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

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

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Gennady Stolyarov II


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote Results – 2020 Elections

Kam-Parrish 2020 Presidential Campaign

Thus far we are aware of 49 write-in votes having been cast for Charlie Kam and Liz Parrish. Preliminary member-reported totals are found here and will be updated as additional information is received, including when any state which counts write-in votes publishes its results. We are pleased by the dedication of our members who chose to vote their consciences in the states that allowed write-ins, and who moreover proactively reported those votes to us per our request. Anyone who still has not done so can contact us at ustranshumanistparty@protonmail.com in order to be counted as having voted for Charlie Kam and Liz Parrish. We want every write-in vote for our candidates to be recognized!

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

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

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

Local Campaigns

Daniel Twedt – City Council, Thousand Oaks, California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Proposition 14 – Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Passed with 51.09% in favor

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

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

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 51.97% in opposition

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

California Proposition 16 – Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 57.19% in opposition

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

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

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Passed with 58.57% in favor

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

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

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Failed with 56.01% in opposition

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

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

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 61.73% in opposition

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

California Proposition 21 – Local Rent Control Initiative

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 59.84% in opposition

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

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

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Passed with 58.59% in favor

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

California Proposition 23 – Dialysis Clinic Requirements Initiative

USTP Position: Oppose

Outcome: Failed with 63.45% in opposition

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

California Proposition 25 – Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Referendum          

USTP Position: Support

Outcome: Failed with 56.40% in opposition

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

Future Initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

U.S. Transhumanist Party Positions on 2020 California Ballot Propositions

U.S. Transhumanist Party Positions on 2020 California Ballot Propositions

Gennady Stolyarov II


The United States Transhumanist Party  offers the following brief statements of position on the ballot propositions currently before California voters in the 2020 General Election.

Summary

California Proposition 14 – Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative: Support

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

California Proposition 16 – Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment: Oppose

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

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

California Proposition 19 – Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment: Neutral

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

California Proposition 21 – Local Rent Control Initiative: Oppose

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

California Proposition 23 – Dialysis Clinic Requirements Initiative: Oppose

California Proposition 24 – Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative: Neutral

California Proposition 25 – Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Referendum: Support


California Ballot Proposition 14 Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative Support

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Authorizes $5.5 billion in state general obligation bonds to fund grants from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to educational, non-profit, and private entities for: stem cell and other medical research, including training; stem cell therapy development and delivery; research facility construction; and associated administrative expenses.

● Dedicates $1.5 billion to research and therapy for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy, and other brain and central nervous system diseases and conditions.

● Appropriates General Fund moneys to pay bond debt service.

● Expands programs promoting stem cell and other medical research, therapy development and delivery, and student and physician training and fellowships.”

(BallotPedia)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party strongly supports California Ballot Proposition 14, which will allocate major funds for life-saving and life-extending research into stem-cell therapies as well as the fight against ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and epilepsy. The U.S. Transhumanist Party has long supported significant increases in research funding in all of the aforementioned areas. Indeed, Article VI, Section V, of the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform reads: “The United States Transhumanist Party supports concerted research in effort to eradicate disease and illness that wreak havoc upon and cause death of sapient beings. We strongly advocate the increase and redirection of research funds to conduct research and experiments and to explore life, science, technology, medicine, and extraterrestrial realms to improve all sentient entities.” Ballot Proposition 14 is an example of the precise kinds of research funding that are referenced in Article VI, Section V.

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

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Increases funding for K-12 public schools, community colleges, and local governments by requiring that commercial and industrial real property be taxed based on current market value, instead of purchase price.

● Exempts from taxation changes: residential properties; agricultural land; and owners of commercial and industrial properties with combined value of $3 million or less.

● Any additional educational funding will supplement existing school funding guarantees.

● Exempts small businesses from personal property tax; for other businesses, provides $500,000 exemption”

(BallotPedia)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party opposes property taxes and thus opposes any net increases to property taxes. Article VI, Section XXXVI, of the USTP Platform states that “all taxes on land and property should be abolished.” California Ballot Proposition 15 would greatly increase property taxes on net by changing the basis for taxation from the purchase price to the current market value. Moreover, this shift would unduly burden businesses in California, since the market value of most California properties is artificially inflated due to irrational restrictions on new development, which greatly constrain the supply of buildings of every sort. While the aspect of Proposition 15 to exempt small businesses from personal property tax is admirable – since personal property taxes also should not exist – it is nonetheless possible for Proposition 15 to harm small businesses which rent real estate from larger organizations. If a larger organization is still obligated to pay the higher property tax based on the market value of the leased building, much of the added expense is likely to be passed on to the small-business tenant.

