RSA Basic Income: What’s in it for People with Disabilities?

By Gareth John

The Transhumanist Party UK recently welcomed a report by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) with regard the argument for a Universal Basic Income in the UK.

First things first: I myself firmly support the principle of Basic Income and the RSA publication.

However, I am concerned that little mention has been made of how this would work for people with disabilities that preclude them from working.

Potato balancing

There are many references in the report to support for Carers and ‘care’ that I’ve taken the liberty to list here:

  • A Basic Income would help people care for their relatives, friends and neighbours without having to account for their actions to the state.
  • Basic Income allows people to more easily take time off, reduce their hours, or take short career breaks to care for an elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable person.
  • It mitigates or eliminates losses that particular groups might experience.
  • Carers currently receive financial support but it is a very bureaucratic system. These allowances are means-tested and rules bound (e.g. you have to care for at least 35 hours per week in order to receive it). For this reason, the benefit is under-claimed by almost £1bn per annum. Basic Income allows people to more easily take time off, reduce their hours, or take short career breaks to care for an elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable person. These needs will increase over coming decades so greater flexibility will be necessary. Basic Income is very helpful in this regard.
  • It also allows parents, carers, and learners to have a basic level of security to pursue their lives without interference.
  • Expressed in the terms of Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory, the UK’s current needs-based system contains elements of care, reciprocal altruism, loyalty (to expressed community virtue), authority and sanctity.

The report does mention disability; however, aside from exempting it from the current proposals, it makes no reference as to how/what the implementation of Basic Income would mean for people with disabilities who are unable to work.Disabilities

Would things remain as they are? How would that reconcile itself with the broader proposals outlined here?

For reference, I’ve included the mentions made in the RSA report specifically about disability here:

  • Our proposal is based on the Citizen’s Income Trust 2012–13 scheme with some important fiscal adaptations. Housing and disability are not included in the model as a consequence.
  • From removing benefits, tax reliefs and allowances (excluding those relating to disability and housing), the Citizen’s Income Trust estimates total savings of £272bn.
  • As with the Citizen’s Income Trust47 proposal, the RSA Basic Income model outlined above excludes any reform of housing or council tax benefits (and, for the record, disability payments).

My concern is that ‘excluding’ disability payments from Basic Income will make for a more bureaucratic system rather than lessen it.

The current disability benefits in the UK include Incapacity Benefit (being phased out), Employment & Support Allowance which includes a contribution-based benefit, an income-based benefit, a work-related activity group where people with disabilities who ‘may’ be capable of work are mentored (some would say coerced) to ease the transition back into work together with the support group where the disability is regarded as so severe as to mean that this person is not fit for work and is unlikely to be for the foreseeable future. I myself am currently in this group. The report removes those of us with disabilities from the general conversation by glossing over what would happen to us and how we could benefit from the Basic Income.

This is further exacerbated by the somewhat conservative tone underlying the RSA report that again diminishes the role of people with disabilities in society:

  • This explains a recent increase in interest in the ‘contributory-principle’. In common parlance, this means that as you put more in you should get more out.
  • The demand is not for ‘more for more’ as contributory systems offer. It is for ‘less for less’ — a lower income for less contribution.

If things for people with disabilities are to remain as they are, Basic Income will do little to impact on our lives – even the incentives for Carers to have more flexibility for their caring duties makes little difference for those in need of constant care – and thus the RSA proposal does little to remove the social stigma and coercive nature of the current system.

Far from removing sanctions against those with disabilities, things will stay just as they are, in which case I fail to see how the following comment by the RSA re: Basic Income is any more progressive than where we’re at now:

  • These sanctions have led to demoralisation, deleterious mental health impacts, indebtedness, poverty, learners being removed from vocational courses close to their completion and an expansion of food banks. What began as an exercise in reciprocal altruism – where benefits apply only to those who ‘contribute’ – has become inhumane.

I realise that the report is excluding ‘disability and housing’ in order to put forward the basic tenets of Basic Income without overly-complicating things at this stage. However, as a person with a long-term severe mental health disability which has led to me losing my job and in all likelihood remaining unemployed for the foreseeable future, I have to admit that the report does make me feel marginalised rather than empowered.

Just to be clear – I do support Basic Income and believe it is the best way forward morally and with regard to the massive social changes emerging technologies will bring to the marketplace.

I just wish the RSA had had more to say about how Basic Income will affect people with disabilities rather than excluding them from the proposal, even at this early stage. Things as they are now for people like me also need to change. We’re just not being told how.

Any comments/opinions welcomed.

Gareth JohnAbout the author

Gareth John is a technoprogressive transhumanist fascinated by how people perceive, interpret, respond, and interact in an increasingly media rich world. His interests include ethics and emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, personality types in cyberspace, biotechnology, cognitive science, cultural posthumanism in the humanities and arts. He lives with bipolar disorder. 

2016: the year UBI can enter the political mainstream

2016 is the year that the concept of Universal Basic Income can enter the political mainstream.


Universal Basic Income (UBI) is an important streamlining and simplification of the existing benefits payment systems. But it’s a great deal more than that:

  • It’s a response to the forthcoming era of material abundance and technological unemployment
  • It’s a fundamental change in attitude
  • It states that support for the basic aspects of human life will be provided to all citizens by the overall community free of conditionality
  • It celebrates and enables numerous kinds of creativity and contribution, including throughout the voluntary sector, without requiring that recipients pursue paid employment in order to receive the UBI
  • It removes the disincentives in present welfare systems that discourage people from augmenting their community payments with incremental paid employment
  • It removes the “big brother is watching you” surveillance that treats all recipients of community payments as being suspect of cheating or shirking.

(Picture credit: the underlying photo is by Unsplash contributor Joshua Earle.)

A growing conversation

Transformational ideas such as UBI take time to mature – sometimes a long time. But 2015 saw plenty of evidence of progress in the public discussion about UBI.

In 2016, this momentum is set to grow:

  • Local trials of UBI worldwide are being arranged and progress will be reviewed
  • Key open questions are rising to the fore – questions that Transpolitica will be helping to highlight and suggest answers.

At the end of 2015, Transpolitica consultants worked with members of the Transhumanist Party (UK) to prepare a press release about UBI. An extended version of that press release can be read below. The press release was prompted by the publication in London by the RSA of a comprehensive report released on the subject of UBI.

Further reading

Transhumanist Party (UK) press release – main content

(Published version is here)

Transhumanist Party welcomes RSA support for a Universal Basic Income

Changing technological circumstances accelerate the need for changed social framework

The Transhumanist Party today welcomed the publication of the RSA’s report “Creative citizen, creative state: the principled and pragmatic case for a Universal Basic Income”.

The RSA (the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), which was founded in London in 1754, has the stated mission “to enrich society through ideas and action”. The RSA report into UBI (Universal Basic Income) follows one year of research into the topic, and makes specific proposals for how UBI might be implemented in the UK.

The idea of UBI aligns well with the Transhumanist Party principle of “Personal freedom, social justice”:

All citizens shall have a right to sustenance, clothing, shelter, energy, healthcare, transport, education, and access to information resources. The Party also advocates that all citizens must be able to contribute to society, in their own fashion, without blemish to their dignity or sense of self worth.

According to Transhumanist Party research and analysis, accelerating technological unemployment has the potential – within the next decade – to magnify social inequality, disruption and alienation. People who trained hard for new career opportunities may discover that their employment prospects have been overtaken by increasingly sophisticated robots, AIs, software, or other automation.

Dr Amon Twyman, Party Leader, commented:

A new social contract is needed, involving strong educational and economic support for those who are left with no viable option of ‘earning a living’ due to rapid technological change. A UBI would provide an important part of this new social contract. The RSA’s advocacy of a UBI will help the task of the Transhumanist Party to bring about new political thinking in the UK that champions individual and social creativity.

The Party looks forward to accelerating public discussion of UBI:

  • Designing and supporting local trials of UBI schemes
  • Sharing insight and understanding with groups worldwide who are investigating UBI
  • Building broad support, across the traditional political spectrum, for UBI
  • Mandating that, where possible, overseas foreign aid should be made available to local citizens via direct UBI schemes rather than by government manipulation.

Press release – Supplementary analysis

The following comments provide further analysis, as replies to frequently asked questions.

Q1: Will a UBI remove people’s motivation to contribute positively to society?

Different writers express different intuitions on this question. This is an example where the Transhumanist Party principle of evidence-based policy should be applied, to adjudicate between these different opinions.

The RSA report makes the following points here:

There is evidence from Basic Income pilots in the less-developed world that it spurs entrepreneurship. In developed world pilots, it has been shown to enhance wellbeing through better education and health and these are important foundations for greater creativity. This remains a hypothesis but with enough evidence to warrant further testing.

That is why we advocate a Basic Income pilot on the lines proposed in Netherlands, Finland and Canada. This would involve a whole city or city-region adopting a Basic Income to analyse its impacts over a reasonable period of, say, five years.

If the results were positive then it could be rolled out before the five years is up.

Q2: How can the UK afford all the payments comprising a UBI?

In the medium timescales (several decades), the abundance of goods created by powerful new automation and exponential technology will be more than enough to meet the basic aspirations of every citizen. However, there remains the question of how to transition from the present economic situation to that future sustainable abundance.

The system proposed by the RSA for shorter timescales is essentially tax-neutral: the amount of taxes already collected by the government, redistributed, will basically cover the costs of all proposed payouts. This is because the initial UBI is set at minimal levels, such as £71 per week per adult. Because the scheme is tax-neutral, it is more politically tractable.

As a result of UBI, more people will in due course find work that is personally pleasing and satisfying to them, without having to rush to accept the first available employment. In turn, due to increased work satisfaction, the productivity of the entire economy should rise (in both the voluntary and the paid sectors), allowing society to afford higher rates of UBI payment.

In parallel, there is scope to explore alternative ideas to distribute as “citizens’ dividends” the overall wealth of the nation – wealth derived from national assets such as 5G wireless spectrum auctions, land usage, greenhouse gas emission, and so on. These ideas are explored in books such as “With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough” by Peter Barnes, and “The Public Wealth of Nations: How Management of Public Assets Can Boost or Bust Economic Growth” by  Dag Detter and Stefan Fölster. The combination of citizens’ dividends and the initial UBI can be expected to grow in total over time, eventually resulting in a UAI (Universal Abundant Income) rather than a UBI (Universal Basic Income).

Is the Transhumanist-Technoprogressive Distinction Meaningful in Political Debate?

In this article, guest contributor Gareth John argues that the “Transhumanist Party” might fare better under the alternative name “Technoprogressive Party”.

Throwing two-pennerth into the ring

I usually start my articles with some sort of self-deprecating disclaimer as to my lack of scientific or technological credentials. Well here’s another to add to the list: I’m no politician.

Indeed I have as much understanding of political discourse as I do about quantum mechanics, which seems to have something to do with incorrect usage of my electrical toothbrush coupled with the disappearance of one of my socks and the sudden appearance of a cat means I might very well inadvertently create a black hole in my bathroom. That is, not much at all.

Nonetheless I am a paid-up member of the Transhumanist Party UK (TPUK) and proud to be so. I was a little late to the party (pun intended) so missed much of the initial decision making process and policy enumerations, logo adoption etc. I’ll admit I remain somewhat on the fence as to whether the time is right or productive to introduce the radical ideas and aims of transhumanism to the general public, but I am fully committed to to do what I can to help further the cause.

Let’s be clear from the outset: I have no desire (nor luckily the clout) to stir up schism or division that detracts from TPUK’s stated goals, but I have spent some time considering my own political stance along with my technoprogressive ideals and would like to throw my two-pennerth into the ring as to my thoughts with regard to TPUK’s political presentation.

Supporting the three broad policy statements

First off, I should commend the Party’s introduction to transhumanist principles via the upfront pitch they make on the Party website homepage. The three broad policy statement demonstrate a perspective fully in line with my own viewpoint as to what are the most critically important points to advocate.

For those who haven’t looked at the party website ( the three policies listed are:

  1. Evidence, Science and Technology.
  2. Bright Green.
  3. Personal Freedom, Social Justice.

A video on the party website from the British Institute of Posthuman Studies adds a nice touch, although does to an extent exacerbate the issue I have with with the Party’s debut, namely that of the terminology used to frame the debate. (Transhuman? Posthuman?…)

In particular, I am most concerned with the demarcation of the terms ‘transhumanism’ and ‘technoprogressivism’ and whether that should matter to those of us moving forward in the sphere of political discourse and indeed, that of the ordinary voter.

A choice of name, a choice of direction


Let me nail my colours to the mast. I identify myself as a technoprogressive. I try to use the term as much possible when writing about ‘transhuman’ issues (already the problem is apparent). I wish that IEET Director James Hughes’ attempt at popularising the term ‘technoprogressive’ had been more successful.

For me the marriage between scientific and emerging technologies together with strong ethical and social principles is critical. I want a just distribution of the costs, risks and, most importantly, benefits of this new knowledge and capacities such that they do not remain the province of the rich and dangerous alone.

From Wikipedia:

‘… for most techno-progressive critics and advocates, the achievement of better democracy, greater fairness, less violence, and a wider rights culture are all desirable, but inadequate in themselves to confront the quandaries of of contemporary technological societies unless and until they are accompanied by progress in science and technology to support and implement these aims.’

Hear, hear, say I. I am a strong supporter of progress in science and technology. And it’s apparent that precisely these self-same values are shared by TPUK given the aforementioned introduction on their website.

To be clear, I’m not writing this to debate the similarities and differences between those who choose to identify as transhumanist or technoprogressive or both or neither. That would be fruitless; within both camps there are many and varied ideologies and political leanings that are either in agreement with each other or not. My argument is that it does appear that TPUK sits very much at the technoprogressive end of the spectrum and it’s here that I’d like to set forth my stall, so to speak, in that I believe terminology matters.

Accordingly, I’m not entirely convinced that TPUK as a political party has chosen the right name for itself.

I believe there is a core difference between the terms transhumanism and technoprogressive that makes a huge difference to how people view each. The latter seems to me to describe something that is concrete: the embrace of emerging technologies together with social justice and opportunity. I’m not sure this is the case with the former, which owns to a far greater and broader range of aims and ideals and – crucially – politically so.

As a simple example, James Hughes and Zoltan Istvan are both transhumanists, but I’d bet my bottom dollar you’d only describe one of them as technoprogressive in his political stance.

Beyond preaching to the converted

All of this would be academic were it not for the fact that TPUK is a radical political party that needs to spread the word in ways that ordinary people can understand. We’re not simply going to preach to the converted and spend our time debating among ourselves and other technologically-minded individuals or those with the ready cash to consider life extension etc as soon as it’s up and running.

The problem for me is that being a transhumanist can mean many things across very broad political spectrums.

While there’s an argument to be made for diversity being a positive thing, canvassing voters is made that much more difficult when there appears to be no central core to the view we’re espousing. Is the transhumanist libertarian, liberal, small ‘c’ conservative, green, socialist, anarchist? What is it about transhumanism that appeals to them in particular and what will they prioritise as a consequence when out on the street?

I suppose you could make an argument that the same applies to a technoprogressive, but I think it’s that much more difficult to sustain this view in light of the fact that this person has already to a far greater extent identified their political aims and ideals by mere fact of identifying as a technoprogressive. As it states on the homepage of TPUK, ‘Anyone who agrees with [the Transhumanist Party Principles] and who is legally eligible to join a UK political party can do so.’ It’s clear and up-front where you stand on the major issues right from the get-go.

The need for a central political premise

It’s going to be a hard sell however you look at it, but I think it’s going to be much more difficult as ‘transhumanists’ where, when questioned about it would almost have to start with the details and work backwards. By this I mean take what’s important to them and rationalise it to fit their current agenda. A broad range of views across the political spectrum is healthy – difference of opinion and debate yes – but a political party without a central political premise is not so much a political party as it is a group of utterly diverse political opinions glued together only by their vision of the future (and even these will vary widely).

So, given the three founding principles of TPUK appear to lead one to inexorably define them as ‘technoprogressive’ in their ideals, why not define it as such? Technoprogressive Party UK sounds so much more inviting, let alone clear, to my ears than the current monicker.

A straw poll

A quick straw poll among friends and acquaintances resulted in them grasping the technoprogressive angle much more quickly and easier than transhumanism.

Transhumanism seems almost to frighten people with visions of being ‘beyond human’ – the uninitiated seemed to envision little more than lab coats, Skynet and grainy images of eugenic experimentation. The alternative, however, was far more easily understood and seemed less scary – it led to discussion whereas the former was more likely to lead to dismissal. It particularly appealed to left-of-centre participants in my little study and flashed up huge warning lights to those further to the right and also some Greens (who admittedly have their own reservations about emerging tech for specific reasons of their own).

Now this was by no means an Ipsos MORI poll as I don’t have many friends or acquaintances, but all but one said that the term technoprogressivism expressed its viewpoint clearly from the outset whereas transhumanism required a little explanation which quickly led to sci-fi scenarios and glazed eyes. Incidentally, many of them thought the TPUK logo was a little scary too, a point on which I have to agree.

th party logo

In conclusion, I’m not suggesting that things should change. Lines have already been drawn in the sand and our attention should now focus on being the best that we can be in order that the Party can be the best that it can be: best at advocating positive social change through emerging technologies. To improve ourselves and societies using the most effective tools available to us – to go beyond what we have been in order to overcome the world’s most pressing problems and create a better future.

You know… kind of like what a technoprogressive would do.

Gareth JohnAbout the author

Gareth John is a technoprogressive transhumanist fascinated by how people perceive, interpret, respond, and interact in an increasingly media rich world. His interests include ethics and emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, personality types in cyberspace, biotechnology, cognitive science, cultural posthumanism in the humanities and arts. He lives with bipolar disorder. 

Zoltan Istvan’s “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”: A Libertarian Philosophical Basis for “Transhumanist” Politics

A viable approach towards a sustainable political agenda?

