Newton Lee Gennady Stolyarov II Bobby Ridge Charlie Kam
The California Transhumanist Party held its inaugural Leadership Meeting on January 27, 2018. Newton Lee, Chairman of the California Transhumanist Party and Education and Media Advisor of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, outlined the three Core Ideals of the California Transhumanist Party (modified versions of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Core Ideals), the forthcoming book “Transhumanism: In the Image of Humans” – which he is curating and which will contain essays from leading transhumanist thinkers in a variety of realms, and possibilities for outreach, future candidates, and collaboration with the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Transhumanist Parties in other States. U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II contributed by providing an overview of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s current operations and possibilities for running or endorsing candidates for office in the coming years.
Symphony No. 1, Op. 86, was composed by Gennady Stolyarov II between June 2017 and January 2018 and is subtitled “The Contemporary World”. Mr. Stolyarov intended this symphony to be a commentary on the world and U.S. events of 2016-2017, during which civilization was severely tested. Each of the first three movements depicts the epistemic, political, and material crises which befell much of the world during this time period and threatened to undo much of the progress that civilization achieved up to that time. The choice to have the fourth movement be about *preserving* the good aspects of historical and contemporary life was motivated by the observation that, although severely strained and beset by setbacks from both nature and society, our civilization did not ultimately collapse during 2017, and we have made it thus far. Watch a video version of the entire symphony on YouTube here.
Movement 1 – Uncertainty – Length: 6:51
The main melody is at once ominous and much more restrained than it could be – evoking an individual seeking to focus and chart a path through an environment where little is predictable and previous understandings of the terrain he navigated have shown to be faulty. What can he hope to achieve, what can he rely upon, and whom can he trust? Various other themes in this movement show elements of longing for a bygone (though relatively recent) time, determination, and hope (though will it be disappointed hope?) – although in the background there is a certain din of uncertainty that leads each melody to be a bit less free-flowing or expressive than it would be if composed during a calmer era. This movement poses the question, “What will become of our world, and what will this era do to each of our lives?”
This movement displays the cyclical and protracted struggle between two colossal forces, neither of them benign. Both of them actually resemble one another in substance (although they are in different keys – A minor and C minor – but which of these represents the Right and which represents the Left, and does it make any difference?). There are segments in which the keys are mixed – representing one force seeking to wrest power from the other – with the ultimate outcome being the same melody in a different key. This pattern continues over the course of multiple variations and orchestrations.
Movement 3 – The Fragility of Civilization – Length: 5:19
Composed in 3/4 meter and following a “theme and variations” format, this movement actually encompasses all of the minor keys. The underlying structure and the systematic progression of the keys from one variation to the next represent the fabric of human civilization, which, in recent years, has been continually challenged by the forces of ruin – including violent conflict, irrationality, natural disasters, political folly, institutional breakdown, and disintegrating standards of behavior – along with the still-present age-old perils of disease and death. This piece can be perceived as a grimly determined waltz, danced on the edge of calamity – but as long as the forward motion within the structure continues, no matter what content the contemporary world throws at it, civilization has a fighting chance. For those who listen through to the ending, there is a glimmer of hope – perhaps appended in a “deus ex machina” fashion, but there is a purpose to it, especially when considered in light of what it leads to in Movement 4.
The first melody in this movement is the “preservation” theme, which is repeated under many different arrangements and frames the significantly re-orchestrated versions of segments from six of Mr. Stolyarov’s marches – Marches #1, 2, 8, 9, 11, and 12 – composed between 2000 and 2014. This is intended to communicate several insights: (i) at a time of great macro-scale uncertainty, only the efforts of the individual – each in their own way – can preserve what is good about civilization; (ii) one should cherish the accomplishments of one’s past and build upon them, integrating them with the present and future – because, no matter what happens, past achievements are irreversible gains; (iii) in building a brighter future, we should hearken back to the good aspects of life and human creation that were achieved prior to 2016. It is not possible for humankind to begin anew; one cannot rebuild the world, or any subset thereof, from scratch – but it is possible to undo the damage of the recent chaos by reasserting and re-instantiating the values, ideas, objects, and infrastructures that make life decent and progress possible.
