[ExI] First meeting of European Transhumanist Associations

Giulio Prisco (2nd email) eschatoon at gmail.com
Tue Nov 24 08:03:32 UTC 2009


On Friday 20 and Saturday 21 November, 2009, we had the first
coordination meeting of European Transhumanist Associations, hosted by
the Italian Transhumanist Association for the Euro transhumanists
group founded by Miriam Leis. Thanks to Miriam for coordinating the
group and moderating the meeting, and thanks to Stefano Vaj for
hosting both the meeting and the mixer dinner on Friday night (and, of
course, for his own many contributions to the program).

>From the Italian Transhumanist Association News: 21/11/2009 - Primo
summit delle organizzazioni transumaniste attive in Europa - Si è
concluso oggi il primo summit europeo del movimento transumanista, che
si è svolto a Milano in via Montenapoleone sotto l’egida
dell’Associazione Italiana Transumanisti, nella sala cortesemente
messa a disposizione per l’occasione presso i propri uffici dallo
Studio Legale Sutti (http://www.sutti.com). Il segretario nazionale
dell’associazione, Stefano Vaj, ha avuto occasione insieme a Giulio
Prisco di dare il benvenuto ai rappresentanti delle organizzazioni
invitate degli altri paesi, che hanno discusso con la delegazione
dell’AIT una fitta agenda di aspetti organizzativi, iniziative in
corso e questioni di interesse comune, ed hanno illustrato la
situazione esistente in Francia, Russia, Slovenia, Belgio, Regno
Unito, Germania, Olanda, Svezia e Grecia.

In the picture above, all participants besides David Orban (who gave a
briefing on the Singularity University in the afternoon) and Giulio
Prisco (taking the picture). In the picture below, taken by David
Orban, Anders Sandberg, Giulio Prisco and Stefano Vaj at the dinner.

My own impressions:

I most certainly look forward to having the opportunity to participate
in foresight projects led by public administrations at European and
national levels. Governments and administrations need good, timely and
accurate advice on scientifical, technological and social trends, and
many persons and groups in the transhumanist community are well
positioned to provide such advice, with that extra touch of
imagination that is often missing from public policy discourse. Of
course I fully understand that such projects are not the best place to
promote the more visionary and long-term transhumanist ideas (you
know, immortality indefinite lifespan, mind uploading and all that).
If I contribute to public foresight projects, I promise to behave and
focus on issues relevant to the scope of current public policy and
within my own areas of expertise, and leave visionary cosmist
speculations aside. But, and it is an important but, without
renouncing my ideas. I am not ashamed of being a transhumanist, on the
contrary I am proud of it. I think it is perfectly possible to be a
pragmatic technology expert and policy advisor, a concerned citizen,
and a wild cosmist visionary at the same time, and to wear each hat as
and when appropriate to the situation at hand.

On the other hand and more generally, I don’t believe in “appeasing
critics”, but in being true to one’s ideas and promoting them as
forcefully as needed. Transhumanism is radical, disruptive,
subversive, and revolutionary: so be it. Not kissing ass, but kicking
ass. At the same time I think our ideas are beautiful, and I wish to
offer them to the world and to reach as many persons as possible. Of
course I realize this needs a careful framing and wording of our
message, but without diluting its core meaning. The tension between
the two souls of transhumanism, moderate and radical, pragmatic and
visionary, was evident at this meeting, but I continue to believe that
there should be no tension.

This was a physical meeting in good old brickspace (only Russian
transhumanists attended via Skype teleconferencing). I am all for
telework and telepresence, and my company will offer advanced telework
and telepresence tools for future meetings of this and other groups,
but I realize that face to face interaction is still better, and that
telecollaboration is most effective when participants also know each
and meet other face to face. Telepresence is not (yet) a replacement
for physical presence, but a (more and more) useful complement. David
Wood of Extrobritannia spoke of their monthly meetings in London, a
successful initiative that should be replicated in other places, also
with webcast and telepresence options.

The idea of a transhumanist think tank think tank powered by
transhumanists, of course with the caveats above, has re-surfaced. The
Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies is a good role model. A
few years ago many transhumanists started a working group to define
and build a think tank called FutureTAG (Future Technologies Advisory
Group): A consulting and media group focused on promoting awareness
and understanding of radical scientific advances and emerging
technologies, as well as evaluating their impact on individuals,
businesses and societies. While one of the objectives of the firm will
be facilitating the penetration of transhumanist ideas in mainstream
business and policy, we will not use the T word or insist on the
transhumanist worldview too explicitly. Rather, we will focus on
delivering practical advice appropriate to the intended audience.
FutureTAG has produced several spinoffs (my own company is one), but
it has not been active recently. Perhaps this is a good moment to
reload the initiative? The mailing list is still live.

Politics (of course): there are new and emergent political forces
whose core values and goals are definitely compatible with
transhumanism, and which in turn share (or may be persuaded to share)
transhumanist core value and ideas. There are interesting initiatives
in this direction, and in general it is interesting to open a dialogue
with new emergent political forces, very carefully as they might fear
attempts to hijack them. I prefer not to go into details here, but
there are interesting initiatives ongoing.

The strong, militant language used in the European Transhumanist Front
website of Riccardo Campa leaves some participants uneasy, and I can
perfectly understand why: the bold, provocative, radically Futurist
stance of many Italian transhumanists, and the recent debates about
its political roots, can trigger some fears. Yet, what is
transhumanism but a permanent war against all limits? I endorse most
of the Front’s website content, especially: we do not cater to the
idea that transhumanism’s first concern should be that of appeasing
the fears of neoluddites, comply with western political correctness,
or struggle for a “respectability” that would only be the mark of
irrelevance. “Compromises”, “tradeoffs” and “doublespeak” are the
tools-in-trade of governments, politicians, bureaucrats, diplomats,
entrepreneurs. Not of lobbies, visionaries, think tanks or grass-roots
movements… We see transhumanism as a metapolitical, social and
cultural struggle, aimed at a revolutionary change of our way of life
on the scale of the neolithic revolution, and in the shorter term
fighting for self-determination and access to technology, against
prohibitionist policies at a national as well as at an international
level. Bravo!

German cryonicists gave a very interesting presentation, but most
participants do not see cryonics as a core transhumanist issue at this
moment. Yet, cryonics is all about self-ownership and
self-determination, central transhumanist values which everyone
supports, or should support.

In summary, a very interesting and productive summit meeting which we
intend to repeat in 2010. At least three other important transhumanist
events will be held in Europe in 2010: a one day event in the UK,
Miriam’s conference, and our own Transvision 2010.

Giulio Prisco
aka Eschatoon Magic

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