By Roland Benedikter, Katja Siepmann, and Annabella McIntosh


Image source: Raúl Soria via Roland Benedikter


The current foundation phase of “Transhumanist” politics deserves a critical discussion of the philosophical principles that implicitly underlie its new political organization. As part of the effort towards a self-critical evaluation of political transhumanism, which is undoubtedly still in a very early phase of development, this chapter discusses the philosophy drafted by the founder of the “Transhumanist Party of the USA”, Zoltan Istvan, in his bestselling novel “The Transhumanist Wager” (2013) dedicated to develop the vision of a better society. Istvan called the philosophy underlying his meta-national, if not global, vision “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”.

We discuss the achievements, contradictions and dialectics of and within this philosophy; its possible relation to realistic social policy programs; as well as the potential implications and consequences. The goal is to achieve a more considered overall discourse at the contested new ideological interface between humanism and transhumanism which could define an influential zeitgeist of our time.

Introduction: The Framework

In recent years the importance of technology in daily life has been growing steadily. This trend is reflected by the rise of technology and its applications to ever more crucial factors within the economy, the health care sector, the military and political rhetoric. Among the systemic factors that are shaping globalization from a medium- and long-term perspective, technology has indeed become probably the most influential factor – to the point that critics speak of a “universalization” of technology in our time that is replacing the former lead roles of politics and economics.

Indeed, the computer and internet have revolutionized society since the 1990’s; genetics, bio- and neurotechnology have modified aspects of our image of the human being.[i] Furthermore, new technologies and its derivatives have also profoundly changed the ways we look at the desirable future. To a certain extent, technology has not only changed the traditional – including ideological – utopias, but has itself become the most important utopia, if not the embodiment of a utopian ideal as such. Technology as ideology is in the process of displacing most other ideological approaches both from the left and the right. This displacement has become possible given that technology -as objective process- can claim to be a new “neutral” ground between traditional political factions and their mostly “binary” inclinations that shaped the 19th and 20th centuries.[ii]

I: The “Transhumanist” Movement And Its “Proto-Political” Character

As a consequence, a technology-inspired “transhumanist movement”[iii] has begun to arise out of (as at yet mostly Western) civil societies to start to influence opinion-makers and governments, and is increasingly imitated in its basic ideas by non-democratic governments in Asia and elsewhere. The main “transhumanist” goal as far as it has been elaborated, is not only to further modernize civilization, but to overcome the existing human condition, which it regards as in principle still unsatisfactory, given its dependency on factors outside human influence.[iv]

The literal meaning of “transhumanism” is, as the term suggests, to “go beyond the existing human being”[v] through as free and open as possible application of technology to all sectors of human activity. But – more important – the meaning of “transhumanism” is also about merging technology with human biology, in order to extend human lifespan dramatically and, if possible, to eventually defeat death.

Zoltan Istvan, one of the most publicly present and well-known advocates of transhumanism, stated clearly but controversially:

What are transhumanists to do in a world where science and technology are quickly improving and will almost certainly overcome human mortality in the next 30 years? Will there be a great civil rights debate and clash around the world? Or will the deathist culture change, adapt, or even subside?

First, let’s look at some hard facts. Most deaths in the world are caused by aging and disease. Approximately 150,000 people die every day around the world, causing devastating loss to loved ones and communities. Of course, it should not be overlooked that death also brings massive disruption to family finances and national economies.

On the medical front, the good news is that gerontologists and other researchers have made major gains recently in the fields of life extension, anti-aging research, and longevity science. In 2010, some of the first studies of stopping and reversing aging in mice took place. They were partially successful and proved that 21st Century science and medicine had the goods to overcome most types of deaths from aging. Eventually, we’ll also wipe out most diseases. Through modern medicine, the 20th Century saw a massive decrease of deaths from polio, measles, and typhoid, amongst others.

On the heels of some of these longevity and medical triumphs, a number of major commercial ventures have appeared recently, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the field of anti-aging and longevity research. Google’s Calico, Human Longevity LLC, and Insilico Medicine are just some of them.

Google Ventures’ President Bill Maris, who helps direct investments into health and science companies, recently made headlines by telling Bloomberg, “If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes.”[vi]

As a consequence, Istvan outlines the resulting political and social attempts of transhumanists to make the most out of this new potential by starting a broad public debate, including dialogue with the traditionalist and religious stripes of the population:

Recently, a number of transhumanists, including myself who is an atheist, have attempted to work more closely with governmental, religious, and social groups that have for centuries endorsed the deathist culture. Transhumanists are trying to get those groups to realize we are not necessarily wanting to live forever. Transhumanists simply want the choice and creation over our own earthly demise, and we don’t want to leave it to cancer, or an automobile accident, or aging, or fate.

To change the deathist culture in America and abroad, it’s important for people to understand that lengthening lives and having the ability to overcome human mortality is not something that has to be seen as clashing with religion. I’ve often told Christian friends, for example, that living longer could be seen as a way for religious missionaries to spread their message further – to save more people if that’s how they want to view it.

Longer lifespans and more control over our biological selves will only make the world a better place, with more permanent institutions, more time with our loved ones, and more stable economies.

In the end, transhumanism is not really trying to overcome deathist culture, but get it to understand that transhuman culture can also stand functionally next to it, helping the aims of everyone involved. Together, we can find the middle ground, and give everyone the choice to follow whatever path they want when it concerns dying or not dying in the 21st Century.[vii]

II: Another Transhumanist goal: Cognitive expansion

Another “transhumanist” goal is to expand and enhance human perception and cognitive potentials through the systematic application and broadest possible employment of neurotechnology, Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI’s) and Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMI’s). These technologies can provide direct interfaces between the human brain, the spinal cord and various technological devices through implants (and other interface technology), and such technologies have already reached a noticeable level of maturity and applicability.[viii]

Given their positive, if sometimes flamboyant basic drive, “transhumanists” are gaining relevance in several sectors of society. This is particularly the case with regard to those sectors of innovation which are involved in discussions about the possibility – and desirability – of future scenarios for mankind under “super-technological” conditions. These sectors include the debates about a rising “global imaginary”[ix]; about what humans should become both body- and consciousness-wise[x]; and about the ethics of technology application both in the broad vision and with regard to more specific anthropological implications and consequences in particular.[xi]

The most important point to consider here is that all these topics are in essence “contextual political” dimensions and thus “proto-political” in themselves by definition. In other words: Although mainly about imaginations as interconnected with technological advances, transhumanist ideas about what the human being may (and should) become, bear (willingly or unwillingly) remarkable political and social implications. These implications are presently implicit both in the topics addressed and in their specific interpretation by transhumanist ideology, including the respective public narratives. The politics inherent in transhumanism await being clarified, sooner or later, by public debate and analysis in explicit ways. This analysis needs to rise above the critique of the (unavoidable?) ethical limits of both traditional politics and transhumanism[xii], to highlight the socio-political potentials of technology in a globalized, accelerating, transdisciplinary and “fluid” social, cultural and institutional framework.

III: 2014: The Transformation of Transhumanism From “Worldview Movement” To Applicable Political Force

The constellation of ideologies and activities that comprises the transhumanist movement reached a somewhat new phase in 2014, with the outreach of transhumanist ideology from civil society to politics. Although there have existed since the 1980s several very well organized transhumanist and, more broadly speaking, “human enhancement” associations and groups able to attract synergies and sympathies both on national and international levels, and although there have been many well-known philanthropists providing funding over that time, 2014 brought something new, at least from a formal viewpoint. The year saw the more or less simultaneous founding of transhumanist political parties in several countries, including the U.S. and the UK, as well as an ongoing process in Germany and Austria towards such initiatives, several of them loosely interconnected within the more general project of a “Transhumanist Party Global”[xiii]. In the first half of 2015, all these new parties were preparing for general and presidential elections such as those of May 2015 in the UK[xiv] and those of 2016 in the USA, with the goal of gaining impact on big-picture policy decisions. All of them were directly or indirectly (i.e. through the hoped-for influence upon other, more important political parties and actors) aspiring to political power in order to maximize the impact of what is, compared to the past, a radical technological agenda for Western societies.

Most important, the publicly well-known author, columnist, adventurer and transhumanist Zoltan Istvan (born 1973)[xv], who might be viewed by now as a leading libertarian political figure of the transhumanist movement, in November 2014 founded the “Transhumanist Party of the United States of America”[xvi] with the goal to run for U.S. presidency in 2016[xvii]. Istvan elaborated – as one of his main ideological bases – the philosophy of “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”[xviii], a fictional transhumanist system of ideas developed in his best-selling book “The Transhumanist Wager” (2013)[xix].

This philosophy, although not the only one within the still very pluriform and diverse transhumanist movement, is partly challenged by prominent leftist and progressive transhumanists. However, it does appear to be the first clear condensation of existing transhumanist ideology that is, to a certain extent (as will be discussed), likely to drive the transhumanist movement’s political engagement. Because technology is declared in essence as “neutral” within transhumanism, the current Transhumanist Party claims to have a structure and agenda beyond the traditional dialectics between left and right. However, the same “classical” dichotomy between left and right, as exists in other parties, seems to characterize its present state and constellation. This can be seen with “progressivists” (or “collectivists”) in the U.S. sympathizing with a more “leftist” UK faction (which is not least a product of the traditionally rather “leftist” UK healthcare system), and with the “Technoprogressive Declaration”[xx] propagated as an alternative to the libertarian approaches of Istvan and his followers within the overall transhumanist movement. As detailed and sharp-minded as the “progressivists” contributions are, though, the libertarian “Transhumanist Wager” still remains the defining work of the transhumanists’ political and social agenda in the view of large parts of the broader public, because of Istvan’s outstanding public outreach.[xxi]

Therefore, at the start of an inquiry into the ideological bases of transhumanist politics, the question must be posed to what extent “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”, or TEF, might be able to impact the future of transhumanism as a movement, and if and how it might become influential for politics in the broader sense beyond the inner transhumanist debate. Although there might be restricted implementation potentials for TEF in applied day-to-day politics, there will be most likely many mutual influences between TEF and the “Transhumanist Party of the USA”’s practical political aims.

IV: Pillars of Transhumanism

In order to analyze “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism” and its political potentials, it is first necessary to take a closer view of transhumanism, as that forms the departing basis of TEF, and may therefore indicate how TEF fits into the greater array of posthuman and transhuman philosophies of the present.

The philosopher Max More (a telling pseudonym, as transhumanism is clearly about “maximizing and more” in every sense!) often addresses issues of transhumanism in his speeches and papers. He explains the basic transhumanist philosophical approach through its key theoretical and practical elements. According to More, transhumanism is a mindset which strives to overcome the physical and psychological barriers of being human, by rationally using technology and science to their fullest and without inhibition. The most significant aims of transhumanism are a distinctive extension of life, improved intelligence and the “optimization” of the human body. To ensure that this mindset and its aims will be supported by current society, the transhumanist movement claims to be based in both its ideology and its aspirations on rationality, including partly the tradition of rationalism.[xxii]

Nick Bostrom, professor of philosophy and director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford[xxiii] and of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology[xxiv], includes in his definition of transhumanism “The study of the ramifications, promises and potential dangers of the use of science, technology, creativity, and other means to overcome fundamental human limitations.”[xxv]

In such a framework, most transhumanists (in the first instance independent of their political inclination) explicitly promote a fundamental “enhancing transformation” of humans, in particular of human bodies and human consciousness. This position can be clarified in three parts, firstly by transhumanists being part of a long historical tradition consisting in the perpetual strivings of humans to overcome their boundaries, which therefore can be understood as a primordial human instinct, without which for example the history of medical advances would not have been possible, achieved as it was through a centuries-long battle against theology.[xxvi] Secondly, transhumanists claim that postmodern high-tech times (since the 1990s) make it possible to extend further beyond previous human options than ever before, and to take the endeavor of human emancipation against bodily and natural restrictions to a new level.[xxvii] Thirdly, transhumanists regard it as human destiny and determination to take an active role in human-technology development, including the development of the human body which was subject to nature until only recently, but which can now in their view and to a formerly unthinkable extent be “transferred” to human responsibility.[xxviii]

V: “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”, or: The Philosophy of Becoming an “Omnipotender”

On these bases, the book “The Transhumanist Wager” by Zoltan Istvan (2013) introduces a transhumanist philosophy called “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”, which is developed by the fictional protagonist and transhumanist Jethro Knights (another potentially telling name, since according to their mainstream discourse patterns, a number of transhumanists seem to conceive themselves as “knights” in the present “battle” for a better future against those unwilling, or incapable of recognizing the new technological opportunities – including a well-pondered self-irony hinting to “Star Wars”). Jethro Knights begins to evolve the TEF philosophy after a near-death experience, which brings him to the conviction that his aim in life must be to conquer death, and this core tenet also applies to all transhumanists worldwide.[xxix] While developing TEF, the key terms “omnipotender” and “transhumanist wager” are introduced at an early stage in the novel and then explained throughout the book’s story. According to the story, being the “omnipotender” means to become “the elite transhuman champion [and] the ideal and zenith of life extension and human enhancement populace.”[xxx]

Further, Jethro Knights as an individual is characterized as uncompromising, striving for the most possible power and improvement. Thus, he will overcome biological limitations and find a lasting form of life, and in the end immortality.[xxxi] The protagonist describes the significance of his transformation of consciousness, from humanistic individual to radically egocentric, as “advancing my memories, my value system, my emotions, my creativity, my reasoning”[xxxii], and therefore as an entire “enhancement of consciousness”. In this view, to transform an individual’s consciousness does not only mean to question one’s experiences, knowledge and culture, but in doing so to think and act as “reasonably” as possible. However, the exact meaning of the term “reasonable” is never clarified in detail by Istvan, and never compared to competing usages of the term, historically or in the present.[xxxiii] When applied to individuals as “systems nested in collectives nested in societies”[xxxiv], as neuroethicists John Shook of the University at Buffalo and James Giordano of Georgetown University(2014) define them, reasonable in this context could mean to examine, revise and in some cases replace current values, norms, social and governmental structures in order to reach a “transhuman” world that acknowledges the human in transition – a world in which everyone can have at least the potential to become their own most efficient and enduring self, in ways that comport with social citizenship at large and small scales. However, the question remains as to whether the version of transhumanism implied by Shook and Giordano aligns with those espoused by Bostrom and Istvan.

VI: “To love life means to become a Transhumanist”

Besides these obvious ambiguities, the “Transhumanist Wager” is clear in one point: The “wager” is about the decision each individual must make whether or not to be part of the transformation into a transhumanist world. In face of this decision, the “wager” implies the most primordial (and thus maybe most important) statement of TEF:

If you love life, you will safeguard that life, and strive to extend and improve it for as long as possible. Anything else you do while alive, any other opinion you have, any other choice you make to not safeguard, extend, and improve that life, is a betrayal of that life. (It) is a betrayal of the possible potential of your brain.[xxxv]

In essence this subtly suggests that to love life means to become a transhumanist almost automatically, and logically.

As a result, TEF – like transhumanism in general – considers the advancement of research and technology to be its first priority, as this prioritization is most likely to realize the transhumanist agenda through science. Science – and its outcome, technology – thus becomes the centerpiece of virtually “everything”, with politics, economics, culture and religion taking second place, as servants of the natural sciences. This in essence makes the humanities irrelevant, since they stem from centuries ago and will therefore have to be rebuilt from the scratch for the new transhuman world that arises.

Focusing on the individual this radically might lead to the conclusion that TEF does not pursue any kind of personal relationship between transhumanists and ultimately “omnipotenders”. But on the contrary, TEF asserts that while it is true that “a transhumanist has no immediate concern for others”[xxxvi] she or he is nevertheless able to have intimate relationships with others, such as Jethro Knights has with his wife, friends and co-workers. According to Istvan, the reason for this is that while transforming into the omnipotender, the transhumanist individual is still dependent on the knowledge of and inspiration by others; and as such can experience happiness through interacting with others. Therefore, in the vision of TEF a transhumanist society encourages family cohesion as long as it is reflected through reason and in harmony with transhumanist values.[xxxvii] When this is not the case, i.e. if one individual has lost its value to the other or is in any way in contradiction to transhuman development, then this individual will lose everything and finally be forced out of transhuman society.[xxxviii]

VII: How to Deal with Conflict If You Are an “Omnipotender”?

Taking these aspects together, it might seem surprising that while TEF supports upholding peace for as long as possible, it legitimates the use of “whatever means necessary”[xxxix] – including violence -, when it comes to conflict situations with anti-transhumanists. This is one of many parallels to other philosophies of “selfishness”, such as “Objectivism” conceived by Russian-American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982)[xl], which inspired the Reagan era of American politics and had prominent followers such as Alan Greenspan (the former chief of the Federal Reserve) who was a personal disciple of Rand in New York. “Objectivism” hails egoism as the true altruism since, as the saying goes, “If everything cares about himself, everybody is taken care of”. Rand legitimizes extreme violence of “first handers” (i.e. entrepreneurs) against “second handers” (i.e. employees), including cold-blooded murder of the helpless, in her monumental novel “Atlas Shrugged”[xli]. The historic goal of Objectivism to achieve “true egoism” appears to align with TEF: that is, to define “true egoism” as taking care about oneself and thus to create a world of “first handers” against a society where altruism has falsified reason by producing “second handers”, who rise against those who are the inventors of machines and progress.

Transhumanism as condensed in the novel “The Transhumanist Wager” is not far from such a vision, particularly when it comes to interaction with opponents.[xlii] However, TEF proposes any actions taken are, as far as possible, characterized by the recognition of the potential value other individuals have for themselves. When asked in this regard, the fictional protagonist and developer of TEF in Istvan’s novel declares:

We want to teach the people of the outside world, not destroy them; we want to convince them, not dictate them; we want them to join us, not fight us. They may not be essential, but they may help make it possible for us when it is time to journey through what is essential.[xliii]

Is there not implicit in these sentences a differentiation between “first” and “second handers” (those “not essential”)? Confronted with such ideals, it is unavoidable to ask questions concerning their social and political implications and how those might be concretely put into reality. Some arising questions could for example be, what negative effects might TEF as a mind-set have on the issue of community, and how should a technocratic society of the future deal with these issues? How would a majority of individuals be able to reach omnipotence without getting in conflict with each other, and what consequences would arise from such conflict? Who would be able to participate in the institutions of government and policy development and how would that differ from now? And finally, how would transhumanism be supposed to prevent misuse of inventions and technologies? These questions may be of particular concern for the concrete social and political possibilities of “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism” for years to come.