A better future can only be achieved by holding onto and building upon the best aspects of the past – both personally and for humankind as a whole.
Before the advent of evidence-based medicine, most physicians took an attitude like Galen’s toward their prescriptions. If their remedies did not work, surely the fault was with their patient. For centuries scores of revered doctors did not consider putting bloodletting or trepanation to the test. Randomized trials to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment were not common practice. Doctors like Archie Cochrane, who fought to make them part of standard protocol, were met with fierce resistance. Philip Tetlock, author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction(2015), contends that the state of forecasting in the 21st century is strikingly similar to medicine in the 19th. Initiatives like the Good Judgement Project (GJP), a website that allows anyone to make predictions about world events, have shown that even a discipline that is largely at the mercy of chance can be put on a scientific footing.
More than once the author reminds us that the key to success in this endeavor is not what you think or what you know, but how you think. For Tetlock pundits like Thomas Friedman are the “exasperatingly evasive” Galens of the modern era. In the footnotes he lets the reader know he chose Friedman as target strictly because of his prominence. There are many like him. Tetlock’s academic work comparing random selections with those of professionals led media outlets to publish, and a portion of their readers to conclude, that expert opinion is no more accurate than a dart-throwing chimpanzee. What the undiscerning did not consider, however, is not all of the experts who participated failed to do better than chance.
Daniel Kahneman hypothesized that “attentive readers of the New York Times…may be only slightly worse” than these experts corporations and governments so handsomely recompense. This turned out to be a conservative guess. The participants in the Good Judgement Project outperformed all control groups, including one composed of professional intelligence analysts with access to classified information. This hodgepodge of retired bird watchers, unemployed programmers, and news junkies did 30% better than the “pros.” More importantly, at least to readers who want to gain a useful skillset as well as general knowledge, the managers of the GJP have identified qualities and ways of thinking that separate “superforecasters” from the rest of us. Fortunately they are qualities we can all cultivate.
While the merits of his macroeconomic theories can be debated, John Maynard Keynes was an extremely successful investor during one of the bleakest periods in international finance. This was no doubt due in part to his willingness to make allowance for new information and his grasp of probability. Participants in the GJP display open-mindedness, an ability and willingness to repeatedly update their forecasts, a talent to neither under- nor over-react to new information by putting it into a broader context, and a predilection for mathematical thinking (though those interviewed admitted they rarely used an explicit equation to calculate their answer). The figures they give also tend to be more precise than their less successful peers. This “granularity” may seem ridiculous at first. I must confess that when I first saw estimates on the GJP of 34% or 59%, I would chuckle a bit. How, I asked myself, is a single percentage point meaningful? Aren’t we just dealing with rough approximations? Apparently not.
Tetlock reminds us that the GJP does not deal with nebulous questions like “Who will be president in 2027?” or “Will a level 9 earthquake hit California two years from now?” However, there are questions that are not, in the absence of unforeseeable Black Swan events, completely inscrutable. Who will win the Mongolian presidency? Will Uruguay sign a trade agreement with Laos in the next six months? These are parts of highly complex systems, but they can be broken down into tractable subproblems.
Using numbers instead of words like “possibly”, “probably”, “unlikely”, etc., seems unnatural. It gives us wiggle room and plausible deniability. They also cannot be put on any sort of record to keep score of how well we’re doing. Still, to some it may seem silly, pedantic, or presumptuous. If Joint Chiefs of Staff had given the exact figure they had in mind (3 to 1) instead of the “fair chance” given to Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs debacle may have never transpired. Because they represent ranges of values instead of single numbers, words can be retroactively stretched or shrunk to make blunders seem a little less avoidable. This is good for advisors looking to cover their hides by hedging their bets, but not so great for everyone else.
