C. H. Antony
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this perspective from one of our members, Mr. C. H. Antony, as a way of motivating discussion about possibilities for effectively spreading transhumanist ideas with a significant impact on contemporary culture and politics.
~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, May 10, 2018
As a high-school student, I filled my free periods with Architectural Drafting classes. In retrospect, I believe it was the aspect of structured creativity that I found most attractive, indeed, comforting. Here was a way of expressing unique visions of domiciles and utilitarian structures that challenged me to use my imagination applied within a set of established rules; if I wanted to stretch the limits of a design, I had to justify it within the tolerances of the materials used. I would have to be mindful of construction techniques and building codes if I ever wanted to see a schematic make it to the modeling phase of the class. As a result, I was introduced to some surface knowledge of materials sciences, construction, geometry, physics, electrical theory, and so on. But, most importantly, it molded my mind in such a way that I approach all things with the baseline assumption that there are a multitude of variables that influence all things. That you can’t simply analyze a painting on the grounds of colors, canvas, and light. One must also consider the chemistry of paint (e.g. oil, egg tempera, etc.), the medium on which it is painted, the brushes, the cultural context of the artist, ad infinitum. Indeed, imagining all the variables and eliminating them can be as entertaining and transformative as the artist’s work. I say we need to assume a similar attitude as we approach the inevitable convergence of technological and sociopolitical evolution we are collectively calling The Singularity.
It’s pretty clear that there are more technologies than there are applications now. We create seemingly supernatural metamaterials, then study their properties, then figure out where we can apply them. In previous decades, the technology often followed a need. The wheel, the cart, the locomotive, the internal combustion engine, rocket propulsion, jet propulsion, all came along in response to a specific need to convey resources from one place to another. Today, we have fields of research that grew from no particular need at all, save for our insatiable curiosity, in which we now are scrambling to find relevant and marketable applications. Still being a market-driven culture, without a product in which to incorporate these groundbreaking technologies, they die in the womb, no matter how remarkable.
We need a team or committee that can intelligently gather up these technologies in order to advance them toward a specific project goal. It will take more than simply musing about a “metabrain” and offering imaginative graphics of how it could be used by future humans. We need to actually design something! Elon Musk, the man warning us of dangerous AI, rightly so, has an actual plan; the Neuralink project. And I think we can all agree that something like that has nothing to do with the latest gaming platform or smart toaster, and everything to do with the technology that could significantly enhance human intelligence and help get us out ahead of AI.
Often times the developers of these amazing technologies will justify them as applicable to new smartphones or medical devices, almost deliberately avoiding their potential for human enhancement. I suspect that this is because they fear losing project funding. And, again, right they should. Dreamers are feared in business, much as we’d like to think otherwise.
The recent break-through meta-lense that functions similarly to the human iris, but can resolve distance, perspective, parallax, and color shift all at once and magnify sight profoundly, is being applied for integrated camera systems. What a tragedy… Imagine, sliding a meta-lense into the human eye as we do for replacement artificial lenses now, and enhancing our vision beyond anything man has viewed with the healthiest natural eye! Instead of openly discussing this amazing possibility and striving for it, they hope to sell it to Apple for the next generation of selfie-takers.
The Genetics industry has brought us CRISPR/Cas9, MITI, and all the other amazing things above my education. As our ability to run advanced computer models grows less fallible, these techniques could be the very tools that could create a flawless human genome that could be naturally immune to most disease and degeneration, but instead we will lose precious time as scientists are forced to sing for their supper to an audience that is more likely to shelve the technology for fear of losing the vast income of pharmaceutical treatment for indefinite periods of time.
Building a Better World
The list of amazing new science goes on and on, but I fear many of them will miss their mark due to the influence of big industries. A well-organized, funded, and mission-directed committee that is constantly monitoring and ready to save these technologies from their ultimately inglorious applications is essential to realizing the goals of radical life extension (if not true immortality), cognitive and physical enhancement, and cessation of suffering. We also need to be prepared for creating a new form of civilization in which to flourish as enhanced Human 2.0.
