Bobby Ridge, Secretary-Treasurer of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, and Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, provide a broad “big-picture” overview of transhumanism and major ongoing and future developments in emerging technologies that present the potential to revolutionize the human condition and resolve the age-old perils and limitations that have plagued humankind.
This is a beginners’ overview of transhumanism – which means that it is for everyone, including those who are new to transhumanism and the life-extension movement, as well as those who have been involved in it for many years – since, when it comes to dramatically expanding human longevity and potential, we are all beginners at the beginning of what could be our species’ next great era.
Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside.
Editor’s Note: In this article, Keith Comito and Elena Milova positively discuss new a FDA regulatory framework on RMAT (regenerative medicine advanced therapies) and on how it benefits the healthy-life-extension community. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).
~ Kenneth Alum, Director of Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, March 3, 2018
The first draft guidance addresses how the FDA intends to optimize its regulatory requirements for devices used in the recovery, isolation, and delivery of RMATs (regenerative medicine advanced therapies), including combination products.
The second document explains what expedited programs may be available to sponsors of regenerative medicine therapies and describes what therapies may be eligible for RMAT designation.
According to new FDA regulations, a drug is eligible for designation as an RMAT if:
The drug is a regenerative medicine therapy, which is defined as a cell therapy, therapeutic tissue engineering product, human cell and tissue product, or any combination product using such therapies or products, except for those regulated solely under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act and part 1271 of Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations;
The drug is intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition; and
Preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug has the potential to address unmet medical needs for such disease or condition
We hope that this joint project will support the improvement of US regulations that concern these innovative treatments and will make the overall regulatory landscape more friendly. Below, we cite the most important notes from our resulting paper.
Last week, the Niskanen Center joined with the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation in filing comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), offering our support for the agency’s new regenerative medicine advanced therapy (RMAT) designation draft guidance for industry.
Although there are opportunities for marginal improvements to the guidance, and FDA approval processes more generally, we are happy to see that the agency chose to include gene therapies in its interpretation of what qualifies as a regenerative medicine therapy.
Under section 3033 of the 21st Century Cures Act, the FDA was tasked with developing an accelerated approval process for regenerative advanced therapies. Such therapies would qualify for expedited review and approval so long as the drug (a) met the definition of a regenerative medicine therapy, (b) was “intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious condition,” and (c) “has the potential to address unmet medical needs” for a serious disease or condition. Unfortunately, the bill’s definition of a regenerative medicine advanced therapy was unclear on whether gene therapies, in particular, would qualify. Luckily, the FDA clarified this point. As the RMAT guidance document notes:
gene therapies, including genetically modified cells, that lead to a durable modification of cells or tissues may meet the definition of a regenerative medicine therapy. Additionally, a combination product (biologic-device, biologic-drug, or biologic-device-drug) can be eligible for RMAT designation when the biological product component provides the greatest contribution to the overall intended therapeutic effects of the combination product.
This is an excellent development and one that portends immense benefits for future gene therapy applications submitted for FDA approval. According to the guidance, the new RMAT designation, unlike other fast-track approval and review processes, “does not require evidence to indicate that the drug may offer a substantial improvement over available therapies.” Liberalizing the threshold standards of evidence for RMAT designation ensures that future gene therapies will encounter fewer unnecessary roadblocks in delivering more effective and innovative treatments for individuals suffering from debilitating diseases.
As we note in our concluding remarks:
Overall, we consider the RMAT guidance to be a stellar improvement over other expedited programs, especially in its qualifying criteria. However, greater clarity is needed in order to capture the benefits of more advanced cell therapies that can help contribute to the healthy aging and well-being of American citizens. As FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently noted: “The benefits of [gene therapy] science—and the products that become available—are likely to accelerate. How we define the modern framework for safely advancing these opportunities will determine whether we’re able to fully realize the benefits that these new technologies can offer.”
We agree wholeheartedly. Developing a regulatory framework that accommodates safety and innovation will be a key determinant of how quickly the benefits of regenerative medicine, gene therapy, and anti-aging research revolutionize the lives of Americans. This guidance is an important and promising step in the right direction. With the right modifications, it can help usher in a new age of healthcare improvement for individuals from all walks of life.
As a devoted advocate of rejuvenation technologies since 2013, Elena is providing the community with a systemic vision how aging is affecting our society. Her research interests include global and local policies on aging, demographic changes, public perception of the application of rejuvenation technologies to prevent age-related diseases and extend life, and related public concerns. Elena is a co-author of the book “Aging prevention for all” (in Russian, 2015) and the organizer of multiple educational events helping the general public adopt the idea of eventually bringing aging under medical control.
