FTP025: James Hughes - Cyborg Buddha, Transhuman Enlightenment and Basic Income
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Mike: James, thanks for joining us on the podcast, it’s good to have you.

James: My pleasure.

Mike: I’m excited for this one, we have a lot of things in common. We’ve been talking about very similar topics for a couple years now.

Euvie: Probably not as long [00:02:00] as you’ve been studying them though.

James: How old is your podcast?

Mike: It’s about two years but we took a long break, we’ve been traveling quite a bit throughout south east Asia. Now, we’re in Europe, we’ve settled a bit more. Now, we’re focusing more on the podcast.

Euvie: Yeah.

James: Where do you live now?

Mike: Bulgaria, yeah. That’s pretty much everyone’s reaction.

James: What drew you there?

Mike: Euvie has ancestry here and in terms of culture, [00:02:30] living expenses, nature, it ticks a lot of boxes for us.

James: I haven’t been to Bulgaria, I’ve been to a lot of eastern Europe but not Bulgaria yet.

Mike: It’s definitely one of my favourites. Alright, do you have any questions or anything for us before we start?

James: I guess, [inaudible [0:02:45] book.

Euvie: Phil Torres.

James: Phil Torres, yes. I think there’s a lot of other folks at the IEET that I’m sure you’d be happy to talk to. John Danaher, for instance, is one of our most brilliant contributors [00:03:00] right now, you should take a look at his work, as well.

Mike: Great.

Euvie: Yeah, I think we’ve already unknowingly mined a bunch of your bright folks. We just did an interview with James Bren last week.

James: Good.

Euvie: We interviewed Nicola Danaylov, who does Singularity One on One.

James: She’s Bulgarian also?

Euvie: Yes.

Mike: Yeah, actually he’s from the city we’re living in.

James: There are a lot of Romanian bioethicists, as well, I don’t know about the Bulgarian mafia on bioethics but there’s a Romanian mafia on bioethics.

Mike: I didn’t know that.

James: I could give you some of their names. Analeta is one of the fellows [00:03:30] who’s on our board who’s a Romanian.

Euvie: Cool.

Mike: Interesting.

Euvie: You have been working on a book called Cyborg Buddha. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

James: It’s a long over due book, hopefully it’s going to be finished soon. I started it after my first book, Citizen Cyborg. Towards the end of Citizen Cyborg I start to get into some of the questions that I consider to be the really complicated questions in biopolitics. They are about how we might manipulate the brain in the future and how we might [00:04:00] regulate people manipulating their own brains. The reason I think that that’s the most complicated domain is that if you decide to manipulate your body and then you don’t like it and change your mind, you could hopefully change it back.

That’s the future that we transhumanist tend to imagine is one where we have a lot of choice and if we don’t like one choice we can make another and fix it. If you start to change your brain, you could potentially change it in a way that you [00:04:30] would not have liked before the change but don’t mind after the change, and that raises a lot of complicated questions. When you change your settings on your computer monitor, it says, “In 10 seconds, we’ll switch this back if you can’t see anything.” If you do that to your brain, it may be that you say, “No, it’s fine now. Leave it blank, leave my mind blank.”

That’s a problem. There’s also the problem of the manipulation of our brains [00:05:00] in ways that we might find attractive for one purpose but which might have collective negative consequences. That’s always been the problem of how do we regulate drugs and alcohol is it may be individually rational for somebody to want to take a drug, but we worry that at the collective level of everyone starts taking this drug it’s going to have some kind of negative consequences. We can talk about drug decriminalization, which I’m in favour of. The example that I gave in the book was, “What if people decided that they needed to get rid of their sense of empathy [00:05:30] in order to be a better soldier or be a better stock broker, whatever? What kind of society would it be if people stopped being empathetic?”

I said that that should be one of the things that we protect and that we do regulate against. This book, Cyborg Buddha is the outgrowth of a couple of those kinds of questions about how we manipulate the brain, it’s the outgrowth of my experience as a Buddhist monk, which partly I left rogue partly because I wanted to have a householder life as we say, [00:06:00] but it also means I wanted to have stuff, I wanted to have sex, I wanted to have kids. I often thought while I was a Buddhist monk, “What if I could just turn a switch and turn off that? Would I ever turn it back on? Is eroticism something that adds so much meaning and significance to life that if you didn’t actually feel it, if you didn’t have that itch, that you would actually want to turn it on?”

Of course, now we have a lot of people who identify as asexuals who say, “I get along fine, your obsession [00:06:30] with everybody needing to be sexual is absurd.” Then there’s the questions around happiness. In Citizen Cyborg I basically laid out my Buddo utilitarian philosophy, which starts with the observation that I think we’ll all be happier if we all have more control over our individual lives and over our collective destiny through democracy. The control over our individual lives happens both through civil freedom and also through [00:07:00] technology that we have more decisions to make about our lives. When I started to teach, of course, at Trinity College, where I was working for many years, on happiness, I began to interrogate the concept of happiness in a way that I hadn’t really done before.

Strangely, since I have been a Buddha since I was a teenager and Buddhism has a lot of interesting things to say about happiness, but I had been wanting Buddhism to fit into a western utilitarian model and saying, “It doesn’t have anything to do with that [00:07:30] crazy Catholic virtue stuff.” When I finally started to look at it, of course it did have a lot to do with that crazy Catholic virtue stuff, the tradition of Aristotelian virtue ethics. Eventually, the idea for this book was, “How do we define what it means to live a good life in a transhumanist future where we have more and more control over our neuro technologies? What are the components of a good character and a good life in that future? What’s the relationship between hedonic [00:08:00] happiness,” which we could achieve just be putting a wire in everybody’s head and giving them all pleasure in the moment, “versus having the sense that you’re actually doing something, building, growing, flourishing,” which is more what the Buddhist and the Aristotelians and almost every religious tradition are pointing to is, “There’s something better than just pleasure, it’s this.”

What are the components of that? The book basically has the format of arguing for six basic virtues which have to do with how I’ve [00:08:30] boiled down the social neuroscience to different things that we can work on: intelligence as critical faculties, caring, self-control, transcendence, fairness and so forth. Then discussion of the social neuroscience that is just constantly exploding. If I had finished this book five years ago when I was working on it, I would have said all these glowing things about oxytocin, that oxytocin makes you love everybody and everybody [00:09:00] should be dosed with oxytocin, which some people argued for.

