At Undoing Aging 2019, jointly organized by SENS Research Foundation and Forever Healthy Foundation, there was a session focused on the ways to make healthy life extension and medical progress a greater part of the global agenda. Among the speakers there was Jose Cordeiro, the vice chair of Humanity Plus, director of The Millennium Project, fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and board member of the Lifeboat Foundation.
Jose earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His thesis was focused on the modeling of the International Space Station. Jose has also studied International Economics and Comparative Politics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and received his MBA in France at INSEAD, where he focused on Finance and Globalization.
Last year, Jose decided to begin his political activities in order to foster the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies in Spain and to work on the integration of Latin American immigrants into Spain’s aging society and thus maintain the country’s productivity. He kindly agreed to give me an interview to discuss more about his ambitious initiative.
Hello, Jose, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. You are currently beginning your campaign to win several seats in the European parliament. This is a very unusual situation, because it’s still rare that transhumanist ideas like significant life extension are part of a political agenda. Before we dig into your political program, I would really want to know more about you as a person and what kind of experiences led you to becoming a transhumanist in the first place. Please tell us a few things about your childhood; what life events or books helped you to develop the vision that you have right now?
My family is from Spain. During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, this country became very poor, and that pushed my family to consider moving to Venezuela. At the time, Venezuela was a prosperous country, so we had moved, and I grew up there. When I was a little child, there was no color TV; it was black and white back then. I remember that the first transmission in color was the moon landing of the Apollo mission. I was so fascinated by the idea that man had gone to the moon and also by the color picture, even though the moon was mostly gray. That sparked my interest in science fiction. My mother gave me books by Jules Verne. To me, he was an idol; I loved his writing. Then, there were other writers, like Isaac Asimov and Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who helped me develop my imagination.
When I was older, I even went to meet Sir Arthur C. Clarke in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It turned out that he had a scuba diving center in Indonesia. You see, he believed that going into outer space and going into the ocean were the ultimate experiences and that they both showed how weak our bodies were. To me, it was one more piece of proof that we really need technology to survive in outer space or in the oceans. I had an opportunity to invite him to talk at the transhumanist conference that I had organized. That was really beautiful.
Speaking of the other books, I also read Robert Heinlein’s books on Mars, and all of this combined really made me go into engineering. I decided to go to MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and I majored in engineering in order to be able to participate in all these fascinating projects of mankind in space. I have been very lucky to have four Nobel laureates among my teachers, and I’ve been always following future trends. Since that time, I read the books of the Club of Rome and the World Future Society. There were many magazines about science, such as Popular Mechanics, Computer World, and others. Then, I learned about Extropians and the World Transhumanist Association when it was being created, and I learned a lot from this community, too.
I lived three years in Japan and four years in California. Then, I met Ray Kurzweil at MIT, as he was one of its board members. He’s a fantastic person, and I read all his books, the Age of intelligent machines was the first one, and then in 1998-99, he published the Age of Spiritual Machines, where he makes all his forecasts of the future.
It seems to me that there is still a huge gap between technology, which involves developing all sorts of machines and engineering, and life sciences, rejuvenation research, and life extension. What were your ideas or some events in your life that actually made you look into this direction as well?
Because of my science fiction reading and my training at MIT, I have been very much a technologist, futurist, and transhumanist. Like Ray Kurzweil, I believe that we will transcend the biological condition and move into a post-biological condition. Arthur C. Clarke said that we are carbon-based bipeds and that we should actually evolve and transcend.
I was not particularly interested in longevity and rejuvenation technologies until 1999-2000, when a friend of mine died. Also, sadly, my father died in 2013, and that really affected my life and my views. I was living in California back when the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela had happened. My father died of something that no one dies of today, which is a lack of access to dialysis. The crisis was so bad that there were no medical services, no food, no clean water, no electricity, no gasoline in the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet. My family had to witness how a bad government can destroy a country and put a whole nation into misery. I consider myself lucky that I managed to take my mother from Venezuela back to Spain, and I am so happy that she is alive. Then I decided to stay in Spain and work internationally.
