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Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1991-97); and Writer (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2014/10/15


Part two of eleven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: health advice, longevity, mortality, Pythagoreans, Transhumanists, future scenarios of downloadable consciousness, aims for immortality, rewriting genetic code, partial/full mergers with biology, technological and medical futurists, United Nations on lifespans, Dr. Aubrey de Grey divided subproblems for solving aging, figuring out the mind as the ultimate longevity solution, consciousness and evolution, discounting of some animal consciousness by people, and the possibility of the same consideration for human consciousness; personal vitamin and nutraceutical consumption, considerations of efforts for longevity, aspirin and statins, and Life Extension magazine; possible negative interactions of nutritional supplements, circumin, vitamin d, Metformin, Type 2 Diabetes, resveratrol, methylene blue, Fen-Phen, and flossing and inflammation; possible negative interactions with ingested nutritional supplements taken alone or together with another nutritional supplement, and the reasons for considering his current set of nutritional supplements safe; obscure and mainstream thinkers on the progression of technology, some thoughts to do with the Law of Accelerating Returns, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, extrapolations of current technological trends from the past and the trends’ influence on us in the future, and relevant extrapolations beyond this century; entrance into the world of trivia,Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, first and second times on the show, and Noesis issue 150’s articlesThree Letters of Protest Regarding “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and Request for Assistance from Mega Society Members; rectifying the situation; mastering multiple intellectual fields, 12 years of university credit in one year at Excelsior College,  and reason for pursuing this method of education accreditation; moving beyond academics into acting and physique building (bodybuilding), films with J.D. Mata, and reason for entering into this kind of work; and nude modeling, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and time spent at the gym.

Keywords: animal, aspirin, consciousness, curcumin, consciousness, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Peter Diamandis, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Terry Grossman, Excelsior College, evolution, Fen-Phen, future, Giga Society, God, gods, immortality, inflammation, J.D. Mata, Law of Acclerating Returns, Life Extension Foundation, longevity, Mega Society, Metformin, methylene blue, Michael Bay, mind, mortality, nutraceutical, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Pythagoreans, Resveratrol, Rick G. Rosner, Saul Kent, statins, supplements, Transhumanists, Type 2 Diabetes, United Nations, vitamin d.

15. Furthermore, many people in history followed health advice.  Some provided it.  Today this persists.  Primarily for well-being with a secondary benefit of longevity.  Although, most people in recorded history accepted mortality of the body as fact, but in most cases attended to ritual, scripture, incantation, sacrifice, prayer, meditative practices, and propitiation to a god, the gods, or God to attain immortality as a spirit, a disembodied awareness, an existence in another realm, or through continuous re-incarnation as a mortal creature in this world.  These tendencies of thought wax and wane.  For instance, Pythagoreans searched for immortality.  Even today, an emergent sub-group of a modern school of thought, Transhumanism, aims for immortality through hypothetical future scenarios of downloading their minds onto computers, re-writing of genetic code for extended life, and partial/full mergers of biology with machines for bodies and minds immune to the present higher levels of degradation based on the degrading effects of time on our bodies. Some people come to mind such as Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Terry Grossman, M.D, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Peter Diamandis, M.D., Saul Kent of the Life Extension Foundation, and others.  What do you think of the many ideas and arguments behind these various groups for longevity – even outright ‘immortality’?  What makes their arguments and our situation different, and better, enough to have such possibilities arise in practicality?

It sucks to be among the last generations of humans who don’t have a choice about dying. Medicine will advance tremendously in the next century, and so will life spans. Even the U.N., which isn’t a hotbed of science fiction-ish speculation, says that living to 100 will become common.

Transhumanists like to argue that to be effectively immortal, you don’t have to live until immortality is possible. You only have to live until medical science can extend your life at a rate of one year per year.

