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Why Toyota Is a Transhumanist Company – Article by Arin Vahanian

Why Toyota Is a Transhumanist Company – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


When people think about the company that most embodies Transhumanism, Google certainly comes to mind. With subsidiaries such as its R&D facility Google X (dedicated to launching ambitious technologies that aim to make the world a better place), and its biotech company Calico (dedicated to combating aging and associated diseases), not to mention other projects it is involved in, Google seems to be well-poised to carry the Transhumanist torch.

However, one company that I believe has been flying under the radar in this regard, but also embodies Transhumanism, is Toyota. While it might not be the first organization many people think of when they think about Transhumanism, and while its products are not nearly as revolutionary as Google’s, it would be unfair to not also include Toyota among the firms most responsible for spreading the values of Transhumanism.

The main reason why I believe this to be the case is related to the Japanese art and science of continuous improvement, called Kaizen. As I wrote in my book Kaizen for Men, the philosophy of Kaizen assumes that our way of life, which includes our work life, social life, and home life, should be constantly improved. We do this by taking small steps toward improving processes, products, services, habits, and actions. In essence, the spirit of Kaizen is that there should be some sort of improvement every day.

There are many ways in which Toyota uses Kaizen, but here I shall specify a few ways the firm approaches continuous improvement, and then relate it to the philosophy of Transhumanism.

First, the Toyota Production System is dedicated not only to improving products and processes, but also to eliminating waste and inefficiencies in an organization. Just as Toyota uses PDCA, an improvement cycle methodology to solve problems found on the shop floor, and just as Toyota seeks to eliminate different types of waste in its manufacturing process (such as defect correction, inventory, and overproduction), Transhumanists seek to find ways every day to improve the human condition, and to eliminate waste and inefficiency from our lives. An example of this would be the Transhumanist pledge to improving the quality of life through increased funding for science and technology, as well as support for inventions such as bionic prostheses, which now allow people who previously lost limbs, to live more productive lives, and to better function as members of society.

Next, Toyota’s dedication to finding the root cause of problems (through tools such as the 5 Whys method and the Cause and Effect diagram), rather than just addressing the symptoms, is similar to the way Transhumanists are addressing the challenges brought forth by aging, cancer, and rare diseases. The hope is that by finding the root cause of these issues, as opposed to just prescribing medication and hoping for the best, that we can eradicate illnesses that have been plaguing humanity for centuries.

Further, at Toyota, the practice of Hansei, or self-reflection, involves acknowledging one’s own mistakes and pledging improvement. For instance, at Toyota, even if a task is completed successfully, teams hold a self-reflection meeting, whereby team members help identify failures experienced along the way and create a plan for future efforts. This insistence on acknowledging current limitations and stressing improvement in order to build a better future is exactly what Transhumanists have been dedicated to since the very founding of the movement.

Finally, Toyota is not just Transhumanist in the way that it builds products or helps its employees improve. It is also Transhumanist in the way that it communicates its values and markets its products. The slogan for Lexus, Toyota’s luxury line of automobiles, is “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.” What could be more Transhumanist than this? When most people think of Toyota, they think of high-quality, reliable, well-designed products sold at a reasonable price. For better or worse, the automobile has become a staple of modern living for many decades now, and few things seem as normal to us now as getting into a car and driving away to some destination, be it our workplace, a friend’s house, or a vacation destination.

Therefore, just as the automobile has become commonplace in our lives, and just as Toyota has become known as a reputable company releasing quality products that meet the needs of many people, so Transhumanism must become the most popular philosophy when it comes to improvement and self-actualization. Transhumanism isn’t a fringe movement, it’s the human movement.

After all, I imagine that almost all people would consider improvement to be quite positive, and would consider actualizing oneself to be one of the most rewarding and valuable goals in the human condition.

This is the promise of Transhumanism. Just as Toyota seeks to be better every day, and to release better products every day, so we must all decide to be better every day, and to seek continuous improvement. This is why I believe that Kaizen and Transhumanism are linked at the core. Because just as we must take steps every day toward releasing better products and services, we must work every day toward being better human beings and building a future our children would want to live in.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

 

 

The Case for Reversing Aging – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Case for Reversing Aging – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


As incredulous as it may seem, I have had numerous people ask me why I support research and funding for reversing the aging process.

The usual arguments against stopping or slowing aging are that there is some sort of natural process or natural order of things, and that human beings shouldn’t be “playing God.”

