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Andrés Grases Interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era

Andrés Grases Interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era

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Andrés Grases


Andrés Grases, the publisher of the Transhuman Plus website (http://transhumanplus.com/) interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, CA, on September 23, 2018. During the course of this conversation, both the contemporary state of transhumanist politics and future directions are covered – along with the challenges to reforming the educational system, the need to create open access to academic works, the manner in which the transition toward the next era of technologies will occur, the meaning of transhumanism and its applications in the proximate future – including promising advances that we can expect to see during the next several years.

Watch the video here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Apply online here in less than a minute.

How Transhumanism Can Transcend Socialism, Libertarianism, and All Other Conventional Ideologies – Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at the VSIM:18 Conference

How Transhumanism Can Transcend Socialism, Libertarianism, and All Other Conventional Ideologies – Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at the VSIM:18 Conference

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Gennady Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, discusses the key strengths and weaknesses of libertarianism, socialism, conservatism, and left-liberalism, the common failings of these and all other conventional ideologies, and why transhumanism offers a principled, integrated, dynamic approach for a new era of history, which can overcome all of these failings.

This presentation was delivered virtually by Mr. Stolyarov on September 13, 2018, to the Vanguard Scientific Instruments in Management 2018 (VSIM:18) conference in Ravda, Bulgaria. Afterward, a discussion ensured, in which Professor Angel Marchev, Sr., the conference organizer and the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Ambassador to Bulgaria, offered his views on the dangers of socialism and the promise of transhumanism, followed by a brief question-and-answer period.

Download and view the slides of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation (with hyperlinks) here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Unanimously Endorses Gennady Stolyarov II for the Board of Trustees of the Indian Hills General Improvement District

U.S. Transhumanist Party Unanimously Endorses Gennady Stolyarov II for the Board of Trustees of the Indian Hills General Improvement District

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The U.S. Transhumanist Party has concluded its seven-day electronic vote on the question of endorsing Gennady Stolyarov II for the Board of Trustees of the Indian Hills General Improvement District (IHGID) in Nevada in the 2018 general election.

Of the 43 members who voted, 100% cast their ballots in favor of endorsing Mr. Stolyarov’s candidacy. During the vote, two members requested to be independent observers and received access to the vote results. Furthermore, all of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Officers received independent access to the vote results as well.

Accordingly, the U.S. Transhumanist Party has an endorsed candidate who will be on the ballot in the 2018 general election.

In response to this endorsement, Mr. Stolyarov issued the following statement:

“I am deeply honored by the confidence that the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s members have placed in me as a candidate for local political office. It is my view that, while U.S. federal politics is broken almost beyond proximate recourse, substantial progress can be made at the local level by persons of good will, seeking constructive solutions to everyday concerns. As my campaign statement declares, through reason, technology, and respect for property rights, we can live well and improve. If I am elected to the IHGID Board of Trustees, I will demonstrate in action that transhumanism can be an effective, everyday, mainstream system of principles and practices that, if given a chance, will produce concrete good for all persons. The transhumanists of today can become the political center of tomorrow. Negative, adversarial, and petty politics have torn our country apart, and it is time for the thinking of a new era to be forged to bring us back together in addressing universal questions and aspirations. Creating the future will take concerted, persistent efforts to ameliorate human societies and institutions at their most basic levels. But it is upon this firm foundation that a sound civil society can be built, and that civil society will then have the proper immune system to deflect those cynical manipulators of public opinion who would divide us for their transitory gain. I hope that my campaign – with good will toward my fellow residents, other candidates, the IHGID staff, and people throughout the world who have voiced their support – will become one building block in that foundation.”

Questions about Mr. Stolyarov’s candidacy can be directed here.

From Within Your Own Failing Shell – Article by Nicola Bagalà

From Within Your Own Failing Shell – Article by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: In this article originally published by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF),  Mr. Nicola Bagalà provides a poignant discussion of the suffering associated with the diseases of old age, for which contemporary geriatric medicine can only offer palliative treatments but no lasting solutions. It is imperative to correct this situation by advocating for the advancement of effective rejuvenation treatments which can not only successfully cure the diseases of old age but also reverse biological aging itself.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, September 9, 2018

Some time ago, I noticed a stock photo of an old lady seeing her geriatrician, who was a much younger woman. Nothing special was happening in the picture, which showed just two people talking; however, it made me wonder what it must feel like to be an elderly person consulting a geriatrician.