Researchers such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey say that aging will be conquered by breaking it down into a set of sub-problems and solving each of them. While not part of de Grey’s sub-problems, figuring out the mind and consciousness can be seen as the ultimate longevity solution. If you can make the contents and actions of the brain transferable, then keeping your body going may become just one of a variety of longevity strategies.

But figuring out consciousness may be a good news-bad news thing. Consciousness constantly acts as an advertisement for itself, telling you that your life and thoughts and experiences are interesting. Evolutionarily, it has to do that. If you quit paying attention to your life, you make more errors, which might kill you. We come from millions of generations of ancestors who paid attention.

For instance, deciding when to cross at a traffic light. (Traffic lights seem to pop up in discussions of consciousness.) For you not to be killed crossing at a light, your lifetime error rate of observing and stopping for red lights has to be reasonably close to zero. If you weren’t sufficiently interested in not being killed, your error rate would rise dangerously. Of course we see this with digital devices being so interesting that people become insufficiently interested in clear, real-life risks (texting while walking or driving a car or even a train being the sadly typical example).

Once we figure out consciousness, it may turn out to not be so awesome. Consciousness may be seen to incorporate a bunch of sensationalistic tricks to keep your attention, like a Michael Bay movie, and there may be a letdown – we’re the saps who bought tickets to the movie.

We have little problem discounting consciousness in other creatures – the billions of chickens Americans eat each year, for instance, cows, pigs, octopi. The chickens live their short lives, they’re killed, no big deal. A minority of people say it’s the ultimate deal – that every creature’s experience is important. But what happens if our understanding of consciousness leads us to believe that human consciousness just isn’t that big a deal – not much more important than other animals’? That could be a bummer. (But this bummer might partially be addressed via biotech brain helper add-ons that make our moment-to-moment awareness more super-duper.)

We’re gonna live longer, we’re gonna get weirder, gradually turning into the augmented but still very human beings that will come after humans.

16. Granted, death stands atop the mount of costly adventures.   You take high-level double digit numbers of vitamins and nutraceuticals every day. Even so, these measures for slowing, potentially halting or reversing, aging seem excessive and even dangerous.  For instance, do they all have FDA approval?  Where do you base your efforts for longevity?  What research and evidence?

Mostly, I take vitamins and nutraceuticals, which may not do much – one way or the other. And most of the other stuff is apparently very safe and widely tested – aspirin and a half-dose of statins, for instance.

I research supplements and nutritional strategies on the internet, trying to separate the BS from the crumbs of actual information. Life Extensionmagazine is pretty good, even though it’s trying to sell fancy vitamins. At least the claims in the magazine are backed up by some studies.

The purpose of the pills, of course, is to put off dying as long as possible. Will exercise, a semi-careful diet and mostly mainstream supplements increase my mortality? I hope not, and most statistics are on my side.

17. For instance, which ones of these nutritional supplements have sufficient clinical testing in favour of their individual use?  What about potential negative interactions of an individual supplement or drug?  What of negative interactions between two or more of them? 

I mostly take nutritional supplements. Their effects are probably not as helpful or as potentially harmful as pharmaceuticals, though they haven’t usually been through the same clinical trials as prescription drugs. (Some vitamins, however, have had more than a century of testing, and clinical testing is not a 100% guarantee.)

I take a big but not crazy dose of vitamin D and a lot of curcumin, both of which are currently very well-regarded. They’re being studied extensively, and the studies are returning encouraging results. As with anything, future research may debunk them, but I don’t think they’re hurting me. People in India have been using curcumin for centuries, and this seems to be correlated with lower rates for some inflammation-based disease.

Some of what I take may be considered a little wacky. For instance, I take Metformin, a drug for Type 2 diabetes, even though I don’t have diabetes. Among other effects, Metformin helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Along with resveratrol, it’s one of only two drugs I know of which trigger some of the positive effects of calorie restriction (without the misery of calorie restriction). And Metformin is a more effective calorie restriction mimetic than resveratrol, because orally administered resveratrol gets knocked out by your liver.

