Why We Must Run Humanity+ Like a Startup
Rapid technological progress has allowed humanity to dominantly seize control of our own evolution. In his well-known TED talk “The Next Species of Human” Juan Enriquez discusses how we are on the verge of a transition from Homo sapiens to Homo evolutis, a shift that he equates to the “ultimate reboot.” Unnatural selection and nonrandom mutation is fundamentally changing life on Earth. Last year alone we saw monkeys that were genetically engineered using CRISPR, the use of optogenetics to selectively erase and restore memories in mice, and the first 3D-printed artificially evolving chemical system. These technologies and capabilities are no longer future fantasy, and their development ushers in a host of major legal and ethical dilemmas that we must be prepared to address.
As transhumanists, it is our responsibility to advocate and steer our evolution towards a desirable future. To do so, we need an active organization that unifies transhumanist thought and advocates based for our beliefs. Humanity+ is in a prime position to become this guiding force, but it must be willing to adapt to a changing environment and move quickly itself. In short, it must operate like a startup. It already has strong brand recognition, a loyal community, and some of the most experienced transhumanist thought leaders in the world. All the pieces to the puzzle are here, and I’m pursuing a Board seat because I’m confident that I know how to put them together.
(Our Panel on Transhumanism at the World Technology Summit, including Stuart Dambrot, James Hughes, and Francesca Ferrando)
My skill-set and extensive startup experience leaves me well positioned to help Humanity+ capitalize on this opportunity. I’ve been building startups for 5 years, with my endeavors receiving funding from top tier universities and foreign governments. My current company, Futurism, has witnessed explosive growth since launching just four months ago. Our platform curates and summarizes emerging science and tech news, and I’ve single-handedly grown it to over 1 millions reader per month. I also organize the SingularityNYC community in New York and have been hosting top tier events with corporate sponsors. My experience organizing large events and growing both physical and virtual communities is directly applicable, and my vision for the organization is very much aligned with that of the current Board.
Moving forward, execution of the Board is going to be critical to the success of the organization. In order to optimize the use of both our time and resources, I believe that Humanity+ must operate as if it were a startup. To do this, we must focus on being:
Lean – We must be cognizant of what we spend our time on and be careful not to waste our effort or our resources. Humanity+ has a vision, and it’s now time to execute on that vision with as few distractions as possible. Problems should be addressed by priority, not preference. We must avoid the allure of pursuing too many promising “long term leads.”
Our Board consists of extremely gifted and successful individuals, and naturally they all have limited time. We must carefully choose where our effort is going and make sure that every action is pushing us closer to achieving our long term vision.
Proactive – Humanity+ needs to market itself and take a proactive approach to growth. Like a startup, board members should have designated roles and remain accountable for their responsibilities. We must operate on a schedule and meet agreed upon deadlines. We can’t let the organization get stuck in a stalemate.
Community Driven – If Humanity+ is meant to be community driven, it must be community focused. Our primary goal should be to improve member experience, promote member activity, and increase membership. We must communicate the benefit that are members are receiving and paying for, and in turn our members must be receiving benefits that justify their payment. We must optimize the membership sign-up process, and we must create a renewed sense of pride.
In turn, our members must be willing to step up and get involved. Successful communities rely not only on the organizers, but also on the community members that go above and beyond. We need a reliable group of active supporters to promote our content, spread our mission, and help us build a strong, recognized brand name behind Humanity+.
In terms of concrete and actionable next steps, below is a high-level snapshot of proposed action steps:
- Reconfigure the entire process for joining Humanity+ – Right now the membership process is fatally unclear and simply requests payment of membership dues without highlighting what exactly is being paid for. It references the fact that you will “receive all benefits of Humanity+,” but said benefits are not clarified anywhere. If we want to grow as an organization, we must have a clear value proposition for new members to join. Right now we do not. First we must collectively decide what these benefits are, and then we must effectively communicate them to both current and potential new members.
- Redesign the website – A future-focused organization must itself utilize new technologies. The first thing that prospective new members see is our website, and I believe that the current version leaves much to be improved. All of this can be done with a very small budget.
- Find an improved medium for communication – The same logic above holds true. Still relying on Yahoo Groups is not acceptable, and it offers an incredibly poor experience for our members. There are many platforms that are better suited for us that would dramatically increase engagement. Slack is the first one that comes to mind.
- Partner and collaborate with other organizations – There are dozens of other relevant organizations that we should be building partnerships with, including IEEE, Futurism, KurzweilAI, and more. Cross-promotions will allow us to reach tens of thousands of new prospective members with ease. But it’s important to note that we must first fix the problems highlighted above before focusing on promotion.
- Have bi-monthly “town hall” meetings on Google Hangouts – We should be engaging directly with our community, and if they want to ask us questions in a live setting or discuss possible next steps for the organization, we should offer this.
- Fundraise – Once we have addressed the current pressing problems with Humanity+ and begun to cultivate relationships with other high-quality brands, Humanity+ will be in an optimal position to fundraise. Doing this will allow us to hire an Executive Director without too much strain on our finances, allowing us to grow exponentially quicker. The ED could then subsequently focus on organizing conferences and assume responsibility for other major endeavors that would be tough to execute without anyone full time within the organization. I have extensive personal experience with fundraising and am confident that I can execute as needed by Humanity+.
If elected, I plan to work with the rest of the Board to implement best practices and immediately begin on the tasks outlined above. The opportunity to shape our future is right in front of us, and we must not be afraid to seize it.
 Piece I wrote for Business Insider covering the biggest breakthroughs of 2014: http://www.businessinsider.com/2014s-most-important-discoveries-2015-1
Alex Klokus is a candidate for the Humanity+ board.