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I am the Lifespan – Video by G. Stolyarov II

I am the Lifespan – Video by G. Stolyarov II

G. Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, discusses why longevity research is crucial, and how our generation stands on the threshold of finally dealing a decisive blow to the age-old enemies of aging and death, which have destroyed great human minds since the emergence of our species.

This video is part of the #IAmTheLifespan campaign, coordinated by Lifespan.io and the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) for Longevity Month, October 2017. Read more about this campaign here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

Visit the website of the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion on Prosthetics, Neuroscience, and the Future of Human Potential

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion on Prosthetics, Neuroscience, and the Future of Human Potential

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

Bobby Ridge

Scott Jurgens

September 18, 2017


References

– Hugh Herr – “The new bionics that let us run, climb, and dance” – TED – March 2014
– LimbForge – Enable Community Foundation
– Autodesk Fusion 360
– Thingiverse
– “Metal Gear Solid 5 Inspires an Amazing Prosthetic Arm” – Kendall Ashley – Nerdist – May 23, 2016

Learn more about the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Interview with Bobby Ridge

U.S. Transhumanist Party Interview with Bobby Ridge

The New Renaissance Hat
Gennady Stolyarov II and Bobby Ridge
July 8, 2017
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Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, interviews Bobby Ridge, a researcher into transhumanist philosophy and the scientific method and the new Secretary-Treasurer of the United States and Nevada Transhumanist Parties.

Watch this conversation regarding the subjects of Mr. Ridge’s research, the scientific method, and transhumanism more generally.

Bobby Ridge has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Science from California State University of Sacramento (CSUS) and is striving to achieve his MD in Neurology. He only recently became a Transhumanist. He conducts research for CSUS’s Psychology Department and his own personal research on the epistemology and Scientiometrics of the Scientific Method. He also co-owns Togo’s in Citrus Heights, CA. Mr. Ridge considers transhumanism to describe the future of humanity taking its next steps in evolution, which are both puissant and daunting. With the exponential increase in information technology, Mr. Ridge considers it important for us to become a science-based species to prevent a dystopian-type future from occurring.

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

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out this form.

The Transhumanist Party: New Politics for Life Extension and Technological Progress – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The Transhumanist Party: New Politics for Life Extension and Technological Progress – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
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Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, discusses the progress made in late 2016 and early 2017 and the goals of transhumanist politics – how the advocacy of emerging technologies and life extension in a political context sets the Transhumanist Party’s approach apart from mainstream politics.

This presentation was delivered virtually on January 27, 2017, to a meeting of People Unlimited in Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of People Unlimited’s Ageless Education speaker series. After the conclusion of his remarks, Mr. Stolyarov answered several questions from the audience.

Find out more about the Transhumanist Party at http://transhumanist-party.org/.

Become a member for free by filling out the Membership Application Form.

Read Version 2.0 of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights here.

View the Platform of the Transhumanist Party here.

Crowdfunding Longevity Science: An Interview with Keith Comito of Lifespan.io – Article by Reason

Crowdfunding Longevity Science: An Interview with Keith Comito of Lifespan.io – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance HatReason
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Keith Comito leads the volunteers of the non-profit Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) and the crowdfunding initiative Lifespan.io, a site I’m sure you’ve seen at least in passing by now. The LEAF crew have put in a lot of effort to help make fundraisers for rejuvenation research projects a success both last year and this year. Two such crowdfunding campaigns are running right now, firstly senolytic drug research at the Major Mouse Testing Program with just a few days left to go, and in its stretch goals, and secondly the recently launched drug discovery for ALT cancers at the SENS Research Foundation. Both tie in to the SENS portfolio of research programs aimed at effective treatment of aging and all age-related conditions. These are large projects when taken as a whole, but the way forward in this as in all things is to pick out smaller, achievable goals, and set out to get them done. Then repeat as necessary.

I recently had the chance to ask Keith Comito a few questions about Lifespan.io, the state of funding for the interesting end of longevity science, and what he envisages for the years ahead. This is an interesting, revolutionary time for the life sciences, in which progress in biotechnology has made early stage research very cheap. A great deal can be accomplished at the cutting edge of medical science given access to an established lab, administrators who can break out small initiatives from the larger goals, smart young researchers, and a few tens of thousands of dollars. It is an age in which we can all help to advance the research we care about, by collaborating and donating, and it has never been easier to just reach out and talk to the scientists involved. If you haven’t taken a look at Lifespan.io and donated to one of the projects there, then you really should. This is a way to move the needle on aging research, and advance that much closer to effective treatments for the causes of aging.

Quote:

What is the Lifespan.io story in brief? What was the spur that made you come together and decide to do your part in the fight against aging?

Lifespan.io began to take shape at the tail end of 2012, as a result of a loose discussion group based in New York which consisted of citizen scientists such as myself and Dr. Oliver Medvedik, supporters of SENS, as well as a few healthcare practitioners. We began having monthly meetings to discuss what could be done to accelerate longevity research (usually in oddball locations like salad bars or subterranean Japanese restaurants befitting our motley crew) and eventually hit upon the idea of crowdfunding. What drew us to this idea was that it was something tangible: a concrete way to move the needle on important research not only through funds, but through raised awareness. It is fine to talk and rabble-rouse about longevity, but we felt such efforts would be much more effective if they were paired with a clear and consistent call to action – a path to walk the walk, so to speak. As this idea coalesced we formed the nonprofit LEAF to support this initiative, and the rest is history. Not every one from the initial discussions in 2012 remained throughout the intervening years, but we are thankful to all who gave us ideas in those early days of the movement.

