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Month: November 2017

Review of Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting” by Adam Alonzi

Review of Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting” by Adam Alonzi

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Adam Alonzi


Alexander Consulting the Oracle of Apollo, Louis Jean Francois Lagrenée. 1789, Oil on Canvas.

“All who drink of this treatment recover in a short time, except those whom it does not help, who all die. It is obvious, therefore, that it fails only in incurable cases.”

-Galen

Before the advent of evidence-based medicine, most physicians took an attitude like Galen’s toward their prescriptions. If their remedies did not work, surely the fault was with their patient. For centuries scores of revered doctors did not consider putting bloodletting or trepanation to the test. Randomized trials to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment were not common practice. Doctors like Archie Cochrane, who fought to make them part of standard protocol, were met with fierce resistance. Philip Tetlock, author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (2015), contends that the state of forecasting in the 21st century is strikingly similar to medicine in the 19th. Initiatives like the Good Judgement Project (GJP), a website that allows anyone to make predictions about world events, have shown that even a discipline that is largely at the mercy of chance can be put on a scientific footing.

More than once the author reminds us that the key to success in this endeavor is not what you think or what you know, but how you think. For Tetlock pundits like Thomas Friedman are the “exasperatingly evasive” Galens of the modern era. In the footnotes he lets the reader know he chose Friedman as target strictly because of his prominence. There are many like him. Tetlock’s academic work comparing random selections with those of professionals led media outlets to publish, and a portion of their readers to conclude, that expert opinion is no more accurate than a dart-throwing chimpanzee. What the undiscerning did not consider, however, is not all of the experts who participated failed to do better than chance.

Daniel Kahneman hypothesized that “attentive readers of the New York Times…may be only slightly worse” than these experts corporations and governments so handsomely recompense. This turned out to be a conservative guess. The participants in the Good Judgement Project outperformed all control groups, including one composed of professional intelligence analysts with access to classified information. This hodgepodge of retired bird watchers, unemployed programmers, and news junkies did 30% better than the “pros.” More importantly, at least to readers who want to gain a useful skillset as well as general knowledge, the managers of the GJP have identified qualities and ways of thinking that separate “superforecasters” from the rest of us. Fortunately they are qualities we can all cultivate.

While the merits of his macroeconomic theories can be debated, John Maynard Keynes was an extremely successful investor during one of the bleakest periods in international finance. This was no doubt due in part to his willingness to make allowance for new information and his grasp of probability. Participants in the GJP display open-mindedness, an ability and willingness to repeatedly update their forecasts, a talent to neither under- nor over-react to new information by putting it into a broader context,  and a predilection for mathematical thinking (though those interviewed admitted they rarely used an explicit equation to calculate their answer). The figures they give also tend to be more precise than their less successful peers. This “granularity” may seem ridiculous at first. I must confess that when I first saw estimates on the GJP of 34% or 59%, I would chuckle a bit. How, I asked myself, is a single percentage point meaningful? Aren’t we just dealing with rough approximations? Apparently not.

Tetlock reminds us that the GJP does not deal with nebulous questions like “Who will be president in 2027?” or “Will a level 9 earthquake hit California two years from now?” However, there are questions that are not, in the absence of unforeseeable Black Swan events, completely inscrutable. Who will win the Mongolian presidency? Will Uruguay sign a trade agreement with Laos in the next six months? These are parts of highly complex systems, but they can be broken down into tractable subproblems.

Using numbers instead of words like “possibly”, “probably”, “unlikely”, etc., seems unnatural. It gives us wiggle room and plausible deniability. They also cannot be put on any sort of record to keep score of how well we’re doing. Still, to some it may seem silly, pedantic, or presumptuous. If Joint Chiefs of Staff had given the exact figure they had in mind (3 to 1) instead of the “fair chance” given to Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs debacle may have never transpired. Because they represent ranges of values instead of single numbers, words can be retroactively stretched or shrunk to make blunders seem a little less avoidable. This is good for advisors looking to cover their hides by hedging their bets, but not so great for everyone else.

If American intelligence agencies had presented the formidable but vincible figure of 70% instead of a “slam dunk” to Congress, a disastrous invasion and costly occupation would have been prevented. At this point it is hard not to see the invasion as anything as a mistake, but even amidst these emotions we must be wary of hindsight. Still, a 70% chance of being right means there is a 30% chance of being wrong. It is hardly a “slam dunk.” No one would feel completely if an oncologist told them they are 70% sure the growth is not malignant. There are enormous consequences to sloppy communications. However, those with vested interests are more than content with this approach if it agrees with them, even if it ends up harming them.

When Nate Silver put the odds of the 2008 election in Obama’s favor, he was panned by Republicans as a pawn of the liberal media. He was quickly reviled by Democrats when he foresaw a Republican takeover of the Senate. It is hard to be a wizard when the king, his court, and all the merry peasants sweeping the stables would not know a confirmation bias from their right foot. To make matters worse, confidence is widely equated with capability. This seems to be doubly true of groups of people, particularly when they are choosing a leader. A mutual-fund manager who tells his clients they will see great returns on a company is viewed as stronger than a Poindexter prattling on about Bayesian inference and risk management.

The GJP’s approach has not spread far — yet. At this time most pundits, consultants, and self-proclaimed sages do not explicitly quantify their success rates, but this does not stop corporations, NGOs, and institutions at all levels of government from paying handsomely for the wisdom of untested soothsayers. Perhaps they have a few diplomas, but most cannot provide compelling evidence for expertise in haruspicy (sans the sheep’s liver). Given the criticality of accurate analyses to saving time and money, it would seem as though a demand for methods to improve and assess the quality of foresight would arise. Yet for the most part individuals and institutions continue to happily grope in the dark, unaware of the necessity for feedback when they misstep — afraid of having their predictions scrutinized or having to take the pains to scrutinize their predictions.

David Ferrucci is wary of the “guru model” to settling disputes. No doubt you’ve witnessed or participated in this kind of whimpering fracas: one person presents a Krugman op-ed to debunk a Niall Ferguson polemic, which is then countered with a Tommy Friedman book, which was recently excoriated  by the newest leader of the latest intellectual cult to come out of the Ivy League. In the end both sides leave frustrated. Krugman’s blunders regarding the economic prospects of the Internet, deflation, the “imminent” collapse of the euro (said repeatedly between 2010 and 2012) are legendary. Similarly, Ferguson, who strongly petitioned the Federal Reserve to reconsider quantitative easing, lest the United States suffer Weimar-like inflation, has not yet been vindicated. He and his colleagues responded in the same way as other embarrassed prophets: be patient, it has not happened, but it will! In his defense, more than one clever person has criticized the way governments calculate their inflation rates…

Paul Ehrlich, a darling of environmentalist movement, has screeched about the detonation of a “population bomb” for decades. Civilization was set to collapse between 15 and 30 years from 1970. During the interim 100 to 200 million would annually starve to death, by the year 2000 no crude oil would be left, the prices of raw materials would skyrocket, and the planet would be in the midst of a perpetual famine. Tetlock does not mention Ehrlich, but he is, particularly given his persisting influence on Greens, as or more deserving of a place in this hall of fame as anyone else. Larry Kudlow continued to assure the American people that the Bush tax breaks were producing massive economic growth. This continued well into 2008, when he repeatedly told journalists that America was not in a recession and the Bush boom was “alive and well.” For his stupendous commitment to his contention in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he was nearly awarded a seat in the Trump cabinet.

This is not to say a mistake should become the journalistic equivalent of a scarlet letter. Kudlow’s slavish adherence to his axioms is not unique. Ehrlich’s blindness to technological advances is not uncommon, even in an era dominated by technology. By failing to set a timeline or give detailed causal accounts, many believe they have predicted every crash since they learned how to say the word. This is likely because they begin each day with the same mantra: “the market will crash.”  Yet through an automatically executed routine of psychological somersaults, they do not see they were right only once and wrong dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times. This kind of person is much more deserving of scorn than a poker player who boasts about his victories, because he is (likely) also aware of how often he loses. At least he’s not fooling himself. The severity of Ehrlich’s misfires is a reminder of what happens when someone looks too far ahead while assuming all things will remain the same. Ceteris paribus exists only in laboratories and textbooks.

