Accelerating Future Transhumanism, AI, nanotech, the Singularity, and extinction risk.

20Aug/06124

Women in Transhumanism

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.

Comments (124) Trackbacks (4)
  1. Hey Michael, thanks for the quoting and compliments. I do feel as if, recently, there is tremendous imperative to get more involved. But my views (and feelings) pertianing to gender are rather odd. I got an e-mail the other day from someone on an elist I belong to stating that they were glad to have a woman on the list, and quite honestly, that threw me a bit since at that moment I’d forgotten I was female! I don’t really have a “gendered” inner view of myself, I suppose, and often times I just end up getting reminded of it by other people, or when it’s time to choose the right public restroom.

    But it is indeed good to see I’m not the only one out there. The whole “sausage fest” thing (and that term ALWAYS makes me crack up, by the way) has never been an issue at all for me — after all, I did major in Electrical Engineering , which is incredibly male-dominated, and I never felt a bit out of place in those classes. I tend to group people along the lines of what they’re interested in as opposed to what’s in their shorts.

  2. Since this is the most recent thread, and because I don’t yet have an account at Betterhumans, I’ll post here. I am female (according to most people :) and have strong transhumanist leanings at the very least. I don’t participate in any online fora because I am healing from an illness of the central nervous system. It affects, among other things, my energy level, my ability to concentrate, and my amygdala, so you can probably imagine the havoc that plays when I try to relate and why I don’t do it much. I thought I would stand up and be counted, anyway.

  3. Re: “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.”

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers_pr.html

  4. Yup, I’ve seen that Wired article. It’s a bit biased, though — plenty of medicalized language. I think parents are being shortchanged horribly by the medical profession in many cases — even though a lot of autistic kids meet developmental milestones in an unpredictable order, everyone grows and develops and learns skills as they get older.

    I’ve conversed with parents who have to fight to get their kid into a decent school and receive reasonable education — there are a lot of autistic kids who end up in really dismal classrooms simply because everyone’s expectations are too low. I strongly suspect (and look, here’s where I get back on topic!) that people with Asperger’s, etc., are being treated in a biased manner in the same way that women were, until relatively recently in history, assumed to be intellectually inferior and incapable of much besides having babies and looking cute. Things aren’t always what they seem.

    And Michael: Your quoting of me reminded me that I still need to work on that overpopulation essay! (Though I’m definitely busy with 2 other H+ related projects right now, which I hope to be able to describe in more detail in the near future).

  5. As another woman in transhumanism, I’m sorry that I didn’t see the Betterhumans piece before. I can only say that I deal with so much information input in the course of a day or week, that the WTA, Extropy and >HTech, plus PhysOrg.com, AlterNet, PR Watch and the rest of the traditional media feeds provide way too much input to keep up with and still work for a living. Betterhumans fell by the wayside (only because when I tried joining some time back, the site must have been having problems, because my attempts at joining failed and I never tried again…).

    As for a little pink gender icon next to my name, I don’t do pink. It’s not my color. I have never felt the need to give myself a gender designation and I never will. You shouldn’t be able to tell my gender from my writing and if you can’t tell my gender by looking at me, then you must be blind. The former is irrelevant and the later is self evident.

    Like other H+ women, I don’t consider my brain particularly female. From the youngest age, I’ve always had what are generally thought of as male interests, had more male friends than female and my close female friends have always been of the brainy, thoughtful and often confrontational variety. I do not, however, suffer from any of the autistic or Aspergers-like issues that H+ers often discuss. I am socially adept, having been raised in a very etiquette-ridden social sphere, trained in just about every form of artistic expression (whether I was any good at them or not) and was taught the power of personal presentation. My God, I just realized I sound like a geisha! But then, I was born an East Coaster and my mother was Old School.

    Unlike many H+ women, I married young and I’m a mother of two children. But the truth is my husband is a better ‘mom’ than I am. He’s volunteers for the PTA events, sits on our school’s governance council, leads cub scouts, etc. He also cooks and cleans better than I do. However, I oversee the homework and if the kids want to know about life, the universe and everything, they come to me. ;-) We cover the same familial landscape traditional families do, but with a different division of labor and it works for us.

