People Unlimited: An Outsider's Perspective
How Did I Find Out About People Unlimited?
In 2010 I joined a business networking group of about 20 people that met once a week for breakfast. Occasionally, a few of the members would make reference to this group they belonged to, People Unlimited. Eventually, they invited me to join them at one of their events, so I decided to check it out.
So What Is It?
They refer to themselves as the longest standing association committed to radical life extension and physical immortality. Radical Life Extension? It’s a fancy way of saying they don’t just want to live a little longer, like to 100 or 150. They want to live to be 1000 or more. They are seeking literal immortality.
Established in 1996 by James Strole and Bernadeane (who go by Jim and Bernie), this Scottsdale AZ based organization has undergone a few name changes. However, the founders feel that People Unlimited represents the highest achievement of their efforts to date. Before beginning People Unlimited, Jim and Bernie had 30 years of experience traveling throughout the world talking about physical immortality.
Additional insight can be found on the association's official site (www.peopleunlimitedinc.com)
As soon as you show up at a People Unlimited event, you know you are in for an uncommon experience. Well, at least uncommon to those of us who don’t attend their meetings regularly.
There’s about 100 people that attend, and before the meeting starts, you can tell by their socializing that they all really like each other. You can also tell that are incredibly excited about visitors. In another group, you might say that they “go out of their way” to make you feel welcome, but you get the sense that this behavior is perfectly natural and common to the folks at People Unlimited.
It turns out that the members of People Unlimited actually believe that consistent friendly social interaction is an important ingredient in the lives of people who want to live forever. More on that in a little bit.
When I went, around 100 people went to the meetings. People Unlimited also takes pride in having individuals from around the world participate by means of live streaming on the Internet. Event MCs frequently greeted t people from spots as far away as Israel and New Zealand, along with others from inside of the USA.
If you like experiences more than you like reading about things, you may just want to go to some of their meetings, like I did.
People Unlimited holds their events on weekly, most Mondays and Fridays from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. For more in depth experiences, they hold weekend meetings which incorporate Friday evening sessions from 7:30pm to 10:30pm, Saturday from 11am to 4pm, and Sunday from 1pm to 6pm. Twice per year, more often than not in July and the holiday season, there are “celebrations” that last an entire week. Current meeting information can be found on their events page on Meetup.com (www.meetup.com/people-unlimited-inc).
Bernie and Jim hold the conviction that the human body is made to live forever, and that we age and kick the bucket because of neglect, which is driven significantly by the conviction that aging and death are unavoidable. They say individuals regularly treat their cars superior to how they treat their own bodies. According to their perspective, individuals have the control over their wellbeing and health, and can break free of all restrictions, they just have to want it and find support to achieve it. They believe that by developing individual strength one can "take death out of the equation." This becomes the base for a "deathless lifestyle" that can even modify the DNA.
This is definitely pretty far out, but I've done a bit of digging, and there is currently research in epigenetics that supports this possibility, at least partially. In fact, you can find initial supporting evidence to just about every tenet put for by People Unlimited. People Unlimited simply looks at the evidence and takes it one improbable step further – we can’t just lengthen our lives, we can lengthen them infinitely.
Personally, I have to admit that I don’t think death is a disease. I don’t think trees believe they are going to die, and yet they do. I don’t think tortoises believe that they are going to live for hundreds of years, and yet they do. As such, I’m not convinced that lifespan is primarily a function mental state.
Additionally, aging is clearly a part of life. The evolution from an embryo to a fetus to a newborn to a toddler to teen to adult is something we accept as natural. At what point then, do we switch from calling aging a natural process to calling it a disease? At 18 years old? At 30? I’m skeptical that such an age really exists.
However, like the members of People Unlimited, I recognize that we are learning new things about biology all the time, and that science is increasing both the length and our quality of life. It is possible that through genetic therapy, tissue transplants, digital copying of human consciousness, or any other variety of means, humans will achieve theoretical immortality.
My doubts aside, the subjects raised at the meeting are exactly what you would expect from an organization dedicated to living forever, such as wellness and nutrition. The support and care of the body is a frequent agenda item at People Unlimited, where they share new health advancements and encourage one another to be more dedicated. This is not to say everybody there is fit as a fiddle. Some are and some are most certainly not. They are up front about this, and talk clearly and supportively to the individuals who need to step it up. In fact, the people who go to these events may not look the way you anticipate. They are all ages, including families and some children.
