Posted: Mon, May 13, 2013 | By: Transhumanism
[intro: I am wondering, hoping… “The Transhumanist Wager” by Zoltan Istvan… is it “The Call” that we’ve been waiting for? This exciting provocative book by the San Francisco Bay Area author is so inspiring, so motivating… will it spark enormous public interest in Transhumanism? Will it encourage people who are already transhumanists to organize, proselytize, speak out, agitate forcefully for public acceptance of the transhumanist philosophy and a transhumanist future? Can Zoltan’s book turn transhumanism into an aggressive, important revolutionary philosophy on the world stage?
In the excerpt below, the book’s protagonist delivers a speech that defines what transhumanist leadership should be. The speech isn’t remotely like any speech I’ve ever heard at a transhumanist conference. But… why not? Do you wish this was reality? … Hank Pellissier]
from The Transhumanist’s Wager by Zoltan Istvan (excerpt)
The transhumanism conference was held at the Phillips Expo Center, which occupied the largest indoor space in New York City. The main hall was sixty feet high and two football fields long. With over 300 booths dedicated to transhumanism and its science, it took a full day of walking and reading about projects just to see everything. The conference ran three days, with sit-in lectures by leading scientists scheduled from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. in nearby auditoriums. On the final day, dinner and cocktails were scheduled to begin at 6 P.M. in the center’s banquet hall. Dr. Nathan Cohen, Dr. John Whalefish, and Jethro Knights were among those chosen to speak, each allotted ten minutes. Jethro was advertised as an International Geographic journalist whose driving passion was conquering human death, as well as the philosopher who popularized the omnipotender concept in the now classic and controversial essay, Rise of the Transhuman Citizen. He was scheduled to be the last speaker before Dr. Preston Langmore, who would give the closing words of the conference.
Jethro enjoyed walking around the booths. Langmore made sure he met many of the important scientists, most of whom hung around their areas promoting their research, technologies, and inventions. One of Nathan Cohen’s former students, now a robotics professor, demonstrated playing Ping-Pong with his five-foot droid. Another man, an Italian, one of the foremost cloning experts in the world, had two juvenile orangutans hanging on him. Each creature appeared indistinguishable from the other and acted with nearly identical mannerisms. A South Korean engineer was in front of his booth, running pi algorithms in a basketball-sized computer he held in his lap. It was reputed to be the smallest supercomputer in the world. A woman from Guyana, a Ph.D. researcher, had developed a drug from Ergot, a root that enhanced memory retention. She was giving out free samples in Dixie cups.
“Kool-Aid, anyone?” she said, jesting. “Kool-Aid?”
Jethro attended numerous lectures and listened to many people’s conversations. There was a warm camaraderie in the air; however, between the handshakes and greetings of friendly faces, he could see many attendees were dismayed. They complained that this year’s conference was smaller than last year’s. And last year’s conference was smaller than the year before that. There just wasn’t enough money to go around anymore. Scientists were increasingly unable to sell their technology or inventions—many didn’t even get booths because of the prohibitive cost. The demand for avant-garde science products dried up with swelling public skepticism over transhumanism and the dismal global economy.
Even worse, few scientists could see anything changing in the near future. Some said the movement was bound to stall completely in the next few years. Others predicted it would survive only in tiny pockets around the world. Optimism about its promise, so strong just a decade ago, was nowhere to be found.
During the final night of the conference, in the crowded banquet hall, people sat listening to speakers, sipping their cocktails, and waiting for the presentations to end so dinner could be served. Jethro sat amongst the other speakers by a long table near the podium. Dr. Whalefish was just finishing his speech on the need to recruit new people and resources to the transhuman movement. People in the audience yawned, nibbling their breadsticks.
A short applause followed the scientist’s speech, and Preston Langmore stood up and walked to the podium. He introduced Jethro Knights and gave a quick biography of the young man. A few people in the audience clapped and others roused, curious about what the popular journalist and author of the radical paper would say.
“Thank you, Preston,” Jethro said after arriving at the podium. He paused and carefully scanned the room, studying the audience. A bright stage light filtered through his eyes, so he couldn’t see Zoe Bach in the far corner, standing with a swarm of other observers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have been graciously offered a job by Dr. Langmore, as a writer and senior consultant to the World Transhumanist Institute. For a man of my young age, it’s a welcome opportunity to directly participate in the transhuman movement.”
Some in the audience gently applauded, assuming Jethro was going to accept the job. It seemed gracious of him to do so publicly. Interest was piqued.
