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New Decade’s Message for the 2020s by USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II

New Decade’s Message for the 2020s by USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II


As 2019 draws to a close, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, expresses hope that humankind will emerge from the “Crazy Years” and offers ten concrete resolutions for human achievement during the 2020s. This message was recorded on December 31, 2019, and is available for viewing here.

As 2019 draws to a close, let us bid farewell and good riddance to a decade which could, in retrospect be referred to using the prophetic Robert Heinlein term, “The Crazy Years” – a turbulent, conflicted decade during which, while glimmers of hope appeared on multiple fronts of technological advancement, society and culture have clearly declined due to the rise of incivility, tribalism, authoritarianism, identity politics, and mass breakdowns of sanity. It is no secret that I had hoped for humankind to have been farther along the path of advancement by now than it has actually come. The great conflict of our decade – between the marvels that have been built by the creative and rational higher faculties of the human mind and the biases, fallacies, vulnerabilities, and atrocities spawned by its darkest evolved recesses – between the Apollonian heights and the Dionysian depths of human nature – will carry on into the 2020s and perhaps beyond. To win this conflict, those of us who desire a brighter future need to advocate for more progress, faster innovation, greater rationality, higher standards of civility and morality, and a long-term outlook that seeks to cultivate the best in human beings.

As the winds of fortune shift, some of us individually will rise, and others will fall. This certainly was the case this past decade. In so many respects, for me, it has been marked by colossal achievements and improvements, but also tectonic shifts in my own life which were not of my initiative – to which I needed to respond and adapt and preserve what I valued in the aftermath. Reflecting back on the end of 2009, and comparing it to today, I realize that absolutely everything about the circumstances of my life is now different… and yet I myself am essentially the same. I believe that it is this core of myself, this fundamentally constant and consistent identity, which has carried me through the crises and enabled me to defy adversity and arise stronger every time – to pursue new endeavors and take on new roles while remaining the same essential individual, to learn from the empirical evidence before me while maintaining the same convictions and understanding of the good. The events of the 2010s have illustrated for me that, indeed, peace and stability in life must ultimately come from within – although it is not a matter of withdrawal into the self or mere self-affirmation, as some popular creeds would claim. Rather, it is the self that must devise and implement solutions to the crises of the day while pursuing consistent improvement in as many dimensions as possible, and preserving that essential core intact.

It is beyond our power to live a decade over again, but we can harness the best of its aftermath and turn the coming decade into a superior and more rational one. Some of us will create resolutions as individuals, and then pursue plans of varying degrees of specificity and likelihood of success. But perhaps it is best to consider the resolutions we would wish to have for humankind as a whole. It is all well and good, of course, to wish for progress and prosperity, but it is also well-known that the resolutions which have the greatest likelihood of succeeding are those which are accompanied by concrete indicators of fulfillment. Therefore, I propose the following ten resolutions for humankind during the decade of the 2020s, which will enable us to empirically identify whether or not they have been fulfilled at the decade’s end.

  1. Construct the next world’s tallest building – because humankind must always reach higher.
  2. Build a base on the Moon – because it is time to colonize other worlds.
  3. Land a human on Mars – because it is time to expand beyond our orbit.
  4. Establish the first fully operational seastead communities – because it is time for human habitation to expand beyond land and for jurisdictional experimentation to resume in earnest.
  5. Have at least one person live beyond 120 years again – mathematically possible given that 10 of today’s supercentenarians are 114 or older; it is time to begin to approach Jeanne Calment’s longevity record of 122 years once more.
  6. Cut all world nuclear-weapon stockpiles in half – more than this has been done before, and so this is really quite a modest goal, but it is imperative to reverse the trajectory of the current arms race. Complete nuclear disarmament by all powers would, of course, be preferable, to finally dispel the “MAD” cloud of annihilation looming over our species.
  7. Compose 100 tonal symphonies – because it is time to rediscover beauty.
  8. Develop medically effective cures for every type of cancer – because, really, it is decades past time.
  9. End the decade with 50 percent of all vehicles on the road at level 2 autonomy or greater – because road deaths are a travesty and should become a relic of a barbaric past.
  10. Experience at least one year in which no country is at war with any other, with “war” including armed insurgencies and terrorist attacks – because national, ethnic, religious, and ideological warfare needs to be relegated to the past.

Of course, there are many worthwhile objectives not encompassed above, and it is my hope that efforts to reach those goals will also advance in parallel. You may have a list of ten resolutions for humankind that differs from mine, but they may be compatible nonetheless. The overarching aim, however, is to restore humanity’s much-needed confidence in progress, to emerge from the postmodern swamp of self-doubt and deconstruction and return to the heights of ennobling ambition and creation. Concrete benchmarks to track our progress can also serve the dual purpose of motivating people everywhere to undertake great tasks. A certain President has expressed the desire to make America great again, but I would venture to say that he has not selected the proper means for doing so. I challenge everyone during the next decade to make the world great again and demonstrate that the most impressive achievements and the most lasting solutions to our age-old problems are still to come. This is the message of transhumanism, and I hope that it can become the theme of the next decade – so that when I speak to you again at the decade’s end, we can reflect upon the wonders that have been built.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Apply here in less than a minute. 

