The sun began its slow descent into the Adriatic Sea when we arrived in Montenegro on May 2, 2023. Picture a 2-month long (non) Burning Man off the glittering coast celebrated by futurists in the fields of longevity, cryptocurrency, AI, and The Network State. That was the phenomenon that was Zuzalu.
Originally conceived by Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum and a core group of tech futurists, Zuzalu is a first-of-its-kind pop-up city initiated on March 25th, 2023. The “city” was geographically located at Lustica Bay, Montenegro, and hosted 200 residents from around the globe with “a shared desire to learn, create, live longer and healthier lives, and build self-sustaining communities.” VitaDAO, a decentralized collective focused on funding longevity research, was essential to coordinating the longevity track at Zuzalu that included a 3-day conference.
I arrived in the thick of it. After waiting some weeks to write about the experience, having turned it in my head like a newfound stone in my hand, I reflected on the extraordinary magic that brought brilliant, forward-thinking people together from across the globe and tech industries. Participants were able to learn about healthy lifespan-extending innovations, engage in workshops to improve their own health, take part in the latest discourse in biotech, and get involved in the conference’s primary topic of a new jurisdiction and regulatory framework for longevity. With attendees including top names in longevity and biosciences, Zuzalu provided an unexpected fusion of academia and social gathering.
A personal highlight was participating in The End of Medicine Summit, which focused on themes discussed in The End of Medicine documentary directed by BAFTA-award-winning director Alex Lockwood with producer Keegan Kuhn and executive producers Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix. Our very own Dr. Aysha Akhtar is featured as a scientific advisor for the film and was instrumental in crafting the next steps to help prevent the next pandemic, reduce the human health impact from animal agriculture, and support animal protection.
The Center for Contemporary Sciences’ CEO, Dr. Aysha Akhtar and I partnered with the Methuselah Foundation’s David Gobel and Dane Gobel as well as Alex Lockwood of Lockwood Films to discuss a key initiative called Animal Free Precision Medicine. Alex’s film also highlighted Aysha’s unique voice and subject matter expertise on human health.
Our panel discussion entitled “The Beginning of Precision Medicine” sparked interest and inspiring conversations in its wake. Stay tuned, the video recording will be available soon.
Beyond this summit, Zuzalu bore more resemblance to a music festival than a typical conference. But this fusion of learning and leisure was its charm. The rhythm of life at Zuzalu was as decentralized as its ideals, punctuated by spontaneous debates and breakout sessions among participants. Conversations flourished in unexpected places, from vegan breakfasts at a local restaurant, soulful Russian toasts for after-dinner drinks, to impassioned philosophical discussions in a swathe of moonlight at the Lustica Bay Hotel terrace.
Zuzalu integrated aspects of the network state concept. It used a digital passport system for event access and anonymous polling, demonstrating the application of network state ideas.
Encouraging healthy living and biomarker tracking, it pushed the envelope for how communal living can influence health. It ignited a fascinating question: What if such experiments were scaled across thousands?
Myself along with the Center for Contemporary Sciences team are keen to see the possibilities. Shared learning and enlightenment were the beating heart of Zuzalu. I’m excited to see how CCS can learn from and collaborate with key leaders at Zuzalu to effectively advance human health and animal protection.