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U.S. Transhumanist Party Secretary Pavel Ilin Protests in New York City Against Vladimir Putin’s Regime

U.S. Transhumanist Party Secretary Pavel Ilin Protests in New York City Against Vladimir Putin’s Regime

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Pavel Ilin


In late January 2021 I joined a protest against political persecution at the Russian Consulate in New York City and at Times Square.

The reason I wrote what I wrote on my sign is that Vladimir Putin’s regime is very dangerous not only for the people of Russia (spoiler alert: it is dangerous for everyone who is within reach of the current Russian state). It’s dangerous for humanity. This regime is a source of a whole bouquet of existential risks.

  • Russia possesses a massive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. This fact should concern us not only because Putin can give orders to use these weapons. This situation is dangerous because of the degradation of all social institutions in Russia, a tendency which increases the probability of accidents. 2020 was full of messages about ecological disasters in Russia. Sooner or later something will go wrong with nuclear technologies that have such poor oversight.
  • Putin uses every opportunity to escalate conflicts around the world – starting from the Second Chechnya War, which allowed Putin to become president in first place, then direct invasion of Georgia and Ukraine, and frequent sending of Wagner private militaries (“they are not there”) to Syria, Libya, Mozambique, and other conflict zones.
  • This regime uses every opportunity to create conflicts remotely. A troll factory in St. Petersburg is working day and night to create and support fake news around the globe. They create divisions among people to spread chaos. And while the world struggles against othering and is moving towards encouraging belonging, these trolls support conservative-nationalistic groups.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial general intelligence (AGI) are becoming more and more powerful. Even despite the regime’s practice of pushing talented people to move outside of its borders, Russia has a very strong pool of specialists who have technical ability to develop sophisticated AI systems. And Putin’s regime is going to use such abilities to create a “Digital Gulag” (“sovereign Internet”) and lethal autonomous systems.
  • Last but not least, the regime distracts human potential and resources from solving important problems like aging, climate change, income inequality, existential risks, othering, and numerous other major issues. Instead the operatives of the Putin regime create a system of oppression, more police, more prisons, more private militaries, and more luxury palaces for Putin and his friends. (The approximate expense of Putin’s palace in the south of Russia is $1,327,500,000.)

Humanity needs a free, prosperous, and responsible Russia! Humanity needs a Russia which will be able to help solve world problems, not to add to them. That’s why Putin and his kleptocratic administration has to leave right now!

Pavel Ilin is the Secretary of the United States Transhumanist Party. 

The Poverty Crisis and a Case for Universal Basic Income – Article by Brent Ellman in TAFFD’s Magazine

The Poverty Crisis and a Case for Universal Basic Income – Article by Brent Ellman in TAFFD’s Magazine

Brent Ellman


Editor’s Note: U.S. Transhumanist Party member and long-time USTP supporter Brent Ellman has published a piece in TAFFD’s Magazine on Universal Basic Income (UBI). Our friends at TAFFD’s (https://taffds.org/) were nice enough to give us permission to cross-post the article here in full format. Brent is an entrepreneur with a diverse background and currently serves as director of marketing at TAFFD’s. Originally from New York, he has lived in Colorado since 2008. 

~ Dan Elton, Director of Scholarship, United States Transhumanist Party, December 27, 2020


Excerpt: In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced in his State of the Union Address that, “This administration, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” How does one fight a war against poverty, though? What exactly does poverty even mean? As of 2019 in the United States, an individual who makes under $12,490 annually is considered to be living in poverty. A family of 3 earning under $21,330 also falls under the category of living in poverty.

In Denver, Colorado, 15.1% of the population lives below the poverty level, according to a recent Census Bureau ACS 5-year estimate. That estimate found that 101,000 out of 666,000 people are living below the poverty line. To put this further into perspective, as of July 2020, according to RentJungle.org, the average price to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Denver is $1468 per month. According to RentCafe only 5% of rentals listed in Denver are priced at less than $1000 per month. We’ve been waging America’s unconditional war on poverty for 56 years, and this is how far we’ve come.

How might poverty actually be solved in the United States? Read Brent Ellman’s full article here.

State of AI 2020 – Article by Pavel Ilin

State of AI 2020 – Article by Pavel Ilin

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Pavel Ilin


This summary is prepared based on the State of AI Report 2020, which was crafted by Nathan Benaich and Ian Hogarth.

