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2019 New Year’s Message – A Call for Medical Progress and Preservation of the Good – Article by Victor Bjoerk

2019 New Year’s Message – A Call for Medical Progress and Preservation of the Good – Article by Victor Bjoerk

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Victor Bjoerk


I celebrated the end of 2018 like normally with neuroscientist Anders Sandberg and several other “transhumanists” or “technoprogressive people” in Stockholm!

Why am I in that place to start with? Well, I’m quite frustrated with the human condition in the first place; I’ve always questioned everything from social norms and different kinds of problems in the world, and there’s still so much misery around that we need to unite and fix. (I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true!)

As people reading this know, the vast majority of human misery worldwide today occurs due to our bodies damaging themselves with the passage of time, the biological process we call aging. This occurs because evolution has no goals and our ancestors died at the age of 30-40 prehistorically, and therefore there was no pressure for evolution to create humans that could repair themselves molecularly to live thousands of years. The closest we get among Eukaryotes/Vertebrates are Greenland sharks, which can live to 500+ years; that is easy to understand since they have no predators and just have to open their mouths to get their daily food. On the opposite side we have as a prominent example the mouse, with a very poor molecular repair system and subsequent 2.5-year lifespan, easy to understand when you realize how dangerous life is in the wild if having a mouse body.

Thanks to our technology, we have created the “paradise Greenland shark scenario” for humans during the past century essentially, creating very comfortable existences where nearly everyone survives.

So if you’re 25 years old, life is really great nowadays in Western countries (unless you like to complain about everything!); the existential risks are so low in the absence of aging that you would live many thousands of years just by being a young person living in Sweden.

So I’ve worked a lot in nursing homes both before and during my studies in molecular biology, and what those people have to endure would be strictly illegal in most countries if we knew how to change it. Imagine if, for example, Saudi Arabia allowed its citizens to age while the Western world had abolished it; wouldn’t Amnesty International intervene?

But what can be done with the human body? Well, I assume quite a lot! We are seeing so many people who can’t stand the medical monopoly and the 17-year bench-to-bedside status quo, which isn’t an abstract academic complaint but which impact their daily lives, so they start self-experimenting with, for example, senolytic medicines to kill their senescent cells, making themselves “younger” in certain aspects, which is pretty cool!

However I’m not someone who constantly calls for change and “progress”; I mean, if something is nice, then why not keep it? As far as I’m concerned, for example, the beautiful architecture from the past can continue to stand for thousands more years. These buildings fulfill their purpose and look nice; I’m quite conservative on those points – but please accelerate the medical research, and it is crucial to spot the techniques that actually do work and to not waste resources on hype!

2018 has brought me many good things, those which one can call “achievements” and those which are not visible. The Eurosymposium on Healthy Aging in Brussels became a success! (And there will be some events during 2019 that I am also announcing for everyone who enjoyed it!)

I’ve been learning a lot about CRISPR and many other techniques both practically and theoretically, though I have not exactly used them to change the world. Medical progress takes forever to achieve, and it’s not exactly helped by a massive web of bureaucracy/hierarchies/prestige/laws, all contributing to slowing down progress for people in need. What can really be done? One needs to focus on the positive and go where the biotech companies can succeed!

So if things are working out for me as I hope now in 2019, I hope being able to really work full time to impact the longevity industry, I really feel like an overripe fruit that needs to get things done, because implementing stuff is what matters and not becoming some passive “longevity encyclopedia”. I’ll keep everyone as usually updated!

So happy new 2019 everyone! And make sure to take good care of yourselves!

Victor Bjoerk has worked for the Gerontology Research Group, the Longevity Reporter, and the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zelltherapie und Immunologie. He has promoted awareness throughout Europe of emerging biomedical research and the efforts to reverse biological aging. 

The Imperative to Build a Transhumanist Society – Article by C. H. Antony

The Imperative to Build a Transhumanist Society – Article by C. H. Antony

logo_bgC. H. Antony


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party publishes this article by member C. H. Antony as a reminder that the aspirations of the transhumanist movement and the imperative to develop technologies to instantiate it are personal to many of us. Delays in achieving our vision come at the cost of innocent lives. In Section XXII of its Platform, “The United States Transhumanist Party supports efforts at political, economic, and cultural experimentation in the form of seasteads and micronations.” To what extent can such experimentation be explicitly transhumanist in nature? To what extent can the U.S. Transhumanist Party collaborate and its members contribute their efforts to advance emerging efforts to create seasteads and micronations – such as Blue Frontiers? Do members agree with Mr. Antony’s critique of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s predominant approach, which is aimed at incrementally reforming existing political systems? Comments from various perspectives are welcome.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 17, 2018


