I don’t think I’d seen this encouraging Harris poll before, of 2,242 U.S. adults in Sept. 6- 12, 2005
“Please indicate whether you support or oppose the policy.”
96% Medicare (health insurance for the elderly and disabled)
93% Use of birth control/contraception
92% Condom use to prevent HIV and other STDs
91% Medicaid (health insurance for people with low incomes)
87% Sex education in high school
87% Funding of international HIV prevention and treatment programs
75% Universal health insurance
70% Embryonic stem cell research
70% Funding of international birth control programs
68% Withdrawal of life support systems/food for those in vegetative state
63% Abortion centers
There is a technoprogressive majority out there, in the U.S. and in the world. We just need to mobilize them.
These notes were posted by IEET Fellow Andy Miah on his blog:
Tomorrow’s People - Oxford, James Martin Institute, Said Business School
Here I am at the Oxford meeting, which is one of the most exciting and interesting I have attended. Major names are here from all kinds of disciplinary perspectives, philosophy, sociology, natural science. The sun is even shining here! The level of the debate is high and many issues exciting. I have already had conversations with Joel Garreu, James Hughes, Julian Savulescu, William Sims Bainbridge, Lee Silver and a representative from the House of Commons Select Committee for Science and Technology.
My session on ‘rethinking enhancement in sport’ was lively and I got the felt that these issues are just beginning for us all. There’s a great deal left to be done.
I even signed a couple of copies of ‘Genetically Modified Athletes‘, which happened to be in the Blackwell book stand!
I delivered two talks at the James Martin conference at Oxford, one on “human nature” and one on “how to create the cultural, political and policy context for universal access to safe enhancement technologies,” which are available onliine.
Over the course of the summer of 2006 the IEET will be considering a new set of priorities and foci, to replace the current six programmatic emphases that we adopted from the WTA. There are many interesting policy areas that fit within a broader technoprogressive agenda, that are only peripherally related to the human enhancement agenda, such as energy policy, education, social welfare and employment policy, and international security, which could be addressed in more focused ways. There are also topics and constituencies which could more effectively help us make the case for human enhancement.
If you have thoughts about the programatic agenda that the IEET should move toward, pleaase let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
In that context I was intrigued by this Future Brief survey, fielded by Zogby, which had 13,400 American respondents between January 27-30, 2006.
Future Brief asked: QUESTION: Which of the following would you most like to see accomplished through the development of emerging technologies?
- An end to fossil fuels: 45.6%
- An end to disease: 20.5%
- An end to world hunger: 18.2%
- Extended life-span: 5.4%
- Exploration of the universe: 4.7%
- None/Not sure: 5.6%
I just spent three hours recording a special for CNN called Welcome to the Future, along with Jeff Greenfield, Ray Kurzweil, Mirka De Arellano, and the spectabulous (yes, she deserves her own adjective) Margaret Cho, which will air on CNN the evening of March 25.
The “Segundas Jornadas sobre Convergencia Ciencia-Tecnología” took place in the University of Alcalá (near Madrid) from 6 to 10 March 2006. On March 9 there was a panel on “TRANSHUMANISMO: UNA VISIÓN ÉTICA DE LA TECNOLOGÍA PARA LA EXTENSIÓN DE LA VIDA” (Transhumanism: an ethical vision of life extension technology) with speakers that included IEET Executive Director James Hughes, IEET Fellow Mike Treder and IEET Board member Giulio Prisco.
The event was very successful, with more than 500 students who listened to the presentations, and asking many passionate questions about how to ensure the safety and universal availability of emerging technologies in the future. Madrid-based Board member Prisco has been receiving letters from students to thank the lecturers for opening their eyes on the human enhancement worldview. One letter says: “until now I viewed our mortal lives as something with a beginning and an end, and nothing more. But now I believe in Man and in his technology, and this gives me hope”. The students in Spain appeared to accept that human enhancement technologies will be developed and deployed, sooner than most people think, and were willing to consider this as a positive or at least acceptable trend. But they want to hear “the rest of the story”: how to solve other, more urgent problems of our world like war, poverty, hunger, public health etc.
More than Human by Ramez Naam
Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau
Designer Evolution by Simon Young
Rebuilt by Michael Chorost
Fantastic Voyage by Ray Kurweil
The Golden Age trilogy by John C. Wright
Better Humans edited by Paul Miller and James Wilsdon
Aging has been slowed and healthy lifespan prolonged in many disparate animal models (C. elegans, Drosophila, Ames dwarf mice, etc.). Thus, assuming there are common fundamental mechanisms, it should also be possible to slow aging in humans.
Greater knowledge about aging should bring better management of the debilitating pathologies associated with aging, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Therapies targeted at the fundamental mechanisms of aging will be instrumental in counteracting these age-related pathologies.
