Posted: Fri, October 19, 2012 | By: Maria Konovalenko
by Maria Konovalenko…
I am an aging fighter. I would very much like to live forever, but most importantly I would like all the people in the world to have this opportunity.
I work for the Science for Life Extension Foundation in Moscow, Russia. It is a small private non-profit headed by Mikhail Batin. Our goal is to attract funding for research aimed at studying the fundamental mechanisms of aging and finding the ways of life extension. We are attracting around 5 million dollars a year on average, both from the government and the private sector.
I am a transhumanist. I would very much like to live forever, but most importantly I would like all the people in the world to have this opportunity. Therefore, I am spending 100% of my time on life extension projects. I graduated from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, which is the best Physics school in Russia. My major is Molecular Biological Physics. During my 5th year at school I had a course in Gerontology and this is how I became involved with the radical life extension initiative. I have spent 9 years in the music school and I’ve been swimming competitively for about 11 years in Murmansk, my home town, which is located in the very north-west part of Russia. It is a place where we have 9 months of winter, and I really wish I were joking.
Right now I am entirely focused on transhumanism, because I believe life extension is the top priority goal.
Why did I co-start the international Longevity Party, with Ilia Stambler? Because life is the main human right, demand and desire. Trying to increase lifespan means wanting to live and be constantly healthy. In the modern developed society life expectancy depends on the state of biomedical technologies. And the state of health care is the issue of government policy. I am talking not only about the availability of modern technologies, but also about whether they are actually developed or not. This means that your life depends entirely on the budgets allocated for fighting aging and life extension. It is crucial that people in different countries demand funding the fight against aging, because the main interest of the voters is staying alive. So, the question whether you are alive or not is a political one. A party is a political tool, therefore it is essential the majority of countries have parties that place life extension on the top place in their agenda.
The idea of the Longevity Party is acting rationally in our own interest. I believe if there were 20 people in the US, who had the necessary level of intellectual resources, they could change the situation, possibly with the help of the Longevity Party. Unfortunately, there is no large-scale scientific project in the area of life extension. The task of the Longevity Party is to elucidate the super-importance of such a project to the people.
At this moment the will to live looks like a struggle of common sense against superstition and unbelievable stupidity. Idiocy is an incredibly strong enemy. You cannot just go ahead and tell people that living is good and dying is bad, because you will immediately hear in response that many “would be bored to hell to live that long” and they “don’t want to argue with nature.”
Arguments are not enough to persuade the public, we need a powerful propaganda machine. How this machine is organized is perhaps the task of the Longevity Party, or perhaps the task of an incredible genius who will become the most significant person in the history of the civilization. I don’t know such a person yet. The goals of the party include finding this leader or leaders. Defeating aging is defeating narrow-mindedness, lack of education and inertia; it requires total intellectual superiority.
I envision a global Longevity Party. A national initiative [in numerous nations] to fight for radical life extension would be enough. The US, UK, Germany, Turkey and Russia all possess the budgets for radical life extension. However, the influence of transhumanists on national governments is zero. Probably the first goal of the international alliance for significant life extension is to impact the situation in a single small country, like Denmark or Israel. We could play on the will of small countries to be noticed. People don’t listen to logical arguments, so maybe art can help us, like Pussy Riot or Femen.
The international Longevity Party is the alliance of people with firm character. If you have decided to be involved in transhumanism professionally - welcome. Our first step? Maybe we should let 400 coffins float down the Hudson River, that’s the number of people that die each day in NYC. I know only one thing - we need to be courageous.
Forums, where mostly freaks hang out, are useless. Conversations among ourselves have given us exactly nothing. The Party is a tool of self-identification. We need to give people the opportunity to make a rational and moral choice, that is to join the Party.
So far, the response I have gotten from people about the Longevity Party is… okay. People are active and willing. There are no strong leaders, though. They are especially needed in the United States. Maybe a critical mass is lacking.
In Russia registering a political party is a rather bureaucratic procedure and is frowned upon by the government. We have submitted the application and we need to organize the founding meeting within half a year with representatives from 42 regions of the country. This is quite a significant amount of money for us. Nonetheless, we are going to give away membership cards. We will think of the hierarchy so that a person could grow within the Party and gain new knowledge.
My prediction for the future? Will immortality be achieved? If humanity doesn’t perish, then immortality is inevitable. The only question is whether you, specifically, are going to make it. The most irrational human generation is ruling the planet now. It is missing the unique opportunity to radically extend their own lives. Undone is even a simple experiment of testing the longevity effects of pharmacological compounds in humans. This should have been done already, in the 1970s!
