Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has made it his business to make people immortal. Buterin, 27, advocates the idea that “aging is a technical problem”.
He’s not alone with his combined interest in Bitcoin and biohacking. Famed biomedical aging researcher Aubrey de Gray, Xanadu architect and Agoric chief scientist Mark Miller, bitcoin cash billionaire Roger Ver, and former Coinbase chief technology officer and a16z general partner Balaji Srinivasan are all intrigued by the pursuit of longevity.
De Gray recently helped launch VitaDAO, a “decentralized collective funding for longevity research”. He says:
“Since the beginning of the blockchain, I’ve been delighted to see the tremendous following that I and the longevity movement have there.”
In addition to his engineering achievements, Miller is a Senior Research Fellow in the Hall of Fame at the Foresight Institute, a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 with the goal of “Advancing Technologies for the Long-Term Benefit of Life.”
“I’m very involved in this new world of crypto trading, which is often referred to as the blockchain sector,” he says. “I am very confident of creating an ecosystem in which secure software will dominate because insecure software quickly leads to massive losses without recourse.”
Srinivasan’s Twitter bio describes his vision as: “Immutable money, infinite limits, eternal life. #Bitcoin. ”Srinivasan says that“ the ultimate purpose of technology is to eliminate mortality ”and“ extending life is the most important thing we can invent ”.
Blockchain communities are clearly excited about longevity. But what does cryptocurrency have to do with extending its lifespan and where could this future lead?
It turns out that the link between crypto and cryogenics extends all the way to key contributors and the Cypherpunks mailing list and its connections to transhumanist groups, including the first person to handle bitcoin with Satoshi, Hal Finney.
If we’re more open to new strange ideas, can I suggest antiaging research? Aging is a humanitarian catastrophe in which as many people are killed every two years as in World War II, and before death people are weakened and social systems and families are burdened. Let’s finish it.
– vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) March 30, 2020
Crypto folks fund longevity research
Crypto-philanthropists donate significant fortunes to this area that is usually difficult to get mainstream support. You may be the only people on the planet optimistic enough to fund technology that currently only exists in science fiction novels.
According to Buterin, longevity is a battle worth fighting for. Buterin donated $ 25 million in SHIB cryptocurrency tokens to the Future of Life Institute and over $ 350,000 to the SENS Research Foundation in June 2021 to help rethink aging.
He discussed the subject in recent podcast interviews with the likes of Lex Fridman and Tim Ferriss and said that “prolonging life is definitely very important to me”.
“I think I hope that the concept of watching your parents and grandparents die slowly fade from the public consciousness as something that happened over half a century.”
Buterin has emphasized his adherence to the moral philosophy of effective altruism. This value, known to transhumanists as the moral urgency to save lives, may be the reason behind his dog coin donation for both COVID-19 relief in India and life extension.
“The aging process alone becomes something that is simply reversible and it is normal for people to live for a century and a half or two and then go on,” says Buterin.
An essay entitled “The Fable of the Dragon Tyrant” by Professor Nick Bostrom, Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, is pinned on Buterin’s Twitter. She argues that it is unethical to allow death in old age. If you look at aging as a disease, the urgency to support the transhumanist project also makes sense.
“Although we still lack effective and acceptable means to slow down the aging process, we can identify research directions that could lead to the development of such means in the foreseeable future,” says Bostrom. The key to freeing humanity from the dragon tyrant of aging is funding. The new riches of crypto are key.
Bitcoin.com founder Roger Ver has already signed up to be cryogenically frozen. “Instead of investing in cryptocurrencies, I want to focus on the extreme life-extension technologies because if you die, you will no longer be able to enjoy your life,” Ver told Cointelegraph. He’s so convinced of the technology that in 2002 he even considered cryogenically frozen as a legitimate alternative to jail time.
Roger Ver once considered killing himself and going into cryonic suspension to avoid prison.
Now he plans to spend the next phase of his career – and his fortune – making cryonics a reality. https://t.co/IZ1Ham7NEa
– Cointelegraph (@Cointelegraph) April 28, 2021
DAOs also participate in this lifespan extension. “There is a strong overlap between crypto people and longevity people,” Vincent Weisser, a member of the core team at VitaDAO, told Cointelegraph. VitaDAO exceeded its funding target of $ 490,000 in June 2021.
Now they are partnering with the popular blockchain crowd funding platform Gitcoin to add a future funding category for longevity and life extension.
Transhumanist philanthropy and large-scale funding have the potential to have a significant impact on longevity research and the transhumanist project.
What is transhumanism?
Transhumanism is a loosely defined movement that encourages the use of technology to improve the human condition. These include information technology, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence to radically extend human lifespans, increase physical and intellectual abilities, space colonization and super-intelligent machines.