Of course, now, we know a lot more about oxytocin, that it makes you racist, it makes you miss your mother. It’s not just a love hormone, it does a lot of complicated things. I think the perspective is a lot more sophisticated at this point and I’m emphasizing a lot more the interdependence of different virtues, that you can’t just tweak one thing without having a comprehensive character development strategy, which [00:09:30] of course religious traditions also argued for for a long time. I think there’s also a growing understanding of what the actual biological constraints on human virtue and human character are, that many of us have particular deficits, we have a particular genetic propensity to be addicted personalities or whatever, or to have lack of self-control, or to be especially rageful.

But then there’s also just the general fact that most of us cannot live up to what we consider to be a moral [00:10:00] ideal and that most of us would need these kinds of technological assistance in the future to really accomplish the kinds of personalities and lies that we really want to accomplish. That’s the basic argument of the book.

Mike: How do you define enlightenment and how do you think that relates to transhumanism and these concepts you’re talking about?

James: Of course, there are different definitions of enlightenment within the Buddhist tradition. The original position of Buddhist enlightenment is it’s the transcendence of all desire [00:10:30] and finding equanimity and just existing, then eventually that eliminates the bonds of karma and you blip out of existence. In the [inaudible [0:10:38] tradition argued for a much more positive vision, basically, that once you let go of attachment then you can enjoy everything. Once you let go of attachment and actually start to care for people and connect with people suffering in an immediate way, you don’t want to just blip out of existence, you want to stick around and help everybody.

I think, since [00:11:00] I became a Buddhist, that more positive interpretation – which is more common in western Buddhism, a more life affirming interpretation of what enlightenment is about – is the one that I’ve found attractive. We may see both in the future. Again, we may find that there’s a switch that we can throw and we do have perfect Zen, “I don’t give a crap about anything,” then there’ll be the other Buddhists who say, “That’s the wrong switch, dude,” and you need to do something else.

Mike: Yeah, oops, the psychopath switch.

James: [00:11:30] Right, exactly.

Euvie: Where does interpersonal intelligence play into the transhumanist movement and do you think it’s lacking? From what I’ve seen in a lot of the transhumanist thinkers, they’re heavily focused on the self – self-enhancement – but if we are to actually live together on this planet, we have to address the interpersonal aspects of enhancement, too.

James: Right. I’d say that a big part of my intellectual life and career has been attempting to draw the [00:12:00] transgenic connections between the Buddhist tradition, my socialist politics, and futurism, trying to articulate what all those connections are. Transhumanism as a manifestation of enlightenment values in a futurist context around biopolitics, yes, it’s been mostly so far attractive to men – especially men coming out of scientific and technical fields – and especially attractive to a lot of [inaudible [0:12:28] type folks who aren’t [00:12:30] terribly engaged with the questions about social justice, there has been that problem.

That said, I’ve done a lot of public polling of the transhumanist community and the majority of the transhumanist community is not libertarian and the plurality of them are, in fact, on the left of one sort or another. There is a lot of at least intellectual concern about social justice questions in the transhumanist community. The problem is that the wealthiest and most prominent [00:13:00] transhumanist, especially those in Silicon Valley, have ideological hegemony over the rest of us because they have the most resources and that’s the way the world works. Peter Teal is one of the wealthiest transhumanist philanthropists in the world, he is a billionaire.

He’s also a republican, a Christian fundamentalist, a baker of Ted Cruz and Ron Paul and Ran Paul, and that’s totally out of whack with everybody else’s politics in the transhumanist movement, [00:13:30] but he’s the one who’s the principle funder of [inaudible [0:13:33] and a lot of the other transhumanist projects. Not our, I might point out. We’ve never asked but he never offered. The IEET, because it’s a left-wing techno progressive outfit it has not attracted that kind of money, in fact, it has attracted no money. It’s a labour of love for the part of most of us. That’s part of the problem.

I say it’s also personalities that have attracted to transhumanism today [00:14:00] or in the past have not tended to be those terribly engaged with social engagement questions. I often draw the contrast with movements around particular diseases. If you think about the lobbies in Washington, DC that advocate for people with disabilities or people with Alzheimer’s or people with heart disease or whatever, largely women at the grassroots level who are behind these movements. They tend to be the daughters, sisters, mothers, wives of people [00:14:30] who have these diseases. They’re often the caregivers, they’re engaged in their communities, their part of volunteer organizations.

I think what transhumanism needs is to move, to mature from being a – forgive the French – but a penis measuring intellectual movement where a lot of men between the ages of 18 and 45, to an actually engaged political movement that engages with the real questions that people care about. At that point, we will begin to attract people who actually care about other people [00:15:00] and especially women.

Mike: It seems like a lot of people talk about the transhumanist movement like the rapture for the geeks. I’m wondering how to move this discussion into the mainstream, so it’s not so up high in the sky. We interviewed Zoltan a while ago about his political movement and it doesn’t seem to me that working within the system and trying to make a wedge in the current political discussion is going to make much ground. How do you think we move that discussion over?

James: You raised a lot of things. In the first place, [00:15:30] just say Zoltan is not a political movement, he’s performance art. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I do think we need to move into a political space. I don’t think it’s coherent or transhumanist to move into a political space as transhumanist, because that’s like saying, “Yes, let’s start a…” a good example would be, “a feminist party.” There are feminists of all different political stripes. There are feminists in the republican party. I heard a right to life feminist on NPR this morning arguing about [00:16:00] why all feminists should be anti-abortion.

Starting a feminist party doesn’t really answer any questions, right, it answers 5 questions and then there’s the other 500 that you need to answer as a political party. We met 18 months ago in Paris at the transition meeting that was hosted by the French transhumanists and we had a caucus session of all the techno progressive individuals and groups who were represented there and we drafted what we called the Techno Progressive Declaration, which is an attempt to say, “[00:16:30] Look, we should be entering into politics, we should be taking some of these transhumanist values into the public policy mainstream, but we can’t do it as transhumanists. We have to do it on the basis that’s more coherent ideological framework and the techno progressive framework is basically social democracy plus transhumanism and what’s the overlap between the two.

That gives you a lot more to talk about. I think that’s the strategy I’ve advocated for, that’s why I have not supported any of the transhumanist part efforts. [00:17:00] As a member of the left of the United States, I was never a part of the party building left and that was a conscious choice. Party building is a waste of time in the United States. If you want to have a coherent political movement, you either have to take over one of the political parties or splinter out one of the political parties. We may see that happen with the republicans this time, if Trump becomes an actual – scary thought – but if he becomes an actual quasi fascist movement, he may splinter the republican party.

