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The Importance of an “Industrial Space Elevator” to Transhumanism and the “Futurist New Deal” Platform – Article by Nikolay Agapov

The Importance of an “Industrial Space Elevator” to Transhumanism and the “Futurist New Deal” Platform – Article by Nikolay Agapov

Nikolay Agapov


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) publishes this article by Nikolay Agapov to advance the goals of Section XVII of the USTP Platform, which states that “The United States Transhumanist Party holds that present and future societies should take all reasonable measures to embrace and fund space travel, not only for the spirit of adventure and to gain knowledge by exploring the universe, but as an ultimate safeguard to its citizens and transhumanity should planet Earth become uninhabitable or be destroyed.” The construction of a highly economical infrastructure project such as the Agapov Orbital Lift would greatly reduce the costs of space travel and thus enable rapid exploration and development of space for the benefit of humankind and all sentient entities – thus also accelerating our transition into the next era of our civilization. As of this time, the USTP has not yet endorsed a Presidential candidate but welcomes activity from all of our Presidential Primary candidates to advance the USTP Platform. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, June 23, 2019


This article is primarily about  the value to society of an industrial space elevator; which I believe could have already been built using a small fraction of the resources that have been spent on space tourism for a select few individuals.  But before we begin, I would like to take a moment to talk about how “Space Age” goals do correlate quite strongly with the goals of “Digital Democracy” and the strengthening of your middle class more generally, that are described in Mr. Johannon Ben Zion’s “Futurist New Deal” platform as a candidate seeking the Presidential nomination of the Transhumanist Party.  I have been previously described in an interview for this site as an “Open-Source Business Developer,” a term which is not a direct translation of the phrase that I used in the Russian interview, but it does describe this underlying commonality fairly well. By using “network technology” and allowing a larger group of peers to participate in the space industry, we’ll create a system that is making better use of the funds and resources that it has allocated and perhaps more importantly, one that can and will evolve as a matter of course to serve humankind.  

This open yet technocratic principle is also very well understood when it comes to more decentralized and more representative forms of government, and the funding of social programs that support the middle class, whether they are funded in the present day by largely public means or in the near-future by public-private partnerships.  

In a great many economies with post-industrial elements including Russia – although it is quite far from the strongest of economies – it is widely believed that the birth rate is “dangerously low.”  So much so that future generations of adults, working people, are said to have to provide for far too many retirees – the idea being that this can lead to an economic crisis. To avoid the crisis of an aging population, developed economies are actively attempting to assist young families.  In particular, the Russian government has provided many types of additional social services to young families that are not so widely available in the United States – for example, “Family Paid Leave”, “Universal Healthcare Services”, and other measures designed to encourage these vital family activities.  

I believe that concerns about “under-population” are not entirely rooted in reality; the main problem that people who fear this population bust express is that the population of older people or pensioners, is becoming much larger than the population of young people, and while in 20th-century technology terms that would lead to a shortage of labor, we now live in the 21st century.  Their fears do not take into account the ways in which all of our societies are moving towards full automation; a circumstance that is negating and will continue to negate these generational problems. However, the larger spirit and implementation of this partly fear-based set of policies is correct. Society and the economy flourish when people are free in their time and resources to pursue family life and small businesses; and these things are very strongly represented in the economic policies of the “Futurist New Deal”.

In Russia, the government is also concerned about a lack of human development and lower productivity.  At a recent open press conference, the Russian president announced a program for a sharp increase in overall labor productivity.  Achieving this rapid growth in production is possible only through a massive influx of small, private enterprises, but they must have a high level of automation and be able to quickly recoup the funds invested in them and develop rapidly both in quantitative and qualitative terms.  For this industries-wide sea-change to occur, you first need to create a conducive environment for all entrepreneurs. A democratization of laws and government is necessary for this purpose; but the Russian government in some ways continues to follow a strategy of rigid central planning and economic development through large state projects that have a high price and long implementation periods; this failing itself tends to make these modernization programs which are occurring under government control a rather dubious institution.

At the same time, Russia has a weak civil society and relatively low economic literacy, which do not foster developing entrepreneurial communities at the grassroots level – those not dependent on the government.  I think that developing decentralized production in Russia, as well as in many developing countries, is easier through collaboration with innovators in the United States. The first networks of decentralized industry are more likely to appear in the United States, Western Europe, and China.  After that, they will begin to transfer the rights to use their intellectual property worldwide, for a percentage of the profits. This is similar to the way 20th-century franchises have tended to work.  

Beginning to make these barest kinds of preparations for the economic health of a society, it is not so dissimilar from focusing on better and more discrete goals in the world of near-earth development.  Just as moving away from the rhetoric of “austerity” or nationalism allows you to identify problem areas more clearly, and correct them; the colonization of space by more collaborative efforts on the part of users – with more industrial and less fanciful goals in mind – will be a truly great boon to humankind.

I have begun to create social networks such as my “People of the Space-Era” and various working groups to this end; and I hope that the people of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, perhaps one of the most technologically literate cohorts in the world, will see and promote the value of this “open-source” approach.

Imagine if a new continent here on Earth were discovered and, rather than create trade networks  with that continent, those responsible for dealings with this new land opted to take a lot of “selfies” there instead – and do little else. As the public, you might rightly ask yourselves when it would be an appropriate time to begin to engage in more practical expeditions.  The simple fact is that an information society, any post-industrial society should be making better use of our connectivity and our technology than we are.

 When the first flights into space began, people enthusiastically waited for the first experiments to be followed up by larger-scale developments or innovations, such as those aimed at the practical and permanent venture into space by our species; and all the while hoping for inexpensive reusable rockets, or these fundamentally different ”rocketless” means of space transport to be developed. They waited with bated breath for the first extraterrestrial technological centers to be built, and after them the first extraterrestrial industrial enterprises should have surely followed.  People waited for humanity to start taking real steps towards becoming a space civilization. Sadly the nation-states concerned used their astronauts only to maintain their standing in public opinion, and these state space programs remained at an earlier stage of research and experimentation.

If our society wants to move into the Space Age, it is time for all of us to take the initiative. Team up to work on new global programs such as the development of new industries based on digital production, consisting of miniature factories capable of making their own replacements to accelerate industrial growth on Earth.  And later, in space, such micro-factories will themselves “multiply”, and build an array of near-earth industrial infrastructure, without the onerous costs associated with high-speed travel, operating on principles of development and economic efficiency. Today it is possible to develop on Earth the beginnings of a society on a truly cosmic scale, through the tenacity of many of you space-travel-minded people. These ways of thinking and ultimately this way of life must be adapted to the conditions of a functional space civilization, not tailored to narrower nationalistic or “creative” ends. The most innovative supporters of space expansion must take on these roles as coordinators to create earth-based industrial and entrepreneurial networks vital to this development of new programs for the industrialization of space.

Such initiative would lead to far broader and more robust sets of satellites which would improve the experiences of today’s device and IOT (Internet of Things) users and revolutionize this sadly untapped field of solar energy – which is inexhaustible and eco-friendly.  The development of cosmic mineral resources, the most valuable of these being precious metals and rare earth elements will be supplied to earth with ease. Perhaps of less value, but still market-changing, those many resources that serve in the construction of consumer orbital enterprises and transport systems, and of course the more widespread industrial use of 3-D printing, minimizing the need for expensive cargo delivery from the ground, will become more commonplace in near-earth and earthbound building.

It is indeed possible to suppose that a decentralized civil society which is still overseen by “good-faith” public coordinators could also actively prepare better for the colonization of space than we are preparing today.  For this to happen, the participation of nation-states directly is not needed, and even large capital investments would not be absolutely required; the network world of agile “citizen scientists” itself will become the best source of capital and resources. We need only initiative and personal energy to move past these 20th-century constraints.

One of the projects of these new  rocketless transport systems, which I propose that we implement, is the “Agapov Orbital Lift” (A.O.L.).   The A.O.L. is a simplified version of the space elevator which will remain in geosynchronous orbit but  will not be secured to the ground by a tether. This design is relied upon, as it is far more effective than the “Stationary Space Elevator” which has a cable that reaches the earth.  For the A.O.L. to work, there is a need for some rocketry, as the lower end of the cable will fly above the ground at a height of low orbit, but at a speed below the earth escape velocity of today’s rockets, at 1 – 3 kilometers per second. The A.O.L, unlike competitor lifts, will be able to immediately give us tremendous breakthroughs in the modernization of space transport.  This project is technically feasible since the earth connection cable is not needed, and so additional materials science innovations such as nanotubes or graphene tape need not be made a contingency of the first-generation A.O.L. Suffice it to say that materials such as carbon fiber, “Kevlar,” “Vectran,” or other polyethylene materials of a high degree of polymerization will be strong enough to suit these ends.  These existing materials-science innovations are already wholly mastered by industrial producers, are widely commercially available, and have a cost that is not exorbitantly high for near-earth development.

Waiting for one particular breakthrough is just not worth it when high-strength materials of many kinds are constantly being produced and improved upon, and as we mentioned at some length in our interview, the A.O.L. will also be upgraded many times in the course of its productive life. At certain intervals, older tethers, battered by space debris, will need to be replaced with newer, stronger, and longer ones made with more durable materials. And so, in the course of operation, the A.O.L. system of lifts will in short order be transformed into a stationary one, an achievement which itself would allow for the complete abandonment of missiles in near-earth travel.

