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Happy Future Day! – Article by Edward Hudgins

Happy Future Day! – Article by Edward Hudgins

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins

Stand up for optimism about the future today!

Transhumanism Australia, a non-profit that promotes education in science and technology, has marked March 1 as “Future Day.” It wants this day celebrated worldwide as a time “to consider the future of humanity.” If all of us made a habit of celebrating our potential, it could transform a global culture mired in pessimism and malaise. It would help build an optimistic world that is confident about what humans can accomplish if we put our minds and imaginations to it.

The Future is Bright

The information and communications technology that helps define and shape our world was, 40 years ago, a vision of the future brought into present reality by visionaries like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The exponential growth of the power of semiconductors allowed entrepreneurs to create one new industry and cutting-edge good product and service after another.

futureToday, we are at exponential takeoff points in biotech, nanotech, and artificial intelligence. For example, the cost of sequencing a human genome was $100 million in 2001, $10 million in 2007, but it costs only a few thousand dollars today. Steve Jobs created the first Apple computers in his garage. Biohackers similarly housed could transform our lives in the future in ways that still seem to most folks like science fiction; indeed, the prospect of “curing death” is no longer a delusion of madmen but the well-funded research projects in the laboratories of the present.

For a prosperous present and promising future a society needs physical infrastructure—roads, power, communications. It needs a legal infrastructure—laws and political structures that protect the liberty of individuals so they can act freely and flourish in civil society. And it requires moral infrastructure, a culture that promotes the values of reason and individual productive achievement.

Future “Future Days”

We should congratulate our brothers “Down Under” for conceiving of Future Day. They have celebrated it in Sydney with a conference on the science that will produce a bright tomorrow. We in America and folks around the world should build on this idea. Today it’s a neat idea: next year, we could start a powerful tradition, a global Future or Human Achievement Day, promoting the bright future that could be.

Were such a day marked in every school and every media outlet, it could to raise achiever consciousness. It could celebrate achievement in the culture—who invented everything that makes up our world today, and how? It could promote achievement as a central value in the life of each individual, whether the individual is nurturing a child to maturity or a business to profitability, writing a song, poem, business plan or dissertation, laying the bricks to a building or designing it, or arranging for its financing.

Such a day would help create the moral infrastructure necessary for a prosperous, fantastic, non-fiction future, a world as it can be and should be, a world created by humans for humans—or even transhumans!

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

An Analysis of Ethical Issues in the Film “Gattaca” (2004) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

An Analysis of Ethical Issues in the Film “Gattaca” (2004) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 4, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007. It earned over 40,000 page views since, and I seek to preserve it 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. 
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 4, 2014

The central ethical dilemma of the 1997 Andrew Niccol film Gattaca concerns the manner in which an individual ought to be judged. Should it be by the composition of his genome, present at birth, or by the attributes of personality and ambition that are chosen by that individual? In the futuristic society depicted in the film, genetic engineering allows for the elimination of almost all physical defects in newborns, whose bodily characteristics later render them far more favorable candidates for employment than those whose genes had not been enhanced in this manner. Eventually, interviews are conducted not to assess an applicant’s character and determination, but his genetic code. The even more fundamental question that arises from this is, “What determines the essential identity of a human being? Is it his genetic code, or is it something else?”

Vincent is a child born in the obsolete manner, and thus his genome is riddled with “errors,” from which high “probabilities” of him obtaining certain ailments later in life are inferred. Nevertheless, these are probabilities only, and Vincent is healthy, athletic, and yearns to one day explore outer space. Unfortunately, he is denied admission to Gattaca, the facility of the space program, on the basis of his genome alone. Despite his splendid knowledge of astronomy and navigation, the best test scores in the world will not admit him.

Yet Vincent is not content with the position of janitor, and “borrows” the identity of Jerome Morrow, a paralyzed individual with a superb genome. A series of complex procedures is designed to allow Vincent to pass all the substance tests and gain admission to Gattaca under the name of Jerome Morrow. Jerome may have the genetic endowment to enter Gattaca, but he lacks the will, and thus harbors no objection to Vincent taking his place. Another employee at Gattaca, Irene, had also been born in the obsolete manner, but her genome is adequate enough for her to be permitted to work on minor tasks. She suspects that Vincent may be connected with the recent murder of the mission director, who was about to uncover Vincent’s actual identity. In the process, however, she enters a relationship with Vincent, and faces the dilemma of whether or not to disclose his identity to the police.

