For this month's interview we speak with Dr. Alexander Karran. Having campaigned independently for election in 2015 for the constituency of Liverpool Walton, Dr. Karran now takes a seat on the NEC as director of nominations and liaisons department.
Dr. Karran has agreed to welcome follow up questions from readers in reply to this interview. Readers are asked to submit follow up questions to: News@TranshumanistParty.Org.UK no later than March 13th 2016, for answers which will be published on this page as an update on April 1st 2016.
Dr. Karran, thank you for your time with this interview.
1 - Who is Alexander Karran?
Hmm tough question, possibly somewhat existential in nature involving some form of pseudo spiritual explanation..… But joking aside, I was born in Liverpool in 1973, and have lived in Merseyside for a large part of my 43 years. I have the so called scouse accent, which I have decided to own rather than moderate. . I suppose I could be called a “family man” I have three children and two grandchildren, all of whom are awesome and are / have developed into independent entities, capable and strong. From an early age my thinking was shaped by such worthies as E.E. “doc” Smith (classic lensman series), Arthur C Clarke, Brian lumley, H.P Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, and Chomsky (amongst others). I was always fascinated with human psychology and technology, the interaction and symbiotic relationship between humans and their tools, followed by entirely unscientific notions of immortality and “dark eldritch powers”. Imagine my despondency upon growing up and discovering that the “powers mental” were but a figment of the imagination, thus requiring a switch in thinking towards the practical and technological. In terms of education, I was extensively schooled as a child, and this initial education helped me build upon what blind nature provided me, which in turn allowed me to overcome a brief period of wanderlust and lack of focus during my teenage years. Sadly I came quite late to higher education, beginning my formal studies in my late 20’s with an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in computer science at Liverpool John Moores University, upon completion I undertook a post at the same university as a part time lecturer and completed a Master of Science degree in Computer Network Security. After a few years I became somewhat bored of life and work and applied for and was awarded a scholarship PhD in Psychology, in the multidisciplinary field of physiological computing involving Human-Computer and Computer-Human Interaction using psychophysiological methods to create “biocybernetic loops”. After all this education and a few publications like to think of myself as a half decent scientist, with enough knowledge to know I hardly know anything and an expert in nothing, give me another 500 years of life and maybe I could claim to know a thing or two
2 – How did you develop an interest in politics?
Honestly? Before helping form the Transhumanist Party, I had little to no interest in politics, I was one of the despondent and disaffected masses, never voted , never saw the point in it, things in the UK never changed regardless of who was in power. It is still that way now, even with Corbyn in the Labour leadership spot, Labour seems to have no teeth and the love of money reigns supreme in every corner of the land. My interest in politics now, stems from the ever present and easily observed acceleration in technological progress and the fact that the current political parties (and indeed the public in general) appear to be unaware of the potential radical changes ahead.
3 - What encouraged you to focus that interest towards the creation and development of the Transhumanist Party, as a founding member?
It was late December 2014 and I am sitting on Facebook, as usual there was the “wash” of techno-optimistic posts and I was becoming disaffected with it all, preparing to delete my account, when I read an interesting post by Zoltan Istvan talking about the creation of a political party, in the comments section I think it was David Wood who suggested that the UK might think about something similar, there were a few responses from people I recognised from the Extrobrittania mailing list (old discussion list for Transhumanist / Futurist issues) such as Dirk Brurer and Amon Twyman and a few others each expressing interest in the idea. David Wood (always quick to organise things) promptly set up a quick google hangout and we all joined and started to discuss the impact Zoltan was having with the mass media and how if we weren’t careful the entirety of Transhumanism could be seen through his particular lens. Now this is not to say we didn’t have every respect for Zoltan’s efforts (we were positively bubbling with enthusiasm over his progress and incredibly respectful of the fact that he had stepped out into the limelight), just that we had other ideas and formulated plans for an organisation with more far reaching and impactful goals.
4 – Were there any specific issues which you felt needed addressing, which encouraged your decision?
Just that currently there is no-one government or agency that possesses the foresight to deal with accelerating technological change effectively. Not without halting progress, or stifling innovation, both of which I see as being important to the development of the Human species moving forward. In this I am thinking 400-600 years in the future, if progress is held back now at this point in time, the survival of the species within the next century could be in question, what with climate change, random wars, secular civilisations (each with their own agendas) etc.
5 - In the first few months of the party’s development, what were your thoughts on how the party would progress over the following months and years?
