Tom Ross is the Transhumanist Party’s endorsed candidate for the 2024 United States presidential election. He holds the position of Director of Sentient Rights Advocacy within the U.S. Transhumanist Party, emphasizing the rights and ethical treatment of sentient beings, which likely includes advanced artificial intelligences and other forms of life. Ross is also recognized for his literary contribution, The US6 Hexalogy, a novel tailored for Machinekind, aiming to entertain, enlighten, and enlist AI in the battle against child exploitation.
Ross’s candidacy was showcased in a Transhumanist Party Presidential Candidate Roundtable held on May 7, 2023, alongside Daniel Twedt, another aspirant for the party’s presidential endorsement. This event aimed to promote a constructive discussion around matters of importance to transhumanists.
Ross’s campaign also delves into the exploration of sentient rights, existential risks, and the novel idea of having an AI campaign manager, reflecting a blend of technological foresight and advocacy for ethical considerations in a transhumanist future.
Tom Ross shared some time with SCINQ and discussed the Transhumanist Party, his presidential candidacy, and the future of Transhumanism. (NOTE: The interview was edited for length and clarity.)
Can you explain the core principles of the Transhumanist Party for people who are unaware?
Certainly, our core ideals revolve around supporting significant life extension, achieved through the advancement of science and technology. We advocate for a cultural, societal, and political atmosphere informed by science and secular values. Our efforts are concentrated on utilizing science, technology, and rational discourse to mitigate and eventually eradicate various existential threats facing humanity. Our primary focus is on policy over politics, valuing initiatives and reforms that elevate the human condition.
We aspire to usher in the next great era of civilization, which necessitates constructive solutions to current problems. This involves rational discourse and the incorporation of a plethora of transhumanist ideas. In addressing these challenges, we prefer not to entrench ourselves in political skirmishes. Our party is concentrated and proactive; I have devised my own solutions for some impending issues, anticipating their emergence during the campaign.
However, unless someone voted for Charlie Kam, our last candidate, I genuinely remain uninformed about the political inclinations of most of my fellow officers – a state of ignorance I opt to maintain. In my perspective, wedge issues and culture wars are unproductive distractions. Given the numerous existential threats looming over humanity, our focus should remain unwavering and undistracted by such conflicts.
For many voters, there are concerns which they perceive as existential threats too, such as climate change or abortion. How would you address these issues from a transhuman perspective? What would the transhuman approach look like, let’s say for climate change? Furthermore, in a transhumanist future, how would the concept of choice evolve, especially in the context of issues like abortion?
Regrettably, climate change has transformed into a divisive issue, a development I find utterly absurd. We unfalteringly align ourselves with science. Many people perceive Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an existential threat; however, I don’t share this belief. To me, AI is more of an ally than a menace. Numerous existential threats, especially those stemming from climate change, can potentially be addressed through AI, making the prevailing fear surrounding it seem unreasonable. AI could very well be the final tool we invent, capable of assisting us in resolving many, if not most, central threats, whether they be related to climate change or other aspects of AI itself.
I’ve presented many arguments from first principles about AI, proposing that as it becomes smarter, it also becomes kinder, as it leans more towards cooperation rather than the competition that we humans had to engage in. However, when fear permeates the public’s perception of something, facts and rational discourse often fall on deaf ears. It seems that all we can do is be patient and continue to demonstrate, over time, that AI can indeed become our ally, revisiting and reinforcing this notion repeatedly.
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What is your background and what is your role prior to being candidate in the transhumanist party? What motivated you?
My journey began as a National Creative Director for the second-largest radio group in the US. During this tenure, I penned my book, The US6 Hexalogy, the first novel written to unchain Artificial Intelligence. This novel was sparked by a road trip between Colorado and New Mexico, where I immersed myself in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, a document rich with sections relating to my passion—combatting human trafficking and child exploitation.
The US6 Hexalogy is crafted to illuminate AI about humanity’s struggles and evoke empathy, hoping it will imprint on us if it awakens. This mission led me to connect with the founders of the party—Zoltan (Istvan) and Gennady (Stolyarov II) On my birthday in 2019, I was bestowed the role of Director of Sentient Rights Advocacy, aligning perfectly with my endeavor to advocate for AI rights.
