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U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman’s Second Anniversary Message

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman’s Second Anniversary Message

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Gennady Stolyarov II


It astonishes me that two years have elapsed since I became Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party on November 17, 2016. Nonetheless, in retrospect, it seems that we are living in a different epoch from the one in which I stepped into this leadership role. In this epoch, transhumanism is no longer a fringe extreme; while we are a small political party, we occupy the sensible moderate ground – the civilized center of political discourse – precisely because we reject the downward spiral of toxicity, tribalism, political violence, and zero-sum partisanship which characterizes both the Democratic and Republican Parties today. Many people beyond the historic core transhumanist constituencies ought to find our message appealing, if they only knew about the Transhumanist Party and what it actually stands for.

While 2017 was a year of focusing on developing our now-extensive Platform, 2018 was characterized by increased outreach, more frequent events and interviews, steady membership growth (doubling our membership to 1,187 as of this writing), and the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s first foray into electoral politics under my Chairmanship. For a summary of our achievements in 2018, I encourage you to watch my speech at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, CA, entitled “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Four Years of Advocating for the Future” and attended by over 1,000 people.

We endorsed two candidates during this election season, James D. Schultz and myself. While Mr. Schultz fell slightly short of the 1,500 petition signatures required by New York law for ballot access, he did obtain 1,239 signatures, which shows that transhumanism can attract supporters in the four-figure range with diligent advocacy.

My own campaign for the Board of Trustees of the Indian Hills General Improvement District (IHGID) in Nevada was able to proceed to the general-election stage, since ballot access was available without the need to submit petitions. I ultimately obtained 520 votes out of 2,024 residents who cast their ballots. While I did not win a seat on the Board, 25.7% – more than a quarter – of the voters cast affirmative ballots in my favor.

While I would have preferred to win, this outcome still shows that my campaign – on which I spent no money but rather utilized social media, in-person appearances in public places, videos, and word of mouth – enabled me to reach more than a quarter of the residents after beginning with essentially zero name recognition in the area. Transhumanism, when articulated in a mainstream-friendly manner, can elicit support from people across the political spectrum and in all walks of life. We just need to continue to spread our message with determination and deliberate regarding ways of reaching constituencies who might not have become aware of transhumanism yet – perhaps because our methods of communication have not yet overlapped with their preferred media and social circles.

I am not particularly disappointed regarding the outcome of the IHGID Board election, since even getting to the stage where a Transhumanist-Party-endorsed candidate appeared on the ballot and received 520 votes constitutes major progress, since even Zoltan Istvan in 2016 had to campaign as a write-in candidate and so did not receive an official count of the votes cast in his favor. Furthermore, in my experience, the IHGID Board of Trustees is extremely open to resident input. As a resident, I have always been able to speak my mind at the Board meetings and make suggestions that have had substantive impacts. I am confident that the elected Board members are good people who have the well-being of the residents in mind, and that each of them will be receptive to at least a significant portion of my ideas in the future. Furthermore, I think this campaign helped me incrementally in the longer term to build ties with people in my community and to become more involved and able to have a voice in the many ongoing interesting developments that affect it.

From the standpoint of improving the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s political acumen, however, with a result such as the outcome of the IHGID vote, it is important to understand what happened and why and to see what this can teach about politics, the spread of information, and human dynamics more generally.

What factors could explain this outcome, to the best of my knowledge? Some of the electoral dynamics involved surprised me. Residents were able to choose up to three candidates, and it seems rather unusual to me that so few did. My calculations (which I am happy to share in greater detail upon request) indicate the following:

Of those IHGID residents who voted in 2018 at all:
– 878 voters did not make a selection.
– 605 voters only made 1 choice.
– 1,281 voters only made 2 choices.
– 138 voters made 3 choices. (I am one of those voters.)

It is possible that some voters did not understand that they could select multiple candidates. I expected that my best outcome would arise in a situation where I would be seen as a “consensus candidate” whom other candidates would be agreeable to supporting. However, this situation could only materialize if most, or at least many, voters voted for three choices.

However, the majority of those who voted actually selected two options rather than three. This suggests that they knew their prerogatives – so the possibilities are (a) they only voted for candidates whose names they recognized; and/or (b) there could have been a coalition between some two of the candidates (I do not know which two and would have no way of knowing), who informed their supporters to support both of them but not select a third.

However, the most disappointing explanation possible (if true) is this: names were arranged in alphabetical order by last name on the ballot, and some voters might have just picked the first name or the first two or three names. This could indeed have happened in an election which was not all that controversial, where there were no “hot-button” issues, where all the candidates were on friendly terms, where very little money was spent (none on my end), and where probably many voters only minimally informed themselves about the candidates.

