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Why I Am Future-Positive on My Birthday – Article by Steve Hill

Why I Am Future-Positive on My Birthday – Article by Steve Hill

Steve Hill


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by our guest Steve Hill, originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) on June 7th, 2019. In this article, Mr. Hill discusses how he feels great about being over 40 years old, instead of the depressing feeling that many tend to have on their birthdays, because he is very aware of how close medical science is to curing age-related diseases. He goes on in discuss, in his opinion, two of the most promising research methods being sought by various companies to defeat age-related diseases.

~ Bobby Ridge, Assistant Editor, July 7, 2019


Not so long ago, it was my 44th birthday, and I’ve finally decided to write something that I’ve been reflecting on for a while. To some people, a birthday is a cause for celebration; for others, it is viewed as a bad thing.

Yes, if you take the negative view, you could see it as simply a reminder of being another year older and another year closer to the grave. However, this is not how I see it; in fact, I think quite the opposite. I see it as another year closer to our goal: the defeat of age-related diseases due to the progress of rejuvenation biotechnology that offers longer and healthier lives.

From my point of view, viewing birthdays, or, indeed, the passing of time, as a positive or negative thing is largely a question of knowledge and understanding of the aging research field, which ties in with what I want to address today.

Knowledge is power

During my work as a journalist, people often ask me how things are progressing in the field. This is, of course, a perfectly reasonable and understandable question to ask. While I am always more than happy to talk about the field and answer this question, I also urge people to delve deeper into the field so that they can learn and evaluate for themselves rather than simply taking my word for it.

Our website, including the Rejuvenation Roadmap, is a good resource to start learning and to hear the latest news, as are places such as FightAging and the SENS Research Foundation website. Conferences such as Ending Age-Related Diseases and Undoing Aging are also valuable places to learn more about what is happening in the field.

Sometimes, I encounter people outside, but also fairly frequently within, the community who can be somewhat pessimistic about the field and its progress. It is perfectly natural to be cautious about the unknown, but there comes a point at which caution becomes unwarranted pessimism. The “Science Will Not Defeat Aging in My Lifetime, so Why Bother?” argument is a classic example of this, and much of this is caused by a lack of knowledge and understanding of the field.

The Latin phrase scientia potentia est, meaning “knowledge is power”, is particularly apt here. Knowledge and understanding allow us to better evaluate a situation or a proposal and reach a conclusion. It is hard to reach an accurate conclusion about anything without all the facts in place, yet I often see people doing it. Of course, there are always people who will not put in the time and effort required to learn about a topic properly, so they make predictions without all the facts, but there really isn’t much we can do about these people.

However, as advocates and supporters, we can do our best to learn about such things ourselves, and this will also come in useful when speaking to others about the field, as there is nothing like having a good understanding of the topic to help you convey it to others. That does not mean you need to become a biologist and understand things to such deep levels but even a solid understanding of the basics can be a huge help when it comes to engaging with others on the subject and also for understanding where we are currently progress wise.

Future-positive

This relates to a second question people often tend to ask me, which is if I think that they or we have a chance of living long enough to see these technologies arrive.

Obviously, no one can predict the future, so this question, by its very nature, is a tricky one to answer. I generally avoid being too specific on the timeframe in which we will reach the goal of longer lives through science, but I am optimistic that people in my age group, even perhaps older, have a reasonable chance of making the cut.

The reason that I am generally optimistic about the future is mostly that, as a journalist who speaks to hundreds of researchers, each focused on a part of the puzzle, I get an almost unique picture of the field. I can see the broader landscape and how and where things in the field or related fields connect or may connect in the future. A breakthrough in a related medical field may not have immediately apparent utility in aging research at first glance, but a deeper look could reveal hidden potential.

This fairly unique insight, combined with the knowledge that I have collected over the years working in the field, makes me fairly optimistic about the future and my place in it. As I have said a number of times in the past, the defeat of age-related diseases will not suddenly happen overnight; there is unlikely to be a single moment at which humanity goes from having no choice about aging to having control. It is far more likely that there will be steady progress, with incremental breakthroughs along the road, that will ultimately reach the goal.

Reasons to be cheerful

I would like to touch upon two of the most promising therapies that I am most interested in and believe may have a big impact in the near future (10-20 years) and that may help pave the way for major changes to how society thinks about and treats aging. Both of these therapies directly address one of the nine proposed causes of aging and thus if they work they have the potential to be transformative in healthcare. Of course, there are more therapies in development and at various stages of progress which also address the other causes of aging but these two are what I am most enthusiastic about presently. I urge you to explore the provided links to resources and learn more about each one.

Senolytics

No list of promising technologies would be complete without talking about the senescent cell-clearing drugs and therapies known as senolytics. Senescent cells are aged or damaged cells that should destroy themselves via a process known as apoptosis but, for various reasons, do not do so; instead, they hang around, sending out inflammatory signals that harm nearby healthy cells, block effective tissue repair, and contribute to numerous age-related diseases.

One proposed solution to these problem cells is to remove them by causing them to enter apoptosis, as originally intended, by using senolytic drugs and therapies. Removing these cells in mouse studies has produced some remarkable results, with mice often living healthier and longer lives as well as reversing some aspects of aging.

The race is now on to bring these drugs to people, and a number of companies are developing them right now. So far, UNITY Biotechnology has seen the most progress, and the company is already conducting human trials of its lead candidate drug (UBX0101) for the treatment of osteoarthritis. It has another candidate drug (UBX1967) closely behind; this drug is poised to enter human trials for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Based on recent comments from UNITY, we are anticipating the initial results of human trials in the next few months; hopefully, the news will be positive.

With the number of companies working on these therapies, it is fair to be optimistic about their potential to address multiple age-related diseases given that senescent cells are a proposed root cause of aging. You can also check out the Rejuvenation Roadmap to see which companies are working on senolytics and how they are progressing.

Partial cellular reprogramming

Cells can be reverted back to an earlier developmental state, known as induced pluripotency, using reprogramming factors, and this process effectively makes aged cells functionally young again in many ways. Ever since its first discovery, there has been a great deal of interest in this area of aging research.

The problem with inducing pluripotency is that the cell loses its identity and forgets what cell type it currently is, as it becomes a new kind of cell capable of being guided into changing into any other cell type, much like our cells during development. This is great for early human development, but as adults, having our cells forget what they are is bad news. Therefore, researchers have wondered if it is possible to reset a cell’s age without resetting its cell memory, and the answer appears to be yes!

Thankfully, during the reprogramming of a cell back to pluripotency, the cell’s age is one of the first things to be reset before the cell memory is wiped, and it appears possible to partially reprogram the cell so that only aging is reset. We have talked about the potential of partial cellular reprogramming and how it is similar to hitting the reset button on aging in a previous article, but, needless to say, if we can find a way to safely partially reprogram our cells, it could have a dramatic impact on how we age and may allow us to remain more youthful and healthy.