VIII: Can TEF Be Put Into Political Reality?

Whilst the book “The Transhumanist Wager” ends by outlining a thoroughly positive outcome for transhumanism and creates a clean and bright future scenario that seems a utopia, it is questionable in what sense the transhumanist transformation would be likely to happen in reality. For instance, massive social and political alterations such as a “world wide [sic] government”[xliv] and a broadly shared civilizational convention of a “one person universe, existence and culture”[xlv], seem rather unrealistic in the near future, since there are competing narratives that oppose this vision. “Posthumanistic” philosophies are not necessarily egocentric and egoistic like TEF; and neither are “postmodern” ones, not to speak of “third way” approaches or even the surviving leftist systems of ideas – rather on the contrary.[xlvi]

The author Zoltan Istvan himself states that with regard to his political campaign for U.S. presidency in 2016 he distances himself from TEF and Jethro Knights’ envisioned “measures” to spread the transhumanist mission in the world.[xlvii] He explains this with the need for a civil competition between transhumanists and its governmental or religious opponents. Indeed, rather than through mobilization on the streets, Istvan wants his party to focus on publicity-based measures to attract attention, in order to make transhumanism popular foremost as a “soft power” and thus to prepare the ground for a “transhumanist mindset” that in his hope will receive widespread voluntary support at least in the technology-driven U.S. and in the most developed Western nations.[xlviii]

This peaceful and nonaggressive approach can also be found within TEF, as seen when the fictional protagonist declares in his speech to the world’s population that the transhuman nation “will strive to settle all disputes, conflicts and problems without violence”.[xlix] This at first gives a positive impression of the actions of the new transhuman citizen and might even lead to further interest in transhumanist psychology. But the statement in the book continues by stating that transhumanists “firmly believe in possessing the most powerful weapons, having an aggressive police force, and using military might against enemies.”[l]

The first two points might remind readers all over the world of the arms race between the West and Russia during the cold war. Striving for the most efficient weapons, and frightening the other country with their possible use, created at the time a feeling within society of constant endangerment rather than reassurance. In addition, a strong police force might further add to an oppressive atmosphere, since it could give the individual the impression of constantly being controlled for “wrong” behaviour. Although the punishments foreseen in this case by the transhumanist’s police executives are mostly non-violent ones, they do interfere drastically with the individuals’ possibilities of self-realization and egoism.

IX: How To Become A “Transhuman Citizen”?

By addressing someone as a full “Transhuman Citizen”, the fictional transhumanist leader Jethro Knights means an individual who has become a citizen of “Transhumania”, his transhumanist nation. This individual has broken with everything connected to her or his history, country of origin and personal provenance; she or he will only care for someone or something outside of “Transhumania”, when this is of value for the cause of the new “Transhuman Citizen”.[li] If not so, she or he could be exiled from “Transhumania” for ignorance[lii] and most likely never receive a second chance to reintegrate into society, which would mean isolation not only from family and friends, but also from the benefits society provides to the individual, such as security or rights and freedoms. As “Transhumania” is supposed to be a worldwide nation, this would also mean that the exiled individual could not be able to turn to any other country and become a citizen there. In reality this would mean all established nations and their governments would have to be “integrated” or replaced by one “transhuman” government.

This seems to be a very unlikely scenario for the foreseeable future, though, as it would cause more conflicts than it could settle. Leading transhumanist thinkers such as Nick Bostrom have long underscored that many crucial ethical questions concerning the human body or the further development of the human brain, in relation to new technologies, will not be solved quickly; since in the age of globalization they would require a global government which in their view is quite unlikely to come into existence anytime soon.[liii]

On the other hand, such a scenario could open the way for one forceful authority to bypass the variety of existing ones – a not very reassuring vision, in a time when new extremist movements are rising around the world. Nevertheless, it seems safe to say that the program of the “American Transhumanist Party”, does indeed include plans to build up an internationally connected and unified transhuman political movement. This unification can be seen in the so-called “Transhumanist Party Global”[liv], which Zoltan Istvan stated in an interview in early 2015[lv] was formed to maximize the international political influence of the movement.

X: The “Three Laws of Transhumanism” and Mainstream Politics In A Democracy

The motivation behind the transhumanist drive for increased political influence is similar to that in Istvan’s book, and in the reality of his political initiative. Both are linked to the main goals of the transhumanist movement: First, supporting life extension research with as much resources as possible to give a majority of people the chance to benefit from the findings and applications of new technologies, and eventually even overcome death.[lvi] In order to do so, it is necessary, secondly, to spread the transhuman mindset, and thirdly, to participate actively in the development of new technologies, to be able to control them and to protect society from possible misuse of new technologies as well as other dangers they may incur. As Istvan put it in his “three laws of transhumanism”

  1. A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.
  2. A transhumanist must strive to achieve omnipotence as expediently as possible – so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First Law.
  3. A transhumanist must safeguard value in the universe – so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First and Second Laws…[lvii]

In response to these “laws” John Hewitt writes “If energetically adopted, these deceptively simple maxims ultimately compel the individual to pursue a technologically enhanced and extended life. (Transhumanists) have come to see the choice to accept or reject these principles as something far more fundamental than the choice between liberal or conservative principles.”[lviii]

This assumption may be correct, as technology is indeed substituting traditional political mechanisms by a new logic.

However, while transhumanists such as Zoltan Istvan want to push forward according to the “three laws” both philosophically and politically, they appear unaware of any larger risks or even contradictions in the joint endeavor. Researchers from scientific fields involved such as neuroscientist and neuroethicist James Giordano of Georgetown University[lix] recognize the potential benefits of technological evolution and policy focus, but nevertheless express concerns about the all too direct political plans of the transhumanist political movement. Even though Giordano also sees positive perspectives, he points out that there are many contradictions in programs such as those espoused by Istvan, for instance between the push toward the development of radical technologies and the safeguard of society’s safety when the innovations are not to be restricted by regulations.

This indeed poses an important question that most likely will arise louder in the years to come: what is the relationship between radical technology and safety under the condition of a potential “Transhumania”? Presumably, the absence of a compelling solution for this issue will be a hindering factor for the spread of the transhumanist mindset. Furthermore, adequate financing of transhumanist technologies and research might also become an issue when, as conducted in the fictive nation “Transhumania”, the government applies the lowest possible taxation rate on citizens’ income and as the price to pay for this discontinues the payment of retirement and public pensions[lx], as well as ceasing all governmental welfare.[lxi]

This may be interpreted by some observers as an attempt of the new political aspiration of transhumanism to get Republicans as well as rightist civil society movements such as the “Tea Party” on board. Unfortunately, Zoltan Istvan has not made any clear statements yet to address the issue of financing the transition from the present into a transhuman world. However, Istvan has stated that if twenty percent of the defense budget were to be redirected into longevity science, that would trigger in short order a great change for reaching the transhumanist core goal of defeating death.[lxii]

XI: Connecting Fiction, Philosophy and Politics

Taking all of the above into consideration, it is obvious that Zoltan Istvan lets his political agenda be influenced by “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”, but promotes these values in a more moderate form, so to speak. By at first focusing his manifesto on just three aims and otherwise concentrating his efforts on acquainting the public with transhumanism, he has been able to reach out to a broader public and achieved at least an increasing discussion about transhumanism and its political relevance. However, it is due to more than Istvan’s personal commitment that transhumanism will likely become more prominent in international political and social debates, as transhumanist parties are also in the process of being founded in Europe – with other continents most probably following. Consequently, this could mean that when a committed figure such as Zoltan Istvan manages to connect and unify transhumanist parties around the world through his prominence and public presence, then the latter could influence conventional parties and gain impact without growing a big membership first.

This influence, combined with the increasing role technology plays in globalized life, could push forward a culture which, while not fully transhuman, will be in all practical sense a more transhumanistic oriented society. If such a combined approach is successful then this transition will be achieved smoothly and without being noticed by the public and conventional politicians. Despite all its shortfalls, the developments around technological research and the transhumanist movement constitute a realistic potential for transhumanist parties to gain relevance in the political sphere. The ascent of transhumanism to a concrete social and political force at least in the US now seems based on the philosophical fundament rooted in “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”. The question, as to the extent that TEF itself is inspired by other philosophies of “selfishness”, such as Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism”, is a matter requiring further research into the direct and indirect relationships, affinities and differences involved.

XII: Conclusion: Four questions for critical debate. First Question: To What Extent Is U.S. Transhumanist Politics Driven By TEF?

To conclude this discussion on the philosophical basis of transhumanism, four crucial questions remain to be answered. (However, given the current fluid nature of transhumanist politics, more such questions are likely to arise.)

The first question concerns the extent to which the U.S. Transhumanist Party is actually driven by the statements made concerning TEF and the Transhumanist Wager in Istvan’s novel, given that Istvan distances his own policies from those of fictional lead figure Jethro Knights as previously described.

The answer to this first question is, at least for the immediate future, simple: We’ll have to wait and see. There are different, partly opposed signals and indications with regard to the proximity or distance between Istvan’s fiction and his envisaged political reality. Besides the goal of “putting science, health and technology at the forefront of American politics”, we know very little about the politics of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. There has been little discussion of the implications, derivatives, consequences and side issues involved in this manifesto. The Party is still in an early stage of development, with no sign of an encompassing, concrete political program, besides the three goals formulated in Istvan’s manifesto article in the Huffington Post[lxiii], and a reference to the “Transhumanist Declaration” [lxiv]. Neither of these sources provides a description of concrete policies, as opposed to general claims concerning the improvement of our lives by the means of technology.

Moreover, there is the fiction-reality question, which is always difficult to answer. Without doubt, there has been an influential hermeneutic circle between science fiction in particular, and practical societal progress in Western civilization throughout the past one and a half centuries. This synergistic feedback loop – of mutual inspiration and the building of stories and mythologies – can stabilize a concrete technological social agenda in the face of disputes. This allows access to the broadest possible number of people, giving the agenda an identity (possibly only transitorily) which can expand and strengthen. Given the current trend in which the imaginary and reality are becoming increasingly interwoven and mutually influential within a combined framework of a “society of images and ideas”, it may become increasingly difficult to fully differentiate or even segregate the fictional imaginary of a novel from its effects on reality – especially if it is in itself, a strongly politically colored account like the Transhumanist Wager.

Indeed, on the one hand the Transhumanist Wager is a novel about a future society and not an explicit political program. But on the other hand, this novel contains many explicit ideas about the reorganization of society which are profoundly political. Furthermore, it has been written by the subsequent founder of a political party and presidential contender, which makes it inevitable to consider its implicit and explicit political contents as related to any subsequent practical political efforts. In addition, the Transhumanist Wager contains many autobiographical parallels to Istvan’s life; and even though Istvan publicly distances himself from some ideas of his book, they still remain his proper thoughts, and thus potentially practical policies.

XIII: Second Question: How Much Influence Can One Person And His Work Of Fiction Have On A Political Movement?

A second question that is often posited is, how much influence can one person (Istvan) have on the (necessarily) greater whole of a party and political movement, and what are his real intentions, within the broadening network of his sponsors and collaborators?

Generally speaking, a political network becomes more complex the more it advances over time and the more successful it becomes. In the present stage, the U.S. Transhumanist Party appears to be largely a one-man-show, but this may change once the party gets going and expands its outreach activities. If the party is to avoid becoming a kind of subtle dictatorship (and we don’t see any signals for this at the moment), the issue of competing wings will become more accentuated, and the interior ideological debate may sharpen, as it is natural with any developing democratic party (and visible even in non-democratic parties). Comparing Istvan’s public statements, columns and the ideas formulated in the Transhumanist Wager, a picture of the presidential candidate’s political agenda becomes apparent that shows it to be rather unfinished, and in any case unconventional. In this agenda fiction, philosophy and politics appear mixed up, and Istvan’s ideas in some points appear inconsistent as a result. Depending on the occasion, Istvan still seems to decide case by case, whether a statement of him should be interpreted as a “fictional idea” of him as an artist, or as a “serious idea” of him as a political contender. In his recent columns on Motherboard, it seems as if he advocates for the same radical technologies described in his novel to be put into practice, but personally envisages a different transhumanist philosophy and social policy than in his fictional book.

There are many examples of this dichotomy. In the fictional world of the novel the main goal is to become the “Omnipotender”, and radical egocentrism is presented as a moral value. In a recent column in the online technology and science magazine Motherboard with the title: “Do We Have Free Will Because God Killed Itself?” Istvan in turn argues:

The problem with being god – a truly omnipotent being – is that of free will. […] Being all-powerful is a very strange, ironic dead end. The only thing omnipotence can truly equal is a total mechanistic void. Achieving omnipotence is literally the act of suicide, in terms of forever self-eliminating one’s consciousness. This is because a conscious intelligence, as reason dictates, is based on the ability to discern values—values, for example, to know whether as an all-powerful being, one can create something so heavy that one can’t lift it. Values require choice. But omnipotence means that all choices have already been made, and nothing can ever change, because all variables are already accounted for and no randomness or anomalies exist.[lxv]

In another article on Motherboard, Istvan writes about the future of politics and the role Artifical Intelligence (AI) should play in it:

Should we let AI run the government once it’s smarter than us? Take that one step further—should we let that AI be the President—maybe even giving it a robot form for aesthetics or familiarity’s sake? […] We would have government and a leader who really is after the world’s best interests, free from the hazards of corporate lobbyists and selfishness. As a futurist and a politician, a central aim of mine is to do the most good for the greatest amount of people.[lxvi]

Here Istvan clearly distances himself from the ideal of selfishness and egocentrism – thus leaving the libertarian approach apparently in favor of a move toward the center, or even toward the “leftist”, or to put it in more appropriate terms, participatory wing of the Transhumanist movement as for example represented in the “Technoprogressive Declaration” of November 2014 signed by many transhumanist associations and organizations[lxvii].

Something similar appears to be the case with regard to social politics in the stricter sense. In his novel Istvan abolishes most forms of social security (retirements, public pensions, governmental welfare etc.) But to the surprise of many readers of the Transhumanist Wager, Istvan in his political columns advocates not only for free education, but also for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), i.e. for one of the allegedly most “socialist” ideas of the post-Cold-War era:

To begin with, there’s no point in pretending society can avoid a future Universal Basic Income -one that meets basic living standards- of some sort in America and around the world, if robots or software take most of the jobs. Income redistribution via taxes, increased welfare, or a mass guaranteed basic income plan will occur in some form, or there will be mass revolutions that could end in a dystopian civilization – leading essentially to what experts call a societal collapse. […] The elite may not want to part with some of their money (I myself support many libertarian ideas) via wealth redistribution, but I think they probably want to avoid an ugly dystopian world even more – especially one where they would be despised rulers.[lxviii]

And again:

I specifically advocate for free education at all levels, including higher education. In fact, I support increased education levels, too, including some forms of mandatory preschool and 4-year college for everyone.[lxix]

It remains to be seen if there will be some ties with transhumanist higher education initiatives, such as the “Singularity University”[lxx] founded in 2008 by leading transhumanists like Ray Kurzweil to prepare for the upcoming age of AI and to “educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges”.[lxxi] The dispute here seems to be predetermined: The Singularity University is about leaders, as is the way of “most” transhumanist initiatives so far. Istvan seems to favor a socially broader educational agenda, beyond hierarchies and classes, which contrasts starkly with the present day American educational system that, under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, focused more on business needs than ever before. Therefore, Istvan’s agenda may sound revolutionary to many.

Here we will discuss an area of conflict that will represent one of the major challenges for the relationship between Teleological Egocentric Functionalism and the applied political pragmatism of the transhumanist movement in the years ahead. The crucial issue that will define public discussion, not only within the framework of the U.S. presidential campaign 2015-16, but worldwide (and one currently dominating the international debate since the publication of Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century in 2014[lxxii]) is equality versus inequality – in crucial areas such as fairness, participation, inclusion and access to technologies. Yet the ethical dimension (i.e. inequality, and how to avoid it) of the transition into a transhumanist society is barely addressed in the Transhumanist Wager. Rather, it is presented as an individual choice to be solved by everybody for him- or herself. However, in reality the choice is highly dependent on socio-economic factors, as Istvan rightly points out in his political statements:

The controversy with this technology is two-fold. Will conservative or religious people let us remake the human being into a more functional version of itself? And will all people be able to afford it? Editing a genome isn’t going to be cheap, at first. Neither will driverless cars. Furthermore, I surmise the Ivy League undergrad education download is also going to be costly (although, it’ll probably still be much cheaper than a physical education). So, is all this transhumanist child rearing tech fair to those who can’t afford it?

The short answer is: Of course, not. But neither are the costs of AIDS treatments in the world today. Hundreds of thousands still die because they can’t afford the proper technology and medicine. And it’s a fact that wealthier people live far longer, fuller lives than poor people—about 25 percent more on average. So what can we do to even the playing field?

To begin with, let’s not stop the technology. Instead, let’s work on stopping the inequality and create programs that entitle all children to better health and child rearing innovation. As a society, let’s come up with ways that make it so all peoples can benefit from the transhumanist tech that is changing our world and changing the way our children will be raised.[lxxiii]

XIV: Third Question: What Is Better Suited To Meet The Needs Of Politics In A Pluralistic Society: TEF or TF?

A third crucial question to be discussed with regard to the interface between TEF and concrete transhumanist political programs is: To what extent is the “Egocentrism” of TEF necessary? Might a better basis for international transhumanist politics be a Teleological Functionalism (TF) rather than a Teleological “Egocentric” Functionalism (TEF)?

