Moscow Geek Picnic 2019

The past weekend saw the ninth Geek Picnic. This is an annual Russian science/sci-fi festival where technologists and futurists come together to hear lectures presentations, see tech exhibits, and do other futuristic things.

I decided to come to this one to see what’s it’s all about. Some of you may have followed my Twitter thread on it – now available as a blog post, updated and expanded.

Appropriately, it was near the Sparrow Hills metro station, a charmingly archeofuturist construction of glass columns surrounded by forested park, looking out on the Luzhniki stadium and skyscrapers from one direction, the occult-like HQ of the Russian Academy of Sciences from the other.

Sponsored by the LDPR? 🙂

Entrance to the Geek Picnic.

The Geek Picnic itself is separated into a few separate areas, including the food court, the Main Stage (for star guests and musical performances), Geek Kids (self-explanatory), the Picnic area (games, books, cosplay), and the Campus area (which features topical lecture tents and exhibits, such as Artificial Intelligence, Outer Space, (Im)mortality, GameDev, and Neurospot.

This year’s main theme was radical life extension.

The Chinese company Unitree Robotics presented their household robot Laikaguo. It’s nowhere near as impressive as the spry specimens offered up by Boston Dynamics, but the difference is that they will actually be within range of household budgets.

The Unitree designer Xing Wang said that he expects household robots to become to the 2020s what smartphones were to the past decade.


This was the pavilion devoted to “old school games.”

Incidentally, Moscow also has a cafe + museum of Soviet arcade machines, which I wrote about here.

Prince of Persia brings back memories. My best time on that was 29 mins.

Stellarc is a transhumanist artist who is into body modification performances.

“Nick Land unpublished texts can be seen on the right” – Momino.

His shtick is all kinds of “creepy and uncanny” artistic experiments. One of his performances involved him getting suspended naked by hooks attached onto the flesh on his back. Other performances explore bodily autonomy, in which people connected to him via the Internet get to control his arm for a few days, while his head is strapped into a VR helmet that feeds him the visual experiences of another man half a world away during that same period of time.

But he is most famous for growing an ear on his arm, which anybody in the world can listen into.

Glory to the Haemonculi!

A girl with hair styled in the colors of the Russian state imperial flag.

Anti-ageing researcher Aubrey de Grey was this year’s star guest. He made his standard speech about his core philosophy – namely, that since understanding the mechanics of ageing to the extent where we can prevent it from happening is too hard…

… we should concentrate – for now – on coming up with ways on how to clean up the seven types of damage to the body that our metabolism produces.

I will not repeat what he said in much detail – it was a standard talk, and you can find much more information about SENS online.

Here are the more interesting things I noticed:

(1) Aubrey’s public speaking has improved tremendously since when I last met him at a Transhuman Visions conference in 2014. Good on him.

(2) He says he likes coming to Russia. Apparently, he doesn’t get asked as many stupid questions here.

(3) Most importantly, he has very good news to report on the anti-ageing front. Aubrey now puts what I understand to be Robust Human Rejuvenation at 15-17 years from now, which would translate to 2034-46 (previous estimate this February was 2037). For context, he only became bold enough to start putting out probability estimates last year.

(4) Why the confidence? Because there is a growing avalanche of money going into this sphere, with new companies sprouting up every week (investors don’t tend to bet on moonshots). Moreover, all seven strategies (for engineered negligible senescence) are now under mouse experimentation or will be so by the following year. There is also now a plan to enable human clinical trials of genuine rejuvenation biotech by 2021 (“Project 21”).

I told Aubrey it might be a good idea to carry out an expert survey amongst gerontologists on when Robust Mouse/Human Rejuvenation will happen (like AI researchers have done on AGI). I pointed out while many gerontologists don’t want to publicly associate with his “out there” ideas, this may not hold true in the context of an anonymous poll (e.g. you don’t see many AI experts talking about machine superintelligence, but expert polls show the median projection for that to happen to be around 2050). Having an expert poll showing significant expert acceptance of the legitimacy of the SENS approach would help shake off his reputation as a “maverick” operating outside the scientific consensus.

