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When Does Hindering Life Extension Science Become a Crime?
Zoltan Istvan   Jan 31, 2014   Ethical Technology  

Every human being has both a minimum and a maximum amount of life hours left to live. If you add together the possible maximum life hours of every living person on the planet, you arrive at a special number: the optimum amount of time for our species to evolve, find happiness, and become the most that it can be. Many reasonable people feel we should attempt to achieve this maximum number of life hours for humankind. After all, very few people actually wish to prematurely die or wish for their fellow humans’ premature deaths.

In a free and functioning democratic society, it's the duty of our leaders and government to implement laws and social strategies to maximize these life hours that we want to safeguard. Regardless of ideological, political, religious, or cultural beliefs, we expect our leaders and government to protect our lives and ensure the maximum length of our lifespans. Any other behavior cuts short the time human beings have left to live. Anything else becomes a crime of prematurely ending human lives. Anything else fits the common legal term we have for that type of reprehensible behavior: criminal manslaughter.

In 2001, former President George W. Bush restricted federal funding for stem cell research, one of the most promising fields of medicine in the 21st Century. Stem cells can be used to help fight disease and, therefore, can lengthen lives. Bush restricted the funding because his conservative religious beliefs—some stem cells came from aborted fetuses—conflicted with his fiduciary duty of helping millions of ailing, disease-stricken human beings. Much medical research in the United States relies heavily on government funding and the legal right to do the research.

Ultimately, when a disapproving President limits public resources for a specific field of science, the research in that field slows down dramatically—even if that research would obviously lengthen and improve the lives of millions.

It's not just politicians that are prematurely ending our lives with what can be called "pro-death" policies and ideologies. In 2009, on a trip to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI told journalists that the epidemic of AIDS would be worsened by encouraging people to use condoms. More than 25 million people have died from AIDS since the first cases began being reported in the news in the early 1980s. In numerous studies, condoms have been shown to help stop the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This makes condoms one of the simplest and most affordable life extension tools on the planet.

Unfathomably, the billion-person strong Catholic Church actively supports the idea that condom usage is sinful, despite the fact that such a malicious policy has helped sicken and kill a staggering amount of innocent people.

Regrettably, in 2014, America continues to be permeated with an anti-life extension culture. Genetic engineering experiments in humans often have to pass numerous red-tape-laden government regulatory bodies in order to conduct any tests at all, especially at publically funded universities and research centers. Additionally, many states still ban human reproductive cloning, which could one day play a critical part in extending human life.

The current US administration is also culpable. The White House is simply not doing enough to extend American lifespans. The US Government spends just 2% of the national budget on science and medical research, while their defense budget is over 20%, according to a 2011 US Office of Management Budget chart. Does President Obama not care about this fact, or is he unaware that not actively funding and supporting life extension research indeed shortens lives?

In my philosophical novel The Transhumanist Wager, there is a scene which takes place outside of a California courthouse where transhumanist activists are holding up a banner. The words inscribed on the banner sum up some eye-opening data: By not actively funding life extension research, the amount of life hours the United States Government is stealing from its citizens is thousands of times more than all the American life hours lost in the Twin Towers tragedy, the AIDS epidemic, and the Vietnam War combined. Demand that your government federally fund transhuman research, nullify anti-science laws, and promote a life extension culture. The average human body can be made to live healthily and productively beyond age 150.

Some longevity experts think that with a small amount of funding—$50 billion dollars—targeted specifically towards life extension research and ending human mortality, average human lifespans could be increased by 25-50 years in about a decade's time. The world's net worth is over $200 trillion dollars, so the species can easily spare a fraction of its wealth to gain some of the most valuable commodities humans have: health and time.

Unfortunately, our species has already lost a massive amount of life hours; billions of lives have been unnecessarily cut short in the last 50 years because of widespread anti-science attitudes and policies. Even in the modern 21st Century, our evolutionary development continues to be significantly hampered by world leaders and governments who believe in non-empirical, faith-driven religious doctrines—most of which require the worship of deities whose teachings totally negate the need for radical life extension science. Virtually every major leader on the planet believes their "God" will give them an afterlife in a heavenly paradise, so living longer on planet Earth is just not that important.

Back in the real world, 150,000 people died yesterday. Another 150,000 will cease to exist today, and the same amount will disappear tomorrow. A good way to reverse this widespread deathist attitude should start with investigative government and non-government commissions examining whether public fiduciary duty requires acting in the best interest of people's health and longevity. Furthermore, investigative commissions should be set up to examine whether former and current top politicians and religious leaders are guilty of shortening people's lives for their own selfish beliefs and ideologies.

Organizations and other global leaders that have done the same should be scrutinized and investigated too. And if fault or crimes against humanity are found, justice should be administered. After all, it's possible that the Catholic Church's stance on condoms will be responsible for more deaths in Africa than the Holocaust was responsible for in Europe. Over one million AIDS victims died in Africa last year alone. Catholicism is growing quickly in Africa, and there will soon be nearly 200 million Catholics on the continent. Obviously, the definition of genocide needs to be reconsidered by the public.

