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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?

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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.

Radical Life Extension Won’t Cause Resource Shortages – Article by Reason

Radical Life Extension Won’t Cause Resource Shortages – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
October 6, 2013
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That overpopulation exists at all is one of the most prevalent delusions in the modern world: thanks to the environmentalist movement, a cause that has ascended near to the status of civic religion, the average fellow in the street thinks that there are too many people alive today, that resources are stretched to breaking point, that the future is one of Malthusian decline, and that horrible poverty in the third world is caused by the existence of too many people. All of these points are flat-out wrong. Humanity is wealthier and has greater access to resources today than at any time in history, the variety and amounts of available resources are growing at an accelerating pace due to technological progress, the earth could support many times more people than are alive today, and where there is poverty it exists due to terrible, predatory governance and the inhumanity of man – it exists due to waste and aggression amidst the potential for plenty.

Even this pro-longevity piece by George Dvorsky subscribes, as many do, to the false idea that somehow we are consuming too many resources and will run out. This is silly: resources are infinite, because through technological progress we constantly develop new ones. People live in an age of change, with each new decade clearly different from the last, and yet live under the assumption that everything will remain the same going forward. Being worried about running out of anything that we use today is like being worried about running out of candle wax in 1810, or running out of room for horse breeding operations in 1840, or running out of food in 1940. All false concerns, and all false for exactly the same reasons: we are not static consumers of resources, we are net producers of resources.

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Make no mistake, it’ll take us a long, long time to get there, but we’ll eventually find a way to halt the aging process. Owing to advanced medical, regenerative, and cybernetic technologies, future humans will enter into a state of “negligible senescence,” a condition marked by the cessation of aging and the onset of everlasting youth. It sounds utopian, but as biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey has repeatedly noted, it’s simply an engineering problem – one that’s not intractable.

I’ve been debating this issue for the better part of a decade, and I’ve heard virtually every argument there is to be said both in favor of and in condemnation of the possibility. I’m not going to go over all of them here. But without a doubt the single most prominent argument set against radical life extension is the issue of overpopulation and environmental sustainability.

As a final note, there’s a certain inevitability to radical life extension. It’s the logical conclusion to the medical sciences. So rather than futilely argue against it, we should come up with constructive solutions to ensure that it unfolds in the most non-disruptive way possible.

Link: http://io9.com/no-extreme-human-longevity-won-t-destroy-the-planet-1440148751

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.

Support the “Little Mouse” Crowdfunded Life-Extension Research Project! – Post by G. Stolyarov II

Support the “Little Mouse” Crowdfunded Life-Extension Research Project! – Post by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
October 4, 2013
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As part of my escalating efforts to advance the prospects of radical life extension through my individual actions, I have donated $50 to an ambitious new crowdfunding project to research longevity-enhancing treatments in mice.

This international project, undertaken by researchers at the Kiev Institute of Gerontology and supported by the Methuselah Foundation and the SENS Research Foundation, has an Indiegogo fundraising page, titled “I am a little mouse and I want to live longer!”, where contributions can be made.

I am proud to donate to this effort to support longevity research through crowdfunding. This project allows those of us who seek longer lifespans, and who wish to advance the science that will get us there, to contribute directly in a manner whereby each of us can make a sizable fraction of the difference for this research effort. I look forward to the great work that this project will accomplish. Achieving statistically significant mouse life extension in the near future could trigger massive public interest and the influx of major research funds to attain increasingly ambitious life-extension goals in higher-order mammals, culminating in us.

The project has already raised $8,673 and has 16 days remaining to reach its $15,000 goal. The Methuselah Foundation will match each $1,000 given with an equivalent donation – so it is possible to double one’s impact by contributing funds to this research effort.