        Amanda Y. Bowers

         September 25th, 1984 – December 8th, 2018

My wife had been sick for a long time. Off and on she suffered peculiar gastrointestinal problems and was given a different reason every time. Finally, in 2015, Amanda was diagnosed with celiac sprue symptomatically, though she presented no protein markers. We were told that is sometimes the case and began a gluten-free diet and some important lifestyle changes we hoped would alleviate her suffering. As time went on, we believed every other GI problem to be easily explained by some cross-contamination or hidden filler in something. We had no idea that she was suffering from colorectal cancer that was slowly reaching a critical point. In July of 2018 her left ureter collapsed, and she was sent home with the explanation that she had passed a kidney stone. I came home from a trip to find her more ill than when I had left and brought her back in and had to fight for her admission and testing. The results were inconclusive, the prevailing theory being a progression of Celiac Disease to Crohn’s Disease. She was sent home on a steroidal regiment. Before we could follow up with the GI issues, we found ourselves back in the hospital, where they refused to do imaging and her bowel ruptured right there in front of them. But again she was sent home after the pain meds she was on quieted things down. I brought her back the very next day after begging a hospitalist we hit off with to grease the wheels a little. The result was emergency surgery and an ileostomy. Three days later, after narrowly surviving the rupture and sepsis, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. A week later, as her pleural tissues filled with fluid, and they determined the cancer to be at Stage 4. The last 5 months had been a breakneck race against a clock we couldn’t see. She endured 4 rounds of chemo, a pericardial effusion that she was again sent home with to die, and finally, her lungs began filling with fluid. On Tuesday last week, she came home on hospice; she died that Saturday night.

The longer history of this is filled with misdiagnosis, marginalization, even accusations of attempting to fraudulently obtain opioids. The local hospital corporation, the Veterans’ Administration (VA), all the affiliated specialists – they all guessed and missed. This is an all-too-common story. Cancer is nearly epidemic in our country; patients get passed around and dumped here and there, and diagnoses are rarely found before their deaths. My wife, Amanda, leaves behind two young children and a distraught husband. Her life thus far was rife with struggle and abuse; we had only a short time together for that to abate before she died in the most horrific manner I’ve ever witnessed. It has to stop.

Many investors have sniffed at the idea of breakaway nations, never quite biting in. But I believe it is now critical. The system of cronyism and lobbying that retards advancement and availability of medical science will not be remedied in this or any other nation. We must do it ourselves. My wife died because of this system. Her cancer was not a mutation of her own genes, nor inherited. It was most likely environmental, and most likely caused by the contaminated water on the bases where she was stationed. There will never be enough accountability to atone for this. We are soaked in contaminants we don’t understand and can’t remove from our daily lives. It’s time to take what we do know and start over.

Jeff Bezos recently expressed interest in seastead nations. Imagine if we could have the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and others backing a transhumanist colony? What opportunity for human advancement we would have! The good people at Blue Frontiers are doing their best, but they need more backing and interest. We need a more solid plan; we can’t simply say what we will do; we must show and sell. It’s not enough to simply say “solar”, “materials science”, “sapioponics”; we have to design it and sell the design, down to the last bolt. And we need to sell it to the men who currently captain our industry, make it appealing and beneficial to them as well. Our wants are simple: freedom – the freedom to live without disease or fear in any form we choose, the freedom to never know hunger or disparity, the freedom to explore each of our individual potentials. But we will not have this freedom in America. Freedom here is truly an illusion.

To borrow heavily from greater minds than mine, we of good conscience cannot abide this culture of blinders and muzzles. We can do better and we must. Should great minds like Elon Musk, Bezos, Sir Branson, Ray Kurzweil, and so on come together and help become the architects of the future, we may yet survive the filthy politics of our current condition. I fear that no matter the achievement, it will be boxed up and slow-rolled for as long as politically possible. We can speculate forever the motivations of our various political parties as to why we are so far behind when we know how to be so far ahead; I do not intend to argue these points anymore. Instead, we must ignore the Luddites and move ahead on our own in the hopes that, through our example, the rest of humanity will eventually follow.

The meat of it is that we must acquire sufficient land and sovereignty to live as we wish, invite the industry and economy that we choose to utilize, and encourage the availability of advancements that are necessary to transcend this mortality and banality. We require financiers, captains of industry who want this future as much as we do, a nation attractive to the sciences and technology that we need in our endeavor, UN representation to protect our sovereignty as we pursue our human birthright, and a well thought-out design ethic to ensure no individual is encroached up on by another. We must not only design our nation, but the very infrastructure with purposeful intent.