The counterweight to the A.O.L. will be the International Space Station (ISS), as its life as a space-science laboratory comes to an end. And as part of the elevator, the station will be able to continue its multifaceted work in an exciting new capacity as a component of a revolutionary transport system. The ISS as counterweight to the elevator would be an appropriation of 100 billion dollars in existing space infrastructure, and its use will couple state space agencies with private firms in a timeless public-private partnership.  In addition, the ISS as part of the orbital elevator will be able to work as a technological platform for mounting satellites and various useful space objects, from relatively light payloads delivered to it by cables from suborbital flight. In doing so we will be responsible for the beginning of true space production.

In my previous interview with Presidential candidate Johannon Ben Zion, we discussed a figure of between 100 and 500 million dollars for the building of a first-generation, highly-automated industrial space elevator.   I understand that many of your readers are skeptical of this design and these figures, and at the risk of repeating myself from earlier in this article, I will say here again what I did not say in that shorter interview published June 12th, which is that the success of such a project could hinge on the “network effects,” the user-generated efforts in numerous interworking systems of networked organizations which are capable of consolidating the work product of industrial enterprises and small entrepreneurs on earth for the implementation of large-scale programs for the industrialization of space.  We must spearhead this construction ourselves in order to turn the entire world industry into a springboard for the colonization of the solar system and not limit this to individual government agencies or scattered and not fully realized private space firms. In short, on this quality of being “Open-Source”, which is again not the exact wording that I preferred to use in the original Russian interview, that phrasing certainly does get to the heart of the way in which this kind of effort should be different from previous private or public space-faring attempts.

Even in the weeks since that interview was conducted, new discoveries of underground resources on the Moon have been made, I believe that had previous lunar expeditions been more focused on making use of these resources, we would already have the industrial infrastructure between our planet and our Moon to be safely excavating these kinds of materials.

It would be unfair to describe private space industry as unconcerned with these improvements; incredible breakthroughs have been made in recent decades toward streamlining space-faring processes, making them cheaper and cleaner.  That said, I believe that almost all of the people working in this business have a fixation with rockets and an almost total lack of interest in the equally practical transport systems that I have described. If these engineers really believe that the focus of space travel is to stick pretty flags in piles of dirt, or engage in publicity stunts where people who are famous solely for being wealthy celebrate their success by enjoying zero gravity for a few hours – my advice is that they should pursue another line of work because these “accomplishments” are not of such great value as we have been led to believe.

My design for a space elevator is meant to be a transition, using the existing infrastructure now in low-earth orbit to create a lift system capable of slow but steady industrial growth – within 3 to 5 years – using the kinds of robotics that industry has taken for granted for a few decades.  To achieve this some adjustments will need to be made to the International Space Station so that its orbit is better positioned to support this lift system. When you consider the hundred or more billion dollars that have been spent on space stations which are now decommissioned, and I would argue have always been underutilized, the choice not to build a space elevator from them seems to me, frankly, a silly one.  The very important point in this design, which I have already iterated but that was sadly not included in the truncated first interview, is that this spacelift will not reach completely to Earth, and vehicles will be required to shuttle payloads up to that point. But as the cost of operating these vehicles will be much lower – as the high speeds required of rockets today to escape Earth’s gravity will not be necessary, the A.O.L. will nonetheless be of great value to industry.

There is no question in my mind that this tether design, which incorporates a few different interworking ultra-strong polymer blends, all of which are currently in widespread industrial use, will suffice for our materials needs.  And I should point out once again, and it has been said many times before, that by first constructing this industrial lift, we will then very soon be able to build out its infrastructure and create parallel lift structures that will quickly improve industrial, and presumably consumer, uses.

With greater interest after significant return on investment from these industrial undertakings, we will very quickly see that this initial design was well worth the effort. I hope that the lack of focus on space tourism in our first-generation A.O.L. design will be seen by potential investors as an asset to both consumers and industry in the long-term.

It is not just nostalgia for my youth that drives my interest in this repurposing of existing space infrastructure like the International Space Station; we should give the ISS a second life; this is the best way to continue the work begun by those 20th-century visionaries who first sought to propel our civilization beyond our atmosphere. These state-sponsored space administrations and the public-private partnerships which today exist in service to space travel and research are not enough to undertake this repurposing.  We need our “open-source” public efforts to become a kind of popular fascination, like the one seen in the 1950s “space race.” However, even the number of users currently contributing to the SETI app would be an excellent start to collaborative design and build efforts that would benefit our repurposing and tether-building efforts.

Such seeds of public fascination in an enterprise can direct public initiatives, both investment and intellectual capital into enterprises no less interesting and potentially far more vital than the some of the mechanisms of today’s Silicon Valley-style capitalism. Furthermore, this will give us a new arena for the development of information technology businesses in conjunction with these new generations of networks and satellite communications, which will make high-speed Internet far more accessible to the entire planet and will overwhelmingly strengthen the global information space of mankind, moving global civilization ever closer to the realization of a true “noosphere.”

Finally, I would reiterate that the focus on the cost of an industrial space lift should not be on the hundreds of millions of dollars in the initial outlay – but rather on the many trillions of dollars that could be generated by making this bold step. The A.O.L. transport infrastructure will confer great economic effects by the creation of a global industry in near-earth development; and just as on land, where railways and ports do not always bring the largest of profits, yet they do underpin the life of entirely greater industries and regions, so will millions of inhabitants benefit by industries developing out into the many hundreds of billions of dollars.

I hope that you will all leave this conversation with a somewhat clearer idea of the purpose and design of my industrial space lift, the “Agapov Orbital Lift”, and as well will consider endorsing Mr. Ben Zion and the “Futurist New Deal;” I believe that the architects of this plan truly do have your best interests as techno-optimists at heart.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) has not yet, as of this publication, endorsed a candidate for U.S. President. Therefore, the statement in the last sentence above by Mr. Agapov should be considered to be his personal opinion only at this time. Readers can view the profiles of all USTP Presidential Primary candidates and make informed decisions regarding which candidate(s) and which of their proposals to support. 

Meet the Naked Mole-Rat: Impervious to Pain and Cancer, and Lives Ten Times Longer Than It Should – Article by Ewan St. John Smith

Meet the Naked Mole-Rat: Impervious to Pain and Cancer, and Lives Ten Times Longer Than It Should – Article by Ewan St. John Smith

Ewan St. John Smith


Smithsonian’s National Zoo/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Ewan St. John Smith, University of Cambridge

The naked mole-rat is perhaps one of the most bizarre beasts on the planet. At first glance, it looks like little more than a cocktail sausage with legs and teeth. But beneath its wrinkly pink skin, this creature’s strange and beautiful biology has me fascinated – so much so that I set up a whole research group devoted to studying them. Largely immune to cancer, impervious to some forms of pain, and seemingly blessed with the elixir of life, you may well owe your life to them one day.

As the name might suggest, naked mole-rats buck the mammalian trend by almost completely lacking hair or fur. Living underground in complex networks of tunnels in East Africa, their thermally stable environment means that a few orientation-aiding bodily hairs and facial whiskers are all they need. Lacking evolutionary pressure to regulate their body temperature, they’re also the only known cold-blooded mammal on the planet.

The way naked mole-rats mate and socially organise is more akin to certain insect species than to mammals. Like some species of bees and ants, naked mole-rats are eusocial, living in 100-strong groups headed by a sole breeding female, the queen. But while insects command their colonies with pheromones, the naked mole-rat queen uses physical aggression to keep their groups digging tunnels, foraging, and defending entrances.

No, this isn’t Star Wars – it’s a naked mole-rat defending a tunnel.
Neil Bromhall/Shutterstock

A key tool for both digging and combat is their teeth. Their incisors are exterior to their lips, so that when they bite through hard soil they don’t get a mouthful of earth each time. Naked mole-rats can also move their lower incisors to manipulate objects, and have a large sensory area of their brains dedicated to their teeth in the same way that hands have dedicated brain space in humans.

The peculiarities of naked mole-rat behaviour are captivating in themselves. However, to most scientists, what makes them really exciting is the potential some of their incredible biology holds for making biomedical breakthroughs.

The naked mole rat’s resistance to cancer, diagnosed in humans every two minutes in the UK alone, is a particular area of focus for researchers. In studying why there are just a few documented cases worldwide in naked mole-rats, scientists are hoping to identify new ways to prevent or treat the deadly disease.

As yet, we’re not exactly sure what gives them their resistance. Some evidence suggests that a key difference in one of the meshwork of substances providing structural and nutritional support to cells prevents them from reproducing uncontrollably. However, others have observed different results, so further investigation is needed.

Not content with just being immune to cancer, naked mole-rats are also impervious to some normally agonising chemical stimuli, such as capsaicin (the substance that makes chilli peppers taste hot) and acid (what gives lemon juice and vinegar their kick). For their acid-insensitivity, researchers are clearer about why. A subtle difference in one particular molecule of the animal’s pain-sensing nerves turns acid into an anaesthetic. That is, rather than stimulating pain-sensing nerves, it actually numbs them – just like an anaesthetic that your dentist administers before the drilling starts. Sadly, this superpower only works with specific chemical stimuli – heat and pressure are just as damaging to them as us.

Scientists are now further studying the naked mole-rat to see whether we might be able to make the human pain system similarly impervious to acid pain. This could be extremely useful for cancer and arthritis sufferers, for whom build-ups of acid in body tissue can be a major contributor to chronic pain. The molecule responsible for insensitivity to acid in mole-rats also plays a role in human genetic conditions that drastically alter pain perception, and as a result of this convergent research, potential painkillers targeting this molecule have made it into clinical trials in humans.

Naked mole-rats are also highly resilient to low oxygen conditions. Their nerve cells can function for almost one hour in the complete absence of oxygen, by instead using fructose to power energy production. In studying this remarkable ability, my lab and others are hoping to uncover novel treatments to prevent brain damage in stroke patients.