If American intelligence agencies had presented the formidable but vincible figure of 70% instead of a “slam dunk” to Congress, a disastrous invasion and costly occupation would have been prevented. At this point it is hard not to see the invasion as anything as a mistake, but even amidst these emotions we must be wary of hindsight. Still, a 70% chance of being right means there is a 30% chance of being wrong. It is hardly a “slam dunk.” No one would feel completely if an oncologist told them they are 70% sure the growth is not malignant. There are enormous consequences to sloppy communications. However, those with vested interests are more than content with this approach if it agrees with them, even if it ends up harming them.
When Nate Silver put the odds of the 2008 election in Obama’s favor, he was panned by Republicans as a pawn of the liberal media. He was quickly reviled by Democrats when he foresaw a Republican takeover of the Senate. It is hard to be a wizard when the king, his court, and all the merry peasants sweeping the stables would not know a confirmation bias from their right foot. To make matters worse, confidence is widely equated with capability. This seems to be doubly true of groups of people, particularly when they are choosing a leader. A mutual-fund manager who tells his clients they will see great returns on a company is viewed as stronger than a Poindexter prattling on about Bayesian inference and risk management.
The GJP’s approach has not spread far — yet. At this time most pundits, consultants, and self-proclaimed sages do not explicitly quantify their success rates, but this does not stop corporations, NGOs, and institutions at all levels of government from paying handsomely for the wisdom of untested soothsayers. Perhaps they have a few diplomas, but most cannot provide compelling evidence for expertise in haruspicy (sans the sheep’s liver). Given the criticality of accurate analyses to saving time and money, it would seem as though a demand for methods to improve and assess the quality of foresight would arise. Yet for the most part individuals and institutions continue to happily grope in the dark, unaware of the necessity for feedback when they misstep — afraid of having their predictions scrutinized or having to take the pains to scrutinize their predictions.
David Ferrucci is wary of the “guru model” to settling disputes. No doubt you’ve witnessed or participated in this kind of whimpering fracas: one person presents a Krugman op-ed to debunk a Niall Ferguson polemic, which is then countered with a Tommy Friedman book, which was recently excoriated by the newest leader of the latest intellectual cult to come out of the Ivy League. In the end both sides leave frustrated. Krugman’s blunders regarding the economic prospects of the Internet, deflation, the “imminent” collapse of the euro (said repeatedly between 2010 and 2012) are legendary. Similarly, Ferguson, who strongly petitioned the Federal Reserve to reconsider quantitative easing, lest the United States suffer Weimar-like inflation, has not yet been vindicated. He and his colleagues responded in the same way as other embarrassed prophets: be patient, it has not happened, but it will! In his defense, more than one clever person has criticized the way governments calculate their inflation rates…
Paul Ehrlich, a darling of environmentalist movement, has screeched about the detonation of a “population bomb” for decades. Civilization was set to collapse between 15 and 30 years from 1970. During the interim 100 to 200 million would annually starve to death, by the year 2000 no crude oil would be left, the prices of raw materials would skyrocket, and the planet would be in the midst of a perpetual famine. Tetlock does not mention Ehrlich, but he is, particularly given his persisting influence on Greens, as or more deserving of a place in this hall of fame as anyone else. Larry Kudlow continued to assure the American people that the Bush tax breaks were producing massive economic growth. This continued well into 2008, when he repeatedly told journalists that America was not in a recession and the Bush boom was “alive and well.” For his stupendous commitment to his contention in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he was nearly awarded a seat in the Trump cabinet.