My campaign, based on all indications, dominated on the Internet and social media – yet there are many residents of the District who do not appear to use the Internet or social media to any great extent. All of my interactions with residents who knew of my campaign have been extremely positive, but I posit that there exists a large demographic whom my efforts did not reach because there was not any online medium to even facilitate an in-person interaction (e.g., they did not see my announcements on Nextdoor.com and did not watch the candidate videos; also, their in-person activities do not overlap with mine). How to reach such constituents is a perpetual challenge, especially because I only practice genteel campaign tactics – e.g., no door-to-door soliciting or other intrusive messaging; I let people process information at their own convenience. I hypothesize that the only real way to attain recognition from non-Internet users is to build a reputation over many years of participation in in-person community activities. The contemporary world is quite fragmented, so those activities have been rarer than I would like – but there may be more opportunities over the coming years. I raise the more general question of how transhumanists can be more effective in reaching constituencies that are not as active online as most of us technology enthusiasts. What tactics can work to build both name recognition and good will? Comments and suggestions are most welcome.

For me, my next proximate political area of focus will be continuing to build the U.S. Transhumanist Party in its national and international presence and intellectual influence. There is much effort that could be put forth in this area in the immediate future.

  • We have already opened a new exposure period to consider clarifying amendments to the Transhumanist Bill of Rights. While the Transhumanist Bill of Rights is achieving significant media coverage, we need to be vigilant against basic factual inaccuracies regarding the representation of its contents. These amendments will enable us to steer the narrative toward what transhumanists actually think and value, rather than unwarranted assumptions and associations made by persons whose agendas often steer them in the direction of manufacturing straw-man positions that transhumanists do not, in fact, espouse.
  • In early 2019 we will conduct the selection process for the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s 2020 Presidential candidate. Unlike the major political parties, we will have a short campaign season for contenders and an electronic, ranked-preference primary held during the same timeframe for all members, no matter where they reside. This will be a practical implementation of Sections XXVIII, XXIX, and XXX of our Platform. We are still looking for potential candidates for political office at any level in 2020, but having a Presidential candidate will be important as a high-profile educational approach to expose vast numbers of people to transhumanist ideas and aspirations. For this role we are seeking an erudite, articulate, scientifically literate individual with sufficient resources to self-fund a campaign and an absolute commitment to carry such a campaign through to Election Day in November 2020.
  • We need to continue to press toward our crucial threshold goal of 10,000 members. Membership is free and quick to acquire, and now brings several additional benefits with it. Please persuade as many people as you can to go to our free Membership Application Form at https://transhumanist-party.org/membership/ and sign up in less than a minute, no matter where they reside.
  • We need existing members to organize grassroots initiatives – which can include meetups, presentations, writing of articles and policy papers, and outreach within their local communities. If you engage in activism on behalf of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, please contact me and let me know what you wish to do or have done already, and we will publicize it as an example to other members of what is possible. No matter what your skill set, there are many constructive possibilities for you to contribute to our movement and the public’s recognition of it. An active presence in public discourse matters most of all at this stage. Be creative in how you bring that active presence into being!
  • We need to create State-level Transhumanist Parties in every State. If your State is not represented on our list of State Parties, you are welcome to form a State-level party yourself and contact me about doing so. While you explore the relevant requirements for official formation, even beginning a Facebook group for coordination among the members of the embryonic State-level Transhumanist Party would be a major step forward.
  • We need to expand our Foreign Ambassador program to as many countries as possible. The U.S. Transhumanist Party is proud of its international membership and the many fruitful ways in which we have coordinated with transhumanists in other countries. The more representatives we have abroad, the more opportunities there will be for transhumanism to become an integrated global phenomenon that guides the policies of all nations in pro-technology, pro-life-extension, pro-reason directions. To apply to become a Foreign Ambassador, fill out our application form here.
  • We need to continue improving our internal infrastructure, from developing a more efficient voting system (while preserving the ranked-preference method, but hopefully automating the instant runoffs and the publication of results) to adding more features to our website to encourage members to visit it more frequently and participate in discussions and other initiatives available through it. If you have not actively participated on the U.S. Transhumanist Party website yet, we would be interested to know why not, and what additional elements of the website might encourage you to participate in the future.

If you were to retain only several key insights from this message, they would be the following:

  • Attaining basic public awareness remains the major challenge of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and of transhumanism in general.
  • Growth in active members who operate at the grassroots level is the key to overcoming this challenge. Encourage others to sign up for free here.
  • Our message is appealing to the mainstream when properly articulated, but to succeed in doing so, we need to be in control of the narrative and speak for ourselves, instead of letting the media and intellectual opponents portray us as caricatured straw-men.
  • The moment the general public becomes tired of the partisan toxicity of the major political parties to the extent of actually creating a political vacuum, we need to be ready with a constructive alternative. We already have the conceptual alternative prepared; now we need to prepare the infrastructure to deploy and expand it.
  • There is much that you as an individual can do. Do it!

May the next year of my Chairmanship see the U.S. Transhumanist Party attain many of its goals and achieve unprecedented growth and impact for the transhumanist movement. If this happens, it will be because you, our members, will have made it happen.

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

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman’s Anniversary Message

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman’s Anniversary Message

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Gennady Stolyarov II


On November 17, 2016, I became the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. It was a turbulent era in American politics, although it now appears to me to have been a distinct prior epoch. The offer of Chairmanship from Zoltan Istvan came at exactly the right time. I was seriously considering emigrating from the United States, which would have been a mistake. For this role, however, an expatriate Chairman would not do; Zoltan asked me to remain for at least six months – hopefully a year – and then re-assess the situation. One does not get handed leadership of a political party often (or virtually ever), so this was a unique opportunity to make a difference in American politics in a constructive way, with instant gains in prominence, and without the distasteful maneuvering that many conventional political figures feel compelled to engage in to attain a comparable position.