Hopefully he might give this some consideration.

My transhumanist acquaintance Alexey Turchin, whom I first met way back in my Hipsterfornia days, made a speech on “Digital Immortality: How to Collection Information In Such a Way That a Future AI Will Be Able to Resurrect Us.

Unfortunately, his lecture coincided with Aubrey’s, so between him and Aubrey I had to choose the latter.

Yandex rep Anton Slesarev: Driverless taxis in Moscow in 3-4 years.

This is corporate PR so I suppose take it with a grain of salt, but he says Yandex is one of the global leaders in this sphere and in the world’s top 3-5. In fairness, that’s not hard to believe.

I got a biography of Richard Feynman for asking the best question.

There was an nVidia demo showing off their latest VR environment, which you can interact with through a pair of remote controllers that correlate to your arms in the simulation.

Very cool.

Very SWPL.

(Performance by the “Desert Planet” bank).

“Tesla Show” rated at 5 million volts, with drone thrown in for good measure.

Day 2. Began with a talk on CRISPR. Unfortunately, the speaker wasn’t great, and there were numerous technical programs with the equipment.

Book prize was selection was based, though… Pinker’s The Blank Slate (only translated into Russian last year), and even Wade’s Our Troublesome Inheritance.

Danila Medvedev, head of the Russian Transhumanist Movement, talked about the modern history of what had begun as Russian cosmism more than a century ago now.

Incidentally, he said he believes that augmenting IQ should be an even higher priority than radical life extension. I happen to strongly agree.

Andrey Borisenko, Russian cosmonaut.

Borisenko is positive about the prospects of the Russian space program, despite much larger economies of the US and China. “Their GDP might be five timer larger, but we can do the same things five times cheaper.”

It’s worth noting that Geek Picnic is very heavily corporate endorsed. Just a short sample of companies that had a heavy presence:

  • Volkswagen displayed their cars
  • Norilsk Nickel had their pavilion too, also with VR displays (but low quality)
  • Tele2
  • Vkontakte
  • Yandex
  • Russian news organizations: RIA, RT, Kommersant, Komsomolskaya Pravda
  • nVidia
  • Strongbow cider

Final lecture I went to was Alexander Tyshkovsky, a bioinformatician and presenter at a YouTube science channel.

Mouse Biodiversity (MBD): If I understood this right (will try to confirm), only 20% of mouse breeds actually showed longevity improvements from calorie restricted diet.

Interesting takes:

(1) Tyshkovsky is less upbeat than De Grey; thinks next 15 years will merely see visibly effective longevity supplements, but not Robust Human Rejuvenation. But suspects people now in their 20s will live to immortality.

(2) Also said there is little experimental longevity science in Russia since feeding the mice with special supplements daily is expensive. However, much of this is now bioinformatics, and mainly only needs computers, so Russia can still compete.

Incidentally, I also met the executive director of KrioRus here. As I said, this event attracts all sorts of interesting people like moths to a flame. So if things work out, I might be able to personally report on Russia’s Alcor before the end of this month.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    You can find all my travel posts here.

    My personal website has a list of all of my travel reviews here.

  2. songbird says

    Also said there is little experimental longevity science in Russia since feeding the mice with special supplements daily is expensive.

    I’m interested in how lab mice are raised and bred.

    Aren’t they given resources and don’t have the same competitive pressures and predation as mice in the wild? Plus, of course, they have short generation time. So, wouldn’t they normally accumulate a lot of deleterious mutations? Or do they have some special sort of purifying selection?

    BTW, I have hear the crazy urban legend that they adulterate dog food in the US to test anti-aging technology. But if they did that sort of thing, it would probably be something more nefarious, like making dogs gayer.

