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James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Intro + Part 1) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Intro + Part 1) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

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Ojochogwu Abdul


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Introduction

In 2010, James Hughes, Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), having then just stepped down from the Board of Directors of the World Transhumanist Association (presently known as Humanity+), took up an interesting challenge during the Spring of that year to reflect on the current state of transhumanist thought and determine what the questions were that the transhumanist movement needed to answer in order to move forward. Introducing a series of articles with which he hoped to navigate through a number of heady ideas and issues concerning transhumanism, Hughes opens by posing: “What are the current unresolved issues in transhumanist thought? Which of these issues are peculiar to transhumanist philosophy and the transhumanist movement, and which are more actually general problems of Enlightenment thought?” Further, he queried, “Which of these are simply inevitable differences of opinion among the more or less like-minded, and which need a decisive resolution to avoid tragic errors of the past?”

Some clarification is made by Hughes on the “Enlightenment” as referring to a wide variety of thinkers and movements beginning in the seventeenth century, continuing through the early nineteenth century, and centered in Britain, France, Germany, and as increasingly demonstrated by recent scholarship, manifesting on a global dimension with significant contributions from thinkers and movements across Europe, North America, and the Caribbean. Hughes points out further the relevance of these thinkers and movements in terms of their endeavour in broadly emphasizing the capacity of individuals for achieving social and technological progress through application of critical reason to investigate nature, establish new forms and institutions of governance, and transcend such stagnating (or even retrogressive) forces as superstition and authoritarianism.

The engagement Hughes then sets for himself as he proceeded forward were a set of reflections which he was to structure around two general questions:

  1. An attempt to parse out which unresolved problems transhumanism has inherited from the Enlightenment; and
  2. How transhumanist technological utopianism has both inspired and delayed scientific and political progress over the last 300 years.

By addressing these questions, Hughes proposed to challenge a prevailing anti-utopian sentiment and hopefully furnish awareness of the way that dynamic optimism about transcendent possibilities motivated scientific innovation and democratic reform through the work of such thinkers and proto-transhumanists like the Marquis de Condorcet, Joseph Priestley, and J.B.S. Haldane. Indeed, for Hughes, transhumanism and techno-utopianism are part of the family of Enlightenment philosophies, both of which could be traced back to the original Enlightenment thinkers 300 years ago. The ideological conflicts within transhumanism today are, therefore, as Hughes would argue, to be understood by transhumanists as but the product of some 300-year-old conflicts within the Enlightenment itself.

The outcome of this effort, thankfully undertaken by Hughes, was a series of six essays grappling with diverse transhumanism-related issues ranging from problems surrounding the unsustainable autonomy of reason/rationality, and the belief in progress in contrast with rational uncertainty, to matters of deism, atheism and naturalist theology, from liberal democracy and technological absolutism to moral universalism and relativism, and from ideas concerning liberal individualism to the (threat of) erosion of personal identity.

Hughes titled this series of essays “Problems of Transhumanism”, each with its distinctive sub-title. And if one thing at least is to be appreciated from reading these articles, it is, in my modest opinion, the success with which they present the modern transhumanist project as bearing within its character and objective “the unfinished internal contradictions of the Enlightenment tradition.” The author, of course, emphasizes from the onset a yet important motive to his attempt which was to make clear which criticisms of transhumanism are internal contradictions, and which proceed from “external, non-Enlightenment predicates.”

Over the next week or so, I’ll be doing a review of these articles serially, starting with Part 1 below, while also incorporating some relevant views from a number of other thinkers as may be necessary, to aid commentary or analysis of Hughes’ arguments. This exercise, on my part, is essentially intended and hopefully geared to serve as an expository approach towards highlighting the contemporary philosophy and cultural movement of transhumanism whilst encouraging further discourse on the subject.

I invite and would be glad to have as many that may be interested in working through these ideas and issues with me, even as I endeavour, with these series of articles, to open conversations about them.