The AI industry is very diverse in its application, and it’s going through a transformation from the magical-wand stage to the plateau of adequate development. Let’s take a look at what is happening in the AI industry.

Research

We haven’t come up with new super-smart algorithms. Progress in model performance keeps being driven by big computational budgets and huge data sets. Training of the GPT-3 language model, with its 175 billion parameters, cost approximately $10 million. At the same time larger models require less data to achieve the same level of performance. With a deep-learning approach we are getting close to the point when the cost of training will grow outrageous with incrementally smaller improvements of the model.

An important fact is that the code base of most artificial intelligence systems remains closed. Only 15% of papers publish their code. This raises a lot of concerns about reproducibility and AI safety. AI explainability remains a critical issue for AI safety research; there are promising avenues of exploration such as Asymmetric Shapley Values, but so far it’s unknown how AI systems make decisions. 

Natural language processing (NLP) models successfully simulate common scenes and linguistics, but they fail dramatically with understanding problems and context and forming knowledge. 

Talent

Talented people with skills in math and computer science are the drivers of the progress in the AI field. More and more US professors are being recruited by tech companies. This affects the quality of education that US universities can provide. We already can see a decline in the level of entrepreneurship among recent graduates. At the same time Universities are creating AI-related degree programs.

The US keeps its position as the main attractor of talented individuals. For example China contributes to the talent pool of AI developers, but after publication of their first results, talented people are most likely to move to the US. 90% of international PhD graduates stay and work in US universities and corporations. Demand for AI talent remains much higher than supply, even despite COVID-19’s impact on market growth.  

Industry

AI keeps progressing not only on a theoretical and research level. Many real world applications are already in use, and they are affecting the industries in various ways.

New drugs are being designed by AI, and they are already in clinical trials. For example AI-designed drugs for OCD treatment are out for testing in Japan. AI drug-discovery startups keep raising funds. Also big pharma is teaming up with startups around preserving privacy during drug discovery. For example OpenMined uses federated learning to preserve privacy with medical data. Viz.ai presented the first product which was approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the US. Their product analyzes tomography scans and alerts specialists who can treat patients before they receive damage that leads to the long-term disability. 

Progress in self-driving cars stays limited. Only 3 companies in California have permission to conduct testing of self-driving cars without a safety driver. Self-driving mileage remains microscopic compared to human drivers (2,874,950 miles for self-driving cars versus 390,313,739,000 miles for humans). The research and development process for self-driving cars remains very expensive. The major companies in this field raised around $7 billion since July 2019. Tesla chose to approach gradually adding self-driving features to its cars, but human drivers still remain in the loop. Recent approaches such as supervised learning do not perform well enough. To make dramatic breakthroughs, new approaches are required.

Computer vision unlocks faster accident and disaster recovery intervention. It also reduces the amount of human hours spent using a microscope, which could lead to acceleration of development processes and reduction of product costs.

AI drives sales and at the same time reduces costs in supply chains and manufacturing. Robotic process automation and computer vision are the most commonly deployed techniques in the enterprise. Speech, natural language generation, and physical robots are the least common. Recently IBM partnered with health insurance company Humana. IBM implemented natural language understanding (NLU) software which is already live and handles calls. It not only redirects calls to the different queues; it’s able to answer basic questions, such as “How much will the copay be to visit a specific specialist?” without human intervention.

Modern AI, in order to perform well, requires a lot of computing resources. Specialized AI hardware keeps progressing, and companies are now presenting second generations of their products. Graphcore M2000 offers faster training time to drop the cost of state-of-the-art models. Google’s new TPU v4 delivers up to a 3.7x training speedup over their TPU v3. NVIDIA will not rest either; it has achieved up to 2.5x training speedups with the new A100 GPU vs V100. Increasing interest towards machine learning devOps is a signal that the industry shifting its focus from how to build models to how to run them.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, investments keep coming into the industry. Private funding rounds of greater than $15 million for the AI-first companies remain strong.

Politics

Usage of AI for facial recognition tasks is extremely common around the world. Around half of the world allows facial recognition. This has become a recognizable political and ethical problem, especially when use of this technology leads to the wrong arrests. There were two highly publicized cases of wrong arrest in the US (which is probably just a tip of the iceberg). In May 2019, Detroit police arrested Michael Oliver who was wrongly accused of a felony for supposedly reaching into a teacher’s vehicle, grabbing a cellphone and throwing it, cracking the screen, and breaking the case. In January 2020, Detroit police arrested Robert Williams as a shoplifter who allegedly stole five watches from Midtown’s trendy Shinola store in October 2018. In both cases charges were dismissed but harm was done. 