Therefore, this letter is a call to action for greater funding and research into both the underlying mechanisms of aging and methods for its postponement. Such research may yield dividends far greater than equal efforts to combat the age-related diseases themselves. As the mechanisms of aging are increasingly understood, increasingly effective interventions can be developed that will help prolong the healthy and productive lifespans of a great many people.
Betterhumans.com, probably the best-known website focused on human enhancement and life extension news, has just launched an improved version, with (among many, many other things) a more community-driven structure and better RSS support. This will give it even more content, a faster update cycle, and more opportunities for close integration with other organizations.
The IEET is a proud partner and fan of Betterhumans, and we’ve been anxiously waiting for this opportunity to help us work closer with them. Now that the technological floodgates have opened, expect one or two new special features in our website.
Make sure you visit and join Betterhumans. We encourage everybody to contribute news and opinions there; it’s one of the key hubs of the larger transhumanist/extropian/enhancement community, and a great place to find out about new things and participate in the conversation.
Reinventing Humanity: The Future of Machine–Human Intelligence
By Ray Kurzweil
Author and inventor Ray Kurzweil sees a radical evolution of the human species in the next 40 years. Commentaries to this article are provided by development systems theorist John Smart, nanotech researcher J. Storrs Hall, cultural studies scholar Damien Broderick, and social critic and researcher Richard Eckersley.
Translation by Machine: A Bridge Across the Multicultural Gap
By David Belluomini
Growing diversity is a challenge in many U.S. neighborhoods. Technologies for overcoming language barriers offer hope for facilitating better communication.
At Home with Ambient Intelligence
By Patrick Tucker
In the future, your environment will respond to your needs and moods before you even know what they are.
Cyberimmortality: Science, Religion, and the Battle to Save Our Souls
By William Sims Bainbridge
Research enabling you one day to archive and regenerate your memory, personality, and consciousness—giving you cyberimmortality—may meet resistance from religious groups arguing that the soul is a spirit, not a system.
A Timeline for Technology: To the Year 2030 and Beyond
By Ian Pearson and Ian Neild
What’s ahead in technology, and what will it mean. This new timeline offers a glimpse of likely developments—and of how they may change our lives.
Andy writes: Just got back from the Torino 2006 Olympics after a marathon of interviews, research and function attendance. I only managed to see a couple of sports, but only briefly. There have been a number of controversies surrounding doping, which are ongoing. There was even talk of gene doping, but nothing confirmed. While there, I managed to interview twice for CBC, once for The Hour and also for main national news.
The symposium on Web 2.0 was also a lot of fun. Convinced me to go pro with flickr and set up on wordpress, which seems to be doing some great work.
Having a great time this weekend at Boskone, the annual Boston science fiction convention. I’ve brought my son, Tristan, along, who is reading a lot of science fiction, and is reading Newton’s Wake right now, a novel written by this one of this year’s Boskone’s guests of honor, Ken MacLeod. Ken is a left-libertarian Scot who has infused his ten novels with a profound engagement with political history, humor and philosophy. Ken serves as an Honorary Vice Chair of the World Transhumanist Association.
The other guest of honor is Cory Doctorow, also a left-libertarian who is close to the transhumanist movement, although his political engagement focuses on the fight against “digital rights management” or the overreach of the entertainment and information industries in kneecapping our ability to copy, edit, or share their products. Tristan and I listened to the podcasts of several of Cory’s stories on the drive to Boston, so he was prepared to make some intelligent comments about them.
At the opening panel, on “Utopias in Science Fiction”, there was a classic libertarian v. Marxist discussion with Ken MacLeod biting his lip not to respond to every paean to Thomas Jefferson and the perfection of the American utopia. MacLeod argued that every utopian vision since More’s Utopia had eliminated private property, and the conversation turned to whether super-abundance, eliminating the need for conflict and a state, is a necessary feature of utopia. The moderator suggested that the other way to create utopia is to change human nature, but immediately dismissed that as unattractive. Tristan was undeterred however, and suggested that if we wired everyone’s brains together so that they felt one another’s pain, that that would create utopia. This brought a small gasp from the 40-ish male libertarians in the crowd, as I glowed.
Another glow-worthy moment was being invited by Cory Doctorow to speak on the Cyborgs panel on Sunday, noting that he was just going to recap Citizen Cyborg. (Given Cory’s 500 mph brilliance I suspect he has rather more to say, but thanks for the shout out.)
Also met up with Boston transhumanist Marlin May, and having dinner with him tonight.
Linda MacDonald Glenn is a bioethicist, healthcare educator, lecturer, consultant and attorney. Formerly a fellow with the Institute of Ethics of the American Medical Association, and current Women’s Bioethics Project Scholar, Linda Macdonald Glenn’s research encompasses the legal, ethical, and social impact of emerging technologies and evolving notions of personhood.
