November 8, 2006

Leadership changes at the WTA

James Hughes, who became the Executive Director of the World Transhumanist Association (WTA) in 2004, has resigned his position. The primary reason for Hughes's decision is his desire to put more effort into the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). He will be replaced by WTA Vice Chair Giulio Prisco. Hughes will continue to serve as Board Secretary for as long as the Board allows and will continue to provide advice and information to the WTA.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. J for his dedication and hard work over the years. I'm personally grateful to him for his help in getting the Toronto Transhumanist Association up and running and for his tremendous efforts in helping me organize TransVision 2004 in Toronto. Best of luck with the IEET, Dr. J.

I would also like to congratulate Giulio Prisco on his new appointment and wish him all the best in his new capacity as the Executive Director of the WTA.

What follows is J's outgoing statement and Giulio's incoming statement:
Dear transhumanist friends

I became Executive Director of the WTA in the Spring of 2004. Since that time I think we've accomplished quite a lot:

- doubled our active membership, which is currently around 3800 people in more than one hundred countries.

- held three global conferences, leading to our plans for Transvision 2007 in Chicago which looks set to be the largest and most visible Transvision yet.

- hired our first staff-person, Marcelo Rinesi, who has played an invaluable and often invisible role in fielding day-to-day administrative issues, and in building our extremely cost-effective communications and data-management infrastructure.

- facilitated the growth of dozens of transhumanist organizations around the world. Especially exciting has been the Trashumanist Student Network, which has grown dramatically, and which promises to nurture the next generation of transhumanist public intellectuals and activists.

- built relationships with allied organizations and prominent thinkers and activists, from the secular and free-thought movement, to bioethicists, to activists for cognitive liberty, reproductive rights and global security.

- adopted our three new programmatic priorities

- greatly expanded the recognition and understanding of transhumanist memes among both intellectuals and the public. "Transhumanist" is now routinely used in magazine and newspaper articles as an adjective that doesn't need explication.

However, there is a long list of projects that we have wanted to launch, but which I have not been able to find the time to launch, and these have weighed on my mind:

- a thorough, and professional, redesign of the website.

- recruitment and appointment of a Board of Advisors.

- fundraising, through grant-writing, appeals to philanthropists, and direct mail solicitation.

- recruitment and coordination of volunteers and interns.

- incorporation of the WTA as an NGO with the United Nations.

- writing and production of leaflets, booklets and chapter project materials.

- identification of activist projects, and coordination of activist campaigns, to engage our members and chapters.

Part of our difficulty has been the challenge of recruiting consistent and sustained volunteer efforts when we are all so busy, and involved in so many related important activities. In my case, since 2005 my attention has been increasingly drawn to the opportunities for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, of which I have also been the Executive Director, to develop a high profile as a technoprogressive thinktank that can complement WTA activism. Running two nonprofit organizations without salary - while working a paying job, writing, producing a radio show, and raising a family - has made it difficult to give the WTA as much energy and attention as it deserves.

So I have offered the WTA Board my resignation as WTA Executive Director, effective as of the installation of WTA Vice Chair Giulio Prisco as my replacement. I intend to remain on the WTA Board, subject to member-electoral approval of course, and I will continue to serve as Board Secretary for as long as the Board allows. In that capacity I believe I can continue to provide advice and information to Marcelo, Giulio and the Board on the administrative intricacies of our work.

I am delighted that Giulio has agreed to assume the position of Executive Director, as I have confidence that he has the administrative experience, technical skills, dynamic imagination, and political acumen that it demands. Giulio has been a member of the Board leadership since its inception, speaks Spanish, English, Italian and Hungarian, and has pioneered the WTA's growth in new areas such as the virtual world Second Life.

In closing, I would like to say that, despite the tumultuous arguments that have occasionally roiled the WTA Board, it has been an honor to serve as the first WTA Executive Director. We've accomplished as much as organizations with a hundred times our resources, and yet, because we are transhumanists, we will always have a very long list of items that we have yet to accomplish. After all, we intend to ensure a bright future for intelligent life until, or beyond, the heat death of the universe. I expect that any progress we make on that ambitious goal will be appreciated by future generations.

J. Hughes
WTA Secretary
And here's Giulio's statement:
This is my first message to the list after taking over as Executive Director of the WTA. I will do my best to continue the hard and
excellent work of James - please send me a friendly, or even unfriendly reminder If you think I am not doing so.

This is a short outline of how I see things at this moment:

Thanks to the work of all transhumanists, our worldview is now much better known than a few years ago, and we should keep working to make it even better known. I firmly believe that transhumanism can give hope and happiness to billions of conscious beings on our planet and beyond.

We are still severely limited by human and financial resources. Unfortunately some groups active in the opposite camp of the human enhancement debate do not have such severe limitations. I cannot even begin to imagine what we could achieve if we were much better funded and had many more volunteers and a few paid staff. On the funding side, we plan to dedicate more effort and organization to fundraising. On the activism side, we need more volunteers. So, please, if you (YES, YOU) are not already active in some WTA project, think what you can and wish to do for the WTA and drop us a line.

Most of us are comfortable with clean rational arguments, but every advertiser know that rational arguments alone do not sell. So I believe we should pay a lot of attention to clever marketing, developing a sexy image, being fashionable and in tune with the zeitgeist etc. If they use advertising to sell disgusting drinks, why shouldn't we use it to sell beautiful ideas?

We have a powerful vision of pristine beauty for a future world. Of course, the problems of today's world get in the way of our dreams. I think we cannot and should not avoid getting our hands greasy with today's big issues. On the contrary, we must make sure that our voice is heard by policy-makers. We wish to achieve the status of a NGOs in consultative status with the UN and other global organizations, and also (through Chapters) play a role in national policy debates. I am proud of what Riccardo has achieved in this respect in Italy and hope to repeat the experience in other nations (pragmatism: I am all for global governance, but today's system is build on nations and we must work within the system).

Since I am mentioning politics: I cannot and do not want to hide that, like everyone, I do have my own political ideas. At the same time, I have stated on occasions that I believe politics should be more like engineering: finding workable and flexible solutions to specific problems in view of practical constraints and within a loosely stated ethical framework (e.g. basic human rights). So I hope that we transhumanists can, without of course giving up our own individual political preferences, demonstrate how rational people can find win-win solutions to actual problems.

Best to all,

No comments: