TransVision 2005

Towards a New World: Better, Longer and Healthier Lives for Everyone

Caracas, Venezuela, July 22 – 24, 2005

            Since the first international TransVision conference held in the Netherlands in 1998, there have been several major transhumanist meetings around the world:

            TransVision 2005, the seventh International Transhumanist Conference, was held in Caracas, Venezuela from July 22 to 24, 2005. It was the first such event held in South America and in the Developing World. TransVision 2005 was jointly hosted by the Venezuelan Transhumanist Association (the VTA is the first and most active Latin American transhumanist organization) and the World Future Society Venezuela (WFSV).

            Almost 300 people (293 to be more precise) participated in TransVision 2005. There were 120 students coming from six major cities in Venezuela: Barquisimeto, Caracas, Maracaibo, Maracay, Merida and Valencia. These students were selected based on their scientific and transhumanist interests, even though they pursued different careers, and they all received scholarships to freely participate in TransVision 2005. Support for these scholarships was greatly appreciated and acknowledged, since the young people would have not been able to participate without this additional funding. Guido Nunez and Alan Rodriguez were behind the monumental effort to introduce transhumanism to the Venezuelan universities.

            There were also 98 professional participants from Venezuela, mostly from Caracas and nearby cities, including some who could not participate continuously in the event. The rest of the attendees, a total of 75, came from 26 countries around the world, roughly divided in three major geographical groups: Latin America, North America and Asia/Europe. Most sessions were held in English, but there was simultaneous translation into Spanish. There was also one full day of pre-conference courses that had simultaneous translation because the audience was more local.

            While the first four TransVision conferences were mainly European, and the following two were mostly North American, TransVision 2005 had a much broader world participation. Thus, TransVision 2005 has been the largest and also the first truly international transhumanist conference in the world, even though the scheduled African participants were stranded in the middle of their trip because of transit visas. This is important to notice because, regardless of all the talk about globalization, international travel is still difficult despite our efforts. However, the Venezuelan Transhumanist Association collaborated actively in issuing visas to people in seven countries. Jesus Medina coordinated the registration activities while Sami Rozenbaum was in charge of the press: his previous three press releases were circulated broadly and there was good pre and post conference media coverage.

            TransVision 2005 has also been the most accredited transhumanist conference in history. The Venezuelan Ministry of Science and Technology collaborated in the event: they managed the teleconferences and provided five computers with free and continuous Internet access for the public via a special antenna directly linked to the Ministry main building. The Venezuelan National Academy of Sciences and the Venezuelan National Engineering Academy were also actively involved in TransVision 2005. In fact, the presidents of both the Science and Engineering Academies declared themselves to be transhumanists during the conference. This is a major achievement for the Venezuelan Transhumanist Association, since it is crucial to spread the transhumanist ideas in such important institutions.

            There were talks from many different perspectives and points of view, a total of 45 presentations with a great diversity of topics. Dr. Greg Stock, from UCLA, gave the keynote opening speech about genetic engineering and redesigning humans. Philosophers Nick Bostrom and Max More spoke about their fascinating recent work on ethics and the proactionary principle, respectively. Furthermore, there were many respected academics from Venezuela and several prestigious universities from all over Latin America. Some researchers and activists also presented their work in TransVision 2005, including the president of the most prominent hospital in Caracas, Dr. Alexis Bello of Hospital de Clinicas Caracas, who is an internationally known heart surgeon. Former Venezuelan minister of intelligence, Dr. Luis Alberto Machado, gave a talk about the fulfillment of all utopias thank to the democratization of science and technology. And there many more excellent presentations given by attendees from around the world.

            The TransVision 2005 Organizing Committee, led by Jose Cordeiro with the invaluable help of Pablo Liendo and Santiago Ochoa, worked very carefully to make TransVision 2005 as inclusive as possible. We took extreme care to include left and right transhumanists, upwingers and downwingers, academics and activists, politicians and business people, thinkers and doers, men and women and transsexuals, Americans (North, Central and South) and Asians and Europeans, rich and poor, young and old people, “naturals” and body modifiers, vegetarian and meat eaters, cryonicists and singularitarians, newcomers and experts in the field so that we could all learn from each other. We also had lively religious and spiritual discussions, particularly one including the president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and a Raelian, whose presentations were on a webcast life around the planet Earth and beyond. Several of the presentations were not only available in real time through Internet, but they were also recorded and a DVD was made with some of the best interviews. Carlos Bernal coordinated the filming on the Venezuelan side, and produced the DVD the day after the conference ended, and Eric Nadler of New York worked on a documentary for US television.