I’d like to hear your take on why we have to advocate and raise funds at all – why the whole world isn’t rising up in support of treatments for the causes of aging.

The reasons why people and society at large have not prioritized anti-aging research thus far are myriad: fear of radical change, a history of failed attempts making it seem like a fools errand, long timescales making it a difficult issue for election-focused politicians to support, etc. The reason I find most personally interesting relates to cognitive bias – specifically the fact that our built-in mental hardware is ill-equipped to handle questions like “do you want to live 100 more years?” If instead you ask the questions “Do you want to be alive tomorrow?” and “Given that your health and that of your loved ones remains the same, do you suspect your answer to the first question will change tomorrow?”, the answers tend to be more positive.

This leads me to conclude that the state of affairs is not necessarily as depressing for our cause as it might appear, and that reframing the issue of healthy life extension in a way that will inspire and unite the broader populace is possible. Aubrey de Grey has spoken about “Longevity Escape Velocity” in relation to the bootstrapping of biomedical research, but I think the same idea applies to the public perception of life extension as well. The sooner we can galvanize the public to support therapies that yield positive results the easier it will become to invite others to join in this great work. It is all about jump starting the positive feedback loop, and that is why we believe rallying the crowd behind critical research and trumpeting these successes publicly is so vitally important.

What the future plans for Lifespan.io and the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation?

In addition to scaling up our ability to run successful campaigns on Lifespan.io, we look forward to improving our infrastructure at LEAF by bringing on some staff members to join the team. LEAF has largely been a volunteer effort thus far, and having the support of a staff will allow us to take on more campaigns as well as further improve the workflow to create and promote them. This will also free me up personally to more actively pursue potential grand slams for the movement, such as collaborations with prominent YouTube science channels to engage the public and policy related goals like the inclusion of a more useful classification of aging in the ICD-11.

Do you have any favored areas in research at the moment? Is there any particular field for which you’d like to see researchers approaching you for collaboration?

Senolytics is certainly an exciting area of research right now (congratulations Major Mouse Testing Program!), and a combination of successful senolytics with stem cell therapies could be a potential game changer. That being said I’d also like to see projects which address the truly core mechanics of aging, such as how damage is aggregated during stem cell division, and the potential differences in this process between somatic and germ cells. How can the germ line renew itself for essentially infinity? The real mystery here is not that we grow old, but how we are born young.

A related question: where do you see aging and longevity research going over the next few years?

In the near future we will likely continue to see the pursuit of compounds which restore bodily systems failing with age to a more youthful state. This will include validating in higher organisms molecules that have shown this sort of promise: rapamycin, metformin, IL-33 for Alzheimer’s, etc. This approach may sound incremental, but it actually signals a great paradigm shift from the old system of mostly ineffective “preventative measures” such as antioxidants. Things like nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), IL-33 – if successful these types of therapies can be applied when you are old, and help restore your bodily systems to youthful levels. That would be a pretty big deal.

Funding is ever the battle in the sciences, and especially for aging. Obviously you have strong opinions on this topic. How can we change this situation for the better?

I believe the key to greater funding, both from public and private sources, is to build up an authentic and powerful grassroots movement in support of healthy life extension. Not only can such a movement raise funds directly, but it also communicates to businesses and governments that this is an issue worth supporting. An instructive example to look at here is the work of Mary Lasker and Sydney Farber to bring about the “War on Cancer”. Through galvanizing the public with efforts such as the “Jimmy Fund”, they effected social and political change on the issue, and helped turn cancer from a pariah disease into a national priority. If we all work together to build an inclusive and action-orientated movement, we can do the same.

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.

 

Which Culture Can Make 120 Years Old the Prime of Life? – Article by Edward Hudgins

Which Culture Can Make 120 Years Old the Prime of Life? – Article by Edward Hudgins

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
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Emma Morano, age 116, is the last person alive born in the nineteenth century. New cutting-edge technologies could mean that more than a few people born at the end of the twentieth century will be in the prime of life when they reach that age. But this future will require a culture of reason that is currently dying out in our world.
emma_morano
Is the secret to a long life raw eggs or genetics?
Signorina Morano was born in Italy on Nov 29, 1899. On the recent passing of Susannah Mushatt Jones, who was born a few months before her, Morano inherited the title of world’s oldest person. She still has a ways to go to best the longevity record of the confirmed oldest person who ever lived, Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) who made it to 122.Every oldster offers their secret to long life. Morano attributes her feat to remaining single, adding that she likes to eat raw eggs. But the reason living things die, no matter what their diet, is genetic. Cellular senescence, the fancy word for aging, means the cells of almost every organism are programmed to break down at some point. Almost, because at least one organism, the hydra, a tiny fresh-water animal, seems not to age.

Defying death
Researches are trying to discover what makes the hydra tick so that they find ways to reprogram human cells so we will stop aging. As fantastic as this sounds, it is just one part of a techno-revolution that could allow us to live decades or even centuries longer while retaining our health and mental faculties. Indeed, the week the Morano story ran, both the Washington Post and New York Times featured stories about scientists who approach aging not as an unavoidable part of our nature but as a disease that can be cured.

Since 2001, the cost of sequencing a human genome has dropped from $100 million to just over $1,000. This is spurring an explosion in bio-hacking to figure out how to eliminate ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. We also see nanotechnology dealing with failing kidneys. New high-tech devices deal with blindness and other such disabilities.

An achievement culture and longevity
But this bright future could be fading. Here’s why.

The source of all human achievement is the human mind, our power to understand our world and thus to control it for our own benefit; Ayn Rand called machines “the frozen form of a living intelligence.”

