Zoltan Istvan does not speak for the Transhumanist Party

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.

http://transhumanistpartyglobal.org
http://transhumanistparty.org.uk

Zoltan Istvan does not speak for the Transhumanist Party

[Press] CORBYN HAS GOOD IDEAS, BUT THE NATION CAN DO BETTER

TRANSHUMANIST PARTY PRESS RELEASE

Transhumanist Party press releases can be found here:
https://transhumanistparty.wordpress.com/tag/pressrelease/

CORBYN HAS GOOD IDEAS, BUT THE NATION CAN DO BETTER

Labour is changing with the times, but we need a true vision for the future

We welcome the return of the Labour party to its ideological roots, which will hopefully introduce real choice between the major parties for the first time in decades. However, it remains to be seen if this new leadership can truly move politics into the 21st Century. We applaud Mr Corbyn’s stance on environmental issues; notably climate change, carbon neutrality, and a clean nationalised energy supply. Furthermore, we support the view that the National Health Service (NHS) should remain publicly funded. However we oppose the offer of support for homeopathy, for which there is no scientific basis or evidence of efficacy.

Moving forward, it remains to be seen if Labour, even under new leadership, can make a positive impact in the areas of democratic reform (transparency and proportional representation), technological unemployment, accelerating technological change, and funding for necessary scientific research which fuels true growth. The Transhumanist Party calls for cross-party dialogue to explore and address these issues, and so inform evidence based policy and ensure that accelerating technological progress brings positive social change, to balance the inequalities currently seen across our society.

Party leader Amon Twyman says, “It is refreshing to see the re-emergence of true political choice in Britain, but Nineteenth Century notions of social justice are not well matched to the realities of the Twenty First Century. The Labour Party can demonstrate its commitment to properly engage those realities by inviting cross-party discussions of new issues in democratic reform, education and employment. The Transhumanist Party is ready to contribute to that debate.”

[Press] CORBYN HAS GOOD IDEAS, BUT THE NATION CAN DO BETTER

The official Transhumanist Party blog

This is the official blog of the Transhumanist Party (a registered political party in the UK) and Transhumanist Party Global, maintained by Dr. M. Amon Twyman, Leader of the UK Party and founder of TP Global.

Posts in this blog fall into five categories. You can browse posts in each category by clicking the title links below, or clicking the menu button at the top-right of your browser window.

1. Transhumanist Party (Category: UK)

This category consists of posts about Party news, events, and other announcements from the UK. You can find links to a variety of Transhumanist Party resources at http://transhumanistparty.org.uk.

2. Press Release (Category: Press Release)

This category is for official press releases from the Transhumanist Party in the UK.

3. Transhumanist Party Global (Category: TPG)

In addition to Party news from the UK, this blog offers news from affiliated organisations around the world, acting together as one movement under the umbrella of Transhumanist Party (Global). Posts in this category have the label [TPG] in their titles.

4. Guest-written posts (Category: guest)

You can use this category to search for insights from guest writers affiliated with the Transhumanist Party worldwide.

5. Social Futurism & the Zero State (Category: ISF/ZS)

The Transhumanist Party is connected to a growing web of like-minded organisations, which can be broadly characterised as “Social Futurist” or “Techno-Progressive” in nature. Some of those organisations were predecessors of the Transhumanist Party, while others are its current partners. All of them have the opportunity to tell us about their viewpoints, plans and achievements in this category.

This category is also a place where you can read posts from the Institute for Social Futurism, which is a think tank associated with the Transhumanist Party, exploring the relationship between social justice concerns and the radical transformative potential of modern technology. Posts in this category have the label [ISF] in their titles.

The official Transhumanist Party blog

AGM procedure: Get involved, have your say!

Following the public Anticipating 2040 event on October 3rd, the Transhumanist Party will be holding its first Party Day on Sunday October 4th, which will include presentations, discussion, and the formalities of our first Annual General Meeting. We will be posting a registration page for the Party Day shortly.

It is our intention to use each Party Day as a stepping stone to the next, making the event better each year and using it as a vehicle to develop the party. Certain aspects of the AGM are determined by the requirements of our Party Constitution, meaning that there are certain rules which we must follow. Within those broad constraints, however, we intend to keep things as simple and flexible as possible, for the time being at least. To that end, here are a few brief details about how voting in the AGM will work:

1. TPUK members only, & importance of the members’ email list

Although guests and journalists are welcome at the Party Day, the event is primarily for TPUK party members, and only full party members are eligible to participate in voting. Most of the logistics of voting and other AGM issues, and any announcements, will be handled via the email list which all members are invited to when they join the party. If you are not a member but would like to join in time to have some say in policy and other matters this year, you can do so here.

2. Voting cards, and voting online / in absentia

In order to differentiate between voting and non-voting attendees at AGM, party members will be given voting cards where they can record their response for all votes tabled for the day (and hand the card back by the day’s end, to be counted). Unfortunately we cannot ensure a high degree of (or perhaps any) online access to the event this year, so the use of voting cards allows non-attending party members to vote aswell. This will be done via the members’ mailing list, with all party members having the option of filling in a virtual voting card, online.