Metformin is the most widely prescribed anti-diabetes drug in the world, with 48 million annual prescriptions in the U.S. alone. It’s been used in the UK since 1958 and the U.S. since 1995. Negative side effects are rare. There is some evidence that Metformin may reduce the incidence of cancer. I like the stuff.

I sometimes take methylene blue, which may act as a detergent to loosen amyloid plaque in the brain. (Amyloid is sticky gunk thrown up by damaged brain cells.) MB is currently in Phase III trial for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (It turns urine a bright emerald green!) If I were in the NFL and taking a bunch of shots to the head, I’d use methylene blue like Splenda.

Most of what I take doesn’t negatively interact. A couple of minor vitamin depletions are covered by a good multi-vitamin. (For instance, Metformin may reduce absorption of B12.)

You don’t often hear about people dying early from vitamins. Occasionally, there’s a study which might say something like, “People who take vitamin E might have slightly elevated mortality.” Then you look at the study, and it’s hard to apply to your specific situation, but you cut back on vitamin E. In the 70s, people went on the liquid protein diet. But it depleted potassium and caused heart attacks. A couple of people died – it was big news. In the 90s, Fen-Phen, a combination of diet drugs, killed people. Again, big news. If vitamins were knocking people off like crazy, we’d hear about it. So I take my chances.

Hey – here are two very safe things you should do to add years to your life – take half an aspirin or a baby aspirin each day, and floss your teeth. Unflossed teeth spread inflammation throughout your body.

18. In some sectors of the population, some obscure, and other more – as of recent – mainstream thinkers have extrapolations based on many highly complex technological innovations in society regarding the progression of technology. Some will use general hunches, e.g. things seem more complicated and, therefore, will become more complex.  Others will use mathematical modelling through extensions of such things as Moore’s Law, e.g. the Law of Accelerating Returns a la Ray Kurzweil.  How do you see these technological trends and changes influencing us in the far and recent past?  What extrapolations do you consider most likely for this century and past it?

Many of the developments predicted by science fiction eventually happen, though often not as soon as science fiction predicts (the iPad, the atomic bomb, the internet and computer viruses, to name a few).

I think that will be the case with many aspects of the Singularity. (The Singularity is when, according to believers in the Singularity, artificial intelligence will be able to answer any question and solve any problem, and all our wishes will come true, sometime around the year 2040.) Humanity or some version of humans plus technology will get smarter and smarter, but it won’t all happen at once or as soon as 2040.

But things will get weird. Good manners and considerate behavior will have an increasingly difficult time keeping up with changes in tech. It would be nice if people would stop being annoying or dangerous with their devices, but I can’t see how manners will ever catch up with the accelerating development of technology. Tech will keep making people smarter but appearing to be stupider.

I don’t think the future will be humans fighting robots. I think we’ll become our own half-robots. We’ll keep augmenting ourselves, adding devices around and to ourselves until our artificial systems do more information-processing than our natural systems. (We’ll build expert devices of increasing sophistication, but for the near future, the most expert systems will be human brains plus tech. We already are expert systems – right now it’s most effective to add onto us.)

Some people argue that the brain has hidden, possibly quantum, information-processing capacity and that we won’t be able to emulate the brain. Obviously, the more complicated our brains turn out to be, the harder it will be to emulate them and interface with them. But we’ll still keep going in that direction. We’re already pretty good at piping information into our heads nonstop via our current devices.

One big though gradual change is we’ll be able to change our drives, motivations, judgments and values. Much of what drives us is pretty thoroughly wired into our brains via evolution – sexual attraction, tastes in food, aesthetic preferences, to name some big ones.