But America, the country that put humans on the Moon, is becoming the stupid country. Despite increased government education spending, test results in science and most other subjects have remained flat for decades. On international ratings, American students are behind students in most other developed countries. It’s a good thing America still has a relatively open immigration policy! Many of the tech people here come from overseas, especially India, because America still offers enough opportunity to make up for its failing schools.

Apollo_11_nasa-69-hc-916am

The deeper problem is found in the prevailing values in our culture. In the 1950s and ‘60s many young people, inspired by the quest for the Moon, aspired to be scientists and engineers, to train their minds. Many went into the research labs of private firms that became the production leaders of the world. It was a culture that celebrated achievement.

Today, many young people, perverted by leftist dogma, hunger to be political enforcers, to train themselves in power and manipulation. Many go into campaigns and government to wrest wealth from producers to pay for “entitlements,” and to make the country more “equal” by tearing producers down. A growing portion of the culture demonizes achievement and envious of success.

Were they to live for 120 healthy years, individuals with the older, pro-achievement values would find their souls even more enriched by their extended careers of achievement. But individuals in the newer, anti-achievement culture would find their souls embittered as they focused enviously on degrading their productive fellows.

All who want long lives worth living need to not only promote science but also the values of reason and achievement. That’s the way to create a pro-longevity culture.

Explore

Edward Hudgins, “Google, Entrepreneurs, and Living 500 Years.” March 12, 2015.

Edward Hudgins, “How Anti-Individualist Fallacies Prevent Us from Curing Death.” April 22, 2015.

Bradley Doucet, “Book Review: The Green-Eyed Monster.” March 2008.

David Kelley, “Hatred of the Good.” April 2008.

Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar for The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism in Washington, D.C.

Copyright The Atlas Society. For more information, please visit www.atlassociety.org.

How Networks Topple Scientific Dogmas – Article by Max Borders

How Networks Topple Scientific Dogmas – Article by Max Borders

The New Renaissance HatMax Borders
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The Peer-to-Peer Republic of Science

Science is undergoing a wrenching evolutionary change.

In fact, most of what we consider to be carried out in the name of science is dubious at best, flat wrong at worst. It appears we’re putting too much faith in science — particularly the kind of science that relies on reproducibility.

In a University of Virginia meta-study, half of 100 psychology study results could not be reproduced.

Experts making social science prognostications turned out to be mostly wrong, according to political science writer Philip Tetlock’s decades-long review of expert forecasts.

But there is perhaps no more egregious example of bad expert advice than in the area of health and nutrition. As I wrote last year for Voice & Exit:

For most of our lives, we’ve been taught some variation on the food pyramid. The advice? Eat mostly breads and cereals, then fruits and vegetables, and very little fat and protein. Do so and you’ll be thinner and healthier. Animal fat and butter were considered unhealthy. Certain carbohydrate-rich foods were good for you as long as they were whole grain. Most of us anchored our understanding about food to that idea.

“Measures used to lower the plasma lipids in patients with hyperlipidemia will lead to reductions in new events of coronary heart disease,” said the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1971. (“How Networks Bring Down Experts (The Paleo Example),” March 12, 2015)

The so-called “lipid theory” had the support of the US surgeon general. Doctors everywhere fell in line behind the advice. Saturated fats like butter and bacon became public enemy number one. People flocked to the supermarket to buy up “heart healthy” margarines. And yet, Americans were getting fatter.

But early in the 21st century something interesting happened: people began to go against the grain (no pun) and they started talking about their small experiments eating saturated fat. By 2010, the lipid hypothesis — not to mention the USDA food pyramid — was dead. Forty years of nutrition orthodoxy had been upended. Now the experts are joining the chorus from the rear.

The Problem Goes Deeper

But the problem doesn’t just affect the soft sciences, according to science writer Ron Bailey:

The Stanford statistician John Ioannidis sounded the alarm about our science crisis 10 years ago. “Most published research findings are false,” Ioannidis boldly declared in a seminal 2005 PLOS Medicine article. What’s worse, he found that in most fields of research, including biomedicine, genetics, and epidemiology, the research community has been terrible at weeding out the shoddy work largely due to perfunctory peer review and a paucity of attempts at experimental replication.

Richard Horton of the Lancet writes, “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.” And according Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman, writing in Vox,

Another review found that researchers at Amgen were unable to reproduce 89 percent of landmark cancer research findings for potential drug targets. (The problem even inspired a satirical publication called the Journal of Irreproducible Results.)

Contrast the progress of science in these areas with that of applied sciences such as computer science and engineering, where more market feedback mechanisms are in place. It’s the difference between Moore’s Law and Murphy’s Law.

So what’s happening?

Science’s Evolution

Three major catalysts are responsible for the current upheaval in the sciences. First, a few intrepid experts have started looking around to see whether studies in their respective fields are holding up. Second, competition among scientists to grab headlines is becoming more intense. Third, informal networks of checkers — “amateurs” — have started questioning expert opinion and talking to each other. And the real action is in this third catalyst, creating as it does a kind of evolutionary fitness landscape for scientific claims.

In other words, for the first time, the cost of checking science is going down as the price of being wrong is going up.

Now, let’s be clear. Experts don’t like having their expertise checked and rechecked, because their dogmas get called into question. When dogmas are challenged, fame, funding, and cushy jobs are at stake. Most will fight tooth and nail to stay on the gravy train, which can translate into coming under the sway of certain biases. It could mean they’re more likely to cherry-pick their data, exaggerate their results, or ignore counterexamples. Far more rarely, it can mean they’re motivated to engage in outright fraud.