3. Before voting cards: Proposing policy, representatives, and other motions

AGM voting will cover a number of issues. Primarily, it will tell us which initial policies are to be put forward for official endorsement by the party. It will also involve voting for members’ representatives on the National Executive Committee and any other motions proposed by party members and approved by the NEC, such as possible amendments to the party constitution.

Obviously it will take time to discuss and consider such issues, and even if we were foolish enough to think that people could digest all the relevant information and vote on the same day, that would still leave those not attending out in the cold. Additionally, it will clearly take time for party members and supporters to work up policy ideas and any other proposals for submission. The key dates defining this process are given below.

4. Important dates and deadlines

We are now at the end of July, with the Party Day a little over two months away. The deadline for all proposals (including policy proposals, potential Party Officers and members’ representative candidate names, and anything else) is Monday August 31st. Virtual voting cards will be issued via the members’ email list on Sunday September 27th. Voting will be open from that point, until the close of Party Day proceedings one week later, on Sunday October 4th.

Further details will be posted in the members’ email list and in other TPUK forums over the coming weeks. If you have any questions or feel that you may have missed something important, the best place to raise a question is in the Transhumanist Party members’ email list. If you’re really stuck and don’t know how to find the list or join the party, then please don’t hesitate to email contact@transhumanistparty.org.uk!

AGM procedure: Get involved, have your say!

Holacracy and the Transhumanist Party

EDIT: The post below raised some questions, and apparently some minor misunderstandings which I would like to briefly address. If you haven’t read the post below already, I would recommend doing so before reading the note which follows at its end.

Holacracy and the Transhumanist Party

The Transhumanist Party represents a new branch of the Transhumanist movement, and as such is now taking the first steps in a long journey. Here at the beginning, we have the opportunity to consider how our movement will be organised, and what kind of character we want it to develop. We have a lot to think about, and work toward.

One such issue confronting us is whether to operate according to traditional managerial models (often characterised as hierarchical, sometimes accurately), or something more decentralised and agile such as Holacracy. Holacracy (see here and here for descriptions) is a recently popular form of Holarchy, which is to say a non-hierarchical, recursive organisational model structurally reminiscent of a hologram or fractal.

What does that mean in plain English?

Simply, that we must ask ourselves whether the Transhumanist Party should have traditional “bosses”, or a more experimental and communal style of decision making.

The best answer to that question isn’t obvious. On the one hand, clear leadership, vision, and lines of responsibility are important – and that’s without even considering that certain traditional things like Party Officers are required by law in countries like the UK. On the other hand however, we do need to be flexible, resilient, innovative, and to strongly encourage grassroots initiative within the party. We can’t have a leaderless free-for-all, both as a matter of pragmatism and law, but we also cannot have micromanaging “party chiefs”, or everybody sitting back and waiting for permission or instructions. As is so often the way of things, we must find a way to strike an intelligent and practical balance.

How do we balance leadership and flexibility?

Here in the UK, the Transhumanist Party has settled on a solution. Basically, the party as a whole runs according to a constitution with features required by UK law and the necessities of clear leadership, but each of its six administrative departments operates as a semi-autonomous, Holacratic organisation.

The first thing to note is that the party is required by law to have a traditional party constitution and Party Officers responsible for certain key functions, and we have found the development of that structure to be very useful. The constitution both makes it clear how we will fulfill our legal and financial obligations, and additionally draws the line within which activity may be legitimately considered to be on behalf of the Transhumanist Party. We have taken care to develop a constitution which balances a few simple core principles which define the party, a National Executive Committee to handle administrative matters (more on that in a moment), and a voting membership to develop party policy. This gives us a party that is well prepared against any disruption or “mission drift”, but which at the same time puts many traditional leadership decisions in the hands of its regular members rather than a small group or single leader.

As innovative as this is, it still falls within the broad category of “traditional” management models. The constitution does, however, divide the party into six departments, each led by one of the Party Officers. That division of the workload is partly pragmatic, and partly required by law. Those Party Officers (along with elected members’ representatives and additional non-voting advisors) collectively form the National Executive Committee (NEC). The key thing to note here is that the six departments are effectively semi-autonomous organisations falling under the umbrella of the Transhumanist Party, each of which is required by the party constitution to maintain its own core operating document, and that’s where the possibility of Holacracy arises. That’s because Holacratic organisations avoid relying on a vague, hierarchical sense of authority, replacing it with a constitution which makes their operating procedures clear.

The six departments, and “circles”

The six departments are as follows: (1) Party Secretary’s office, (2) Treasury, (3) IT dept, (4) PR & Campaigns, (5) Fundraising, (6) Nominations & Liaison. At the moment these are just very small volunteer groups – single people in some cases – but we intend to make this framework the basis of all party activity as it grows and develops. Right from the outset we have been keen to encourage a high degree of grassroots initiative (“just do it!”), but are aware that all initiatives must eventually be the responsibility of one department or another, otherwise the party would be wide open to disruption by those acting in our name but who do not share our goals or values, or have our best interests at heart.

