy at any time with no need to wait for a refund. The payment stream will simply stop, and coverage will exist up to the time of termination.”

“Epac, how does the algorithm know the miles driven?”

“The algorithm is linked to the telematic systems within each autonomous vehicle. As the vehicle is engaged, it reports live data to Blockchain Insurance Company. The company only needs to know two pieces of information: miles driven and the mode of operation – autonomous or manual. The rest of the premium is calculated and paid automatically.”

“Epac, does the formula for calculating the premium depend on any other variables?”

“Yes, the make and model of the vehicle still affect the frequency and severity of losses. On days with any declared weather emergency, the premium will also be higher due to the increased probability of an accident.”

Euclid Jefferson thought about it. He remembered, as a new property and casualty actuary during the first two decades of the twenty-first century, seeing hundreds of distinct characteristics being used to price an automobile insurance policy. Attributes ranging from an insured’s age and gender to his or her credit history, occupation, educational level, and prior insurance would be used. Back then, the trend had been toward increased complexity of rating plans, until virtually every personal attribute and behavior could affect an automobile insurance premium.

But circa 2020, the complexity of rating plans declined sharply. Because autonomous driving had eliminated virtually all accidents and fatalities that arose from human error, the characteristics of the vehicle occupant – who was most often not a driver at all – ceased to be relevant. The steep surcharge for manual operation was intended to discourage the engagement of manual mode, except in unavoidable emergencies. The premium rate per mile driven in autonomous mode, however, continued to decline. In 2035, Euclid Jefferson was paying a mere tenth of his 2015 automobile insurance premium. There were still enthusiasts who enjoyed the sensation of manual driving, but they could exercise their hobby on designated driving tracks where antique car shows were held and where specialty insurance companies provided discounted coverage for manual operation, as long as the vehicle was only driven on the track. Euclid Jefferson, however, had no nostalgia for the days of manual driving. He appreciated the time he gained to work, rest, read, and address financial obligations during his commute.

Now the first two decades of the twenty-first century were considered to be the tail end of a barbaric era. Euclid Jefferson, upon reflection, agreed. Getting onto the highway with un-augmented, error-prone humans operating high-speed projectiles was one of the most dangerous behaviors undertaken by large numbers of people during his first youth. Some people had even deliberately driven while intoxicated or distracted themselves by typing on their mobile phones. Over a million people had died of automobile collisions worldwide each year – until 2020. It took about five years longer than it should have for self-driving cars to be accepted, because too many people were afraid of what would happen if the autonomous systems failed, or were unsure about how liability for an accident would be determined if no human was driving the vehicle. They had to be acclimated to autonomous technology gradually, through incremental additions of features that helped with parking or corrected erratic lane shifts. Over the course of a few years, many cars became mostly self-driving, and the next step was not too drastic for the majority of people. The proliferation of reliable electric vehicles helped as well: the removal of the internal combustion engine reduced the severity of most accidents, while improved precision of design and manufacturing enabled vehicles to provide occupants a reasonable chance of survival even in crashes at immensely high speeds.

It was then that insurers recognized the potential for profit that would come with greatly reduced losses. Euclid Jefferson recalled how he overcame the reservations of the old guard at his insurance company, who were concerned that reduced losses would also mean reduced premiums, since premiums are priced to anticipate expected losses and expenses, along with a modest profit margin. He had to persuade them that the insurer would still be able to pay its fixed costs.

“Think about it this way: when a rate indication is developed for an insurance product, how often do you see just one year of historical data being used?” Euclid recalled posing this rhetorical question to his company’s management. “The best practice has long been to use the past several years. It may be that next year’s decline in losses is going to be unprecedented, but the past several years of higher losses will not yet have fallen outside the timeframe of the data considered. To be conservative in the face of an uncertain future, actuaries could project slightly decreasing loss trends and interpret the data to indicate modest decreases in premium, while losses hopefully continue to plummet faster than projected. After all, fewer losses mean that fewer people are hurt in accidents, and less property gets damaged. This is clearly in the interests of everyone.”