Method and Madness

Not all of the fault for scientific error lies with scientists, per se. Some of it lies with methodologies and assumptions most of us have taken for granted for years. Social and research scientists have far too much faith in data aggregation, a process that can drop the important circumstances of time and place. Many researchers make inappropriate inferences and predictions based on a narrow band of observed data points that are plucked from wider phenomena in a complex system. And, of course, scientists are notoriously good at getting statistics to paint a picture that looks like their pet theories.

Some sciences even have their own holy scriptures, like psychology’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. These guidelines, when married with government funding, lobbyist influence, or insurance payouts, can protect incomes but corrupt practice.

But perhaps the most significant methodological problem with science is overreliance on the peer-review process. Peer review can perpetuate groupthink, the cartelization of knowledge, and the compounding of biases.

The Problem with Expert Opinion

The problem with expert opinion is that it is often cloistered and restrictive. When science starts to seem like a walled system built around a small group of elites (many of whom are only sharing ideas with each other) — hubris can take hold. No amount of training or smarts can keep up with an expansive network of people who have a bigger stake in finding the truth than in shoring up the walls of a guild or cartel.

It’s true that to some degree, we have to rely on experts and scientists. It’s a perfectly natural part of specialization and division of labor that some people will know more about some things than you, and that you are likely to need their help at some point. (I try to stay away from accounting, and I am probably not very good at brain surgery, either.) But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t question authority, even when the authority knows more about their field than we do.

The Power of Networks

But when you get an army of networked people — sometimes amateurs — thinking, talking, tinkering, and toying with ideas — you can hasten a proverbial paradigm shift. And this is exactly what we are seeing.

It’s becoming harder for experts to count on the vagaries and denseness of their disciplines to keep their power. But it’s in cross-disciplinary pollination of the network that so many different good ideas can sprout and be tested.

The best thing that can happen to science is that it opens itself up to everyone, even people who are not credentialed experts. Then, let the checkers start to talk to each other. Leaders, influencers, and force-multipliers will emerge. You might think of them as communications hubs or bigger nodes in a network. Some will be cranks and hacks. But the best will emerge, and the cranks will be worked out of the system in time.

The network might include a million amateurs willing to give a pair of eyes or a different perspective. Most in this army of experimenters get results and share their experiences with others in the network. What follows is a wisdom-of-crowds phenomenon. Millions of people not only share results, but challenge the orthodoxy.

How Networks Contribute to the Republic of Science

In his legendary 1962 essay, “The Republic of Science,” scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi wrote the following passage. It beautifully illustrates the problems of science and of society, and it explains how they will be solved in the peer-to-peer age:

Imagine that we are given the pieces of a very large jigsaw puzzle, and suppose that for some reason it is important that our giant puzzle be put together in the shortest possible time. We would naturally try to speed this up by engaging a number of helpers; the question is in what manner these could be best employed.

Polanyi says you could progress through multiple parallel-but-individual processes. But the way to cooperate more effectively

is to let them work on putting the puzzle together in sight of the others so that every time a piece of it is fitted in by one helper, all the others will immediately watch out for the next step that becomes possible in consequence. Under this system, each helper will act on his own initiative, by responding to the latest achievements of the others, and the completion of their joint task will be greatly accelerated. We have here in a nutshell the way in which a series of independent initiatives are organized to a joint achievement by mutually adjusting themselves at every successive stage to the situation created by all the others who are acting likewise.

Just imagine if Polanyi had lived to see the Internet.

This is the Republic of Science. This is how smart people with different interests and skill sets can help put together life’s great puzzles.

In the Republic of Science, there is certainly room for experts. But they are hubs among nodes. And in this network, leadership is earned not by sitting atop an institutional hierarchy with the plumage of a postdoc, but by contributing, experimenting, communicating, and learning with the rest of a larger hive mind. This is science in the peer-to-peer age.

Max Borders is Director of Idea Accounts and Creative Development for Emergent Order. He was previously the editor of the Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also cofounder of the event experience Voice & Exit.

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

On Soda Taxes and Purported Health Benefits – Article by Peter Van Doren

On Soda Taxes and Purported Health Benefits – Article by Peter Van Doren

The New Renaissance HatPeter Van Doren
October 27, 2015
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This week, the New York Times editorial board wrote in support of greater taxes on sweetened drinks, citing new research from a team Mexican and American researchers. They praise the novel design of the tax, which is levied on drink distributors rather than consumers. This caused the tax to be included in shelf prices, making the increase in total cost clear to consumers. The research found that soda consumption fell 12 percent in a year, and 17 percent among the poorest Mexicans.

The Times admits that we do not know whether any health benefits will actually result from soda taxes.  In this article in Regulation, the University of Pennsylvania’s Jonathan Klick and Claremont McKenna’s Eric Helland examined the effects of soda taxes. They conclude that a one percent increase in soda taxes led to a five percent reduction in soda consumption among young people.  But consumers substituted to other beverages.  A 6-calorie reduction in soda consumption was accompanied by an 8-calorie increase in milk consumption and a 2-calorie increase in juice consumption. Thus, the tax on soda led to an increase in overall calorie consumption, which offset the benefits of falling soda consumption. Moreover, there was “no statistically significant effect of soda taxes on body weight or the likelihood of being obese or overweight”.

Peter Van Doren is editor of the quarterly journal Regulation and an expert in the regulation of housing, land, energy, the environment, transportation, and labor. He has taught at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (Princeton University), the School of Organization and Management (Yale University), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 1987 to 1988 he was the postdoctoral fellow in political economy at Carnegie Mellon University. His writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Journal of Commerce, and the New York Post. Van Doren has also appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox News Channel, and Voice of America.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his master’s degree and doctorate from Yale University.

