2017 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion



The 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) will be held November 18-21, 2017 in Boston, MA. While the Mormon Transhumanist Association will not be officially participating in the event, it is noteworthy that the meeting will have sessions related to transhumanism and human enhancement. We encourage all to consider attending.

Highlights include:

1. The question of human germline gene editing and its potential for human enhancement will be explored at a session on Friday, Nov 17, from 2:30 to 5:00. Speakers include MIT Professor Richard O. Hynes, who co-chairs a committee of the National Academy of Sciences charged with exploring the ethical and legal challenges of human germline modification, especially in light of CRISPR and other new gene editing technologies. Others on the panel include Laurie Zoloth, Dean of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and 2014 Past President of the AAR. This event is open to the public without registration and will be held at the Sheraton Boston, Republic B (second level). This session is sponsored by the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR). More details can be found at https://papers.aarweb.org/program_book?keys=CRISPR&field_session_slot_nid=All

2. The Human Enhancement and Transhumanism Unit of the AAR offers two events in 2017. On Saturday, Nov 18, the Unit offers a session on “Barbies, Bots, and Mere Mortals: Images of God?” The session runs from 1:00 to 3:30 in Sheraton Boston-Back Bay B (Second Level). For more, see https://papers.aarweb.org/program_book?keys=Barbies&field_session_slot_nid=All. Then on Monday, with the joint sponsorship of the Religion and Science Fiction Unit, a session entitled “Religion, Science Fiction, and Transhumanism” will be held in the Hynes Convention Center-202 (Second Level) from 1:00 to 3:30. See https://papers.aarweb.org/program_book?keys=gittinger&field_session_slot_nid=All.

3. A session on “Human Enhancement: Biological Frameworks and Cyborg Theologies,” under the sponsorship of the ISSR, will be held on Saturday, 4:00-5:30, in Fairmont Copley Place-State Suite A (Lower Lobby Level). This session features two authors and their new books, Harris Wiseman’s The Myth of the Moral Brain (2016) and Scott Midson’s Cyborg Theology: Humans, Technology and God (2017), with a response by Jennifer Thweatt. See https://papers.aarweb.org/program_book?keys=m18-306&field_session_slot_nid=All

SCHEDULE OVERVIEW:


Friday, 2:30-5:00, “CRISPR/Cas and Human Germline Gene Editing.” Sheraton Boston-Republic B (second level).

Saturday, 1:00-3:30, “Barbies, Bots, and Mere Mortals: Image of God?” Sheraton Boston-Back Bay B (second level).

Saturday, 4:00-5:30, “Human Enhancement: Biological Frameworks and Cyborg Theologies.” Fairmont Copley Place-State Suite A (Lower Lobby Level).

Monday, 1:00-3:30, “Religion, Science Fiction, and Transhumanism.” Hynes Convention Center-202.

Additional information about the 2017 Annual Meetings and the AAR can be found here.

MTA Meetup in SLC on Nov. 3

Join us for a special MTA Meetup in SLC
on Friday, November 3rd!



Who: Everyone!

What: Discussion on The New God Argument and Diversity Representations, led by Lincoln Cannon and Blaire Ostler. In preparation, you can learn more about The New God Argument here, and Mormon Transhumanism here.

Where: SEGO 3 FINE ART GALLERY, 661 S 200 E, SLC, UT 84111

When: Fri, Nov 3rd, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, includes mingling and refreshments


(We will still hold the usual 2nd-Sunday Utah Valley Meetup in Provo.)

Shane Pittson appointed to Chief Media Officer role



The Mormon Transhumanist Association is eager to announce the appointment of Shane Pittson to the position of Chief Media Officer. He was unanimously approved by the board of directors under the direction of Christopher Bradford, President of the Association.

Blaire Ostler, CEO, commented, "I'm really excited about Shane joining us on the management team. His enthusiasm is contagious, and his expertise in media and marketing will be a great addition to the team."

Shane Pittson is a San Francisco native now living in Brooklyn. After studying Information Systems as a Crocker Fellow at BYU, he began work as first employee and Head of Marketing at quip, an e-commerce company in the CPG and Health industries. He has previously served as an LDS missionary in France and Switzerland, and as judge for the World Beard and Mustache Competition. Shane enjoys biking around NYC in pursuit of the best cheese, events, and rooftop views.