Naked mole-rats are also renowned for their longevity. Broadly speaking, a larger body equals longer life in mammals. Standard lab mice weigh around 35 grams, and usually live a maximum of two to three years. Naked mole-rats can be up to twice as heavy, so might be expected to live four to six years, but can actually survive for more than 30 years in captivity. That’s longer than the lifespan of polar bears and giraffes. And while humans experience from many ageing-associated health problems (for example, osteoarthritis), naked mole-rats appear to age without issue. Research into the ageing processes of naked mole-rats is only in its infancy, but could have multiple implications for treating ageing-related conditions in humans.

Newborn naked mole-rats weigh as little as two grams.
belizar/Shutterstock

Naked mole-rats may look comical, but their magical biology is no laughing matter. Studying their hidden powers will not always result in preventions, cures and treatments for human ailments because of fundamental differences between the species. However, every new insight has the potential to lead to a breakthrough – as animal research has continually done throughout recent history. By unlocking the secrets held within their cells in a responsible manner, we may one day improve countless human lives.The Conversation

Ewan St. John Smith, University Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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

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

Sarah Lim


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

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

The irony of our strange epoch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We still have long ways to go.

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

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

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

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

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

There’s still much room for progress.

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

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

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

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

Kindness, the Greatest Temperer of Hubris – Article by Sarah Lim

Kindness, the Greatest Temperer of Hubris – Article by Sarah Lim

Sarah Lim


In light of the increasingly alarming reports on climate catastrophe that have been released in the past few months, more and more transhumanists are taking up the gauntlet and putting climate-change solutions on their political agenda. Sadly, the transhumanist movement hasn’t exactly been well-received by the environmentalist movement. Environmentalists such as Charles Eisenstein have blamed “scientism” and excessive faith in the scientific materialist worldview as being primarily responsible for the overexploitation of the natural world. Other environmentalists are hostile towards the transhumanist imperative to find a cure for biological aging, arguing that curing aging will further exacerbate the resource scarcity (a common criticism which LEAF has dealt with so extensively, they have a page dedicated to it).

It probably doesn’t help that a handful of transhumanists are very vocally “anti-nature”. One of transhumanism’s primary goals is to knock down fallacious appeals to nature which are propped up against the pursuit of radical human lifespan extension or cyborgification. However, the way we present these ideas could perhaps be phrased in a more palatable manner.

Environmentalists and bioconservatives are fond of claiming that transhumanism is the apogee of human hubris. They claim that transhumanism’s goals to overcome humanity’s biological limits are inseparable from the rapacious greed that has driven developed economies to violate the natural world to a point of near-collapse. Deep Greens go so far as to call for a total renunciation of the technological fruits of civilization, and a return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Radical environmentalists claim that a return to Luddism is the only thing that can save humanity from pillaging the natural world to a point where it becomes utterly inhabitable. But I would argue that the either-or split between human progress through technological advancement and compassion towards non-human life is a false dichotomy.

Drawing on David Pearce’s hedonistic imperative, I will argue that transhumanism and environmentalism aren’t necessarily at loggerheads with each other. You could even say that transhumanism entails a benevolent stewardship of nature, and that care for all non-human life is a logical extension of human exceptionalism. If the core imperative of our movement is to minimize suffering caused by biological limitations, that should apply to minimizing non-human suffering as well.

Benevolent stewardship: the Aristotelian mean between Deep Green Ludditism and Radical Transhumanist Anti-Naturism

I don’t think I’ve ever met somebody whose ideas have so radically changed my views on existential teleology and the natural world as quickly as David’s have. What I love about David’s hedonistic imperative and his involvement in the Reducing Wild Animal Suffering (RWAS) movement is how radically his ideology reframes the idea of human exceptionalism.

“Human exceptionalism” is generally seen as a bad thing, and with good reason. For the better part of human civilisation’s history, humans have been exceptionally bad – exceptionally bad to ethnic minorities who didn’t have guns or cannons,  exceptionally bad to women by depriving them of equal status to men and bodily autonomy, and exceptionally bad to all the animals humans have needlessly slaughtered or whose habitats they obliterated. Human beings are stand out as being exceptionally intelligent amongst the animal kingdom, and they also stand out for using that intelligence in extremely innovative ways to amass vast amounts of resources for their “in” groups, by brutally exploiting “out” groups in the most unimaginably vile ways.

But the hedonistic imperative puts a new spin on “human exceptionalism”. The hedonistic imperative is the great Uncle Ben lesson for humanity. With our exceptional intelligence comes great responsibility – responsibility not just to currently marginalized ethnic groups, genders, and social classes within humanity, but to non-human species, too. If we have the intelligence to turn humanity into a planet-ravaging force, then we have the intelligence to find a way to repair the damage humans have done.

The hedonistic imperative movement has also been credited with helping to convert a growing number of transhumanists to veganism, and to supporting planet-saving initiatives.

Aristotle is best known for describing virtue as the golden mean between two vices. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Deep Green environmentalism or radically anti-naturist transhumanism “vices”, but I would say that the hedonistic imperative manages to gel the most effective aspects of both schools of thought while avoiding the practical blind spots of both.

Deep Green environmentalists like Charles Eisenstein tend to promulgate the idea of nature’s sacredness as entailing an acceptance of natural malaises. These include death due to biological aging, but a logical extension of this is that it is immoral for human beings to intervene in nature and prevent animals from harming each other, since it is part of the “natural order”. Radically anti-naturist transhumanists tend to view anything natural as being automatically inferior to whatever man-made alternatives can be technologically manufactured. While we shouldn’t accept invocations of naturalism prima facie, this view isn’t quite tenable for primarily practical reasons. It would probably be extremely unwise to replace all the organic trees in the world with man-made synthetic ones, because the Earth’s biosphere is an exceedingly complex system that even our best biologists and geologists still do not fully understand. Likewise, we cannot solely on carbon-capture technology or geoengineering to be the ultimate solutions to the ongoing climate crisis. Much more still needs to be invested in reforestation and the restoration of currently endangered animal and plant species which have been afflicted by habitat loss or resource depletion.

Homo Deus: Already Here

For all the utter destruction that humanity has wrought over the past 10,000 years, we can’t overlook the great capabilities we hold as stewards of nature. Say what you will about humanity, but we’re literally the only species on Earth that has evolved to a point where we can use science to resurrect the dodo bird, the woolly mammoth, and the pterodactyl. And we can do that with all the other species we’ve driven to extinction. Perhaps those will be the reparations we pay to the animal kingdom for the previous damage done.

Humanity is also the only species in existence that actually has the power to contradict the forces of natural selection and end natural suffering in its tracks. We just choose not to because we can’t be bothered to. I had never in my life thought about how powerful the implications of this were until I listened to David speak about it. We are the only species with the requisite technological power to end hunger, disease, and infant mortality amongst animals, if we so choose.

Basically put: we’re already gods and goddesses.

We are literally gods in the eyes of animals.

But many humans have chosen to emulate the very worst behaviours of the Old Testament Biblical God rather than being the kind of God all human civilizations would long hope would care for them kindly.

One of Ben Goertzel’s major life goals is to create the most benevolent possible AI nanny who will be programmed to watch over humanity, make us immortal and create a post-scarcity condition where all of our physical needs can be met through the application of nanotechnology. Ben acknowledges that deliberately programming an AI to be as benevolent and compassionate is possible, because at present, everyone and their mother is preparing for a possible Terminator scenario where AI goes rogue and decides that it is under no obligation to be kind to its human creators.

If you would like to know exactly how badly an indifferent or uncompassionate posthuman AI could treat us, you need only look at how badly humans treat chickens and cows. You would only have to look up YouTube videos of desperate orangutans feebly trying to push aside construction cranes that are in the midst of pulverising the trees in which they reside.

And it wasn’t too long ago that humans treated different races of human beings in a similar fashion (although they weren’t slaughtered for consumption).

A posthuman ultra-intelligent AI inflicting the same treatment on humans in developed industrial economies might just be karma coming to pay what’s long been due.

“The benevolent AI god who will resurrect the dead and keep us prosperous forever” is the one wild fantasy which transhumanist forums are constantly salivating over. But why should we expect the AI god to be so propitious to us when humans are not even showing a fraction of that expected mercy to the elephants, cows, and salmon alive today?

Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Pearce and the RWAS movement crank this imperative up a notch:

“Be the ultra-intelligent, highly-evolved benevolent steward whom you’d like to see overseeing the well-being and survival of your species.”

The New Narrative of Human Exceptionalism

At their core, the primary message of the Deep Green environmentalism and the transhumanist hedonistic imperative aren’t so different. Both movements say that the narrative of Man as the Mighty Colonizer must now come to an end. Charles Eisenstein and Jason Godesky propose we get there by returning to having Animism as the overarching religious paradigm of global society, and by returning to a more hunter-gatherer-like lifestyle.

Julian Savulescu argues that we nip the problem in its biological bud by using biotechnological intervention to delete the human genes that predispose us to excessive aggression towards “out” groups, excessive resource hoarding, and rape. For reasons I’ve explained in detail elsewhere, I tend to side more with Savulescu. But put aside the means, and you’ll realise that both the Deep Greens and more pacifist-humanitarian transhumanists are both proponents of the same end.

One reason why I tend more towards siding with Savulescu and Pearce is because I think that forsaking technological advancement would be a mistake. If transhumanism is about transcending our biologically-saddled limitations through the application of technology, it follows that the shortcomings of primate-based moral psychology shouldn’t be an exception. As leading primatologist Richard Wrangham points out in his often-cited Demonic Males, our primate ancestors evolved to wage war on hominids from other “out” groups and to be predisposed towards hyper-aggression and selfishness, as a means of surviving on the resource-scarce savannah. And our neurobiological hardwiring hasn’t changed significantly since then. One of Savulescu’s favorite argument points is claiming that had genetic moral editing been available earlier, we’d probably have averted the climate catastrophe altogether. Savulescu sees the climate catastrophe as being a glaring symptom of still-dominant monkey brains’ failures to consider the long-term consequences of short-term consumer capitalist satisfaction.