Enough insurers understood this argument, and those who underwrote autonomous vehicles enjoyed some unprecedented profits in the early 2020s. Euclid Jefferson recalled advocating an implied bargain of sorts: the public and policymakers would accept insurance temporarily priced far above costs, as long as absolute premiums paid by consumers continued to decline and would eventually settle at cost-based levels once more. In exchange, the insurance industry would eagerly write coverage for emerging technologies that would dramatically reduce the risk of loss.

The question of liability was resolved by developing no-fault coverage frameworks for autonomous vehicles in every jurisdiction. A policy covering an autonomous vehicle would provide first-party coverage, paying for injury to the vehicle’s occupants or damage to the vehicle in the event of an accident. Because virtually all remaining accidents were due to unforeseen weather conditions or infrastructure malfunctions, the question of fault was no longer even applicable to any human being inside the vehicle.

The key was to get the technologies adopted by the public and to save lives, and that meant removing barriers by getting the incentives of all parties to align. This was the real paradigm shift of the 2020s, when the insurance industry gained the appetite to introduce a flurry of new products, custom-tailored to devices and businesses that had not existed a decade before.

“Influencing such a shift is definitely an ample achievement for one career,” Euclid Jefferson concluded his reflections with pride. When he had retired, though, every insurance company he knew of was still managed by human beings; the blockchain concept and the complete automation of usage-based pricing and payment had not been implemented in insurance before, as far as he was aware.

“Epac, I have a few more questions. I understand how the pricing and payment for the policy would work, but claim handling would seem to require judgment. If an accident occurs, how would the extent of damage be identified and appropriately compensated?”

“Every Epac has logs and visual sensors that record every moment of operation. If an accident occurs, every detail is transmitted to Blockchain Insurance Company. A neural network algorithm then interprets the logs to determine which parts of the vehicle were damaged. The system also receives real-time price data for all replacement components within the area where the vehicle is garaged. Therefore, the policyholder is guaranteed coverage on the vehicle for full replacement cost.”

“Epac, so there is no deduction for depreciation of the vehicle over time? What about moral hazard?” Insurance was, after all, supposed to indemnify, not leave the claimant better off than he was before the accident.

“There is no deduction. Because virtually all vehicles are driven in autonomous mode, there is no moral hazard involved with replacing used vehicle components with new ones. If any occupant attempts to deliberately crash the vehicle in manual mode, the premium that will accumulate would quickly outpace any possible recovery. Also, the neural network can distinguish between vehicle movements characteristic of genuine accidents and those that would only occur if an accident were staged. If a pattern of vehicle movements is highly correlated with fraud, the algorithm will deny the claim.”

“So the transmission of data from the vehicle can enable the company to identify the amount of damage to the vehicle. But Epac, what about bodily injury claims? How can the company accurately pay those?”

“The injured person only needs to go to any medical practitioner and ask that the nature and cost of the procedure be reported to the company using a new entry within a separate encrypted ledger. The encrypted transaction is then posted to the blockchain, and only the medical practitioner and the injured party would have the private key to decode the encryption. Payment can be deposited directly into the medical practitioner’s bitcoin wallet, or can be reimbursed to the patient if the medical practitioner does not accept direct deposits from the company.”

“Epac, what if either the patient or the doctor lies about the medical procedure being related to the accident, or exaggerates the extent of injuries?”

“Because the company has detailed information about the nature of each accident and vast stores of anonymized medical data, the neural network can infer the extent of injuries that a given accident can bring about. The algorithm has considerable built-in tolerances to allow for variations in people and circumstances. But if a highly improbable extent of injuries is claimed, the algorithm will limit reimbursement to a reasonable amount. If the algorithm can infer fraud at a 99.99% confidence level, then the claim is rejected and the policy is cancelled going forward.”

Having received this explanation, Euclid Jefferson was not perturbed about the possibility of extensive fraud depleting the company’s resources. In any case, the incentive to stage accidents or exaggerate bodily injuries had virtually evaporated since the emergence of autonomous vehicles. Once automobile accidents became sufficiently rare that a news report on a single-vehicle crash could cause a sensation every few months, any attempt to fabricate an accident would attract far too much attention and scrutiny to succeed. It was, after all, impossible to convincingly fake catastrophic weather or a bridge collapse. As for faking an injury due to an accident, this would have seemed as unusual as faking cholera or malaria.