Axioms are fates accepted by different people as truth, but the belief in Fate (in the form of retroactive narrative construction) is a nearly ubiquitous stumbling block to clear thinking. We may be far removed from Sophocles, but the unconscious human drive to create sensible narratives is not peculiar to fifth-century B.C. Athens. A questionnaire given to students at Northwestern showed that most believed things had turned out for the best even if they had gotten into their first pick. From an outsider’s perspective this is probably not true. In our cocoons we like to think we are in the right place either through the hand of fate or through our own choices. Atheists are not immune to this Panglossian habit. Our brains are wired for stories, but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves seldom come out without distortions. We can gain a better outside view, which allows us to see situations from perspectives other than our own, but only through regular practice with feedback. This is one of the reasons groups are valuable.

Francis Galton asked 787 villagers to guess the weight of an ox hanging in the market square. The average of their guesses (1,197 lbs) turned out to be remarkably close to its actual weight (1,198 lbs). Scott Page has said “diversity trumps ability.” This is a tad bold, since legions of very different imbeciles will never produce anything of value, but there is undoubtedly a benefit to having a group with more than one point of view. This was tested by the GJP. Teams performed better than lone wolves by a significant margin (23% to be exact). Partially as a result of encouraging one another and building a culture of excellence, and partially from the power of collective intelligence.

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

-Helmuth von Moltke

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

-Mike Tyson

When Archie Cochrane was told he had cancer by his surgeon, he prepared for death. Type 1 thinking grabbed hold of him and did not doubt the diagnosis. A pathologist later told him the surgeon was wrong. The best of us, under pressure, fall back on habitual modes of thinking. This is another reason why groups are useful (assuming all their members do not also panic). Organizations like the GJP and the Millennium Project are showing how well collective intelligence systems can perform. Helmuth von Moltke and Mike Tyson aside, a better motto, substantiated by a growing body of evidence, comes from Dwight  Eisenhower: “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie Apocalypse. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.

We are the Lifespan – Video and Commentary by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation

We are the Lifespan – Video and Commentary by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation

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Life Extension Advocacy Foundation


The U.S. Transhumanist Party is pleased to share this message and video from our allies at LEAF – the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation. The video includes a short clip of remarks from U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II, taken from his video for the “I am the Lifespan” campaign.


As you might remember, during the month of October (often called Longevity Month) we at LEAF were accepting videos to hear your reasons why defeating the diseases of aging is so important — and hear from you we did!

Dozens of videos poured in, and this #GivingTuesday we at LEAF are so proud to share with you all a video that shows how strong we can be when we join forces for longer, healthier lives — how together #WeAreTheLifespan.

Thank you so much for raising your voice with us in support of longevity research, and if you wish to continue to help us please feel free to join our Hero campaign or to participate in Facebook’s #GivingTuesday donation match by clicking any of the donate buttons on our Facebook page or posts. If you want to get creative, you can even make your own fundraisers easily on Facebook on posts or with a live video.

Finally, to illustrate the importance of speaking freely on what you care about, we are pleased to let you know of the developments related to the recent Open Consultation on the 13th draft programme of work of the WHO. As we wrote not long ago, the problems related to population aging and corresponding health and social issues were left out of the draft, and we invited the members of the community to step in and recommend an improvement.

90% of responses during the Open Consultation (out of around 400 responses) underlined the need to make healthy longevity one of the priorities for the 13th programme of work, and the WHO have recognized this. A joint effort of many pro-longevity organizations made that happen.

Each voice matters. Your voice matters. So please, keep being active and vocal, and let’s become the generation who can say: “I helped set all people free from age-related diseases. I helped defeat aging.”

Thank you, and happy #GivingTuesday!

Space Seascape – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Space Seascape – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Ekaterinya Vladinakova


 

“Space Seascape” by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Left-click on the image for a fuller view. You can also download this painting (4846 by 7000 pixels) here.

Tranquil and contemplative, this painting of an alien moon seascape by Ekaterinya Vladinakova evokes worlds that humans could one day discover or create through terraforming. The vivid colors and stunning imagery of Vladinakova’s work inspire us to strive toward a future where the exploration of these worlds could become a reality.

Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter. See her gallery here and her DeviantArt page here.

FCC Set To Strike Down Net Neutrality – Article by Michael Dodd

FCC Set To Strike Down Net Neutrality – Article by Michael Dodd

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Michael Dodd


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party provides this guest article and information from Michael Dodd in accord with our position in support of net neutrality. We appreciate Mr. Dodd’s presentation of both sides on this issue – both the statement from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the counter from FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Although the U.S. Transhumanist Party has a clear view on this issue, we also recognize that only by understanding the various perspectives in a debate can one advocate for one’s own position in a well-reasoned and effective manner.

Read more about our position and the reasoning behind it in the statement by Martin van der Kroon, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party Supports Net Neutrality. Do You?

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, November 26, 2017


The battle is now “ON” for the fight to keep Net Neutrality.

The FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is set to kill Net Neutrality. His statement is listed below, and the link for the full document can be found here.

Ajit Pai: For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.

But in 2015, the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama. On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet. That decision was a mistake. It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.

Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.

Additionally, as a result of my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015. Notably, my proposal will put the federal government’s most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers’ online privacy

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has issued a Fact Sheet, entitled “Understanding Chairman Pai’s Proposal to Dismantle Net Neutrality”.

Prepared by the Office of FCC Commissioner Clyburn, November 22, 2017

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the concept that consumers and businesses should be able to reach the online applications and services of their choosing without interference from their broadband provider.

In other words, that all data and all legal traffic that travels over the Internet should be treated equally. This has been a bipartisan bedrock principle for more than a decade.

What is Commissioner Clyburn’s position on Net Neutrality?

Commissioner Clyburn has been an unwavering champion of robust, bright-line net neutrality rules that protect consumers against the anti-consumer and anti-competitive practices of broadband providers. The Commissioner continues to believe that the 2015 rules adopted by the FCC are the best way to protect consumers and small businesses while promoting innovation.

Is it true that Chairman Pai’s proposal would eliminate Net Neutrality?

Yes. It eliminates all prohibitions against blocking and throttling (slowing down) applications by broadband providers, and enables them to engage in paid prioritization and unreasonable discrimination at the point of interconnection. It ignores thousands of consumer complaints and millions of individual comments that ask the FCC to save net neutrality and uphold the principles that all traffic should be created equal.

What does Chairman Pai’s proposal really do?

  • Increases uncertainty for consumers, ensuring that broadband providers could block or throttle at a whim.

  • Threatens innovation at the edge, by allowing broadband providers to charge tolls to access their customers.

  • Enables offerings that favor the vertically integrated broadband provider’s own content and services over those of consumers and innovators who rely on the Internet to grow their own businesses and stay informed.

  • Prevents states and localities from adopting any related consumer protections – an action that is likely unlawful.

  • Undoes the light-touch, court-approved Title II classification of broadband Internet access service that was modeled on the wildly-successful approach to mobile voice, and returns to an unregulated approach where broadband providers reign supreme and customers with complaints have no redress at the FCC.

  • Empowers a federal agency that has never enforced net neutrality protections (the FTC) to manage consumer complaints and ensures that there is no FCC recourse for wronged consumers or businesses.

GLOSSARY

The Office of Commissioner Clyburn provides this glossary to help decipher the jargon used in Chairman Pai’s proposal to destroy net neutrality.

What do these terms really mean?