I am traveling around the globe, as I am giving lectures at major universities in many countries. As you know, I teach in two universities in Moscow: in the MIPT and in the Higher School of Economics. I also teach in universities in Japan and in Korea, focusing on several main topics that are important for shaping the global agenda in a reasonable way. In the Higher School of Economics, I talk about technologies, because economists need to know about emerging technologies, while the MIPT is just the opposite; I talk more about the future of economics, the world moving from scarcity to abundance, and how technology can help with that. I talk about energy, about the necessity to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Actually, I coined the word ‘energularity’: it’s an unlimited amount of energy that we can use for our needs. I talk about longevity, rejuvenation, regenerative medicine, the possibility to control aging and remain healthy for as long as we want. I am teaching the young generation of leaders how to build the future of global prosperity, and I decided to bring my knowledge and my vision to the political arena, too.
Could you please tell our readers about the pillars of your political program? What are the specific goals that you are going to focus on?
Two main things that I plan to focus on are the healthy longevity of the Spanish population and the integration of immigrants from Latin America. Let me explain why I consider these two topics extremely important and how they are intertwined.
Spain, as you know, is one of the countries with the highest life expectancy in the world. Our people live very long. However, this also means that our population is aging; there is a large and fast-growing share of people who are 65 years old and older, which is now over 20%, and these people have age-related chronic diseases. The medicine of the 20th century cannot restore health, and there are many age-related diseases that remain incurable, causing enormous amount of human suffering. However, it was recently proven in animal studies that by directly targeting the processes of aging, the root causes of aging, we could learn how to cure these diseases, reverse aging, and ensure better health and productivity in later life. If we support scientific research on the mechanisms of aging, we can develop cures for people very soon; in the next 10 years, there will already be several therapies of a new type that will be able to slow down and even partially reverse aging.
So, healthy longevity for the Spanish population is my primary focal point. I have three very clear targets. The first is the creation of the European Institute on Aging to work on the problem of aging and on the latest rejuvenation biotechnologies and to put together all the knowledge in different areas and different countries to give our aging society innovative treatments as soon as possible.
The second target is the development of more flexible regulations. I actually like to say that Americans invent things, the Chinese or the Japanese improve things, and the Europeans regulate. Sadly, there is overregulation all over Europe. Let me give you an example. In Japan, if you have already done phase two of human clinical trials, which means that you have already proven that the treatment is safe and it works, even if the experimental group in phase two is not large, a patient can get those treatments, especially if the patient is in critical condition, or, even worse, terminal condition. People in Japan have a chance to use the innovation and a chance to overcome the disease. You can do that in Japan but not in Europe, despite the fact that the pace of population aging in Japan and in Europe is the same; we have many old people around.
The third target is an increase in the science and technology budget of the European Union. For the next framework program, which is called Horizon Europe, beginning in 2021, the budget is expected to increase to 100 billion euros, but I think it should be increased even more, to 120 billion. The projects sponsored by Horizon Europe should be more also focused on regenerative biotechnologies in order to cope with the massive population aging and population decline.
So, you would like to contribute to the creation of a coordination center on aging research, appropriate funding for this research, and on regulatory improvement in order to ensure that the emerging rejuvenation biotechnologies can be available as soon as possible?
That is right, and I have done a great deal preparing the ground for these improvements. As you know, as a proponent of healthy life extension, I have organized many scientific conferences in Spain, and I have invited international luminaries from the field of aging research, such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey, who was the first to recognize the mechanisms of aging as new therapeutic targets.
I have always tried to spread the word about the work of our brilliant Spanish scientists, and I have also written several books on this topic to educate the public on this matter and to allow more people to benefit from the development of rejuvenation technologies; the last one of my 13 books is currently a bestseller in Spain called La Muerte De La Muerte (The Death of Death).