Furthermore, renouncing the fruits of technology and modern medicine would make us far less effective stewards of the animal world. If we go back to a hunter-gatherer existence, we’ll be renouncing the technology needed to resurrect both long and recently extinct species. Another major goal of the RWAS movement is to use CRISPR gene-editing to help reduce the propensity towards suffering in wild animals, and to engage in fertility regulation. Pearce claims that we might even be able to make natural carnivorism and mating-season-induced violence obsolete using gene-editing in various aggression-prone species. While we’re at it, we could edit the physiological basis for craving meat out of human beings, since our primate ancestors evolved to be omnivorous. Or we could at the very least try to create a future where all of our meat is lab-grown or made from plant-based substitutes.

It’s also worth noting that human beings are the only species on the planet to find out about the ultimate fate of life on Earth. We’ve very, very recently found out that the duration of the planet’s habitability has an expiry date, and that the Sun will eventually turn into a red dwarf and fry the Earth into an inhospitable wasteland. Given that human beings are the only species which has the necessary intelligence to engage in space travel and colonization, the survival of every single non-human species on the planet falls into our hands. The sole hope for the perpetuation of non-human species lies in future humans setting up space colonies in other habitable planets outside our solar system, and taking all of Earth’s animal species with us. Again, this isn’t something we can achieve if we renounce technological progress.

Conclusion

Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus has become a staple read for many in the transhumanist movement. But in the eyes of the world’s animals, we have already become all-powerful gods, who can dole out exploitative cruelty or interventional mercy on a whim. The criticisms of the Deep Green environmentalist movement are increasingly forcing techno-utopians to confront this question; exactly what kind of gods and goddesses will we continue to be to the non-humans of the Earth? If we are going to reconceptualize human exceptionalism from being associated with exceptional human greed and exploitation, to being based on exceptional human wisdom and interventionary benevolence, we need to heed the words of both Savulescu and Eisenstein, and pursue a different human narrative. We’re generally kinder towards women, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and the working class than we were three hundred years ago, so there is hope that we’re steadily changing course towards a more altruistic track. If every great moral school of thought has an overarching axiom, the one that defines the hedonistic imperative should be this: “Treat less sentient animals the way you would like the posthuman AI god to treat you and your family.”

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

Open-Source Business Developer Nikolay Agapov and Transhumanist Party Presidential Primary Candidate Johannon Ben Zion In Conversation: On Near-Earth/Space Development, the Orbital Ring, and the Design for the Agapov Orbital Lift

Open-Source Business Developer Nikolay Agapov and Transhumanist Party Presidential Primary Candidate Johannon Ben Zion In Conversation: On Near-Earth/Space Development, the Orbital Ring, and the Design for the Agapov Orbital Lift

Nikolay Agapov
Johannon Ben Zion


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) publishes this interview between Johannon Ben Zion and Nikolay Agapov to advance the goals of Section XVII of the USTP Platform, which states that “The United States Transhumanist Party holds that present and future societies should take all reasonable measures to embrace and fund space travel, not only for the spirit of adventure and to gain knowledge by exploring the universe, but as an ultimate safeguard to its citizens and transhumanity should planet Earth become uninhabitable or be destroyed.” The construction of a highly economical infrastructure project such as the Agapov Orbital Lift would greatly reduce the costs of space travel and thus enable rapid exploration and development of space for the benefit of humankind and all sentient entities – thus also accelerating our transition into the next era of our civilization. As of this time, the USTP has not yet endorsed a Presidential candidate but welcomes activity from all of our Presidential Primary candidates to advance the USTP Platform. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, June 11, 2019

Read the English-language outline for the Agapov Orbital Lift, written by Nikolay Agapov, here

Johannon Ben Zion:  We live in different countries; we’ve never met!  Should we talk about how we met?

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, Ben, having heard of your Arizona Transhumanist Party‘s “Orbital Ring” publicity push, I felt I would have been remiss if I didn’t reach out to the Arizona Transhumanist Party and your U.S.  Presidential candidacy with the Transhumanist Party, and offer to make a comparison and further study of the respective designs, my team’s included.  I like to tell people that I am an “open-source” business developer in this context, and an avid supporter of the near-earth industrialization, in contrast to “pure exploration.”

I principally come from an educational background in economics with a specialization in business administration. I have made an extensive study of the global economic environment in the course of my international business studies and striven to understand and emulate the careers and novel methods of innovators like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.

I have always been interested in the topic of space exploration and in the process of studying at the university, I began to develop extensive plans for near-earth industrialization with the relatively smaller-budgeted space agencies in mind, as Roscosmos now has, and also a focus on high attractiveness to investors.

In addition, I have often written of as well as developed several designs in the field of solid-fuel rocket engines.  Making solid propellant rockets cheaper and more environmentally friendly with the ability to raise their efficiency to the level of liquid engines has been a central focus of my work.

After writing and developing in these areas for quite some time, I am convinced that space agencies and businesses are not nearly focused enough on outcomes or growth, which is why I have become an “open-source” business developer; network effects and “crowd-sourcing” effects in research and development must be better utilized if we are to quicken the pace of technological advancement.

The main goal of space businesses and agencies is the development of civilizational impacts of space-faring, the transition of humanity to the level of a true space-faring civilization. And all smaller projects should be viewed as merely steps to this larger goal.

It is not so much of an overstatement to say that modern space administrations in fact remain mechanisms of the state-run propaganda that arose during the period of escalation during the Cold War. Their goal is to maintain a certain prestige and visibility, through periodic campaigns and in the launching of scientific probes, etc.  A “Space Age cynic” such as myself will view many of these endeavors as not always directly contributing to the aforementioned “transition to a space-faring civilization.” As for the real, practical, space exploration, they have no idea how to develop it and do not strive for it.

As a result, I have completely updated my approaches to the industrialization of space, in the form of more networked or “crowdsourcing-ready” businesses and more results-oriented public agencies.  Since I’ve read more recently of your “Futurist New Deal”, I do hope that you will continue your commitment to near-earth industrialization as we first discussed.

JBZ: Well, yes, we absolutely will.  Although our campaign is focused on domestic economic  policy and e-governance issues now, all of our near-term undertakings are intended to set the stage for your “transition to a space-faring civilization,” or a true post-industrial society more broadly.

Nikolay Agapov: My team has our own approaches to the development of space expansion and the end goal, the preparation for the colonization of space, a goal I believe best achieved through the creation of a permanent transportation system to our nearest neighbor, the Moon.  The more than one trillion dollars that have been spent in the pursuit of space travel have not had this focus, been a rather poor use of funds, with a somewhat disappointing result all told.   I believe that you yourself told me in our first conversation that the efforts of your space agency [NASA] were “the most expensive PR campaign.”

JBZ: Yes, I said, “The most expensive PR campaign in history” and basically one with surprisingly little focus on tangible production outcomes, a concern I share with you. A popular, if a little operatic view of the history of NASA is one to which I do subscribe to a certain degree myself, at least in principle.  It’s a distrustful sentiment that really gets to the heart of most of this confused thinking on the NASA subject in a roundabout sort of way; the NASA “conspiracy theories” are largely rooted, I believe, in this feeling that this whole operation was a “Cold War” publicity stunt – a very expensive one – that didn’t “build” much of anything, in structural engineering terms at least –  although it contributed to the production of any number of groundbreaking technological breakthroughs argued for in hindsight as justification of the expense, and quite rightly argued considering the impact of those things – in spite of the lack of interest in “near-earth industrialization” by the parties in question.

Nikolay Agapov:   I would say that the “Space Age” tropes that both derived from and guided these somewhat odd goals have themselves become codified, leading to impractical implementations (or as we’ve suggested above, a lack thereof) and also a “monoculture,” where what began as nebulous goals, have become codified by science-fiction fanatics, films, and television – so that all interest, popular or industrial, is centering on rockets and journeys beyond our sphere which are very exciting – but a little ineffable as to their purpose relative to the building of things.

JBZ: Most of us at the Transhumanist Party are believers in technocratic solutions, even some beyond the 20th-century or early post-industrial models of today – and I am one of those. The principles of technocracy and automation-centered policy making would do quite a bit to solve these problems in private and public space initiatives.

Nikolay Agapov: Modernized countries share a technocratic approach to their organization.

JBZ: Yes, it’s odd to me that so many in the USA  view technocracy as an ugly word.  I regard myself (and all those involved in the “Futurist New Deal” do as well) as an “economic populist”, but I view this tendency to criticize technocracy as something to be viewed with skepticism, a “false populist phenomenon,” that derives from what is sometimes called in the USA “know-nothing”-ism, a set of anti-science and low-information cultural values that poison, well, many, if not most, earnest efforts in public policy and the ordering of a civil society.  

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, and your “futurists” would be doing the right thing in trying to counteract this other failing in thinking about technology and progress.

JBZ: How expensive would your space elevator be?  What’s the cost of the most expensive or extravagant elevator or orbital ring you’d like to build, since I know we’ve discussed a few with cost in mind?

Nikolay Agapov: Incorporating the existing but non-operational space stations described in my prospectus into the design, using a tether with a specialized design using Kevlar, carbon fiber,  or polyethylene materials designs that could sustain the tether and a series of relatively small additional payloads, a little smaller than a human at first – as I’ve described in our prospectus.

