The Transhumanist Candidate

The following is a post written by Dr Alexander Karran, who is standing as an independent electoral candidate in the UK constituency of Liverpool Walton. For more information about Dr Karran’s campaign, which is being supported by the emerging Transhumanist Party, please see this earlier post and watch this blog for developments.

The Transhumanist Candidate

Voters are more open to transhumanism than you might think

My name is Alexander Karran and I am an independent Transhumanist candidate for the constituency of Liverpool-Walton (UK) fully supported by the Transhumanist Party UK (full disclosure, yes they paid my registration fee and campaign leaflet printing). Issues beyond Party control necessitated that the Party must run an independent Transhumanist candidate if we wanted to make any impact in the current election. After some internal debate, I was voted in as the best candidate out of the choices available, which after much searching of that which may be termed the “soul” I accepted.

I could use many expletives here to convey the sense of absolute terror associated with a task of this magnitude (personally), but suffice to say the charge of becoming an independent candidate standing for Transhumanist goals and philosophy has been one of struggle and education. I would like to share some of things I have learned about the practicalities and the insights I gained from talking to the people within the constituency.

Practical lessons  

Documentation

  • Do official paper work early, and if you think it’s too early it is really not
  • Check paper work not once, not twice, but thrice (and then check it again before you hand it in)
  • When reading the UK electoral committee documents be sure to face magnetic north and if you believe in gods have at least one pantheon in your corner. Ok, I jest but the electoral documents created to aid a candidate in standing for an election require a certain amount of patience and must be read stepwise, any speed reading or skimming will result in a mistake that can set back a campaign significantly
  • Leaflets are probably best as A4, 1 fold to allow for more “glitz and glamour” i.e. “in the community” photo ops, standing by road sides with the name of the constituency etc. (this seems a really popular approach even though it is a really cheap shot).
  • Have a PR and Campaigns manager, it is very hard to keep track of what is going on externally to a particular campaign and opportunities for engagement can be missed

Leaflet / Poster

  • One cannot simply put up a political poster anywhere, if it is in a city centre then you need council permission, locally shop windows etc. are acceptable
  • Leaflets simple design, simple message, as few words as possible to get the point across, depending on your tastes, inflammatory defamations aimed at other political parties seem the norm, but is rather déclassé in my opinion so I avoided it
  • To use the “free” Royal Mail election distribution service, if you are an independent (even if supported by a party, like in my case) you must avoid any advertising, that includes any mention of websites .com,.org etc. You can have open endorsements but they must be specific to the individual, if you stand for a party then you must have party branding and you can include the party website
  • Check the Royal Mail candidate documentation, not once, not twice but …… (I hope you see the recurring pattern here)
  • Line up a printing service before sending any leaflet to the Royal Mail artwork verification service, you need to ask the printing service if they will allow you to place their full address on the front of your leaflet, furthermore you should ask the print service if they can label the boxes appropriately (said label is in the Royal Mail document) and package it to the Royal Mail stringent packaging requirements (it will be refused and then binned if it doesn’t), not a problem if you are doing it at home, but again time will be a factor.
  • Have your leaflet ready at least 5 weeks in advance of the closing for candidate nominations, do this to stop the absolute and terrible panic that accrues from running out of time, the Royal Mail Artwork checking service (where you send your leaflet for vetting) takes 48 hours to process an email, and if they request changes this then takes a further 48 hours and if further changes are required …… after this is complete you get a verification code, and you can send your leaflet to a printing house
  • Learn how to read a catch 22 situation and deal with it effectively, the Royal Mail prefers to give out delivery time slots for the collection of leaflets at the distribution office (DO) (the label mentioned above must include the DO on every box or it will be refused), they also prefer the leaflets to be delivered by a service and not an individual, which is strange because they also require form EL1 to be associated with the delivery notice which you can’t fill out until the royal mail gives you a delivery slot, which you can’t know until you know when it is going to be delivered…..  So your choices: pay through the nose for a guaranteed delivery service that gives exact time slots and send your EL1 to them via special delivery or just get it sent straight to your home / business (see above “get a campaign manager”) and go against preference and take it personally where you can guarantee a time slot.