One initial assumption could be that it isn’t much different than seeing a GP, but that seems unlikely. If you are seeing a GP, the odds are your disease or ailment is not debilitating, let alone life-threatening. Whatever it might be, you went to see your doctor knowing that, most likely, he or she would be able to cure you; especially if you are young, it’s probable that just taking a medicine for some time, or doing physical therapy, will make you better. You know that you will recover, and the discomfort or the suffering you’re going through is destined to go away. You will get back to your life as it used to be, healthy as ever.

Things are rather different when you are seeing a geriatrician. A geriatrician is a specialist who takes care of the needs of elderly patients, an activity that can be summarized as ensuring the highest possible life quality of a patient in spite of his or her failing body, which becomes increasingly less resilient and less able to respond to treatment with the passing of time. Existing drugs and exercise programs, for example, can ameliorate the symptoms that an elderly person experiences and improve his or her life quality, but the vast majority of age-related diseases simply cannot be cured right now.

When you go to see a geriatrician, you do so with the knowledge that your doctor will most likely be unable to make you any better, despite his or her best efforts; you simply can’t shovel water with a pitchfork. You are aware that, as you keep aging, your condition is likely to worsen, and all your doctor will be able to do is help you manage your symptoms. You know that you are not going to get back to your life as it used to be and that you are not going to be as healthy as ever—that’s not what old people generally are like. In fact, one day, one of the conditions that brought you to see a geriatrician in the first place is going to worsen to the point that you will die of it.

Most of us are familiar with the feeling of going to see a general practitioner, getting a prescription for some mild ailment, and going back home, thinking about our plans for the rest of the day or the week, which possibly involve a big project that we have been working on for a while and can’t wait to take to completion. What if, instead, you are going home after seeing a geriatrician because of osteoarthritis in your knees? Whatever you might be thinking then, you probably are distracted by the pain that you feel in your knees with every step you take, and the thought that it’s not really going to ever improve doesn’t make it any better. It is unlikely that you have any big project going on that you are looking forward to finishing; it’s not that you wouldn’t like to have one, but your deteriorating health makes it difficult to do anything too demanding. Probably, your much younger doctor is going to go back home thinking about an exciting upcoming trip or her next night out, but you are not.

It’s impossible not to wonder what it must feel like to watch others get back to their own lives from within your own failing shell, knowing that the life that you are getting back to is likely going to be short and decreasing in quality; to hear your doctor say that your ailments can be managed, but not cured; to know that, as time passes, you are more and more likely to lose your independence and cause problems or suffering for your loved ones.

Putting on a smile and trying to look at the bright side of things may help you cope and avoid making things worse than they have to be, but it’s not going to make them better either. A positive attitude is a great prescription for any disease you might have, regardless of your age, but it is not the only prescription that you would be given for any serious illness that might strike you before old age. There is no reason why staying positive and palliative care should be the only medicines against aging—not now that rejuvenation biotechnology is becoming an ever-more concrete prospect.

People of all ages should have the right to go to see their doctors knowing that, most probably, whatever diseases they have may be cured; that any others they might get in the future can be prevented; that their discomfort or suffering is going to go away; and that they are going to get back to their lives as they used to be, healthy as ever.

About Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà  is a bit of a jack of all trades—a holder of an M.Sc. degree in mathematics; an amateur programmer; a hobbyist at novel writing, piano, and art; and, of course, a passionate life-extensionist. After his interest in the science of undoing aging arose in 2011, he gradually shifted from quiet supporter to active advocate in 2015, first launching his advocacy blog Rejuvenaction before eventually joining LEAF. These years in the field sparked an interest in molecular biology, which he actively studies. Other subjects he loves to discuss to no end are cosmology, artificial intelligence, and many others—far too many for a currently normal lifespan, which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Vote on the Question of Endorsing Gennady Stolyarov II for the Indian Hills General Improvement District Board of Trustees

U.S. Transhumanist Party Vote on the Question of Endorsing Gennady Stolyarov II for the Indian Hills General Improvement District Board of Trustees

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The U.S. Transhumanist Party will hold an electronic vote of the membership for a seven-day period ending on 12:01 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time on Monday, September 10, 2018, on the question of whether to endorse Gennady Stolyarov II who is running and on the ballot as a candidate for the Board of Trustees of the Indian Hills General Improvement District (IHGID) in Nevada in the 2018  general election.

See Mr. Stolyarov’s campaign page here.

Registered U.S. Transhumanist Party members as of 12:01 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time on Monday, September 3, 2018, would be able to cast their ballots on this question and will be sent their ballots via e-mail.

