Candidates for the 2008-2010 WTA Board of Directors seats
I’m a science writer and transhumanist activist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I write a blog on futurist issues, Accelerating Future. I co-founded the Immortality Institute and the SF Bay Area chapter of the WTA, BA-Trans. I’m a part of the Lifeboat Foundation, where I look into ways to prevent human extinction risks. I’ve given talks in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and at Yale University.
My involvement with organized transhumanism goes back to 2001. I know hundreds of transhumanists on a first-name basis, and if I don’t know you yet, I’d be pleased to meet or chat.
Located in the Bay Area, I am ideally positioned to meet face-to-face with the WTA’s new Executive Director, James Clement, attend frequent local H+ oriented events, and communicate with the media, as I already do regularly. I am free to meet with any WTA members living or visiting the area, a crossroads for many. I am very well-connected to transhumanists both locally and globally and hope to get even better connected.
The WTA is all about the local chapters. We need to deemphasize mailing list debate and emphasize getting on the front page in our respective cities. By making ourselves visible, talking to reporters, scientists, futurists, tech entrepreneurs, and others, we can continue to push transhumanist discussions to the forefront of futurism in general.
Transhumanists deserve an organization that reflects the breathtaking wonder of our vision. By working together, we can continue to grow the WTA until it becomes firmly established and widely respected.
As far as personal interests, a pressing concern of mine lately is perfecting deep-fried tofu.
My involvement with the transhumanist movement now goes back more than ten years. We have come a long way in this time, both internally in terms of development of ideas and organization, and externally in terms of the public becoming more aware of transhumanist topics and views. These developments should accelerate over the coming years. In its next stage, I would like to see the WTA mature into a well-run global grassroots advocacy organization that is effective in giving responsible forms of transhumanism a public voice. To accomplish this, we must achieve two objectives. First, we need to demonstrate that we are capable of mature, well-considered, socially-responsible judgment---by developing and articulating a transhumanist outlook that is relevant, trustworthy, and attractive to much broader constituencies than our current core support groups. Second, we must build our organizational capacity by fundraising to enable us to hire some staff. These objectives are mutually supporting.
Some personal background… I’m one of the founders of the WTA (together with David Pearce, in 1998). I’ve been the Chair of the organization since 2002, and its general-purpose “coordinator” before that. For a time I served as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Evolution and Technology. I led the collaborative project that produced the original Transhumanist FAQ and the revised version published in 2003, and I coordinated the writing of the Transhumanist Declaration. I’ve written extensively on wide variety of transhumanist matters, for both academic and lay audiences. Preprints of many of my papers can be found on my website, http://www.nickbostrom.com
Some more background… I am the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. I previously taught in the Faculty of Philosophy and in the Institute for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. My research covers the foundations of probability theory, philosophy of science, global catastrophic risks, and the ethical, practical, strategic issues related to human transformation and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. I’ve published some 130 papers and articles, including research papers in Nature, Mind, Journal of Philosophy, Ethics, Bioethics, Journal of Medical Ethics, Astrophysics & Space Science, along with one monograph, Anthropic Bias (Routledge, New York, 2002), and two edited volumes with Oxford University Press (forthcoming, 2008), one on human enhancement ethics, the other on global catastrophic risks. My writings have been translated into 16 languages. I’ve done more than 260 interviews with television, radio, and print media, including BBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, PBS, CBC, Discovery Channel, Financial Times, New York Times, Washington Times, The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Nature, New Scientist, and Forbes. I have also been invited to advise various governmental agencies in the UK, Europe, and the USA.
I’ve been an avid transhumanist for as long as I can remember.
Most of my time recently has been spent actively trying to bring about transformative technologies. Since 1997 I have been leading commercial software R&D projects in the area of Artificial General Intelligence, aimed at producing AI systems with general intelligence at the human level and ultimately beyond. Since 2001 I have also been working, in parallel, on the application of AI technologies in bioinformatics, with a specific focus on using AI to accelerate the path to life extension. If you’re interested in exploring my work in these areas, check out the websites of my companies Novamente LLC (novamente.net) and Biomind LLC (biomind.com).
