A Transhumanist Plans to Run for Office in the UK
Transhumanist Party UK leader Amon Twyman plans to run as an independent candidate in May.
Image: Gian Volpicelli
Update April 1: Amon Twyman got in touch to say he has now decided against running but that the TPUK will still field a candidate for MP. Twyman explained that the party resolved to put forward a candidate for a safer seat, where voters might be more open to new ideas.
Amon Twyman is a friendly guy in his 40s with a greying goatee and a distinct Kiwi accent. A British citizen born and raised in New Zealand before moving to London in the 1990s, Twyman is a trained psychologist, an electronic music connoisseur, and will soon be the first transhumanist to run for office in the UK.
Twyman intends to stand as an independent MP for the constituency of Kingston, on the radically pro-technology platform of the Transhumanist Party UK (TPUK), of which he's cofounder and leader.
In a nutshell, Twyman thinks that traditional parties "act for the now, to preserve the establishment" and that only transhumanists can effectively spot the coming technological changes and channel them into something good.
The initial plan was to field multiple candidates under the TPUK banner, but time-related holdups—the party is still being vetted by the Electoral Commission—and a dearth of funds eventually persuaded Twyman that an independent bid was more feasible.
"As much as it'd be great to have citizens of Kingston vote for technocracy, we know it's not gonna happen."
Twyman first became interested in transhumanism after reading Hans Moravec's essays on artificial intelligence and the science fiction novel Diaspora. On moving to the UK, he started attending London's futurist meetups and eventually got involved with the broader transhumanist movement, always maintaining a roughly techno-progressive position. He has never run for office before—"not even for student elections"—but in May he'll be the first candidate to face the ballots as a transhumanist.
He doesn't really feel under pressure, he told me when we met in a London pub. "As much as it'd be great to have citizens of Kingston vote for technocracy, we know it's not gonna happen," he said. This campaign is just a chance to start talking to people about our ideas and send them leaflets with our program." Indeed, the TPUK—which currently boasts 26 members—is in for the long haul. Speaking to some tens of people during the party's launch at London Birkbeck College last Saturday, Twyman outlined a plan to rise to national prominence within 25 years—"More or less when [Ray] Kurzweil's singularity is expected to happen," he said.
It's a very down-to-earth timeline for a party that one would associate with breakneck technological progress. In fact, the whole of Twyman's project—and even his personal style—seems characterised by pragmatism. At the launch event, he underlined that moonshot projects like living forever were not the best way to connect with voters. "They're not the kind of things people on the street think as the most pressing political issues," he said, talking from the stage. "People are thinking about something that would affect them in the near future. Things like losing their job, or the environment."
"We need to change the party system paradigm. The Transhumanist Party wants to be the last political party."
Twyman thinks that climate change is a disaster in the making, and that growing automation will kill 50 percent of jobs within 30 years. While TPUK's policies will be determined by members on a case-by-case basis, his position is that only technology can counter technology-induced threats: green energy projects are a textbook solution for global warming; an unemployment catastrophe could be staved off by doling out a universal basic income "through [Bitcoin-like] blockchain protocols."
Universal basic income is one policy Twyman agrees on with another transhumanist politician, American 2016 presidential hopeful Zoltan Istvan, whose sensational, longevity-focused campaign otherwise contrasts Twyman's gradual approach. But it's also a measure that would be unthinkable for many libertarians—who make up a major chunk of the transhumanist cohort, especially among Silicon Valley techies like venture capitalist Peter Thiel.
That dissonance is quite deliberate: during the launch, a TPUK supporter interjected to say that transhumanism shouldn't be represented by a bunch of "libertarian mad dogs." Twyman described his own position as "more centred on social justice, on managing the social consequences of technological change. To the point that I sometimes define myself a socialist."
But Twyman downplayed the significance of these differences. Although he believes that some kind of divergence will be inevitable—American transhumanists will surely be more libertarian than Europe's— the various factions of the movement still see eye to eye on core values: using technology to improve the human condition.
"A real schism can't happen until there is an electorate," he told me after the launch. "Not something we are dealing with right now."
But pretend for a moment that there were such a thing, and that Twyman got catapulted into Westminster in May. What then?
"Ideally, I would act to circumvent the Parliament. I would act to put up an online platform to give direct influence back to the people," he said. "We need to change the party system paradigm. The Transhumanist Party wants to be the last political party."