It has been a year, and I am staying. I have indeed reassessed the situation, or perhaps the situation has been transformed so considerably than the already transitional interpretive framework of late 2016 can no longer adequately describe our present political reality. Whereas then the tumult seemed to have stemmed from a single source, we now inhabit a distinctly different sort of chaotic era, in which the chaos emanates from virtually all partisan factions espousing conventional political ideologies. The United States has not, despite my fears at the time, succumbed to dictatorship or totalitarianism – and, despite some ill-advised policy decisions and unfortunate increases in certain forms of intolerance and hatred (on both the right and the left), there are no waves of nativist “ethnic cleansing”; there are, thankfully and for now, no massive riots in the vast majority of cities, the vast majority of the time. Daily life proceeds in a largely peaceful, largely orderly fashion – and may that continue.

Yet the United States’ societal and cultural fabric has been torn to shreds by the climate of escalating partisan vitriol, in which being aligned with one’s “team” (be it one of the major political parties or more minor factions on the conventional left-right axis) is seen as more important than the reasoned pursuit of truth. Partisanship erodes the norms of civility and the disposition of good will with which it is important to approach discourse with others. When hyper-partisans insist that civilized discussion or even association with “the other side” is not possible (and their characterization of who comprises the “other side” becomes ever more sweeping by the day), they throw wide open the door to less genteel approaches to politics – the political violence that can claim lives, ruin infrastructure, and set back the progress of our civilization. The great immediate danger in American politics is not that squads of jack-booted enforcers will crack down on anyone who displeases their masters; it is, rather, that the increasing toxicity of prevailing political rhetoric will poison the minds and conduct of ordinary people, turning them against one another and inaugurating a low-key war of all against all, which necessarily cannot remain low-key for long. Hyper-partisanship is not, however, a grass-roots phenomenon, but has been fueled by behemoth political machines, with armies of paid political operatives, lobbyists, and “opposition research” firms honing the most effective ways to besmirch and divide people for range-of-the-moment electoral gains. Only a truly transpartisan organization, immune to the influence of this apparatus, can turn the tide against its malignancy.

The United States Transhumanist Party has stood as a bulwark against this toxic partisan tendency, inviting membership by individuals of all conventional or unconventional political beliefs, as long as they agree with our three broadly framed Core Ideals (and even sometimes if they do not), advocating for a worldwide acceleration of technological innovation and for making its products accessible to all, conducting transparent public discussions and votes using ranked-reference techniques that solve long-standing incentive problems of voters, and doing it all as a non-monetary organization, through the collaboration of volunteers and people of good will. We genuinely seek to embody and practice inclusivity, diversity, and tolerance – instead of weaponizing these terms to serve a particular preconceived political and social agenda and partisan machine. We transcend the destructive culture wars, just as we transcend so many other pointless divisions. We seek to be a microcosm of the society that will emerge after all this “sound and fury, signifying nothing” subsides, when people will come to see the toxicity as fatiguing and passé, and the task of building a new era can unfold in earnest. We need to focus on championing the advances that can benefit everyone through dramatically longer lifespans, vastly increased prosperity, and opportunities for individual self-actualization. Unlike identity politics, which focuses on what sets people apart, transhumanist politics seeks to bring all sentient entities together to forge the advances that can benefit each and all.

On the anniversary of my Chairmanship, the highlight of my day was a message from an individual who has been a member for as long as I have been Chairman. He told me that his membership in the U.S. Transhumanist Party has been one of the most important events in his life. What we do matters; it inspires people to strive for a brighter future; it coalesces a community of visionaries, achievers, innovators, and friends. Amid the tumult of the contemporary world, we preserve the transformative ambition that life can and should be better – that human existence need not be nasty, brutish, or short – that age-old problems can be solved with sufficient knowledge and ingenuity – and that the fates of our ancestors need not be our own.

We have achieved much since the U.S. Transhumanist Party was opened to membership during my tenure as Chairman. I provided an overview of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s key recent achievements in this brief video, which I prepared for the Transvision 2017 conference in Brussels.

Here, I will supplement, rather than repeat, the contents of that video presentation.

Many aspects of our Platform and processes enable the U.S. Transhumanist Party to stand out in American politics. The following are just several examples.

We are the first political party in the United States to use ranked-preference voting on its internal ballots. During the next year we will explore options for rendering this voting process even more streamlined and user-friendly. We will be searching for software that could simultaneously present all of the options and their text to voters, and automatically tabulate instant runoffs and their results, similarly to how the initial votes are tabulated today.