In terms of progress, partial reprogramming has already been demonstrated in mice, and now a number of groups, including Turn.Bio, the Salk Institute, Life Biosciences, Youthereum Genetics, and AgeX, are developing therapies based on partial reprogramming, which is essentially the resetting of cells’ epigenetic states (what genes are expressed) from an aged profile to a more youthful one, again directly targeting one of the proposed root causes of aging.

This approach is likely to be quite a few years away, but I think it is plausible that it could be in human trials in the next decade, and it is probably the approach that interests me the most in the field.

In closing

The truth is we cannot predict the future because it is not set in stone, so we cannot be totally certain if or when rejuvenation technologies will arrive. The best we can do is learn as much as we can about the field and try to reach a reasonable conclusion based on the situation as it is now.

The field is advancing steadily, and we should be optimistic but not complacent about progress. We should be mindful of being too negative and, equally, of being too positive without ample justification. Blind optimism is as bad as blind pessimism, and we should always strive for informed optimism.

That said, given the progress being made, I am optimistic about my chances based on the evidence to date. This is why I do not mind birthdays and why I find them positive experiences rather than negative ones. Arm yourself with knowledge, and perhaps you too will agree with me and understand why I am future positive.

Steve Hill serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic as well as attending various medical industry conferences. In 2019 he was listed in the top 100 journalists covering biomedicine and longevity research in the industry report – Top-100 Journalists covering advanced biomedicine and longevity, created by the Aging Analytics Agency. His work has been featured in H+ Magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Keep Me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project. In 2015 he led the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) for the International Longevity Alliance and in 2016 helped the team of the SENS Research Foundation to reach their goal for the OncoSENS campaign for cancer research.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Speaks with Steele Archer of Debt Nation

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Speaks with Steele Archer of Debt Nation

Gennady Stolyarov II
Steele Archer


Watch this wide-ranging discussion between U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II and Steele Archer of the Debt Nation show, addressing a broad array of emerging technologies, the aspirations of transhumanism, and aspects of both broader and more personal economic matters – from the impact of technology on the labor market to how Mr. Stolyarov paid off his mortgage in 6.5 years. This conversation delved into Austrian economics, techno-optimism, cultural obstacles to progress, the work and ideals of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, life extension and the “Death is Wrong” children’s book, science fiction, and space colonization – among many other topics.
James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Part 5) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

James Hughes’ Problems of Transhumanism: A Review (Part 5) – Article by Ojochogwu Abdul

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Ojochogwu Abdul


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 5: Belief in Progress vs. Rational Uncertainty

The Enlightenment, with its confident efforts to fashion a science of man, was archetypal of the belief and quest that humankind will eventually achieve lasting peace and happiness. In what some interpret as a reformulation of Christianity’s teleological salvation history in which the People of God will be redeemed at the end of days and with the Kingdom of Heaven established on Earth, most Enlightenment thinkers believed in the inevitability of human political and technological progress, secularizing the Christian conception of history and eschatology into a conviction that humanity would, using a system of thought built on reason and science, be able to continually improve itself. As portrayed by Carl Becker in his 1933 book The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers, the philosophies “demolished the Heavenly City of St. Augustine only to rebuild it with more up-to-date materials.” Whether this Enlightenment humanist view of “progress” amounted merely to a recapitulation of the Christian teleological vision of history, or if Enlightenment beliefs in “continual, linear political, intellectual, and material improvement” reflected, as James Hughes posits, “a clear difference from the dominant Christian historical narrative in which little would change until the End Times and Christ’s return”, the notion, in any case, of a collective progress towards a definitive end-point was one that remained unsupported by the scientific worldview. The scientific worldview, as Hughes reminds us in the opening paragraph of this essay within his series, does not support historical inevitability, only uncertainty. “We may annihilate ourselves or regress,” he says, and “Even the normative judgment of what progress is, and whether we have made any, is open to empirical skepticism.”

Hereby, we are introduced to a conflict that exists, at least since after the Enlightenment, between a view of progressive optimism and that of radical uncertainty. Building on the Enlightenment’s faith in the inevitability of political and scientific progress, the idea of an end-point, salvation moment for humankind fuelled all the great Enlightenment ideologies that followed, flowing down, as Hughes traces, through Comte’s “positivism” and Marxist theories of historical determinism to neoconservative triumphalism about the “end of history” in democratic capitalism. Communists envisaged that end-point as a post-capitalist utopia that would finally resolve the class struggle which they conceived as the true engine of history. This vision also contained the 20th-century project to build the Soviet Man, one of extra-human capacities, for as Trotsky had predicted, after the Revolution, “the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise”, whereas for 20th-century free-market liberals, this End of History had arrived with the final triumph of liberal democracy, with the entire world bound to be swept in its course. Events though, especially so far in the 21st century, appear to prove this view wrong.

This belief moreover, as Hughes would convincingly argue, in the historical inevitability of progress has also always been locked in conflict with “the rationalist, scientific observation that humanity could regress or disappear altogether.” Enlightenment pessimism, or at least realism, has, over the centuries, proven a stubborn resistance and constraint of Enlightenment optimism. Hughes, citing Henry Vyberg, reminds us that there were, after all, even French Enlightenment thinkers within that same era who rejected the belief in linear historical progress, but proposed historical cycles or even decadence instead. That aside, contemporary commentators like John Gray would even argue that the efforts themselves of the Enlightenment on the quest for progress unfortunately issued in, for example, the racist pseudo-science of Voltaire and Hume, while all endeavours to establish the rule of reason have resulted in bloody fanaticisms, from Jacobinism to Bolshevism, which equaled the worst atrocities attributable to religious believers. Horrendous acts like racism and anti-Semitism, in the verdict of Gray: “….are not incidental defects in Enlightenment thinking. They flow from some of the Enlightenment’s central beliefs.”

Even Darwinism’s theory of natural selection was, according to Hughes, “suborned by the progressive optimistic thinking of the Enlightenment and its successors to the doctrine of inevitable progress, aided in part by Darwin’s own teleological interpretation.” Problem, however, is that from the scientific worldview, there is no support for “progress” as to be found provided by the theory of natural selection, only that humanity, Hughes plainly states, “like all creatures, is on a random walk through a mine field, that human intelligence is only an accident, and that we could easily go extinct as many species have done.” Gray, for example, rebukes Darwin, who wrote: “As natural selection works solely for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress to perfection.” Natural selection, however, does not work solely for the good of each being, a fact Darwin himself elsewhere acknowledged. Nonetheless, it has continually proven rather difficult for people to resist the impulse to identify evolution with progress, with an extended downside to this attitude being equally difficult to resist the temptation to apply evolution in the rationalization of views as dangerous as Social Darwinism and acts as horrible as eugenics.