Yes, I have seen it – are you planning to have it translated into other languages?
Yes, it is coming out now in Portuguese, then in Korean, and then in other languages. I hope that there will also be English and Russian translations soon enough.
However, this is only one part of my program. The other one is based on the other pressing issues of Spain. You have heard the motto of my campaign, #SomosMIEL – MIEL stands for ‘Movimiento Independiente EuroLatino’ (the Independent EuroLatino Movement). Because of the crisis in Latin America, and especially Venezuela, Spain has become a home for many immigrants; around 10% of the Spanish population are immigrants. Think about it. The native Spanish population is aging, our population is declining, and our workforce is shrinking. The immigrants are people with a similar cultural and religious background, who speak Spanish perfectly, and who have a good education and could contribute to the development of the country much better if we removed certain barriers and restrictions.
First, I think we need to eliminate the Schengen visa for people in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia, at least in the case of family reunification. Next, I would focus on extending the approved period of being an independent worker from one to five years. The third target is to contribute to the homologation of titles and degrees in education. When all these immigrants come, even though we speak the same language, their degrees are not accepted. There is already a good precedent of solving this problem in Europe with the Bologna Declaration, the agreement that allows homologation of all titles in Europe. However, now we have to take this to the international level and certainly with Latin America.
There is one more question that I plan to work on: the recognition of Spanish as one of the official languages of the European Union. Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language in the world after Chinese. It is not even recognized in the European Union, which has only three official working languages: English, French, and German.
As we are moving towards a world that is more and more strongly connected, I think it makes perfect sense to facilitate communication and exchange of valuable knowledge and experience between the major regions, such as Spain, the European Union, Latin America, and the United States. There are 50 million Spanish speakers in the United States.
So, technically, what you’re trying to achieve with your program is to remove the barriers that prevent Spanish-speaking society from acting as a whole. One example is the integration of immigrants from Latin America, and the other one is the improvement of cross-border communication by making Spanish an official language of the European Union. I find that fascinating. Because, as we all know, there are these global challenges that we’re dealing with, like climate change, pollution, lack of renewable energy, and population aging, and they require global cooperation. The barriers become increasingly unwelcome, I would say, because these problems just cannot be solved at the level of one country. I find it a very valuable social experiment.
Yeah, that’s a beautiful way to put it. However, we have a long way to go. We live in a world of abundance that is full of opportunities brought to us by technological progress, and it is quite disappointing that we still have poverty, we still have suffering from aging, and we still find ourselves witnessing humanitarian crises like the one in Venezuela that killed my father. Five million Venezuelans have been forced to leave the country, five million. This is not a small number, and we still don’t know how to deal with it in a way that these people can have the decent lives that they deserve. We need to learn how to not leave anyone behind. We have to become more compassionate. This could happen to any country, like it happened to Germany during Hitler’s government. We have to collaborate to make sure that we will not make the same mistakes ever again. We live at the borderline between a fantastic positive future and a horrible, terrible past, and we have to move forward, positively contribute to it, and create a better society, a better world for everybody.
What insights would you like to share with our readers?
Life is so beautiful; it is a fantastic gift. I think everybody should enjoy life, should have a chance to improve and extend life and to do more things. I speak five languages, and I’d want to speak ten if I had the time. I have been to 137 countries, and I would like to go to two hundred more. I would like to write and read more books, watch many movies, and listen to so much more music, and there is no time. Time is so valuable. Ask yourself, who could you become if you had another century of healthy life? Therefore, we need more lifetime so that we can enjoy more, develop and reinvent ourselves to become better people, and make this world a better place. Going into politics for me is my reinvention. I think that I have enough experience to take all these fascinating academic findings and ideas professionally into politics and to make a difference. That is my mission: to bring healthy longevity and profound social integration to Spain. Wish me luck.