JBZ: Yes, I was imagining a bunch of little “Roombas” scooting up there to the space station to then be boosted off to the moon and do some work.

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, these types of remotely controlled or semi-autonomous devices should be among the easier parts of our “work order” to fulfill.  And as the system is judged to be stable, more tethers would be built, a number of these which are stable would perhaps allow for very low-cost space tourism, travel from Earth to the space station in a matter of days at that time shortly after the initial stabilization of the tether, but it is quite likely that other materials designs for tethers would be required, delaying the tourism part, which I regard as the smallest part of this undertaking compared to getting “robots” out in earth’s orbit fixing and building existing and new infrastructure, respectively, and traveling on to do so on the Moon as well.  

Using materials costs from the Eurasian markets and including the estimates of existing but underutilized space infrastructure and present-day tether materials (despite their payload limitations), I would put the total costs at 100 – 500 million dollars.  This 500% variation in costs would be due to the uncertain nature of building in orbit and the problems with constructing and maintaining the tether, as well as market uncertainties for the materials needed.

JBZ: That’s 100-500 million right?  Millions, 1 and six zeroes, 1,000,000? Is that what you are saying?

Nikolay Agapov: Yes.

JBZ: That’s many billions of dollars lower than any of the prospecti I’ve seen, some of which push up to a trillion dollars.

Nikolay Agapov:  Building systems for space tourism would be a lot more than a few hundred million dollars, as those systems are built and rebuilt to higher standards, but by that time there will occur an immense economic impact from making better use of building in orbit or on the Moon and the ways that they would impact existing markets, with cheaper and better satellites, new energy developments in solar and other renewable energies, and the appeal and benefits of industrializing in earth’s orbit and on the moon. As a result, those significant added costs for stronger elevators would be happily undertaken by those industries.

JBZ: I am still a little taken aback with this “low” budget.   That is a number that Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis, or many of these guys could fund based on their companies’ valuations just by diverting some portion of funds from other space companies.

Nikolay Agapov:  Maybe. Your question about the most expensive project I can think of – I don’t think is a serious one.  The “most expensive design” is to continue building rockets if operating cost and environmental impact are no concern.  

JBZ: Fair enough. Your prospectus states that you could have this design completed and financially self-sustaining in 3-5 years. Do you stand by that?

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes and no.  If the project was fully funded and international cooperation and many other political factors were dealt with independently – then yes, absolutely.  I think that the cooperation of U.S. and Russian space agencies and associated corporations and entities may be enough to accomplish this.

JBZ: It would take a mighty fine group of statesmen and women to accomplish such a thing.

Nikolay Agapov:  Maybe, maybe not.

JBZ: If such a project could be built so cheaply, why hasn’t it been done yet?

Nikolay Agapov:  I would answer “politics” more than “design”, but I would also include with that concern, the lack of motivation and the focus on these “popular imagination” and “sci-fi-genre media-driven” goals we spoke of, resulting in the “rich guys with big rockets” and tourism over industrialization.  Industry is a more controversial design principle because it is perceived as being more “invasive” or “less ecological”, although in practice the opposite is true; rockets have been and still are much worse.  Irony.

JBZ:  The design like the one that I had been sharing with others was to build out an entirely new orbital ring with a “PBO”, also known as  “Zylon” tether and with a $10 billion total price tag.  That’s the “Low Cost Design for an Orbital Ring” by California engineer David Nelson, I believe, and published July of 2017.  I should say it’s possible he’s a bit of a shy character; after a few attempts I’ve not been able to actually identify him (his writing has been republished, and Dave Nelson is an extremely common name in the U.S.) nor contact him for comment.  It’s also a design that requires a 10-plus-year build timeline.

Nikolay Agapov:  I’ve read all about this design, and he’s done a lot of good work, but I think we can do a lot better with a smaller, more industry-focused orbital ring.  The option of using the decommissioned space station as a counterweight is a major selling point for us, but it, too, requires international and national politicking, as well as the business acumen of my organization and other private space companies.

JBZ:  Therein lies the rub, but it starts with getting people excited and having these conversations outside of the typical bluster of these discussions as nationalistic or symbolic endeavors.  If I had 100 million dollars, I would be investing that money into this today, and to that end  I hope we can link to your outline at least, for our readers, here.

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, that is fine, but bear in mind the full prospectus is written in Russian, and this outline of concepts was also written in English, but there remain a few proofreading concerns, so please be patient.  This outline at the time of its publication had not had the benefit of a translator, as this interview has.

JBZ: But feel free to comment and discuss with us,;we will be happy to engage with you. The function of such a thing is to answer questions and bring in new ideas and hopefully get a working space elevator built soon.

Nikolay Agapov:  Yes, thank you for your time.

 

Update Regarding the Presidential Candidates and Forthcoming Events of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party

Update Regarding the Presidential Candidates and Forthcoming Events of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party


June 10, 2019: The U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP) encourages its members to follow the activities of our current declared candidates for President of the United States. While we have not yet endorsed any candidate and will not do so until after the Electronic Primary in August 2019, we wish to offer this update in an informational capacity to give our members more insight into the current candidates and their recent campaign efforts.

Watch this video, created by USTP Director of Media Production Tom Ross, featuring the current four candidates, their campaign slogans, and the USTP Core Ideals.

Any additional candidates have until 11:59 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time on July 31, 2019, to declare themselves. To declare their candidacies, individuals would need to submit the electronic Presidential Candidate Declaration of Interest form. Thereafter, to demonstrate the seriousness of their intentions, all candidates who declare themselves will be asked to respond in writing to the same profile questions that were answered by the four candidates currently running.

The First Virtual Debate among the candidates will be held on Saturday, July 6, 2019, at 3 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time. The public will be able to watch the debate and submit any questions on the YouTube page for the livestream here.

The Electronic Primary to select the USTP Presidential nominee will be held during the week of August 11-17, 2019. A seven-day electronic voting period will be opened on August 11, 2019 (with some time window possible for early voting on August 10, 2019), in order to give all members the opportunity to conveniently vote as their time permits.

Currently, as of June 9, 2019, the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party has 1,525 members who would be eligible to vote in the Electronic Primary. We hope that this number will grow as a result of interest in the Presidential process and as the candidates reach new audiences and also rally support from their constituencies. We have encouraged candidates to recruit new members, and so far this has worked in increasing the volume of members registered each day.

Any individual who joins the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party as a member (see the online Membership Application Form) and expresses agreement with the three USTP Core Ideals, on or prior to August 10, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the Electronic Primary. Additionally, a tiny minority of members (fewer than 10) who did not express agreement with the Core Ideals will be queried by the USTP Chairman to determine whether their ideas are sufficiently in alignment with transhumanist values and aspirations to enable them to become eligible to vote. Such eligibility decisions will be made at the USTP Chairman’s discretion based on the responses of those members.

Charles Holsopple

Candidate Charles Holsopple offers the following update regarding his activities and aspirations.

Project222.org Human Rights Campaign and the Transhumanist Party have so much in common, that when asked just weeks ago, I decided to run for the nomination of the Party for the office of President of the United States.

My platform is rooted in the wise use technology and finite naturally occurring resources to ensure that all people have dignified access to a minimum of 2 gallons of clean water in a day, 2000 nutritional calories and 200 ft.³ of secure shelter. Accomplishing these reasonable and achievable goals is essential in solving the growing refugee crisis and a creating a peaceful, sustainable economy.

For the past year, word of Project222 has been spreading among aid workers, Board members of nonprofits, and my many connections on LinkedIn and social media platforms.

Project222 appeals to a wide audience and has been a great segue into introducing the Transhumanist Party.

Recently I have begun introducing myself as the founder of Project222 and as a Transhumanist candidate for the USTP’s nomination for POTUS.

So far I am very encouraged by the reception this decision has been given.

Whether you support me or another Transhumanist candidate, I ask that you take advantage of free membership in the Transhumanist Party. Also please check out Project222.org and help bring both into the conversation this election season.

If I receive the nomination, I pledge to promote the values of the Transhumanist Party, in their relationship to the benefit of humankind in this and future generations.

Remember! Wherever you live, you are eligible to vote!

“Welcome To The Party!”

Rachel Haywire

Candidate Rachel Haywire has teamed up with Transhuman Tees to develop T-shirts for her campaign. Find them here. See a broader selection of shirts here.

Rachel Haywire has also been featured in a profile by Biohackinfo, entitled “Transhumanist will defeat Trump using a pirate spaceship”.

Watch this video update by Rachel Haywire.

 

Johannon Ben Zion

Candidate Johannon Ben Zion has founded the Arizona Transhumanist Party and has been recruiting members to join it. He offers the following update:

Over the last few months and in cooperation with other Arizona Transhumanist Party members, we have begun development of policy proposals for a healthcare expense-sharing program and a legal fund that would allow Transhumanists to safeguard their life extension protocols and secure “health savings accounts” with longer lives in mind. We have also cultivated deep ties to political and private organizations centered on technology outside of the H+ community. We have, moreover, heavily promoted our increasingly popular platform, “The Futurist New Deal”, to one simple end – to bring new blood into the H+ community.

Watch these video updates by Johannon Ben Zion.

Update 1:

 

Update 2:

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Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party absolutely for free, no matter where you reside. It takes less than a minute to fill out our Membership Application Form.

In Support of “Unfit for the Future”: When the Vessel is Unfit for the Task – Article by Sarah Lim

In Support of “Unfit for the Future”: When the Vessel is Unfit for the Task – Article by Sarah Lim

Sarah Lim


This essay has been submitted for publication to the Journal of Posthuman Studies.

