Maria Konovalenko is a young Russian woman who works for the Science for Life Extension foundation in Moscow, FRS On her personal blog she recently put up a post titled Transhumanism Presentation in Tallinn at the NMR Meeting at which she made a live stage presentation of the following notion:
the opportunity to share our ideas about transhumanism as the ideology that can be used as the basis for uniting researchers and increasing the amount of funding.
The idea seems to be most simply put as, while cooperation between disciplines can extend the available funding, the shortage of research funding is universal to all disciplines of study and won’t be relieved until there is widespread “social mandate” sufficient to compel politicians to allocate public monies appropriately.
It could work. Maria cites the lunar landings of the ’60’s and ’70’s as support of this technology development model. I, having personally been alive throughout that whole period of human history, wish to take this opportunity to suggest that there may be a better model to consider, one that doesn’t require that whole [fill in the blank] War framework of competition so critical to the US/USSR Moon Race.
Here in the US, we famously (and rather tiresomely upon occasion, I admit) point to the Preamble to the US Declaration of Independence in support of all manner of sometimes quite silly ideas. But in this case, I believe the phrase “… that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” might have a more direct and broad application than Maria (and apparently a good many other people) may yet realize.
There are two basic formative concepts of human governance; that power (political or societal generally speaking) and the right to express it comes from an organized government of some description, or that governments are organized to compound and coordinate expression of the power inherent to individual human beings. In the US, the fundamental socio/political structural assumption is that government expresses some portion of the combined power of the individual citizen’s majority will (this isn’t a political diatribe – we can have that screed/counter-screed go ’round some other time please). My thought is that there is a transhuman business model in that concept – one that exceeds national borders and is potentially as inclusive of ordinary humanity as honest business practice and scientific research methodology can reasonably provide.
The Transhumanist model Maria and her employer seem to be promoting appears to be largely aligned with the Strategy for Engineered Negligible Senescence first proposed by Aubrey de Grey. What seems necessary to advance and expand the reach of SENS-type life extension research and human therapies is a determinedly inclusive model of individual investment in, along with individual access to, life extending therapy(s). Bearing in mind that this is a strategic model and will provoke more questions than answers, consider the following criteria:
1) In the US, a common retirement investment program for individual citizens is the 401(k) retirement plan; person invests a given amount weekly, taxes aren’t due until the money is withdrawn during retirement. An international bank of solid reliability, for examples sake I’m going to say Swiss, accepts individual and group purchases of ownership shares in a life extension R&D and therapeutic clinic. Actually, the bank sells stock with a face value of SF1000 in units of 1/100th of a share, referred to as a “point” of ownership, for SF10 each. There is no trade in stock, nor any form of speculative market permitted (and discouraged by substantial tax and other financial penalties imposed on all participating parties to a trade or speculative market transaction); funds raised are equally divided into R&D and commercial therapy outlets. To avoid concentration of ownership in the more economically powerful country’s citizenry, charitable organizations are encouraged to purchase blocks of stock for dispersal to their aid recipients in various self-help projects. The bank creates an individual trust account (with stipulated inheritance details provided by the individual purchaser) as part of the stock sale and any profits eventually earned are deposited in the trust account. The bank receives SF.001 for every point of stock sold and provides the trust arrangement as a customer service. Other than the hopefully minimal occasion for collection of inheritance taxes, national governments receive the benefits of their citizenry’s extended tax paying lives.
2) Product quality (either commercial or initially research efforts) must be transparently held to rigorous standards. I know it’s a stereotype, but it’s a well-earned one, and German standards of research evaluation and product manufacture QC ought to be the starting point from the outset. Not restricted to German people doing the checking necessarily, but people dedicated to strict compliance with Teutonic attention to detailed accuracy of a certainty.
3) Half of all stock sales funds goes to R&D. 45% of all stock purchase funds goes to therapy clinic development. 5% of stock sales funds is reserved for administrative expenses (coordinating between different component labs and clinics and “government policy outreach” – what we call “lobbying” in the US). I propose 100 million full value shares for the initial offering. Once therapies and products do become available for sale, profits are divided among the investors apportioned on a per-share basis.
