On October 12, 2019, Brent Nally recorded this discussion between Dr. Bill Andrews – the Biotechnology Advisor of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party – and U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II regarding recent news in the field of longevity (including pet longevity), techniques to slow down the rate of telomere shortening, changes to public perceptions of aging and longevity, transhumanism and technologies of life enhancement, and how to be rigorous and appropriately skeptical when evaluating various ideas and hypotheses in medicine.
Watch this discussion here and be on the lookout for a special visitor from a different species!
Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party here for free, no matter where you reside.
21:33 Funding is needed to cure human aging and all chronic diseases.
24:03 Bill is hoping the telomerase gene therapy clinical study by Libella Gene Therapeutics (which is scheduled to start in November 2019) will show age reversal in the human Alzheimer’s patient in every measurable way.
On October 12, 2019, U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II spoke with Brent Nally at the venerable Sierra Sciences headquarters in Reno, Nevada. They discussed developments in the U.S. Transhumanist Party, fitness, health, and longevity – among other subjects.
Gennady Stolyarov II Bill Andrews Bobby Ridge Mihoko Sekido
The Third Enlightenment Salon, hosted by Gennady Stolyarov II on May 27, 2018, featured excellent conversations on the rise in public awareness of transhumanism and life extension and what can be done to further increase support for life-extending medical research. Dr. Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge (a.k.a. Robert Ridge), and Mihoko Sekido shared insights on medical science, promotion of health, and methods of communicating the forthcoming convergence of advances in a wide array of technological fields. Importantly, we addressed how anyone can get involved in the transhumanist movement and improve public acceptance of the emerging technological future.
The following were some interesting areas of discussion:
– The new Telomere Coin, which will help fund Dr. Andrews’s research efforts – http://defytime.group/
– Bobby Ridge’s forthcoming new video channel – Science-Based Species
– Aspects of online videos that help increase their reach
– Factors that contribute to longer lifespans among Okinawans
– Motivators for leading a healthier lifestyle and its relation to the recognition of the possibility of indefinite life extension in our lifetimes
– Some potential health effects of metformin and the importance of the ongoing TAME clinical trials
– What anyone can do to promote life extension and other emerging technological fields – including joining the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free on this page.
This video also contains some excerpts from the remaining conversations at the Third Enlightenment Salon, including discussions of science-based medicine, promotion of transhumanism, autonomous vehicles, and responses to the prospect of longevity escape velocity.
Along with the recorded segment, there was much discussion about future directions of transhumanist initiatives, reasonably healthy food in a refined atmosphere, and previews of excellent video compilations that will become publicly available later this year. Mr. Stolyarov looks forward to hosting more Enlightenment Salons to bring together individuals in various fields of expertise and enable them to synthesize their insights into ways of comprehensively improving the human condition.
A Most Interesting Data Set Covering the Longevity of Polish Elite Athletes Across Much of the 20th Century – Article by Reason
Today I noticed an open access paper in which the authors examine mortality data for Polish Olympic athletes over the past 90 years or so, and compare it with established historical data for the general population. This blends two topics that are occasionally covered here at Fight Aging!: firstly, the growth in human life expectancy in recent history and its causes, and secondly the topic of how regular exercise and life expectancy interact. It is the present consensus that elite athletes, those at the top of their profession, live longer than the rest of us, but it remains open to debate as to whether this is because more exercise is better, or because very robust people who would have lived longer anyway are more likely to enter the world of professional athletics. Researchers want to map the dose-response curve for exercise, in other words. Even though there is very good, very solid evidence for the benefits of regular moderate exercise versus being sedentary, going beyond that to a more nuanced view of what more or less exercise does for health is a challenging goal given the starting point of statistical snapshots of data from various study populations.
Studying the history of life expectancy isn’t much easier, though there the challenges tend to revolve around the ever-decreasing quality of data as you look further back in time. The 20th century marked transitions from hopeful aspiration to solid accomplishment in all fields of medicine, too many profound advances in the capabilities of medical science and practice to list here. As the decades passed, this important progress focused ever more on treatments for age-related conditions. An individual born in the US in 1900 suffered through the end of the era of poor control of infectious disease, prior to modern antibiotics and antiviral drugs, and likely benefited little from later progress towards better control of heart disease and other common age-related diseases. An individual born in the US in 1950, on the other hand, enjoyed a youth with comparatively little fear of disease, and is probably still alive today, with access to far more capable therapies than existed even a couple of decades ago.
Given all of this, one of the interesting things to note in the analysis of the Polish data is that the elite athletes born in the early 20th century appear to have a lower rate of aging than the general population, as determined by a slower rise in mortality over time, but that this difference between athletes and the average individual is greatly diminished for people born in the latter half of the 20th century. This suggests, roughly, that advances in medicine from 1900 to 1950 had a leveling effect, bringing up the average, preventing early deaths, but doing little to address age-related disease. That said, there is a large variation in results across the range of similar studies, both those that look at the history of longevity, and those that look at populations of athletes at a given time. It is wise to consider epidemiological studies in groups rather than one by one, and look for common themes. Still, this one is a fascinating data set for the way in which it combines historical trends and exercise in the study of aging.