This is not to say a mistake should become the journalistic equivalent of a scarlet letter. Kudlow’s slavish adherence to his axioms is not unique. Ehrlich’s blindness to technological advances is not uncommon, even in an era dominated by technology. By failing to set a timeline or give detailed causal accounts, many believe they have predicted every crash since they learned how to say the word. This is likely because they begin each day with the same mantra: “the market will crash.” Yet through an automatically executed routine of psychological somersaults, they do not see they were right only once and wrong dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times. This kind of person is much more deserving of scorn than a poker player who boasts about his victories, because he is (likely) also aware of how often he loses. At least he’s not fooling himself. The severity of Ehrlich’s misfires is a reminder of what happens when someone looks too far ahead while assuming all things will remain the same. Ceteris paribus exists only in laboratories and textbooks.
Axioms are fates accepted by different people as truth, but the belief in Fate (in the form of retroactive narrative construction) is a nearly ubiquitous stumbling block to clear thinking. We may be far removed from Sophocles, but the unconscious human drive to create sensible narratives is not peculiar to fifth-century B.C. Athens. A questionnaire given to students at Northwestern showed that most believed things had turned out for the best even if they had gotten into their first pick. From an outsider’s perspective this is probably not true. In our cocoons we like to think we are in the right place either through the hand of fate or through our own choices. Atheists are not immune to this Panglossian habit. Our brains are wired for stories, but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves seldom come out without distortions. We can gain a better outside view, which allows us to see situations from perspectives other than our own, but only through regular practice with feedback. This is one of the reasons groups are valuable.
Francis Galton asked 787 villagers to guess the weight of an ox hanging in the market square. The average of their guesses (1,197 lbs) turned out to be remarkably close to its actual weight (1,198 lbs). Scott Page has said “diversity trumps ability.” This is a tad bold, since legions of very different imbeciles will never produce anything of value, but there is undoubtedly a benefit to having a group with more than one point of view. This was tested by the GJP. Teams performed better than lone wolves by a significant margin (23% to be exact). Partially as a result of encouraging one another and building a culture of excellence, and partially from the power of collective intelligence.
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
-Helmuth von Moltke
“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”
When Archie Cochrane was told he had cancer by his surgeon, he prepared for death. Type 1 thinking grabbed hold of him and did not doubt the diagnosis. A pathologist later told him the surgeon was wrong. The best of us, under pressure, fall back on habitual modes of thinking. This is another reason why groups are useful (assuming all their members do not also panic). Organizations like the GJP and the Millennium Project are showing how well collective intelligence systems can perform. Helmuth von Moltke and Mike Tyson aside, a better motto, substantiated by a growing body of evidence, comes from Dwight Eisenhower: “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie 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.
The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity – RAAD Fest 2017 Presentation by G. Stolyarov II
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, delivered this presentation as the initial speech in the panel discussion he moderated at RAAD Fest 2017 on August 11, 2017, entitled “Advocating for the Future”. The audience consisted of approximately 700 in-person attendees.
Other speakers in the panel included Zoltan Istvan, Ben Goertzel, Max More, and Natasha Vita-More.
Gennady Stolyarov II Prepares to Present and Moderate Panel at RAAD Fest 2017
Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at RAAD Fest 2017
Gennady Stolyarov II Moderates Question-and-Answer Session for Panel: “Advocating for the Future” – RAAD Fest 2017
From left to right, Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II, Max More, Ben Goertzel, and Natasha Vita-More
For my coming thirtieth birthday, I have commissioned a colossal cityscape depicting my vision and hope for the future progress of humankind. Artist Ekaterinya Vladinakova, a long-time supporter of transhumanism and life extension, was the evident best choice for this project.
The City of New Antideath represents a future society which has overcome death, disease, and today’s principal sources of material scarcity and discomfort. This city contains more than ample living space in ornate, radiantly illuminated skyscrapers. Smaller villas, domed towers, and other luxuriously ornamented buildings adorn the central walkways. There is ample room for pedestrian traffic and plant growth sculpted into geometrically complex patterns – including on the rooftop terraces of many of the mega-skyscrapers.
Flying cars and autonomous drones appear as streaks of light from the ground level. There is so much room for aerial transportation that no more traffic jams exist on the ground. One can opt for efficient transport, or for open-ended leisurely walking, and the two modes will not collide.
