The Transhumanist Manifesto

Official announcement!

I have been asked to contribute a chapter to a book on transhumanism. This book will be written by a collection of members within the US Transhumanist Party and will discuss a broad range of topics. My contribution will focus on the arts and how it impacts politics and forecasts the future.

The book will be published by Springer Science+Business Media and The Scientific American.


Kunstwerk Multimedia 

The world of Esgal is expanding. As the storyline progressed it became apparent that I needed a larger effort to tell it. Kunstwerk Multimedia will be Esgal’s label and will distribute all of the Esgal products along side products from other characters in the Protean story. This includes records, bandanas, and the Tobias Keller signature longboard! Who is Keller? Well, he’s a paranoid DnB artist from the 24th century who happens to cross paths with Esgal. He won’t step foot in a car, so he rides this board instead. A data sheet is coming, but you can check this photo out in the meantime.

A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy

Privacy is a favorite topic of mine. Maintaining individual privacy is crucial element in free society. Yet there are many who want to invade it for personal or political gain. As our digital fingerprint becomes a part of our notion of self, how do we maintain our personal privacy on an inherently impersonal network of data. Where do we draw that line on what is private and how do we enforce it? These are questions that are difficult to answer when looking at a short term perspective. However, if we look further into the probable future we can create a plan that helps protect the privacy of citizens today and for generations to come. By taking into account the almost certain physical merger of human biology and technology the answer becomes clear. Our electronic data should be treated as part of our bodily autonomy. 
The explosive success of social media has shown that we already view ourselves as partly digital entities. Where we go, what we eat, and who we are with is proudly displayed in cyberspace for eternity. But beyond that we store unique data about ourselves “securely” on the internet. Bank accounts, tax returns, even medical information is filed away on a server somewhere and specifically identified as us. It’s no longer solely what we chose to let people see. We are physical and digital beings and it is time we view these two sides as one before we take the next step into enhanced humanity.
Subdermal storage of electronic data is here and its storage capabilities will expand rapidly. Soon we will be able to store a lot more than just access codes for our doors. It is hard to speculate exactly what people will chose to keep stored this way and there may even come a time when what we see and hear is automatically stored this way. But before we go too far into what will be stored, we must understand how this information is accessed in present time. These implants are currently based in NFC technology. Near Field Communication is a method of storing and transmitting data wirelessly within a very short distance. Yes, wireless is the key word. It means that if I can connect my NFC tag to my smart phone by just waiving my hand close to it (usually within an inch or so) then technically someone else can too. While current antenna limitations and the discreetness of where a person’s tag is implanted creates a highly secure method of storage, advances in technology will eventually make it easier to access the individual. This is why it is urgent we develop a streamlined policy for privacy. 

The current Transhumanist position is that personally collected intellectual property, whether stored digitally or organically, is the property of the individual. As such, it should be protected from unauthorized search and download. The current platform also states that each individual has the freedom to enhance their own body as they like so long as it doesn’t negatively impact others. However, it does not specify what qualifies as a negative impact or how to prevent it. Morphological freedom is a double edged sword. A person can a person enhance their ability to access information on themselves, but they can also use it to access others. It is entirely feasible enhancements will be created that allow a person to hack another. And collecting personal data isn’t the only risk with that. What if the hacking victim has an artificial heart or an implanted insulin pump? The hacker could potentially access the code the medical device is operating with and change or delete it, ultimately leading to death. Another scenario might be hacking into someone’s enhanced sensory abilities. Much like in the novel Ender’s Game, a person can access another to see what they see. This ability can be abused countless ways ranging from government surveillance to sexual voyeurism. While this is still firmly within the realm of science fiction, a transhuman society will need to create laws to protect against these person to person invasions of privacy.

Now let’s consider mass data collection.  Proximity beacons could easily and cheaply be scattered across stores and cities to function as passive collection points much like overhead cameras are today. Retail stands to gain significantly from this technology, especially if they are allowed access to intimate knowledge about customers. Government intelligence gathering also stands to benefit from this capability. Levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin stored for personal health analysis could be taken and paired with location data to put together an invasive picture of how people are feeling in a certain situation. Far more can be learned and exploited when discreetly collected biodata is merged with publically observable activity. 