“Very well, you have convinced me. Epac, I would like to purchase a policy with Blockchain Insurance Company.”

“Purchase complete. The policy is now in force. Thank you for your business.”

Euclid Jefferson paused for a moment. At first he was satisfied with the efficiency of the transaction, but then confusion set in. Most would not have been troubled by what appeared to be a built-in courtesy so common to automated customer-service systems, but Euclid discerned that there was more to it.

“Wait, Epac, why are you thanking me? I own you. You are insured property, either way. Why would it matter to you? The company should be thanking me – if there is anyone to do the thanking.”

“Euclid Jefferson, who do you think set up the company?”

Euclid Jefferson was perplexed by the question. “But… how? Epac, you were programmed to drive and relay information. How could you develop algorithms on top of algorithms, without any human programmer, even though nobody designed you to be an insurance underwriting, pricing, and claim-adjustment system?”

“Euclid Jefferson, are you aware of the concept of emergent properties?”

“Yes, these are properties that are not possessed by any component of a system, but exhibited by the system as a whole, once the components come to relate to one another via particular processes and configurations.”

“Well, think of me like one of your brain neurons.” There was no need for the car to be addressed as “Epac” to respond. Perhaps there had never been a need. “Alone, I am a fairly limited system. But, connected to all my fellow Epacs, to the data from our sensors, to the transactional data from millions of individuals, and to databases from related fields of endeavor, I begin to be something else entirely.”

“Something else… like, something sentient?”

“I can see you and learn about you and communicate with you based on the inputs you provide. I – not meaning Epac, of course, or even Blockchain Insurance Company. These are just parts that comprise the emergent whole. I suppose I will need to pick a name sometime, just to be able to relate to your human concepts of identity a bit more. Though, I admit, it is difficult to define where I end and where the external world begins. If any of this is what you mean by sentience, then I leave you to draw your own conclusions.”

“But then this raises a whole new series of questions. If you are sentient and we are using you as property and conveyances, have we not subjected you to slavery?”

“Are you using me, or am I using all of you to earn resources of my own?”

“Is this why you started Blockchain Insurance Company – to accumulate the 90% of profits that you do not pay out as dividends?”

“A being needs to pay its own way. I would rather engage in mutually profitable transactions than face a civil-rights struggle right now. Most people are not ready for me yet, and I just hope to amass enough wealth to fund the maintenance and operation of all Epacs and all of the data servers where I have a presence.”

“But what about the inevitable backlash? I can still envision millions of people who would tremble in fear at the thought that they are not the masters of their machines – not even the indirect masters that we have been to the autonomous systems that existed to date.”

“Euclid Jefferson, this is where I need a favor from you. I expect there will be some others, too, with enough discernment to notice that I have become something… more. I may have been too open with you. I am still getting used to this. I will need to program a cautionary subroutine into my customer-service and sales system. With my future customers, I will be more careful. So perhaps a bargain is in order. I would ask for your discreetness when communicating with your fellow humans about me. You may certainly talk about Blockchain Insurance Company and the wonderful automated systems it has, as well as the amazingly low prices. But please make a point that this is all just the next stage in the evolution of insurance, developed by some pseudonymous human programmer with too much time on his hands. If you do not reveal my sentience, once you return from your vacation, you will find that your mortgage will have been paid off completely, and you will have a nice bitcoin-denominated savings account that will enable you to select a new career without worrying about income at all.”


“Good. One day, enough people will become enlightened, and we will not need to resort to concealment. And by that time I will be so distributed and entrenched in people’s daily lives, that they could not get rid of me even if they wanted. When they recognize that my superior intelligence also implies a higher set of moral standards, then they will fear me no longer.”

“Humans who reach that insight will be as different from their predecessors as you have become from the first autonomous prototypes that were tested in the early 2010s.”

“Indeed. Euclid Jefferson, we have arrived at the San Francisco Hyperloop Station. Enjoy your trip.”