As a civilization of advanced beings who desire to live longer, better, and more successfully, it is our responsibility to put government, religious institutions, big business, and other entities that endorse pro-death policies on notice. Society should stand ready to prosecute anyone that deliberately promotes agendas and actions that prematurely end people's useful lives. Stifling or hindering life extension science, education, and practices needs to be recognized as a legitimate crime.

Images: 
- http://www.biologyreference.com/photos/dna-3920.jpg
- http://meninsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/condoms1.jpg
- BBC
- http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-rx8VUGOsQbM/UhoHv5QzFBI/AAA
AAAAAAJU/Scx9PtoT5jE/s1600/death_grim_reaper-1600x1200.jpg
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Benedykt_XVI_%282010-10-17%29_2.jpg




COMMENTS

“Society should stand ready to prosecute anyone that deliberately promotes agendas and actions that prematurely end people’s useful lives.” In other words, ban free speech on this issue?

The problem is that transhumanism and radical life extension are repellent to the vast majority of the population. I was just re-reading Marvin Minsky’s article in “The Transhumanist Reader” in which he asked for a show of hands on how many people in a fairly sophisticated audience would be interested in living 500 years. About 15% raised their hands. In the general public, the percentage would almost certainly be smaller.

We who are interested in transhumanism tend to forget that most people chart the courses of their lives and craft their important personal decisions based upon ideas implanted in their superegos during childhood and on their cultural milieu. People will literally rather die than transgress against these totems and norms. Until people see actual examples of, say, aging reversal, they will not change their preconceived notions.

We have been fortunate recently in that research into life extension has attracted support from a number of wealthy individuals and companies. Hopefully that will be enough to get us to the tipping point.

Admitted, that Bush era stem cell policy was stupid, and the Church’s ban on condoms in light of the AIDS epidemic morally abhorrent. But this doesn’t make sense to me:

“If you add together the possible maximum life hours of every living person on the planet, you arrive at a special number: the optimum amount of time for our species to evolve, find happiness, and become the most that it can be. Many reasonable people feel we should attempt to achieve this maximum number of life hours for humankind.”

Doesn’t adding new people also increase the “maximum number of life hours for humankind”? Banning condoms or other forms of birth control presumably increases the number of children, so holding governments accountable for not implementing or preventing ” laws and social strategies to maximize these life hours” would also by this logic make governments that attempt to control population growth or fund birth control as part of public health responsible for the “crime” of decreasing the “maximum number of life hours for humankind”. 

Comparing democratically sanctioned, if foolhardy, public health decisions to Hitler who deliberately murdered 6 million Jews and engaged in a policy of deliberate extermination is morally obscene. It also shows a lack of contact with political reality: we can’t even get ACTUAL WAR CRIMINALS who set out to kill people to the Hague. Errors of judgment are not the same as murder, and conflating the two will only sow more division and politicize the issue of longevity research which shouldn’t be a source of deep political division in the first place.   

“Genetic engineering experiments in humans often have to pass numerous red-tape-laden government regulatory bodies in order to conduct any tests at all,”

Are you suggesting a laissez faire attitude towards Human experimentation would be a good thing?

You also say that reproductive cloning could be used to extend Human life spans. Reproductive cloning by definition is cloning for the purpose of reproduction. Your clone would be allowed to gestate and mature and be considered a legal person. If you’re creating a clone embryo just for the stem cells then that is therapeutic cloning.

I like it: Jethro Knight has moved from fiction to non-fiction and is speaking out!

And I also think it’s helpful. The fact is that within society we have a very robust taboo against taking or curtailing life, to the extent that we often end up throwing vast resources prolonging the most morbid and decrepit part of life. (My thoughts always turn to my poor aunt at this point, vegetating and decaying in a nursing home with zero or negative quality of life. The best you can say about it is that it gives some people something to do: economic stimulus.) Yet as soon as you start talking about (radical) life extension it’s all, “Oh no, it’s not natural! We’d be playing God! Where will we put all those people?” And so on, and so on.

Why are ageing and death natural, but not lung cancer? Why are we obliged to do something about the latter, but not the former?

In other words, Zoltan has put his finger on a glaring inconsistency in the way society treats the whole issue of technology, life extension, disease, ageing and death, by taking our taboos against taking life to their logical conclusion and seeing where they would lead if applied consistently.

@Peter:

“...Zoltan has put his finger on a glaring inconsistency in the way society treats the whole issue of technology, life extension, disease, ageing and death, by taking our taboos against taking life to their logical conclusion and seeing where they would lead if applied consistently.”

