On September 19th I left, disgruntled, my position as Secretary of the USATranshumanist Party.
The next day, I joined the Open Source Party.
The two decisions are closely related: they’re about transparency and democracy in government. USA Transhumanist Party doesn’t have it – Open Source Party does.
Let me explain…
Leaving USA Transhumanist Party
Zoltan asked me to join his newly-formed Transhumanist Party as an “Officer” about one year ago. I accepted the position of Secretary. Zoltan, Chris Armstrong, and L. M. Memmel (Zoltan’s wife) were the other three officers.
The only meeting I attended was held via telephone. We followed the protocol required to set up a California non-profit. We nominated, seconded, and voted unanimously to have Zoltan represent our organization as a US Presidential candidate.
I was happy, at the time, to do this. I considered Zoltan a friend, and he’s a hard-working advocate of many transhumanist goals that we share.
He proceeded vigorously with the campaign, like he does.
I helped him in numerous ways. I networked to help him be a speaker at three “campaign appearances” – in Seattle, Newport Beach, and a biohacker lab in Souther California. I scheduled him in several Bay Area conferences, allowing him, for example, to set up a “Zoltan for President” table at the Transhuman Strategies event in San Jose. I attended and spoke at a Transhumanist Party rally in San Francisco, I notified media people for him, I posted his articles at IEET.org.
Zoltan helped me, too, once, in a major way. He wrote a Motherboard VICE article that promoted my GoFundMe campaign to raise startup funds for “BiZoHa” – the world’s first atheist orphanage, in Muhokya, Uganda. The campaign rolled in $5,820 in just 29 hours – entirely generated by Zoltan’s viral publicity article.
But…as Zoltan’s campaign proceeded, I realized that he seemed to make all the decisions, entirely on his own, apparently. There’s an entity called “The Transhumanist Party” but there weren’t any strategy meetings involving me as an officer, or any group meetings, except one he hastily organized because a TV crew thought it would be interesting.
Here’s another example: The Transhumanist Party has a platform but, even though I was one of only four Board members, I was never invited to help create it. I don’t know who did create it, because no authors are listed.
In contrast to this, the Transhumanist Declaration lists twenty-three authors. Very well done. Collaboration and Transparency.
These facts irk me. Why should I have an Officer’s title, and be on a Board of Directors – if it’s utterly fake? Why be in a “group” if only one person makes all decisions?
Zoltan assembled a staff of two dozen “Advisors” that appear on this webpage but I suspect he does not seek any advice from them, either.
I also realized that I disagreed with some of Zoltan’s behavior and statements. Specifically,
1) I think his attacks on religion are unnecessary, and they alienate – of course – the numerous and wonderful religious transhumanists,
2) I am not a big fan of his Immortality Bus campaign. I know I’m in a tiny minority viewpoint here, but I know – as a “transhumanitarian” – if you really want to extend lives with $25,000 (that’s the cost of his tour) you could set up 16 clinics at $1,500 each in SubSaharan Africa, to provide about 2,400 children with free medical care, and prevent approximately 20 kids from dying of malaria. That’s what my Brighter Brains Institute has done.
But my main disappointment with Transhumanist Party USA is this:
3) Although it has “Transhumanist” in the title, and this suggests it represents thousands of USA transhumanists, there is no mechanism set up in TP to gauge what the majority of transhumanists want, to accurately represent them. Zoltan appears to act alone as the spokesperson for all transhumanists, thus defining whatever he wishes as the goals. Sometimes he says, “The TP decided this” but this “TP” he speaks of is… who? I don’t know. Perhaps just Zoltan, plus maybe his wife, who is not a transhumanist. She replaced me as Secretary of the TP. The future of transhumanist political policy is being outlined by this… “kitchen cabinet”?
The lack of transparency and decision-sharing in the Transhumanist Party is deplorably non-democratic.
I define myself as a “Democratic Transhumanist.” I want a future with social and economic equality, and a political system that guarantees this. I work with IEET because it espouses Democratic Transhumanist values; James Hughes, IEET Executive Director, coined the term in 2002.
I am very opposed to the centralization of power that the Transhumanist Party presently exhibits.
