Notes from the Transhuman Superpowers and Longevity Conference - 12 July 2015

Jul 20, 2015

And now, hopefully sooner than the last set, my notes taken during the Transhuman Superpowers and Longevity Conference held on 12 July 2015 in Oakland, CA. Everything's behind the cut, with references as applicable. Personal observations (are on separate lines in parenthesis) to differentiate them from the speaker's material. Vertical Farm Civilization - Karl Doerrer

  • Dr. Dickson Despommier at Columbia University in 1999
  • Resource management
  • Published his first book on the topic in 2009 - The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century
  • People seeing your own rig makes people want to build their own
  • Social symbiosis
  • Indoor vertical farming
  • Raise consciousness of necessity
  • Incentives
  • Education
  • Portable vertical farms for rapid deployment
  • /*ponic/ facilities -> organic materials like bamboo and bioplastics
  • Capture all possible energy sources
  • Minimize synthetic fertilization
  • Reciting a speech, not actually presenting
  • Highly utopian in vision and scope - nice, but people tend to be turned off by that. Utopianism is antithetical to the twenty-first century zeitgeist.
  • ("Minimize irrationality" - good luck)
  • A 30 story farm can grow enough food to feed 50,000 people 2,000 dietary calories a day for a full year
  • Lots of pretty scrolling slides in an LCARS theme
  • Admits that it won't be easy to do
  • Neo-Agrarian society
  • Plant-based polymers for manufacture
  • (What do the economics look like?)
  • Aeroponics are fragile and need special care
  • Biochem growth medium
  • Amazing oxygen production and atmospheric filtration
  • (He admits that he hasn't actually done any research into this part of it.)
  • Bio-gas digesters, biofuels

#superheroes - Micah Redding

  • Superheroes as cultural phenomena and memes
  • Inspiring people to become more than they are
  • Superman's original byline wasn't "The Man of Steel," it was "The Man of Tomorrow"
  • "This isn't just a visitor from another planet, this is what you can be."
  • "Superman is a visitor from our future."
  • Not to solve problems, but to show how they can be solved.
  • Superheroes as projections of what we can become. The ways we grapple with the responsibility of power.
  • The meme in a time of global interconnectedness.
  • "With great power..."
  • Superhero stories as tools to help us ask the important questions that otherwise wouldn't get asked.
  • Supervillians are often failed superheroes, e.g., Lex Luthor
  • Success and failure where the edges are
  • What are the pitfalls we need to watch out for?
  • Reboots are variations on a theme - new avenues to explore, new aspects of the story, new questions to ask
  • "The Marvel universe is possibly the largest virtual world ever created." --Grant Morrison
  • As we (meaning people) become more powerful, superhero characters tend to become less powerful
  • "Realistic supers" affecting our own lives in feedback loops
  • What is the difference between us and them?
  • Functional fixedness - you look at $foo and see a limited number of possible uses for it but forget that there are other things that could be done with it. Case in point, uses for a hammer as a child versus uses for a hammer as an adult. Narrowness of what is and is not possible.
  • The ultimate superpower - the ability to redefine your situation.
  • The quantified self movement optimizes people in amazing ways
  • Negative imitation of perceived groups, the failure of imagination
  • As we become more powerful, the stakes of our individual actions become higher
  • Decentralized growth of empathy to handle the impact of side effects