About Keith Comito
Keith Comito is President of LEAF / Lifespan.io and a long-time advocate of longevity research. He is also a computer programmer, mathematician, musician, lover of life and perhaps a man with too many hobbies. He earned a B.S. in Mathematics, B.S. in Computer science, and M.S. in Applied Mathematics at Hofstra University, where his work included analysis of the LMNA protein.
About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)
In 2014, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting increased healthy human lifespan through fiscally sponsoring longevity research projects and raising awareness regarding the societal benefits of life extension. In 2015 they launched Lifespan.io, the first nonprofit crowdfunding platform focused on the biomedical research of aging.
They believe that this will enable the general public to influence the pace of research directly. To date they have successfully supported four research projects aimed at investigating different processes of aging and developing therapies to treat age-related diseases.
The LEAF team organizes educational events, takes part in different public and scientific conferences, and actively engages with the public on social media in order to help disseminate this crucial information. They initiate public dialogue aimed at regulatory improvement in the fields related to rejuvenation biotechnology.
U.S. Transhumanist Party / Institute of Exponential Sciences Discussion Panel on Cryptocurrencies
Gennady Stolyarov II Demian Zivkovic Chantha Lueung Laurens Wes Moritz Bierling
On Sunday, February 18, 2018, the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Institute of Exponential Sciences hosted an expert discussion panel on how cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based technologies will possibly affect future economies and everyday life. Panelists were asked about their views regarding what is the most significant promise of cryptocurrencies, as well as what are the most significant current obstacles to its realization.
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, and Demian Zivkovic, President of the Institute of Exponential Sciences, are the moderators for this panel.
Moritz Bierling, in his work for Exosphere Academy – a learning and problem-solving community – has organized a Space Elevator bootcamp, an Artificial Intelligence conference, and an Ethereum training course while also authoring a Primer on the emerging discipline of Alternate Reality Design. As Blockchain Reporter for the Berlin blockchain startup Neufund, he has educated the city’s Venture Capital and startup scene, as well as the broader public on the applications of this groundbreaking technology. His work has appeared in a number of blockchain-related and libertarian media outlets such as CoinTelegraph, The Freeman’s Perspective, Bitcoin.com, and the School Sucks Project. See his website at MoritzBierling.com.
Chantha Lueung is the creator of Crypto-city.com, which is a social-media website focused on building the future world of cryptocurrencies by connecting crypto-enthusiasts and the general public about cryptocurrencies. He is a full-time trader and also participates in the HyperStake coin project, which is a Bitcoin alternative that uses the very energy-efficient Proof of Stake protocol, also known as POS.
Laurens Wes is a Dutch engineer and chief engineering officer at the Institute of Exponential Sciences. Furthermore he is the owner of Intrifix, a company focused on custom 3D-printed products and software solutions. He has also studied Artificial Intelligence and is very interested in transhumanism, longevity, entrepreneurship, cryptocurrencies/blockchain technology, and art (and a lot more). He is a regular speaker for the IES and is very committed to educating the public on accelerated technological developments and exponential sciences.
The YouTube question/comment chat for this Q&A session has been archived here and is also provided below.
Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.
The U.S. Transhumanist Party is pleased to announce its alliance with the Institute for Education, Research, and Scholarships (IFERS). Visit the website of IFERS here. See the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s page of Allied Organizations.
Established in 2004, the Institute for Education, Research, and Scholarships (IFERS) is an award-winning California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity organization dedicated to improving society by providing resources to high-achieving students, scientific researchers, community nonprofit projects, and educational organizations. IFERS believes in changing the world for the better through education, research, and scholarships. Its ultimate goal is to create a better world with lasting peace, prosperity, and universal rights for all.
I am also the founding chairman of the California Transhumanist Party since 2017. We support (1) significant life extension and quality of life improvement achieved through the progress of science and technology, (2) an inclusive cultural, societal, and political atmosphere informed and animated by reason and science to foster peace, prosperity, and universal rights for all, and (3) efforts to use science, technology, and rational discourse to reduce and eliminate various existential risks to the human species.
We look forward to collaborations with IFERS on worthwhile projects that U.S. Transhumanist Party members will be able to participate in so as to advance scientific and technological education and research in order to accelerate the arrival of a brighter future for as many people as possible.
California Transhumanist Party Leadership Meeting – Presentation by Newton Lee and Discussion on Transhumanist Political Efforts
Newton Lee Gennady Stolyarov II Bobby Ridge Charlie Kam
The California Transhumanist Party held its inaugural Leadership Meeting on January 27, 2018. Newton Lee, Chairman of the California Transhumanist Party and Education and Media Advisor of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, outlined the three Core Ideals of the California Transhumanist Party (modified versions of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Core Ideals), the forthcoming book “Transhumanism: In the Image of Humans” – which he is curating and which will contain essays from leading transhumanist thinkers in a variety of realms, and possibilities for outreach, future candidates, and collaboration with the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Transhumanist Parties in other States. U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II contributed by providing an overview of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s current operations and possibilities for running or endorsing candidates for office in the coming years.