Costly and restrictive laws of a bygone era – The Communications Act of 1934, as amended. Still in force. Has not been repealed or declared unconstitutional.

Cost-benefit analysis –Despite insufficient data and data to the contrary, the Chairman’s Order draws conclusions by only accepting self-serving statements made by large broadband providers. It makes no effort to verify these claims against the statements these very same companies have made in filings before the Securities and Exchange Commission. See para. 301.

Government control of the Internet – Limited rules applying to the residential broadband service delivered on a broadband providers’ own network. It does not include other services offered by broadband providers nor does it include services offered by edge providers (e.g., Google, Facebook, or Netflix).

Heavy-handed regulation – Limited rules to protect consumers and competition that broadband providers do not like. Synonym for “burdensome regulation.”

Market-based policies – Policies favoring little to no regulation for powerful broadband providers.

Network innovation – The ability of broadband providers to charge more for service to both sides of the two-sided market. See para. 250.

Utility-style regulation of the Internet – Enforceable requirements that broadband providers act in a “just and reasonable” manner. Paradoxically, it does not involve any legal requirements historically known as utility regulation. See “Government control of the Internet”; “Costly and restrictive laws of a bygone era.”

Title II Order – 2015 Open Internet Order that was upheld in court last year.

Unnecessary and likely to inhibit innovation and competition – Not financially beneficial to broadband providers.

Office of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: (202) 418-2100
Twitter: @MClyburnFCC
www.fcc.gov


The FCC as an organization is not the “Bad Guy” here. You have a rogue Chairman of that agency, looking to benefit a particular part of an industry. The “Why” is not important, what it is time for is to advocate, to engage, and to educate. The other item to keep in mind, is that the “Fact Sheet” was created by the FCC. Remember, we have friends everywhere, even if the leader of the organization is one of the opponents of net neutrality.

Strive to do more, while you still can.

Michael Dodd is the owner and editor of MPDSports.com and of the Wave Chronicle – a site built to put forth thought-provoking information, which can range from activism, politics, technology, philosophy, climate change, education, and futurist / transhumanist theory. 

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman’s Anniversary Message

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman’s Anniversary Message

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Gennady Stolyarov II


On November 17, 2016, I became the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. It was a turbulent era in American politics, although it now appears to me to have been a distinct prior epoch. The offer of Chairmanship from Zoltan Istvan came at exactly the right time. I was seriously considering emigrating from the United States, which would have been a mistake. For this role, however, an expatriate Chairman would not do; Zoltan asked me to remain for at least six months – hopefully a year – and then re-assess the situation. One does not get handed leadership of a political party often (or virtually ever), so this was a unique opportunity to make a difference in American politics in a constructive way, with instant gains in prominence, and without the distasteful maneuvering that many conventional political figures feel compelled to engage in to attain a comparable position.

It has been a year, and I am staying. I have indeed reassessed the situation, or perhaps the situation has been transformed so considerably than the already transitional interpretive framework of late 2016 can no longer adequately describe our present political reality. Whereas then the tumult seemed to have stemmed from a single source, we now inhabit a distinctly different sort of chaotic era, in which the chaos emanates from virtually all partisan factions espousing conventional political ideologies. The United States has not, despite my fears at the time, succumbed to dictatorship or totalitarianism – and, despite some ill-advised policy decisions and unfortunate increases in certain forms of intolerance and hatred (on both the right and the left), there are no waves of nativist “ethnic cleansing”; there are, thankfully and for now, no massive riots in the vast majority of cities, the vast majority of the time. Daily life proceeds in a largely peaceful, largely orderly fashion – and may that continue.

Yet the United States’ societal and cultural fabric has been torn to shreds by the climate of escalating partisan vitriol, in which being aligned with one’s “team” (be it one of the major political parties or more minor factions on the conventional left-right axis) is seen as more important than the reasoned pursuit of truth. Partisanship erodes the norms of civility and the disposition of good will with which it is important to approach discourse with others. When hyper-partisans insist that civilized discussion or even association with “the other side” is not possible (and their characterization of who comprises the “other side” becomes ever more sweeping by the day), they throw wide open the door to less genteel approaches to politics – the political violence that can claim lives, ruin infrastructure, and set back the progress of our civilization. The great immediate danger in American politics is not that squads of jack-booted enforcers will crack down on anyone who displeases their masters; it is, rather, that the increasing toxicity of prevailing political rhetoric will poison the minds and conduct of ordinary people, turning them against one another and inaugurating a low-key war of all against all, which necessarily cannot remain low-key for long. Hyper-partisanship is not, however, a grass-roots phenomenon, but has been fueled by behemoth political machines, with armies of paid political operatives, lobbyists, and “opposition research” firms honing the most effective ways to besmirch and divide people for range-of-the-moment electoral gains. Only a truly transpartisan organization, immune to the influence of this apparatus, can turn the tide against its malignancy.

The United States Transhumanist Party has stood as a bulwark against this toxic partisan tendency, inviting membership by individuals of all conventional or unconventional political beliefs, as long as they agree with our three broadly framed Core Ideals (and even sometimes if they do not), advocating for a worldwide acceleration of technological innovation and for making its products accessible to all, conducting transparent public discussions and votes using ranked-reference techniques that solve long-standing incentive problems of voters, and doing it all as a non-monetary organization, through the collaboration of volunteers and people of good will. We genuinely seek to embody and practice inclusivity, diversity, and tolerance – instead of weaponizing these terms to serve a particular preconceived political and social agenda and partisan machine. We transcend the destructive culture wars, just as we transcend so many other pointless divisions. We seek to be a microcosm of the society that will emerge after all this “sound and fury, signifying nothing” subsides, when people will come to see the toxicity as fatiguing and passé, and the task of building a new era can unfold in earnest. We need to focus on championing the advances that can benefit everyone through dramatically longer lifespans, vastly increased prosperity, and opportunities for individual self-actualization. Unlike identity politics, which focuses on what sets people apart, transhumanist politics seeks to bring all sentient entities together to forge the advances that can benefit each and all.

On the anniversary of my Chairmanship, the highlight of my day was a message from an individual who has been a member for as long as I have been Chairman. He told me that his membership in the U.S. Transhumanist Party has been one of the most important events in his life. What we do matters; it inspires people to strive for a brighter future; it coalesces a community of visionaries, achievers, innovators, and friends. Amid the tumult of the contemporary world, we preserve the transformative ambition that life can and should be better – that human existence need not be nasty, brutish, or short – that age-old problems can be solved with sufficient knowledge and ingenuity – and that the fates of our ancestors need not be our own.

We have achieved much since the U.S. Transhumanist Party was opened to membership during my tenure as Chairman. I provided an overview of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s key recent achievements in this brief video, which I prepared for the Transvision 2017 conference in Brussels.

Here, I will supplement, rather than repeat, the contents of that video presentation.

Many aspects of our Platform and processes enable the U.S. Transhumanist Party to stand out in American politics. The following are just several examples.

We are the first political party in the United States to use ranked-preference voting on its internal ballots. During the next year we will explore options for rendering this voting process even more streamlined and user-friendly. We will be searching for software that could simultaneously present all of the options and their text to voters, and automatically tabulate instant runoffs and their results, similarly to how the initial votes are tabulated today.