4) It seems apparent that initial stem cell-based therapies and procedures will largely be of a cosmetic nature.
That is what it is, and what it is is an already massive market. Early life extension products and therapies promise to range from direct unguents and infusions (to include IV introduction of client-derived pluripotent stem cells) to eventually client stem cell cloned replacement organs and other body parts (this would require a cooperative arrangement with a surgical hospital I would assume); most patients wouldn’t be trauma sufferers. Even for those that are, taking a cosmetic approach to correcting their injury isn’t an unworkable initial methodology.
So, how to bring all this together?
Paris Hilton and Rooney Mara.
Paris Hilton has all-too-publicly tried her hand at several businesses and a parade of questionable activities and relationships; she has apparently finally found her place in life (mostly) out of the tabloids and her business niche solidly in the fashion industry – reputedly to the tune of US$100 million. Ms. Hilton has her own perfume and couture outlets; she also has every reasonable expectation of being given a respectful hearing by her family’s various charitable foundations and trusts. Hilton Hotels are located around the world; having a Paris Hilton-sponsored life extension therapy clinic co-located with her more usual business product line in every Hilton Hotel world-wide strikes me as a viable starting point for negotiation of a mutually advantageous opportunity for all parties. The hotel gets added clientele, Paris’ business gets added patronage (initially from people well able to afford her product line) and life extension therapies and treatments get an advantageous premises from which to treat their patient clientele (paying guests of the hotel, of course). Eventually, the life extension clinic model will extend beyond the confines of any hotel chain, but that’s just an added opportunity for Hilton Hotels (and many others) to broaden their investment portfolio.
Patricia Rooney Mara has a university degree in “international social policy, and nonprofits” and has founded her own non-profit charity Faces of Kibera. In American football (the one with helmets, ferocious hitting and very sporadic contact of the human foot with the ball in play), the familial names Rooney and Mara are synonymous with words like “dynasty” and “greatness”. Both families remain financially involved with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants respectively and have each been responsible for the creation of a number of charitable foundations and trusts. If Miss Patricia’s charity were to purchase a quantity of the stock under discussion, financed by both branches of her family’s other charities, and use stock “points” as either an incentive for aid recipients to work to gain ownership for themselves (or local group entities) or as a product for local market development and local jobs (sales, education, etc), a fairly controlled environment could be created within which to develop tactics and practices for other charitable organizations to base their efforts on elsewhere around the world. In addition, Ms. Mara’s personal education and public reputation makes her about as promising a spokesperson as can be realistically imagined, I think.
After Maria Konovalenko herself, of course.
Paris Hilton and Rooney Mara have the assets to represent the “how” of life extension research and therapy very well indeed both on the commercial as well as the investment levels of discussion, but Maria Konovalenko is the one with the passion and the insight into the subject to present the “what” that comprises this novel and extraordinary conceptual worldview to an as-yet unconvinced and distracted public. Everyone wants to buy something valuable or desirable; Maria Konovalenko has the assets to explain what life extension is and why it should be both real and attainable by ordinary people everywhere.
To sum up; at the least, a minimum of obstructive governmental policy and regulation will certainly be necessary for life extension research to achieve any of its promising potential as human therapies and treatments. I submit that the primary key to life extension strategic success, however, lies in organizing and focusing the inherent power of the individual human being. Only people have the capability to create from disparate components and intellectual imaginings objects that never existed before, and the faith and imagination to work for their eventual attainment.
For life extension to become more than a series of failed temptations and dashed hopes, it needs to involve people from all walks of life and every corner of the globe (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase). Regular people who might not even be able to reliably spell life extension need to have a realistic hope of gaining personal investment in a means of attaining personal financial gain in a world of advancing technology development that leaves them less and less opportunity to succeed in life – with or without extension.
And that last point may be the ultimate saving grace of extending life after all.