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.
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.
Review of Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting” by Adam Alonzi
“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.
Generating Transhumanist Enlightenment in Nigeria: Reflections from a Transhumanist Presentation at the 2017 Convention of the Atheist Society of Nigeria – Report by Ojochogwu Abdul
The Atheist Society of Nigeria (ASN), an organization with the groundbreaking record of being the first secular group to achieve official registration in Nigeria, recently recorded another first by hosting the ASN Convention on 11th November 2017, the first event of its kind in Nigeria. Among the guest speakers featured at the Convention were Bill Flavell, Vice President of the Atheist Alliance International (AAI), Roslyn Mould, Chair of the African Working Group, International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organization (IHEYO), and Leo Igwe, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria (HAN). Also featured as speaker was myself, Chogwu Abdul, Co-Founder of the Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria (H+FN) and United States Transhumanist Party (USTP) Foreign Ambassador for Nigeria, and I eventually presented a talk on the topic: “Merging the Human Brain with Computer: Implications for the Future of Humanity.” The talk focused primarily on the rising phenomenon of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs), but also broadly on the movement and philosophy of transhumanism as the general idea within which BCIs are contained.
As a transhumanist with a manifest interest in promoting the philosophy across Nigeria, and hopefully, throughout the African Continent, the presenter took the lecture as an opportunity to introduce the concept of transhumanism to a broad audience and initiate a discourse on the cultural, scientific, and philosophical movement within the public space of Nigeria. The reception given to the presentation at the Convention was seemingly warm, and some good interest was generated and expressed. But the work, realistically, is only just beginning, and practically speaking there is still so much to be done and perhaps millions of miles to go before transhumanism can go mainstream in Nigerian society – although it is the personal and sincere hope of this writer that the turn of events prove such a prediction wrong and the changes get to happen faster than expected.
At present, however, transhumanism is simply much of an unknown idea in Nigeria, with very few in the country having heard about the word or even knowing what it means. And even when some technologies or practices related to transhumanism, for example genetic engineering and biomedical engineering are proposed or seem to gradually find a way into Nigerian society, much resistance is witnessed, especially as presented by religious conservatives. Nigeria, if it must be said, is at it stands a very religious environment, and so far religious beliefs and attitudes indisputably hold much sway over the thought and lives of multitudes across the country, at least for the time being. Religious conservatism is at present therefore rife, and a lot that goes with scientific thinking still struggles from the margins, faced by challenges in trying to reach wider acceptance and influence.
However, there is, at least as perceived and discerned by some trend observers, something of a silent revolution gradually taking place across the country. Some have called this the slow dawning of a long-awaited mental awakening, one in which an increasing number of Nigerians, especially the current youth generation, are gradually becoming more embracing of critical thinking, science, rationalism, and secular reasoning. Much that goes with the manifestation of this trend is to be found on the Nigerian social media, where a secular community has been emerging and becoming increasingly vocal in challenging dominant conservative religious beliefs and practices, while at the same time promoting science, rationalism, and critical thinking. Secular humanism could be perceived as having found something of a confident foothold in Nigeria, and this gradual mental shift provides cause to hope that transhumanism could find a springboard and fertile ground from which to launch, grow, and spread across the country.
And then there is also that stubborn challenge of technological backwardness suffered by the country and much of Africa, which is yet another impediment that cannot be ignored in evaluating the transhumanist promotion task and prospects in this part of the world. The state of scientific and technological development in Nigeria is relatively (and realistically speaking) poor. Investments in research and development for science, technology, and even health have so far remained floated and struggling at very low points; technological infrastructure across the country is either absent, degrading, or fails to meet up with global standards, and much of the country’s finest minds in science, technology, and medicine are either already resident in foreign countries or are seriously working towards joining the exodus and brain drain flowing in the direction of the Nigerian Diaspora. For reasons as these, much that exists as a technological presence in the country mostly is available as a result of technology transfer, imported into Nigeria from foreign climes, and with quite a number of them arriving at the nation’s shores not as state-of-the-art, cutting edge innovations, but more as outdated technologies which represent a stage, away from which the exporting country has made or is already making noticeable progress.