Many skeptics therefore hold, rationally, that scientific utopias and promises to transform the human condition deserve the deepest suspicion. Reason is but a frail reed, all events of moral and political progress are and will always remain subject to reversal, and civilization could as well just collapse, eventually. Historical events and experiences have therefore caused faith in the inevitability of progress to wax and wane over time. Hughes notes that among several Millenarian movements and New Age beliefs, such faith could still be found that the world is headed for a millennial age, just as it exists in techno-optimist futurism. Nevertheless, he makes us see that “since the rise and fall of fascism and communism, and the mounting evidence of the dangers and unintended consequences of technology, there are few groups that still hold fast to an Enlightenment belief in the inevitability of conjoined scientific and political progress.” Within the transhumanist community, however, the possession of such faith in progress can still be found as held by many, albeit signifying a camp in the continuation therefore of the Enlightenment-bequeathed conflict as manifested between transhumanist optimism in contradiction with views of future uncertainty.

As with several occasions in the past, humanity is, again, currently being spun yet another “End of History” narrative: one of a posthuman future. Yuval Harari, for instance, in Homo Deus argues that emerging technologies and new scientific discoveries are undermining the foundations of Enlightenment humanism, although as he proceeds with his presentation he also proves himself unable to avoid one of the defining tropes of Enlightenment humanist thinking, i.e., that deeply entrenched tendency to conceive human history in teleological terms: fundamentally as a matter of collective progress towards a definitive end-point. This time, though, our era’s “End of History” glorious “salvation moment” is to be ushered in, not by a politico-economic system, but by a nascent techno-elite with a base in Silicon Valley, USA, a cluster steeped in a predominant tech-utopianism which has at its core the idea that the new technologies emerging there can steer humanity towards a definitive break-point in our history, the Singularity. Among believers in this coming Singularity, transhumanists, as it were, having inherited the tension between Enlightenment convictions in the inevitability of progress, and, in Hughes’ words, “Enlightenment’s scientific, rational realism that human progress or even civilization may fail”, now struggle with a renewed contradiction. And here the contrast as Hughes intends to portray gains sharpness, for as such, transhumanists today are “torn between their Enlightenment faith in inevitable progress toward posthuman transcension and utopian Singularities” on the one hand, and, on the other, their “rational awareness of the possibility that each new technology may have as many risks as benefits and that humanity may not have a future.”

The risks of new technologies, even if not necessarily one that threatens the survival of humanity as a species with extinction, may yet be of an undesirable impact on the mode and trajectory of our extant civilization. Henry Kissinger, in his 2018 article “How the Enlightenment Ends”, expressed his perception that technology, which is rooted in Enlightenment thought, is now superseding the very philosophy that is its fundamental principle. The universal values proposed by the Enlightenment philosophes, as Kissinger points out, could be spread worldwide only through modern technology, but at the same time, such technology has ended or accomplished the Enlightenment and is now going its own way, creating the need for a new guiding philosophy. Kissinger argues specifically that AI may spell the end of the Enlightenment itself, and issues grave warnings about the consequences of AI and the end of Enlightenment and human reasoning, this as a consequence of an AI-led technological revolution whose “culmination may be a world relying on machines powered by data and algorithms and ungoverned by ethical or philosophical norms.” By way of analogy to how the printing press allowed the Age of Reason to supplant the Age of Religion, he buttresses his proposal that the modern counterpart of this revolutionary process is the rise of intelligent AI that will supersede human ability and put an end to the Enlightenment. Kissinger further outlines his three areas of concern regarding the trajectory of artificial intelligence research: AI may achieve unintended results; in achieving intended goals, AI may change human thought processes and human values, and AI may reach intended goals, but be unable to explain the rationale for its conclusions. Kissinger’s thesis, of course, has not gone without both support and criticisms attracted from different quarters. Reacting to Kissinger, Yuk Hui, for example, in “What Begins After the End of the Enlightenment?” maintained that “Kissinger is wrong—the Enlightenment has not ended.” Rather, “modern technology—the support structure of Enlightenment philosophy—has become its own philosophy”, with the universalizing force of technology becoming itself the political project of the Enlightenment.

Transhumanists, as mentioned already, reflect the continuity of some of those contradictions between belief in progress and uncertainty about human future. Hughes shows us nonetheless that there are some interesting historical turns suggesting further directions that this mood has taken. In the 1990s, Hughes recalls, “transhumanists were full of exuberant Enlightenment optimism about unending progress.” As an example, Hughes cites Max More’s 1998 Extropian Principles which defined “Perpetual Progress” as “the first precept of their brand of transhumanism.” Over time, however, Hughes communicates how More himself has had cause to temper this optimism, stressing rather this driving principle as one of “desirability” and more a normative goal than a faith in historical inevitability. “History”, More would say in 2002, “since the Enlightenment makes me wary of all arguments to inevitability…”

Rational uncertainty among transhumanists hence make many of them refrain from an argument for the inevitability of transhumanism as a matter of progress. Further, there are indeed several possible factors which could deter the transhumanist idea and drive for “progress” from translating to reality: A neo-Luddite revolution, a turn and rise in preference for rural life, mass disenchantment with technological addiction and increased option for digital detox, nostalgia, disillusionment with modern civilization and a “return-to-innocence” counter-cultural movement, neo-Romanticism, a pop-culture allure and longing for a Tolkien-esque world, cyclical thinking, conservatism, traditionalism, etc. The alternative, backlash, and antagonistic forces are myriad. Even within transhumanism, the anti-democratic and socially conservative Neoreactionary movement, with its rejection of the view that history shows inevitable progression towards greater liberty and enlightenment, is gradually (and rather disturbingly) growing a contingent. Hughes talks, as another point for rational uncertainty, about the three critiques: futurological, historical, and anthropological, of transhumanist and Enlightenment faith in progress that Phillipe Verdoux offers, and in which the anthropological argument holds that “pre-moderns were probably as happy or happier than we moderns.” After all, Rousseau, himself a French Enlightenment thinker, “is generally seen as having believed in the superiority of the “savage” over the civilized.” Perspectives like these could stir anti-modern, anti-progress sentiments in people’s hearts and minds.

Demonstrating still why transhumanists must not be obstinate over the idea of inevitability, Hughes refers to Greg Burch’s 2001 work “Progress, Counter-Progress, and Counter-Counter-Progress” in which the latter expounded on the Enlightenment and transhumanist commitment to progress as “to a political program, fully cognizant that there are many powerful enemies of progress and that victory was not inevitable.” Moreover, the possible failure in realizing goals of progress might not even result from the actions of “enemies” in that antagonistic sense of the word, for there is also that likely scenario, as the 2006 movie Idiocracy depicts, of a future dystopian society based on dysgenics, one in which, going by expectations and trends of the 21st century, the most intelligent humans decrease in reproduction and eventually fail to have children while the least intelligent reproduce prolifically. As such, through the process of natural selection, generations are created that collectively become increasingly dumber and more virile with each passing century, leading to a future world plagued by anti-intellectualism, bereft of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, coherence in notions of justice and human rights, and manifesting several other traits of degeneration in culture. This is yet a possibility for our future world.