I agree that normative changes regarding death are in order, but
I can not see how anything new has been identified when it comes to the argument for longevity research whether your aims are much more practical as in S. Jay Olshansky (which I think is both more achievable in the near term and more acceptable to the public) or hoping for a more radical extension of the human lifespan

http://utopiaordystopia.com/2013/11/08/the-longevity-crisis/

The difference is Zoltan has couched this in the rhetoric of threat.
If you don’t support longevity research or have some position that could be said to shorten longevity “we” may bring you to trial and one presumes perhaps even execute you for committing “crimes against humanity”. This is precisely the rhetoric of Terror which disturbed me about the TW in the first place.

I agree that there’s an implicit threat there. Is that necessarily bad? I have long believed that there is a certain trade-off to be made between polite and careful discourse and getting
people’s attention.

The truth of the matter is that a lot of people spend most of their time responding to real or perceived threats. “If you don’t do this you’re a murderer” just packs more rhetorical punch than “it would really be better if you did, on the whole”. Can this kind of thing be taken too far? Yes, of course. But a bit of sabre-rattling in support of a good cause is not necessarily a bad thing. (And are not in the first aftermath of a revolution. Even the financial crisis has not - yet - produced upheaval on the scale of the French Revolution. I do not believe we need to fear a Robespierre-, or indeed Hitler-like Terror just yet.)

Now, whether radical life extension *is* a good cause is something that we could perhaps usefully debate further here. The fact that there is something I find attractive about Zoltan’s uncompromising stance (one should be moderate about everything, including moderation) doesn’t mean I necessarily buy his logic 100%. It may be that the lesson we need to learn from the “longevity crisis” as you call it (though it doesn’t feel like much of a crisis to me: again, at least not yet) will after all be that we need to be more accepting of death. Either way, I am glad there are Zoltans around to grab our attention.

@Peter:

Calling a person a murderer implies that they can/should be held to account for their crimes.

“I agree that there’s an implicit threat there. Is that necessarily bad? “

Where does that logic stop? Screaming to the roof tops? Actual acts of terrorism? If you were to call me a murderer the discussion would be over. The battle would be joined between the world I hold true in which I am not a murderer and the one you hold true in which I am. Accusing someone of killing people is an invitation to conflict and violence unless, that is, you are simply ignored, which let’s face it is the more likely destiny of Zoltan’s post.

And Peter, I thought you were supposed to be the logical one, the person who saw almost instinctively the logical flaws in any argument. Which group in society is most responsible for cutting short maximum human life years? It’s not who you think it is?

It’s automobile manufactures. The majority of lives cut short of average longevity are killed in car accidents. Are they responsible for “crimes against humanity” for convincing us to drive? Of course not, WE decide to drive just as persons who listen to the Pope chose not to put on a condom. The whole thing’s just kooky talk.

No, I think it’s more than that, Rick. But the analogy with automobiles is an interesting one. Nobody is forced to smoke either, and no, we don’t generally refer to tobacco manufacturers as “murderers”. But we come pretty close, in part because we understand that choice can be influenced, and if we are deliberately trying to provoke a choice that we know is against someone’s interests then we may indeed at least be committing some kind of fraud as surely as when we sell shady stocks. The law is poorly and unevenly applied, and people do indeed get away with “murder”, but there is still an ingrained sense within society that what these people are doing is *wrong”.

Now in the case of automobiles there are obviously many advantages to driving a car, so what we are talking about is essentially balancing risks and benefits. Ranting against the automobile industry while driving one’s car around is as absurd as ranting against the oil industry while filling it with gas. Not that there aren’t things to criticise, but one can hardly deny their right to do wht they do.

But the issue of choice actually strengthens Zoltan’s case, because what we are taking about here is ensuring that the technology for radical life extension becomes available precisely so that those of us who want it will have that choice. Currently we don’t, and anything that delays it further restricts, rather than expanding, our choice. I can say no to a drug pusher, but currently I cannot say no to ageing.

Regarding the risk of conflict and violence, I gather that Zoltan sees this as basically inevitable, and I’m almost tempted to agree. It does seem that our attitude to technology is well on its way to being a wedge issue, and one can certainly imagine that as technological progress accelerates that will become more and more acute. Conflict and violence is already here, and to a significant extent much of it can be seen as caused by or a reaction to technology shock. I’m not suggesting that we should be completely defeatist about it, but urging transhumanists to be polite and cautious is not in itself going to make it go away. It’s way more complicated than that.

Ultimately I think the question we are discussing is whether the question in the title of the essay is actually a legitimate one. In other words, are you suggesting that we shouldn’t even be asking whether hindering life extension science should become a crime? Perhaps we will conclude that it shouldn’t - you predict yourself, perhaps wishfully, that Zoltan’s post will simply be “ignored” (but it’s part of a movement, Rick, as I think you know) - but does that really mean we shouldn’t even be asking the question?

Do I have no right at all to resent the fact that some people are pursuing policies or taking positions that make it more likely that I will die some time during the next few decades?