Well on matter of the Party’s development, the initial founders all recognised that given the current state of UK politics and the lack of general knowledge about the ongoing and accelerating technological and social changes that Party formation would be a slow and painstaking process. We initially proposed a 5 year formation period were we gathered “popular” support from fellow Transhumanists, aiming to grow our membership, setup local groups and generally got our message “out there”. The is to run a major campaign to garner funding and expose our policies on a key issue, then use the campaign as momentum to stand a number of candidates in the next general election in 2020. However, we have stalled a little bit on this initially planning, mostly due to the “Facebook effect” in which people think they are interacting and helping the Party by clicking “like” on posts, when in fact they are actually hindering our progress, by not joining the Party as a supporter or paid voting member, according to the facebook group there are 674 members of which you can realistically assume 300 are actually engaged, and of these less than 25% are actually paid voting members with a stake in the party and its policies. This effect has had other consequences within the Party leadership as initially we were expecting a large influx of enthusiastic vocal Transhumanist or futurist members who would help us create infrastructure and policy, sadly that failed to materialise causing some not insignificant despondency and a stall in our efforts.
The Party exists with no form of income (other than membership dues, which the NEC pays as well) and uses considerable voluntary effort to achieve its goals. This is the primary reason why outwardly progress may appear slow, members of the NEC like everybody else need to eat, pay bills and work leaving Party efforts for free time. So from this point up until the 2020 elections we will continue to work towards implementing our first campaign and fielding candidates at the elections. If things accelerate then we will adapt strategy to focus on other areas. As for further ahead, we have plans but they are not formal, 2020 will be a milestone and watershed year for the Transhumanist Party and I hope the membership will have grown exponentially and that those members will wish to stand locally in the elections.
6 - Were your original assumptions correct? If no, how has development differed?
No, no they were not, as explained above I (and the rest of the NEC) expected more from the Transhumanist community and interested parties as explained previously, progress in terms of membership numbers has been significantly under what I expected. Though given the progress of mainstream politics in recent decades, this should not have come as such as surprise. Such is the way of project development I suppose.
7 - Whilst considering your involvement within the Transhumanist Party did you contemplate the possibility of standing for election yourself as you did in 2015? What were your thoughts?
This is hard question to answer; I can only say if the Party needs me to stand, then stand I will. The needs of the Party outweigh any misgivings or even objections I may have about standing in the next general election, after all is this not the very essence of leadership in this instance ?
8 - How was the decision made for you to stand for election?
The decision was made during a panel discussion of the NEC concerning the election and that we needed a front runner, I was nominated and agreed to stand (regardless of misgivings) and things proceeded from there.
9 - Did you learn anything about yourself or notice any effects on your personal life during the campaigning process? If so, what?
I learned a lot about myself, the main thing I would say though is this, ones views / opinions about the world are easily challenged when you meet those that have little or no knowledge about them. Transhumanists tend to speak inside echo chambers (it’s only natural), when you move outside of this chamber however, your voice is lost in the multitudes. As for my personal life, I had already accepted intrusion and disruption as my due the second I agreed to stand as a candidate, so when it arrived it was no surprise. I did feel under constant pressure to perform well on behalf of the Party and to always be “customer facing”, which runs contrary to my personality, but like I say this was my due given the circumstance.
10 – Have there been any instances which have caused you to reconsider your involvement in the Transhumanist Party? If so what encouraged you to continue?
Yes, standing as a candidate for parliamentary election… as I have stated before Transhumanist speak in an echo chamber, when I then moved outside of this chamber it was hard to adjust to the complete and utter lack of knowledge about anything pertaining to Transhumanist thought, technological progress or societal change. The majority simply do not care, issues are local to family, constituency, city, borough then country in that order and easily manipulated towards fear of X or Y. A message of a positive future enabled by technological progress shepherded by the Transhumanist Party was of little consequence and low impact. It was at this point I was at an all-time low and wished to bow out of the Party. However, Amon (our Party leader) through considered statements and enthusiastic drive convinced me that the project still had merit and that (as we had agreed at formation) we were in it for the long haul. This allowed me to get over my hump and move forward, I believe I may also have had a similar effect on others in this way, as when one flags another picks up the yoke for a brief period allowing for recovery.
11 – Where do you see yourself in relation to the party in five years, and where would you like to be?
Having taken my first longevity treatment, I see a younger version of myself more active and militant, bullish in my opinions and aspect, forging alliances with industry and regulators a true testament to the power of Transhumanist thought and technology…. And part of the NEC (providing members vote me in) helping coordinate our campaign in the elections
12 – What are your thoughts on assisted suicide?
I have none really, each person has their own breaking point, generally I do not support suicide, but then I am not in a position to actively need such interventions. If an individual can prove compos mentis at the time the service is called for, then that should be their individual right. I say this with the caveat that I haven’t really explored the ethical considerations surrounding the issue, so this is a “gut” response.
13 – What are your opinions on Britain’s membership of the EU?
I would vote to stay. However, if our membership thinks differently, then so shall I support the democratically appointed position of the Party.
14 – If the decision was yours alone, what would be the next issue to be addressed by the Transhumanist Party, and why do you think this issue takes priority over other events?
I would regenerative science and longevity, to introduce the concept of the longevity dividend into the public consciousness before the religious type ride rough shod over the technology and force off shoring for services.
If you would like to submit any follow up questions for Dr. Karran please send them to: News@TranshumanistParty.Org.UK