On the more academic side, I have carried out an active research career, resulting in the publication of nearly 80 papers and ten scientific books. Before entering the software industry I served as a university faculty in several departments of mathematics, computer science and cognitive science, in the US, Australia and New Zealand.
As well as carrying out future-focused science and technology development, however, I have also been actively involved in the futurist community, via doing writing and organizing aimed at helping us to collectively better understand our future and encourage it to unfold in a positive way. I have authored two books focused on the future of technology and society: Creating Internet Intelligence (Plenum, 2001) and The Path to Posthumanity (Academica, 2006). I also co-founded the non-profit AGIRI (Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute), which organized a very successful 2006 workshop in Bethesda; and am involved in organizing the follow-up AGI-08 conference (agi-08.org) conference which will be in Memphis in March 2008.
I am also the Director of Research of the Singularity Institute for AI, and in this role am working with Bruce Klein, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Tyler Emerson and my other colleagues there to better understand how the human race may go about creating a positive future for humanity that also includes very advanced AI systems.
My motivation in running for the WTA board is a desire to become engaged with a broader variety of transhumanists around the world; to assist the WTA via my experience in managing organizations, and doing fundraising and publicity in various contexts; and also, potentially, to contribute my expertise and experience in science and business to help the WTA connect more closely with individuals doing transhumanist-focused R&D in commerce and academia. Transhumanism is a damn important meme—I would love if the WTA could find ways to help bring a more strongly transhuman and more positive world about more quickly!!
I am physically based in Washington DC, but I travel to San Francisco roughly 10 times per year, so if elected I will have frequent options for F2F communications with James Clement (whom I know fairly well F2F already), and any other WTA members who may be based in the Bay area.
General information about my human life can be found at my website, goertzel.org
James J. Hughes
Background: I’m a married forty six year-old father of two children. I have a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Chicago, and my focus has been bioethics, medical sociology, health policy and organizational sociology. I teach in the Public Policy Program at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut USA, where I also work as an administrator.
For the last five years I have served as Secretary of the WTA Board, managing membership, chapter communications and discussion lists. I served as the WTA’s first Executive Director from 2004-2006. In 2004 I founded and serve as Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. I am editor of the Journal of Evolution and Technology. I produce the weekly syndicated public affairs talk show Changesurfer Radio and am author of Citizen Cyborg (2004), an argument for democratic transhumanism, and am working on a second book, Cyborg Buddha, on the use of neurotechnologies to enhance virtues. I’ve published many scholarly articles, and appear often in the press - print, radio and television - promoting transhumanist ideas.
Vision: I believe the WTA will play a pivotal role in the biopolitical conflicts to come, and can draw together a broad, diverse and inclusive transhumanist movement. We can be a forum for vigorous, yet civil, debate of transhumanist ideas and their relationship to practical policy issues of our day, and work for universal access to safe human enhancement technologies.
My WTA agenda for the coming two years includes:
- work with our new Executive Director James Clement to raise funds, create a cutting-edge, interactive website, and publish our new on-line magazine
- strengthen our global network of chapters, affiliates and contacts, especially our Transhumanist Student Network, and develop local activist projects that they can undertake
- build another successful Transvision conference in the summer of 2008 (presumably in San Francisco)
- increase transhumanist visibility and respectability in the media, bioethics, cultural, and political milieus.
I love transhumanists - one of the most rational and caring groups of people living on this fragile blue planet - so relish the opportunity to work more closely with the World Transhumanist Association. As background, I’ve helped tangibly guide projects, events and and/or outreach efforts within the following futurist related organizations:
* Alcor Life Extension Foundation - a premier cryonics organizations (www.alcor.org)
* AGI Research Institute (co-founder) - fostering the creation of powerful and ethically positive AI (www.agiri.org)
* Immortality Institute (co-founder) - an active online social network for life extensionists (www.imminst.org)
* Lifeboat Foundation - safeguarding humanity from existential threats (www.lifeboat.com)
* Methuselah Foundation - a premier effort to eradicate aging in humans (www.mfoundation.org)
* Singularity Institute - helping to guide the accelerating progression toward powerful AI (www.singinst.org)
* Terasem Movement - helping everyone to extend personal cyberconsciousness (www.terasemfoundation.org)
(Note: the descriptions above are my own and should not be interpreted as an official statement from the organization. For that, please visit the respective organization’s website, where you’ll find a wealth of valuable, humanity-saving information, along with more precise definitions of missions, etc.)