A sedentary lifestyle is associated with the onset of chronic diseases including ischaemic heart disease, type-II diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. Frequent exercise is perceived as a major behavioural determinant for improved life expectancy and a slower rate of ageing. There is little doubt that frequent exercise is beneficial for individuals’ well-being, and an active lifestyle reduces the risk for chronic diseases. However, it is still uncertain whether the rate of ageing decelerates in response to frequent and intense physical exercise. Our attempt is the first empirical study to show the application of a parametric frailty survival model to gain insights into the rate of ageing and mortality risk for Olympic athletes.
Our participants for this parametric frailty survival analysis were Polish athletes who had participated in the Olympic Games from 1924 to 2010. We assumed that these athletes were elite in their preferred sports expertise, and that they were engaged in frequent, if not intense, physical exercise. The earliest recorded year of birth was 1875, and the latest was in 1982; total N=2305; male=1828, female=477. For reliable estimates, mortality improvements by calendar events and birth cohort had to be taken into consideration to account for the advancements made in medicine and technology. After the consideration of mortality improvements and the statistical power for parametric survival analysis, we restricted our analysis to male athletes born from 1890 to 1959 (M=1273). For reliable estimates, we preassigned recruited athletes into two categorical cohorts: 1890-1919 (Cohort I); 1920-1959 (Cohort II).
Our findings suggest that Polish elite athletes in Cohort I born from 1890-1919 experienced a slower rate of ageing, and had a lower risk for mortality and a longer life-expectancy than the general population from the same birth cohort. It is very unlikely that these survival benefits were gained within a short observational time. Therefore, we argue that participation in frequent sports from young adulthood reduces mortality risk, increases life-expectancy and slows the rate of ageing. The age-specific mortality trajectories of Cohort I elite athletes also suggest frequent exercise can decelerate the rate of ageing by 1% with an achievement of threefold risk reduction in mortality. In comparison with those of the general population, the differences in energy expenditure, behavioural habits, body mass and sports expertise were likely to be the contributing factors to the higher variance in lifespan among elite athletes.
In Cohort II, the estimated rate of ageing is highly similar between elite athletes and the general population, which contradicts our estimates for Cohort I. This may be attributed to mortality improvements from year 1920 onwards in Poland. These mortality improvements have changed individuals’ susceptibilities for different causes of death, which has resulted in an increased variation in lifespan both in the general population and for elite athletes. Interestingly, the comparison of the rate of ageing of elite athletes in Cohort I and II shows a similar rate of ageing. Among the elite athletes, the estimates suggest that Cohort II individuals benefited from a 50% mortality risk reduction as compared with individuals born in Cohort I. The estimated overall mortality risk of the Polish general population is 29% lower in Cohort II than in I.
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.
The Aristotelian Golden Mean as Conducive to Good Health in the Pursuit of Life Extension – Article by G. Stolyarov II
“By the mean of a thing I mean what is equally distant from either extreme, which is one and the same for everyone; by the mean relative to us what is neither too much nor too little, and this is not the same for everyone. For instance, if ten are many and two few, we take the mean of the thing if we take six; since it exceeds and is exceeded by the same amount; this then is the mean according to arithmetic proportion. But we cannot arrive thus at the mean relative to us. Let ten lbs. of food be a large portion for someone and two lbs. a small portion; it does not follow that a trainer will prescribe six lbs., for maybe even this amount will be a large portion, or a small one, for the particular athlete who is to receive it…. In the same way then one with understanding in any matter avoids excess and deficiency, and searches out and chooses the mean — the mean, that is, not of the thing itself but relative to us.”
This is not medical advice, but rather a general synthesis of philosophical and common-sense lifestyle heuristics for those who are generally healthy and seek to stay that way for as long as possible. All of the ideas below are ones I endeavor to put into practice personally as part of my endeavor to survive long enough to benefit from humankind’s future attainment of longevity escape velocity and indefinite lifespans. As an educated layman, not a medical doctor, I accept contemporary “mainstream” medicine (i.e., evidence-based, scientific medicine) as the most reliable guidance for specific health matters that currently exists. I consider the discussion below to be sufficiently general and basic as to be consistent with common medical knowledge – though, in any particular person’s case, specific medical advice should prevail over anything to the contrary in this essay.
It is easier for humans to live by absolutes than by degrees. If a practice or pursuit is unambiguously harmful, it can readily be avoided. If it is unambiguously beneficial, then it can be pursued in any quantity permitted by one’s available time and other resources. The very fact of being alive is itself an unambiguous good, of which no amount is excessive. On the other hand, death of the individual is an unambiguous harm, as is any behavior that directly precipitates or hastens death due to harmful effects upon the human body.
