Thoughts on Persuasion and Advocacy for Human Longevity

Large scale research requires widespread support to raise the necessary funds and gather a sizable scientific community, and this is just as true of work on human rejuvenation as anything else. When it comes to the persuasion needed to gain that support, there is some debate over whether the incremental softly-softly approach of advocacy for a living a little longer and tackling age-related disease is better or worse than talking about the end goals of agelessness and radical life extension of centuries or more of health and vigor. Here are comments from someone more in favor of toning down the rhetoric:

One of the biggest challenges we face as transhumanists, is conveying our philosophy to the uninitiated in a manner that is successful and productive. For the purpose of this article, I will be speaking of cryonics and transhumanism in the same context. Cryonics really isn't a separate idea, but in my view, a tool in the transhuman ordinance to attain one of its most fundamental goals, which is radical life extension. Essentially it is a Plan B.

I have advocated for cryonics for 17 years. In that time I have encountered very few people who on first glance, found it to be something they could imagine for themselves. Very recently, I have devoted much time to the study of transhumanism, and have found the same barriers. People don't tend to like what we have to offer. I have struggled for a long time to come to terms with this fact, and have spent a great deal of energy trying to understand why.

One of the first things I feel we are doing wrong is speaking to the public about immortality. We are jumping to the end of the story, and expecting others to buy it without ever having learned about all of the other steps. Immortality is an unrealistic expectation that makes us sound like fundamentalist zealots. We can never prove to be immortal, no matter how long we live, so why come out of the gate running with it? It's not the right approach to take with the Everyman and seems to be a poor sales tactic. I think that simply going with the concept of extending one's life - for a decade or a century - seems to be an easier concept to sell. Let's worry about immortality later.

Link: http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/gaspar20130911

Comments

Well I don't like this soft attitude at all. Death is a major factor here and we need to convince people not to ignore it. Maybe immortality is not something that everyone wants right away, but avoiding suffering and death should be. All in all, I think that negative motivation suits this purpose the best.

Posted by: Pavel Lint at September 15th, 2013 6:25 AM

Using "immortality" in advocacy efforts can be effectively compared to fundamentalist ideologies such as can be seen in religions. (E.g. Dominion-ism, Shariah Law, etc.) When speaking to many people on subjects that relate to these sects/niches of society, the suspected reaction(s) are fear for the unpredictable outcomes on the individuals life, their loved ones and/or society in general.

Immortality runs parallel with this comparison as it is such a science fiction topic when in direct comparison with our way of life of the average individual in modern time. For formidable example, go to a remote country where an indigenous tribe dwells, such as parts of Africa or the Philippines, then present a device like a touchscreen tablet or Nintendo 3DS. The reaction you will most likely encounter is fear (As long as they have not been exposed to technology before). Not only have the person(s) never seen this device, they can barley comprehend its existence right in front of them.

Ordinary citizens of the industrialized nations that exist today are little, if any, intellectually superior than your average barbaric, shaman worshiping tribes man. The only difference is that the individual in the industrialized country has learned how to use Facebook and cook TV dinners versus the barbarian who knows how to find dinner with a spear and made clothing from the hide of the buffalo they caught that day.

So essentially the term "immortal" must be condemned in advocacy. Although, the average Joe may not be the top 1% of the country, in numbers he or she has sufficient power to hold sway, especially when speaking of political reform. Giving a barbarian a tablet will make them belligerent and start sacrificing goats to appease the tablet god; Advocating immortality to an average Joe in the United States is going to be met with substandard, oppositional ripostes such as overpopulation, resource strain, and meaning to life.

Posted by: Donald at September 15th, 2013 8:49 PM

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