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Understanding the Transhumanist Demographic

Posted: Thu, January 10, 2013 | By: David J. Kelley



In my continued involvement in Trans-humanism, it has become increasingly clear that Transhumanists don’t understand their own demographic.  There was no one place that focused on demographic understanding, no demographic studies outside of specific sub groups, no really solid cross demographic data at all. From my standpoint, designing digital experiences that emotionally engage targeted user demographics requires this kind of demographic understanding.  

I published the first article about engaging Trans-humanist thought with the main stream consumer demographic; and launched an effort to understand and start to collect demographic data.  The plan is to run these studies once a year; and the 2012 survey results are in. I wanted to publish the high level results for everyone, and additional study data and assets, so that it might help all of us as a community.  Let’s get started and see what I found.

Amazingly enough, the composite Trans-humanist demographic is college educated, under 30, making at least $55,000 dollars a year, living in North American suburbia, is male, single, tends to be independent or libertarian, introverted and working in science and technology.  Over all, there were a lot of interesting conclusions; but based on the respondent total these are all preliminary, considering the amount of input and less than ideal rigor.  Hopefully, with time, the process will be refined and expanded.  There were some surprises; but also clearly the data shows that Trans-humanism is not a single demographic either.

Let us start with this figure (Figure 1A) below which breaks down the key demographic elements for comparison at a high level.  Study results were collected on a per group basis and aggregated into actual organizational groups and group aggregates for comparison.  

This allowed for the creation of target demographic user profiles designed to help understand and interact with those groups and compare them to other related demographic groups.  This high level chart identifies the key user profiles based on an interpretation of the 10 axis used in the study.    User profiles (also known as personas) are the basis for doing user centered design from marketing to engineering interactive systems.  The reason I went down the road of doing this is, this is what I need for the things I’d like to do and hopefully the demographic information will also help other trans-humanists and trans-humanist groups for like activities.  At the end of the article I’ll also provide some basics regarding using demographic user profiles around interaction models as I’ll be using them for various tasks.

In addition to this study,  there are three other studies that were important for quality control and helped add depth to the user profiles for given segments.   These additional studies included the Terasem Survey, the MTA survey (which is especially well aggregated), as well as the Less Wrong Survey.  Note that on the chart (Figure 1A) there is a user profile (persona) for ‘Less Wrong’ but is not in fact included in the descriptions due to large demographic defiance scores which is the last line of the user profile data.  Based on the demographic study results the key user profiles ended up being the following:

Figure 1A – High level User Profile Comparison

* You can see the detailed questions used in the survey by reviewing the base survey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HN5B5YS This survey base will be  reviewed and refined for 2013 in Dec when we run the survey again.

Let’s start with the first column and go through each important user profile, meet user profile 1 our composite trans-humanist and baseline user profile:

User Profile 1 (UP1  see Figure 1A): John Transhuman

John Transhuman, the composite of all trans-humanists.  John has a college degree, makes more than $55k a year, lives in communities no larger than a small city and is married.  He tends to be introverted and independent or libertarian in his thought is young, around 30 years old, and works in science and technology

User Profile 2B (UP2B see Figure 1A): Jeffery Terasem (Terasem)

Jeffery like most trans-humanists has a college degree, he is under 30 and single living in suburban North America tending to not be independent or libertarian. Jeffery is a little introverted and tends not to work in science and technology.

User Profile 3B (UP3B, see Figure 1A):  Joe Mormon (MTA Composite)

Meet Joe, a Mormon trans-humanist that tends to be somewhat religious in his support of evolution and science.  He considers himself Mormon or related to Mormonism culturally but whose scientific approach tends to be heavily looked down on by fellow Mormons.  Joe has a college degree, is married and under 30.  Joe lives in smaller suburban areas in North America and is very independent and libertarian in his thought process.  He is introverted even by trans-humanist standards additionally working in science and technology

User Profile 4 (UP4, see Figure 1A): James Euro (Zero State)

James is more a world citizen then the typical trans-humanist; while James does have a college degree, he lives all over the world.  James is single, works in technology, and is over 30 years old but makes less than $50k USD.  James tends to not be philosophically Independent/Libertarian and tends to be evenly divided philosophically liberal.

User Profile 5 (UP5, see Figure 1A): Jack Kurzweil

Jack is a college graduate over the age of 30 that works in technology.  Jack is single and is living in suburban areas around the world making over $55k USD.  Jack is less introverted then the average trans-humanist and tends to be philosophically independent or libertarian.

User Profile 6 (UP6, see Figure 1A): Jacob Plus

Jacob has a basic college degree, is single and in his mid-twenties.  Jacob makes a good living, over $55k a year, and lives in suburban North America.  He works in a variety of roles outside of technology and tends to be fairly independent and libertarian in his thought but fairly introverted.

User Profile 7 (UP7, see Figure 1A): Doctor Jones (LN/SENS/Foundation Composite)

Meet Doctor Jones, a highly educated, highly technical, highly paid professional tending to make much more than $100k.  Doctor Jones tends to live in nicer suburban areas in North America and is older than the average trans-humanist in his 40’s.  He is less introverted with tendencies towards financial conservatism and liberal thought.  The Doctor is married and may not identify himself as a trans-humanist all the time due to peer and social forces.

