The birth of Political Transhumanism

A footnote in History: The first explicitly Transhumanist candidate

Political Transhumanism is beginning to coalesce, and will become a force to reckon with as accelerating technologies increasingly transform society, and people seek a new paradigm to handle the wave of disruptive change.

In the past we have seen Transhumanists standing in elections, espousing futurist ideas in general (such as Natasha Vita-More and Gabriel Rothblatt), even one or two elected politicians with Transhumanist views (e.g. Giuseppe Vatinno), and of course the first person to develop and promote the Transhumanist Party idea – US Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan. Last night we saw the latest development of this trend: The first electoral candidate to face an election on an explicitly Transhumanist platform. That person is Dr Alexander Karran.

Alexander stood as an independent, albeit one with the support of the nascent Transhumanist Party in the UK. His final vote count was 56, coming second last in the constituency, which sounds underwhelming until you stop to think about what we were actually trying to achieve here, and how we went about it. We were never so much as attempting to run a serious electoral race here, and even went so far as to deliberately support a candidate in a safe seat. Instead, we wanted to make a symbolic statement of intent on behalf of a party which only began to exist in the early months of this year, and make some regular people aware of Transhumanist ideas for the positive transformation of society. Also, it was a chance for us to learn something about electoral rules and processes, which we’d had no experience of whatsoever.

Frankly, the very fact that 56 people would vote for someone and something they’d never heard of, with no warning or sense of familiarity, out of simple support for our vision of a Techno-Progressive future is very encouraging indeed. Now, initial statement made (and all of our very modest goals achieved), we can begin the real work of building the party and developing serious, long-term strategy.

The bigger picture: New paradigms wanted!

Stepping back to look at the bigger political picture in Britain, we see a nation-wide thirst for change, and a rejection of old-fashioned political platitudes. People don’t trust politicians anymore, and they want new ideas (take a look at this post from TPUK member, Humanity+ board member and Transpolitica founder David Wood on the kinds of ideas we might offer). The short version is that there’ll be a Conservative government (although whether majority or minority remains to be seen as I write), support for the likeliest “third parties” (the Liberal Democrats and UK Independence Party) disintegrated, the Scottish National Party secured a remarkable 8% of the vote, and that was at the expense of the Labour Party, who will probably have sacked their leader by the end of today.

This is a remarkable result, which among other things has sadly more than decimated much (subtle, implicit, and potential) Transhumanist support in the form of Liberal Democrat MPs such as Julian Huppert. That is a shame, but the bigger picture is that people have made it clear that they want serious change and cannot stomach broken political promises. This underlines the need for the Transhumanist Party to not develop into just another traditional political party, but instead point out a different way forward for society, in which 19th Century models of governance are phased out in favour of direct technical solutions to society’s problems, where possible.

It may be controversial to say so, but I think that with a full Conservative government and a recession that isn’t going anywhere (despite all the obfuscatory talk of “green shoots recovery”) there will be plenty of societal problems for people to think about solving in the coming years. It is our duty to meet those problems head-on, with a radically new and different way of thinking. For further thoughts of mine on the birth of Political Transhumanism and future strategies for the Transhumanist Party, please take a look at this chapter from the recent “Anticipating 2025” Transpolitica book.

What next for the Transhumanist Party?

Globally, the Transhumanist Party movement is just getting started, and the various organisations constituting it are all looking for active and enthusiastic members, so please do check out the TP (Global) website and follow the links there if you’re interested.

In the UK, now that the party’s registration is in the government’s hands and the election is behind us, we are embarking on Phase 2: Our “hard launch” event and first Annual General Meeting, in late summer (date TBC). We need members and supporters, volunteers and donors, so we can build a network of teams putting together something truly special. You can watch this blog for developments as they unfold, or you can go one better and become a party member now, no matter where you live in the world! (Please note that by joining the UK Transhumanist Party you do not automatically gain membership of any other party or group within the movement).

In order to celebrate the launch of this new phase, an anonymous supporter has pledged to match the next £200 received in donations, so please consider making a donation today, to help us get this ball rolling!

Transhumanism needs a voice in the political arena, in order to defend our vision of the future. You can help make that happen.

The birth of Political Transhumanism

What is Transhumanist Party policy?

Tune in: Dr Alexander Karran – independent Transhumanist candidate for the seat of Liverpool Walton in next week’s election – will be answering questions via a Google Hangout this Sunday evening, May 3rd, 7pm UK time.

Now that Dr Alexander Karran’s electoral leaflets have been posted out to residents in Liverpool Walton, he has naturally been fielding questions about Transhumanist policies. People want to know what the Transhumanist position is on every conceivable issue.

Alexander is standing as an independent electoral candidate (albeit one with the support of the Transhumanist Party), and so has been careful to draw a distinction between his own views and those integral to Transhumanism, but this does naturally lead us to think about future Transhumanist Party policy. About what we should or shouldn’t (must and cannot) have policies about, and what exactly our policies should be.

