A presentation on transhumanism!
October 23, 2007 3:15 PM   Subscribe

How do I successfully plan and execute a powerpoint presentation on the merits of transhumanism?

Here are my raw notes so you can assess whether I am a dumbass or not and perhaps help me:

(By "raw" I mean this is a mishmash of idea shards, speech material, and concepts to keep in mind. Go easy on me!)


Earlier in this course, specifically during our reading of Carl Elliot’s Better than Well, we touched upon the subject of enhancement technologies and how they relate to the human identity. The goal of this presentation will be to relate the concepts inherit within the enhancement technology movement, and their relation to the more radical, but inexorable terminus of Transhumanism.

Transhumanism can be achieved through the stringent adherence to a regimen of enhancement technologies
Wikipedia defines enhancement technologies as: “any attempt, whether temporary or permanent, to overcome the current limitations of the human body, whether through natural or artificial means.”

Max More stated: “Transhumanism is a class of philosophies that seek to guide us towards a posthuman condition. Transhumanism shares many elements of humanism, including a respect for reason and science, a commitment to progress, and a valuing of human (or transhuman) existence in this life. Transhumanism differs from humanism in recognizing and anticipating the radical alterations in the nature and possibilities of our lives resulting from various sciences and technologies”

The purpose of Transhumanism is not to turn one’s own body into the Terminator, it is simply to bridge the divide where natural evolution left off. In essence, fix the problems that Mother Nature (the mechanisms by which nature operates) won’t and can’t.

*Discuss natural problems that nature did not evolve a perfect solution for.

*Discuss structures and their associated shortfalls… “panda’s thumb-esque”

*Would the populace then become obsessed with self-improvement due to envy and/or the boundless possibility in perfection?

*Diseases of aging exist for no other reason than that advanced age is well beyond the scope of reproductive age and thus maladies faced in such age will not be the defining factor in regards to fitness.

Applied science is consciously directed rather than the undirected force of natural selection. The Transhumanist philosophy espouses the ethical outgrowth

1) Explain Mother Nature’s mistakes

2) Explain that genetics do not have to be perfect, just “good enough” to be passed on via evolution by means of natural selection. Thus justifying the Tranhumanistic agenda of self-improvement through technology and applied science.

posted by Dayvan_Cowboy to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

One thing you could discuss is the idea that some of us already augment our bodies - with wheelchairs, crutches, prosthetics, hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc. We tend to think of these as restorative or reparative, but there's a school of thought that says that they fall under the umbrella of transhumanism; after all, they're modifying the functioning of our natural bodies in ways that give us capabilities or features we may desire. In that light, it could be said that people with disabilities are sort of early adopters of transhumanistic ideals.

MIT hosted a conference on this in the spring - the Human 2.0 conference. I think the webcast is still up at h20.media.mit.edu.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 3:24 PM on October 23, 2007

Well, you are going to have to address the question of mistakes of human beings. As in, what happens if we guess wrong as to what modifications to the human body will help us survive and prosper. I've always been skeptical of eugenics for the same reason.

We can't predict the future and if the progess of technology reverses, then my extra arms running on batteries are going to be dead weight which I cannot use. How does Transhumanism plan to address that?

Also "[d]iseases of aging exist for no other reason than that advanced age is well beyond the scope of reproductive age and thus maladies faced in such age will not be the defining factor in regards to fitness," is not a provable statement. It makes no sense. The fact that advanced age is beyond the scope of reproductive age doesn't tell us why 'diseases' of aging actually occur. What I think you are trying to get at is the idea that we age because it is advantageous to the species that we die relatively quickly after our ability to contribute to the reproduction of the species ends. You will have to answer the question of living forever. How does this affect our ability to control resource consumption.

Finally, what mistakes has mother nature made? You will have to address the question of the fact that we can't be aware of what the actual selection pressures our in our world and can make mistakes. Our inability to see the actual future makes it impossible for us to predict future selection pressures. We could "improve" ourselves out of something now vestigial which will form the basis for an adaptive feature later.

Again, what does "[e]xplain that genetics do not have to be perfect, just “good enough” to be passed on via evolution by means of natural selection. Thus justifying the Tranhumanistic agenda of self-improvement through technology and applied science." How does the latter follow from the former? It isn't clear from your notes. What is "perfect" genetics?

I think the theme of my fundamental points is that your hypothesis assumes that humans will be able to make "better" decisions about how our organism should be structured to meet the needs of the future. I don't think that point is proven at all. This is especially true given your question about obsessive body modification. If people are modifying their own bodies in response to an emotional need, then how can rationalism and humanism be the driving force? But if you believe in freedom, how can you limit the ability of the individual to make the changes they want to make? That cult that castrated itself and then committed suicide is a big counter-example to transhumanist hopes.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:36 PM on October 23, 2007

The first question you have to answer:

Who is your audience?

The way the intro was written, I assume people are already familiar with the concept more generally without having to define it or explain it?
Unless it is meant to be very scholarly, the people there will be taking notes, and/or it will be a long presentation, it does not look like you are making a presentation; you appear to be writing a paper. You want to be offering a presentation instead.

This means more basic explanations, explaining things in terms of large concepts and concrete examples and thought experiments.

Of course, my assumptions may be wrong, and this is exactly how the material should be presented. But you might want to check out Presentation Zen just in case.

As far as the subject material itself, I would not bad mouth Mother Nature here. You can probably offer compelling reasons why transhumanism is a good thing by describing some of the positive changes it can offer. Saying that transhumanism "fixes" the problems of Mother Nature will probably turn off some of your listeners.

If you are "selling" transhumanism you can get away with avoiding a discussion of the downsides of messing with the human body as it is (in my opinion, arguing the case against it, particularly given the general public's attitude, would probably be easier) although it will definitely come up in Q&A. If this is an academic presentation, you will need to present the negatives as well.

Maybe this advice is too retarded?
posted by Deathalicious at 4:22 PM on October 23, 2007

Are you aware that some hearing aids can 'hear' magnetic fields?
posted by Orb2069 at 6:44 PM on October 23, 2007

Response by poster: Orb, refer to:

Thanks for all the responses!

I suppose the problem is that I am trying to come to an understanding of the transhumanist philosophy in a matter of days, rather than weeks or months.

Deus Ex probably didn't help ;)

posted by Dayvan_Cowboy at 7:11 PM on October 23, 2007

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