To put the finest point on it that I can, I submit the following as the most humble beginning of a Transhumanist Nation:

  • A carefully laid-out infrastructure and topography conducive to peaceful coexistence among the population. One idea is a city-center of commerce and industry, surrounded by suburbs for families and recreation, and outskirt establishments for research and development.
  • The layout would prevent the tendencies for crime and predation that emerge when humans are forced to live in close quarters and congestion. Tunnel systems, electric vehicles, solar and other alternative energies, new forms of currency and trade, methods of education will all be prototyped and heavily utilized as a proof of concept for the rest of the world. The stress of daily living can be mitigated further with the adoption of universal basic income, uninfringed property rights, and universal, state-of-the-art medical-care access.
  • The presence of Amazon, Tesla, Neuralink, Virgin, and Google and all their various useful subsidiaries as our primary industry and commerce. This would serve as an enticement for the funding necessary to establish a new nation, no doubt purchased from another nation that may be willing to benefit from the vast technological advancement of a Transhumanist Society. The sponsoring corporations will be free to innovate and advance so long as doing so is in line with Transhumanist ideals and sensibilities.
  • Recruitment of Researchers and Medical Professionals germane to our intent and ideals.
  • Recruitment of Scholars and Philosophers, Artists and Artisans, Educators, and anyone else who believes that we can be more than the sum of our parts.

We need to achieve a society driven by life and betterment, not this crippling stagnation that sees millions die as the pace is slowed to one comfortable for limited minds and ambitions. Again, I cite Blue Frontiers as a group actively trying for this; I suggest we back them vigorously and attempt to build a purposeful society as soon as possible.

The United States Transhumanist Party has already brilliantly laid out the groundwork for this society in its Transhumanist Bill of Rights and Party Platform. We have the foundation of a great nation in our hands, but the status quo will never allow it. Power, such as it is, is too seductive a drug. Were we to gather our resources, both financial and human, I believe we could engineer a new, greater society of free minds and exchange, one where our coming Singularity propels us to heights we can only imagine. But we must come together. My wife was only 34 years old at the time of her death – a young mother, a veteran, a brilliant mind. As a paid intern, she coauthored a USGS study regarding asteroid mining, because she did the math for the researchers – a feat that required her to learn chemistry and new physics on the fly, all while finishing her own degree work. And now she is gone – just like that.

No More.

Let us begin now. Let us come together and create an opportunity, rather than wait for it to present itself. With the deepest respect to this party and its leadership, I believe that we are wasting our precious time attempting to participate in the American political system. I propose we open discussions with Blue Frontiers, Amazon, Virgin, Tesla, and other innovative organizations and begin the process – before more lives are lost.

C. H. Antony is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. He may be contacted here

The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Four Years of Advocating for the Future – Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at RAAD Fest 2018

The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Four Years of Advocating for the Future – Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at RAAD Fest 2018

Gennady Stolyarov II


This is the video that American voters need to see prior to the 2018 elections. Watch it here.

On October 7, 2018, the U.S. Transhumanist Party marked its four-year anniversary. On September 21, 2018, at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, CA, Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II spoke in advance of this occasion by highlighting the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s recent achievements – including a doubling in membership over the past year, the revived Enlightenment Salons, a Platform that rivals those of the two major political parties, and Mr. Stolyarov’s own candidacy in 2018.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our free Membership Application Form. It takes less than a minute!

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Values page.

See the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform.

See the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 2.0.

Watch the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s subsequent meeting at RAAD Fest 2018 on September 22, 2018 here.

View Mr. Stolyarov’s official page for his candidacy for the Indian Hills General Improvement District (IHGID) Board of Trustees.

Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at the “Meet the Candidates” Night of the Indian Hills General Improvement District

Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at the “Meet the Candidates” Night of the Indian Hills General Improvement District

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Gennady Stolyarov II


The video recording of Gennady Stolyarov II’s presentation at the “Meet the Candidates” Night (October 17, 2018) at the Indian Hills General Improvement District has been posted here.

Mr. Stolyarov’s candidacy has previously been unanimously endorsed by a vote of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s members.

There is some technical flaw with the audio around 8:52 – the time that Mr. Stolyarov discusses protecting homeowners’ property rights and opposing the establishment of a homeowners’ association. You will hear several parts of these remarks simultaneously – but you will likely still be able to discern Mr. Stolyarov’s position. About a minute afterward, the proper linear audio stream resumes.

After completing his presentation, Mr. Stolyarov issued the following written statement:

I am pleased with the outcome of “Meet the Candidates” Night at the Indian Hills General Improvement District this evening. The seats were nearly all filled, and approximately 25 residents appeared in person. All candidates’ responses were recorded and will be posted on YouTube in the coming days. I will provide links as soon as I become aware of them.

