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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.

 

Review of Rykon Volta’s “Arondite” – A Fascinating Exploration of a Hypothetical Future History, With Relevance to Our World – by Gennady Stolyarov II

Review of Rykon Volta’s “Arondite” – A Fascinating Exploration of a Hypothetical Future History, With Relevance to Our World – by Gennady Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II


 

Arondite by Rykon Volta offers a fascinating exploration of a hypothetical trajectory of humankind’s future history, in which Hugo de Garis’s dire predictions of an “Artilect War” had come to pass. As in de Garis’s narrative, so in Volta’s, the anti-technological reactionary Terran faction initiates that war to assail emergent sentient artificial general intelligences and their philosophical allies, the pro-innovation Cosmists. Rather than allow such artificial general intelligences to develop, the Terran General Vantus destroys the entirety of the Earth in the year 2071 and binds the remnants of humanity to an Artilect Protocol, which imposes the harshest punishments on any humans who experiment with genetic modification, cybernetic implants, or artificial intelligence.

The story of Arondite takes place 500 years later, in 2571-2572. Humanity has, over the course of five centuries, risen slowly from the ashes of the Artilect War, and multiple competing societies and governments have taken hold in the Solar System – particularly the Martian Republic and the Jovian Empire, who are now on the edge of major war. The historical narratives at the beginning of each chapter are among the most intriguing aspects of Arondite and serve to add great depth to the world in which the events of the plot transpire. Indeed, the historical scenario presented by Volta is reminiscent of two epochs already experienced by humankind: the emergence of Classical Antiquity after a gradual recovery from the Late Bronze Age Collapse, and the rise of Medieval and then Renaissance societies after the Dark Ages following the fall of the Roman Empire. Every such recovery of civilization is a testament to human ingenuity in the face of immense adversity, and in the world depicted by Volta, the hardships of outer space certainly magnify those constraints for the remnants of humanity. Yet by developing extensive settlements both on multiple planets and in space, as well as advanced spacefaring vessels on which much of the book’s plot takes place, humans demonstrate irrepressible innovation by advancing in practically the only directions available to them. Still, the harsh boundaries imposed by the Artilect Protocol are beginning to fray, and indeed, would need to be overcome in order for further progress in the Solar System to be possible.

The protagonists of Arondite are a group of space pirates – Peron, Ashlyn, and Carlile, as well as their various and situationally shifting allies – who are quickly drawn into matters far weightier and more perilous than they could have expected, as they unwittingly find themselves at the epicenter of the struggle by multiple major powers for the Arondite Chip – a map to one of the few artilects rumored to remain. Without revealing the specific details, the plot features numerous rapid developments in this struggle – filled with shifting allegiances, sudden changes of fortune, and revelations of hidden motives which diverge from surface appearances. The reader is kept wondering throughout as to who will gain possession of the Arondite Chip – the pro-artilect Acliate Brotherhood, the Martian Republic, the Jovian Empire, the tense and ever-precarious alliance of the protagonists who must resist pressures from each of these forces, or perhaps someone else entirely. Characters from every faction, however, are united in their recognition of the vast transformational power of an artificial general intelligence; some fear it and wish to destroy it, whereas others wish to harness it for their own objectives. But will the protagonists be not only capable enough to locate this artilect, but wise enough to truly understand its capabilities and nature – and respect its autonomy?

The events of Arondite are driven strongly by all-too-familiar flaws of human character – from irrational fear to the desire for the subjugation of others to the perception of existence as a zero-sum struggle of all against all. Because of the prohibitions of the Artilect Protocol, these flaws have persisted and become endemic within the societies of 2571; after all, no fundamental improvements upon human nature had been made available via technological pathways. Thus, for all of humankind’s spacefaring progress, the aforementioned deleterious vestiges of the suboptimal evolution of the human mind had not been corrected; another major war looms on the horizon and threatens to undo centuries of hard-earned advancement. However, the rediscovery of the artilects might just open an entirely different and more hopeful set of possibilities for the future of civilization.  One can only hope that, in our own civilization, that set of possibilities can be opened much sooner and with major conflicts averted.

