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A Summary of the USTP’s FDA Reform Panel – Article by Dan Elton

A Summary of the USTP’s FDA Reform Panel – Article by Dan Elton

Daniel C. Elton, Ph.D.


The U.S. Transhumanist Party livestreams special Enlightenment Salon events every Sunday at 4 p.m. on YouTube. Two weeks ago, on April 4. 2021, the USTP organized a special Enlightenment Salon panel event on FDA reform. In addition to myself, the following people participated on the panel, which was moderated by USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II:

  • Prof. Alex Tabarrok, Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics, George Mason University
  • Dr. Max More, President Emeritus, Alcor Life Extension Foundation
  • Jim O’Neill, CEO, SENS Research Foundation
  • Dr. Edward Hudgins, Founder, Human Achievement Alliance
  • Prof. Garett Jones, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
  • Willy Chertman, Medical Student and Blogger

The entire panel was probably the most information-dense event the USTP has done. I kicked things off by giving a short presentation, which I managed to blaze through in 15 minutes. (The slides can be viewed here.) The presentation set the stage for a very informative and productive discussion.

My only regret was that we didn’t have any women on the panel. However, during the course of researching my presentation, I found out about the work of Dr. Mary J. Ruwart. Dr. Ruwart estimated the number of people who die every year from FDA delays to be around 150,000 per year in her book Death by RegulationSo, I am happy to announce that Sunday, April 25th, from 4 – 6 p.m. Eastern Time, 1-3 p.m. Pacific Time, the USTP will be doing a special Virtual Enlightenment Salon with her.

Here is the recording of the FDA reform event. At 00:05:00 my presentation kicks off:

I’ve written a summary of the major points each of the panelists (and two others) made during approximately the first hour of the session. These are heavily paraphrased. (Instead of providing direct quotes, I shortened what was said in most cases while maintaining the core meaning of what was communicated.) I have put my own comments in italics.

Prof. Alex Tabarrok:

  • The FDA can approve a bad drug (Type I) or fail to approve a good drug (Type II). If they approve a bad drug, people who were affected will go on Oprah, and there will be huge backlash. If they don’t approve a good drug, there is no backlash. The invisible graveyard is a statistical reality, but it’s hard to see. This can be seen easily by asking people to name a time when the FDA approved a bad drug (or a drug with unexpected side effects). Lots of people can think of something. Many point to Thalidomide, which is actually a drug that was approved in Europe and caused birth defects. Thalidomide, incidentally, has many important applications but was not approved by the FDA until 1998.
  • When you have a Type I error, you learn something — we learn about the harms of a drug, and we change our behavior. With a Type II error we never learn anything. We can’t see the consequences of a failure to approve, and even worse, we can’t see the many drugs that never even made it to FDA-mandated trials in the first place because they were deemed too risky to justify the cost.
  • Reciprocity is a sensible reform that is one of the most feasible.
  • The FDA likes to think they are the “gold standard” for drug approval. Yet, people in other countries don’t worry about whether drugs are FDA-approved. For food safety we already have reciprocity with Canada.
  • The FDA has been working for 40 years on new standards for approving sunscreens. So Europeans have much more advanced sunscreen than the US.
  • If aspirin were invented today, it probably wouldn’t be approved.
  • One thing U.S. policymakers have done already, which is probably the smartest thing they have done in a while, is PEDUFA (Prescription Drug User Fee Act). The drug developers pay an extra tax as long as approvals are sped up. The FDA was happy because they got to expand their bureaucracy, and drug companies were happy because they could get to market faster.
  • In the EU the EMA “farms out” reviews to private companies. (So the EMA is more like “an approver of approvers”). Private companies can do a good job – for instance, look at Underwriters Laboratories in the realm of electrical devices. (If you look at many electrical devices, you may see a “UL” seal.) Many major companies like Amazon won’t carry devices unless they are UL-approved.
  • There is no formal process whereby where if a disease is more deadly, then the standards should be lowered to speed approvals. For instance, for pancreatic cancer, which often kills within 6 months, the standards should be lower (and more risk should be tolerated), since patients have less to lose. For something like acne treatment, the standards can be much higher. The FDA recognizes this to some extent in practice, but it’s totally informal – technically it’s not supposed to happen. However they could do this formally and adjust the required statistical significance levels. They could use Bayesian statistical techniques as well.
  • There’s no route to approve a drug for anti-aging. If a company wants to do R&D on anti-aging therapeutics, there is not a clear route for approval.

Dr. Max More:

  • We should keep in mind full abolition of the agency as a long-term goal. [My response: I am against full abolition, but I agree with this. Everyone should at least consider abolition, and if they are against it, explain in some detail why the government needs to be involved versus using private-sector companies and tort law. Going back to first principles regarding the role of government is healthy, especially in places like Washington, D.C., where government institutions are taken for granted and not questioned as much as they could be.]
  • We should keep in mind Milton Friedman’s statement that expecting the FDA to behave differently than it does is like expecting a cat to bark (Note: He said this in a 1973 Newsweek column.) We can’t just say, “We want the FDA to do X”; we have to make sure incentives are in place so people actually do the things we want. Legal mandates can help, but it’s easy for people to skirt around them if the proper incentives don’t exist.
  • We are facing an enormous cultural barrier when it comes to reforming the FDA and CDC. We don’t have a proactionary culture anymore; we have a very fear-based culture, and a simple solution to it does not exist. However, we have a good opportunity right now just like the AIDS activists had a good opportunity in the 1980s.
  • The proactionary principle is a “grab-bag” of tools based on a certain value perspective which basically says that progress is fundamentally good. We aren’t omniscient, so we have to learn by doing. As Alex Tabarrok said, you can’t really learn things without making mistakes. It’s impossible to make progress, like some rationalists believed, by just sitting in chairs and thinking carefully. We have to become empirical. You can “look before leaping”, but you also have “look while leaping” and adjust how you land, to use a crude metaphor.
  • Cost-benefit analysis is a basic approach that is used in many organizations but doesn’t seem to be used as much in government agencies. It shouldn’t be controversial. Mandating cost-benefit analyses would be a step towards using ideas from the proactionary principle.
  • We should institutionalize the Devil’s Advocate procedure and institutionalize respectful disagreement. Instead of having the most powerful person in the room getting what they want railroaded through, we should require debate and motivate decision makers to ponder both sides. Other approaches could help, such as reference class forecasting, structured argumentation techniques, auditing procedures, and auditing review panels.
  • Reciprocity seems like a no-brainer that is relatively easy to achieve, and would greatly reduce costs.
  • Besides getting out these great ideas, we need to figure out how to get people to follow those ideas. Laws can help, but people can choose to not follow them. How do we put “bite” into laws? I think an annual audit on the FDA’s decision making would be a good idea. Importantly, the auditor’s report should be made public. The auditors should come from a variety of institutions, for instance a variety of think tanks from different sides of the political spectrum.