    As a TV writer, I happily went by ‘Patricia.’ Even though the media is still a sexist game, there were women in television and I did fine. But as a budding futurist and newly hatched writer of techno-thrillers, I feel the need to go by PJ. Why? Because it is a proven fact that women will read books written by men and women, but men will usually only read books written by men. Pathetic, but true. And my subjects are definitely male, treading as they do in Clancy/Crichton territory. JK Rowling and PD James knew this as well (or at least their publishers did). And in the Wikipedia, there are 9 male PJs for every 1 female PJ, so I figure I’m covered… wait… I can see it now… it’ll be me and PJ O’Rourke, holding up opposite ends of the bar. REALLY opposite ends of the bar.

    I just launched my website (still under construction!) and as a joke, I even put a picture of myself and my husband together in my bio, which doesn’t make it overly clear I’m female. Unless you read it, most people might assume the tall guy is PJ Manney. And that suits me just fine.

    I hate to say this, but it has always seemed to me that men unconsciously think that the future belongs to them. By that, I mean the future is filled with male concerns and male solutions. Female concerns and solutions don’t seem to rate as highly, but that could simply be from the lack of female perspective and input in futurist thinking. Maybe people like Anne C. and others can help remedy that. I also think the market will help remedy that as well. Men will come up with some male-centric H+ tech that women will turn around into something that becomes the killer app, especially if it involves anti-aging. Like the guy who invented the burn cream for his own face that became the $125 an ounce Crème de la Mer.

    As much as I would like to see more women recruited into transhumanism, it seems unlikely in any major numbers. As it stands now, H+ is very much a boy’s club, although I would never, ever say that H+ers mean it to be so. I certainly don’t feel locked out in any way. It’s just their concerns are so male-oriented, that I don’t think recruitment is the answer. Consciousness-raising, perhaps, on the parts of both the men of transhumanism and women who might be sympathetic could be in order. But not outright recruitment. What are you offering them?

    As far as I can see, Natasha is the only woman visible in the movement from the outside. And thank God she’s there. Otherwise, transhumanism would be in an even bigger need of an extreme makeover…
    http://www.transhumanism.org/index.php/WTA/more/extreme-makeover-needed/

  6. I’m not really certain what “male-centered tech” is, unless you’re counting things like Viagra. Computers, robots, mind-uploading, video games, VR, flying cars, nanotech…those are all equal-opportunity as far as I’m concerned!

  7. It’s just their concerns are so male-oriented, that I don’t think recruitment is the answer.

    ???? No. Transhumanism is gender-indifferent. Think gerbil turning into humans. It’s interspecies, not intraspecies. I myself mainly focus on *human-universal* flaws, and how we might eventually get rid of them.

    Is there anything in the Transhumanist FAQ that you consider specifically male-oriented? If so, you should write Nick Bostrom and ask him to change it.

    Computers, robots, mind-uploading, video games, VR, flying cars, nanotech…those are all equal-opportunity as far as I’m concerned!

    Yep.

  8. Anne, you yourself say how much the things that interest you are usually the domain of men and how you are often the only woman involved. The problem with most H+ers is that none of you spend much time with women (or just people) outside of the intellectual/hi-tech world, do you? Have you ever just sat with ‘normal people’ and had a conversation about all this stuff? I do on a regular basis. It’s my job. While all the things you list will come into society as a whole and effect everyone, no ‘average’ woman thinks those things will pertain to her now or in the future, except in small ways. Nanotech is about sunblock and pants that don’t wrinkle; gaming is about the games their kids play; flying cars are SF and therefore, BS; robots may be applicable, but only if you’re in an Asian country with a culturally-friendly robot initiative; and computers, well, of course they understand those as the box on their desk that lets them online shop and email, but no one likes the idea of uploading. I’ve had many people (especially women) tell me they would rather die than see uploading happen. This is something I’ve written about before on the WTA site. The average person sees all of this as SF and scary. Transhumanists are doing nothing to dispell this idea. If anything, they reinforce it with their SF-style musings. SF has been a traditionally a male-oriented genre. I should know. My entire life has been spent with the geek boys…

  9. Anne, you yourself say how much the things that interest you are usually the domain of men and how you are often the only woman involved.

    Yes, but that doesn’t make the things that interest me inherently “masculine”, nor does it mean that there’s anything stopping any woman from participating in discussions of such things. If I’m able to just join in, why can’t they? If other women (who aren’t me) are somehow afraid of, or intimidated by, joining in a discussion simply because there aren’t many other women already present…well, I honestly don’t understand that mindset. That’s something they need to deal with — and though I’m certainly not accusing you of making this assumption, I am seriously peeved by the assumption I encounter occasionaly wherein people start going on about the “psychology of women” or the “female brain” as explanations for why women and men seem to gravitate toward different communication styles and interests. I think it depends on the individual.

