Transhumanism is a philosophy of lofty aspirations and universally applicable substance. Yet, when articulated at its usual level of abstraction, it is often misunderstood, especially if commonplace cultural connotations, myths, and fears from popular fiction inject nefarious undertones into what ought to be seen straightforwardly as a salutary overcoming of (deleterious) human limitations and a dramatic expansion of our potential through the application of science, technology, and rationality. Some accuse transhumanists of being a cabal of Illuminati who somehow secretly run the world. (How is this even possible, I wonder?) Others believe that transhumanists seek to turn humankind into the Borg from Star Trek or to create a dystopia where only a handful of rich Silicon Valley entrepreneurs will live forever at everyone else’s expense. Of course, no transhumanist actually even remotely resembles these stereotypes – and while it would have been quite helpful to have a few more Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as allies, the reality remains that the vast majority of transhumanists, including leaders of the movement, are people of ordinary means and relatively ordinary life situations. Transhumanists as people have much more in common with those who are unaware of, or hold misconceptions regarding, transhumanism than the latter persons think!
So what, then, sets transhumanists apart? Although we are generally people of ordinary means and circumstances, we are also people of extraordinary vision, and we see the world around us as in the midst of technological transformation which not only will have, but is already having, paradigm-shifting effects on everyday life. We are not beholden to status quo bias; we recognize that the present is a transitional state, and that life has not always been like this, nor will it always remain the way it is now.
Until recently, few efforts have been made to illustrate this observation concretely. But dedicated small associations of transhumanists are emerging to show the world what a transhuman present looks like. Through the projects they put into practice, the general public might get a glimpse of a transhuman existence, and in what directions it may head during the coming years and decades.
The Transhuman House and Foundation Library
If today’s technological capabilities were fully integrated into a residence, or even a room inside a residence, what would this look like? The Transhuman House, established in 2017, aims to answer this question. Version 1.0 of the Transhuman House opened to the public in Provo, Utah, in June 2017, even including an option for guests to rent a room via AirBnB. (See images from a 3D tour of Version 1.0 here.) The Transhuman House contains a showcase of emerging technologies, such as Nest, Alexa, and the Microsoft HoloLens. While observing and interacting with these examples of today’s devices – which either are already available or soon will become available for consumer adoption – visitors have the opportunity to read and study works from the Foundation Library – a wide-ranging collection of philosophical, scientific, technological, and fictional works exploring the ideas of transhumanism as well as visions of potential futures and specific pathways toward bringing those futures into being. In November 2017 the Transhuman House expanded into Version 2.0, moving into a larger (3-bedroom) building and adding touch screens and a giant touch-operable wall panel with which visitors can interact to learn about ongoing projects by transhumanist entrepreneurs and activists. Might most residences ten years in the future look somewhat like the Transhuman House? Now that there is a concrete illustration of what is possible even today, visitors have the opportunity to ponder the question of its wider applicability. The creators of the Transhuman House have given us a glimpse into what everyday life might look like with the emerging “transhuman” technologies more fully integrated into it. Some of these technologies are already available to consumers – so if you would like to create your own partial version of a “Transhuman House”, you may have the opportunity to begin setting up some of the components today.
Zero State – The Alternate Reality Game
The Zero State is a Social Futurist Community – described as “an organization formed in 2011 to work toward the establishment of a pro-technology, Transhumanist, distributed, virtual State. ZS’ motto is ‘Positive Social Change Through Technology’.” As one of the Zero State’s co-founders, Dirk Bruere, explains, the primary meaning of the name “Zero State” is “the lowest energy state of a system, the place to which everything returns when the energy runs out.” The Zero State has had several incarnations, the latest of which is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), whose fictional premise is that the participants are representatives of twelve technologically advanced Houses, which have become the dominant influences in a post-dystopian late 21st century – a new era subsequent to the turmoil that (in this fictional timeline) would characterize the proximate future. The real-world application of the game involves members of the twelve Zero State Houses undertaking projects today which would enable the more salutary aspects of that distant future to take shape. Through the approach of gamification and interesting storylines woven into concrete projects, it is hoped that this format will motivate more people who are interested in the promise of emerging technologies and their societal impacts to take specific actions to realize the kind of world we would wish to see.
