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Transhumanist politics constitute a group of political ideologies that generally express the belief in improving human individuals through science and technology. Transhumanists claim that the transhumanist movement aims to improve humanity with technology and science (for example, through life extension, moral enhancement and the abolition of suffering). American adjunct professor and author Jeanine Thweatt-Bates considers it impossible to define transhumanist politics as one set of beliefs since the transhumanist movement includes opposite political perspectives on the central issue of regulating technology. James Hughes, American sociologist and bioethicist, has noted the dynamic between left-leaning and right-leaning visions for transhumanism and the future of technology and human enhancement.
The term "transhumanism" with its present meaning was popularised by Julian Huxley's 1957 essay of that name.
Natasha Vita-More was elected as a Councilperson for the 28th Senatorial District of Los Angeles in 1992. She ran with the Green Party, but on a personal platform of "transhumanism". She quit after a year, saying her party was "too neurotically geared toward environmentalism".
James Hughes identifies the "neoliberal" Extropy Institute, founded by philosopher Max More and developed in the 1990s, as the first organized advocates for transhumanism. And he identifies the late-1990s formation of the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), a European organization which later was renamed to Humanity+ (H+), as partly a reaction to the free market perspective of the "Extropians". Per Hughes, "[t]he WTA included both social democrats and neoliberals around a liberal democratic definition of transhumanism, codified in the Transhumanist Declaration." Hughes has also detailed the political currents in transhumanism, particularly the shift around 2009 from socialist transhumanism to libertarian and anarcho-capitalist transhumanism. He claims that the Left was pushed out of the World Transhumanist Association Board of Directors, and that libertarians and Singularitarians have secured a hegemony in the transhumanism community with help from Peter Thiel, but Hughes remains optimistic about a techno-progressive future.
In 2012, the Longevity Party, a movement described as "100% transhumanist" by cofounder Maria Konovalenko, began to organize in Russia for building a balloted political party. Another Russian programme, the 2045 Initiative was founded in 2012 by billionaire Dmitry Itskov with its own "Evolution 2045" political party advocating life extension and android avatars.
Writing for H+ Magazine in July 2014, futurist Peter Rothman called Gabriel Rothblatt "very possibly the first openly transhumanist political candidate in the United States" when he ran as a candidate for the United States Congress.
In October 2014, Zoltan Istvan announced that he would be running in the 2016 United States presidential election under the banner of the "Transhumanist Party." By May 2018, the Party had nearly 880 members, and chairmanship had been given to Gennady Stolyarov II. Other groups using the name "Transhumanist Party" exist in the United Kingdom and Germany.
According to Amon Twyman of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), political philosophies which support transhumanism include social futurism, techno-progressivism, techno-libertarianism, and anarcho-transhumanism. Twyman considers such philosophies to collectively constitute political transhumanism.
Techno-progressives also known as Democratic transhumanists, support equal access to human enhancement technologies in order to promote social equality and prevent technologies from furthering the divide among socioeconomic classes. However, libertarian transhumanist Ronald Bailey is critical of the democratic transhumanism described by James Hughes. Jeffrey Bishop wrote that the disagreements among transhumanists regarding individual and community rights is "precisely the tension that philosophical liberalism historically tried to negotiate," but that disagreeing entirely with a posthuman future is a disagreement with the right to choose what humanity will become. Woody Evans has supported placing posthuman rights in a continuum with animal rights and human rights.
Riccardo Campa wrote that transhumanism can be coupled with many different political, philosophical, and religious views, and that this diversity can be an asset so long as transhumanists do not give priority to existing affiliations over membership with organized transhumanism.
Democratic transhumanism, a term coined by James Hughes in 2002, refers to the stance of transhumanists (advocates for the development and use of human enhancement technologies) who espouse liberal, social, and/or radical democratic political views.
According to Hughes, the ideology "stems from the assertion that human beings will generally be happier when they take rational control of the natural and social forces that control their lives." The ethical foundation of democratic transhumanism rests upon rule utilitarianism and non-anthropocentric personhood theory. Democratic transhumanist support equal access to human enhancement technologies in order to promote social equality and to prevent technologies from furthering the divide among the socioeconomic classes. While raising objections both to right-wing and left-wing bioconservatism, and libertarian transhumanism, Hughes aims to encourage democratic transhumanists and their potential progressive allies to unite as a new social movement and influence biopolitical public policy.