Are You Ready For the Future? - Liz Parrish

  • Bio-Viva USA, Inc. came out of stealth mode on stage
  • Gene therapy treats aging as a diseasy
  • 100,000 people every day die of aging
  • This translates to 146 million people per presidency
  • Aging has been proven to be reversible in animals in multiple clinical studies. This is no longer conjecture but scientific fact repeatable by anyone who cares to do so.
  • Can't get any of these things tried in humans - FDA
  • Compassionate care patients volunteer as testers
  • Working offshore now in clinical trials
  • Small company, moving fast to get maximum results
  • Penicillin would probably never have been passed into general use - it is toxic to guinea pigs and causes birth defects in other test animals
  • (Yes, this is often used by animal rights activists as a talking point; it's also an observation of the FDA's over-adherence to the precautionary principle locking up useful things for way too long. The two are not the same, and it shows how effective picking the context can be in misrepresenting facts to fit a particular agenda.)
  • (We got to see the presentation laptop snow crash on stage. Yay!)
  • Gene therapy to correct cortical damage shows signs of success
  • Clinic in Bogota, Columbia, several partner hospitals running clinical trials.
  • Up-regulating certain genes to increase synthesis of certain proteins
  • No peer reviewed papers yet (I asked), they're waiting until they have some more clinical trials under their belt
  • Cellular degeneration underlies biological aging
  • You can't target them independently - the underlying causes are the same
  • How we died in 1665: 90% infectious diseases, 9% accidents and child mortality, 1% aging
  • How we died in 1900: 53% infectious diseases, 12% heart disease, 6% cancer
  • How we died in 2012: 32% cancer, 33% heart disease, 7% cardiovascular diseases
  • Between 1850 and 2010, 25% of all people died before the age of 10
  • Antibiotics and immunizations increased lifespan remarkably
  • Immunization was the first regenerative medicine
  • Between 1975 and 2010, the death rate tanked again because so many people quit smoking
  • Underlying aging are cumulative DNA damage that cannot be compensated for, epigentics causing the wrong changes, senescence of cells, telomere shortening, mitochondrial damage leading to dysfunction, accumulation of junk proteins
  • Treatment targets include telomere lengthening, reversing atherosclerosis, clearing misfolded proteins out, clearing senescent cells, strengthening muscles, rebooting the immune system, increasing cellular signalling
  • Gene therapies for all of these things
  • The silver tsunami
  • By 2020, there will be more people 65 and older on the planet than there are people age 5 and younger
  • How do we make this work?
  • As life expectancy increases, fertility rates go down. This has been observed in pretty much every culture on the planet.
  • By 2040, 35% of the GDP will be spent on healthcare, not clean water or schools
  • "The ameilorization of disease."
  • AAV gene therapy to treat monogenic disease
  • We can also add genes in vivo
  • Learning to do in vivo editing of gene sequences
  • Whole genome analysis - beyond CRISPR
  • Theraputic transgenes -> viral vectors
  • Viral vectors are injected, infects cells to edit DNA
  • DNA -> RNA -> protein synthesis
  • (Genes code for chemistry, after all, and proteins are chemistry writ large (well, tiny...))
  • Stress is implicated in aging
  • Caloric restriction and exercise are known to increase lifespan
  • Gene: FGF21
  • AAV telomere induced gene therapy to reverse Alzheimer's Disease w/ potential age reversal of transduced cells - microglia and neurons themselves
  • Sarcopenia - loss of muscle mass
  • AAV myostatin inhibitor gene therapy
  • Increase muscle mass, stamina, decreased white fat
  • Also observed to decrease atherosclerosis as a side effect
  • ALS and Parkinson's Disease
  • AAV H-factor gene therapy (patented) - cellular signalling in the brain goes up and tissue regeneration begins
  • Causes glial cells in the substantia nigra to regenerate
  • Can be given like any other immunization
  • Administer treatment before it's required
  • Regenerative therapies
  • Resistence to viruses
  • Autoimmune disorder mitigation
  • NASA has several such projects going to research inducement of radiation resistence in astronauts
  • Enhancement therapies - intelligence, physical capabilities, improved interfaces, improving visual acuity, cosmetic modifications, nutritional benefits (re-enabling vitamin C synthesis in humans, enhancing vitamin D synthesis)
  • Need to change what is considered "normal"
  • New therapies should more than pay for themselves by mitigating symptoms of aging
  • Why not germline therapy? Vio-Viva isn't working on that. Also, too many people are actively working against such research. In polls, people were overwhelming against making children smarter. (article) (poll results) (local copy of poll results)
  • These edited genes probably cannot be inherited. Test subjects are beyond reproductive years at this time. The ONE exception's child has a genome which DOES NOT reflect the genetic edit.