Longevity’s Bottleneck May Be Funding, But Funding’s Bottleneck is Advocacy – Article by Franco Cortese

Longevity’s Bottleneck May Be Funding, But Funding’s Bottleneck is Advocacy – Article by Franco Cortese

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
August 21, 2013
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When asked what the biggest bottleneck for Radical or Indefinite Longevity is, most thinkers say funding. Some say the biggest bottleneck is breakthroughs and others say it’s our way of approaching the problem (i.e., that many are seeking healthy life extension, a.k.a. “aging gracefully”, instead of more comprehensive methods of indefinite life extension), but the majority seem to feel that what is really needed is adequate funding to plug away at developing and experimentally verifying the various, sometimes mutually exclusive technologies and methodologies that have already been proposed. I claim that Radical Longevity’s biggest bottleneck is not funding, but advocacy.
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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 RLE’s feasibility and desirability.
***

There is no definitive timespan that it will take to achieve indefinitely 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 Indefinitely 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 RLE 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 Deathist clichés that promulgate the sentiment that Life Extension is dangerous or unethical. It needn’t be either, 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 RLE (like overpopulation) aren’t going to happen until RLE 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 would mean a higher public perception of its undesirability. Whether RLE 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 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 RLE is a function of how much effort we put into it. And in this article I argue that how much funding and attention RLE 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 desire 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 RLE 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 a wasteful and involuntary death in the next 10 days: one million real lives. This puts the Deathist charges of inethicality in a ghostly new light. If advocating the desirability, feasibility, and radical ethicality of RLE 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 RLE advocates, researchers and fiscal supporters. Seen in this way, working toward RLE may very well be the most ethical and humanitarian way you could spend your time, in terms of the number of lives saved and/or the amount of suffering prevented.

This is a contemporary problem that we can have a direct impact on. People intuitively assume that we won’t achieve indefinitely extended life until far in the future. This makes them conflate any lives saved by indefinitely 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 RLE 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 its widespread desirability than direct work or funding does, and increasing both its desirability and the public perception of its desirability has more potential to generate increased funding and research-attention for RLE than direct funding or research does. Advocacy thus has the potential to contribute to the arrival of RLE 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 an RLE advocate is to be an RLE 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 indefinitely 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 fact of life. Soon it will be artifact of history. Life may not be ipso facto valuable according to some 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 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.

Franco Cortese is an editor for Transhumanity.net, as well as one of its most frequent contributors.  He has also published articles and essays on Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. He contributed 4 essays and 7 debate responses to the digital anthology Human Destiny is to Eliminate Death: Essays, Rants and Arguments About Immortality.

Franco is an Advisor for Lifeboat Foundation (on its Futurists Board and its Life Extension Board) and contributes regularly to its blog.

Transhumanism, Technology, and Science: To Say It’s Impossible Is to Mock History Itself – Article by Franco Cortese

Transhumanism, Technology, and Science: To Say It’s Impossible Is to Mock History Itself – Article by Franco Cortese

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
June 30, 2013
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One of the most common arguments made against Transhumanism, Technoprogressivism, and the transformative potentials of emerging, converging, disruptive and transformative technologies may also be the weakest: technical infeasibility. While some thinkers attack the veracity of Transhumanist claims on moral grounds, arguing that we are committing a transgression against human dignity (in turn often based on ontological grounds of a static human nature that shan’t be tampered with) or on grounds of safety, arguing that humanity isn’t responsible enough to wield such technologies without unleashing their destructive capabilities, these categories of counter-argument (efficacy and safety, respectively) are more often than not made by people somewhat more familiar with the community and its common points of rhetoric.
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In other words these are the real salient and significant problems needing to be addressed by Transhumanist and Technoprogressive communities. The good news is that the ones making the most progress in terms of deliberating the possible repercussions of emerging technologies are Transhumanist and Technoprogressive communities. The large majority of thinkers and theoreticians working on Existential Risk and Global Catastrophic Risk, like The Future of Humanity Institute and the Lifeboat Foundation, share Technoprogressive inclinations. Meanwhile, the largest proponents of the need to ensure wide availability of enhancement technologies, as well as the need for provision of personhood rights to non-biologically-substrated persons, are found amidst the ranks of Technoprogressive Think Tanks like the IEET.
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A more frequent Anti-Transhumanist and Anti-Technoprogressive counter-argument, by contrast, and one most often launched by people approaching Transhumanist and Technoprogressive communities from the outside, with little familiarity with their common points of rhetoric, is the claim of technical infeasibility based upon little more than sheer incredulity.

