Transhumanists Help Out Orphanage

10519660_10203265179843407_362329032_nTranshumanist organizations and writers are collaborating with religious and humanitarian groups to feed, educate and make self-sufficient twenty children at a “boarding school” (orphanage) in Jinja, the second-largest city in Uganda. The school is called “COISER” (Community Intiative for Self Reliance.)  Uganda has a population of 2.5 million orphans – 40% of the children are orphaned due to AIDS.

Transhumanist partners in this endeavor are:

Brighter Brains Institute – a non-profit in the San Francisco Bay Area. Director is Hank Pellissier, producer of the Transhuman Visions conferences. Many  transhumanists are Fellows at BBI, and dozens of transhumanists have been speakers at the conferences that hundreds of transhumanists attended.

Mormon Transhumanist Association – Many members of the MTA – like president Lincoln Cannon – are consistently generous in their philanthropy. Another charitable member – Roger Hansen – has been active in Uganda for a decade, setting up playgrounds, installing wells and solar systems.

Northminster Memorial United Church in Flin Flon, Canada. Alex McGilvery, a transhumanist contributing writer at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, is a pastor here.

Anya Petrova – webmaster for FuturismX – an up-and-coming portal for transhumanist events.

Peter Caramico – Assistant Secretary of LongeCity.org. Peter is also a filmmaker; he developed an outreach video for for Gennady Stolyarov’s book Death is Wrong.

Kennita Watson – cryonics advocate, software engineer, Extropian

Bryce A. Lynch – integration security engineer in financial cryptography. He blogs at http://drwho.virtadpt.net/); he’s an information security researcher and consulting agent of the hacktivist collective Telecomix.

IMG_4734A crowd fund campaign for the COISER orphanage has been launched to raise $3,000 for aPoultry Farm. Cash raised selling the eggs would support the orphanage, providing it with economic self-sufficiency. Plus, the children could eat the eggs themselves, guaranteeing excellent healthy fat and protein for their brains.

The crowdfunding campaign is HERE at GoFundMe.com.

A video of the orphanage fund drive is HERE

medium_mcgilveryHank Pellesier of the Brighter Brains Institute got together with one of the supporters of this wonderful initiative, Alex Mcgilvery. Alex is an author and serves as the minister of a thriving United Church congregation. Alex has experience working alongside people of all faiths as well as with secular humanists and atheists. As chaplain in a psychiatric ward, he was asked to do an assessment to determine the difference between faith and delusion, and he has been wrestling with the question ever since. Alex is a strong proponent of solid ethical thinking and an advocate for personal responsibility in transhumanism.
Hank:  How did you get to be a transhumanist? Any other transhumanists up there in Flin FLon?  What does being a transhumanist mean to you?
 

Alex: I’ve always loved technological things and particularly their impact on the future. I grew up reading Popular Mechanics etc.  I first got interested in transhumanism through the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies website. What really pulled me and started me thinking about transhumanism was the ethics discussions. They ranged broadly and got a little rough at times, but I started writing articles and came to the conclusion that we need to be a conscious part of improving ourselves. I don’t know anyone who would call themselves transhumanists here in Flin Flon. We have a few atheists, but I haven’t had the chance to talk with them beyond the usual daily encounters. Transhumanism is the self-improvement of our species. Through writing about transhumanism I became convinced that we need to be active parts of our improvement.

I’m not a big believer in the Singularity, it feels too much like the old “God is going to return and save us” meme. Like modern progressive Christianity, I believe that we are going to have to do the work ourselves and that the work is possible with what we already know.
Hank: Do you see the Uganda Orphanage drive as a “transhumanist” activity?  Does “transhuman” to you, mean something we don’t usually think about? expanded “compassion””generosity”etc.? Is the act of helping orphans “transhumanist” ? elevating the human condition etc?