But much of life is comprised of elements that are essential to human well-being in some quantity but could become harmful if pursued to excess. This is where Aristotle’s idea of the “golden mean” – of virtue as being neither a deficiency nor an excess of various necessary attributes – can be applied to the pursuit of health and longevity. Indeed, much of health consists of maintaining key bodily functions and metrics within favorable ranges of parameters. A healthy weight, healthy blood-sugar concentration, healthy blood pressure, and a healthy heart rate all exist as segments along spectra, bordered by other segments of deficiency and excess.
More is known today about what is harmful to longevity than what would extend it past today’s typical “old age”. For instance, smoking, consumption of most alcohol (apart, possibly, from modest quantities of red wine), and use of many recreational drugs are clearly known to increase mortality risk. As these habits provide no support for any essential life function while having the potential to cause great harm to health, it is best to eschew them altogether. Indeed, the mere avoidance of all tobacco use is statistically the single best way to increase one’s remaining life expectancy. Yet this is the easy part, as one can quite resolutely and immoderately reject all consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs with no harm to oneself and only benefits.
An Aristotelian “golden mean” approach is needed, on the other hand, for those elements which are indispensable to sustaining good health, but which can also damage health if indulged in imprudently and to excess. Aristotle recognized that the “golden mean” when it comes to individual behavior cannot be derived through a strict formula but is rather unique to each person. Still, its determination is based on objective attributes of physical reality and not on one’s wishes or on the path of least resistance. The realms of diet, exercise, and supplementation are of particular relevance to life extension. It would particularly benefit individuals who seek to extend their lives indefinitely to adopt “golden mean” heuristics in each of these realms, until medical science advances sufficiently to develop reliable techniques to reverse biological senescence and greatly increase maximum attainable lifespans.
Food is sustenance for the organism, and its absence or deficiency lead to starvation and malnutrition. Its excess, on the other hand, can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a host of associated ills. It is clear that a moderate amount of food is desirable – one that is enough to sustain all the vital functions of the organism without precipitating chronic diseases of excess. Contrary to common prejudice, it is not too difficult to gain a reasonably good idea of the quantity of food one should consume. For most people, this is the quantity that enables an individual to maintain weight in the healthy range of body-mass index (BMI). (There are exceptions to this for certain athletes of extraordinary muscularity, but not for the majority of people. Contrary to common objections, while it is true that BMI is not the sole consideration for healthy body mass, it is a reasonably good heuristic for most, including many who are likely to object to its use.)
The comparison of “calories in” versus “calories out” – even though it must often rely on approximation due to the difficulty of exactly measuring metabolic activity – is nevertheless quite dependable. It is scientifically established that consuming a surplus of 3,500 calories (over and above one’s metabolic expenditures) results in gaining one pound (0.45 kilograms) of mass, whereas running a deficit of 3,500 calories results in the loss of one pound.
Consuming a moderate amount of food (relative to one’s exercise level) to maintain a moderate amount of weight is one of the most obvious applications of the principle of the golden mean to diet. Yet it is also the composition of one’s food that should exhibit moderation in the form of diversification of ingredients and food types.
Principle 1: There are no inherently bad or inherently good foods, but some foods are safer in large amounts than others. (For instance, eating a bowl full of vegetables is safer than eating a bowl full of butter.) Furthermore, one’s diet should not be dominated by any one type of food or any one ingredient.
Principle 2: In order to maintain a caloric balance at a healthy weight, consideration of calorie density of foods is key for portion sizes. More calorie-dense foods should be consumed in smaller portions, while less calorie-dense foods could be consumed in larger portions, provided that there is adequate diversification among the less calorie-dense foods as well.
Here my approach differs immensely from any fad diet – from veganism to the paleo diet to anything in between that prescribes a list of mandatory “good” foods and forbidden “evil” foods and attempts to rule human lives through minute regimens of cleaving to the mandatory and eschewing the forbidden. I acknowledge that virtually any fad diet is superior to unrestrained gluttony or the unconscious, stress-induced lapses into unhealthy eating that plague many in the Western world today. This, indeed, is the reason for such diets’ popularity and the availability of “success stories” from among practitioners of any such diet: virtually any conscious control over food intake and concern over food quality is superior to sheer abandon. However, all fad diets are also pseudo-scientific. Contradictory evidence regarding the health effects of almost any type of food – from meat to bread to chocolate to salt and even large quantities of fruits and vegetables – emerges in both scientific and popular publications every week. While some approaches to diet are clearly superior to others (e.g., most diets would be superior to a candy-only diet or a diet consisting solely of peas, as in Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck), no fad diet can claim to reliably extend human lifespans beyond average life expectancies in the Western world today.
In the absence of clear, scientific evidence as to the unambiguous benefits or harms of any particular widely consumed food, diversification and moderation offer one the best hope of maximizing one’s expected longevity prior to the era of rejuvenation therapies. This is because of two key, interrelated effects:
Effect 1: If some food types indeed convey particularly important health benefits, then diversification helps ensure that one is gaining these benefits as a result of consuming at least some foods of those types.