We are the only political party in the world – to our knowledge – which extends membership to anyone capable of forming a reasoned political opinion – including children and citizens of other countries, who may become Allied Members. Our Foreign Ambassador program specifically focuses on building connections with future-oriented thinkers in other countries and working to build transhumanism into a global, collaborative movement where ideas are exchanged and developed without regard to national boundaries.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party is one of only two political parties in the United States, along with the Green Party, that supports the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. Our Platform, in Article III, Section IV, reads that “In recognition of the dire existential threat that nuclear weapons pose to sapient life on Earth – including as a result of such weapons’ accidental deployment due to system failures or human misunderstanding – the United States Transhumanist Party advocates the complete dismantlement and abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere, as rapidly as possible.” While this remains a minority political position in the United States, the abolition of nuclear weapons recently received support at the United Nations via the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. With the threat of nuclear war remaining disturbingly real, an increasing number of people and institutions are coming to recognize this dire existential risk and seek its alleviation. We welcome collaboration with any of them.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party was the first political party in the United States to suggest a universal basic income or unconditional basic income (UBI) as an option in dealing with the impacts of automation, job uncertainty, and the sub-optimalities of conventional, conditional, and cumbersome welfare systems. Now various jurisdictions are experimenting with some versions of UBI, and this concept is being actively discussed at the United Nations. We stand ready to offer our views and recommendations in this conversation – encouraging UBI systems that would preserve the core, elegant logic of an unconditional basic income available to all. Per Article III, Section XVI of our Platform, “the United States Transhumanist Party holds that all sentient entities should be the beneficiaries of an unconditional universal basic income, whereby the same minimum amount of money or other resources is provided irrespective of a sentient entity’s life circumstances, occupations, or other income sources, so as to provide a means for the basic requirements of existence and liberty to be met.” This vision, if championed consistently, can dramatically improve the life circumstances of many individuals throughout the world.

Our most important near-term objectives were recently outlined in our new, extensive FAQ document. Because of their importance, and the indication they provide regarding how the next year of the U.S. Transhumanist Party will unfold, I provide them again below.

  1. Grow in membership. We need to reach at least 10,000 members in order to have the widespread reach and internal, member-driven governance structures that we envision to be the most effective. You can help by joining for free and encouraging others to join by filling out our fast, simple Membership Application Form.
  2. Coordinate with State-level Transhumanist Parties. Various such State-level Parties exist, and some are already officially registered with their respective Secretaries of State. We have catalogued the State-level Transhumanist Parties known to us here. Work with them if you reside in a State where such a Party already exists. If such a Party does not exist, we encourage you to form one and contact us when you are contemplating doing so.
  3. Hold events and publish materials to influence public opinion. Ultimately, we seek to change minds to encourage widespread public advocacy of emerging technologies and a major redirection of resources toward such technologies’ funding, development, and dissemination. We encourage U.S. Transhumanist Party members to also organize their own events and submit articles for publication on our website.
  4. Explore running candidates at the local level. Interested candidates will likely need to officially run as independents at this time, but if they agree with key aspects of our Platform, they may receive the endorsement of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.
  5. Gradually create the infrastructure to meet State ballot-access requirements. In almost every State, obtaining ballot access unfortunately requires at least thousands of petition signatures (hand-signed), obtained within a relatively short period of time. We need to build up a sufficient network of volunteers in every State in order for petition-gathering to be feasible. However, our emphasis on membership growth and coordination with State-level Transhumanist Parties is part of our effort to eventually get there and field candidates for State-level office.

Another unique approach that we are pursuing is our search for a candidate for the U.S. Transhumanist Party 2020 Presidential ticket. Unlike other parties, we seek to attract not the most politically ambitious, but rather the most erudite, thoughtful, and melioristic individuals to apply for the role. To this end, under the editorship of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Education and Media Advisor, Newton Lee, we are compiling a book that will feature essays by leading transhumanist thinkers, Advisors, and members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. This book, tentatively titled Transhumanism: In the Image of Humans, will hopefully convey both the depth and breadth of transhumanist thought, such that at least one of the leading minds of our era might be sufficiently intrigued as to join our movement and seek to further these ideas by running a Presidential campaign based on the highest standards of discourse, conduct, and policy-oriented reasoning for the improvement of the human condition.

The tumult of our times is evidence that Robert Heinlein’s forecast of an era he termed the Crazy Years has come to pass. Charting the path from our current Crazy Years to a bright and universally uplifting transhumanist future will be no easy task, but no task is more vital. By a spectacular confluence of events, which still astounds me in retrospect, the Chairmanship of the U.S. Transhumanist Party has placed me in a unique position within this moment in history, where many radically divergent paths are possible for both humankind in general and for us as individuals. The path of amelioration and abundance of time and resources for all is still open, and the Transhumanist Party will endeavor to show the way to all those who seek the new era, and to build our civilization into a global and universal, human and transhuman cosmopolity – which should extend as far and as boundlessly as our own lives and well-being.

Will you join us in this effort? If so, becoming a member is free and easy – and the best of possible futures may be our joint reward.

Sincerely,
Gennady Stolyarov II, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF
Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party
Chief Executive, Nevada Transhumanist Party
Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator
Author, Death is Wrong

Beeple: ZERO-DAY

Beeple: ZERO-DAY

Mike Winkelmann – Beeple


One of the most beautiful aspects I find about technology is its ability to allow us new forms of control and manipulation. Technology allows us to simplify many processes that seemed impossible in the past. When it comes to furthering man’s creative expression, there is absolutely no exception.

With the development of new programs and devices, digital art has entered a new realm of divine possibilities. Now, artists have the ability to render massive dream-like worlds without the use of an expensive VFX team. Surreal visions and ideas are now visualized through GIFs and mini video clips all across the Internet. Mike Winkelmann, better known on the internet as Beeple, is one of those highly gifted artists who uses a plethora of programs like Adobe After Effects and Maxon Cinema 4D, to name a few, to create intricate worlds that seem light-years into the future, or as near as tomorrow.

I’d describe Mike Winkelmann as a 3D juggernaut. He has been rendering images and GIFs every single day for the past few years now, furthering his abilities and creativity to bring us these awe-inspiring images of a possible future.

Zero-Day is a 3D ensemble directed by Winkelmann. Winkelmann pushes us through a mechanical wormhole of soul-pounding machines and whirling lights that are all in sync with a bass-crushing dubstep track. At first it may seem like an intense VJ clip, but in actuality it is a well-executed allegory of the evolution of technology and cyber warfare. Throughout the video, we hear and see fictional bits of interviews and news reports of the US developing new advances in cyber weapons and how that resonates with other global powers. It is a fictional account that seems like a near-perfect mirror of our current state of affairs, given the events of this past year. An epic commentary in all its cyberpunk glory, a masterpiece such as this should allow us to truly evaluate what we are doing now to for a future like that to happen. Maybe, that future is indeed already here. We can all agree that with new advancements in AI, the ongoing investigation of possible Russian influence of American politics through hacking, China becoming a leader in sustainable technology, and the many other accounts of technology entering the world of politics and global policy, Zero-Day doesn’t seem far off.

During our panel discussion on November 18th, participants spoke about how art influences people’s view of technology. It was agreed that there are many works that carry this dystopian outlook of the future, riddled with scenarios straight out of Orwell’s 1984. However, it is this type of work that should inspire us as the human race we are to ensure that we do not create this dystopian future, but instead aim to create a future in which technology amplifies life.

Mike Winkelmann is an accomplished VFX and motion graphics artist. More of his stunning work can be found on his site.

 

~ Emanuel Iral, Director of Visual Art, U.S. Transhumanist Party, November 24, 2017
Generating Transhumanist Enlightenment in Nigeria: Reflections from a Transhumanist Presentation at the 2017 Convention of the Atheist Society of Nigeria – Report by Ojochogwu Abdul

Generating Transhumanist Enlightenment in Nigeria: Reflections from a Transhumanist Presentation at the 2017 Convention of the Atheist Society of Nigeria – Report by Ojochogwu Abdul

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Ojochogwu Abdul


The Atheist Society of Nigeria (ASN), an organization with the groundbreaking record of being the first secular group to achieve official registration in Nigeria, recently recorded another first by hosting the ASN Convention on 11th November 2017, the first event of its kind in Nigeria. Among the guest speakers featured at the Convention were Bill Flavell, Vice President of the Atheist Alliance International (AAI), Roslyn Mould, Chair of the African Working Group, International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organization (IHEYO), and Leo Igwe, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria (HAN). Also featured as speaker was myself, Chogwu Abdul, Co-Founder of the Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria (H+FN) and United States Transhumanist Party (USTP) Foreign Ambassador for Nigeria, and I eventually presented a talk on the topic: “Merging the Human Brain with Computer: Implications for the Future of Humanity.” The talk focused primarily on the rising phenomenon of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs), but also broadly on the movement and philosophy of transhumanism as the general idea within which BCIs are contained.