An attempt to expand the middle ground between technorealism and techno-utopianism, democratic transhumanism can be seen as a radical form of techno-progressivism. Appearing several times in Hughes' work, the term "radical" (from Latin rādīx, rādīc-, root) is used as an adjective meaning of or pertaining to the root or going to the root. His central thesis is that emerging technologies and radical democracy can help citizens overcome some of the root causes of inequalities of power.
According to Hughes, the terms techno-progressivism and democratic transhumanism both refer to the same set of Enlightenment values and principles; however, the term technoprogressive has replaced the use of the word democratic transhumanism.
Hughes has identified 15 "left futurist" or "left techno-utopian" trends and projects that could be incorporated into democratic transhumanism:
- Assistive technology-enabled disabled people
- Biopunk science fiction and movement
- Body modification culture
- Cyborg feminism/cyberfeminism
- Feminist science fiction
- Lesbian science fiction, Gay science fiction, Bisexual science fiction, and Transgender science fiction
- Free software movement
- Post-Darwinian leftism
- Postcyberpunk science fiction
- Post-work/guaranteed minimum income movement
- Up-wing politics
- Viridian design movement
List of democratic transhumanists
These are notable individuals who have identified themselves, or have been identified by Hughes, as advocates of democratic transhumanism:
Science journalist Ronald Bailey wrote a review of Citizen Cyborg in his online column for Reason magazine in which he offered a critique of democratic transhumanism and a defense of libertarian transhumanism.
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Libertarian transhumanism is a political ideology synthesizing libertarianism and transhumanism. Self-identified libertarian transhumanists, such as Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine and Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, are advocates of the asserted "right to human enhancement" who argue that the free market is the best guarantor of this right, claiming that it produces greater prosperity and personal freedom than other economic systems.
Libertarian transhumanists believe that the principle of self-ownership is the most fundamental idea from which both libertarianism and transhumanism stem. They are rational egoists and ethical egoists who embrace the prospect of using emerging technologies to enhance human capacities, which they believe stems from the self-interested application of reason and will in the context of the individual freedom to achieve a posthuman state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. They extend this rational and ethical egoism to advocate a form of "biolibertarianism".
As strong civil libertarians, libertarian transhumanists hold that any attempt to limit or suppress the asserted right to human enhancement is a violation of civil rights and civil liberties. However, as strong economic libertarians, they also reject proposed public policies of government-regulated and -insured human enhancement technologies, which are advocated by democratic transhumanists, because they fear that any state intervention will steer or limit their choices.
Extropianism, the earliest current of transhumanist thought defined in 1988 by philosopher Max More, initially included an anarcho-capitalist interpretation of the concept of "spontaneous order" in its principles, which states that a free market economy achieves a more efficient allocation of societal resources than any planned or mixed economy could achieve. In 2000, while revising the principles of Extropy, More seemed to be abandoning libertarianism in favor of modern liberalism and anticipatory democracy. However, many Extropians remained libertarian transhumanists.
Critiques of the techno-utopianism of libertarian transhumanists from progressive cultural critics include Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron's 1995 essay The Californian Ideology; Mark Dery's 1996 book Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century; and Paulina Borsook's 2000 book Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech.
Barbrook argues that libertarian transhumanists are proponents of the Californian Ideology who embrace the goal of reactionary modernism: economic growth without social mobility. According to Barbrook, libertarian transhumanists are unwittingly appropriating the theoretical legacy of Stalinist communism by substituting, among other concepts, the "vanguard party" with the "digerati", and the "new Soviet man" with the "posthuman". Dery coined the dismissive phrase "body-loathing" to describe the attitude of libertarian transhumanists and those in the cyberculture who want to escape from their "meat puppet" through mind uploading into cyberspace. Borsook asserts that libertarian transhumanists indulge in a subculture of selfishness, elitism, and escapism.