I was able to use the allotted time to present my intended messages regarding my qualifications and my priorities of maintaining essential infrastructure, promoting growth, supporting technological and factually, rationally grounded solutions, and being attentive to all residents and representing the District as a whole in a nonpartisan manner. The statements and questions were thoughtful and generated a civil, meaningful discussion about events in the District. This is what political activity should be about – not factionalism, tribalism, or blind partisanship.

Many residents and the other candidates appeared to be sympathetic to my approach and positions – and my hope is that this will enable them to recognize me as a good consensus candidate who can draw support from all constituencies in the District. I stated at the event that I would be honored to work with any of the other candidates if they are elected to the Board alongside me.

Whether my objective of not being last in the vote count can be met remains to be seen; this election will probably surprise everyone. However, this event most definitely helped – and I hope the videos will help as well.

Early voting in Douglas County begins this Saturday, October 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Courthouse in Minden. I have been conducting research on the ballot questions and candidates in the contested races for several hours per day; now I am close to finalizing my own preferences.

Please inform any of your acquaintances who reside in the Indian Hills GID about me and my candidacy!

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

 

 

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.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Meeting at RAAD Fest 2018 – September 22, 2018

U.S. Transhumanist Party Meeting at RAAD Fest 2018 – September 22, 2018


On September 22, 2018, representatives of the U.S. Transhumanist Party met in San Diego, California, during RAAD Fest 2018, in order to provide an overview of recent efforts and future prospects, discuss approaches to advocacy with several leading transhumanist public figures, and field audience questions regarding the transhumanist movement and its goals.

Watch the video of the meeting on YouTube here.

Participants at the meeting included the following individuals:
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, U.S. Transhumanist Party
Arin Vahanian, Director of Marketing, U.S. Transhumanist Party
Newton Lee, Chairman, California Transhumanist Party, U.S. Transhumanist Party Education and Media Advisor
José Luis Cordeiro, U.S. Transhumanist Party Technology Advisor and Foreign Ambassador to Spain

Bill Andrews, U.S. Transhumanist Party Biotechnology Advisor
Charlie Kam, Director of Networking, California Transhumanist Party
Elizabeth (Liz) Parrish, U.S. Transhumanist Party Advocacy Advisor

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.

Andrés Grases Interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era

Andrés Grases Interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II on Transhumanism and the Transition to the Next Technological Era

logo_bgGennady Stolyarov II
Andrés Grases


Andrés Grases, the publisher of the Transhuman Plus website (http://transhumanplus.com/) interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego, CA, on September 23, 2018. During the course of this conversation, both the contemporary state of transhumanist politics and future directions are covered – along with the challenges to reforming the educational system, the need to create open access to academic works, the manner in which the transition toward the next era of technologies will occur, the meaning of transhumanism and its applications in the proximate future – including promising advances that we can expect to see during the next several years.

Watch the video here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Apply online here in less than a minute.

How Transhumanism Can Transcend Socialism, Libertarianism, and All Other Conventional Ideologies – Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at the VSIM:18 Conference

How Transhumanism Can Transcend Socialism, Libertarianism, and All Other Conventional Ideologies – Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at the VSIM:18 Conference

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Gennady Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, discusses the key strengths and weaknesses of libertarianism, socialism, conservatism, and left-liberalism, the common failings of these and all other conventional ideologies, and why transhumanism offers a principled, integrated, dynamic approach for a new era of history, which can overcome all of these failings.

This presentation was delivered virtually by Mr. Stolyarov on September 13, 2018, to the Vanguard Scientific Instruments in Management 2018 (VSIM:18) conference in Ravda, Bulgaria. Afterward, a discussion ensured, in which Professor Angel Marchev, Sr., the conference organizer and the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Ambassador to Bulgaria, offered his views on the dangers of socialism and the promise of transhumanism, followed by a brief question-and-answer period.

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

The Need for Unity and Stability in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Need for Unity and Stability in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

 

Arin Vahanian


Although Transhumanism is heavily inspired by (and also inspires) advancements in science and technology, I believe the movement could also benefit from implementing cultural aspects; in particular, those from China.

This became very clear to me not just after living in China, but also after reading the works of Dr. Martin Jacques, British professor and journalist, who is, in my mind, one of the most knowledgeable Westerners when it comes to Chinese culture and history.

Specifically, in his writings and public appearances, Dr. Jacques has elucidated various aspects of Chinese culture, two of which I think are important for Transhumanism to consider: unity and stability. I shall cover each one briefly here, and explain how our movement would benefit.

Although the Transhumanist movement is rather decentralized, and I believe in keeping it this way, we most definitely need unity, especially in regard to our values and objectives. To this end, the U.S. Transhumanist Party has published its values on its Web site, which include but are not limited to: eradicating disease; the cultivation of science, technology, and reason; support of all emerging technologies that improve the human condition; life extension; reversing aging; tolerance and inclusivity of all individuals, and so forth. I believe every Transhumanist would support these values, all of which are noble, and all of which would most certainly contribute to having a better, more prosperous, and safer world.

