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State of AI 2020 – Article by Pavel Ilin

State of AI 2020 – Article by Pavel Ilin

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Pavel Ilin


This summary is prepared based on the State of AI Report 2020, which was crafted by Nathan Benaich and Ian Hogarth.

The AI industry is very diverse in its application, and it’s going through a transformation from the magical-wand stage to the plateau of adequate development. Let’s take a look at what is happening in the AI industry.

Research

We haven’t come up with new super-smart algorithms. Progress in model performance keeps being driven by big computational budgets and huge data sets. Training of the GPT-3 language model, with its 175 billion parameters, cost approximately $10 million. At the same time larger models require less data to achieve the same level of performance. With a deep-learning approach we are getting close to the point when the cost of training will grow outrageous with incrementally smaller improvements of the model.

An important fact is that the code base of most artificial intelligence systems remains closed. Only 15% of papers publish their code. This raises a lot of concerns about reproducibility and AI safety. AI explainability remains a critical issue for AI safety research; there are promising avenues of exploration such as Asymmetric Shapley Values, but so far it’s unknown how AI systems make decisions. 

Natural language processing (NLP) models successfully simulate common scenes and linguistics, but they fail dramatically with understanding problems and context and forming knowledge. 

Talent

Talented people with skills in math and computer science are the drivers of the progress in the AI field. More and more US professors are being recruited by tech companies. This affects the quality of education that US universities can provide. We already can see a decline in the level of entrepreneurship among recent graduates. At the same time Universities are creating AI-related degree programs.

The US keeps its position as the main attractor of talented individuals. For example China contributes to the talent pool of AI developers, but after publication of their first results, talented people are most likely to move to the US. 90% of international PhD graduates stay and work in US universities and corporations. Demand for AI talent remains much higher than supply, even despite COVID-19’s impact on market growth.  

Industry

AI keeps progressing not only on a theoretical and research level. Many real world applications are already in use, and they are affecting the industries in various ways.

New drugs are being designed by AI, and they are already in clinical trials. For example AI-designed drugs for OCD treatment are out for testing in Japan. AI drug-discovery startups keep raising funds. Also big pharma is teaming up with startups around preserving privacy during drug discovery. For example OpenMined uses federated learning to preserve privacy with medical data. Viz.ai presented the first product which was approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the US. Their product analyzes tomography scans and alerts specialists who can treat patients before they receive damage that leads to the long-term disability. 

Progress in self-driving cars stays limited. Only 3 companies in California have permission to conduct testing of self-driving cars without a safety driver. Self-driving mileage remains microscopic compared to human drivers (2,874,950 miles for self-driving cars versus 390,313,739,000 miles for humans). The research and development process for self-driving cars remains very expensive. The major companies in this field raised around $7 billion since July 2019. Tesla chose to approach gradually adding self-driving features to its cars, but human drivers still remain in the loop. Recent approaches such as supervised learning do not perform well enough. To make dramatic breakthroughs, new approaches are required.

Computer vision unlocks faster accident and disaster recovery intervention. It also reduces the amount of human hours spent using a microscope, which could lead to acceleration of development processes and reduction of product costs.

AI drives sales and at the same time reduces costs in supply chains and manufacturing. Robotic process automation and computer vision are the most commonly deployed techniques in the enterprise. Speech, natural language generation, and physical robots are the least common. Recently IBM partnered with health insurance company Humana. IBM implemented natural language understanding (NLU) software which is already live and handles calls. It not only redirects calls to the different queues; it’s able to answer basic questions, such as “How much will the copay be to visit a specific specialist?” without human intervention.

Modern AI, in order to perform well, requires a lot of computing resources. Specialized AI hardware keeps progressing, and companies are now presenting second generations of their products. Graphcore M2000 offers faster training time to drop the cost of state-of-the-art models. Google’s new TPU v4 delivers up to a 3.7x training speedup over their TPU v3. NVIDIA will not rest either; it has achieved up to 2.5x training speedups with the new A100 GPU vs V100. Increasing interest towards machine learning devOps is a signal that the industry shifting its focus from how to build models to how to run them.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, investments keep coming into the industry. Private funding rounds of greater than $15 million for the AI-first companies remain strong.