In this short article, I would like to present my personal views on aging and why I believe it is perfectly natural, and in fact, desirable, for human beings to want to overcome this limitation, or at least, slow it down.

We humans have a very peculiar relationship with aging and death. On the one hand, people spend rather large sums of money on products or services that help them look and feel younger and healthier. In essence, what these people are communicating through their spending habits is that they have a desire to slow down the aging process. Yet any talk of actually reversing the aging process is met with puzzled looks or even dismissal by the very same people. On the other hand, most people dread the condition of death but have resigned themselves to the idea that there is nothing we can do about it. So while we tend to believe that death is unavoidable, we somehow also think that it won’t happen to us for a while longer, and so we put these very important topics on the back burner and refuse to think further about them or consider how to overcome them.

My personal viewpoint is that nothing gets solved without there being some sort of action toward solving it. Problems do not normally resolve themselves.

To those who ask why we should spend money, time, and effort on reversing aging, I shall present three reasons why I believe it is beneficial for us to do so.

Firstly, human beings have always wanted to improve, to grow, and to overcome hardships and challenges. Saying that there is some natural order of things is not a valid argument against reversing the aging process.

Imagine if we had, in the past, accepted a shortened lifespan as the natural order of things. It’s good that we didn’t, because global average life expectancy has more than doubled since the year 1900.

Imagine if we had, in the past, accepted a chaotic, uncomfortable, and dangerous life as the natural order of things. It’s good that we didn’t, because we came up with inventions such as electricity, the Internet, the X-ray, indoor plumbing, heating, and so forth.

Imagine if we had, in the past, accepted our young sons and daughters having their precious lives cut short by illness as the natural order of things. It’s good that we didn’t, because we now have cures for dysentery, malaria, and tuberculosis.

The fact is that the human condition involves us progressing, overcoming limitations, and being better human beings. Hence, it is natural for human beings to want to overcome undesirable situations, and I would imagine that most people would state that poverty, disease, and aging are undesirable.  

Next, reversing the process of aging will give each one of us additional time that we need in order to accomplish other lofty goals. Imagine if you had an additional 10 or 20 young years of life. How much more could you accomplish during that time? We could spend more time on goals such as eliminating poverty, coming up with a cure for cancer, working toward world peace, and so forth. I find it hard to imagine that someone could argue against having more time in life to work on their personal purpose, vision, and mission. Therefore, reversing the process of aging would result in us being able to work on other things that are important to the human race, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of improvement and progress.

Finally, perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the human condition is having a human experience. The human experience includes things such as building relationships with other people, enjoying the splendors of a warm summer afternoon with friends or family, and partaking in any number of stimulating and rewarding activities, such as reading, exercising, and doing charity work.

To those of you who are in a romantic relationship, I ask, wouldn’t you want more time and more opportunities to be with your spouse or partner? Imagine never hearing your partner whisper sweetly in your ear again, or forever losing the overwhelming pleasure of making love to them, or no longer experiencing the rewarding growth you’ve experienced with them since you became a couple.

To those of you who are parents, I ask, wouldn’t you want to ensure that your children live long, happy, and productive lives? Imagine if your son or daughter could have more time and more opportunities to become the person who will finally find a cure for depression, or start a movement that helps brings us closer to world peace, or become a source of inspiration for many people around the world through starting an organization, but they won’t, because we have accepted a “natural order of things.”

To those of you who are actively involved in an ambitious project or important cause that means a lot to you, I ask, wouldn’t you want more time and more energy to work on these things that are meaningful to you? Imagine never being able to work on fulfilling your purpose or vision in life.

There are many more reasons why I believe we should focus on reversing aging, but the three reasons above are a good starting point for us to more seriously consider this most important of issues.

Let’s even assume for a moment that implausible scenarios such as reincarnation and life after death are real. Why wouldn’t we want to live this current life better? I do not believe it is mutually exclusive to believe in life after death and also want to live our current lives better. Throwing up our hands in defeat and accepting things as they currently are does not lead to progress and growth; it leads to atrophy.  

So before we give up the good fight and resign ourselves to an old and decrepit future, we must ask ourselves what we are living for.

If I had to give just one reason for wanting to reverse aging, it would be pretty simple: I love life too damn much.

What’s your reason?

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Why I Believe in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

Why I Believe in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Someone asked me why I decided to join the Transhumanist Party, and indeed, why I support a movement, which, at first glance, appears to be a fringe movement with members who are out of touch with the needs of the general public.