It has been often postulated that when one takes the total annual GDP of the United States, adds it with a low and competitive corporate tax, deletes all individual and small-business tax income, then strips down the federal spending, that a Universal Basic Income can be given to all American citizens, without having taken it from the highest earners, thus avoiding the moral pitfalls of wealth redistribution or Socialism. To put a finer point on it, if all entitlement programs and social security programs were stripped away, if five intelligence agencies with individual budgets were wisely consolidated and reorganized into one agency, if the IRS were automated and only employed a few dozen people to maintain the system and analyze for errors, and so on with all aspects of government, there would be likely enough to provide that basic income and top-shelf healthcare to every American citizen. I would ask that far more educated people than I examine these economic hypotheticals. We need a specific and easily conveyable plan to take what we have and make it better. Then the United States could lead the rest of the world by example, not direct influence.
One could argue that after over a century of bending our constitutional position on federal taxes, that we are due a return on our investment. That is where the social engineering speculated on above will come into play. When calculating a reasonable UBI, we should be taking into account that it may be that a generation of workers, those laboring at jobs they dislike, may stop working altogether. Those who have created meaningful careers for themselves will have the freedom to either stay where they are and continue to advance or take the risk of trying other applications for their expertise. But those who are merely working for survival, or the value of a needed benefits package, may need time to explore something more meaningful from the ground up – or not at all. And that will be their choice. But we cannot predict what impact a society free of death, disease, debt, and destitution will have on the sociopolitical future of the United States. I choose to believe that, in the long run, it will make it nearly impossible for future bureaucrats to benefit from miscarriages of their duties. A truly free society won’t tolerate it.
However, the entrenchment of the current establishment is vicious and violent. I won’t go out into the weeds of conspiracy, but I think it can be agreed that we have good reason to fear the tactics of those who would retain their power. As such, the aforementioned plan would need to be made as public as possible. That way, the citizenry as a whole has an opportunity to examine it and freely decide their position on it before it can be spun out of context and meaning. It would enable a discourse that would not only advance our ideas, but enable new ideas and means of implementation to bubble to the surface. It must be done from both the grass-roots level, and from the upper branches. We will need figures with the means and resources to swat down the many scandals that will be heaved in their directions, the false narratives, and manufactured evidence. We’ll need legal teams, private investigators, media specialists, and meticulous care to combat these easily recognizable, yet devastatingly effective, tactics. It will be a fight.
I should explain that I am a proud American. I stand for the ideals of our founding fathers in that the freedom of the individual is paramount. I believe that a representative republic, when not corrupted, is the best form of government we, as human beings, can establish so long as we are in need of a government at all. While I believe that we as a species will ultimately outgrow such things, for now, in our formative years, it is a necessary evil. That is why it is our duty to retain control over it, not relinquish it. I believe it is time to evolve our country into something the world will want to emulate. Our core principles and our Constitution are perfectly adequate, but the endless “interpretations” of them have led to no end of judicial misconduct and entrapment. At no time, I believe, has the will of the people truly and consistently been applied since before the Civil War. With the societal and personal benefits attainable by the U.S. Transhumanist Party, we have an opportunity to return reason and liberty to American politics, to eliminate poverty, disease, and tragedy. We have the ability to change, not only the American experience, but to encourage the change of all of humanity for the extreme betterment of the species. I believe that the founding fathers would have agreed if placed in our modern contexts.
The Perfect Organism
I would argue that we need a product to sell, distasteful as that may sound. Natasha Vita-More has done a wonderful job of illustrating an idealized form, but I respectfully disagree with her lack of explanation of specific applied technologies. In today’s world, driven by millennial consumers, specs count. When a ten-year-old child begs their parent for a smartphone, they will often blend the processing speed, refresh rate, and connectability in with the fact that Sarah’s or Johnny’s parent got them one a month ago. While the child might not completely understand the value of the specifications they are repeating, the behavior of absorbing and comparing specifications from product to product is already ingrained. For this reason, I am reiterating my previous statement that we must develop a plan of approach that clearly delineates the desired technologies, reasonable expectation of cost and time to achieve, and the benefits of the product. Without more tangibility in our proposed future, we’ll never gain the public support for it.