Politics

Usage of AI for facial recognition tasks is extremely common around the world. Around half of the world allows facial recognition. This has become a recognizable political and ethical problem, especially when use of this technology leads to the wrong arrests. There were two highly publicized cases of wrong arrest in the US (which is probably just a tip of the iceberg). In May 2019, Detroit police arrested Michael Oliver who was wrongly accused of a felony for supposedly reaching into a teacher’s vehicle, grabbing a cellphone and throwing it, cracking the screen, and breaking the case. In January 2020, Detroit police arrested Robert Williams as a shoplifter who allegedly stole five watches from Midtown’s trendy Shinola store in October 2018. In both cases charges were dismissed but harm was done. 

Industry took a more thoughtful approach as a reaction to the AI mistakes. Microsoft deleted its database of 10 million faces, Amazon announced a one-year pause on letting the police use its facial recognition tool Rekognition. IBM announced it would sunset its general purpose facial recognition products. Washington State in the US introduced requirements to acquire warrants to run facial recognition scans. The ImageNet, a popular image database, is making an effort toward reduction of the biases in its image collections.

As Deep Fake technology produces more and more realistic media, it becomes illegal to use in certain states in the US. California passed a law, AB 730, aimed at deep fakes, which criminalizes distributing audio or video that gives a false, damaging impression of a politician’s words or action. Many other US state bills have been passed, addressing different risks. For example Virginia law amends current criminal law on revenge porn to include computer-generated pornography.

The US government keeps pursuing implementation of the military AI systems. DARPA organised a virtual dogfighting tournament where various AI systems would compete with each other and a human fighter pilot from the US military.

AI nationalism is on the rise. Countries tend to pursue protectionist policies to scrutinize acquisitions of AI companies by the players from other countries.

Every year AI plays a more and more noticeable part in our lives. It becomes cheaper, and you learn how to do new things. But we have to remember that at the moment AI is still a tool. And there are some philosophical and methodological difficulties which we have to overcome before it will be possible to deliberate about the potential sentience of the AI. It’s very important for the policy makers to make informed decisions based on how technology actually works and not on magical understanding formed based on popular sci-fi.

Pavel Ilin is Secretary of the United States Transhumanist Party. 

 

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.

 

Bait and Switch on Nevada AB226 – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

Bait and Switch on Nevada AB226 – Article by R. Nicholas Starr

R. Nicholas Starr


TL;DR – Nevada Assembly Bill 226 is an attack on bodily autonomy hidden in a good idea.

On February 22nd, 2019, Assemblyman Skip Daly (D-Sparks) presented AB226 for review and debate. The act, in its original form, is a good thing. It prevents against forced implantation of a “microchip or other identifying marker”, punishable as a class C felony (up to 5 years in prison and/or $10,000 fine). Fantastic! No one should be forced to do anything to their bodies they don’t want to do! But on March 4th Daly proposed an amendment  to his own bill that also bans VOLUNTARY implantation. This is a staggering attack on bodily autonomy and self determination. To be clear, the exact language of the bill and amendment is below.

1. An officer or employee of this State or any political- subdivision thereof or any other person shall not~

(a- original language) Require another person to undergo the implantation of a microchip or other permanent identification marker of any kind or nature. 

(b- amendment) Establish or participate in a voluntary program for the implantation of a microchip or other permanent identification marker of any kind or nature.

2. A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

3. Each day or part of a day during which a violation of this section is continued or repeated constitutes a separate offense.

First of all, I find this amendment suspicious. Why would the original author amend his own bill that he said was inspired by a company’s voluntary program? It appears to me that the amendment’s ban on voluntary implantation was always the intent, but Daly knew that it would never pass on its own. And he’s right! Such a blatant attack on a person’s bodily autonomy, even under the pretense of privacy concerns, would certainly create resistance. And let’s be clear, today’s implants pose no privacy threat. They actually help maintain an individual’s privacy and data security. We also aren’t talking about dangerous devices or chemicals. These implants are extensively tested and biosafe. Any attempt to say otherwise is either deliberate, or ignorant, fear mongering.