  3. Hippopotamusdrome says

    urban legend that they adulterate dog food in the US to test anti-aging technology

    Close. Just replace anti-aging technology with cheap Chinese adulterated ingredients that kills thousands of pets.

    Protein adulteration in China

    Timeline of the 2007 pet food recalls

    Protein adulteration in China

    In…China, the adulteration and contamination of several food and feed ingredients with inexpensive melamine and other compounds, such as cyanuric acid, ammeline and ammelide, are common practice. These adulterants can be used to inflate the apparent protein content of products

    Chinese protein export contamination was first identified after the wide recall of many brands of cat and dog food starting in March 2007 (the 2007 pet food recalls). The recalls in North America, Europe and South Africa came in response to reports of kidney failure in pets. Several Chinese companies sold products claimed to be wheat gluten, rice protein or corn gluten, but which proved to be wheat flour adulterated with melamine, cyanuric acid, and other contaminants. The Chinese government was slow to respond, denying that vegetable protein was exported from China and refusing to allow foreign food safety investigators to enter the country

    Timeline of the 2007 pet food recalls

    Several contaminated Chinese vegetable proteins were used by pet food makers in North America, Europe and South Africa, leading to renal failure in animals fed the contaminated food.

    November 6, 2006

    Tainted wheat gluten in bags from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company in China is imported to the United States by Las Vegas-based ChemNutra, Inc. from a Chinese textile company.

    Menu Foods acknowledges receiving the first complaints of sick pets on February 20.

    The Chief Financial Officer of Menu Foods, Mark Wiens, sells roughly half of his Menu Foods stock on February 26 and 27. He has referred to the timing as a “horrible coincidence.”[2]

    The company begins to investigate a possible problem when as many as 1 in 6 pets began to die after consuming products containing wheat gluten.[4]

    On March 16, Menu Foods issues a U.S. nationwide recall for dog and cat foods

    the recalled products represent just 1% of pet foods available in the U.S.,[10] the recall is one of the largest in American history.

    The New York State Food Laboratory reported that aminopterin was found in samples sent to them by Cornell.[6] Aminopterin is widely described in news reports as a “rat poison”

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announces a possible source of the sicknesses, indicated by the presence of melamine, an industrial chemical, in wheat gluten imported from China. The FDA prohibits the import of wheat gluten from a specific Chinese company, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company

    The Chinese government refuses FDA requests to inspect facilities suspected of producing contaminated products.[

    One self-reported on-line data base reaches more than 3600 deaths allegedly connected to the recall.[13] The FDA acknowledges receiving more than 15,000 complaints from consumers related to the recall, but will not comment on the possible number of pet sicknesses or deaths.[

    The same day, a distributor of agricultural and industrial products, Wilbur-Ellis Company, discovers a single pink, one-ton bag labeled “melamine” among 145 other white bags of imported rice protein concentrate from Binzhou Futian Biology Technology in China. Wilbur-Ellis immediately quarantines the shipment

    Wilbur-Ellis notifies the FDA that it had found a bag labelled melamine mixed in with a shipment of rice protein concentrate

    The California Department of Food and Agriculture placed American Hog Farm in Ceres, California, under quarantine, after melamine was found in the urine of the hogs on the farm.

    The South African pet food industry announced that they would no longer import gluten products from China after the presence of melamine was confirmed in Chinese corn gluten

    China finally gave permission to FDA investigators to enter the country.[

    China’s Foreign Ministry says that it has banned the use of melamine in food products, admitting that products containing melamine had cleared customs

    Adulteration of animal feed with cyanuric acid in China is reported.