Through the plot of Arondite, Volta illustrates the futility of attempting to impose restrictions on technological progress – restrictions which only serve to mire humankind in an escalating war of all against all. The protagonists are thrust into such an all-encompassing struggle, but because of their relative naiveté (despite being space pirates) are able to keep their minds open to alternative possibilities and thus have a chance to bypass the numerous hostile forces and machinations standing in their way. There is a broader message contained in this kind of narrative – the ability of an earnest individual, who is not altogether experienced with “the way things are done” in a given field, to significantly influence that field and overcome institutional barriers that had hitherto prevented progress past a certain point. Both in the world of Arondite and in our world, Volta shows that the philosophy of transhumanism, with its openness to technologies that can radically transform the human condition to remedy age-old flaws, is the way forward, transcending the destructive power struggles which needlessly stunted the advancement of humanity in the past.

Gennady Stolyarov II is the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. 

Arondite is available on Amazon in hard-copy and Kindle formats here

Watch the U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Enlightenment Salon of  July 19, 2020, when Rykon Volta was the guest of honor and discussed 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. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Question 1:

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

Answer: Yes

What caveats do you have to your position?

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

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

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

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

How do you feel about your position and this question?

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

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

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

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

Yes.

Question 2:

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

Answer: No.

What caveats do you have to your position?

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

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

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

How do you feel about your position and this question?

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

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

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

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

Yes.

Question 3:

Should we have free universal medical care?

Answer: Yes.

What caveats do you have to your position?

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

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

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

How do you feel about your position and this question?

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

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

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

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

Yes.

Question 4:

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

Answer: No.

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

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

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

How do you feel about your position and this question?

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

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

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

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

Yes.

Transhumanism: The Important Gray Area Between the Madness of the Two-Party System in America – Article by C. H. Antony

Transhumanism: The Important Gray Area Between the Madness of the Two-Party System in America – Article by C. H. Antony

logo_bgC. H. Antony


What’s missing from politics today? Some will leap to simple responses like “integrity”, “honesty”, “education”. But I say it’s worse than all that. However, I will not spend paragraphs going into the various conspiracies and fear-mongering – that is behavior more fitting for the main two political parties. What I would like to accomplish here is to propose the values and intentions of the United States Transhumanist Party (USTP) as solutions. 

To begin, we must examine the current most pressing issue, that of human rights. As you read this, many thousands have taken to the streets in every major city and 18 countries around the world to scream at their governments that enough is enough – that they will not be duped into economic caste systems, race wars, or trafficking schemes. Whether the battle cry is “Black Lives Matter” or whether it is a cry against manufactured poverty, or a call to defund the police and reallocate resources toward fundamental solutions over enforcement, the message is clear: humanity is ready to move on. Here at the USTP, we have assembled a comprehensive Platform and identified areas for reform such as sentient rights, improved economic policy, medical technology and accessibility, and, of course, the imperative to recognize death as a limitation to overcome. While those are just some examples of the body of work offered by the USTP, I believe they are the most important foundations, as from them, all other potential improvements for the human condition are possible. 

We Transhumanists are the gray area in between the madness that is the two-party system in America. We unfortunately inhabit the very system we were warned about in our earliest days as a country. We offer rational and compassionate alternatives to the systems Americans have been repeatedly manipulated into accepting. Where other parties seek to polarize the citizenry, we seek to unite it with scientific and technological solutions to the issues that have us at each other’s throats. With respect to urgency, I will only illustrate existing or easily obtainable technologies here. Consider, for example, the abortion issue. To us, it is no issue at all, as there already exist ample resources for preventing unintended pregnancy. The education and social studies are there to better inform young people of the consequences of irresponsible behavior.  We are steady in our call that life is the most important argument and support those approaches which lengthen the lives and improve the health of all humankind, regardless of any differences. If a few more million dollars were devoted to the works of visionaries like Aubrey de Grey, aging and disease could be eradicated in a few short years. With some more million dollars, we could eliminate the arguments regarding abortion by making the practice obsolete with technologies such as indefinite stasis and ectogenesis. Such advances would render divisive moral arguments moot. 

