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

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