We already know that Transhumanist Party policy will naturally differ from nation to nation, thanks to differences in law and sentiment on the one hand, and different ways of doing things in the different Party organisations on the other. As if that didn’t make predicting policy tricky enough, we should note that the Transhumanist Party in the UK (at least, so far) has made a point of inverting the traditional political model and saying that its policies will be determined by all members, rather than just the leadership.

In other words, as long as certain basic principles (enshrined in the Party Constitution) are adhered to, then policy will be determined by those with the gumption to join the Party and get involved! The flip-side to this, of course, is that non-members have no say whatsoever in Party policy. We are not going to be held back by “armchair critics”.

Other Transhumanist Parties may choose to not follow the same model in future, but it has been established that citizens of any nation may join the UK party if they want, and so anyone who agrees with our principles can help develop our policies. Those policies are voted on at our Annual General Meetings, the first of which will double as a launch event (both online and in London) and is being planned for summer 2015. Generally speaking we want to encourage members to take the initiative by working up policy proposals themselves, volunteering to do the many things that clearly need to be done, and the AGM is a chance for everyone to come together and synchronise their efforts. To see that we are not just active individuals but a movement, together.

So, Alexander Karran has suggested a way forward for Transhumanism in Liverpool, and you can have a say in Transhumanist Party policy in the UK and around the world. You just have to join the Party, meet other members, and look for ways that we can work together to move things forward.

Tune in: Dr Alexander Karran – independent Transhumanist candidate for the seat of Liverpool Walton in next week’s election – will be answering questions via a Google Hangout this Sunday evening, May 3rd, 7pm UK time.

What is Transhumanist Party policy?

The Transhumanist Candidate

The following is a post written by Dr Alexander Karran, who is standing as an independent electoral candidate in the UK constituency of Liverpool Walton. For more information about Dr Karran’s campaign, which is being supported by the emerging Transhumanist Party, please see this earlier post and watch this blog for developments.

The Transhumanist Candidate

Voters are more open to transhumanism than you might think

My name is Alexander Karran and I am an independent Transhumanist candidate for the constituency of Liverpool-Walton (UK) fully supported by the Transhumanist Party UK (full disclosure, yes they paid my registration fee and campaign leaflet printing). Issues beyond Party control necessitated that the Party must run an independent Transhumanist candidate if we wanted to make any impact in the current election. After some internal debate, I was voted in as the best candidate out of the choices available, which after much searching of that which may be termed the “soul” I accepted.

I could use many expletives here to convey the sense of absolute terror associated with a task of this magnitude (personally), but suffice to say the charge of becoming an independent candidate standing for Transhumanist goals and philosophy has been one of struggle and education. I would like to share some of things I have learned about the practicalities and the insights I gained from talking to the people within the constituency.

Practical lessons  

Documentation

  • Do official paper work early, and if you think it’s too early it is really not
  • Check paper work not once, not twice, but thrice (and then check it again before you hand it in)
  • When reading the UK electoral committee documents be sure to face magnetic north and if you believe in gods have at least one pantheon in your corner. Ok, I jest but the electoral documents created to aid a candidate in standing for an election require a certain amount of patience and must be read stepwise, any speed reading or skimming will result in a mistake that can set back a campaign significantly
  • Leaflets are probably best as A4, 1 fold to allow for more “glitz and glamour” i.e. “in the community” photo ops, standing by road sides with the name of the constituency etc. (this seems a really popular approach even though it is a really cheap shot).
  • Have a PR and Campaigns manager, it is very hard to keep track of what is going on externally to a particular campaign and opportunities for engagement can be missed

Leaflet / Poster

  • One cannot simply put up a political poster anywhere, if it is in a city centre then you need council permission, locally shop windows etc. are acceptable
  • Leaflets simple design, simple message, as few words as possible to get the point across, depending on your tastes, inflammatory defamations aimed at other political parties seem the norm, but is rather déclassé in my opinion so I avoided it
  • To use the “free” Royal Mail election distribution service, if you are an independent (even if supported by a party, like in my case) you must avoid any advertising, that includes any mention of websites .com,.org etc. You can have open endorsements but they must be specific to the individual, if you stand for a party then you must have party branding and you can include the party website
  • Check the Royal Mail candidate documentation, not once, not twice but …… (I hope you see the recurring pattern here)
  • Line up a printing service before sending any leaflet to the Royal Mail artwork verification service, you need to ask the printing service if they will allow you to place their full address on the front of your leaflet, furthermore you should ask the print service if they can label the boxes appropriately (said label is in the Royal Mail document) and package it to the Royal Mail stringent packaging requirements (it will be refused and then binned if it doesn’t), not a problem if you are doing it at home, but again time will be a factor.
  • Have your leaflet ready at least 5 weeks in advance of the closing for candidate nominations, do this to stop the absolute and terrible panic that accrues from running out of time, the Royal Mail Artwork checking service (where you send your leaflet for vetting) takes 48 hours to process an email, and if they request changes this then takes a further 48 hours and if further changes are required …… after this is complete you get a verification code, and you can send your leaflet to a printing house
  • Learn how to read a catch 22 situation and deal with it effectively, the Royal Mail prefers to give out delivery time slots for the collection of leaflets at the distribution office (DO) (the label mentioned above must include the DO on every box or it will be refused), they also prefer the leaflets to be delivered by a service and not an individual, which is strange because they also require form EL1 to be associated with the delivery notice which you can’t fill out until the royal mail gives you a delivery slot, which you can’t know until you know when it is going to be delivered…..  So your choices: pay through the nose for a guaranteed delivery service that gives exact time slots and send your EL1 to them via special delivery or just get it sent straight to your home / business (see above “get a campaign manager”) and go against preference and take it personally where you can guarantee a time slot.