Industry took a more thoughtful approach as a reaction to the AI mistakes. Microsoft deleted its database of 10 million faces, Amazon announced a one-year pause on letting the police use its facial recognition tool Rekognition. IBM announced it would sunset its general purpose facial recognition products. Washington State in the US introduced requirements to acquire warrants to run facial recognition scans. The ImageNet, a popular image database, is making an effort toward reduction of the biases in its image collections.

As Deep Fake technology produces more and more realistic media, it becomes illegal to use in certain states in the US. California passed a law, AB 730, aimed at deep fakes, which criminalizes distributing audio or video that gives a false, damaging impression of a politician’s words or action. Many other US state bills have been passed, addressing different risks. For example Virginia law amends current criminal law on revenge porn to include computer-generated pornography.

The US government keeps pursuing implementation of the military AI systems. DARPA organised a virtual dogfighting tournament where various AI systems would compete with each other and a human fighter pilot from the US military.

AI nationalism is on the rise. Countries tend to pursue protectionist policies to scrutinize acquisitions of AI companies by the players from other countries.

Every year AI plays a more and more noticeable part in our lives. It becomes cheaper, and you learn how to do new things. But we have to remember that at the moment AI is still a tool. And there are some philosophical and methodological difficulties which we have to overcome before it will be possible to deliberate about the potential sentience of the AI. It’s very important for the policy makers to make informed decisions based on how technology actually works and not on magical understanding formed based on popular sci-fi.

Pavel Ilin is Secretary of the United States Transhumanist Party. 

 

Gennady Stolyarov II and Johannon Ben Zion Discuss a Transhumanist Vision for U.S. Policy

Gennady Stolyarov II and Johannon Ben Zion Discuss a Transhumanist Vision for U.S. Policy

Gennady Stolyarov II
Johannon Ben Zion


Johannon Ben Zion of the Futurist New Deal Podcast interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II regarding the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s recent efforts, visions for the future of American politics, technological progress and technological Singularities, the importance of life-extension advocacy, open-source approaches to innovation, and overcoming challenges such as information overload and overly slow and cumbersome approval processes for innovative medical treatments. Mr. Stolyarov and Mr. Ben Zion also discussed in general terms the upcoming USTP Presidential Primary Election, for which voting will open on September 22, 2019.

This interview was filmed in Burbank, California, on August 24, 2019, following the Wellness and Longevity Seminar that was hosted there to mark the publication of The Transhumanism Handbook.

References

– “Progress in the Politics of Abundance” – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II
U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel – Burbank, California – August 24, 2019
The Transhumanism Handbook
– “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” – Mr. Stolyarov’s chapter in “The Transhumanism Handbook” – available for free download
Free Transhumanist Symbols
Futurist New Deal Podcast videos
Johannon Ben Zion – Candidate in the 2019 U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Presidential Primary

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Those who join by September 22, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the Presidential Primary.

Kindness, the Greatest Temperer of Hubris – Article by Hilda Koehler

Kindness, the Greatest Temperer of Hubris – Article by Hilda Koehler

Hilda Koehler


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.”

Hilda Koehler 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.

Augmented Democracy: A Radical Idea to Fix Our Broken Political System Using Artificial Intelligence – Presentation and Announcement by César Hidalgo

Augmented Democracy: A Radical Idea to Fix Our Broken Political System Using Artificial Intelligence – Presentation and Announcement by César Hidalgo

César Hidalgo


Editor’s Note: Is AI the future of politics? The U.S. Transhuman(ist) Party features this TED talk, in both English and Spanish, by César Hidalgo, Director of MIT’s Collective Learning group, where he presents the idea of Augmented Democracy – a system to automate and enhance democracy by empowering citizens to create personalized AI representatives to aid in legislative decision-making.

Mr. Hidalgo has launched a contest with cash prizes where participants are encouraged to submit proposals to explore new ways to practice democracy and direct participation in collective decision-making using AI. Below, you can find a statement from Mr. Hidalgo and a link to the contest. We encourage members of the USTP, and non-members, to look into this opportunity to participate and collaborate in building a more just future!  