Alex: The Ugandan Orphanage is one of my favourite kind of activities. It is creating increased capacity in the community instead of just throwing money at it. The benefits of the Orphanage becoming self-sufficient will raise the living standard of the orphans, but also everyone in the neighbourhood.  Capacity building and creating independence are two ways to make ourselves a better species. Not all improvement must be technological or medical. The elimination of poverty will do more than just live people out of poverty. It will also lower the birth rate, lower ecological impact of our species on the planet, probably lower conflict between groups. It will increase our capacity for mindfulness as poverty is a black hole that directly linked to obesity, crime, poor educational outcomes, poor mental health and more. It isn’t going to happen globally all at once, but the more places we can point to and show the effects of increased capacity the better our argument will be.

I am interested in the Buddhist Eight-Fold path. One of these paths addresses altruism and the need for compassion. These are addressed in every major religion, that part of our duty is to be generous. It doesn’t hurt that generosity has a lot more to do with personal happiness than wealth or success according to many studies. So what we have is a chance to increase the capacity of a community in poverty, and a chance to increase our own capacity for compassion. We help them, and we improve ourselves.
kids eat 3
Hank: You are a pastor – how does being a pastor and a transhumanist — are these separate activities or do they work together in any way?
 

Alex: I talk in a few transhumanist articles on IEET and I’ve also talked in sermons about aspects of religion being like apps on a cell phone. If you want to increase your capacity for empathy and compassion, we have an app for that. It’s called meditation or contemplative prayer, which studies have shown create physical changes in the brain. You want to lose yourself and not worry about your life for a short while, but can’t afford to go to a big music event, The act of gathering together and sharing in worship and singing has been shown to live people out of the ‘me’ consciousness and allow them to join the group for a while. These experiences add perspective to the world and create a space for compassion and empathy to grow.

Progressive Religion is transhumanist in that we are concerned with the improvement of people and communities in the now, and not that worried about some possible ‘end of world’ scenario. Generosity is a huge part of what it means to be Christian and particularly Progressive Christian as we reach out to partnerships that don’t look like us and never will.
Hank: You did some unusual fundraising – for the orphans – can you tell us about this?  You did a “ice bucket challenge”?
 

Alex: The Ice Bucket Challenge was a thing on the internet. It was impossible to sign on without seeing videos, cute or otherwise about it. Ironically it started as donate money or pour ice water on your head, but morphed into what we saw on a daily basis. My brother nominated me and I decided to switch it up a little and raise money for the orphanage. I announced I was doing the challenge, but that people could ‘buy’ an extra bucket by donating a chicken during the first twenty-four hours. I’ve done a few of these unusual fundraisers so this wasn’t strange for me. I had six people sponsor a chicken so that was seven buckets. The video is here. I had to do a voiceover so you can’t hear my gasping after each bucket.  The funny thing is that after the challenge I am more determined to raise the money for them. Instead of it being ‘my part’ it focused me more on the needs. Several long chats with Jeremiah helped. I’m going into the second phase of developing a relationship between our congregation and the orphanage, and I hope to see it become a long standing relationship.

Hank: How would you try to convince transhumanists-in-general — to support the orphanage?

10526063_10203696789953390_9173101943793526105_n-e1411445422319Alex: One of the challenges of Transhumanism is the emphasis on situational ethics, namely, ethics is what works for the the community at the time. Altruism is a hard sell for situational ethics because you have to show that helping those people over there will help this community over here. I work personally on a modified rule based ethics in which compassion and generosity are main virtues. It is easy for me to see the need and respond, while others may see the need, but it doesn’t match their understanding of the response so the result is lack of action. I propose an experiment. Do a benchmark of your level of contentedness (which fluctuates less wildly than happiness). Then make a deliberate donation to the orphanage or some other cause that is not related to you. It should be an amount that you might miss in the course of the week, not pocket change, thus it is pure altruism and it is significant. It should decrease your contentedness by lowering your resources.. Take another measure of your contentedness. I expect if you’re honest that you are more content now than before the donation. Giving is one of those ‘apps’ I talked about to improve our species through software. It is a transhumanist goal partially achieved, and you didn’t have to shift your ethics to accomplish it. It creates good on the receiving end and increases capacity, and it creates good at your end, increasing your capacity to enjoy life. I would be delighted to hear of people’s experience doing this.