This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Is the FDA Too Conservative or Too Aggressive? – Article by Alex Tabarrok

Is the FDA Too Conservative or Too Aggressive? – Article by Alex Tabarrok

The New Renaissance HatAlex Tabarrok
September 21, 2015
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I have long argued that the FDA has an incentive to delay the introduction of new drugs because approving a bad drug (Type I error) has more severe consequences for the FDA than does failing to approve a good drug (Type II error). In the former case at least some victims are identifiable and the New York Times writes stories about them and how they died because the FDA failed. In the latter case, when the FDA fails to approve a good drug, people die but the bodies are buried in an invisible graveyard.

In an excellent new paper (SSRN also here) Vahid Montazerhodjat and Andrew Lo use a Bayesian analysis to model the optimal tradeoff in clinical trials between sample size, Type I and Type II error. Failing to approve a good drug is more costly, for example, the more severe the disease. Thus, for a very serious disease, we might be willing to accept a greater Type I error in return for a lower Type II error. The number of people with the disease also matters. Holding severity constant, for example, the more people with the disease the more you want to increase sample size to reduce Type I error. All of these variables interact.

In an innovation the authors use the U.S. Burden of Disease Study to find the number of deaths and the disability severity caused by each major disease. Using this data they estimate the costs of failing to approve a good drug. Similarly, using data on the costs of adverse medical treatment they estimate the cost of approving a bad drug.

Putting all this together the authors find that the FDA is often dramatically too conservative:

…we show that the current standards of drug-approval are weighted more on avoiding a Type I error (approving ineffective therapies) rather than a Type II error (rejecting effective therapies). For example, the standard Type I error of 2.5% is too conservative for clinical trials of therapies for pancreatic cancer—a disease with a 5-year survival rate of 1% for stage IV patients (American Cancer Society estimate, last updated 3 February 2013). The BDA-optimal size for these clinical trials is 27.9%, reflecting the fact that, for these desperate patients, the cost of trying an ineffective drug is considerably less than the cost of not trying an effective one.

(The authors also find that the FDA is occasionally a little too aggressive but these errors are much smaller, for example, the authors find that for prostate cancer therapies the optimal significance level is 1.2% compared to a standard rule of 2.5%.)

The result is important especially because in a number of respects, Montazerhodjat and Lo underestimate the costs of FDA conservatism. Most importantly, the authors are optimizing at the clinical trial stage assuming that the supply of drugs available to be tested is fixed. Larger trials, however, are more expensive and the greater the expense of FDA trials the fewer new drugs will be developed. Thus, a conservative FDA reduces the flow of new drugs to be tested. In a sense, failing to approve a good drug has two costs, the opportunity cost of lives that could have been saved and the cost of reducing the incentive to invest in R&D. In contrast, approving a bad drug while still an error at least has the advantage of helping to incentivize R&D (similarly, a subsidy to R&D incentivizes R&D in a sense mostly by covering the costs of failed ventures).

The Montazerhodjat and Lo framework is also static, there is one test and then the story ends. In reality, drug approval has an interesting asymmetric dynamic. When a drug is approved for sale, testing doesn’t stop but moves into another stage, a combination of observational testing and sometimes more RCTs–this, after all, is how adverse events are discovered. Thus, Type I errors are corrected. On the other hand, for a drug that isn’t approved the story does end. With rare exceptions, Type II errors are never corrected. The Montazerhodjat and Lo framework could be interpreted as the reduced form of this dynamic process but it’s better to think about the dynamism explicitly because it suggests that approval can come in a range–for example, approval with a black label warning, approval with evidence grading and so forth. As these procedures tend to reduce the costs of Type I error they tend to increase the costs of FDA conservatism.

Montazerhodjat and Lo also don’t examine the implications of heterogeneity of preferences or of disease morbidity and mortality. Some people, for example, are severely disabled by diseases that on average aren’t very severe–the optimal tradeoff for these patients will be different than for the average patient. One size doesn’t fit all. In the standard framework it’s tough luck for these patients. But if the non-FDA reviewing apparatus (patients/physicians/hospitals/HMOs/USP/Consumer Reports and so forth) works relatively well, and this is debatable but my work on off-label prescribing suggests that it does, this weighs heavily in favor of relatively large samples but low thresholds for approval. What the FDA is really providing is information and we don’t need product bans to convey information. Thus, heterogeneity plus a reasonable effective post-testing choice process, mediates in favor of a Consumer Reports model for the FDA.

The bottom line, however, is that even without taking into account these further points, Montazerhodjat and Lo find that the FDA is far too conservative especially for severe diseases. FDA regulations may appear to be creating safe and effective drugs but they are also creating a deadly caution.

Hat tip: David Balan.

This post first appeared at Marginal Revolution.

Alex Tabarrok is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at Marginal Revolution with Tyler Cowen. 
Spreading the Word That Death is Wrong – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Spreading the Word That Death is Wrong – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
Gennady Stolyarov II
March 29, 2014
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Who could have thought a month ago that an illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension would become a fiercely, passionately discussed phenomenon not just in transhumanist and futurist circles, but on mainstream publications and forums? And yet that is exactly what has happened to Death is Wrong – certainly the most influential and provocative of all of my endeavors to date. I am thrilled that it is precisely my pursuit of this most fundamental and precious goal – preservation of the life of every innocent individual – that has achieved greater public exposure, controversy included, than anything else I have ever done.