California Ballot Proposition 16 Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment Oppose

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Permits government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to address diversity by repealing article I, section 31, of the California Constitution, which was added by Proposition 209 in 1996.

● Proposition 209 generally prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, individuals or groups on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, education, or contracting.

● Does not alter other state and federal laws guaranteeing equal protection and prohibiting unlawful discrimination.

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party strongly opposes California Ballot Proposition 16 – a measure which would overturn the justified 1996 Proposition 209, which prohibited the State of California from considering race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting. Proposition 209 should remain, and circumstantial attributes over which people have no control should not be considered in making the official policy of the State of California.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party is committed to cosmopolitanism, inclusivity, and fair treatment of all individuals, irrespective of attributes (some of which pseudoscientific descriptors to begin with) such as race, ethnicity, or national origin, among the others listed.

Article VI, Section II, of the USTP Platform states, in part, that “The United States Transhumanist Party supports all acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity of individuals and groups of all races, genders, classes, religions, creeds, and ideologies. Accordingly, the United States Transhumanist Party condemns any hostile discrimination or legal restrictions on the basis of national origin, skin color, birthplace, ancestry, gender identity, or any manner of circumstantial attribute tied to a person’s lineage or accident of birth. Furthermore, the United States Transhumanist Party strongly opposes any efforts to enforce said restrictions regardless of cause or motivation thereof.”

California Ballot Proposition 16 would open the door to hostile discrimination against applicants seeking state employment or other services – based on their national origin, skin color, ethnicity, or other currently protected attributes. This is unacceptable, even if the motivation is to make amends for past injustices. Multiple wrongs do not make a right. Race-based or nationality-based preferences are always inherently unjust, because they sacrifice consideration of the genuine and unique attributes of each individual in favor of circumstantial descriptors which do not define the essence of that individual. Furthermore, any measure that embraces “reverse discrimination” renders itself vulnerable to later being turned into the instrument of the very discrimination it seeks to combat; all it would take is a shift of the people in power and the prevailing ideologies of the day. Racial preferences of any sort are odious and have no place in a society that truly rejects racism.

California Ballot Proposition 17 Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment Support

Summary of Ballot Proposition: “Amends state constitution to restore voting rights to persons who have been disqualified from voting while serving a prison term as soon as they complete their prison term.”

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party supports California Ballot Proposition 17, since there is no reason to deprive the essential right to vote from individuals who have completed their prison sentences. The Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 3.0, Article XXXVIII, states,The will of the constituent sentient entities shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage of sentient entities and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” Nothing in the USTP’s affirmation of the “universal and equal suffrage of sentient entities” would justify depriving of the right to vote an individual who has been released from prison with the intent of reintegration of that individual into the processes of society – one of which is voting. Additionally, many individuals on parole had been previously imprisoned because of nonviolent “victimless” offenses for which the USTP supports decriminalization altogether. For instance, a person on parole for a marijuana possession offense should not be deprived of the right to vote, since marijuana possession should never have been a crime to begin with. Even for those who committed genuine crimes, the ability to vote once they are on parole would not raise the risk of recidivism and, on the contrary, might interest some of these individuals in staying involved in the operations of civilized society on peaceful terms.

California Ballot Proposition 18   Primary Voting for 17-Year-Olds Amendment Support

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

● The California Constitution currently permits individuals who are at least 18 years old on the date of an election to vote in that election.

● Amends constitution to permit 17-year-olds who will be at least 18 years old and otherwise eligible to vote at the time of the next general election to vote in any primary or special election that occurs before the next general election.

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party supports California Ballot Proposition 18, a modest expansion of the right to vote in the primaries to 17-year-olds who will be turning 18 on the day of the general election. The U.S. Transhumanist Party is generally supportive of expanding the franchise to sentient entities capable of forming political opinions, as 17-year-olds clearly are. Article VI, Section XXIII, of the USTP Platform states that

“The United States Transhumanist Party supports the rights of children to exercise liberty in proportion to their rational faculties and capacity for autonomous judgment.” Most 17-year-olds are clearly capable of understanding the issues being voted and forming autonomous, rational judgments regarding them. Indeed, because many such individuals are students who have recently studied U.S. government, civics, and history, they would be more likely than the typical voter to have correct factual information about the U.S. political system at their disposal.