We are the only political party in the world – to our knowledge – which extends membership to anyone capable of forming a reasoned political opinion – including children and citizens of other countries, who may become Allied Members. Our Foreign Ambassador program specifically focuses on building connections with future-oriented thinkers in other countries and working to build transhumanism into a global, collaborative movement where ideas are exchanged and developed without regard to national boundaries.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party is one of only two political parties in the United States, along with the Green Party, that supports the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. Our Platform, in Article III, Section IV, reads that “In recognition of the dire existential threat that nuclear weapons pose to sapient life on Earth – including as a result of such weapons’ accidental deployment due to system failures or human misunderstanding – the United States Transhumanist Party advocates the complete dismantlement and abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere, as rapidly as possible.” While this remains a minority political position in the United States, the abolition of nuclear weapons recently received support at the United Nations via the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. With the threat of nuclear war remaining disturbingly real, an increasing number of people and institutions are coming to recognize this dire existential risk and seek its alleviation. We welcome collaboration with any of them.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party was the first political party in the United States to suggest a universal basic income or unconditional basic income (UBI) as an option in dealing with the impacts of automation, job uncertainty, and the sub-optimalities of conventional, conditional, and cumbersome welfare systems. Now various jurisdictions are experimenting with some versions of UBI, and this concept is being actively discussed at the United Nations. We stand ready to offer our views and recommendations in this conversation – encouraging UBI systems that would preserve the core, elegant logic of an unconditional basic income available to all. Per Article III, Section XVI of our Platform, “the United States Transhumanist Party holds that all sentient entities should be the beneficiaries of an unconditional universal basic income, whereby the same minimum amount of money or other resources is provided irrespective of a sentient entity’s life circumstances, occupations, or other income sources, so as to provide a means for the basic requirements of existence and liberty to be met.” This vision, if championed consistently, can dramatically improve the life circumstances of many individuals throughout the world.

Our most important near-term objectives were recently outlined in our new, extensive FAQ document. Because of their importance, and the indication they provide regarding how the next year of the U.S. Transhumanist Party will unfold, I provide them again below.

  1. Grow in membership. We need to reach at least 10,000 members in order to have the widespread reach and internal, member-driven governance structures that we envision to be the most effective. You can help by joining for free and encouraging others to join by filling out our fast, simple Membership Application Form.
  2. Coordinate with State-level Transhumanist Parties. Various such State-level Parties exist, and some are already officially registered with their respective Secretaries of State. We have catalogued the State-level Transhumanist Parties known to us here. Work with them if you reside in a State where such a Party already exists. If such a Party does not exist, we encourage you to form one and contact us when you are contemplating doing so.
  3. Hold events and publish materials to influence public opinion. Ultimately, we seek to change minds to encourage widespread public advocacy of emerging technologies and a major redirection of resources toward such technologies’ funding, development, and dissemination. We encourage U.S. Transhumanist Party members to also organize their own events and submit articles for publication on our website.
  4. Explore running candidates at the local level. Interested candidates will likely need to officially run as independents at this time, but if they agree with key aspects of our Platform, they may receive the endorsement of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.
  5. Gradually create the infrastructure to meet State ballot-access requirements. In almost every State, obtaining ballot access unfortunately requires at least thousands of petition signatures (hand-signed), obtained within a relatively short period of time. We need to build up a sufficient network of volunteers in every State in order for petition-gathering to be feasible. However, our emphasis on membership growth and coordination with State-level Transhumanist Parties is part of our effort to eventually get there and field candidates for State-level office.

Another unique approach that we are pursuing is our search for a candidate for the U.S. Transhumanist Party 2020 Presidential ticket. Unlike other parties, we seek to attract not the most politically ambitious, but rather the most erudite, thoughtful, and melioristic individuals to apply for the role. To this end, under the editorship of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Education and Media Advisor, Newton Lee, we are compiling a book that will feature essays by leading transhumanist thinkers, Advisors, and members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. This book, tentatively titled Transhumanism: In the Image of Humans, will hopefully convey both the depth and breadth of transhumanist thought, such that at least one of the leading minds of our era might be sufficiently intrigued as to join our movement and seek to further these ideas by running a Presidential campaign based on the highest standards of discourse, conduct, and policy-oriented reasoning for the improvement of the human condition.

The tumult of our times is evidence that Robert Heinlein’s forecast of an era he termed the Crazy Years has come to pass. Charting the path from our current Crazy Years to a bright and universally uplifting transhumanist future will be no easy task, but no task is more vital. By a spectacular confluence of events, which still astounds me in retrospect, the Chairmanship of the U.S. Transhumanist Party has placed me in a unique position within this moment in history, where many radically divergent paths are possible for both humankind in general and for us as individuals. The path of amelioration and abundance of time and resources for all is still open, and the Transhumanist Party will endeavor to show the way to all those who seek the new era, and to build our civilization into a global and universal, human and transhuman cosmopolity – which should extend as far and as boundlessly as our own lives and well-being.

Will you join us in this effort? If so, becoming a member is free and easy – and the best of possible futures may be our joint reward.

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

We Would Like to Welcome Everyone – Official Statement by Martin van der Kroon

We Would Like to Welcome Everyone – Official Statement by Martin van der Kroon

Martin van der Kroon


The U.S. Transhumanist Party humbly prides itself on our stance regarding inclusion of people from all manner of different backgrounds, religions, and movements.