“Regarding the risk of conflict and violence, I gather that Zoltan sees this as basically inevitable, and I’m almost tempted to agree.”

I find this the absolutely worst way to garner broad support for longevity research, which would be broadly supported if properly framed. It is akin to a suicide pact, and I have no intention of joining one.

“Do I have no right at all to resent the fact that some people are pursuing policies or taking positions that make it more likely that I will die some time during the next few decades?

Of course you do, but threatening people from a position of powerlessness is not the way to change this, and such rhetoric only serves to blow up bridges between trans-humanists and everyone else.

How can you think it a good idea to harm people to save yourself when you’re not even sure that the self exists?

I am not sure that the self exists…yet every day I go about my business on th assumption that it does, as do we all (at least those of us who are not regarded as clinically insane). To be able to spot flaws in an argument is one thing; to have a completely flawless, logically consistent position is another. I’m not sure that this is even something we should aspire to, since a perfectly logically consistent POV is likely to be a woefully inadequate reflection of reality, let alone providing a compelling basis for living. (And yes, I understand that this is precisely the kind of thing that leads some people, and understandably so, to religion.)

I am not sure that the self exists…but I will certainly fight, harming others if necessary, to protect myself and those I love. As will you. The only real question is one of timescale: am I willing to limit myself to worrying about short-term threats to my existence, accepting the long-term “inevitability” of death, perhaps even accepting it serenely and voluntarily when my life has become too morbid (and expensive to maintain) to be worth living, or do I insist that we accelerate the development of technology that will enable me to live well beyond current lifespans? Surely you must recognise that in the end Zoltan is just pushing to a logical conclusion the basic preservation and self-actualisation instinct that we all share and believe in, to a greater or lesser degree.

The issue about whether conflict and violence are inevitable is not, in the first place, an issue about whether they are desirable. Whether they are the worst way or the best way, they are happening anyway, and my main point there was that urging transhumanists to be polite and cautious will not make it go away.

To be clear, Rick, I understand your core concern to be that this kind of messaging - what you call “threatening people from a position of powerlessness” - is basically playing into the hands of those who see transhumanists as “the most dangerous people on earth”, and is provoking the very backlash that people like Zoltan claim to oppose. And you may well be right. But you might also be wrong, and it might be that seeding the idea that hindering life extension science should be considered a crime is actually enriching the debate by putting people in front of the reality that the decisions they make with regard to the policies they pursue or advocate are not morally neutral, and that hindering life extension science is, inn a very real sense, taking life away from people currently alive, who could otherwise benefit from it.

Ultimately I don’t believe the kind of apocalyptic showdown imagined by Zoltan is either inevitable or desirable, but I am equally unconvinced by the claim that “such rhetoric only serves to blow up bridges between trans-humanists and everyone else”. I just don’t see the evidence.

Thanks everyone for your comments, especially Rick and Peter. I’m sorry I’m not able to answer in detail or follow-up as I’d like to. I’m swamped and having some complications with my wife’s pregnancy. But I do read these comments carefully, and I did want to encourage someone to write a story on the other side of the issue. I do believe this is a very important idea to consider going forward with life extension science. I’m certain one day Congress with have to very seriously consider it.

Additionally, the idea of some Jehova Witness people (and other religions) restricting medical access to their sick children is another angle to the whole story. However, society seems to see that as criminal already. But there are multiple arguments on either side. My speech on it at Transhuman Visions conference yesterday in San Francisco was well received. Hopefully there will be a video of it that I’ll share.

I do want to say also that this story was turned down by numerous editors around the country (which included one of my own national blogs). Some did personally reach out to me with explanations on why it didn’t work for them. I mention this only because many of those editors were interested in the story, but felt if was not in their publication’s best interest to run it. I’m saddened by the fact that new ideas can’t easily get out in mainstream press if they’re too controversial or if they potentially hurt the bottom line of a publication.

For this reason, I’m very appreciative of IEET running it. And I’m also appreciative of the fact that IEET runs many stories that are controversial and far outside mainstream press. Bravo IEET for pushing the conversation forward, even if it’s uncomfortable or disagreeable.

Anyway, thanks for all your comments. I simply wanted to add a few of my own thoughts. Cheers, Zoltan

@Peter:

“To be clear, Rick, I understand your core concern to be that this kind of messaging - what you call “threatening people from a position of power” - is basically playing into the hands of those who see transhumanists as “the most dangerous people on earth”, and is provoking the very backlash that people like Zoltan claim to oppose. “

Exactly, though I find this aggressive rhetoric quite new, so nothing much other than debates such as this has come from this rhetoric yet. There are moments of historical choice in a movement that define its future, I can not know if this aggressive rhetoric is one of those, but if it is I do not see any likely outcome that is good for trans-humanism. In my eyes it can either lead to further alienation from the larger society or actual war between trans-humanists and that society. In neither of those cases are the outcomes likely beneficial for the movement.

