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Putting “Death is Wrong” in Children’s Hands

After three days of fundraising (in conjunction with the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension) to provide 1000 children with free copies of my illustrated book on indefinite life extension, Death is Wrong, I am pleased to report some promising and exciting developments.

We have already accumulated $400 in pledges from 22 generous donors. In 5% of the total time for this campaign, we are 8% of the way toward our goal. We hope to maintain this rate of progress and build up the momentum. I invite you to watch this video update where I discuss latest developments.

I am eager to begin sending out copies of Death is Wrong via this initiative as soon as possible. Some of the funds committed thus far have been sent to me via PayPal. (The funds donated via credit-card payments will be made available 15 days after the campaign’s conclusion.) Thus, I already have access to $100 of donated funds – enough to order and ship 20 copies of Death is Wrong to longevity activists who can present a brief but credible discussion of how they aim to spread the book to children in their local areas. Here I offer instructions to any supporters of indefinite life extension who seek to undertake this important project.

Instructions for Longevity Activists to Request Copies of Death is Wrong

  • Send an e-mail to gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com.
  • Provide your name, your mailing address, a statement of your support for indefinite life extension, and a brief description of your plan to spread the book to children in your local area. Remember that all copies received pursuant to this initiative would need to be offered to children free of charge (as gifts or reading opportunities) and may not be resold.
  • Provide the number of copies of Death is Wrong that you are requesting.
  • Preferably, provide an indication that you would be willing to send photographs of the books that have been delivered to you as well as events where you will be distributing the books.

Photographs will be important in highlighting the successes brought about by this campaign. The more visible impact we can demonstrate of the books being delivered to activists and given into children’s hands, the more palpable the cultural transformation brought about by this initiative will become. People who are watching our efforts will realize that, yes, we are taking active measures to beat back the age-old skeletons in humanity’s closet – the excuses, evasions, and rationalizations for death that have led so many to attempt to ignore or justify the most pressing problem facing us all.

​Publicity for the Fundraiser

I am looking forward to a major opportunity to raise awareness of this initiative and of the importance of communicating the message of indefinite life extension to children. On March 1, 2014, I will be speaking at the Transhuman Visions 2.0 Conference in Piedmont, CA, along with my wife Wendy Stolyarov, who illustrated Death is Wrong. I am excited to be able to speak directly to over 150 futurists, transhumanists, life-extension advocates, media representatives, and other thinkers who ponder the impact of technology and its accelerating progress. Attendees will be able to purchase autographed copies of Death is Wrong and will also be informed about ways to contribute to the fundraiser.

I was also pleased to be interviewed by Leanne Butkovic of Fast Company earlier this month. Her provocative article, “How Young Is Too Young To Learn About The Singularity?”, has raised the profile of Death is Wrong and has exposed it to new audiences. The article features an extensive question-and-answer component where I offer perspectives regarding my background and its influence on the book, my objectives with regard to the book’s influence on children, and the relationship of the concepts in Death is Wrong to technological and societal evolution more generally.

In addition, I could not be more grateful for the support offered by numerous individuals and organizations in the transhumanist and life-extensionist community – including IEETFight Aging!Immortal LifeThe Wave ChroniclePhilly Futurists, the Lifeboat Foundation, and Brighter Brains. The consistent, daily efforts by these pillars of longevity advocacy are what enable the ongoing transformation of the pursuit of indefinite life extension into a genuine social and cultural movement – a cause that changes the world – rather than a mere dream in the minds of some.

In November 2013, Franco Cortese wrote that, for those of us who are not scientists or medical doctors ourselves, “the final objective of increased funding for Radical Longevity and Life Extension research can be more effectively and efficiently achieved through public advocacy for Radical Life Extension than it can by direct funding or direct research, per unit of time or effort.” I am happy to have taken his advice to heart and to have launched myself into the role of an activist for indefinite life extension, advocating for it through writing, speaking, fundraising, and – soon – traveling. I encourage others to join me. Think about your absolute and comparative advantages, your skill sets, your strengths in reaching new demographics and catalyzing progress. We are in the early days of our movement, still. We do not have a hierarchy or a leadership, but you can be a leader through your example, your perseverance, and your hard work. Let us work to reach the goal of indefinite life extension – the grand triumph of humankind over the forces of ruin and decay – in time to avert our own senescence and death.

Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov regularly produces YouTube Videos discussing life extension, libertarianism, and related subjects.



COMMENTS

I’ve been trying to figure out why I am uncomfortable with this, and I think I’ve hit upon it.

Secular parents, who don’t teach their children that there is an after life which someone goes to when they die don’t teach their children that “death is wrong” they teach them that death is tragic. And even religious parents who don’t wish to distort their children’s view don’t teach their children that when their pets die they go to “doggie heaven” or some such. So children learn from death the tragic elements of life which aren’t right or wrong but just are.

