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Panel Discussion on Hereditary Religion – Nevada Transhumanist Party

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Categories: Culture, Education, Philosophy, Politics, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Nevada Transhumanist Party invited notable panelists to participate in a 2.5-hour conversation via Google Hangouts on Air, in order to discuss free thought and the prospects for children to be allowed the freedom to choose how (or whether) they will approach religion, instead of being compelled to follow the religious beliefs of their parents or the surrounding society.

This independent panel discussion was moderated by Mr. Stolyarov and occurred on Saturday, January 23, 2016, at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Each participant offered a unique, unfettered perspective on the subjects discussed. Panelists were asked to opine on the subject of how cultivating free thought and independent decision-making from a young age can result in children growing up to be more interested in advancing science and technology and solving the great problems of the human condition.

See the Constitution and Bylaws of the Nevada Transhumanist Party here. Of particular relevance are Sections XXIII and XXVI of the Nevada Transhumanist Party Platform:

Section XXIII: The Nevada Transhumanist Party supports the rights of children to exercise liberty in proportion to their rational faculties and capacity for autonomous judgment. In particular, the Nevada Transhumanist Party strongly opposes all forms of bullying, child abuse, and censorship of intellectual self-development by children and teenagers.

Section XXVI: The Nevada Transhumanist Party welcomes both religious and non-religious individuals who support life extension and emerging technologies. The Nevada Transhumanist Party recognizes that some religious individuals and interpretations may be receptive to technological progress and, if so, are valuable allies to the transhumanist movement. On the other hand, the Nevada Transhumanist Party is also opposed to any interpretation of a religious doctrine that results in the rejection of reason, censorship, violation of individual rights, suppression of technological advancement, and attempts to impose religious belief by force and/or by legal compulsion.

Panelists

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels “A Plank in Reason” and “Praying for Death: Mocking the Apocalypse”. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.

Troy Boyle is a comic-book artist, writer, and former president of The National Atheist Party (now the Secular Party of America), which he co-founded in March 2011. Troy has worked for Image Comics, Desperado Publishing, Caliber Press, and Boneyard Press. Some of Troy’s comic-book art is included in “Mysterious Visions Anthology”, “Ppfszt!”, “Tribute”, and “The Return of Happy the Clown”. He also provided artwork for David Gerrold’s comic “A Doctor For the Enterprise”. See his Wikipedia page here.

Roen Horn is a philosopher and lecturer on the importance of trying to live forever. He founded the Eternal Life Fan Club in 2012 to encourage fans of eternal life to start being more strategic with regard to this goal. To this end, one major focus of the club has been on life-extension techniques, everything from lengthening telomeres to avoiding risky behaviors. Currently, Roen’s work may be seen in the many memes, quotes, essays, and video blogs that he has created for those who are exploring their own thoughts on this, or who want to share and promote the same things. Like many other fans of eternal life, Roen is in love with life, and is very inspired by the world around him and wants to impart in others the same desire to discover all this world has to offer. Roen also runs the Facebook page “Gods are unproven hypothetical conjecture“.

B.J. Murphy is the Editor and Social Media Manager of Serious Wonder. He is a futurist, philosopher, activist, author and poet. B.J. is an Advisory Board Member for the NGO nonprofit Lifeboat Foundation and an Affiliate Scholar for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). He’s done work as a Tech Adviser for both TV and short films and is currently an Ambassador for artificial intelligence tech. company Humai.

B.J. is a co-author of The Future of Business: Critical Insights Into a Rapidly Changing World From 60 Future Thinkers, his chapter being “The Future Business of Body Shops,” which explores how 3D printing, cybernetics, and biohacking will fundamentally change not only the business industry of the future, but subsequently the human biological substrate itself.

Demian Zivkovic is the president of the Institute of Exponential Sciences (Facebook / Meetup) – an international technopositive think tank / education institute comprised of a group of transhumanism-oriented scientists, professionals, students, journalists, and entrepreneurs interested in the interdisciplinary approach to advancing exponential technologies and promoting techno-positive thought. He is also an entrepreneur and student of artificial intelligence and innovation sciences and management at the University of Utrecht.

Demian and the IES have been involved in several endeavors, such as organizing lectures on exponential sciences, interviewing experts such as Aubrey de Grey, joining several of Mr. Stolyarov’s futurism panels, and spreading Death is Wrong – Mr. Stolyarov’s illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension – in The Netherlands.