Linda currently holds faculty appointments at the University Of Vermont College Of Nursing and Health Sciences, Department of Medical Laboratory and Radiation Sciences, and the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, Department of Biomedical Writing.
Linda is on the editorial board of the Journal of Evolution and Technology and is the author of provocative articles such as:
“Biotechnology at the Margins of Personhood: An Evolving Legal Paradigm” Journal of Evolution and Technology, 13(October) October 10, 2003
“A Legal Perspective on Humanity, Personhood, and Species Boundaries” American Journal of Bioethics 3.3 (2003) 27-28 June 10, 2003
We all share a desire for self-improvement. Whether through education, work, parenthood or adhering to religious or ethical codes, each of us seeks to become a ‘better human’ in a variety of ways. And for some people, more consumerist pursuits hold the key to self-improvement: working out in the gym, wearing makeup, buying new clothes, or indulging in a spot of cosmetic surgery.
But now a new set of possibilities is opening up. Advances in biotechnology, neuroscience, computing and nanotechnology mean that we are in the early stages of a period of huge technological potential. Within the next 30 years, it may become commonplace to alter the genetic make-up of our children, to insert artificial implants into our bodies, or to radically extend life expectancy.
This collection of essays by leading scientists and commentators explores the implications of human enhancement technologies and asks how citizens and policy-makers should respond.
On November 5, 2005 Drs. James Hughes (IEET Exec. Dir.), Martine Rothblatt (IEET Advisor), and Aubrey de Grey (IEET Fellow) spoke at the first Immortality Institute conference in Atlanta Georgia. Their powerpoints and video are now online:
Open Democracy has published a long and positive piece on anti-aging researcher and IEET fellow Aubrey de Grey. Paul Miller is an associate and James Wilsdon is head of science and innovation at the think-tank Demos. They are the editors of Better humans: the politics of human enhancement and life extension, a new collection of essays published by Demos, in association with the Wellcome Trust, on 8 February 2006.
“The man who wants to live forever” Paul Miller & James Wilsdon, Open Democracy, Feb 2, 2006
Aubrey de Grey believes that a 60-year-old alive today may become the first 1,000-year-old human. And he is serious. Paul Miller & James Wilsdon profile a scorned but calmly defiant pioneer of the science of biogerontology….
de Grey is convinced that politicians and policy-makers should think about life extension now rather than later. “Most policymakers get interested in therapies when they’re at the human trial stage. That’s wrong. They need to think about these things when we’re at the mice stage, if not before. Life extension could go from zero to infinity faster than the web. It will have a massive impact on the way that people live and plan their lives. Just think about how tricky it’s going to be to retain people in vital but risky jobs – like the fire service or the army. Everybody’s going to be doing their best to live long enough to live forever.”
In his State of the Union address George Bush called for a ban on cloning, embryo experimentation and human-animal hybridization:
“Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our Creator—and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale.”
Doug Frauenfelder of Boing Boing interviewed Douglas Rushkoff about his new comic book called Testament, published by vertigo/DC. “The story is set in the near future, in which people in the United States are required by the government to have an RFID tracking chip implanted in their are. At the same time, Rushkoff retells stories from the Old Testament that parallel the near-future story.” Listen to the interview here (20MB MP3). Testament will be a monthly series from Vertigo/DC, is scheduled to premiere in November.
“consider the kind of choices people might make if their biological deadlines were to be extended by decades. How long would our de facto adolescence last? How much longer would we postpone childbearing, if many of us didn’t abandon the business altogether? How would the balance of social energies tilt between the young and the old? Would it not lead (liberals, take note) to an increasingly conservative and perhaps reactionary society? Would not the bulk of human energies turn toward coarse and selfish attempts at self-preservation? ‘There are very few people who’ve been around a long time who see anything with fresh eyes,’ says Dr. Kass. ‘We need to put our weight with the young.’”
As with most of Leon’s much loved musings he leaves it others to figure out the policy implications of his “questions” and “concerns.” What exactly does it mean to “put our weight with the young”? Does it mean grandma doesn’t get antibiotics after 90? Does it mean no FDA approval of life enhancements that take us past 100? I suppose even the Wall Street Journal would balk at such a statist solution, so we are left to just ponder how yucky it would be if everybody got to live longer. Here’s hoping that Ed Pellegrino, the new President’s Council chair, will provide a little less amorphous as a sparring partner in the debate.