To be fair to Zoltan, he did inform me in the beginning that he wanted to make the decisions. I should have taken this seriously; naively, I did not. I didn’t know he was going to be most non-inclusive person I have ever worked with.
My decision to quit came two days ago when I read a Vox Magazine article stating that:
“Zoltan… plans to, at an opportune point, drop out of the race and endorse Hillary Clinton.”
That was the last straw. Because:
1) It is non-professional and disrespectful for an Officer of an NPO to find out what his organization’s future goals are, via an online news article. That’s like getting divorced via text message.
2) I don’t like the idea. Endorsing Hillary Clinton is something I don’t personally do, and I don’t want to be associated with an organization that does this.
3. It’s possible that Zoltan has largely confiscated the “brand” of transhumanism. He is, in the viewpoint of national and international media, a premier spokesperson for “transhumanism” due to his Presidential bid. This wouldn’t be terrible if he had a humble, inclusive, how-can-I-listen-and-serve-the-entire-community attitude, but he doesn’t. He makes decisions, like this future endorsement of Ms. Clinton, either unilaterally, or with an advisor or advisors that he doesn’t reveal to the rest of us.
Governmental Transparency is important to me; Zoltan’s campaign doesn’t have this. He only seems to “open up” if the media’s microphones are in front of him.
I have been, like most everyone else who meets him, fond of Zoltan. He is likable and charming and sincere – he genuinely wants to end aging and death, and he works harder towards this goal than anyone else I know. He deserves commendation for this.
But… he’s not a team player.
Perhaps he thinks he can achieve his objectives by simply generating massive media attention, and attracting unquestioning “followers.” ? I don’t know.
I suspect many transhumanists think “Radical Life Extension” is the only value, and if Zoltan wants to work hard to achieve that, they’re willing to give him their voice, their support, their power, without any questions. If that’s how you feel, let me outline where you’re headed with that –
Eternal Life, without Political Power, leads to Eternal Powerlessness.
That’s not what you want. It isn’t even sensible because – without Power, you are simply expendable. No reason to keep you around.
Transhumanists need to simultaneously advance the twin quests of 1) radical life extension for everyone, and 2) equal political power for everyone. The first cannot happen without the second.
Handing over your transhumanist political voice to Zoltan isn’t wise, or required. The Transhumanist Party UK has full and commendable transparency, and a very democratic process. It is so transparent, the President’s emails to me on this topic were automatically shared with all other TP UK officers.
I have suggested to Zoltan that he reform the USA Transhumanist Party, to guarantee that as many transhumanists as possible are participating and co-leading the movement. I think he should:
1. Reveal who is making the decisions of the USA Transhumanist Party, and why those people are the decision-makers. Policy meeting decisions should be posted online, and signed by those present. Future meeting dates should be visible to the public, with a list of who will be attending.
2. Open up the USA Transhumanist Party to opinions, feedback, and suggestions from the entire transhumanist community, via surveys, questionaires, Facebook platforms. Zoltan is a master at explaining how technology can guide and improve our future; he can utilize this knowledge to transform the USA Transhumanist Party into a commendably democratic and transparent organizations.
3.Zoltan’s remark to Vox that he wants to quit campaigning and endorse Hillary needs to be reconsidered. Zoltan is representing decades of development of our “ism” – this decision impacts our reputation. My advice is to not endorse anyone. [FYI – I’m a “Feel the Bern” guy] If the Transhumanist Party endorses anyone, it will please some, but it will alienate many others. Libertarian transhumanists, socialist transhumanists, anarcho-transhumanists etc., their voice is disregarded if Hillary is endorsed. Let’s keep a big tent open to everyone.
Will Zoltan listen?
If he does not, there is no reason to believe that a “Zoltan Administration” would be democratic, open, or transparent …
On September 20, RU Sirius told me, via email, about the Open Source Party, a topic he wrote about for hplusmagazine.com back in 2011.
Its principles include Transparency, Openness, and Community – three items that Zoltan needs to incorporate in his campaign.
For more information, read RU’s latest IEET article, an update of his 2011 essay, here.
Image #1: Logo of Transhumanist Party UK