The Right to Live, the Right to Thrive - Mallory E. McLaren, JD

  • Fundamental right to determine what happens to your body
  • Reject treatment or die
  • Self-determine treatment and experimentation
  • Dissonance between government interest in preserving life and meeting that goal
  • Persuing bioresilience more than lay
  • (Speaker is a biotech industry specialist.)
  • We have a fundamental right to end treatment
  • 1976 - removal of respirator at family's behent - Quinlan - New Jersey Supreme Court
  • SCOTUS certiorari denied
  • Legal grey area for determining medical criteria for (brain) death
  • 1990 - Cruzan v. Director of MO Department of Health
  • 1997 - SCOTUS says "No suicide!"
  • Oregon 1997 - Death With Dignity ruling
  • Oregon and Washington state require self-administration
  • Montana decriminalized assisted suicide in 2009
  • Can be used as a defense
  • Euthanasia in Belgium in 2002
  • Request process, doctors administer
  • National review board for all requestors' cases
  • (Sorry, I gotta chime in here with my opinion on the matter. I simply cannot put it any better than the author did.)
  • But, shouldn't we have the right to live? Shouldn't we be allowed to do whatever it is we need to do to cure ourselves and ensure our continued existence?
  • We do not.
  • 2007 - The Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. von Eschenbach
  • DC Federal Circuit Court
  • En banc, 8-2 decision (this means the court heard the case, ruled in favor of Abigail Burroughs, they re-heard the case and ruled against her)
  • SCOTUS certiorari
  • Abigail Burroughs died at the age of 21 of aggressive head and neck cancer after being denied access to experimental cancer treatment
  • The Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs advocates for access to experimental drugs and treatments (because if you're dying anyway - stage 4 or 5 cancer - does it really matter if the experimental treatment might kill you?)
  • At things stand now, getting access to post-Phase 1 research drugs is extremely difficult. Getting access to Phase 2 and later research drugs is somewhat easier.
  • Burroughs' argument was rooted in common law concepts of self defense and personal protection as fundamental rights.
  • People have a right to medicines
  • "Implicit in concept of ordered liberty."
  • A compelling state interest exists
  • Narrow tailoring for least intrusive means
  • Due process under the Fifth Amendment
  • Because demanding access to research drugs doesn't involve self-defense, that argument doesn't work.
  • Under common law necessity (protecting a loved one, let's say) the FDCA already said you can't have access and the necessity argument was specifically denied the plaintiff.
  • Under common law, interference with rescue, the medical and scientific communities the FDA relies upon know better than you (read: all of us who don't work for the FDA), so too bad.
  • The exemptions are very narrow and hard to fit.
  • If the drug had passed through Phase 2 of testing, the situation might have been different.
  • Administrative organization, Chevron deference under regulatory law
  • The FDA's power is derived from enabling acts that specifically grant it powers.
  • "The FDA was standing in the way of people saving their lives with capricious acts in contradiction of their Enabling Act."
  • Bodily autonomy - individual right to avoid physical frailty and premature death
  • The FDA operates under the precautionary principle
  • The FDA can arbitrarily decide when the evidence is sufficient and convincing.
  • The American Enterprise Institute
  • The precautionary principle allows trojan horse pretexts for other things, like personal crusades
  • Longevity research is taking place in China, South Korea, Russia, and getting major clinical results. The US has fallen behind.
  • FDA's patient-focused drug development under PFUDA V
  • Biased away from innovation
  • Severity, unmet need, benefit, risk, risk management
  • Eterna Biocapital
  • Merchant bank (I think I transcribed that right) for regenerative medicine startups - have to work on one or more of the nine biomarkers of aging
  • Merchant bank - long term loans for companies, funding, in this case in return for equity