Over the years I have created a large number of building models using Sketchup, Minecraft, and even LEGO bricks. In my quest for permanence, they – or images of them – have been preserved and provided to the artist for inspiration. The first City of Antideath consisted of my Sketchup models. The City of New Antideath was not intended to be an exact replica, but rather a successor inspired by the prospect of juxtaposing the best architectural elements of all eras – past and yet to come.
I conveyed to Ekaterinya Vladinakova that the skyscrapers should exhibit a variety of bold colors and geometric shapes – but also be orderly and ornate. I have a great admiration for historical architecture from the 16th through 19th centuries – so while some of the buildings are geometric and futuristic, others borrow significant elements from Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, or Victorian styles. Russian and Eastern architectural traditions find their manifestations in this cityscape as well. The idea is to portray a future of extreme diversity, where all of these elements will exist side by side and interact with one another in interesting ways. Far from cultural separatism or tribalism, the future needs to borrow and develop upon the best elements from all cultures, times, and places. The culture of New Antideath is rational, scientific, progress-oriented, universalist, cosmopolitan, and at the same time hyperpluralist and welcoming of all peaceful individuals.
The most significant vision I have for this artwork is that it will become the iconic vision of a techno-positive future. Accordingly, I am rendering it available for free download and distribution via a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License so that it might be used by others who seek illustrations of a future we can all aspire for.
I still hope that I was not born too soon – that I may someday personally witness and experience a future of this sort. But for now, although the third decade of my life did not see such a future emerge, I am happy at least to have enabled its depiction so that others can be inspired to strive toward it. Given that our immediate world has become suffused by a pervasive, destructive malaise over the past two years, we will need visions such as this to overcome it and achieve better ways to be.
There are three versions of this digital painting available for free download (left-click on the links to open, right-click to download):
– Original Size (11250 by 18100 pixels – a vast canvas with immense detail. Note: This file size is immense as well – but you will be able to zoom in to view individual buildings and regard them as smaller-scale paintings in their own right.)
For those seeking musical accompaniment in viewing this painting, I recommend my Transhumanist March, Op. 78 (2014) (MP3 and YouTube) or Man’s Struggle Against Death, Op. 58 (2008) (MP3 and YouTube).
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, delivered this presentation virtually at the Extreme Futures Technology and Forecasting (EFTF) Work Group on March 11, 2017.
Mr. Stolyarov outlines the background and history of the Transhumanist Party, its Core Ideals, its unique approach to politics and member involvement, and the hopes for transforming politics into a constructive focus on solutions to the prevailing problems of our time.
At the conclusion of the presentation Mr. Stolyarov answered a series of questions from futurists Mark Waser and Stuart Mason Dambrot.
Visit the website of the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.
Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free here.
Watch the U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Artificial Intelligence here.
Watch the U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Life Extension here.
The Transhumanist Party: New Politics for Life Extension and Technological Progress – Video by G. Stolyarov II
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, discusses the progress made in late 2016 and early 2017 and the goals of transhumanist politics – how the advocacy of emerging technologies and life extension in a political context sets the Transhumanist Party’s approach apart from mainstream politics.
This presentation was delivered virtually on January 27, 2017, to a meeting of People Unlimited in Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of People Unlimited’s Ageless Education speaker series. After the conclusion of his remarks, Mr. Stolyarov answered several questions from the audience.
The U.S. Transhumanist Party’s first expert discussion panel, hosted in conjunction with the Nevada Transhumanist Party, asked panelists to consider emerging developments in artificial intelligence.
The panel took place on Sunday, January 8, 2017, at 10 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time.