                                                                                             ~ Dinorah Delfin, Director of Admissions and Public Relations, United States Transhuman(ist) Party, March 27, 2019

 


Source: TED2018 

 

Source: TED en Español

“Imagine that instead of having a (human) representative that represents you and a million of other people you can have a representative (AI) that represents only you. With your nuanced political views […] liberal on some […] and conservative on others.”   – Cesar Hidalgo

 

What I Learned a Week After Publishing a Talk about Augmented Democracy

Last week I released a talk presenting the idea of Augmented Democracy. Since then, I have been looking at people’s reactions to understand how this idea fits the larger context. Here are three things I would like to rescue:

First, the idea was received much better than I expected. I received many encouraging emails and replies. This honestly surprised me. I’ve noticed that the idea was received surprisingly well in South America and among young people. In fact, it appears that for many people, the idea of augmenting the government through data and A.I. technologies seems natural. Of course, people imagine this differently, and some are quick to paint a doomsday scenario. But I think that this is an idea that may be flying under the radar, because the people that are activated by it do not align neatly along the left-right axis of politics. As such, they do not have the shared political identity that is key to left-righters, and hence, go undetected. That may change as post-millennials come of age, and may be unexpected to many people.

Second, despite the talk receiving a large number of views, surprisingly few people visited the FAQ. This is interesting, because it leads to a funny but also important contradiction. Many critical comments were phrased as rhetorical questions of the form: “But how would you do that?!” Yet, all of the rhetorical questions I’ve seen so far were in the FAQ. What is funny here is that the talk is about the use of technologies to help people augment their cognitive capacities, by, for instance, reading text they don’t have time for. Yet, the people skeptic about the idea are also people who did not read the text. Of course, this does not mean that there are no questions missing in the FAQ (I have many of these), what it means is that, in the comments I’ve seen, I’ve yet to encounter a question that was not in the FAQ.

Third, going forward my focus–on this front–will be on the Augmented Democracy prize. What I want to do next, is to encourage people to imagine future users interfaces and systems of technologically augmented democracy. For that, I am giving up to USD 20,000 in prizes. If I get less than 100 proposals, I will give away two team prizes of 4,000 USD and two individual prizes of USD 1,000. If I receive more than 100 proposals I will open two more teams and two more individual prizes. So in the next days, I will start sharing links directly to the prize page. If you know of students, creatives, designers, artists, scientists, and writers, please help me share the prize-related posts.

Thanks!

 

 

James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Part 3) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Part 3) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

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Ojochogwu Abdul


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

Part 3: Liberal Democracy Versus Technocratic Absolutism

“Transhumanists, like Enlightenment partisans in general, believe that human nature can be improved but are conflicted about whether liberal democracy is the best path to betterment. The liberal tradition within the Enlightenment has argued that individuals are best at finding their own interests and should be left to improve themselves in self-determined ways. But many people are mistaken about their own best interests, and more rational elites may have a better understanding of the general good. Enlightenment partisans have often made a case for modernizing monarchs and scientific dictatorships. Transhumanists need to confront this tendency to disparage liberal democracy in favor of the rule by dei ex machina and technocratic elites.” (James Hughes, 2010)

Hughes’ series of essays exploring problems of transhumanism continues with a discussion on the tensions between a choice either for liberal democracy or technocratic absolutism as existing or prospective within the transhumanist movement. As Hughes would demonstrate, this problem in socio-political preference between liberalism and despotism turns out as just one more among the other transhumanist contradictions inherited from its roots in the Enlightenment. Liberalism, an idea which received much life during the Enlightenment, developed as an argument for human progress. Cogently articulated in J.S. Mill’s On Liberty, Hughes re-presents the central thesis: “if individuals are given liberty they will generally know how to pursue their interests and potentials better than will anyone else. So, society generally will become richer and more intelligent if individuals are free to choose their own life ends rather than if they are forced towards betterment by the powers that be.” This, essentially, was the Enlightenment’s ground for promoting liberalism.

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Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018

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Gennady Stolyarov II
Ray Kurzweil


The Stolyarov-Kurzweil Interview has been released at last! Watch it on YouTube here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II posed a wide array of questions for inventor, futurist, and Singularitarian Dr. Ray Kurzweil on September 21, 2018, at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, California. Topics discussed include advances in robotics and the potential for household robots, artificial intelligence and overcoming the pitfalls of AI bias, the importance of philosophy, culture, and politics in ensuring that humankind realizes the best possible future, how emerging technologies can protect privacy and verify the truthfulness of information being analyzed by algorithms, as well as insights that can assist in the attainment of longevity and the preservation of good health – including a brief foray into how Ray Kurzweil overcame his Type 2 Diabetes.