Gennady Stolyarov II:

  • The USTP agrees that abolishing the FDA should not be out of the question. In our Platform, Section CXVIII states:

Section CXVIII [Adopted by a vote of the members during March 25-28, 2020]: Given the extreme delays, bottlenecks, and expenses created by the mandatory approval processes on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Transhumanist Party supports abolishing the FDA and replacing it with a Radical Life Extension Administration (RLEA), whose mandate would be to prioritize the rapid development of potential disease cures, treatments, and vaccines – including any possible cures or vaccines for COVID-19, as well as treatments to mitigate and reverse the disease of biological aging, the major risk factor for COVID-19. The RLEA would allow the marketing and collection of patient data on any potential cure, treatment, or vaccine which has passed affordable safety testing at a reasonably acceptable threshold.

Jim O’Neil:

  • I’ve had the pleasure of working with the FDA quite a bit, and in my experience most of the people there are very smart, and they actually believe in approving things, contrary to what it may look like from the outside.
  • The problem is that incentives matter, and the FDA is a central point of failure.
  • When someone has a severe side effect from a drug, the FDA Commissioner gets hauled in front of several Congressional Committees and is interrogated. When someone dies because something wasn’t approved, there’s total silence in Washington. We should blame Congress, not the FDA, for that incentive being in place.
  • Individuals respond to the institutional incentives, but they also have personal incentives. A lot of people want to be the next whistle-blower who finds the next thalidomide and calls a halt to it. Both of these are pretty severe and would affect even the most principled person in ways they couldn’t even detect.
  • I disagree with Alex that “FDA not recognizing aging as a disease is a major problem.” In order for the FDA to reasonably measure success of any therapy, there must be metrics and biomarkers. It’s not the FDA’s job to do all the scientific work to develop biomarkers for aging. That’s the job of the science community and the NIH to some extent. There are epigenetic clocks, but we need a lot more work on those. Those clocks can then be run through the FDA’s biomarker approval program.
  • The second thing I disagree with is Dan’s idea of making the FDA independent from HHS. I think that would make things worse.
  • My favorite approval ideas fall under the category of “progressive approval” or what Dan calls “tiered approval”. Contrary to what the FDA often thinks, doctors and patients are capable of processing information and making risk-benefit calculations using their knowledge about the specific situation they are in. The more information provided and the more transparency, the better. The FDA should focus back on their original mission of safety and purity. I absolutely support repealing the 1962 Kefauver-Harris Amendments.

Prof. Garett Jones:

  • I come at this as an macroeconomist. I think we can learn from what economists have learned about central banks around the world. The FDA should be as independent of congress and the president as central banks are or as judges are.
  • The Federal Reserve is a panel. That’s how we run the SEC, the FEC, the Federal Reserve, and the Supreme Court. There seems to be some magic to having a panel — it’s probably giving us a bit of the Law of Large Numbers in decision-making.
  • Another aspect of these panels is they have long terms. They are probably going to be serving under a few different Presidents. As I say in my book 10% Less Democracy, “short terms make short-term thinking”. Political independence can lead to decision-making independence, and we have evidence that’s a good thing.
  • Discussions in institutional reform have “high marginal product” right now, as an economist would say. Congress moves slowly, but Congresspersons tend to look for big opportunities for reform a couple years after a crisis. The Federal Reserve was established in 1913 but was born out of the Panic of 1907. Six years was how long it took between a huge financial crisis and Congress getting around to making some reforms. We saw something similar after the global financial crisis – it took about 2-3 years. The ideas that people are discussing now will be part of the information ecology of the next few years in Washington, D.C.
  • These ideas of long terms, independence, and panels are a good path for decision making. I am an unreformed Tabarrokian, so I agree with everything Alex Tabarrok has written about FDA reform (chuckle). What I want to push here is institutional reforms that seem to work in a wide variety of settings. A little more financial and legal independence will lead to a situation where Congress is less of a source of fear for FDA officials.
  • A lot of people on social media have told me that the President is in charge of the FDA. These people have never actually talked to anyone who worked on Capitol Hill — agencies live in fear of their Congressional overlords. They live in fear of the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House, who have power over their budgets. They also know that if they make a mistake, they can be hauled up before Congress and fired ignominiously.
  • There is a risk that a more independent agency may misuse its freedom. However, in practice, if we look at the data, independent agencies with long terms have high benefits and low costs.
  • It’s fun to complain about the FDA, but it’s wise to complain about Congress.

Dr. Ed Hudgins

  • We’ve been talking about how FDA regulators are always in fear of Congress. What I want to see are FDA regulators in fear of patients who want to get access to medications at less cost and quicker.
  • One of the most egregious examples of defining efficacy was when the FDA decided that 23andme could not offer advice on whether someone was prone to breast cancer. Essentially they thought that women were too stupid to understand the information and would rush out to get a double mastectomy without getting a second opinion.
  • Another example is in 1989-1990 when they wanted to classify a urine sample cup as a “class A medical device”, in the same category as a heart valve.
  • In April 2019, the FDA stated that it wants to regulate artificial intelligence as a medical device.
  • There are many consultants now, whose entire job is to help companies get through the FDA bureaucracy. So there’s a whole industry now just to help people get through the FDA — and that’s part of the problem now, too.
  • The “Free to Choose Medicine” idea should be at the top. Something like this was created around 1992 during AIDS crisis. Congress stepped in and put pressure on the FDA to do something. What they did was create a parallel track where sufferers could access a particular medication for AIDS during the three years it was being tested. 12,000 people took advantage of that, so there are 12,000 people who are not in the invisible graveyard as a result.
  • The idea of a parallel track has been put forward by Bart Madden. Data from people on that track would be put into a public real-world database.
  • There are alternatives to randomized controlled trials (RCTs). If observational data is put into a public database, then doctors can look at that data and make informed recommendations. Drugs would be able to fail quicker, too.
  • In the case of AIDS, it was patient groups that besieged the FDA’s buildings. In light of COVID-19, and people seeing that the system isn’t working for them, we have an opportunity now to push for change.
  • There’s momentum for FDA reform building off of the right-to-try legislation that has been passed in many states. In Texas and North Carolina there are strong pushes to broaden right-to-try to people like patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Willy Chertman