The answer seems to be that each department operates as a Holacratic organisation, with its own constitution making it clear how that organisation operates. In a Holacratic organisation the emphasis is not on leaders issuing instructions, but rather on small, overlapping teams of volunteers (called “circles”) which have their members’ roles, goals, and responsibilities clearly defined. This means that volunteers know what is expected of them, but they don’t have to wait for permission or instructions to do anything. Instead they should simply get on with creatively exploring their role, secure in the knowledge that no boss will intervene unless they have broken the explicit, written rules of the circle.

The closest thing each circle has to a boss is a “lead link”, which is one person tasked with ensuring a good flow of information and potential collaboration between the team and other circles, both within and between departments (not to mention other organisations outside the party). The lead link is the person within each circle who is primarily responsible for ensuring that the circle as a whole is acting in accord with the departmental constitution, just as each member of the circle is expected to operate in line with the written terms of their role.

A long journey ahead

From now on, the Transhumanist Party will act as a Holacratic organisation in this fashion. Each department will maintain a public constitution which presents its operating rules, recognised circles, and the volunteer roles self-determined by those circles. People will be able to see what’s going on by reading each department’s constitution, and contact circles directly to get involved. Those six public documents aren’t ready yet, but as soon as they are links will be posted here and on the Transhumanist Party website.

It is our hope that by doing things this way, we will be able to maintain a strong, coherent vision and goals, and yet still have a party built out of agile, innovative networks of teams ready to face the challenges of the 21st Century.

Keep watching this blog for updates, to find out how our journey progresses!

EDIT: A note on criticisms

I’ve heard the suggestion that the organisational model proposed in this post is “pseudo-Holacratic” (which may or may not be a bad thing depending upon your view of Holacracy), and that it implies a lack of trust in volunteers. I do not believe that such criticism reveals any true problem, for the following reasons:

1. Legal realities

The simple fact is that political parties must operate within the legal framework of the countries that host them. In the UK, this means that certain functions are mandated, and the resultant core structure must to some extent be centralised and hierarchical. For this reason, no legally recognised UK political party can be run as a single, entirely Holacratic organisation of the most ideal type.

In my personal opinion that’s actually a good thing, but my reasoning on that count is another topic for another day. Suffice to say that my personal preference is to balance competing extremes in most situations, rather than aim for solutions that embrace one principle so utterly that they completely reject other, equally important principles.

2. True Holacracy and True Scotsmen

There does appear to be some temptation for people to imagine that Holacracy is entirely non-Hierarchical, particularly in some hypothetical “pure” form. This is simply not true, since even the most avidly Holacratic enterprises invariably exist to work toward pre-existing high-level goals. Thus the a priori goal has effectively been set in a centralised manner, and it is only implementation of such goals that gets ‘farmed out’ to Holacratic circles within the organisation. Therefore, even the most “pure” form of Holacracy is effectively a kind of hybrid system rather than being entirely “flat” or “headless”.

3. Loose decentralization, not dogma

It must be stressed that TPUK will not be operating according to the dogma of any external organisation, so each of the party’s departments will only be “Holacratic” in the strictest sense to the extent that they choose to be, independently. More generally, the party encourages a kind of loose decentralization in which certain high-level goals are identified in accord with the Party Constitution, but then the various departments (and the groups within them) work toward those goals as they see fit. I have chosen to characterise this loose arrangement as ‘Holacratic’, and any disagreement anyone may have with that is their business.

4. Trust and political practicalities

Finally, the idea of having a Party Constitution and structure which does not offer total trust to new volunteers by default has been criticised as suggesting a state of intrinsic mistrust. It has been suggested that special mechanisms could be introduced to gauge levels of trust in certain volunteers, supporters or party members before entrusting them with the ability to change certain things within the organisation.

On the face of it that sounds reasonable, but there are at least three issues to address, here. The first is that, ironically, the introduction of trust measurement only exaggerates the mistrust which some might imagine to currently exist. Secondly, it is another sad but simple political reality that activists cannot all be trusted immediately, because some of them may be hostile entryists or simply incompetent. Thirdly, we have enough safeguard against problematic behaviour within the Party Constitution itself, so any additional mechanisms are entirely up to the various departments and circles to decide upon as they see fit. In short, if something is allowed by the Constitution then people are welcome and trusted to do it. If people cannot act in accord with the Party Constitution, however, then they are simply not welcome within the party.

5. Summary

The bottom line is that we have practical realities to deal with, and the model proposed above is the most effective balance of traditional pragmatism and an idealistic “grass-roots” approach to organisation. As mentioned in the post proper, other Transhumanist Parties may not choose to follow the TPUK example, and that is entirely their business. The advantages and disadvantages of the approach we are taking should become clear soon enough.

Holacracy and the Transhumanist Party

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?

What is the Transhumanist Party?

The Transhumanist Party is a worldwide movement of groups working to establish political parties based on the idea of Transhumanism; that the human condition can and should be improved using technology.

Transhumanism as a whole is an intellectual and cultural movement, and the Transhumanist Party exists to extend that movement into the political arena, promoting the idea of positive social change through technology.

For more information about this blog, please see the introduction post.

What is the Transhumanist Party?