Effect 2: If some foods or food types indeed result in harms to the organism – either due to the inherent properties of these foods or due to dangers introduced by the specific ways in which they are cultivated, delivered, or improperly preserved – then diversification helps reduce the organism’s exposure to such harms arising from any one particular food or food type, therefore lessening the likelihood that these harms will accumulate to a critical level.
Diversification, coupled with consideration of calorie density of foods, has the additional advantage of flexibility. If one encounters a situation where dietary choice is inconvenient, one might still enjoy the occasion and accommodate it through judicious portion sizing or adjustments to other meals either beforehand or afterward. One does not need to condemn oneself for having committed the dietary sin of eating an “unhealthy food” – as it is not the food itself that is unhealthy, but rather the frequency and amounts in which it is consumed. The Aristotelian “golden mean” heuristic also implies that there is no fault with pursuing food for the purpose of enjoyment or sensory pleasure – again, in moderation, as long as no detriment to health results.
A final note on diet is that the approach of moderation does not favor caloric restriction – i.e., reduction in calorie intake far below typical diets that suffice for maintaining a healthy body mass. Caloric restriction has shown remarkable effects in increasing lifespans in simple organisms – yeast, roundworms, and rodents – but has not demonstrated significant longevity benefits for humans, at least as suggested by presently available research. It is possible that the positive effects which caloric restriction confers upon simpler organisms are already reaped by humans and higher animals to a great extent, such that any added benefits to these organisms’ already far longer lifespans would be slight at best. A calorie-restricted diet is an excellent option for those seeking to lose weight or transition from a diet of gluttony and reckless abandon. It is also likely superior to “average” dietary habits today in terms of forestalling diet-related chronic diseases. However, there is no compelling evidence at present that a calorie-restricted diet is superior to a moderate, diversified diet that maintains a caloric balance. Furthermore, extreme calorie restriction would either require activity restriction (to conserve energy) or would involve descending into an underweight range, which is associated with its own health risks.
Exercise cannot be disentangled from considerations of dietary choice, since it is crucial to the expenditure side of the caloric equation (or inequality). It is, again, scientifically incontrovertible that regular exercise is superior to a sedentary lifestyle in enhancing virtually every metric of bodily health. On the other hand, moderation should be practiced in the degree of physical exertion at any given time, so as to prevent pushing one’s body to its breaking point – which will differ by individual. Exercising in such a manner that gradually pushes one’s sphere of abilities outward will help render the probability of reaching a breaking point – the failure of any bodily system – increasingly remote. For instance, gradually building up one’s running ability can eventually enable one to run an ultramarathon without adverse consequences. However, if an overweight and completely sedentary person were to attempt to run an ultramarathon without any prior running experience (and did not give up after a few miles), the results would be disastrous. Likewise, it is possible to lift large weights safely, but only if one begins with smaller weights and gradually works one’s way up.
For virtually all individuals in the Western world today, no harm can arise from the increase in the absolute amount of physical activity, as long as the exercise is performed in a safe environment and with safe form. Immoderate kinds of exercise would include extreme sports (those which entail a significant danger to life), any sports in extreme weather, or any exertion at the boundary of the current tolerance of one’s heart and other muscles. Most people, however, can easily find activities – ranging from simple walking to light lifting and body-weight exercises – that would pose no such risks and would unambiguously improve health.
Diversification in exercise, as with diet, is superior to exclusivist fad regimens. While any safe exercise is superior to none, it is completely unfounded to insist that only one particular type or genre of exercise is “good” while all the others are “bad”. The currently fashionable “no cardio” camp is a particularly glaring example of absurdity in this regard, eschewing some of the most effective ways possible for burning calories, maintaining cardiovascular and muscular health, and preventing diabetes and many types of cancer. But it would be similarly unreasonable to reject all weight lifting or all flexibility training due to some dogma regarding “ideal” kinds of exercise. It is best to perform a variety of exercises, each of which emphasize different facets of health. That being said, the exact mix would depend on the attributes and preferences of a given individual, and appropriate diversification could still involve a heavily emphasized preferred type of exercise, in addition to various auxiliary types that enable one to also improve in other areas.
Again, it is important to emphasize that, while regular exercise can improve one’s likelihood of surviving to current “old age”, it cannot, by itself, protect against the ravages of senescence beyond perhaps slightly deferring them. The best case for regular, moderate exercise is that it can raise one’s chances of surviving to an era when medical treatments that reverse biological senescence will become available and widespread.
Because exercise should be pursued with the intention of maximizing health and improving one’s likelihood of long-term survival, great care must be taken not to allow the competitive aspects of any exercise to overwhelm the health aspects. For instance, the taking of steroids and other “performance-enhancing” substances in order to set athletic records or beat one’s competitors is counterproductive to the maintenance of good health and is often worse than doing no exercise at all. Likewise, engaging in sports such as American football, rugby, boxing, or lacrosse, which involve a high degree of physical contact and therefore a great likelihood of injury, is counterproductive to the goal of health preservation.