So while for many extropians and transhumanists, nonetheless, perpetual progress was an unstoppable train, responding to which “one either got on board for transcension or consigned oneself to the graveyard”, other transhumanists, however, Hughes comments, especially in response to certain historical experiences (the 2000 dot-com crash, for example), have seen reason to increasingly temper their expectations about progress. In Hughes’s appraisal, while, therefore, some transhumanists “still press for technological innovation on all fronts and oppose all regulation, others are focusing on reducing the civilization-ending potentials of asteroid strikes, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology.” Some realism hence need be in place to keep under constant check the excesses of contemporary secular technomillennialism as contained in some transhumanist strains.

Hughes presents Nick Bostrom’s 2001 essay “Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards” as one influential example of this anti-millennial realism, a text in which Bostrom, following his outline of scenarios that could either end the existence of the human species or have us evolve into dead-ends, then addressed not just how we can avoid extinction and ensure that there are descendants of humanity, but also how we can ensure that we will be proud to claim them. Subsequently, Bostrom has been able to produce work on “catastrophic risk estimation” at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford. Hughes seems to favour this approach, for he ensures to indicate that this has also been adopted as a programmatic focus for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) which he directs, and as well for the transhumanist non-profit, the Lifeboat Foundation. Transhumanists who listen to Bostrom, as we could deduce from Hughes, are being urged to take a more critical approach concerning technological progress.

With the availability of this rather cautious attitude, a new tension, Hughes reports, now plays out between eschatological certainty and pessimistic risk assessment. This has taken place mainly concerning the debate over the Singularity. For the likes of Ray Kurzweil (2005), representing the camp of a rather technomillennial, eschatological certainty, his patterns of accelerating trendlines towards a utopian merger of enhanced humanity and godlike artificial intelligence is one of unstoppability, and this Kurzweil supports by referring to the steady exponential march of technological progress through (and despite) wars and depressions. Dystopian and apocalyptic predictions of how humanity might fare under superintelligent machines (extinction, inferiority, and the likes) are, in the assessment of Hughes, but minimally entertained by Kurzweil, since to the techno-prophet we are bound to eventually integrate with these machines into apotheosis.

The platform, IEET, thus has taken a responsibility of serving as a site for teasing out this tension between technoprogressive “optimism of the will and pessimism of the intellect,” as Hughes echoes Antonio Gramsci. On the one hand, Hughes explains, “we have championed the possibility of, and evidence of, human progress. By adopting the term “technoprogressivism” as our outlook, we have placed ourselves on the side of Enlightenment political and technological progress.”And yet on the other hand, he continues, “we have promoted technoprogressivism precisely in order to critique uncritical techno-libertarian and futurist ideas about the inevitability of progress. We have consistently emphasized the negative effects that unregulated, unaccountable, and inequitably distributed technological development could have on society” (one feels tempted to call out Landian accelerationism at this point). Technoprogressivism, the guiding philosophy of IEET, avails as a principle which insists that technological progress needs to be consistently conjoined with, and dependent on, political progress, whilst recognizing that neither are inevitable.

In charting the essay towards a close, Hughes mentions his and a number of IEET-led technoprogresive publications, among which we have Verdoux who, despite his futurological, historical, and anthropological critique of transhumanism, yet goes ahead to argue for transhumanism on moral grounds (free from the language of “Marxism’s historical inevitabilism or utopianism, and cautious of the tragic history of communism”), and “as a less dangerous course than any attempt at “relinquishing” technological development, but only after the naive faith in progress has been set aside.” Unfortunately, however, the “rational capitulationism” to the transhumanist future that Verdoux offers, according to Hughes, is “not something that stirs men’s souls.” Hughes hence, while admitting to our need “to embrace these critical, pessimistic voices and perspectives”, yet calls on us to likewise heed to the need to “also re-discover our capacity for vision and hope.” This need for optimism that humans “can” collectively exercise foresight and invention, and peacefully deliberate our way to a better future, rather than yielding to narratives that would lead us into the traps of utopian and apocalyptic fatalism, has been one of the motivations behind the creation of the “technoprogressive” brand. The brand, Hughes presents, has been of help in distinguishing necessarily “Enlightenment optimism about the “possibility” of human political, technological and moral progress from millennialist techno-utopian inevitabilism.”

Presumably, upon this technoprogressive philosophy, the new version of the Transhumanist Declaration, adopted by Humanity+ in 2009, indicated a shift from some of the language of the 1998 version, and conveyed a more reflective, critical, realistic, utilitarian, “proceed with caution” and “act with wisdom” tone with respect to the transhumanist vision for humanity’s progress. This version of the declaration, though relatively sobered, remains equally inspiring nonetheless. Hughes closes the essay with a reminder on our need to stay aware of the diverse ways by which our indifferent universe threatens our existence, how our growing powers come with unintended consequences, and why applying mindfulness on our part in all actions remains the best approach for navigating our way towards progress in our radically uncertain future.

Conclusively, following Hughes’ objectives in this series, it can be suggested that more studies on the Enlightenment (European and global) are desirable especially for its potential to furnish us with richer understanding into a number of problems within contemporary transhumanism as sprouting from its roots deep in the Enlightenment. Interest and scholarship in Enlightenment studies, fortunately, seems to be experiencing some current revival, and even so with increasing diversity in perspective, thereby presenting transhumanism with a variety of paths through which to explore and gain context for connected issues. Seeking insight thence into some foundations of transhumanism’s problems could take the path, among others: of an examination of internal contradictions within the Enlightenment, of the approach of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s “Dialectic of Enlightenment”; of assessing opponents of the Enlightenment as found, for example, in Isaiah Berlin’s notion of “Counter Enlightenment”; of investigating a rather radical strain of the Enlightenment as presented in Jonathan Israel’s “Radical Enlightenment”, and as well in grappling with the nature of the relationships between transhumanism and other heirs both of the Enlightenment and the Counter-Enlightenment today. Again, and significantly, serious attention need be paid now and going forwards in jealously guarding transhumanism against ultimately falling into the hands of the Dark Enlightenment.


Ojochogwu Abdul is the founder of the Transhumanist Enlightenment Café (TEC), is the co-founder of the Enlightenment Transhumanist Forum of Nigeria (H+ Nigeria), and currently serves as a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party in Nigeria. 

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.