Sometimes a concept or notion simply seems too unprecedented to be possible. But it’s just too easy for us to get stuck in a spacetime rut along the continuum of culture and feel that if something were possible, it would have either already happened or would be in the final stages of completion today. “If something is possible, when why hasn’t anyone done it Shouldn’t the fact that it has yet to be accomplished indicate that it isn’t possible?” This conflates ought with is (which Hume showed us is a fallacy) and ought with can. Ought is not necessarily correlative with either. At the risk of saying the laughably-obvious, something must occur at some point in order for it to occur at all. The Moon landing happened in 1969 because it happened in 1969, and to have argued in 1968 that it simply wasn’t possible solely because it had never been done before would not have been  a valid argument for its technical infeasibility.

If history has shown us anything, it has shown us that history is a fantastically poor indicator of what will and will not become feasible in the future. Statistically speaking, it seems as though the majority of things that were said to be impossible to implement via technology have nonetheless come into being. Likewise, it seems as though the majority of feats it was said to be possible to facilitate via technology have also come into being. The ability to possiblize the seemingly impossible via technological and methodological in(ter)vention has been exemplified throughout the course of human history so prominently that we might as well consider it a statistical law.

We can feel the sheer fallibility of the infeasibility-from-incredulity argument intuitively when we consider how credible it would have seemed a mere 100 years ago to claim that we would soon be able to send sentences into the air, to be routed to a device in your pocket (and only your pocket, not the device in the pocket of the person sitting right beside you). How likely would it have seemed 200 years ago if you claimed that 200 years hence it would be possible to sit comfortably and quietly in a chair in the sky, inside a large tube of metal that fails to fall fatally to the ground?

Simply look around you. An idiosyncratic genus of great ape did this! Consider how remarkably absurd it would seem for the gorilla genus to have coordinated their efforts to build skyscrapers; to engineer devices that took them to the Moon; to be able to send a warning or mating call to the other side of the earth in less time than such a call could actually be made via physical vocal cords. We live in a world of artificial wonder, and act as though it were the most mundane thing in the world. But considered in terms of geological time, the unprecedented feat of culture and artificial artifact just happened. We are still in the fledging infancy of the future, which only began when we began making it ourselves.
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We have no reason whatsoever to doubt the eventual technological feasibility of anything, really, when we consider all the things that were said to be impossible yet happened, all the things that were said to be possible and did happen, and all the things that were unforeseen completely yet happened nonetheless. In light of history, it seems more likely than a given thing would eventually be possible via technology than that it wouldn’t ever be possible. I fully appreciate the grandeur of this claim – but I stand by it nonetheless. To claim that a given ability will probably not be eventually possible to implement via technology is to laugh in the face of history to some extent.

The main exceptions to this claim are abilities wherein you limit or specify the route of implementation. Thus it probably would not be eventually possible to, say, infer the states of all the atoms comprising the Eifel Tower from the state of a single atom in your fingernail: categories of ability where you specify the implementation as the end-ability – as in the case above, the end ability was to infer the state of all the atoms in the Eifel Tower from the state of a single atom.

These exceptions also serve to illustrate the paramount feature allowing technology to possiblize the seemingly improbable: novel means of implementation. Very often there is a bottleneck in the current system we use to accomplish something that limits the scope of tis abilities and prevents certain objectives from being facilitated by it. In such cases a whole new paradigm of approach is what moves progress forward to realizing that objective. If the goal is the reversal and indefinite remediation of the causes and sources of aging, the paradigms of medicine available at the turn of the 20th century would have seemed to be unable to accomplish such a feat.

The new paradigm of biotechnology and genetic engineering was needed to formulate a scientifically plausible route to the reversal of aging-correlated molecular damage – a paradigm somewhat non-inherent in the medical paradigms and practices common at the turn of the 20th Century. It is the notion of a new route to implementation, a wholly novel way of making the changes that could lead to a given desired objective, that constitutes the real ability-actualizing capacity of technology – and one that such cases of specified implementation fail to take account of.