Because Mr. Stolyarov is the Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, we shall strive to make every effort that the voting proceeds in as transparent and independently verifiable a manner as possible. Members are free to vote for or against the endorsement, or to abstain from voting, without any adverse repercussions for any decision made or in consequence of any outcome resulting from this vote. Every member is encouraged to make an independent, informed decision on this question. Any member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party who wishes to be an independent observer of the vote results may contact Mr. Stolyarov at gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com. All independent observers must promise not to disclose the names of those who voted to the broader public, although the independent observers may be privy to those names for purposes of verification of results only (and not for purposes of using this information to influence the outcome), and with the understanding that such non-disclosure must be adhered to.

Mr. Stolyarov is officially running as a nonpartisan candidate for this nonpartisan office, and accordingly his name on the ballot cannot be accompanied by a political party designation. There are currently four candidates, including Mr. Stolyarov, running for three open positions.

Accordingly, the significance of any endorsement by the U.S. Transhumanist Party would be symbolic in nature and would serve to bring greater attention to transhumanist ideas and how they could be instantiated in everyday, nonpartisan governance and an approach that can also appeal to the broader public, as Mr. Stolyarov attempts to do in his campaign. Furthermore, now that our previously endorsed candidate James D. Schultz has ended his campaign, the prominence of the U.S. Transhumanist Party would be aided by having an endorsed candidate in the 2018 general election, especially a candidate with a realistic possibility of winning the office for which he is running.

Highlights from Mr. Stolyarov’s campaign website include the following:

  • Transcending political divisions: The IHGID Board of Trustees is nonpartisan, and I am running as a nonpartisan for this office. This means that I hope to represent everyone in this District, no matter what their political views or how they might differ from mine. Although we live in a politically divisive era, when it comes to a high quality of life in a neighborhood, we all have shared values that enable common ground to be found. We may not always agree on particular issues, or always reach an outcome that satisfies everyone, but I will strive to engage sincerely and transparently with each interested resident, and find creative solutions that meet as many goals of as many residents as possible.
    • Parallel in U.S. Transhumanist Party Values and Platform: Tolerance and inclusivity of all individuals of all races, genders, classes, religions, creeds, national origins, and other characteristics. [Article III, Section II]
  • Putting facts first: Many of the decisions of the IHGID Board of Trustees are focused on specific knowledge about the water, sewer, and road systems within the District. I consider it crucial to gather as much factual information as possible about the workings of the affected systems, the available options, and the benefits and costs involved with each option, before making a decision. Every decision is a learning opportunity, and I promise to be open to the facts and to the input of those with knowledge and experience in the areas that the decisions affect.
    • Parallel in U.S. Transhumanist Party Values and PlatformSupport of all values and efforts toward cultivation of science, technology, reason. [Article III, Section VII]
  • Ensuring that key infrastructure operates smoothly: We all want clean and safe water, well-maintained roads, and an effective sewer system. Additionally, the IHGID maintains parks that many residents enjoy and hosts events that improve quality of life for members of this community. These core functions are important and need to be performed well. Many people only notice them if there is a shortcoming, but the IHGID conducts valuable work in the background to prevent such shortcomings from arising. I will be attentive to this work, in large part so that residents can go about their daily lives smoothly. In my experience, there has been significant improvement in these areas during my time as a resident in the District, and I hope to encourage and work toward further improvement wherever possible.
    • Parallel in U.S. Transhumanist Party Values and PlatformSupport for a smart infrastructure. [Article III, Section X]
  • Respecting homeowners’ property rights: I espouse the view that one’s home is one’s inviolable personal domain. This means that choices about esthetics – such as home décor, color, texture, landscaping, outdoor furniture, statuary, and other purely visual elements – should be entirely within the discretion of a home’s owner. I oppose any plan to establish a homeowners association within the IHGID, and I support keeping the IHGID’s roles as currently defined. The only justifiable restrictions on a homeowner’s prerogatives should be considerations of the health and safety of others, as well as the ability of others to make rightful use of the common elements of the neighborhood. I support and encourage compliance with all IHGID policies and applicable provisions of law, including Douglas County Ordinances, and I also support being a good neighbor – which includes maintaining clean and visually appealing properties. However, much that is good about the appearance of our neighborhood can be and has been achieved informally and voluntarily – by people respecting others and arranging improvements amongst themselves. Not everything that is good should be mandatory.
    • Parallel in U.S. Transhumanist Party Values and Platform: Individual privacy and liberty over how to apply technology to one’s personal life [Article III, Section I]; morphological freedom [Article III, Section VI]. Note: The freedom to use technology extends to basic and long-established technologies, such as those involved in home decoration, functional features, and furnishings. If one’s home is viewed as an extension of one’s self-expression, then the freedom to make esthetic choices for one’s home is a key component of morphological freedom.
  • Pursuing technological solutions: I am a strong advocate of emerging technologies in a wide variety of realms. I will think carefully and thoroughly about which new advances can enable the IHGID to fulfill its purposes in a more effective and cost-effective manner, while only improving quality of service.
    • Parallel in U.S. Transhumanist Party Values and PlatformSupport of all emerging technologies that improve the human condition. [Article III, Section IX]
  • Enabling resident initiatives: If you have an idea for an effort that will improve life in this neighborhood, and you are willing to implement it through your own hard work and that of people who agree with you, please feel free to reach out to me, and I will explore how this idea relates to the IHGID and how to enable your idea to be realized within the framework of the IHGID’s mission and goals.
    • Parallel in U.S. Transhumanist Party Values and Platform“The United States Transhumanist Party supports the involvement of intelligent laypersons in the political process to counteract and neutralize the influence of politically connected special interests and their paid representatives. The United States Transhumanist Party supports all electronic and other technologies that can inform and empower intelligent laypersons to monitor and contribute to political discussions and decisions.” [Article III, Section XIII]
  • Supporting development that helps everyone and preserving valuable amenities: I believe that it is possible to have more of everything that everyone considers good. Life is not a zero-sum game; it can be positive-sum with the appropriate focus on win-win solutions and sincere consideration of how to improve from everyone’s perspective. I am a runner and hiker, so I enjoy open space and an abundance of trails nearby. I also consider additional residential development in the vicinity to be beneficial, provided that it is supported by adequate infrastructure – such as well-maintained roads, multiple outlets, and water and wastewater systems that amply provide for all residents’ needs. The real-world approach to particular situations involving preservation and development is often highly situationally specific, and could, in certain circumstances, be outside the scope of the IHGID’s boundaries and mission altogether. However, I promise to thoughtfully consider how our neighborhood and the surrounding areas are changing and to reach informed opinions regarding how any problems could be viably addressed. Through science, technology, rational thinking, and the consequent progress of our civilization, we are all tremendously better off than our ancestors were generations ago. We can continue the improvement on every scale, from local to global.
    • Parallel in U.S. Transhumanist Party Values and Platform: Support of all values and efforts toward cultivation of science, technology, reason. [Article III, Section VII]
    • Core Ideal 2: The Transhumanist Party supports a cultural, societal, and political atmosphere informed and animated by reason, science, and secular values.
  • Commitment to fair campaign practices: I have signed the Nevada Code of Fair Campaign Practices and will abide by it. There will be three vacancies for the IHGID Board of Trustees on January 1, 2019. If more than three candidates run, and there is a possibility that some candidates might not be elected, I promise that I will treat every candidate with civility and respect.  I reject negative campaigning and all personal attacks.
    • Parallel in U.S. Transhumanist Party Constitution, Article I, Section III, Operating Principle 2: “The Transhumanist Party commits to always pursuing its goals in a civil, law-abiding manner, respecting the legitimate rights of all persons.”
    • Parallel in the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 2.0, Article XXIV: “Transhumanists stand opposed to the post-truth culture of deception. All governments should be required to make decisions and communicate information rationally and in accordance with facts. Lying for political gain or intentionally fomenting irrational fears among the general public should entail heavy political penalties for the officials who engage in such behaviors.”
U.S. Transhumanist Party Endorsed Candidate James D. Schultz Ends His Campaign for New York State Assembly District 2