    I am not going to waste my time attempting to “draw women into transhumanism” by trying to appeal to gender stereotypes; given my own communication style and set of interests, I’d probably be about as facile at it as the “average” male. I don’t have any special priveleged insight into the psyche of other women just because I happen to have two X chromosomes, and I don’t feel that I somehow have to justify my existence in the transhumanist realm by bringing “traditional female qualities” to it. I want to be useful due to my individual skills and qualities, not the fact that I have ovaries.

    no ‘average’ woman thinks those things will pertain to her now or in the future, except in small ways. Nanotech is about sunblock and pants that don’t wrinkle; gaming is about the games their kids play; flying cars are SF and therefore, BS; robots may be applicable, but only if you’re in an Asian country with a culturally-friendly robot initiative; and computers, well, of course they understand those as the box on their desk that lets them online shop and email, but no one likes the idea of uploading.

    All that you list might be true about the “average” woman, but I don’t see how it applies to me or to transhumanism in general. I personally am interested in learning about (and contributing to the development of) useful technologies and analyzing the ethical and philosophical implications of various technologies.

    I’ve had many people (especially women) tell me they would rather die than see uploading happen.

    Hmm, interesting. I’ve been challenged by people who disagree with radical life extension, but the gender balance on that has been pretty evenly split.

    The average person sees all of this as SF and scary. Transhumanists are doing nothing to dispell this idea. If anything, they reinforce it with their SF-style musings. SF has been a traditionally a male-oriented genre.

    Speculative writing and thought is an excellent platform for considering the impact of future technological developments, so long as it doesn’t prompt people to inaction (i.e., sitting around waiting for some kind of technological rapture and thinking that you’ll be able to benefit from it even if you spend all day sitting around eating Doritos and watching daytime TV). If a person can engage in what sound like “SF-style musings” to the uninformed, but have these musings backed up by actual science, I don’t know what the problem is. There are a lot of people who don’t believe in evolution because THAT to them sounds like “SF” or fantasy, but I don’t fault the science (or the direct manner in which it is presented) for that.

    The best success I’ve had in terms of helping people to accept certain H+ ideas is to make historical comparisons — i.e., noting that people already live a lot longer than they used to, and that at one time, things like IVF and organ transplants were considered just as bizarre.

    I should know. My entire life has been spent with the geek boys.

    Well, so have I — “geek boys” have always been the only sort of boys that could stand to be around me, and I’m happily partnered to a very smart geekboy (who only jokingly refers to me as a “transhumanist nutjob”). I guess I just always thought of them as people and didn’t pay too much attention to the, “They have a boy thingie and I have a girl thingie!” aspect of the interaction. It was always very difficult to find people who shared any of my interests while I was growing up, and I honestly didn’t care or really acknowledge (except in retrospect) that most of the people I did find were male.

  10. I always find it fascinating that people assume that how they see the world is how the rest of the world sees either them or itself. Invariably, it’s not the case. I believe there is an adage, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Maybe we need to add, “To a transhumanist, all new technology looks like the future…” ;-)

    Whether or not you consider your own gender relevant is immaterial to the argument. Society considers gender relevant in the aggregate. Most women consider it relevant, as do most men. If you have never had to deal with negative gender issues or never felt excluded from group participation because of your gender, you are a rare and lucky person indeed.

    And your interests are catalogued by society as masculine and/or feminine by virtue of the percentages of each sex who participate in them. For example, dolls are for girls and guns are for boys. It is completely immaterial that I played with guns and not dolls as a child, if the discussion is about females, who in general, play with dolls.

    This entire argument began with the question of why so few women participate in transhumanism and how to include more women. If transhumanism hopes to address the concerns of the society at large, it must address both sexes.

    If anything, Anne, it is women like us who perpetuate the division, because we not only cope, we flourish within the existing H+ culture. Most women would not. So if everyone just gets defensive about the fact that it is alienating a huge portion of society, then nothing will change and we’ll all go back to our corners. If the H+ culture isn’t capable of becoming a bigger tent to include more varied types of women, if not people, it will remain a mostly male geek squad. If everyone’s okay with that, then I will happily end the discussion. Far be it from me to act as the one rabid feminist among you all! ;-)

    This is why the concept of recruitment will fail. Transhumanism is not offering those on the outside anything they think they want, because they don’t bother to communicate in a language the great big world can understand. I find it ironic that the transhumanist world is still the world of the printed word and academia, which could be defined as the dying communication/educational paradigm. The language H+ers speak is intellectual, dispassionate, scientific, disciplined and philosophical. They also think they’re objective, but of course, that’s an illusion. But the great big world out there was formed by 20th C. media – mostly television – and the language they speak is visual and aural, emotional, subjective, intimate, instant, and most importantly, in a narrative.