Supplementation, or Lack Thereof
Overall, it is important for the human body to obtain adequate quantities of essential nutrients – such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids – in order for healthy function to be sustained. Because these nutrients are not automatically produced by the body in adequate amounts, they must be consumed from external sources. However, excessive amounts of many such nutrients can be toxic. Moreover, contemporary science has not discerned any regimen of extraordinary supplementation (over and above medically recommended daily values) to reliably result in longevity improvements for those who are already healthy. Worse yet, enough research exists to suggest that supplementation with vitamins and other common substances, significantly in excess of medically recommended daily values, could increase the risk of early death. Again, the evidence points to the desirability of a moderate intake of vitamins and other essential nutrients – but none of them becomes a panacea when consumed in doses significantly above the moderate ones found in foods routinely available to virtually everyone in the Western world. Mild vitamin and mineral supplements are probably not harmful and may be helpful if one’s diet indeed lacks some essential nutrients, but mega-doses of any substance should be approached with great caution.
Supplementation with drugs and hormones – absent the clear and medically determined need to treat a specific health problem – is even riskier for a healthy organism; the side effects could be great, and the benefits are dubious at present. No “magic pill” for life extension has yet been discovered, and rejuvenation therapies are decades away even if billions of dollars were poured into their research tomorrow. Even when they are necessary to treat an illness or injury, many commonly used prescription medicines can result in severe side effects, implying that they should be used with extreme caution and awareness of the risks, even when they are prescribed. The time has not yet arrived for individual self-medication with the aim of life extension. As the details of the human body’s metabolism and its effects on senescence are far from fully understood, there are no guarantees that introducing any particular substance into the immensely complex machinery of the human organism will not do more harm than good. Most people will be much safer by adopting the heuristic of not fixing that, which is not obviously broken, while avoiding harmful habits, obtaining regular medical checkups, and following the advice of evidence-based medical practitioners.
Someday, hopefully in our lifetimes, medical science might advance to the point where it might be possible to inexpensively develop a deeply personalized supplementation regimen for each individual – a more compact, precise, and targeted version of what Ray Kurzweil does today at the cost of immense time and effort. Until then, Aristotle’s golden mean is still the best heuristic to enable most of us to survive for as long as possible, which will hopefully be long enough for improvements in human knowledge and health-care delivery to usher in the era of longevity escape velocity.
Running a Marathon on an Elliptical Trainer (2008) – Article by G. Stolyarov II
Note from the Author: This essay, on the subject of my first elliptical-trainer marathon, was originally written and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2008. I seek to preserve this article as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.
Since 2008, I have run three additional elliptical-trainer marathon or ultramarathon sessions. They are as follows:
* December 1, 2012 – Marathon (42.2 km.) – 4:30:05 * February 2, 2013 – Ultramarathon (50 km.) – 5:10:50 * September 14, 2013 – Ultramarathon (55 km.) – 5:25:24
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 10, 2014
On August 31, 2008, I ran a marathon. That by itself was not particularly extraordinary; many people run marathons these days. My time for completing the 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles) of running was slightly above average for my age – 4 hours, 24 minutes, and 51 seconds. The unique aspect of my marathon experience was how and where I ran it. This marathon was not an official event, and no one else participated in it. I simply went on an elliptical trainer in a nearby sports complex and ran the entire distance on the machine. It was a highly safe, beneficial, and rewarding experience – which I recommend to anyone who is considering running a marathon.
Why an Elliptical Trainer?
There are many advantages to running a marathon on an elliptical trainer instead of using the conventional method.
First, one does not fall prey to the vicissitudes of weather. Scorching heat, sun in one’s eyes, rain, excessive cold, snow, dust, fog, or dirt will not interfere with one’s marathon experience when one runs on an elliptical trainer.
Second, one does not risk one’s life by involving oneself with car traffic. Naturally, one cannot be run over by car while exercising indoors on an elliptical trainer.
Third, if one should by any chance feel unwell or unable to complete the marathon, one can stop immediately and seek help nearby. There is no risk that one might become stranded in the middle of the course without any way to obtain assistance for urgent conditions.
Fourth, one can always ensure that one’s body is well-supplied with water and energy. While running the marathon, I had four bottles of water and energy drinks on hand – all of which I consumed. I also brought a pack of salted almonds to keep my body supplied with salt and protein, as well as two energy bars for all other nutrients. I needed all this food, too, as I ended up burning 2665 calories in the course of the run, which for me is significantly more than a typical day’s food intake. For conventional marathon runners, dehydration and a shortage of salt in the body can often pose major problems, which running on an elliptical trainer can easily avert.
Fifth, an elliptical trainer is superior to a treadmill and to ordinary long-distance running in that one does not experience any jarring or severe impact as one’s feet repeatedly hit the floor. One’s body does not need to endure any collisions when one uses an elliptical trainer, which is supremely kind to its long-term health.
Sixth, an elliptical trainer does not make noise in the manner of a treadmill, and one does not have to contend with the environmental noise to which one is exposed when one runs outdoors. When running on an elliptical trainer, one could choose to have a quiet, peaceful atmosphere or to enjoy listening to music of one’s choice. Throughout my marathon, I listened to my favorite works of classical music on my iPod in order to keep my mind from focusing on the physical challenge of the run.