“However,” he said loudly, bringing many in the audience to sharp attention, “I will not take the job. I will not become just another cog of your lethargic movement. Or of this lethargic conference. Or of the scientists here today who are hungry for so much more, but actually do little to fulfill that hunger. Your watered-down version of transhumanism is too weak for me. Your vision is sluggish and tedious. You criticize and complain about those fools on the outside; about the conservative government leaders who strangle us and withhold our resources; about the religious populace who cut off our moral authority and condemn us; about the anti-transhumanists who throw rocks at us and terrorize us. But you—out there today, in this audience—you do nothing about it.
“We all know what marginal progress, what little power, what lagging sophistication and innovation the world would have without us pioneering creators. It was our efforts, our brains, our genius that designed the planet’s nuclear warheads; that tamed its deadly viruses; that engineered its supercomputers; that sent satellites all across the solar system; that penned its most beneficial and liberating philosophies. Yet, you still agree to play by all their rules, in their game, under their laws—just so you may have the begged-for honor of trying to achieve your immortality and your transhuman goals at a glacial pace.
“You continually let them tell us what we can do and what we cannot do. You let them hold carrots in front of us that we rarely reach, while our dreams fall by the wayside. And if occasionally you do reach a carrot, they steal it back from you, telling you that it belongs to them. That it belongs to the uneducated layperson, or the idiot, or the beggar, or the freeloader on the street. That it belongs to their sacred concept of humanity. That it belongs to everyone but you, the ones who made it possible. It’s absurd, my fellow transhumanists. And it’s a game I will not play.
“Five years ago, I left to sail around the world after that debacle of the Transhumanism Town Hall Forum put on by our countries’ imbecilic leaders, hoping to return to a movement that had progressed forward, hoping that transhumanism stood a better chance to achieve its goals than it did before. And I ask you now, what has changed since then?”
Jethro Knights paused, sternly observing the room. Everyone was at full attention now. Many in the audience appeared stunned. Security personnel looked at each other, wondering where his speech was going, if it was allowed—and whether they should stop it.
“What has changed?” Jethro demanded, his voice hard and piercing. “Nothing, I tell you. Nothing at all has changed. In fact, things are far worse for all of us. The end of our lives are closer than ever. And it’s because your methods are gentle, quiet, and mouselike. They are, in my opinion, spineless. I declare your version of the transhuman movement a failure. I declare your strategy feeble, weathered, and aged. I don’t want to hear about your science and ten-year studies anymore. Some of the best of you will be dead in ten years. I want a real victory. I want real progress. I want real change. I want our immortality guaranteed. I want a transhuman world now—while I’m still alive on Earth to experience and appreciate it.
“My fellow transhumanists, the reason I have come here tonight is not to join your movement, but to ask you to embrace mine. Tonight, I ask you to answer a novel calling, a courageous challenge, a new stealth form of transhumanism. Tonight, I am starting a new course for our futuristic dreams. Tonight I am launching the Transhuman Revolution. It will be an unyielding, ultra-aggressive declaration to fight anything that stands in the way of our transhuman way of life. I implore you to join me in waging this battle.
“To lead the revolution I am creating an assertive direct-action organization called ‘Transhuman Citizen.’ You may have read or heard about the type of transhuman champion that belongs to this group in my essay, Rise of the Transhuman Citizen. Our goal is to lead a global uprising—to transform our backwards planet into a forward-looking transhuman world, full of unlimited scientific promise. Our aim is to make that new world uncompromising in its moral thoughts, actions, and transhuman creations. And we will stop at nothing to do so.
“But you cannot join Transhuman Citizen by continuing to belong to two worlds—to theirs and to ours. There is no middle ground in this revolutionary quest; you’ve already proven that the neutral or halfhearted path is a wasted, futile act. To succeed in the Transhuman Revolution, you must now choose sides. You must choose to be a citizen of their world—or a citizen of transhumanism.”
Jethro paused, feeling the energy of the room. People’s glares flowed right into him.
“Transhuman Citizen follows a guiding and comprehensive individualist philosophy called TEF. It stands for Teleological Egocentric Functionalism. Teleological—because it is every advanced individual’s inherent design and desired destiny to evolve. Egocentric—because it is based on each of our selfish individual desires, which are of the foremost importance. Functional—because it will only be rational and consequential. And not fair, nor humanitarian, nor altruistic, nor muddled with unreachable mammalian niceties. The philosophy is essential because it doesn’t allow for passive failure. It doesn’t allow transhumanists to live in delusion while our precious years of existence pass.”
Jethro inhaled a deep breath and saw the crowd’s faces upon him; many looked skeptical and reserved. He said, “I see your eyes upon me asking questions. You want to know exactly what Transhuman Citizen and TEF are? What they will do differently than you? How far will they go to succeed? I tell you now, our organization and philosophy is an undertaking of war—yes, war—to connect today to the tomorrow we want, regardless of the cost. We are a warriorlike system of thought and moral action designed to find the best in ourselves. TEF is a philosophy defining the most expedient course an individual can take to reach one’s most powerful and advanced self, whose primary initial purpose is to achieve immortality so that one creates enough time for oneself to reach omnipotence. It is not concerned with whose world it alters or destroys to get there. There is no right or wrong in its mission. Just failure or success, life or death.
