EDIT: Please note that the first paragraph below has been expanded slightly, to make it perfectly clear who the author is, and in what official capacity this letter has been written.
My name is Amon Twyman. This is an open letter to the entire Transhumanist community, written in my capacity as Party Leader of the Transhumanist Party (a registered political party in the UK), coordinator of the Transhumanist Party Global umbrella organisation, and founder of multiple associated groups. It is important to note that in the UK the Transhumanist Party is an officially registered and fully constituted political party, which operates in accord with a clear set of internal rules which are consistent with UK law. Our membership count has grown rapidly, in the few months since the party’s inception. The following statement is primarily made in my capacity as the leader of that party, reflecting both my official responsibilities to that party, and the due processes of that party.
I feel that it is now necessary to address an unfortunate apparent schism within the Transhumanist movement, and show the way forward toward a positive, constructive, intelligent solution to the problem. In other words, a solution which captures the intended spirit of Transhumanist thinking. In short, I feel that I must address the question of Zoltan Istvan. His role in relation to the Transhumanist Party, and in relation to the movement as a whole, and the mixed reactions to some of his more notable recent actions. It is not my intention to support or condemn any individual, but instead to offer perspective which will help us all move forward as a unified movement.
The Transhumanist Party is a rapidly growing, worldwide movement of organisations, some of which explicitly use that name (or some version of it) while others do not. It is effectively a network that represents the primary manifestation of Political Transhumanism, which is in turn an important current within the broader Transhumanist Movement.
The strength of the Party is the same as the strength of the wider Movement of which it is a part: Cooperation, and a sense of unity which paradoxically arises from an acceptance of diversity and pluralism. In other words, the Transhumanist Party – worldwide – is thriving because we understand that our members do not all have to believe exactly the same things in order to be on the same team and achieve common goals. The same goes for Transhumanism as a whole. The Party is just one aspect of Transhumanism, and Transhumanism as a whole thrives when we understand it to have many facets, all reflecting and supportive of each other.
I think this is important to understand, and sometimes visual metaphors can cement understanding, so you may wish to think on it this way:
Imagine a large room or chamber, effectively hidden (for now) from the eyes of the wider world. That chamber constitutes our entire movement, every aspect of Transhumanism as it currently exists. The chamber is filled with candles, each representing an aspect of the movement, a person or group or idea. There are small and large candles, candles standing alone and others in clusters, some larger than others. When they are all allowed and encouraged to shine together, their collective light might stand a chance of being seen from outside, and the world may come to see. We should not wish to extinguish any of the candles, or to imagine that the light of any single candle can ever shine brightly enough on the world to bring the changes we want to see. If we do not all shine together, we might as well not be shining at all.
Recently we have heard a lot of disgruntled mumblings about schism, and disunity within the movement. Most of this is just idle internet noise, but real issues and differences have flared up. Once such issue has involved unilateral statements made by Zoltan Istvan, ostensibly on behalf of the Transhumanist Party. People have increasingly been asking what right Istvan has to make such proclamations, and some worry that he is bringing the movement as a whole into disrepute, despite being a particularly bright-shining “candle” himself. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly sum up the situation, once only and as a matter of record.
Zoltan has a spectacular drive, sense of personal ambition, and ability to connect with mainstream media. We as a movement could all learn well from him, and intend to do so. But while his efforts gives him a unique opportunity to “brand” Transhumanism for a wider audience as he personally sees fit, he does not have any moral authority to do so. His implicit claim to moral authority comes from his claim to be founder of the Transhumanist Party, but the fact is that he is no such thing. He created and popularised the idea, to be sure, but he deliberately chose not to build a real party. He has explicitly rejected all real party-building, due process, and even democracy itself. There is a real party in the UK, and serious party organisations developing in Europe (supported by TP Global), and even a real party beginning to form in the U.S. – but Zoltan is not even a member of that U.S. Party. The simple fact is that he has his own small media group, which does what he needs to do to run a media campaign, and that’s it. Therefore, Zoltan has no mandate to speak on behalf of any other Transhumanists in terms of policy or anything else. His opinions are his own.
Now, I do not mean to imply that’s a bad thing. It’s a spectacular thing, and more of us should be doing it. But it does not make Zoltan anything more than a particularly effective advocate for the Party – one whose service the Party will always be grateful for. His personal organisation is a fraction of the size of the larger groups he inspired, but which are not under his personal control. His personal focus is on longevity, which is a great hook in media terms, but longevity technologies are only one aspect of real Transhumanist Party policy being developed… and which is not being developed autocratically by a single person, but in collaboration with multiple established Transhumanist think tanks, and in accord with rigorous, democratic due process.
Last but not least, unfortunately Zoltan has created the need for a statement like this, by starkly announcing that the Transhumanist Party believes various things which are violently incongruent with the beliefs of many bona fide Transhumanists. That would be OK if these things were true policy established by some valid process, but they simply are not. This unfortunate rupture has forced those of us working to build real Transhumanist Parties around the world to assert a positive, cooperative message, which we now extend to all Transhumanists and like-minded people:
We want to work as a fully cooperative part of the broader Transhumanist Movement, and will soon be working to extend our media and activist reach far beyond the traditional confines of that movement. We accept all the diverse branches of the movement as valid (or at least potentially so), and vigorously welcome healthy difference of opinion. That difference enriches us, rather than divides. We are already in full support of and in friendly relations with all the major Transhumanist organisations, and so would ask that everyone understand that there is no schism. There is just one Transhumanism, in its multi-faceted, argumentative, free-thinking glory. The Transhumanist Party is not defined by the views of even its most energetic advocates, but by due process (which you can shape by getting involved, whoever you may be), and its guiding mission is to support and carry forward the Transhumanism which already existed before the Party did. In other words, to support you.
You – all those people who we help and who choose to help us – are our mandate. Our due process ensures that it is a valid, and fair one. Zoltan Istvan’s views do not define the Party, and so there is no schism. There is just potential, whether you are politically-inclined or not. I feel that this is a message which every Transhumanist should intuitively understand and support.
Actions speak louder than words. Support an official, due-process driven Transhumanist Party organisation or indeed any active Transhumanist organisation of note, and we are on the same team. We want, and will achieve, the same things. Together.