Any organization, family, company, group, team, or political party, for that matter, needs unity in order to stay together and fulfill its goals and aspirations. Conversely, lack of unity may lead to chaos, discordance, and dysfunction. According to Dr. Jacques, the primary political goal for the Chinese is unity. Indeed, there would have been no way for Mandarin to become the national language, nor any way for the dizzying progress (whether it is technological, societal, or economic) we have seen in the country to have occurred, without unity. Please note that I am not advocating for a change in the political process anywhere else, nor am I suggesting that other countries adopt the same political or economic system as China. I am simply stating that being unified in our goals and values is incredibly important if we wish to fulfill these goals and proliferate our values.

Just as the Chinese look at themselves as Chinese, so we must look at ourselves as Transhumanists. However, there is one major difference; while not everyone can be Chinese, anyone can be Transhumanist. Our movement is inclusive to all individuals, regardless of race, gender, class, religion, and sexual preference. Therefore, I believe that we can be unified while also being open, tolerant, and accepting of all humans.

This leads me to my next point, which is stability. There is no question that in China, as well as other Asian countries, stability is paramount. After all, an unstable society cannot work together to fulfill its objectives and protect its values. Fortunately, we have stability in the Transhumanist movement in the areas of political leadership (Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II), life extension (Max More, Keith Comito), aging (Aubrey de Grey), and more. What’s fascinating is that the movement is so diverse and broad, and the areas for improvement on Earth so plentiful, that we have had individuals naturally dedicate themselves to causes they deemed worthy. This has contributed to stability in the sense that people are working on what they are passionate about, and these same people have, as a result, provided stable leadership in these areas. We must ensure that this stability continues, and that we help advance the causes we believe in by promoting them on social media and mass media. We must also support those who are bravely and selflessly dedicating their lives to helping humanity move forward. All of these actions will contribute to further stabilizing the movement and what it stands for.

Additionally, we must maintain stability in our relationships with each other, as well as the messages that we communicate to others. No matter how small or large a role we each take on, our mandate as Transhumanists is to push for reforms that will improve the human condition for as many people as possible, with as much beneficial impact as possible. In doing so, we must communicate our message that science, technology, and rational discourse should be used for efforts such as curing disease, increasing human longevity, alleviating poverty, and battling climate change.

While we are completely opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we are completely open to tolerance and inclusivity of individuals, and offer assistance to those who may have been shunned by the system, either due to disability or the desire to challenge society so that we may be better humans. We are an organization that values and promotes pacifism, and by doing so, we are creating a more stable society, and world.

So my call to action today is this. Rather than argue whether a certain economic system is better than another for Transhumanism, we should focus on our values and goals, thereby fulfilling our mission, and be supportive of whichever economic system best helps get that done, whichever country we happen to live in. Different economic systems work in different countries, and we should not be dogmatic, but rather, flexible and solution-oriented.

Additionally, rather than debate one another, we must instead discuss and cooperate, again, with the intent of pushing forward our goals. Debating takes valuable time and resources away from achieving our goals, and the time that is spent on needless arguments could be spent on finding solutions to challenges that threaten humanity. While it is perfectly acceptable and in fact, desirable, to have differences of opinion, we should use these differences to collaborate and help develop solutions to the problems we humans face. We are finally getting more traction in social media, mass media, and in various communities and countries all over the world, and so we should take advantage of these trends to further spread our messages of peace, increased health and longevity, and technological innovation that will benefit humanity.

One of the challenges the Transhumanism movement currently faces is an inaccurate and unfair perception that it is a niche movement, unable to appeal to most people, and the product of wealthy technophiles in Silicon Valley. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Among our ranks are people of all nationalities, social statuses, races, genders, and religions, and we are the only movement that supports morphological freedom. Further, we are dedicated to goals such as alleviating poverty, curing disease, eliminating nuclear weapons, spreading peace, and using science and technology to make life better for all humans, not just a privileged few. Surely these are values that most, if not all humans, could stand behind. Based on this, it is quite clear that Transhumanism is most certainly not a niche movement, and that it is one of the most progressive and inclusive movements the world has ever seen.