Seventh, many elliptical trainers have shelves on which one can put reading material. Because elliptical trainers do not involve a lot of jarring or bouncing, one can focus on a page of text without discomfort. During the course of the marathon, I read over 120 pages of Scott Gordon’s Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from Ancient Athens to Today – a highly engaging book on how various societies’ constitutional structures have functioned throughout history to protect individual freedom. I now run six to eight miles on an elliptical trainer every day, during which time I either read printed material or listen to audio books. In this way, I combine exercise, work, and leisure and make the most efficient possible use of my time. By reading, as by listening to music, I am able to distract my mind from thinking about the physical discomfort brought about by the exercise.
Eighth, running long distances on an elliptical trainer is unconventional and gives one something that sets one apart from the crowd. Not many people have the imagination, curiosity, and willpower to try an elliptical trainer marathon – but a brief consideration of its advantages ought to convince many reasonable people that this approach to marathon running is preferable to dealing with all the vicissitudes and unnecessary stresses of the conventional method. By running an elliptical trainer marathon, you can become one of the pioneers of this new, efficient, rational method of intense and supremely healthy exercise. I like to tell people that, by running a marathon on an elliptical trainer, I was able to engage in pure running, isolated from all the environmental inconveniences that often accompany it.
My Motivations and theMarathonExperience Itself
Prior to my elliptical trainer marathon, I had never run a distance nearly that long. My longest prior distance was 16 miles – or about 25.7 kilometers. I had, however, been running regularly for approximately eight years prior to undertaking this endeavor, so any distance under ten miles does not stress me considerably. I am not a competitive runner, nor have I ever been on a track or cross-country team; I am a pure individualist when it comes to exercise, as its sole purpose, in my judgment, is to secure and maintain my health. I know that I will never set records; my only goal in this realm is to live as long as possible and to enable my body to serve me without pain or discomfort. I saw running a marathon as the ultimate test of my health and fitness; being healthy does not require that one run a marathon, but running a marathon does indicate that one is healthy.
The entire marathon went smoothly for me; there was not a single instance when I felt any pain – though a degree of exhaustion was naturally unavoidable. However, I never once felt myself functioning on my last stores of energy, likely because I took care to continually replenish my body’s energy stores and to keep myself well-hydrated. During most of my run, I simply thought about the music I was listening to or the book I was reading; occasionally, I performed mental calculations regarding how much time I had remaining. The elliptical trainer told me the distance I had traversed, and my Polar F6 Heart Rate Monitor informed me of how many calories I had burned, my heart rate at any given time, and the cumulative time of my exercise, so I always had abundant data with which to monitor my progress and on which to base my expectations. At the end of the marathon, I felt that I could have run another ten miles without substantially affecting my condition. I was able to speak coherently, move with my usual dexterity, and analyze the book I had read without any impediments. I therefore suspect that most severe problems experienced by conventional marathon runners come not from the running itself, but from all the environmental stresses of running outdoors for a protracted period of time without having ready supplies of food and water on hand.
If you are in any shape to run, you, too, can run an elliptical trainer marathon. As for any long-distance event, it will be necessary to train for some period of time by running shorter distances and building up your endurance as well as developing a pace that will not exhaust you within the first few miles of running. Just remember to put safety and some baseline of comfort first and to work at your own rate, taking up challenges only when you feel confident that you will be able to overcome them. Exercise is not about being tough or meeting other people’s expectations; it is about health and long life. If you keep this in mind, a lot of innovative possibilities will be open to you.
The Modularization of Activity – Article by G. Stolyarov II
On February 2, 2013, I ran my first ultramarathon: 50 kilometers (31.07 miles) in 5 hours, 10 minutes, 50 seconds – all within the comforts of my home on my elliptical trainer. I experienced no pain, no pounding, no strain on the joints, no car traffic, and no vicissitudes of weather. More importantly, I had constant access to water and nourishment if I wished it. The elliptical trainer’s shelf held my tablet computer, and I could pass the time reading articles, watching videos of philosophical discussions, and listening to Mozart.
This kind of experience is truly new. Even when I ran my first elliptical-trainer marathon in 2008 (see my article about that experience and its advantages here), I could not have replicated it. I had to content myself with reading a hard-copy book back then, prior to the age of e-readers and tablets. Cumulatively, I have read thousands of hard-copy pages while running, but the strain required for such reading is certainly far greater. Occasionally, one must hold the book still. The tablet screen is far more stable and versatile, offering vast possibilities for entertainment. With an Internet connection, immense repositories of information are at one’s fingertips, all without interrupting one’s workout!