From Darwinian Greed to Altruistic Greed: the Strangest Period So Far in Our Planet’s History – Article by Hilda Koehler

From Darwinian Greed to Altruistic Greed: the Strangest Period So Far in Our Planet’s History – Article by Hilda Koehler

Hilda Koehler


We are smack-dab in the middle of what might be the oddest period of our planet’s history thus far. The last 200 years have seen more rapid technological and scientific advancement than all the 3.5 billion prior years of life on Earth combined. And that technological progress is set to increase even more exponentially within our lifetimes. In the span of my grandmother’s life, humanity has put a man on the Moon, and now we’re having serious discussions about Moon bases and terraforming Mars to start a colony there. Within my own life thus far, I’ve gone from using a dial-up box-shaped computer in my kindergarten years to learning about the exponential progress made in quantum computing and the invention of a material that could potentially be a non-organic substrate to download human thoughts into.

I think that John L. Smart is essentially correct in the theories he puts force in his evolutionary-developmental (“EvoDevo”) transcension hypothesis. There seems to be a kind of biological Moore’s law that applies to human intelligence. If you chart the developments in human evolution from 200,000 years ago till the present, the jump from hunting and gathering to civilization occurred at an immensely fast rate. And the subsequent jump from pre-scientific civilization to the contemporary technological age has been the most astronomical one thus far. And with that astronomical jump in humanity’s technological progress has come an incredible leap in humanity’s moral progress.

The irony of our strange epoch

One of the most ironic aspects about the current climate crisis I like to point out is this: thank goodness that the climate crisis is happening now, and not in the 1500s. That seems like a rather ironic or even flippant thing to say. But thank goodness that the two greatest existential threats to all sentient life on Earth, the existence of nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and global warming, are occurring in the 21st century. Because we are living in a time period where democracies are the most common political model across the globe. Public protests such as those led by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg’s climate strike movement have proliferated across the globe. Can you imagine what would have happened if this order of climate catastrophe had occurred a thousand years ago, when monarchies were the default political model? Can you imagine what would happen if you had tyrannical monarchies across the globe, with kings and lords as the primary stakeholders in climate-destroying corporations? It doesn’t seem likely that Greta Thunberg and her ilk would have made much progress in pushing for a pro-climate action zeitgeist in a regime where criticizing the reigning monarch automatically meant decapitation.

Furthermore, we’re extremely fortunate to be living in an era where science is accelerating fast enough to pioneer carbon-capture technology, and more recently, the geoengineering as a viable solution. To paraphrase Michio Kaku, “the dinosaurs got wiped out by the meteor shower; but they didn’t have advanced technology which could detect and disintegrate meteors long before they enter the Earth’s orbit. That’s something current human beings can work on building.” The same is true of the current scramble for climate engineers to churn out anti-pollution and temperature-lowering technologies.

How the technological pursuit of a post-scarcity world is encourages altruism and egalitarianism

I often write about how the last 150 years of global society have seen an exponential jump in the perpetuation of universal human rights. And that’s because it’s nothing short of amazing. Most of the world’s major civilizations which had political and economically subjugated women, ethnic minorities, and the working class for the past 6,000 years suddenly had a change of heart overnight, seemingly. It’s no coincidence that the proliferation of universal civil rights and the criminalization of interpsersonal violence against women and minorities coincided with the Post-Industrial Revolution. As resource scarcity has been drastically reduced in the contemporary technological era, so, too, has the Darwinian impetus towards domination and subjugation of minority groups.

We have shifted from a violent Darwinian greed in the form of the colonization of minority groups, to a kind of altruistic greed. Altruistic greed is characterized by an unabetting desire for ever-higher qualities of life; but which can be made widely available to the masses. The clearest example of this is the advent of modern healthcare, beginning with the mass administration of vaccinations for diseases like polio. As Steven Pinker points out, infant mortality rates and deaths from child birth have plummeted throughout that world in the last 50 years. Across the world, the proliferation of technological infrastructure has made public transport systems faster and safer than they ever were before. Altruistic greed is a major driving force for many in the transhumanist community. Most transhumanists are advocates of making radical life extension and cutting edge medical therapies affordable and accessible to everyone. The fundamental driving principle behind transhumanism is that humanity can transcend its biological limitations through rapid technological advancement; but the benefits reaped must be made as accessible as possible.

A reason often cited by nihilists who say that we should accept human extinction is on the grounds that human beings hold the glaring track record of being the most gut-wrenchingly cruel of all the species on Earth. This is empirically and philosophically indisputable. No other species shares a historical laundry list of genocide campaigns, slavery, rape, domestic abuse, and egregious socio-economic inequality on par with human beings.