Whatever Future Comes, Life Extension Will Improve It – Article by Nicola Bagalà

Whatever Future Comes, Life Extension Will Improve It – Article by Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà


Editor’s Note: In this article originally published by our allies at the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF),  Mr.Nicola Bagalà makes a persuasive case for optimism regarding the role of technology in the future. While the future will certainly have problems as well, technological progress – including progress in greatly increasing human health and longevity – can only contribute to solutions and improved quality of life. It is time to reject defeatism and build the future we wish to inhabit.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, August 12, 2018


Right now, as I write this article, I’m sitting in a machine that, about 120 years ago, was laughed at as a pipe dream. The machine is a plane, by the way. The onboard wi-fi leaves much to be desired, but if you had told people living in the early 1900s that you could type an article on a paperless portable device while flying in a huge metal cabin at an altitude of 10.3 kilometers and a ground speed of 904 kilometers an hour (that’s what the huge metal cabin is magically telling my portable device through thin air), they’d have had you in a straitjacket before you could finish your sentence.

Talking about computers and planes in these terms today often feels cringeworthy, because we’re all familiar with this technology. We’re used to having all these cool devices and machines doing stuff for us; it isn’t surprising or awe-inducing in the least anymore. However, it’s not a bad idea to remind ourselves how what we now nearly shrug at wasn’t even conceivable not too long ago. Examples include a 27-kilometer ring buried underneath Geneva where ridiculously tiny particles are smashed together at near-lightspeed to unravel the inner workings of the universe and tools that allow us to modify the basic building blocks of your cells with unprecedented precision—neither of which would’ve made you come across as particularly sane, had you conjectured them in a conversation, say, 200 years ago.

This is not to say that people in the past lacked imagination; scientists and visionaries did try to predict what the future might look like—sometimes getting quite close to the mark and other times ending up embarrassingly far from it—but the average joes who had to tend their crops the whole day or work at some kind of drudgery 70 hours a week probably weren’t too optimistic about a future with sophisticated machines of all sorts that make your life much easier and open unthinkable possibilities. They were too used to the standards of the age in which they lived. In a similar way, people of today sometimes tend to look at the future as something that isn’t going to be much different from the present, as if most of what our species could realistically achieve—not only in terms of science and technology but also as a society—was already achieved, and all you could look forward to in the future was just more of the same, except perhaps with slightly fancier tools.

It’s easy to think that way when your days are taken up by a job you’re not crazy about, when you’ve got bills to pay, or when you don’t find world news too encouraging. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that being alive 100 years from now wouldn’t be worth the trouble and just start looking forward to retirement and bowing out instead, but that’s all it is—a mind trap. A good chunk of the 1900s was a rather messy time to be alive, and people who witnessed not one but two World Wars had all the reasons to think that humanity was going south on them and that getting old and checking out was preferable to seeing whatever catastrophe the future might have in store. However, the world has been getting better and better since then as well as since the beginning of recorded history; if you’re not convinced of that, I recommend checking out Our World In Data and Gapminder, two excellent resources that demonstrate how our pessimism comes mostly from a tendency to focus on the negatives and disqualify the positives.

This is my answer to anyone who argues that longer lives would mean more time spent in an increasingly worsening world: The data simply don’t support this claim. At this point, a convinced pessimist would start throwing news items at me: world politics, climate issues, the refugee crisis, etc. I’m not denying the existence of these problems, nor that they may well have the potential to cause serious trouble if left unchecked; but their existence doesn’t mean that the world is getting worse. It only means that it is not getting better all at once; the state of human affairs isn’t improving at a uniform rate, but if you look at the general trend, you’ll see that it’s going up, with crests and troughs. Extrapolating from this general trend, it’s sensible to believe that things are likely to continue improving, but we cannot take for granted that things will get better of their own accord. That would be just as wrong as focusing only on the troughs in the graph and conclude that they signify that things are inevitably going to go downhill.

Now is a good moment to remind ourselves that life extension means, first and foremost, preserving our youthful health irrespective of our chronological age; any longevity benefits deriving from it would only be more than welcome side effects. Given this fact, even assuming that living on Earth will eventually be so intolerable that death would be preferable, it really makes no sense to wait for it to happen because of aging and go through about twenty years of declining health, thus adding insult to injury. To put it bluntly, people who really have had enough of life generally seek to terminate it quickly and painlessly; not too many choose pneumonia or ebola as a way out. Wanting to die of aging because you think the world won’t be worth living in beyond your “natural” lifespan is no different from wanting to die of pneumonia because you think that the world won’t be worth living in six months from now.

Eliminating the diseases of aging can only make life better, and it’s a different matter if it’lll be good enough to be worth living—that’s a personal choice that has nothing to do with whether life extension should be developed or not. To be completely honest, if you lived your entire life in a country torn by war, or fighting over food, then I would understand if you were pessimistic about the benefits of a longer life; however, when I hear people living reasonably comfortable lives in industrialized countries claiming “Living longer? Good God, that would be awful!” just because they don’t like their jobs or some other silly pretext like that, I can’t help thinking that they’re just having a bad case of first world problems.

Besides, what is a defeatist attitude going to accomplish? Assuming that life extension isn’t worth bothering with because the future won’t be worth it makes two more assumptions. The first is that the world is going to be too horrible to live in within the handful of decades of a currently normal lifespan, and the second is that it won’t really improve significantly after that point, so pulling through the bad times in the hopes of seeing better ones would be a waste of effort. If it really were that way, then we might as well throw in the towel, stop worrying about making the world a better place, stop having children, who could only expect to live in a world worse than we did, and just let everything collapse.

If we did this, the defeatist attitude would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but thankfully, we don’t really do anything like that. We might be tempted to think like that when we feel discouraged, but throughout our history, we’ve always picked ourselves up and continued, not matter how dire the times, and always managed to make the world a little better than it was before. The right attitude is neither “the future will certainly be great” nor “the future will certainly be horrible”; the right attitude is “we don’t know for sure what the future will be like, but we are capable of making it better”. The data’s with us on that one.

About Nicola Bagalà

Nicola Bagalà  is a bit of a jack of all trades—a holder of an M.Sc. degree in mathematics; an amateur programmer; a hobbyist at novel writing, piano, and art; and, of course, a passionate life-extensionist. After his interest in the science of undoing aging arose in 2011, he gradually shifted from quiet supporter to active advocate in 2015, first launching his advocacy blog Rejuvenaction before eventually joining LEAF. These years in the field sparked an interest in molecular biology, which he actively studies. Other subjects he loves to discuss to no end are cosmology, artificial intelligence, and many others—far too many for a currently normal lifespan, which is one of the reasons he’s into life extension.

Why I Believe in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

Why I Believe in Transhumanism – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Someone asked me why I decided to join the Transhumanist Party, and indeed, why I support a movement, which, at first glance, appears to be a fringe movement with members who are out of touch with the needs of the general public.