Learn more about RAAD Fest here. RAAD Fest 2019 will occur in Las Vegas during October 3-6, 2019.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form.

Watch the presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018, entitled, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Four Years of Advocating for the Future”.

Advocating for the Future – Panel at RAAD Fest 2017 – Gennady Stolyarov II, Zoltan Istvan, Max More, Ben Goertzel, Natasha Vita-More

Advocating for the Future – Panel at RAAD Fest 2017 – Gennady Stolyarov II, Zoltan Istvan, Max More, Ben Goertzel, Natasha Vita-More

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Gennady Stolyarov II
Zoltan Istvan
Max More
Ben Goertzel
Natasha Vita-More


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, moderated this panel discussion, entitled “Advocating for the Future”, at RAAD Fest 2017 on August 11, 2017, in San Diego, California.

Watch it on YouTube here.

From left to right, the panelists are Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II, Max More, Ben Goertzel, and Natasha Vita-More. With these leading transhumanist luminaries, Mr. Stolyarov discussed subjects such as what the transhumanist movement will look like in 2030, artificial intelligence and sources of existential risk, gamification and the use of games to motivate young people to create a better future, and how to persuade large numbers of people to support life-extension research with at least the same degree of enthusiasm that they display toward the fight against specific diseases.

Learn more about RAAD Fest here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form.

Watch the presentations of Gennady Stolyarov II and Zoltan Istvan from the “Advocating for the Future” panel.

The Singularity: Fact or Fiction or Somewhere In-Between? – Article by Gareth John

The Singularity: Fact or Fiction or Somewhere In-Between? – Article by Gareth John

Gareth John


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by our member Gareth John, originally published by IEET on January 13, 2016, as part of our ongoing integration with the Transhuman Party. This article raises various perspectives about the idea of technological Singularity and asks readers to offer their perspectives regarding how plausible the Singularity narrative, especially as articulated by Ray Kurzweil, is. The U.S. Transhumanist Party welcomes such deliberations and assessments of where technological progress may be taking our species and how rapid such progress might be – as well as how subject to human influence and socio-cultural factors technological progress is, and whether a technological Singularity would be characterized predominantly by benefits or by risks to humankind. The article by Mr. John is a valuable contribution to the consideration of such important questions.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, January 2, 2019


In my continued striving to disprove the theorem that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, I shall now proceed to ask one. What’s the consensus on Ray Kurzweil’s position concerning the coming Singularity? [1] Do you as transhumanists accept his premise and timeline, or do you feel that a) it’s a fiction, or b) it’s a reality but not one that’s going to arrive anytime soon? Is it as inevitable as Kurzweil suggests, or is it simply millenarian daydreaming in line with the coming Rapture?

According to Wikipedia (yes, I know, but I’m learning as I go along), the first use of the term ‘singularity’ in this context was made by Stanislav Ulam in his 1958 obituary for John von Neumann, in which he mentioned a conversation with von Neumann about the ‘ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue’. [2] The term was popularised by mathematician, computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological advancement, or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity. [3]  Kurzweil cited von Neumann’s use of the term in a foreword to von Neumann’s classic The Computer and the Brain. [4]

Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 [5] whereas Vinge predicts some time before 2030 [6]. In 2012, Stuart Armstrong and Kaj Sotala published a study of AGI predictions by both experts and non-experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. [7] Discussing the level of uncertainty in AGI estimates, Armstrong stated at the 2012 Singularity Summit: ‘It’s not fully formalized, but my current 80% estimate is something like five to 100 years.’ [8]

Speaking for myself, and despite the above, I’m not at all convinced that a Singularity will occur, i.e. one singular event that effectively changes history for ever from that precise moment moving forward. From my (admittedly limited) research on the matter, it seems far more realistic to think of the future in terms of incremental steps made along the way, leading up to major diverse changes (plural) in the way we as human beings – and indeed all sentient life – live, but try as I might I cannot get my head around these all occurring in a near-contemporary Big Bang.

