There’s an interesting thread over at the Betterhumans forums, regarding the topic of women in transhumanism. The thread opens with the following innocuous question:
Are there any women on this site? I mean I have been through some posts and I have not found one person with the female gender symbol on there information box. So just wondering.
Several males theorize about various reasons for this, then our friend Anne C., who has been among the most active (and brightest) female transhumanists in recent months, immediately shows up with her two cents in hand:
I’m female but I don’t consider that to be some essential factor of my identity. It just “is”.
I don’t see any need to proclaim my gender with a little pink symbol, though.
And to the person who mentioned “emotional comfort” as a factor in discussions women as a group might tend to prefer, I’d just like to offer a reminder that this certainly doesn’t apply to ALL women.
I usually get mistaken for a guy online unless I overtly reveal my gender or use a very feminine login name. Truthfully, I’m generally annoyed by most women and have never really tended to get along well in female social groupings. In elementary school if I bothered to talk to anyone, it was about Star Wars or video games.
And I’m very, very interested in transhumanist principles. I do plan to start posting more in the forums and on the main page. Right now, though, I am somewhat busy with work, and also with a side project I am working on (trying to put together a comprehensive essay that addresses, logically, why overpopulation is not likely to be a true negative consequence of superlongevity — I know Max More did it reasonably well but I do not think that everything that needs to be said on that subject has already been said).
So, we (as in, transhumanist females, and females on Betterhumans) DO exist. But I’m admittedly an outlier in the world of girlhood.
In response to some brainstorming on getting other women into transhumanism, she states:
Well, I don’t think I’d be much help in suggesting ways to entice or understand other women because I quite honestly don’t understand the way most other women I’ve encountered think or relate. You may be right that “in general” men and women approach groupings or discussions differently, but I think that philosophies like transhumanism tend to attract certain sorts of *people* and gender really doesn’t factor into the equation much at all. Granted I’m not much for RL socializing, but I honestly don’t know any transhumanists, male or female, in real life at the moment (though a co-worker of mine supposedly has a friend who is a transhumanist). I don’t think that these sorts of things — discussion of life extension, cryonics, human enhancement, biological research, nanotechnology, etc. — are very popular topics in the population at large.
Sadly, most people seem enamored with “reality TV” and celebrity gossip much more so than things that actually have the potential to improve their lives and make them a heck of a lot more interesting. There are probably more men interested in transhumanism simply because the “movement” is so internet-based and I think guys grow up being more encouraged to use computers (though there are exceptions — my parents had to basically bribe me to get OFF the computer as a kid!). I have always been interested in things because, well, they’re interesting to me and it’s always been a surprise to discover that the things I find “interesting” don’t tend to intrigue others of my own gender. I don’t think my interests make me any less of a girl — there’s absolutely nothing about computers, science, math, etc., that is essentialy “male”…there are just some complicated social and biological factors at work that seem to make it somewhat rare for women to get really enthused about such things.
At any rate, I do have a few internet-friends who are female and intrigued by life extension. I don’t know how significant this is, but I and these other females who have such interests tend very strongly to be diagnosed with “autistic spectrum” conditions. I think that people whose brains are “wired” in such a manner tend to, regardless of gender, be more able to resist dominant social pressures and trends.
Another resident female says the following:
As I stated in a previous post in this thread, it’s rare for women to engage in intellectual discourse amongst themselves. The two women I have met in the past 5 years who had any interest in transhumanism didn’t want to discuss it openly. For whatever reason it seems that most women would rather comiserate (sp?), whine, and talk about day-to-day things. Many, like me, turn to men for this type of interaction. I have been lucky enough to have a father who is interested in technology, philosophy, and world affairs, and who has supported my intellectual pursuits over my 32 years. I have also had the chance to meet and maintain friendships with some very open-minded and inquisitive people (again, mostly men).
Gender doesn’t have anything to do with my interest in transhumanism. The interest in rooted in my passions for anthropology, linguistics, and technological innovation, which are not based in my gender either. In some ways I have a very male brain (good with math, good mechanical and spatial abilities, strong in both macro and micro views of things, pragmatic), but then I am also very female in that my empathy is well-tuned and I enjoy working cooperatively.