Sociologist James Hughes is the most militant critic of libertarian transhumanism. While articulating "democratic transhumanism" as a sociopolitical program in his 2004 book Citizen Cyborg, Hughes sought to convince libertarian transhumanists to embrace social democracy by arguing that:
- State action is required to address catastrophic threats from transhumanist technologies;
- Only believable and effective public policies to prevent adverse consequences from new technologies will reassure skittish publics that they do not have to be banned;
- Social policies must explicitly address public concerns that transhumanist biotechnologies will exacerbate social inequality;
- Monopolistic practices and overly restrictive intellectual property law can seriously delay the development of transhumanist technologies, and restrict their access;
- Only a strong liberal democratic state can ensure that posthumans are not persecuted; and
- Libertarian transhumanists (who are anti-naturalists) are inconsistent in arguing for the free market on the grounds that it is a natural phenomenon.
Klaus-Gerd Giesen, a German political scientist specializing in the philosophy of technology, wrote a critique of the libertarianism he imputes to all transhumanists. While pointing out that the works of Austrian School economist Friedrich Hayek figure in practically all of the recommended reading lists of Extropians, he argues that transhumanists, convinced of the sole virtues of the free market, advocate an unabashed inegalitarianism and merciless meritocracy which can be reduced in reality to a biological fetish. He is especially critical of their promotion of a science-fictional liberal eugenics, virulently opposed to any political regulation of human genetics, where the consumerist model presides over their ideology. Giesen concludes that the despair of finding social and political solutions to today's sociopolitical problems incites transhumanists to reduce everything to the hereditary gene, as a fantasy of omnipotence to be found within the individual, even if it means transforming the subject (human) to a new draft (posthuman).
- European Parliament (2006). "Technology Assessment on Converging Technologies" (PDF). ii. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
On the one side are the true believers in the potential of technology to make individuals ever more perfect. Transhumanism is a political expression of that.
- Thweatt-Bates, Jeanine (28 June 2013). Cyborg Selves: A Theological Anthropology of the Posthuman. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 1409481832.
This diversity within the movement, allowing a scope of political perspectives that includes opposite views on the central issue of technology regulation, makes it impossible to label any single set of political beliefs as 'transhumanist politics.'
- Hughes, James (1 May 2013). "The Politics of Transhumanism and the Techno-Millennial Imagination, 1626-2030". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- Huxley, Julian (1957). "Transhumanism". Archived from the original on June 25, 2016. Retrieved February 24, 2006.
- Rothman, Peter (8 October 2014). "Transhumanism Gets Political". hplusmagazine.com. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Hughes, James. "The Politics of Transhumanism". changesurfer.com. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
Ironically, Natasha Vita-More was actually elected to Los Angeles public office on the Green Party ticket in 1992. However her platform was “transhumanism” and she quit after one year of her two year term because the Greens were “too far left and too neurotically geared toward environmentalism.”
- Hughes, James (10 April 2009). "Transhumanist politics, 1700 to the near future". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- Konovalenko, Maria (26 July 2012). "Russians organize the "Longevity Party"". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
On July 19, we made the first step towards the creation of the Longevity Party. [...] Longevity Party is 100% transhumanist party.
- Pellissier, Hank (20 August 2012). "Who are the "Longevity Party" Co-Leaders, and What do They Want? (Part 1)". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
The recently-formed Longevity Party was co-founded by Ilia Stambler of Israel and Maria Konovalenko of Russia.
- Dolak, Kevin (27 August 2012). "Technology Human Immortality in 33 Years Claims Dmitry Itskov's 2045 Initiative". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
- Eördögh, Fruzsina (7 May 2013). "Russian Billionaire Dmitry Itskov Plans on Becoming Immortal by 2045". Archived from the original on 24 May 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
- Rothman, Peter (1 July 2014). "Interview: Gabriel Rothblatt Congressional Candidate in Florida's 8th District". Humanity+. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
I recently got together with Congressional candidate Gabriel Rothblatt who is very possibly the first openly transhumanist political candidate in the United States.
- Bartlett, Jamie (23 December 2014). "Meet the Transhumanist Party: 'Want to live forever? Vote for me'". The Telegraph.
[...] Zoltan decided to form the Transhumanist Party, and run for president in the 2016 US presidential election.