We Are the Singularity: Biological and Engineering Reality - Brian Hanley

  • Capability and connectivity in 115 years
  • 1900-1950: Radium, cars, airplanes, radio, telephones, television, nuclear power and nuclear weapons
  • 1950-2015: Freeways, space travel, ubiquitous computing, cellular telephony, apps, games, the Net, social media, metadata, genetic modifications of plans, animals, and people
  • Things that one generation thinks are great sometimes turn out to be terrible ideas
  • What else falls into that category?
  • Medical life enhancement
  • Life enhancement today
  • Body builders and athletes have been optimizing and enhancing their bodies for decades. Sometimes they knock 1/3 or even 1/2 of their lifespans off doing it.
  • Amphetamines, /*racetam/, hydergines - nootropic drugs
  • (A brief list of what hardcore grinders with lots of disposable income experiment with.)
  • Eugeroics - high energy, focus, going without sleep with much less impact. Benefits of amphetamines without the drawbacks (like psychosis). The US military has been using these in the field for a couple of decades now. Example: Modafinil.
  • Psychedelics and entheogens can have significant benefits with planning and care.
  • Drug interventions for life extension, assuming that you can afford them.
  • The same drug and dose can have very different results on different people because everybody's biochemistry is a little different.
  • Metformin has been shown to exacerbate susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease.
  • Environmental interventions for life extension.
  • Despite rumors to the contrary, exposure to RF and very low levels of gamma radiation can have small but measurable beneficial effects in people.
  • Genetic interventions for life extension have demonstrated clinical efficacy statistics starting at 20% increase in lifespan. Per gene.
  • Pharmaceutical enhancement futures
  • Rejuvenators and regeneration agents
  • Prostaglandin degredation inhibitors
  • Epigenetic age modifiers
  • Plasmid and retroviral gene therapy - germline, cell type specific, location specific
  • About 1/1000 retroviral particles actually hit their targets
  • CRISPR and homologous recombination
  • Nucleotide chains are not 100% specific
  • CRISPR has margins of error
  • (Why do people think The Next Great Thing(tm) is always perfect?!?)
  • The scale of DNA's length is amazing
  • Improvements to fundamentals
  • It's hard to quantify the future
  • CPD photolyase could repair DNA
  • We can regenerate and retain muscles now.
  • Anti-myoregulin, anti-myostatin, growth hormone, IGF-1
  • Mind improvement by modulating the enzyme Klotho, anti-Tau protein, anti-amyloid protein
  • Extraordinary radiation tolerance can be engineered by modulating the Rad51 (RecA), hHcsA (DNAb), and yfjK genes. This can also be done by modulating melanin expression genes because melanin shields the rest of the lifeform from the more harmful effects of ionizing radiation. There is also some indication that overall lifespan could be extended as a result.
  • No major life extension is done right now.
  • Expect the unexpected
  • The oxidation theory of aging has been shown to be wrong.
  • The mitochondrial theory of aging has been shown to be sorta-kinda wrong.
  • The telomere theory of aging has been shown to vary by species.
  • (In other words, there is no silver bullet. It's going to require a multifaceted process that works on multiple levels simultaneously.)
  • System theory of regeneration
  • Each part needs special attention
  • (What some call a system theory of $foo, others call a wholistic theory of $foo.)
  • Humans never evolved for immortality; elements of the species die off fast enough to make room for the slightly better adapted.
  • It's been found that the human genome specifically causes mitochondria to degrade over the lifespan of the organism to turn them off. Accounts for observed mitochondrial damage. Have to stop this.
  • Lifespan and society - how do we solve frozen thinking (people whose minds don't evolve)?
  • "Science advances one funeral at a time." --Max Planck
  • Electronic augmentation
  • (Deep) brain stimulation, pacemakers
  • Cortical arrays
  • We can do way better
  • Irritation leads to scarring of and rejection by neurons of electrodes, which causes links to fail.
  • Highly flexible nanomesh electrodes that can rest on top of individual neurons that are injectible and more precisely targeted seem like a likely avenue to solving this problem.
  • Patch into the peripheral nervous system because it's easier and the brain can adapt to handle the input just as well. Much less risk, too.
  • The meaning of networked life and death
  • How deep and how complete is the link?
  • The mind would be extended beyond the boundry of the brain.
  • What is death in a person extended beyond their organic body?
  • If you don't end at your skin...?
  • New experimental ethics
  • FDA will be reluctant to allow experiments. So, people are experimenting on themselves. Street medicine.
  • Patenting biomedical tech is even harder. How much of it is going to be perfected and open sourced by grinders?
  • In the US individual natural genes cannot be patented.
  • How do we determine who should be allowed to undertake these experiments?
  • Grinders are getting results, regulators be damned.
  • Not everybody is qualified to understand and mitigate the risks. Some just don't care.
  • Marketing and sales hype messes everything up and then $foo gets shut down.
  • How do we keep $foo from being legislated into the ground?
  • The IGF1 gene increases muscle mass and lifespan by 20% all by itself.
  • Myostatin signals muscle cells to break down (causing wasting) but inversely influences tendons to become stronger. Weird!
  • Toward A Science of Consciousness conference
  • Bio- moves a lot more slowly than techno-