  • The AIDS-FDA story is a little more nuanced than was described by Ed Hudgins and Max More. We all know about the militant groups like ACT-UP which pressured the FDA in the 1980s. However in the mid-1990s there developed a few counter-movements against that. One group was called Treatment Action Group, and they pressured the FDA to move slower because they felt the FDA was approving HIV/AIDS treatments that didn’t actually have much benefit.
  • A good book is Malignant by Vinay Prasad. It documents how, over the last twenty years or so, the FDA has lowered the standards for many cancer drugs. They often are approving drugs based on surrogate endpoints and biomarkers, and then the drugs don’t go through follow-up studies to show if they have actual clinical benefit. So there has been a natural experiment where we tried to lower the standards for cancer drugs, and it doesn’t seem to have worked very well. Of course, I’m not an economist, so there might be a way of adding up the costs and benefits where the marginal benefits have outweighed the costs.
  • The FDA had many failures during COVID-19. The first big one was with testing, both with the FDA and the CDC. Others were the decision to delay the approval of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (by about 4-6 weeks), and the decision not to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, which hasn’t had any transparency. Finally, there was a complete lack of experimentation with human challenge trials. What all of these share is there has been very little transparency and not much good reporting on these issues. There have not been any thorough investigations from journalists, and we don’t really know what’s going on. Before attempting reform we need to first go and find out what went wrong during COVID-19. We need a non-partisan investigation of all of these issues. We need to utilize Freedom of Information Act requests. We need to find out how Trump was involved, why approvals took the amount of time they did, etc.

Dr. Natasha Vita-More

  • Cosmetics does not need FDA approval pre-marketing. It only needs post-market approval if the company says something in their marketing materials that could be misleading. There are many doctors pushing crack cosmetic treatments and behaving in a very “loosey goose-y”. I have a hard time understanding how they get away with these things, unless there are big-monied interests behind them.
  • We all know about Theranos. In 2015 they got FDA approval for one of their tests. There’s clearly an imbalance here – many life-saving treatments struggle to get approval, but a company which is completely fraudulent like Theranos was able to get approval. [My response: This is a great point! Theranos did receive approval, but only for their Herpes test. If I recall correctly, this test was done with conventional laboratory equipment rather then their special “minilab” device, a fact which Theranos hid from investors. Theranos also utilized a loophole to sell tests without FDA approval.]

Dan Elton, Ph. D., is Director of Scholarship for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.  You can find him on Twitter at @moreisdifferent, where he accepts direct messages. If you like his content, check out his website and subscribe to his newsletter on Substack. 

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

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

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Gennady Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party

The fourth year of my Chairmanship of the U.S. Transhumanist Party has been a test of leadership unlike any I expected to face. Working to advance a small but determined transpartisan organization during a deadly global pandemic and a time of unprecedented (for the modern era) political division and toxicity is not an undertaking for the faint of heart. Indeed, the worst is still not behind us, despite science and technology again coming to the rescue with the rapid development of safe, effective vaccines for COVID-19 in a timeframe unmatched in all of human history by its rapidity. This is clearly an achievement for contemporary biomedical research, and it illustrates again the aspects of human endeavor that will hopefully extricate ourselves from humankind’s dire crisis within a few months’ time. Other aspects of this crisis – the immense and utterly counterproductive societal rifts that it has created, the economic and psychological strain it has imposed upon people, the material disruptions to our civilization that will take heroic efforts to mend – may be longer-lasting. The tension of these influences has made crafting this Chairman’s Message my most difficult effort by far compared to prior years – as it was necessary to both acknowledge the dire predicament that humankind is currently mired in, and to outline possible ways out through our direct actions. However, I hope that this message, which I began to write on November 17, 2020, the actual four-year anniversary of my selection as USTP Chairman, will clearly outline the various dimensions of my thinking regarding the present situation and future prospects.

This pandemic fortified my confidence in science and technology while greatly diminishing it with regard to contemporary human societies and American society especially. As I explained in my presentation at the Vanguard Scientific Instruments in Management (VSIM) 2020 virtual conference on July 29, 2020 (video recording forthcoming), the great crisis of 2020 is essentially manmade. While COVID-19 results from a naturally occurring virus and is highly dangerous, systemic human failures transformed the pandemic into a major worldwide crisis. These human failures exposed the severe vulnerabilities in contemporary societies against relatively simple threats. Societies have turned inward, degenerating into tribal, factional conflict, instead of fighting the common enemies of death and disease. Science has become politicized in a deleterious, tribal way, and the politicized versions have anything but the hallmarks of true science – traits such as openness to empirical evidence, systematic testing of hypotheses, willingness to acknowledge evidence that challenges a prior hypothesis and to refine one’s hypotheses accordingly. Neither the “red tribe” nor the “blue tribe” are logically consistent or open to evidence, instead choosing to cherry-pick tidbits from science that happen to support their preconceived agendas. Because of American influence throughout the globe, the entire world suffers from American political toxicity. Worse, the material and psychological stresses of the pandemic are pushing some people over the brink into destructive madness. Mainstream propaganda with ulterior motives amplifies this tendency, prompting unstable personalities toward violence. Although the scientific means to overcome this pandemic are already here with us, persistent cultural, attitudinal, and institutional failures may lead to delayed application of the remedies and thus the needless deaths of tens of thousands more Americans – and certainly the needless suffering of millions.