I propose that we create the Human 2.0 in full concept with all the detailed features and the applied sciences necessary to execute it. It must reflect the potentials of current technology, retain enough of the biological self to allow mankind time to grow out of it on it’s own, ensure safety and system security, and fundamentally enhance not only the body, but the mind and experience of the individual. It will require the conversation and debate necessary to agree on a platform that substantially advances the human condition, lays the groundwork for the future expression of individualism and self beyond the original design.
I can only speak for myself, but I for one would prefer a stepped process toward the end of biological man. I believe a measure of maturity is still required and can’t be obtained by the addition of software to wetware. If we do not grow out of our childish ways, I fear we will only carry them with us into a potentially limitless existence with few or no consequences. We need time. But the coming Singularity may not afford us enough time. That, too, is a discussion that must be had – but not here.
Selling the Future
I have previously expressed my call for organizing Transhumanism into something the general public can understand and choose for themselves, or not. That will require a measure of showmanship. I’m not suggesting making dubious claims or using trickery, but there is an art to selling complicated concepts to the lay-public while remaining honest. Such individuals most easily recognizable today are industry leaders like Elon Musk, Natasha Vita-More, Jeff Bezos, Ray Kurzweil, and so on. We must also take care to avoid further marginalization as “fringe”. All that said, let us explore the Sale of Transhumanism:
Example: Genetic Product X will eliminate cell-division errors, allow your healthy cells to infinitely produce telomerase, and never create a cancer cell. You will lose all predispositions to all known degenerative diseases. Heart cells and liver cells will divide the same way as all your other healthy cells. These incredibly over-simplified features alone could end the aging process and death entirely. But, wait! there’s more; these advanced nanocytes will repair any damage caused to your cells by environmental aggressors. They’ll carry more oxygen and remove more CO2 than the rest of your natural hemoglobin. They can deliver medications precisely where needed! With easy firmware updates, they’ll physically destroy pathogens of all kinds if your genetically advanced immune system somehow misses them. And if you call now, we’ll tell you how these amazing advancements will pave the way to increasing your IQ exponentially as you are instantly linked to the total sum of human knowledge. The first million callers will receive sensory enhancements at no additional charge! And so on.
I know how ghastly that sounds. It disgusts me as well. But as ugly as it is, we should always bear in mind that that is precisely the culture we are trying to outgrow. Pretending it doesn’t exist will cause it to lay hidden in the grass, like a viper, waiting to strike at us when we accidentally step on its tail. The right people actively promoting the concept of advancing humanity will make all the difference in how well it is adopted. And I don’t speak only of acceptance; this is a concept that needs to be reconciled with the current state of human nature. It must be attainable by the average-income individual, it must be a free choice, it must not be a threat to the individual sense of self or freedom of thought. And this must be learned by way of vigorous debate centered around the ‘how’ and ‘when’, not the ‘if’. When properly packaged with well-presented and modeled societal changes, we could carefully usher our citizens away from the deceptive and divisive politics of the current system, and into a new age of reason that respects spirituality in all its forms, but is not at the mercy of it.
As I look over the party now, I see a lot of great ideas, a well-thought-out platform, and a constitution that seems to offer a much better life for all than this existential mud-trap we’ve been spinning our wheel in. But it doesn’t have a good spokesman. What it lacks is a face for Transhumanism, a person intelligent enough to fully grasp all the concepts and has the ability to debate them, has the talent for conveying complicated concepts to the layperson, without condescending, that endeared Carl Sagan to those of us lucky enough to have grown up with the original Cosmos series, and is comfortable within the media environment to remain sincere and perform as comfortably in front of a camera as they would in private.
Ultimately, the Transhumanist Party must convey sincere hope. Anyone who has ever suffered a midlife crisis can attest the overwhelming sense of loss and hopelessness that accompanies it. Loss of one’s youth and potential is the most potent reminder of mortality. Sometimes, we experience the crisis multiple times and long before our hopeful midlife mark. I’ll take this moment to speak of myself, and only for myself.