    The question of recruitment is not really one of male vs. female. The question is: Are you bilingual?

  11. I always find it fascinating that people assume that how they see the world is how the rest of the world sees either them or itself. Invariably, it’s not the case.

    I’m still working on developing my Theory of Mind, but I definitely never assume that everyone sees the world the way I do. I was just stating facts about how I perceive the world, and relating my own experiences — and noting that there is literally nothing stopping any female from jumping into transhumanist discussion, provided they have the interest in the first place.

    If you have never had to deal with negative gender issues or never felt excluded from group participation because of your gender, you are a rare and lucky person indeed.

    I wasn’t trying to say that I’d never experienced any form of discrimination at all in my life — I was just noting that I have never once joined an H+ message board or mailing list and been (a) ignored, (b) not taken seriously, or (c) told that there were No Girls Allowed.

    If there are indeed fora on which women are ignored or told to go away, I haven’t found any of them. And I’ve also never had the experience of being booted out of scientific or sci-fi discourse.

    But I did become keenly aware of gender stereotyping at a very early age; I remember protesting very loudly that I shouldn’t have to wear dresses (which I found miserably uncomfortable) just because I was a girl, and being extremely unsatisfied with answers like, “Well, you have to look pretty.” Ugh.

    I guess that sort of thing just tended to “bounce off” me — yes, it was there, but I always figured the people applying such stereotypes and restrictions were clueless and I never felt any compulsion to internalize those restrictions.

    The real question here might be: why didn’t I internalize the social pressures, or rather, why do so many females tend to do so? If my brain wiring makes me intrinsically resilient to social pressures, then obviously I’m not qualified to explain why other women do succumb to such pressures.

    I’m definitely interested in the “why” behind that conundrum, but I was trying to make the point that merely being female doesn’t give me insight into the minds of other females. This is a statement of fact and not an attempt to be argumentative. :)

    This entire argument began with the question of why so few women participate in transhumanism and how to include more women.

    Hehe. My answer is still, “I have no idea!” I think it depends on the woman, really. I honestly don’t think of people in terms of populations — I’m more individual-centric, I suppose.

    If anything, Anne, it is women like us who perpetuate the division, because we not only cope, we flourish within the existing H+ culture. Most women would not.

    I’ll have to just take your word for that since I lack experimental data myself. I always figured that people would just gravitate toward what they were interested in, and considering some of the reactions I got to trying to talk about my interests when I was younger (like when another girl threw my “Fourth Dimension” book across the room because she looked at the cover and deemed it “boring and stupid”), I got the impression that some people like some things and other people like other things.

    This whole conversation has me a bit taken aback, I suppose, but at the same time I realize that I’ve been lucky enough to be born into a generation wherein I CAN just walk in and start participating, in which I CAN get an engineering education, and in which I can vote and take advantage of birth control and all sorts of other things that would not be the case at all if people hadn’t fought tirelessly for them in the past.

    If the H+ culture isn’t capable of becoming a bigger tent to include more varied types of women, if not people, it will remain a mostly male geek squad. If everyone’s okay with that, then I will happily end the discussion.

    I’m all for inclusion of different kinds of people in all things (heck, that’s the motivation behind my involvement in autistic advocacy — and oddly enough, this conversation has granted me the realization that growing up autistic (Asperger’s) probably had far more of an overall effect on me than growing up female did.

    This doesn’t mean I’m not a “Real Girl”, but rather, that my social experiences were atypical, so you (as in, the generic “you”) cannot assume I have any concept of the population-averaged female paradigm. I don’t, because I’ve never really been a part of it, though I don’t think that makes me any less female.

    Transhumanism is not offering those on the outside anything they think they want, because they don’t bother to communicate in a language the great big world can understand.

    In my case it’s not a question of “not bothering”, it’s a case of my own particular communication style and mode of thinking. Which I don’t think there’s anything wrong with — it’s different from the majority, perhaps, but not defective or outmoded.