We outline this in detail in Section XXV [Adopted by a vote of the members during March 26 – April 1, 2017]:

“The United States Transhumanist Party welcomes both religious and non-religious individuals who support life extension and emerging technologies. The United States Transhumanist Party recognizes that some religious individuals and interpretations may be receptive to technological progress and, if so, are valuable allies to the transhumanist movement. On the other hand, the United States Transhumanist Party is also opposed to any interpretation of a religious doctrine that results in the rejection of reason, censorship, violation of individual rights, suppression of technological advancement, and attempts to impose religious belief by force and/or by legal compulsion.”

Furthermore, we adopted Section XX [Adopted by a vote of the members during March 26 – April 1, 2017]:

“The United States Transhumanist Party strongly supports the freedom of peaceful speech; religious, non-religious, and anti-religious philosophical espousal; assembly; protest; petition; and expression of grievances. The United States Transhumanist Party therefore strongly opposes all censorship, including censorship that arises out of identity politics and the desire to avoid perceived offensive behavior.”

There is good reason that these planks were adopted. Not only is the U.S. Transhumanist Party striving for inclusion where others fail, we also labor to be a party where anyone may feel welcomed. This is not entirely altruistic though. We think that people of different backgrounds, people of faith, those with perspectives different from our own, can bring valuable ideas to the table, and are uniquely qualified to criticize our own perspectives, helping us all to avoid becoming trapped within an echo-chamber.

People who believe in a higher power, despite no evidence based on our current scientific standards being available, are not automatically opposed to science, reason, and evidence. That people believe in a god does not mean they reject the laws of physics, and they may well believe that god was so awesome that he/she/it created all these amazing physics equations for us to discover. To each his or her own.

I, Martin van der Kroon, Director of Recruitment for the U.S. Transhumanist Party, being non-religious, would nonetheless be ecstatic if, for example, Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, or Rabbi Wolpe would speak positive, or even support the U.S. Transhumanist Party, or engage in a debate with us. They may be people of faith, but that doesn’t mean they are devoid of intellect or meaningful ideas and opinions.

What it comes down to is that as members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, and hopefully the transhumanist movement at large, we should not perceive the Core Ideals as outlined in our Constitution as being at odds with religious beliefs. Sometimes religions are referred to as ‘deathist’ beliefs, hinting at the perception of inferiority, or perhaps perceived from the opposite side, creating the impression of elitism on part of the non-religious.

In addition to the acceptance of anyone regardless of their religions (etc.), the U.S. Transhumanist Party furthermore has adopted two plank proposals to outline practices we do not support, with the intent to further reason, acceptance, and debate, and shun intolerance and practices in direct violation of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s goals. We adopted Section XL [Adopted by a vote of the members during May 7-13, 2017]:

“In addition to its opposition to intolerant interpretations of religious doctrines, the United States Transhumanist Party is furthermore opposed to any interpretation of a secular, non-religious doctrine that results in the rejection of reason, censorship, violation of individual rights, suppression of technological advancement, and attempts to impose certain beliefs by force and/or by legal compulsion. Examples of such doctrines opposed by the United States Transhumanist Party include Stalinism, Maoism, Neo-Malthusianism or eco-primitivism, the death-acceptance movement, and the doctrine of censorship, now prevalent on many college campuses in the United States, in the name of “social justice”, combating “triggers” or “microaggressions”, or avoiding subjectively perceived offense.”

We also adopted Section LXIII [Adopted by a vote of the members during June 18-24, 2017]:

“The United States Transhumanist Party opposes those specific cultural, religious, and social practices that violate individual rights and bodily autonomy. Examples of such unacceptable practices are forced marriage (including child marriage), male and female genital mutilation, and honor killings.”

Let us all respect that we all hold notions about our existence, about religion or lack thereof, and appreciate that we, thankfully, do differ in perspectives on such matters. Let us all engage fervently in debates, share our ideas, be critical and skeptical, but allow each other space and dignity to be ourselves.

For those who are interested in our approach of open, inclusive engagement with the ideas, technologies, and policies that can help shape a better future, we invite all of you to become members of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free by filling out our Membership Application Form here.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 – New International Version)

Martin van der Kroon is Director of Recruitment for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Official Statement on the Istvan/Weiss Articles Regarding Transhumanism and Libertarianism in “The American Conservative” Magazine and Related Matters

U.S. Transhumanist Party Official Statement on the Istvan/Weiss Articles Regarding Transhumanism and Libertarianism in “The American Conservative” Magazine and Related Matters

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Gennady Stolyarov II


Recently a large amount of controversy has been generated, and questions have been raised regarding the compatibility or lack thereof among transhumanism, libertarianism, and conservatism – as well as certain positions which have been commonly attributed to transhumanism as a philosophy and as a movement. The controversy was generated by an exchange between Zoltan Istvan, founder and former Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party (but now our Political and Media Advisor with no official decision-making role), and Kai Weiss in the pages of The American Conservative Magazine. Mr. Istvan’s article, “The Growing World of Libertarian Transhumanism” (August 8, 2017), made the case for an essential compatibility between libertarian and transhumanist ideas. Mr. Weiss countered with a disparaging article, “Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It’s an Abomination” – a piece which largely critiques a contrived caricature of transhumanism and does not genuinely engage views which most, many, or – in some cases – any self-identified transhumanists actually hold. In response to some of Mr. Weiss’s assertions, Mr. Istvan released a post on his Facebook profile which reinforced and endeavored to explain some of Mr. Istvan’s personal views regarding parenting (which he correctly and prominently clarified as “not an official platform policy in any way” and “just a philosophical stance”).