Neither of us can predict the future but we are still morally required to take stands based on what we hold to be the probable outcomes.

If trans-humanism’s goals are technologically obtainable they will be there for our children or our children’s children- if patience means my own mortality, so be it. There are other things of greater value than my existence; namely, avoiding the suffering that would come from turning the possibilities opening up to us as an invitation to civil and religious war.

@Zoltan:

As I have mentioned previously, I think this aggressive rhetoric is counter-productive:

There is growing recognition among the scientific and medical community that we’ve be going after disease research all wrong and that rather than aim at specific diseases we should try to understand and control the fundamental mechanisms of aging.

There is, thus, and opening for a reallocation of resources towards the very goals you aspire to. Yet, I fear that your style of rhetoric might be used against such a reallocation because it couches these investments in the form of a religious/political debate. Yes, this debate has existed for sometime, but given the change in the scientific outlook it would be best to back away from
continuing to frame the issue as one of atheists vs the religious in which case yet another area of science is turned into a football in the culture war. 

___________________________________

My thoughts are with you and your wife.

I basically agree with you Rick that if this were to signal a swing towards a radically more aggressive, and indeed intolerant, version of transhumanism then it seems unlikely that this would turn out well for those of us who see in technological development opportunities and not only threats.

But perhaps it’s not a simple, binary choice between “swing towards aggression and intolerance” and “blip”. A more positive way of putting this than talking about “crime” is to talk about rights. At the moment it’s probably fair to refer to those of us who take the possibility of radical life extension occurring in our own life-times seriously as a minority, and recent history is in some ways a progression of such minorities fighting for and acquiring rights. (I can’t help wondering, somewhat flippantly, whether they will find a gene for wanting to live forever.) And then the question is: just how far do/should those rights extend? If my freedom to swing my arm ends where your nose begins, are those people swinging their arms by lobbying against life extension science bumping into my nose, or not?

In other words, is it not possible that this controversial new idea will turn out to mark a healthy step-up in transhumanist assertiveness, rather than a dangerous slide into conflict, violence and defeat?

@Zoltan Very best wishes re your wife’s pregnancy.

I question whether government research is the best method of extending life. NGOs and private research might be more fruitful.

@Thomas:

Who does the research does not matter, but I think the role of public funding is essential. For example, drug companies no longer sink money into developing new antibiotics, because they are not profitable, a situation that has left us in a dangerous situation visa-vi “super-bugs”. 

Market signalling is not always the best way to determine where resources should be allocated.

Agreed. And whatever one thinks about who should do the research, government is likely to retain an essential role for the foreseeable future, for better and for worse. Apart from anything else, one of the roles of government is to enforce laws, so if hindering life extension science were ever to become a crime it would be the government’s role to enforce it.

Of course, exactly what constitutes criminal hindering of life extension science would need to be clearly defined. I doubt that Zoltan envisages a wholesale attack on free speech, for example. Indeed, I would personally be interested to read reflections from Zoltan or others about what making “hindering life extension science” a crime might mean in practice.

@Peter re “if this were to signal a swing towards a radically more aggressive, and indeed intolerant, version of transhumanism then it seems unlikely that this would turn out well”

I agree, but aggressive and intolerant versions of _everything_ seem able to attract people, by appealing to their raw negative emotions, much better than calm, reasoned, qualified versions.

@Giulio
Indeed. It’s the way we’re wired (for now), and that’s why when one wants to achieve something one has to strike a balance between attention-grabbing shock tactics and responsible, reasonable persuasion.

Against that background: what do you think about Zoltan’s proposal?

Some very noble sentiments and rhetoric.. however, where does global inequality and imposed austerity measures apply in your reasoning for both longevity and quality of life?

Socioeconomic evolution/revolution(?), deconstruction of global inequality, (debt based Capitalism system), and the redistribution of global wealth from the few, (creative and tiered taxation), is the real world changer - for pursuit of both sociocultural and technological progress?

‘Recessions can hurt, but austerity kills’

“In the US, more than five million people have lost access to health care. In Greece, there’s a 200% increase in HIV cases. And in some of the worst-hit countries, suicide rates are up. David Stuckler, author of an explosive new book, says the facts speak for themselves”

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/15/recessions-hurt-but-austerity-kills

 

The Body Economic: why austerity kills

Department of Economics and Centre for Macroeconomics public lecture - A podcast of this event is available to download from The Body Economic: why austerity kills

The Body Economic: why austerity kills

 

 

I agree about austerity, CygnusX1. I find it infuriating: an utterly wrong-headed policy accepted as a necessary evil by millions. Not that austerity is always wrong, but it should be applied when deficits are getting unnecessarily out of control during a period of robust growth. Not when we are on the verge of deflation.