This question once again points to the fundamental logical (not necessarily ethical) contradiction within Istvan’s interpretation of the potential political agenda of transhumanism as a consequence of TEF. Varying Istvan’s own question, “should a transhumanist run for president?”[lxxiv], we could pose the principal question: Should an egocentric become president – a job to represent and act in the interest of a nation?

Society is without doubt rapidly changing, and with it the basic expectations directed towards leaders with regard to their identity and ideological stature. “Egocentrism” may be viewed rather critically by larger parts of the public as a poor attribute for a political leader and a socio-political movement to hold, since politics by traditional definition in the West, is about the representation of the interests of others, and their thoughtful and pondered consideration versus specific “ego” concerns. For sure, most people consciously or unconsciously in “postmodern” globalized societies (necessarily) act egocentrically. However, in the mind of many average voters (and not to forget many leading Western intellectuals) there remains a difference between psychological/automatic egocentrism and moral/rational egocentrism. As Harvard scholars Nicolas Epley and Eugene M. Caruso explain this difference:

People see the world through their own eyes, experience it through their own senses, and have… access to the others’ cognitive and emotional states. This means that one’s own perspective on the world is directly experienced, whereas others’ perspectives must be inferred. Because experience is more efficient than inference, people automatically interpret objects and events egocentrically and only subsequently correct or adjust that interpretation when necessary.[lxxv]

In essence, the problem with moral egocentrism seems to be that in the “postmodern” (or contradictorily materialistic and idealistic) era people in general “regard their own thoughts and needs as most important and willfully fail to account for the needs and intentions of others in making their decisions”.[lxxvi]

Moreover, there are more strictly philosophical and logical implications with regard to the relation between ideas and concrete political potentials. The issue of “egocentrism” is not necessarily implicit in establishing transhumanist thought, and it is not necessary to promote human enhancement or transhumanism. On the contrary, many motives, including the opposite value of selfishness – altruism – could be used to legitimize many transhumanist technologies, for example extended life spans and improved physical and cognitive abilities, as a means to care longer and better for others. Thus, a logical conclusion could be to detach the “Egocentric” suffix of “Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”, leaving “Teleological Functionalism” aimed at practically improving the lives of the greatest amount of people possible in an open society, focused on evolving, rather than on structuring and consolidating what it has. Nevertheless, it is not clear what “Teleological Functionalism” may mean without “Egocentrism”. Could it become a “Teleological Social Functionalism”? And if so, in which direction would that concretely aim, and what would it mean in practice?

XV: Fourth Question: How Does TEF Fit Into The Greater Array Of “Social Futurist” Visions Of The Present?

While the discussion so far and the conclusions reached highlight further issues to be addressed, the fourth and final question to be asked here is: To what extent might a “Teleological Functionalism” (with or without “Egocentric”) fit with the “social futurist” moral vision promoted by “alternative” thinkers such as Amon Twyman of the UK Transhumanist Party[lxxvii]?

If the central meme of transhumanism is that it is ethical and desirable to improve the human condition through technology, the central meme of social futurism is that it is ethical and desirable to improve society through technology.[lxxviii] The flip side of this second meme seems to be the principle of ‘Nobody Deserted’. Indeed, Twyman has written this up in Principle 3 of the program of the UK Transhumanist Party (TP):

We advocate these freedoms in the context of strong social support for society’s weakest members, and base policy on the principle ‘Nobody Deserted’. All citizens shall have a right to sustenance, clothing, shelter, energy, healthcare, transport, education, and access to information resources. TP also advocates that all citizens must be able to contribute to society, in their own fashion, without blemish to their dignity or sense of self worth.[lxxix]

If the different positions within the transhumanist movement are to be integrated, the question here is how selfishness and egocentrism on the one hand and the principle of “Nobody Deserted” on the other hand, can coexist, or be brought together in applied policy. If technological progress requires a certain level of solidarity and thus necessary care for others, as for example, due to the disappearance of jobs as Istvan pointed out in his plea for a universal basic income, selfishness and egocentrism must be logically submitted to and integrated into a greater picture in order to avoid new revolutions and class fights.

Nevertheless, the principle of egocentrism and selfishness in itself requires to not be subordinated to any other principle, and that absolutism lies in the basic meaning and content of the term “egocentrism” itself. The result is a similar contradiction in ideology to the one Istvan himself pointed out with regard to the issue of “omnipotence”: Once “egocentrism” is fully established according to the logical meaning of the term, it starts to socially implode. That once again shows the inconsistency of some basic pillars of current “transhumanist” political core terms.

XVI: Outlook

Summing up?

“Teleological Egocentric Functionalism”, levitating as it still seems between fiction and reality, remains in many ways an unfinished and contradictory basis for transhumanist politics. While TEF is an inspiring attempt to integrate transhumanist thought into politics and presents without doubt many interesting approaches and some surprisingly novel views on traditional standpoints, the fact is that there remain many inconsistencies within its underlying structure, logic and argument; and the same can be said of its inventor and his practical political statements regarding many issues of social practice, in particular with regard to social politics.

What does this mean?

For now, the outlook is wide open. If Istvan’s promise: “If you want to live forever, vote for me” wants to be taken seriously, he will have to realize some of his visions within the circumstances of the environment he is in – for example free education or universal basic income. However, this will be a huge challenge, since the U.S. hardly seems prepared to move in such a direction, even should Istvan be voted in as president, or as is currently in vogue, the “new social agenda” that all presidential candidates for 2016 are putting on the table to gain the votes of an unsettled middle class, which sees the “American dream” threatened by structural and systemic inequality that is getting out of hand.

Finally, if transhumanist politics wants to stabilize a broad and sustainable agenda in the center of society (as Istvan seems to aspire to), the further development of transhumanism as a political force will have to address the existing contradictions in some of its underlying philosophical terms and beliefs. And it would be well advised to address these with the help from and discussion with other approaches, for example including the experience and the views of more “humanistic” ones.

Lots of questions remain to answer; and lots of fascinating debates lie ahead.

Selected Bibliography

Benedikter, Roland, Siepmann, Katja, and McIntosh, Annabella (2015): The Age of Transhumanist Politics Has Begun. Will It Change Traditional Concepts of Left and Right? Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. In: The Leftist Review. Commentaries on Politics, Science, Philosophy and Religion, March-April 2015, Reprint in: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), April 27, 2015,

Bostrom, Nick (2003): The Transhumanist FAQ 1.5. In:, http// Access: 31.03.2015.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transhumanismus e.V. (Hrsg.) (2005): Reader zum Transhumanismus. Würzburg:

Eternal Life Fan (2014): Zoltan Istvan’s political campaign – The Transhumanist Party. Video sequence from PowerfulJRE(2014): Joe Rogan Experience #584 – Zoltan Istvan. In: Youtube, Access: 31.03.2015.

Istvan, Zoltan (2014): The Transhumanist Wager, Futurity Imagine Media 2013, and

Wood, David (2015): Q&A with Zoltan Istvan, Transhumanist Party candidate for the US President. Youtubevideo: Access: 31.03.2015, 13:52.

The authors


Roland Benedikter, Dr. Dr. Dr., is Research Scholar at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies of the University of California at Santa Barbara, Senior Affiliate of the Edmund Pellegrino Center on Clinical Bioethics of Georgetown University, Trustee of the Toynbee Prize Foundation Boston, Senior Research Scholar of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs Washington DC and Full member of the Club of Rome. Previously, he was a Research Affiliate 2009-13 at the Europe Center of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, and a Full Academic Fellow 2008-12 of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies Washington DC. He has written for Foreign Affairs, Harvard International Review and Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, and is author of books about global strategic issues (among them most recently two on Xi Jinping’s China in 2014), co-author of two Pentagon and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff White Papers on the Ethics of Neurowarfare (2013 and 2014, together with James Giordano) and of Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker’s Report to the Club of Rome 2003. Contact:

Katja Siepmann, MA, is a socio-political analyst, Senior Research Fellow of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs Washington D.C., Member of the German Council on Foreign Relations, Lecturer at the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Cultural Sciences of the European University Frankfurt/Oder and has written for Foreign Affairs, Harvard International Review and Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs.

Annabella McIntosh is a freelance political writer based in Berlin, Germany.


[i] R. Benedikter, J. Giordano and K. Fitzgerald: The Future of the (Self-)Image of the Human Being in the Age of Transhumanism, Neurotechnology and Global Transition. In: Futures. The Journal for Policy, Planning and Futures Studies. Volume 42: Special issue “Global Mindset Change” (ed. J. Gidley). Elsevier 2010, p. 1102-1109.

[ii] Cf. R. Benedikter, K. Siepmann and A. McIntosh: The Age of Transhumanist Politics Has Begun. Will it Change Traditional Concepts of Left and Right? In: In: Leftist Review. Commentaries on Politics, Science, Philosophy and Religion. Edited by Thomas Parslow. Portland, Oregon, 3 Parts, 06 March 2015ff., pp. 1-18, Reprint of the text in one part under the title: The Age of Transhumanist Politics Has Begun. Will It Change Traditional Concepts of Left and Right? In: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, April 27, 2015, and in: Telepolis. Journal of Media, Technology, Art and Society. Edited by Dr. habil. Florian Rötzer. 19. Jahrgang, Heinz Heise Verlag Hannover 2015, 12.04.2015,

[iii] N. Bostrom: A History of Transhuman Thought. In: Journal of Evolution & Technology, Vol. 14, April 2005, Cf. World Transhumanist Association:

[iv] N. Bostrom: Transhumanist Values. In: Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May (2005),

[v] J. Hewitt: An Interview with Zoltan Istvan, leader of the Transhumanist Party and 2016 presidential contender. In: Extremetech, October 31, 2014,

[vi] Z. Istvan: Can Transhumanism Overcome A Widespread Deathist Culture? In: The Huffington Post, May 26, 2015,

[vii] Z. Istvan: Can Transhumanism Overcome A Widespread Deathist Culture?, loc cit.

[viii] R. Benedikter and J. Giordano: Neurotechnology: New Frontiers for Policy. In: Journal of European Government PEN: Pan European Networks. Section: Science and Technology. Issue 3 (June), Bruxelles, Strassbourg and London 2012, pp. 204-207.

[ix] M. Steger: The Rise of the Global Imaginary: Political Ideologies from the French Revolution to the Global War on Terror, Oxford University Press 2008.

[x] R. Benedikter and J. Giordano: The Outer and the Inner Transformation of the Global Social Sphere through Technology: The State of Two Fields in Transition. In: New Global Studies. Edited by Saskia Sassen, Nayan Chanda, Akira Iriye and Bruce Mazlish. De Gruyter and Berkeley Electronic Press, Berkeley and New York 2011, Volume 5, Issue 1 (2011), pp. 1-17,

[xi] R. Benedikter and J. Giordano: Neuroscience and Neurotechnology: Impacting Human Futures, Springer Political Science, New York 2015 (forthcoming). Cf. J. Giordano and R. Benedikter: Integrative convergence in Neuroscience/Neurotechnology. On the engagement of computational approaches in neuroscience/neurotechnology and deterrence. Book chapter 3.2.1 in: H. Cabayan, W. Casebeer, D. DiEuliis, J. Giordano and N. D. Wright (ed.s): U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff White Paper: Leveraging Neuroscientific and Neutechnological (NeuroS&T) Developments with Focus on Influence and Deterrence in a Networked World. A Strategic Multilayer (SMA) Publication. Washington DC: Pentagon Press 2014 (April), pp. 74-79; and J. Giordano and R. Benedikter: Toward a Systems Continuum: On the Use of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology to Assess and Affect Aggression, Cognition and Behaviour. In: D. DiEuliis and H. Cabayan (eds.): U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff White Paper: Topics in the Neurobiology of Aggression: Implications for Deterrence. A Strategic Multilayer (SMA) Publication. Washington DC: Pentagon Press 2013 (February), pp. 68-85.

[xii] N. Bostrom: Technological Revolutions: Ethics and Politics in the Dark. In: M. de Nigel et al (eds.): Nanoscale: Issues and Perspectives for the Nano-Century, Wiley & Sons 2007, pp. 129-152,

[xiii] Transhumanist Party Global (TPG):

[xiv] G. Volpicelli: Transhumanists Are Writing Their Own Manifesto For The UK General Election. In. Motherboard Journal, January 14, 2015,

[xv] Zoltan Istvan’s Homepage:

[xvi] Transhumanist Party USA: Putting Science, Health, and Technology at the Forefront of American Politics,

[xvii] Z. Istvan: Should a Transhumanist Run for U.S. President? In: The Huffington Post, August 10, 2014,

[xviii] Teleological Egocentric Functionalism (TEF):

[xix] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, Futurity Imagine Media 2013, and

[xx] Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies (IEET): Technoprogressive Declaration – Transvision. In: IEET, November 22, 2014,

[xxi] For example V. Larson: Transhumanist novel by Zoltan Istvan sparks intense dialog among futurists. In:, December 19, 2013, Cf. G. Prisco: The Transhumanist Wager. In: Ray Kurzweil Homepage, May 15, 2013,

[xxii] Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transhumanismus e.V. (Hrsg.) (2005): Reader zum Transhumanismus. Würzburg:, p. 7.

[xxiii] Oxford Future of Humanity Institute:

[xxiv] The Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology:

[xxv] N. Bostrom: The Transhumanist FAQ 1.5 (2003). Word-Document from the internet:

[xxvi] Cf. P. Unschuld: What is Medicine? Western and Eastern Approaches to Healing. University of California Press 2009,

[xxvii] Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transhumanismus e.V. (Hrsg.), loc cit., p. 7f.

[xxviii] Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transhumanismus e.V. (Hrsg.), loc cit., p. 7f.

[xxix] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, loc cit., p. 19.

[xxx] Ibid., p. 33.

[xxxi] Ibid., p. 33.

[xxxii] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, loc cit., p. 55.

[xxxiii] Ibid., p. 280.

[xxxiv] J. Shook and J. Giordano: A Principled and Cosmopolitan Neuroethics: Considerations for International Relevance. In: Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine, 2014, 9:1,

[xxxv] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, loc cit., p. 270.

[xxxvi] Ibid., p. 281.

[xxxvii] Ibid., p. 281.

[xxxviii] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, loc cit., p. 202.

[xxxix] Ibid., p. 53.

[xl] Ayn Rand:

[xli] A. Rand: Atlas Shrugged, New York 1957.

[xlii] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, loc cit., p. 53.

[xliii] Ibid., p. 230.

[xliv] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, loc cit., p. 282.

[xlv] Ibid., p. 201.

[xlvi] R. Benedikter: Third Way Movements. In: In: M. Juergensmeyer and H. K. Anheier (ed.): The SAGE Encyclopaedia Of Global Studies. 4 Volumes, SAGE Publishers London and Thousand Oaks 2012, Volume 4, pp. 1647-1650.

[xlvii] D. Wood: Q&A with Zoltan Istvan, Transhumanist Party candidate for the US President. In: Youtube, January 11, 2015,

[xlviii] Ibid.

[xlix] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, p. 282.

[l] Ibid., p. 282.

[li] Ibid., p. 201.

[lii] Ibid., p. 282.

[liii] N. Bostrom: Technological Revolutions: Ethics and Politics in the Dark, loc cit.

[liv] Transhumanist Party Global:

[lv] D. Wood: Q&A with Zoltan Istvan, loc cit

[lvi] Ibid.

[lvii] J. Hewitt, loc cit.

[lviii] J. Hewitt, loc cit.

[lix] J. Giordano: The human prospect(s) of neuroscience and neurotechnology: Domains of influence and the necessity – and questions – of neuroethics. In: Human Prospect 4(1): 1-18 (2014).

[lx] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager, loc cit., p. 282.

[lxi] Ibid., p. 282.

[lxii] D. Wood: Q&A with Zoltan Istvan, loc cit.

[lxiii] Z. Istvan: Should A Transhumanist Run For U.S. President?, loc cit.

[lxiv] Humanity+: The Transhumanist Declaration (1998/2009),

[lxv] Z. Istvan: Do We Have Free Will Because God Killed Itself? In: Motherboard, May 4, 2015,

[lxvi] Z. Istvan: The Transhumanist Party’s Presidential Candidate on the Future of Politics. In: Motherboard, January 22, 2015,

[lxvii] Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies (IEET): Technoprogressive Declaration – Transvision, loc cit.

[lxviii] Z. Istvan: The New American Dream? Let the Robots Take Our Jobs. In: Motherboard, February 13, 2015,

[lxix] Ibid.

[lxx] Singularity University:

[lxxi] Ibid.

[lxxii] T. Piketty: Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Harvard University Press 2014.

[lxxiii] Z. Istvan: The Technology Transhumanists Want in Their Kids. In: Motherboard, May 18, 2015,

[lxxiv] Z. Istvan: Should A Transhumanist Run for U.S. President?, loc cit.

[lxxv] N. Epley, E. M. Caruso: Egocentric Ethics. In: Social Justice Research, Vol. 17, No. 2, June 2004, p. 171-187, here: p. 174,

[lxxvi] M. Ylvisaker, M. Hibbard and T. Feeney: Cognitive Egocentrism Theory of Mind. In: LearNet, The Brain Injury Association of New York State, New York 2006,

[lxxvii] M. A. Twyman: The Moral Philosophy of Transhumanism, February 28, 2015,

[lxxviii] transhumanpraxis: Social Futurism: Positive Social Change Through Technology, May 10, 2012,

[lxxix] A. Twyman: Transhumanist Party Membership Open. In: Transhumanist Party UK, March 24, 2015,


The article above features as Chapter 1 of the Transpolitica book “Envisioning Politics 2.0”.

The Vision Thing

By René Milan, Thelemic Transhumanist [see Editor’s note]

A brief review of existing visions for alternative political systems


Last year’s establishment of the Transhumanist Party in the u.s. has sparked much activity in Europe towards the same goal, and it seems likely that the trend will spread across the planet within the next few years.  This begs the question of the ‘vision thing’ as G.H.W. Bush once called it.