U.S. Transhumanist Party Endorsed Candidate James D. Schultz Ends His Campaign for New York State Assembly District 2

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The U.S. Transhumanist Party regrets to announce that our previously endorsed candidate for New York State Assembly District 2, James D. Schultz, has ended his campaign because of his effort falling short of gaining the necessary 1,500 signatures for ballot access.

On August 21, 2018, Mr. Schultz offered the following statement: “It personally pains me to come to this. My friends and I have been working hard on securing ballot access for my State Assembly run on an Independent ballot. Despite our efforts we have fallen short of the minimum signatures needed to gain ballot access. Because of this and the very slim chance of a write-in effort making a difference, I am, effective immediately, dropping out of the race. We needed a minimum of 1,500 signatures to get on the ballot; we fell short with 1,239. Everyone who has helped the campaign and wished us luck, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. On our first day we only got 18 signatures. We kept on pushing hard despite the many hostile attitudes of both Democrats and Republicans.”

Despite the best intentions, Mr. Schultz’s campaign fell slightly short of the onerous ballot-access threshold established by the two major political parties in New York State. This is yet another illustration of the travesty of ballot-access laws in the United States, which act to preserve the two-party duopoly while denying Americans the genuine choice of considering innovative, creative voices that can offer true progress. This example underscores why the U.S. Transhumanist Party strongly supports reducing or eliminating these ballot-access thresholds wherever and to whatever extent possible.