Demian Zivkovic is a strong proponent of healthy life extension and cognitive augmentation. His interests include hyperreality, morphological freedom advocacy, postgenderism, and hypermodernism. He is currently working on his ambition of raising enough capital to make a real difference in life extension and transhumanist thought.

Panel-on-Hereditary-Religion-NTP

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Fast-Track Atheist Security Lanes and More: Time to Jettison Perverse Egalitarianism – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Justice, Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
June 13, 2015
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I agree fully with the recent recommendation by journalist, author, and US Transhumanist Party presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan to establish fast-track security lanes in airports, enabling declared atheists to avoid wasteful, humiliating, and time-consuming security procedures ostensibly designed to ferret out potential terrorists. The rationale behind Istvan’s recommendation is straightforward: since the motivation for virtually every plane hijacking has been some manner of religious fundamentalism, it is time to recognize that the probability of an atheist perpetrating such a terrible act is negligible and spare atheists the stigma and inconvenience of invasive screenings. Indeed, even the argument of certain religious critics of atheism that “there are no atheists in foxholes” can be used to bolster Istvan’s proposal. If it is indeed the case that a lack of a belief in a deity or an afterlife leads to a greater reluctance to risk one’s own life in battle for some ostensibly “higher” ideal, then this could be expected to translate to an even greater reluctance to perpetrate plane hijackings, suicide bombings, or other self-sacrificial atrocities, which lack even the blessing that political authorities bestow upon organized warfare.

Of course, it is also the case that most religious people would never perpetrate acts of terrorism, and it would be desirable to include in Istvan’s fast-track process any particular types of religious adherents for whom the perpetration of wanton murder for ideological objectives would be similarly inconceivable. Jainism, for instance, upholds nonviolence toward all living beings, as do some interpretations of Buddhism. Various Christian denominations throughout history – Quakers, Mennonites, and certain Anglicans – have been pacifistic as well. In addition to anyone who professes these beliefs, all people who can demonstrate that they are opposed to war and political violence in general should be exempted from airport screenings as well.

But we can, and should, be even more expansive in determining eligibility for fast-track security lanes. For instance, the probability of a two-year-old toddler, a 70-year-old grandmother, or a visibly afflicted cancer patient seeking to perpetrate an act of terrorism is just as negligible as that of an atheist or a pacifist. Screening people of those demographics – and many others – is equally pointless. It is similarly inconceivable that people with high-profile public lives – celebrities, businesspeople, holders of political office – would perpetrate plane hijackings, and yet the current airport “security” procedures apply to them all. One could, with some deliberation, arrive at tens of other attributes that would preclude their possessors from being terrorist threats. In progressively filtering out more and more people as having virtually no probability of committing mass attacks on civilians, it would be possible to rapidly restore liberty and convenience to virtually all airline passengers. Furthermore, this more expansive clearance from suspicion should apply not just with regard to airport screenings, but also with regard to any surveillance of a person’s activities. The logical end result would be to roll back both “security” screenings by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) until each of these processes is focused solely on perhaps a few hundred genuine suspects while leaving the rest of us alone to live and travel in peace. Or, perhaps better yet, we should start with the age-old presumption of free societies: that an individual is deemed innocent unless he or she has shown evidence of guilt. So, instead of developing an array of characteristics that would enable people to opt out of detailed scrutiny, the system should be designed to only surveil an individual if there is probable cause and a strong reason to suspect criminal intent on the part of that specific individual. In short, we would return to the libertarian and classical liberal approach to issues of security.

Even if the detection and thwarting of terrorists were one’s sole goal, it would be logical to support as many valid methods as possible for narrowing the scope of one’s focus toward those who might pose genuine threats. The less time and effort are spent screening and surveilling completely innocent people, the more resources can be directed toward pursuing and thwarting actual wrongdoers.

And yet nobody seeking to fly today is safe from intrusive scrutiny, and the political class will take neither Istvan’s more limited recommendation nor my more expansive one seriously. Why is it that, in contemporary America, whenever somebody does something sufficiently terrible to generate headlines, procedures are deployed to ensnare everybody in a web of ceaseless suspicion, humiliation, and moral outrage? When a handful of fanatics hijack planes, destroy buildings, and murder civilians, the vast majority of civilians, who resemble the victims far more than the perpetrators, nonetheless become the principal targets of spying, prying, groping, and expropriation. Some libertarians will make the argument, not to be discounted, that the genuine purpose of the mass surveillance and screenings is not to catch terrorists, but rather to instill submissive attitudes in the general population, rendering more pliable those who have been acculturated to inconvenience for inconvenience’s sake, just because those in authority ordered it. Yet such a nefarious motive could not be the sole sustaining force behind persistent mass surveillance and humiliation, as most people do not have an interest in subjugation for the sake of subjugation, and enough people of good conscience would eventually unite against it and overturn its exercise. Another mindset, which I will call perverse egalitarianism, unfortunately afflicts even many people of generally good intentions. It is the prevalence of this perverse egalitarianism that enables the perpetration of mass outrages to persist.