A final note on leaflets: do not under any circumstances deviate from the vetted design in any way, even the smallest change will result in it being returned or binned, they have the vetting code and a copy of your artwork and will further vet it to check its authenticity.

Media

If you get an opportunity to talk about what you are doing and the party message, take it, no questions asked. Try to have a conceptual framework that you will work within when you talk and try not to deviate from it, journalists will always ask leading questions in order to get that juicy sensationalist sound bite, and this could then play against you at some future time. With that said however, go full bore, give concise answers yes but if you have leeway enjoy the moment and talk around the subject. I’m told any publicity is good publicity by trusted sources, I remain sceptical on the issue.

Personal Lessons on a Journey Not Yet Over

So not only did I have to canvass for signatures to support my nomination as an independent Transhumanist candidate from my local constituency but I also needed to speak to the people on general principles (this after all is supposed to be the basis of politics). I was very nervous about this part, not that I have a problem opening lines of communication with people just that, after talks with other Transhumanists and the general feel from the Facebook population there is a belief that “the general population” just doesn’t get Transhumanism and as far as saying the words goes, in this they are right but they are also dead wrong. I will explain my reasons for such a statement, the internet Transhumanist community likes to pontificate upon how “out there” Transhumanism is, when in fact only the more esoteric arms can be seen in those terms (i.e. cryopreservationists, singularitarians). However, I would argue what could be more natural than our technology? it IS an extension of our humanity in and of itself, needing no label and no real philosophical debate. We are a tool-using species, the very basis for our big brains is tool use and communication.

So the reason for my nervousness? What does Transhumanism and Transhumanist philosophy mean to non-Transhumanists? Well having talked to around 250 people in my local constituency, I found that in essence it means nothing! and this is a good thing. The time is now to start pressing ahead with the Transhumanist message, to move as part of a “movement”… The Transhumanist movement has thus far failed to externalise its philosophy in such a way as to appeal to a greater audience of “non-Transhumanists”, if indeed such a thing can be said to exist. As with all things, agreement appears to be a matter of degree and not philosophical difference, after all technology is one of the pillars western civilisation is built on. So when I explain to the so called average person (who is anything but average) that I stand for the core principle that “technology can and should be used to overcome human limitation in all its forms”, specifically to manage and shepherd the accelerating changes happening in the world around us (and relating this principle to personal issues such as accelerating technological unemployment, poor education and health care), Transhumanist thought suddenly became relatable.

To tease apart what I mean by relatable in this context, not a single individual made any link to transsexualism or other negative connotations, all were open to having the terminology explained and when it was explained that I advocated the use of technology to overcome problems and enrich their lives and the lives of their children the Transhumanist message was well received.

You will note the word “transcend” is missing from the above principle (which was part of the original central unifying meme proposed by Amon Twyman and discussed at great length) was replaced by “overcome”, in my opinion transcendence be it technological, spiritual or other, and arguably the end goal of the Transhumanist ideal, is sadly hard to conceptualise and relate to. However, to “overcome” is almost instantly relatable, in our day to day lives each of us aims to overcome many obstacles, no less so for the hard-working electorate of Britain who face many challenges from an ailing NHS, heavy taxation, a system of governance seemingly interested only gaining financial and societal status through the selling off of public services, to more personal issues such as affordable housing, access to education, finding employment and subsistence.

Now I am aware that this may appear to “water” down the full gamut of Transhumanist philosophy and goals, thus rendering the message somewhat unrecognisable to the extreme polar advocates of the movement. However, I believe, and the Transhumanist Party in the UK believes that this central unifying principle provides a valid middle ground which we as Transhumanists can get behind, and moving forward can provide the bedrock for well-reasoned evidence based policy in a whole host of areas.

This approach also has a fringe benefit as, at the moment the mass media are in complete control of how transhumanism is perceived by the general public, if we as advocates of transhumanism in the UK (and indeed worldwide) push this unifying principle and relate it to real world issues, then that is the message that the mass media receives and when sensationalist headlines, replete with killer bots, head transplants, pictures of the terminator are created in our name we in an attempt to demonise the movement, we can point to them and validly claim misrepresentation.

In the UK there appears to be a large nascent population that want political change and they don’t appear to care where that change comes from, providing their issues are addressed openly and transparently. So let’s make it happen!