The ideas of Transhumanism and post-humanist thought may seem as if they belong to the 21st century, but humans have been capturing such an imagination of the future by means of artistic expression way before they could see the state of technology today.
It was an 1909 when Italian poet F.T. Marinetti laid out the core tenets of the Futurism Movement in his manifesto. Futurism can be seen as one of the points of origin for the beautiful relationship of transhumanism and art. Born out of an era of a growing disdain for the fascist government in Italy and the state of the world at the time, Futurism called upon the prospect of bringing a future of youth, industry, and advancing technology. The Futurist Movement thus gave birth to an era of artists that aimed to capture the essence of a possible future where the lines between technology and human were completely blurred.
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space is a bronze cast sculpture that is heavily regarded as one of the core works that truly represent the aesthetic of the Futurist Movement. It’s creator was Italian artist, Umberto Boccioni. Boccioni was one of the principal figures that shaped the art of Futurism as he advocated the use of dynamic movement and the deconstruction of masses.
In Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Boccioni presents viewers with a human figure with deconstructed masses that appear to be aerodynamic. The figure is engaged in pursuing one direction, almost as if it were its sole purpose; to move forward against the winds of demise. The deconstructed masses and lack of arms, or face for that matter, allows the viewer to perceive something that could be beyond human. It is evident that Boccioni wants us to see our body as nothing but a mere vessel that can be molded and shaped in any way imaginable, allowing us to transcend the boundaries of the physical, organic body. The lack of a discernible face implies that Boccioni believes that we should no longer identify who we are by how we perceive our current physical form. We are not bound by how we look in the mirror.
It is the creative minds like Boccioni that provoke the most profound questions concerning the state of humanity. Art is the very force that propels our human imagination forward. Now that we are nearing the end of 2017, I love looking back at how far we have come as a species despite the abundant setbacks. Art will never cease to encourage the human spirit to move forward because in the end, it is life that imitates art.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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
Test-Tube Tomato Still-Life – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova
Ekaterinya Vladinakova’s lush work plunges viewers into a vivid vision of the possible future. Friable strokes of dust rush along the barren cracks that mark the Red Planet as depicted in her Test-Tube Tomato Still-Life. Vladinakova examines the basic question of how might humans grow crops and other necessary resources on a planet as desolate as Mars.
The gleam of the sun’s halo refracts over the surface of a hopeful tomato plant growing within a glass beaker. This may just be one of possibilities actualized once humans overcome the hurdle of successfully arriving on the surface Mars. Harnessing the power of photosynthesis in controlled environments devoid of soil or constant sunlight may prove to be feasibly effective. As one research team from the University of Florida found, plants can fare off pretty well with low light and zero-gravity conditions. Various plants were monitored on the International Space Station orbiting some 350 kilometers above Earth at the time. Researchers observed that the plants monitored showed no signs of impeded growth despite being in an environment devoid of gravity or constant light.
Another possibility is terraforming. With companies like SpaceX leading the mission towards full colonization of Mars, terraforming has been a topic of much debate. Terraforming would include the process of completely manipulating the atmosphere of the planet in order to recreate the ideal conditions of sustaining life. Such a process is arduous and would require a considerable amount of resources to even begin. Yet, it is still a possibility not far from our grasp.
Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter. See her gallery here and her DeviantArt page here.
~ Emanuel Iral, Director of Visual Art, U.S. Transhumanist Party, October 31, 2017
Terraforming of Mars – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova
Left-click on the image for a fuller view. You can also download this painting (3200 by 800 pixels) here.
This piece was painted by Ekaterinya Vladinakova in January 2016 as a tribute to Space X’s reusable rocket success. As a result of these pioneering steps, perhaps humankind will someday, hopefully during our lengthened lifetimes, establish settlements on Mars like the ones depicted in this painting. This painting is available for viewing and download on Ekaterinya Vladinakova’s DeviantArt page here.
Artist’s Comments: Being able to re-use a rocket has the potential to make space travel MUCH cheaper, by a factor of a hundred. The reason is because the fuel costs something around 200,000 dollars, while the rocket costs millions. The problem with today’s rockets is we use them once, and then they are thrown away. An analogy would be using a 747 aircraft for only one trip; think of just how expensive it would be. The significance of SpaceX’s second launch was that it was done on a floating platform. The benefit of such a platform is that it would save more fuel for the rocket, since the ocean platform can move, and less fuel overall is spent navigating the rocket back to base.
Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter. See her gallery here and her DeviantArt page here.
The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity – RAAD Fest 2017 Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, delivered this presentation as the initial speech in the panel discussion he moderated at RAAD Fest 2017, entitled “Advocating for the Future”. The audience consisted of approximately 700 in-person attendees.
Other speakers in the panel included Zoltan Istvan, Ben Goertzel, Max More, and Natasha Vita-More.
Gennady Stolyarov II Prepares to Present and Moderate Panel at RAAD Fest 2017
Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at RAAD Fest 2017
Gennady Stolyarov II Moderates Question-and-Answer Session for Panel: “Advocating for the Future” – RAAD Fest 2017
From left to right, Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II, Max More, Ben Goertzel, and Natasha Vita-More
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U.S. Transhumanist Party Q&A Session – July 15, 2017
Gennady Stolyarov II B.J. Murphy Bobby Ridge Scott Jurgens Martin van der Kroon
In this interactive question-and-answer session, scheduled for 11 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time on Saturday, July 15, 2017, U.S. Transhumanist Party Officers answered members’ and the public’s questions about the ongoing activities and objectives of the United States Transhumanist Party and also discussed other issues of interest that relate to emerging technologies and how to ensure the best possible future for sentient entities.