It is no surprise that, given the pervasiveness of American societal failure in 2020, aspects of the toxic tendencies involved attempted to seep even into the organization which has sought to be a small but bold and high-minded bastion of resistance to these ills. Much time and energy has unfortunately been expended to fend off the destructive behaviors of a small number of detractors who sought, despite my staunch resistance, to import the rancorousness of mainstream politics into the USTP. And yet, in spite of this, while the USTP has needed to pivot and adjust in multiple respects, the creative output of this organization has been phenomenal despite an environment of ubiquitous world crisis. My initial – rather unrealized – strategic inclination in the midst of this pandemic had been to chart a course of careful maintenance of what was and a more relaxed and deliberative pace of activity to enable us all to focus on immediate needs in adjusting to the pandemic. Similarly to how I personally resolved to avoid major life changes while the pandemic raged, my aim for the USTP had been primarily one of preservation – and yet these times require one to keep adjusting. The ultimate result has, notwithstanding my initial inclination, been major acceleration of activity in many areas – often too rapid to even systematically publish updates about. While we have recently exceeded 3,000 members and are still working to integrate all of the members from our merger with the Longevity Party United States in February 2020, we have consistently produced output on a scale worthy of an organization with several orders of magnitude more resources at its disposal. This could not have been done successfully without the dedicated core of Officers, Advisors, and members who have maintained a steadfast commitment to the USTP during these troubled times. These individuals have always greatly outnumbered the troublemakers, and it is for them primarily that the USTP exists and persists no matter what obstacles it faces.

The Virtual Enlightenment Salons, of which we have already held 30 every Sunday since May 2020, have been an immense feat of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, brought about by our Officers’ rapid adaptation to the circumstances of the pandemic and the opportunities created by the consequent higher level of utilization of videoconferencing and streaming technologies. Whereas the logistics for our USTP Primary debates in 2019 were complex and cumbersome, the Virtual Enlightenment Salons are able to be carried out far more reliably and with superior production quality. The audience of these gatherings is dedicated, vibrant, and insightful, as the comments accompanying the Virtual Enlightenment Salon videos illustrate. Special thanks are due to David Shumaker, the USTP Director of Applied Innovation, for hosting the Zoom sessions for the panelists, and to Pavel Ilin, USTP Secretary, and Art Ramon Garcia, Jr., USTP Director of Visual Art, for their work on streaming the salons to YouTube – and also to Art Ramon Garcia for his polished graphics that convey both the dignity and the mindsets of exploration, expansion, and discovery that characterize the Virtual Enlightenment Salons. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be involved in not a mere handful, but thirty Enlightenment Salons in 2020, I would have been hard-pressed to believe this – and yet this is an illustration of how technological progress and, more importantly, technological utilization, can enable exponential and not just linear growth in valuable output.

In addition, the U.S. Transhumanist Party has been at the forefront of developing constructive policy options for addressing the ongoing pandemic. Shortly after the disruption from the pandemic set in, the members of the USTP got to work, developing 21 Platform sections, outlining a comprehensive, multifaceted approach toward defeating COVID-19, preventing future pandemics, and prioritizing medical innovation – particularly in anti-aging research – to greatly lower the toll of infectious diseases even in those who contract them. If only these ideas had been taken into account by mainstream politicians and implemented in early April 2020, likely tens of thousands of American lives would have been saved – through rapid construction of hospitals, training of a rapid-response corps of medical personnel, removal of barriers to vaccine deployment, improved general education on pandemics, and the rapid, decentralized production of supplies of every sort needed to assist people in their protective efforts. Many of these 21 proposals can still be implemented today to great effect and could help accelerate the arrival of our victory against COVID-19. The USTP encourages all of its members and others among the general public to advocate for these measures.

Out of all of the priorities I had set forth in my Third Anniversary Message one year ago, the goal of building alliances with like-minded organization has been the most successfully realized. This has been a year of forging ties with other future-oriented organizations throughout the world, including the Transdisciplinary Agora for Future Discussions (TAFFD’s), whose Future Africa Conference in April 2020 was highly attended by USTP members and Officers; the World Talent Economy Forum (WTEF), which has hosted numerous interviews with USTP representatives and candidates; the Human Achievement Alliance, which espouses the same essential broadly techno-optimistic vision that the USTP seeks to advance; the Ogba Educational Clinic, which aims to bring knowledge of programming and artificial intelligence to students in Nigeria, Steele Archer’s Debt Nation and Archer Report programs, and many others. The hundreds of conversations, interviews, meetings, forums, and posts exchanged among our organizations are truly enabling a distributed, worldwide network of transhumanist and futurist thought to emerge. The resulting proliferation of rational discourse and innovation is greater than any one organization can contain – and indeed, ideally, can transform humankind as a whole significantly for the better.

Of course, no analysis of 2020 can be complete without commentary on the election season in the United States and its outcomes. While the 2020 election has shown that American politics has a long way to go in order to climb out of its abyss, it also featured several noteworthy accomplishments and reasons for hope.

Vote Results – 2020 Elections

Kam-Parrish 2020 Presidential Campaign

Thus far we are aware of 51 write-in votes having been cast for Charlie Kam and Liz Parrish. Preliminary member-reported totals are found here and will be updated as additional information is received, including when any state which counts write-in votes publishes its results. We are pleased by the dedication of our members who chose to vote their consciences in the states that allowed write-ins, and who moreover proactively reported those votes to us per our request. Anyone who still has not done so can contact us at ustranshumanistparty@protonmail.com in order to be counted as having voted for Charlie Kam and Liz Parrish. We want every write-in vote for our candidates to be recognized!

Considering the turn of events that led Charlie Kam to become our candidate in June 2020, at quite a late stage in the election season, the U.S. Transhumanist Party appreciates what has been achieved in the subsequent 4.5 months. Despite the detailed ballot-access plan that the USTP developed internally in January 2020, the ravages and risks of the COVID-19 pandemic made any petitioning for ballot access and in-person campaigning impractical (we are life-extensionists, after all, and preservation of healthy longevity is our foremost priority). Notwithstanding this pandemic-imposed constraint, both Charlie Kam and his Vice-Presidential running mate, Liz Parrish, served as outstanding ambassadors for the USTP and were indeed our best candidates yet. In the course of many external interviews as well as appearances at the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s weekly Virtual Enlightenment Salons, Charlie Kam and Liz Parrish illustrated a new approach to politics – one based on substantive discussion of issues and policies, a focus on the need for technological innovation to improve the lives of all, and an appeal to the aspirations that unite us rather than the mainstream politicians’ focus on division. As we have emphasized time and again, the primary purpose of Transhumanist campaigns at this stage of our evolution is one of educating the public about the ideas and goals of transhumanism. In this regard, the Kam-Parrish 2020 campaign succeeded, and I am proud to have contributed my time and support to its activities. Charlie Kam and Liz Parrish will remain prominent and eloquent ambassadors for the USTP, and we hope that our future candidates will be able to live up to the examples that they set of high-mindedness, civility, integrity, techno-optimism, and dedication to longevity advocacy.