My goal for WTA during my potential term on the Board is to advance existing efforts to enhance the organization’s public profile, aiming to attract a larger supporting membership base. I also look forward to helping with events and projects as they arise and as time permits, for I do have a “day-job” working as President of Novamente LLC, which I believe has a great chance to become the primary company to create powerful AI capable of accelerating humanity toward a positive Singularity - but that’s a whole other story!
My blog and biography can be found here (www.novamente.net/bruce), and relevant to WTA’s goals, I had a large part in the creation of the following two educational works (both freely available online):
* Exploring Life Extension - (www.imminst.org/film)
* The Scientific Conquest of Death - (www.imminst.org/SCOD.pdf)
It’s worth mentioning that I live in San Francisco, near James Clement, where together with Tyler Emerson and others, we’ve recently organized a Non-profit Futurist League (NFL for short) which has started to meet periodically. We’re finding opportunity and synergy, as meeting in physical form has the advantage of higher bandwidth information flow.
It’s also worth noting that in 2005, I served a few months on the WTA board, but then resigned because I felt leadership was broken. However, now I’m filled with optimism after seeing the addition of James Clement as Executive Director, and new support from Board members such as PJ Manney and Anne Corwin - two brilliant women!
Thanks warmly for your consideration. Forever, Bruce Klein
I’m a naturally born transhumanist, 41, XY-karyotyped, married, one boy. Physical location nowadays around 48.07100, 11.36820 (WGS84), virtual mostly in Extropia Core (Second Life). Online persona at times considered caustic, but in general helpful.
My educational and professional background is in hard sciences and technology like chemistry (synthetic-, computational-, polymer-, bio-), some cryobiology, lately network and IT systems security. Apart from my professional career in cheminformatics, I moonlight as an enterpreneur in my copious free time.
As a typical transhumanist, early and current interests include—in no particular order—cypherpunks and privacy, virtual worlds, nanotechnology, cryonics, computational neuroscience and animal modeling, AI and artificial life in general. Newer activities include participating in the bootstrap of a local cryonics organization, transhumanist community-building and outreach in the current instance of the metaverse, political activism against EU-wide data retention legislation and loss of personal privacy in general.
I see my role in attempting to reverse some of the transhumanist community fragmentation we’ve seen recently. I would like to see the WTA become a unifying force across all political quadrants and all flavours of transhumanism. We are so few we can’t afford not to focus on our common goals instead on our differences.
I promise to be there in the political process, early and often, representing your interests.
I’m seeking an extension to what has so far been a two-year position on the WTA Board. When I ran for the WTA Board for the first time two years ago, I wrote in my candidate statement: “On the Board of the WTA, I would like to focus on good management… It is my explicit goal to ensure that all sources of friction are dealt with in a democratic and transparent way, before they get the opportunity to become conflicts detrimental to our common goals. I’m known to be a calm mediator, who attempts to gain the trust of all sides in a dispute.”
I’m extremely glad that during the last two years, there has not been any need for any mediating skills, but that even heated debates have been carried out in a (mostly) civilized manner, or have been halted before turning sour. So that part of my goals for my Board position has remained untested, and hopefully will continue to remain so. As for other aspects of good management and transparency, I have been emphasizing these in my role as the Treasurer for the WTA, a duty I’m
willing to continue if re-elected to the Board. With the tiny cash flows of the WTA (around $8,000 in 2006), it seems almost tragicomic that there have been accusations of misconduct in the past. However, to alleviate the risk of such accusations ever rising again, I have created transparency in WTA finances by reporting them regularly to the Board, as well as submitting the annual financial statements for membership approval. These kinds of transparency-enhancing procedures will become ever-more important as WTA’s funds will increase in the near future. That is why, looking forward, I feel that good management is still highly relevant, and something I believe I can bring to the Board effectively.