User Profile 8 (UP8, See Figure 1A): Jared Dmitry (TC/T.net/IEET/2045/Longevity composite)

Jared tends to be well traveled but lives suburban areas and makes less than $55k.  Jared tends not to have a college degree but does work in technology or science related fields.  He is in his mid-twenties and single, tending to be introverted.

A couple of notes on the development of these user profiles: UP7 and UP8 are composite group profiles where groups such as the Long Now or SENS don’t have enough variants to be considered separate groups based on collected data.  Maybe next year we can break them out if there is enough collaged data showing statistical deviations.  UP7 and UP8 tend to be on opposite sides of the demographic scale within trans-humanism; where UP7 members are going to be highly educated highly paid professionals whereas UP8 members will tend to be single non-college graduates working in retail or other lower end jobs. Based on the differential scores for these two groups, they are dramatically different groups belonging to different demographics.  The larger this composite score is, the farther from the standard trans-humanist model this demographic segment is.  The composite scores in Figure 1A show that differential and allow us to compare, relatively, a given demographics deviation, over all, from the average.

Conclusions:

The biggest thing we can take from the current results is the need to continue to develop this study yearly, improving our process and ability to aggregate and compare data. While all of these results should be considered preliminary, with time we should be able to learn more and further break out groups.  One thing that is clear is that based on each group’s differential scores, based on deviations from the average composite, we can see clearly that different groups within trans-humanism are in fact different demographics and there is a need to clearly identify the separate groups to be able to relate and interact with them separately.

A couple of things that I found particularly interesting were that only 28% of study respondents considered themselves liberal and 31% make over 100 thousand a year but this wealth is not evenly spread among the various groups.  UP7 being the largest concentration of wealth.  Another couple of surprises were the fact that most don’t live in big cities and further a huge percentage (31%) are not working in technology (so things like admin, teaching, humanities etc.).  Lastly, I was pleased to learn that most do not live in North America; and that trans-humanism is clearly a worldwide affair.

I ask that anyone interested contact me, and the Foundation, with additional questions or just post them.  We need help maintaining and improving the process so please feel free to reach out to me with suggestions.  I wish to extend a special thanks to Hank from Transhumanity.net, Amon from Zerostate and Arnold from the Foundation for their help with the study and, additionally, I appreciate the MTA’s diligence in understanding their own membership.

Ok, so you wonder, this is all nice but what do we do with this?

User Interaction Models

For me, there are basically 2 areas of additional work that I needed this data for.  One is designing software packages related to the Foundation archive; as well as the H+ UI Implant project studying how the user interfaces of visual overlay systems, from glasses to full blown implants, might interact with users. Second (and a less engineering use), we need this information for being able to design program material targeted toward specific groups.  For example, since we want to do a campaign around the Archive project, to get people excited about it and raise awareness, we need to understand that target demographic.  Program materials will be then designed specific to trans-humanists but also the larger technical community and other personas (target demographics).  To do this successfully, we need a good understanding of each target demographic.  In both of these examples things called interaction models are created which start with a user story, for example this:

“Doctor Jones (UP7) sees a commercial for the Archive.  Doctor Jones is struck by the use of the Long Now clock and the emotional connection it makes around the awe for this particular project.  Jones takes a moment to click on the link. Jones sees that the Archive is in line with his ideas of long-term thinking and donates and buys a copy of the living archive.”

This sounds like a short story, and really is, but the idea is that from this we can wireframe or sketch out each frame of that interaction and design each element of what ‘Jones’ will see and experience.  From here, we get the basis for a campaign targeting specifically that demographic.  Designing User Interfaces and digital experiences follows much the same model.  With full UI wireframes being developed out of the interaction models and, from there, design teams can start creating visual elements.  Engineers can then solve technical problems, based on UML (Universal Model Language) models, to build out technical designs and technology solutions.  Remember, with a ‘User Centered’ approach like this, it’s not about the technology but designing an emotional experience around a target demographic. I can’t do that if I don’t understand the target demographic.  This study solved that problem and will continue to solve it year after year as a public service to help trans-humanism as a community.

Related External Studies

MTA Study (http://transfigurism.org/pages/about/member-survey-results/ ) (01/07/2013)

Terasem Survey ( http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/pellissier20120909 (01/07/2013) * all results not public but made available for analysis.

Less Wrong Survey (http://lesswrong.com/lw/fp5/2012_survey_results/ (01/07/2013)

Project Resources Previously Published:

“Evolution of Transhumanity to Mainstream Thinking – How to get Transhumanist thought to go mainstream” published here:  http://transhumanity.net/articles/entry/transhumanist-ideas-need-to-evolve-for-mainstream-popularity-how-can-this-b and here: http://pratoriate.org/blog/evolution-of-transhumanity-to-mainstream-thinking-how-to-get-transhumanist-thought-to-go-mainstream/

Study Base for the 2012 Survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HN5B5YS

Foundation Projects: http://pratoriate.org/projects/ 



Comments:

Wait: is the composite transhuman married or single?

By Brad Carmack on Jan 10, 2013 at 10:02pm


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