    Menu Foods and Chenango Valley Pet Foods both announce that they are phasing out Chinese ingredients until they can be assured that they are safe. Other pet food manufacturers, including Nestlé Purina Petcare have started screening for melamine

    Corn gluten from China tests positive for melamine and cyanuric acid and is intercepted by Canadian authorities

    Zheng Xiaoyu, the head of the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration from its founding in 1998 until 2005 receives the death sentence for corruption. Zheng was convicted of taking bribes worth $844,000

    The FDA launches and investigation after acetaminophen, best known under the brand-name Tylenol, is identified by ExperTox Inc., a laboratory in Texas, as a fifth contaminant present in many varieties of pet food

  4. Bies Podkrakowski says

    The show seems a bit empty. Were there not many people or this is a problem with picture framing?

  5. anonymous coward says

    Aubrey now puts what I understand to be Robust Human Rejuvenation at 15-17 years from now

    How old are you? Because I heard the same thing word-for-word back when V.I.Lenin was still important. I’m not old enough to know what the hot new innovation talk was about during the turn of the 20th century, but I have my suspicions.

    investors don’t tend to bet on moonshots


  6. What was the male to female ratio of people at this event? Likewise what was the Central Asian/Caucasus to Slavic ratio?

  7. jimmyriddle says

    Strongbow cider? Lol.

    In Britain, it is known as tramp juice.

    I guess they are marketing it as a premium product in Russia, in the same way that Stella Artois did in the UK.

    1. About 2/3 men.

    2. Obviously, almost entirely Russian/European.

  8. Glad to see Russia continuing its long held tradition of imported the absolute worst from the west.

  9. Most common types of mice used in research have been interbred for a very long time, in most famous cases starting before WWII. It’s fundamental for reproducibility that the black mice BL6, for example, have the same genome across time and place. An additional benefit is that most common strains can be bought from outside sources, without wasting researchers time with the tedium of breeding.

    Also, there is active surveillance to separate mice that get aggressive at their roommates. There is nothing to gain in upsetting a mouse condemned to life in a shoebox, with “competitive pressures” or any other unrelated troubles, unless you are studying psychology / sociology.

    A standard mouse costs some 30 dollars, its standard care in your research facility – about 1 dollar a day. This makes shorter experiments preferable.

  10. i don’t know about life-extension but keeping people much healthier for much longer is looking very achievable – Sardinian elderly vs western elderly.

  11. Glad to see sovoks don’t consider Fyodorov, Tsiolkovsky, and Vernadsky to be Russians.

    They don’t deserve them.

  12. Probably just a function of their greater Early European Farmer ancestry.

  13. This year’s main theme was radical life extension.

    Any new breakthroughs in cloning and artificial womb technology? The future waits for the mighty clone armies of Russian Galactic Empire. 😉

  14. Toronto Russian says

    I’m not old enough to know what the hot new innovation talk was about during the turn of the 20th century, but I have my suspicions.

    How to Live to be 200 by Stephen Leacock, 1910.

  15. Mr. Hack says

    Strongbow has been in the hard cider business for many years. The new ciders that have a higher alcohol content are made like the super alcohol infused beers (malt liquor, steel beer etc) for the poorer alcoholic community. The regular stuff is quite good, I especially like(d) the ‘dry’ Strongbow (all other versions tend to be too sweet for my taste), although I don’t think that it’s made anymore. I used to have a can of it for lunch along with a burger and fries at a local outside grill joint, very refreshing. The only ‘dry’ hard cider that I’ve been able to locate lately is made by “Angry Orchard”, not too bad either…

  16. Mr. Hack says

    And you consider Vernadsky to be a Russian, which one? 🙂

  17. And you consider Vernadsky to be a Russian, which one?

    Both of the Vernadsky considered themselves Russian. Karlin of course is referring to Vernadsky Older

  18. Graft Farm Flor cider is exceptional – very dry, rustic, and tart. Their whole line is good.

    However it has a high alcohol content at 6.9 ABV.