One might think that there are other clear exceptions to this as well: devices or abilities that contradict the laws of physics as we currently understand them – e.g., perpetual-motion machines. Yet even here we see many historical antecedents exemplifying our short-sighted foresight in regard to “the laws of physics”. Our understanding of the physical “laws” of the universe undergo massive upheaval from generation to generation. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions challenged the predominant view that scientific progress occurred by accumulated development and discovery when he argued that scientific progress is instead driven by the rise of new conceptual paradigms categorically dissimilar to those that preceded it (Kuhn, 1962), and which then define the new predominant directions in research, development, and discovery in almost all areas of scientific discovery and conceptualization.

Kuhn’s insight can be seen to be paralleled by the recent rise in popularity of Singularitarianism, which today seems to have lost its strict association with I.J. Good‘s posited type of intelligence explosion created via recursively self-modifying strong AI, and now seems to encompass any vision of a profound transformation of humanity or society through technological growth, and the introduction of truly disruptive emerging and converging (e.g., NBIC) technologies.

This epistemic paradigm holds that the future is less determined by the smooth progression of existing trends and more by the massive impact of specific technologies and occurrences – the revolution of innovation. Kurzweil’s own version of Singularitarianism (Kurzweil, 2005) uses the systemic progression of trends in order to predict a state of affairs created by the convergence of such trends, wherein the predictable progression of trends points to their own destruction in a sense, as the trends culminate in our inability to predict past that point. We can predict that there are factors that will significantly impede our predictive ability thereafter. Kurzweil’s and Kuhn’s thinking are also paralleled by Buckminster Fuller in his notion of ephemeralization (i.e., doing more with less), the post-industrial information economies and socioeconomic paradigms described by Alvin Toffler (Toffler, 1970), John Naisbitt (Naisbitt 1982), and Daniel Bell (Bell, 1973), among others.

It can also partly be seen to be inherent in almost all formulations of technological determinism, especially variants of what I call reciprocal technological determinism (not simply that technology determines or largely constitutes the determining factors of societal states of affairs, not simply that tech affects culture, but rather than culture affects technology which then affects culture which then affects technology) a là Marshall McLuhan (McLuhan, 1964) . This broad epistemic paradigm, wherein the state of progress is more determined by small but radically disruptive changes, innovation, and deviations rather than the continuation or convergence of smooth and slow-changing trends, can be seen to be inherent in variants of technological determinism because technology is ipso facto (or by its very defining attributes) categorically new and paradigmically disruptive, and if culture is affected significantly by technology, then it is also affected by punctuated instances of unintended radical innovation untended by trends.

That being said, as Kurzweil has noted, a given technological paradigm “grows out of” the paradigm preceding it, and so the extents and conditions of a given paradigm will to some extent determine the conditions and allowances of the next paradigm. But that is not to say that they are predictable; they may be inherent while still remaining non-apparent. After all, the increasing trend of mechanical components’ increasing miniaturization could be seen hundreds of years ago (e.g., Babbage knew that the mechanical precision available via the manufacturing paradigms of his time would impede his ability in realizing his Baggage Engine, but that its implementation would one day be possible by the trend of increasingly precise manufacturing standards), but the fact that it could continue to culminate in the ephemeralization of Bucky Fuller (Fuller, 1976) or the mechanosynthesis of K. Eric Drexler (Drexler, 1986).

Moreover, the types of occurrence allowed by a given scientific or methodological paradigm seem at least intuitively to expand, rather than contract, as we move forward through history. This can be seen lucidly in the rise of Quantum Physics in the early 20th Century, which delivered such conceptual affronts to our intuitive notions of the possible as non-locality (i.e., quantum entanglement – and with it quantum information teleportation and even quantum energy teleportation, or in other words faster-than-light causal correlation between spatially separated physical entities), Einstein’s theory of relativity (which implied such counter-intuitive notions as measurement of quantities being relative to the velocity of the observer, e.g., the passing of time as measured by clocks will be different in space than on earth), and the hidden-variable theory of David Bohm (which implied such notions as the velocity of any one particle being determined by the configuration of the entire universe). These notions belligerently contradict what we feel intuitively to be possible. Here we have claims that such strange abilities as informational and energetic teleportation, faster-than-light causality (or at least faster-than-light correlation of physical and/or informational states) and spacetime dilation are natural, non-technological properties and abilities of the physical universe.

