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.
U.S. Transhumanist Party Condemns Unjustified Shootings and Crowd Violence in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., Calls for Unity for a Brighter Future
August 29, 2020 – The United States Transhumanist Party (USTP) expressed alarm at the troubling and saddening events in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which began with the tragic and unjustified shooting on August 23 by police of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, multiple times in the back. Violence was escalated in subsequent days by looters who robbed and destroyed numerous peaceful businesses, and also by a lone individual who killed two protesters. During the night of August 27, 2020, while returning from the Republican National Convention in Washington, D.C., Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a long-time advocate critic of police shootings and advocate of police reform, was violently assaulted along with his wife, by a crowd of about 100 protesters who threatened his life and attempted to push through the police who were escorting him and to violently lunge at him.
Opposition to racism and other circumstantial discrimination, as well as the unequivocal condemnation of violence resulting from such attitudes, has been a cornerstone of the USTP Platform since its inception. Section II of the USTP Platform, adopted by its members during the first USTP Platform vote held on January 15-21, 2017, and subsequently amended during November 11-17, 2017, reads, “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. Additionally, any institution that uses violence, suppression of free speech, or other unconstitutional or otherwise illegal methods will be disavowed and condemned by the United States Transhumanist Party, with an efficient, non-violent alternative to said institution being offered to achieve its goals if they align with the Party’s interests.”
The USTP has also long stood against police brutality and excessive use of force. During a vote held during March 26 – April 1, 2017, the USTP members adopted Section XXI of the USTP Platform, which reads, “The United States Transhumanist Party supports a concerted effort by governments and by public opinion to eradicate police brutality against peaceful citizens, such that violent force is only utilized against individuals who actually pose an imminent threat to human lives.”
The text of Section XXI was originally authored in 2015 by USTP Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II, who remarked, “Police brutality has long been a personal issue for me. In June 2009, I was peacefully exercising in the fitness center of my apartment complex at the time, when two police officers barged in with guns pointed at me, in response to an alarm triggered by an unknown individual, which summoned them automatically. This situation was the closest I had ever come to death and thus was the moment in my life where I as a transhumanist faced the greatest threat and the greatest injustice. I managed to successfully narrate my every move to the police and de-escalate the situation over the course of a minute during which guns were pointed at me. But I sometimes wonder what my fate would have been had I lacked the presence of mind to cooperate, or had I looked different or been less readily able to prove that I had a key to the facility. The next day I learned from the assistant manager of the apartment complex that the police had treated him the same way. It became apparent to me that threatening and deploying lethal force against unarmed individuals has become a default modus operandi for American police – a practice that verges dangerously close to a bias for shooting first, asking questions later. We can also expect that every organization will have its ‘bad apples’ – individuals without moral restraint, who are also often prone to racial stereotyping. Combining violence-prone training with violence-prone mentalities of the few but still highly damaging racially biased police officers leads to a situation where many black Americans have suffered disproportionately from these unjust killings – but many Americans of all backgrounds have paid this heavy toll as well. No unarmed, non-violent, or non-lethally-violent person – of any skin color – should ever be killed, injured, or threatened with such undeserved punishments by police. No other country with even a quasi-representative form of government has anywhere near the rate of police killings that are widespread in the United States. It is evident that police training and protocols regarding the use of force need urgent reform, and far less violent options that are routinely practiced in Europe, Canada, and Japan should be implemented in the United States.”
The USTP Platform advocates for numerous other measures to quell police brutality, including Section XXXIV (sousveillance / body cameras), Section LXXXIX (prohibition against police being equipped with military-grade hardware), Section XC (requirement for police to be equipped with and mostly use rubber bullets), Section LIX (requirement for outside investigations of police misconduct), Section LX (prohibition of collusion among law-enforcement entities to cover up police misbehavior), Section LXXXVI (improved reporting of police misconduct), and various additional approaches to achieve police accountability. Had these measures and others – such as banning no-knock raids, banning chokeholds, implementing mandatory de-escalation protocols and interventions by police officers who observe wrongdoing by their colleagues, and ending qualified immunity for police officers accused of misconduct – been implemented in the United States, many victims of police killings – including Tamir Rice, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and USTP member Duncan Socrates Lemp, who was killed by a SWAT team during a no-knock raid in Potomac, Maryland, on March 12, 2020 – would likely have been alive today.
Moreover, Section VI of the USTP Platform champions morphological freedom, defined as “the right to do with one’s physical attributes or intelligence whatever one wants so long as it does not directly harm others” and entailing “the duty to treat all sapients as individuals instead of categorizing them into arbitrary subgroups or demographics”. Discussing the implications of morphological freedom, Art Ramon Garcia, Jr., the USTP Director of Visual Art, articulated the hope that it will “make white supremacy irrelevant” and likewise obliterate the remnants of every other form of irrational prejudice based on a person’s origins, “morphological freedom in an age of genetic engineering […] will allow anyone to become anything.”
Tom Ross, the USTP Director of Sentient Rights Advocacy, condemned the violence in Kenosha and explained that “These [shootings] are racist. A white man walked right by cops with an assault rifle strapped to him and Jacob Blake was simply walking away.” Mr. Ross pointed to two of the USTP’s three Core Ideals being in conflict with these violent events.
The USTP’s Core Ideal 2 states, “The Transhumanist Party supports a cultural, societal, and political atmosphere informed and animated by reason, science, and secular values.”