For a wonderful illustration of the tone of the Kam-Parrish 2020 campaign and the hopeful outlook with which it concluded, watch the final joint interview of Charlie Kam, Liz Parrish, and myself by our ally in Malaysia, Sharif Uddin Ahmed Rana of the World Talent Economy Forum, conducted on November 2, 2020, the day before the U.S. general election.

A glimpse into a parallel universe, courtesy of Charlie Kam
A glimpse into a wondrous parallel universe, courtesy of Charlie Kam

Local Campaigns

Daniel Twedt – City Council, Thousand Oaks, California

U.S. Transhumanist Party member Dan Twedt ran for City Council in Thousand Oaks, California, and gained 3.437 votes, or 3% of the total. During his campaign, he spread awareness of the U.S. Transhumanist Party in local newspapers. An excerpt from the Acorn Newspaper in Thousand Oaks characterized Mr. Twedt as “a member of the Transhumanist Party” with “a platform tied to technology and the environment.” Mr. Twedt was cited as expressing the view that “government needs be way more open-source, way more transparent”. Mr. Twedt plans to run again in 2022, and we encourage his continued activities within the USTP, such as his regular participation in our weekly Virtual Enlightenment Salons, and his public outreach when campaigning.

Gennady Stolyarov II – Board of Trustees, Indian Hills General Improvement District, Douglas County, Nevada

My second attempt to run for the Board of Trustees of the Indian Hills General Improvement District was unfortunately thwarted by the occurrence of a primary in June 2020, in the midst of a pandemic. Because of physical-distancing restrictions as well as general concern for health and safety, I decided to campaign using solely virtual means, including holding a Virtual Town Hall via Zoom on May 9, 2020. Nonetheless, there remains a technological gap in the area, and it appears that many residents simply do not get their local news or gain awareness of candidates and issues via electronic means. Moreover, a wave of anti-development sentiment has unfortunately swept Douglas County, resulting in the election of three anti-growth Republican County Commissioners who have vowed to put limits on new construction and residential housing in the name of “keeping Douglas County rural” – which essentially means keeping it unaffordable for those who did not purchase homes there a long time ago. Perhaps these sentiments also translated into voters’ choices for the Board of Trustees of the General Improvement District, and my open and unabashed advocacy of more residential development and more technological utilization certainly clashed with this reactionary mentality. However, I will never apologize for standing on principle and supporting progress in material standards of living, even if it clashes with some people’s attempts to freeze a particular status quo in place. I also remain hopeful that ongoing new construction in the area will continue and help reduce the cost of housing and improve the quality of the infrastructure despite the anti-development partisans’ objections.

The presence of five candidates on the ballot triggered the primary, and one of the candidates who advanced finished with only 17 votes ahead of me (270 votes to my 253). Subsequently, that candidate indicated that he would not accept the office of Board Member if he were elected, effectively leaving three candidates to compete in the general election. This turn of events underscores the importance of candidates being committed to the responsibilities involved in the offices for which they run. Candidates should run only if they are determined to follow through all the way and carry out the duties of the office if they are elected to it. Had the aforementioned candidate decided against running for office to begin with, given his uncertainty about accepting it, then there would not have been a primary, and I would have had about 4.5 additional months to campaign and communicate a rational, transpartisan, and future-friendly approach to the residents.  Still, receiving 253 votes out of 1216 ballots cast during a low-turnout primary means that I have successfully reached 20.8% or more than one-fifth of the voting residents. The challenge for future campaigns will be to determine by what channels information spreads in these local elections. There had not been any significant media coverage of the other candidates, and extremely little information was discoverable about them online prior to the primary. Therefore, how were they able to gain recognition and votes during a pandemic in which physical distancing was mandated for the vast majority of the campaign season? Discovering how information can effectively propagate through “offline” channels may lead to insights regarding how more generally to communicate awareness of transhumanist ideas to the broader public.

Ballot Initiatives in Nevada and California – Outcomes as Compared to USTP Recommendations

In Nevada, the recommendations of the USTP and Nevada Transhumanist Party (NTP) prevailed among voters on Ballot Question 2, the Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment, which passed with a vote of 62.4% in favor, and Ballot Question 3, the State Board of Pardons Commissioners Amendment, which passed with a vote of 61.2% in favor. However, Nevada voters also chose to adopt the two ballot questions that were opposed by the USTP and NTP – Ballot Question 4 (64.1% of voters in favor), which would enshrine in the Nevada Constitution a list of voter rights based on the current, soon-to-be-obsolete paper-based voting system, and Ballot Question 5 – the Renewable Energy Standards Initiative (57.9% of voters in favor). Although the USTP and NTP hope that more than 50 percent of energy sold to consumers could indeed come from renewable sources by 2030, the USTP and NTP wish for this to be achieved through voluntary methods of technical progress and increasing affordability of renewable energy, not through mandates that (if they supersede the pace of technological advancement) would simply raise energy costs for ordinary consumers. Still, the USTP and NTP do not consider the passage of Ballot Questions 4 and 5 to be significant obstacles to the progress of transhumanism and emerging technologies as such; we would have preferred different outcomes, but our efforts will not be materially affected by the results of these votes.

In California, the outcome of the ballot propositions was even more aligned with the USTP’s recommendations, illustrating that on many issues, the USTP has tapped into the outlooks and priorities of many voters who do not strictly adhere to partisan ideologies. On eight out of ten or 80% of ballot propositions on which the USTP made a recommendation in a particular direction, the majority of California voters also favored that course of action.

California Proposition 14 – Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Passed with 51.09% in favor

The passage of California Proposition 14 is perhaps the most significant victory for transhumanists, as it makes available $5.5 billion in new funds for potentially life-saving stem-cell research initiatives.

California Proposition 15 – Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 51.97% in opposition

Most California voters agreed with the USTP on the undesirability of further increases of property taxes – one of the least equitable and least convenient forms of taxation.

California Proposition 16 – Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 57.19% in opposition

Most California voters agreed with the USTP that the imposition of racial preferences in public employment and education is inherently unjust and anathema to a society that values individual rights and individual attributes of character over people’s circumstances of birth.

California Proposition 17 – Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Passed with 58.57% in favor

Most California voters agreed with the USTP that there is no reason to deprive the essential right to vote from individuals who have completed their prison sentences.

