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The Boredom Objection to Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Boredom Objection to Life Extension – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


One of the most widely used yet most baseless objections to life extension is the idea that if people had longer lifespans, they would somehow be bored, or, that they would not be motivated, since the finite amount of time each person has is what is supposed to make them more motivated. Indeed, when this objection is uttered, images of people watching hours of television every day while drinking soda, eating junk food, and being unproductive, come to mind. However, as I will demonstrate below, boredom and motivation are not related to the length of life, but rather, are based on other factors.

The reality is that there are already plenty of people who claim to be bored, or who struggle with motivation. Therefore, shortening their lives or preventing them from living longer and healthier is not likely to make them less bored or improve their motivation. In fact, it is likely to do the opposite – to result in the person becoming demoralized, and, more than likely, very depressed, knowing that their life expectancy has been decreased, that there is no hope for rejuvenation, and that the end is closer still.

Being bored or unmotivated isn’t related to the length of one’s life; it is related to a person’s mindset, thoughts, beliefs, actions, life situation, and other factors that are not related to lifespan.

I can speak for myself and say that I would do plenty of things if I had a longer lifespan, including, but not limited to, starting new hobbies, enjoying the additional time with friends, family and loved ones, performing charity work, delivering even more value to others, and more. Wouldn’t you like to have a few extra years of a healthy life so that you could spend it with the people you love, doing things you enjoy?

Life being short isn’t a good thing, just like failure isn’t a good thing, and just like going bankrupt isn’t a good thing. The difference here, though, is that if you fail, you can probably try again, just like if your business goes under, you can probably try again at some point. In those scenarios too, one could make the argument that you might learn something from the failure or bankruptcy. However, if you die, you can’t try again, and there’s nothing to learn from it. It’s all over.

Just because some people believe that a longer lifespan would result in lethargic, lackadaisical behavior in certain people, doesn’t mean we have to damn all of humanity to a short, brutish lifespan full of disease and suffering, especially in the last few years or decades of life. Therefore, even if some people waste the time that they have, this does not mean the rest of us who do cherish the time we have should have less of it available to us.

Indeed, there are more hobbies, activities, educational tools, opportunities for personal development, and forms of entertainment available to us, than ever before. Therefore, if someone is truly bored, the boredom is more than likely not related to the length of their life, but rather, the quality of their life. It seems difficult to argue that an enthusiastic, passionate, and motivated person would all of a sudden become demotivated if they had more years of a healthy life ahead of them. On the other hand, it may very well be true that an unmotivated or depressed person would not be helped by having a longer life. However, this does not mean that the longer life is the reason for their boredom. There has been much research conducted on motivation, and the research seems to suggest that motivation is driven by intrinsic factors, such as purpose and the opportunity for self-improvement, and not necessarily by the length of life. Given these factors, it would be difficult to argue that adding a few years of healthy life would suddenly make someone demotivated.

Someone who feels bored or unmotivated with the valuable gift of life is calling out for help. We should help them come to a better understanding of what it means to be alive, what it means to be human, and, if possible, help them develop a purpose and goals in life so that they feel more motivated on a daily basis. Shortening the length of their life is unlikely to help them feel less bored, or more motivated. In my view, instead of attempting to prevent progress, opponents of life extension would be better served by spending their time helping others find meaning or purpose in life.

Furthermore, imagine not conducting valuable research into longevity just because of the objection that people would be bored with a longer life. While there is really no way to quantify just how damaging this objection could be to performing research into life extension, I imagine it has prevented some progress in treating aging-related diseases. Could you imagine the ensuing outrage if our teachers, business leaders, medical professionals, and parents came out publicly and said that we should stop treating or trying to cure illnesses? Similarly, we should be outraged by simplistic arguments against life extension, especially if they are not backed up by solid evidence. And, of course, we should certainly be glad that the men and women who have dedicated their lives to improving the human condition and curing devastating illnesses did not succumb to boredom or a lack of motivation.

Let’s be clear – death does not give life meaning any more than tearing down a house gives meaning to the house. Therefore, when we hear the objection that life extension would lead to boredom and demotivation, we should call it for what it is: an insult to the sanctity of life and something to be banished for eternity, just like the plague of aging and disease.

Arin Vahanian is the Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

 

Why Transhumanism Needs More Positive Science Fiction – Article by Rykon Volta

Why Transhumanism Needs More Positive Science Fiction – Article by Rykon Volta

Rykon Volta


In the modern Age of Accelerating Returns, more commonly known as the Information Age, technological growth is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. Never before in the history of humanity has technological growth shown itself so clearly to the human race. As noted by famous futurist Ray Kurzweil, the trend of exponential growth in technology follows a double exponential curve.

One famous example of this exponential growth that you might be familiar with if you are into the world of tech is, of course, Moore’s Law, but in The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil demonstrates that other technological fields, including medicine, have been accelerating as well. Ray Kurzweil shows that technology has actually been accelerating since before the Stone Age, although a man in the Roman Empire would not have noticed any ramifications of progress considering that his grandchildren would not live in a very different society from the one his grandfather and he inhabited. For the first time in recorded history, we are commonly thinking about where we will be in 100 years, where we will be in 50 years, and now we are even thinking about where we will be in a decade as technology progresses into the 21st Century. If Ray Kurzweil is right, machines will have sentience, and AI, or artificial intelligence, will be greater than human intelligence, resulting in a hypothetical event known as an “intelligence explosion” or “technological singularity”. After this point, machines will be much smarter than average human beings and will be able to carry on progress much faster than we can even begin to comprehend with our natural brains.