The truth, however, is far different from what is reported in the media, in books, or even in scholarly articles. Because Transhumanism is the only movement that cares enough about improving the human condition and about building a better future to dedicate itself completely to these monumental tasks. Being human, the human condition is all that we have, and as such, we should cherish and treasure it. Further, the future will be built, but unless we build it in such a way that reflects our values and ethics, we may not be happy with the outcome. This is far too important an outcome to leave to chance, and that is why Transhumanists are so passionate about building a better future.

Going back to the topic of this article, the reason I joined the Transhumanist movement is simple: I love life, and I am dedicated to helping increase the quality of life for every human being on Earth. This is the single most important purpose for me to be working on right now.

Despite what you may have heard, Transhumanism isn’t about becoming a machine; it’s about becoming a better human being.

Since joining this movement, I have been struck by how optimistic, open-minded, and welcoming everyone has been to me. I’ve been accepted with open arms, and people have gone out of their way to help me. It’s a tight-knit community full of passionate, intelligent, and dedicated people who want to work on resolving problems that plague humanity. What could be a more noble purpose?

Despite the negative coverage our movement has received in the media and books, one characteristic that is so consistent across our movement is that our members absolutely adore the sanctity of life. When someone asks me why I am so obsessed with goals such as reversing aging, increasing the human lifespan, dramatically increasing investment in medicine and science, and expanding the human consciousness and intellect, I reply that I am completely and utterly in love with the human experience.

But why do we Transhumanists persevere with such goals?

Because it is cruel and dishonest to say to a person with Stage 4 cancer that soon they will no longer be able to hold their son or daughter in their arms, nor hear their sweet laughter, ever again.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a quadriplegic that they will never walk.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell someone suffering from severe depression that they should accept a dark, brooding cloud of misery hanging over their head for the rest of their life.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a child born with a birth defect that they will never live a normal life.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell a student with a learning disability that they should make do with what they have and call them a “special needs” student.

It is cruel and dishonest to tell someone they will never make love to their spouse again, nor hear their voice, nor feel their touch, due to a rare illness that will claim their life far too soon.

In short, I believe it is wrong to be so utterly pessimistic about life and about improving the human condition.

We believe in values such as pacifism, expanding the intellect through increased investment in education, improving the quality of life through science and technology, and improving health services and increasing the human lifespan. How on Earth is any of this fringe?

We must have the courage to proclaim our convictions in front of the rest of the world, because these goals are far too important to leave to chance, and because people all over the world genuinely do want to see progress in these areas.  

The fact is that Transhumanism is the movement that is most in touch with the needs of the general public, because most people, unless they are completely insane, would want to live healthier, be disease-free, increase their intelligence, and build a better future for their children. No, we are not a fringe movement. We are the human movement. After all, Transhumanism has the word “human” in it. And that to me means being a better human.

It is wrong to be defeatist and throw our hands up in resignation, because nothing of significance was ever accomplished by being pessimistic, capitulating, or quitting prematurely. Amazing inventions, advances in medicine, and improvements in quality of life came about precisely because we, as humans, did not give up, but rather, fought for what was right. And increasing the quality of life for all humans is right.

I am a Transhumanist because I am a human being, and because I love the human experience. And this is something I will never apologize for. In fact, this is something I will continue to fight for as long as I am alive. Which, hopefully, will be for a very long time.

Why am I a Transhumanist? Because simply put, I love life too damn much.

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

City of New Antideath – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova, Commissioned by Gennady Stolyarov II

City of New Antideath – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova, Commissioned by Gennady Stolyarov II

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Art by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Painting Commissioned by Gennady Stolyarov II


City of New AntideathCity of New Antideath – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Commentary by Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator

For my coming thirtieth birthday, I have commissioned a colossal cityscape depicting my vision and hope for the future progress of humankind. Artist Ekaterinya Vladinakova, a long-time supporter of transhumanism and life extension, was the evident best choice for this project.

The City of New Antideath represents a future society which has overcome death, disease, and today’s principal sources of material scarcity and discomfort. This city contains more than ample living space in ornate, radiantly illuminated skyscrapers. Smaller villas, domed towers, and other luxuriously ornamented buildings adorn the central walkways. There is ample room for pedestrian traffic and plant growth sculpted into geometrically complex patterns – including on the rooftop terraces of many of the mega-skyscrapers.

Flying cars and autonomous drones appear as streaks of light from the ground level. There is so much room for aerial transportation that no more traffic jams exist on the ground. One can opt for efficient transport, or for open-ended leisurely walking, and the two modes will not collide.

Over the years I have created a large number of building models using Sketchup, Minecraft, and even LEGO bricks. In my quest for permanence, they – or images of them – have been preserved and provided to the artist for inspiration. The first City of Antideath consisted of my Sketchup models. The City of New Antideath was not intended to be an exact replica, but rather a successor inspired by the prospect of juxtaposing the best architectural elements of all eras – past and yet to come.

I conveyed to Ekaterinya Vladinakova that the skyscrapers should exhibit a variety of bold colors and geometric shapes – but also be orderly and ornate. I have a great admiration for historical architecture from the 16th through 19th centuries – so while some of the buildings are geometric and futuristic, others borrow significant elements from Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, or Victorian styles. Russian and Eastern architectural traditions find their manifestations in this cityscape as well. The idea is to portray a future of extreme diversity, where all of these elements will exist side by side and interact with one another in interesting ways. Far from cultural separatism or tribalism, the future needs to borrow and develop upon the best elements from all cultures, times, and places. The culture of New Antideath is rational, scientific, progress-oriented, universalist, cosmopolitan, and at the same time hyperpluralist and welcoming of all peaceful individuals.

The most significant vision I have for this artwork is that it will become the iconic vision of a techno-positive future. Accordingly, I am rendering it available for free download and distribution via a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License so that it might be used by others who seek illustrations of a future we can all aspire for.

I still hope that I was not born too soon – that I may someday personally witness and experience a future of this sort. But for now, although the third decade of my life did not see such a future emerge, I am happy at least to have enabled its depiction so that others can be inspired to strive toward it. Given that our immediate world has become suffused by a pervasive, destructive malaise over the past two years, we will need visions such as this to overcome it and achieve better ways to be.

There are three versions of this digital painting available for free download (left-click on the links to open, right-click to download):

Small (1200 by 1931 pixels)

Medium (2400 by 3861 pixels)

Original Size (11250 by 18100 pixels – a vast canvas with immense detail. Note: This file size is immense as well – but you will be able to zoom in to view individual buildings and regard them as smaller-scale paintings in their own right.)

For those seeking musical accompaniment in viewing this painting, I recommend my Transhumanist March, Op. 78 (2014) (MP3 and YouTube)  or Man’s Struggle Against Death, Op. 58 (2008) (MP3 and YouTube).

Find out more about Mr. Stolyarov here.

Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter. See her gallery here and her DeviantArt page here.  

Dr. José Cordeiro Interviewed by Singularity Weblog at the International Longevity and Cryopreservation Summit in Madrid, Spain

Dr. José Cordeiro Interviewed by Singularity Weblog at the International Longevity and Cryopreservation Summit in Madrid, Spain

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José Luis Cordeiro


The U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Technology Advisor, José Cordeiro, MBA, Ph.D., was interviewed by Nikola Danaylov of Singularity Weblog at the International Longevity and Cryopreservation Summit in Madrid, Spain, which was organized by Dr. Cordeiro and was held during May 25-27, 2017.

Listen to the audio interview below, download it, or see the original Singularity Weblog page hosting it.

Watch the video of the interview below or on its YouTube page.

The interview ventures into transhumanism, life extension, cryonics, and the political and cultural challenges that need to be overcome in order to achieve a world of indefinite lifespans, where technological transformations of the human condition would be broadly accepted.

Find out more about Dr. Cordeiro here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Artificial Intelligence – January 8, 2017

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Artificial Intelligence – January 8, 2017

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Gennady Stolyarov II


The U.S. Transhumanist Party’s first expert discussion panel, hosted in conjunction with the Nevada Transhumanist Party, asked panelists to consider emerging developments in artificial intelligence.

The panel took place on Sunday, January 8, 2017, at 10 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time.

Key questions addressed include the following:

(i) What do you think will be realistic, practical applications of artificial intelligence toward improving human lives during the next 5 years?
(ii) Are you genuinely concerned about existential risk stemming from AI, or do you think those concerns are exaggerated / overhyped (or do you have some intermediate position on these issues)?
(iii) On the other hand, do you perceive significant tendencies in contemporary culture to overhype the positive / functional capabilities of AI?
(iv) How can individuals, particularly laypersons, become better at distinguishing between genuine scientific and technological advances in AI and hype / fear-mongering?
(v) What is your techno-optimistic vision for how AI can help improve the future of human (and transhuman) beings?
(vi) What are your thoughts regarding prognostications of an AI-caused technological Singularity? Are they realistic?

Panelists

Zak Field is an international speaker, consultant, games designer, and entrepreneur based in Norwich, UK. A rising thought leader in Mixed Realities (VR/AR), Zak speaks and consults on Mixed Realities-related topics like gamification, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Robotics, Artificial Intelligences (AIs), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In 2015, Zak partnered with Futurist Miss Metaverse as co-founder of BodAi, a robotics and AI company developing Bods, lifelike humanoid robot companions made accessible through a unique system that accommodates practical 21st-Century business and lifestyle needs.

David J. Kelley is the CTO for the tech venture capital firm Tracy Hall LLC, focused on companies that contribute to high-density sustainable community technologies, as well as the principal scientist with Artificial General Intelligence Inc. David also volunteers as the Chairman of the Transhuman National Committee board. David’s career has been built on technology trends and bleeding each research primarily around the capitalization of product engineering where those new products can be brought to market and made profitable. David’s work on Artificial Intelligence in particular – the ICOM research project with AGI Inc. – is focused on emotion-based systems that are designed to work around human constraints and help remove the ‘human’ element from the design of AI systems, including military applications for advanced self-aware cognitive systems that do not need human interaction.

Hiroyuki Toyama is a Japanese doctoral student at the Department of Psychology in University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His doctoral study has focused on emotional intelligence (EI) in the context of personality and health psychology. In particular, he has attempted to shed light on the way in which trait EI is related to subjective well-being and physiological health. He has a great interest in the future development of artificial EI on the basis of contemporary theory of EI.

Mark Waser is Chief Technology Officer of the Digital Wisdom Institute and D161T4L W15D0M Inc., organizations devoted to the ethical implementation of advanced technologies for the benefit of all. He has been publishing data science research since 1983 and developing commercial AI software since 1984, including an expert system shell and builder for Citicorp, a neural network to evaluate thallium cardiac images for Air Force pilots and, recently, mobile front-ends for cloud-based AI and data science. He is particularly interested in safe ethical architectures and motivational systems for intelligent machines (including humans). As an AI ethicist, he has presented at numerous conferences and published articles in international journals. His current projects can be found at the Digital Wisdom website – http://wisdom.digital/

Demian Zivkovic is CEO+Structure of Ascendance Biomedical, president of the Institute of Exponential Sciences, as well as a scholar of several scientific disciplines. He has been interested in science, particularly neuropsychology, astronomy, and biology from a very young age. His greatest passions are cognitive augmentation and life extension, two endeavors he remains deeply committed to, to this day. He is also very interested in applications of augmented reality and hyperreality, which he believes have incredible potential for improving our lives.

He is a strong believer in interdisciplinarity as a paradigm for understanding the world. His studies span artificial intelligence, innovation science, and business, which he has studied at the University of Utrecht. He also has a background in psychology, which he has previously studied at the Saxion University of Applied Sciences. Demian has co-founded Ascendance Biomedical, a Singapore-based company focused on cutting edge biomedical services. Demian believes that raising capital and investing in technology and education is the best route to facilitate societal change. As a staunch proponent of LGBT rights and postgenderism, Demian believes advanced technologies can eventually provide a definite solution for sex/gender-related issues in society.

A Techno-Optimist Movement: For an Evenly Distributed Future

A Techno-Optimist Movement: For an Evenly Distributed Future

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B.J. Murphy

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Prominently known as the “noir prophet” of the cyberpunk subgenre, sci-fi novelist William Ford Gibson once said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” [1]

We are living in a point of time in which we can conceivably recognize the emergence of a future once envisioned throughout science-fiction literature. Unfortunately, as stated by Gibson, the future doesn’t appear to be evenly distributed. Whether or not this is merely the hallmark of a future emerging from its infancy, only to then mature over time, shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing the current problems laid before us.

Like any problem, the first step is the recognition of its existence. While there is good reason to expect that the exponential growth rate of information technologies will help us surpass the unfortunate reality of our uneven distribution of said technologies [2], we mustn’t fall back on the apathetic notion that our inaction will not cause detrimental effects to achieving the future we all desire. Don’t forget, while it remains true that the common layperson is in equal access to necessary medical technologies, the means of which we distribute them are at the cost of a massive debt for most people below an upper-class status. [3]

Instead, by adhering to the Proactionary Principle [4] – that is, an ethical decision-making principle which relies on modern science (as opposed to popular perception) in assessing and mitigating possible future risks – we must enforce a state of dialogue to ensure action plans are set in motion to help alleviate, if not completely expropriate, both present and future problems if and when they present themselves.