Although the ability to radically customize my exercise has been quite recent, I have been contemplating the broader development it represents for years. In 2008, when walking between two buildings during a frigid Michigan winter, I was struck by the realization that life did not have to be this way in the future. I wanted to reach my destination and its amenities, but being outside in freezing weather was a mere contingent circumstance, unrelated to the specific goals I sought. As a result of this insight, I proposed that, in addition to indefinite life extension, complete liberty, and the cessation of all aggression, a worthwhile endeavor for the future should be the decoupling or de-packaging of activities from one another. Life should improve to such an extent that, when considering any activity, people should only need to accept the constitutive parts of that activity – not extraneous physical circumstances that simply get in the way.
Running is excellent exercise, but it has historically been fraught with unnecessary risks and discomforts. People have even died during “traditional” marathons, due to lack of preparation, lack of nourishment, extremes of weather, and the inability to access emergency aid. The repeated pounding of feet on the pavement damages the joints and bones; this is why so many lifelong runners get knee and hip replacements in their forties and fifties. By contrast, the elliptical trainer is gentle. The feet rest firmly on the pedals; there is no pounding or jarring. One can think more clearly and focus on study, esthetics, or entertainment. There is no worry of being stranded from civilization and its amenities. When running outdoors, every mile run away must be run back, even when one might not be in the proper condition to do so. I still remember, from my college days, what it feels like to have no choice but to run for miles after a fall, to have one’s path obstructed by unexpected deep snow, or to face a sudden, chilling wind. I remember the dangerous behavior of distracted drivers at street crossings and even the occasional loose angry dog.
It is self-defeating to take serious short-term risks in pursuit of long-term health. For the past 4.5 years, I have frequently been able to isolate the “pure exercise” element of running from the unnecessary vicissitudes of the outdoor environment. The benefits in improved productivity have been enormous as well: I attained all seven of my professional insurance designations through studying mostly performed on an elliptical trainer. I am able to keep up with current world events and read more opinion pieces, philosophical treatises, and online discussions than ever before. Writing on the elliptical trainer is still quite laborious, but I can consume content during my workout as well as I could sitting at my desktop.
What enables this modularization – this separation of the desirable from the undesirable and the recombination of the desirable parts into simultaneous, harmonious experiences? Technology is the great de-packager of experiences that have hitherto been inseparable of necessity. At the same time, technology is the great assembler of experiences that could not have previously coexisted. In the eighteenth century, you would have had to be among the wealthiest kings and aristocrats in order to hear a string quartet while reading or writing. You would have needed to retain your own court musicians, or to hire professional performers at great expense. Now you can avail yourself of this combination at virtually any time, on demand, without any incremental expenditure of money.
Other common modularizations now occur with scant notice by most. Today, thanks to global shipping networks, you can eat two fruits on the same plate, whose growing seasons are months apart. Some of these fruits will only have the parts you like, and none of those pesky little seeds – thanks to genetic engineering. Whereas previously you would have had to purchase prepackaged vinyl records, cassette tapes, or CDs, now you can obtain individual songs, lectures, speeches, podcasts, or audiobooks and combine them in any way you like. Whereas old-style television networks expected you to adjust your schedule to them, and to sit through annoying advertisements every ten minutes, you can now access inexhaustible content online and watch it at your own schedule.
But this great process of empowering individuals by breaking down old pre-packaged bundles is just beginning. Consider the improvements we could witness in the foreseeable future:
1. The rise of autonomous, self-driving vehicles could not only get rid of the chore of driving, but could also save tens of thousands of lives annually, as the overwhelming majority of automobile accidents and fatalities are due to human error. In the meantime, occupants of autonomous vehicles could entertain themselves in ways previously inconceivable. Texting while driving will no longer pose a risk, because the vehicle will not depend on you.
2. The mass production of in-vitro meat could enable humans to consume meat without requiring the deaths of millions of animals. This will not only increase the ethical comfort and esthetic satisfaction of meat-eating, but will also reduce the messiness of food preparation. It will also reduce the unpleasant odors emanating from large-scale livestock farms.
3. The rise in videoconferencing and telecommuting will simultaneously raise productivity, lower business costs, and improve employee morale. Employees will be able to more flexibly balance their jobs and personal lives. Neither work emergencies nor personal emergencies would need to escalate, unaddressed, just because attending to such emergencies immediately is impractical. More remote collaboration will become possible, without the need to amass huge travel bills or endure sub-optimal and sometimes outright undignified conditions at airports or on roads.
4. Personalized medicine – aided by vast and cheap data about the body and the use of portable devices as the first line of screening and diagnosis – would save considerable money on medical costs and encourage a focus on prevention. It would also enable people to avoid much of the bureaucracy associated with contemporary medical systems, and would free doctors to receive visits related to genuinely the serious conditions that require their expertise. Patients who discover specific health problems could apply directly to specialists, instead of using general practitioners as filters. Burdens on general practitioners would thereby be reduced, enabling them to provide a higher quality of care to the patients that remain.