In the wake of the recognition of these future possibilities, many science-fiction authors and script writers have created a plethora of media to warn us that AI and future genetic augmentation pose many existential threats to the human race. Examples that now dominate the mainstream media include Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, and many more that warn us that AI might kill us all. Gattaca expresses the great fear of an unfair society of elitism in a genetically enhanced world where a man who was born naturally is unable to get his dream career because he wasn’t born with genetic modifications. In parallel, people demonize the idea of genetic modification by ruthlessly attacking GMOs and saying that they’re bad for us when GMOs have in fact solved famine in some parts of the world due to higher yields. People are always fearful of something they do not understand.

In the Golden Age of Science Fiction, a period during the mid-20th Century that saw many sci-fi works hitting the stage, spreading optimism and futurism, science fiction had a brighter outlook on the future. Isaac Asimov imagined future Spacer societies and a Galactic Empire in his Robot Series and Foundation Series. Gene Roddenberry took us on fantastic voyages across the stars in the Enterprise alongside Captain James T. Kirk and Spock. Other authors inspired visionaries to have a brighter outlook on the future as the Space Race sent the first humans to the Moon.

Today, we have, in a way, a form of cultural stagnation. While some still see the future in an optimistic light, it seems much more popular today to look at the future as a dystopia, and New Age movements all over the place actually act like demonizing technology is some kind of “morally right” position. Despite the trends of growth continuing to accelerate, mainstream culture seems to be propagating more fear of the future than hope and inspiration. Why are we doing this? While I agree that dystopian sci-fi has it’s place and that we should in very deed analyze and contemplate existential risks in our future that we might steer clear of, progress is going to happen and we are going to try everything we can to “play god”, as the enemies of transhumanism like to say transhumanists are trying to do. To them, of course, I say, “Were we not created in God’s image? Did God not give the Earth to mankind? Were we not meant to achieve our full potential, to subdue the Earth and conquer it, bending it to our will?” Indeed, this phrase in Genesis seems to be divine permission to modify our bodies and accelerate a brighter future. However, this is mainly an appeal to my fellow religious folks who may be averse to progress. We are not playing God because, quite honestly, God would not even make that possible. We are just using our God-given talents to hack our own genetic code and modify the machinery of our initial, still quite wonderful creation. To those Christians who say that we are insulting God and telling him “You didn’t make me good enough”, the beauty of mankind is that we were in fact created with the ability to modify ourselves. Don’t modify yourself with the intention of insulting your creator, but with the intention of becoming closer to your creator. Why would he give us the ability for self-modification if he didn’t intend for us to use it? It’s like saying that we shouldn’t work out because self improvement is some kind of blasphemy against God. Do you really believe God wants us to intentionally limit ourselves from our full potential?

Others may fear the coming of AI as a usurping of humanity as the apex predator upon this planet, and they may be afraid of a Skynet scenario where a rampant AI destroys us all. I argue that the solution is to merge ourselves with the machines, allowing us to cause ourselves to evolve. Ray Kurzweil and many other singularitarians would make the same argument. By evolving our own bodies and replacing our cells with nanobots whereby we can enhance our brains to the point where neural signals travel at light speed, we will be able to keep up with AI in the evolutionary arms race to come. You can choose to live in fear in the face of the Singularity that is coming, getting left behind in its wake, or you can step boldly and bravely forward into the new world that it will create, surpassing all your physical, mental, and morphological limitations and ending your mortality fully.

As I have written before, mainstream media is overwhelmingly sending out negative signals and warnings about the future, painting into the memespace, or ideaspace, of mainstream culture the notion that technology is a negative influence and that it should be contained and controlled. Society is largely crying for a return back to the caves because many people are fearful of what they don’t understand. This trend needs to cease. People need to see that the light of the future is much brighter than they think. AI is coming, and the technological Singularity is coming, and it’s going to be better than anyone can imagine. This is a call to arms; artists and sci-fi writers who see the ramifications of the future and how it can create an abundant, prosperous utopia, I urge you to write science fiction that portrays AI not in a negative, but rather in a positive manner. Show AI in a benevolent form and show how it can aid humanity in its future quest for survival. Show how it can solve global problems like hunger and global warming and cure disease. Stories that put the Neo-Luddites in their place, and show that the pseudo-religious zeal of anti-progress-minded people is ultimately a negative factor only holding us back from creating a better world in the long run. Know and understand that the content in the mainstream media has a huge effect on the minds of the people, and indeed much of culture is shaped by what is put out there and consumed by the masses. Transhumanism needs more positive science fiction to help gain support for the movement and to inspire the next generation of scientists and inventors to design the future we all desire!

Rykon Volta is the author of the novel Arondite, Book I of The Artilect Protocol Trilogy. Arondite is available on Amazon in hard-copy and Kindle formats here. Visit Rykon Volta’s website here

Watch the U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Enlightenment Salon of  July 19, 2020, when Rykon Volta was the guest of honor and discussed science fiction, his novel Arondite, and the ideas surrounding it with the U.S. Transhumanist Party Officers.

 

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”.