Transhuman School Project Help

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The whole point of this topic is that I need help describing transhumanism to a school- and its populace- that don’t understand the first thing about it.
On top of that, I need someone as a mentor to help me come up with a central research project. Any takers, and debaters?

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Discussion — 10 Responses

  • Michael Dunn November 9, 2012 on 8:29 am

    How detailed of a project are you doing? Are you just picking one focus or are you looking at an overall view of the topic?

    I would think that it would be easier to do a general explanation of transhumanism. You would be able to look at a variety of issues & trends. You could then go into detail on each issue.

    When I was completing my Bachelor degree I gave several presentations on the expansion of technological capability in the medical field. I started out by explaining the early trends of medical technology, discussed how those technologies have improved, & speculated on where they may go.

    You can also present various social trends that have arisen due to advances in technology. For instance: Social Media, Cell Phone GPS, Plastic Surgery, Transgender & Morphological Freedom, Social Stratification & Access to Technology, Consumer Purchasing Habits, Pharmaceutical Companies & the FDA Approval Process, Access to Medical & Genetic Therapy Advances, Etc.

    You can also give specific examples of Technological Innovation & where various technologies may be headed. Remember, Transhumanism doesn’t necessarily mean that we will all be cyborgs with robotic arms & brain chips.

    It’s pretty wide open. It just depends on whether you want to narrow down your topic or give an overall summation.

  • Matt Jones November 9, 2012 on 10:50 am

    To describe transhumanism to an audience that’s never heard of it before I’d start with Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    In the Nemesis movie (and various other times throughout the series on episodes focusing on Data) Picard has a line “You attempt to become more than you are.” Transhumanism is doing this with the help of technology, and rejecting common-place limits on possibilities (such as the wings and tentacles prostheses in the picture leading to this discussion).

    From there’s I’m bring up Geordi La Forge, with his visor prosthesis, how he refused to be limited by the capabilities he was born with (that happened to not include sight) and sought out a technological solution to leapfrog human sight – to be even more accurate with more features (such as wider-band sensing and zoom capabilities) than ‘normal’ sight. Transhumanism is commonly understood as seeking to develop similar applications of technology to every limitation our current fully biological forms have. Then mention that technology is not limited to metal and circuits, but could include biotechnological modifications that remain entirely organic but are themselves still a product of technology (again, tentacles and wings).

    I’d mention that transhumanism doesn’t have to be radical or futuristic, though it is often portrayed that way. Common prescription glasses are a form of transhumanism, they allow us to see better than our phenotype would normally allow. Cars allow us to travel faster and farther than our legs. Computers allow us to calculate many problems much faster than our minds. The transhuman view is that such additions of our capabilities will continue, and many believe they will increase in frequency and scope. In the future problems that are difficult or impossible today will be trivial due to the capabilities we will imbue ourselves with after pursuing transhuman technologies. Technology that exceeds our biological limits.

    If you’re feeling very ambitious, you could differentiate the transhuman, who achieves moderate increases of control over her surroundings like morphological freedom after intense years-long research, from the posthuman, who achieves total control over her surroundings with mere thought (Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation an illustrative example of the posthuman).

    I can see a youtube video combining these clips and pictures with some additional commentary connecting them to transhumanism being very instructive.

  • ULTRAGOD November 10, 2012 on 8:52 am

    Make sure you point out that….

    A. ANYTHING can be used for good or “evil” purposes. For instance, Monsanto is giving genetic engineering a bad name because they are using it out of greed and not testing it before they release their products on the planet, and religion… the ultimate example of how something supposedly good is used for “evil” purposes.

    B. Who doesn’t want to be smarter, prettier, healthier? Who doesn’t want to have wings to fly through the air, or gills to breathe under water? Are we stuck just being land dwellers? We spend most of our lives OBTAINING and MAINTAINING health, beauty, intelligence, etc., when we could be spending all this time and money obtaining and maintaining loving relationships with other people (transhumanists!) and going on adventures out to space exploring the universe, rather than stuck at home watching crap movies from Hollywood, going to school half our lives and drowning in debt because of it, and then just paying bills and taxes till you die. That’s no life, that’s SLAVERY.