Vincent’s brother, Anton, is the inspector heading the murder investigation. Throughout his childhood, he sought to demonstrate his superiority to Vincent by virtue of his enhanced genetic endowment. Nevertheless, Vincent had once saved Anton’s life in a game of “chicken,” where Anton’s body had failed him, while Vincent’s was able to endure. Anton wishes to maintain the image of his superiority and is immensely jealous of Vincent’s successful aspiring to the heights of outer space.

Vincent attempts to deceive the security systems at Gattaca by pretending to be Jerome Morrow and presenting samples of bodily substances prepared by Jerome for various examinations. In the meantime, he studies and works diligently, and his level of performance at Gattaca is precisely what is anticipated of a man with a privileged genetic endowment. Thus, only a few people ever come to suspect that Vincent is a “borrowed ladder,” a fabricator of his genetic identity. Vincent is set to depart on a mission into space, after which his individual merits will overrule his genome conclusively, and he will no longer be subject to genetic security tests. However, the murder of the mission director subjects Gattaca to a series of extremely intrusive investigations by police that threaten to uncover Vincent’s true identity and even arrest him for murder, even though Vincent is innocent of the crime.

Vincent’s tenacity and resolve to enter space ultimately allow him to successfully endure turbulent times. Despite a multitude of close calls, he is saved from universal detection, though he is recognized by Irene, whose personal admiration for Vincent overrides the fact that Vincent had broken the law. Anton also recognizes his brother and threatens to arrest him, still acting on his childhood jealousy. However, a final game of “chicken,” in which Vincent saves Anton once again, proves that Vincent’s defiance of the inferior expectations imposed upon him by his society has enabled him to exceed in his abilities individuals like Anton, whom societal expectations had favored. The doctor at Gattaca recognized Vincent’s individual merits and decided to fabricate a “valid” test for him on the day of the launch. To people like the doctor, Vincent has proved his worth and his genetic composition has become irrelevant.

Vincent’s course of action, though in violation of the law, was not in violation of moral principles. Vincent had harmed no one by his attempt to pursue his ambitions at Gattaca and in outer space; thus, his action exhibited the principle of nonmaleficence. His exploratory endeavors are of immense benefit to both himself and the level of knowledge available to the general society; thus, his action fulfills the principle of beneficence. His action was an exercise of his individual autonomy and right to self-determination in the face of a hierarchical culture that repressed these rights. Finally, his action attempted to allow Vincent to experience the just treatment that he deserved on the basis of his merits, and which, absent the action, would have been denied to him on the basis of his genome. Thus, the action fulfills the principle of justice.

A rational society would have resolved the ethical dilemma of the proper criterion of judging an individual by eschewing determinism altogether. Vincent should not have initially been seen solely as the product of his genes, for a man is born tabula rasa where the mind is concerned. The human genome determines only the structural mechanisms that exist in the individual organism. How the individual employs those mechanisms is a matter of pure willpower and determination. Few genes can conclusively determine an individual’s fate; a high probability of heart disease can be reduced by strenuous exercise, of the sort Vincent engaged in. A low “intelligence quotient” is no obstacle to an individual reading, comprehending, and applying immense volumes of material, so long as the interest to do so is clearly seen.

Vincent should have been admitted to Gattaca on the basis of a one-on-one interview process that tested his knowledge, physical skill, and enthusiasm for space exploration, for, without these, the finest genetic endowment can still produce a Jerome Morrow, a man who is paralyzed not only in body (by an accident) but in mind (by lack of ambition). The theory that fits this solution is principlism. Vincent is not harming anyone by pursuing his own favorite field of exploration; thus, the action is nonmaleficent. He is amply benefiting himself and others through his skilled endeavors in the realm of space exploration; thus, the action is beneficent. He is allowed to exercise his individual autonomy and pursue his goals, regardless of societal prejudices. And, finally, he is entitled to the same freedom of action and opportunity that other members of his society (the genetically engineered individuals) possess, which passes the test for comparative justice.

Weak Evidence Against a Significant Role for Nuclear DNA Damage in Aging – Article by Reason

Weak Evidence Against a Significant Role for Nuclear DNA Damage in Aging – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
February 2, 2014

The nuclear DNA in our cells is surrounded by a panoply of exceedingly efficient quality control and repair machinery, but nonetheless damage occurs: individual cells suffer all sorts of mutations over time as molecules react with DNA or pieces are lost or reshuffled during replication. This is more pronounced in long-lived cells, such as those in the central nervous system, or the stem cell populations that support specific tissues.