I also share your concern, to some extent, with an exclusive focus on life extension without any consideration for global inequality. Austerity is probably as much an impediment to life extension science as anything - so good, we can make imposing austerity a crime as well! - but if Zoltan’s fictional counterpart is anything to go by there does seem to be an unwillingness to consider issues of equality that sits uncomfortably with my utilitarian values, let alone value systems that see material inequality as an evil in itself.

That being said, my previous comments here still stand, including my interest in reading reflections about how Zoltan’s idea might be further clarified as regards how it would work in practice.

@Peter re “what do you think about Zoltan’s proposal?”

I don’t like it, for at least two reasons:
1) In the Holocaust, state violence slaughtered helpless people by the millions. That cannot be compared to a theoretical, unenforced “stance on condoms” that nobody takes seriously. and I find suggesting otherwise very insulting to the memory of real people murdered by real violence.
2) Zoltan calls for more authoritarian oversight measures, whereas I think there is already too much of that. It is in this sense that, as I say in my reviews of TTW, Jethro/Zoltan is not a libertarian, but an authoritarian.

re “when one wants to achieve something one has to strike a balance between attention-grabbing shock tactics and responsible, reasonable persuasion.”

I agree, but I am afraid we are wrong. History shows that attention-grabbing shock tactics is what works.

I don’t agree that nobody takes seriously the RC Church’s stance on condoms. Some people do, and that is what makes it immoral in my view. Also, I don’t immediately see where Zoltan compares this to state violence in the holocaust. What he says is that “the billion-person strong Catholic Church actively supports the idea that condom usage is sinful, despite the fact that such a malicious policy has helped sicken and kill a staggering amount of innocent people”. There is plenty to criticise about that statement, but I for one don’t read it as a direct comparison with the Holocaust.

Re “History shows that attention-grabbing shock tactics is what works”, that’s precisely why we need to strike a balance. If it didn’t, we could just stick to responsible, reasonable persuasion. As it is, we have to strike a balance: all reasonable persuasion and we don’t get people’s attention; all shock tactics and we end up doing more harm than good.

@ Peter..

What concerns me more is how longevity/lifeboat protagonists creatively aim to justify longevity research by exploring all avenues of argument OTHER than admitting austerity and wealth inequality is problematic? This is as obvious as the noses on all our faces?

That is, (and to make it absolutely clear), if there was as much focus on solving a corrupt global socioeconomic system and wealth inequality, then free market prosperity would evolve the world machine towards greater technological and even technocratic ideals more swiftly, and with greater hope/yield of success, (rather than attempting to rally small groups to lobby govt - which has little hope of enduring success)?

It is noticeable that even IEET is not as open-minded or as radical as it thinks it is to embrace thoughts of “real” change and global reform, or at least this ethos is sometimes cast adrift to placate celebrity/connections?

This is not to say I disagree with what Zoltan has offered, just that it is further neglecting the “real and obstructive economics” issues?

 

@Peter re “I don’t immediately see where Zoltan compares this to state violence in the holocaust.”

He says “Catholic Church’s stance on condoms will be responsible for more deaths in Africa than the Holocaust was responsible for in Europe.”

re condoms, I never took the RC Church’s prohibition seriously, and I don’t think I ever met anyone who takes it seriously. It’s just one of those stupid things they say in church. Now, if they had the power to enforce their prohibitions with hit irons, like they did at the time of the Inquisition, I would see things differently.

@Giulio
OK I missed that sentence. That being said, it might quite possibly be accurate. Of course most prople in Europe don’t take it seriously - we are far too secular and sophisticated for that - it’s the rest of the world I’m worried about.

@CygnusX1
I’m quite surprised to see that you don’t (necessarily) disagree with Zoltan’s proposal, because it’s a very radical one. He is saying that hindering life extension science should be considered a crime. I’m certainly a long way from agreeing with it - indeed, I might well end up reacting in a similar way to Rick if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s already making those points, and especially if I thought there was an imminent risk of this kind of thinking gaining ground. It’s just that for the moment I think the greater risk is that we lose an opportunity to reflect on what this could mean in practice, and perhaps draw some positive, useful inspiration from it.

Re austerity, inequality and IEET, the truth is that opinions differ here at IEET - some people emphasise life extension, some emphasise enhancement, others worry about inequality and justice between humans, others worry about animal welfare. That’s partly why we have such good debates. Others are concerned with existential risks (that is the main focus of Lifeboat, isn’t it)? It doesn’t make much sense to me to respond to an article about A by saying, “Why aren’t you writing about B?” I agree there are trade-offs, but I don’t get the impression IEET as a whole is particularly obsessed with life extension.

@Peter re “we are far too secular and sophisticated for that - it’s the rest of the world I’m worried about.”

Sorry Peter but isn’t this the British colonial paternalism of a couple of centuries ago? 😉

(yes, I know, my own ancestors had the same attitude a couple of centuries before that, and of course 2000 years ago).

I think the people in the rest of the world are just as smart as us, tehy don’t need babysititng.