If this generation dies, it dies only because of its own stupidity. Because it doesn’t care about scientific research in the area of life extension. There is some research going on, but it’s pace and the amount of funding is ridiculous compared to the importance of the goal.
I believe that real technologies of rejuvenation could be created in 20 years provided there is a scientifiс megaproject on life extension. It is going to be expensive at first - several billion dollars, but after a while the price will fall down the same way it did with genome sequencing, which costs a couple thousand dollars today and will be less than a hundred dollars tomorrow. If you are less than 65 years old, then you can buy immortality with about 30 billion dollars. But you also need intelligence and will. Intelligence you need for not giving your money to frauds, and will - to not to stop half-way to eternal life.
If you are 20, you have pretty good chances to live up to 1000 years, if there’s no global catastrophe. There’s only one serious problem threatening immortality - Unfriendly Artificial Intelligence. Aside from that - people have got the whole universe ahead of them.
If you are older than 60 - you should do diagnostics of aging using numerous biomarkers, fight cancer, and be involved in cryonics.
If you are 50-60 years old - you should be involved in regenerative medicine and gene therapy, in particular, creating the “longevity viruses.”
If you are 40-50 - you should focus on therapeutic cloning, brain transplantation artificial organs, neuro-modeling.
If you are 30-40 - you should work on development of friendly Artificial Intelligence and nanotechnologies.
If you are 20-30 - do all of the above.
If you are less than 20, aging will be defeated without you. Your major risk is a global catastrophe. Work on creating the friendly AI and it’s going to solve all the problems and you will become a superhuman with capabilities that the Olympic Gods wouldn’t even dream of.
But of course, improve yourselves, study and look after your health at any age.
What do I see as the best path to Radical Life Extension? Technology is convergent and genome manipulations are now absolute nanotechnologies. Most effective is stimulating our own reparative, regenerative mechanisms. We need to urgently bring the diagnostics of age-related changes, i.e. aging, to the clinic. We need to learn how to restore functioning of the damaged spine using stem cells and transplant brains in primates. We need to learn how to clone a human. We need to carry out the Human Epigenome Project.
(I mentioned cloning, hence a few words about bioethics.)
We need to make it clear to everyone that life extension and defeat of death is absolutely moral and righteous for humanity. Miscreants, religious zealots and unbelievable illiterates are using their rhetoric to slow down scientific progress. Progress, by definition, is the movement from bad to good. Today, we transhumanists must promote the ideals of goodness, to combat people in pulpits and media who harangue against life extension, mortifying millions of people in the name of “bioethics.” It is, quite obviously, quintessentially Ethical to save the lives of millions of people. The servants of Satan stand against us, when they try to inculcate their credulous parishes that they act out of love for them.
The incontestable leader in biotechnology is the United States. Maybe China will come up with something significant. Europe has kind of mentally surrendered in the technological race. Governments in Europe act mostly to please the middlebrows with their not-so-sophisticated values: how to eat tasty food and watch football. Europeans are forced to transform into social animals that live in autopilot mode. On the other hand, Life Extension is a creative goal. People in society have to come out their psychological comfort zone.
When we understand that aging isn’t absolutely required, Death becomes horrifying. The nation where a critical mass of people think like that, will be the nation that solves the problem of life extension.
What do I need to help me with my endeavor? Money. As a biophysicist, I can tell you that money is the source of life. Unfortunately, our supporters have very little money. There are almost no people in the world working on advancing transhumanism who are not thinking about where to get food, clothing and housing.
If you haven’t got many resources, spend them on self-education in the area of molecular biology, artificial Intelligence or similar things. Even if you have tons of money, you should do the same thing. Studying stimulates neurogenesis and helps you make the right decisions.
The Longevity Party needs design, movies, art, scientific research, organizational work, lobbying, advertising, websites, remote education. Even making an interactive multimedia textbook on aging costs several millions of dollars. Nonetheless, we have to act even in these hostile circumstances.
My final advice? Supporters of radical life extension should meet together often, so that new projects can originate from discussions. We have to persuade the people around us. We have to spoil each and every party with conversations about immortality and emerging technologies.
Maria Konovalenko is a molecular biophysicist and the program coordinator for the Science for Life Extension Foundation. She earned her M.Sc. degree in Molecular Biological Physics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
This essay first appeared at the website of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, here