Perverse egalitarianism, essentially, upholds the equality of outcomes above the nature of those outcomes. To a perverse egalitarian, it is more important to prevent some people from receiving more favorable treatments, resources, or prerogatives than others, than it is to expand the total scope of opportunities available for improving people’s lives. The perverse egalitarian mindset holds that, unless everybody is able to get something favorable, nobody should have it.

For those who value “equality” – however defined – there are two essential ways to achieve it – one, by uplifting those who are less well-off so that they are able to enjoy what those who are better off already enjoy; the other, by depriving those who are currently better off of their advantages and prerogatives. From a moral standpoint, these two types of egalitarianism cannot be farther apart; the first seeks to improve the lives of some, whereas the second seeks to degrade the lives of others. The first type of egalitarianism – the uplifting form – is admirable in its desire to improve lives, but also more difficult to realize. Beneficial qualities in life do not magically appear but often require the generation of real wealth from previously unavailable sources. Through technological and economic progress, the uplifting form of egalitarianism has a potential to succeed, although, paradoxically, it can best emerge by tolerating the natural inequalities associated with a market economy. Free enterprise will generate tremendous wealth for some, which in turn will enable vast numbers of others to achieve more modest prosperity and emerge out of dire poverty. The most economically and societally unequal societies are the most authoritarian and primitive, in which an entrenched caste of rulers controls virtually all the advantages and resources, while the rest of the population lives in squalor. Often, those are the very same societies that embrace “leveling” and redistributive policies in the name of achieving equality. As Milton and Rose Friedman famously wrote in Free to Choose, “A society that puts equality – in the sense of equality of outcome – ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality.”

But perverse egalitarianism is much easier to implement than uplifting egalitarianism. Indeed, it is much easier to destroy than to create. The perverse egalitarian does not even need to do anything to improve the lot of the worse-off; he or she just needs to bring the better-off down to their level. But the greatest taboo for the perverse egalitarian is to allow anybody, for whatever reason, to escape the “leveling” process and “get away with” an advantage that another lacks. Perverse egalitarianism is the reason why “security” measures ostensibly designed to catch a handful of wrongdoers and prevent potential attacks by a tiny minority of perpetrators, almost inevitably burden the entire population. It would be “unfair”, according to the perverse egalitarians, to scrutinize only a subset of people, while letting others walk into airplanes unsearched or live their lives un-surveilled. Because it is indeed true that some people cannot altogether escape suspicion, the perverse egalitarians believe that nobody should be able to. To do otherwise would be to commit the cardinal sin of “profiling” – never mind that the perverse egalitarians’ way would visit the very same inconveniences of such profiling upon everybody.

But perverse egalitarianism brings only the permanent enshrinement of suffering under the guise of equality or “social justice”. It is reprehensible to make everyone suffer simply because an inconvenience might justifiably exist for some. And while profiling on the basis of circumstantial attributes is itself morally and practically questionable, there is no question that, from a purely probabilistic standpoint, certain attributes can rule out suspicion far more definitively than others. As an example, while the risk that an atheist would hijack an airplane is negligible, it is incontrovertible that some fundamentalist Muslims have hijacked airplanes in the past. It is still true that even most fundamentalist Muslims would never hijack airplanes, but just knowing that someone is a fundamentalist Muslim would not tell us this; we would need to know more about that individual’s outlook. But, in spite of all this, it is eminently reasonable to spare the atheist any further scrutiny; the only purported argument for not doing this would be to avoid “offending” the fundamentalist Muslim or creating an appearance of unequal treatment. But this is precisely the perverse egalitarian position – affirmatively inflicting real suffering on some in order to avoid perceived slights on the part of others. The best approach is to seek to treat everyone justly, not to spread injustice as widely and “equally” as possible. Highly targeted approaches toward threat detection should be used to focus solely on probable offenders while deliberately aiming to keep as many people as possible out of the scope of searches and surveillance.

Zoltan Istvan’s proposal to spare atheists from intrusive airport screenings would be a step forward compared to the status quo, but his argument, taken to its logical conclusion, should lead to virtually everybody being “fast-tracked” through airport security. The special treatment, and special lines, should be reserved for the tiny minority of likely wrongdoers who truly warrant suspicion.