“To execute the Transhuman Revolution, Transhuman Citizen will soon begin approaching the wealthiest, smartest, most powerful, most fearless, most ambitious, and most capable people in the world—many of you. And convince them we need to act and start fighting now; that we can pave our way to unparalleled life extension and human enhancement for those who deserve and desire it. We will dedicate all we have to succeed. We will subordinate our nations, our families, our friends, and our wealth to reach victory. Nothing will stand in our way. We will build a brave new reality and vision for the world. We will buy it, steal it, or create it by force if that is what must be done. We shall construct a civilization where our experiments will go unmolested by others who think it’s their right to judge us and to stop us.
“The morality of Transhuman Citizen is defined and decided by the amount of time we have left to live. Not by democracy, decency, altruism, kindness, or notions of humanity and mammalian love—and especially not by that petty, archaic concept of religion. It is forged by the evolutionary dictates of our deepest instincts and reason, which scream to overcome death and launch an advance into our brilliant future. That is our mounting cry.
“Over the next few years you will see us prowling the streets in your cities, in your universities, in your backyards. You will see us on television and in the newspapers. You will hear us coming through the radio. You will watch us stream across the Internet. Not only for our defiant campaigns, or for our radical scientific discoveries, or for our influential hand in reshaping the culture of our species. But also for whomever we have beaten down. For whomever we have humiliated and humbled. For what religions we have ridiculed and thwarted. For what governments we have sabotaged and upended. And, quite possibly, for what enemy we have maimed and killed. Because we will lobby not only with resources, intellect, and forceful attitude, but also with might. With power. With militancy. With ferocious terror, if we have to. You will know the wrath and morality of a people who will stop at nothing to achieve immortality and the goals of transhumanism.
“I urge you to join me, for I can see you are my allies—my brothers, sisters, and friends. Our very lives are at stake this moment. And every minute we give them, we take away from ourselves. I urge you to support and join Transhuman Citizen and its philosophy TEF—radical as it may be to you—as we embark on the most critical journey of our lives, and embrace the quest to discover how far we can go as humans, as cyborgs, as conscious intelligent machines, as rays of light, as pure energy, as anything the future brings.
“May you all reach your dreams in the Transhuman Revolution.”
Jethro Knights was finished, standing tall and observing the hall. The media’s television camera operators, who stood mostly bored throughout the night, were utterly awake now, focusing their machines on Jethro’s face—his brows, his blazing blue eyes, his utter seriousness. The room was silent, but it still felt loud. Jethro’s words lingered, echoed, were heavy in everyone’s consciousness.
Preston Langmore didn’t know what to make of it. Or what to say. He sat frozen. Most of the crowd did the same, shocked and speechless. Only a lone woman, standing far in the back, grinned and clenched her fists together, her heart pounding violently.
Then, after nearly twenty seconds, a young scientist stood up in front. He cautiously began to clap, his hands slowly coming together. Moments later, another young person stood up and clapped, and then another; then the older ones began joining in. The words Jethro said played over in many people’s minds, especially in those of the eldest: Some of the best of you will be dead in ten years. . . . I want a transhuman world now—while I’m still alive on Earth to experience and appreciate it.”
Soon, applause from all over roared throughout the hall. Some people raised their knuckles together and made the transhumanist sign by crossing their index fingers and thumbs into an infinity symbol. Others whistled, hooted, or stomped their feet. Jethro hit a nerve. The agonizingly slow slithering of the transhuman movement reared its head and revealed its teeth. No one was going to leave through the back exit tonight.
Jethro bowed in grateful acknowledgment to the standing ovation. He picked up his papers and walked alone down the middle of the isle to the banquet hall’s exit doors, and then continued through the empty conference floor past the vacant booths. Some photographers and videographers followed closely behind him.
When Jethro Knights reached the outside of the Phillips Expo Center, he descended the wide marble steps of the main entrance, unhurried. Within twenty meters of the building, thousands of barricaded protesters waited and shouted. Tense police stood together, holding the mob back. One of the protestors took aim and lobbed a large rock at Jethro as he neared the bottom of the steps. The stone missed. Jethro watched the rock hit the steps, roll, and stop a few meters from his feet. He walked to it, picked it up, and looked coldly at the crowd. Then he pitched it with full force right back from where it came.
[The Transhumanist’s Wager is available on Amazon. Buy it today, read it, discuss it, encourage others to do the same. Did you enjoy the excerpt above? Leave your opinion in Comments below]