  19. Mr. Hack says

    Well, it’s not so black & white as you might think, for the Vernadsy clan was of Ukrainian ethnic origin that espoused some pretty strong “svidomist’ views. According to Russian scholar Igor Turbikov, George Verenadsky:

    appeared to view the history of Ukraine as a legitimate subject per se. He authored an English language biography of the 17th-century Ukrainian rebel leader Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and wrote an introduction and did editorial work for a translation of Mykhailo Hrushevsky’s one-volume history of Ukraine. Vernadsky seemed to be especially fascinated by the personality of the 19th-century political thinker and nationalist Mykhailo Drahomanov… The Vernadsky family’s Ukrainian roots are very well documented, by, among others, George Vernadsky himself. Shortly before his death in 1973, Vernadsky started publishing his memoirs, several chapters of which were serialized in Novyi Zhurnal. A fascinating manuscript in the Vernadsky archival collection titled The Story of the Vernadsky Family as Related by My Father is particularly interesting in that it shows that both Vernadskys, father and son, had made an attempt to reconstruct their Ukrainian lineage and trace the ties that connected the Vernadskys with other illustrious old Ukrainian families such as the Korolenkos and Konstantinoviches.

    Hi father, Vladimir. the one I think that Karlin is so infatuated with had these things to say about his Ukrainian ethnicity:

    Ivan Vasilyevich passed on his Ukrainophile sentiments to his son Vladimir, George’s father. George ends the description of his grandfather with a short but telling outline of his historical-political views: “Ivan Vasilyevich believed that [Hetman] Mazepa was one of the last fighters for Ukraine’s independence. And he had a negative view of Peter the Great because of his [ruthless] Ukrainian policy.” Among the many additions and corrections Vladimir Vernadsky personally introduced into this genealogical text, one is particularly remarkable. Its heading, in Vladimir’s own handwriting, reads, “About our family as Ukrainians, not Russians” [emphasis in original]. Vladimir stressed in these notes that both his father and his mother “felt very acutely their distinctiveness from the Russians. [They] knew from legends and books the history of Ukraine. I heard a lot [about it] in my childhood.”

    These are just a few of the ‘svidomite’ secrets revealed about the Vernadsky clan in this thoroughly enjoyable article.

  20. AltSerrice says

    The best part about this is the Strongbow Cider sponsorship. I mean the event as a whole sounds great and I’ll be sure to go some day, but Strongbow is a great cider.

  21. Mr. Hack says

    Adam, perhaps you should label the author of the piece, Igor Trubikov, as a “troll”. Don’t shoot at me, I’m only the messenger! 🙂

  22. I grew up on tsiolkovski and Vernadski. But who was Fyodorov ?
    A link please. Can be in Russian

  23. Priss Factor says

    We need a movie.

    Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Queers.

  24. The “original” Strongbow is still made, but for some reason is not widely sold in the US. If you’re there, you may be able to find it in the “slim can” variety pack.

  25. i think that is probably correct but another way of looking at that statement is they have the same diet as their ancestors and so are fully adapted to it.

    maybe other populations have got sicker since the 1960s cos they changed what they eat?

    i’m guessing tailored diets will turn out to be as transformative as tailored medicine (but faster).

  26. Kent Nationalist says

    They are aggressively marketing in Portugal as well

  27. Strongbow they sell in Russia is a small glass bottle. While the local English/EU version is a can. Also alcohol content is different (lower) in Russia.

    Well, I’m in Russia this week, although to be honest I don’t feel temptation to try to look for this weakened English cider in the supermarket.

    • By the way, to Karlin – thanks for the nice photos.

    What kind of cool televisions this group were using there, and this Twin Famicom:

    It’s a

    They also have other nice things according to Facebook.

  28. Kent Nationalist says

    AK ought to stop hunching his shoulders forward when he stands.

  29. Anonymoose says
  30. When people do things like standing in an eccentric way, then maybe this represents something interesting about the person.

    In general, I don’t wish people should change things like that, as it is part of their personality. Maybe they should rather be proud of their original way of standing.