            TransVision 2005 was the first transhumanist conference to be broadcast via Internet. In fact, there was continuous webcasting of the event, even if the server sometimes got saturated when over 100 people accessed the system simultaneously. Furthermore, there were two teleconferences, the first one with Jerry Glenn, Director of the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University (with simultaneous video from Washington, DC, USA), and the second one with Sir Arthur C. Clarke (from Colombo, Sri Lanka). The teleconference with Sir Arthur C. Clarke was wonderful, even if there were compatibility problems for the video signal since the Apple and PC equipments on both extremes of the transmission would not synchronize. With a fainted voice due to his age and health problems, Sir Arthur C. Clarke responded several questions from the participants, and he said that if he could only transmit one message to the whole world it should be “Don’t panic.” He later explained that we always have to be optimistic about the future, since many of our visions tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies, for the better or for the worse.

            A very special touch was given by the protocol personnel for the opening day of TransVision 2005. They were all children with Down Syndrome, and their parents were present when Dr. Greg Stock was speaking about the prospect of curing most human diseases in the next decades. The formal opening was followed by a welcome party with a local musical band and dancing group. The Venezuelan Transhumanist Association also sponsored a private reception cocktail for those participants who arrived one day early. There was also music by one of our members, together with another international guest who sang and played the piano.

            There was a special Banquet Dinner on which the WTA prizes were awarded. This was a climatic event, with the official announcements for the winners of the JBS Haldane Award for Best Undergraduate Paper (to Brian Fritz, who is studying for his BA in Anthropology and a BS in Geology at Clarion University of Pennsylvania) and the HG Wells Award for Contributions to Transhumanism (to Ramez Naam for his fantastic book “More than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement”). We also had a minute of silence and the disclosure of the pictures of Alexey Korobkoff, a very dear Venezuelan transhumanist who had died two months earlier due to a brain tumor complication. After the Banquet Dinner, there was a Transhumanist Auction, and some of the items included “kissed” books by Natasha Vita-More, James Hughes and Jose Cordeiro, the original manuscript of “More than Human” by Ramez Naam, the master copy of the TransVision 2005 anthem by Charlie Kam, a blood signed book by Greg Stock, an unknown Spanish “cheese” by Giulio Prisco and two bottles of 200-year old Venezuelan premium rum.

            This special night continued with a complete film and music festival. Natasha Vita-More coordinated the movie selection, which included some of her own material plus some classics like “Immortality on Ice” and the preview of the new film by Bruce Klein at the Immortality Institute. On the musical side, Charlie Kam composed an anthem for the TransVision 2005 conference and some other special transhumanist songs like “Cryonic World”, while Dan Barker played life his own “Beware of DogMa” and his adaptation of “Imagine” by John Lennon. Their songs, together with books by many transhumanist authors were also available for sale during the whole conference.

            Venezuela was a fantastic venue for TransVision 2005: the largest, the most international and the highest accredited transhumanist meeting in history so far. After TransVision 2005, there were many tours available to visit Venezuela. Most international participants just decided to scuba dive or rest, but there were a few intrepids, like some Finns and Germans, who actually traveled throughout the country. And they managed quite well seeing some of the most beautiful spots in Venezuela and the world.

            Finally, again, the goals of TransVision 2005 “Towards a New World: Better, Longer and Healthier Lives for Everyone” were very well fulfilled in Venezuela and the transhumanists ideas were spread among the Academy and the youth. Many participants later wrote to express their joy about the conference and their growing interest in helping transhumanism be known around the whole planet. Now we are all looking forward to go to Helsinki, Finland, for TransVision 2006.

            Jose Cordeiro (www.cordeiro.org)

            Chair, TransVision 2005 Organizing Committee (www.TransHumanismO.org)