The goal is not only to extend life, but “more”, to the point of being superhuman. Although the transhumanist pursuit of posthumanity is often viewed as medical, the play of transhumanist technologies encompasses economic and social institutional design and cultural development.
Like crypto-communities, transhumanism is based on a vision of evolution and individual freedom of choice. In practice, this creates a sense of ownership of contributing to solutions like biohacking or taking precautions to be cryogenically frozen and hopefully one day resuscitated. The goal of the transhumanist social project is one that is based on freedom in the design of social arrangements, made possible by self-generating systems and spontaneous order. This description of perpetual, open systems is similar to the blockchain.
Not everyone thinks eternal life or the philosophy behind it is a good idea. Political economist Francis Fukuyama describes transhumanism as “the most dangerous idea in the world” and argues that it is “a strange libertarian movement” whose “crusaders” want “nothing less than to free humanity from its biological constraints”. He lists the risks of humanity’s tense nature of wanting to live forever, the implications for equality between the “possessed” and the “possessed”, and that the essence of humanity is mortality. However, transhumanism has a long history in crypto communities.
More human than human
Transhumanist values are reflected in the ideological foundations of blockchain communities around anarchy and autonomy, self-improvement and a long-term mindset.
Transhumanist ideas have long been around in the technology communities that pioneered the basic principles of public blockchains. The cryptography pioneer Ralph Merkle (inventor of the distribution of public keys and Merkle trees), for example, considered himself a transhumanist and published on topics such as “The molecular repair of the brain”.
Additionally, there has been considerable cross-fertilization of ideas between the Cypherpunks mailing list, which discussed privacy and digital cash ideas in the 1990s and 2000s in advance of the invention of Bitcoin in 2008, and the Extropian mailing list.
Extropy is “the extent of intelligence, information, order, vitality and the ability to improve a system”. According to the “Principles of Extropy” published by the President of the Extropy Institute Max Moore in 1998, Extropians are “those who try to increase extropy”. The core principles refined in The Extropist Manifesto in 2010 are “endless eXtension”, which means eternal growth and progress in all aspects of human endeavor; Overcoming the limitations of authoritarianism, surveillance or social control; Overcoming property rights, including intellectual property and money, by sharing knowledge, culture and resources; Intelligence, including independent thinking and personal responsibility; and intelligent machines, particularly achieving “friendly artificial intelligence” beyond human capabilities through funding and cheap legislation.
Extropians advocate and explore the philosophies of transhumanism (technological improvement), extropy (improving the human condition), and the future. Numerous prominent cypherpunks also subscribed to the Extropian mailing list, including co-founders of the cypherpunk movement Timothy C. May and Eric Hughes.
Here’s my conversation with @VitalikButerin, his second time on the podcast. We talk about @Ethereum, @Bitcoin, @Dogecoin, @elonmusk, @ShibainuCoin, @IOHK_Charles, @Cardano, @Chainlink, @ 0xPolygon, life, immortality, AI and even speak Russian at the end. https://t.co/Y3cjGuctvM pic.twitter.com/Pu7uwwF6X4
– Lex Fridman (@lexfridman) June 3, 2021
Another active member of the Extropians was Hal Finney. Finney was a co-developer of the first anonymous remailer, the first person to transact Bitcoin with Satoshi, and the first maintainer of the Bitcoin codebase. When he died he was cryogenically frozen in hopes of living in the future with his wife Fran, who found that “Hal liked the present. But he was looking to the future. ”For this community, technologies like digital cash offered an opportunity to think long-term about the future of humanity, transhumanism, and solutions and preventions for cryogenics, space, and catastrophic environmental or social collapse.
The interest of the Cypherpunks in extropianism and vice versa today was about building an infrastructure that would sustain the future of human evolution. In a way, it makes sense.
In order for one’s cryogenic levitation animation to be paid for, sustained, and reversed to wake it up in the distant future as science advances to the realization of that endeavor, there needs to be an incentive. In 1994, Wired magazine reported on 27 frozen people (technically 17 frozen heads and 10 whole bodies) at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the same company that Roger Ver signed with.
“Immortality is mathematical, not mystical,” said Mike Perry, their overseer. The hope is that Bitcoin will be a resilient long-term incentive for someone to wake up Hal, Fran, and other friends. Herein lies the need for a long-term blockchain infrastructure that, as a secure monetary reward, will extend into the century in which “thawing” is possible.