As a transhumanist with a manifest interest in promoting the philosophy across Nigeria, and hopefully, throughout the African Continent, the presenter took the lecture as an opportunity to introduce the concept of transhumanism to a broad audience and initiate a discourse on the cultural, scientific, and philosophical movement within the public space of Nigeria. The reception given to the presentation at the Convention was seemingly warm, and some good interest was generated and expressed. But the work, realistically, is only just beginning, and practically speaking there is still so much to be done and perhaps millions of miles to go before transhumanism can go mainstream in Nigerian society – although it is the personal and sincere hope of this writer that the turn of events prove such a prediction wrong and the changes get to happen faster than expected.

At present, however, transhumanism is simply much of an unknown idea in Nigeria, with very few in the country having heard about the word or even knowing what it means. And even when some technologies or practices related to transhumanism, for example genetic engineering and biomedical engineering are proposed or seem to gradually find a way into Nigerian society, much resistance is witnessed, especially as presented by religious conservatives. Nigeria, if it must be said, is at it stands a very religious environment, and so far religious beliefs and attitudes indisputably hold much sway over the thought and lives of multitudes across the country, at least for the time being. Religious conservatism is at present therefore rife, and a lot that goes with scientific thinking still struggles from the margins, faced by challenges in trying to reach wider acceptance and influence.

However, there is, at least as perceived and discerned by some trend observers, something of a silent revolution gradually taking place across the country. Some have called this the slow dawning of a long-awaited mental awakening, one in which an increasing number of Nigerians, especially the current youth generation, are gradually becoming more embracing of critical thinking, science, rationalism, and secular reasoning. Much that goes with the manifestation of this trend is to be found on the Nigerian social media, where a secular community has been emerging and becoming increasingly vocal in challenging dominant conservative religious beliefs and practices, while at the same time promoting science, rationalism, and critical thinking. Secular humanism could be perceived as having found something of a confident foothold in Nigeria, and this gradual mental shift provides cause to hope that transhumanism could find a springboard and fertile ground from which to launch, grow, and spread across the country.

And then there is also that stubborn challenge of technological backwardness suffered by the country and much of Africa, which is yet another impediment that cannot be ignored in evaluating the transhumanist promotion task and prospects in this part of the world. The state of scientific and technological development in Nigeria is relatively (and realistically speaking) poor. Investments in research and development for science, technology, and even health have so far remained floated and struggling at very low points; technological infrastructure across the country is either absent, degrading, or fails to meet up with global standards, and much of the country’s finest minds in science, technology, and medicine are either already resident in foreign countries or are seriously working towards joining the exodus and brain drain flowing in the direction of the Nigerian Diaspora. For reasons as these, much that exists as a technological presence in the country mostly is available as a result of technology transfer, imported into Nigeria from foreign climes, and with quite a number of them arriving at the nation’s shores not as state-of-the-art, cutting edge innovations, but more as outdated technologies which represent a stage, away from which the exporting country has made or is already making noticeable progress.

Technological development therefore remains a key factor to be addressed in Nigeria for the transhumanist vision to gain foundations upon which to thrive, and this was highlighted in the presentation at the Convention. As a matter of encouragement though, there are, however, indications which give cause to expect some coming changes in the technological condition and fortunes of the country and Africa generally as a Continent. These indications derive from the growing number of tech-themed workshops, seminars, conferences, innovation hubs, and tech start-ups that are gradually but steadily exploding across Nigeria and a number of African countries. The Continent’s youths are becoming audaciously innovative and entrepreneurial, and more are doing so through developing homegrown technological solutions as responses to local problems. Such interventions are giving rise to a movement of indigenous innovation, and if this trend continues and gains sufficient support, then one could be cautiously optimistic enough to anticipate that it should only be a matter of time before versions of a host of emerging and converging technologies (nanotech, biotech, infotech, cognitive science and neurotech, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics, biomedical engineering, etc.), get developed within local African contexts and as best suited for the African condition.   Moreover, interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education and STEM-related enterprise is gaining a fresh boost, the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation unveils very talented engineers and innovations from across sub-Saharan Africa yearly, and a very unique project by the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) known as the Next Einstein Initiative (NEI), which has been on course for over a decade now and has among its objectives the actualization of a scientific revolution in Africa, further provides a great vista for reasonable hope. Several young, bright Nigerian (male and female) scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, among their counterparts from other African countries, are seriously involved in this AIMS-NEI programme, undertaking research, and pleasantly enough, are breaking new grounds in several STEM-related fields.

The combination thereof, of a fledgling secularism and rational thinking culture with an emerging consciousness and demonstration for scientific and technological development in contemporary Nigeria, can be leveraged upon by transhumanists as strategic factors making for a more possible environment, as that opportunity of a slight opening in the door which could and should be seized upon to kick the doors open even wider for transhumanist thinking, technologies and practices to pour in and ubiquitously find their way into the Nigerian space.

The presentation on BCIs made at the 2017 ASN Convention was meant to create an awareness among Nigerians with regards to the state of movements in transhumanist thought, and to stir the people into action in connecting the now helpfully available threads of rational thinking, creative imagination, science, technology, and enterprise into the fabric of a transhumanist culture which would yield much progress for Nigerian society and human life. The response to this nudging – though it is yet early in the day to clearly tell – has so far been encouraging.

There are some of us here in Africa who believe that the Continent is currently going through an African Renaissance and as well stands at the thresholds of a Scientific Revolution. Some of us are also plugged in to other parts of the globe enough at least to be aware that there is present talk of a Second Enlightenment and a coming Fourth Industrial Revolution, aspects of an emerging, global transhumanist civilization, and to which bringing Africa up to speed should be a major concern. There are indeed several stages in the march of human civilization (for example, the European Enlightenment Era and the First and Second Industrial Revolutions) which Africa neither “positively” nor “proactively” participated in, and for which Africa can no longer afford the luxury of time in going through them again at this point in history, for what the Continent currently pragmatically needs is nothing short of a giant leap through the aid mostly of technology, if it must, as it obviously has to, catch up with the rate of advancement of the rest of the world.

Connecting the trajectory of Africa’s unfolding Renaissance and burgeoning scientific revolution to the dimensions of the Second Enlightenment, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and generally the transhumanist civilization through technology, education, enterprise, and any other agency necessary, thus should become the logical cause and big picture inspiring the transhumanist project in Nigeria and Africa within the 21st Century. For this objective then, and in these parts of our planet, the adoption and indigenous innovation of emerging technologies associated with and promoted by the transhumanist movement are to attract deliberate emphasis as the core of this vision and narrative. This is pertinent, for should humankind eventually evolve into a new, posthuman species, then the peoples of the continent from which Homo Sapiens originated, Africa, need not, and must not be left behind in this great transformative event.

The group currently known as the Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria (H+FN), or by any other name with which it shall be formally recognized in the near future, has therefore set out on the task of spreading transhumanist enlightenment and engaging the Nigerian public with transhumanist discourse, and from this to hopefully progress into helping forge a strong and effective transhumanist network across the African Continent. The work, we can say, has sincerely begun.

Chogwu Abdul

Co-Founder, Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria

USTP Foreign Ambassador for Nigeria

November 2017

Results of Platform Vote #6 and Adopted Sections

Results of Platform Vote #6 and Adopted Sections

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Gennady Stolyarov II


The U.S. Transhumanist Party conducted its seventh vote of the members and the sixth vote on its platform planks on November 11 through November 17, 2017. Official ballot options can be found here.