This essay is written in support of the ideas presented by Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson in their book Unfit for the Future: the Need for Moral Enhancement. I will argue that Savulescu and Persson’s arguments for moral bioenhancement should be given more serious consideration, on the grounds that moral bioenhancement will most likely be humanity’s best chance at ensuring its future ethical progress, since our current achievements in rapid ethical progress have been highly contingent on economic progress and an increasing quality of life. As a vehicle for for ethical progress, this is becoming increasingly untenable as the world enters a new period of resource scarcity brought about by the ravages of climate change. This essay will also respond to some of the claims against human genetic enhancement, and transhumanism in general, made by critic John Gray. Finally, the concluding remarks of this essay will examine a possible long-term drawback to moral bioenhancement which has not net been raised by Savulescu’s critics thus far – namely, that genetically altering future human beings to be less aggressive could unintentionally result in them becoming complacent to a point of lacking self-preservation.

Maslow and Malthus

Ethical philosophers in Steven Pinker’s camp may argue that the consideration of moral bioenhancement is absurd because moral education has apparently been sufficient enough to bring forth radical moral progress in terms of civil liberties in the 20th and 21st centuries. The 20th century heralded in never-before-seen progress in terms of the civil rights granted to women, ethnic minorities, LGBT+ people, and the working class. As Pinker points out, crime rates plummeted over the past 150 years, and so has the total number of wars being fought throughout the world. Savulescu admits that this is a valid point.

However, Savulescu’s main point of contention is that while the overall rates of violent crime have been drastically reduced, rapid advancements in technology have enabled rouge individuals to inflict more mass damage than at any other point in human history. While overall rates of interpersonal violence and warfare are decreasing, advancements in technology have exponentially increased the ability of individual actors to inflict harm on others to a greater extent than at any other point in human history. It takes just one lone Unabomber-type anarchist to genetically engineer a strain of smallpox virus in a backyard laboratory, to start a pandemic killing millions of innocent people, argues Savulescu. A statistic he constantly cites is that 1% of the overall human population are psychopaths. This means that there are approximately 77 million psychopaths alive today.

I would like to raise a further point in support of Savulescu’s argument. I would argue that the exceptional progress in ethics and civil rights that the developed world has witnessed in the last century has been the result of unprecedented levels of economic growth and vast improvements in the average quality of life. The life spans, health spans, and accessibility of food, medicine, and consumer goods seen in developed economies today would have been an unbelievable utopian dream as little as 250 years ago. One of X Prize Foundation chairman Peter Diamandis’s favorite quips is that our standard of living has increased so exponentially that the average lower-income American has a far higher quality of life than the wealthiest of robber barons did in the 19th century.

As Pinker himself points out, the first moral philosophies of the Axial Age arose when our ancestors finally became agriculturally productive enough to no longer worry about basic survival. Once they had roofs over their heads and sufficient grain stores, they could begin to wax lyrical about philosophy, the meaning of life, and the place of the individual in wider society. Arguably, the same correlation was strongly demonstrated in the post-World War II era in the developed economies of the world. Once the population’s basic needs are not just met, but they are also provided with access to higher education and a burgeoning variety of consumer goods, they’re much less likely to be in conflict with “out” groups over scarce resources. Similarly, incredible advancements in maternal healthcare and birth control played a major role in the socio-economic emancipation of women.

Our ethical progress being highly contingent on economic progress and quality of life should concern us for one major reason – climate change and the resource scarcity that follows it. The UN estimates that the world’s population will hit 9.8 billion by 2050. At the same time, food insecurity and water scarcity are going to become increasingly common. According to UNICEF, 1.3 million people in Madagascar are now at risk of malnutrition, due to food shortages caused by cyclones and droughts. There could as many as 25 million more children worldwide suffering from climate-change-caused malnutrition by the middle of this century. This is on top of the 149 million malnourished children below 5 years old, who are already suffering from stunted growth, as of 2019.

This is the worst-case scenario that climate-change doomsdayers and authors of fiction revolving around dystopian civilizational collapse keep on warning us of. There is a legitimate fear that a rapid dwindling of access to food, medical care, and clean water could lead currently progressive developed economies to descend back into pre-Enlightenment levels of barbarism. Looting and black markets for necessities could flourish, while riots break out over access to food and medical supplies. Ostensibly, worsening scarcity could encourage the proliferation of human trafficking, especially of females from desperate families. The idea is often dismissed as wildly speculative alarmist screed by a considerable number of middle-income city dwellers living in developed nations. Food shortages caused by climate change have mostly affected the sub-Saharan Africa and India, where they’re far out of sight and out of mind to most people in developed economies.

However, the World Bank estimates that 140 million people could become refugees by 2050, as a result of climate change. These populations will predominantly be from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, but it is likely that a significant percentage of them will seek asylum in Europe and America. And developed Western economies will only be spared from the worst effects of climate change for so long. North Carolina has already been afflicted by severe flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in 2018, just as it was  affected by Hurricane Matthew which had struck two years earlier. Climate journalist David Wallace-Wells has gone so far as to claim that a four degree increase in global temperature by 2100 could result in resource scarcity so severe, that it will effectively double the number of wars we see in the world today.

Savulescu argues that the fact that we’ve already let climate change and global income inequality get this bad is itself proof that we’re naturally hardwired towards selfishness and short-term goals.

A Response to John Gray

As one of the most well-known critics of transhumanism, John Gray has said that it is naive to dream that humanity’s future will somehow be dramatically safer, more humane, and more rational than its past. Gray claims that humanity’s pursuit of moral progress will ultimately never see true fruition, because our proclivities towards irrationality and self-preservation will inevitably override our utopian goals in the long run. Gray cites the example of torture, which was formally banned in various treaties across Europe during the 20th century. However, this hasn’t stopped the US from torturing prisoners of war with all sorts of brutal methods, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gray claims that this is proof that moral progress can be rolled back just as easily as it is made. Justin E. H. Smith makes similar arguments about the inherent, biologically-influenced cognitive limits of human rational thinking, although he does not explicitly criticise transhumanism itself. And Savulescu agrees with him. Throughout their argument, both Savulescu and Persson hammer home the assertion that humans have a much greater predilection towards violence than altruism.

But here Gray is making a major assumption – that future generations of human beings will continue to have the same genetically-predisposed psychology and cognitive capabilities as we currently do. Over millennia, we have been trying to adapt humanity to a task that evolution did not predispose us towards. We’ve effectively been trying to carry water from a well using a colander. We might try to stop the water from leaking out from the colander as best we can by cupping its sides and bottom with our bare palms, but Savulescu is proposing a radically different solution; that we should re-model the colander into a proper soup bowl.

It seems that Gray is overlooking some of his own circular reasoning which he uses to perpetuate his arguments against transhumanist principles and genetic enhancement. He argues that humanity will never truly be able to overcome our worst proclivities towards violence and selfishness. However, he simultaneously argues that endeavoring to enhance our cognitive capabilities and dispositions towards rationality and altruism are a lost cause that will be ultimately futile. Following Gray’s line of reasoning will effectively keep humanity stuck in a catch-22 situation where we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Gray is telling us that we need to resign ourselves to never being able to have a proper water-holding vessel while simultaneously discouraging us from considering the possibility of going to a workshop to weld the holes in our colander shut.

Windows of Opportunity

There is one final reason for which I will argue for greater urgency in considering Savulescu’s proposal seriously. Namely, we are currently have a very rare window of opportunity to execute it practically. If Gray is right about the likelihood that moral progress can be rolled back more easily than it is made, then he should acknowledge that we need to take full advantage of the current moral progress in developed economies, while we still have the chance to. Rapid advancements in CRISPR technologies and gene-editing are increasing the practical viability of moral bioenhancement without the consumption of neurotransmitters. Savulescu argues that we need to strike while the iron is hot; while the world economy is still relatively healthy and while STEM fields are still receiving billions in funding for research and development.

If nothing else, a rather intellectually sparse appeal to novelty can be made in defence of Savulescu’s proposal. Given that climate change could be the greatest existential risk humanity has ever faced in its whole history to date, we should begin considering more radical options to deal with its worst ravages. The limited faculties of rationality and altruism which nature has saddled us with have brought us millennia of warfare, genocide, radical inequality in resource distribution, and sexual violence. We keep on saying “never again” after every single cataclysmic man-made tragedy, but “again” still keeps on happening. Now is as good a time as ever to consider the possibility that humanity’s cognitive faculties are themselves fundamentally flawed, and inadequate to cope with the seemingly insurmountable challenges that lie ahead of us.

A Possible Future Negative Consequence of Moral Bioenhancement to be Considered

Multiple objections to Savulescu’s proposal have been raised by authors such as Alexander Thomas and Rebecca Bennett. I would like to raise another possible objection to moral bioenhancement, although I myself am a proponent of it. A possible unforeseen consequence of radically genetically reprogramming homo sapiens to be significantly less selfish and prone to aggression could be that this will simultaneously destroy our drive for self-improvement. One could argue that the only reason human beings have made it far enough to become the most technologically advanced and powerful species in our solar system was precisely because our drive for self-preservation and insatiable desire for an ever-increasing quality of life. You could claim that if we had just remained content to be hunter-gatherers, we would never have gotten to the level of civilization we’re at now. It’s more likely that we would have gone extinct on the savannah like our other hominid cousins, who were not homo sapiens.

Our inability to be satisfied with the naturally-determined status quo is the very reason the transhumanist movement itself exists. What happens, then, if we genetically re-dispose homo sapiens to become more selfless and less aggressive? Could this policy ironically backfire and create future generations of human beings who become complacent about technological progress and self-improvement? Furthermore, what happens if these future generations of morally bioenhanced human beings face new existential threats which require them to act urgently? What happens if they face an asteroid collision or a potential extraterrestrial invasion (although the latter seems to be far less likely)? We don’t want to end up genetically engineering future generations of human beings who are so devoid of self-preservation that they accept extinction as an outcome they should just peacefully resign themselves to. And if human beings become a space-faring species and end up making contact with a highly-advanced imperialist alien species bent on galaxy-wide colonization, our future generations will have to take up arms in self-defence.