Our Indiegogo fundraiser to spread 1000 copies of Death is Wrong to children, free of charge, is gaining momentum and has exceeded 50% of our $5000 goal. (Funds pledged stood at $2,690, or 53.8% of the goal, as of March 30, 2014.) The generosity of our 60 donors so far has been tremendously encouraging and inspiring to me. Anything can still happen until the April 23 deadline, and spreading the word about this effort has been my top priority for my discretionary time. The distribution effort has also been jump-started, with 77 books sent out to longevity activists already. The books will have an international reach; 50 of them have been sent to the United Kingdom and 5 to Poland, while the remaining 22 were sent to activists in the United States. The  US and UK shipments have arrived already, while the shipment to Poland is en route. The funds that were pledged via PayPal presently allow for immediate shipment of at least 107 additional books to those who seek to distribute them. I continue to post regular updates regarding the fundraiser’s resources and recent developments on the Indiegogo Updates page as well as on The Rational Argumentator.

The instructions to request copies of Death is Wrong for distribution to children remain the same:

  • Send an e-mail to gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com.
  • Provide your name, your mailing address, a statement of your support for indefinite life extension, and a brief description of your plan to spread the book to children in your local area. Remember that all copies received pursuant to this initiative would need to be offered to children free of charge (as gifts or reading opportunities) and may not be resold.
  • Provide the number of copies of Death is Wrong that you are requesting.
  • Preferably, provide an indication that you would be willing to send photographs of the books that have been delivered to you as well as events where you will be distributing the books.

I cannot express enough gratitude to the many people who have been diligently spreading the word about Death is Wrong and the fundraiser, and who have contributed their time and talents pro bono to help make this endeavor a success. One such individual is Peter Caramico, a filmmaker and advocate of life extension and cryonics, who has, in affiliation with LongeCity, developed a beautiful outreach video for Death is Wrong. The video is narrated by me and my wife and illustrator Wendy Stolyarov and utilizes some of the art from the book, along with additional inspiring images. You can see a preliminary version here on Peter’s Cryonics Culture video channel. I hope to spread this video soon to galvanize support for the book and its message – but it is, in its own right, a work of great potential impact for the ideas of life extension.

March 2014 has been a month of whirlwind publicity for Death is Wrong. The month began with an appearance by Wendy and me at the Transhuman Visions 2.0 Conference in Piedmont, CA, on March 1. This was an excellent opportunity to present the book to a future-oriented audience and to engage in many one-on-one conversations afterward. You can see a video of our presentation here and download the presentation slides in PDF and PowerPoint formats.

Numerous stories on Death is Wrong have appeared in high-profile online publications. I am most pleased with the articles whose authors performed thorough research on the book and contacted me directly with thoughtful questions. Leanne Butkovic of Fast Company and Rebecca Hiscott of Mashable published fair and accurate stories. I was also pleased to be interviewed on March 22 by Richard (RJ) Eskow on his program The Zero Hour. The 9.5-minute discussion included a brief introduction to the book, recent reactions to it, the morality of fighting death, how defeating senescence might motivate people to more resolutely combat and avert other perils and risks, and why I aim to spread the ideas of indefinite life extension to children. Mr. Eskow offers on The Zero Hour a thoughtful and intelligent forum for the serious consideration of both contemporary and emerging issues, including transformative future technologies and their potential societal impacts. He presented me with challenging yet straightforward questions – ones I was pleased to address and to provide my perspectives on, as these questions and challenges play an important role in the public discussion that has emerged regarding Death is Wrong.

On March 29, I was interviewed by Stephen Euin Cobb for his excellent podcast The Future and You. Our extensive discussion will be developed into two forthcoming episodes of The Future and You, scheduled to be posted on April 2 and April 9. I have scheduled additional media engagements and, in the meantime, maintain steady correspondence with many who are making the success of Death is Wrong possible. Expect more great content and great publicity for the life-extension message soon.

On March 29, I was interviewed by Stephen Euin Cobb for his excellent podcast The Future and You. Our extensive and multifaceted discussion will be developed into two forthcoming episodes of The Future and You, scheduled to be posted on April 2 and April 9. I have scheduled additional media engagements and, in the meantime, maintain steady correspondence with many who are making the success of Death is Wrong possible. Expect more great content and great publicity for the life-extension message soon.

Among publications that did not contact me, Death is Wrong was also mentioned by James Moore on the Huffington Post in his poignant article “Transhumanism and All My Mortal Friends”. Extensive discussion – both in support of and in opposition to the book – was fueled by articles and posts on Motherboard (including a German version), Disinformation, and Slashdot. Two articles in Italian – a critique by Pietro Minto on Il Foglio and a rebuttal by the author of the transhumanist Estropico blog – also discussed Death is Wrong.  A wonderful review of Death is Wrong also appeared on the blog Me and My Kindle. Some of the outlets that covered the book missed various details (e.g., my age or the fact that it was my mother – not my grandfather – who initially informed me about death), but I am pleased that the general message – the feasibility and desirability of indefinite life extension – is being spread and discussed, as that, more than anything else, was my goal in writing Death is Wrong.

Giulio Prisco wrote in his excellent review of Death is Wrong and its impact, “Have the Stolyarovs found the way to make transhumanist ideas go viral? Perhaps yes. Provocative strong messages get heard, and teaching children that death will be cured is very provocative in today’s dull, defeatist, politically correct cultural climate.” I agree with this assessment. Death, in fact, is obviously wrong; it is the Dragon-Tyrant in the room – but millennia of ingrained cultural acceptance and rationalization have obscured this truth in the minds of most. The direct, straightforward denunciation of death is needed to jolt people’s minds toward recalling the raw travesty of death, without the soothing embellishments that lead many to miss the core truth: death is wrong! In the mind of a child, reacting immediately to the grim prospect of the future demise of every human currently alive, the probability that this truth will remain unclouded is greater, as long as adequate support is provided for the desire to resist and fight death.

