Transhumanists of the world: do you ever find yourself feeling lonely, wishing you had a place to go to share your thoughts on artificial intelligence and post human life? Lament no more and head on over to humanityplus.org. Humanity+ is an “international nonprofit membership organization that advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities.” It was founded in 1998 as the World Transhumanist Association with the goal of bringing the idea of transhumanism from a sci-fi concept to a “legitimate subject of scientific inquiry and public policy.” With over 6000 members in 10 countries, Humanity+ is bringing together transhumanists worldwide and hopes to one day be a major player in the development of life-extending technology. I recently had the chance to speak with Thomas McCabe, Executive Director at Humanity+, and found out a bit more about the organization and its goals. Through an online magazine, forming local chapters, organizing conferences, and awarding prize money to technological innovators, Humanity+ is working hard to spread the transhumanist message.
This presentation by David Orban provides a nice introduction to what Humanity+ is all about.
In 2008 the organization underwent a rebranding in an effort to de-nerdify, if you will. Under their new name Humanity+, the organization hopes to reach a wider audience and make their message more palatable to those of us who don’t already dream of robots moving in next door. And with good reason. The concepts of the transhumanist movement are certainly not something that the general public will naturally embrace. With intimidating messages about technological advances allowing humans to transcend a biological being, it is easy to see why the transhumanist message might not resonate with many people. McCabe comments that “a lot of people don’t realize how important these issues are, and how much influence the future of AI and biotechnology and nanotechnology will have over our lives […]” He goes on to say that the vast majority of people who have heard of these concepts and acknowledge them as a cool new idea seriously underestimate it’s importance, and he hopes that Humanity+ will be able to reach these people, helping them to understand why it is necessary to think about these issues now.
To that end, Humanity+ is working on various projects that help to spread the message and educate the masses. One of their larger commitments is H+, an online magazine that publishes articles from various members of the transhumanist movement. Recent stories include “Why the Singularity is Boring” (read it before you freak out) and “Building and Growing Transhumanist Communities” which, as it happens, is one of the main goals of Humanity+ – it boasts over four dozen organized local chapters in about two dozen countries. As the article points out, “being a transhumanist in today’s world can be incredibly lonely.” So, in the hopes of giving people a forum to discuss ideas and work together to develop technology, the organization provides reading suggestions and other tips on forming your own transhumanist organization. Further, they have recently launched a transhumanist student network, that provides students with tips on becoming successful transhumanist activists on campus.
Beyond just educating the public, Humanity+ also hopes to one day provide funding for research that will lead to life extending developments. The first effort on this front is the Gada Prize, a $20,000 award given to an individual or group that can make a 3D printer that meets a set of criteria established by the organization. The project is based on RepRap, an open source 3D printer (check it out here) that is capable of printing plastic objects. Thomas McCabe notes that 3D printing technology is important because “it brings the exponential growth nature of the software world, to the world of physical objects.” With current 3D printers you are limited to a plastic output. The Gada prize will go to whoever can build on this technology to create a printer that can print in thee different materials, one of which is electrically conducting. As in one day soon when you can’t find your phone charger, it’s no big deal – you can print a new one. Just download the blueprints, use the plastic “ink” to print the casing, and metal to print the electronics. COOL.
And speaking of cool, Humanity+ has partnered with Parsons The New School for Design to put together a conference with over 30 speakers that will examine the cross section of design and technology. From the event website – “Humanity+ @ Parsons NYC explores how society can establish innovative thinking through design to harness this adventurous ride into the future where Transhumanism Meets Design!” The conference will take place in New York City this coming weekend (May 14th-15th) and promises to be a good time. With featured speakers such as Dr. Ben Goertzel (Chair of Humanity+) and Dr. Max More (CEO of Alcor Life Extension Foundation) it promises to be an engaging and enlightening event.
So, if you are a hard-core transhumanist, or even if you are just hearing about it and want to know more about the movement, Humanity+ has something for you. Check out their website for more information on their various projects, and for information on how to become a member. You can also sign up for their bi-weekly newsletter here. Also, definitely check to see if there is a Humanity+ local chapter in your area, because who knows, you might be missing out on some quality Transhumanist bonding at this very moment.
The following video provides some more information about the organization from Dr. Ben Goertzel.