The incorporation of artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) assistance and oversight  into governance and healthcare could virtually eliminate malpractice and marginal qualification in both fields. Justice can be free of bias with ANI incorporated into the process; lawyers and judges and even jurors can be in complete understanding of the law and precedents in question. This could shrink the margin for abuse and error to nearly null in real time. With medical assistance ANI, doctors can access the diagnostic power of the sum total of human medical knowledge instantaneously, never leaving a patient undiagnosed or misdiagnosed until it’s too late to save that individual. In matters where interaction is the essential element, such as international relations, local law enforcement, or conveying your symptoms to your doctor, language and communication need no longer be a divider riddled with misunderstanding and lost cultural context. Imagine how these three simple applications of technology could change the fabric of society, and it is ready and applicable right now. Right now, humans are fighting in the streets for equal justice, equal access, and equal treatment; the wise application of artificial intelligence systems can deliver on those demands and act as a safeguard against those that currently engage in the manipulation of those systems or underperform and cost lives. How many loved ones are in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, but hadn’t the resources to fight the argument the state was infinitely capable of delivering? How many loved ones are dead because the doctors in the local hospital were either prevented from accessing other techniques or unaware of them? How many people are dead under the knee or boot of a government that has no meaningful oversight or accountability to the people it was constructed to serve?

We at the USTP believe that human suffering must end, but moreover, it can end if we begin actively applying the advancements we have right now. This isn’t some far-flung future fiction we’d all like to see someday; indeed, “someday” for much of this was ten years ago. So while we are out there advocating for rights and justice, let’s begin to embrace the tools that can ensure the equal application and universally competent execution of these goals. Let us be the tool users that we’ve evolved to be. 

C. H. Antony is Vice-Secretary of the United States Transhumanist Party.

Othering: The Ultimate Challenge of Sentient Life – Article by Pavel Ilin

Othering: The Ultimate Challenge of Sentient Life – Article by Pavel Ilin

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Pavel Ilin


We come to the point in history when compassion and belonging become not only a necessary part of building inclusive culture, but the practices which determine the survival of sentient life as we know it. 

Most of us are locked in our local tribes – national, ideological, corporate, and so on. Living in different tribes is a way to establish one’s own subjectivity and identity. Most of the time we are part of the different tribes at the same time. The problem comes when we are not engaged in cross-tribal dialog and consider members of other tribes as “Other”. That’s how othering happens.

Most commonly, othering expresses the boundaries between “we” and “them”. “We” belong; “they” are Other and cannot belong. Those who are “them” can be described in the negative language of disgust.

When people say “they are barbarians”, they deny the right of the other to belong. When Ancient Greeks called slaves “speaking tools”, or they allowed only males to vote, they denied the others’ humanity and right to belong. When Romans expand their empire, they called other nations they conquered barbarians, unless they adapted the Romans’ culture – and by doing so the Romans othered these peoples. We can go on and on. The history of sentient life as we know it is full of othering.

When we deny the opportunity for the other to belong, then the other is not a person anymore in our eyes. You are allowed to do things to an “Other”, which would be unthinkable to do to one of “Us”. It’s very easy to deny access to resources, deny rights, deny compassion, and deny life to the “Other”. Taking away life is an extreme form of othering.

Personal-Level Othering

On the personal level othering happens very often. Susan Fiske from Princeton University shows in her “Stereotype content model” how othering works on neurological level. Studies show that when we see other people, there is a part of our brain that lights up when we see another human being. It’s an interesting authentication mechanism which allows us to identify our own species. But when we see, for example, homeless people, or undocumented immigrants and refugees, this part of the brain doesn’t light up. Instead, there lights up a part of the brain responsible for fear and disgust. 