The consequences of violating this act, in its amended form, are also extreme. I certainly support felony charges against a person forcing implantation on another. But voluntary implantation carrying the same punishment? That is beyond extreme. Let’s examine Sections 2 and 3 in a realistic scenario. DEF CON, an annual conference held in Las Vegas, has hosted biohacking and implantation during the event since 2015. Indeed, many have traveled to the conference to get their implants. If each implant is a separate offense, and each offense carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, the person performing the implantations could effectively earn a life sentence by lunch! All for agreeing to implant a biosafe tag in a person who volunteered and given their informed consent. 

Bodily autonomy and free determination: these are human rights that guarantee control over your own body. Getting “chipped”, or not, has always been a choice left to the individual with zero known incidents of forced implantation. Mr. Daly’s concern, while appearing noble on the surface, has no basis in reality, but rather arises out of fear and fiction. Sadly, those are two things easily sold these days. Let’s make sure we set the record straight and prevent a crisis where it doesn’t exist.

Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party and the founder of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado

 

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018

Gennady Stolyarov II Interviews Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018

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Gennady Stolyarov II
Ray Kurzweil


The Stolyarov-Kurzweil Interview has been released at last! Watch it on YouTube here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II posed a wide array of questions for inventor, futurist, and Singularitarian Dr. Ray Kurzweil on September 21, 2018, at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, California. Topics discussed include advances in robotics and the potential for household robots, artificial intelligence and overcoming the pitfalls of AI bias, the importance of philosophy, culture, and politics in ensuring that humankind realizes the best possible future, how emerging technologies can protect privacy and verify the truthfulness of information being analyzed by algorithms, as well as insights that can assist in the attainment of longevity and the preservation of good health – including a brief foray into how Ray Kurzweil overcame his Type 2 Diabetes.

Learn more about RAAD Fest here. RAAD Fest 2019 will occur in Las Vegas during October 3-6, 2019.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form.

Watch the presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018, entitled, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Four Years of Advocating for the Future”.

Fifth Enlightenment Salon – Discussions on Longevity, Gene Therapy, Overcoming Disabilities, Animal Lifespans, Education, and Privacy

Fifth Enlightenment Salon – Discussions on Longevity, Gene Therapy, Overcoming Disabilities, Animal Lifespans, Education, and Privacy

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Gennady Stolyarov II
Bill Andrews
James Kohagen
Bobby Ridge
John Murrieta


On October 13, 2018, in the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment and its furtherance today, Gennady Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, James Kohagen, Bobby Ridge, and John Murrieta met for the fifth interdisciplinary discussion – hosted by Mr. Stolyarov – on science, culture, education, advocacy, and policy. Subjects discussed included the following:

– The recent RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego
– Developments in the field of gene therapy
– Advances in epidural stimulation for treating and overcoming spinal-cord injuries
– Long-lived organisms and their similarities and dissimilarities to humans
– How animal experiments can become more humane
– How contemporary science still has far to go to accumulate even fairly basic information about certain organisms
– How the study of lifespans can be included in educational curricula starting at early childhood
– Whether privacy will remain in a more technologically interconnected future.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside by filling out an application form that takes less than a minute.

Find out about Death is Wrong – the illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension.

Review of Frank Pasquale’s “A Rule of Persons, Not Machines: The Limits of Legal Automation” – Article by Adam Alonzi

Review of Frank Pasquale’s “A Rule of Persons, Not Machines: The Limits of Legal Automation” – Article by Adam Alonzi

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Adam Alonzi


From the beginning Frank Pasquale, author of The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information, contends in his new paper “A Rule of Persons, Not Machines: The Limits of Legal Automation” that software, given its brittleness, is not designed to deal with the complexities of taking a case through court and establishing a verdict. As he understands it, an AI cannot deviate far from the rules laid down by its creator. This assumption, which is not even quite right at the present time, only slightly tinges an otherwise erudite, sincere, and balanced coverage of the topic. He does not show much faith in the use of past cases to create datasets for the next generation of paralegals, automated legal services, and, in the more distant future, lawyers and jurists.

