Posted: Wed, December 12, 2012 | By: David J. Kelley
Why do you (transhumanists in general) care if mainstream thinking in modern civilization cares about ‘Transhumanism’?
If you talk to random people on the street about transhumanism, you will get eye-squinting and other strange responses. For the most part, the response will be negative. Transhumanism is not anywhere close to anything the average person cares about.
However, if you could back a few decades and ask someone about being ‘Green’ you would get a similar response to what you get now regarding ‘Transhumanism.’
In general, we all seem to agree that Transhumanism by itself is mostly a secular idea; that we as humans can be more than what we are, through the use of our own technology. But… right here is where you start to lose the average person.
Even using the term ‘human’ is a bit too technical for the modern vernacular.
You can’t stand on a soap box preaching the Singularity, transhumanism and/or technological evolution and get Mass Adoption. Really, that is like 4 reasons to not adopt transhumanism right there. The use of the word Singularity, ‘trans’ anything, technological and evolution by themselves is bad enough. If you use them together, you have entirely shot yourself in the foot. The average person is going roll their eyes and walk away; as all of these have connotations that are nerdy and extreme in nature or just bad. Besides, the consumer cares mostly for themselves and what makes their life better now.
The consumer demographic cares about what’s cool and what’s fun and what’s hot, like being ‘green’ - so they can feel socially responsible or, rather, so they can be ‘in’. (Keep in mind that the average consumer doesn’t want to be socially responsible if it requires effort; they just want to feel that way w/o any extra work or at least very little).
You can’t talk to a seven year old with the rich vernacular of high academia and expect to get anywhere; and it is the same with the average consumer. Your message needs to be able to be consumed by the average 7 year old, and then you might have a chance.
So what do we do? First, you (meaning ‘we’) need to understand a few things:
* Why do we care to be part of mainstream thought?
* Who we are?
* We need to identify what we are trying to accomplish collectively, to be part of mainstream thought. Do we want to affect change, and mold collective thinking? What is it that we want to do?
Let us start with the demographics part of this problem. I’m not going to solve all these issues in this article but let us set our expectations and our goals around this. Hopefully, it will provide some guidance.
As a side bar: as I became increasingly interested in ‘Transhumanism’ in the past year, I wanted to contribute in a way that seemed most important. As it turns out, there’s a major problem in transhumanism I can contribute to because it relates to my profession the last two decades. I’m currently the Principal User Experience Architect for an interactive marketing agency; my job is to make people want to touch ‘digital experiences.’ It never occurred to me that I could use that skillset to contribute, but after I started studying transhumanism, I noticed the problem of consumer perception. There’s a lack of understanding of key demographics, including amongst ourselves, as transhumanists. As it turned out the logical contribution to transhumanism at this time is to help provide a better understanding of the demographics of transhumanists.
Getting Our Demographic Bearings
Any time you plan a marketing campaign, the key thing is to gain mind share in the target demographic and build from there. IF, in this case, you want to engage two different demographics, you need to identify both or all of them. Leaving aside the generic consumer demographic for now, I’m going to focus on Transhumanism or the Transhumanist demographic.
In my research, first connecting with the LongNow, then KurzweilAI, and then Turing Church, MTA, Terasem and finally Zerostate, they all struck me as very different. Not having a good demographic study on these groups, I assumed they were fairly related; but the more I learned, the more they seemed even more different. I noticed when people from different transhumanist groups got together, there were frequently clashes and arguments. This indicated to me that Transhumanism is not a single demographic.
Without research, I couldn’t confirm this; but there’s strong circumstantial evidence to support the idea that we have at least 2 (but more likely 3 or 4) completely unrelated demographics hanging on the term ‘Transhumanism.’ Of all the groups mentioned above, the most successful ones avoid the word transhumanism; wonder why?
To relay our message and connect with consumers, transhumanists need to understand ourselves. This enables us to form emotional connections between our ideas and the average consumer. That being the case, I’ve provided a demographic study of ‘transhumanism’ at the end of this article.
But now, I have a small request for you readers; will you answer these questions for me?
* Why do we want to be part of mainstream thought?