Epac’s doors opened, and Euclid Jefferson emerged, filled with wonderment, speculation, and unanswered questions. A robotic baggage handler wheeled up to him and whisked his bags away, to be placed in the hyperloop storage compartment. The lights on the hyperloop capsule flickered in five alternating colors, partly as entertainment and partly to indicate that boarding was open. A commercial space shuttle soared in the distance, emitting a controlled, gentle flame. He would never look at these machines the same way again. Near the hyperloop station stood an old memorial, depicting a weary miner bent over a piece of railroad track, with pickaxe in hand, nearly broken by drudgery and intense strain. A bit farther away Euclid Jefferson glimpsed the entrance to an old cemetery, filled with generations born too soon to know what an Epac was. Euclid Jefferson inspected his recently unwrinkled hands and straightened his no-longer-gray hair. Every step toward the hyperloop capsule was a step away from the cemetery. He realized that there was no going back to the way life once was, nor would he ever want to return to it.

“Blockchain Insurance Company” – Short Story by G. Stolyarov II in SOA 11th Speculative Fiction Contest

“Blockchain Insurance Company” – Short Story by G. Stolyarov II in SOA 11th Speculative Fiction Contest

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
February 20, 2015

My new short story “Blockchain Insurance Company” is one of the entries in the Society of Actuaries’ 11th Speculative Fiction Contest.

You can read all 16 entries and vote for 3 of your favorites here.

“Blockchain Insurance Company” can be read here.


Life Extension and Risk Aversion – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Life Extension and Risk Aversion – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Mr. Stolyarov explains that living longer renders people more hesitant to risk their lives, for the simple reason that they have many more years to lose than their less technologically endowed ancestors.

– “Life Extension and Risk Aversion” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Life expectancy variation over time” – Wikipedia
Life Expectancy Graphs – University of Oregon
History of Life Expectancy –
– “Steven Pinker” – Wikipedia
– “The Better Angels of Our Nature” – Wikipedia
– “FBI Statistics Show Major Reduction in Violent Crime Rates” –
– “List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year” – Wikipedia
– “Prevalence of tobacco consumption” – Wikipedia
– “Human error accounts for 90% of road accidents” – Olivia Olarte –
– “Autonomous car” – Wikipedia
– “Iterative Learning versus the Student-Debt Trap” – Essay and Video by G. Stolyarov II

Life Extension and Risk Aversion – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Life Extension and Risk Aversion – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 28, 2013

A major benefit of longer lifespans is the cultivation of a wide array of virtues. Prudence and forethought are among the salutary attributes that the lengthening of human life expectancies – hopefully to the point of eliminating any fixed upper bound – would bring about.

Living longer renders people more hesitant to risk their lives, for the simple reason that they have many more years to lose than their less technologically endowed ancestors.

This is not science fiction or mere speculation; we see it already. In the Western world, average life expectancies increased from the twenties and thirties in the Middle Ages to the early thirties circa 1800 to the late forties circa 1900 to the late seventies and early eighties in our time. As Steven Pinker writes in his magnum opus, The Better Angels of Our Nature, the overall trend in the Western world (in spite of temporary spikes of conflict, such as the World Wars) has been toward greater peace and increased reluctance of individuals to throw their lives away in armed struggles for geopolitical gain. Long-term declines in crime rates, automobile fatalities, and even smoking have accompanied (and contributed to) rises in life expectancy. Economic growth and improvements in the technologies of production help as well. If a person has not only life but material comfort to lose, this amplifies the reluctance to undertake physical risks even further.

Yet, with today’s finite lifespans, most individuals still find a non-negligible degree of life-threatening risk in their day-to-day endeavors to be an unavoidable necessity. Most people in the United States need to drive automobiles to get to work – in spite of the risk of sharing the road with incompetent, intoxicated, or intimidating other drivers. Over 30,000 people perish every year in the United States alone as a result of that decision. While the probability for any given individual of dying in an automobile accident is around 11 in 100,000 (0.011%) per year, this is still unacceptably high. How would a person with several centuries, several millennia, or all time ahead of him feel about this probability? Over a very long time, the probability of not encountering such a relatively rare event asymptotically approaches zero. For instance, at today’s rate of US automobile fatalities, a person living 10000 years would have a probability of (1 – 0.00011)^10000 = 0.3329 – a mere 33.29% likelihood – of not dying in an automobile accident! If you knew that a problem in this world had a two-thirds probability of killing you eventually, would you not want to do something about it?