A final note on leaflets: do not under any circumstances deviate from the vetted design in any way, even the smallest change will result in it being returned or binned, they have the vetting code and a copy of your artwork and will further vet it to check its authenticity.

Media

If you get an opportunity to talk about what you are doing and the party message, take it, no questions asked. Try to have a conceptual framework that you will work within when you talk and try not to deviate from it, journalists will always ask leading questions in order to get that juicy sensationalist sound bite, and this could then play against you at some future time. With that said however, go full bore, give concise answers yes but if you have leeway enjoy the moment and talk around the subject. I’m told any publicity is good publicity by trusted sources, I remain sceptical on the issue.

Personal Lessons on a Journey Not Yet Over

So not only did I have to canvass for signatures to support my nomination as an independent Transhumanist candidate from my local constituency but I also needed to speak to the people on general principles (this after all is supposed to be the basis of politics). I was very nervous about this part, not that I have a problem opening lines of communication with people just that, after talks with other Transhumanists and the general feel from the Facebook population there is a belief that “the general population” just doesn’t get Transhumanism and as far as saying the words goes, in this they are right but they are also dead wrong. I will explain my reasons for such a statement, the internet Transhumanist community likes to pontificate upon how “out there” Transhumanism is, when in fact only the more esoteric arms can be seen in those terms (i.e. cryopreservationists, singularitarians). However, I would argue what could be more natural than our technology? it IS an extension of our humanity in and of itself, needing no label and no real philosophical debate. We are a tool-using species, the very basis for our big brains is tool use and communication.

So the reason for my nervousness? What does Transhumanism and Transhumanist philosophy mean to non-Transhumanists? Well having talked to around 250 people in my local constituency, I found that in essence it means nothing! and this is a good thing. The time is now to start pressing ahead with the Transhumanist message, to move as part of a “movement”… The Transhumanist movement has thus far failed to externalise its philosophy in such a way as to appeal to a greater audience of “non-Transhumanists”, if indeed such a thing can be said to exist. As with all things, agreement appears to be a matter of degree and not philosophical difference, after all technology is one of the pillars western civilisation is built on. So when I explain to the so called average person (who is anything but average) that I stand for the core principle that “technology can and should be used to overcome human limitation in all its forms”, specifically to manage and shepherd the accelerating changes happening in the world around us (and relating this principle to personal issues such as accelerating technological unemployment, poor education and health care), Transhumanist thought suddenly became relatable.

To tease apart what I mean by relatable in this context, not a single individual made any link to transsexualism or other negative connotations, all were open to having the terminology explained and when it was explained that I advocated the use of technology to overcome problems and enrich their lives and the lives of their children the Transhumanist message was well received.

You will note the word “transcend” is missing from the above principle (which was part of the original central unifying meme proposed by Amon Twyman and discussed at great length) was replaced by “overcome”, in my opinion transcendence be it technological, spiritual or other, and arguably the end goal of the Transhumanist ideal, is sadly hard to conceptualise and relate to. However, to “overcome” is almost instantly relatable, in our day to day lives each of us aims to overcome many obstacles, no less so for the hard-working electorate of Britain who face many challenges from an ailing NHS, heavy taxation, a system of governance seemingly interested only gaining financial and societal status through the selling off of public services, to more personal issues such as affordable housing, access to education, finding employment and subsistence.

Now I am aware that this may appear to “water” down the full gamut of Transhumanist philosophy and goals, thus rendering the message somewhat unrecognisable to the extreme polar advocates of the movement. However, I believe, and the Transhumanist Party in the UK believes that this central unifying principle provides a valid middle ground which we as Transhumanists can get behind, and moving forward can provide the bedrock for well-reasoned evidence based policy in a whole host of areas.

This approach also has a fringe benefit as, at the moment the mass media are in complete control of how transhumanism is perceived by the general public, if we as advocates of transhumanism in the UK (and indeed worldwide) push this unifying principle and relate it to real world issues, then that is the message that the mass media receives and when sensationalist headlines, replete with killer bots, head transplants, pictures of the terminator are created in our name we in an attempt to demonise the movement, we can point to them and validly claim misrepresentation.

In the UK there appears to be a large nascent population that want political change and they don’t appear to care where that change comes from, providing their issues are addressed openly and transparently. So let’s make it happen!

The Transhumanist Candidate