I think the left is more or less showing the same thing [00:17:30] within the democratic party. Bernie Sanders was an independent for most of his political career and then decided, “Hey, I’ll run as a democrat,” and guess what, you can do that in the United States. That’s the strategy I’ve argued for is that we need to have transhumanist or techno progressive caucuses in the democrats and the republicans and the libertarian party. Sometimes we can work together around particular issues and sometimes we can’t. That’s that. I think the first point of your question was about singularitarianism and I just want to make a point [00:18:00] about that, which is that singularitarianism is not the same thing as transhumanism.

A lot of singularitarians are transhumanists, a lot of transhumanists are singularitarians, but they are two distinct phenomena. In the first place, because singularitarianism is focused on this point in history, which makes most singularitarians relatively fatalistic about actually having to accomplish anything. To the extent that singularitarians tend to get excited about any kind of particular project. It’s magical thinking about [00:18:30] how they’re going to prevent the evil genie from popping out of the wrong bottle. That’s not a transhumanist approach to things. In fact, if you look at Max Moore, Max Moore’s been pissed off at singularitarians since the 90s and I similarly am not a singularitarian.

I think there’s a huge amount of psycho cultural baggage in the singularitary movement coming from western [inaudible [0:18:53] apocalyptic thinking. Sometimes they’re aware of it but usually they’re not. Usually they say, “No, no, no, we’re [00:19:00] perfectly rational and secular about this whole thing, except that all of our behaviours and language and references to scripture and everything is exactly what you would find in any apocalyptic cult.” Their way of thinking magically about how you prevent one kind of apocalypse versus another, exactly what you see in any apocalyptic cult. It’s not that I completely dismiss catastrophic risks that may attend to artificial intelligence but I think that because of the dominance of this apocalyptic meme within that community, [00:19:30] they quickly elide or ignore questions like technological unemployment, what the relationship might be between existing cyber-crimes, cyber-theft, cyber-warfare, cyber-terrorism, efforts to mitigate those threats and what we might do to mitigate future threats.

Most of these singularitarians think that governments are so stupid that anybody involved in public policy and governments are so stupid, the couldn’t possibly prevent the magic God from popping out of the bottle in the future, [00:20:00] therefore the only thing that you can do is sit around in your pyjamas and think about how to become a friendly robot. No, people in the DOD, in the baseless of the DOD, trying to figure out how to make the internet resilient against future artificial intelligent threats that they think are going to be launched by China, we think could just pop out of nowhere, but it’s the same problem. We want to try to identify where artificial intelligence threats are. It’s not that I dismiss the threats, I just think that magical thinking approaches are unhelpful.

Conversely, I think that [00:20:30] the transhumanist approach is, “How do we make human beings smarter and more capable,” especially in the techno progressive approach, which is all human beings and not just some elite group of human beings, “so that human beings are the drivers of technological innovation, instead of being the victims of it in some apocalyptic scenario?”

Euvie: That actually leads perfectly into my next question. There seems to be some apocalyptic thinking in transhumanism, too, or at least in the bulk of the movement where biological humans are [00:21:00] considered inherently inferior. There’s a lot of this thinking in the [inaudible [0:21:05] side of things that one day these superior transhumanists will dominate the world and biological humans, well, they just choose not to participate and they will all just die eventually.

James: I wouldn’t necessarily frame it as apocalyptic. I think there are transhumanists who have said apocalyptic things in that scenario that eventually posthumans will be so smart that they’ll look on ordinary humans as ants and so forth. I think that that, again, is not a [00:21:30] completely absurd risk. I think that it reflects the anxiety. If you were a hunter gatherer, you would have legitimate reasons, in hind sight, to have some anxieties about the advent of modernity. Is the solution to this for hunter gatherers never to have healthcare, education, never to be subject to laws where they can’t chop their wives and do bad things to people? No, I think [00:22:00] modernity was the correct solution in the end, it’s just unfortunate that they got 16th century version of modernity before they got the 20th century version of modernity.

What we have to ensure is that posthumans are subject to the same kinds of accountability for their behaviour towards other sentient beings that we expect all human beings to have today. That’s going to take a lot of effort because, again, both singularitarians and transhumanists share an anxiety that once you get [00:22:30] to a certain level of superintelligence that you may be able to just run circles around everybody else and any attempt at regulation is going to be meaningless. But okay, look, there’s people that have nuclear weapons in our world today and we haven’t had a nuclear war yet.

Part of the reason for that is that there are political constraints on who has access to them and how they get to use them. Some of the places don’t have enough political constraints. North Korea doesn’t have enough [00:23:00] political constraints and we’ve been trying to get Iran for a long time, now we finally may. We found out that a lot of the guys running our nuclear weapons program were high on coke and cheating on their tests. There’s problems. The question of how we regulate and control future posthumans who may have apocalyptic levels of power I don’t think is outside the realm of what we already are dealing with. I don’t see it as an apocalyptic scenario, I see it as a regulatory challenge. [00:23:30] How can we have a system of licensure where we make sure that the kinds of people who get super powers basically don’t have an intent to use them for ill, aren’t psychopathic?

We may have very specific ways of determining that people aren’t psychopathic in future, we may be able to put moral constraints directly in the brains of people and say, “You want this superpower? That’s fine, you have to do this. You have to allow us to tweak you so that you never want to hurt anybody.” A Clockwork Orange scenario. We may be able to do that, [00:24:00] have to do that, or we may say, “Only soldiers get to use these because we need it for national defence but nobody else should have it.” That’s something else we could do.

Euvie: Everybody’s required to have an empathy plugin.

Mike: Yeah.

James: I mean, why do people get so anxious about people’s religious commitments or sentiments in public office? It’s because they see it wrongly as a proxy for some kind of indicator of whether they’re moral or not. Fewer Americans would [00:24:30] vote for an atheist than would vote for Muslims, homosexuals, and other category. That’s because most Americans think that atheists are immoral, that denying is God is a sign of your immorality. What if we could say, “Forget all that crap, here’s the actual measure. We actually have something where we can measure people’s morality and their commitment to moral code and enforce it.” That’s what we really want.

Mike: How does Buddhism play into this? I’ve heard you talk a bit in other interviews about specifically Buddhism, you’ve got this book coming out, but don’t hear a lot about spirituality [00:25:00] and actually the perception consciousness and maybe how that plays a role. I’d like to hear maybe a bit more about your background in Buddhism and how that plays a role in the future.