This panel was moderated by Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party. Key questions addressed include the following:
(i) What do you think will be realistic, practical applications of artificial intelligence toward improving human lives during the next 5 years? (ii) Are you genuinely concerned about existential risk stemming from AI, or do you think those concerns are exaggerated / overhyped (or do you have some intermediate position on these issues)? (iii) On the other hand, do you perceive significant tendencies in contemporary culture to overhype the positive / functional capabilities of AI? (iv) How can individuals, particularly laypersons, become better at distinguishing between genuine scientific and technological advances in AI and hype / fear-mongering? (v) What is your techno-optimistic vision for how AI can help improve the future of human (and transhuman) beings? (vi) What are your thoughts regarding prognostications of an AI-caused technological Singularity? Are they realistic?
Zak Field is an international speaker, consultant, games designer, and entrepreneur based in Norwich, UK. A rising thought leader in Mixed Realities (VR/AR), Zak speaks and consults on Mixed Realities-related topics like gamification, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Robotics, Artificial Intelligences (AIs), and the Internet of Things (IoT).
In 2015, Zak partnered with Futurist Miss Metaverse as co-founder of BodAi, a robotics and AI company developing Bods, lifelike humanoid robot companions made accessible through a unique system that accommodates practical 21st-Century business and lifestyle needs.
David J. Kelley is the CTO for the tech venture capital firm Tracy Hall LLC, focused on companies that contribute to high-density sustainable community technologies, as well as the principal scientist with Artificial General Intelligence Inc. David also volunteers as the Chairman of the Transhuman National Committee board. David’s career has been built on technology trends and bleeding each research primarily around the capitalization of product engineering where those new products can be brought to market and made profitable. David’s work on Artificial Intelligence in particular – the ICOM research project with AGI Inc. – is focused on emotion-based systems that are designed to work around human constraints and help remove the ‘human’ element from the design of AI systems, including military applications for advanced self-aware cognitive systems that do not need human interaction.
Hiroyuki Toyama is a Japanese doctoral student at the Department of Psychology in University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His doctoral study has focused on emotional intelligence (EI) in the context of personality and health psychology. In particular, he has attempted to shed light on the way in which trait EI is related to subjective well-being and physiological health. He has a great interest in the future development of artificial EI on the basis of contemporary theory of EI.
Mark Waser is Chief Technology Officer of the Digital Wisdom Institute and D161T4L W15D0M Inc., organizations devoted to the ethical implementation of advanced technologies for the benefit of all. He has been publishing data science research since 1983 and developing commercial AI software since 1984, including an expert system shell and builder for Citicorp, a neural network to evaluate thallium cardiac images for Air Force pilots and, recently, mobile front-ends for cloud-based AI and data science. He is particularly interested in safe ethical architectures and motivational systems for intelligent machines (including humans). As an AI ethicist, he has presented at numerous conferences and published articles in international journals. His current projects can be found at the Digital Wisdom website – http://wisdom.digital/
Demian Zivkovic is CEO+Structure of Ascendance Biomedical, president of the Institute of Exponential Sciences, as well as a scholar of several scientific disciplines. He has been interested in science, particularly neuropsychology, astronomy, and biology from a very young age. His greatest passions are cognitive augmentation and life extension, two endeavors he remains deeply committed to, to this day. He is also very interested in applications of augmented reality and hyperreality, which he believes have incredible potential for improving our lives.
He is a strong believer in interdisciplinarity as a paradigm for understanding the world. His studies span artificial intelligence, innovation science, and business, which he has studied at the University of Utrecht. He also has a background in psychology, which he has previously studied at the Saxion University of Applied Sciences. Demian has co-founded Ascendance Biomedical, a Singapore-based company focused on cutting edge biomedical services. Demian believes that raising capital and investing in technology and education is the best route to facilitate societal change. As a staunch proponent of LGBT rights and postgenderism, Demian believes advanced technologies can eventually provide a definite solution for sex/gender-related issues in society.