The USTP would go further than California Ballot Proposition 18 and enfranchise all children and teenagers who can demonstrate knowledge of the American system of government and the candidates and issues being voted on. This would, indeed, be a more stringent set of criteria than currently expected of adult voters and would contribute to a more informed electorate. However, California Ballot Proposition 18 is clearly a modest step in the correct direction.

California Ballot Proposition 19 Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment Neutral

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Permits homeowners who are over 55, severely disabled, or whose homes were destroyed by wildfire or disaster, to transfer their primary residence’s property tax base value to a replacement residence of any value, anywhere in the state.

● Limits tax benefits for certain transfers of real property between family members.

● Expands tax benefits for transfers of family farms.

● Allocates most resulting state revenues and savings (if any) to fire protection services and reimbursing local governments for taxation-related changes.”

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party is neutral on California Ballot Proposition 19. The USTP generally opposes property taxes and thus considers any expansion of credits or exemptions that would lower the property-tax burden to be beneficial. However, Ballot Proposition 19 is a mixture of expanding and limiting exemptions from property taxes. In particular, according to Ballotpedia, “The ballot measure would eliminate the parent-to-child and grandparent-to-grandchild exemption in cases where the child or grandchild does not use the inherited property as their principal residence, such as using a property a rental house or a second home.” It is difficult to weigh the impacts of the additional tax exemptions and exemption removals vis-à-vis one another, especially since different components of this measure will affect different individuals, and any systematic comparison of benefits and costs across individuals is methodologically problematic to say the least. The best policies are Pareto-efficient, in that they benefit at least one person without harming any other person. California Ballot Proposition 19 is certainly not Pareto-efficient. Because of the ambiguous effects of California Ballot Proposition 19, the U.S. Transhumanist Party as an organization does not take a stance on this measure and recommends that its members make their decisions by individually considering the potential benefits and costs and how this measure might affect them personally, if at all.

California Ballot Proposition 20 Criminal Sentencing, Parole, and DNA Collection Initiative Oppose

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Limits access to parole programs established for non-violent offenders who have completed the full term of their primary offense by eliminating eligibility for certain offenses.

● Changes standards and requirements governing parole decisions under this program.

● Authorizes felony charges for specified theft crimes currently chargeable only as misdemeanors, including some theft crimes where the value is between $250 and $950.

● Requires persons convicted of specified misdemeanors to submit to collection of DNA samples for state database.”

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party opposes California Ballot Proposition 20, as this measure would have the net effect of significantly increasing the population in prison for relatively minor criminal offenses, such as petty thefts and various nonviolent crimes. Such crimes are better addressed through restitution than through imprisonment. According to the fiscal impact statement for this measure, as related by Ballotpedia, there would arise “Increased state and local correctional costs likely in the tens of millions of dollars annually, primarily related to increases in county jail populations and levels of community supervision.”

Article VI, Section XV, of the USTP Platform states, “The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to significantly reduce the massive incarcerated population in America by using innovative technologies to monitor criminals outside of prison.” California Ballot Proposition 20 would go in the opposite direction by reducing opportunities for criminals to receive parole. Instead of continuing to overload the prison system, the California State Government should invest in monitoring technologies such as personal drones that would follow certain parolees during their daily activities and have the ability to alert law enforcement if the parolee attempts to commit a criminal offense that would have a victim.

California Ballot Proposition 21 Local Rent Control Initiative Oppose

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Amends state law to allow local governments to establish rent control on residential properties over 15 years old. Allows local limits on annual rent increases to differ from current statewide limit.

● Allows rent increases in rent-controlled properties of up to 15 percent over three years at start of new tenancy (above any increase allowed by local ordinance).

● Exempts individuals who own no more than two homes from new rent-control policies.

● In accordance with California law, prohibits rent control from violating landlords’ right to fair financial return.”

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: While the U.S. Transhumanist Party considers the cost of housing, including rental housing, in California to be unreasonably high – indeed, wildly exorbitant on a historically unprecedented scale – the U.S. Transhumanist Party nonetheless opposes California Ballot Proposition 21 and rent-control measures more generally. Article XVIII of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 3.0, expresses the right of all sentient entities to “housing or other appropriate shelter” – and thus affordability in housing is a goal embraced by the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Rent control, however, is a poor means toward that goal.