James: Sure. I became a Buddhist when I was, say, about 15, 16. I was smoking a lot of dope. My mum’s first boyfriend was a former Unitarian minister and a meditator. I started to talk to him about the fact that, basically when I was high, I would be like, “There’s no God, the universe is meaningless, we’re all just atoms [00:25:30] floating in space. What’s the point of getting out of bed in the morning?” I was having an existential crisis. You have me D. T. Suzuki and Allan Watts and Philip Kapleau and a bunch of those folks. I started to mediate, do yoga, discovered nontheistic spirituality basically, Buddhist spirituality, and found a Tibetan Buddhist group in Columbus Ohio. I took my [inaudible [0:25:53] when I was 17, got a Buddhist name, went to college, started a Buddhist [00:26:00] meditation group, graduated, went to Sri Lanka, ordained for a while, practiced a lot of meditation there.

Went to Japan, practiced Zen. It’s been rougher going since my wife and I got married and had kids because the householder life is very distracting. Fortunately, we’ve been getting back into regular practice and doing retreats. We just came off a one-day retreat. My connection to spirituality’s been more or less with the nontheistic aspects of [00:26:30] western Buddhism and I have connections to the Tibetan and the [inaudible [0:26:35] and the Zen traditions, Korean Zen, as well. I don’t consider myself a particularly sectarian Buddhist and I know that some Buddhists wouldn’t consider me a Buddhist at all. I don’t believe in reincarnation, I’m fully materialist about a lot of things that a lot of Buddhist think are essential for being a Buddhist and I don’t give a crap anymore.

I stopped giving a crap when I arrived in Sri Lanka [00:27:00] five days before [inaudible [0:27:03] army convoy was blown up and the Buddhist monks in the south of Sri Lanka [inaudible [0:27:08] that displaced 100,000 Tamils and killed thousands. I was in the middle of race riots being led by Buddhist monks. I’m like, “I came here thinking I was joining the romantic idea of third-world Buddhism, turns out, Buddhism is as bad as any other religion in any other place and that the romantic ideas [00:27:30] that western Buddhists had were completely nonsense.”

What is Buddhism? I don’t know. That’s a very Buddhist question to ask, ironically, because Buddhism’s all about deconstructing irrelevant categories and pointing out that everything’s empty. I always say, “Yeah, I don’t know what Buddhism is and that’s a good Buddhist thing to say.” Yes, I do have a strong connection to this tradition. Partly I say it’s a mythic poetic connection because I think what really keeps me in the Buddhist tradition is that it’s a 25,000-year-old tradition, multiple countries, with all these different [00:28:00] artistic, aesthetic, cultural richness to it. If I have to choose a tradition to root myself and to use the cultural baggage of, I would prefer one where it’s about a guy attempting to transcend the human condition and staying human and not relying on Gods and doing it through self-effort, rather than one where the symbol is somebody being tortured to death or whatever else.

That’s what keeps me is that I like Buddhism as a 25,000 [00:28:30] year old tradition but I’m fully cognizant of it’s many, many, many flaws. Ironically, if you go back, there were eight different sects that the Buddha was trying to choose among. One of the others is actually closer to contemporary western Buddhist position. There was a sect of Indian philosophy at the time that denied the existence of reincarnation. The Buddha denied the existence of the self, that this thing that reincarnates from life to life isn’t really a self, but there was another sect that just said, “Reincarnation doesn’t exist.” [00:29:00] Actually, back then I probably would’ve been that thing instead of Buddhism, but Buddhism’s the one that survived, so who knows.

In terms of the relationship between transhumanists and Buddhism or spirituality, the last chapter of the book is about the broadest category, which I call transcendence, of virtue. If you look across all the virtue traditions, there are some things that are common to all: self-control is common to all virtue traditions, some kind of kindness is common to all. [00:29:30] Then there are things that aren’t common across the traditions. Fairness, there’s no discussion about fairness in Buddhism. Fairness is a western enlightenment idea about how everybody should be treated equally and so forth. There are things that you can gin up into fairness but not really.

In traditional Greek philosophical thinking, dying an honourable death in battle is a virtue. It’s like, “Thank goodness we let go of that one.” There are a lot of virtues that people have let go of – abstinence. Self-control, okay, I can live with, but abstinence [00:30:00] not really. A lot of traditions have abstinence as the virtue. There’s a lot of virtues that we have to say, “Those are old fashion, we can let go of them.” What we’re really talking about, it’s not abstinence, it’s really self-control is what we’re trying to get at. I’ve boiled it down to these six. The sixth one, transcendence, that’s the loosey goosiest of all the categories. The basic idea I think there is that in every tradition there’s the notion of the ability to step out of yourself [00:30:30] and step out of your traditional ways of working at things and have a different perspective outside of the ordinary.

Some traditions are very phobic about that. Your fundamentalism tends to be very phobic about transcendent traditions within their own religion. You have the fundamentalist strains of Christianity and then you have the ecstatic strains of Christianity and they often don’t get along. I think psilocybin, I talk a lot about psilocybin in that chapter about meditation, lucid dreaming, [00:31:00] and about the default mode network, which is basically the parts of the brain that we are usually in, usually active, which is the selfing part of the brain. I’m just practicing simple mindfulness meditation where you’re just focusing on breath or focusing on some concentration object. You’re turning off that default mode network, you’re turning off that selfing part of the brain, which is saying, “You’re such and such and you worry about such and such, you’re related to such and such. You have future plans about such and such.” When you turn that off [00:31:30] and you begin to get into just the moment, then eventually that can lead to an ecstatic and transcendent experience. Of course, it’s easier to take a pill. Hopefully, we’ll have better and better pills.

Mike: Can you talk about it more from that chapter actually, that’s a fascinating chapter for me, transcendence and then also we’ve done some episodes recently on psychedelics. Psilocybin being a big one that took up a whole episode and then another one, DMT. Do you have anything to say about those?

James: Like many western Buddhists of a certain age, [00:32:00] I took a lot of acid in my case back when I was a teenager. Tripped about 17 times I think and I saw it as complimentary to what the meditation and yoga that I was going at the time. Of course, I was reading Be Here and Now and things like that, books from the 60s and 70s who were arguing that it was complimentary. I think that it is in that at least in the perspective that you need a taste outside of the ordinary to understand that there’s something to be achieved. [00:32:30] Most people can’t really get it when you say, “Yeah, you look at it that way but you’re going at it some other way.” They’re like, “How could I look at it any other way?”