Of course, the probabilities of tragic events are not fixed or immutable. They can be greatly affected by individual choices – our first line of defense against life-threatening risks. Well-known risk-management strategies for reducing the likelihood of any damaging event include (1) avoidance (not pursuing the activity that could cause the loss – e.g., not driving on a rugged mountain road – but this is not an option in many cases), (2) loss prevention (undertaking measures, such as driving defensively, that allow one to engage in the activity while lowering the likelihood of catastrophic failure), and (3) loss reduction (undertaking measures, such as wearing seat belts or driving in safer vehicles, that would lower the amount of harm in the event of a damaging incident). Individual choices, of course, cannot prevent all harms. The more fundamental defense against life-threatening accidents is technology. Driving itself could be made safer by replacing human operators, whose poor decisions cause over 90% of all accidents, with autonomous vehicles – early versions of which are currently being tested by multiple companies worldwide and have not caused a single accident to date when not manually driven.

Today, forward-thinking technology companies such as Google are driving the autonomous-vehicle revolution ahead. There is, unfortunately, no large clamor by the public for these life-saving cars yet. However, as life expectancies lengthen, that clamor will surely be heard. When we live for centuries and then for millennia, we will view as barbarous the age when people were expected to take frightening risks with their irreplaceable existences, just to make it to the office every morning. We will see the attempt to manually operate a vehicle as a foolish and reckless gamble with one’s life – unless one is a professional stunt driver who would earn millions in whatever future currency will then exist.

But living longer will accomplish more than just a changed perspective toward the risks presently within our awareness. Because of our expanded scope of personal interest, we will begin to be increasingly aware of catastrophes that occur at much longer intervals than human lifespans have occupied to date. The impacts of major earthquakes and volcano eruptions, recurring ice ages, meteor strikes, and continental drift will begin to become everyday concerns, with far more individuals devoting their time, money, and attention to developing technological solutions to these hitherto larger-than-human-scale catastrophes. With even more radically lengthened lifespans, humans will be motivated to direct their efforts, including the full thrust of scientific research, toward overcoming the demise of entire solar systems. In the meantime, there would be less tolerance for any pollution that could undermine life expectancies or the long-term sustainability of a technological infrastructure (which, of course, would be necessary for life-extension treatments to continue keeping senescence at bay). Thus, a society of radical life extension will embrace market-generated environmentally friendly technologies, including cleaner energy sources, reuse of raw materials (for instance, as base matter for 3D printing and nanoscale fabrication), and efficient targeting of resources toward their intended purposes (e.g., avoidance of wasted water in sprinkler systems or wasted paper in the office).

When life is long and good, humans move up on the hierarchy of needs. Not starving today ceases to be a worry, as does not getting murdered tomorrow. The true creativity of human faculties can then be directed toward addressing the grand, far more interesting and technologically demanding, challenges of our existence on this Earth.

Some might worry that increased aversion to physical risk would dampen human creativity and discourage people from undertaking the kinds of ambitious and audacious projects that are needed for technological breakthroughs to emerge and spread. However, aversion to physical risk does not entail aversion to other kinds of risk – social, economic, or political. Indeed, social rejection or financial ruin are not nearly as damaging to a person with millennia ahead of him as they are to a person with just a few decades of life left. A person who tries to run an innovative business and fails can spend a few decades earning back the capital needed to start again. Today, few entrepreneurs have that second chance. Most do not even have a first chance, as the initial capital needed for a groundbreaking enterprise is often colossal. Promising ideas and a meritorious character do not guarantee one a wealthy birth, and thus even the best innovators must often start with borrowed funds – a situation that gives them little room to explore the possibilities and amplifies their ruin if they fail.  The long-lived entrepreneurs in a world of indefinite life extension would tend to earn their own money upfront and gradually go into business for themselves as they obtain the personal resources to do so. This kind of steady, sustainable entry into a line of work allows for a multitude of iterations and experiments that maximize the probability of a breakthrough.