- Bromwich, Jonah (19 May 2018). "Death of a Biohacker". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
Gennady Stolyarov II, the chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, a political organization with close to 880 members that supports life extension through science and technology, had been corresponding with Mr. Traywick since November 2015.
- Volpicelli, Gian (14 January 2015). "Transhumanists Are Writing Their Own Manifesto for the UK General Election". Motherboard. Vice.
As the UK’s 2015 general election approaches, you’ve probably already made up your mind on who knows best about the economy, who you agree with on foreign policy, and who cuts a more leader-like figure. But did you ever wonder who will deliver immortality sooner? If so, there’s good news for you, since that’s exactly what the UK Transhumanist Party was created for.
- Volpicelli, Gian (27 March 2015). "A Transhumanist Plans to Run for Office in the UK". Motherboard. Vice.
Twyman intends to stand as an independent MP for the constituency of Kingston, on the radically pro-technology platform of the Transhumanist Party UK (TPUK), of which he’s cofounder and leader.
- Solon, Olivia (10 April 2015). "Cyborg supporting Transhumanist Party appoints first political candidate in UK". Mirror.
The newly-launched Transhumanist Party, which supports people who want to become cyborgs, has appointed its first political candidate in the UK.
- Benedikter, Roland (4 April 2015). "The Age of Transhumanist Politics – Part II". The Leftist Review.
The Transhumanist Party is gaining traction also in other parts of the Western world – mainly in Europe so far. Among them are the Tranhumanist Party of the UK, the Transhumanist Party of Germany (Transhumanistische Partei Deutschland) and others, all currently in the process of foundation.
- Twyman, Amon (7 October 2014). "Transhumanism and Politics". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
I would suggest that the way forward is to view transhumanism as a kind of political vector, axis, or hub rather than a single party or philosophy. In other words, the different political philosophies supportive of transhumanism (e.g. Social Futurism, Techno-Progressivism, Anarcho-Transhumanism, Techno-Libertarianism etc) should be considered to collectively constitute Political Transhumanism.
- Dvorsky, George (31 March 2012). "J. Hughes on democratic transhumanism, personhood, and AI". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
The term 'democratic transhumanism' distinguishes a biopolitical stance that combines socially liberal or libertarian views (advocating internationalist, secular, free speech, and individual freedom values), with economically egalitarian views (pro-regulation, pro-redistribution, pro-social welfare values), with an openness to the transhuman benefits that science and technology can provide, such as longer lives and expanded abilities. [...] In the last six or seven years the phrase has been supplanted by the descriptor 'technoprogressive' which is used to describe the same basic set of Enlightenment values and policy proposals: Human enhancement technologies, especially anti-aging therapies, should be a priority of publicly financed basic research, be well regulated for safety, and be included in programs of universal health care
- Hughes, James; Roux, Marc (24 June 2009). "On Democratic Transhumanism". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
When I wrote Citizen Cyborg in 2004 we had just begun defining the ideological position that embraced both traditional social democratic values as well as future transhuman possibilities, and we called it 'democratic transhumanism.' Since then, the people in that space have adopted the much more elegant term 'technoprogressive.'
- Ferrando, Francesca (2013). "Posthumanism, Transhumanism, Antihumanism, Metahumanism, and New Materialisms Differences and Relations". Existenz. 8 (2, Fall 2013). ISSN 1932-1066. Archived from the original on 14 January 2015. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
Democratic transhumanism calls for an equal access to technological enhancements, which could otherwise be limited to certain socio-political classes and related to economic power, consequently encoding racial and sexual politics.
- Bailey, Ronald (2005). "Trans-Human Expressway: Why libertarians will win the future". Retrieved 5 February 2006.
- Bailey, Ronald (2009). "Transhumanism and the Limits of Democracy". Retrieved 1 May 2009.
- Bishop, Jeffrey (2010). "Transhumanism, Metaphysics, and the Posthuman God" (PDF). Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 35 (700-720): 713 and 717. doi:10.1093/jmp/jhq047. Retrieved September 22, 2015.
The tension between the individual and the political that we see within trans- humanist philosophies is precisely the tension that philosophical liberalism historically tried to negotiate." and "[T]o question the posthuman future is to question our liberty to become what we will.