“Take this and then we’ll talk,” because then all of a sudden, just a couple chemicals in your brain and, all of a sudden, you realize, “Wow, I can look at this from the five-million-mile perspective instead.” You can’t stay there, at least with drug that we have right now. It wouldn’t be a terrible use and, while Buddhism doesn’t say you should stay there, Buddhism says you have to integrate [00:33:00] transcendent awareness into the ordinary. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. I eventually gave up taking drugs and focused on meditation instead. I do think that psilocybin and other drugs, the research that’s going on now is incredibly exciting. The therapeutic and thiogenic research that could be done is wonderful. Now that the floodgates have broken back open. I expect that we’ll have better and better drugs.

I’m also very excited about transcreening all my [00:33:30] [inaudible [0:33:30] stimulation, transcreening electric stimulation, some of these modalities which may allow us to tweak but also, it’s pretty weak right now, the research on those things. It appears that you could zap with magnets the part of the brain that controls proprioception. Proprioception’s your sense of having certain limitations of your body and connecting all the sensory phenomenon that you feel from your body into a body image. If you zap that part of the brain, [00:34:00] people suddenly have this experience of oneness with everything because they lose their body. I’ve had that experience in mediation for two seconds, it was transformative, wonderful, took an entire month for me to have that experience in a meditation retreat. If we could begin to do that with some of these technologies, that would be great.

Euvie: It’s interesting, I actually wanted to bring you back when you were talking about the exoteric versus the esoteric aspects – spirituality and religion – [00:34:30] and how they’re completely different and they have completely different outcomes. For example, if you were just simply doing the things that you’re supposed to do as a Buddhist, it may not result in any kind of transcendence or benefit to your brain. If you practice the esoteric aspects of it, you can actually experience these states. I wonder how that can be integrated into transhumanism and the future. I mean, we’ve talked about the drugs that we could take, maybe an empathy pill or something. Can that actually be [00:35:00] a default mode for us in the future? It gets very fuzzy with the ethics of prescribing what a person should be like. Can you talk a bit about that?

James: Just let me say first about the religions part of it that, although there tends to be some tension between, as you said, the emphasis on the exoteric versus the esoteric. The tension between priests and saints or the tension between mystics and lay people or whatever. I don’t think that that is the best way to approach [00:35:30] spirituality. I think spirituality is an integrated individual and social phenomenon at the same time. In Buddhism, we talk about Buddha, Dharma, and Sanga, the Buddha being exemplar wisdom, Dharma being the teachings, and the Sanga being the community of practitioners. I think if you look at Buddhism as a practice, it’s very clear – and I’m not a particular good exemplar of this, because as I said I’m not a part of any particular community – but I do believe intellectually that [inaudible [0:35:58], [00:36:00] a local Zen master, used to say, “The best way to wash potatoes is to put them all in a big barrel with water and shake them up and down, because they wash each other.”

It’s not just a matter of just sitting down [inaudible [0:36:12] and cleansing your brain, in fact, there’s a psychological tradition now called situationism which basically says, “Individual character is meaningless. You put anybody in [inaudible [0:36:21], you but anybody in Syria, you put anybody in a bad situation, they’ll break in a second. You can meditate your entire life, I don’t care.” [00:36:30] Now, I don’t entirely believe that but I think there’s a lot of truth to it, that we have to create a compassionate society in order to reinforce and support compassionate behaviour. Otherwise, all the compassion meditation that you do will be pretty much for naught. I think you should also do the compassion meditation.

Those two things I think are synthetic. When it comes to techno progressivism, I think we have basically the same critique, which is that a lot of, as you say, a lot of transhumanism [00:37:00] tends to be individualistic, thinking that, “I’m going to just worry about getting myself smarter, getting myself to live longer.” Hey, let’s look at what are the actual predictors of longevity in society. It has a lot to do with wealth, it has a lot to do with where you live and what kinds of toxins you’re exposed to and whether the Syrian army’s dropping bombs on your house. There’s a lot of social factors involved.

It’s not just a matter of eating right and exercise. Do those things, by all means, but [00:37:30] if you really care about longevity for yourself and everybody else, we also need to change the society because the society is really bad for the longevity of a lot of individuals, it’s really bad for the intelligence of billions of children around the world because they’re malnourished and they have a lack of certain kinds of chemicals in their diet. I think that that is part of the techno progressive perspective, to critique the individualism and the people brining to these kinds of questions and to push this up to a social public policy model.

Mike: Actually, this is something we haven’t talked a whole lot about in our [00:38:00] show, but I’ve heard you talk a bit more back to the policy and politics is the idea of a basic income guarantee.

James: Just to connect it to Buddhism, the first Buddhist emperor basically was named Ashoka and he had conquered most of India by the time he converted to Buddhism. Once he converted, he declared that he was going to be what we call a Dharma Raja, he was going to be a righteous kind and not use violence anymore. He established these edicts [00:38:30] and wrote them on pillars and put them all over India. Some of the things that he did as a part of his reign was establish the first social welfare program, because he thought that the second reign should have some kind of social assistance.

He also set up the first roadside rest stops for travellers, great guy. Ashoka. There is a Buddhist tradition of social democracy that harks all the way back to the Ashokan regime. Now, when it comes to basic income, since I became a lefty as a teenager [00:39:00] I’ve been attracted more or less to the utopian left because of this intersection of Buddhism and it’s the 60s thing, as well, but also the futurism, the traditional left visions, “If we could just have universal health insurance, everything would be fine.” No. What about socialism on the moon, what about socialism on Mars? I’ve had these more utopian aspects of my vision. Part of that utopian tradition within the left is the idea that we would eventually be able to eliminate drudgery and toil [00:39:30] and have a society of general leisure.

Now, not all leftists think that that’s a good idea, because some leftists have embraced the pessimism that if people didn’t have to work for a living that they would all just take heroin and watch Oprah. Oprah’s not on TV anymore, is she? That’s a dated reference.

Mike: Weird combination, too. Is she promoting this?

James: Heroin and Oprah, yeah. Sorry Oprah, I didn’t mean to impugn your audience.

Mike: She’s a regular listener.

James: Right. [00:40:00] I think that that’s incredibly ahistorical and misanthropic basically. If we go back just 100 years, the majority of women weren’t in paid employment. That’s only after World War II that in the west the majority of women entered paid employment. If we go back further, the majority of human beings weren’t in paid employment. They were doing things on other grounds. Peasants only worked hard during the [00:40:30] summer and the rest of the time they were lying around eating potatoes. Aristocrats, to the extent that they’ve existed for 10,000 years, they’ve always found a reason to get out of bed in the morning and they didn’t have to work for a living.