The path toward improving housing affordability is to greatly increase the supply of housing, which is tightly restricted in California due to pressure from NIMBY special interests and local anti-development activist groups. In the absence of such new construction, rent control creates undesirable incentives that harm tenants of rent-controlled buildings, including situations where landlords would be motivated to pressure the tenants to leave by indirect means, such as failing to adequately maintain the building or trying to intentionally find or engineer minor lease violations and over-zealously pursue such violations as a means to legally evict the tenants.

In order to generally reduce housing and rental costs in California, a massive building program using 3D-printing technologies and other innovative construction methods would be a far superior option to rent-controlling the existing California housing stock, which is already quite old and in need of significant maintenance.

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

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Classifies drivers for app-based transportation (rideshare) and delivery companies as ‘independent contractors,’ not ‘employees,’ unless company: sets drivers’ hours, requires acceptance of specific ride and delivery requests, or restricts working for other companies.

● Independent contractors are not covered by various state employment laws—including minimum wage, overtime, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation.

● Instead, independent-contractor drivers would be entitled to other compensation—including minimum earnings, healthcare subsidies, and vehicle insurance.

● Restricts certain local regulation of app-based drivers.

● Criminalizes impersonation of drivers.”

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party supports California Ballot Proposition 22 in order to enable technologically driven economic progress in the personal transportation industry, which has been brought about by ridesharing services (a.k.a. transportation network companies) but which has been hampered in California by the passage of Assembly Bill 5, which had classified rideshare drivers as employees of the platforms they use and thus precipitated a threat of pullout from California by the transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft.

Article VI, Section IX, of the USTP Platform, reads, in part, that “The United States Transhumanist Party supports all emerging technologies that have the potential to improve the human condition” – and innovative, technologically driven ridesharing platforms are among such emerging technologies, subsumed in Section IX under “applications for the sharing of durable goods” (in this case, vehicles).

The flawed classification of ridesharing services’ drivers as employees is contrary to many of those drivers’ own wishes, as employees often do not have the flexibility to set their own hours or the conditions of their work, and such flexibility is a primary attraction of becoming a rideshare driver. It is clear that classifying ridesharing services’ drivers as employees is intended as protectionism for legacy taxicab companies, whose business model has often resulted in sub-optimal treatment of consumers and thus led to widespread consumer frustration. On the other hand, most consumers have expressed overwhelming satisfaction with ridesharing services. California Ballot Proposition 22 restores the more reasonable classification of ridesharing services’ drivers as independent contractors while affording them basic protections regarding their earnings, healthcare, and vehicle insurance. Those who perceived the classification of such drivers as employees to be necessary to afford them the aforementioned benefits were mistaken; the benefits can be conferred by law without the restrictions and added costs that employee status would entail.

California Ballot Proposition 23 Dialysis Clinic Requirements Initiative Oppose

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Requires at least one licensed physician on site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics; authorizes California Department of Public Health to exempt clinics from this requirement if there is a shortage of qualified licensed physicians and the clinic has at least one nurse practitioner or physician assistant on site.

Requires clinics to report dialysis-related infection data to state and federal governments.

● Prohibits clinics from closing or reducing services without state approval.

● Prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on the source of payment for care.”

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party opposes California Ballot Proposition 23 primarily because of the requirement that at least one licensed physician be on site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics. Because of the dire shortage of available physicians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, this requirement would mean that many dialysis clinics would be unable to operate or offer life-serving services to patients who require dialysis.

More generally, the U.S. Transhumanist Party advocates lowering barriers to entry into the medical profession and recognizing numerous areas of patient care which could be provided effectively and affordably without the presence of full-fledged MDs.

Article VI, Section LXXX, of the USTP Platform reads, “The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts to increase opportunities for entry into the medical profession. The current system for licensing doctors is highly monopolistic and protectionist – the result of efforts by the American Medical Association in the early 20th century to limit entry into the profession in order to artificially boost incomes for its members. The medical system suffers today from too few doctors and thus vastly inflated patient costs and unacceptable waiting times for appointments. Instead of prohibiting the practice of medicine by all except a select few who have completed an extremely rigorous and cost-prohibitive formal medical schooling, governments in the Western world should allow the market to determine different tiers of medical care for which competing private certifications would emerge. For the most specialized and intricate tasks, high standards of certification would continue to exist, and a practitioner’s credentials and reputation would remain absolutely essential to convincing consumers to put their lives in that practitioner’s hands. But, with regard to routine medical care (e.g., annual check-ups, vaccinations, basic wound treatment), it is not necessary to receive attention from a person with a full-fledged medical degree. Furthermore, competition among certification providers would increase quality of training and lower its price, as well as accelerate the time needed to complete the training. Such a system would allow many more young medical professionals to practice without undertaking enormous debt or serving for years (if not decades) in roles that offer very little remuneration while entailing a great deal of subservience to the hierarchy of an established institution. Ultimately, without sufficient doctors to affordably deliver life-extending treatments when they become available, it would not be feasible to extend these treatments to the majority of people.”