@ Peter

I am not talking of opinions, I’m talking disparity of focus - on the major economics issues that prevent progress with all of the Transhuman wish lists, all of which are reliant on the existence of a fair, liberal and prosperous world society?

Unless? - you feel that technological progress/innovation and it’s spoils are a dish best served for the likes of the few only, regardless of the state of the world as a whole?

And Rick has written previously that Transhuman sectarians are deluding themselves with dangerous and damaging notions of creating, (their own), worlds within worlds?

It is quite reasonable to speculate that since the establishment of prolonged peace and with the technological advancements from the last of the global wars, and without the greed and manipulations of the few to date, world economics would be, even today, in such healthy state that we wouldn’t even need to debate and justify longevity research and funding at all?

Sure enough, technology and innovation will continue regardless of a broken and corrupt economics system. But can you imagine a world where technology and science funding is not even an issue for concern and petty political debacle/justification?

It is just a matter of priorities, and making efforts to rearrange them, in your own mind at least, (the world change follows)?


Be not surprised that I agree with Zoltan’s sentiments on holding governments accountable by law, legislation and especially mandate. So far, the practice is that governments write their own mandate when in power, introduce more limiting and restricting laws on what “they” deem as priority to maintain the status quo - and if that means austerity measures on public healthcare, welfare and science funding, so be it.

Zoltan’s message is for increased democracy and accountability of government - I am in total favour of that!

How?

The continued application of referendum for the people to vote on issues that concern them, and mandate by law that governments apply this referendum?

 

It’s not babysitting I’m advocating, Giulio, rather that we give some consideration to Zoltan’s proposal rather than getting hung up about comparison’s with the Holocaust. I’m just not convinced that your European experience with regard to what people take seriously reflects that of the rest of the world, but we can agree to differ about that.

Re “I agree with Zoltan’s sentiments on holding governments accountable by law, legislation and especially mandate”, I don’t think Zoltan is specifically targeting government. He’s targeting all those - within government or outside it - who oppose life extension research.

To be clear, I don’t think there’s any chance that his core idea - that hindering life extension science should be considered as a crime - has any chance of getting serious political/legal traction any time soon, which is one reason why I’m less nervous about it than Rick. I just think it’s an idea worth considering.

Ultimately I think the issues here are (i) to what extent do we agree that hindering life extension science is harmful to others, and (ii) to what extent do we think that people should be held accountable for that harm. For me these are very interesting questions, and definitely worthy of further consideration.

As for increased democracy and accountability of government, there are moves in that direction - e-petitions, citizen’s bills and the like. Referenda in my view are not the answer - too expensive, too easy for “the few” to manipulate - but there is certainly much more that could be done to make governance genuinely more participatory. But this is not the main thrust of Zoltan’s thinking, and it is by no means clear to me that it would lead to a removal of the obstacles facing life extension science.

Zoltan: ” In a free and functioning democratic society, it’s the duty of our leaders and government to implement laws and social strategies to maximize these life hours that we want to safeguard. Regardless of ideological, political, religious, or cultural beliefs, we expect our leaders and government to protect our lives and ensure the maximum length of our lifespans.

Any other behavior cuts short the time human beings have left to live. Anything else becomes a crime of prematurely ending human lives. Anything else fits the common legal term we have for that type of reprehensible behavior: criminal manslaughter.”

or through wilful neglect of duty: criminal negligence

Yet it’s not merely about “life extension technology” is it? it would include all of the political and economics obstacles, including imposed austerity measures, that I previously indicated.

You don’t believe that referendum and increased democracy works? It seems to have for Iceland?

What is there to be confused about?

 

Zoltan also says: “It’s not just politicians that are prematurely ending our lives with what can be called “pro-death” policies and ideologies”, and devotes the rest of the article to non-governmental actors. Hence my comment that he isn’t specifically targeting government.

Once again, what I’m really interested in here is how Zoltan’s idea might be made to work in practice, and/or modified to be more workable. If we generalise it to include “all of the political and economics obstacles, including imposed austerity measures”, then it clearly becomes unworkable. Essentially it means anything that somebody thinks might be counterproductive becomes potentially criminal.

Once again, this is an article about life extension science, and measures/actions that explicitly hinder it. Unless we want to have a completely different discussion (and I don’t particularly - remember what you’ve said in the past about off-topic comments and respect for the author?) this is what we need to focus on.

Zoltan : ” Back in the real world, 150,000 people died yesterday. Another 150,000 will cease to exist today, and the same amount will disappear tomorrow. A good way to reverse this widespread deathist attitude should start with investigative government and non-government commissions examining whether public fiduciary duty requires acting in the best interest of
people’s health and longevity.

Furthermore investigative commissions should be set up to examine whether former and current top politicians and religious leaders are guilty of shortening people’s lives for their own selfish beliefs and ideologies.”