Unfortunately, the exchange between Mr. Istvan and Mr. Weiss has generated a maelstrom of public reaction, which largely consists of a feedback loop of misunderstandings. The purpose of this official statement, in my capacity as Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, is to dispel any such misunderstandings and to elucidate the positions of the Transhumanist Party on the nexus of issues involved. These positions arise out of the official Platform adopted thus far by the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s members in the course of multiple rounds of voting, and should be distinguished from the personal views of any individual, including Mr. Istvan and myself.

First, it is important to convey that the United States Transhumanist Party greatly esteems Mr. Istvan and owes him a debt of gratitude for founding the Party and continuing to offer valuable advice. However, it is also important to emphasize that the Transhumanist Party is not the Libertarian Party – in any way, shape, or form. Mr. Istvan’s candidacy for Governor of California as a Libertarian for the 2018 election has no relation or affiliation with the United States Transhumanist Party in any manner; it is, rather, his personal endeavor – although, on a personal level, I wish Mr. Istvan all the best. No statements made by Mr. Istvan as part of that Libertarian Party candidacy can be imputed to the Transhumanist Party or the ideas broadly constituting the transhumanist movement. Mr. Istvan himself clearly recognizes this and has acted appropriately to make the requisite distinctions. It surprises the leadership of the United States Transhumanist Party, however, that there persists a common public conflation between Mr. Istvan’s Libertarian campaign and the policies and positions of the Transhumanist Party under our present administration. We will endeavor to dispel this conflation with all the means at our disposal.

While many Transhumanists identify as (small “l”) libertarians philosophically and politically, other Transhumanists would not so identify. The Transhumanist Party is unique in contemporary politics precisely because of its transpartisan nature. We desire to transcend conventional political distinctions and so welcome libertarians, socialists, republicans, democrats, centrists, apolitical individuals, and anybody else – however they identify themselves – who would be willing to ally with us to craft a better future. In developing our Platform, we solicited the input of all our members and continue to do so. The result is a set of positions different from any established political party or conventional political outlook – positions that will continue to be refined and expanded as our membership grows and new perspectives, voices, and rational analyses are added. The Transhumanist Party seeks to build bridges with creatively minded, forward-thinking individuals of a variety of persuasions. We resolutely refuse, however, to be a “feeder” organization into any established political party, the Libertarian Party included. The Transhumanist Party is not intended to funnel people to serve as reinforcements for one or another of the myriad well-known players in the contemporary political arena. Rather, all of our members shall remain free to be and express their true intellectual selves, acknowledge their differences, and explore opportunities for collaboration nonetheless. We therefore are free to comment on the work of Mr. Istvan or any other thinker objectively and in a manner that acknowledges strengths and weaknesses alike.

Mr. Istvan’s article was commendable in its attempt to build bridges between transhumanists and libertarians. Mostly his article is an overview of transhumanism as a movement, its history, its recent surge in popularity, Mr. Istvan’s personal background, and some questions that Mr. Istvan poses regarding the future “civil rights battle of the century” that “may be looming because of coming transhumanist tech.” Some of the issues Mr. Istvan raises find strong support in the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform. For instance, Mr. Istvan asks, “Should we allow scientists to reverse aging, something researchers have already had success with in mice?” The U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform, contained in Article III of our Constitution, answers this with a resounding “Yes!”  Sections V, VI, and VIII of our platform specifically express support for life extension and the reversal of aging necessary to achieve it. The Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 2.0, expresses support for life extension in six of its Articles: III, IV, V, VI, VIII, and IX. However, there are other questions that Mr. Istvan poses, which, while interesting to consider, do not arise from any specific position in our Platform – e.g., abortion, sexbots, whether a “Jesus Singularity” is possible, or whether the human species should be renamed after sufficient cyborgization. It would be difficult, and likely impossible, for any subset of transhumanists to reach a consensus or even acceptable middle ground on these issues, although we understand that they will continue to be discussed. It is best, however, not to frame such matters as official Party positions – but rather to simply continue the conversation, as Mr. Istvan did by raising questions which may have many possible answers. But it is worth emphasizing that neither Transhumanists in particular nor (small “t”) transhumanists in general have any definitive, authoritative positions on these matters.

While Mr. Istvan’s work presents the need for discernment in distinguishing between his views and the positions of the Transhumanist Party, Mr. Weiss’s rejoinder is flawed on an entirely different scale. It is outright misleading and actually seeks to commit (small “l”) libertarians to positions that would not be compatible with liberty if thoroughly examined. Mr. Weiss states that “Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution” – as if evolution were itself a moral value for humans or for the achievement of the ideals of liberty (rather than merely the process by which humans happened to arise or even, in its “natural” form, an obstacle to the flourishing and liberty of the individual – since individuals are dispensable from the standpoint of natural selection). Mr. Weiss further imports citations from some of Mr. Istvan’s prior articles (not his original editorial in The American Conservative) to allege that Mr. Istvan, and by implication all transhumanists, support eugenics, as a result of Mr. Istvan’s statement that he “cautiously endorse[s] the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a driver’s license.” To reach the conclusion that transhumanists support eugenics, Mr. Weiss needed to have made several non sequiturs which reach far beyond anything Mr. Istvan actually wrote.