Here in the United States, we have an entire set of different problems that are in need of being addressed – poverty, homelessness, climate change, etc. Unlike the politicians in Washington D.C., we are not here to compromise, let alone serve special interest groups, to try to tip-toe our way towards the issues at hand. Instead our interests are with the people and, subsequently, to that of a future contrary to Gibson’s statement. We have a fundamental belief that, by using modern science and advanced technologies, we could feasibly address each issue that has stricken this nation to its core.

The means of which we’ll ensure these technologies see the light of day will come from innumerable sources. Today we’re no longer left with a binary source of funding – whether it’s via taxes or private corporations. In the last few years we’ve witnessed the skyrocketing emergence of crowdfunding, in which the common people are given a say as to which ideas are worth spending large sums of money on. [5] Neither source of funding holds greater importance over the other. We’re left with an amazing opportunity to ensure everyone has a voice – whether it’s the government, private corporations, or the everyday citizen. The key, however, is transparency – one in which we strongly emphasize.

Though, who is “we”? We are what are known as Techno-Optimists – a diverse collective of individuals from all walks of life who envision an optimistic future made up of technologies that, at first glance, appear almost magical in nature, e.g. virtual and mixed reality, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), cyborgs and genetically enhanced human beings, so on and so forth. But what we envision is in conflict with the current socio-economic situation we all bear witness to on a daily basis. It is that unfortunate truth in which our existence carries the utmost importance.

Unlike other organizations and groups that remain focused on specific technologies, our emphasis isn’t just on technological growth, but subsequently the insurance that everyone will be granted access to these technologies as we continue moving forward.

So far, we’re currently lacking in the technological race to the top. Keeping the present state of advancements in mind, the U.S. clearly downplays the importance of updating our systems to accommodate the acceleration of technological growth. In the U.S. we’re known for our poor public transportation systems, refusing to keep pace with the rest of the world in both efficiency and safety precautions, leaving people at risk. [6] If we’re to ensure the horrific Amtrak crash doesn’t occur again, we need to follow NASA’s lead by abandoning the archaic methods of transport and replace them for a more future-oriented system.

In the next 5 to 10 years, expect the emergence of virtual and mixed reality in every home, in every hospital, and every store you walk into. [7] 3D printing will be used throughout every major manufacturing industry, including but not limited to the automobile industry, architecture, and space exploration. [8] Soft A.I. will be integrated into our mobile devices, scanning our medical literature in search of treatments and cures to numerous diseases at the behest of each individual’s bodily self-determination. [9] They’ll subsequently be working hand in hand with our top climate scientists to help better extrapolate massive amounts of data and empower us with greater knowledge of our own planet, including better ways of living on it, e.g. the most efficient methods of cleaning oil spills, keeping environmental corporations in check to ensure they’re adhering to safety procedures, etc. [10]

Getting from here to there, however, is a much more tedious task, one in which necessitates our willingness to act ahead of schedule. It is in this pursuit in which we feel obligated to stand in the frontlines of this massive paradigm shift and help fight in the interests of those falling behind – or, as it would seem, being forced to remain behind by corporate greed and governmental bureaucracy. What is a home coupled with virtual reality and A.I. to whom cannot afford a home? [11] What is a car that is completely autonomous and augmentable to 3D-printed enhancements to whom cannot afford a car? [12] And what is a planet flooded with marvelous technological advancements beyond our wildest dreams to whom is smothered by an atmosphere veiled by greenhouse gases? [13]

Not only that, were none of these issues real, we’d still find ourselves in a dangerous predicament exacerbated by our very own robotics industry – technological unemployment. [14] The issue itself has been debated widely, though with little effect as a result. As the market continues to exponentially march into an autonomous realm – the next industrial revolution – thousands, if not millions, of people will be left without a job. And if we don’t act now, they’ll equally be left without a proper welfare system in place to ensure they remain afloat. [15]

Thankfully a global dialogue has already been initiated in the attempts to address this very serious issue, one in which goes against everything we’ve previously been taught throughout the history of economics. It goes by the name of a Basic Income Guarantee (or a Universal Basic Income) [16], whereby everyone will be granted a fixed income – either monthly or annually – regardless if employed or not, and which doesn’t affect one’s income by other means. This kind of radical policy, however, goes strictly against the interests of those profiting from the widening wage gap, necessitating a new grassroots movement demanding that a UBI welfare policy be discussed and implemented at a nationwide scale.

And finally, with talks of A.I. research reaching out into mainstream headlines for the first time in history, we’re now witnessing the gradual steps of another possible prohibition movement – that is, the prohibition of strong A.I. in fear of a Terminator-esque situation as a result. We might recognize the reasoning of this fear, but we certainly don’t share it. With all the progress that could come as a result of continuing A.I. research – medically, financially, etc. – the withholding of its growth would certainly set us back as the rest of the world moves ahead. If we don’t wish to be thrown into the dustbin of history, fighting in the interests of A.I. will be in tandem of fighting in the interests of our species who’ll greatly benefit from its awakening. [17]

The goal of Techno-Optimists should be to provide public safety information; to advocate for a sweeping technological transformation of society as a whole; and to engineer policies that’ll ensure a positive future equally distributed for everyone to enjoy. Technology by itself will not create the change we wish to convey for our future citizenry; rather technology must be guided with an ethical hand and a keen eye that is prepared for what is to come. To negate the importance of this understanding, one would surely hand over the future to the status quo.

1. 2012, “The Future Has Arrived — It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed Yet,” article.
2. Kurzweil, R., 2001, “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” article.
3. Skinner, J. S., 2013, “The Costly Paradox of Health-Care Technology,” article.
4. More, M., 2004, “The Proactionary Principle,” essay.
5. Neiss, S., Best, J., 2014, “Crowdfunding report signals increased revenue, jobs, and deal flow,” article.
6. Barry, K., 2013, “Public Transit Is Underfunded Because the Wealthy Don’t Rely On It,” article.
7. Orland, K., 2014, “Beyond gaming, the VR boom is everywhere—from classrooms to therapy couches,” article.
8. Ludwig, A., Harvey, S. E., 2013, “3D Printing Affects Every Industry, Even Homebuilding,” article.
9. Krawczyk, K., 2014, “Healthcare, Travel, Other Industries Making IBM Watson Apps,” article.
10. Temperley, J., 2015, “Artificial intelligence: can scientists stop ‘negative’ outcomes?,” article.
11. United States Census Bureau, 2013, “Housing Vacancies and Homeownership (CPS/HVS),” report.
12. Woodyard, C., 2015, “Used-car prices still on the rise,” article.
13. National Climatic Data Center, 2015, “Global Analysis – April 2015,” report.
14. Pistono, F., 2014, Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy, CreateSpace.
15. 2015, “Open Letter on the Digital Economy,” letter.
16. The U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, website.
17. Future of Life Institute, 2015, “Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: an Open Letter,” letter.

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B.J. Murphy is the Director of Social Media of the Transhumanist Party (USA). This article was originally published on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.