In this Newsletter we share news of some opportunities for community members and supporters to be part of our new campaign strategy. In the weeks ahead, we will outline a growing set of roles and responsibilities that the Party aims to fill in the next few months.
In each case, campaign teams will be involved in:
- Due diligence research of both old and new scientific evidence
- Learning from experiences from elsewhere in the world
- Formulating candidate policies
- Working out how to influence current and future policy makers.
As an initial step, the Party wishes to grow four teams as follows, over the next 1-2 weeks:
- Improving mental health - should the Party promote legal reforms in areas such as the “right to try” psychedelics?
- Policy review process - what steps should be followed, to agree and change our policies?
- Party database system - getting the best out of our current choice, NationBuilder, or switching away from that to something new?
- Party branding - which imagery, taglines, and so on, should the Party adopt?
If you are interested in possibly joining one or more of these teams, let us know! If you’d like to move forwards, you’ll be added to the corresponding channel in our Slack system.
Here’s some more details about each of these initial teams:
1. Improving mental health
A vital part of human flourishing is our mental health. Many factors contribute to mental well-being, including genetic and environmental factors.
Some writers suggest that psychedelics, used wisely, have the potential to significantly boost mental health. This applies both as a “cure” (helping people recover “normal” levels of psychological well-being) and as an “enhancement” (enabling people to reach levels of consciousness more profound than the ones normally encountered). However, the current legal framework puts many obstacles in the way of experimentation with psychedelics.
The renowned science and food writer Michael Pollan has recently called for a re-evaluation of legislation covering psychedelics, in his latest book “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence”. (For a review of that book by David Wood, see here.)
Within the UK, key research into both the opportunities and risks of liberalising psychedelics has been carried out by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College and Professor David Nutt, also of Imperial.
What policies should the Party adopt in this area? That’s the mission for this team to work out.
2. Policy review process
What processes should the Party follow, before deciding on policies and campaigns?
Jean-Michel Carter has proposed a set of steps as follows:
- Issue selection (if multiple submitted)
- Alpha Survey Stage - Verify facts surrounding issue of interest and generate supporting documentation.
- Alpha Proposals Stage - Propose variety of initiatives sourced from membership.
- Alpha Feasibility Review Stage - Verify the proposals are ethically/economically/technologically viable.
- Alpha Review Stage - Share with NEC and decide when it goes to Beta.
- Beta Stage - Share with the membership via online tools for debate.
- Beta Survey Stage - Verify facts surrounding the debate arguments.
- Beta Review Stage - If there is a clear winning approach implement to release otherwise go back to Alpha Proposal stage.
- Release as party policy.
This process will evolve in light of experiences with actual policy ideas (such as the issue mentioned earlier - improving mental health).
As you can see, key parts of this process involve:
- Review by those members who are most interested in the topic
- Checking for alignment with the core principles of the Party.
If you’d like to help us make this review process as effective and dynamic as possible, please get in touch.
3. Party database system
For the last few years, the Party has used the NationBuilder system to collect new members and to publish our website, http://www.transhumanistparty.org.uk/.
NationBuilder has its own set of webpages that give reasons for adopting it instead of various other online tools. See e.g. “How is NationBuilder different from WordPress?” But we’re not completely convinced that the extra overhead of NationBuilder is appropriate to the Party’s needs.
If you have experience in content management systems or other online tools to organise political campaigns, please let us know, to help us take these important decisions about the Party infrastructure.
4. Party branding
Variation and experimentation with style and content can add to the depth of communications. But there are also advantages to the Party identifying some core brand elements and then sticking to them.
These brand elements include aspects such as imagery, taglines, vision statements, colour schemes, social media logos, and so on.
This team will help the Party to make the right choices in these areas.
On Saturday 2nd February, 47 people gathered in a lecture room at Birkbeck College, London, for a London Futurists event in which two of the three speakers were the Party’s co-leaders. A lively debate ensued, with many different opinions being expressed. The whole event was filmed, and footage from the event should be published over the next 7-10 days.
After the event finished, more than twenty of the attendees gathered in a nearby pub, where discussions continued for (in some cases) another three hours.
The success of the event on 2nd February prompts us to organise a number of other forthcoming events - including real-world gatherings and online meetings.
We’ll be sharing more news of these forthcoming events shortly.
What the NEC is up to
Here are some brief updates by individual members of the NEC:
A video has just been published of a presentation I gave at TransVision Madrid, in October 2018. My talk was entitled “The accelerating impact of Artificial Intelligence”. The video is available here. Other videos from that event are in the process of being released, in the AlianzaFuturista YouTube channel.
I also gave a talk “Why AGI needs immediate serious attention” to the Oxford AI society, on Monday 4th February. This was broadcast live as a Facebook video. My talk starts at 4 minutes into the recording. (The quality of the audio is poor, but if you wear a headset, and turn up the volume to max, you can hear what’s being said, most of the time.)
I have spent a fair bit of time sorting out the Trello system we use to keep track of all our tasks. For example I have set up some automations to make sure we don’t miss any incoming enquiries and tweaked the integration with Slack which is useful for quick online discussions. Actually Mathieu and I had a nice brainstorm this week on how the policy review process I have drafted shown earlier in this newsletter can be implemented. The key idea is that we want to leverage the input from the membership as much as possible while ensuring all reasoning is evidence based.
I have also put some work into detailing job descriptions for key positions in the current structure. In fact I can share with you an overview I created a while ago to help get our heads around it. The schema illustrates the flatness of our structure with NEC positions placed along a continuous circle and relative positions are based mainly on expected interactions with other entities. The inner donut symbolises the flow of ideas/people: Knowledge/Ideas flow from our membership and our staff while staff flow in from our membership. The 4 key external entities the party deals with are illustrated outside the main circle. The interactions are non-exhaustive but major ones are shown.
As you can see there are many positions still to be filled so many of us are currently multitasking across this circle when needed. Over time we hope many more of you begin volunteering your time as Damian has done recently to begin deciding how best to fill these positions.
If you would like me to explain further what it all means let me know in the comments and I’ll update you in the next update!
While not always able to work on Party business directly, I participate remotely contributing my insights and advice on matters. I am also currently performing research on a number of neuroscience and data science projects such as, investigating the automatic classification of cognitive workload using machine learning, building a brain computer interface to modulate a user’s state of sustained attention to improve operator safety over long duration tasks, and the automatic classification of decisions involving risk while driving using machine learning.
TPUK in the Media
TPUK Member Andrew Vladimirov speaks with Sputnik
Andrew Vladimirov, Information security specialist, biohacker and long time supporter of the Transhumanist Party UK, was interviewed by Sputnik about the TPUK and the rise of transhumanism.
Your news here!
Let us know if you have any news or updates we should feature in forthcoming Newsletters.