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22 February 2022

Nine technoprogressive proposals

Filed under: Events, futurist, vision — Tags: , , — David Wood @ 11:30 pm

Ahead of time, I wasn’t sure the format was going to work.

It seemed to be an ambitious agenda. Twenty-five speakers were signed up to deliver short presentations. Each had agreed to limit their remarks to just four minutes. The occasion was an International Technoprogressive Conference that took place earlier today (22nd February), with themes including:

  • “To be human, today and tomorrow”
  • “Converging visions from many horizons”.
Image credit: this graphic includes work by Pixabay user Sasin Tipchai

Each speaker had responded to a call to cover in their remarks either or both of the following:

  • Provide a brief summary of transhumanist-related activity in which they are involved
  • Make a proposal about “a concrete idea that could inspire positive and future-oriented people or organisations”.

Their proposals could address, for example, AI, enhancing human nature, equity and justice, accelerating science, existential risks, the Singularity, social and political angles, the governance of technology, superlongevity, superhappiness, or sustainable superabundance.

The speakers who provided concrete proposals were asked, ahead of the conference, to write down their proposal in 200 words or less, for distribution in a document to be shared among all attendees.

Attendees at the event – speakers and non-speakers alike – were asked to provide feedback on the proposals that had been presented, and to cast up to five votes among the different proposals.

I wondered whether we were trying to do too much, especially given the short amount of time spent in preparing for the event.

Happily, it all went pretty smoothly. A few speakers recorded videos of their remarks in advance, to be sure to keep to the allotted timespan. A small number of others were in the end unable to take part on the day, on account of last-minute schedule conflicts.

As for the presentations themselves, they were diverse – exactly as had been hoped by the organisers ( l’Association Françoise Transhumanistes (Technoprog), with some support from London Futurists).

For example, I found it particularly interesting to hear about perspectives on transhumanism from Cameroon and Japan.

Reflecting the quality of all the presentations, audience votes were spread widely. Comments made by voters again and again stressed the difficulty in each picking just five proposals to be prioritised. Nevertheless, audience members accepted the challenge. Some people gave one vote each to five different proposals. Others split them 2, 2, and 1, or in other combinations. One person gave all their five votes to a single proposal.

As for the outcome of the voting: I’m appending the text of the nine proposals that received the most votes. You’ll notice a number of common ideas, along with significant variety.

I’m presenting these nine proposals in alphabetical order of the first name of the proposers. I hope you find them interesting. If you find yourself inspired by what you read, please don’t hesitate to offer your own support to the projects described.

PS Big thanks are due to everyone who made this conference possible, especially the co-organisers, Didier Coeurnelle and Marc Roux.

Longevity: Opportunities and Challenges

Proposed by Anastasiia Velikanova, project coordinator at Open Longevity

Why haven’t we achieved significant progress in the longevity field yet? Although about 17,000 biological articles with the word “aging” in the title are published yearly, we do not have any therapy that reliably prolongs life.

One reason is that there are no large-scale projects in the biology of aging, such as the Human Genome or the  Large Hadron Collider. All research is conducted separately in academic institutions or startups and is mostly closed. With a great idea at the start, a company hides its investigations, but the capabilities of its team are not enough to globally change the situation with aging.

Another reason is that the problem of aging is highly interdisciplinary. We need advanced mathematical models and AI algorithms to accumulate all research about molecular processes and identify critical genes or targets.

Most importantly, we, transhumanists, should unite and create an infrastructure that would allow solving the problem of aging on a large scale, attracting the best specialists from different fields. 

An essential part of such an infrastructure is open databases. For example, our organization created Open Genes – the database of genes associated with aging, allowing the selection of combinatorial therapy against aging.

Vital Syllabus

Proposed by David Wood, Chair at London Futurists

Nearly every serious discussion about improving the future comes round to the need to improve education. In our age of multiple pressures, dizzying opportunities, daunting risks, and accelerating disruption, people in all walks of life need better access to information about the skills that are most important and the principles that matter most. Traditional education falls far short on these counts.