Surely we have plenty of evidence already that the opposite will most likely be the case? Scientists have been working on AI, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, robotics, et al., for many years and I see no reason to conclude that this won’t remain the case in the years to come. Small steps leading to big changes maybe, but perhaps not one giant leap for mankind in a singular convergence of emerging technologies?

Let’s be straight here: I’m not having a go at Kurzweil or his ideas – the man’s clearly a visionary (at least from my standpoint) and leagues ahead when it comes to intelligence and foresight. I’m simply interested as to what extent his ideas are accepted by the wider transhumanist movement.

There are notable critics (again leagues ahead of me in critically engaging with the subject) who argue against the idea of the Singularity. Nathan Pensky, writing in 2014 says:

It’s no doubt true that the speculative inquiry that informed Kurzweil’s creation of the Singularity also informed his prodigious accomplishment in the invention of new tech. But just because a guy is smart doesn’t mean he’s always right. The Singularity makes for great science-fiction, but not much else. [9]

Other well-informed critics have also dismissed Kurzweil’s central premise, among them Professor Andrew Blake, managing director of Microsoft at Cambridge, Jaron Lanier, Paul Allen, Peter Murray, Jeff Hawkins, Gordon Moore, Jared Diamond, and Steven Pinker to name but a few. Even Noam Chomsky has waded in to categorically deny the possibility of such. Pinker writes:

There is not the slightest reason to believe in the coming singularity. The fact you can visualise a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible… Sheer processing is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems. [10]

There are, of course, many more critics, but then there are also many supporters also, and Kurzweil rarely lets a criticism pass without a fierce rebuttal. Indeed, new academic interdisciplinary disciplines have been founded in part on the presupposition of the Singularity occurring in line with Kurzweil’s predictions (along with other phenomena that pose the possibility of existential risk). Examples include Nick Bostrom’s Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University or the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge.

Given the above and returning to my original question: how do transhumanists taken as a whole rate the possibility of an imminent Singularity as described by Kurzweil? Good science or good science-fiction? For Kurzweil it is the pace of change – exponential growth – that will result in a runaway effect – an intelligence explosion– where smart machines design successive generations of increasingly powerful machines, creating intelligence far exceeding human intellectual capacity and control. Because the capabilities of such a super intelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is the point beyond which events may become unpredictable or even unfathomable to human intelligence. [11] The only way for us to participate in such an event will be by merging with the intelligent machines we are creating.

And I guess this is what is hard for me to fathom. We are creating these machines with all our mixed-up, blinkered, prejudicial, oppositional minds, aims, and values. We as human beings, however intelligent, are an absolutely necessary part of the picture that I think Kurzweil sometimes underestimates. I’m more inclined to agree with Jamais Cascio when he says:

I don’t think that a Singularity would be visible to those going through one. Even the most disruptive changes are not universally or immediately distributed, and late followers learn from the dilemmas of those who had initially encountered the disruptive change. [12]

So I’d love to know what you think. Are you in Kurzweil’s corner waiting for that singular moment in 2045 when the world as we know it stops for an instant… and then restarts in a glorious new utopian future? Or do you agree with Kurzweil but harbour serious fears that the whole ‘glorious new future’ may not be on the cards and we’re all obliterated in the newborn AGI’s capriciousness or gray goo? Or, are you a moderate, maintaining that a Singularity, while almost certain to occur, will pass unnoticed by those waiting? Or do you think it’s so much baloney?

Whatever, I’d really value your input and hear your views on the subject.

NOTES

1. As stated below, the term Singularity was in use before Kurweil’s appropriation of it. But as shorthand I’ll refer to his interpretation and predictions relating to it throughout this article.

2. Carvalko, J, 2012, ‘The Techno-human Shell-A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap.’ (Mechanicsburg: Sunbury Press)

3. Ulam, S, 1958, ‘ Tribute to John von Neumann’, 64, #3, part 2. Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. p. 5

4. Vinge, V, 2013, ‘Vernor Vinge on the Singularity’, San Diego State University. Retrieved Nov 2015

5. Kurzweil R, 2005, ‘The Singularity is Near’, (London: Penguin Group)

6. Vinge, V, 1993, ‘The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era’, originally in Vision-21: Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace, G. A. Landis, ed., NASA Publication CP-10129

7. Armstrong S and Sotala, K, 2012 ‘How We’re Predicting AI – Or Failing To’, in Beyond AI: Artificial Dreams, edited by Jan Romportl, Pavel Ircing, Eva Zackova, Michal Polak, and Radek Schuster (Pilsen: University of West Bohemia) https://intelligence.org/files/PredictingAI.pdf