The U.S. Transhumanist Party, of which I am the Chairman, recently initiated a collaboration with the Zero State under the auspices of House Rhadamanth. I anticipate that the gamification format will be particularly useful in achieving projects where large numbers of distributed, volunteer participants are required for success. There is a strong potential for synergies between the Zero State and the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Transhuman Present project, announced below.
The Transhuman Present Project
The U.S. Transhumanist Party represents a broad spectrum of members from throughout the world, who consider themselves transhumanists and who have expressed alignment with our three Core Ideals:
- Ideal 1. The Transhumanist Party supports significant life extension achieved through the progress of science and technology.
- Ideal 2. The Transhumanist Party supports a cultural, societal, and political atmosphere informed and animated by reason, science, and secular values.
- Ideal 3. The Transhumanist Party supports efforts to use science, technology, and rational discourse to reduce and eliminate various existential risks to the human species.
The Transhuman Present project is our next step for reaching out to our members and others who consider themselves transhumanists and inviting them to show us what transhumanism means for them in their own lives. Participation is easy and available in a variety of formats. Here is how to get involved:
1. Create a post on any social medium with the hashtags #TranshumanPresent and/or #IAmTranshuman. To render us aware of the post, you can either link it to the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page, or e-mail Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II at gennadystolyarovii [at] gmail [dot] com with your submission. Make sure that we are able to download or otherwise access the content of the post.
2. The post should contain some manner of specific illustration – for instance, a photo, video, drawing, diagram, audio file, or other interactive medium – showing how your life, environment, or aspirations can already be recognized as “transhuman” in terms of incorporating emerging technologies to expand your potential and the potential of those around you. The post may also include artistic elements that express your vision and aspirations for the future – as long as these elements are your original work or specific to your setting. (In other words, we would like to see how individual transhumanists have made their own lives more transhuman – not just reposts of images highlighting the work of famous individuals like Aubrey de Grey, Ray Kurzweil, or Elon Musk.)
3. The goal of the project is to collect many contributions from a diverse range of transhumanists and to illustrate to the public that the ideals we hold are accessible, capable of integration with ordinary life, and of practical relevance to living in today’s technological era. You are encouraged to use the tools of social media to promote your post and the hashtags #TranshumanPresent and #IAmTranshuman. Consider creative ways of spreading these messages (for instance, integrating the hashtags into videos or taking a photograph of yourself holding a poster beginning with “#IAmTranshuman because…”) The best submissions will focus on answering questions such as the following:
- a. How are you using technology in ways that greatly broaden your potential compared to what was possible in even the proximate past?
- b. How does your life look differently now as a result of emerging technologies? In what directions is your life being recognizably transformed?
- c. What previously insurmountable barriers has technology enabled you to overcome?
- d. What achievements can you show the world, which were possible due to the role that technology has played in your life?
Contributions to the project are open to the general public, and one does not need to be a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party in order to contribute. However, the U.S. Transhumanist Party reserves the right to curate any submissions and to assemble videos, collages, or other media using the content therein. Furthermore, by making a submission, the content creator grants the U.S. Transhumanist Party and any of its Officers a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive right to use and distribute the content at their discretion, without any further requirement of additional permissions or express or implied compensation.
Because the U.S. Transhumanist Party is an all-volunteer, non-monetary organization, the contributions to the Transhuman Present project will not receive monetary compensation, but they are likely to receive public exposure and may benefit the contributor through increased recognition and inspiration for others to adopt the contributor’s ideas and values toward the realization of a better future.
Contributions to the Transhuman Present project are open until July 1, 2018, at which time the U.S. Transhumanist Party will compile the results into videos, collages, and potentially other media that will show the world the range of transhumanist endeavors and improvements to living standards that are possible today. While we are a young political party, and the road toward winning elections is a long one, we can profoundly influence public opinion much sooner by providing a reputable and appealing vision of what is possible if our principles are put into practice.
Gennady Stolyarov II, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF, is the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. Find out more about Mr. Stolyarov here.
* hero image used from adobe stock