Therefore, the best way we can promote our messages and fulfill our objectives is by being unified in our purpose, mission, and values, and be stable in our leadership, approach, and relationships. Let’s not do our detractors’ work for them by being splintered and divided, nor become detractors ourselves. Let us coalesce for the betterment of humanity, and turn our detractors into friends, supporters, and partners. Indeed, the future of the world, and that of humanity, depends on it.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Review of Ray Kurzweil’s “How to Create a Mind” – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Review of Ray Kurzweil’s “How to Create a Mind” – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II


How to Create a Mind (2012) by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil sets forth a case for engineering minds that are able to emulate the complexity of human thought (and exceed it) without the need to reverse-engineer every detail of the human brain or of the plethora of content with which the brain operates. Kurzweil persuasively describes the human conscious mind as based on hierarchies of pattern-recognition algorithms which, even when based on relatively simple rules and heuristics, combine to give rise to the extremely sophisticated emergent properties of conscious awareness and reasoning about the world. How to Create a Mind takes readers through an integrated tour of key historical advances in computer science, physics, mathematics, and neuroscience – among other disciplines – and describes the incremental evolution of computers and artificial-intelligence algorithms toward increasing capabilities – leading toward the not-too-distant future (the late 2020s, according to Kurzweil) during which computers would be able to emulate human minds.

Kurzweil’s fundamental claim is that there is nothing which a biological mind is able to do, of which an artificial mind would be incapable in principle, and that those who posit that the extreme complexity of biological minds is insurmountable are missing the metaphorical forest for the trees. Analogously, although a fractal or a procedurally generated world may be extraordinarily intricate and complex in their details, they can arise on the basis of carrying out simple and conceptually fathomable rules. If appropriate rules are used to construct a system that takes in information about the world and processes and analyzes it in ways conceptually analogous to a human mind, Kurzweil holds that the rest is a matter of having adequate computational and other information-technology resources to carry out the implementation. Much of the first half of the book is devoted to the workings of the human mind, the functions of the various parts of the brain, and the hierarchical pattern recognition in which they engage. Kurzweil also discusses existing “narrow” artificial-intelligence systems, such as IBM’s Watson, language-translation programs, and the mobile-phone “assistants” that have been released in recent years by companies such as Apple and Google. Kurzweil observes that, thus far, the most effective AIs have been developed using a combination of approaches, having some aspects of prescribed rule-following alongside the ability to engage in open-ended “learning” and extrapolation upon the information which they encounter. Kurzweil draws parallels to the more creative or even “transcendent” human abilities – such as those of musical prodigies – and observes that the manner in which those abilities are made possible is not too dissimilar in principle.

With regard to some of Kurzweil’s characterizations, however, I question whether they are universally applicable to all human minds – particularly where he mentions certain limitations – or whether they only pertain to some observed subset of human minds. For instance, Kurzweil describes the ostensible impossibility of reciting the English alphabet backwards without error (absent explicit study of the reverse order), because of the sequential nature in which memories are formed. Yet, upon reading the passage in question, I was able to recite the alphabet backwards without error upon my first attempt. It is true that this occurred more slowly than the forward recitation, but I am aware of why I was able to do it; I perceive larger conceptual structures or bodies of knowledge as mental “objects” of a sort – and these objects possess “landscapes” on which it is possible to move in various directions; the memory is not “hard-coded” in a particular sequence. One particular order of movement does not preclude others, even if those others are less familiar – but the key to successfully reciting the alphabet backwards is to hold it in one’s awareness as a single mental object and move along its “landscape” in the desired direction. (I once memorized how to pronounce ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ as a single continuous word; any other order is slower, but it is quite doable as long as one fully knows the contents of the “object” and keeps it in focus.) This is also possible to do with other bodies of knowledge that one encounters frequently – such as dates of historical events: one visualizes them along the mental object of a timeline, visualizes the entire object, and then moves along it or drops in at various points using whatever sequences are necessary to draw comparisons or identify parallels (e.g., which events happened contemporaneously, or which events influenced which others). I do not know what fraction of the human population carries out these techniques – as the ability to recall facts and dates has always seemed rather straightforward to me, even as it challenged many others. Yet there is no reason why the approaches for more flexible operation with common elements of our awareness cannot be taught to large numbers of people, as these techniques are a matter of how the mind chooses to process, model, and ultimately recombine the data which it encounters. The more general point in relation to Kurzweil’s characterization of human minds is that there may be a greater diversity of human conceptual frameworks and approaches toward cognition than Kurzweil has described. Can an artificially intelligent system be devised to encompass this diversity? This is certainly possible, since the architecture of AI systems would be more flexible than the biological structures of the human brain. Yet it would be necessary for true artificial general intelligences to be able not only to learn using particular predetermined methods, but also to teach themselves new techniques for learning and conceptualization altogether – just as humans are capable of today.