This raises the question of whether it might be possible to simultaneously increase the human propensity towards altruism and non-violence towards other human beings, while still preserving the human predisposition towards ensuring our overall survival and well-being. If such a radical re-programming of humanity’s cognitive disposition is possible, it’s going to be a very delicate balancing act. This major shortcoming is one that proponents of moral bioenhancement have not yet formulated a plausible safety net for. Techno-utopian advocates claim that we could one day create a powerful artificial intelligence programme that will indefinitely protect humanity against unforeseen attacks from extraterrestrials or possible natural catastrophes. More serious discussion needs to be devoted to finding possible ways to make moral bioenhancement as realistically viable as possible.

Conclusion

The arguments put forth by Savulescu in Unfit for the Future should be reviewed with greater urgency and thoughtful consideration, and this essay has argued in favour of this appeal. We cannot take the great strides in civil rights made in the last 100 years, which have been heavily dependent on economic development and the growth of the capitalist world economy, for granted. As resource scarcity brought about by climate change looms on the near horizon, the very system which the 20th and 21st centuries’ great ethical progress has been contingent upon threatens to crumble. Gray is right in arguing that the human animal is fundamentally flawed and that repeated historical attempts at better models of moral systems have failed to truly reform humanity. And this is where Savulescu proposes a controversial answer to Gray’s resignation to humanity’s impending self-destruction. We must consider reforming the human animal itself. As the field of gene-editing and the development of impulse-controlling neurotransmitter drugs continue to show great promise, world governments and private institutions should begin to view these as viable options to creating a less short-sighted, less-aggressive, and more rational version of homo sapiens 2.0. There are only so many more global-scale man-made catastrophes that mankind can further inflict upon itself and the planet, before this radical proposal is finally undertaken as a last resort.

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

How Transhumanism Changed My Views on Teleology – Article by Sarah Lim

How Transhumanism Changed My Views on Teleology – Article by Sarah Lim

Sarah Lim


My views on teleology and existentialism have changed considerably since I’ve joined the transhumanist movement. This is my attempt at reconciling my views on humanity’s quest for cosmological purpose with the role of human agency and value creation.

I used to have a rosier view of the universe and nature before I got more involved in transhumanism. I’ve been quite heavily influenced by Brian Swimme’s The Universe Story and Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos. Swimme invokes cosmological fine-tuning as proof that the universe wants humans to be around and cares about us (to some degree). Even the Earth itself has carefully regulated its temperature to ensure that life could thrive on it, despite the fact that the heat emitted from the Sun has gone up thousands of degrees since the inception of homo sapiens. If you agree with Paul Davies’s interpretation of cosmology, then you could say that the universe is happy to have intelligent creatures around because the universe “wants” to be observed. Davies and Swimme argue that the universe created intelligent life so that it could understand itself through us, via our higher cognitive faculties and our ability to conceptualise mathematics and physics. We are the universe experiencing itself, a la Carl Sagan. Andrei Linde shares this sentiment with Davies.

Some of my readers will disagree with me on this, but I do think that there is some merit in what Davies, Swimme, and Linde claim. Swimme points out that almost all the major traditions in the world have a creation myth which points to the celestial realm as being the home of the creative force. This can’t be a mere coincidence, Swimme argues. It’s almost as if the universe was subconsciously nudging our ancestors towards the greater scientific truth of Big Bang cosmology. Obviously, this isn’t a claim that can be empirically falsified (yet, anyway), but it’s at least food for thought.

As I began to read up more on transhumanist philosophy, however, a nagging objection to this teleological value claim dawned on me.

If the universe did indeed intend to create intelligent animals to observe itself, it didn’t do a very efficient job of it. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it made an exceedingly clumsy, slow, and wasteful job of it.

It has taken 13.8 billion years for the universe to give rise to modern homo sapiens who know how to execute the requisite mathematics and science necessary for the physics of cosmology. And we only exist in a ridiculously minuscule corner of a galaxy, which is itself one out of a hundred billion galaxies in our observable universe. And 90% of the universe is still unobserved.

Even within the confines of the pale blue dot we call home, the process of life hasn’t exactly been a cake walk. Like most kids my age raised on Animal Planet and school field trips to flower parks, I had a relatively rose-tinted view of the natural world. I hadn’t really taken time to think about the nastiest parts of Darwinian natural selection and the last five major mass extinctions that have occurred throughout Earth’s history. I hadn’t thought about how death and starvation were biological inevitabilities only because the forces of natural selection dictated that they had to be. Natural selection itself is an apparently purposeless process. The only goal of a species is to ensure that its genes survive to the next generation, by any means possible. Hence why rape and infanticide are common amongst various species.

Even Swimme himself views suffering in nature as being unavoidable and something that must be gracefully accepted rather than stamped out. “Humans and animals are cruel because the universe that created them is cruel; even galaxies eat each other,” says Swimme. But transhumanist philosophers argue otherwise. David Pearce asserts that the witticism, “suffering is inevitable; misery is a choice,” is just that – a hackneyed saying. It’s a cop-out that encourages intelligent agents to resign themselves to fate instead of finding ways to overcome that suffering. Until I discovered the transhumanist movement, it had never occurred to me that we could one day phase out suffering amongst wild animals through a combination of genetic alteration and deliberate healthcare and food-supply intervention. And I had no idea how much progress had been made in terms of anti-aging research, whole-brain emulation and the development of prosthetics.

To paraphrase Nick Bostrom, “Mother Nature is a crappy parent.”

To my mind, the big question of teleology and humanity’s search for meaning isn’t so much “Does the universe want intelligent apes to observe it?” as much as it is, “Does the universe actually care enough about us to keep us around well into the future?”

Even if the universe does have a purpose for intelligent creatures, it wouldn’t necessarily follow that it has to keep the human species going. Given the sheer number of stars in the observable part of the universe alone, there could be thousands, if not millions, of alien civilisations which are vastly more advanced than we currently are. It would be exponentially more unlikely for us to be the sole sentient species in the universe, than it would for there to be more highly advanced alien civilisations out there. We could be one of millions of sentient species that the universe creates and then disposes of on a cosmic whim.

But does it really matter if the universe cares about us or not?

An analogy I hadn’t really thought of came to my mind while I was waxing lyrical about this topic with Adrian Chia. Adrian said that even if the universe doesn’t give a toss about whether humanity survives or perishes, it shouldn’t stop us from caring about ourselves and seeking an enhanced transhuman future. I told Adrian that that’s exactly the kind of advice I give when I counsel people who grew up in abusive homes with parents who clearly have no interest in their well-being. I’ve counseled people whose parents have tried to throw them out of windows as children, gashed wounds into their backs with knives or beaten them so badly they had the majority of the bones in their legs broken and were forced to crawl around their homes on their forearms. I tell them that even if their parents fail to care for them as a parent should, it shouldn’t stop them from loving or valuing themselves.

So what if the universe doesn’t have any vested interest in taking care of us? We shouldn’t expect it to. Rather, we owe it to ourselves to overcome the biological limitations nature has slapped on us. We no longer pray to gods for a good harvest; we’ve invented modern agriculture and GMO crops. We no longer make sacrifices and hold rituals to beg the gods to heal the sick; that’s what we invented modern medicine for. We no longer sacrifice animals in an attempt to appease the gods so that earthquakes will not devastate our villages; that’s why we’re getting better at developing disaster-evacuation plans and earthquake-proof infrastructure. And hopefully one day, our immortal post-human descendants will look back at us and snicker at how we used to pray that some transcendental deity would answer our prayers for eternal life.

The forces of natural selection and whatever whims the universe may have, have gotten us up to a certain point; but ensuring a better future for ourselves lies squarely on our shoulders now. Plenty of neglectful parents have children without any particularly strong commitment to ensuring those children’s welfare. But I’ve also seen lots of kids from broken homes grow up to become successful doctors, lawyers, and CEOs and go on to lead very fulfilling lives.

This article is dedicated to David Pearce and Andres Gomez Emilsson. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

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

Life Extension, Inequality, and Resource Scarcity: Dealing with Anti-Transhumanist Stereotypes – Article by Sarah Lim

Life Extension, Inequality, and Resource Scarcity: Dealing with Anti-Transhumanist Stereotypes – Article by Sarah Lim

Sarah Lim


One of the most major accusations the transhumanist movement faces is the charge of elitism. Journalists such as Alexander Thomas and Jessica Powell have claimed that the spread of transhumanist ideals could lead to the worsening of already severe income inequality in developed nations such as the U.S. With billionaires like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel being the most prominent investors in the immortality industry, liberal journalists have tended to paint the transhumanist movement as a vain pursuit for the wealthy.

This article is a message to my fellow transhumanists. While these charges might seem unreasonably derisive, we cannot leave them unanswered. It’s easy to dismiss our critics as luddites, “deathists”, or a group of unimaginative bioconservatives who are suffering from sour-grape syndrome. As I keep saying to my friend Hank Pellissier, “you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.” It may not be wise to alienate our critics by dismissing them as bitter have-nots or bioconservatives who are resistant to technological progress because they can’t imagine the potential benefits of having a triple-digit health span.