Unlike the general movement which is under little pressure to develop a common goal about what kind of society and political, economic and social model or models it wants to pursue, and indeed encompasses a wide range of ideas on the topic, political transhumanism will be asked the question and must develop at least some vague models, and ultimately concrete programs, to work toward.

This task is complicated by these factors among others:

  • Participants in electoral democracies must adhere to the rules under which these systems operate, which also vary from country to country, despite the question of the desirability of these rules, and the likelihood that they will, perhaps profoundly, change as a consequence of accelerating advancement of technology and its effects on social structures anyway. But it is the essence of transhumanism to not only anticipate these changes but attempt to control them toward maximising benefits for the planet.
  • These changes bear a high degree of unpredictability, so the vision is necessarily a moving target. Nonetheless at least foundational principles and a general direction have to be made identifiable, and these will have to avoid being in conflict with local constitutional conditions as well as voter acceptability.
  • Most self-declared transhumanists entertain already individual visions which vary widely, sometimes enough to constitute incompatibilities, and those who participate in party politics must work to at least arrive at common denominators.

This process has barely begun, which is why i decided to assemble some existing models and fragments that appear suitable as building blocks for debating and developing visions that can be commonly agreed upon.

Vision 1

 Image source:

A – Science Fiction

Over a century science fiction has established itself as a rich source of inspiration for technological and social innovation as it provides complete freedom from the restrictions of current reality for developing and fleshing out possible scenarios and offers an abundance of ideas and models.  Here i want to restrict myself to discussing only the one that is probably most widely known: Star Trek.

Those familiar with the various productions will know that the protagonists act within a world characterised by material abundance and minimised social conflict.  Yet the environment is far from a perfect utopia.  Evolution continues but mostly in regard to technology and little in terms of psychology and biology, problems with technology persist and conflicts mostly with other ‘species’ keep erupting, mostly at the periphery of the terrestrial federation.   While a comprehensive social model is never presented there are possibly enough indications of its elements to allow to reconstruct a somewhat comprehensive picture.  One such attempt has been undertaken by Rick Webb.

In his view,

The federation is a proto-post scarcity society evolved from democratic capitalism. It is, essentially, European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to.

It is massively productive and efficient, allowing for the effective decoupling of labor and salary for the vast majority (but not all) of economic activity. The amount of welfare benefits available to all citizens is in excess of the needs of the citizens. Therefore, money is irrelevant to the lives of the citizenry, whether it exists or not. Resources are still accounted for and allocated in some manner, presumably by the amount of energy required to produce them (say Joules). And they are indeed credited to and debited from each citizen’s “account.” However, the average citizen doesn’t even notice it, though the government does, and again, it is not measured in currency units — definitely not Federation Credits. There is some level of scarcity — the Federation cannot manufacture a million starships, for example. This massive accounting is done by the Federation government in the background.

While it is not knowable that this socio-economic model did evolve from ‘democratic capitalism’, the similarities between it and social democratic capitalism are large enough,  the few references to the transition period, which took no more than a couple centuries, make no mention of disruptions major enough to have caused substantial deviations, so that this is a real possibility.  Apparently the only major intervening change is the substantial advancement of technological capacities which is already underway and accelerating.  This of course is a very optimistic scenario according to which today’s humans, if existential catastrophe can be avoided, just have to carry on as now.

But does this system of abundance really work well?  For the most part yes, but within limits.  On the individual level it is impossible to go overboard because

If they go crazy and try and purchase, say, 10 planets or 100 starships, the system simply says “no.”

Webb explains that this occurs rarely if at all by assuming strong ‘social pressure against conspicuous consumption’, but it seems more likely that it is due to the fact that nobody will be impressed by it when everybody has what they need and more, than because of social pressure which is likely to provide motivation to disregard it.  He points out that locally crises and disasters can and periodically do occur.  These can be caused by unforeseen environmental changes or interference by nonhumans.  Help is usually dispatched quickly but does not always arrive in time, and sometimes it is already too late by the time information reaches Starfleet.

In the current discussion the scope is usually limited to Terra.  The complications and unpredictabilities resulting from encountering and reacting to nonhuman interference are ignored, and for good reasons, as there is simply no way to know what benefits or threats it may bring.  Most existential threats that can be anticipated are home made.  Biospheric warming has already limited effects on politics, economics and technology; the only extraterrestrially caused events that warrant serious efforts of preparation are meteoric and cometary impacts.  It is therefore unnecessary to explore this aspect any further.

There is a lot of trading going on between humans and nonhumans, which presumably accounts to a degree for the abundant conditions in the terrestrial domain.  The Enterprise occasionally finds itself needing certain materials to carry on that have been lost, destroyed or consumed and they are often obtained through bartering from established nonhuman systems or freelance traders or smugglers.  The wild card in these scenarios appears to be replicator technology.  In the current debate additive manufacturing is often pointed to as a solution for self-sufficient resourcing, which is incorrect.  3D- printing will lower production costs mainly by eliminating labour expenses, but raw materials, ‘ink’, will still have to be synthesised, mined or grown.  A much larger step will be alchemy through nanotechnology.  My conclusion was that this is the method used in replicators, and if so it is unclear why the ship would be dependent on bartering.  Some reviewers however go a step even further and claim that replicators create matter from energy, which appears highly unlikely given how much energy would be needed according to Einstein’s famous formula just to constantly feed a thousand people.  But then i do not know how and how much energy can actually be generated by warp drive technology.  As long as humans are confined to Terra it would appear that nanotech will be sufficient to provide the material basis for abundance.

Quite a few essays and articles about Star Trek and its economics can be found, and a few caught my attention for various reasons.

One by Greg Stevens makes an interesting and quite obvious connection to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and says:

If human endeavours are seen as advancing up this noble ladder of advancement, then any society where all of the basic low-level needs are met would obviously be left to while away their time exclusively on love, self-esteem, and self-actualisation.

Near the end of his article Stevens points to this possibility:

One of the biggest fears that comes up in this discussion is the simple fear of pranks and mischief-makers. Mischief-makers of this kind are largely absent from the Star Trek universe, but they are a very real component of humanity.

He quotes from Rudy Rucker’s “Realware” and presents some examples of his own, illustrating the possibility to create anything out of thin air and concluding:

Some people will want to band together and perform great creative deeds for the betterment of humanity …..  But some people – maybe even most people – will want a thousand-ton turd.

In this extrapolation he ignores the probabilities indicated by accelerating evolution of human psychology, but if this were to become a real problem there will be technological solutions to it.

In his piece “The Star Trek Economy Thing” Joshua Gans, after dealing with the problem of how to measure the value of goods and thus G.D.P. growth, points to the changes of terrestrial economy caused by the massive increase in military production after the first Borg invasion.  While it remains rather unlikely that Terra will be invaded by the Borg, or will be able to resist, anytime soon, it is important to expect the unexpected and gear some of the wealth derived from the coming abundance toward dealing with unanticipated high impact events.

At the conclusion of his article Fred E. Foldvary writes:

Each person’s heritage, values, and personality are respected. While this is relatively easy to achieve in the organizational order of a ship, to do this on a galactic scale requires universal liberty where each person, regardless of species, has an equal right to do whatever does not coercively harm others.

Ship captains repeatedly talk about cultural evolution as if it is following along the same lines for each ‘species’.  But that this is not necessarily so is shown most starkly by the Borg but also others like the ‘extragalactic’ Species 8472.  I do not even think that all posthumans will want to continue evolving uniformly, as we already are confronted with incompatibility among human cultures to which my proposed solution is habitat separation, an issue i will address elsewhere.

The strongest connection between Star Trek economy and current theory of economics is made by Andrew Leonard in his Salon article “The utopian economics of Star Trek”.  Starting out from J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film ‘Star Trek’ he points to the explicit reference it makes to new growth theory as laid out in Paul Romer’s 1990 paper “Endogenous Technological Change” (download).  Not being an economist i am in no position to technically evaluate its merits, but it has found wide acceptance and seems to be definitely worth studying in the quest for economic models compatible with transhumanist thought.  For non-experts like me easy introductions are offered in WP and by Tyler Cohen’s and Alex Tabarrok’s brief video introduction.

In conclusion it appears that models presented in Star Trek and other science fiction creations, many of which are much further removed from the present, are of limited value in developing a politico-economic transhumanist theory.  By their very nature as stories to be told they inevitably focus much more on the what than on the how.  However they contain plenty of ideas that can be useful in defining transhumanist goals.

B – Transhumania

In the very near future Transhumania is created as an extraterritorial independent city state floating offshore in international waters.  Zoltan Istvan has used this device for the plot of his novel “The Transhumanist Wager” but also as an illustration of his idea of a transhumanist polity; therefore it gets a fair amount of the author’s attention in that he outlines principles and practices of living and working together in a transhumanist community.

While quite a few reviews of the book itself have been written, not much has been on this particular subject yet.  There is an interesting piece by 33rdsquare which deals with the figure of Jethro, the main protagonist and most radical of the transhumanists, but it becomes clear in the course of reading that there is no real difference between his person and the political system he implements, and i will refer to it later.

In the press conference where Jethro presents Transhumania to the rest of the world, he says the following:

Ladies and gentlemen, behind me on the screen is a picture of Transhumania, the seasteading transhuman nation where scientists, technologists, and futurists carry out research they believe is their moral right and in the best interest of themselves. We are on our way towards attaining unending sentience and the most advanced forms of ourselves that we can reach, which is the essence of the transhuman mission.

And later:

On Transhumania, we are all one-person universes, one-person existences, one-person cultures. Bearing that in mind, we may still live or die for one another: for our families, for our children, for our spouses, for our friends, for our colleagues at Transhumania—or for those whom we respect and for whom we care to reasonably live or die. We will not live or die for someone we don’t know, however. Or for someone we don’t respect. Or for someone or something we don’t value. We will not throw away years of our lives for uneducated consumers, for welfare-collecting non-producers, for fool religious fanatics, or for corrupt politicians who know law but don’t stand by it or practice it.

This does not contain much information on the topic, but provides a good insight into the intellectual atmosphere in which Transhumania is conceived and created.  Only the first sentence of the second paragraph hints at principles of social organisation.  Clearly the individual is the basic element.  This one-person universe can submit to more general collectives such as family and friends, implied by one’s willingness to die for them, and the term ‘submit’ is used here not in the sense of subordination but that of integration.  But i question the verity of including colleagues here.  If this refers to colleagues in general it seems plausible in the sense that they have all submitted themselves to the idea and cause of Transhumania, have integrated into it and thereby become subject to the willingness to die for Transhumania itself.  But if it regards personal disagreement or conflict such a decision would have to be taken under the rules of utility as described in the following quote that closes Jethro’s address, and will be further discussed within the topic of humanicide:

We will invite you to join us: as friends, as colleagues, as comrades. And we will trade value to each other to gain what we want. We will discriminate against and judge each other on the basis of whether we offer sufficient utility to one another or not. There’s only one quintessential rule on Transhumania: If you don’t add value to the transhuman mission, if you are inconsequential or a negative sum to our success, then you will be forced off and away from our nation.

The political structure of Transhumania does not amount to much more than derivation from Jethro’s logic, which i consider to not always be compelling, and the social structure during the island days is firmly based on the business principle: benefits in exchange for work.  This changes later when after a military confrontation with a coalition of established governments is won by Transhumania which then proceeds to govern all planetary affairs.  The underlying principle is a hierarchical meritocracy with Jethro, bearing the most merit, at the top.

All reviewers appear to agree that when Transhumania takes on global rulership Jethro starts using his position in dictatorial manners.  I tend to disagree.  The project has been run this way since its inception, only until now he never encountered any resistance.  The following quotes illustrate the way in which his transhumanist ideology remains paramount:

The Transhuman Revolution seeks to transform the world into a transhumanist-inspired planet. Transhumania aims to fulfil that goal in order to harness the Earth’s resources and to unite with those millions of people on the outside who can, and want to, help us accelerate the greater transhuman mission…

Jethro turned from the ocean and stated firmly to the leaders of Transhumania, “We want to teach the people of the outside world, not destroy them; we want to convince them, not dictate them; we want them to join us, not fight us.

In the following i sense an almost fascist attitude of contempt: “If you weren’t an intellectual with progressive thinking and creative futuristic ideas, you were no one”, which is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that mandatory and free education is provided.

And the reference to Earth’s resources betrays colonialist impulse:

The Transhuman Revolution seeks to transform the world into a transhumanist-inspired planet. Transhumania aims to fulfil that goal in order to harness the Earth’s resources and to unite with those millions of people on the outside who can, and want to, help us accelerate the greater transhuman mission.

And here he surprisingly commits a grave logic error, taking his reasoning to absurd conclusions:

The optimum transhuman trajectory of civilization is that which creates the most efficient way to produce omnipotenders.  Currently, the best way to accomplish this is to achieve as expediently as possible the highest amount of productive transhuman life house in the maximum amount of human beings; however not all human beings will be a net-positive in producing omnipotenders.  Any individual who ultimately hampers the optimum transhuman trajectory of civilization should be eliminated.  The Humanicide Formula addresses these issues directly.  It determines whether an individual should live or die based on an algorithm measuring transhuman productivity in terms of that individual’s remaining life hours, their resource consumption in a finite system, and their past, present and potential future contributions.

Besides the inane concept omnipotender, meaning an almighty one, which is an unrealistic idea and contributes nothing to the story, there is no need for such a formula in an abundance based society.  This seems to be more of an expression of dislike of, and contempt for, those who show no interest in becoming ‘omnipotenders’, and it implies totalitarian control over the behaviours of individuals.

This is addressed by 33rdsquare as well:

Knights even describes how TEF should make people try to act like computers, to explore and even attain a “cold precisionlike morality” and a “harsh machine-like objectivity.”   Among the controversial ideas Knights and his fellow transhumanists act out would transfer those billions from programs that fund society’s most vulnerable — or as Knights says, “lazy welfare recipients,” “mentally challenged, “uneducated repeat criminals” and “obese second-rate citizens bankrupting our medical system”.

But Jethro manifests more agreeable aspects of his personality.  Here he shows a degree of transparency rarely seen in current governments:

Every one of you is to go to your teams and staff today, and tell them the same thing I have told you: war is imminent. You are also to offer them the same opportunity to leave Transhumania on the same terms I have given you. Tell them everything exactly as I have told you just now.

After 17 years of undivided rule he announces ‘democratic elections’.  At this point transhumanism has been firmly established and accepted, and the presidency smoothly goes to his closest associate.  This raises the question of what criteria should apply for participation in ‘democracy’, a topic to which we will return later.

As we have seen there is not much in the rules by which Transhumania is governed that is applicable to the foundations and policies of current transhumanist parties.  This is quite surprising but can be explained by the way in which transhumanism comes to power in the novel and by Jethro’s l’état c’est moi approach.  Meanwhile in the real world Zoltan is pioneering the transhumanists’ hopefully not too long march through the institutions.

C – Neue Slowenische Kunst

NSK or Neue Slowenische Kunst, which is german for New Slovenian Art, is an art collective based in Lublijana.  It was founded in 1984 by the multimedia group Laibach (established 1980), the visual arts group Irwin (1983), and the theatre group Scipion Nasice Sisters Theatre (SNST) (1983–87).  Further groups have joined since then.  In 1992 they founded NSK State in Time, which is described on their website:

The State is conceived as a utopian formation which has no physical territory and is not identified with any existing national state. It is inherently transnational and describes itself as ‘the first global state of the universe.’ It issues passports to anyone who is prepared to identify with its founding principles and citizenship is open to all regardless of national, sexual, religious or other status. It now has several thousand citizens across numerous countries and all continents, including a large number in Nigeria. The NSK State itself is a collective cultural work, formed by both the iconography and statements of its founders and its citizens’ responses to these and to the existence of the state. It is also part of the wider ‘Micronations’ movement which has grown increasingly visible and received growing critical and theoretical attention in recent years.

It is clearly not directly applicable to current or future realpolitics transhumanist parties are dedicated to, but still can serve as a model to work toward in the long view.

Several very interesting articles have been written about it, most putting greater emphasis on its artistic implications than the political ones, even though the two are inseparable.

Conor McGrady writes in The Brooklyn Rail:

A full working group session also examined the question of whether the NSK state should or should not consider itself a micronation. Loosely described as “independent nations or states, but which are not recognized by world governments or major international organizations,” micronations usually exist as social or political simulations. On this issue delegates were unanimous. It was argued that the NSK state transcends micronations, in that for the most part they limit themselves to outmoded forms of government, mimicking fiefdoms, monarchies, and other feudal structures. As the “first global State of the Universe,” it was suggested that the state relate to micronations in a paternal fashion, rather than build fraternal ties.

On the influencers site i found this quote:

The artists who form the collective Irwin are the visual biographers of NSK: their work, framed within the tradition of totalitarian regimes, reappropriated the supremacist symbols of the Eastern European Block to construct their own identity as “state artists”, faithful to a strict collective discipline. They opened consulates, designed badges and distributed passports for the NSK, a “state in time” that takes the paradoxes of state identity to an extreme in order to ultimately reveal a glimpse of the hidden face of existing ideological structures.

The most interesting view is presented by Gordan Djurdjevic in his article ‘Crossing the Wires: Art, Radical Politics, and Esotericism in the Project of Neue Slowenische Kunst’ on the academia site, where he explores the esoteric dimension of NSK, which he introduces with two quotes:

  • “All art is Magick” – Aleister Crowley
  • “All art is subject to political manipulation … except for that which speaks the language of this same manipulation” – Laibach

In 2005 MIT published an extensive treatment of Laibach and NSK by Alexei Monroe under the title of ‘Interrogation Machine’.

Certainly transhumanism will have to develop an artistic foundation, especially in the context of party politics and propaganda.  NSK can provide interesting and valid ideas, and should be studied.