* What are we trying to accomplish collectively by being part of mainstream thought?
Here’s a link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZVW332V
I’m going to make the general assumption that we care about being mainstream so that humanity will move more quickly towards the singularity or transcendence which we view as a good thing and part of a somewhat altruistic vision of improving on the species.
So how do we connect to the larger Audience?
When we talk about connecting with an audience as diverse as the standard consumer the idea needs to be simple, broadly appropriate and emotionally engaging. In the example of “going green” the broader market base feels like they are being socially responsible. Note at this level we’re talking about a very vague ambiguous idea but still, it engages the consumer and makes them feel good.
But… going from where transhumanists are now, to being on par with being ‘green’ will require a lot of work.
First of all, we need to understand what is a ‘put-off’. For example, the word transhumanism is not going to work; as it has too much emotional or nerdy baggage in the mind of the general public. To engage the public, we need an idea that takes a step back from transhumanism and from what I suspect are lots of rifts or demographics within our community. We are different organizations, with different ideas and subcultures unto ourselves. Trying to ‘munge’ it all together is not going to work without a lot of fighting so let’s stop trying and start just helping each other. We need a ‘big’ idea that feels good and that everyone understands - without a nerdy culturally-charged word like ‘transhumanism.’
If you look at various groups that are related to transhumanism, you’ll note that the more popular ones, the ones with the most money and visibility, have taken a step back from or never got involved in ‘Transhumanism’ as a movement.
For example, the Long Now is all about long term thinking and a clock. They have money and a great idea. A bit too much out there for the average person but it really is a good transhumanism club for the CEO’s with money.
From a branding standpoint, H+ has the most potential but is still too tightly engaged with transhumanism.
Then you have groups like Zerostate that have a great idea but the brand has hacker subculture written all over it; making it much more difficult to appeal to the general consumer.
Then there are groups like 2045, which are well-branded but the ideas are too radical to be swallowed in the west by the general public. Granted, it seems that Central and Eastern Europe have had a longer love affair with Syfy or at least with space and I think there may be some cultural differences that will help 2045 engage with the Russian people better than I could with the same ideas here in the west.
Given all that, it really boils down to this: that we need to step away from transhumanism and stop trying to all be part of the same club and accept our own diversity and all of our goals as being valid and recognize we are not part of the same demographic. Then we need a big idea that everyone can relate to. That is not to say we have to have that now; as it may evolve out of the movement in general. While we are trying to get to that big idea, we can do things that are publicly accessible that distance us from each other but that engage the public with the idea of making life better for people. This will give us additional engagement and drive emotional responses to our various brands (positive ones).
Here are 10 ideas. If each listed organization did them, it would help and be the kind of thing that would speed the process along. Remember the idea is to forget preaching all this transhumanist stuff and focus on contributing to civilization. (These ideas are not meant as recommendations but as examples that would help us engage the consumer.)
2045 Party (aka Russia 2045)
Wouldn’t it be nice to see 2045 with an “Improving the Human Condition Center” in Moscow? Holding conferences and educational programs from all over the world? Encouraging technological exchange programs to help research projects that further 2045’s vision? Plus, youth programs that help drive youth interest in science and technology.
Zerostate Technology Institute develops various technical programs for teaching children across Europe skills in electronics, engineering, biomedicine and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathmatics) subjects with its motto ‘positive social change through technology’. Offering programs free to schools, with Zerostate providing speakers or teachers for special events and programs, as well as running summer educational programs and camps for children at the Zerostate Technology Institute in the UK during the summer.
Terasem Institute for Biomedical research brings larger research programs together through its biomedical exchange program and its open source bio engineering programs as well as sponsoring science and technology programs with various youth groups to help drive interest in science and technology.
MTA (Mormon Transhumanist Association)
The Glory of God is intelligence within the LDS church, and - since the LDS church is more or less a transhumanist church already - it would be great for MTA to work with the University of Utah for their new Transhumanist Studies program or other technology programs, maybe a Human Centered Design and Engineering program? The MTA Art Center in Salt Lake also showcases the application of advanced technology in art through students from all over the LDS church.
