Transhumanism is an international movement that's rapidly growing. The word transhuman
literally means beyond human. Transhumanists are known for promoting and using science and technology to further the possibilities of the human species. One of their main aims is to overcome biological death.
Recently, there's been an uptick in transhuman activism in America. Hank Pellissier, a widely published journalist, director of the Brighter Brains Institute, and the producer of the recent TRANSHUMAN VISIONS conference series has been helping to lead the charge. His opening conference event sold out at its February 1st venue in San Francisco; the second conference—TRANSHUMAN VISIONS 2.0 - East Bay—is scheduled for March 1 (Future Day) in Piedmont, which is near Oakland. I recently asked Hank a few questions about his intentions and ideals.
Q. Hank, I've heard you speaking about "transhuman activism." What exactly do you mean by that? What do you want to happen?
A. I live in San Francisco and I'm proud of the Bay Area for being a national leader in transhumanism, but we're far, far behind Russia and Israel. Moscow and Tel Aviv have had demonstrations and marches that promote radical life extension. Mobs of people gathering with signs in a city square or marching down avenues, handing out pamphlets. We need transhumanist student associations on college and high school campuses—organizing rallies, insisting on progress, disseminating ideas. Little meet-ups are fine, but larger gatherings would be more impactful. I would like to see transhumanist film festivals, immortality dances, and powerful "actions" like the ones that Femen and PETA do. We need transhumanist picnics in graveyards, transhumanist rock concerts in crematoriums, and wine tasting in transhumanist art galleries. An event on "Day of the Dead" would be interesting; we could call it "Day of the No-More Dead."
Q. What do you see as important transhumanist issues, besides radical life extension?
A. There are four issues that are important to me: health, education, brain enhancement, and cosmetic surgery.
Let's start by discussing health, for obvious reasons. The obesity rate in the USA is skyrocketing. I've read that it's headed towards 66% in some states by 2030. I think transhumanists should be leaders in nutrition, exercise, and general fitness. Natasha Vita-More and Max More, the keynote speakers in the March 1 event are excellent role models for this.
Next is education. We need stellar free schooling opportunities for every citizen in every age group. It's a government investment that pays off. We need universal preschool and highly-trained elementary and secondary teachers. We need enthusiasm for STEM subjects—.right now, international students comprise only 5% of our college campus population but they get 55% of the science and engineering PhDs.
Last are brain enhancement and cosmetic surgery. Transhumanists need to quantify the benefits of "smart drugs" and promote them to the general public. My TRANSHUMAN VISIONS 2.0 conference will hand out free nootropics—150 packets containing a 3-day supply of CILTEP by NaturalStacks. Everyone wants to be intelligent so let's create smart drugs cost-efficiently and gobble them down for cognitive gain. I'm also in favor of government-funded cosmetic surgery. Everyone deserves to be beautiful, everyone deserves to be the gender they want, everyone deserves to have a face and body they're happy with.
All these items are worth fighting for, but to get them, we need to plan, scheme, organize, build trust, share contacts, and develop leadership skills. My conferences will eventually evolve into discussion-oriented symposiums where people can easily meet each other and network for causes.
Q. What inspired you to organize these conferences?
TRANSHUMAN VISIONS conference - Zoltan Istvan
A. Transhumanists need face-to-face time to build friendships, develop projects, and plan strategy. We need community. Just friending, communicating, and bickering online in social media isn't enough. We need to eat, scheme, schmooze, flirt, argue and create the future together in a physical setting. I saw this happening at the first conference—people animatedly discussing philosophy, science, ethics, technology and entrepreneurial visions with each other. I want activism, momentum for transhumanism so that we can make political, technological, and economic gains together.
Q. That sounds good, but a conference every month? Is there really an audience for that?
A. Yes, there's definitely an audience for that. The first conference totally sold out. Many people were disappointed they couldn't get tickets. I know 37 of the ticket-holders traveled long distance to get to the event—from Seattle, Arizona, Texas, Florida, New York, Russia, Israel, and England. Transhumanism is a vibrant social movement with accelerating enthusiasm for its ideas…a conference once a month with 100-200 people? That seems minimal. When we look at the powerful radical movements of American history—Revolutionary war, abolitionism, suffragettes, anti-Vietnam War, even the Occupy Movement—no one was saying, "Hey, let's just keep it to one conference a year." That would be silly.
Q. Do you have a final message for readers, Hank?
A. Sure! Transhumanism has an attractive agenda that strongly appeals to many people, so let's get it out there to the public, via public events! Let's proselytize, let's spread the techno-optimist message.
Hank Pellissier - photo by Roen Horn
After March 1, Hank Pellissier has scheduled three additional conferences:
April 5 - EROS EVOLVING - the future of love, sex, marriage and beauty
May 10 - RELIGION AND TRANSHUMANISM
June 14 - WORLD RADICAL FUTURES
Zoltan Istvan is an award-winning journalist, philosopher, and activist. You can find him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Zoltan is also the author of the recently published #1 Philosophical bestseller novel The Transhumanist Wager. Available in ebook or paperback, the controversial novel is a revolutionary reading experience. You can check it out here.