I grew up rather poor, and with much of the ire that comes with that. I have starved, I have been cold and miserable, I have been marginalized. I have lost a really good job because my five-hundred-dollar car broke down before I had made enough at that job to afford to fix it. There was no bus I could take, nor could I afford the cab fare. So I sucked it up, swallowed the humiliation, and tried to find another job. I’ve even worked four of them at a time. I didn’t get to go to college. At the time, the amount of job-hours necessary to keep an apartment, an extremely modest means of conveyance, and the required insurances, meant that time wasn’t available. So I worked harder, gained a broader skill set, and, over time, got better job opportunities. As a result, I spent all those years one usually does amassing memories of fun summers with friends working my tail off to improve my station in life. I’ve done all right, but not so far as the stress of each paycheck and the pockets it ends up in doesn’t haunt me. I’m riddled with anxiety and stress-induced chest pains, and most sadly, the crushing realization that I missed so much joy and discovery toiling away my youth in hopes of never despairing of a cold night or empty stomach again.
I’ve always loved Star Trek. I love science fiction in general, but Star Trek in particular. I have a favorite spin-off, Deep Space Nine, but I truly love them all. Gene Roddenberry’s future for humanity was both inspiring and believable when one was interested enough to put together all the fictional historical points that led us to the stars: high hopes for perfecting the species, the resulting war, and the hard lessons learned along the way. It took half a century after the human race was decimated by its own hand to raise itself up and take the fateful step that brought us to the attention of other life in the great Out There. From that point on, it took only another century to clean up the environment, eliminate poverty and disease, and build our first ships to travel beyond our solar system. I’m afraid we simply don’t have that kind of time to grow up, not with the rate at which our technology is advancing, and our enlightenment seems to be retarding. But, nevertheless, I often wished that I might fall asleep one night and wake up on the Promenade of DS9, with no bills and no demands on my labor, so that I might pursue at my own pace something I could be passionate about.
As a man, I have studied history with a far less biased perspective than that of a young man’s dreams, grown to understand the Master/Slave Morality proposed by Nietzsche, understand the dance of control and deception that now embodies American politics. Transhumanism as a movement means hope for stripping away all the waste and corruption of our current system, while preserving principles of individual freedom, the right of self-manifestation, a government in service of its people, and the preservation of liberty.
I find this current trend of using social media and mainstream media to shame individuals into accepting the group-think of a few outraged individuals nauseating. It is no less discriminatory to ruin a person’s livelihood and reputation for having a different outlook than another, or on the basis of an accusation without evidence, than to deny a person service in one’s establishment on the grounds of that outlook. It is morally on the level of terrorism and extortion. Yet, this is the level of maturity and decency that we have reached as a result of the interconnectedness that our modern world allows for. I’m not denouncing technology, or social evolution. I’m pointing out how viciously we’ve applied it. This viciousness will continue unless we move back toward a society of personal accountability, while moving toward a society that transcends today’s prevalent pettiness. The safe-zones, public shaming, social justice, whitewashing, and hypocrisy of the liberal society is frighteningly Orwellian, and most of the practitioners of these behaviors are too ignorant to realize it. Likewise, conservatism has lost all compassion and is polluted by religious doctrine and cronyism as badly as the liberal side of the coin. Libertarians seem dangerously naive of how other countries might not be as innately friendly as they are now, if we were to suddenly pull back our military might. So, the emergence of a political party that calls for rational discussion and governance, financial freedom, and unabashed pursuit of infinite life and health is a shining beacon of hope for one who has been deceived and disenfranchised by the two-party system, only occasionally tickled by a third or fourth upstart.
Unless we present the public with facts and steps toward this future, in a manner that carefully points out the lies they’ve lived on, we have no chance of ever seeing a human future that transcends the current stagnation. AI will become a weapon, instead of a partner, and we will wipe ourselves out. We will wallow in this carefully concealed slavery while the machinations we’ve created bring us our end.
C. H. Antony is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. He may be contacted here.