The latter portion of the book is more explicitly philosophical and devoted to thought experiments regarding the nature of the mind, consciousness, identity, free will, and the kinds of transformations that may or may not preserve identity. Many of these discussions are fascinating and erudite – and Kurzweil often transcends fashionable dogmas by bringing in perspectives such as the compatibilist case for free will and the idea that the experiments performed by Benjamin Libet (that showed the existence of certain signals in the brain prior to the conscious decision to perform an activity) do not rule out free will or human agency. It is possible to conceive of such signals as “preparatory work” within the brain to present a decision that could then be accepted or rejected by the conscious mind. Kurzweil draws an analogy to government officials preparing a course of action for the president to either approve or disapprove. “Since the ‘brain’ represented by this analogy involves the unconscious processes of the neocortex (that is, the officials under the president) as well as the conscious processes (the president), we would see neural activity as well as actual actions taking place prior to the official decision’s being made” (p. 231). Kurzweil’s thoughtfulness is an important antidote to commonplace glib assertions that “Experiment X proved that Y [some regularly experienced attribute of humans] is an illusion” – assertions which frequently tend toward cynicism and nihilism if widely adopted and extrapolated upon. It is far more productive to deploy both science and philosophy toward seeking to understand more directly apparent phenomena of human awareness, sensation, and decision-making – instead of rejecting the existence of such phenomena contrary to the evidence of direct experience. Especially if the task is to engineer a mind that has at least the faculties of the human brain, then Kurzweil is wise not to dismiss aspects such as consciousness, free will, and the more elevated emotions, which have been known to philosophers and ordinary people for millennia, and which only predominantly in the 20th century has it become fashionable to disparage in some circles. Kurzweil’s only vulnerability in this area is that he often resorts to statements that he accepts the existence of these aspects “on faith” (although it does not appear to be a particularly religious faith; it is, rather, more analogous to “leaps of faith” in the sense that Albert Einstein referred to them). Kurzweil does not need to do this, as he himself outlines sufficient logical arguments to be able to rationally conclude that attributes such as awareness, free will, and agency upon the world – which have been recognized across predominant historical and colloquial understandings, irrespective of particular religious or philosophical flavors – indeed actually exist and should not be neglected when modeling the human mind or developing artificial minds.

One of the thought experiments presented by Kurzweil is vital to consider, because the process by which an individual’s mind and body might become “upgraded” through future technologies would determine whether that individual is actually preserved – in terms of the aspects of that individual that enable one to conclude that that particular person, and not merely a copy, is still alive and conscious:

Consider this thought experiment: You are in the future with technologies more advanced than today’s. While you are sleeping, some group scans your brain and picks up every salient detail. Perhaps they do this with blood-cell-sized scanning machines traveling in the capillaries of your brain or with some other suitable noninvasive technology, but they have all of the information about your brain at a particular point in time. They also pick up and record any bodily details that might reflect on your state of mind, such as the endocrine system. They instantiate this “mind file” in a morphological body that looks and moves like you and has the requisite subtlety and suppleness to pass for you. In the morning you are informed about this transfer and you watch (perhaps without being noticed) your mind clone, whom we’ll call You 2. You 2 is talking about his or he life as if s/he were you, and relating how s/he discovered that very morning that s/he had been given a much more durable new version 2.0 body. […] The first question to consider is: Is You 2 conscious? Well, s/he certainly seems to be. S/he passes the test I articulated earlier, in that s/he has the subtle cues of becoming a feeling, conscious person. If you are conscious, then so too is You 2.

So if you were to, uh, disappear, no one would notice. You 2 would go around claiming to be you. All of your friends and loved ones would be content with the situation and perhaps pleased that you now have a more durable body and mental substrate than you used to have. Perhaps your more philosophically minded friends would express concerns, but for the most party, everybody would be happy, including you, or at least the person who is convincingly claiming to be you.

So we don’t need your old body and brain anymore, right? Okay if we dispose of it?

You’re probably not going to go along with this. I indicated that the scan was noninvasive, so you are still around and still conscious. Moreover your sense of identity is still with you, not with You 2, even though You 2 thinks s/he is a continuation of you. You 2 might not even be aware that you exist or ever existed. In fact you would not be aware of the existence of You 2 either, if we hadn’t told you about it.

Our conclusion? You 2 is conscious but is a different person than you – You 2 has a different identity. S/he is extremely similar, much more so than a mere genetic clone, because s/he also shares all of your neocortical patterns and connections. Or should I say s/he shared those patterns at the moment s/he was created. At that point, the two of you started to go your own ways, neocortically speaking. You are still around. You are not having the same experiences as You 2. Bottom line: You 2 is not you.  (How to Create a Mind, pp. 243-244)

This thought experiment is essentially the same one as I independently posited in my 2010 essay “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self”:

Consider what would happen if a scientist discovered a way to reconstruct, atom by atom, an identical copy of my body, with all of its physical structures and their interrelationships exactly replicating my present condition. If, thereafter, I continued to exist alongside this new individual – call him GSII-2 – it would be clear that he and I would not be the same person. While he would have memories of my past as I experienced it, if he chose to recall those memories, I would not be experiencing his recollection. Moreover, going forward, he would be able to think different thoughts and undertake different actions than the ones I might choose to pursue. I would not be able to directly experience whatever he choose to experience (or experiences involuntarily). He would not have my ‘I-ness’ – which would remain mine only.