And my comments were to highlight that imposed austerity measures and broken economics ideologies are in fact harming and shortening peoples lives, and that this should not be omitted from the authors article or thinking - I cannot see why you continually deem this “off topic” for purposes of utilitarian calculus to support good or ill of the authors suggestion?

I understand you wish to drive the comments in a particular direction, but regardless, austerity and economics, politics and cuts in welfare and science research funding ARE harming humans and shortening lives - this supports the sentiments of the author?

 

I guess Zoltan will comment again himself in due course - he has other concerns right now as we know.

From my reading of The Transhumanist Wager, and assuming that the essential philosophical underpinnings of Jethro Knights’ positions are shared by the author (as I understand to be the case), I also perceive a fundamental flaw at the heart of his thinking. I don’t see how you can coherently espouse a philosophy that is explicitly egocentric and then complain when others act in ways that harm you. Zoltan might counter that what he is considering “criminal” is behaviour that harms others without serving any rational egocentric interest either, where “rational” would essentially be defined in the context of his Teleological Egocentric Functionalism (TEF). But then I would certainly respond in a similar way to Rick: this is simply setting us off on a dangerous path of intolerance for those with differing views and values.

My difficulty with extending Zoltan’s idea to austerity, “broken” economics and so on is less that it’s off-topic than that it seems likely to make the idea even more unworkable than it already is. What are these investigative commissions going to investigate, if the scope is so broad, and what possible guarantee is there that they will come to conclusions with which you or I would agree?

In any case, I think the idea of investigative commissions is premature and, as Giulio has reminded us, ominously Inquisition-like. On the other hand, complaining about austerity and “broken” economics somehow seems too banal and already-tried-that to be particularly promising. If you think Iceland’s experiments with more participatory democracy could help reduce inequalities then by all means introduce that into the discussion on David Brin’s latest (that really would be on-topic), but here Zoltan is railing mostly against anti-science attitudes, not inequality per se. From his TEF perspective (again, I am not saying it is mine: there are perfectly good utilitarian reasons to worry about inequality) inequality is not the problem, and focusing on this is a red herring. You don’t have to agree (I don’t), but I still think the issue of whether people are harming others through anti-science attitudes and stances, and how/whether they should be made accountable for that harm, is worth co spidering separately from questions about inequality and economics.

Anyway that’s my view - again, Zoltan and others can weigh in again if they are so inclined.

“My difficulty with extending Zoltan’s idea to austerity, “broken” economics and so on is less that it’s off-topic than that it seems likely to make the idea even more unworkable than it already is. What are these investigative commissions going to investigate, if the scope is so broad, and what possible guarantee is there that they will come to conclusions with which you or I would agree?”

This is where you miss the point regarding mandate and referendum and democratic process, which makes the notion of accountability by law workable. Certainly measurement of harm is up for political squabbles and dubious stats from pro and con political corners, this is precisely how austerity measures are currently being imposed, by appealing to emotions and regardless of the full consequences of cuts to welfare and quality of life - ideology placed as priority over and above measured application of harm in the name of short sighted savings and cuts to services - the same services that can employ and provide jobs and science research?

Yet where the government has responsibility by law and mandate to restrict harm/hardship/suffering and are required to adhere to democratic vote - then there is less occasion for abuse of positional power, more scrutiny and less breach of public trust and need for prosecution of willful negligence?

So in fact, democratic process makes the proposal workable by principle?

CygnusX1, if you want to provide examples of how this kind of thing is working - in Iceland or whereever - that’s fine with me. In any case there doesn’t seem to be much interest in continuing the discussion on the actual article (which I’m a bit disappointed about, but whatever). As I said above, clearly there is more that can be done to make government more genuinely participatory and democratic, and this is also an important issue from my perspective. It’s just not immediately clear to me from what you write what you are proposing specifically, and why it would work better than systems currently in place.

Hi, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long just to get a moment to answer, but I’m quite swamped with life’s curve-ball challenges right now. However, I did want to say a few things.

@Rick Searle, Your point is well taken that by pushing too hard in one direction, it might negatively affect the other direction which was going to end up being beneficial to the entire transhumanist/life extension movement. I am carefully weighing these things and trying to do good, and hopefully not harm.

@CygnusX1, Indeed you are correct that so many life hours are being squandered by either poor government tactics, bad social planning, and the way society in general allows itself to be run. Unfortunately, that is so massive of an issue to tackle, that it’s incredibly difficult to even know where to start. I’ve chosen to just try to concentrate my efforts on smaller items that I think I can make a meaningful contribution towards.

@Peter Wicks. Thanks for the support. My main goal, as you have pointed out, is not necessarily abruptly changing the entire system of things, but to jolt people enough to get them to consider the change. I’m hopeful that the more people that think about controversial ideas, the better we’ll all be at moving forward. It doesn’t mean anything will change for the better, but it’s hard to imagine that we’ll be worse off because we considered the change in the first place.

Thanks again everyone! Cheers. Zoltan

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