The Association congratulates Shane and thanks him for his willingness to contribute his time and talents to the success of the Association.

Join us at the 2017 MTA Fall Social!


Who:  MTA Members, their family, children, and friends. Bring a friend to introduce to the MTA.

What:  A fun evening of food & socializing—all at no cost to you!

Where:  Vivian Park @ East Pavilion 1 (as you exit US Highway 189 and cross over the Provo River, take the first left where you will find parking and park area 1)

When:  Mon, Sept 4th, 5:30 – 8 pm, including:
             5:30 pm Mingling & kids' activities
             6:30 pm Catered dinner by CafĂ© Rio

*Please RSVP the number of adults & children who will attend so we can plan for food at this link*

Humanity+ adds CTA to short list of affiliates

Humanity+ is one of the leading advocates of the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In their prior incarnation as the World Transhumanist Association, they adopted the historic Transhumanist Declaration, and helped pioneer the modern discussion of how science and technology can and will affect our human future.
The Christian Transhumanist Association is the first explicitly transhumanist organization aimed at bringing this conversation to the wider Christian world. Through theological and social engagement, the CTA encourages Christians to use science & technology to participate in the work of God, to cultivate life and renew creation.
Humanity+ has recently added the CTA to its small list of officially-recognized affiliates, joining other long-standing transhumanist organizations like the Foresight Institute, SENS Research Foundation, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and the Mormon Transhumanist Association.
The CTA is pleased to affiliate with Humanity+, and is proud to be recognized as a positive addition to the larger transhumanist community.

Chris Bradford, Pace Ellsworth, Ben Blair, Shane Pittson Elected to Board of Directors



The Mormon Transhumanist Association is pleased to announce the results of the 2017 director election. Each year, terms expire for three of the nine seats on the board of directors. This year, the seats occupied by Chris Bradford, Nathan Hatfield, and Joseph West expired. Dor Deasy has opted to resign with one remaining year. The Association thanks Chris, Nathan, Joseph, and Dor for the leadership and service they've provided.

Blaire Ostler, CEO and director, said, “I have really appreciated the unique perspectives of Chris, Nathan, Joseph, and Dor. It’s been an honor to serve with them. While I’m sad to see Nathan, Joseph, and Dor move on, I’m also really excited about the new directors.”

Voting members of the Association have elected Chris Bradford, Pace Ellsworth, and Ben Blair to serve as directors for the 2017 to 2020 term. Voting members elected Shane Pittson to serve from 2017 to 2018, the remaining year of the fourth director position.
The Association congratulates our new directors and thanks them for their willingness to contribute their time and talents to the success of the Association. Below is additional information about these directors.

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Chris Bradford was born in Utah, but soon moved to Washington DC and then overseas for his father's employment. He has lived in Egypt, Germany, Jordan, Pakistan and Italy, where he served an LDS mission. A self-taught programmer, he manages social & mobile development at Ancestry.com. He has a degree from Brigham Young University in linguistics. Chris and wife Lucy have five sons and three daughters. Chris is passionate about science, technology, religion, philosophy, and the performing arts.


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Pace Ellsworth lives with his wife and 3 awesome kids in Mesa, AZ. Pace is a self-described "anarcho-transfigurist", focusing on the power of technology and empathy to free humanity from harmful expressions of authority. As CEO of Heleum, Pace helps people use currency exchange automation to grow their savings. Pace has a BA in Linguistics, minoring in Spanish and Computational Linguistics, with a love for people, languages, markets, future tech, and religious thought.



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Ben Blair is a co-founder of Teachur. He holds MA and PhD degrees in Philosophy and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has spent several years teaching courses in foundations of education at the college and graduate level. He spent much of the last 20 years evaluating, developing, and aligning curriculum across a range of disciplines, including five years as Director of specialized curriculum with K12.com, a leading provider of online education. Ben resides in Oakland, CA with his wife and 6 kids.


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Shane Pittson is a San Francisco native now living in Brooklyn. After studying Information Systems as a Crocker Fellow at BYU, he began work as first employee and Head of  Marketing at quip, an e-commerce company in the CPG and Health industries. He has previously served as an LDS missionary in France and Switzerland, and as judge for the World Beard and Mustache Competition. Shane enjoys biking around NYC in pursuit of the best cheese, events and rooftop views.