Detailed results of the voting have been tabulated here. In two instances, where no majority was reached in the first round of voting, options were selected based on the ranked-preference method with instant runoffs.

As a result, the following new or amended sections of Article III of the U.S. Transhumanist Party Constitution were adopted.

Section II: The United States Transhumanist Party supports all acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity of individuals and groups of all races, genders, classes, religions, creeds, and ideologies. Accordingly, the United States Transhumanist Party condemns any hostile discrimination or legal restrictions on the basis of national origin, skin color, birthplace, ancestry, gender identity, or any manner of circumstantial attribute tied to a person’s lineage or accident of birth. Furthermore, the United States Transhumanist Party strongly opposes any efforts to enforce said restrictions regardless of cause or motivation thereof. Additionally, any institution that uses violence, suppression of free speech, or other unconstitutional or otherwise illegal methods will be disavowed and condemned by the United States Transhumanist Party, with an efficient, non-violent alternative to said institution being offered to achieve its goals if they align with the Party’s interests.

Section XXVII: The United States Transhumanist Party advocates Constitutional reform to abolish the Electoral College in the United States Presidential elections and render the plurality of the popular vote the sole criterion for the election of President.

Section LIX: The United States Transhumanist Party considers it important for impartial, objective investigations of alleged police and other law-enforcement misconduct to be pursued. While law-enforcement agencies should not be prohibited from internally investigating potential abuses within their own ranks, such investigations should never be considered exclusive or conclusive, and further external checks and accountability should be instituted. As part of providing such checks and accountability, investigations regarding misconduct, negligence, abuse, criminal activity, felonies, and misdemeanors allegedly committed by police, district attorneys, and judges, should, in addition to any internal investigation, also be conducted by a civilian organization outside the justice system. The intent of this requirement is to limit the possibility of favorably biased or preferential treatment of a member of a given law-enforcement agency by that person’s colleagues, and to restore confidence by the public that an investigation into police misconduct is done as objectively as possible.

Section LXIV: The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to create a reasonable minimum timeframe between the proposal of a bill and the voting procedure. To ensure a reasonable timeframe is proportional to the number of pages of a proposed bill, a time period per each specified amount of pages could be adopted. For example, and without committing to specific numerical magnitudes, a 24-hour period within a working week per every 20 pages could be adopted to ensure all members of Congress involved have sufficient time to read through and study a proposed bill’s implications. Such measures would prevent a bill from being introduced shortly before the voting process. They would also have the added side effect that proposals might become more concise, as the length of a bill would influence the consideration time.

In addition to this, after the proposal has been submitted, any amendments must be explicitly discussed in a public forum with the same degree of thorough consideration and same rules pertaining to the timeframe of consideration as allowed for the original proposal.

Section LXV: The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to ensure a jury is fully informed on its rights and responsibilities, including jury nullification. The United States Transhumanist Party also supports efforts to prevent false claims being made regarding the rights and responsibilities of the jury.

Section LXVI: As an intermediate step toward the goal of complete nuclear disarmament and a potential pragmatic compromise in any future negotiations for disarmament, the United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to significantly reduce the United States nuclear stockpile, and to replace or transfer a small part (between 1 percent and 10 percent) of this stockpile, to mobile nuclear platforms such as submarines. An enemy may currently target the stationary nuclear bombs directly. Having a largely hidden mobile fleet of nuclear bombs would render it much more difficult for any enemy to target the nuclear arsenal, while still maintaining the nuclear deterrent option in sufficient capacity. This would further have the effect of lowering the budget required to maintain the nuclear stockpile, as it could be drastically downsized.

Section LXVII: The United States Transhumanist Party supports the right for individuals to have autonomy over, and utilize their bodies to earn money, including through activities such as prostitution, as long as such activities arise from a person’s own free will (e.g., not under duress), and the person is not endangering the health or well-being of others, including but not limited to the communication of sexually transmissible diseases.

Legalization would give those who wish to engage in prostitution the safety and protection of the law – for example, so that they may report abuse and would be prone to being exploited. It would also open the possibility for such individuals to unionize if they wish to do so. Furthermore, legalization would decrease government spending on what is ultimately a ‘moral crusade’.

However, the United States Transhumanist Party unequivocally condemns any manner of human trafficking, child exploitation, and other abuse that involves a violation of the autonomy and consent of any individual. The legalization of prostitution should be combined with stronger efforts to combat these dangerous and exploitative practices.

The legalization of prostitution could furthermore enable more effective action against human trafficking and involuntary exploitation, as, when prostitution is legalized, employees in this industry would become subject to the protections of the law. Legalization would help focus resources on combating the trafficking of humans rather than catching workers who chose this profession voluntarily.

Section LXVIII: The United States Transhumanist Party holds that any statement made by an elected official and/or public servant to members of the public in a public forum as part of that official’s or public servant’s job duties, and available to be heard, read, or otherwise understood in a public setting, physical or digital, should be considered a part of the public record and treated as an official statement of their office and position. This requirement does not extend to statements made by an elected official and/or public servant in the capacity of a private citizen or in the expression of a personal opinion or other position unrelated to the exercise of the official’s or public servant’s job duties.

Section LXIX: The United States Transhumanist Party holds that state and federal governments should establish an artificial intelligence (AI) analysis system for measuring risk of proposed legislation. Such a system could provide an impartial look at what legislation could cause harm or unintended consequences. Submitted policies would receive a score from 0 to 100, and the AI system would state what possible negative impacts may result. This system should be publicly accessible for submissions and for security audit. This is not intended to create or enact laws, but simply to serve as a tool to measure risk versus reward.

Section LXX: The United States Transhumanist Party strongly opposes the possibility for any political party to determine the boundaries and borders of any voting district. The United States Transhumanist Party supports measures that require any efforts to have the districts potentially redrawn, when necessary due to migration for example, to be left to an automated system such as an artificial intelligence (AI) designed for this task.

Section LXXI: The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to remove the possibility for a President to sign an international agreement among two or more nations by executive order. This would prevent a President from engaging in international affairs without support from the Congress, and likewise would make it more difficult to exit an international agreement, as support from Congress would need to exist in order for such an exit to occur. This would furthermore ensure that the United States becomes a more trustworthy nation in the eyes of the international community.

Section LXXII: The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to create a framework for an international or world passport. This framework could, for example, be administered through the United Nations, and the passport could be valid only for those countries who have proven to meet the standards, set by participating countries, required to ensure safety. Given that the European Union has an ID valid within its borders, and the United States has a similar agreement with Canada, imagining these forms of identification being combined shows that a world passport is not a farfetched or alien idea.

Section LXXIII:  The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to mandate that new firearms will be produced with an embedded registration chip, as well as the registration number engraved on the firearm. The chip would have a registration number, a ‘trace online’ code, and a ‘lost or stolen’ code. The firearm would be accompanied by a physical and digital certificate of ownership with a registration number, the ‘trace online’ number, and the ‘lost or stolen’ number. The embedded chip would render it much harder to make the firearm untraceable. The number and codes involved would have to be unique identifiers.

When a firearm would be lost or stolen, the owner of the firearm and holder of the certificate would report the firearm to the authorities as lost or stolen using the ‘lost or stolen’ number. The intent of having a separate reporting number is to ensure that, in the event that a firearm is stolen or taken without consent, the offender cannot report the firearm as stolen, or as found again. When a firearm owner suspects the firearm is simply mislocated – for example, in the car or in the house, or perhaps taken by a family member, the owner could trace the firearm online via GPS on an online map, using the ‘trace online’ code. The ‘trace online’ code would never be revealed to law enforcement.