Anti-immortalist sentiment

The single greatest charge levied at immortalists is that we are inevitably going to exacerbate the existing problem of overpopulation and resource scarcity. In the last two centuries and a half, the world’s population has grown exponentially. In 1800, the global population stood at 1 billion; as of last year it was 7.6 billion. By the time we’re little way past the Singularity in 2050, the global population is projected to hit 11.2 billion. Most folks and most mainstream scientists argue that a double-digit lifespan is an absolute biological necessity to keep this number from exploding further. This is probably the greatest objection the mainstream public has to radical lifespan extension.

“Privilege” has unfortunately become a very hackneyed word in the last decade, but it’s one that mainstream liberal critics keep on bringing up in their objections of radical lifespan extension. Here comes That Eye Roll-Inducing Statement; in particular, liberal feminist journalists like to criticise that transhumanist movement for “being a movement made for cis straight white upper-middle class men with enough disposable income to benefit from the latest advancements in healthcare.”  Sanjana Varghese at The New Statesman forebodingly warns her readers that “the first men to conquer death will create a new social order – a terrifying one.” Varghese warns that the rich, able-bodied Caucasian men who will be the first to have access to immortality treatments will create a dystopian future where we have Elon living to be 500, while the have-nots live much shorter lives and are forced to deal with a declining global economy and increasingly unaffordable healthcare.

Anyone who isn’t a Tumblr native probably has their pupils in the backs of their skulls right now.

Nevertheless, we can’t let these criticisms go unanswered. We can’t just dismiss them as liberal whinging or bioconservative paranoia. Public intellectuals like Nassim Taleb, John Gray and Leon Kass have gained a lot of media traction for their impassioned criticisms of radical life extension. The perpetuation of the view of transhumanism as an elitist “cis, straight, rich, able-bodied white man’s” game is going to undermine the potential for transhumanism to be taken seriously.

There are ideas, and then there are ideas.

Transhumanists are aware that we are of a minority viewpoint and that we view human exceptionalism differently from both the world’s religious majority and from the mainstream scientific atheist community. We don’t view biological death and the termination of individual consciousness as facts of life that need to be accepted prima facie, and we don’t unquestioningly accept natural biological functions as being sacred and off-limits from deliberate technological alteration. However, we must acknowledge that much more PR work needs to be done to assuage the public’s hostilities towards the transhumanist movement’s long-term goals.

The fact that the transhumanist movement itself even exists is itself remarkable. Our movement is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and humanity’s inextinguishable desire for perpetual self-improvement, beyond biological determinism. But we must also constantly remind ourselves that radical shifts in social paradigms are long-term goals. Making transhumanism mainstream is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Our paradise-engineering goals are noble, but we have to be realistic in our approximation of the time it will take to reach them.

Climate change is another hot-button issue closely related to overpopulation. Since the end of last year, scientists have become increasingly pessimistic about humanity’s ability to cope with environmental degradation in the decades to come.

While our individual opinions on this may vary, I applaud Gennady Stolyarov II for making a public statement declaring that the U.S. Transhumanist Party takes climate change seriously, as he states in this article here: “Ideas for Technological Solutions to Destructive Climate Change“. 

Critics of transhumanism, especially liberal journalists and online environmental activists, have often painted transhumanists as having our priorities wrongly arranged. Indefinite biological lifespan extension and cryonics won’t matter if society collapses due to resource scarcity, droughts, tornados, and food shortages, they retort. Again, proposing that the time is now right for biomedical and biotech fields in developed nations to pursue the goals of indefinite lifespan extension can appear to be utterly tone-deaf in the face of the oncoming ecological crisis. And rightly so.

The World Bank estimates that over 200 million people from the sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia could be driven into refugee status by 2045 – which is, coincidentally, Ray Kurzweil’s much-hyped appointed year of the Singularity. To give us an idea of how disruptive this is going to be, says David Wallace-Wells the 2015 Syrian migrant crisis in Europe was the result of just one hundred thousand refugees entering Europe; and look at the unprecedented level of political destabilization that followed it in just a span of 4 years.

Transhumanists cannot forget that the majority of us were lucky enough to be born into relatively favorable circumstances. Most of us live in developed nations, or at least developed cities, away from natural-disaster-prone, pandemic-prone, and conflict-prone areas. If we don’t have diabetes or heart disease and don’t smoke, we can reasonably expect to live until 75 (barring a freak accident). In contrast, the expectancy in some of the least developed parts of Africa is as low as 50 years flat. I was talking to my friend Hank, who runs the Brighter Brains Institute and who does humanitarian work in Kenya, was telling me that he’s often called the “really old man” by the Kenyan children he works with, because anyone who manages to survive past 60 is considered exceptionally long-lived in Kenya.

So what can be done about this?

How can we can dispel the negative stereotypes surrounding transhumanism and radical lifespan extension? The most immediate thing that comes to mind would be more public dialogues and conferences to engage a mainstream audience. The Methuselah Foundation’s CEO David Gobel has publicly stated in a CNBC interview that, “the vast majority of life-extension proponents don’t want things to be expensive,” and would rather make life extension affordable for the majority of the public. A fellow immortalist and Cosmist, Giovanni Santostasi like to use the analogy of mobile phones when they first came out in the 1980s. They were the size of bricks, had minimal connection, and cost a few thousand dollars each; but they became a major status symbol for rich Americans, anyway. Fast forward to 2019; literally everyone and their mother has a cell phone you can text on and take pictures with, i ncluding farmers living in rural Indonesia who are barely above the poverty line. Giovanni is optimistic that radical life extension treatments (and later mind-uploading services) will have a similar trajectory of development.

However, this leads us back to the overpopulation problem. If radical longevity becomes readily affordable to 70% of the public in developed nations, how will the world deal with a further exacerbation of the overpopulation problem? Perhaps what could be done is to hold a public forum specifically dedicated to addressing issues regarding the relationships between transhumanism, resource scarcity, and income inequality. Sociologists, economists, and humanitarian advocates in the transhumanist movement could mobilise to make such a forum a reality soon.

This article is dedicated to my fellow transhumanist humanitarian advocates, Dinorah Delfin and Hank Pellissier.

Disclaimer: If you don’t think that climate change and income inequality are major global concerns, and feel that I’m being a climate alarmist or preachy moralist who’s just delivering holier-than-thou declarations from my soap box, I won’t try to change your mind. If however, you’d like to rationally and politely debate the points I’ve raised in this article, you can PM me at Sarah Chowhugger on Facebook.

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

Video of Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum at the Nevada State Legislature – May 15, 2019

Video of Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum at the Nevada State Legislature – May 15, 2019

Gennady Stolyarov II
Anastasia Synn
R. Nicholas Starr


Watch the video containing 73 minutes of excerpts from the Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum, held on May 15, 2019, at the Nevada State Legislature Building.

The Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum at the Nevada Legislature on May 15, 2019, marked a milestone for the U.S. Transhumanist Party and the Nevada Transhumanist Party. This was the first time that an official transhumanist event was held within the halls of a State Legislature, in one of the busiest areas of the building, within sight of the rooms where legislative committees met. The presenters were approached by tens of individuals – a few legislators and many lobbyists and staff members. The reaction was predominantly either positive or at least curious; there was no hostility and only mild disagreement from a few individuals. Generally, the outlook within the Legislative Building seems to be in favor of individual autonomy to pursue truly voluntary microchip implants. The testimony of Anastasia Synn at the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 26, 2019, in opposition to Assembly Bill 226, is one of the most memorable episodes of the 2019 Legislative Session for many who heard it. It has certainly affected the outcome for Assembly Bill 226, which was subsequently further amended to restore the original scope of the bill and only apply the prohibition to coercive microchip implants, while specifically exempting microchip implants voluntarily received by an individual from the prohibition. The scope of the prohibition was also narrowed by removing the reference to “any other person” and applying the prohibition to an enumerated list of entities who may not require others to be microchipped: state officers and employees, employers as a condition of employment, and persons in the business of insurance or bail. These changes alleviated the vast majority of the concerns within the transhumanist and cyborg communities about Assembly Bill 226.

 

From left to right: Gennady Stolyarov II, Anastasia Synn, and Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr)

This Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum comes at the beginning of an era of transhumanist political engagement with policymakers and those who advise them. It was widely accepted by the visitors to the demonstration tables that technological advances are accelerating, and that policy decisions regarding technology should only be made with adequate knowledge about the technology itself – working on the basis of facts and not fears or misconceptions that arise from popular culture and dystopian fiction. Ryan Starr shared his expertise on the workings and limitations of both NFC/RFID microchips and GPS technology and who explained that cell phones are already far more trackable than microchips ever could be (based on their technical specifications and how those specifications could potentially be improved in the future). U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II introduced visitors to the world of transhumanist literature by bringing books for display – including writings by Aubrey de Grey, Bill Andrews, Ray Kurzweil, Jose Cordeiro, Ben Goertzel, Phil Bowermaster, and Mr. Stolyarov’s own book “Death is Wrong” in five languages. It appears that there is more sympathy for transhumanism within contemporary political circles than might appear at first glance; it is often transhumanists themselves who overestimate the negativity of the reaction they expect to receive. But nobody picketed the event or even called the presenters names; transhumanist ideas, expressed in a civil and engaging way – with an emphasis on practical applications that are here today or due to arrive in the near future – will be taken seriously when there is an opening to articulate them.

The graphics for the Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum were created by Tom Ross, the U.S. Transhumanist Party Director of Media Production.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party free of charge, no matter where you reside.

References

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018

• “A Word on Implanted NFC Tags” – Article by Ryan Starr

Assembly Bill 226, Second Reprint – This is the version of the bill that passed the Senate on May 23, 2019.

Amendment to Assembly Bill 226 to essentially remove the prohibition against voluntary microchip implants

Future Grind Podcast

Synnister – Website of Anastasia Synn