One of the keys to maturity is learning to accept things we don’t like or are outside of our control- I am afraid that couching this as a book for young children rather than say a narrative for adolescents or young adults is somehow interfering with this maturing process and frankly might freak young children out.

Unlike a fairy tale, which, when done right teaches children that the key to recovering from external danger and bad events lies emotionally and within, something children do in a sense have control over or can influence, this book seems to teach that the solution lies elsewhere in adults who the children have no hope of influencing.  In that sense it might be a recipe for anxiety, and places an undue burden upon them.

Interesting piece, and interesting comment from Rick. I suspect that Rick is right in suggesting that writing such a book for children may place an undue burden on them. Yet…Rick will not be surprised to learn that I don’t quite share his discomfort as such.

For one thing, and with apologies and due respect to the author, I don’t think this is likely to become a best seller. For another, parents and other adults infect children with undue anxiety in countless ways, and while that’s obviously not an argument for adding to it, on the whole I think sensible parents will find sensible ways to introduce the issue to children (and perhaps after all this book could play a useful role), and non-sensible parents are likely to damage their children in ways that will have nothing to do with the book.

But Rick, perhaps your discomfort also has to do with the message this kind of activism seems to be conveying, rather than the direct impact it could potentially have on children (which, as I’ve just argued, surely seems likely to be rather minimal)? If so then I see your point. I don’t even agree with the message: I don’t think death is wrong, I think involuntary death is wrong.

But what really makes me uncomfortable, far more uncomfortable than Stolyarov’s piece, is the fact that most people alive and influencing events (including policy and legislation) today believe that death, while perhaps “tragic” (and so what, if you’re not planning on doing anything about it?), is unavoidable, while dreaming that we might conquer it is deemed irresponsible, unnatural, and immoral. Not only does this hinder efforts to vanquish the scourge of aging, decrepitude and unnecessarily premature death, it also leaves us ill-equipped to adequately plan for the time when such technology will be available. What is truly alarming is not a children’s book proclaiming that death is wrong, but the utter ignorance and denial in our society with regard to where technology is taking us, combined with a superficial (and yes, often religion-inspired) morality that leads us to imagine only dystopias.

This is in no way to contradict your point Rick that we need to be taught (and teach our children) to accept emotional pain, including the risk (even likelihood) of eventual death, loss of loved ones and so on. But what seems to me to be even more lacking in our society is a willingness to embrace radical, positive, realistic visions of the future, as opposed to the wildly unrealistic business-as-usual scenarios that most people imagine, when they are not imagining technodystopias. Transhumanism is becoming more mainstream, but it has some way to go before excessive faith in transhumanist visions becomes a more serious problem than reactionary ignorance, denial and defeatism.

I should really wait to read the book until I make further comment.
There are ways of going about communicating the book’s message I would not be uncomfortable with- I am really just going by the cover- which isn’t quite fair to either Stolyarov or his wife.

I am curious though, and underneath this is not supposed to be a hidden ad homenim- do either of you guys- Gennady or Peter actually have children?

No I don’t, and yes, I’m sure I would think differently if I did. But differently in what way, I don’t know, and I’m not sure I particularly want to speculate. Distance can bring objectivity, and I’m sure different parents would react in different ways. Do you, and if so how do you think your experience has shaped your reactions to this kind of issue?

Greetings, Rick.

First, to answer your question, I do not have any children at present. However, I have very detailed memories of my own childhood and my outlooks and dispositions as a child. I wrote “Death is Wrong” to be the kind of book that I would have relished as a child and which would have put at my disposal the key facts about the feasibility of indefinite life extension, and arguments about its desirability, years ahead of when I actually assembled this information from various resources, some of which I only came across due to very good fortune.

I would be interested in your thoughts about the content of the book, if you do decide to read it. The typical age range for this book would probably be 8-12, though the most precocious children will be able to understand it at ages as young as 4 or 5. The idea is to enable children to have exposure to ideas other than those that try to rationalize or justify death (because they will encounter plenty of those from the general culture). It is very difficult to enable adults to accept the feasibility and desirability of indefinite life extension if, as children, all they were exposed to were the common consolations and rationalizations regarding death. (The Jesuit maxim, “Give me a child for his first seven years, and I’ll give you the man” comes to mind.) Given the prevalence of pro-death cultural indoctrination of children, I saw it necessary to develop an antidote so that more children have the opportunity to make up their own minds based on the evidence, and not just passively accept death as inevitable or somehow right.

Hello Gennady,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I will certainly read your book at some point in the future and share my thoughts. My children are a little young for it now, but hopefully someday.

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