The Vital Syllabus project aims to collect and curate resources to assist students of all ages to acquire and deepen these skills, and to understand and embody the associated principles. To be included in the project, these resources must be free of charge, clear, engaging, and trustworthy – and to align with a transhumanist understanding.

A framework is already in place: 24 top-level syllabus areas, nearly 200 subareas, and an initial set of example videos. Please join this project to help fill out the syllabus quickly!

For information about how to help this project, see this FAQ page.

Longevity Art

Proposed by Elena Milova, Founder at LongevityArt

When we are discussing life extension, people most often refer to movies, animations, books, paintings, and other works of art. They find there the concepts and the role models that they can either follow or reject. Art has the potential to seed the ideas in one’s mind that can then gradually grow and mature until they become part of the personal life philosophy. Also, since one function of art is to uncover, question, mock and challenge the status quo, art is one of the most appropriate medias for spreading new ideas such as one of radical life extension.

I suggest that the community supports more art projects (movies, animations, books, paintings, digital artworks) by establishing foundations sponsoring the most valuable art projects.

Use longevity parties to do advocacy for more anti-aging research

Proposed by Felix Werth, Leader at Partei für Gesundheitsforschung

With the repair-approach we already know in principle, how to defeat aging. To increase our chance of being alive and healthy in 100 years significantly, much more resources have to be put into the implementation of the repair-approach. An efficient way to achieve this is to form single issue longevity parties and run in elections. There are many people who would like to live longer, but for some reason don’t do anything for it. Running in elections can be very efficient advocacy and gives the people the option to very easily support longevity research with their vote. If the governing parties see that they can get more votes with this issue, they will probably care about it more.

In 2015 I initiated a longevity party in Germany and since then, we have participated in 14 elections already and did a lot of advocacy, all this with very few active members and very few resources. With a little more resources, much more advocacy could be done this way. I suggest that more people, who want radical life extension in their lifetime, form longevity parties in their country and run in elections. Growing the longevity movement faster is key to success.

Revive LEV: The Game on Life Extension

Proposed by Gennady Stolyarov, Chair at U.S. Transhumanist Party

I propose to resurrect a computer game on longevity escape velocity, LEV: The Game, which was previously attempted in 2014 and for which a working Alpha version had been created but had unfortunately been lost since that time.

In this game one plays the role of a character who, through various lifestyle choices and pursuit of rejuvenation treatments, strives to live to age 200. The U.S. Transhumanist Party has obtained the rights to continue game development as well as the previously developed graphical assets. The logic of the game has been redesigned to be turn-based; all that remains is to recruit the programming talent needed to implement the logic of the game into code. A game on longevity escape velocity can draw in a much larger audience to take interest in the life-extension movement and also illustrate how LEV will likely actually arrive – dispelling common misunderstandings and enabling more people to readily understand the transition to indefinite lifespans.

Implement optimization and planning for your organization

Proposed by Ilia Stambler, Chair at Israeli Longevity Alliance

Often progressive, transhumanist and/or life-extensionist groups and associations are inefficient as organizations – they lack a clear and agreed vision, concrete goals and plans for the organization’s advancement, a clear estimate of the available as well desirable human and material resources necessary to achieve those goals and plans, do not track progress, performance and achievements toward the implementation of those goals. As a result, many groups are acting rather as discussion clubs at best, instead of active and productive organizations, drifting aimlessly along occasional activities, and so they can hardly be expected to bring about significant directional positive changes for the future.

Hence the general suggestion is to build up one’s own organizations through organizational optimization, to plan concretely, not so much in terms of what the organization “should do”, but rather what its specific members actually can and plan to do in the shorter and longer term. I believe, through increasing the planning efficiency and the organizational optimization for the existing and emerging organizations, a much stronger impact can be made. (The suggestion is general, but particular organizations may see whether it may apply to them and act according to their particular circumstances.)

Campaign for the Longevity Dividend

Proposed by James Hughes, Executive Director at the IEET

The most popular goal of the technoprogressive and futurist community is universal access to safe and effective longevity therapies. There are three things our community can do to advance this agenda:

  1. First, we need to engage with demographic, medical and policy issues that surround longevity therapies, from the old-age dependency ratio and pension crisis to biomarkers of aging and defining aging as a disease process.
  2. Second, we need to directly argue for public financing of research, a rational clinical trial pathway, and access to these therapies through public health insurance.
  3. Third, we need to identify the existing organizations with similar or related goals, and establish coalitions with them to work for the necessary legislation.