Mr. Ross remarked regarding the police shooting of Mr. Blake, “The actions of the police are not reasonable. They are fueled by systemic racism which the U.S. has been mired in for two plus centuries. We also recognize that the current Executive Branch of the government is fomenting this violence by ignoring the overwhelming call for tolerance and equal justice for African-Americans and other minorities. We recognize that this current President is desperate to stay in office by whatever means necessary to avoid charges and possible imprisonment if defeated. He is attempting to do so by fanning the flames of civil unrest and emboldening racist actions in our Law Enforcement. The USTP absolutely recognizes that these actions and personalities are the exception that proves the rule, and we do not promote defunding the Police entirely; rather we think Police Departments are overburdened by activities that other civil social operations should handle, and funding should be redirected. But let’s call it what it is, racism and an abuse of power.”
The USTP’s Core Ideal 3 states, “The Transhumanist Party supports efforts to use science, technology, and rational discourse to reduce and eliminate various existential risks to the human species.”
Mr. Ross pointed to how the downward spiral of violence can endanger the prospects of humanity. “One of the clear existential threats to our species is the sensationalization of such violence. Today’s media technology is used too often to share discord, and our news services understand that sensational stories with ‘graphic content’ are ways to increase ‘likes’ and ‘views’, which directly affects their ratings and revenue. Media plays on the basest instincts in humanity and profits on this greatly. The ‘Human Condition’ has been made to be a negative attribute because of this machine of sensationalism. ‘If it bleeds it leads’ is the principle on which this machine operates. Although we recognize that this ship will not be easily turned, the USTP strives to find trimtabs in our society that can make the small and necessary changes in their own communities to right the ship of state.”
At the same time, the USTP emphasized that more violence is never the answer to the problem of unjustified violence. “The businesses in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the many peaceful civilians whose lives have been disrupted and who have been met with threats and injury, had no involvement in the tragic shooting of Jacob Blake or the many other victims of police misconduct,” Chairman Stolyarov stated. “Efforts should be focused toward reforming unjust protocols and institutions, not lashing out against innocent third parties who might quite likely have been potential allies in the task of reform. The path offered by the U.S. Transhumanist Party is to deliberate about how science, technology, and rational discourse – and their ethical and effective implementation through well-thought-out policies – can right these wrongs in a lasting manner, enabling racism, police brutality, and opportunistic looting alike to all become relegated to the dustbin of history by a society whose members come to know better. We express our support for those who, through peaceful and constructive action, are seeking solutions to this feedback loop of recurring and mutually escalating tragedies. All persons of conscience who wish to improve the situation must desist from initiating violence in any form and must turn their attention toward building instead of destroying.”
Tom Ross also criticized the violent attacks on Senator Rand Paul by the crowd in Washington D.C., “Regardless of our personal political bents or positions on this issue, our central motive must be to stand against all forms of violence. As a Transhumanist, I consider physical violence to be a primitive action that is motivated by fear and perpetuates a mob mentality. To protest police brutality with brutality is not only counterproductive but gives bad actors more justification for it. This is not a binary issue between Democrats and Republicans, Right and Left; it is a nuanced and multifaceted issue that requires a holistic approach. Senator Rand Paul is a proponent of criminal-justice reform, and so the protesters who attacked him have, well, lunged at Peter to scare Paul.”
Chairman Stolyarov concurred. He remarked, “A mob of people threatened the life of a Senator who, by all reasonable understandings, has been a leading proponent of curbing police brutality and eliminating abuse from the criminal-justice system. If we are to stand against the unjust violence perpetrated against Jacob Blake and others, then we must also stand against this purely counterproductive conduct. Injustice does not give license to perpetrate further injustice. Two wrongs – or thousands of wrongs – cannot ever make a right. Only de-escalation and a return to rational discourse, focusing on systemic and technologically powered reforms, can chart a way out of the present crisis.”
Pavel Ilin, Secretary of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, emphasized the need to refocus the conversation toward shared goals that include everyone. “As transhumanists we are trying to overcome a built-in brutal evolutionary heritage by building an environment of inclusion and dialogue. We try to transcend division between ‘us’ and ‘them’ by creating a larger concept of WE in which every sentient form of life is included, protected, and celebrated. There are no ‘Others’, only ‘we’. Murder is an extreme form of othering which cannot be undone. The life of each sentient entity is sacred. We are often talking about curing aging and living indefinitely long. But death from aging is no different fundamentally than death from a gun. No one should lose life involuntarily. No one should have a right to take it away.”
Liz Parrish, the U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate endorsed by the USTP, called on all Americans to transcend violence and join the effort to build a brighter future for all. She stated:
“We must build a future founded in the principles that every American can agree with by stating the obvious; we are all in this together. We need each other. We must deny drowning in party-line negativity, condemn violence, and use these current events as fuel to create positive change. We can bring this country back together over principles that we can all agree on — health, freedom, liberty, and justice.
“As a country, we will unite to create a future through science and technological advancement— eradicate disease and thereby increase human health-span and create technological developments that can reach every adult and child. We will lead by rational conversation, compassion, and connection.
“Regardless of religion and identity, everyone is invited to build this future with us—a future without the abuse of power, unequal resources, and unfair treatment. We must overcome our brutality and greed to make these next advancements. The future awaits us as a logical, feeling, and intelligent species. And in this newfound peace, we will create new advancements and connections to expand our reach beyond the stars.”
Join us in restoring a shared vision of a brighter future. Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free in less than a minute, no matter where you reside.
Othering: The Ultimate Challenge of Sentient Life – Article by 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.