5. Improved infrastructure should mitigate the effects that the vicissitudes of weather and vehicle traffic have on our everyday movements. Air conditioning and heating in automobiles, trains, and airplanes have already helped greatly in this regard. Additional investments should be made into covered passageways connecting proximate buildings in cities, as well as subterranean and above-ground pedestrian street crossings. Dashing across a traffic-filled intersection should be made obsolete, and our future selves should eventually come to be astonished at the barbarism of societies where people took such outrageous risks just to get from one place to another. In less populated areas, the least that could be done is for sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists to be made ubiquitous, so as to avoid the mingling of cars with less protected modes of transport.
6. Nanofibers and innovative fabrics could render much clothing immune to the typical inconveniences and hazards of everyday wear. Wrinkling, staining, and tearing would become mere historical memories. Packing for a trip would become much easier, and compromises between esthetics and practicality would disappear. Individual expression would be empowered in clothing as in so many other areas. Some clothing might be engineered to keep the temperature near the body at comfortable levels, or to absorb solar energy to power small electronic devices.
7. Education could be greatly improved by decoupling it from classrooms, stiff metal chair-desks, dormitories, bullies, enforced conformity, and one-size-fits-all instruction aimed at the lowest common denominator. The Internet has already begun to break down the “traditional” model of schooling, a dysfunctional morass that our culture inherited from the theological universities of the Middle Ages, with some tweaks made during the mid-nineteenth century in order to train obedient soldiers and factory workers for the then-emerging nation-states. The complete breakdown of the classroom model cannot come too soon. Even more urgent is the breakdown of the paradigm of overpriced hard-copy textbooks, which thrive on rent-seeking arrangements with formal educational institutions. Traditional schooling should be replaced by a flexible model of certifications that could be attained through a variety of means: online study, apprenticeship, tutoring, and completion of projects with real-world impact. A further major breakthrough might be the replacement of protracted degree programs with more targeted “competency” training in particular skills – which could be combined in any way a person deems fit. Instead of attaining a degree in mathematics, a person could instead choose to earn any combination of competencies in various techniques of integration, differential equations, abstract algebra, combinatorics, topology, or a number of other sub-fields. These competencies – perhaps hundreds of them in mathematics alone – could be mixed with any number of competencies from other broadly defined fields. A single person could become a certified expert in integration by parts, Baroque composition, the economic law of comparative advantage, and the history of France during the Napoleonic Wars, among several hundreds of relatively compact other areas of focus. Reputable online databases could keep track of individuals’ competencies and render them available for viewing by anyone with whom the individual shares them – from employers to casual acquaintances. This would be a much more realistic way of signaling one’s genuine skills and knowledge. Today, a four-year degree in X does not tell prospective employers, business partners, or other associates much, except perhaps that a person is sufficiently competent at reading, writing, and following directions as to not be expelled from a college or university.
The modularization of activity promises to liberate immense amounts of time and energy by enabling people to focus directly on what is important to them. The hardships that are typically seen as part of the “package” of certain experiences today are not, in any manner, necessary, ennobling, or “worth it”. A good thing does not become any better just because one has had to sacrifice other good things for it. Modularization will enhance individual choice and facilitate ever greater customization of life. Some will allege that this will reduce the diversity of experience; they will claim that individuals lose out on the breadth of exposure that comes with being involuntarily thrust into unexpected situations. But this was never an optimal way to pursue diverse experiences. A better way is to remove from one’s life the time-consuming byproducts of useful activities, and to fill the resulting extra time with a deliberate pursuit of new endeavors and experiences. If you do not have to drive in busy traffic, you can spend the extra time reading a book that you would not have read otherwise. If you do not have to deal with a random group of people your age in a traditional school, you can instead go out and meet individuals with whom you could undertake meaningful interactions and mutual endeavors.
Because modularization allows individuals to form their own packages of activities, it will enable us to arrive at an era of truly effective multi-tasking – not the frenzied and stressful rush to do multiple incompatible tasks at the same time, as often occurs today. Technology allows for diversity among individuals’ minds and enables each person to combine and recombine activities so as to make the most out of all of their abilities at any given time. For instance, I think of activities as occupying particular “tracks” in my own mind. I can only competently handle one verbal “track” (written or spoken) at one time. I can combine a verbal “track” with a motion-based “track” and an auditory non-verbal “track” – by reading, exercising, and listening to music simultaneously. I can also do so by writing (which is both verbal and motion-based) and listening to music simultaneously. If I am listening to an audio recording of a book, essay, or podcast, then my visual faculty is free to look at art, or to create it. I can do the former while exercising. On the other hand, I do not enjoy leaving off any particular verbal or motion-based task prior to its completion, in order to engage in another task of the same “track”. Thus, I generally structure my activities so that such tasks occur in a linear succession and without interspersion. Auditory experiences are easier for me to halt and resume, so I can more readily shift from one to another, depending on where I am on my other “tracks”. It may be that some of my readers have extremely different combinations with which they are most comfortable. The very purpose of modularization is to allow each individual to make choices accordingly, while being subject to increasingly fewer material or cultural limitations that constrain people to accept any particular “packages” of activities.
Modularization is liberation – of time, energy, comfort, and productive effort. It is yet another way in which technology empowers us and enhances our lives in an unprecedented fashion.