Even one book, one expression of the message that combating death through the pursuit of indefinite life extension is both feasible and desirable, can make all the difference for a young mind. Contrary to the assertions of some, I seek not to indoctrinate children, but to achieve the exact opposite – to inoculate children against indoctrination from pro-death arguments by showing them that those are not the only arguments around. I have never been one for suppressing discussion or disinclining others from considering a position. As a staunch supporter of free speech, open dialogue, and even the most vigorous public debates, I see the unfettered expression of every viewpoint – be it true or false, profound or vapid – as a necessary aspect of the free market of ideas. Free discussion drives forward an iterative approach toward greater understanding of reality and a better implementation of that understanding for the improvement of human well-being. Even in engaging the falsest ideas, one can improve one’s knowledge of truth and one’s ability to distinguish truth from falsehood. Yet it is impossible to be alive today and to avoid encountering arguments, both religious and secular, commonly presented in favor of mortality. The risk to children is the opposite: that they will not encounter any arguments other than those accepting death as “normal” or “natural” or “part of life”. If we want children to think critically about this literally most vital of issues, we cannot be content with them being exposed to one side – the side of death acceptance – only.

Death is Wrong is a conduit for children toward life-extension science, transhumanist philosophy, and thinking about the world-changing effects of emerging technologies more generally. For the book to have the greatest impact on a young mind, it should be used as a means to further exploration – hence its Appendix and list of links at the end. Perhaps 15 or 20 years in the future, a child who reads this book this year will remember it as one of the formative moments in his or her intellectual growth. Perhaps a young person’s decision to study and pursue advances in biology, regenerative medicine, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, cryonics, or aeronautical engineering will have Death is Wrong as one of its early catalysts. Perhaps a prolific artist, author, or philosopher will grow up and communicate the message of life extension in powerful, inspiring ways as a result of the jolt of inspiration contained in Death is Wrong.  

Did I expect that the book would cause considerable controversy? Of course. Death is Wrong challenges one of the most ingrained mindsets that has prevailed in virtually every tradition, and even dominates many contemporary secular points of view. I consider the acceptance of death and the attempts to justify it to be a cultural Stockholm syndrome; many people seek to normalize death in the abstract because they fear that a condemnation of this Dragon-Tyrant would drive them to despair about their perceived predicament of inevitable mortality.  So many espouse rationalizations for death, even as they resist death in practice day to day in working to improve their lives materially, to avoid and minimize risks, and to employ technology for the benefit of their health and for incremental life extension. Most people accept modern medical treatments such as heart surgery; most people accept that it is desirable to live into one’s eighties and nineties – but why do they not accept the prospect of regenerative medicine and of routinely living beyond 100, 120, 500, 1000, 1,000,000 years? It is this irrational disconnect between incremental acceptance of life extension and its rejection as a concept that I seek to expose and remedy. It can be expected that some people will not appreciate their most closely held assumptions and premises being disputed in a direct, unapologetic manner.

Death is Wrong - by Gennady Stolyarov II, Illustrated by Wendy Stolyarov

Death is Wrong is a paradigm-shifting book in part because it poses hitherto unexpected challenges to both the mainstream “left” and the mainstream “right” (a good sign, in my view, that I have created something original and genuinely progressive, life-affirming, and liberating). The highest-profile negative review of the book was written by Joelle Renstrom of Slate – who, to her credit, did read the book, but reiterated many commonplace fallacies regarding indefinite longevity and its impact. Mark Shrayber of Jezebel echoed some of Renstrom’s criticisms but was more sympathetic and even-handed in his tone. In the greatest irony and most astounding self-contradiction I have yet encountered regarding the American “pro-life” movement, Judie Brown of the misnamed “American Life League” called my book – a book, recall, that proclaims death to be wrong and life to be right! – a “grave concern”. Why? Because I refuse to die on the presumptive timetable ordained by “the God of our creation” as the American Life League conceives of him. I think this, more than anything, shows the true colors of the “pro-life” label as it is used by certain religious fundamentalists in the United States. They are not for life; they are for death on their deity’s terms. When someone actually speaks in favor of extending and preserving life through science and technology – they of course do not support that, even though most of them resort to it regularly in practice through the use of modern medicine. Interestingly enough, Judie Brown lambasts Joelle Renstrom – my critic on Slate – as often as she warns her readers about me,  Death is Wrong, and transhumanism. While the death-acceptance strains of both the “left” and the “right” continue to clash with one another – largely over hot-button minutiae whose discussion will be rendered obsolete by future technological progress – let us hope that the field of genuine cultural influence will become increasingly open to us life-extension advocates.