Lawrence Zelanik has noted that when taxes were filed entirely on paper, provisions were limited to avoid unreasonably imposing irksome nuances on the average person. Tax-return software has eliminated this “complexity constraint.” He goes on to state that without this the laws, and the software that interprets it, are akin to a “black box” for those who must abide by them. William Gale has said taxes could be easily computed for “non-itemizers.” In other words, the government could use information it already has to present a “bill” to this class of taxpayers, saving time and money for all parties involved. However, simplification does not always align with everyone’s interests. TurboTax’s business, which is built entirely on helping ordinary people navigate the labyrinth is the American federal income tax, noticed a threat to its business model. This prompted it to put together a grassroots campaign to fight such measures. More than just another example of a business protecting its interests, it is an ominous foreshadowing of an escalation scenario that will transpire in many areas if and when legal AI becomes sufficiently advanced.  

Pasquale writes: “Technologists cannot assume that computational solutions to one problem will not affect the scope and nature of that problem. Instead, as technology enters fields, problems change, as various parties seek to either entrench or disrupt aspects of the present situation for their own advantage.”

What he is referring to here, in everything but name, is an arms race. The vastly superior computational powers of robot lawyers may make the already perverse incentive to make ever more Byzantine rules ever more attractive to bureaucracies and lawyers. The concern is that the clauses and dependencies hidden within contracts will quickly explode, making them far too detailed even for professionals to make sense of in a reasonable amount of time. Given that this sort of software may become a necessary accoutrement in most or all legal matters means that the demand for it, or for professionals with access to it, will expand greatly at the expense of those who are unwilling or unable to adopt it. This, though Pasquale only hints at it, may lead to greater imbalances in socioeconomic power. On the other hand, he does not consider the possibility of bottom-up open-source (or state-led) efforts to create synthetic public defenders. While this may seem idealistic, it is fairly clear that the open-source model can compete with and, in some areas, outperform proprietary competitors.

It is not unlikely that within subdomains of law that an array of arms races can and will arise between synthetic intelligences. If a lawyer knows its client is guilty, should it squeal? This will change the way jurisprudence works in many countries, but it would seem unwise to program any robot to knowingly lie about whether a crime, particularly a serious one, has been committed – including by omission. If it is fighting against a punishment it deems overly harsh for a given crime, for trespassing to get a closer look at a rabid raccoon or unintentional jaywalking, should it maintain its client’s innocence as a means to an end? A moral consequentialist, seeing no harm was done (or in some instances, could possibly have been done), may persist in pleading innocent. A synthetic lawyer may be more pragmatic than deontological, but it is not entirely correct, and certainly shortsighted, to (mis)characterize AI as only capable of blindly following a set of instructions, like a Fortran program made to compute the nth member of the Fibonacci series.

Human courts are rife with biases: judges give more lenient sentences after taking a lunch break (65% more likely to grant parole – nothing to spit at), attractive defendants are viewed favorably by unwashed juries and trained jurists alike, and the prejudices of all kinds exist against various “out” groups, which can tip the scales in favor of a guilty verdict or to harsher sentences. Why then would someone have an aversion to the introduction of AI into a system that is clearly ruled, in part, by the quirks of human psychology?  

DoNotPay is an an app that helps drivers fight parking tickets. It allows drivers with legitimate medical emergencies to gain exemptions. So, as Pasquale says, not only will traffic management be automated, but so will appeals. However, as he cautions, a flesh-and-blood lawyer takes responsibility for bad advice. The DoNotPay not only fails to take responsibility, but “holds its client responsible for when its proprietor is harmed by the interaction.” There is little reason to think machines would do a worse job of adhering to privacy guidelines than human beings unless, as mentioned in the example of a machine ratting on its client, there is some overriding principle that would compel them to divulge the information to protect several people from harm if their diagnosis in some way makes them as a danger in their personal or professional life. Is the client responsible for the mistakes of the robot it has hired? Should the blame not fall upon the firm who has provided the service?