    I figure that I can offer information and try to assuage fears based on extrapolation from the present (and the historical context I mentioned earlier), but other than that, people need to be equipped the presence of mind to make their own decisions. Though of course, they might somehow be disadvantaged with regard to being thusly equipped, and it probably would be a good idea to determine the source of that disadvantage.

    As far as what I think would help everyone — women AND men — with regard to learning about (and being enabled by) technology, I think that one good place to start would be to promote critical thinking in public, and in the schools. I also think it would be neat to somehow “infiltrate” TV commercials and popular television shows with memes that might help people actually think.

  12. Transhumanism is not offering those on the outside anything they think they want, because they don’t bother to communicate in a language the great big world can understand.

    Jeez, well, I try my best. I have successfully introduced transhumanism to over 100 people through in-person discussions. Both genders… I grew up with a sister two years younger than me who is also arguably my best friend. She is very enthusiastic about transhumanism, reads this blog, and wants to go into SENS research when she graduates.

    People on the outside don’t want immortality, superintelligence, superabundance, or paradise engineering? If so, then this is only due to their lack of vision and unwillingness to actually sit down and read more than just a few paragraphs on the topic. It is also the case that there is probably a certain threshold IQ and mean IQ necessary to understand transhumanism. (Ever met a transhumanist that was less than a sigma above the mean?)

  13. I hate to say this, but it has always seemed to me that men unconsciously think that the future belongs to them. By that, I mean the future is filled with male concerns and male solutions. Female concerns and solutions don’t seem to rate as highly, but that could simply be from the lack of female perspective and input in futurist thinking.

    Excellent point, PJ. This goes on in so many domains. Gender is so often relegated to a “special interest” that does not intersect with other issues (on the Right and the Left). In other words, an issue like agriculture is examinded in the context of AIDS, but gender is looked at separately, when in fact they should all be examined together. It’s an extremely naive view, if you ask me. Women are 50% or more of the average population, but we are still considered a minority.

    Personally, I am more of an “information sharer” and find debate (like on Betterhumans) challenging. I am not out to be smarter or more informed than anyone. (Though I admire my female BHers who have taken up the challenge.) Men enjoy the one-upmanship that goes on in many circles…academia comes to mind.

    Transhumanism, for now, is inherently scientific and for some, taboo. When it gains more acceptance and more discussion in greater society, as homosexuality has (for example), I would expect more women to become involved.

  14. Hmm, I suppose I don’t see most debate as “one-upmanship” (though that could be my persistent optimism sneaking in) — rather, I tend to see it as a means of rigorously examining one’s own ideas by opening them up to be challenged.

    I sometimes find myself entangled in debates, but never for the purpose of social posturing, and I never assume anyone else is engaging in such posturing by default (though it does seem pretty clear when the posturing starts…at that point, ad-hominems tend to crop up).

    My desire to be informed is for the sake of having (and being able to make use of) the information, though of course I can’t speak for anyone else’s motivations.

    Women are 50% or more of the average population, but we are still considered a minority.

    I’m assuming you mean that we are considered a minority in certain academic disciplines and careers, like the sciences. I’ve definitely noticed that, but certainly, there are more women now working outside the home than ever before.

  15. I’m a female transhumanist and statistically belong to a minority group (as a transhumanist and as a female being a transhumanist). IMHO here lies the problem: statistics. If one makes a statistical division (e.g. male / female, black / white, young / old etc.) one automatically gets inclined to attach some interpretation to the variables, e.g. what are the average attitudes or characteristics of females, whites or young people. If there’s some kind of deviation to the standard pattern, i.e. minorities, one gets inclined to interpret this as something “special” or something “wrong”. But since not all humans are the same, one can always find statistical minorities if looking at specific combinations of variables (e.g. transhumanists over 80 years of age). What may be problematic is when people don’t take the statistics just as data (e.g. 10% of all transhumanists have red hair), but try to attach interpretations and judgements to this (e.g. because there are so few female transhumanists, female transhumanists have to be somewhat “un-female” – or transhumanisms is some “male thing”) and then often search for some kind of explanations for this. But if not wanting to get interpretations and explanations, why obtain statistical data in the first place?
    If not mapping me as female or transhumanist (or whatever else), one could not get me as a minority (or majority). But many people do statistics automatically and maybe unconsciously (female, East Asian, pro-technology – so East Asian and pro technology fits = majority, but female and pro technology rather not = minority… so is it the Asian aspect that dominates the variable of being female in regard to technology. So what’s the difference between male and female East Asians…But why are there only so few East Asian transhumanists???). One solution would be just to disregard the factor “gender” and strive for a “gender-free society”, but this is practically hard to achieve, especially if people get interested in questions why only few women are involved in transhumanism, technology or engineering and want to find out in order to change this…so here we are again at the beginning: statistics, categorizing and interpretations…