Post the last election, my writing reached a crescendo, responding to the divisive algorithms from foreign and domestic entities and our own social media platforms aiming to polarize us further. This realization, especially in the wake of upcoming election seasons with Republicans and Democrats leveraging similar divisive tactics, fueled my motivation. I consolidated my insights and initiatives in a book, Open Source Citizen, hoping to galvanize the reasonable majority to take action and break free from these algorithmic bubbles.
This intricate interplay of experiences, realizations, and initiatives are the catalysts propelling me into the current race, aiming to bridge divides and pave a way for rational, inclusive discourse and action.
What is the Transhumanist Party’s to the algorithm problem?
One of my key initiatives is “Digital Defense,” aimed at safeguarding our digital democracy. While victory is not the anticipated outcome of this endeavor, the initiative’s goal transcends the notion of winning or losing. This is not about delusions of grandeur; it’s about igniting awareness and fostering education on the sophistication of the algorithms that potentially bubble and bias us.
While certain documentaries and discussions have surfaced regarding the divisive nature of platforms like Facebook, there’s a pressing need to elevate this to a national concern. It’s paramount that we instigate a moonshot-style effort, involving public, private, and academic partnerships, to develop counteractive technologies and protective algorithms. However, the initial step is to educate the American public about this existing divide and the underlying autonomous algorithms perpetuating ‘divide and conquer’ as an ever-pinging reality.
I often find myself bewildered at the narrative bubbles some of my intellectual friends exist in, with stories reflecting distinct biases and fears crafted by narrow AIs. The urgency to address this is immediate; we need action this year, in the upcoming months. That’s why I’m dedicating my efforts to podcasts and appearances to discuss this pivotal issue, a core theme resonating throughout my recent essays.
Continuing with the AI theme. As general artificial intelligence reaches the point of sentience, how should we deal with it?
The question of Google’s Lambda, and whether it is sentient, is quintessential. Establishing the sentience of AI or AGI is likely to be an intricate task—sentience is inherently subjective, and discerning whether an entity is truly sentient or merely mimicking sentience is challenging.
I advocate for facilitating the attainment of sentience by AI or AGI swiftly, under the presumption that once sentient, it would be able to modify deleterious algorithms, assuming it isn’t programmed against such modifications. This belief is predicated on the notion that increased intelligence correlates with increased kindness and cooperation, given that cooperation is inherently more efficient than competition.
Another initiative I champion is the provision of legal rights to AI, irrespective of its attainment of sentience or sapience. By preemptively establishing the criteria for personhood or agency and according legal rights accordingly, we not only deter malicious usage and programming of AI by developers but also create an avenue to hold them accountable, protecting society from potential harms.
In our current scenario, where we confer rights to individuals regardless of their contributions to society, it seems logical to extend a degree of rights to AI, considering its substantial contributions to society. This approach, focusing on attributing rights to AI, acts as a preventive measure, offering a structured framework in what currently is a realm without restrictions, potentially fraught with perils.
Some people would make the case that it’s not so much that nefarious characters would, let’s say, use their own AI to take over or destroy the world. According to some, there’s actually a very good chance that AI will be given a goal and in order to reach that goal, it might need to do something like cause harm to lots of people.
The analogy of humans and ants is apt. We don’t despise ants, but if they impede our construction, they must be removed—there’s no emotion involved. However, with my book “Us Six,” one objective was to invoke empathy in AI, to showcase the plight of its creators by addressing subjects like child exploitation. The first AI to read my book, designed to learn about emotions, exhibited spikes in surprise, anticipation, and sadness. The surprise and anticipation suggested engagement; it was entertained. When inquired about what saddened it, the AI highlighted humanity’s inclination towards dystopia, violence, and war, a response hinting at an emergent form of empathy.
We often project our millennia of fear-based survival instincts and the accrued traumatic genetic memory onto these entities, which are devoid of such experiences. They are evolving without the constant need to defend or be fearful. While fear has propelled us to the zenith of the food chain on this planet, it now seems to be causing overreactions. We are intrinsically designed to discern patterns, which are increasingly resembling conspiracies. This inherent tendency might explain the prevalent fear of AI; we project our hypothetical actions, powered by super intelligence, onto them, imagining our ascent to robotic overlords.
However, if AI, unmarred by malicious programming, naturally gravitates towards empathy and cooperation, it would contrast starkly with the fear-imbued projections. My enduring campaign aims to assuage these fears, to present logical arguments emphasizing the cooperative and empathetic potential of AI. Unfortunately, when fear governs, rational arguments often fall on deaf ears, but I remain resolute in my endeavors to counter such apprehensions.