Background: I was born in 1980 in Helsinki, Finland and have lived there as well as in Mexico, Sri Lanka and Austria. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Webster University as well as a Master of Social Sciences degree in political science from the University of Helsinki. I am married, have a two-month old daughter, and currently work as a management consultant for Accenture. I am a founding member of the Finnish Transhumanist Association and its Chair since 2006.
Overcoming human limitations is the very essence of Transhumanism, its most basic premise. It is the quest for liberation from our biological constraints, the breaking of the evolutionary chains that still tie us to the primordial mud, that some contend we ought to return.
However, that escape from our biological fate is not something we are going to achieve automatically or easily. It is not a path without risks, nor will it be a transition that all of our fellow humans will gladly accept. It won’t be a monolithic program suitable for all tastes; not only due to our genetic individuality or the sheer multitude of choices soon to be available to us but also because our personal tastes, even more individual than our genomes, and much more plastic.
Morphological freedom is a central conviction of H+, a privilege that arises from our diversity and from the fact that we all do not think alike in many respects. Yes, we may agree on many things, from the variety of aesthetic patterns in which we can find beauty, to the revelation that there is no single and “correct” path to enlightenment and happiness.
We want to embrace and expand this freedom, we want to explore as much of this mindscape as possible, and we want to construct entirely new realms with our augmented minds – perhaps even merging with non-human (but sentient) intelligences and discovering some new truths about ourselves in the synthesis.
On the other hand, the desire for morphological freedom arises from different viewpoints and from a diversity of upbringings and backgrounds. Despite the fact that we are the World Transhumanist Association, our current ethnic and cultural diversity is not that broad.
Widespread enhancement of the human condition of billions of people could be possible with the technology we have today, but is not practical because of challenging economic and political realities. That said, we should do our best to bring about change for these billions of people by working on increasing diversification and understanding alternative viewpoints to get a broader picture.
This is not a call to cultural relativism; as heirs to Humanism and the Enlightenment, the respect of basic rights, freedom of inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge is not something that we should negotiate. The struggle to achieve equality for all sentient beings has to be one our key goals. In the future, when we will work side-by-side with other advanced intelligences, we will be witness to a partnership that strips the universe of its hidden secrets.
How can new technologies bring welfare to all neglected peoples? How can we leapfrog entire stages of development? Can we make feasible today what was not realistic last year?
These are not easy questions and we cannot solve them alone. To answer them in a satisfactory way, however, we must get answers from those people who are directly affected by these situations—and not only do what we think they want us to do.
This approach is both humane, necessary, and just; developed countries, after all, are in the minority. We, the people living in countries where basic needs are still unmet, represent the majority of the world. Any vision of the future which does not acknowledge this is certainly naïve or biased, and as technology accelerates and disseminates the developing world is going to play an increasingly interesting and pivotal role.
I have been a H+ for a long time and my first involvement with organized Transhumanists was with TransVision 2005 in Caracas, an international conference that I helped to organize. I am an undergraduate student of Biology and Computational Physics, and soon to be Guest Professor in Bioinformatics at Los Andes University, Mérida, where I am currently based.
I have been writing about science and technology since 2000 and have been the recipient of several awards, including the WTA’s Haldane Award in 2006 for my paper, “The Ethics of Enhancing Animals.” I have also worked as a consultant for the Millennium Project, implementing their State of the Future Index. Currently I am finishing my thesis on mathematical modelling of the parasite that causes Chagas’ disease, attempting to create a biotechnology startup and a community for OS drug and diagnostic development for Chagas disease here in Venezuela.
What can I offer to the WTA and its members? I am committed to adding more diversity to the association, committed to spreading the meme among the people that surround and engage me, and committed to analyzing the future from non-traditional perspectives.
Finally, I want to show to our critics that H+ is not an ideology of wealthy Caucasian people as it has oftentimes been argued. Transhumanism is a powerful world-changing idea, and Fukuyama was right, it is the world’s most dangerous idea—but only to those who exploit today’s awful situation. Today, thanks to new technologies, many of us who in previous generations would have been kept silent are now able to express ourselves and perhaps even change things.
I am thankful for this opportunity and determined to make the best of it.