While my intention here is to chronicle the responses to Death is Wrong, rather than to rebut my critics (which Eric Schulke has already done in part through his response to Renstrom’s review), I would like to address a few common misunderstandings, as they have reappeared in one article after another. First, it is true that I fear death; I would be engaging in ludicrous bravado if I denied it. What sensible person who values his life would not fear its end and use that fear to motivate even some modicum of risk aversion? In their excellent article, Eric Schulke and Wioletta Karkucinska explain that fear of death is, indeed, nothing to be ashamed of. But is my life “ruled” by fear of death, as Joelle Renstrom suggests? Was fear of death my motivation for writing Death is Wrong? Absolutely not, and I had said as much to Fast Company.  However, because my full response was not printed, I will present it here. I said that fear only exists in the face of the possibility of losing something one values. The reason I wrote this book is not primarily that I fear death, but rather that I love life and wish for all innocent humans to have the opportunity to live indefinitely. But I also see no shame in fearing the loss of what one loves. One does not fear the loss of that, to which one is indifferent. When Meghan Neal of Motherboard wrote, on the basis of the Fast Company article, that I fear death (a true statement), she nonetheless did not reflect my more nuanced position that love of life – not fear of death – is the primary motivation for those who seek to live indefinitely longer, myself included.

Still, prevailing cultural aversions to fear per se are just as irrational as prevailing cultural aversions to anger, sadness, disgust, and other so-called “negative” emotions per se. These emotions have their places in the right contexts – as justified responses to sometimes grossly sub-optimal and unjust aspects of reality, as motivators for us to ameliorate real, urgent, pressing problems in the world.  No emotion is wrong in itself; events in the real world (like death!) can be wrong, as can a mismatch between an emotion and the reality faced by an individual experiencing it. We should love life and fear death; we should not love death or fear life.

Second, why did I not address the “double-edged sword” of technology, as Renstrom alleges? I think that the potential of technology to be used for ill is expressed so often that it is a truism. Yes, some technologies can be used to kill or otherwise harm people, deliberately or accidentally. Yes, it is important to use technologies prudently and ethically, with considerations for the likely effects of a particular application. But this is like saying, “Yes, you can choke if you eat food. You should chew and ingest carefully.” But just as the possibility of choking is not an argument against food, neither is the possibility of technological misuse an argument against technological progress, or even against unfettered progress. The developers of new technologies themselves are among the most conscious and thoughtful about possible risks. The users of new technologies, too, have the moral responsibility and the rational incentive to use their judgment to minimize harms to themselves and others. The coercive imposition of harm by some against others – irrespective of the level of technology used – should be deterred and penalized by law and by public opinion. Furthermore, the discussions of various emerging risks in academic and policy circles has been so extensive and thorough that we are not at risk of understating the risks. We are at risk of the exact opposite: understanding the benefits of radical technological progress and thereby foregoing the achievements that are or shortly will be within our technical grasp. As I previously expressed, what I fear most is not runaway technology endangering humankind, but rather a drawn-out stagnation because the majority of people and the institutions they control are overly fearful of innovation. There are enough diverse voices cautioning us; I do not need to be another. Instead, I would be a voice encouraging humans to progress, to improve their lives, and to mitigate the already existing risks we face every day because we humans are insufficiently advanced, both in our technologies and – for most of us – in our attitudes toward them. And, of course, what bigger risk is there than that of each of our eventual demises? Are we to ignore this very real and ubiquitous Dragon-Tyrant before us, only to speculate about dystopian futures which are remote in probability at most?

Some – mostly those who did not read the book – allege that I advocate for an unrealistic indestructibility, yet Death is Wrong focuses primarily on life extension through the reversal of senescence. It is true that this would not remove all sources of risk, and accidents and disasters would remain possible. I am not offering or projecting a panacea. Rather, I make an observation of a far more proximate nature – that radically greater longevity from any causes would dramatically affect humans’ attitudes toward other risks and present a considerable incentive to develop technologies and societal solutions to reduce the probability of harm from those sources as well. I elaborate upon this tendency – one that is already well underway – in my article “Life Extension and Risk Aversion”. I do see the possibility for some people not to die at all due to the continuation of this risk reduction through technological and societal progress. This technological immortality is distinctly different in kind from the mythical immortality of gods and spirits.  Every being, now and in the future, remains subject to natural laws; in Francis Bacon’s words “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” To keep living without bound, one must learn how to harness the natural laws to make it so – and one must continually maintain the conditions that enable such harnessing to occur.

Finally, do I intend for children to be paralyzed by worry about death? Quite the opposite! I want them to grow up motivated to fight it and to win new territory for life. Irrespective of whether any given individual will overcome death or achieve indefinite life, the goal remains a worthwhile one. One of Joelle Renstrom’s most perplexing misunderstandings about Death is Wrong was that children might be led to think that those who died were somehow wrong. Why would I blame the innocent victims of death? It is death that is wrong, not they. Furthermore, death is still wrong, even for those who do not manage to escape it. As Dr. Bill Andrews of Sierra Sciences puts it, we should “cure aging or die trying”! It is better to put up a good fight and lose, than to resign oneself to defeat without trying. It is better to, in Dylan Thomas’s words, “rage, rage against the dying of the light”, than to delude oneself by considering the dying to be good in some illusory “greater” sense.  Children, in the everyday course of learning about reality, cannot avoid seeing the massive cruelty, suffering, and barbarism still present in the world. Compared to the genuine travesties committed by Nazi Germany – justifiably considered an important part of history for children to learn about – is not the message that death can be combated and possibly overcome a message of hope – an inspiration to action rather than a call to despair? I certainly think so, and I will proclaim this message proudly.

Now is the time for massive cultural change – catalyzed by this discussion about the fight against death, a discussion that prevailing mindsets have avoided for far too long. Let there be controversy and debate, as long as enough people come to see the need to make a decisive push for scientific and technological progress now, in our lifetimes, while we still have a fighting chance as individuals. A colossally better future – be it one of indefinite longevity, radical abundance, and/or the technological Singularity – will not come about automatically. It requires people to bring it about through action and advocacy. It requires us, and it requires today’s children as well.