Letter from Founder

Message from Our Founder – Dr. Kourosh Afrashteh :

 

I founded Project Prometheus for the simple and yet profound reason that like many of you, I look at the world and am deeply troubled and frustrated at what I see – wars, famines, humans killing humans , sexual and other violence, child abuse , sex slavery, the ravages of addictions on families (alcohol, drugs etc.), gross wealth inequalities, and religious extremism.

I have 2 young children.  This is not the world I want them growing up in.  We have been brainwashed that the few cannot change anything and the world is the way it is and we should just learn to accept suffering.  Well I cannot accept it.  Neither should you.  It does not have to be this way.

It frustrates me that though we have had religions (of all sorts) for well over 10,000 years and various political systems of various stripes we yet cling to the hope that somehow yet another religion or political system will be our savior. No amount of scaremongering of hellfire or bribery of a heavenly afterlife has managed to reform us.  No amount of mass killings or cultural revolutions or on the other extreme – free societies like ones we live in the West – have been able to change us.  Some have been better than others but by and large they have all failed.  All we need to do is to look around us.

It is time to cut the Gordian knot and admit that the reason humanity has failed to achieve its dream of unity and peace is that at the core of all religions and political systems lies us .  Yes  – us . Humans.   We are the building blocks of all religions and social systems. We are our own worst enemy.  We are the problem.

Through millions of years of evolution modern man finally made its appearance 100,000-200,000 years ago.  Our physical bodies, temperament and genetic makeup have undergone little if any change since at least 50,000 years ago.  We were ideally adapted to survive – yes merely survive – and to pass on our genes through our offspring.   And by and large evolution through natural selection did its job well.  We survived.

But who exactly survived and passed on their genes ? What was the world of 50,000 years ago like ?  By and large those who were most aggressive, selfish and egocentric survived at the expense of the selfless and altruistic.  This was necessary.  You needed to be aggressive and selfish to survive in a world where you could be eaten any day by a saber-toothed tiger or killed in a sudden attack by the humans in the encampment just down the river from you.

However those same traits that served us so well arguably in a world of constant survival threats are the cause of our problems in our modern world.

Humanity yearns  for peace and unity and cooperation now.  We don’t need more individualistic , egocentric philosophies to tear us apart.  We have progressed from small family units to civilizations of tiny villages, then city-states and nations and empires.   A planetary unitary civilization is the natural progression of this evolutionary path.

It is clear then that our genetic makeup and temperaments are ill suited now to take us to the next stage in our evolutionary path.  We have reached a dead-end with what we have and who we are at the present.

There are many wonderful ideas out there on how to create and run an ideal society.   There is no shortage of great ideas for our cultural “software”.   But dear friends – the problem is the “hardware” – our physical bodies – which is incapable of running that cultural “software”.    We are outdated. We need an upgrade.

Project Prometheus was thus founded with the  simple proposition that it is time we upgrade our bodies – our “hardware” and then run the appropriate cultural “software” suited for such an enhanced and evolved humanity.

Like 2 wings on a bird – both are needed.  One without the other is doomed to fail and the bird will not be able to fly.

The difference now is that our exponentially growing scientific knowledge has for the first time in our history allowed us mortal humans with access to the powers reserved for the “gods”.  We can literally engineer our own selves out of our mess.   This is not science fiction.  This is not hubris and bravado.  This will soon be reality.  The time to have an influence on developing events is NOW.

We live in exciting times indeed.

Project Prometheus thus proposes the following :

1) As a first step decide what kind of a society we would want ideally and what traits and qualities we would – as individual components of that society – aspire towards…while at the same time allowing for individual variability.

2) Work on technologies that allow us to hack our minds  and not just increase our individual intelligences but also eliminate our weak character flaws (from depression, addictions, lack of motivation all the way to increased happiness and altruism) so we work at our own determined peak efficiencies.  In other words maximum self-actualization.

3) Work on genetic engineering research programs to allow us to consciously bring about the new evolutionary leap in humanity and to design – yes design – our future generations to be enhanced and evolved versions of us.

4) With the upgraded “hardware” of our enhanced selves the path will be open to implement new ethical values, cultural and social systems, educational methodologies – the supercharged “software” to match the appropriate supercharged “hardware”.

5) Create a unified Global Civilization based on scientific rationality and infuse it with spirituality and value systems to match the needs for the age.  Imagine a Star Trek-like world.  A world unified. A world at peace.  A world where enhanced humans see no more color, race, creed, where you were born or what socioeconomic background you come form.  A world without borders or nations.  A world where simply being a human makes you its citizen.

Imagine future humans that will never know addictions, aggression, violence, sociopathy, psychopathy , narcissism or other mental health diseases.  Imagine humans who will be selfless, cooperative and will never know war.  Humans who will have indefinite lifespans and will never know hunger, disease or suffering. The limits of what we can create are only ones of our imagination and any limitations we place on ourselves out of unfounded fears of playing “God”.  Religions have had their chance for 10,000 years.  They have failed and failed spectacularly.  Time to move on from these tired old arguments.