Sex makes just about everyone crazy at one time or another, demonstrating that, to some extent, we’re pawns of the need to reproduce. It’s just weird that one of the primary engines of human progress is a compulsion for males to insert fleshy tubes into females’ fleshy pockets. The entire history of the 21st century hinges on a few instances of oral sex, like this – Al Gore gets mad at Clinton for sullying the Presidency with Oval Office BJs. Gore underutilizes the still very popular Clinton in his Presidential campaign and narrowly loses some important states. And there you have it – President George W. Bush and the 21st century.

The fascination with and rituals around eating get pretty weird, too. And look at magazine covers – all the time faces – just pretty faces.

As we better understand our brains, we’ll be able to change our drives and desires. Suppose your spouse has put on 160 pounds. Is it better to be resentful of your spouse or to rejigger your sexual tastes to fit your super-sized spouse?

I think by the end of the century, consciousness will begin to be transferable and average life spans will increase by at least 40 years. We can hope this will lead to a reduction in the rate of population growth. People who can look forward to very long lives should on average have fewer kids and have them later, if at all.

There will be glitches, of course. Nanotech will have to be watched. The benefits of increasing technology will have to be made available worldwide in such a way that it’s more attractive to join the modern world than to try to take down the modern world.

I doubt that we can count on non-selfish behaviour to turn around the degradation of our planet. A conscientious Prius-driving, recycling American still generates a lot of waste. (On a related note, smug Prius drivers are almost as bad as Audi drivers. “Ooh, I’m making less pollution, so I can drive however I want.”) And the world population will keep growing until living indefinitely (and, later, consciousness becoming digitizable and transferable) reduces the production of offspring.

Eventually, high-tech measures will have to be deployed to fix the worst messes we’ve made – wide-spread extinction, global warming and the acidification of the oceans, and the like. (This will be followed by more tech to correct the negative effects of previous high-tech fixes). Large swaths of the globe will be Disneyfied – artificially restored and made pretty and sweet – like what New York did with Times Square, but on a global scale.

19. At some point, you entered the world of trivia. In particular, professional competition of trivia via the game show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’.  You did not have a good experience with them on your first, or second, time qualifying to compete on the show, which you recount, somewhat, in Noesis issue 150’s articles Three Letters of Protest Regarding “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and Request for Assistance from Mega Society Members.  What happened, Rick? 

Every quiz show has occasional glitches in which factual errors survive the fact-checking process. (It should work like this: a writer writes a question and cites a source. The question goes to a fact-checker who finds additional legit sources to confirm what should be the facts behind the question Fact-checkers, writers, and producers eliminate ambiguity and make sure the answer is “pinned.” I did an interview about the process.

On most quiz shows, most glitches don’t affect the outcome of the game. On Jeopardy! for instance, a glitchy question might come up, and no one answers it. The game goes on. Or someone gives an unexpected acceptable response. Judges check the answer during a commercial and perhaps award more points.

On Millionaire, however, since a player had to answer every question (at the time I was on the show) or withdraw from the game, a factually flawed question often knocked the player who received it out of the Hot Seat. It was Millionaire’s policy to rectify factually flawed questions, but they were getting sick of it – they’d had to do it many times. During our briefing, a contestant asked the executive producer what to do if we thought we got a bad question. A contestant had, very shortly before, gotten a bad question. The EP said, “Don’t worry about bad questions. Just play the game. If a question is wrong, we’ll look into it and make it right.”

In my case, they thought they could weasel out of it by claiming a non-straightforward and non-traditional interpretation of the question. The flawed multiple-choice question was:

“What capital city is located at the highest altitude above sea level?”

with the possible answer choices of Mexico City, Quito, Bogota, and Kathmandu. Because of faulty writing and fact-checking, Millionaire failed to include the actual correct answer of La Paz, Bolivia. (For people who’d like to quibble, Bolivia has two national capitals, and La Paz is one of them. It’s about four kilometers – two-and-a-half miles – above sea level.)