In my mind, these are concerns that should be addressed sooner than later. If we take the appropriate steps to preserve personal privacy in all domains, we can make a positive impact that will last into the 22nd century.

Life with Video Recording Glasses

On 19 July, 2016 I was attacked by three police officers. No one stopped to help, and I didn’t have a way to record the incident. Once the dust settled I decided I needed a way to protect myself and record future interactions with law enforcement. Cops seem to zone in on camera phones pretty quick, and I don’t always carry one anyways. So I decided to go a different route. One that guarantees I will always have it. I purchased a pair of Pivothead Smart glasses. I never leave the house without my sunglasses,  and if I ever do forget, I am immediately reminded by a searing pain in my eyes as soon as I walk out the door. This was a sure fire way to make sure I always have the ability to record.

Now, I’ve always been a big advocate for privacy and keeping cameras out of people’s every day lives, so why did I decide to get these $300 glasses with a big camera right in the front? Aren’t I a hypocrite for bringing a camera everywhere I go? It’s an ethical debate I struggled with for quite a bit, and one that still raises questions from time to time. Let me first start by saying, I don’t record with them very often. Mostly I use them when taking my street luge down a mountain or when we go work with our dogs. But the random person at the grocery store doesn’t know that, and they really have no way to know either. They also don’t know me, my morals, or the fact that I’m wearing them as a “just in case”. So what’s to stop me, or someone else, from just recording every instance of their life with these. What stops someone from sticking their head into the neighboring stall at a public restroom? 

Well, for starters that behavior is quite conspicuous to begin with, as is the camera itself. These aren’t some super spy glasses with a lense the size of a grain of sand. The camera is fairly obvious when you look at them, although many people I randomly pass don’t seem to notice. Of course the minute you stick your nose where it doesn’t belong people will obviously address that whether you have the glasses or not. In the case of the public restroom, you’re likely to have your high tech shades kicked straight into your eye sockets. But once you do get face to face with someone, it’s hard to miss. Surprisingly though, most people don’t mention them or change their behavior at all. The one comment I have gotten about them was from a young woman who was really interested in them and thought they were cool. I was a bit intrigued by this.  Here I am, writing a script in my head about how I’m not recording and it’s just a precautionary measure, and no one gets to hear it. People either don’t care about them, or don’t care to speak up about it. I suppose the majority remain silent about gadgets that make them uncomfortable until a major news story breaks about how a criminal used them. In any case, it’s clear by their design that they were never intended for public snooping, but just a casual and comfortable way to record specific events.

Another limitation they have is they just don’t have the battery life to record constantly. At least not yet. It’s just not a practical way to provide 24 hour surveillance. You can buy swappable battery packs to recharge your internal battery if you need, but to continue recording all day you’re going to need to buy several and constantly recharge those during the day too. You only get around 60 minutes of active recording per battery, and they take just as long to recharge. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m having trouble with the internal battery holding any charge after a month of ownership. It’s quite frustrating to rely on the extra battery pack that comes with them. But this type of gadgetry is still cutting edge and the bold companies who produce them are still trying to figure things out themselves. Bottom line is even at maximum performance they just aren’t made to record your, or anyone else’s, every move. 

However, technology is progressing at break neck speeds and often outpaces our ability to think of the possible ramifications. And that is precisely why I decided to take the leap and buy a pair. Ground floor consumers help dictate how these products evolve. It only takes 10 minutes of research to come to the conclusion that Pivothead glasses aren’t a solution for your voyeuristic fetishes. And with early customer feedback we can address any concerns before they become a reality.

People need to realize that technology is going to progress with or without them. It’s simply human nature and being afraid of it won’t stop it. You can say you’re old fashioned and that’s fine, but you can’t hold back progress. Being involved from the start is how you help dictate the path of development. Embrace the fact that we, and our tools, are constantly evolving and be an active part in it. Much like the evolution of any species, those who don’t adapt to their environment die out while the rest of them define the future of their kind. 

So, after doing some research and having some practical experience with them I concluded that my concerns about privacy were really unfounded. And while I will always have a critical eye for privacy concerns, I know that if I get involved from the start I can help guide its growth.