D – Zero State

Zero State is an emerging trans-national, virtual state.  On its website it is presented as follows:

The Zero State (ZS) community works toward the establishment of a VDP (Virtual/Distributed/Parallel) State or “Polystate” committed to Social Futurism and the WAVE Principles.

These terms are explained there subsequently, with the exception of ‘Polystate’ which may still be in flux; it has no WP entry yet, but here Poly- and VDP state are equated.  We will look at Polystate separately later on.

On its site there is a FAQ section that describes its general ideas and the possibilities of participation, but not much is said about either its internal structure or its ideas for the organisation of the world at large.  However in an article on the IEET site by Amon Twyman, who is the founder of ZS, entitled “The Social Futurist policy toolkit” he says: “It is my intent that this toolkit should form a kind of bridge between the broadest, most general level of political discussion on the one hand, and the development of specific policies for local groups on the other”, and lays out the following six policy categories:

  1. Evidence, Balance, & Transition
  2. Universal Basic Income & LVAT
  3. Abolition of Fractional Reserve Banking
  4. Responsible Capitalism, Post-Scarcity, & Emergent Commodity Markets
  5. Human autonomy, privacy, & enhancement
  6. Establishment of VDP (Virtual, Distributed, Parallel) States

It would be redundant to explain these categories here, and i highly recommend reading the original text on the site.  Another promising source may be the book “Zero State: Year Zero”, which to read i did not have enough time.  Another source worth mentioning here is the technoprogessive declaration conceived during the TransVision conference of 2014 and mentioned here by James Hughes.

While far from a comprehensive program, an internal constitution or a vision of how to optimally organise local, national, or virtual association, this toolkit does in fact deliver the “the broadest, most general level of political discussion”, which can be the basis for any and all of the above.  The principles underlying these policies can be applied to all political activities.  Besides the Transpolitica manifesto, which is actually ideologically very close to, if not identical with, Twyman’s social futurism, and well worth studying, this is in fact the most suitable material i have come across in my search for transhumanist political principles.  But that is no accident as ZS is clearly a transhumanist organisation de facto, if not explicitly, and it has begun developing long before transhumanism entered the political arena.

E – Libertarianism

There are two areas where a strong connection between transhumanism and libertarianism exists.

History:  early transhumanism, namely extropianism (now extropism), grew, at least in part, out of the 60s counterculture, a confluence of various movements such as those who work for equality before the law (race, gender, wealth, age) and those who work for mental, physical, and social self-determination.  Many among them declared themselves to be libertarian, quite often reflexively as a reaction to the restrictive policies used against them.  Libertarianism was almost the countercultural default position in those days.

Economy: many of the people who dream up, develop and produce the technologies that are essential to transhumanist thought are unsurprisingly entrepreneurs and capitalists, and a sizable number among them are libertarians, trying to minimise government influence on business activities.

Since the turn of the century an increasing influx of a variety of new ideas and people into transhumanism is underway, and now libertarians are a large minority within the movement.

Even though the core idea of libertarianism is that of individual freedom with an emphasis on protection against intrusion by ‘authority’, this has often been expanded and altered.  Within the economic domain it often refers to the freedom of business activities and strongly overlaps with neoliberalism.  Other variants such as socialist, anarchist and cooperative libertarians promote freedom from corporate as well as governmental interference.

Politically libertarianism plays a significant role mostly in the u.s., while in Europe it is more of philosophical interest.  Because of the diversity in the usage of the term, it is not easy to find common libertarian principles that could apply to transhumanism.

However there is an extropian manifesto that contains the following policy principles:

  • Endless eXtension – perpetual growth in accord with biological and technological evolution
  • Transcending Restriction – “abolish all restrictions imposed by religion, protectionism, segregation, racism, bigotry, sexism, ageism, and any of the other archaic fears and hatreds”
  • Overcoming Property – reform of “archaic, out-dated human laws that govern possession by improving and/or annihilating terms such as ownership, copyright, patent, money and property”
  • Intelligence – “The most valuable material in the universe is information and the imagination to do something with it”
  • Smart Machines – “attainment of Friendly Artificial Intelligence. We promote the development of robots, computers, and all machines that can emulate human thought, copy minds, and attain intelligence that exceeds human ability”

These are explained further on that site.  They appear to be quite compatible with those of ZS mentioned above, again unsurprisingly.  Another concept that i find very useful is that of the Proactionary Principle explained on the Extropy Institute’s site.

F – Socialism

Even though socialist ideas have been promoted since long before Karl Marx, his version is often associated with the term.  Founded in materialism that holds that history is driven by the changing material base, the economic conditions, which determines the superstructure, society’s culture and politics, it is based on the principles of collective ownership, compensation by contribution and production for use.

While for Marx socialism was a transient period leading by historical necessity to communism, the various forms of socialism we see today, including social democracy, would be described by him as reformist.  He made explicit this distinction in his 1848 Communist Manifesto.

Unfortunately he did not foresee the development of the power of the media we see today, which does a lot to obscure the perception of real class differences, especially in the u.s. where the term ‘class’ has been successfully banned from the vocabulary in order to keep up the pretence that class does not exist, which leads almost half the population to regularly vote contrary to their own material interests.  He also ignored, understandably, the fact that the traits that lead humans to capitalist behaviour in the first place, namely hoarding and raiding, control and violence, are anchored deeply within the genetic code as they proved to be conducive to survival during a long period of human history.  This was the main reason that the only real experiment to implement his model three decades after his death, the soviet union, showed signs of failing even under Lenin and turned into an imperialist ‘thugocracy’ under Stalin, from which it never recovered.  Thus socialism as it exists today is quite distinct from the marxist idea and comes in a wide range of variations which can also be quite distinct from each other.

As it would exceed the scope of this writing to explore the many variations of socialism that today are alive and, because of the accelerating excesses of capitalism, increasingly kicking, it shall suffice to point again to the above quoted article by Twyman.  At least points 2, 3, and 4 in his policy toolkit imply a more or less profound reform if not abolition of capitalism.  In fact the article also includes ‘A note on Marxism’, in which he says:

Social Futurism does not deny the Marxist analysis of the problem, but seeks a staged transition to a post-Capitalist society which does not attempt to undermine the entire basis of our current society in a single move.

I completely agree with this position, but in this context point out that his transhumanism, or ‘social futurism’, is one form, in my view the most advanced, of what Marx would have called ‘socialist reformism’.

Even the third point in the extropian manifesto ‘Overcoming Property’, far from being libertarian as understood in the u.s., is in complete contradiction to the foundation of capitalism.

In closing i must point to the above mentioned principle of ‘production for use’ as opposed to production for profit.  As the latter takes an increasing proportion of value out of the economy and makes it disappear into a finite holding of unproductive land and real estate value as well as an infinite holding of financial or virtual value, transhumanism, which is based in reason, but also any reasonable economist, will see virtue in this principle.

G – Anarchism

Like socialism anarchism is a historic phenomenon with close links to the former that also is alive today in theory but much less in practice of political significance.  There are no anarchist governments in existence and no significant anarchist parties, the latter actually being a self-contradictory concept.  Another problem is that anarchism in much of public perception still carries terrorist connotations.

And like socialism it also manifests a wide range of sometimes contradictory variants, too many to list in this context, but a fairly comprehensive overview can be found here.

However there exists an explicit form of transhumanist anarchism with its own manifesto.  It claims to be based on the Transpolitica manifesto, from which it distinguishes itself by introducing the concept of vanguardism:

Vanguardism traditionally conceived of a small group of people who value a socialist state to guide the working class (proletariat) away from the tyranny of the capitalist-state and the few who run it (bourgeoisie)”.

This is sensible only under the premise of misidentifying socialism as leninism, stalinism or some other such manifestation, and adds nothing of value to the discourse.

While the manifesto is perhaps the most detailed presentation of transhumanist policy ideas, and i essentially agree with its intention and recommend it as a rich source of material and inspiration, i see two major flaws with it.

To associate transhumanism with anarchism, and anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism in particular, instead of promoting these ideas simply as transhumanist policy principles, is a tactically unwise move that will not find much resonance in populations of currently existing polities.  Likewise including the Fermi paradox is unneeded baggage and the question “Have millions of civilisations gone extinct because they could not realize such a [anarchist] society?” is naively self centered and showing an untranshumanist lack of imagination.

It appears to be in disagreement with engaging in electoral procedures within current systems that even allow for such an option.  “Said reform rarely happens as parties become interconnected with the current neoliberal system”.  My conclusion is not inescapable, but a political party by its very nature has to be connected with existing systems, none of which are by definition neoliberal, neoliberalism being just the current marketing device of capitalism.

H – Democracy

Even more so than socialism and anarchism, the term is applied in a myriad of ways, ranging from the just mentioned anarchism through western systems to the DPRK.  Everyone, including transhumanism, and even Jethro Knight’s version, wants to be ‘democratic’ because of the populist attraction it has assumed over the past two centuries.  In truth the rule of the people has remained elusive, and personally i object to it at least until ‘the people’ have, through voluntary, if possible, genetic reprogramming or otherwise, purged themselves of the obstructive tendencies acquired in the course of human evolution.  But a more plausible solution appears to be the delegation of policy decisions to future machine intelligence altogether.  However neither is currently or in the immediate future available and the idea is beyond our current concern; my point here is that like everything else, the idea of rule by the people should be questioned.

But if the ‘will of the people’ is to partake in the generation of political decisions, there should be more efficient ways to accomplish this than through representative bodies, despite the fact that that is currently the only model being practiced.  Most people do not feel like they have any real influence on politics, especially on the state level, and the clearest indicator for this is the often quite low rate of electoral participation.  I shall here present brief descriptions of some alternative approaches.

1. Delegative Democracy

There is precious little information out there on this concept despite it being very plausible at first glance.  The best i could find is Bryan Ford’s 2002 paper, and apparently its last two sections are still under construction.  In 2014 he published ‘Revisited’, which contains some further links.  Both are here.

The idea is that each voting right holder can choose to delegate his vote, preferably to a person he trusts and knows to hold similar views on the matters of concern as himself, or to become a delegate himself.  This principle is repeatable so that the next level will always be comprised of fewer delegates than the previous.  Each delegate is afforded a degree of influence corresponding to the number of votes he represents.  The aim is to combine the principle of direct democracy with the practicality of representative democracy.

Advantages are among others that voters, even those who have no time or inclination to study the issues in question, can feel that their votes are not wasted, and that the cost for entering the process is low.  The WP entry contains a more detailed list, and Ford’s paper discusses ideas on practical problems and solutions.

Software solutions for implementing the systems have been developed and European Pirate Parties are using them.  There is also a brief and quite superficial video introduction.

The model is certainly one to be explored, discussed and tested.

2. Deliberative Democracy

Beyond the question of how to best recognise and realise voters’ intentions, this model is concerned with the quality of those intentions.  Valid decisions can only be arrived at through explicit deliberation free of the influence of prevailing power structures.

The main forum promoting this view is the Center for Deliberative Democracy (CDD) at Stanford and its website contains research papers, events, briefing documents, questionnaires, a downloadable toolkit, case studies, videos and press publications.

The case studies always involve deliberative polling, whereby random samples of people, considered to be statistically representative, convene to intensely deliberate certain issues under the guidance of trained moderators.  They are polled before, during and after their discussions and considerable changes in content and quality of opinion are often found.

Currently the main proponent of the concept is James S. Fishkin, director of the CDD.  He and others present a series of videos that will give the reader a good idea of the theory and current practice of deliberative democracy.

In his 1985 book ‘Is Democracy Possible?’, last updated in 2014, John Burnheim presents a much more profound approach, based on rethinking the current social and political structures quite radically.

He envisions the obliteration of the state, promotes the concept of decentralisation and introduces the idea of ‘demarchy’.  I quote:

In order to have democracy we must abandon elections, and in most cases referendums, and revert to the ancient principle of choosing by lot those who are to hold various public offices. Decision-making bodies should be statistically representative of those affected by their decisions. The illusory control exercised by voting for representatives has to be replaced by the chance of nominating and being selected as an active participant in the formulation of decisions. Elections, I shall argue, inherently breed oligarchies. Democracy is possible only if the decision-makers are a representative sample of the people concerned. I shall call a polity based on this principle a demarchy, using “democracy” to cover both electoral democracy and demarchy […..]

The whole tendency of demarchy is to replace the rigid legal electoral and administrative procedures of state democracy, which tend to standardize and atomize people, by flexible, responsive, participatory procedures that permit and foster maximum variety.

The whole last chapter is devoted to this concept of demarchy.  He lists four conditions for its realisation:

a) The first condition of demarchy being possible is that the society in which it is to be instituted be reasonably democratic in its social attitudes. While recognizing that people may differ greatly in particular abilities, the demarchist does not believe that there is any group of people whose capacities entitle them to a position of special or wide-ranging power in the community. At the base level choices made by people of no special ability are likely to be reasonable provided they are based on sound knowledge. They may need expert advice, but the judgement about whose advice to take is appropriately made by lay persons.

b) The productive technology of the society must be ample to provide a good deal of time and resources that can be devoted to public debate and decision-making.

c) People must value the opportunity for effective participation in matters that interest them and be prepared to leave other matters to those who have those interests, provided they are satisfied that the system is fair and effective.

d) People must be anxious to avoid rigidity, bureaucracy and concentration of power. They must want to avoid giving power to the state if other social mechanisms will produce common goods reliably and fairly.

The book is too full of ideas to do them justice here.  One particular gem that i want to include, because it is the expression of an essentially transhumanist view: “What human nature is is a matter of what human beings can do.”

The whole topic of Deliberative Democracy and this book in particular offer plenty of food for thought, and i highly recommend incorporating these ideas in discussing and developing a foundation for transhumanist politics.

3. Participism

As the name implies, this concept attempts to allow for determination by the people through active participation in both political and economical processes.  These two branches are known separately as parpolity and parecon; their main proponents are Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel and Stephen R.  Shalom.  Instead of discussing these features here suffice it to describe them in the words of the authors.

In a short interview Shalom describes parpolity as

A type of direct democracy, using a system of nested councils. Everyone would be a member of a primary council, which would be small enough for face-to-face decision making and for real deliberation. Decisions that affected only or overwhelmingly the members of one of these councils would be made in that council. Decisions that affected more than the people in a single council would be made in a higher-level council that would consist of delegates from several lower-level councils. There would then be additional council layers as needed to accommodate the entire society. […..] There are other aspects of the Parpolity model—such as the High Council Court, a mechanism that attempts to protect the rights of minorities without (like the US Supreme Court) becoming an instrument of minority rule.

On parecon Hahnel says:

Parecon is a proposal or vision for how to accomplish economic functions consistent with classlessness, self-management, solidarity, equity, diversity, and ecological good sense.  Parecon is not, however, a blueprint, but is rather a formulation of some critical attributes a few key aspects of economics need to have if we are to accomplish desirable aims. Beyond those critical attributes of key aspects, there is, of course, room for great diversity […..]

And what are parecon’s key aspects? First, workers and consumers self-managing councils, where self-management means people have a say in decisions proportionate to the extent they are affected by them […..]

The next key feature of parecon is called balanced job complexes. This names a new way of dividing tasks among jobs. In a participatory economy, you do a job, so do I, and so do all others who are of age and able to do work that contributes to society. More, we each choose a job that we wish to do […..] we define jobs so that each one includes a mix of tasks that convey, overall, roughly the same degree of empowerment as other balanced jobs convey to other workers […..]

The third defining feature of a participatory economy is a new norm for determining how much of the social output each member of society receives […..] people should get a share of the total social output in accord with the duration, intensity, and onerousness or socially valued labor that they do […..]

Finally, the last key aspect of parecon and the hardest to be brief about, is called participatory planning. This approach to allocation replaces markets and central planning, each of which directly violates central aims and values of parecon and each of which also generates class division and class rule […..] Very briefly, workers’ and consumers’ councils, which were mentioned earlier, cooperatively negotiate economic outcomes, without incurring undue costs in time allotted and in a manner conducive not only to self-management, but to the most informed choices possible. The procedures involve making proposals, assessing them, and refining them, all in light of steadily improving indications of true and full social and ecological costs and benefits, until arriving at a plan.

There are several books by each, Albert and Hahnel, and one by Shalom available at Amazon, as well as a graphic book titled Parecomic by Michael Wilson about the concept and about Albert in particular.  A very rich source is the media group Z Communications, cofounded and coedited by Albert.

Deadlines prohibit me to deeply review all the material, but it certainly should be included in the discussion of our topic.

4. Others

There are many other ideas for improving the performance of current systems, more than i have space here to address.  But i want to mention the work of Roberto Mangabeira Unger. In his idea of Empowered Democracy he emphasises the need for social experimentation and wants to see it given room within current polities in the expectation that once underway it will lead to progressive change.  Much of his work can be viewed on and downloaded from his website.

J – Polystate

Even though Amon Twyman uses the term, as mentioned, to categorise ZS, i could not find any further references to it, except last year’s eponymous book by Zach Weinersmith.  This is one of the most interesting ideas i have come across, especially in the transhumanist context as it deals with political constructs based in virtual spaces.  Under the assumption that politics will be increasingly migrating into virtual spaces, as many other activities like business and the media already have done and are doing, i have approached the book from the perspective of looking for solutions not only for developing political theories and performing certain political functions such as voting, but for governance itself.  However instead of internal political structures and functions it concentrates on problems of interstate relationships.

Weinersmith introduces these three concepts:

  1. Anthrostate – “A set of laws and institutions that govern the behavior of individuals, but which do not govern a behavior within geographic borders”.
  2. Geostate – This is a political entity defined by the fact that its governance usually extends over a fixed geographical area. This includes almost all current nation states.
  3. Polystate – “The polystate is the collection of anthrostates in a hypothetical human society”.

The central topic of the book is the anthrostate, and the relationships of multiple not necessarily compatible anthrostates within a polystate.  Weinersmith assumes reasonably that the internal structures and functions as well as their underlying ideologies can vary wildly.  About the concept itself he says: “I am not a proponent of this idea or a detractor”.  The idea of ‘government of choice’ is not a new one.  It is known under the concept of panarchism, first introduced by Paul Émile de Puydt in his 1860 paper ‘Panarchy’.