Thus, the USTP advocates the development of competitively offered certifications for dialysis specialists who would be able to provide patients with quality care and respond effectively to emergencies or complications. However, the USTP strongly opposes any mandate that would prohibit a clinic that offers a lifesaving service from operating if no physician is on site.

California Ballot Proposition 24 Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative Neutral

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“● Permits consumers to: (1) prevent businesses from sharing personal information; (2) correct inaccurate personal information; and (3) limit businesses’ use of “sensitive personal information”—including precise geolocation; race; ethnicity; religion; genetic data; private communications; sexual orientation; and specified health information.

● Establishes California Privacy Protection Agency to additionally enforce and implement consumer privacy laws and impose fines.

● Changes criteria for which businesses must comply with laws.

● Prohibits businesses’ retention of personal information for longer than reasonably necessary.

● Triples maximum penalties for violations concerning consumers under age 16.

Authorizes civil penalties for theft of consumer login information, as specified.”

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party is neutral on California Ballot Proposition 24, a 50-page measure whose net effects on consumer privacy and control over personal data would be unclear.

The USTP strongly supports individual privacy. Article VI, Section I, of the USTP Platform, reads, in part, that “The United States Transhumanist Party strongly supports individual privacy and liberty over how to apply technology to one’s personal life. The United States Transhumanist Party holds that each individual should remain completely sovereign in the choice to disclose or not disclose personal activities, preferences, and beliefs within the public sphere.”

While some of the provisions in California Ballot Proposition 24 are intended to support the right of individual privacy, the USTP questions the length and complexity of the measure, when effective protections for privacy could be articulated in a straightforward and concise manner. Various privacy advocates are split on California Ballot Proposition 24, and many have alleged that the length and complexity of the measure are the result of various carve-outs that allow large companies to collect significant amounts of data on consumers without their consent, sometimes in ways that are more permissive than current California law – the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Furthermore, California Ballot Proposition 24 would appear to allow “pay for privacy” schemes, instead of privacy being the default. The USTP holds that the basic option for any service should be that the consumer owns all of his, her, or its data – and if the consumer is to be asked to give control over any such data to a third party, the consumer should be affirmatively rewarded for such a decision (for instance, via micropayments or other special benefits) – instead of being denied access to the default service for refusing to give another party control over the consumer’s personal data.

Ultimately, because the net impacts of California Ballot Proposition 24 on privacy are difficult to ascertain, the U.S. Transhumanist Party encourages its California members to study the proposal’s components and the issues involved and to individually weigh the potential benefits and costs of this measure in order to arrive at a reasonable personal position.

California Ballot Proposition 25 Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Referendum Support

Summary of Ballot Proposition:

“A ‘Yes’ vote approves, and a ‘No’ vote rejects, a 2018 law that:

  • Replaced the money bail system (for obtaining release from jail before trial) with a system based on a determination of public safety and flight risk.
  • Limits detention of a person in jail before trial for most misdemeanors.”

(BallotPedia.)

Position of the U.S. Transhumanist Party: The U.S. Transhumanist Party supports California Ballot Proposition 25, which would uphold the 2018 Senate Bill 10 – legislation that has performed well in reducing California’s jailed population such that nonviolent accused persons who are determined by a thoughtful risk assessment not to be flight risks could be released on their own recognizance without the need for cash bail. The USTP supports reductions in the incarcerated population, and this applies before a person undergoes trial just as it applies afterward if that person is convicted. The ability to make a bail payment is not a determinant of a person’s objective risk to others, and most accused individuals end up purchasing bail bonds due to the inability to afford the bail amount out of pocket. While the bail amount gets returned to the defendant after trial, the bail-bond amount gets paid to a third-party bail agent. A person who goes to trial and is exonerated for the alleged offense should not be made any poorer as a result, yet the system of cash bail channels many people in already precarious financial situations into arrangements which lead exactly to such impoverishment.