One of the principles of extropianism outlined by Moore is “intelligent technology”; H. Technologies that bring useful results, including “genetic engineering, life-extending life sciences, intelligence enhancers, smarter interfaces to faster computers, neural-computer integration, global data”. Networks, virtual reality, intelligent agents, fast electronic communication, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, neural networks, artificial life, off-planet migration and molecular nanotechnology. “
“Expect more life extension, brain-machine interfaces, limb regeneration, deafness healing, bionic vision, and other incredible benefits over the next decade,” says Srinivasan. Transhumanists predict an inevitable “singularity” if technology becomes intelligent, uncontrollable, and irreversible by 2035. Blockchain is part of this technology stack.
Where transhumanism and crypto intersect
The sublime, futuristic ideas of the transhumanists depend on resilience and digital infrastructure. This is especially true for the goal of a friendly artificial intelligence, which is seen as a prerequisite for rapid development beyond all other core principles of the project. Thanks to blockchain technology and blockchain philanthropy, we are beginning to have the resources for it.
An immutable “worldwide computer” enables a decentralized autonomous organization to automatically coordinate our uploaded brain image with a friendly artificial intelligence in a decentralized, freedom-loving manner.
The immutability of the blockchain makes it the perfect long-term infrastructure. Cypherpunks were paranoid about Orwellian dystopias, which authorities rewrote history to suit state propaganda. The architectural and political decentralization of public blockchains means that no one can manipulate, control, or delete the records of history. This makes it the perfect recording infrastructure if we want to live forever.
This is important when it comes to your brain picture or your Bitcoin balance. In order to document who owns which coins when you are cryogenically frozen and woken up in the next century, you need resilient, long-term and tamper-proof blockchains. The values of independence and immutability are essential for both crypto enthusiasts and transhumanists. Buterin says:
“It’s great that we have people trying to upload brain scans or improve them. It’s also great that we have people who do cryonics so we could just go to sleep in the freezer and sometime, hopefully, sometime in the future […] Anyone who is cryogenically frozen will be able to wake up. “
The combination of transhumanist philosophy, blockchain technology, community obsession and money opens up completely new possibilities. The vision of the transhumanist blockchain is that we all, humans and machine intelligence, will be connected through decentralized, automatically executed smart contracts and marketplaces.
Blockchains offer a platform infrastructure to enable a multitude of technologically advanced human-machine futures. One example is a decentralized marketplace for AI, like SingularityNET from artificial intelligence researcher, transhumanist and CEO Ben Goertzel. Here, intelligent computer agents buy, sell and exchange work for digital tokens via a blockchain.
Lifespan News – Vitalik donates for longevityhttps: //t.co/vY1Gaz4kp6 pic.twitter.com/X4AUpJmWwx
– Dogelon Warriors (@DogelonWarriors) July 26, 2021
In The Transhumanism Handbook, Melanie Swan predicts that “crypto cloud minds”, in which mind-node peers interact via multi-currency payment channels of digital denominations, will algorithmically enforce good behavior between people and machines through the privacy and transparency of blockchains. According to Srinivasan, this could also lead to “cloud cities” that allow their members to negotiate with other jurisdictions and crowdfunding areas in the physical world.
Like humans, transhumanism is only at the beginning of its development.
Transhumanism, with its focus on superman and longevity rather than the afterlife, can be viewed as something of a religious impulse. Although many transhumanists see their worldview as opposed to religious views of life, transhumanism can become the religion of the blockchainers. However, this doctrine does not come without a clear burden of responsibility.
The responsibility of the engineer
While some fear transhumanism, a key tenet is to ensure that technology produces positive results for humanity. Transhumanists advocate that the decision to improve human skills rests with the individual.
Part of the longevity research agenda is figuring out how to measure the risks of a friendly artificial intelligence and make it really friendly to avoid disaster. Transhumanists want to avoid the “X-Risk” that poses an existential risk to humanity from a hypothetical, global, catastrophic future event that could harm human well-being or destroy human civilization. Because of this, the colonization of space is as logical as Elon and other crypto enthusiasts are pursuing. The “Extropian Principles, v. 3.0 ”by Max Moore from 1998 emphasize this and state that“ migration into space will immensely expand the energies and resources accessible to our civilization ”. Of course, intelligent machines will also help us in space exploration, as they can handle more gravitational forces than humans when entering the orbit of other planets.
For a transhumanist, the goal of technology is to enhance our capabilities and expand human freedoms. “How could we ensure that humanity lives forever and that life spreads throughout the universe?” Asks Weisser from VitaDAO. “It’s about probabilities and increasing the likelihood that humanity will survive,” he says.
A long-term mindset treats aging as a technical problem. It remains to be seen whether the interface between blockchain philanthropy, the VitaDAO research collective, and other decentralized, transhumanist endeavors will be cautiously and collectively advanced with the kind of “long-termism” that benefits humanity. As Buterin says:
“I hope you can […] come to my thousandth birthday party. “