Cancer spawns from nuclear DNA damage, and the risk of cancer grows greatly with age – not just because of growing damage to nuclear DNA, but also due to the decline of the immune system’s watchdogs and other related consequences of aging. But aside from cancer, does the accumulation of various forms of nuclear DNA damage scattered across our cells contribute meaningfully to dysfunction and decline? There is some debate on this topic, and while the consensus position is more or less “yes, of course,” there is at this point no experiment by which one can conclusively demonstrate that this is the case.

Today I’ll point you to an open-access study in which researchers compare DNA sequencing data from the blood of a pair of 40-year-old twins and a pair of 100-year old twins. Blood cells cycle into and out of circulation on a timescale of a few months, but we might take nuclear DNA damage in blood cells as being representative of the damage present in the population of hematopoietic stem cells that generated those blood cells.

Aging as Accelerated Accumulation of Somatic Variants: Whole-Genome Sequencing of Centenarian and Middle-Aged Monozygotic Twin Pairs


It has been postulated that aging is the consequence of an accelerated accumulation of somatic DNA mutations and that subsequent errors in the primary structure of proteins ultimately reach levels sufficient to affect organismal functions. The technical limitations of detecting somatic changes and the lack of insight about the minimum level of erroneous proteins to cause an error catastrophe hampered any firm conclusions on these theories.In this study, we sequenced the whole genome of DNA in whole blood of two pairs of monozygotic (MZ) twins, 40 and 100 years old, by two independent next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms (Illumina and Complete Genomics). Potentially discordant single-base substitutions supported by both platforms were validated extensively by Sanger, Roche 454, and Ion Torrent sequencing.

We demonstrate that the genomes of the two twin pairs are germ-line identical between co-twins, and that the genomes of the 100-year-old MZ twins are discerned by eight confirmed somatic single-base substitutions, five of which are within nucleotide substitutions can be detected, and that a century of life did not result in a large number of detectable somatic mutations in blood.

I would have expected more differences and larger differences to turn up, but, as the researchers note, it is impossible to detect mutations that have not spread to at least some degree. (In this case, that means spreading through the population of hematopoietic stem cells.) A next step might be a survey of whole-genome sequencing by tissue types in old twins, especially those with longer-lived cells, to see whether this low level of exhibited mutational damage is peculiar to blood or typical for most or all tissues.


The number of somatic variants may be substantially larger but those present in smaller fractions of cells go undetected. Consistent, detectable somatic variation likely includes somatic mosaicism in blood generated during development or clonal expansion of mutations generated at any point during the lifetime. The frequency of these variants is limited in blood even after 100 years of life. In summary, this study shows that the number of detectable somatic variants in blood by using NGS is very low and that accumulation of somatic mutations is not necessarily a consequence of a century of life. Stochastic somatic variation occurring in less than 20% of cells will go undetected, however.

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

Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension – July 10, 2012

Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension – July 10, 2012

TRA’s Resources on Indefinite Life Extension page has been enhanced over the past two months with links to numerous fascinating articles and videos.


– “Scientists turn skin cells into beating heart muscle” – Kate Kelland – Reuters – May 22, 2012

– “Is Amyloidosis the Limiting Factor for Human Lifespan?” – Lyle J. Dennis, M.D. – Extreme Longevity – May 22, 2012

– “Israeli scientists create beating heart tissue from skin cells” – The Telegraph – May 23, 2012

– “Paralyzed rats walk again in Swiss lab study” – Chris Wickham – – May 31, 2012

– “New Cancer Drugs Use Body’s Own Defenses” – Ron Winslow – Wall Street Journal – June 1, 2012

– “Bristol immune drug shows promise in three cancers” – Julie Steenhuysen – Reuters – June 2, 2012

– “Prostate cancer drug so effective trial stopped” – Victoria Colliver – San Francisco Chronicle – June 2, 2012

– “New ‘smart bomb’ drug attacks breast cancer, doctors say” – Associated Press – June 3, 2012

– “Alzheimer’s vaccine trial a success” – Karolinska Institutet – June 6, 2012

– “Man Cured of AIDS: ‘I Feel Good’” – Carrie Gann – ABC News – June 8, 2012

– “Artificial Lifeforms Promise Cleaner World, Healthier Humans” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – June 9, 2012

– “Secret of ageing found: Japanese scientists pave way to everlasting life” – RT – June 9, 2012

– “How aging normal cells fuel tumor growth and metastasis” – Thomas Jefferson University – June 14, 2012