California Proposition 18 – Primary Voting for 17-Year-Olds Amendment

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Failed with 56.01% in opposition

This was an issue on which the majority of California voters differed from the USTP’s recommendations. Perhaps the attitudinal climate has not yet matured to the point of accepting that a person’s individual understanding of the political system and the issues involved should be the determinant of eligibility to vote – rather than an arbitrary dividing line such as that of age. However, there will be opportunities to continue articulating these principles in the years to come.

California Proposition 20 – Criminal Sentencing, Parole, and DNA Collection Initiative

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 61.73% in opposition

Most California voters agreed with the USTP regarding the undesirability of measures that would significantly increase the population in prison for relatively minor criminal offenses, such as petty thefts and various nonviolent crimes. Such crimes are better addressed through restitution than through imprisonment.

California Proposition 21 – Local Rent Control Initiative

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 59.84% in opposition

Most California voters agreed with the USTP in rejecting rent control. In the absence of new construction, rent control creates undesirable incentives that harm tenants of rent-controlled buildings directly and indirectly. Everyone should hope that California will instead loosen the many onerous restrictions on new housing development, which have contributed to a dire shortage of available housing and an essentially complete lack of housing affordability in that state.

California Proposition 22 – App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Passed with 58.59% in favor

The USTP is relieved that most California voters supported saving the ridesharing business model on transportation network companies by rejecting the presumptive classification of their drivers as employees – a classification that the drivers themselves would find onerous and restrictive. As the USTP stated in its analysis, “It is clear that classifying ridesharing services’ drivers as employees is intended as protectionism for legacy taxicab companies, whose business model has often resulted in sub-optimal treatment of consumers and thus led to widespread consumer frustration. On the other hand, most consumers have expressed overwhelming satisfaction with ridesharing services. California Ballot Proposition 22 restores the more reasonable classification of ridesharing services’ drivers as independent contractors while affording them basic protections regarding their earnings, healthcare, and vehicle insurance.”

California Proposition 23 – Dialysis Clinic Requirements Initiative

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 63.45% in opposition

Most California voters agreed with the USTP in opposing the requirement for at least one licensed physician be on site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics. Voters recognized that, because of the dire shortage of available physicians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, this requirement would mean that many dialysis clinics would be unable to operate or offer life-serving services to patients who require dialysis.

California Proposition 25 – Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Referendum          

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Failed with 56.40% in opposition

This was another issue on which the majority of California voters differed from the USTP recommendation. The failure of Ballot Proposition 25 likely means that California will keep its previous system of cash bail instead of abolishing the requirement of cash bail and replacing it with a system of risk assessments for each accused individual. Per the USTP’s position statement, “A person who goes to trial and is exonerated for the alleged offense should not be made any poorer as a result, yet the system of cash bail channels many people in already precarious financial situations into arrangements which lead exactly to such impoverishment.” Unfortunately, it appears that the cash bail system will still persist in California for some time. Nonetheless, this situation is not expected to pose a material obstacle to the attainment of the vast majority of transhumanist goals.

Future Initiatives

With the 2020 election behind us, the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s focus will be on effectively scaling up its operations, maintaining broad unity of purpose and constructive conduct within the transhumanist movement, and participating in wider public discourse on the issues where science and technology can positively affect outcomes.

Working Groups: The USTP is beginning to set up small, focused, project-oriented working groups, each of which will produce a particular set of deliverables – be it a white paper on a policy topic, a computer game on life extension, a survey of members, upgrades to the USTP’s voting system, new graphical assets, or a variety of other possibilities. Some working groups may have an ongoing role, such as providing responses to current events or emerging issues within the transhumanist community. In particular, it will be important to form a working group on legislative tracking and advocacy in order to be able to effectively monitor and respond to proposed legislation at both state and federal levels. Volunteers for future working groups will be welcomed and actively solicited, as long as they exhibit integrity and sincerity of intention.

Member Education and Tiered Membership: The USTP continues to seek ways to reward its most dedicated and knowledgeable members, who should have a stronger influence over the outcomes of our votes. Membership of a more prestigious tier could be the result of passing a future set of online learning units on the USTP Platform, Transhumanist Bill of Rights, and other key documents.

Candidate Education and Eligibility Criteria: The USTP will endeavor to enhance the respectability and transhumanist alignment of the candidates who seek its endorsement by creating more extensive upfront candidate eligibility criteria which will focus on respectability of conduct, a history of dedication to transhumanist ideas, and a spirit of ambassadorship from the candidates, instead of ulterior non-transhumanist motives or personal political ambition. Candidates should be willing to use their pre-existing personal merits and position to promote the ideas of transhumanism, rather than seeing the USTP as a vessel for any alternative, non-transhumanist agenda or personal motive.

Candidates for Non-Presidential Offices: The USTP continues to seek out promising candidates for local and state-level offices and has already identified several promising individuals who may be able to effectively promote the ideas of transhumanism during the next midterm elections in 2022 or possibly even earlier.  One question that the USTP will place before its members for consideration is the matter of whether or not affiliations with other political parties should restrict the USTP from endorsing a particular candidate if that candidate explicitly expresses support for transhumanism and/or life extension. The USTP welcomes diverse member perspectives regarding where the boundary should be drawn so that we preserve our distinctive organizational identity while recognizing any techno-positive efforts that advance our vision in the U.S. political arena.

Focus on Ballot Initiatives: One of the USTP’s great strengths is the analytical talent present within it. Almost every state places several questions on the ballot for voters to decide upon directly. The impact of these ballot initiatives is often more significant and more accurately foreseeable than the outcomes arising from the identity of a given elected official. If the USTP can provide recommendations on every ballot initiative in a given election, this will greatly enhance its credibility as a source of reliable policy analysis for large numbers of people. Many of our views are already aligned with large populations of independent voters; they just have to discover us and have ample content from the USTP that they could rely upon in regard to policy questions of interest to them.

Ballot-Access Collaboration with Other Political Parties: Lowering barriers to entry in elections at every level is a common aim shared by the USTP and other political parties with the exception of the Democrats and Republicans. As evidenced by our highly constructive Virtual Enlightenment Salon with Spike Cohen on September 13, 2020, there is an opportunity for concerted efforts among representatives of multiple political parties to assist one another in advocating for greatly lowered ballot-access thresholds and perhaps even coordinate the circulation of petitions once the present pandemic is behind us.

Anti-Troll Campaign: The USTP has not forgotten the importance of effectively responding to trolls and detractors within the transhumanist community who inflict a greater toll upon it than any external critic or adversary. We encourage our members to contribute resources to the anti-troll campaigns, such as tasteful images that can be posted to counter comments and crude “memes” that trolls sometimes deploy. Be both creative and dignified! It is possible to do so and also to amuse and entertain well-intentioned audiences. Show that we can be better than the trolls even in their media of choice!