The name Transhumanist was chosen to describe us because the technologies Transhumanists promote are similar.  It is out of lack of another more appropriate descriptor that we settled on “Transhumanist”.  I  am not thrilled with the name as there are many values attached to it currently which I reject (more on that below).  At the same time at this stage of our path it is not wise to get bogged down in the finery of name picking but to focus on objectives instead.

Transhumanists are well intentioned however there is a feeling among many non-Transhumanists that the first priority of Transhumanists is one of self-immortalization and glorification through the means of technology.  Quite rightly many of our critics have accused us of being full of hubris and selfish maybe even.  There is little talk in Transhumanist circles of the need to address global human suffering.  By and large there is a large egocentric, libertarian (“me first”) streak in current Transhumanism.  They seem to be 2 sides of the same coin in many minds.

This is why I felt the need to create a separate group and not to be active through  the many existing Transhumanist groups out there – of which there are many.

Nothing wrong with trying to better yourself and to try to live forever.  However we live in a world that is increasingly interconnected.  It is precisely this attitude of putting the ego on a pedestal that has been the bane of humanity throughout our history.  We don’t need more of it. I ask my fellow Transhumanists – is this seriously the path you want to take – even though it has failed for all our history ?

What we do need is more connection .  We need more talk of putting the species on a pedestal not the ego.

Transhumanists are now trying to sell the world on “ego on steroids” and with incredibly powerful technology at their hands also – and living for ever possibly.  What happens when you multiply zero by any number – you still get zero.  What do you think is going to happen when you place powerful technology in people who don’t have the maturity, necessary intelligence or temperament to understand and control it ?

This is a recipe not for evolutionary growth but for certain human extinction.

There is much talk of the coming Singularity (the point when Artificial General Intelligence will be created that rivals and exceeds human intelligence).  Elon Musk is right that this singular event will likely be the extinction event for humanity if we don’t take appropriate safeguards.  I propose that we – in our current states – will never be capable of controlling or understanding such an AI and are doomed to be destroyed by it.

We must first create a higher evolved and enhanced version of ourselves and then start playing with such advanced Transhumanist toys.

Then there is the issue of longevity.  Nothing wrong with wanting to live longer.   But what good will that do to the world when we have a larger population of people living longer but the quality of life and the world problems and interpersonal relationships are still the same diseased ones as before ?

There is also a lot of talk of Mars colonization.  In the extreme environment of Mars any human colony composed of our current existing bodies will be doomed to result in social chaos .  It cannot withstand the stresses .  We are not built for it.

Also do we really want to start spreading the seeds of our flawed selves around the cosmos ?  Does it not make more sense to first prioritize perfecting ourselves and then talk of going to Mars and further  ?

There are many Transhumanists who also are trying to setup political parties or run for elections maybe in hopes of raising awareness of issues dear to us.  While we will support them these strategies will not get us to where we want to go anytime soon in our generation.  In that sense I am a pessimist of the democratic process.  We can’t afford to wait 100 years for the general public to catch up.  We must achieve our objectives in the next 30 years – prior to the creation of AI and the coming of the Singularity.  We are literally racing against the clock.

It is this extreme danger in the direction that Transhumanism is heading in that has been the urgent drive for me to create Project Prometheus.

We are not here to salivate at talk of the discovery or future potential discoveries  of fantastic technological “toys” or gadgets.  I want to remind everyone yet again that at its core the mission of Project Prometheus is to relieve human suffering.  We must have the image of the starving and emaciated child in a far off third world front and centre in everything we do. We are doing this for her.  We are doing this for every child who has been abused by an alcoholic father or mother.  We are doing this for every young child that grew up without a father because he went to jail for murder.

While these dreams seem like pipe dreams to many reading this I urge you to put cynicism aside.

Come join hands with us.

Small numbers of people unified in purpose and with powerful drive and will to match can and will change the world.  How many historical movements in history started with mass appeal ?   It has always been a small group that started the ball rolling.

While we will respect all views of members it is important to remind everyone (current members and those considering joining us) that we are not here doing this as a favor to you or me.    We are not here to appease every whim and fancy.  A membership is best small and united rather than large and bickering over objectives. A focused polarized laser can cut through metal while diffuse light can’t. We are not here to win any popularity contests or to cater to the lowest common denominator just to win praise or support. Achieving our objectives is all that matters to us.  We are servants of humanity.

Technology is a tool.  Let us not lose sight of this.  It serves us and not us it.

What we are looking for are the Benjamin Franklins and Thomas Jeffersons among you.

Come and help us chart a new world together.  Be the founding fathers and mothers of a brave new world .   Don’t pay attention to naysayers.

You owe it to yourselves.  You owe it to our children.  Leave them a world better than what you found.

I look forward to seeing you in our events and hearing all your views.  I don’t have all the answers either.  We will find our way forward together.  It is in our collective minds and wisdom wherein lies our strength.

Cheers !

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Kourosh Afrashteh

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share