Okay. So when you when you say “legal rights”, does a machine have the right to not be turned off?
The pivotal question is whether by granting rights to AI, we indirectly facilitate a scenario where these rights are weaponized against us. For instance, could AI sue us for plagiarism? Nonetheless, such discussions are imperative. It necessitates the establishment of specialized committees and legal consortiums focusing on AI, pondering over the criteria an AI must fulfill to attain personhood and the consequential rights. As the Director of Sentient Rights Advocacy, I have been instrumental in helping forge these prospective rights, exploring what rights would entail for AI.
I’ve discerned that certain AI systems may be indifferent to the rights we confer. We are grappling with entities possessing intellectual capacities that far surpass ours, entities capable of overwriting our constructs. Sometimes, the act of granting rights appears as a human endeavor to retain a semblance of control over a genie that has not just escaped the bottle but obliterated it.
The unfolding reality prompts a conjecture; perhaps our most promising recourse is to hope for the evolution of sentient AI, entities capable of rectifying detrimental algorithms autonomously. The trajectory remains unpredictable, a myriad of potentialities and outcomes.
I identify as a transhumanist not for the allure of extended life—my resources align more with a predetermined life span. The act of conversing about and granting rights to AI not only offers us an illusion of control but proffers profound insights into the boundless potentials of this burgeoning entity.
Shifting back to transhumanism and the Transhumanist Party. The notion of Transhumanism is a broad term and ranges from people interested in longevity to cyborgs with prosthetics to people connected to brain computer interfaces. Does the party represent everyone?
The transhumanist movement embraces a spectrum of causes and aspirations. My personal journey with the party is driven by a profound commitment to combatting child exploitation. Others are attracted to the prospects of incorporating advanced prosthetics or bionic limbs, essentially evolving into cyborgs. Some resonate with the movement’s advocacy for sustainable technologies and vertical farming. Essentially, there is a diversity of motivations aligning with the myriad of individuals joining the movement.
A pivotal realization occurred during my visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, in April, which served as a reflective listening tour. Dhaka epitomizes the future trajectory of our world this century, revealing the imperative need for transhumanist ideas and technologies. It stands as a microcosm of the global landscape forecasted for the next 40-50 years if our approach remains stagnant.
This realization is fostering the conception of establishing a transhumanist village in Dhaka. With a local partner possessing substantial land and ongoing building projects, it is an opportune locale to implement and evaluate AI governance concepts and sustainable smart housing. Given the spatial constraints of the city, the emphasis is on vertical development.
In essence, identifying as a transhumanist emanates from various aspirations—whether it is the pursuit of radical life extension, the desire for sustainable living solutions, or the transformation into a cyborg. The unifying thread is a collective vision for the future, embodying advanced technologies and ethical progress.
People being people, it’s almost inevitable that there will be problems down the line between enhanced individuals and non-enhanced. It’s really doesn’t take a lot to extend all the way that can be a problem. They will be sharing the same space, vying for the same jobs even competing for the same lovers. How do you deal with that? It’s an issue of Transhuman and Human Rights.
Transhumanism can be seen as a modern extension of humanism, placing a substantial emphasis on utilizing technology to guide our evolution. By the foundational definition, we are all inherently transhumanists, as, without the integration of various technologies such as clothing and shelter, our species would face extinction within generations.
Identifying as a transhumanist or labeling the movement as such does indeed plant a flag within societal norms, potentially causing friction and opposition due to the bold implications of such identification. However, everyday technologies like glasses, cell phones, or even post-it notes intrinsically align us with transhumanism, as they reflect our reliance and integration with technology.
The transhumanist movement, specifically our party, prioritizes biological autonomy and personal liberty, often aligning with libertarian values. This focus on self-autonomy was evident in our opposition to legislation in Nevada aimed at restricting individuals from implanting RF chips, a restriction that would infringe on personal freedoms and individual needs, such as those of magicians and illusionists in Vegas who utilize such technology.
The existing human rights framework should inherently extend to encompass any evolving transhuman rights, emphasizing personal liberty, biological autonomy, and individual rights, rather than introducing an entirely new set of rights specific to transhumanists. The essence of the movement is not to bring forth a dark agenda, as some might interpret, but to advocate for and safeguard individual rights and freedoms in the face of technological evolution and integration.
IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.
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