The idea that human beings will basically lose all reason to exist if they don’t have wage slavery is just incredibly ahistorical. How do we get rid of wage slavery? We can all accept that a level of poverty that would be entailed by just giving up on the current capitalist economy – and there have been [00:41:00] utopian experiments to do that – that’s not really the ideal vision I think. Most of us like having computers and electro city and all these kinds of things. How do we get to a future in which we get all those kinds of things and we don’t have to work so hard? That’s basically the technological unemployment scenario.

Again, a lot of people either think of this as impossible because capitalism will always create jobs or we will never support people who won’t work, whatever reasons they give. I think there’s a growing [00:41:30] recognition that the technological revolution that we’re going to see in the next couple decades is going to happen so fast that even if there’s a future in which we can have an economy of poets and psychologists and artists, it’s not going to happen that fast. There’s going to be a lot of truck drivers and factory workers and folks thrown out of work before they can become poets and philosophers.

In that future, we have to figure out how do we get everybody fed, how do we have a more ideal society, how do we [00:42:00] not go back to a neo-feudal economy where there’s people who are selling their bodies on the street – that’s universal basic income guarantee. The universal basic income guarantee has been promoted by lots of people for lots of reasons, there are supporters on the right who support the idea because they see it as the best way to get rid of the welfare state. Why do you have to have food stamps and social workers or all these other crazy programs? Why don’t we just cut everybody a cheque and be done with it?

Okay, there’s an argument to that. In the United States, [00:42:30] probably the most likely path to a universal basic income guarantee is to increase the progressivity of the tax rate and to have a negative income tax, which is what folks on the right, in fact, Nixon almost signed into law the negative income tax in the 1970 or so. The democrats didn’t pass it because they didn’t think it was generous enough. In retrospect, it’s like, “What?” Basically, they would say that’s $20,000 a year of income. Every thousand dollars you make less than that you get another [00:43:00] thousand dollars from the state. Every thousand that you make more than that you pay a certain amount of tax so that there’s a floor for everybody.

That’s one version of universal basic income but the more politically supportable version – because when we look at how social programs get supported or defended around the world, if they’re just targeted at poor people then they tend to be more vulnerable. Medicaid in the United States just for poor people, not very politically supported. Medicare, which is for all senior citizens, more politically [00:43:30] supported. Social security, which is for all, more politically supported. If we can get the argument past where this is a basic benefit for everyone, and the best way to do that is for everybody to get a cheque in the mail. Everybody gets the cheque, then we just tax it away from you. If you’re over a certain amount of income, we tax some of that away.

If everyone gets the cheque, everyone’s going to want that cheque. There’s going to be a majority of the population says, “Everybody needs to get that cheque.” If we take all of the social welfare programs in the United States right now, [00:44:00] unemployment, insurance, social security and so forth, and distributed it equally to every American, then it would be a couple thousand dollars apiece. That’s a lot of liveable wage. That’s why the negative income tax is one idea, we could establish a negative income tac where we have progressivity tax rate that supports enough of the people so that we have a minimum floor. The question’s still the same, we’re going to have to have a more progressive taxation system.

We’re going to have to have Scandinavian [00:44:30] levels of taxation. I think that you see now with the support for Bernie Sanders in the States growing recognition that this rapid accumulation of wealth in the hands of the .1 percent is just politically and economically unsustainable. The world bank has said that the principle cause of global economic slowdown is the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the super rich and that we need to have redistribution in order to support economic growth. That’s another part of this argument, as well, [00:45:00] you want to keep a capital system going, people have to have money in their pocket. A way to get money in their pocket I to take it away from the super rich and give it to everybody.

Mike: Do you recommend any good reading material to study up on this?

James: There’s a ton on basic income. Carl [inaudible [0:45:14] just published a book. He has been the leader of the American basic income movement. He just published a book on the philosophy of universal basic income from a freedom perspective, what it means to be truly free. I have been emphasizing this [00:45:30] point increasingly because I think it’s, for a lot of transhumanists and people in the futurist community, it’s beginning to sound more and more reasonable that being free from wage slavery is a fundamental form of freedom. This is simply the [inaudible [0:45:45] economist has pointed out is that libertarians and socialists, we basically have the same values.

We don’t share the same values as right-wing Christians or the Taliban or other people, but libertarians and socialists we share the same basic values. [00:46:00] It’s just a question of how we get there. Do you think that the sate is necessary to get there or not? Libertarians and socialists, we both agree that we want a future in which people are free to make choices with their lives. Does that require that everybody have government guarantee of universal social security and universal healthcare and universal education? Or does it require that everyone not have any government and only have access to a market system? That’s the argument between socialist and libertarians.

The socialist argument is everybody needs to [00:46:30] have certain things as a prerequisite for being truly free in a modern society. Those things are also technologically enabled. That’s the techno progressive argument is that it’s not just a matter of having social freedom and social enablement, it’s also technological enablement. Internet access is a modern right. You can’t really imagine being truly free in the modern society if you don’t have internet access.

Euvie: This is a little bit similar to the vision of the Venus Project.

James: Okay, yes. [00:47:00] The Venus Project is an outgrowth politically from the technocratic movement of the 1930s. Technocracy is an attempt to say, “We could get rid of capitalism but we don’t have to have a planned economy.” “Okay, what do you propose?” “Well, we’ll just do it scientifically.” “Okay, how is that different from a planned economy?” “No, it’s not planning, no government will be involved, just scientific methods.” “Okay…” Technocracy is magical thinking in terms of political [00:47:30] economy. There’s no ground to what they’re arguing, they can’t explain how anything would actually be accomplished.

If you mean by the Venus Project, Jacque Fresco, whatever his name is, the current Venus Project visionary, that he has had a lot of interesting and transhumanist futurist ideas. Yeah, I like all those ideas. [inaudible 0:47:51], the 19th century utopian socialist said that we should have a third faucet in our house just for champagne. Great idea, I love that idea. [00:48:00] Okay, futurist visions are one thing, having an actual practical plan of how you get there is another. We have welcomed the technocrats and the Venus Project people and the zeitgeist movement they’re related from, we welcome them into the techno progressive setting because they see themselves I think rightly as a fringe element within our community. We have within our community we have Marxists, Leninists, anarchists, all kinds of people within the techno progressive circles. [00:48:30] My personal opinion is it’s not really politics.