The truth, however, is far different from what is reported in the media, in books, or even in scholarly articles. Because Transhumanism is the only movement that cares enough about improving the human condition and about building a better future to dedicate itself completely to these monumental tasks. Being human, the human condition is all that we have, and as such, we should cherish and treasure it. Further, the future will be built, but unless we build it in such a way that reflects our values and ethics, we may not be happy with the outcome. This is far too important an outcome to leave to chance, and that is why Transhumanists are so passionate about building a better future.

Going back to the topic of this article, the reason I joined the Transhumanist movement is simple: I love life, and I am dedicated to helping increase the quality of life for every human being on Earth. This is the single most important purpose for me to be working on right now.

Despite what you may have heard, Transhumanism isn’t about becoming a machine; it’s about becoming a better human being.

Since joining this movement, I have been struck by how optimistic, open-minded, and welcoming everyone has been to me. I’ve been accepted with open arms, and people have gone out of their way to help me. It’s a tight-knit community full of passionate, intelligent, and dedicated people who want to work on resolving problems that plague humanity. What could be a more noble purpose?

Despite the negative coverage our movement has received in the media and books, one characteristic that is so consistent across our movement is that our members absolutely adore the sanctity of life. When someone asks me why I am so obsessed with goals such as reversing aging, increasing the human lifespan, dramatically increasing investment in medicine and science, and expanding the human consciousness and intellect, I reply that I am completely and utterly in love with the human experience.

But why do we Transhumanists persevere with such goals?

Because it is cruel and dishonest to say to a person with Stage 4 cancer that soon they will no longer be able to hold their son or daughter in their arms, nor hear their sweet laughter, ever again.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a quadriplegic that they will never walk.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell someone suffering from severe depression that they should accept a dark, brooding cloud of misery hanging over their head for the rest of their life.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a child born with a birth defect that they will never live a normal life.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a student with a learning disability that they should make do with what they have and call them a “special needs” student.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell someone they will never make love to their spouse again, nor hear their voice, nor feel their touch, due to a rare illness that will claim their life far too soon.

In short, I believe it is wrong to be so utterly pessimistic about life and about improving the human condition.

We believe in values such as pacifism, expanding the intellect through increased investment in education, improving the quality of life through science and technology, and improving health services and increasing the human lifespan. How on Earth is any of this fringe?

We must have the courage to proclaim our convictions in front of the rest of the world, because these goals are far too important to leave to chance, and because people all over the world genuinely do want to see progress in these areas.  

The fact is that Transhumanism is the movement that is most in touch with the needs of the general public, because most people, unless they are completely insane, would want to live healthier, be disease-free, increase their intelligence, and build a better future for their children. No, we are not a fringe movement. We are the human movement. After all, Transhumanism has the word “human” in it. And that to me means being a better human.

It is wrong to be defeatist and throw our hands up in resignation, because nothing of significance was ever accomplished by being pessimistic, capitulating, or quitting prematurely. Amazing inventions, advances in medicine, and improvements in quality of life came about precisely because we, as humans, did not give up, but rather, fought for what was right. And increasing the quality of life for all humans is right.

I am a Transhumanist because I am a human being, and because I love the human experience. And this is something I will never apologize for. In fact, this is something I will continue to fight for as long as I am alive. Which, hopefully, will be for a very long time.

Why am I a Transhumanist? Because simply put, I love life too damn much.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Will We Build the Future, or Will the Future Build Us? – Article by Arin Vahanian

Will We Build the Future, or Will the Future Build Us? – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


There is an idea or perception bandied about the general public that unstoppable technological forces are already upon us like a runaway train, threatening to derail our way of life and everything we have ever known, and that there is nothing we can do about it.

However, I would like to offer some hope and at the same time dispel this seemingly apocalyptic scenario.

There appear to be two main schools of thought when we discuss the future; the Ray Kurzweil school of thought, which states that the future will evolve as it will and that we will reach Singularity by a certain date, and the Peter Thiel school of thought, which says that the future won’t be built unless we build it.

I would like to add upon Mr. Thiel’s idea by saying that the future will indeed be built, but unless we, as a society, a human race, and a world, join forces to build a future we would like to live in and which reflects our values, we will indeed have a future, but perhaps not one we are completely comfortable with.