Libertarianism and Transhumanism – How Liberty and Radical Technological Progress Fit Together – Presentation by G. Stolyarov II
Gennady Stolyarov II, as Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party and as of November 17, 2016, the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, discusses the complementarities between libertarian and transhumanist philosophies and objectives, encouraging more libertarians to embrace emerging technologies and an “upwing” perspective on progress, tolerance, and cosmopolitanism. Over time Mr. Stolyarov hopes to be able to do similar outreach to persons of other persuasions – from centrists to non-identitarian conservatives to left-progressives to socialists to apolitical individuals, seeking common ground in pursuit of the improvement of the human condition through emerging technologies.
Privacy is a favorite topic of mine. Maintaining individual privacy is a crucial element in free society. Yet there are many who want to invade it for personal or political gain. As our digital fingerprint becomes a part of our notion of self, how do we maintain our personal privacy on an inherently impersonal network of data? Where do we draw that line on what is private, and how do we enforce it? These are questions that are difficult to answer when looking at a short-term perspective. However, if we look further into the probable future, we can create a plan that helps protect the privacy of citizens today and for generations to come. By taking into account the almost certain physical merger of human biology and technology, the answer becomes clear. Our electronic data should be treated as part of our bodily autonomy.
The explosive success of social media has shown that we already view ourselves as partly digital entities. Where we go, what we eat, and who we are with is proudly displayed in cyberspace for eternity. But beyond that we store unique data about ourselves “securely” on the internet. Bank accounts, tax returns, even medical information are filed away on a server somewhere and specifically identified as us. It’s no longer solely what we chose to let people see. We are physical and digital beings, and it is time we view these two sides as one before we take the next step into enhanced humanity.
Subdermal storage of electronic data is here, and its storage capabilities will expand rapidly. Soon we will be able to store a lot more than just access codes for our doors. It is hard to speculate exactly what people will chose to keep stored this way, and there may even come a time when what we see and hear is automatically stored this way. But before we go too far into what will be stored, we must understand how this information is accessed in present time. These implants are currently based in NFC technology. Near-Field Communication is a method of storing and transmitting data wirelessly within a very short distance. Yes, “wireless” is the key word. It means that if I can connect my NFC tag to my smart phone by just waiving my hand close to it (usually within an inch or so), then technically someone else can, too. While current antenna limitations and the discreetness of where a person’s tag is implanted create a highly secure method of storage, advances in technology will eventually make it easier to access the individual. This is why it is urgent we develop a streamlined policy for privacy.
The current Transhumanist position is that personally collected intellectual property, whether stored digitally or organically, is the property of the individual. As such, it should be protected from unauthorized search and download. The current platform also states that each individual has the freedom to enhance their own body as they like so long as it doesn’t negatively impact others. However, it does not specify what qualifies as a negative impact or how to prevent it. Morphological freedom is a double-edged sword. A person can a person enhance their ability to access information on themselves, but they can also use it to access others. It is entirely feasible enhancements will be created that allow a person to hack another. And collecting personal data isn’t the only risk with that. What if the hacking victim has an artificial heart or an implanted insulin pump? The hacker could potentially access the code the medical device is operating with and change or delete it, ultimately leading to death. Another scenario might be hacking into someone’s enhanced sensory abilities. Much like in the novel Ender’s Game, a person can access another to see what they see. This ability can be abused countless ways ranging from government surveillance to sexual voyeurism. While this is still firmly within the realm of science fiction, a transhuman society will need to create laws to protect against these person-to-person invasions of privacy.
Now let’s consider mass data collection. Proximity beacons could easily and cheaply be scattered across stores and cities to function as passive collection points much like overhead cameras are today. Retail stands to gain significantly from this technology, especially if they are allowed access to intimate knowledge about customers. Government intelligence gathering also stands to benefit from this capability. Levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin stored for personal health analysis could be taken and paired with location data to put together an invasive picture of how people are feeling in a certain situation. Far more can be learned and exploited when discreetly collected biodata is merged with publicly observable activity.
In my mind, these are concerns that should be addressed sooner than later. If we take the appropriate steps to preserve personal privacy in all domains, we can make a positive impact that will last into the 22nd century.