Making a blockchain that could handle the demands of processing purchases and sales, one that takes into account all the relevant variables to make expert judgements on a matter, is no small task. As the infamous disagreement over the meaning of the word “chicken” in Frigaliment v. B.N.S International Sales Group illustrates, the definitions of what anything is can be a bit puzzling. The need to maintain a decent reputation to maintain sales is a strong incentive against knowingly cheating customers, but although cheating tends to be the exception for this reason, it is still necessary to protect against it. As one official on the  Commodity Futures Trading Commission put it, “where a smart contract’s conditions depend upon real-world data (e.g., the price of a commodity future at a given time), agreed-upon outside systems, called oracles, can be developed to monitor and verify prices, performance, or other real-world events.”  

Pasquale cites the SEC’s decision to force providers of asset-backed securities to file “downloadable source code in Python.” AmeriCredit responded by saying it  “should not be forced to predict and therefore program every possible slight iteration of all waterfall payments” because its business is “automobile loans, not software development.” AmeriTrade does not seem to be familiar with machine learning. There is a case for making all financial transactions and agreements explicit on an immutable platform like blockchain. There is also a case for making all such code open source, ready to be scrutinized by those with the talents to do so or, in the near future, by those with access to software that can quickly turn it into plain English, Spanish, Mandarin, Bantu, Etruscan, etc.

During the fallout of the 2008 crisis, some homeowners noticed the entities on their foreclosure paperwork did not match the paperwork they received when their mortgages were sold to a trust. According to Dayen (2010) many banks did not fill out the paperwork at all. This seems to be a rather forceful argument in favor of the incorporation of synthetic agents into law practices. Like many futurists Pasquale foresees an increase in “complementary automation.” The cooperation of chess engines with humans can still trounce the best AI out there. This is a commonly cited example of how two (very different) heads are better than one.  Yet going to a lawyer is not like visiting a tailor. People, including fairly delusional ones, know if their clothes fit. Yet they do not know whether they’ve received expert counsel or not – although, the outcome of the case might give them a hint.

Pasquale concludes his paper by asserting that “the rule of law entails a system of social relationships and legitimate governance, not simply the transfer and evaluation of information about behavior.” This is closely related to the doubts expressed at the beginning of the piece about the usefulness of data sets in training legal AI. He then states that those in the legal profession must handle “intractable conflicts of values that repeatedly require thoughtful discretion and negotiation.” This appears to be the legal equivalent of epistemological mysterianism. It stands on still shakier ground than its analogue because it is clear that laws are, or should be, rooted in some set of criteria agreed upon by the members of a given jurisdiction. Shouldn’t the rulings of law makers and the values that inform them be at least partially quantifiable? There are efforts, like EthicsNet, which are trying to prepare datasets and criteria to feed machines in the future (because they will certainly have to be fed by someone!).  There is no doubt that the human touch in law will not be supplanted soon, but the question is whether our intuition should be exalted as guarantee of fairness or a hindrance to moving beyond a legal system bogged down by the baggage of human foibles.

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie Apocalypse. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.

Transhumanism: Contemporary Issues – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at VSIM:17 Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria

Transhumanism: Contemporary Issues – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at VSIM:17 Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria

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Gennady Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, outlines common differences in perspectives in three key areas of contemporary transhumanist discourse: artificial intelligence, religion, and privacy. Mr. Stolyarov follows his presentation of each issue with the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s official stances, which endeavor to resolve commonplace debates and find new common ground in these areas. Watch the video of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation here.

This presentation was delivered by Mr. Stolyarov on September 14, 2017, virtually to the Vanguard Scientific Instruments in Management 2017 (VSIM:17) Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria. Mr. Stolyarov was introduced by Professor Angel Marchev, Sr. –  the organizer of the conference and the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Ambassador to Bulgaria.

After his presentation, Mr. Stolyarov answered questions from the audience on the subjects of the political orientation of transhumanism, what the institutional norms of a transhuman society would look like, and how best to advance transhumanist ideas.

Download and view the slides of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation (with hyperlinks) here.