Thus, this is a call to action for not only those who are actively involved in the fields of technology, science, and engineering, but all people around the world, because the sum of our collective actions will decide the fate of the world, and the future we live in. Whether we want to admit it, all of us are, on some level, responsible for how the world develops every day.

I urge those of you who may have resigned yourselves to the idea that there is nothing you can do to help change the trajectory of the world to take a look with new eyes. There is always something all of us can do, because every day we are interacting with others, building relationships, helping to create products, working on resolving problems that affect humanity, contributing to the success of an organization, company, or family, and performing actions that help the world develop, no matter on how small a scale that might be.

Everyone on Earth has a role to play in the creation of our future. That is what you are here for – to help fulfill your personal vision and mission while also contributing to the development of the world. That is how important you are.  

So the next time someone remarks that the writing is on the wall and that we should just accept that we have no say in how the world evolves, please remember that we are all architects of our own future, which hasn’t even been written yet. How it will be written depends on the actions every one of us takes every day. Therefore, the question we should be asking ourselves every day is, what kind of future will we build? And then, of course, after answering this question, we should not waste any time in building that future we have envisioned.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

How Humans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Death – Article by Jaeson Booker

How Humans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Death – Article by Jaeson Booker

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Jaeson Booker


Okay, for this, we have to go back. Way, way back. Before we made history, before we made civilization, before we humans did a lot of things. We may not have even been fully human at the time this happened. But at some point, we became self-aware. This process probably took some time, I doubt it was an “AH-HA!” moment that suddenly changed everything. But we then had the ability to comprehend ourselves: to view ourselves as an independent entity, separate from others, and could reflect on this. And, amid all of this self-revelation, with so many new existential possibilities, we got mauled by a second revelation: we saw other people dying. They got old, they got sick, they stopped moving, and then other animals and bugs started eating them (or, perhaps, we were the ones doing the eating; see “Cannibalism Normal for Early Humans?” by John Roach, National Geographic News, April 10, 2003). And we acknowledged that they were like us, that we one day would meet the same fate.

Well… that sucks. All of this possibility, all of these questions, a whole world to explore, and it turns out we’ll cease to exist before we get to experience even a small fraction of it. Damn. Well… what can be done of it? This question, as soon as humans figured out more advanced communication, was probably many times on their minds. From here, there seem to be three routes.

The first and most depressing, yet also the most pragmatic at the time: accept it and enjoy the time you have. “S**t happens. There ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.” This prospect was probably hard for many to face, causing them to try not to think about it instead (a habit many people still have today). But at the same time, it was probably the only realistic-seeming prospect for some time. Death happens. What can be done of it? No use feeling bad about something that can’t be controlled. Are you going to throw a fit every time it rains?

The second, and easiest to adopt: telling yourself it’s not true. Acknowledging you and everyone you love won’t exist one day is a tough pill to swallow, a pill many don’t want to take. But if nothing can be done about it, the only way around the pill is either ignoring death or believing differently. Over time, believing differently got easier and easier. It probably wasn’t done intentionally, but any idea we might not die when we shed our mortal coil probably spread faster than smallpox. Flowers came back every spring, after ‘dying’: where did you go? Trees went stark and bare, but came back to full health in the spring. How do we know this doesn’t happen to humans? Perhaps we were in our winter, and one day, human spring would come, and all the dead humans would sprout back up like daisies.

Over time, the resurrection pill probably went from easy-to-swallow to a-bit-more-difficult-to-swallow. Generations passed, with the stories being told, but human spring never came. We understood that seeds were the reason plants came back, and that it wasn’t an actual resurrection after all. And if you chopped-down a tree, it didn’t turn green next year. This is all speculation, of course, but at some point humans invented a concept that fixed this: the soul pill.

Ah, the soul, man’s best friend. Suddenly the body had nothing to do with all of those things people really cared about. All of those things humans tied so closely with their identity: emotions, reason, consciousness itself, all of these things the soul had covered for us. You could get pierced by a sword, fall off a cliff, be burned in a forest fire, but none of these perils could kill a soul. Whatever happened, no matter how bad things got, you were, ultimately, okay – because your soul would live on. To quote the Iron Giant: “Souls don’t die”.  Ah, death, thou shalt die at last.