Studies also show that if we put different people in situations when they have to work together to achieve a common goal, othering tends to diminish. When people engage in dialog, when people communicate and coordinate, people start to see each other, and neural activity gets changed. The person who previously provoked a fear response becomes a human again.

The moral here is that in order to overcome othering on a personal level, we should collaborate with as many people as we can.

Structural-Level Othering

But it’s not enough to deal with othering on a personal level. We live in social structures which determine our behavior and our identity. 

For example, the US government calls all immigrants “Alien”. And by doing that on a structural level, the government said to the immigrants that “you do not belong”. 

When police profile people based on how they look, it’s othering on a structural level.

When we allow such a huge level of income inequality, it’s a structural problem. The whole system of resource distribution is organized in a way that it others the poor and favors the rich.

What to do with structural othering? Create an inclusive structure which allows people to belong. It sounds easier than it is, but this way we can upgrade our culture.

Implementing basic income, removing immigration barriers, providing access to educational resources to all are all important steps. It is also vital to create organizations within which belonging is cultivated. The USTP is a great example of such an organization. Everyone is welcome to participate regardless of residence, income level, and a variety of other circumstances or attributes. You are welcome in the USTP even if you are not human or not an organic-based form of sentient life.

The Future

Why is it important to talk about othering in the context of the building of transhumanists’ future?

In context of the COVID-19 situation, it’s become very clear that we can’t hide inside our small narratives. It’s impossible to stay away from the pandemic situation. In order to get over this pandemic with minimal loss of human lives, we have to work together. It’s not going to be the last pandemic, and in order to prepare for future threats, we have to cooperate more closely. A virus is only one of the potential existential threats. What about climate change, bio-terrorism, asteroids, and destructive AI? We have to work together to survive!

As transhumanists we should prepare ourselves to face the “other” and to become “other” in certain situations as well. I think we need to create structures which can be inclusive not only for humans but for all sentient beings.

Other Modified Beings

There are millions of people around the world with artificial body parts and this number will keep growing. How will the culture react when organization goes from regaining physical ability to enhancing ability? We can face creating a new other and potentially new discrimination. 

Uplifted Animals

Recognizing that animals are living beings with feelings and thoughts is pretty new phenomenon. And mostly right now animals are considered commodities. We will have to have a very difficult dialog about humans behavior with animals uplifted to human-level intelligence.  

Other AI Entities

While we create Artificial Intelligence, we should remember that creating tech slaves is not going to end anywhere good. We should create colleagues with whom we are going to work to build a transhumanist future. We might even become artificially intelligent forms of life ourselves. 

Conclusion

But race is the child of racism, not the father. – Ta-Nehisi Coates

I believe that othering is an existential issue. If we keep dividing people and other beings into “us” and “them”, then we will keep facing discrimination, conflicts, and wars. This is extremely concerning for me because we have now a lot of technological power at our disposal, and it keeps growing – and with great power comes great responsibility. What I mean is that we can easily destroy our planet by just pressing the nuclear button. And if we consider people in other countries or in other social groups as Others, if they are outside the circle of our concern, then it’s very easy to deny help and start wars.

We have built virtual walls between us, and I think it’s time to tear them down by reclaiming and living and practicing belonging where no beings and lives are outside of the circle of concern.

Pavel Ilin is the Secretary of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. 

USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club

USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Interviewed by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club

Gennady Stolyarov II
Roen Horn


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, was interviewed on December 14, 2019, by Roen Horn of the Eternal Life Fan Club. Topics discussed included recent developments in transhumanist politics, the Presidential campaign of Johannon Ben Zion, transhumanist elements in the candidacies of Zoltan Istvan and Andrew Yang, how to persuade religious individuals to be more receptive to the ideas of transhumanism and life extension, prospects for the transhumanist movement to find a spokesperson regarding life extension as influential as Greta Thunberg has been regarding climate-change activism, preservation of the self and “I-ness”, existential risks, and longevity themes in film and literature.

References

Ben Zion 2020 Campaign Website
Johannon Ben Zion Candidate Profile

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Click here to apply in less than a minute.

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.