Nonetheless, we express our appreciation to Mr. Schultz for his efforts and for the fact that, because of his campaign, the U.S. Transhumanist Party had an endorsed candidate in the 2018 midterm elections for over four months, between April 12 and August 21, 2018.

How shall we proceed to make a difference in the 2018 elections? Will the U.S. Transhumanist Party still be able to have a presence and an influence? Fear not – for the U.S. Transhumanist Party leadership has been discussing just this and has a proposition that will be put forth before the membership in early September 2018.

Enlightenment Transhumanist Association Registered in Nigeria – Press Release by Leo Igwe

Enlightenment Transhumanist Association Registered in Nigeria – Press Release by Leo Igwe

Leo Igwe


A transhumanist organization, Enlightenment Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria (ETFN) also known as H+ Nigeria, has been licensed to operate in the country. Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission, the agency that is in charge of registering societies issued the license on August 7, 2018. H+ Nigeria was registered after it fulfilled all the conditions required for operation as a legal entity in the country. The objectives of the organization include the promotion of transhumanist thought and culture. The forum plans to create awareness of the radical changes and feasibility of redesigning the human condition which humanity stands to undergo through science and technology in the future.

The organization will also encourage the growth of technological culture in a broad range of emerging, sophisticated technologies. In addition, it will promote ethical principles and methods of adopting new and emerging technologies in Nigeria beyond.

Furthermore, the ETFN will advocate the moral right for those who so wish to use technology to extend their mental and physical capacities and to improve their control over their own lives. Also, it will encourage systematic research and create a forum where people can rationally debate what needs to be done and advocate for a social order where responsible decisions on transhumanist principles can be implemented. It is most exciting that such a platform for furthering the ideals of transhumanism, and other futurist philosophies, has been incorporated in Nigeria.

“Shattered” – Art by Laura Katrin Weston, a.k.a. Katrin Brunier

“Shattered” – Art by Laura Katrin Weston, a.k.a. Katrin Brunier

Laura Katrin Weston


Commentary by Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party: “Shattered” is a print by Dr. Laura Katrin Weston, a.k.a. Katrin Brunier, the original exemplar which I received in November 2017 due to my donation to the successful MouseAge crowdfunding campaign by Lifespan.io. Along with the three other artworks that I acquired from Dr. Weston – “Teeming”, “Graceful”, and “Squeak” – this print is featured as part of my Longevity Wall.

This work depicts how the forces of ruin can lead once-ornate and beautiful things to become eroded and deteriorated. This process, unfortunately, afflicts human organisms and minds as well, causing much of value to be lost or at least faded with time. Even with age, there remain in everything and everyone traces of the former splendor that can yet potentially be reclaimed – if humanity reconsiders its priorities and decisively commits to the war on ruin, including the quest to overcome aging and death.

Artist’s Description: “Time ravages even the greatest of minds, shattering them into a chaotic cloud of misfired potential. Once simple tasks become impossible, we become unable to live without aid, to live for ourselves any longer.

“I don’t know about you… But I don’t want that future. We have the power to change that. All we need is more support.”

You can find more work by Dr. Laura Katrin Weston at the Katrin Brunier Gallery, an Ethical Investment-Grade Art Gallery for the Neo-Renaissance Era (see its Instagram page). Proceeds from art sales at the Katrin Brunier Gallery will go to support causes such as medical research and conservation.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Invites Candidates to Apply for Endorsement

U.S. Transhumanist Party Invites Candidates to Apply for Endorsement

Gennady Stolyarov II


The United States Transhumanist Party continues to invite independent or nonpartisan candidates for elected office who seek our endorsement.

To apply, please e-mail Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com. We will put any potential endorsement before a vote of the members and will consider endorsing any candidate who shares many of our values and who is not running on behalf of another non-transhumanist political party.

In your e-mail, please include (i) your name; (ii) the office you are running for; (iii) a description of your platform and/or the goals of your candidacy; and (iv) why you seek the endorsement of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

If you do not wish to run yourself but would wish to recommend other candidates to our attention, please, likewise, e-mail Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com.

In the following states, candidates may even be able to use the “political party designation” of “Transhumanist Party” to affiliate with us without the Transhumanist Party needing to obtain ballot access:

Review of Ray Kurzweil’s “How to Create a Mind” – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Review of Ray Kurzweil’s “How to Create a Mind” – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II


How to Create a Mind (2012) by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil sets forth a case for engineering minds that are able to emulate the complexity of human thought (and exceed it) without the need to reverse-engineer every detail of the human brain or of the plethora of content with which the brain operates. Kurzweil persuasively describes the human conscious mind as based on hierarchies of pattern-recognition algorithms which, even when based on relatively simple rules and heuristics, combine to give rise to the extremely sophisticated emergent properties of conscious awareness and reasoning about the world. How to Create a Mind takes readers through an integrated tour of key historical advances in computer science, physics, mathematics, and neuroscience – among other disciplines – and describes the incremental evolution of computers and artificial-intelligence algorithms toward increasing capabilities – leading toward the not-too-distant future (the late 2020s, according to Kurzweil) during which computers would be able to emulate human minds.