Millionaire tried to avoid responsibility for their error by arguing that they meant “Which of these four cities we gave you is the highest?” This interpretation goes against common sense and standard practice. I looked at 110,000 questions from productions of Millionaire in the U.S. and throughout the world, and their standard practice, as well as any other reasonable quiz show’s standard practice, is, if you mean “Which of these?” you write “Which of these?”

Since 1987, I’ve worked on a bunch of quiz shows, writing more than 10,000 questions. I co-created a quiz show which ran for a season on VH1, was co-head writer of the show, edited all its questions, and acted as a judge. Quiz show questions are my business. (Additionally, I’ve tutored the SAT and related multiple-choice tests since I was a teenager and have looked at more than 40,000 SAT-type questions. Multiple-choice questions are also my business.) I’m probably the person most likely and qualified to take a dim view of Millionaire’s ad hoc, disingenuous, self-serving, lazy and dishonest interpretation.

I concur with standard practice and common sense. No writer or producer would reasonably expect a contestant to know the relative altitudes of four arbitrarily chosen capital cities. It would be more reasonable to imagine that a contestant might have heard of the world’s highest capital city, but that city was absent from the answer choices.

The writer of the question (who’d never before written for a quiz show and who didn’t last very long) built the question from a list of altitudes of 30 random world cities in the World Almanac, apparently failing to realize that the omission of 96% of the world’s cities from the list might be a problem.

During legal proceedings, I saw Millionaire’s fact-checking notes on the question, which indicate that they wanted the highest capital, didn’t realize they didn’t have it, and fact-checked only the altitudes of the cities they did have. Someone noted that he or she thought that Ecuador might have two capitals (that would be Bolivia), but this wasn’t further pursued. Not knowing about La Paz, they had no knowledge of any quibbles about La Paz being a de facto capital – their research wasn’t anywhere near that thorough. (Currently, a Google search for the phrase “La Paz is the world’s “highest capital city” returns 97,800 results, while “Quito is the world’s highest capital city” returns just 7 results, a ratio of 13,970 to one. Of course, back in 2000 when Millionaire was fact-checking the question, Google wasn’t the go-to research tool.)

(And another thing – world cities have no official point from which altitude is measured. Quito’s city limits extend down into river gorges and up the side of a volcano. Altitudes found within its city limits vary by a couple miles. Miles! From Today in Ecuador: “The Metropolitan District of Quito (DMQ) covers an area of 422,802 hectares (almost 1,050,000 acres), with altitudinal ranges from 500 to 4.800 meters above sea level.”

Quito has a single altitude like Olympic athletes have a single height. The facts behind the altitude question are messy and ambiguous at best. Had Millionaire done a better job researching the question, they would’ve been forced to throw it out before it ever got to a contestant.)

If Millionaire’s writers and researchers, with all their resources and unlimited time to check their work, can’t come up with the correct answer, then they shouldn’t expect some schmuck alone in the Hot Seat to be able to come up with the answer. That schmuck should be invited back (and many contestants were invited back, until I came along).

Eventually, I sued them, but no one has ever won a lawsuit against a quiz show. After I sued, Millionaire changed the official rules so that they’re no longer obligated to come up with the correct answer. Contestants must choose the best answer from those offered, even if the correct answer isn’t among them. Nice!

Discussing soccer, the executive producer of Millionaire said that people need to accept bad calls from judges and referees, in soccer and on game shows. This is a lousy parallel to draw. A call in a World Cup match would need to be reviewed immediately (with just a few angles captured on video). Changing a call after a game could affect the rest of the tournament, not just the teams but also billions of fans, so it’s impossible to undo a call hours or days later. But a bad call on Millionaire affects just one person in the Hot Seat and his family. And researching a faulty question isn’t like reviewing a soccer call – you’re not looking at video in the middle of a soccer game – you can take time to do adequate research. It doesn’t change anything for anyone else to rectify a bad quiz show call for one person. You don’t even have to televise it.