Technological development therefore remains a key factor to be addressed in Nigeria for the transhumanist vision to gain foundations upon which to thrive, and this was highlighted in the presentation at the Convention. As a matter of encouragement though, there are, however, indications which give cause to expect some coming changes in the technological condition and fortunes of the country and Africa generally as a Continent. These indications derive from the growing number of tech-themed workshops, seminars, conferences, innovation hubs, and tech start-ups that are gradually but steadily exploding across Nigeria and a number of African countries. The Continent’s youths are becoming audaciously innovative and entrepreneurial, and more are doing so through developing homegrown technological solutions as responses to local problems. Such interventions are giving rise to a movement of indigenous innovation, and if this trend continues and gains sufficient support, then one could be cautiously optimistic enough to anticipate that it should only be a matter of time before versions of a host of emerging and converging technologies (nanotech, biotech, infotech, cognitive science and neurotech, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics, biomedical engineering, etc.), get developed within local African contexts and as best suited for the African condition. Moreover, interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education and STEM-related enterprise is gaining a fresh boost, the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation unveils very talented engineers and innovations from across sub-Saharan Africa yearly, and a very unique project by the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) known as the Next Einstein Initiative (NEI), which has been on course for over a decade now and has among its objectives the actualization of a scientific revolution in Africa, further provides a great vista for reasonable hope. Several young, bright Nigerian (male and female) scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, among their counterparts from other African countries, are seriously involved in this AIMS-NEI programme, undertaking research, and pleasantly enough, are breaking new grounds in several STEM-related fields.
The combination thereof, of a fledgling secularism and rational thinking culture with an emerging consciousness and demonstration for scientific and technological development in contemporary Nigeria, can be leveraged upon by transhumanists as strategic factors making for a more possible environment, as that opportunity of a slight opening in the door which could and should be seized upon to kick the doors open even wider for transhumanist thinking, technologies and practices to pour in and ubiquitously find their way into the Nigerian space.
The presentation on BCIs made at the 2017 ASN Convention was meant to create an awareness among Nigerians with regards to the state of movements in transhumanist thought, and to stir the people into action in connecting the now helpfully available threads of rational thinking, creative imagination, science, technology, and enterprise into the fabric of a transhumanist culture which would yield much progress for Nigerian society and human life. The response to this nudging – though it is yet early in the day to clearly tell – has so far been encouraging.
There are some of us here in Africa who believe that the Continent is currently going through an African Renaissance and as well stands at the thresholds of a Scientific Revolution. Some of us are also plugged in to other parts of the globe enough at least to be aware that there is present talk of a Second Enlightenment and a coming Fourth Industrial Revolution, aspects of an emerging, global transhumanist civilization, and to which bringing Africa up to speed should be a major concern. There are indeed several stages in the march of human civilization (for example, the European Enlightenment Era and the First and Second Industrial Revolutions) which Africa neither “positively” nor “proactively” participated in, and for which Africa can no longer afford the luxury of time in going through them again at this point in history, for what the Continent currently pragmatically needs is nothing short of a giant leap through the aid mostly of technology, if it must, as it obviously has to, catch up with the rate of advancement of the rest of the world.
Connecting the trajectory of Africa’s unfolding Renaissance and burgeoning scientific revolution to the dimensions of the Second Enlightenment, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and generally the transhumanist civilization through technology, education, enterprise, and any other agency necessary, thus should become the logical cause and big picture inspiring the transhumanist project in Nigeria and Africa within the 21st Century. For this objective then, and in these parts of our planet, the adoption and indigenous innovation of emerging technologies associated with and promoted by the transhumanist movement are to attract deliberate emphasis as the core of this vision and narrative. This is pertinent, for should humankind eventually evolve into a new, posthuman species, then the peoples of the continent from which Homo Sapiens originated, Africa, need not, and must not be left behind in this great transformative event.
The group currently known as the Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria (H+FN), or by any other name with which it shall be formally recognized in the near future, has therefore set out on the task of spreading transhumanist enlightenment and engaging the Nigerian public with transhumanist discourse, and from this to hopefully progress into helping forge a strong and effective transhumanist network across the African Continent. The work, we can say, has sincerely begun.
Co-Founder, Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria
USTP Foreign Ambassador for Nigeria
Second Enlightenment Salon – Gennady Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge, and Scott Jurgens Discuss the Convergence of Technological Advances
U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II invited Dr. Bill Andrews (the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Biotechnology Advisor), Bobby Ridge (the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Secretary-Treasurer), and Scott Jurgens to his Second Enlightenment Salon, where they shared their thoughts on emerging life-extension research, advances in prosthetics and orthotics, philosophy of science, brain-computer interfaces, and how technologies from a variety of fields are converging to bring about a paradigm shift in the human condition – hopefully within the coming decades.
The Achievements of the U.S. Transhumanist Party in 2017 – Transvision 2017 Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, describes the highlights of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s accomplishments in 2017 and outlines some aspirations for the future.
This presentation is intended to be streamed to the Transvision 2017 conference in Brussels, Belgium, on November 9, 2017. See the schedule for the conference here.
Download the accompanying slides, with live links to the referenced content, here.
This video presentation is being offered here to those who are unable to attend the conference but are interested in the Transhumanist Party’s recent progress and future direction.
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.