Transhumanists are often cited as being far too pro-technology - advocating its use to overcome ageing, enhance human intellectual and physical capabilities, and eventually use it to overcome biological death. In order to voice our opinion that not all technology is positive, the US Transhumanist Party and San Diego transhumanists recently made a public demonstration against existential risk.
Carrying signs and banners bearing statements such as "Make Love, Not Viruses", "AI Must Be Safe," and "Give NASA Funding for Asteroid Detection," nearly a dozen people gave speeches and engaged the public in discussion about planetary risks. While police forced the Transhumanist Party to move its illegally parked bus - which is provocatively shaped to look like a giant coffin and is currently on tour across the country - the demonstration itself was not stopped, and bystanders seemed to enjoy the public action, even taking pictures with some of the protesters.
What is transhumanism?
Transhumanism is an international movement that aims to use technology to overcome ageing and eventually biological death.
Transhumanists advocate research into technologies that can enhance human intellectual, physical and psychological capabilities, such as brain implants, bionic eyes and exoskeleton body suits.
Alexey Turchin, existential risk expert and futurologist at the Russian based Exponential Technologies Institute, said in a brief speech at the San Diego street demonstration, "The dangers of evil artificial intelligence, cheap online bio-terrorism kits, and even asteroids striking the planet pose serious risk to the [human] species."
The 25,000 nuclear weapons on Earth also pose numerous dangers, not only in possible wars but also in the simple mishandling of such powerful technology. It seems lucky there hasn't been a major nuclear accident concerning such arms yet.
As the US Presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party, I advocate for significantly lessoning the amount of nuclear bombs around the planet. In fact, I would be happy to get rid of every single one of them.
Despite many countries around the world existing in relative peace and advancement, our species is under constant threat of cataclysmic existential risk - an event that might erase tens of thousands of years of human progress and literally send the species back into the dark ages.
Earlier this year, a powerful worry of Ebola spreading around the United States emerged in both major media and in the public's mind. Some experts believe Ebola could be mostly eradicated with less than a $100 million dollars, in the same way yellow fever, smallpox and other diseases have been mostly controlled. The net worth of the United States is about $125 trillion dollars. As a country, $100 million is a drop in the ocean for our citizen's health and possible survival.
Unfortunately, the current US government - both Democrats and Republicans - don't consider such risks as necessary to tackle with the full power of our nation's resources and 21st Century science. I wonder if it'll take a Supervirus that kills tens of thousands to get the government to decide to spend its resources to eliminate major plagues.
The Transhumanist Party is sometimes criticized as being overly optimistic about the future. It's true that its transhumanist supporters do put much of their hope into science and technology to solve the world's problems. However, the recent street action in San Diego shows a philosophically balanced approach of the transhumanist movement. It's not the blind, rush-ahead syndrome that so many luddites, religious media, and conspiracy theorists suggest all transhumanists possess with technology. Rather, transhumanists aim to use progress to eliminate harm and suffering, while also noting that too much technology - especially too fast - can be dangerous or harmful to the species.
Transhumanism has grown from a small movement just a few years ago to an international movement of millions of people, most who sensibly advocate for using science to significantly better the experience of humans all over the world. Concern over existential risk has emerged as one of their most important worries.
Zoltan Istvan is an American writer and philosopher who focusses on futurist and transhumanist topics. He is currently campaigning to be elected as US President in 2016.