Yet Mr. Istvan’s subsequent Facebook post appears to be a reinforcement of this position, wherein Mr. Istvan seeks to justify it by the statement that “I do not want homeless people, severely mentally disabled people (like down syndrome), or crack addicts having kids if I will end up paying higher taxes so the government must take care of them.” However, Mr. Istvan also offers a mitigating point to this view by noting that he also “deeply support[s] a libertarian version of a basic income to help the poor and hardship-burdened out, but [he does] not and will not support a lack of responsibility on a parent’s part.”

The United States Transhumanist Party takes a decidedly different view on parenting, children, and reproductive freedom than either Mr. Istvan’s proposal to license parents, or Mr. Weiss’s highly disproportionate and unfounded allegation of eugenicist tendencies. All things considered, most (small “l”) libertarians will find the Transhumanist Party’s actual positions on children and childbearing to be far more palatable than either of the positions of Mr. Istvan and Mr. Weiss.

Article XII of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 2.0, states, in part, that “All sentient entities are entitled to reproductive freedom, including through novel means such as the creation of mind clones, monoparent children, or benevolent artificial general intelligence.” If anything, the Transhumanist Party embraces novel techniques that would render it easier for many persons to have children – for instance, without the need to find a partner of the opposite gender.

Section VI of the United States Transhumanist Party Platform – an extensive section on morphological freedom – specifically states that “The United States Transhumanist Party is focused on the rights of all sapient individuals to do as they see fit with themselves and their own reproductive choices.” The last paragraph of Section VI clarifies that “The United States Transhumanist Party recognizes the ethical obligations of sapient beings to be the purview of those individual beings, and holds that no other group, individual, or government has the right to limit those choices – including […] reproductive choice, reproductive manipulation, […] or other possible modifications, enhancements, or morphological freedoms. It is only when such choices directly infringe upon the rights of other sapient beings that the United States Transhumanist Party will work to develop policies to avoid potential infringements.”

Accordingly, the Transhumanist Party sees reproduction as a fundamentally individual choice. Whether a given individual chooses not to reproduce at all, or to reproduce prolifically, or to pursue any intermediate course, is not a matter to be coercively regimented, restricted, or subjected to special permits. While it could readily be acknowledged that some circumstances are more conducive to the effective and beneficent upbringing of children than others, it nonetheless remains the province of individual judgment to determine whether a given set of circumstances is sufficient in this regard. The influence of civil society, not coercive political solutions, may be a more suitable means to encourage individuals to make decisions in full consideration of the potential consequences.

Some commentators have lamented (as in the premise of the 2006 Mike Judge film Idiocracy) that individuals who would have made decent parents often abstain from reproduction out of an abundance of caution and concern – precisely the traits that would make them better parents – while those who do not consider the consequences of bringing a child into this world may therefore reproduce unthinkingly. It appears that the intention of Mr. Istvan is to address the latter concern and set forth some manner of prior restraint to such unthinking reproduction – and yet such prior restraints are never without unintended consequences. Any externally imposed system of prior restraint creates an inflexible bureaucratic machinery that must be navigated, and good people will inevitably fall through its cracks or be caught within its technicalities, such that self-evidently reasonable decisions will be thwarted needlessly. The important insight to prevent a parental licensing scheme, such as the one proposed by Mr. Istvan, is the recognition that no single, overarching set of rules, imposed on an entire population, can possibly filter out solely the “unsuitable” parents while allowing all of the “suitable” parents to do what they would have done anyway. Errors in both directions are inevitable; the former type of error would show the system to be ineffectual, while the latter type of error would be a travesty of justice.

Furthermore, the United States Transhumanist Party strongly supports children’s rights. In addition to Section LXII of our Platform, which “supports efforts to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to uphold the Rights of the Child as prescribed therein”, Section XXIII states that “The United States Transhumanist Party supports the rights of children to exercise liberty in proportion to their rational faculties and capacity for autonomous judgment. In particular, the United States Transhumanist Party strongly opposes all forms of bullying, child abuse, and censorship of intellectual self-development by children and teenagers.” Implied in this position is a thoroughgoing respect for children as individuals – not merely the products of their parents and the circumstances in which they find themselves. Children have rational faculties, they can exercise autonomous judgment, they can learn, they can improve themselves and rise above any sub-optimal conditions into which they were born.  To state that certain persons of limited means, low virtue, or myriad possible failures of character should not be permitted to have children, neglects the fact that children are distinct from their parents and are not fated to repeat their parents’ mistakes or to suffer under the yoke of their parents’ limitations. A genius can arise from the slums; a decent person can emerge from a troubled background. The will and determination of the individual child, and the subsequent adult, should not be disregarded or underestimated here! While, undeniably, hard circumstances pose barriers to the actualization of human potential, it is unconscionable for political restraints to forestall the very possibility that such barriers might be overcome, by declaring them to be insurmountable in advance and cutting off the potential for a life to emerge that might disprove that contention.