Law enforcement would have a device that can confirm the registration number of a firearm in close proximity, similar to contactless payments. On the other hand the detection range would be greater when a firearm has been reported lost or stolen by the owner of the firearm in question with the ‘lost and stolen’ number. A firearm that would not have been reported lost or stolen to law enforcement by the owner of the firearm with the ‘lost or stolen’ number would not be traceable from a greater distance by law enforcement.

This would ensure the privacy, safety, and peace of mind of firearm owners who might otherwise feel law enforcement would trace firearms without legal justification. At the same time, this measure would decrease the probability of stolen firearms never being found, and possibly ending in the hands of people with ill intent.

Section LXXIV: The United States Transhumanist Party supports the creation of an office of a Public Civil-Rights Prosecutor. Our current justice system is flawed. Only people with substantial wealth can afford lawyers to take legal action against those who attack a person’s rights. While there are organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which offer help for some cases, their ability to do so is severely limited and typically non-existent in the lower courts. A Public Civil-Rights Prosecutor’s office will help guarantee that, no matter who a person is or the position of the offending party, a person’s rights cannot be assailed without consequence.

Section LXXV: The United States Transhumanist Party supports lowering spending by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Military, which amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars per year and includes unchecked wastefulness. Reducing military spending would free up money for more important goals, such as curing disease, which collectively kills many more people than military conflict or war by an exponential degree.

Section LXXVI: The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to hold institutions, corporations, and states accountable for usage of federal money with a specific intended purpose. When an entity has been granted any form of funding with a specifically intended purpose, such as disaster relief or specific educational funds, and these funds are misappropriated or used for other purposes well outside of the scope of what they were intended for, the entity in question ought to restitute the funding that was made available.

Section LXXVII: The United States Transhumanist Party supports increases in the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Numerous biotech CEOs have recently made the case to increase the NIH budget, because the NIH conducts research that their companies would not be able to invest in, as investments not leading directly to a product would affect the bottom line. 33% of all the publications from NIH research are cited in corporate patents, so it stimulates new product development. A major driver for economic progress and reducing the suffering of those in pain, the NIH is essentially a public charity that brings us into the future. Whether one supports limited or expansive government, the NIH does not seek to regulate anything nor impose laws on anyone. It exclusively conducts medical research to help the sick.

Section LXXVIII: The U.S. Transhumanist Party supports efforts to reinstate the rights to vote for convicted felons who have received and served their punishment, in order to present them the opportunity to participate in society as otherwise normal citizens.

Section LXXIX: The United States Transhumanist Party supports repealing the current requirement in the United States that drugs or treatments may not be used, even on willing patients, unless approval for such drugs or treatments is received from the Food and Drug Administration. Such requirements are a profound violation of patient sovereignty; a person who is terminally ill is unable to choose to take a risk on an unapproved drug or treatment unless this person is fortunate enough to participate in a clinical trial. Even then, once the clinical trial ends, the treatment must be discontinued, even if it was actually successful at prolonging the person’s life. This is not only profoundly tragic, but morally unconscionable as well. The most critical reform needed is to allow unapproved drugs and treatments to be marketed and consumed. If the FDA wishes to strongly differentiate between approved and unapproved treatments, then a strongly worded warning label could be required for unapproved treatments, and patients could even be required to sign a consent form stating that they have been informed of the risks of an unapproved treatment. This reform to directly extend many lives and to redress a moral travesty should be the top political priority of advocates of indefinite life extension. Over the coming decades, its effect will be to allow cutting-edge treatments to reach a market sooner and thus to enable data about those treatments’ effects to be gathered more quickly and reliably. Because many treatments take 10-15 years to receive FDA approval, this reform could by itself speed up the real-world advent of indefinite life extension by over a decade.

Section LXXX: The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to increase opportunities for entry into the medical profession. The current system for licensing doctors is highly monopolistic and protectionist – the result of efforts by the American Medical Association in the early 20th century to limit entry into the profession in order to artificially boost incomes for its members. The medical system suffers today from too few doctors and thus vastly inflated patient costs and unacceptable waiting times for appointments. Instead of prohibiting the practice of medicine by all except a select few who have completed an extremely rigorous and cost-prohibitive formal medical schooling, governments in the Western world should allow the market to determine different tiers of medical care for which competing private certifications would emerge. For the most specialized and intricate tasks, high standards of certification would continue to exist, and a practitioner’s credentials and reputation would remain absolutely essential to convincing consumers to put their lives in that practitioner’s hands. But, with regard to routine medical care (e.g., annual check-ups, vaccinations, basic wound treatment), it is not necessary to receive attention from a person with a full-fledged medical degree. Furthermore, competition among certification providers would increase quality of training and lower its price, as well as accelerate the time needed to complete the training. Such a system would allow many more young medical professionals to practice without undertaking enormous debt or serving for years (if not decades) in roles that offer very little remuneration while entailing a great deal of subservience to the hierarchy of an established institution. Ultimately, without sufficient doctors to affordably deliver life-extending treatments when they become available, it would not be feasible to extend these treatments to the majority of people.

Section LXXXI: The United States Transhumanist Party supports reforms to the patent system that prevent the re-patenting of drugs and medical devices, or the acquisition of any exclusive or monopoly rights over those drugs and devices, once they have become generic or entered the public domain. Appallingly, many pharmaceutical companies today attempt to re-patent drugs that have already entered the public domain, simply because the drugs have been discovered to have effects on a disease different from the one for which they were originally patented. The result of this is that the price of the re-patented drug often spikes by orders of magnitude compared to the price level during the period the drug was subject to competition. Only a vibrant and competitive market, where numerous medical providers can experiment with how to improve particular treatments or create new ones, can allow for the rate of progress needed for the people alive today to benefit from radical life extension.

Section LXXXII: The United States Transhumanist Party supports reforms to reduce the lengths of times over which medical patents could be effective. Medical patents – in essence, legal grants of monopoly for limited periods of time – greatly inflate the cost of drugs and other treatments. Especially in today’s world of rapidly advancing biotechnology, a patent term of 20 years essentially means that no party other than the patent holder (or someone paying royalties to the patent holder) may innovate upon the patented medicine for a generation, all while the technological potential for such innovation becomes glaringly obvious. As much innovation consists of incremental improvements on what already exists, the lack of an ability to create derivative drugs and treatments that tweak current approaches implies that the entire medical field is, for some time, stuck at the first stages of a treatment’s evolution – with all of the expense and unreliability this entails. Even with shortened patent terms, the original developer of an innovation will still always benefit from a first-mover advantage, as it takes time for competitors to catch on. If the original developer can maintain high-quality service and demonstrate the ability to sell a safe product, then the brand-name advantage alone can secure a consistent revenue stream without the need for a patent monopoly.

Cyborgs: Their Rights and Recognition – Statement by Kenneth Alum

Cyborgs: Their Rights and Recognition – Statement by Kenneth Alum

Kenneth Alum


 Image source: http://www.harbisson.com/

As the United States Transhumanist Party, we believe in and support cyborg-ism. Firstly,  a cyborg is a person/organism whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device.

The basic main purpose of cyborg implants is to optimize or improve human condition. Some of the benefits of cyborg-ism are:

  • Ability to replace sickly or heavily damaged body parts such as hips, knees, elbows, wrists, arteries, veins, heart valves, pacemakers, etc.
  • Ability to improve/enhance human senses, i.e., smell, hearing, sight, etc. – e.g., cochlear implants
  • Brain implants that control tremors in cases of Cerebral Palsy
  • Brain Implants that help reverse the most devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
  • Increased physical strength

Cyborg implants help disabled persons live a lives closer to normal or optimal for them. They also help people in general have an improved lifestyle or condition. The world is experiencing swift technological advancement (including in cyborg-ism), driven by the strong need and desire for humanity to live an optimal or better life.