Technology is Man’s foremost mediator of change; it is by and large through the use of technology that we expand the parameters of the possible. This is why the fact that these seemingly fantastic feats were claimed to be possible “naturally”, without technological implementation or mediation, is so significant. The notion that they are possible without technology makes them all the more fantastical and intuitively improbable.

We also sometimes forget the even more fantastic claims of what can be done through the use of technology, such as stellar engineering and mega-scale engineering, made by some of big names in science. There is the Dyson Sphere of Freeman Dyson, which details a technological method of harnessing potentially the entire energetic output of a star (Dyson,  1960). One can also find speculation made by Dyson concerning the ability for “life and communication [to] continue for ever, using a finite store of energy” in an open universe by utilizing smaller and smaller amounts of energy to power slower and slower computationally emulated instances of thought (Dyson, 1979).

There is the Tipler Cylinder (also called the Tipler Time Machine) of Frank J. Tipler, which described a dense cylinder of infinite length rotating about its longitudinal axis to create closed timelike curves (Tipler, 1974). While Tipler speculated that a cylinder of finite length could produce the same effect if rotated fast enough, he didn’t provide a mathematical solution for this second claim. There is also speculation by Tipler on the ability to utilize energy harnessed from gravitational shear created by the forced collapse of the universe at different rates and different directions, which he argues would allow the universe’s computational capacity to diverge to infinity, essentially providing computationally emulated humans and civilizations the ability to run for an infinite duration of subjective time (Tipler, 1986, 1997).

We see such feats of technological grandeur paralleled by Kurt Gödel, who produced an exact solution to the Einstein field equations that describes a cosmological model of a rotating universe (Gödel, 1949). While cosmological evidence (e.g., suggesting that our universe is not a rotating one) indicates that his solution doesn’t describe the universe we live in, it nonetheless constitutes a hypothetically possible cosmology in which time-travel (again, via a closed timelike curve) is possible. And because closed timelike curves seem to require large amounts of acceleration – i.e. amounts not attainable without the use of technology – Gödel’s case constitutes a hypothetical cosmological model allowing for technological time-travel (which might be non-obvious, since Gödel’s case doesn’t involve such technological feats as a rotating cylinder of infinite length, rather being a result derived from specific physical and cosmological – i.e., non-technological – constants and properties).

These are large claims made by large names in science (i.e., people who do not make claims frivolously, and in most cases require quantitative indications of their possibility, often in the form of mathematical solutions, as in the cases mentioned above) and all of which are made possible solely through the use of technology. Such technological feats as the computational emulation of the human nervous system and the technological eradication of involuntary death pale in comparison to the sheer grandeur of the claims and conceptualizations outlined above.

We live in a very strange universe, which is easy to forget midst our feigned mundanity. We have no excuse to express incredulity at Transhumanist and Technoprogressive conceptualizations considering how stoically we accept such notions as the existence of sentient matter (i.e., biological intelligence) or the ability of a genus of great ape to stand on extraterrestrial land.

Thus, one of the most common counter-arguments launched at many Transhumanist and Technoprogressive claims and conceptualizations – namely, technical infeasibility based upon nothing more than incredulity and/or the lack of a definitive historical precedent – is one of the most baseless counter-arguments as well. It would be far more credible to argue for the technical infeasibility of a given endeavor within a certain time-frame. Not only do we have little, if any, indication that a given ability or endeavor will fail to eventually become realizable via technology given enough development-time, but we even have historical indication of the very antithesis of this claim, in the form of the many, many instances in which a given endeavor or feat was said to be impossible, only to be realized via technological mediation thereafter.