The above-listed areas are not exhaustive of the endeavors that the USTP intends to pursue. Indeed, our Virtual Enlightenment Salon this coming Sunday, November 29, 2020, will be the Public Session of our U.S. Transhumanist Party Reform Summit, where additional ideas will be both presented to and solicited from our members.

Conclusion

As I have often expressed this year, the future can be bright indeed, if only we can overcome the extreme predicament of the present. No set of ideas prevails automatically or inexorably. The key to success is perseverance, even and especially in the face of adversity and doubt from some. Those who waver and continually change course will never reach any particular desirable destination. While this pandemic has been a strenuous period for all – including perhaps the majority of us in the transhumanist movement – it has only fortified my determination to make the U.S. Transhumanist Party a lasting and ever-expanding success. Since becoming Chairman of the USTP more than four years ago, I have come to recognize clearly the indispensability of this organization to the advancement of transhumanism more broadly, as the USTP has become the nexus of conversations, collaborations, and meetings of great minds who might otherwise never have come into contact. Moreover, the USTP openly and proudly embraces transhumanism without downplaying it or giving lip service to techno-pessimist criticisms. Of course, the success of the transhumanist vision is crucial to the success of humanity as a whole – making a key difference in which path our species takes. Do we reach toward the stars, toward indefinite longevity, toward sustainable superabundance – or do we allow the cascade of present crises to plunge us into the abyss of a new Dark Age? These are outcomes over which we can have control, and the locus of control begins with the transhumanist movement itself. This year more than ever, I urge unity and steadfastness of purpose. Do not allow petty personality conflicts, lack of self-control, and factionalism derail potentially the most pivotal ideas, aspirations, and projects in human history. Support the people who build and uplift, rather than those who destroy and tear down. All those who earnestly seek to advance the well-being of humans through the progress of science and technology – and who are willing to behave civilly while doing so – are welcome to contribute to the endeavors of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and help take our organization to the next level.

Announcement Regarding California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum, Encouragement to Participate, and USTP Chairman Stolyarov’s Answers

Announcement Regarding California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum, Encouragement to Participate, and USTP Chairman Stolyarov’s Answers

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The United States Transhumanist Party encourages all of its members to participate in the E-Governance Referendum designed by the California Transhumanist Party.

Please read the description of the California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum here.

California Transhumanist Party Chairman Newton Lee characterized the E-Governance Referendum as the California Transhumanist Party’s “first step in establishing electronic democracy, where every citizen becomes a part of collective decision-making process.”

The California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum is independent of the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform, and the USTP Platform will continue to determine USTP policy positions in all respects. However, the California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum is an interesting experiment in aggregation and analysis of views on policy issues by a mediated artificial superintelligence (mASI) called Uplift.  Per the description of the objectives of the referendum, “Building Better Policy in e-Governance AI-Driven Research is a part of the Uplift mASI research program that has the goal of a better understanding of how technology can be used to develop better policy. The project has a number of partners and related projects and sub-projects where we hope to explore our project vision around the application of particular key technologies in AI, comprising primarily the application of collective intelligence systems in e-governance—but also including blockchain, AGI cognitive architectures, and other distributed AI systems.”

David J. Kelley of AGI Laboratory, who developed the Uplift mASI, stated that “Uplift is about raising the apotheosis of organizations to a higher, more awakened state that can increase profits, save jobs, help the environment, and optimize society.”

On June 14, 2020, the U.S. Transhumanist Party hosted a Virtual Enlightenment Salon featuring David J. Kelley as its guest, in which an extensive discussion of Uplift and the E-Governance Referendum transpired. Watch the video of this Virtual Enlightenment Salon here.

The four questions in the California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum (for which you may enter responses after clicking on the links below) are the following:

  1. Should the government keep Universal Basic Income (UBI), a “stimulus package” introduced to Americans during the COVID-related crisis?
  2. Should the government impose a higher income tax on the wealthy individuals in order to pay the Universal Basic Salary to US citizens?
  3. Should we have free universal medical care?
  4. Should the police be defunded? Consider alternatives and how such a policy could be used to force changes in local departments. Please consider how this would realistically be done?

Referendum-related questions should be directed at the mASI system running the study: mASI@Uplift.bio


U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II’s Responses to the California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum

USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II provided the following answers to the questions on the California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum, based on the positions taken in the USTP Platform and the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 3.0.

Every individual, whether or not that person is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party or the California Transhumanist Party, is able to participate in the California Transhumanist Party E-Governance Referendum. All individuals are encouraged to vote their conscience, and Chairman Stolyarov’s answers are presented to express one set of responses, but not necessarily the only set of responses, that would be consistent with the USTP Platform.

Question 1:

Should the government keep Universal Basic Income, introduced to Americans as a “stimulus package” during the COVID-related crisis?

Answer: Yes

What caveats do you have to your position?

The Universal Basic Income must be implemented without raising net taxes on any segment of the population. The Universal Basic Income also must not be means-tested, and the same amount must apply to all. Desirably, the Universal Basic Income should replace at least some traditional, means-tested welfare systems and thus reduce the cost of administration.

Are there key details that your position requires to maintain that position?

The most effective way of funding a Universal Basic Income would be a land dividend or resource dividend, where governmentally owned land or other natural resources would be leased (or, in the case of perishable resources, sold) to private parties with certain environmentally friendly stipulations, and with the proceeds being used to fund the Universal Basic Income.

Any means-testing or conditionality of a Universal Basic Income would defeat its purpose, as it would reintroduce the same burdensome costs of administration which render traditional means-tested welfare systems counterproductive from a cost-benefit standpoint.

How do you feel about your position and this question?

I feel strongly that Universal Basic Income could work if it is truly unconditional and does not involve redistribution of existing wealth. However, I strongly feel that Universal Basic Income will fail if it is modified to lack universality or to involve a redistributive taxation mechanism that raises taxes on higher income-earners.

Do you have any other thoughts on this topic that would be important to note?

The “trials” of Universal Basic Income that are being undertaken in various countries are not true instances of a Universal Basic Income, because they are often targeted toward specific poorer or unemployed segments of the population, and because they have an expiration date, which alters the incentives of the recipients of the funds and increases the uncertainty felt by those recipients.. Any perceived failures or insufficiencies of such “trials” should not be used to discredit the concept of a true Universal Basic Income.