Euvie: Why don’t we talk about then the plausible way to actually make it happen if you think that some of these movements lack that aspect?

James: As a sociologist and a socialist raised in the 20th century, the model for social democracy, democratic socialism, was basically northern Europe where you organize the working forces, the working class, [00:49:00] around trade unions and working people’s political party then you contest elections, the party supports the trade unions, the trade unions support the party and you have more and more progressive taxation and everybody gets richer and healthier and better educated and everyone loves the party and keeps it in power like in Sweden for 60 of the last 80 years or whatever. That’s the model. That broke down, it doesn’t work very well because one of the reasons is that [00:49:30] we live in a global economy.

When [inaudible [0:49:34] came into power in [inaudible [0:39:36] in France, immediately there was a run on the banks, all the capital started to flee. When Michael Manly came into power around the same time in Jamaica. After the 70s basically, that model began to erode. The internationalization of the economy made it very difficult. The other thing that began to happen was that the trade unions began to erode because of the changes in the economy. [00:50:00] A lot of the sectors that were most [inaudible [0:50:04]. Sweden still has an 80 percent trade unionization rate but everybody’s in a union there – doctors, lawyers are in unions there, stoke brokers are in unions there. Outside of that context, it’s very difficult to organize people when they’re not on a factory floor or in certain occupations and those occupations have been disappearing.

It’s a lot more difficult to organize call centres or fast food employees, people like that. [00:50:30] That interests me, the social democratic model much more complicated. We’re facing a demographic challenge that the baby boomers are going to be retiring and the fertility rates, especially in Europe, have been falling. The social welfare model is going to face a demographic crisis, what we call the old age dependency ratio is going to tilt towards older people and a lot of younger people are going to resent the hell out of there. We’re going to have to have to have a big negotiation about what kind of society [00:51:00] we want to have. Should you kill grandma because you don’t want to pay taxes for her anymore or should we have a different kind of society?

That’s where the basic income comes back in. Things are going to be a lot easier to support a universal basic income, everybody gets that shot. Then to say, “You have to pay taxes as a young worker to support these two geezers who don’t want to work anymore with their pensions.” It’s a very different calculation. There’s a lot of reasons why the social democratic model fell apart. In terms of internationalization, I think what we’re waiting for – [00:51:30] and also the changes of the workforce – what we’re waiting for is technology to reveal how we as citizens can unite around new forms of political engagement would have the same kind of power, countervailing power against corporations and the rich that trade unions and the political parties have in the past.

We don’t see that yet. The Twitter storms, Facebook groups, they’re not doing it. Yes, you can organize a demonstration or two, [00:52:00] but we don’t see anything like trade unions or churches for that matter. The average church of 100 people can organize more volunteer activity, more people to go door to door for an election, raise more money for a political candidate than the average Facebook group of 10,000 or 100,000. We need to figure out how we reconstitute the kinds of political power and engagement and civic leadership that we had in the 20th century face to face [00:52:30] in the new electronic context, we don’t see that.

Euvie: Do you have any clues about what it could be?

James: My hope is that it’s a matter of bandwidth, that people once we figure out like VR maybe, once we can see each other, smell each other, shake each other’s hands in a virtual context. When the telegraph was first set up, people wrote rhapsodically 150 years ago. Now that the whole world was connected by the telegraph, national borders would fall, Bulgarians would start to embrace Americans [00:53:00] would start to embrace the Chinese because we would all see that we could communicate in a matter of seconds across the world. Didn’t really happen. I think that one of the reasons for optimism is that the telegraph was an incredibly thin way to try to bind people together.

Once we have stronger and stronger – like this, I’m looking at you, I’m actually looking at myself most of the time which is a bad start… I’m trying to look at you and you’re looking at me and we’re seeing each other talk [00:53:30] and this is a much richer form of communication than if we’d done this as an email exchange. The amount of misunderstanding that can enter in when it’s a thinner form of communication. In the future, hopefully we can do this as an oculus rift interview where we’re sitting side by side.

Mike: How cool would that be?

James: Yeah. I think that’s the kind of future where people will actually be getting to feel that kind of international solidarity.

Euvie: Interesting.

Mike: One last question for you. What is your goal for the future with the IEET and [00:54:00] how can average people help you guys? What do you need help with?

James: What would be your first guess?

Mike: Funding.

Euvie: Funding.

James: We have not found a funding model yet, it’s still a labour of love. Hank, God bless him, in San Francisco is our current managing director and works for [inaudible [0:54:18]. We have other volunteers who have been stuff with us for a long time. I don’t take salary. Hopefully, we will find that sugar daddy. We found a couple sugar daddies [00:54:30] and mamas overtime, but they come and go. Hopefully, we build up our donator base. I think we face the same problem with the transhumanist movement; we don’t have a concrete project that really engages people.

The most successful organizations, [inaudible [0:54:47] is promising to think about AIs that are going jump out of a bottle and that seems to motivate some people to give and Sense wants to keep you alive forever. I understand why people give to those two projects. IEET wants to [00:55:00] fight bad memes and popular culture and wants to apply for the Longevity Dividend and it wants to mitigate global catastrophic risks, we’re just all over the place. We act as if we’re a thinktank of 50 fellows and 100 million dollars a year of funding when we’re not.

We’ve had this debate for a whole – should we just give up everything but this one thing and focus on that? Then we might be able to get some funding. Or, should we stay broad and just hope for the best? That’s what we’ve been doing so far. [00:55:30] In terms of where we’re headed, the thing that I think is got most people most engaged over the last year or two has been technological unemployment. It’s pretty hard right now to make the argument in the United States, because the economic situation has been picking up and the employment situations were picking up. But the recognition that this is a potential problem has been growing. We see increasing numbers of economists and public policy people taking it seriously.

The Cyborg Buddha stuff, the moral enhancement stuff, it’s never been [00:56:00] terribly popular in IEET circles but George Dvorsky is a Buddhist who’s our chairman of the board and Michael [inaudible [0:56:08], who’s on the board of directors, is a Zen priest. The three of us, we continue to hold out hope that everyone else will see the wisdom of having moral enhancement and spiritual topics as a part of our thing. We’ve been playing footsy with a number of spiritualists within the transhumanist camp. There’s the Mormon Transhumanist Association, which is one of the biggest. They’re not terribly mystic [00:56:30] but they are the biggest organization of religious transhumanists in the world and the most interestingly engaged in rationally dissecting the relationship between religious [inaudible [0:56:40] and transhumanist thought.