Transhumanity.net’s post-graduate program with its accredited online institute and summer programs for youth helps drive interest in science and technology, and is the easiest attended of all the transhumanist programs. Transhumanity.net’s humanities approach to improving human civilization helps all programs nationwide and works with various educational networks. An example is Partners in Learning Network - co-sponsored with Microsoft - providing curriculum, lesson plans and resources for teachers worldwide.
With the Foundation’s library that thery’re building, they could open or co-sponsor an institute for higher learning open to all educational programs to use the facility, as well as building one of the best library systems for technology knowledge ever. They could, additionally, also provide not just educational facilities but also funding for technology startups that help us move towards Singularity, plus the facility can showcase the use of new technologies in practice.
The Turing Church is in a unique position to influence actual computer science around how we measure AI and/or sentience. The Turing Church’s focus on AI programs worldwide helps move the science forward, with AI awards and certification programs of the best AI programs. Additionally, sponsoring various AI classes at low or no cost through various education programs helps drive interest and expertise in the field.
With its user group approach, Humanity Plus funds meet ups in every major city and university around the world, not just in infrastructure but by developing them into strong community groups that connect with local academia, industry professionals, scientists, etc.; creating a tight community for people interested in being more than human.
IEET builds graduate programs in several universities becoming the standard for degrees in the ethical use of technology. Their program and curriculum development work helps a million children become technologists and scientists.
WFS (World Futurist Society)
Takes its Future TV YouTube channel and works out a deal with SyFy to become a SyFy affiliate network on cable. This internet streaming brings transhumanist-related programming from across the Transhumanist demographic to everyone’s living room.
There are a few groups I would leave alone, for example, the Long Now and Kurzweil’s operations, which are too strong a brand in both cases and doing fine. Remember, they are already disengaged from the word transhumanism. The goal really is to “grow the idea” - maybe this is our big idea, that we can become more than what we are.
I’m certainly not saying any of these groups need to do any of this but, stepping away from transhumanism and focusing on engaging the public, engaging the youth, educational institutes and additional research seems like it will help us get to Singularity. At a certain point, it might even become ‘cool’ to be a transhumanist in the main stream.
If we are those that will transcend humanity, let’s use the old saying of European Aristocracy: ‘Noblesse oblige.” Let’s declare that our obligation as the new nobility is to help those around us do the same. Let us be examples, leaders, and the light in the darkness.
When the world turns to greed, debauchery and war instead of science, knowledge and wisdom… help us step away from the cliff and, through the use of knowledge, wisdom and kindness, the masses will follow by example…
Let me step down from my pedestal for a moment…
Let us build a plan together. Let me know what I can do to help but please fill out the survey listed below for the demographic you most align with. I’ll correlate and publish all the results and let’s see what we can do to help the movement through activities that are less focused on transhumanism and more focused on raising the human condition. Our task list is thus,
* Since I took it upon myself to go down the road of helping transhumanism as a movement understand itself I need to follow through with the demographic study.
* Everyone needs to participate as much as possible in the study.
* All of our groups need additionally to do things that are more connectable and more likely to get the public at large engaged. I’m not saying my suggestions earlier are the things we need to do; they are only ideas and they might not even be the best ones.
* We need to stop picking on ourselves; Amon’s ideas from Zerostate about being more inclusive are on track, so let’s be nice to each other and follows his example. If we follow the golden rule, treat others as you would wish to be treated, we will be heading in the right direction.
From here we would get into marketing plans and SWOT analysis and all that; and specific groups should probably do that on their own but it’s up to them to do it.
By all means, if you need help with that kind of thing let me know. While I can’t do huge amounts of work for everyone, maybe I can point you in the right direction marketing wise. What’s important is developing that engagement with the public through the generic ideal of transhumanism, says that we should help improve the human condition beyond our biology for ourselves, our children and all of humanity. Then, our big idea will just come.
~David J Kelley
Demographic Study Survey’s By Group (please only fill out the one your most closely aligned with):
The Foundation: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/B6LG35N
Long Now: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZK3P2HR
Turing Church: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Z88KQST