Kurzweil’s fundamental claim is that there is nothing which a biological mind is able to do, of which an artificial mind would be incapable in principle, and that those who posit that the extreme complexity of biological minds is insurmountable are missing the metaphorical forest for the trees. Analogously, although a fractal or a procedurally generated world may be extraordinarily intricate and complex in their details, they can arise on the basis of carrying out simple and conceptually fathomable rules. If appropriate rules are used to construct a system that takes in information about the world and processes and analyzes it in ways conceptually analogous to a human mind, Kurzweil holds that the rest is a matter of having adequate computational and other information-technology resources to carry out the implementation. Much of the first half of the book is devoted to the workings of the human mind, the functions of the various parts of the brain, and the hierarchical pattern recognition in which they engage. Kurzweil also discusses existing “narrow” artificial-intelligence systems, such as IBM’s Watson, language-translation programs, and the mobile-phone “assistants” that have been released in recent years by companies such as Apple and Google. Kurzweil observes that, thus far, the most effective AIs have been developed using a combination of approaches, having some aspects of prescribed rule-following alongside the ability to engage in open-ended “learning” and extrapolation upon the information which they encounter. Kurzweil draws parallels to the more creative or even “transcendent” human abilities – such as those of musical prodigies – and observes that the manner in which those abilities are made possible is not too dissimilar in principle.

With regard to some of Kurzweil’s characterizations, however, I question whether they are universally applicable to all human minds – particularly where he mentions certain limitations – or whether they only pertain to some observed subset of human minds. For instance, Kurzweil describes the ostensible impossibility of reciting the English alphabet backwards without error (absent explicit study of the reverse order), because of the sequential nature in which memories are formed. Yet, upon reading the passage in question, I was able to recite the alphabet backwards without error upon my first attempt. It is true that this occurred more slowly than the forward recitation, but I am aware of why I was able to do it; I perceive larger conceptual structures or bodies of knowledge as mental “objects” of a sort – and these objects possess “landscapes” on which it is possible to move in various directions; the memory is not “hard-coded” in a particular sequence. One particular order of movement does not preclude others, even if those others are less familiar – but the key to successfully reciting the alphabet backwards is to hold it in one’s awareness as a single mental object and move along its “landscape” in the desired direction. (I once memorized how to pronounce ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ as a single continuous word; any other order is slower, but it is quite doable as long as one fully knows the contents of the “object” and keeps it in focus.) This is also possible to do with other bodies of knowledge that one encounters frequently – such as dates of historical events: one visualizes them along the mental object of a timeline, visualizes the entire object, and then moves along it or drops in at various points using whatever sequences are necessary to draw comparisons or identify parallels (e.g., which events happened contemporaneously, or which events influenced which others). I do not know what fraction of the human population carries out these techniques – as the ability to recall facts and dates has always seemed rather straightforward to me, even as it challenged many others. Yet there is no reason why the approaches for more flexible operation with common elements of our awareness cannot be taught to large numbers of people, as these techniques are a matter of how the mind chooses to process, model, and ultimately recombine the data which it encounters. The more general point in relation to Kurzweil’s characterization of human minds is that there may be a greater diversity of human conceptual frameworks and approaches toward cognition than Kurzweil has described. Can an artificially intelligent system be devised to encompass this diversity? This is certainly possible, since the architecture of AI systems would be more flexible than the biological structures of the human brain. Yet it would be necessary for true artificial general intelligences to be able not only to learn using particular predetermined methods, but also to teach themselves new techniques for learning and conceptualization altogether – just as humans are capable of today.