The international and national laws of most Earth countries and regional bodies are lagging behind in accommodating or adapting to these technological advances on Earth. There are cases of human cyborgs being discriminated against, abused, harassed, and even threatened, such as that of artist and activist Neil Harbisson. Mr. Harbisson has surgically implanted an antenna to help him overcome his color-blindness condition. (He naturally sees everything in gray-scale.) Some high-profile examples of individuals who have faced anti-cyborg discrimination include biohacker/grinder Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, biohacker Rich Lee, and Steve Mann.

We as the United States Transhumanist Party state that everyone on Earth should be given freedom to live the life they desire and also make improvements to their physical bodies, either for aesthetic or for health purposes (as long as they don’t infringe on the basic rights of others). Indeed, this should be a basic right in the United States and throughout the Earth. We therefore stand by in support of the above persons mentioned (including other cyborgs) in their advocacy and fight for their rights to be recognized and respected. We implore the United States federal government and other nations to recognize the right for one to be a cyborg and the cyborgs’ general human basic rights as well.

Our support for cyborg rights is an implication of Article III, Sections VI and VIII of our Platform on morphological freedom and freedom of research and innovation, including with regard to functional, healthy augmentations of the body and brain:

Section VI. The United States Transhumanist Party upholds morphological freedom—the right to do with one’s physical attributes or intelligence whatever one wants so long as it does not directly harm others.

The United States Transhumanist Party considers morphological freedom to include the prerogative for a sentient intelligence to set forth in advance provisions for how to handle its physical manifestation, should that intelligence enter into a vegetative, unconscious, or similarly inactive state, notwithstanding any legal definition of death. For instance, a cryonics patient should be entitled to determine in advance that the patient’s body shall be cryopreserved and kept under specified conditions, in spite of any legal definition of death that might apply to that patient under cryopreservation.

The United States Transhumanist Party also recognizes that morphological freedom entails the duty to treat all sapients as individuals instead of categorizing them into arbitrary subgroups or demographics, including as yet undefined subcategorizations that may arise as sapience evolves.

The United States Transhumanist Party is focused on the rights of all sapient individuals to do as they see fit with themselves and their own reproductive choices.

However, the United States Transhumanist Party holds that the proper exercise of morphological freedom must also ensure that any improvement of the self should not result in involuntary harms directly inflicted upon others. Furthermore, the United States Transhumanist Party recognizes any sentient entity to have the freedom not to modify itself without being subject to negative political repercussions, which include but are not limited to legal and/or socio-economic repercussions.

The United States Transhumanist Party recognizes the ethical obligations of sapient beings to be the purview of those individual beings, and holds that no other group, individual, or government has the right to limit those choices – including genetic manipulation or other biological manipulation or any other modifications up to and including biological manipulation, mechanical manipulation, life extension, reproductive choice, reproductive manipulation, cryonics, or other possible modifications, enhancements, or morphological freedoms. It is only when such choices directly infringe upon the rights of other sapient beings that the United States Transhumanist Party will work to develop policies to avoid potential infringements.

Section VIII. The United States Transhumanist Party supports maximum individual liberty to engage in scientific and technological innovation for the improvement of the self and the human species. In particular, the United States Transhumanist Party supports all rationally, scientifically grounded research efforts for curing diseases, lengthening lifespans, achieving functional, healthy augmentations of the body and brain, and increasing the durability and youthfulness of the human organism. The United States Transhumanist Party holds that all such research efforts should be rendered fully lawful and their products should be made fully available to the public, as long as no individual is physically harmed without that individual’s consent or defrauded by misrepresentation of the effects of a possible treatment or substance.

~ Kenneth Alum, Director of Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, November 19, 2017

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism

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Gennady Stolyarov II
Emanuel Iral
Rachel Lyn Edler
John Marlowe
R. Nicholas Starr
Leah Montalto
Kim Bodenhamer Smith
Laura Katrin Weston
Ekaterinya Vladinakova


On November 18, 2017, the U.S. Transhumanist Party invited leading artists in a variety of media and styles to a two-hour discussion, moderated by Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II and Director of Visual Art Emanuel Iral, on the subject of Art and Transhumanism, delving into how and which works of art can help inspire humans to pursue the next era of our civilization – through promoting the advancement of science and technology, rationality, and/or a more hopeful vision of the future. The panel also explored various interactions between art and technology and ways in which art can improve human connection and understanding, while also comprising the very improved functionality that emerging technologies provide.

Panelists

Emanuel Iral

Emanuel Iral is Director of Visual Art for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Emanuel’s artwork ranges from traditional paint and pencil work to 3D digital work. Currently he is working on his VFX and animation skills, as he is producing short films for his music. He encompasses his art under the term Prismatis – Latin for prism.  A prism refracts white light into the three primary colors: yellow, magenta, and cyan. Prismatis is all about the aesthetic of human expression, which can be separated into the art, audience, and artist.

Rachel Lyn Edler

RachelLyn Edler is an accomplished graphic designer with over 20 years of creative experience. Rachel comes from a diverse background of product development, packaging and web design. In her free time she volunteers for several scientific and secular organizations including the Planetary Society, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Secular Coalition for America.

John Marlowe

John Marlowe was educated in film theory and trained in film production at UC Berkeley.  His outlook on film as a vehicle for social messaging has been largely influenced by his lifelong struggle with a genetic inborn error of metabolism, a type of disease that – until recently – was beyond the scope of medicine.  Consequently, John feels it is his onus to emphasize the artist’s responsibility in shaping the conversation regarding medical research, to create a society more amenable to scientific progress, rather than one fearful of change.

Leah Montalto

Leah Montalto is a painter based in New York City and has maintained a successfully operating painting studio in New York for the past 12 years.  Her paintings have been exhibited at the National Academy Museum of Fine Art in New York, and have been reviewed in the New York Times and the Providence Journal.  Leah’s paintings have received awards including the National Academy Museum of Fine Art’s Hallgarten Prize in Painting and the NYC Cultural Commission arts grant.  Leah is a former professor at Sarah Lawrence College, and has an MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design.  Leah is not affiliated with the Transhumanist Party, but her paintings explore related themes.

Kim Bodenhamer Smith

Kim Bodenhamer Smith is a single mother of two boys living in Chattanooga, TN. She is a founding member of Southside Abbey, a Lay Missioner in The Episcopal Church, and an Outdoor Wear Business owner of Chilliheads. She is a caver, unicycler, and an aviation enthusiast and creator of #helichurch. She has a BFA in Metals and also studied Graphic Design and Political Science. *She also has many Tesla Tales to tell and is a Social Media Manipulator (different from a troll)!

R. Nicholas Starr

R. Nicholas Starr is an audio engineer and multimedia artist whose work focuses on Earth’s dystopias of past, present, and future. Also a biohacker, researcher, and theorist, he immerses himself in the subjects surrounding these worlds and has published several non-fiction articles and interviews. With an education in electronic signals intelligence from the United States Air Force, and 15 years of digital art and audio production in the US and abroad, he has become a unique voice for science fiction, the U.S. Transhumanist Movement, and American policy.

Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter and professional freelance illustrator. Vladinakova specializes in fantasy and science fiction work, but is also interested in editorial illustration. Vladinakova spends most of the day painting in Photoshop, creating scenes related to fantasy, or science fiction, as well as brushing up older works. Vladinakova’s paintings have been featured by the U.S. Transhumanist Party – including the “City of New Antideath” – a vision of the future which was commissioned for Mr. Stolyarov’s 30th Birthday.

Laura Katrin Weston

Dr Laura Katrin Weston is from England and studied Fine Art before going on to studying Medicine. She is a trained pathologist with a specialism in medical biochemistry and inflammation-related disease. She has used her medical knowledge and professional painting career to support Lifespan.io – one of the biggest life-extension research and advocacy charities. Laura is also vocalist for symphonic metal band Cyclocosmia – a music act that will be trying to raise awareness of transhumanist and human mortality issues in their next upcoming album.

The YouTube question/comment chat for this Q&A session has been archived here and is also provided below.

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