Petition to Support Unity and Tolerance in the Transhumanist Movement
In our highly polarized and divided political climate, online mobs often create harassment campaigns in order to go after the livelihoods of individuals who do not fit their narratives. Recently, a small group of individuals was able to influence Christine Peterson to blacklist fellow Transhumanist artist, writer, and event producer Rachel Haywire from the Foresight Institute.
Rachel had been seeking Foresight sponsorship for her new arts and culture startup in the Bay Area. Although Rachel is a Jewish anarchist, the mob labeled her as "alt-right". Christine caved to the mob despite the obvious inaccuracy of this label.
This petition is to advocate for Transhumanist unity, equal rights to life extension regardless of political affiliation, and for Christine Peterson, on behalf of the Foresight Institute, to reconsider her decision not to work with Rachel based on mob harassment.
Bullying and unfairly discriminatory behaviors like these are unacceptable. The public and upcoming generations who will inhabit the future deserve better role models.
The U.S. Transhumanist Party supports this petition as aligned with our Values and Platform – in particular, the following principles:
• Tolerance and inclusivity of all individuals of all races, genders, classes, religions, creeds, national origins, and other characteristics. [Article III, Section II]
• Support for morphological freedom, which also “recognizes that morphological freedom entails the duty to treat all sapients as individuals instead of categorizing them into arbitrary subgroups or demographics”. [Article III, Section VI]
• Support of all values and efforts toward cultivation of science, technology, and reason. [Article III, Section VII]
• Opposition to intolerant, rights-violating, anti-technological, and compulsion-imposing doctrines, be they religious or secular. [Article III, Sections XXV, XL, LXIII]
Our Values therefore strongly favor inclusion over exclusion, discussion and civil debate over refusal to engage, and the ability of different viewpoints to be expressed without adverse legal, economic, or social consequences to individuals merely for expressing them. We therefore strongly hold that infighting, ostracism, and mass-shaming tactics have no place within the transhumanist movement. Both the Right and the Left have succumbed to these anti-rational tactics; transhumanists must resist this downward spiral of toxicity.
Civil society, including private institutions within it, should encourage discourse on different viewpoints where, within the standards of common courtesy and respectful engagement – at which any reasonable being is capable of arriving – no individual need fear the loss of livelihood due to the expression of unconventional or unpopular beliefs. The proper response to a belief with which one disagrees is the civil expression of disagreement, with reasons for that disagreement. No person should experience severe or life-damaging consequences for the mere expression of an idea – and especially not as a result of mere allegations regarding ideas that individual may not even have actually expressed. Only hostile, rights-violating actions, not beliefs or peaceful speech, should bring adverse consequences within a civilized society.
If we are indeed to thoughtfully explore possible futures for humankind, such exploration needs to involve experimental spaces of public discourse where ideas can be substantively engaged and analyzed without anyone fearing that their future prospects will be damaged for expressing the “wrong” ideas according to some self-appointed guardians of purity. No individual or group has a monopoly over the meaning of transhumanism or over the evolution of the transhumanist movement. We need to be comfortable with a heterogeneous, dynamic movement, where we are all contributors of ideas within the space of public discourse, and where our ideas should always be evaluated objectively on their merits by any reasoning beings willing to consider them. No person should be barred from subjecting his, her, or its ideas to such an evaluation. The U.S. Transhumanist Party is and will remain a “big tent” where the culture is to focus scrutiny on ideas rather than people, and where the logical fallacy of ad hominem has no place.
The U.S. Transhumanist Party has no grievance with the Foresight Institute apart from the singular decision to deny a platform to Rachel Haywire over unsubstantiated rumors and allegations perpetrated by a small number of individuals whose conduct and views are not representative of transhumanism or the transhumanist movement at large. The Foresight Institute has done and continues to do valuable work for the in-depth exploration of technology’s impacts in the near and long-term future. It is unfortunate that, in one particular case, the Foresight Institute deviated from its typical commitment to the open exploration of ideas. Rachel Haywire is not “alt-right” and, like all individuals, should be characterized based on her own statements, rather than aspersions cast by others of differing political views. It is dangerous for transhumanists to insist on ideological litmus tests before any interaction is possible; that is the path toward an ultimately self-destroying orthodoxy. Anyone is, of course, free to disagree with any statement made by Rachel Haywire; the appropriate venues of such disagreement are many and involve simply expressing it – rather than punishing the person with whom one disagrees. We hold that the Foresight Institute can still remedy the situation simply by reversing its prior decision.
Unfortunately, transhumanists today are still all too human and therefore still subject to the same vulnerabilities to biases, logical fallacies, tribalism, and in-group thinking that plague all unaugmented humans to some degree. Neither intelligence nor explicit ideological views offer any immunity to these tendencies. Short of upgrading ourselves technologically – hopefully a possibility within our lifetimes – our only safeguard is to consciously recognize our own vulnerabilities and deliberately correct for them using reason and morality. Some transhumanists, unfortunately, have not always done this and have therefore succumbed to the same tragic tendencies that are tearing our broader society apart. Social-media mobs, trolling, and calls for ostracism all arise from these tendencies. Unfortunately, the loudest and most strident voices often dominate the conversation and perceptions – even though they are the least reasonable and, in fact, represent only a tiny minority in the broader community where these voices operate. The overwhelming majority of transhumanists does not side with the strident and divisive few. Any social-media mob or mass-shaming campaign, no matter how ostensibly motivated, is an outgrowth of humans’ worst urges and therefore inherently inimical to the noble values and aspirations of transhumanism. The U.S. Transhumanist Party calls for an end to social-media mob tactics and to infighting in the transhumanist movement more generally. For this reason and the others mentioned above, we endorse this petition and encourage all friends of rationality and opponents of toxicity, within and outside the transhumanist movement, to endorse it as well.