It is high time we accepted the fallibility of base incredulity and the infeasibility of the technical-infeasibility argument. I remain stoically incredulous at the audacity of fundamental incredulity, for nothing should be incredulous to man, who makes his own credibility in any case, and who is most at home in the necessary superfluous.

Franco Cortese is an editor for Transhumanity.net, as well as one of its most frequent contributors.  He has also published articles and essays on Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. He contributed 4 essays and 7 debate responses to the digital anthology Human Destiny is to Eliminate Death: Essays, Rants and Arguments About Immortality.

Franco is an Advisor for Lifeboat Foundation (on its Futurists Board and its Life Extension Board) and contributes regularly to its blog.

References

Bell, D. (1973). “The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting, Daniel Bell.” New York: Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-01281-7.

Dyson, F. (1960) “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation”. Science 131: 1667-1668.

Dyson, F. (1979). “Time without end: Physics and biology in an open universe,” Reviews of Modern Physics 51 (3): 447-460.

Fuller, R.B. (1938). “Nine Chains to the Moon.” Anchor Books pp. 252–59.

Gödel, K. (1949). “An example of a new type of cosmological solution of Einstein’s field equations of gravitation”. Rev. Mod. Phys. 21 (3): 447–450.

Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962). “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1st ed.).” University of Chicago Press. LCCN 62019621.

Kurzweil, R. (2005). “The Singularity is Near.” Penguin Books.

Mcluhan, M. (1964). “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”. 1st Ed. McGraw Hill, NY.

Niasbitt, J. (1982). “Megatrends.” Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives. Warner Books.

Tipler, F. (1974) “Rotating Cylinders and Global Causality Violation”. Physical Review D9, 2203-2206.

Tipler, F. (1986). “Cosmological Limits on Computation”, International Journal of Theoretical Physics 25 (6): 617-661.

Tipler, F. (1997). The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-46798-2.

Toffler, A. (1970). “Future shock.” New York: Random House.

How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self – Video by G. Stolyarov II

How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self – Video by G. Stolyarov II

When we seek indefinite life, what is it that we are fundamentally seeking to preserve? Mr. Stolyarov discusses what is necessary for the preservation of “I-ness” – an individual’s direct vantage point: the thoughts and sensations of a person as that person experiences them directly.

Once you are finished with this video, you can take a quiz and earn the “I-ness” Awareness Open Badge.

Reference

– “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

Strategies for Hastening the Arrival of Indefinite Life Extension – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Strategies for Hastening the Arrival of Indefinite Life Extension – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 3, 2013
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We are still several decades away from a time when medical technology will be able keep senescence and death at bay. What can we do until then to hasten the arrival of radical extension and to improve our own chances of benefiting from it? I recently offered my thoughts on this matter on an Immortal Life debate/discussion thread. My proposed approach is versatile and can be distilled into five essential points.

1. Personal Good Health. Each advocate of indefinite life extension should try to personally remain in good health as long as possible. This mostly involves common-sense practices (exercise, moderation in food, as well as avoidance of harmful substances, dangerous habits, and risky pleasures).

2. Utilization of Comparative Advantage. Each advocate of indefinite life extension should work to advance it in the areas where he/she has a comparative advantage. I am sympathetic to Peter Wicks’s statements in this regard – with the caveat that finding what one is best at is an iterative process that requires trying out many approaches and pursuits to discover one’s strengths and the best ways of actualizing them. Moreover, an individual may have multiple areas of strength, and in that case should discover how best to synthesize those areas and use them complementarily. But, crucially, one should not feel constrained to personally follow specific career paths, such as biogerontological research. Rather, one could make a more substantial contribution by maximally utilizing one’s areas of strength, knowledge, and expertise – and contributing some of the proceeds to research on and advocacy of indefinite life extension.