The latter portion of the book is more explicitly philosophical and devoted to thought experiments regarding the nature of the mind, consciousness, identity, free will, and the kinds of transformations that may or may not preserve identity. Many of these discussions are fascinating and erudite – and Kurzweil often transcends fashionable dogmas by bringing in perspectives such as the compatibilist case for free will and the idea that the experiments performed by Benjamin Libet (that showed the existence of certain signals in the brain prior to the conscious decision to perform an activity) do not rule out free will or human agency. It is possible to conceive of such signals as “preparatory work” within the brain to present a decision that could then be accepted or rejected by the conscious mind. Kurzweil draws an analogy to government officials preparing a course of action for the president to either approve or disapprove. “Since the ‘brain’ represented by this analogy involves the unconscious processes of the neocortex (that is, the officials under the president) as well as the conscious processes (the president), we would see neural activity as well as actual actions taking place prior to the official decision’s being made” (p. 231). Kurzweil’s thoughtfulness is an important antidote to commonplace glib assertions that “Experiment X proved that Y [some regularly experienced attribute of humans] is an illusion” – assertions which frequently tend toward cynicism and nihilism if widely adopted and extrapolated upon. It is far more productive to deploy both science and philosophy toward seeking to understand more directly apparent phenomena of human awareness, sensation, and decision-making – instead of rejecting the existence of such phenomena contrary to the evidence of direct experience. Especially if the task is to engineer a mind that has at least the faculties of the human brain, then Kurzweil is wise not to dismiss aspects such as consciousness, free will, and the more elevated emotions, which have been known to philosophers and ordinary people for millennia, and which only predominantly in the 20th century has it become fashionable to disparage in some circles. Kurzweil’s only vulnerability in this area is that he often resorts to statements that he accepts the existence of these aspects “on faith” (although it does not appear to be a particularly religious faith; it is, rather, more analogous to “leaps of faith” in the sense that Albert Einstein referred to them). Kurzweil does not need to do this, as he himself outlines sufficient logical arguments to be able to rationally conclude that attributes such as awareness, free will, and agency upon the world – which have been recognized across predominant historical and colloquial understandings, irrespective of particular religious or philosophical flavors – indeed actually exist and should not be neglected when modeling the human mind or developing artificial minds.

One of the thought experiments presented by Kurzweil is vital to consider, because the process by which an individual’s mind and body might become “upgraded” through future technologies would determine whether that individual is actually preserved – in terms of the aspects of that individual that enable one to conclude that that particular person, and not merely a copy, is still alive and conscious:

Consider this thought experiment: You are in the future with technologies more advanced than today’s. While you are sleeping, some group scans your brain and picks up every salient detail. Perhaps they do this with blood-cell-sized scanning machines traveling in the capillaries of your brain or with some other suitable noninvasive technology, but they have all of the information about your brain at a particular point in time. They also pick up and record any bodily details that might reflect on your state of mind, such as the endocrine system. They instantiate this “mind file” in a morphological body that looks and moves like you and has the requisite subtlety and suppleness to pass for you. In the morning you are informed about this transfer and you watch (perhaps without being noticed) your mind clone, whom we’ll call You 2. You 2 is talking about his or he life as if s/he were you, and relating how s/he discovered that very morning that s/he had been given a much more durable new version 2.0 body. […] The first question to consider is: Is You 2 conscious? Well, s/he certainly seems to be. S/he passes the test I articulated earlier, in that s/he has the subtle cues of becoming a feeling, conscious person. If you are conscious, then so too is You 2.

So if you were to, uh, disappear, no one would notice. You 2 would go around claiming to be you. All of your friends and loved ones would be content with the situation and perhaps pleased that you now have a more durable body and mental substrate than you used to have. Perhaps your more philosophically minded friends would express concerns, but for the most party, everybody would be happy, including you, or at least the person who is convincingly claiming to be you.

So we don’t need your old body and brain anymore, right? Okay if we dispose of it?

You’re probably not going to go along with this. I indicated that the scan was noninvasive, so you are still around and still conscious. Moreover your sense of identity is still with you, not with You 2, even though You 2 thinks s/he is a continuation of you. You 2 might not even be aware that you exist or ever existed. In fact you would not be aware of the existence of You 2 either, if we hadn’t told you about it.

Our conclusion? You 2 is conscious but is a different person than you – You 2 has a different identity. S/he is extremely similar, much more so than a mere genetic clone, because s/he also shares all of your neocortical patterns and connections. Or should I say s/he shared those patterns at the moment s/he was created. At that point, the two of you started to go your own ways, neocortically speaking. You are still around. You are not having the same experiences as You 2. Bottom line: You 2 is not you.  (How to Create a Mind, pp. 243-244)

This thought experiment is essentially the same one as I independently posited in my 2010 essay “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self”:

Consider what would happen if a scientist discovered a way to reconstruct, atom by atom, an identical copy of my body, with all of its physical structures and their interrelationships exactly replicating my present condition. If, thereafter, I continued to exist alongside this new individual – call him GSII-2 – it would be clear that he and I would not be the same person. While he would have memories of my past as I experienced it, if he chose to recall those memories, I would not be experiencing his recollection. Moreover, going forward, he would be able to think different thoughts and undertake different actions than the ones I might choose to pursue. I would not be able to directly experience whatever he choose to experience (or experiences involuntarily). He would not have my ‘I-ness’ – which would remain mine only.