Thus, Kurzweil and I agree, at least preliminarily, that an identically constructed copy of oneself does not somehow obtain the identity of the original. Kurzweil and I also agree that a sufficiently gradual replacement of an individual’s cells and perhaps other larger functional units of the organism, including a replacement with non-biological components that are integrated into the body’s processes, would not destroy an individual’s identity (assuming it can be done without collateral damage to other components of the body). Then, however, Kurzweil posits the scenario where one, over time, transforms into an entity that is materially identical to the “You 2” as posited above. He writes:

But we come back to the dilemma I introduced earlier. You, after a period of gradual replacement, are equivalent to You 2 in the scan-and-instantiate scenario, but we decided that You 2 in that scenario does not have the same identity as you. So where does that leave us? (How to Create a Mind, p. 247)

Kurzweil and I are still in agreement that “You 2” in the gradual-replacement scenario could legitimately be a continuation of “You” – but our views diverge when Kurzweil states, “My resolution of the dilemma is this: It is not true that You 2 is not you – it is you. It is just that there are now two of you. That’s not so bad – if you think you are a good thing, then two of you is even better” (p. 247). I disagree. If I (via a continuation of my present vantage point) cannot have the direct, immediate experiences and sensations of GSII-2, then GSII-2 is not me, but rather an individual with a high degree of similarity to me, but with a separate vantage point and separate physical processes, including consciousness. I might not mind the existence of GSII-2 per se, but I would mind if that existence were posited as a sufficient reason to be comfortable with my present instantiation ceasing to exist.  Although Kurzweil correctly reasons through many of the initial hypotheses and intermediate steps leading from them, he ultimately arrives at a “pattern” view of identity, with which I differ. I hold, rather, a “process” view of identity, where a person’s “I-ness” remains the same if “the continuity of bodily processes is preserved even as their physical components are constantly circulating into and out of the body. The mind is essentially a process made possible by the interactions of the brain and the remainder of nervous system with the rest of the body. One’s ‘I-ness’, being a product of the mind, is therefore reliant on the physical continuity of bodily processes, though not necessarily an unbroken continuity of higher consciousness.” (“How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self”) If only a pattern of one’s mind were preserved and re-instantiated, the result may be potentially indistinguishable from the original person to an external observer, but the original individual would not directly experience the re-instantiation. It is not the content of one’s experiences or personality that is definitive of “I-ness” – but rather the more basic fact that one experiences anything as oneself and not from the vantage point of another individual; this requires the same bodily processes that give rise to the conscious mind to operate without complete interruption. (The extent of permissible partial interruption is difficult to determine precisely and open to debate; general anesthesia is not sufficient to disrupt I-ness, but what about cryonics or shorter-term “suspended animation?). For this reason, the pursuit of biological life extension of one’s present organism remains crucial; one cannot rely merely on one’s “mindfile” being re-instantiated in a hypothetical future after one’s demise. The future of medical care and life extension may certainly involve non-biological enhancements and upgrades, but in the context of augmenting an existing organism, not disposing of that organism.

How to Create a Mind is highly informative for artificial-intelligence researchers and laypersons alike, and it merits revisiting a reference for useful ideas regarding how (at least some) minds operate. It facilitates thoughtful consideration of both the practical methods and more fundamental philosophical implications of the quest to improve the flexibility and autonomy with which our technologies interact with the external world and augment our capabilities. At the same time, as Kurzweil acknowledges, those technologies often lead us to “outsource” many of our own functions to them – as is the case, for instance, with vast amounts of human memories and creations residing on smartphones and in the “cloud”. If the timeframes of arrival of human-like AI capabilities match those described by Kurzweil in his characterization of the “law of accelerating returns”, then questions regarding what constitutes a mind sufficiently like our own – and how we will treat those minds – will become ever more salient in the proximate future. It is important, however, for interest in advancing this field to become more widespread, and for political, cultural, and attitudinal barriers to its advancement to be lifted – for, unlike Kurzweil, I do not consider the advances of technology to be inevitable or unstoppable. We humans maintain the responsibility of persuading enough other humans that the pursuit of these advances is worthwhile and will greatly improve the length and quality of our lives, while enhancing our capabilities and attainable outcomes. Every movement along an exponential growth curve is due to a deliberate push upward by the efforts of the minds of the creators of progress and using the machines they have built.

Gennady Stolyarov II is Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. Learn more about Mr. Stolyarov here

This article is made available pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author, Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II).