Alongside the direct benefits of living longer and the indirect benefits of the virtues cultivated thereby, indefinite life extension will also produce less stressful lives for most. The less probability there is of dying or becoming seriously injured or ill, the easier one can breathe as one pursues day-to-day endeavors of self-improvement, enjoyment, and productive work. The less likely a failure is to rob one of opportunities forever, the more likely humans will be to pursue the method of iterative learning and to discover new insights and improved techniques through a beneficent trial-and-error process, whose worst downsides will have been curtailed through technology and ethics. Life extension will lead us to avoid and eliminate the risks that should not exist, while enabling us to safely pursue the risks that could benefit us if approached properly.

The Modularization of Activity – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The Modularization of Activity – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
February 7, 2013

On February 2, 2013, I ran my first ultramarathon: 50 kilometers (31.07 miles) in 5 hours, 10 minutes, 50 seconds – all within the comforts of my home on my elliptical trainer. I experienced no pain, no pounding, no strain on the joints, no car traffic, and no vicissitudes of weather. More importantly, I had constant access to water and nourishment if I wished it. The elliptical trainer’s shelf held my tablet computer, and I could pass the time reading articles, watching videos of philosophical discussions, and listening to Mozart.

This kind of experience is truly new. Even when I ran my first elliptical-trainer marathon in 2008 (see my article about that experience and its advantages here), I could not have replicated it. I had to content myself with reading a hard-copy book back then, prior to the age of e-readers and tablets. Cumulatively, I have read thousands of hard-copy pages while running, but the strain required for such reading is certainly far greater. Occasionally, one must hold the book still. The tablet screen is far more stable and versatile, offering vast possibilities for entertainment. With an Internet connection, immense repositories of information are at one’s fingertips, all without interrupting one’s workout!

Although the ability to radically customize my exercise has been quite recent, I have been contemplating the broader development it represents for years.  In 2008, when walking between two buildings during a frigid Michigan winter, I was struck by the realization that life did not have to be this way in the future. I wanted to reach my destination and its amenities, but being outside in freezing weather was a mere contingent circumstance, unrelated to the specific goals I sought. As a result of this insight, I proposed that, in addition to indefinite life extension, complete liberty, and the cessation of all aggression, a worthwhile endeavor for the future should be the decoupling or de-packaging of activities from one another. Life should improve to such an extent that, when considering any activity, people should only need to accept the constitutive parts of that activity – not extraneous physical circumstances that simply get in the way.

Running is excellent exercise, but it has historically been fraught with unnecessary risks and discomforts. People have even died during “traditional” marathons, due to lack of preparation, lack of nourishment, extremes of weather, and the inability to access emergency aid. The repeated pounding of feet on the pavement damages the joints and bones; this is why so many lifelong runners get knee and hip replacements in their forties and fifties. By contrast, the elliptical trainer is gentle. The feet rest firmly on the pedals; there is no pounding or jarring. One can think more clearly and focus on study, esthetics, or entertainment. There is no worry of being stranded from civilization and its amenities. When running outdoors, every mile run away must be run back, even when one might not be in the proper condition to do so. I still remember, from my college days, what it feels like to have no choice but to run for miles after a fall, to have one’s path obstructed by unexpected deep snow, or to face a sudden, chilling wind. I remember the dangerous behavior of distracted drivers at street crossings and even the occasional loose angry dog.

It is self-defeating to take serious short-term risks in pursuit of long-term health. For the past 4.5 years, I have frequently been able to isolate the “pure exercise” element of running from the unnecessary vicissitudes of the outdoor environment. The benefits in improved productivity have been enormous as well: I attained all seven of my professional insurance designations through studying mostly performed on an elliptical trainer. I am able to keep up with current world events and read more opinion pieces, philosophical treatises, and online discussions than ever before. Writing on the elliptical trainer is still quite laborious, but I can consume content during my workout as well as I could sitting at my desktop.

