Demystifying Visionary Technology

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 11.37.06 AMTranshumanism should not alienate the public, but “transhumanism” does exactly that. Its core problem is that it is an “ism” – that it seeks to portray itself as something out of the ordinary, as a concept of which people should be in some sort of awe. I believe that this is actively detrimental to the causes of which transhumanism is, in practice, composed: the technologies that visionary experts are striving to develop, and which will underpin our quality and quantity of life in the future. When society views a prospective change to its experience as particularly dramatic, there is a visceral tendency to be overwhelmed by fear – fear of the unknown, in the form of apprehension that the change will have unforeseen and unavoidable negative aspects, and fear of getting one’s hopes up, in the form of reluctance to find oneself in the position of having “priced in” the expectation of a positive development only to see its arrival unexpectedly delayed. The result is unreasoned ambivalence, or even outright opposition, to the change in question – which, inevitably, delays its arrival. I believe that these obstacles would be powerfully diminished if the technologies and goals that are traditionally gathered under the banner of transhumanism were instead mainly discussed and promoted in the context of their continuity with the technological trends that have so successfully improved our lives in years and decades past. In my talk I will focus especially on my own field, the combating of aging, in which this message equates to educating people that treatment of aging is synonymous with preventative medicine for age-related ill-health.

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