8. Armstrong, S, ‘How We’re Predicting AI’, from the 2012 Singularity Conference

9. Pensky, N, 2014, article taken from Pando. https://goo.gl/LpR3eF

10. Pinker S, 2008, IEEE Spectrum: ‘Tech Luminaries Address Singularity’. http://goo.gl/ujQlyI

11. Wikipedia, ‘Technological Singularity; Retrieved Nov 2015. https://goo.gl/nFzi2y

12. Cascio, J, ‘New FC: Singularity Scenarios’ article taken from Open the Future. http://goo.gl/dZptO3

Gareth John lives in Cardiff, UK and is a trainee social researcher with an interest in the intersection of emerging technologies with behavioural and mental health. He has an MA in Buddhist Studies from the University of Bristol. He is also a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party. 


HISTORICAL COMMENTS

Gareth,

Thank you for the thoughtful article. I’m emailing to comment on the blog post, though I can’t tell when it was written. You say that you don’t believe the singularity will necessarily occur the way Kurzweil envisions, but it seems like you slightly mischaracterize his definition of the term.

I don’t believe that Kurzweil ever meant to suggest that the singularity will simply consist of one single event that will change everything. Rather, I believe he means that the singularity is when no person can make any prediction past that point in time when a $1,000 computer becomes smarter than the entire human race, much like how an event horizon of a black hole prevents anyone from seeing past it.

Given that Kurzweil’s definition isn’t an arbitrary claim that everything changes all at once, I don’t see how anyone can really argue with whether the singularity will happen. After all, at some point in the future, even if it happens much slower than Kurzweil predicts, a $1,000 computer will eventually become smarter than every human. When this happens, I think it’s fair to say no one is capable of predicting the future of humanity past that point. Would you disagree with this?

Even more important is that although many of Kurzweil’s predictions are untrue about when certain products will become commercially available to the general public, all the evidence I’ve seen about the actual trend of the law of accelerating returns seems to be exactly spot on. Maybe this trend will slow down, or stop, but it hasn’t yet. Until it does, I think the law of accelerating returns, and Kurzweil’s singularity, deserve the benefit of the doubt.

[…]

Thanks,

Rich Casada


Hi Rich,
Thanks for the comments. The post was written back in 2015 for IEET, and represented a genuine ask from the transhumanist community. At that time my priority was to learn what I could, where I could, and not a lot’s changed for me since – I’m still learning!

I’m not sure I agree that Kurzweil’s definition isn’t a claim that ‘everything changes at once’. In The Singularity is Near, he states:

“So we will be producing about 1026 to 1029 cps of nonbiological computation per year in the early 2030s. This is roughly equal to our estimate for the capacity of all living biological human intelligence … This state of computation in the early 2030s will not represent the Singularity, however, because it does not yet correspond to a profound expansion of our intelligence. By the mid-2040s, however, that one thousand dollars’ worth of computation will be equal to 1026 cps, so the intelligence created per year (at a total cost of about $1012) will be about one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today. That will indeed represent a profound change, and it is for that reason that I set the date for the Singularity—representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability—as 2045.” (Kurzweil 2005, pp.135-36, italics mine).

Kurzweil specifically defines what the Singularity is and isn’t (a profound and disruptive transformation in human intelligence), and a more-or-less precise prediction of when it will occur. A consequence of that may be that we will not ‘be able to make any prediction past that point in time’, however, I don’t believe this is the main thrust of Kurzweil’s argument.

I do, however, agree with what you appear to be postulating (correct me if I’m wrong) in that a better definition of a Singularity might indeed simply be ‘when no person can make any prediction past that point in time.’ And, like you, I don’t believe it will be tied to any set-point in time. We may be living through a singularity as we speak. There may be many singularities (although, worth noting again, Kurzweil reserves the term “singularity” for a rapid increase in artificial intelligence as opposed to other technologies, writing for example that, “The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains … There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine.” (Kurzweil 2005, p. 9)

So, having said all that, and in answer to your question of whether there is a point beyond which no one is capable of predicting the future of humanity: I’m not sure. I guess none of us can really be sure until, or unless, it happens.

This is why I believe having the conversation about the ethical implications of these new technologies now is so important. Post-singularity might simply be too late.

Gareth