3. Advocacy. As Aubrey de Grey has put it, insufficient funding is a major obstacle to the progress of life-extension research at present. The scientists who are capable of carrying out the research are already here, and they are motivated. They need more support in the form of donations, which can be achieved with enough advocacy and persuasion of the general public (as well as wealthy philanthropists). In this respect, I agree with Franco Cortese that an additional promoter today may make more of a difference than an additional researcher, because the work of the promoters may ensure steady employment for the researchers in the field of anti-aging interventions. My Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE) page catalogues a sampling of the major advances in fighting disease and developing new promising technologies that have occurred in the past several years. If only more people knew… The Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) attempts to raise this awareness and has been gaining support and recognition at an encouraging pace. You can add to this progress by exploring and liking the MILE Facebook page.

4. Forthrightness. It is important for all advocates of indefinite life extension to be open about their views and to be ready to justify them – even casually and in passing. The idea needs to be made sufficiently commonplace that most people will not only take it seriously but will consider it to be a respectable position within public discourse. At that point, increased funding for research will come.

5. Innovative Education. As my previous points imply, education is key. But education on indefinite life extension needs to be made appealing not just in terms of content, but in terms of the learning process. This is where creativity should be utilized to create an engaging, entertaining, and addictive open curriculum of reading materials and digital certifications, compatible with an Open Badge infrastructure. I have begun to do this with several multiple-choice quizzes pertaining to some of my articles, and I welcome and encourage any similar efforts by others.

“I-ness” Awareness – Quiz and Badge – Fourth in TRA’s Series on Indefinite Life Extension

“I-ness” Awareness – Quiz and Badge – Fourth in TRA’s Series on Indefinite Life Extension

i-ness_awareness

G. Stolyarov II
March 30, 2013
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The Rational Argumentator is proud to announce the fourth in its planned series of quizzes on indefinite life extension, a companion activity to the Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE) page.

"I-ness" Awareness Quiz

Read “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” by G. Stolyarov II and answer the questions in the quiz below, in accordance with the essay. If you get 100% of the questions correct, you will earn the “I-ness” Awareness badge, the fourth badge in The Rational Argumentator’s interactive educational series on indefinite life extension.  You will need a free account with Mozilla Backpack to receive the badge.

This badge was designed by Wendy Stolyarov, whose art you can see here, here, and here.

Leaderboard: "I-ness" Awareness Quiz

maximum of 7 points
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How Will Religions Respond to Indefinite Life Extension? – Article by G. Stolyarov II

How Will Religions Respond to Indefinite Life Extension? – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 25, 2013
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I was asked, on a recent Immortal Life discussion/debate thread to address the question of whether religions would become obsolete in an era of indefinite human life extension.

This is another topic on which I created a video in early 2012 – “Religion and Indefinite Life Extension”.

To summarize, in my (atheistic) view, religions are generally not animating forces of societal change. Rather, they tend to be barometers of prevailing attitudes approximately one generation in the past. Often, religions get dragged along into making progress by intellectual developments outside religion – in the same way that, as a result of the 18th-century Enlightenment, various Christian denominations gradually transitioned away from providing Biblical justifications for slavery and toward denouncing slavery on Christian grounds. The impetus for this transformation was the rise of ideas of reason, individualism, and natural rights – not the doctrines of the Christian religion.

I suspect that there will be a broad spectrum of responses among various religious denominations and their followers to the prospect of indefinite life extension, once most people begin to see it as within their individual grasp. In Christianity, on the cutting edge will be those Christians who interpret the message of the resurrection (a literal resurrection in the flesh, according to actual Christian doctrine) to be compatible with transhumanist technologies. (We already see the beginnings of forward-thinking interpretations of religion with the Mormon Transhumanists.) On the other hand, the more staid, dogmatic, ossified religious denominations and sects will try to resist technological change vigorously, and will not be above attempting to hold the entire world’s progress back, merely to make their own creeds more convincing to their followers. Historically, religions have served two primary societal roles: (1) to form a justification for the existing social order and (2) to assuage people’s fears of death. The first role has atrophied over time in societies with religious freedom. The second role will also diminish as radical life extension in this world becomes a reality. Religions do evolve, though, and the interpretations of religion that ultimately prevail will (I hope) be the more peaceful, humane, and progress-friendly ones. At the same time, proportions of non-religious people in all populations will rise, as has been the trend already.