Unfortunately i let myself be misled into thinking that anthrostates as well as polystates are based within one or several geostates, probably because it is never explicitly stated that a polystate indeed is based within its own geographic area, and because ZS, the one polystate mentioned earlier, is obviously based within many geostates.  Indeed at location 605 is this quote: “WS-1 [a hypothetical polystate] does not claim any territory”.  But there are several other quotes i could list that seem to indicate that polystates can indeed have their own territory.  This conflict is never really resolved.

Much of the book deals with relations between anthrostates, exploring ways in which problems resulting from incompatibilities in for instance economical, criminal, electoral and taxational laws can be resolved, including warfare.  Under current conditions no geostate would cede authority in these matters or tolerate these conflicts within its territory.

As initially mentioned many transhumanist parties have sprung up across the globe, all aiming at participating in national elections except for one: TPV (transhumanist party virtual).  This can not be a true party until it finds a state, such as an anthrostate, within which it could compete.  However the two virtual states mentioned are not prepared for electoral democracy, and may not ever decide to be.  As i know of no other virtual state that is, most likely because an established legislature would not have the power to implement any of the above mentioned policies within the territory of any geostate, and therefore would under current conditions be of limited utility, the whole issue remains hypothetical.

Indeed Weinersmith has described his book as a thought experiment, and as such i find it to be a good source of ideas.  In a recent interview he refers to the “discretization of experience”, by which he means the increasing variety of choices for customers afforded by technology, which he extrapolates, very reasonably, to include choices for customers of government.  In his book however he takes this idea to the point of having for instance an anarchist, a communist, a liberal and a fascist sharing the same house (possibly even the same apartment?) and living under different governments and laws.  This shows the inherent weakness of the oxymoronic concept of virtual reality.  There are only two ways in which it can be achieved:  subjectively, by induced amnesia so that the subject is not aware of any reality outside the one he experiences, which is the model assumed by simulation theories, or objectively, by transitioning from physical existence into virtual existence as software while maintaining awareness of the existence of physical reality.  Unless one accepts the esoteric concept of involution according to which the physical plane of existence emerged from the astral, and that in turn from the causal one, all nonphysical realities always remain rooted in the physical.  To live within a computer its physical machinery must be maintained, protected and energised.  The same is true for a virtual polystate, and sharing it with an IS militant would sooner or later lead to conflict not only between anthrostates but also involving the not so virtual reality of physical swords and bombs.

In conclusion it seems clear that Weinersmith does not offer or try to offer any real solutions to the problem of what used to be subcultures multiplying and consolidating in virtual spaces and reconciling their differences with the physical basis within which they operate.  That will have to be, and is being, done by emerging virtual states, parties and other political bodies themselves.   As for the objective of developing political structures congruent with transhumanist thought, he takes no position here.


Even though the presented constitutes a very limited sample, there is certainly no shortage of ideas, and there are some more elaborate models, out there that can and should be used in discussing and developing theories that will be coherent within a transhumanist framework.  Transhumanist parties and their theoreticians have a big task ahead which is alleviated by agreement on common principles while giving room to accommodating different national conditions.

But i have been encouraged by seeing how many good brains have been working on these ideas for years already.

On this optimistic note i will leave the reader with an interesting historical observation published by the Center for Systemic Peace.

Global Trends in Governance

Editor’s Note:

The author of this chapter has chosen to abide by his personal style which includes customised spelling, neologisms, minimal capitalisation, and other peculiarities, which may appear to the reader to be mistakes.


The article above features as Chapter 7 of the Transpolitica book “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”. Transpolitica welcomes feedback. Your comments will help to shape the evolution of Transpolitica communications.

Political Transhumanism and the Transhumanist Party

By M. Amon Twyman, Transhumanist Party Co-Founder, UK Party Leader, Global Party Secretary


Transhumanism has historically been an effectively apolitical movement, focussed on technological improvement of the human condition. While some political obstacles to that goal have been recognised, Transhumanists’ political views have traditionally covered a broad range, making the emergence of a unified Political Transhumanism seem highly problematic. A paradigm shift appears to have occurred in 2014, with the establishment of the Transhumanist Party in the USA by Zoltan Istvan. Subsequently a number of related groups have rapidly appeared around the world, in an entire new movement dedicated to the idea of Political Transhumanism, with the Transhumanist Party as its primary vehicle in any given country. This chapter will consider the relationship between that movement and Transhumanism as a whole, what character the nascent Transhumanist Party appears to be developing, and the question of possible long-term strategies to transform the politics of the Twenty First Century.

A Unified Political Transhumanism

Transhumanism is an intellectual and cultural movement to expand human capabilities through technology. Transhumanism integrates numerous ideas and ideologies under one umbrella, and that diversity can make it difficult to trace a singular origin to the movement. Although earlier uses of the word “transhuman” and similar concepts have been noted (reaching as far back as Julian Huxley and even Friedrich Nietzsche), the general consensus seems to be that Transhumanism as a modern movement began with the ideas of futurist F.M. Esfandiary (AKA F.M. 2030) at the New School in 1960s New York.

From there, there was a slow emergence of groups in the UK and California which gave rise to the Extropy Institute in the late 1980s, and later an explosive proliferation of organisations and sub-movements owing their growth to the internet. The movement now comprises tens or even hundreds of thousands of members, a number of wealthy patrons, and a wide array of factions and specialist interests. The one consistent idea at the heart of it all, known as the “Central Meme of Transhumanism” or CMT, is that we can and should improve the human condition through technology.

Politically, the movement has historically been highly diverse, with that diversity only increasing with the growth of the movement. Certain popular currents of thought come and go, such as Libertarianism being very popular in Extropian circles in the 1980s and 1990s, but there has never been a point at which being a Transhumanist has strongly implied having a particular political outlook. That diversity has occasionally led to assertions that Transhumanism is inherently apolitical, and in some quarters it is (with Transhumanists often preferring technical over political solutions to problems), but we must note that a diversity of political opinion and a lack of it are not the same thing. There are indeed many Transhumanists with political interests, and although they often differ in those interests they certainly agree on the core impulse of Transhumanism.

The existence of significant (if diverse) political opinion on the part of Transhumanists reflects the fact that many of them recognise that their technological aspirations may be hindered or even blocked entirely by political opponents. There has however never been any serious attempt to unify Transhumanists behind a single political effort, ideology, or framework in order to deal effectively with that opposition. The resultant diversity has historically made the emergence of a unified Political Transhumanism seem highly unlikely. To look at that another way, any unified Political Transhumanism could only represent aspects of the wider Transhumanist movement, and never the entire thing. Such aspects would not just include the occasionally incompatible philosophies which comprise the Transhumanist movement, but also traditional political (e.g. Left/Right) divisions between individual Transhumanists. Any decision as to which aspects of Transhumanism to emphasise could be made deliberately, or allowed to emerge via some process, but in either case there inevitably would be some bona fide Transhumanists who quite rightly felt that the party did not represent their views.

Possible responses to this situation fall into three categories. First, a person could simply say that this is a non-issue, as a political variant of Transhumanism strikes them as irrelevant or undesirable in some way. Although that is a valid point of view, we might note that it is one that politically-empowered opponents of Transhumanism (such as lobbyists on behalf of conservative religious groups) would be very happy to see all Transhumanists adopt.

The second category is the favoured response of fanatical ideologues throughout history: To declare that there is no problem because only one variant of Transhumanism is valid, and all others are not worthy of the name. Putting my own belief in the power of diversity aside, I think it suffices to say that any Political Transhumanism that started out by alienating most Transhumanists would probably not have a high chance of eventual success.

Finally, one might suppose that we could “square the circle”, integrating the various disparate strands of Transhumanism in some manner that preserves difference and yet creates an effective, united front. Any such approach would seem to require that two conditions are satisfied. The first condition is that any approach or ideology consistent with the CMT must be assured a fair chance of at least partially informing policy adopted by Transhumanist political parties, if there is to be any plausible claim to universality by those parties. The second is that when making their decisions, those parties cannot be expected to wait for or please every other person and group calling themselves Transhumanist, since that would lead to deadlock and bland policy which fully satisfies no-one within the movement.

Given these conditions, I would argue that the ancient model we need to follow is not the analytical “squaring the circle”, but the altogether more forthright “cutting the Gordian Knot”. In other words, rather than attempting to carefully balance the concerns and preferences of myriad groups (a nigh-impossible task under even the best circumstances), a Transhumanist political party should boldly move ahead and do as it must. The only caveat – and the one thing stopping this from being the “fanatical” second option already noted – is that all Transhumanists must always have the option of getting involved and shaping policy. No Transhumanist could be excluded from the party on the basis of beliefs that are compatible with the CMT and the existence of the Party itself, no matter how unorthodox they may be.

In that way there would be no deadlock, no watering down party policy to please non-members, and yet a valid claim to universality and equality of opportunity. The only people not represented in the policy-development process would be those who cannot accept the CMT (and who are therefore not Transhumanists), those who cannot explicitly endorse the Party for whatever reason, and those who have chosen to exclude themselves through inactivity. Transhumanists who claimed that their views were not adequately represented within the party would only have themselves to blame, and the party could not be marginalised or distanced from the rest of the Transhumanist movement as a result.

The Transhumanist Party

Of course, when I refer to a political party in the previous section I am not being abstract or hypothetical. A paradigm shift within Transhumanism appears to have occurred in 2014, with the establishment of the Transhumanist Party in the USA by Zoltan Istvan. Although no-one claims that this fledgling organisation can speak for all Transhumanists or is even ready to operate in a serious way, a line has been crossed in the bold assertion that the Transhumanist movement can and will have a unified political face. Of course Transhumanism outside the Party and non-Party forms of Political Transhumanism will continue to exist and thrive, and we will briefly consider possible relationships between such phenomena and the Party in the next section. From now on, however, no-one will be able to intelligently claim that a unified Political Transhumanism does not exist. They will merely be able to state their relationship to it.

Subsequent to establishment of the U.S. Party, a number of related groups have rapidly appeared around the world, in an entire new movement dedicated to the idea of Political Transhumanism, with the Transhumanist Party as its primary vehicle in any given country. This expansion appears to be part of what we may think of as a “post-classical” phase for Transhumanism, following the earlier “classical” phase in which organisations like the Extropy Institute and World Transhumanist Association / Humanity+ could make statements on behalf of all Transhumanists with relative confidence. In this new phase, new organisations constantly appear and their claims to represent Transhumanism are rightly tested and questioned. The Transhumanist Party will therefore have to prove its value, its ability to endure, and most importantly its ability to reflect truly Transhumanist values in its policies.

What kind of values and policies might those be? Can we yet see any indication at this early stage? In many ways I believe that we cannot yet know what character the Transhumanist Party will have, especially since it will necessarily develop a different character in different nations. We also must bear in mind that the internal processes developed by the different national-level Parties will shape what policies they adopt, and furthermore there is a difference between policy and effective changes made in the world. All that said, certain policy themes have already been prevalent in discussions among TP supporters, and it is interesting to take note of them. These have naturally had a common focus in science and evidence-based policy, and encouraging the use of technology to circumvent problems themselves often created or exacerbated by technology (e.g. surveillance, civil rights and questions of personal freedoms, technological unemployment, intellectual property rights, the challenges of automated warfare, environmental damage, climate change and other existential risks).

Traditionally optimistic Transhumanist topics such as longevity and space exploration are also popular, but it seems likely that they will not get as much traction in policy terms as will topics which the broader public care about in an immediate and visceral way. Public opinion is, after all, the lifeblood of politics. In other words, it seems highly likely that Political Transhumanism will be primarily concerned with addressing those areas where current technologies and problems are at issue, as opposed to speculative matters. Political Transhumanism therefore has a temporal character, in both senses of the word, in that it addresses the most mundane and near-term of Transhumanist topics. Of course, in a world where technological development and various other markers of change appear to be accelerating, “near-term” doesn’t quite mean what it used to, and some of the “mundane” issues that the Transhumanist Party will have to tackle would have sounded like science fiction thirty years ago. In fact, it is my belief that TP is emerging at a time when the very fabric and nature of politics is beginning to transform beyond recognition by a Twentieth Century observer.

Transforming the Politics of the Twenty-First Century

It is easy to believe that nothing changes about politics. Its trappings and strategies are like baroque ritual, well-worn with a deep familiarity. Transhumanists, however, know well that society’s rules and institutions face a torrent of change in the coming years, driven by exponential technological development and other pressures. Politics will be no exception, and recent political adaptations to the realities of the internet, computing power more generally, 3D printing, drone technology, pharmaceuticals and genetic engineering are just the first ripples heralding the coming wave of disruption.

Of course, whatever role the Transhumanist Party might play in such a dramatically shifting future is all but impossible to predict. Perhaps it will be entirely insignificant. I expect that techno-utopians who see positive developments as inevitable would be inclined to think so, and that opponents of technological change would hope so. When I try to realistically assess the promise and plausibility of this new movement, I find myself thinking in terms of a twenty five year time frame. After twenty five years of consistent and effective effort, if all goes well enough, the movement could have enough influence through various channels to effect serious positive change. Of course that speculation raises a lot of questions, and most of them cannot yet be answered. However, we can briefly review points ranging from likely near-term strategies and prospects, to scenarios which are more speculative and plausible only in the longer term.

Firstly, there is the question of near-term political strategy, and how that strategy will necessarily be informed by local conditions. I’ve already mentioned that Transhumanist Party “precursor groups” have been springing up around the world, and most of them so far are in Europe, but even there the diversity of political conditions and sentiment means that the different Parties must naturally evolve to present a common worldview in many different ways. When it comes to traditional political party activity, we can see the most scope for modest medium-term success in nations where parliaments are elected by a proportional representation system, such as Germany. The examples of movements like the Pirate Party, Syriza and Podemos make this clear, whereas in “first past the post” systems (such as in the UK) it can easily take twenty five years to become the third party, even with radical and unexpected success. To my mind, traditional political attempts in the United States and Russia are little more than publicity drives (which is most certainly a thing of value in itself) because the systems in those nations allow for no real third-party influence. In effective single-party states like China there is no real potential for an independent political party at all.

Given this continuum from modest to negligible traditional influence, it is entirely unsurprising that some people feel that the Transhumanist Party is not worthy of their attention or support. Why put in twenty five years of hard effort to end up with little more influence than you started out with? If I felt that these limitations were absolute, then I personally would not support the effort, either. But the fact is that traditional political engagement is only one route to socio-political influence, and to the extent that traditional routes are limited then I would encourage Transhumanist Parties to explore non-traditional options. What might some of these “non-traditional options” be?

I’m going to finish this chapter by briefly looking at three such strategies, or perhaps more accurately three categories of development which we should expect to inform specific strategies. I see these categories as complementary, perhaps overlapping across different time frames, and definitely not mutually exclusive. Here we are looking at things from the most abstract, “big picture” perspective possible without veering off into the most speculative outer reaches of Transhumanism, so a lack of specificity is inevitable. We are, after all, just now taking the first step in a very long journey, and cannot be sure what lies ahead.

The first class of development is the most prosaic, and perhaps the most likely: That direct political influence will be unsatisfyingly negligible, but indirect influence through other organisations may prove fruitful. After all, established institutions (such as the two main parties in nations like the U.K. and U.S.) will have to deal with technological developments and their societal implications too, so why not try to foster influence within them? In my opinion this is a necessary course of action, very much complementary to the direct approach of the Transhumanist Party. Indeed, in the short- and medium-term I think this indirect approach could yield dividends for Transhumanism which are highly unlikely to be achieved via the Party. Many Transhumanists seem to intuit that the way forward on this front is to build strong political connections with such institutions via think tanks, and Transhumanists have already been building such organisations. Among others, we have the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at Oxford University, and of course the recently established Transpolitica. I must reiterate that this indirect approach complements development of the Transhumanist Party, aiming for the same outcome despite being pursued by different people, by different methods and over different time frames, and so it is not a matter of having to choose between approaches.

The second category includes all situations where Party organisation has matured and has a lot of potential, but is being blocked by any combination of deliberate opposition and general political intransigence or stagnation. Transhumanists may well decide that they are being blocked from necessary measures which they have a right to pursue, perhaps as a matter of personal survival. Under those conditions, Party organisations could decide to apply their resources to direct action initiatives, rather than attempting to convince established institutions of anything. In short, if denied any chance to pursue their rights, Political Transhumanists may simply go their own way. This would involve setting up our own systems of governance and resource management, in ways and places that would allow us to pursue our own goals despite the reservations of others. Of course this raises a host of ethical and practical questions, but for the moment my purpose is only to point out that political parties can be good for more than attempting to persuade others who may never agree with our views.

Thirdly, we reach the foothills of the long-term and speculative scenarios which have long fuelled the imaginations of Transhumanists. They and various futurist fellow-travellers are aware that a number of critical societal trends appear to be unfolding at an exponential rate, which means that sudden and extremely disruptive change can be reasonably expected within decades. In fact, some would argue that we have witnessed the earliest signs of that change already, with technology already having deeply affected business and government since the turn of the Century. A noted characteristic of exponential change is that it can drastically alter circumstances (and the rules of any given situation) far quicker than would be expected by those used only to linear change. Taking that into account, we should be prepared for the possibility that the Transhumanist Party’s “futuristic” concerns could be a matter of contemporary politics a lot sooner than most people expect, and traditional politicians could very easily be caught off-guard. If we take our position seriously and prepare appropriately, the Transhumanist Party could find itself faced with an unprecedented opportunity in a lot less than twenty five years after all.