    Transhumanism is the answer to the racism, sickness, death, ugliness and stupidity. Transhumanism is the ultimate solution to be able to live up to our fullest godlike potential. The creative potential is limitless! I can’t wait to experience more, not being trapped inside these biologically frail, disease-prone bodies!

    thegods at ultragod dot com

    • DrDissy ULTRAGOD November 10, 2012 on 1:13 pm

      If this is for college or high school (/not as immense an undertaking as a university research project), an easy frame of reference would be the latest Deus Ex game-it’s the most likely piece of pop entertainment that your peers would be aware of.

      • Ian DrDissy November 19, 2012 on 10:23 am

        As a fan of the Deus Ex franchise, I should point out that David Sarif, the hero’s employer in “Human Revolution”, is an avowed singularitarian in that game. I’m not sure if this is exposed in any in-game dialogue, but I believe Eidos has confirmed his point of view on the subject in an interview.

    • DrDissy ULTRAGOD November 10, 2012 on 1:14 pm

      Sorry, meant to reply to the author, not append it to yours.

  • urusan November 11, 2012 on 1:05 pm

    My suggestion is to put a good amount of effort into “selling” transhumanism. Our society is full of deeply entrenched opposing memes, which much of your audience will influenced by. One example of such a meme is the medieval idea that certain things are either natural or artificial and that artificial things are evil. The idea that artificiality is evil stems from the idea that natural things are part of God’s design and thus artificial things are the Devil’s work. In modern times the religious aspects of this meme have been stripped away, but the central themes remain and transhuman ideas are extremely “artificial”. Another common one is the assumption made by many environmentalists that our resources are very limited and that we’ve already massively overstretched our limits, necessitating a low energy future that transhumanism is only marginally compatable with. There are many other opposing memes out there and this will be an uphill battle. Therefore, you should emphasize the positive.

    You’ll need to answer three questions:
    What is transhumanism?
    Why is it beneficial?
    Why do you think it’s possible?

    Answering the first question should be easy and straightforward. Provide a straightforward abstract definition (such as “using technology to improve humanity directly”), and then provide a couple of concrete examples (perhaps of major paths that could be taken such as a genetically engineered person, a cyborg, and maybe even a mind uploaded person). Telling a short story about them might be a good idea if you have some storytelling talent, as people will tend to empathise more with a story than dry rhetoric. Also, using examples from popular culture could be beneficial, but be wary as most depictions in popular culture are negative (or obscure or unrealistic), so you should pick such examples carefully and not rely on them too much.

    Next up is answering why transhumanism is beneficial. The tricky bit here is that you really need to answer this question for two different kinds of people. One type will be on board with the idea of fairly radical self improvement and for them you will want them to imagine life as a transhuman. In addition to the obvious benefits of increased intelligence and physical ability, I would also point out that many everyday struggles would vanish. If someone has trouble getting to sleep or getting up in the morning, that would vanish after some improvements to their internal clock. Someone who has trouble with their weight would no longer need to fight constantly with it, as their body would just dump excess energy (assuming it mistakenly asked for too much in the first place). Transhumans could look forward to very long and healthy lives. etc. etc.

    The other type of person is not interested in becoming a transhuman themselves. They might change their minds after transhumanism becomes an everyday reality, but for now they will resist change. Unfortunately, this is likely most of your audience. For the most part your goal is to convince them that transhumanism isn’t dangerous to ordinary humans, which may be tough considering the many opposing memes I mentioned earlier. It would be nice if you could get them to think favorably of transhumanism, but it’s critical that you don’t scare them. For them, it would be best to focus on the economic and societal benefits that transhumans will provide. Transhumans will be able to solve otherwise intractable technical and societal problems that will lead to benefits for everyone. For instance, transhuman doctors would work tirelessly to heal and would always have up to date medical information. A transhuman politician could be guaraunteed to be far more altruistic than any ordinary human, making them immune to corruption and motivating them to spend all their time benefitting their constituents. Superintelligent transhuman scientists will make huge strides in understanding our universe while transhuman engineers will take those ideas to create wonderful designs. etc. Furthermore, regardless of their main occupation, most transhumans would be very high functioning and useful in more general situations. A large population of transhumans would act as a sort of innoculation against many modern societal ills. For instance, a transhuman would be able to step in and resolve personal conflicts between humans much more easily than another human could and would perhaps work to subtly prevent such conflicts from arising in the first place.

    As a side note, if there is a Q&A section at the end, be prepared to answer a question about the transhuman equivalent of a “robot rebellion”. Don’t include this in your main presentation though, because frankly it is a danger to ordinary humankind and will worry many people who don’t see themselves making this leap at the moment. I think that ordinary humanity won’t be wiped out between the massive numerical advantage that humanity will enjoy in the early years and the fact that ordinary humans will be behind the design of transhuman technology. This is far from a guarantuee though, and later transhumans and AIs may decide to dispose of (or forcibly uplift) the last remnants of unmodified humanity.