But since the post-World War II era, something miraculous happened. We became kind and peaceful; and this impetus towards kindness and peace proliferated globally. After 10,000 years of treating women as the property of their husbands, it became possible for women to get voted into positions of power across the globe, and marital rape became criminalized in an increasing number of countries. After 10,000 years of holding corporal punishment as an essential part of child-rearing in nearly every human society, an increasing number of democracies have begun to enact child-abuse laws against striking children.

We still have long ways to go.

Sweatshop labor exploitation and the sex trafficking of females remain major human-rights issues today. But an increasing number of international law bodies and humanitarian groups are cracking down on them and fighting to eradicate them permanently. They are no longer seen as “business as usual” practices that are essential parts of human society which shouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye; despite the fact that slavery has been a staple institution of nearly every civilization for the last ten millennia.

There are, of course, many aspects of ethical progress in which human beings are still lagging sorely behind, besides human trafficking. Although wars are far less common and less glamorized than they were in millennia past, conflicts are still raging on in Congo, and dictatorial regimes still exist. Income inequality is now greater than it was at any other time in human history. Another of the great ironies of the contemporary technological era is that we now produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, but there are still 795 million people in the world suffering from malnutrition. As much as 40% of all the food we produce is wasted unnecessarily.

The exploitation of animals and the thoughtless destruction of their habitats is one respect in which humanity has actually backslid in terms of ethical progress in the last 70 years. Since the Industrial Revolution and the explosion of the human population, humans have radically decimated the earth’s natural biomass, and one million species are now facing the threat of extinction due to human industrial activity.

Nevertheless, one hopes that Steven Pinker is essentially correct in his assessment of humanity’s rapid moral growth over the last 200 years. It could be said that it’s not necessarily the case that primates are inherently more predisposed to cruelty than all other species. Rape, infanticide, and killing rival males during mating season are common amongst many species of birds, reptiles, and mammals, as David Pearce points out. It’s just that human beings have the capacity to inflict exponential amounts on damage on other humans and animals because of our exceptional intelligence. Intelligence makes possible exploitation. Human intelligence has allowed us to exploit other human beings and sentient beings for millennia. But human intelligence is what has also enabled us to radically improve healthcare, longevity, and universal human rights across the globe.

The long history of suffering endured by sentient life on Earth is why the far-flung topic of technological resurrection is a major point of discussion amongst transhumanists. We believe that all sentient creatures which have endured considerable physical suffering, manmade or naturally-inflicted, deserve a second shot at life in the name of humanitarian justice.

There’s still much room for progress.

At present we seem to be entering a bottleneck era where we might have to drastically reduce our currently excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources, in light of the current climate crisis. The good news is that a growing number of us are realizing the looming existential threat of climate change and doubling down on combating it, as I’d mentioned earlier. The even better news is that an increasing number of bioethicists, particularly in the transhumanist movement, are now touting a permanent solution to the worst of humanity’s selfish, overly aggressive monkey-brain impulses. This seems to be just in the nick of time, given that this coincides with an era where humanity has access to nuclear arms capable of obliterating all life on Earth with the press of a Big Red Button.

My biggest hope for humanity is not only that our exponential technological progress will persist, but that our ethical and altruistic progress will continue in tandem with it. We have gotten to a stage of technological development where the forces of nature have become almost entirely subjugated, and our own impetus towards aggression has become the single greatest existential threat. It could be that every single sufficiently advanced alien civilization that is capable of exploiting all the natural resources on its home planets or inventing WMDs is eventually forced to cognitively recondition itself towards pacifism and altruism.

There is an ongoing debate in the existential-risk movement about whether or not SETI or METI could be unintentionally endangering all life on Earth by attempting to make contact with alien civilizations several orders of magnitude more advanced than ours. The analogy commonly cited is how the first European explorers of the Americas massacred scores of indigenous tribespeople who didn’t have guns. But the opposite could also be true. It could be that once other alien civilizations achieve a post-scarcity global economy, the neurobiological Darwinian impetus to colonize less developed groups gets steadily replaced by an altruistic impetus to ensure the survival and flourishing of all sentient species on that planet. We can’t tell for sure until we meet another alien species. But on our part, we’ve yet to ride out the tidal wave of the strangest period of Earth’s history. As we take our next steps forward into a radically different phase of human civilization, we gain an ever greater ability to control our own development as a species. Here’s to Pinker’s hope that we’re going in the right direction, and will do our best to head that way indefinitely.

Hilda Koehler is a fourth-year political science major at the National University of Singapore. She is a proud supporter of the transhumanist movement and aims to do her best to promote transhumanism and progress towards the Singularity.

Test-Tube Tomato Still-Life – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Test-Tube Tomato Still-Life – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Ekaterinya Vladinakova


 

“Test-Tube Tomato Still-Life” 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

Terraforming of Mars – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

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Ekaterinya Vladinakova


 

“Terraforming of Mars” 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.