Here’s the first bit of the transcript of the 60 Minutes episode that, on January 1, 2006, profiled IEET Fellow Aubrey de Grey and his ideas about anti-aging therapies. Watch the show here
Jan 1, 2006
Scientist Ponders Eternal Youth
(CBS) How’s this for an offer you can’t refuse: how would you like to live say, 400 or 500 years, or even more and all of them in perfect health? It’s both a Utopian and a nightmare scenario but there are those who say it is well within the realm of possibility.
Though we live longer and healthier lives than our grandparents, 100 is more or less the outer limit because, catastrophic disease aside, we just plain wear out. But 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer talked to one scientist who says that’s old-fashioned thinking, that sometime in the next 20 to 30 years or so we’ll be able to recondition ourselves for the first steps towards immortality.
We begin our journey to the outer limits with a gentle trip down the River Cam, floating by that center of British learning, Cambridge University. Our guide and helmsman: Dr. Aubrey de Grey. He ponders while he punts.
“When I was a student, I bought my own punt, a secondhand one for a few hundred pounds. And I used it in the summer to do what’s called chauffeur punting,” says de Grey. “People come along, tourists, and you tell them lies for money.”
Today he’s pondering his favorite premise: eternal youth….
Hans Baldung Grien: The Ages And Death, c. 1540-1543There is a disease which causes the human body and mind to gradually deteriorate, causing its sufferers to experience discomfort, memory loss, failed health, disfigurement, and severe physical and mental handicaps. It is always fatal, and there is no known cure. The scientific term for this disease is Senescence, though it is more commonly known as aging or growing old. Every single person is born with this condition, and it kills over a million people a year in the U.S. alone.
Thinking of old age as a curable disease seems strange to some people, but great leaps in medical progress over the past few decades are indicating a future where no one will need to suffer the deteriorating physical condition and the dulling of the mind which occur during aging. Scientists may be able to repair this flaw in evolution’s design, and perhaps perpetual youth will become a reality soon enough that you and I might live to enjoy it.
We here at DamnInteresting.com recently had an opportunity to converse with two of the men leading the effort towards the elimination of aging: Mr. Kevin Perrott and Dr. Aubrey de Grey. But we tried not to take up too much of their time, because they have a lot of work to do, and none of us are getting any younger.
“Besides teaching Darwin, do you have any other recommendations for engaging students in biology education?
Arnhart: I would suggest that biology teachers should introduce discussions of the many moral, political, and religious implications of biology. For example, advances in biotechnology are going to change human life. Some people even think that biotechnological power over the human body and mind might eventually create a ‘transhuman’ or ‘posthuman’ species. Why shouldn’t this become a topic for high school students? Wouldn’t such topics stir them to think more deeply about science than they otherwise would?”
But don’t get him wrong. Arnhart isn’t a transhumanist. He is author of Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature and Darwinian Conservatism. Listen here to a lecture by Arnhart speaking on a panel on “Transhumanism” at the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences in Washington D.C., Sept 1, 2005. He’s very critical of the Nietzschean overtones of the H+ers. But obviously he recognizes the importance and sexiness of the issues.
A great article by Andy has just appeared in the latest special issue of The Lancet:
Kayser B, Mauron A, Miah Andy “Legalisation of performance-enhancing drugs” page S21Link
The rules of sport definne a level playing field on which athletes compete.Antidoping policies exist,in theory, to encourage fair play.However,we believe they are unfounded dangerous,and excessively costly.
The need for rules in sports cannot be dismissed. But the anchoring of today’s antidoping regulations in the notion of fair play is misguided, since other factors that affect performance e.g., biological and environmental factors, are unchecked. Getting help from one’s genes by being blessed with a performance-enhancing genetic predisposition is acceptable.Use of drugs is not. Yet both types of advantage are undeserved. Prevailing sports ethics is unconcerned with this contradiction.
Also, from the Science Notebook of the London Times:
Science has become so pervasive in sport, argues Andy Miah, a bioethicist at the University of Paisley, that we should view genetic modification (GM) as just another performance- improving technology. What, with training methods, nutritional supplements and specialised equipment, the contemporary elite athlete is already inherently technological, Dr Miah says. GM is only cheating insofar as its banned by the WADA. But should it be? Despite the ban, GM athletes are expected to make their first appearance covertly at Beijing in 2008.
Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out is out! Written by IEET Fellow Douglas Rushkoff, it’s an original, playful and passionate work about innovation and where it comes from.
American companies are obsessed with window dressing, Rushkoff writes, because they’re reluctant, no, afraid to look at whatever it is they really do and evaluate it from the inside out. When things are down, CEO’s look to consultants and marketers to rethink, re-brand or repackage whatever it is they are selling, when they should be getting back on the factory floor, into the stores, or out to the research labs where their product is actually made, sold, or conceived.
You can buy it in Amazon, B&N or your favorite well-stocked bookshop.