These projects can build on existing efforts, such as International Longevity Alliance, Ending Aging Media Response and the Global Healthspan Policy Institute.

Prioritise moral enhancement

Proposed by Marc Roux, Chair at the French Transhumanist Association (AFT-Technoprog)

As our efforts to attract funding and researchers to longevity have begun to bear fruit, we need to popularise much more moral enhancement.

Ageing is not defeated. However, longevity has already found powerful relays in the decision-making spheres. Mentalities are slowly changing, but the battle for longevity is underway.

Our vanguard can begin to turn to other great goal.

Longevity will not be enough to improve the level of happiness and harmony of our societies. History has shown that it doesn’t change the predisposition of humans to dominance, xenophobia, aggressiveness … They remain stuck in their prehistoric gangue, which condemns them to repeat the same mistakes. If we don’t allow humans to change these behavioural predeterminations, nothing essential will change.

We must prioritise cognitive sciences, and ensure that this is done in the direction of greater choice for everyone, access for all to an improvement in their mental condition, and an orientation towards greater solidarity.

And we’ll work to prevent cognitive sciences from continuing to be put at the service of liberticidal control and domination logics.

On this condition, moral enhancement can be an unprecedented good in the history of humanity.

Transhumanist Studies: Knowledge Accelerator

Proposed by Natasha Vita-More, Executive Director at Humanity+

An education is a crucial asset. Providing lifelong learning that is immediate, accessible and continually updating is key. Transhumanist Studies is an education platform designed to expand knowledge about how the world is transforming. Its Knowledge Accelerator curricula examines the field of longevity, facts on aging and advances in AI, nanomedicine and cryonics, critical and creative thinking, relationships between humanity and ecosystems of earth and space, ethics of fairness, and applied foresight concerning opportunities and risks on the horizon.

Our methodology is applied foresight with a learning model that offers three methods in its 50-25-25 curricula:

  1. 50% immersive learning environment (lectures, presentations, and resources);
  2. 25% project-based iterative study; and
  3. 25% open-form discussion and debate (aligned with a Weekly Studies Group and monthly H+ Academy Roundtable).

In its initiative to advance transhumanism, the Knowledge Accelerator supports the benefits of secular values and impartiality. With a team located across continents, the program is free for some and at a low cost for others. As the scope of transhumanism  continues to grow, the culture is as extraordinary as its advocacy, integrity, and long-term vision.

Homepage | Transhumanist Studies (teachable.com) (I spoke on the need for education at TransVision 2021.)

3 March 2021

The Viridian Manifesto: 4+2 Questions

Filed under: climate change, Events, green — Tags: , , — David Wood @ 2:32 pm

“Viridian” is an unusual word. I had to look it up in Wikipedia to check its meaning.

A few clicks took me to the page “Viridian design movement”, which is worth quoting in its entirety:

The Viridian Design Movement was an aesthetic movement focused on concepts from bright green environmentalism. The name was chosen to refer to a shade of green that does not quite look natural, indicating that the movement was about innovative design and technology, in contrast with the “leaf green” of traditional environmentalism.

The movement tied together environmental design, techno-progressivism, and global citizenship. It was founded in 1998 by Bruce Sterling, a postcyberpunk science fiction author. Sterling always remained the central figure in the movement, with Alex Steffen perhaps the next best-known. Steffen, Jamais Cascio, and Jon Lebkowsky, along with some other frequent contributors to Sterling’s Viridian notes, formed the Worldchanging blog. Sterling wrote the introduction to Worldchanging’s book (Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century), which (according to Ross Robertson) is considered the definitive volume on bright green thinking.

Sterling formally closed the Viridian movement in 2008, saying there was no need to continue its work now that bright green environmentalism had emerged.