    Another issue you may or may not want to bring up is the issue of equality. Most people like the idea of having a level playing field, as evidenced by endless discussions of balance for online games. In modern-day life however, the playing field is extremely uneven. Both your genetics and your initial environment are major factors in your later life that you have no control over. In a transhuman world, uncontrollable factors such as these drop away and are replaced by controllable factors like the use of specific technologies and techniques. Transhuman society will be far fairer than a human society could ever be. However, from the perspective of someone unwilling to make the leap from human to transhuman, it will be a completely unfair world wherein they cannot hope to compete against the vastly superior transhumans. This makes it a troublesome subject unless your audience is mostly pro-transhuman already. My suggestion is to bring it up if equality is highly prized in your local area. If you do, be prepared to answer objections. Although the gap between humans and transhumans will be pretty big, remind them that the only thing holding the humans back will be their unwillingness to leap that gap and that in the meantime that transhumans will make excellent caretakers for the reluctant. The other major objection I’ve heard is that only the rich will be able to afford the technology to become transhuman, thus leading to a massive gap between the wealthy transhumans and poor humans. Personally, I feel this will be avoided through a combination of charity and the usefulness of transhumans compared to humans. Making money available for uplift operations is a great charitable cause, especially since newly minted transhumans will likely need no further financial support. Even from a purely selfish standpoint, it would be better to make uplift loans to people who can’t afford it themselves than to leave them in a human state, as the loan maker will make a good amount of money from the loan with a high probability of repayment. I feel that the only way for such a gap to occur is if there is a conspiracy with the goal of making a truly superior class and keeping it that way…which would likely lead eventually to the annihilation of ordinary humanity anyway, as specially designed robots or bioroids would make much better slaves than rebellious humans.

    Lastly, you need to show why transhumanism isn’t some fantastic pipe dream. This is just the usual speil on accelerating technological change. There’s plenty of material on this site and others to draw from on this topic. Be sure to focus on the main technologies that lead to transhumans instead of related topics like AI, robotics, the technological singularity, etc. That said, some of these ideas may be good to touch on, such as AI being used in cybernetics to improve human abilities or the fact that such related technologies are part of the overall picture of accelerating returns.

    Keep in mind throughout that you need to accentuate the positive, but don’t be unrealistic either. You don’t want your audience to think you’re full of BS either. You’ll need to address some negative topics, but you should avoid anything that’s relatively unimportant and have answers for the important problems. This reminds me of a talk on the “Physics of the Future” I attended given by Dr. Michio Kaku, where he compared several emerging technologies to electricity, which many people at the turn of the century were worried would kill many people via electrocution as it was being introduced into homes. While many people are indeed electrocuted every year (1 in 9,968 lifetime odds), it’s not really a big deal in the big picture and the benefits of electricity massively outweigh the costs. This is an answer of last resort, but it’s a good one. Change is inevitable: embrace it.

    Lastly, be conservative with your predictions. Even if you believe that change will be shockingly fast, that’s not what most of your audience will want to hear and you’ll look silly if you predict too much. It’s probably best to focus on what is already emerging and the high points of what will likely be.

    You might also want to watch Dr. Kaku’s talk for inspiration. This isn’t the version I saw, but is the same topic. He’s very conservative with his predictions, but as I mentioned earlier this is a good thing when talking to the general public.

  • Brent Ibfreeamerican November 22, 2012 on 7:36 am

    The history of eugenics told in an exciting (or excited) way, the post human or trans human philosophy and story, You need Alex Jones! Really, Just leave the bull horn at home.

    • Brent Ibfreeamerican Brent Ibfreeamerican November 22, 2012 on 7:43 am

      TERRAIST – (T’er-ra-ist)
      Noun – A person who remains organic, non trans-human / post human;
      Verbiage – One who is SELF sustaining, or, Anything opposite of terroristic actions,
      ex: He enjoyed farming and the fruits of his labors.
      Adjective – similar to ”being of sound spirit”
      ex: He had a terraist moment and realized that all matter was just energy condensed to a slow vibration and that we are all just one conciseness experiencing it’s self subjectively , that there is no such thing as death that life is but a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.
      Antonym of Terraist – de-humanisation.

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