(This is the first of four essays on the topic)
Transhumanist political parties are one of the greatest oddities of modern history. And they’re also quite a failure, at least for now.
The first transhumanist political movement, the U.S. Transhumanist Party (TP), was created by Zoltan Istvan in 2014. Istvan ran for American president in the 2016 election, and it’s fair to say he didn’t make much of a splash: he most definitely didn’t win any states.
Six years later, the party has over 1,000 members (which is not that bad of a start) but no real traction. It’s just one of those amusing side-shows in American politics, like TV fighters who run for governor. Joe “Tiger King” Maldonado has had more success in U.S. politics than the Transhumanists.
The TP trajectory can be summed up in that of its founder: Istvan ran for California governor as a libertarian, and then against Donald Trump in the Republican Primaries for the 2020 presidential election. It’s a bit all over the place.
Europe is the only other place where something that you might call a somewhat significant Transhumanist political movement has emerged. There are various branches of the U.S. TP, ranging from one-man band to fairly irrelevant, and there’s Humanity Plus, the former World Transhumanist Organization, that really is more of a lobbying group for enhancing human capacities.
Even a cursory glance at this limited political landscape gives you two strong conclusions: one, that Transhumanism in politics has a strong tinge of what we might call libertarianism, specifically its Californian flavor; and two, that it’s going nowhere in particular at a very slow pace.
Transhumanism as a political movement faces many self-evident obstacles. But I would summarize them all in one: there currently is no good way of achieving political representation for a set of ideas that are spread among citizens of multiple countries and jurisdictions. And then there’s another massive hurdle: we need to agree on what the hell transhumanism is, to start with.
If you google that question, the first answer suggested comes from Wikipedia: transhumanism is “a philosophical movement that advocates for the transformation of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology.”
In 2006, the European Parliament, which really shouldn’t be taken as an authority on anything at all, stated that transhumanism is the political expression of “the potential of technology to make individuals ever more perfect.”
This is extremely unsatisfactory but I’m afraid is what we have. Some time ago, after I published an essay on the depiction of generation ships in science-fiction, there was a small amount of discussion of the matter in Reddit’s Transhumanist group. When I explained that I’m a transhumanist but not particularly interested in body enhancements and the like, but a member of the Turing Church, which aims for technological resurrection, there was some puzzlement.
The fact is, most transhumanists have extremely little in common. Some are all hot for cryonics, while others are all into the cyborg stuff, and others would prefer to inhabit the cloud, turned into pure digital information.
Transhumanism as a whole is not just a very small constituency currently, and one that is spread among many countries, but also one that is impossible to please with any single set of policies or objectives, it would seem.
However, there is something all transhumanists have in common, something that we can, and should, build around: we all believe in the transforming power of technology, and the need for sustained technological advancement.
This is more relevant than it appears, because we’re deep into the 21st century, not in the 20th century anymore. In the 20th century, saying that one is in favor of technological progress would have raised no eyebrows in any developed country, except among very minor religious groups; but, in the 21st century it must be obvious to all that technological progress is not a given and is, in fact, threatened from multiple directions, including radical ecologists, religious fundamentalism on the rise across the West and, more widely, the general ideological thrust of our societies…
(You can read the rest at Medium)