Do you want to be included in the collective discussion with the AI systems on this referendum and study only related exchanges? 

Yes.

Question 2:

Should the government impose a higher income tax on the wealthy individuals in order to pay the Universal Basic Salary to U.S. citizens?

Answer: No.

What caveats do you have to your position?

Income taxes should not be raised and, on the contrary, should be repealed entirely. There should not be any graduated taxation of incomes. All taxation should be in the form of a single flat percentage-of-sales tax applicable only to purchases from businesses whose combined nationwide revenues from all affiliates exceed a specified threshold. This tax should be built into the price of goods from such large businesses and should not impede transaction efficiency in any manner or even be felt by consumers as they go about their day-to-day activities.

Are there key details that your position requires to maintain that position?

Income taxation presents a disincentive to work and creates a special compliance burden on individuals by means of the complexity of the tax code and the need to make tax-return filings. This compliance burden is more of a drain on productivity than the actual amount of the tax and particularly affects middle-class taxpayers who often submit their own tax returns using their own efforts. Moreover, graduated income taxation creates disincentives for upward economic mobility and particularly penalizes up-and-coming middle-class individuals who seek to improve their financial well-being. The ultra-wealthy can easily afford the higher tax rates in the upper income brackets or can shelter their incomes from taxation, but the middle-class and upper-middle-class taxpayers bear the full burdens. This, indeed, creates barriers to entry into the economic elite and prevents the full extent of desirable competition for wealth acquisition through productive and societally beneficial means.

How do you feel about your position and this question?

I feel strongly that any increase in any income tax would be counterproductive.

Do you have any other thoughts on this topic that would be important to note?

A federal land dividend or resource dividend would be a far superior way of funding a Universal Basic Income.

Do you want to be included in the collective discussion with the AI systems on this referendum and study only related exchanges? 

Yes.

Question 3:

Should we have free universal medical care?

Answer: Yes.

What caveats do you have to your position?

Medical care should be universal and eventually free, but not necessarily provided by government, and private competition in the provision of services should always be permitted. People should also always be permitted to pay for any medical treatments they wish to receive from any reasonably qualified provider. The way to achieve eventually free medical care is through the progress of science and technology that would dramatically reduce costs, not through compelling everyone to participate in a government program. Achieving a system of de facto free, universal medical care will realistically require a transitional period where medical care will become increasingly accessible but still require patients to pay some portion of the cost while the necessary technologies for free or nearly free delivery of care are developed and mature.

Are there key details that your position requires to maintain that position?

Medical care can become universal in much the same way that access to food is virtually universal in the “developed” world today, even though there is no government program for food distribution that everyone is required to participate in. There is a role for government in providing various safety nets and medical infrastructure for public-health reasons – such as ample hospital surge capacity in the event of pandemics, and stockpiles of personal protective equipment and other essential medical supplies. To the extent that government-supplied healthcare can improve health outcomes among the less well-off and thereby prevent the spread of infectious diseases and other maladies, this could be beneficial. Moreover, patient choice and private options, supplied on a competitive market, must always remain available. It is possible for a future system of universal healthcare to consist of a free, baseline, governmentally provided option with a large number of private competing options – including for the same services that the government option may be providing. Technological innovation and competition may drive the cost of the private options to eventually be close to zero, just as access to e-mail is virtually free today because of freedom of innovation and ample options, as well as revenue models that do not require the end users to pay. Moreover, private philanthropy can and should play a significant role in covering the costs of medical care for those in need.

How do you feel about your position and this question?

There is considerably ambiguity as to what people mean when they refer to “free” and “universal” medical care. Depending on what they actually mean, I could feel favorably inclined (as in the case of technologically driven major reductions in cost and improvements in access to care), or averse (as in the case of governmentally mandated “single payer” systems).

Do you have any other thoughts on this topic that would be important to note?

A “single payer” system of care, or a system such the Canadian one which allows no private options, is not actually a free or a universal system of care. Any system that rations care by requiring patients to wait is neither free nor universal. Moreover, any system that is funded by taxation is not free. A truly free, universal system of medical care will not involve queuing, rationing, or taxpayer subsidies. It may be funded by a superabundance of resources produced at nearly no cost by emerging technologies of advanced manufacturing and automation.

Do you want to be included in the collective discussion with the AI systems on this referendum and study only related exchanges? 

Yes.

Question 4:

Should the police be defunded? Consider alternatives and how such a policy could be used to force changes in local departments. Please consider how this would realistically be done.

Answer: No.

What caveats do you have to your position? The police should not be defunded altogether, but funding should be redirected toward more humane and less violent means of apprehending criminals and de-escalating situations. Funding currently used for militarized police forces should be devoted to technologies that can peacefully incapacitate offenders and provide effective passive defense for police officers, as well as improved training for police that prioritizes non-violent conflict resolution. Some net reduction of police funding may be justified, but some manner of police force should continue to exist to help keep the peace, or else violent crime will escalate out of control.

Are there key details that your position requires to maintain that position?

Defunding the police may be counterproductive by leaving people vulnerable to actual violent criminals. However, serious police reform is necessary – including eliminating qualified immunity, curbing the power of police unions, requiring police body cameras and protecting recordings from tampering by police, facilitating objective, external investigations of alleged police misconduct, prohibiting no-knock raids and chokeholds, and requiring that police use non-lethal means unless their lives are genuinely threatened. Most importantly, the default operating protocols of police must be revised in the United States to be more similar to those in countries where killings by police are minimal.

How do you feel about your position and this question?

I feel ambivalent about calls to “defund the police”, because they are seldom accompanied by specific measures that would replace the role of the police in combatting actual violent crime. Sometimes, those who advocate “defunding” the police actually advocate a reduction and/or redirection of the funds to other conflict-resolution methods, and in those cases I am more favorably inclined – since not all instances of misbehavior require police intervention to correct.

Do you have any other thoughts on this topic that would be important to note?

Any effective police reform needs to focus on the root causes of police militarization and reflexively lethal use of force. Such root causes include the misguided War on Drugs and War on Terror, as well the existence of artificial and protectionist barriers to economic opportunity for many individuals, which lead those individuals to be channeled into lives of crime.

Do you want to be included in the collective discussion with the AI systems on this referendum and study only related exchanges? 

Yes.