– “People Who Justify Aging are Profoundly Wrong – Aging is Abhorrent” – Maria Konovalenko – Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies – June 14, 2012

– “Scientists tie DNA repair to key cell signaling network” – University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston – June 15, 2012

– “Deciding How We Age as We Age” – Seth Cochran – h+ Magazine – June 19, 2012

– “How we die (in one chart)” – Sarah Kliff – Washington Post – June 22, 2012

– “Modified humans: the most cost-efficient way to colonize space” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – June 2012

– “Japanese Scientists Grow Human Liver From Stem Cells” – Reuters and Singularity Weblog – June 2012

– “Why Do Naked Mole Rats Live So Long? Do they hold the key to human life extension?” – Maria Konovalenko – Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies – June 29, 2012

– “Scientists Develop Alternative to Gene Therapy” – ScienceDaily – Scripps Research Institute – July 1, 2012

– “How to live beyond 100” – Lucy Wallis – BBC News – July 2, 2012

– “Earth 2050-2100: longer lives; new energy; FTL travel; global village” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – July 3, 2012

– “Scientists discover bees can ‘turn back time,’ reverse brain aging” – – Arizona State University – July 3, 2012

– “Secret formula may be key to reverse aging” – Mike Holfeld – Click Orlando – July 4, 2012

– “Is there a biological limit to longevity?” – Aubrey de Grey – KurzweilAI – July 5, 2012

– “Demystifying the immortality of cancer cells” – Medical Xpress – July 5, 2012

– “Suggesting a Test of Rapamycin and Metformin Together” – Reason – – July 5, 2012

– “Earth 2050-2100: Longer Lives; New Energy; FTL Travel; Global Village” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – July 7, 2012


Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey de Grey – Aging & Suffering – Interview with Adam Ford – May 31, 2012

Nikola Danaylov (Socrates)

Anders Sandberg on Singularity 1 on 1: We Are All Amazingly Stupid, But We Can Get Better – May 27, 2012

Hugo de Garis on Singularity 1 on 1: Are We Building Gods or Terminators? – June 2012

Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension – May 19, 2012

Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension – May 19, 2012

TRA’s Resources on Indefinite Life Extension page has been enhanced over the past month with links to numerous fascinating articles and videos.


– “New Laser For Neurosurgery Allows Greater Precision And Efficiency For Removal Of Complex Turmors” – ScienceDaily – January 28, 2009

– “Tiny Particles May Help Surgeons by Marking Brain Tumors” – ScienceDaily – April 29, 2010

– “Tagging Tumors With Gold: Scientists Use Gold Nanorods to Flag Brain Tumors” – ScienceDaily – October 12, 2011

– “Immortal worms defy aging” – KurzweilAI – February 29, 2012

– “Earth 2512: humans embrace their technologies; reach for the stars” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – April 2012

– “Teenager Invents Anti-Aging, Disease-Fighting Compound Using Tree Nanoparticles” – Science 2.0 – May 8, 2012

– “A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s ‘A Lesson in Mortality’” – G. Stolyarov II – May 13, 2012

– “Gene therapy for aging-associated decline” – KurzweilAI – May 16, 2012

– “Breakthrough in Gene Therapy Holds Great Promise” – Joshua Lipana – The Objective Standard – May 16, 2012


Aubrey de Grey – Debate with Colin Blakemore: “This house wants to defeat ageing entirely”

Part 1 – Main Debate 

Part 2 – Audience Q&A

The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford University – April 28, 2012

Aziz Aboobaker

Neverending DNA and Immortal Worms – February 27, 2012

G. Stolyarov II

The Real War – and Why Inter-Human Wars Are a Distraction – March 15, 2012

A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – May 15, 2012

Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension – April 19, 2012

Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension – April 19, 2012

TRA’s Resources on Indefinite Life Extension page has been expanded today with links to several engaging articles, some describing recent groundbreaking discoveries in layman-accessible terms.

– “Group Set To Sequence 1000 Genomes By The End Of The Year” – Peter Murray – Singularity Hub – April 4, 2012

– “Nanostars Deliver Cancer Drugs Direct To Nucleus” – Catharine Paddock, PhD – Medical News Today – April 8, 2012

– “Human-machine interfaces: becoming one with our machines” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – April 2012

– “Fullerene C60 administration doubles rat lifespan with no toxicity” – – April 17, 2012

– “Eternal health and youth will soon be possible, scientists say” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – April 17, 2012