Thus, Kurzweil and I agree, at least preliminarily, that an identically constructed copy of oneself does not somehow obtain the identity of the original. Kurzweil and I also agree that a sufficiently gradual replacement of an individual’s cells and perhaps other larger functional units of the organism, including a replacement with non-biological components that are integrated into the body’s processes, would not destroy an individual’s identity (assuming it can be done without collateral damage to other components of the body). Then, however, Kurzweil posits the scenario where one, over time, transforms into an entity that is materially identical to the “You 2” as posited above. He writes:

But we come back to the dilemma I introduced earlier. You, after a period of gradual replacement, are equivalent to You 2 in the scan-and-instantiate scenario, but we decided that You 2 in that scenario does not have the same identity as you. So where does that leave us? (How to Create a Mind, p. 247)

Kurzweil and I are still in agreement that “You 2” in the gradual-replacement scenario could legitimately be a continuation of “You” – but our views diverge when Kurzweil states, “My resolution of the dilemma is this: It is not true that You 2 is not you – it is you. It is just that there are now two of you. That’s not so bad – if you think you are a good thing, then two of you is even better” (p. 247). I disagree. If I (via a continuation of my present vantage point) cannot have the direct, immediate experiences and sensations of GSII-2, then GSII-2 is not me, but rather an individual with a high degree of similarity to me, but with a separate vantage point and separate physical processes, including consciousness. I might not mind the existence of GSII-2 per se, but I would mind if that existence were posited as a sufficient reason to be comfortable with my present instantiation ceasing to exist.  Although Kurzweil correctly reasons through many of the initial hypotheses and intermediate steps leading from them, he ultimately arrives at a “pattern” view of identity, with which I differ. I hold, rather, a “process” view of identity, where a person’s “I-ness” remains the same if “the continuity of bodily processes is preserved even as their physical components are constantly circulating into and out of the body. The mind is essentially a process made possible by the interactions of the brain and the remainder of nervous system with the rest of the body. One’s ‘I-ness’, being a product of the mind, is therefore reliant on the physical continuity of bodily processes, though not necessarily an unbroken continuity of higher consciousness.” (“How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self”) If only a pattern of one’s mind were preserved and re-instantiated, the result may be potentially indistinguishable from the original person to an external observer, but the original individual would not directly experience the re-instantiation. It is not the content of one’s experiences or personality that is definitive of “I-ness” – but rather the more basic fact that one experiences anything as oneself and not from the vantage point of another individual; this requires the same bodily processes that give rise to the conscious mind to operate without complete interruption. (The extent of permissible partial interruption is difficult to determine precisely and open to debate; general anesthesia is not sufficient to disrupt I-ness, but what about cryonics or shorter-term “suspended animation?). For this reason, the pursuit of biological life extension of one’s present organism remains crucial; one cannot rely merely on one’s “mindfile” being re-instantiated in a hypothetical future after one’s demise. The future of medical care and life extension may certainly involve non-biological enhancements and upgrades, but in the context of augmenting an existing organism, not disposing of that organism.

How to Create a Mind is highly informative for artificial-intelligence researchers and laypersons alike, and it merits revisiting a reference for useful ideas regarding how (at least some) minds operate. It facilitates thoughtful consideration of both the practical methods and more fundamental philosophical implications of the quest to improve the flexibility and autonomy with which our technologies interact with the external world and augment our capabilities. At the same time, as Kurzweil acknowledges, those technologies often lead us to “outsource” many of our own functions to them – as is the case, for instance, with vast amounts of human memories and creations residing on smartphones and in the “cloud”. If the timeframes of arrival of human-like AI capabilities match those described by Kurzweil in his characterization of the “law of accelerating returns”, then questions regarding what constitutes a mind sufficiently like our own – and how we will treat those minds – will become ever more salient in the proximate future. It is important, however, for interest in advancing this field to become more widespread, and for political, cultural, and attitudinal barriers to its advancement to be lifted – for, unlike Kurzweil, I do not consider the advances of technology to be inevitable or unstoppable. We humans maintain the responsibility of persuading enough other humans that the pursuit of these advances is worthwhile and will greatly improve the length and quality of our lives, while enhancing our capabilities and attainable outcomes. Every movement along an exponential growth curve is due to a deliberate push upward by the efforts of the minds of the creators of progress and using the machines they have built.

Gennady Stolyarov II is Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. Learn more about Mr. Stolyarov here

This article is made available pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author, Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II).