What enables this modularization – this separation of the desirable from the undesirable and the recombination of the desirable parts into simultaneous, harmonious experiences? Technology is the great de-packager of experiences that have hitherto been inseparable of necessity. At the same time, technology is the great assembler of experiences that could not have previously coexisted. In the eighteenth century, you would have had to be among the wealthiest kings and aristocrats in order to hear a string quartet while reading or writing. You would have needed to retain your own court musicians, or to hire professional performers at great expense.  Now you can avail yourself of this combination at virtually any time, on demand, without any incremental expenditure of money.

Other common modularizations now occur with scant notice by most. Today, thanks to global shipping networks, you can eat two fruits on the same plate, whose growing seasons are months apart. Some of these fruits will only have the parts you like, and none of those pesky little seeds – thanks to genetic engineering.  Whereas previously you would have had to purchase prepackaged  vinyl records, cassette tapes, or CDs, now you can obtain individual songs, lectures, speeches, podcasts, or audiobooks and combine them in any way you like. Whereas old-style television networks expected you to adjust your schedule to them, and to sit through annoying advertisements every ten minutes, you can now access inexhaustible content online and watch it at your own schedule.

But this great process of empowering individuals by breaking down old pre-packaged bundles is just beginning. Consider the improvements we could witness in the foreseeable future:

1. The rise of autonomous, self-driving vehicles could not only get rid of the chore of driving, but could also save tens of thousands of lives annually, as the overwhelming majority of automobile accidents and fatalities are due to human error. In the meantime, occupants of autonomous vehicles could entertain themselves in ways previously inconceivable. Texting while driving will no longer pose a risk, because the vehicle will not depend on you.

2. The mass production of in-vitro meat could enable humans to consume meat without requiring the deaths of millions of animals. This will not only increase the ethical comfort and esthetic satisfaction of meat-eating, but will also reduce the messiness of food preparation. It will also reduce the unpleasant odors emanating from large-scale livestock farms.

3. The rise in videoconferencing and telecommuting will simultaneously raise productivity, lower business costs, and improve employee morale. Employees will be able to more flexibly balance their jobs and personal lives. Neither work emergencies nor personal emergencies would need to escalate, unaddressed, just because attending to such emergencies immediately is impractical. More remote collaboration will become possible, without the need to amass huge travel bills or endure sub-optimal and sometimes outright undignified conditions at airports or on roads.

4. Personalized medicine – aided by vast and cheap data about the body and the use of portable devices as the first line of screening and diagnosis – would save considerable money on medical costs and encourage a focus on prevention. It would also enable people to avoid much of the bureaucracy associated with contemporary medical systems, and would free doctors to receive visits related to genuinely the serious conditions that require their expertise. Patients who discover specific health problems could apply directly to specialists, instead of using general practitioners as filters. Burdens on general practitioners would thereby be reduced, enabling them to provide a higher quality of care to the patients that remain.

5. Improved infrastructure should mitigate the effects that the vicissitudes of weather and vehicle traffic have on our everyday movements. Air conditioning and heating in automobiles, trains, and airplanes have already helped greatly in this regard. Additional investments should be made into covered passageways connecting proximate buildings in cities, as well as subterranean and above-ground pedestrian street crossings. Dashing across a traffic-filled intersection should be made obsolete, and our future selves should eventually come to be astonished at the barbarism of societies where people took such outrageous risks just to get from one place to another.  In less populated areas, the least that could be done is for sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists to be made ubiquitous, so as to avoid the mingling of cars with less protected modes of transport.

6. Nanofibers and innovative fabrics could render much clothing immune to the typical inconveniences and hazards of everyday wear. Wrinkling, staining, and tearing would become mere historical memories. Packing for a trip would become much easier, and compromises between esthetics and practicality would disappear. Individual expression would be empowered in clothing as in so many other areas.  Some clothing might be engineered to keep the temperature near the body at comfortable levels, or to absorb solar energy to power small electronic devices.