One more click reaches the original Viridian Manifesto, bearing the date 3rd January 2000, authored by Bruce Sterling. It’s a fascinating document. Here are some excerpts:

The central issue as the new millennium dawns is technocultural. There are of course other, more traditional, better-developed issues for humankind. Cranky fundamentalism festers here and there; the left is out of ideas while the right is delusional; income disparities have become absurdly huge; these things are obvious to all. However, the human race has repeatedly proven that we can prosper cheerfully with ludicrous, corrupt and demeaning forms of religion, politics and commerce. By stark contrast, no civilization can survive the physical destruction of its resource base. It is very clear that the material infrastructure of the twentieth century is not sustainable. This is the issue at hand.

We have a worldwide environmental problem…

The stark fact that our atmosphere is visibly declining is of no apparent economic interest except to insurance firms, who will simply make up their lack by gouging ratepayers and exporting externalized costs onto the general population.

With business hopeless and government stymied, we are basically left with cultural activism. The tools at hand are art, design, engineering, and basic science: human artifice, cultural and technical innovation…

The task at hand is therefore basically an act of social engineering. Society must become Green, and it must be a variety of Green that society will eagerly consume. What is required is not a natural Green, or a spiritual Green, or a primitivist Green, or a blood-and-soil romantic Green.

These flavours of Green have been tried, and have proven to have insufficient appeal. We can regret this failure if we like. If the semi-forgotten Energy Crisis of the 1970s had provoked a wiser and more energetic response, we would not now be facing a weather crisis. But the past’s well-meaning attempts were insufficient, and are now part of the legacy of a dying century.

The world needs a new, unnatural, seductive, mediated, glamorous Green. A Viridian Green, if you will…

I said that was the original viridian manifesto. The reason I started looking into the history was that I’ve been asked to help with the organisation of a “Viridian Conference” taking place on the 16th and 17th of this month, March 2021. And that conference is based around the provocations in a new Viridian Manifesto, authored this time by the French Transhumanist Association (l’AFT, also known as “Technoprog”).

This new manifesto exists both in French and in English. Correspondingly, of the two days of the Viridian Conference, the presentations and discussions will be in French on the 16th of March, and in English on the 17th of March. Attendees are welcome to sign up for either day – or both. Follow the registration links online.

The new manifesto sets out its scope in its opening paragraphs:

Technoprogressive transhumanists consider that it is essential to change our behaviour collectively and individually in order to stop global warming, the loss of biodiversity, and the consumption of non-renewable resources…

A “viridian” option, which is to say, one that is ecological, technological, and non-destructive to humanity, presupposes radical transitions…

The change necessary, such that any change is for the better, requires broad technological progress and profound societal shifts…

It goes on to list recommendations grouped under the following headings:

  • Collective research
  • Renewable energy
  • Reuse and remediation
  • Collective reflections and decisions

The conference on the 16th and 17th of March will contain presentations and interactive workshops designed to “deepen the Viridian declaration”, as well as to “develop transhumanist thinking on environmental issues”.

I’m roughly halfway through drafting my own proposed slides for the event, which currently have the title “Superdemocracy as the key enabler of a viridian future”.

As part of my research, I started doing some online searches. These searches have opened my eyes to what was a bigger history to the particular “veridian” idea than I had expected.

** To move forward, I propose that people interested in the conference consider four primary questions. **

First, which parts of the (new) viridian manifesto do you most like?

(If you had to summarise its most important and unique features in a couple of sentences, what would they be?)

Second, which parts (if any) of the manifesto do you disagree with?

(Are any of its recommendations misplaced or even dangerous?)

Third, which important topics are missing from the manifesto, that should be included?

(My own answer to this question involves the words “economics” and “politics”.)

Fourth, what are priorities for next steps to make progress with the recommendations in the manifesto?

(The answers to this mainly depend on how you answered the previous questions.)

And to help stimulate thinking, here are two more questions, that may well feature at the conference:

What should be learned from the experience of the original Viridian Manifesto?

(Was the sense of urgency in the 2000 manifesto misplaced? Was it wrong in its assessment of the capabilities of business and politics? And what are the key developments within “Bright Green Environmentalism” subsequent to 2008?)

What practical examples (that is, not just theories) back up ideas pro or con parts of the manifesto?

(Your feedback is welcome here!)

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