But after a while, things started to change. We were starting to learn a lot, and a bunch of the earlier myths were turning-out to be false. Lightning wasn’t the wrath of any deity, the sky didn’t lead to any spirit world, humans weren’t created by anything but instead evolved, and a whole lot of the things we associated with “the soul” could be explained by a thing called a brain. Worse still, when this brain was changed, so did our personality. (See the Wikipedia entry on Phineas Gage.) This was depressing for many who saw the signs. And that soul pill, once so easy to swallow, was becoming harder and harder to get all the way down.

Which brings us to where you walked in. Many of us are still having issues with that soul pill, but many still don’t want to swallow that “we’re all gonna cease to exist” pill. For those who rejected the soul pill, many instantly grabbed a glass of water and hurriedly swallowed the other pill. They were proud of swallowing that tough pill, and annoyed with those struggling with the soul pill for not being brave-enough to do what they did. They found new ways to discover meaning, despite knowing they would die. Death was natural. Population had to be kept under control. They could live on through other means: their children, their legacy, the people they helped. The last thing these tough-pill-swallowers wanted to do was regurgitate something that had been so hard to get down in the first place. Which is why both types of pill-takers really hate the third pill.

The third pill: actually doing something about it. This solution had started around the time of the other two, but after a brief flare-up of popularity, had quickly died down due to failing to produce any results. Magic, the philosopher’s stone (the dream of the alchemists), blood sacrifices, breathing the air of virgins, and cannibalization of the young: these were all very embarrassing failures of this pill. After these blunders, no one really wanted anything to do with it anymore. And this is how things stayed for a long time. But even though the mentality toward this solution has stayed relatively the same for a long time, it’s potential was slowly changing. We were starting to understand how the body worked, and improve people’s health. We learned we were made up of these tiny things called cells, and that those cells were manufactured using even smaller things called DNA and RNA. And with all of this new-found knowledge, many were starting to wonder if discarding the third pill might have been a bit premature.

Up until very recently, the response has not been very nice to advocates of the Do-Something-About-It pill. And even today, there are many who call such advocates insane, immoral, greedy, and anything else you that’s meant to sound bad or misguided. The advocates of the soul-pill and the tough-pill could finally agree that this other pill had to go. Religions declared such aspirations evil and against God’s will. Scientists worked hard to separate themselves from these advocates as much as possible, not wanting to be lumped in with what sounded to many like some sort of icky cult.

So, the swallowers of the first two pills march forward, parading ideas of death and aging being natural, that seeking anything else is wrong and selfish, and we should just accept our situation. It is these two pills that have enabled people to justify a holocaust that is occurring every day – a holocaust that will one day claim us all, unless the third pill is ever swallowed and digested properly by humanity. Aging has killed more than all wars, famines, and plagues combined, yet most march onward, without making any attempts to halt it. Governments invest in fighting cancer, heart disease, and countless other ailments—ignoring the underlying cause of most of these problems, which is aging itself. Every year, there are drives for charities to fight different cancers, entire months and hues devoted to some (See “Pink porta-potty fundraiser aimed at flushing breast cancer“, CBC News, October 2, 2017), yet none toward combating aging. People stake trillions of dollars toward remedies to make them look younger, but almost none to aiding the effort of actually making them younger. They plan out their wills, their life insurance, and their funerals, but ignore opportunities to preserve themselves (for instance, cryopreservation, as offered by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation or the Cryonics Institute) for a chance to keep living, even if it is more affordable than they think.

But, despite the opposition, this solution has been making progress. We have seen progress in stem cells (“Anti-aging stem cell treatment proves successful in early human trials” by Rich Haridy, New Atlas, October 23, 2017 ), biotechnology (“A Silicon Valley scientist and entrepreneur who invented a drug to explode double chins is now working on a cure for aging” by Nikhil Swaminathan, Quartz, January 6, 2017), and machine learning used to better understand the aging process and how to treat it (“Artificial Intelligence uncovers anti-aging plant extracts” – Press Release by Insilico Medicine, October 31, 2017). The third pill is getting more and more enticing. Many older people, having swallowed one of the first two pills decades ago, have no desire to change their existential outlook now. But many younger ones, those who have not yet chosen a pill, and finding the other two inadequate, are starting to wonder if the third pill is for them. Time will tell which pill will ultimately win out, if any, but for now, for the first time ever in human history, the Do-Something-About-It Pill has an actual chance to shine and show what it is truly capable of.

Jaeson Booker is a software development engineer who has worked as a journalist. He earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Political Science from Salisbury University, a Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) degree in Molecular Biology from the Texas A&M Univerisity in Corpus Christi, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Wilmington University.