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Information about all directors of the association is available here:
https://transfigurism.org/about/board-of-directors

Take the 2017 Conference Survey



Thank you for helping us make our 2017 conference a success! We had record attendance and wonderful speakers. We hope that you enjoyed your experience and plan on joining us next year and for our upcoming social later this year.

To help us make future conferences even better, please take just a couple minutes to fill out this short survey to share your thoughts about what went well and what we can do to improve.

Jordan Roberts appointed to Chief Humanitarian Officer



The Mormon Transhumanist Association is eager to announce the appointment of Jordan Roberts to the position of Chief Humanitarian Officer by Blaire Ostler, CEO of the Association. He was unanimously approved by the board of directors under the direction of Christopher Bradford, President of the Association.

Blaire Ostler commented, “Jordan’s background in science and medicine makes him a great fit for the position. Not only is he qualified, but his genuine interest in the betterment of humanity through service is inspiring. I look forward to his contributions to the management team.”

Jordan Roberts was born in Mesa Arizona, the son of a Mormon mother and Jewish father. He served a mission in Brazil. He is married to his high school sweetheart, and they have two children. He has a bachelor’s degree in life sciences from Arizona State University, and received his MD from the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. He is currently a family medicine resident physician at St. Mark's Hospital in Salt Lake City. His interests include science and its fiction, Judaism, philosophy, Transhumanism and bioethics.

The Association congratulates Jordan and thanks him for his willingness to contribute his time and talents to the success of the Association.

MTA Service Project Provides Meals to Those in Need





Members of the Mormon Transhumanist Association’s Provo, Utah Chapter recently completed a community service project that provided over 100 meals to the Food & Care Coalition of Provo.

The Association purchased the food and then assembled fully prepared lunches that they donated to the Coalition. In all, the service project comprised over 30 human hours to complete. The 100+ meals are helping the Coalition’s mission to “implement tangible solutions for poverty in Utah County, engage with the community to create opportunities for social change, and balance compassion with personal responsibility.”

This project is the first of many future efforts planned by the MTA CEO, Blaire Ostler, to offer greater involvement in the community and better fulfill the Association’s mission. Ostler noted, “One of the purposes of the MTA is to send relief, consolation, and healing to raise each other up. We seek to immerse ourselves in the body of Christ. This is one small way we can do that.”

To learn more about the Food & Care Coalition of Provo or learn about ways to serve, you can visit their website here.

To show your interest on becoming a part of the MTA’s community service efforts, you can contact the Association at: admin@transfigurism.org

MTA thanks Dorothy Deasy for her service



The Mormon Transhumanist Association thanks Dorothy Deasy for her service as Chief Humanitarian Officer. Dorothy served in this capacity from July 2015 through February 2017.

The Association engages in technologically-empowered humanitarian efforts as a reflection of its commitment to practical Christian discipleship and aspiration to exemplify the application of technology to cultivate human thriving. During Dorothy's period of service, the Association sponsored health clinics and schools in Africa, a Rosetta@Home team to donate spare computation to curing disease, and a Kiva lending team to provide microloans to persons in developing areas of the world. 

"Dor is an inspiring humanitarian," said Lincoln Cannon, founder and former president of the Association. "She has been a constant advocate for the poor, raising awareness of the digital divide and the needs of persons too often marginalized within our human family. And she has worked with her full heart to identify ways of transforming that awareness into action. The Mormon Transhumanist Association has a broader and more compassionate vision because of Dor's service."

Blaire Ostler, CEO and board member, said, "Dor has been an impeccable member of the management team. Her talents and contributions have led the way toward more diverse outreach and inclusion. I am grateful not only for her service, but also for her example."

Dorothy continues to serve in her positions as board member and secretary of the board.

2017 Conference Registration Now Open



Registration is now open for this year's annual conference. This year's keynote speakers are Drs. Steven Peck, author of Evolving Faith, and Robin Hanson, author of Age of Em.

The first 20 first-time registrants to sign up will win a signed copy of our keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Peck's book, Evolving Faith.