While you're listening to so much motivational discussion about caring the body, you may believe it's leading towards a product pitch, such as particular diet system or supplements. However, in my experience People Unlimited does not endorse any health systems or particular products. Their position on this is that each individual has their own one of a kind body that they need to nurture, which requires an individual way to deal with everything from supplements to workouts.
They additionally make an intriguing observation about living forever, which is that the “right” answers for what to eat and how to exercise are constantly changing. They say that one reason that individuals age and die is that they get stuck to a particular way of doing things, and neglect to improve and grow when the time comes to take a stab at something new.
As anyone might expect, given their enthusiasm for living forever, some People Unlimited members have expertise in fields like wellness and nutrition. Such members frequently talk on these subjects. Whole meetings are occasionally dedicated to discussions about these themes.
I didn't record any video myself, but you can get a feel for the kinds of things that are shared in their meetings how the members respond from this marketing video produced by People Unlimited themselves.
The weekly events start with a brief meditation on a given topic, such as achieving radical well-being, amid which individuals close their eyes, hold hands, and center their thoughts. This is followed by an introduction from that evening’s MC, and typically a couple performances, for example, a song, reading, or dance. Bernie and Jim are presented and frequently open with their own expression. Having a mini-talent show every meeting is a very unique feature of this group, and I think it does a lot to encourage the group members to have new experiences and conquer their fears, while also giving the group a new reason to praise and value the performer.
After the performances, they talk about an extensive variety of issues, and move between subjects, for example, breaking negative patterns, embracing change, making more profound connections, and more. While they share, members in the room will cheer and applaud.
The official remarks will typically be followed by a time of open expression in which other members will share their views and feelings. Members who share in this way will get a similar show of support.
The overall experience is comparable to being in a high energy church, and there are similarities in the loud and vivacious interactions, but there is no religion at People Unlimited.
People Unlimited is finding new support from a growing group of mainstream futurists, transhumanists and radical life extension advocates. One of these supporters is Bill Andrews, Ph.D., co-star of the acclaimed narrative film "The Immortalists", where he was featured along with Aubrey de Gray, of the SENS Foundation, another friend of People Unlimited. Andrews is a People Unlimited member, and shows up at their events, talking on his work, which concentrates on Telomere research.
Other speakers at People Unlimited events have included Max Moore, the Transhumanist scholar and CEO of Alcor, author and activist Zoltan Istvan, and Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of the biomedical sciences firm Bio Viva.
In addition to sharing encouragement and information, People Unlimited members like to hug. Observing their hugging habits can be a little jarring if you're not accustomed to it, but they have their reasons. I once heard them say that studies have found that if a child gets a steady dose of physical touch from an early age their development is improved and they will grow to be more content, physically and intellectually. Kids who don't get the support of touch are negatively influenced in various measures. Touch is vital to their wellbeing.
People Unlimited feels that there are similar ramifications for people of any age. To really flourish, we all need to feel the glow and warmth of physical touch. This is distinct from sexuality. People unlimited doesn’t advocate for or against promiscuity. They certainly don’t think people need to go to bed with one another just to get a decent hug. Hugs and other forms of affection are shared with care, and with regard to personal preferences.
Is It a Religion?
People Unlimited has been attacked for being a religion, but the members certainly disagree. Critics say that only religion touches on the subject of immortality. While many religions do treat the topic of immortality in one way or another, this doesn’t mean that every group that touches the subject is religious. This may be particularly true now as the topic turns out to be often brought up in the various fields of science.
People Unlimited has no organized rulebook, as is commonly found in religion, in fact, they have no sacred book at all. People Unlimited respects everyone’s individual convictions, so long as those convictions don’t preclude the possibility of living forever. You can believe in God, you just have to believe in one wants you to live for eternity without ever passing through death. Clearly, they do reject any convention that requires individuals to die as a method for gaining any benefits, including salvation."
They offer no single, silver bullet answer for doing this, but rather advance the idea of a "deathless living", which every individual defines according to their own particular needs. They believe an important component of any deathless living plan is the support of other would-be immortals who give the motivation and information required along the path.
In the end, I’m not convinced that I want to live forever. I also don’t think that I have to join People Unlimited to participate in whatever advances science brings in that regard. I’m also just a little lazy, and by my count people who join People Unlimited dedicate 5 or more hours per week to their pursuit of a higher quantity and quality of life. That would significantly cut into my video game time.
But on a serious note, I really enjoyed my time at People Unlimited, and I could see that the people who embraced it reaped lots of emotional, financial, and other benefits. I would definitely support anyone who wanted to try out the group for themselves.
Do You Think Humans Will Eventually Live Forever?
People Unlimited Headquarters
Where weekly meetings and other gatherings are held.