This composition and video may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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War in the Middle East is Inherently Collectivist – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 8, 2013
Recommend this page.
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Especially in light of the looming threat of a wasteful, counterproductive US military intervention in Syria, it is necessary to offer a resounding refutation to the recommendations of those who consider themselves individualists to engage in any sort of mass military action – commonly known as war, declared or not – against large numbers of people in the Middle East. Some such persons, especially those affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), advocate a foreign policy more aggressive and, in its consequences, far more destructive than even the actual interventionist measures undertaken by the United States federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations. In a recent speech at the 2013 Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference, Yaron Brook, ARI’s executive director, put forth his recommendation for solving the persistent threat of politicized Islamist regimes and the terrorism that stems therefrom: completely destroy either Iran or Saudi Arabia and threaten the surviving country into submission. Brook also reaffirmed his consideration of General William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the first practitioners of modern “total war” and an instigator of untold damage to the lives and property of innocent civilians during the American Civil War, as his personal hero.  As an advocate of reason, a person of conscience, and a staunch individualist, I strongly, emphatically object to this course of action. As foreign policy goes, I cannot think of one less productive, other than perhaps indiscriminately launching nuclear weapons everywhere.

In March 2012 I made a video, “Refuting Ayn Rand on War”, where I specifically described my objections to Rand’s and Brook’s advocacy of warfare. I refer there to some of Brook’s previously stated views, including his admiration of William T. Sherman, which he again articulated during his Steamboat Institute speech. While most of Brook’s speech is sympathetic in its emphasis on individual freedom and a rolling-back of the economic burdens imposed by the federal government domestically, his foreign policy would clearly undermine this path. Indeed, if one wishes to reduce the scope of the federal government and its intrusiveness into individuals’ lives, deep cuts on both the domestic and foreign fronts are needed. US government debt is already spiraling out of control, and it would not be practically feasible to balance the budget (avoiding increased taxation, inflation, or borrowing) without cutting military spending and eliminating numerous wasteful and deleterious foreign occupations. As long as self-proclaimed individualists, libertarians, and fiscal conservatives resist an enormous reduction in US military budgets and overseas intervention, at least one, and probably all, of the three consequences of continued budget deficits will inevitably occur.

But there is a deeper, moral case to be made against war in general. Some might allege that this time it is different. But when was it ever not different? The regime of the Soviet Union posed a far greater danger to liberty in the 20th century than rag-tag groups of fundamentalist Islamist terrorists and the regimes backing them ever could. Yet war between the United States and the Soviet Union was fortunately averted, aside from some admittedly destructive proxy wars, and billions of innocent people can live in relative peace and comfort today due to the avoidance of nuclear Armageddon through a more restrained foreign policy than the “hawks” of the Cold War era advocated.  I do not oppose targeted strikes that specifically eliminate violent terrorists and only such individuals. A good example of this was the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. However, a state of war is completely unnecessary to carry out such limited actions.

War attacks not just an armed band of terrorists, not just a regime, but an entire country and its people. This is especially true since the shift in the 19th century away from limited battlefield engagements involving professional armed servants (and mercenaries) of powerful interests competing for natural resources and prestige, and toward “total war” fueled by nationalistic and ideological animosities – where all of a country’s population is considered “the enemy” or at least an asset to “the enemy”. Such warfare is inherently collectivistic in its premise. It fails to recognize that individuals ruled by hostile regimes or terrorized by armed criminals still have minds of their own, that they may disagree with and indeed be oppressed by those regimes and criminals. Targeted assassinations of dictators and terrorist leaders are one matter, but indiscriminate “collateral damage” against peaceful civilians is morally unacceptable for an individualist. Anyone claiming to follow the philosophy of Ayn Rand, including Ayn Rand herself, should know (or, in Rand’s case, should have known) better.