This year's theme is "Evolving Gods." From its earliest beginnings, humanity has looked beyond itself, seeing in various deities its characteristics embodied to a superlative degree. Human conceptions of the divine have undergone dramatic shifts, from polytheistic contention for dominance between tribal deities, to notions of a god more powerful than all these, and eventually to the consigning of these tribal deities to oblivion as monotheism became predominant. Early Christians, Eastern Orthodox, and subsequent restorationist movements, like Mormonism, emphasized human divine potential through the process of theosis, deification, or divinization. Eastern religions taught the possibility of achieving unity with the divine community of enlightened beings.

In our present era of rapidly accelerating technological advancement, we are achieving tremendous improvements in physical and mental health, rejuvenation, and communal well-being. We are seeing declines in violence and suffering that bring us closer to the just society envisioned by many religions. At the same time, many traditional religions are in decline, while fundamentalist and secularist movements gain momentum. We also face numerous existential risks, including environmental degradation, technological obsolescence and political upheaval.

This theme raises questions about how our conception of the divine and of morality has changed over time and how it continues to change in our transhuman age; about the function of religion and the new shapes it is taking; and about how we humans should approach our increasingly godlike powers, and what kinds of gods we will choose to resemble, for good or ill.

Interested speakers, be sure to submit your papers before the end of this month. See our call for papers for more details.


Ben Blair to serve as Chief Special Projects Officer



The Mormon Transhumanist Association is pleased to announce Ben Blair has been selected to serve as Chief Special Projects Officer by Blaire Ostler, CEO of the Association. He was unanimously approved by the board of directors under the direction of Christopher Bradford, President of the Association.

Blaire Ostler has said, “I have complete confidence in Ben’s ability to head up our Special Projects Division. I am eager to see Ben’s extensive qualifications and expertise in action. His talents and abilities are a great asset to the Association and we’re glad to have him on board!”

The Association congratulates Ben, and thanks him for his willingness to contribute his time and talents to the success of the Association. Below is additional information about him. 

Ben is a co-founder of Teachur. He holds MA and PhD degrees in Philosophy and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has spent several years teaching courses in foundations of education at the college and graduate level. He spent much of the last 20 years evaluating, developing, and aligning curriculum across a range of disciplines, including five years as Director of specialized curriculum with K12.com, a leading provider of online education. Ben resides in Oakland, CA with his wife and 6 kids.

March for Science


March for Science is an effort comprised of dozens of independent, nonpartisan coordinators. Recent rhetoric has inspired them organize marches on Washington D.C. and in Satellite Marches across the country. It's mission statement is as follows:

The March For Science champions public funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, non-partisan group to call for science that upholds the common good, and for political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.

The Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation states the following:

We believe that scientific knowledge and technological power are among the means ordained of God to enable such exaltation, including realization of diverse prophetic visions of transfiguration, immortality, resurrection, renewal of this world, and the discovery and creation of worlds without end. We feel a duty to use science and technology according to wisdom and inspiration, to identify and prepare for risks and responsibilities associated with future advances, and to persuade others to do likewise. 

Much of the stated goals of March for Science and the Mormon Transhumanist Association are in harmony. Whatever one's political persuasion, we hope that you may find ways to support science and its role in society both secular and religious.

More information about March for Science can be found on their website or Facebook page.

More information about the Mormon Transhumanist association can likewise be found on our website or Facebook page.


Call for papers



The Mormon Transhumanist Association is pleased to announce that this year's annual conference will take place on Saturday, 8 April 2017, at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah.

The theme of the conference is “Evolving Gods.” From its earliest beginnings, humanity has looked beyond itself, seeing in various deities its characteristics embodied to a superlative degree. Human conceptions of the divine have undergone dramatic shifts, from polytheistic contention for dominance between tribal deities, to notions of a god more powerful than all these, and eventually to the consigning of these tribal deities to oblivion as monotheism became predominant. Early Christians, Eastern Orthodox, and subsequent restorationist movements, like Mormonism, emphasized human divine potential through the process of theosis, deification, or divinization. Eastern religions taught the possibility of achieving unity with the divine community of enlightened beings.

In our present era of rapidly accelerating technological advancement, we are achieving tremendous improvements in physical and mental health, rejuvenation, and communal well-being. We are seeing declines in violence and suffering that bring us closer to the just society envisioned by many religions. At the same time, many traditional religions are in decline, while fundamentalist and secularist movements gain momentum. We also face numerous existential risks, including environmental degradation, technological obsolescence and political upheaval.