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U.S. Transhumanist Party Interview with Bobby Ridge

U.S. Transhumanist Party Interview with Bobby Ridge

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Gennady Stolyarov II and Bobby Ridge


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, interviews Bobby Ridge, a researcher into transhumanist philosophy and the scientific method and the new Secretary-Treasurer of the United States and Nevada Transhumanist Parties.

Watch this conversation regarding the subjects of Mr. Ridge’s research, the scientific method, and transhumanism more generally.

Bobby Ridge has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Science from California State University of Sacramento (CSUS) and is striving to achieve his MD in Neurology. He only recently became a Transhumanist. He conducts research for CSUS’s Psychology Department and his own personal research on the epistemology and Scientiometrics of the Scientific Method. He also co-owns Togo’s in Citrus Heights, CA. Mr. Ridge considers transhumanism to describe the future of humanity taking its next steps in evolution, which are both puissant and daunting. With the exponential increase in information technology, Mr. Ridge considers it important for us to become a science-based species to prevent a dystopian-type future from occurring.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out this form.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman’s Six-Month Message and Principles of Conduct

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman’s Six-Month Message and Principles of Conduct

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Gennady Stolyarov II


As of May 17, 2017, six months have passed since I became the second Chairman in the history of the United States Transhumanist Party. When Zoltan Istvan originally requested that I assume leadership of the Transhumanist Party from him, he did so with the expectation that I would agree to remain in the Chairman role for at least six months. Now that my first six months have elapsed, I realize that the task of building a self-sustaining organization is just beginning. From the standpoint of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s history, the initial period of my tenure has been characterized by peaceful, steady growth. The following achievements, in particular, have been notable:

In other words, we have begun to lay the groundwork for an effective political organization, but this is a task of years rather than months. At this early stage, the Transhumanist Party’s main impact will be on public opinion, rather than on the ballot box directly. To maximize that impact now, we need both more members and more activity from existing members. The vision of the Transhumanist Party as a member-driven organization holds that individual members would exercise their initiative in proposing and carrying out projects that utilize their unique talents. You can simply e-mail me to request a Delegation of Authority to undertake an endeavor on behalf of the U.S. Transhumanist Party – and, if your idea has potential, you may become a Member Delegate and affiliate your project with us. A speech, meet-up, discussion group, video, representation at a public event, or online promotion and advocacy on behalf of the Transhumanist Party would all be welcomed – as would member submissions of written works (both non-fiction and fiction), techno-positive artwork, and relevant scientific research (if you have the right to share or republish it – for instance, under a Creative Commons license). Other creative ideas for influencing public opinion and attracting new members would be welcomed as well. You are always encouraged to share our membership application form with others, and to emphasize that we offer the most cosmopolitan, inclusive, and logistically easy-to-obtain member status of any political party in the United States, and likely in the world today.

In order to highlight the unique value proposition offered by the U.S. Transhumanist Party, which renders it worthy of active support and considerable growth, I would like to identify some principles of conduct which have set us apart from other political organizations, and which will continue to distinguish the Transhumanist Party during my tenure as Chairman. (I would also like to acknowledge the input of Martin van der Kroon, our new Director of Recruitment, in suggesting and helping to frame some of these principles.)