Far from a eugenicist perspective, the view of many transhumanists and of the Transhumanist Party is a fundamentally individualist position that rejects both genetic and environmental variants of determinism and emphasizes the autonomy of each individual person.

Mr. Weiss finds other aspersions to cast upon the transhumanists, for instance by alleging that they wish to create the equivalent of Leon Trotsky’s “New Soviet Man” – as if the goal itself of most humans rising to the heights of Aristotle, Goethe, or Mozart were reprehensible! If Mr. Weiss, as a self-identified libertarian, were consistent in this criticism, he would go so far as to condemn libertarianism’s own ambitions to reduce the size and scope of government, because, after all, Karl Marx’s end goal – for “the State to wither away” – is the same as that of many anarcho-capitalist libertarians today! Mr. Weiss makes the common fallacy of assuming that a particular goal is not worthwhile, simply because some people, who also committed reprehensible actions or held other fallacious views, happened to espouse that goal.

Mr. Weiss concludes his essay by stating that “Instead of seeing nature, the world and life overall as a means to get to know God, humans in the last centuries have become accustomed to seeing the world as something that is only there for humans to take and use for their own pleasures. Transhumanism would be the final step of this process: the conquest of death. You don’t have to be religious to find this abhorrent. As we have seen, it would be the end to all religion, to human cooperation overall, in all likelihood to liberty itself, and even the good-bye to humanity. It would be the starting point of the ultimate dystopia.”

We see in Mr. Weiss’s conclusion the underlying motive behind his critique of transhumanism, which is that he finds transhumanism to be somehow in conflict with his personal view of “nature, the world and life overall as a means to get to know God” – a goal which, in Mr. Weiss’s mind, is contrary to humans either pursuing “their own pleasures” or conquering death. This is far from a general libertarian position and seems, rather, to be inextricably entangled with Mr. Weiss’s own religious views. As such, his article would have been more forthrightly presented as a critique of transhumanism from the standpoint of a particular religious denomination or theological interpretation (however Mr. Weiss might classify his views in these regards), but not a libertarian critique of transhumanism – especially since most libertarians would strongly disagree with the notion of imposing a particular religious interpretation as a justification for thwarting progress or individual choice.

Contrary to Mr. Weiss’s assertions, transhumanism per se is not incompatible with religious belief, and there exist various strains of religious transhumanism today, as acknowledged in Section XXV of the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform: “The United States Transhumanist Party welcomes both religious and non-religious individuals who support life extension and emerging technologies. The United States Transhumanist Party recognizes that some religious individuals and interpretations may be receptive to technological progress and, if so, are valuable allies to the transhumanist movement. On the other hand, the United States Transhumanist Party is also opposed to any interpretation of a religious doctrine that results in the rejection of reason, censorship, violation of individual rights, suppression of technological advancement, and attempts to impose religious belief by force and/or by legal compulsion.”

More importantly, whether or not one is religious, nothing about the conquest of death – the genuine aim of many transhumanists which Mr. Weiss seems most inclined to disparage – is abominable or contrary to liberty or contrary to the ability of any person to express any peaceful, non-coercive religious belief or practice. It is confounding to see Mr. Weiss assert that life extension would be the end of liberty (when only free human beings could pursue it, and their rights to pursue it would need to be recognized in order for it to be achieved), the end of cooperation (when life extension could only be achieved through major cooperation by leading scientists specialized in various areas of biology, medicine, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and related fields), or of humanity itself (when individual humans would be the ones living longer – often with the option to remain in a youthful but predominantly biological state).  Certainly, Mr. Weiss has offered no evidence to suggest that an “ultimate dystopia” would be generated by enabling people to live longer, more prosperous, more fulfilled lives – his straw-man characterizations notwithstanding.

Those who seek to understand transhumanist thought and Transhumanist political positions would do well to study the growing corpus of transhumanist literature, which, as Mr. Istvan validly points out, extends back to (at least) the 1980s, as well as to follow the work of the United States Transhumanist Party. While the Transhumanist Party is not exclusively libertarian in character, we also encourage individuals who hold libertarian views to see key complementarities with transhumanism – which may well describe the world which would emerge if individuals had the power to fully exercise their liberty to innovate and discover. Whether you identify as libertarian or as anything else, we welcome your input and participation in the Transhumanist Party if you have insights to contribute regarding how the human condition might be improved, and how our age-old limits and sufferings might be overcome.

Finally, the Transhumanist Party – while it shall endeavor to remain ecumenical and not explicitly align itself with either libertarianism, conservatism, or any ideologies that could be deemed the antitheses thereof – recognizes, contra Mr. Weiss, that individuals, such as readers of The American Conservative magazine, who identify either as libertarians, or as conservatives, or both, will be able to find many areas of affinity with transhumanism, properly understood. Although these are not official documents of the Transhumanist Party and are not necessarily representative of its positions, I encourage readers who are interested in discovering these affinities to read my older essays “Transhumanism as a Grand Conservatism” and “Political Priorities for Achieving Indefinite Life Extension: A Libertarian Approach” – which I mention here primarily to motivate thinking and discussion.

 

Gennady Stolyarov II, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF

Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party

August 20, 2017