Listen to the Transhumanist March (March #12, Op. 78), composed by Mr. Stolyarov in 2014, here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

A Word on Implanted NFC Tags – Article by Ryan Starr

A Word on Implanted NFC Tags – Article by Ryan Starr

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Ryan Starr


TL;DR – CALM DOWN. No one is forcing you to be chipped and you can’t be tracked or hacked.

So, I’ve seen a lot of people lose their minds over a Wisconsin company, Three Square Market (32Market), implanting NFC tags in their employees. Everyone just stop and a take a deep breath. You likely have no actual understanding of what the tag is or how it works, so let me tell you. I got one last year – an xNT, the original implantable NFC tag, from the company Dangerous Things (www.dangerousthings.com). It is exactly the same as what Three Square Market is offering to their employees. I know what it is and is not capable of doing. But let’s back up for a second.

First, the company is not forcing any employee to get it. There are several companies around the world who have offered the same thing (no, they are not the first) and no one has ever been forcibly implanted. Period. EVERYONE I have come across in the biohacking community is vocal about this NOT BEING MANDATORY. It is a choice, and we want to keep it that way. Furthermore, there is a growing political movement that specifically addresses concerns about bodily autonomy and preventing implants from becoming mandatory.

Now, to the most common concerns I’ve seen:

Can your tag be tracked?

NO. It is not a GPS device or even an active piece of electronics. It is a passive chip and antenna that pulls power from the device used to read it. The tag is the size of a grain of rice, and even if we wanted to cram active electronics in there, we can’t.

Can your tag be hacked?

NO. As I said above, these are passive devices that require power from a reader. In order to do so, the reading device essentially has to be placed directly on your tag (typically implanted in the hand) and held there still for several seconds. Also, some readers don’t read very well because of antenna differences. If someone really wanted to steal your stored data, they would have to physically attack you, restrain you, and then read your tag. If that were the case, you have bigger problems than someone reading your 800 bytes of information. But in the very unlikely event that someone did try to do that to you, don’t worry, because you can password-protect your tag.

So what are they good for?

PRIVACY AND SECURITY. Yes, you read that correctly. When I first saw NFC tags being implanted, I had many of the same privacy concerns that many of you do. But then I started actually researching the technology. NFC tags (implanted or not) can be used to lock and unlock devices and are more secure than a password or a fingerprint. Of course, implanting one means you’ll never lose it, and it will never get stolen. You can unlock your android phones, unlock your doors, safes, and padlocks (with specific NFC enabled hardware), and if you’re particularly good with electronics, you can rig up many Arduino or Pi-based devices that read and respond to your tag.

There are other cool things you can do. You can store links, digital business cards, Bitcoin wallets, or just generic text. But also understand that this technology is fairly new, and associated hardware are even newer. This is ground-level development going on, and because of that we can steer the development to ensure privacy and safety for the user. There is not a greedy corporation running the industry, just passionate hobbyists who are just as concerned about privacy as you are.

If you want more information, I highly suggest just asking someone who actually has an NFC tag or visit www.dangerousthings.com.

Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is the is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado and founder of the Transhumanists of the Sierras

U.S. Transhumanist Party Support for H.R. 1868, the Restoring American Privacy Act of 2017

U.S. Transhumanist Party Support for H.R. 1868, the Restoring American Privacy Act of 2017

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Gennady Stolyarov II


The United States Transhumanist Party and Nevada Transhumanist Party support H.R. 1868, the Restoring American Privacy Act of 2017, proposed by Rep. Jacky Rosen of Henderson, Nevada.

This bill, if enacted into law, would undo the power recently granted by S.J. Res. 34 for regional-monopoly Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to sell individuals’ private data – including browsing histories – without those individuals’ consent. For more details, read Caleb Chen’s article on Privacy News Online, “Congresswoman Rosen introduces Restoring American Privacy Act of 2017 to reverse S.J. Res. 34”.

Section I of the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform states, “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. As such, the United States Transhumanist Party opposes all forms of mass surveillance and any intrusion by governmental or private institutions upon non-coercive activities that an individual has chosen to retain within his, her, or its private sphere. However, the United States Transhumanist Party also recognizes that no individuals should be protected from peaceful criticism of any matters that those individuals have chosen to disclose within the sphere of public knowledge and discourse.”