This theme raises questions about how our conception of the divine and of morality has changed over time and how it continues to change in our transhuman age; about the function of religion and the new shapes it is taking; and about how we humans should approach our increasingly godlike powers, and what kinds of gods we will choose to resemble, for good or ill.


KEYNOTE SPEAKERS


Steven Peck is a professor of biology at Brigham Young University, where he teaches courses including “The History and Philosophy of Biology” and “Bioethics.” His research in theoretical mathematical ecology and insect populations has been recognized by the National Academy of Sciences and the United Nations for helping to fight insect-borne illness. His published works include over forty scientific articles in prominent publications like American Naturalist, Newsweek, and Zygon; a volume of philosophical and religious essays titled Evolving Faith; fictional works like The Scholar of Moab and A Short Stay in Hell, which is being made into a feature film; and a number of poems and short stories. He blogs at sciencebysteve.net.




Robin Hanson is associate professor of economics at George Mason University, and research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. Oxford University Press published his book The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth in June 2016, and will publish The Elephant in the Brain, co-authored with Kevin Simler, in September 2017. He has pioneered prediction markets, also known as information markets and idea futures, since 1988. He was the first to write in detail about creating and subsidizing markets to gain better estimates on a wide variety of important topics. He was a principal architect of the first internal corporate markets, at Xanadu in 1990, of the first web markets, the Foresight Exchange since 1994, of DARPA's Policy Analysis Market, from 2001 to 2003, and of IARPA's combinatorial markets DAGGRE and SCICAST from 2010 to 2015. He developed new technologies for conditional, combinatorial, and intermediated trading, and studied insider trading, manipulation, and other foul play. He has written and spoken widely on the application of idea futures to business and policy, and has advised many ventures. Hanson has diverse research interests, with papers on spatial product competition, health incentive contracts, group insurance, product bans, evolutionary psychology and bioethics of health care, voter information incentives, incentives to fake expertise, Bayesian classification, agreeing to disagree, self-deception in disagreement, probability elicitation, wiretaps, image reconstruction, the history of science prizes, reversible computation, the origin of life, the survival of humanity, very long term economic growth, growth given machine intelligence, and interstellar colonization.

See more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hanson.


PAPER SUBMISSION


We invite you to submit papers for the conference. The aim of this conference is to address the many issues and topics that lie at the intersection of technology and religion, and their impacts on society, and culture including art, music, entertainment, and on society in general. Contributions need not focus only on specifically Mormon religious issues. Papers should be approximately two to seven pages in length and should include full citations, references, footnotes, etc. Presenters are encouraged to make use of multimedia aids, such as slides, to make their presentations more engaging. Potential conference topics include:

Philosophy, Theology and the Sociology of Religion: The secularization hypothesis and its implications for religion and religious organizations; post-secularization; ethics; faith and rationality; religious anthropology; philosophy of religion; scriptural hermeneutics; demythologization; postmodern religion; religious naturalism; social anthropology of technology; sociology of technology; technology and spirituality; feminism and gender issues; technology and gender.

Transhumanism: Evolution and the great filter argument; Moore’s law, Kurzweil’s law and the technological singularity; the pace of technological change; evolution; the evolution of technology; simulation argument; solar energy; genome sequencing; synthetic biology; 3D printing; genetics and biotech; nanotech and molecular machines; robotics and artificial intelligence; substrate independent minds; mind uploading; consciousness; cultural impact of technology; coping with the pace of technological change; neuroscience.

Transfigurism: Human transcendence through ethical and technological advancement; religious transhumanism; rejecting fundamentalism; rejecting anti-religiosity; transfigurist science; transfigurist politics; transfigurist art; promoting benevolence; promoting creativity; engineering transfiguration; engineering resurrection; engineering renewal of this world; engineering worlds without end; the New God Argument.

Please send submissions in RTF, PDF, MS Word or Google Doc format to admin@transfigurism.org. Include author's full name, contact information, and title.
Some funding is available to reimburse portions of travel for presenters. Please indicate interest in being considered for travel support in the submission email.

For more information, visit the official website of the Mormon Transhumanist Association at transfigurism.org. Recordings of presentations from previous years are available on our YouTube channel.

Important dates

  • Conference Paper Submission Deadline: 28 February 2017
  • Presentation Invitation Notification Date: 7 March 2017
  • Conference Date: 8 April 2017


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