The current case of violent crime fueled by fundamentalist Islamist ideology is no exception. The world has over a billion Muslims, who are overwhelmingly peaceful (like most adherents of all major religious and ideological systems), even if one legitimately considers them mistaken in their theological beliefs. Many prominent Muslims have condemned the attacks of September 11, 2001, and other attacks on peaceful civilians in the West. Some Muslims are secular in their political outlook and, indeed, have made efforts to maintain secular governments in the face of threats by Islamist political parties to implement sharia law and religiously motivated restrictions on personal freedom. The revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, despite their sub-optimal outcomes and the eventual emergence of dominant factions advocating the politicization of religion, were initially driven by freedom-respecting, secular, yet largely Muslim individuals. These people set the spark for the overthrow of the long-standing authoritarian tyrannies of Mubarak, Ben Ali, and Gaddafi. They now contend against political Islam in their troubled countries, but it is essential for any individualist to respect them and their plight, and for any government that even pretends to respect freedom to leave them alive to have any positive influence of which they are capable. Often, the infighting within the turmoil-ridden Middle East results in tragedy on all sides; surely, this ought to be the glaring lesson of the current Syrian situation. However, American bombs, missiles, and drones are surely not the answer. These weapons kill indiscriminately. Even drone attacks allegedly “targeted” toward terror suspects (still often without due process or convincing evidence of their criminal intent) end up killing far more innocent bystanders, including children, than actual would-be terrorists. Are the relatives, friends, and acquaintances of the victims going to acknowledge the “moral legitimacy” of their deaths by the brutal calculus of Yaron Brook and those who think like him? Or, more realistically, are they going to experience a justified outrage and forever despise the government – and, if they are themselves collectivists in mindset – the entire country and people whom they blame for these terrible killings?

There is no quick, easy solution to the turmoil in the Middle East, nor to the violent threats that such turmoil sometimes poses to the lives of people in the Western world. However, there are some clear changes of direction that can gradually curtail the major risks.  First, it is essential for governments in the Western world to refrain from actions that curtail the liberties of their own citizens, allegedly to respond to this threat. In fact, the terrorists and political Islamist regimes have won a greater victory than they could ever have achieved by force of arms, as a result of the pervasive civil-liberties violations instigated by Western governments since September 11, 2001. The omnipresent surveillance, the bodily violations at airports, the increasing militarization of the police force surely have more in common with a totalitarian regime than with the freedom that the fundamentalist terrorists allegedly hate. The more aggressive American military interventions become, the more animosity and blowback they generate, the more inclined Western governments will be to crack down on their own citizens’ freedoms further. Thus, militarism abroad directly causes unfreedom at home – as it has during every major war in American History, from Lincoln’s imprisonment of dissident newspaper editors during the Civil War, to Woodrow Wilson’s World War I propaganda machine and imprisonment of opponents of the military draft, to Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. The present period of the never-ending “War on Terror” is no exception. There is no way for a government to respect individualism and the rights of its own citizens while it turns civilians abroad into fodder for bombs and drone strikes.

Second, it is essential to treat “acts of terror” no differently from “ordinary” crimes – attacks on human lives and property. The criminal-justice system has various ways of dealing with gangsters, murderers, street muggers, arsonists, and common vandals. Domestically, the same standards should apply toward the same acts, no matter whether or not they were motivated by Islamist ideology. A person who bombs a building or a public event is a criminal murderer and should be dealt with accordingly. It is time to dismantle the exceptional category of “terrorist acts” as distinct from ordinary crime. That category is the linchpin by which all of our Constitutional freedoms have been rendered moot. As regards armed military-style groups operating abroad, it is acceptable to use truly targeted strikes limited to neutralizing members of those groups (and not “signature strikes” that attack an entire area, irrespective of the known presence of militants). But this is not war against an entire people or even a government; it is more akin to a targeted action. As former Representative Ron Paul has recommended since the September 11 attacks, issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal specifically against such militants is a desirable, Constitutionally authorized remedy quite distinct from war.

Finally, to end the threat of militant attacks on Westerners, it is essential for the Middle East itself to become transformed over time, both economically and culturally, into a place where individual rights and intellectual progress are fundamentally respected and appreciated. Bombs could never effectuate such transformation; they only breed hatred and backlash. Instead, individuals and companies in the West should entice the Middle East to join them on a more enlightened trajectory. Commerce and cultural diffusion can bring economic opportunity and prosperity to millions who are currently in dire poverty. Ayn Rand recognized and appreciated the power of free-market capitalism to bring not just peace and prosperity, but moral elevation, to vast numbers of people. This should be the path embraced by decision-makers in the West, echoing the sage advice of Thomas Jefferson: “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none”. Over the coming decades, a steady application of this approach will diminish the militant threat, though not overnight. Still, it is a far preferable alternative to the recommendations of those whose policy of mass destruction would only fuel the fires of militant attacks and reduce Western governments, militaries, and their supporters to the same level of inhuman barbarism against which they are allegedly defending us.  True individualism – indeed, true humanism – would demand no less than a complete rejection of the killing of innocent civilians as a solution to any problem.