- Evans, Woody (2015). "Posthuman Rights: Dimensions of Transhuman Worlds". Teknokultura. Universidad Complutense Madrid. 12 (2). doi:10.5209/rev_TK.2015.v12.n2.49072. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
Consider the state of posthumanism as a domain (*PR*). The careful definition of this domain will be vital in articulating the nature of the relationship between humanity and posthumanity. It will be an asymmetrical relationship, at first heavily favoring humans. It will become, if the posthuman population (and/or their power or influence) grows, a domain in which posthumans may favor themselves at the expense of humans, as humans favor themselves at the expense of animals and machinery within their own domains and networks.
- Campa, Riccardo, "Toward a transhumanist politics", Re-public, Archived from the original on June 14, 2012,
The central transhumanist idea of self-directed evolution can be coupled with different political, philosophical and religious opinions. Accordingly, we have observed individuals and groups joining the movement from very different persuasions. On one hand such diversity may be an asset in terms of ideas and stimuli, but on the other hand it may involve a practical paralysis, especially when members give priority to their existing affiliations over their belonging to organized transhumanism.
- Chen, Truman (15 December 2014). "The Political Vacuity of Transhumanism". Stanford Political Journal.
Even some transhumanists have criticized the emergence of the Transhumanist Party, questioning the utility of politicizing transhumanist goals. In reality, the ideals the Transhumanist Party embodies are anti-political.
- Hughes, James (2001). "Politics of Transhumanism". Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- Hughes, James (2002). "Democratic Transhumanism 2.0". Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- Hughes, James (2003). "Better Health through Democratic Transhumanism". Archived from the original on 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- Hughes, James (2004). Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-4198-1.
- James Hughes (20 July 2005). "On Democratic Transhumanism". The Journal of Geoethical Nanotechnology. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- Hughes, James (1996). "Embracing Change with All Four Arms: A Post-Humanist Defense of Genetic Engineering". Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- Ferrando, Francesca (2013). "Posthumanism, Transhumanism, Antihumanism, Metahumanism, and New Materialisms Differences and Relations". Existenz. 8 (2, Fall 2013 ISSN 1932-1066). Archived from the original on 14 January 2015. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- Carrico, Dale (2005). "Listen, Transhumanist!". Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- George Dvorsky (31 March 2012). "J. Hughes on democratic transhumanism, personhood, and AI". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- James Hughes and Marc Roux (24 June 2009). "On Democratic Transhumanism". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- "Cyborg Democracy".
- Carrico, Dale (2005). "Bailey on the CybDemite Menace". Retrieved 2006-02-05.
- Carrico, Dale (2009). "James Hughes Flogs for the Robot Cult". Retrieved 2010-03-27.
- Istvan, Zoltan (5 May 2014). "Transhumanists and Libertarians Have Much in Common". Huffington Post. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- Krepelka, Jan (29 July 2014). "Transhumanism: the next step of civilization". Laissez-faire Institute. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Bailey, Ronald (2005). Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case For the Biotech Revolution. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-59102-227-4.
- Reynolds, Glenn (2006). An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 1-59555-054-2.
- Bailey, Ronald (2005). "Trans-Human Expressway: Why libertarians will win the future". Retrieved 2006-02-05.
- Carrico, Dale (2005). "Bailey on the CybDemite Menace". Retrieved 2006-02-05.
- Barbrook, Richard; Cameron, Andy (2000). "The Californian Ideology". Retrieved 2007-02-06.
- Barbrook, Richard (2007). "Cyber-Communism: How the Americans Are Superseding Capitalism in Cyberspace". Retrieved 2009-05-21.
- Dery, Mark (1996). Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3520-X.
- Borsook, Paulina (2000). Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech. Mother Jones. ISBN 1-891620-78-9.
- Giesen, Klaus-Gerd (2004). "Transhumanisme et génétique humaine". Archived from the original on 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2006-04-26.
- An introduction to tomorrow’s politics
- Cyborg Democracy
- Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
- Transmocracy[permanent dead link]
- "Transhumanism: the next step of civilization" by Jan Krepelka