There is no question that women can bring different perspectives to debates about human enhancement, life extension, cyborgs, AIs, and so on, but don’t think that gender frames all perspectives. If I feel my position is threatened *because* I am a woman, I will speak up, but if, in general, I see an even playing field (for example, what makes the uploading of my brain any different from uploading a man’s?), gender doesn’t come into it.
It’s true, masculine and feminine views towards transhumanism and transhumanist technologies are different. Empirical research says so. Is the unavoidable future of transhumanism a unigender sausage fest? I surely hope not. And, thank goodness, if I think about it for about two seconds, I know some truly amazing female transhumanists:
Quote: “Death is only for those who tire easily, bore quickly, and are over-satiated with living. The rest of us just want to stick around.”
Natasha Vita-More is the first who comes to mind. If the words “Natasha Vita-More” appeared on the screen during Jeopardy, the obvious answer would be, “who is a female transhumanist?” Natasha is the woman freeing herself from the shackles of the human genome in the opening image of this post. As an artist, she created that image. As an actor, she’s been in films since 1982. As a writer, she promotes the Third Millenial Culture. She has outlined the concept for an upgraded human body. She was President of the Extropy Institute for years before its closing. She founded Transhumanist Arts and Culture. From 1987-1999, she produced and hosted Transhuman UPdate, a educational cable show on transhumanism and breakthrough technologies and culture. She was a transhumanist long before it was cool. Along with her husband Max More and the late F.M. Esfandiary, she is one of the key founders of modern transhumanism.
Quote: “Most businesses have a time horizon of 3-5 years… if you’re lucky. We have timescales of decades.”
Tanya Jones, Alcor’s Director of Technical Operations, makes sure that your head (or body) gets dumped into a vat of liquid nitrogen when you kick the bucket, to be preserved for possible revival by the wonderful Drexlerian nanomachines of the far (?) future. She’s also typically the public face for Alcor in documentaries or for reporters. When millions of baseball fans were whining annoyingly about Ted Williams getting frozen instead of being burned to ash, she was there to rebutt them. She’s been quoted in the New York Times, CBS News, dozens of regional newspapers, and so many media outlets that I’m not going to bother hunting down their names. Along with many other leading transhumanists, she participated in the Immortality Institute film project. She personally welcomes the media into Alcor’s facilities, hopefully making them think we are less crazy. Listen to her story of getting involved with Alcor!!!
Quote: “…it is an entirely human response to try to fix problems that are harming people — including death. Some 150,000 people die globally every day. In the U.S., it’s about 200,000 a month (6,500 a day). Given these numbers, it does seem rather odd that we aren’t demanding a solution now.”
Sonia Arrison is the one female transhumanist that I personally happen to be acquainted with the best. This is in no small part caused by the fact that she lives in the same city as me (San Francisco), and that we tend to frequent the same conferences. Sonia is Director of Technology Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, a widely influential free-market think tank. She writes articles for TechCentralStation.com, and her work has appeared in CBS MarketWatch, CNNfn, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Tribune, The Sacramento Bee, The National Post, Washington Times, and Boardwatch Magazine. One of the first google results for her name is the article, “Done With Death?”, which is about as blatantly transhumanist as you can get. She constantly writes articles promoting transhumanism to the public. Timid transhumanists take heed – you can go public about your beliefs without your career falling apart. In fact, nowadays it can be a plus.
So, as we can see, there are many excellent female transhumanists, or Future Femmes, if you will. There are dozens more I don’t have the space or time to list, but despite all this, the male/female ratio in transhumanism does remain lopsided, although we can remain optimistic that things will change with time.
For past posts on topics similar to this one, see A List of Human Problems, Aubrey de Grey on the CBC, The Transhumanist Collective, Letter to a Luddite, Human Upgrades – Our Obligation?, What is Uploading?, and What is SENS? There are many Accelerating Future posts on other topics available at the click of a button – just select the corresponding tag in the “categories” section to in the upper left corner of this page.