    (Yes, on “frappr” I’m listed as female transhumanist, but I decided for this to show that even females living on a pacific island (what I did for more than a year) can be transhumanists…)

  16. This was interesting.
    I had no idea that women weren’t interested in Transhumanism affairs.
    Samantha Atkins once replied to me that it was somewhat a male domain but didn’t really elaborate.
    I have been so busy trying to understand technology, Extropy, Sl4 and Transhumanistic behavior and ideas, I forgot that there is an issue between male and female.
    Wow, nothing like zapping somebody back to the present:)

    Anna:)

  17. PJ:
    I’m sorry that you feel that you can not be yourself as a woman.
    I have looked like a troll, ignorant, naive, too this, too that and whatever.
    But, I do not need to be anything than what I am.

    Anna:)
    It doesn’t matter if you’re female or male.
    A universal appeal does not recognize gender.

  18. I had seen this discussion already but came back after having had the pleasure of meeting a virtual version of Anne.

    This is all very relevant to the issue, very important imo, of how to attract more people to transhumanism. Since I believe our worldview can give hope and happiness, I find it very unfortunate that we don’t seem able to make any *significant* progress in reaching more people.

    After reading all the comments above, I tend to agree with Patricia.

    I am also quite gender-blind and don’t see any reason why gender should make a difference, but the *fact* is that it does. As do race, religion, nationality, income, social class, etc. I do not like thinking that these things matter so much but the fact is that they do and will continue to matter for some time.

    I think like I think but there is no necessary reason why X down the road must think like me. X will think like me, perhaps, if I find some way to persuade X to think like me. And of course every advertising professional or politician knows that “persuading” is never done with rational arguments alone. Of course if X only speaks a language that I am not familiar with, my first step must be learning X’s language or finding an interpreter. Otherwise I am just wasting my time.

    So take this as a fact: men and women speak different languages (in the sense explained by Patricia above). Rich and poor speak different languages. Americans and Europeans speak different languages. Etc. Of course this is not true for everyone but it is true for statistically significant majorities.

    I cannot say it any better than PJ: “The problem with most H+ers is that none of you spend much time with people outside of the intellectual/hi-tech world”. If we continue to limit ourselves to preaching to the converted on transhumanist lists or blogs, we will not have a real impact on things.

    I am still persuaded that the best things transhumanist could do is hiring a top marketing and PR firm. Of course that costs money.

  19. You forgot Martine Rothblatt.

  20. I “forgot” like 50 female transhumanists, including everybody wasn’t the point… Gina Miller, Sabine Atkins, Melanie Swan, Christine Peterson, Samantha Atkins, etc…

  21. And of course Valerija Pride from the Russian Transhumanist Movement.

  22. Had to add in here that I’m a female. I am raising three little ones, and the boy is more into transhumanism than the girls–he is obsessed with robotics/A.I. My girls are interested in ending aging, and being cryonicits –it will be interesting to see how they turn out.

    I of course wrote the book “21st Century Kids” to get children interested in the transhumanist view of how the future could be. I loved sci-fi and science as a child, still do. I also always got along with boys better than girls… was a ‘tom boy’. When I had children at a young age, I became very maternal–breastfeeding–teaching. I always tested into TAG and GT, had high IQ–and felt it was important to give my children that edge before they hit school. They entered kindergarten reading at 7th grade and 5th grade levels (my youngest has dyslexia so I used special teaching techniques to help her overcome so she is now reading at a first grade level–in the first grade, quite an accomplishment in my opinion, as it took a lot more teaching and help that with my first two)

    So, I feel it is important for parents to make children very smart, I also feel part of being very smart is to look at the world now holistically and to look at the extreme future–not only how we affect it now but how we can be in it. I’m excited for children who are being raised with transhumanism, I think they’ll be ushering in more change…

    • Great idea! My daughter told me when she was 2 years old that she wants to “build and make robots”. It’s a good idea to appeal to kids.

  23. I haven’t yet encountered another female transhumanist. I’m in college though, so it figures.

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