The following Officers were present for this Q&A session:
For my coming thirtieth birthday, I have commissioned a colossal cityscape depicting my vision and hope for the future progress of humankind. Artist Ekaterinya Vladinakova, a long-time supporter of transhumanism and life extension, was the evident best choice for this project.
The City of New Antideath represents a future society which has overcome death, disease, and today’s principal sources of material scarcity and discomfort. This city contains more than ample living space in ornate, radiantly illuminated skyscrapers. Smaller villas, domed towers, and other luxuriously ornamented buildings adorn the central walkways. There is ample room for pedestrian traffic and plant growth sculpted into geometrically complex patterns – including on the rooftop terraces of many of the mega-skyscrapers.
Flying cars and autonomous drones appear as streaks of light from the ground level. There is so much room for aerial transportation that no more traffic jams exist on the ground. One can opt for efficient transport, or for open-ended leisurely walking, and the two modes will not collide.
Over the years I have created a large number of building models using Sketchup, Minecraft, and even LEGO bricks. In my quest for permanence, they – or images of them – have been preserved and provided to the artist for inspiration. The first City of Antideath consisted of my Sketchup models. The City of New Antideath was not intended to be an exact replica, but rather a successor inspired by the prospect of juxtaposing the best architectural elements of all eras – past and yet to come.
I conveyed to Ekaterinya Vladinakova that the skyscrapers should exhibit a variety of bold colors and geometric shapes – but also be orderly and ornate. I have a great admiration for historical architecture from the 16th through 19th centuries – so while some of the buildings are geometric and futuristic, others borrow significant elements from Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, or Victorian styles. Russian and Eastern architectural traditions find their manifestations in this cityscape as well. The idea is to portray a future of extreme diversity, where all of these elements will exist side by side and interact with one another in interesting ways. Far from cultural separatism or tribalism, the future needs to borrow and develop upon the best elements from all cultures, times, and places. The culture of New Antideath is rational, scientific, progress-oriented, universalist, cosmopolitan, and at the same time hyperpluralist and welcoming of all peaceful individuals.
The most significant vision I have for this artwork is that it will become the iconic vision of a techno-positive future. Accordingly, I am rendering it available for free download and distribution via a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License so that it might be used by others who seek illustrations of a future we can all aspire for.
I still hope that I was not born too soon – that I may someday personally witness and experience a future of this sort. But for now, although the third decade of my life did not see such a future emerge, I am happy at least to have enabled its depiction so that others can be inspired to strive toward it. Given that our immediate world has become suffused by a pervasive, destructive malaise over the past two years, we will need visions such as this to overcome it and achieve better ways to be.
There are three versions of this digital painting available for free download (left-click on the links to open, right-click to download):
– Original Size (11250 by 18100 pixels – a vast canvas with immense detail. Note: This file size is immense as well – but you will be able to zoom in to view individual buildings and regard them as smaller-scale paintings in their own right.)
For those seeking musical accompaniment in viewing this painting, I recommend my Transhumanist March, Op. 78 (2014) (MP3 and YouTube) or Man’s Struggle Against Death, Op. 58 (2008) (MP3 and YouTube).
“If you think we can’t change the world, it just means you’re not one of those who will.” – Jacque Fresco
In the early morning of May 18, Jacque Fresco – the visionary futurist behind The Venus Project – had passed away at the age of 101 after years of battling Parkinson’s. Although the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Mr. Fresco had somewhat differing views on how to incorporate a future transformed by advanced science and technology, his passing is a true loss for the movement as a whole.
Mr. Fresco had envisioned a future where poverty was eliminated, war was no longer heard of, religion no longer shackled the mind, and the monetary system no longer had a grip over our socio-economic foundation. Instead, this future society would be solely based on the collective management of resources with the help of automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence – what he called a “Resource-Based Economy” (RBE). This vision would later be known as The Venus Project, whereby a Research Center was constructed in Venus, Florida to serve as a case-by-example in accordance to that vision.
We should consider ourselves extremely grateful that Mr. Fresco dedicated so much time, money, and effort on this vision of his. Not only did he help build a global community devoted to the materialization of his vision, but he had also inspired countless numbers of people within the Transhumanist movement to begin thinking about how to build a better and more peaceful future.
Jacque Fresco was a pioneer, one of the last great futurists of the 20th century. To the Transhumanist movement, Mr. Fresco was a giant, as we all equally stand on his shoulders. He may have passed away, but his vision for the future will always live on.
Rest in peace, our friend. You will truly be missed by millions.
B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.
The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Pursuing a Future of Extreme Progress – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, delivered this presentation virtually at the Extreme Futures Technology and Forecasting (EFTF) Work Group on March 11, 2017.
Mr. Stolyarov outlines the background and history of the Transhumanist Party, its Core Ideals, its unique approach to politics and member involvement, and the hopes for transforming politics into a constructive focus on solutions to the prevailing problems of our time.
At the conclusion of the presentation Mr. Stolyarov answered a series of questions from futurists Mark Waser and Stuart Mason Dambrot.
Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free here.
Watch the U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Artificial Intelligence here.
Watch the U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Life Extension here.