Neither governmental nor private institutions – especially private institutions with coercive monopoly powers granted to them by laws barring or limiting competition – should be permitted to deprive individuals of the choice over whether or not to disclose their personal information.

Individuals’ ownership over their own data and sovereignty over whether or not to disclose any browsing history or other history of online visitation to external entities are essential components of privacy, and we applaud Representative Rosen for her efforts to restore these concepts within United States federal law.

A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy

A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy

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Ryan Starr

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Privacy is a favorite topic of mine. Maintaining individual privacy is a crucial element in free society. Yet there are many who want to invade it for personal or political gain. As our digital fingerprint becomes a part of our notion of self, how do we maintain our personal privacy on an inherently impersonal network of data? Where do we draw that line on what is private, and how do we enforce it? These are questions that are difficult to answer when looking at a short-term perspective. However, if we look further into the probable future, we can create a plan that helps protect the privacy of citizens today and for generations to come. By taking into account the almost certain physical merger of human biology and technology, the answer becomes clear. Our electronic data should be treated as part of our bodily autonomy.

The explosive success of social media has shown that we already view ourselves as partly digital entities. Where we go, what we eat, and who we are with is proudly displayed in cyberspace for eternity. But beyond that we store unique data about ourselves “securely” on the internet. Bank accounts, tax returns, even medical information are filed away on a server somewhere and specifically identified as us. It’s no longer solely what we chose to let people see. We are physical and digital beings, and it is time we view these two sides as one before we take the next step into enhanced humanity.

Subdermal storage of electronic data is here, and its storage capabilities will expand rapidly. Soon we will be able to store a lot more than just access codes for our doors. It is hard to speculate exactly what people will chose to keep stored this way, and there may even come a time when what we see and hear is automatically stored this way. But before we go too far into what will be stored, we must understand how this information is accessed in present time. These implants are currently based in NFC technology. Near-Field Communication is a method of storing and transmitting data wirelessly within a very short distance. Yes, “wireless” is the key word. It means that if I can connect my NFC tag to my smart phone by just waiving my hand close to it (usually within an inch or so), then technically someone else can, too. While current antenna limitations and the discreetness of where a person’s tag is implanted create a highly secure method of storage, advances in technology will eventually make it easier to access the individual. This is why it is urgent we develop a streamlined policy for privacy.

The current Transhumanist position is that personally collected intellectual property, whether stored digitally or organically, is the property of the individual. As such, it should be protected from unauthorized search and download. The current platform also states that each individual has the freedom to enhance their own body as they like so long as it doesn’t negatively impact others. However, it does not specify what qualifies as a negative impact or how to prevent it. Morphological freedom is a double-edged sword. A person can a person enhance their ability to access information on themselves, but they can also use it to access others. It is entirely feasible enhancements will be created that allow a person to hack another. And collecting personal data isn’t the only risk with that. What if the hacking victim has an artificial heart or an implanted insulin pump? The hacker could potentially access the code the medical device is operating with and change or delete it, ultimately leading to death. Another scenario might be hacking into someone’s enhanced sensory abilities. Much like in the novel Ender’s Game, a person can access another to see what they see. This ability can be abused countless ways ranging from government surveillance to sexual voyeurism. While this is still firmly within the realm of science fiction, a transhuman society will need to create laws to protect against these person-to-person invasions of privacy.

Now let’s consider mass data collection. Proximity beacons could easily and cheaply be scattered across stores and cities to function as passive collection points much like overhead cameras are today. Retail stands to gain significantly from this technology, especially if they are allowed access to intimate knowledge about customers. Government intelligence gathering also stands to benefit from this capability. Levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin stored for personal health analysis could be taken and paired with location data to put together an invasive picture of how people are feeling in a certain situation. Far more can be learned and exploited when discreetly collected biodata is merged with publicly observable activity.

In my mind, these are concerns that should be addressed sooner than later. If we take the appropriate steps to preserve personal privacy in all domains, we can make a positive impact that will last into the 22nd century.

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Ryan Starr is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado. This article was originally published on his blog, and has been republished here with his permission.