Finally, we should take that logic to its conclusion, and ask a question which will already have occurred to many apolitical Transhumanists: Why bother trying to influence politics at all, when we may well have been engulfed in a Technological Singularity within 20-30 years? After all, any number of Singularitarians are inclined to follow Ray Kurzweil’s lead in expecting a total shift in the human and societal condition around 2045, which would render any and all political progress moot. My personal answer to this question is that the future is unknown. No rational person can claim to be entirely sure what will happen. A Technological Singularity may never occur, and indeed the question of whether it occurs or not (or is a good thing or not) may well be a matter of human agency rather than inevitability. If human agency is to play any role whatsoever, then having Political Transhumanists work on increasing the odds of a good outcome – at the very least by blocking political interference – is a very good idea. If a Good Singularity is indeed inevitable then there will have been no harm in working toward it, but if a positive future has to be worked for then it would be a grave error to blithely ignore or even deliberately reject some of the tools at our disposal. Given that a Bad Singularity is probably the most horrific scenario envisaged by Transhumanists, even worse than a simple extinction of humanity, Singularitarians should be the first to acknowledge the need to work toward a positive future by all means necessary.

Conclusion: Interesting Times

In this chapter we have considered the emergence of Political Transhumanism and the Transhumanist Party as part of the “post-classical” phase of Transhumanism’s development. We have seen that this new aspect would and could not replace Transhumanism as a whole, but would instead augment and represent it in an active engagement with society. This new wing of the movement needs to be open to all Transhumanists who would step up to actively support it and represent their own beliefs within it, but at the same time it must be bold and take action without waiting for permission from every would-be armchair critic (including a good many implicit opponents). A broad range of issues seem likely to inform Party policies, but the very nature of being a political party looks likely to draw TP toward the nearer-term, less speculative Transhumanist topics. The Party may find it best to pursue unorthodox strategies, but that is no problem when we consider that our aim is to solve problems, not to create a political party of any particular type for its own sake. Finally, we are faced with a kind of modern Pascal’s Wager, whereby it behooves us to work toward a positive future by all means possible – including the political – regardless of whether the unknowable future might also be inevitable. We live in interesting times, and it is up to us to do what we can to make the best of them.


The article above features as Chapter 6 of the Transpolitica book “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”. Transpolitica welcomes feedback. Your comments will help to shape the evolution of Transpolitica communications.

Transpolitica Plans: Beyond Book 1

Ahead of a Transpolitica coordination hangout later today (Monday 30th March), here are updates on four plans that are currently under consideration:

1. Towards “Politics 2.0”

Book 2 Cover 0

The previous plan of record is that a new Transpolitica book, provisionally entitled “Politics 2.0”, will be collaboratively created and released, with timetable as follows:

  • Potential chapter writers should submit short abstracts by 21st April
  • Complete publication-ready text should be submitted by the end of May
  • An e-book will be available by 21st June.

What’s now under consideration is that the chapters of this book should all be published online, to increase readership. This publication would take place after the same sort of group review that preceded the publication of the first book in the Transpolitica series.

It remains to be decided which themes will have most focus in this new book. Ideally, topics from the first book which are generating the most reaction will be revisited in the second book.

2. Opening up readership of the first Transpolitica book

The ideas in the chapters of the first Transpolitica book, “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”, deserve wider discussion. Two steps might aid this:

  • Publishing all the chapters online, freely accessible (in the same way that is proposed above for the second book in the series)
  • Finding and supporting a discussion forum (Reddit?) in which these chapters can be collaboratively debated.

3. Supporting the Transhumanist Party policy debate

The Transhumanist Party in the UK has published, on its own forums, a series of initial thought-pieces covering policy areas such as defence, economy, education, environment, the EU, foreign policy, health, judicial, political reform, and social. Transhumanist Party members will be revising these draft policy documents ahead of presenting them for formal approval at a forthcoming general meeting of the party.

Although some of the policies under discussion have a UK-flavour, most of them are likely to be relevant to other transhumanist political parties around the world. A good project for Transpolitica supporters would be to review one or more of these draft policy documents and provide brief, measured feedback on these documents. Members of the Transhumanist Party will then have the option to consider including some of the ideas arising in new versions of the policy documents.

Note: to join the UK Transhumanist Party, or to make a donation to support the work it is carrying out, see this link.

4. Refreshing the Transpolitica Manifesto

Recent expressions of the ideas in the Transpolitica Manifesto, for example at the recent launch event in London, have moved beyond the language currently on the Transpolitica website. For example, the online manifesto has eight headlines, whereas this (newer) diagram shows ten:

The Transpolitica manifesto summarisedThe online manifesto needs refreshing. In parallel, the ideas in the manifesto could usefully feature in new graphics and/or video resources:

  • We need combinations of imagery and wording, which, once published, will hopefully be widely copied across social media, on account of their mix of graphic appeal and verbal appeal
  • We also need videos that take these ideas from a static display into something more dynamic.

Transpolitica book launch – video recording

This London Futurists event marked two developments in the political landscape:

  1. The publication of the Transpolitica book “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”
  2. The introduction of the Transhumanist Party in the UK.

The speakers at this event, David Wood and Amon Twyman, addressed the following questions:

  • How should politics change, so that the positive potential of technology can be safely harnessed to most fully improve human society?
  • What are the topics that politicians generally tend to ignore, but which deserve much more attention?
  • How should futurists and transhumanists regard the political process?
  • Which emerging political movements are most likely to catalyse these needed changes?

The camera was operated by Roland Schiefer.

Note: the camera auto-focus sometimes focused elsewhere than the main presentation screen, which means that, occasionally, some parts of the display are fuzzy.

The slides presented by David Wood at this event can be viewed on Slideshare, here.

Transpolitica News: More questions than answers

Ahead of a Transpolitica coordination hangout that’s taking place tomorrow, Monday 16th Feb (7pm-8pm UK time), here’s a brief update on recent P+ developments.

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Three meetings, each creating more questions than answers

Since the first Transpolitica News post, on 28th Jan, Transpolitica has hosted two Hangout-On-Air video discussions, and our sister organisation London Futurists has hosted an IRL (In Real Life) event on a topic of strong interest to Transpolitica:

  • The discussion on 1st February was “The case for anarchist transhumanism”, considering the potential for radical social decentralisation
  • On 8th February the topic was “Better political decision-making via better technology?”
  • On 14th February, London Futurists focused on “The case for Universal Basic Income”

In all three cases, the discussion made it clearer that these are areas which are:

  • Important – in view of the transformational potential of technology
  • Insufficiently studied by mainstream political parties
  • Unclear, in terms of what specific policy recommendations should be made.

In short, they’re all areas where Transpolitica researchers could usefully carry out some potential ground-breaking analysis that could, in turn, give transhumanist politicians some distinctive policy initiatives.

In the meantime, there are more questions than answers – but perhaps the chapters in the forthcoming Transpolitica book will start to provide good answers…

Progress with “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”

There’s been little news over the last two weeks of progress with chapters for “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”. The status of various chapters, to the best of our knowledge, is as follows:

  • One chapter has been submitted in completed form, has received feedback from a reviewer, and is now being revised by the author
  • Fourteen chapters have had their abstracts accepted, and, in principle, the authors should be making good progress in writing the content
  • Six more authors have said they may be writing a chapter
  • One author has officially withdrawn his suggested chapter, in view of pressures of work-commitments.

According to the published schedule, completed chapters should be in the hands of the editors by the end of February – which is in two week’s time. This is, deliberately, a bold schedule, since that’s more likely to trigger a productive state of flow in the minds of authors – and, as a result, some truly great output.

(Yes, this attitude is in line with the content of the book Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World” by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. That book is about 80% inspiration, along with 20% – say it quietly – of over-hype. Given the value of the 80% that is deeply inspiring, the book can be forgiven for the 20% where the authors’ enthusiasm produces a reality-distortion zone.)

In the meantime, there’s now a suggested book cover for the Transpolitica book:

PpB Cover

See the end of for more details about this cover design.

Supporting political candidates in their election campaigns

The two sets of politicians where Transpolitica is ready to help specific election campaigns are

Darren is creating a brochure which will be distributed through letter boxes within his constituency. Current thinking is that this will contain short articles on the future of transport and the future of healthcare. Transpolitica researchers should be able to help in both cases.

A broader question arises of the extent to which “online activism” can usefully replace or supersede the traditional sort of doorstep and letter box activism:

  • Are people who pursue online activism better described using the critical term “slacktivists”, meaning that their activity has little impact in the real world (even though it may make them feel good)?
  • Or can online activism, suitably tailored and targeted, have a big impact on voting intentions?

Unless a clear argument can be made to the contrary, the intention is that Transpolitica will become expert in practical online activism, via understanding how to use accelerating technology for the most effective impact on election outcomes.

Next steps in evaluating the readiness of politicians for radical future scenarios

One of the core ideas behind the founding of Transpolitica is to provide a “mirror” that will allow politicians of all parties to realise where they fall short as regards being aware of the opportunities and threats posed by rapidly accelerating technology.

As stated in the Transpolitica manifesto:

Current policymakers rarely tackle the angle of convergent disruptive technologies. This means they react to each new disruption with surprise, after it appears, rather than anticipating it with informed policy and strategy.

Politicians of all parties urgently need to:

  • Think through the consequences of these changes in advance
  • Take part in a wide public discussion and exploration of these forthcoming changes
  • Adjust public policy in order to favour positive outcomes
  • Support bold regenerative projects to take full advantage of accelerating technology – projects with the uplifting vision and scale of the 1960s Apollo moonshot program.

The “mirror” mentioned above is envisaged to be a combination of:

  • The Transpolitica manifesto
  • White papers that amplify parts of that manifesto
  • Evaluation studies which compare the stated policies of other politicians (either singly, or as bundled into party manifestos) against the Transpolitica blueprint.

Transpolitica Consultant Alex Karran has been continuing his very interesting research work into evaluating the viewpoints of politicians in the UK. What is needed next is some decisions about the best way to take this research forward:

  • Possibly featuring as a chapter within the Transpolitica book
  • Possibly featuring in one or more short videos, intended for easy distribution
  • Possibly featuring in one or more online reports (perhaps on the Transpolitica website).

Online decision processes within Transpolitica

Activity within Transpolitica’s Loomio project has slowed significantly. At the time of writing, it is 13 days since there was any activity there.

It’s not clear if this slowdown reflects shortcomings in the tool, or (instead) the fact that we don’t have anything sufficiently contentious to decide yet.

We are open to trialling another decision-making tool, if someone makes a case that a particular tool is more likely than Loomio to facilitate high-quality decision-making.

An IRL launch event in the UK?

A possible IRL launch event, probably in London, could take place, that marks:

  • The e-availability of the Transpolitica book
  • The start of the official campaign of a UK General Election candidate for the Transhumanist Party.

Previously, the date of 21st March has been suggested for a launch event. No firm decision has been taken yet.

Transpolitica impact outside of the UK

Due to circumstances behind its formation, Transpolitica’s engagements with political parties are initially dominated by the run-up to the UK General Election of May 2015. However, Transpolitica is keen to expand its activities with other politicians in other countries – subject to:

  • Transpolitica consultants being available to work on such relationships
  • Specific politicians being identified that have clear areas where Transpolitica could supply support.

Participation in Transpolitica coordination hangouts

Please let us know if you would like to receive invites to forthcoming coordination hangouts. These hangouts include:

  • Progress reports, along with issues arising, from individual Transpolitica consultants
  • Coordination of what Transpolitica consultants are planning to work on next
  • Collaborative decisions on particular questions (these questions will vary from hangout to hangout).

The next coordination hangout is taking place on Monday 16th February. After that, the most likely date is Monday 23rd March.

Transpolitica News: Getting started

A great deal has happened in the ten days since the soft launch of Transpolitica. Here’s the first of what will become a series of updates on Transpolitica progress.

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After an initial flurry of changes, the Transpolitica Manifesto has now been relatively stable for about a week. This manifesto sets out core ideas for policy changes:

Transpolitica calls upon politicians of all parties to define and support:

  • Regenerative projects to take full advantage of accelerating technology.

More specifically, we call for:

  • Economic and personal liberation via the longevity dividend
  • An inclusive new social contract in the light of technological disruption
  • A proactionary regulatory system to fast-track innovative breakthroughs
  • Reform of democratic processes with new digital tools
  • Education transformed in readiness for a radically different future
  • A progressive transhumanist rights agenda
  • An affirmative new perspective on existential risks.

These Headlines are preceded in the manifesto by a Preamble, and all eight Headlines are backed up by the provision of further Details.

The Transpolitica Manifesto drew inspiration from the Technoprogressive Declaration that was published in November 2014 following the TransVision 2014 conference in Paris. In turn, our Manifesto has helped to inspire a number of other political statements, including:

In parallel, the Transhumanist Party (UK) is working on its own set of Transhumanist Party Principles.

There’s an opportunity to improve the contents of the Transpolitica Manifesto in the light of the good examples provided as these other documents develop.

Another important step forward will be when the Transpolitica Manifesto is turned into one or more videos, in order to reach a wider audience.


The Transpolitica Manifesto is backed up by a FAQ. The FAQ remains a work-in-progress. If anyone would like to propose changes or additions to the FAQ, please get in touch.

How to get involved in Transpolitica projects

The Transpolitica Projects page lists:

  • A set of tasks awaiting volunteers
  • Suggestions for how to discuss your ideas with other Transpolitica supporters.

Book project

The project which currently has the most activity is to publish our first book of essays:

Transpolitica invites political thinkers, futurists, and transhumanists from around the world to become involved in a project to publish a book entitled “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”.

This project is looking for chapter authors, reviewers, editors, and graphic designers.

Since the call was issued for people to submit proposals for chapters:

  • One complete chapter has already been submitted, in a publication-ready state
  • Seven other authors have submitted abstracts (formal or informal) that have been approved to go forwards to the writing stage
  • Six more people may be submitting abstracts (or revised abstracts) shortly – we await further information
  • A small number of initial author submissions have been declined, sorry, though these authors are welcome to re-submit proposals taking account of the feedback.

The stated deadline for submitting chapter abstracts (just a few sentences will suffice) is the end of January. Some submissions may be accepted after that cut-off, though the later authors leave things, the harder the hurdle they will have to overcome.

In all cases, complete publication-ready material for the chapter needs to be in the hands of the Transpolitica team by the end of February.

If anyone would like to join the team that reviews submissions, proposes edits (if needed), suggests changes to layout and graphics, etc, please make contact. (And see below for suggestions for the book cover.)

Asking the right questions

Reflections about Transpolitica – especially in the light of ideas for book chapters – show that we’re not yet in a position to advocate detailed policy recommendations. We don’t have all the answers, so far.

Over time, detailed policy recommendations will emerge. But for now, what we can – and should – do, is the following:

  • Highlight future scenarios, that deserve more consideration
  • Ask the key questions, that will transform contemporary political debate.

It is our insight as transhumanists and radical futurists that gives us the collective ability to do both of these things. In this way, we can make a cosmic dent in the political process.

Social media

What’s your favourite social media? Transpolitica online presence is growing:

On LinkedIn, there’s already been a small discussion about Transpolitica in response to a blogpost there. Transpolitica also exists as a company on LinkedIn – it’s listed as a “think tank”. See If you’re one of the people listed on the (forthcoming) Transpolitica website page “Consultants, writers, and researchers”, feel free to add an item to your LinkedIn entry for your affiliation with Transpolitica.

Consultants, writers, and researchers

The co-founding team for Transpolitica will be announced shortly.

If you are interested in becoming involved, introduce yourself on the Transpolitica mailing group, stating what you would like to contribute to Transpolitica.

Alternatively, send an email to the Transpolitica programme management team.

Note: in the start-up phase, Transpolitica is operating with zero cash-flow, and all positions are voluntary.

The following list gathers some criteria for people to be considered as a named consultant, writer, or researcher for Transpolitica:

  1. Track record of producing interesting, well-researched material
  2. Able to finish agreed projects within agreed deadlines
  3. Strong public support in favour of transhumanist ideals
  4. Responsive to changing circumstances – practices agile working methods
  5. Doesn’t need a complex support infrastructure – practices lean working methods
  6. Able to disagree with people in a respectful, constructive way, rather than resorting to abuse
  7. Avoids publishing material that is likely to damage the good name of Transpolitica.

Note: people can use aliases for their Transpolitica persona, if they have good reasons to avoid using their official names.

Applications are welcomed from people with all political allegiances (or none), all religious backgrounds (or none), all employment and education backgrounds (or none), all parts of the world, and all ages and genders, etc.

Transpolitica decision-making

How should decisions be made inside Transpolitica? How can we “be the change we want to see”, taking advantage of the latest technology to practise better collaborative decision-making?

We’re currently experimenting with the online tool Loomio. To quote from

Loomio emerged when activists from the Occupy movement teamed up with the social enterprise network Enspiral, realising that they were using different approaches to work towards the same aim.

Loomio is being built by a core team in Wellington, New Zealand, and a wider network of friends and supporters all over the world.

Loomio organises decisions into “Discussions”. These discussions start off with context and a loose brainstorming give-and-take. Once someone has a firm proposal in mind, they click the “Create a proposal” button, and give the group a fixed amount of time to vote on it. (48 hours seems sufficient.) By design, each discussion can only have one live proposal at any one time. That can seem counter-intuitive, but it turns out to have its own merits.

It’s too early to tell whether Transpolitica will keep on using Loomio. Our experiences with it, so far, have not been decisive, one way or the other. There are many other tools we could trial, as alternatives – each with their own apparent pluses and minuses.

In the meantime, there’s a new Discussion on the Loomio board – “Book cover”. To view that discussion, and to contribute to it, you’ll need to:

  1. Create a Loomio account for yourself (if you don’t have one already)
  2. Request permission to join the Transpolitica group on Loomio.

(If you click on the above link, “Book cover”, Loomio should walk you through the process automatically.)


Another Transpolitica initiative is to host online video discussions relevant to the future of politics. People can view these discussions live (and ask questions to the panelists), or can catch up with the recordings afterwards. Two forthcoming events are as follows:

If you visit the corresponding Google+ event pages and RSVP ‘Yes’, Google will send you a reminder to join it.

Let us know which topics (and which participants) it would be good to feature in future Transpolitica Hangouts-on-Air.