We’ve also been very engaged with the Longevity Dividend project, which is picking up a lot of steam now with all the different kinds of research. You may have [inaudible [0:56:54] at Johns Hopkins just met with the FDA last summer and got them to agree [00:57:00] to approve the first FDA trial of an anti-aging therapy that’s ever been approved. We’ve been working with him and a transhumanist kid he hired as a lobbyist. There’s a number of things cooking in that domain to try to move forward a public policy agenda around what we call the Longevity Dividend, which is basically to convince people in public policy that if we can keep seniors healthy longer that we will be able to keep the welfare state alive, we won’t have to cut Medicare [00:57:30] and social security and throw grandmother under the bus. I think that that’s a very important campaign.

Those are the kinds of things that we’re working on and I think they’re going to be relevant for the time being but the future keeps surprising us. Take geo engineering about eight years ago, we thought, “We’re going to be able to work this one, because no one’s touching geo engineering.” It was the next year that there was a white house summit on geo engineering. It’s hard to stay ahead of the future.

Mike: Yeah, true. Alright, I think that’s probably it, thanks for joining us.

James: My pleasure.

Mike: Great to [00:58:00] have you.

We are entering an era where increasingly, a single individual can have a major impact on the world. New technologies are constantly being developed. More and more, they are available to everyday people at a lower cost.

On one hand, this is amazing. The Average Joe can go and build a robot in the basement with his kids. On the other hand, it’s dangerous. The Average Joe in his basement can engineer an experimental nanovirus that accidentally gets released into the world. Oops. That was a major lack of foresight.

The human brain has not changed in over 10,000 years. We are 7 billion cavemen living in a technological society. And this is something that the transhumanist movement is concerned with.

Transhumanist Movement: Becoming More Than Human

How can we enhance a human being’s intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities using cutting edge technology? How can we upgrade ourselves for the 21st century and beyond? These are questions that transhumanism aims to answer.

Many present day transhumanists are largely concerned with personal enhancement. Improving cognition, bodyhacking for optimal health and performance, and on the far side – immortality.

Back in his basement, Average Joe may be now a highly enhanced cyborg. But will that prevent him from releasing his nanovirus and destroying the world? Maybe not. After all, being a technologically upgraded superhuman doesn’t necessarily make one more empathetic.

Increasing human empathy is something that certain groups of people have been at for a very, very long time. Namely, Buddhists. Loving-kindness meditation is one way to voluntarily increase empathy, for example. Many spiritual traditions around the world have worked out methods for improving humans and increasing our morality and virtues, particularly interpersonal ones. And this is something the transhumanist movement can borrow from.

Cyborg Buddha: The Future of Moral Enhancement

That is exactly what James Hughes is attempting to do in his upcoming new book, Cyborg Buddha. James Hughes is a bioethicist, transhumanist, and techno-progressive. He is the executive director at the Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies and a professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

In the Cyborg Buddha book, he borrows from his personal experience of studying Buddhism for several decades, briefly being a buddhist monk, and later living as a secular buddhist in USA. James attempts to distil key human virtues, and argues for the possibility of human moral enhancement in the future.

But the need to upgrade ourselves isn’t the only hurdle we will be facing this century. Technological progress in robotics and automation are not so subtly taking over thousands of jobs every year. Technological unemployment is becoming a reality for millions of people worldwide.

Technological Unemployment: Will Robots Take Your Job?

This is nothing new. Machines have been displacing human labour since the time of Aristotle. The only difference is that today, it is happening faster than ever before. Although new jobs are being created in new industry sectors, they are often not enough to replace lost jobs. And in many cases, the industries are changing is so fast that people simply cannot adapt and gain new skills quickly enough to keep up.

This is an area of much debate. Some people believe that the technological unemployment we see today is just temporary. That once robots take all the labour and repetitive jobs, humans could develop a new economy of creative and intrinsically human jobs that cannot be automated. This is an optimistic view.

We can already see that even “creative” jobs like design and newspaper reporting can be performed by software. It’s already happening. Jobs that we think of as distinctly human, like babysitting or caring for the elderly, may also be done by machines in the near future. In Japan, tech companies are currently developing these robots to care for their ageing population. And even highly skilled jobs like lawyers and doctors could eventually be replaced by artificial intelligence. Research has shown, for example, that sophisticated software is better at diagnosing an illness than most human doctors. And this is today.

The reality is, we will likely see mass technological unemployment within our lifetime. This is not a pretty picture, but it is something we have to think about and prepare for, even if it doesn’t end up happening.

Universal Basic Income

So what is the solution? James Hughes talks about introducing universal basic income. This is the idea that every citizen is paid a certain amount of money by the state every month, regardless of their employment status. This is not the same as a welfare system, because universal basic income is meant to be for everyone – not just the poor or the temporarily unemployed. One way of moving into a basic income system would be to introduce a negative income tax for incomes under a certain threshold, while everyone else still pays tax. This system would also eliminate the need for welfare, pensions, food vouchers, or other social benefits.

The idea of universal basic income is not new. It was proposed by Thomas Paine in 1795, and has been considered several times since. Pilot programs have been run in United States and Canada to test the idea in the 1960s and 1970s. Canadian officials have recently announced another pilot program to run in the next few years.

As for results, we will have to wait and see. Speculation is one thing, but getting data from real studies is crucial. We may have to consider basic income as an option sooner or later, so testing it now is an important first step.

In This Episode, We Talk to James Hughes About:

  • The intersection of Buddhism and transhumanism
  • Hedonic happiness vs. self-realization happiness
  • Improving human virtues through technology
  • Can enlightenment be achieved through technology in the future?
  • Why we need to bring transhumanism into the mainstream
  • The interpersonal aspects of transhumanism
  • Singularitarianism vs. Transhumanism
  • The techno-progressive approach: the future of democracy
  • Universal basic income and technological unemployment
  • Why the Venus project is not a plausible future

Mentions and Resources:

Mentioned & Recommended Books:

Quotes From This Episode:

“The Transhumanist approach is how do we make human beings smarter and more capable, so that we are the drivers of technological innovation instead of being victims of it in some apocalyptic scenario” – James Hughes

The transhumanism approach

“The idea that human beings will lose all reason to exist if they don’t have wage slavery is incredibly ahistorical” – James Hughes

"The idea that human beings will lose all reason to exist if they don't have wage slavery is incredibly ahistorical" - James Hughes on basic income in Future Thinkers Podcast interview

More From Future Thinkers:

 

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