Transhumanist politicisation controversy

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The transhumanist politicisation controversy is the ongoing conversation within the transhumanist community whether it should continue to become increasingly politicised.

The strongest contemporary driver has been at Zoltan Istvan's Transhumanist Party, despite a pre-existing history of transhumanist politics not being as disruptive.[1] Zoltan's campaign has featured highly publicised political statements from Zoltan often using divisive rhetoric.[2][3]

Scepticism has similarly been cast on competing initiatives such as the US based Transhuman National Committee and the UK's similarly named Transhumanist Party by some transhumanists.[4]

Criticisms of politicisation of transhumanism

The following criticisms have been voiced:

  • Effort spent on politics would be better spent researching and developing transhumanist technology
  • Transhumanists inevitably vary widely in their political views (e.g. big government versus small government). It's pointless to seek "lowest common denominator" compromises
  • Politics inevitably involves pragmatism, but some transhumanists hold positions such as "I am not a pragmatist when it comes to ethics"
  • Politics is messy and divisive. Politicians have a reputation for being brutally self-serving. Transhumanists ought, therefore, to stay well away from politics.
  • A transhumanist future will inevitably be reached without the need for political engagement

Responses

The counter-argument states that anyone concerned about the future of technology needs to be concerned about the future of politics.

Politics can exert powerful influence over the complex mix of factors that guide and constrain transhumanist technology. These factors include markets, incentives, subsidies, regulations, standards, public funding, and public expectations. All these factors are impacted by political decisions. In turn, these factors mould the environment in which technology is researched, developed, and distributed – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

However, present-day political systems are proving themselves inadequate to keep up with an increasing pace of change. Politicians are often solving yesterday’s problems rather than addressing tomorrow’s challenges. As such, the influence which politics exerts can be malign rather than beneficial. That’s something which should concern all transhumanists. That’s a reason why transhumanists should be looking for ways to help politics improve.

To echo a quote attributed to Edmund Burke, All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should look on and do nothing. If transhumanists view politics as inherently messy and self-serving, that’s the way it’s likely going to stay.

However, by taking advantage of technology improvements, transhumanists can more easily become involved in projects to reshape and improve the political landscape. As the Uber-wars are currently showing, we need to engage in developing technological solutions to flawed government action such as monopolies and cartels based on licensing, while engaging the political process to ensure that luddite influences do not prevail in hindering their adoption through legislation against progress.

See also

References

  1. Transhumanism Gets Political
  2. The Transhumanist Movement Is Having an Identity Crisis
  3. The Political Vacuity of Transhumanism
  4. I am a researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute in Oxford, working on future studies, human enhancement, global catastrophic risks, reasoning under uncertainty and everything else. Ask me anything!