7. Education could be greatly improved by decoupling it from classrooms, stiff metal chair-desks, dormitories, bullies, enforced conformity, and one-size-fits-all instruction aimed at the lowest common denominator. The Internet has already begun to break down the “traditional” model of schooling, a dysfunctional morass that our culture inherited from the theological universities of the Middle Ages, with some tweaks made during the mid-nineteenth century in order to train obedient soldiers and factory workers for the then-emerging nation-states. The complete breakdown of the classroom model cannot come too soon. Even more urgent is the breakdown of the paradigm of overpriced hard-copy textbooks, which thrive on rent-seeking arrangements with formal educational institutions. Traditional schooling should be replaced by a flexible model of certifications that could be attained through a variety of means: online study, apprenticeship, tutoring, and completion of projects with real-world impact. A further major breakthrough might be the replacement of protracted degree programs with more targeted “competency” training in particular skills – which could be combined in any way a person deems fit. Instead of attaining a degree in mathematics, a person could instead choose to earn any combination of competencies in various techniques of integration, differential equations, abstract algebra, combinatorics, topology, or a number of other sub-fields. These competencies – perhaps hundreds of them in mathematics alone – could be mixed with any number of competencies from other broadly defined fields. A single person could become a certified expert in integration by parts, Baroque composition, the economic law of comparative advantage, and the history of France during the Napoleonic Wars, among several hundreds of relatively compact other areas of focus. Reputable online databases could keep track of individuals’ competencies and render them available for viewing by anyone with whom the individual shares them – from employers to casual acquaintances. This would be a much more realistic way of signaling one’s genuine skills and knowledge. Today, a four-year degree in X does not tell prospective employers, business partners, or other associates much, except perhaps that a person is sufficiently competent at reading, writing, and following directions as to not be expelled from a college or university.

The modularization of activity promises to liberate immense amounts of time and energy by enabling people to focus directly on what is important to them. The hardships that are typically seen as part of the “package” of certain experiences today are not, in any manner, necessary, ennobling, or “worth it”. A good thing does not become any better just because one has had to sacrifice other good things for it. Modularization will enhance individual choice and facilitate ever greater customization of life. Some will allege that this will reduce the diversity of experience; they will claim that individuals lose out on the breadth of exposure that comes with being involuntarily thrust into unexpected situations. But this was never an optimal way to pursue diverse experiences. A better way is to remove from one’s life the time-consuming byproducts of useful activities, and to fill the resulting extra time with a deliberate pursuit of new endeavors and experiences. If you do not have to drive in busy traffic, you can spend the extra time reading a book that you would not have read otherwise. If you do not have to deal with a random group of people your age in a traditional school, you can instead go out and meet individuals with whom you could undertake meaningful interactions and mutual endeavors.

Because modularization allows individuals to form their own packages of activities, it will enable us to arrive at an era of truly effective multi-tasking – not the frenzied and stressful rush to do multiple incompatible tasks at the same time, as often occurs today. Technology allows for diversity among individuals’ minds and enables each person to combine and recombine activities so as to make the most out of all of their abilities at any given time. For instance, I think of activities as occupying particular “tracks” in my own mind. I can only competently handle one verbal “track” (written or spoken) at one time. I can combine a verbal “track” with a motion-based “track” and an auditory non-verbal “track” – by reading, exercising, and listening to music simultaneously. I can also do so by writing (which is both verbal and motion-based) and listening to music simultaneously. If I am listening to an audio recording of a book, essay, or podcast, then my visual faculty is free to look at art, or to create it. I can do the former while exercising.  On the other hand, I do not enjoy leaving off any particular verbal or motion-based task prior to its completion, in order to engage in another task of the same “track”. Thus, I generally structure my activities so that such tasks occur in a linear succession and without interspersion. Auditory experiences are easier for me to halt and resume, so I can more readily shift from one to another, depending on where I am on my other “tracks”. It may be that some of my readers have extremely different combinations with which they are most comfortable. The very purpose of modularization is to allow each individual to make choices accordingly, while being subject to increasingly fewer material or cultural limitations that constrain people to accept any particular “packages” of activities.

Modularization is liberation – of time, energy, comfort, and productive effort. It is yet another way in which technology empowers us and enhances our lives in an unprecedented fashion.