20. What would rectify the situation to you?

This happened more than 14 years ago. The past 14 years haven’t been the greatest for the world. Next to it all, the Millionaire thing is nothing. I can continue to be annoyed by it, but I would be a big baby to still be crusading for rectification.

21. You have mastered multiple intellectual fields, especially with respect to having earned 12 years of university credit in one year at Excelsior College. In fact, you did this through a little-known system of taking tests, which continues your long-experience with the obsession of IQ tests into the domain of tests of general and specific knowledge.  How did you discover this method of earning credit?  Why did you pursue this means of earning tertiary educational credit rather than traditional classroom-based forms of education?

In high school, I wanted to go to Harvard. (I almost certainly would’ve gotten in. My SATs were in the top 1% of Harvard applicants, grades were excellent (until my senior year meltdown), was student body co-president, came from a geographically underrepresented part of the country, and back then, Harvard admitted about 18% of applicants, compared to about 6% today.) Then I freaked out, scuttled my application, and ended up attending my hometown school, the University of Colorado, which I didn’t take very seriously. Did well in classes I liked, blew off classes I didn’t, so lots of As and Fs. Didn’t graduate.

Years later, I’m underemployed in LA. My wife is working at a fancy company in Santa Monica. She comes home and talks about the flashy clothes and jewelry worn by the other women who work there. Can’t afford to buy her jewelry from a store but I do some research and find out that jewelry is marked-up like crazy – sometimes 500 or 1,000 percent. Start making jewelry for my wife – the individual components are affordable. But I need access to equipment. Turns out CSUN, a local university, offers a jewelry-making class. I go back to college to make jewelry.

At CSUN, I think, “I’m in my 30s and more mature and would probably be a better student this time around.” So I decide to sign up for real classes – astronomy, advanced stats, econ, group theory – and get my degree. Turns out I still hate sitting in a classroom, plus CSUN has a bunch of general education requirements I don’t want to deal with.

About this time, someone in the Mega Society tells me about schools that let you test out of subjects, which leads me to Regents College of the University of the State of New York (now called Excelsior University), an accredited school that awards credit in a subject if you get a high enough score on the GRE test for that subject. (The GRE is the SAT for grad school.) The GRE comes from ETS, the same company that does the SAT, and I’ve always done well on their tests.

So I go on a rampage. There’s an ETS testing center in Pasadena that offers GRE subject tests once a month. For a year, I take a test a month, studying for each test while working as a doorman at a bar called Mom’s Saloon in Brentwood. (The loud music doesn’t bother me – I used to study for Jeopardy! while bouncing.) I get good scores, earning a year’s worth of college credit in each of 12 subjects and fulfilling the requirements to graduate with eight majors.

22. Not limited to the academic domain, you have entered, somewhat haphazardly, into other domains of inquiry and human endeavor such as acting and physique building. In particular, you have some short films featuring you, directed by J.D. Mata.  What compelled entering into yet another domain of work?

I’ve always been a pretty decent actor but just didn’t have the fortitude to go through all the rejection that usually accompanies trying to be a professional actor. (One key to acting is not going overboard with emotional intensity. Most moments aren’t moments of extreme emotion.) Plus, I’m not overly photogenic. I act on the infrequent occasions when someone offers me the chance. (I’ve always hoped to sneak into acting by becoming famous enough to be cast in cameos as a curiosity or inside joke.)

23. Furthermore, based on your work in nude modeling, and so on, you have years of experience with bodybuilding and sculpting. However, this seems to have come attached to a downside of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  How many times do you go to the gym every week and month?  How much circa 10 years ago?

Currently go to five gyms a day. They’re in a circuit, with a mile or two between each gym. Luckily for me, L.A. has a lot of gyms, and I have cheap membership deals. Takes about two hours to do the circuit, which includes 80 to 100 sets. At my most OCDish, I was averaging nearly eight workouts a day, with a long streak of working out at least 50 times a week. At earlier, less-obsessed times, I averaged about ten workouts a week.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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