  1. At this time, the U.S. Transhumanist Party is a non-monetary organization. As an organization, we have no assets or liabilities. All of our activities are made possible by volunteers, who use their own property and retain ownership and control of that property as individuals. The U.S. Transhumanist Party does not accept donations or have any revenues or expenses as an organization. Therefore, there is no room for monetary influence by any politically connected special interest. We have effectively “taken money out of politics” – at least with respect to our own operations. Indeed, this manner of operation simulates (however imperfectly) the manner in which organizations would function in a future of technological radical abundance, which would be “post-scarcity” in the sense of basic human needs being always readily fulfillable, and which would therefore not pose the all-too-common conflicts between money and integrity that we observe in our era. The U.S. Transhumanist Party does not aim to take in money; rather, our purpose is to promote ideas that could enable us personally to reach that future of radical abundance – both by living long enough to witness it and by advocating the specific technologies that will greatly augment material production. Donations should instead be directed to the researchers working to expand lifespans and develop other technologies of the future.
  1. The U.S. Transhumanist Party resolutely opposes the downward spiral of incivility, hatred, and even occasional violence that have come to characterize politics in the United States and in some other Western countries over the past two years. We see politics as being about policy first, and are committed to focusing on constructive solutions of the pressing problems of our time – both through technology and through advocacy. We are also uniquely situated to take a longer-term view and advocate policies that could improve our lives decades and centuries from now, since we are not bound to the myopic focus which often comes with the desire to win proximate elections at all costs. The U.S. Transhumanist Party does not condone ad hominem attacks or smear campaigns, including against persons with whom we disagree from a policy perspective or whose actions we may find reprehensible (although we may certainly express criticism of such specific actions, where warranted). We always aim to engage in civil discourse and to seek common ground with others where possible. However, we also always aim to remain rational and driven by facts, evidence, and logic. We may, as we deem necessary, respond to any policy or political behavior with thoughtful communication, based on the information available, and acknowledge when gaps of information exist to as to prevent definitive statements. The U.S. Transhumanist Party is committed to reason in the political arena.
  1. The U.S. Transhumanist Party’s commitment to reason means that we value freedom of speech highly and insist on the importance of constructive criticism where warranted. We strive to avoid “flame” wars, tribal politics, or political witch hunts. We renounce political violence categorically, as it can derail our civilization and needlessly damage and destroy lives that could instead have taken a productive course and contributed to technological and societal progress. Per Article I, Section III, Operating Principle 2 of our Constitution, we will automatically disassociate ourselves from any individual engaging in such violence, threats of violence, or intentional prevention of peaceful gatherings. At the same time, we would seek for anyone – whether they agree with or dissent from our stances – to engage us in honest, good-faith, constructive dialogue about how political systems could be improved to make a future of universal radical abundance possible. Both collaboration and civil criticism – by us and of us – are welcome. We will positively acknowledge others, regardless of their political position, who engage in reasoned thought, action, and debate. We will not have internal censorship and will not attempt to project censorship outward. We seek to create not an intellectual “safe space” but rather a vehicle for discovery, problem-solving, and positive cultural transformation.
  1. The U.S. Transhumanist Party will not chain itself to pre-existing ideological “packages” and will not espouse a dogmatic approach with regard to any such “package”. We do articulate many principles and strongly held convictions – particularly regarding the feasibility and desirability of radical technological progress – but those convictions need not prevent us from seeking common ground with individuals who may have some similar goals but may use different vocabulary to articulate them. We recognize that any person who approaches the realm of ideas with sincere intentions for constructive outcomes, would be able to generate ideas of merit. Whatever religious, non-religious, political, or philosophical labels others may associate with themselves, we will not dismiss their ideas solely in reaction to such labels. Rather, we will consider these ideas based on the merits of the arguments made. We also recognize that we are not alone in striving for a better future and acknowledge that technological innovations and medical advancement are likely to happen at an accelerating rate regardless of any influence by the U.S. Transhumanist Party. This insight should give us hope and comfort, as our contributions will not be the only ones that improve the human condition. Others who hold different views from ours may, even inadvertently, contribute to human progress in ways that we would find clearly favorable. Too many past and present organizations have fallen into the unfortunate and highly limiting trap of ideological purism. We will endeavor not to let ideological constraints prevent us from being open to positive possibilities and opportunities arising from the work of others.

If the above principles of conduct inspire you to work toward a new political ideal, then I encourage you to contribute your efforts to the Transhumanist Party and to help spread awareness of it among others. Please e-mail me if you would like to organize a project on the Transhumanist Party’s behalf, and please encourage other thoughtful persons to join us as well. No individual alone can advance humankind into its next era, but the sum of our efforts might just be able to take us there.

Sincerely,
Gennady Stolyarov II, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF
Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party
Chief Executive, Nevada Transhumanist Party
Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator
Author, Death is Wrong