The Speculist: Convergence 08 Wrap-Up

logo.jpg

Live to see it.


« Specunomics: REWARD THE PRUDENT - Save The World | Main | All In »


Convergence 08 Wrap-Up

Well, it was a great couple of days.

Our second edition of FastForward Radio presented live at the unconference was even bigger than the first one. I think we had more guests on FFR over those two days than we had had over the previous six months. And what a lineup! Our thanks to all who took part.

George Dvorsky (once again) provides a good recap of the final panel on longevity. I think there are a lot of tremendous developments on the horizon in this field, but the importance of eating right and getting exercise can never be overstated. Not all that cutting edge, perhaps, but perfectly doable.

PJ hosted a terrific session on the importance of empathy, as well recounted by you-know-who (maybe we should just start thinking of The Speculist as a kind of "staging blog" for Sentient Developments.) Some really interesting discussion ensued. I deliberately set my own talk up as a sort of part two of PJ's session, hoping to leverage some of her thoughts on tribalism and fear of the Other in talking about potential audiences.

While my intended topic was a discussion of different outreach channels to a mainstream audience -- and whether people generally thought making such an outreach is a good idea -- I sought to use a little misdirection by giving the session a somewhat provocative title: "Winning the Meme Wars."

I'm very glad that I used that title, although I spent at least half of the time trying to referee discussions about whether memes actually exist and whether Nazi Germany provides a good example of meme warfare in action. (Even after admitting -- let's face it, insisting -- that "meme warfare" wasn't the intended topic!) That was all worth it, though, because of the fascinating perspectives that emerged. And I'm not sure that they would have emerged in response to a less stridently phrased question.

I opened up by asking whether the fact that we're planning to completely transform the world doesn't require us to provide some kind of notice to the people who, you know, live in the current world. In response, I had members of the group tell me...

...that we have no particular obligation to the general public; that there are always leaders and followers in times of change and that it falls on us to be the leaders.

...that the general public is a potential threat to what we're trying to do and that we need to "disarm" them.

...that, after all, the average IQ of the participants at Convergence 08 is a couple or three standard deviations higher than that of the public at large.

A few members of the group objected to this line of reasoning pretty vociferously, but they were apparently in the minority, and the whole atmosphere was a little too collegial for anyone to let loose with a "Hey, knock it off with the mad scientist stuff! We don't want any part of your creepy megalomaniacal ravings!" -- although I did hear a few objections to that effect as asides after the fact.

But honestly, I don't think that megalomania is the issue*. I just think this is PJ's tribalism and lack of empathy in action, and it's really just a kind of preemptive defensive posturing. We're mostly geeks, after all, and by and large we learned early on that there's rarely any point bothering with most of the other kids -- they don't "get" us and they can be pretty mean when they want to. And there's no way of saying it that doesn't sound conceited, but we know it's true: we're smarter than they are. A lot smarter. And one of these days, we'll find a way to settle the score.

Somehow.

So, yeah, I think it would be healthy if we found a way past all this schoolyard trauma. It may be true that -- as the great and wise Gilbert said -- none of us will ever really be free until nerd persecution ends, but what if the persecution is already over? The schoolyard was a long time ago, and in today's world geeks really are powerful. We've got the great ideas; we've got the plan for transforming the world. Besides, it's no longer a question of reaching out to a mainstream audience. Geek culture is becoming mainstream (it's the geekification of culture, to use another one of PJ's favorite terms.) The way I see it, geeks have to act as role models in this new emerging society. Or, if you will, they are the new heroes.

The thing is, heroes really oughtn't to sneer at (or be intimidated by) the people they're helping. It's unseemly. It's unheroic. I think we can do a lot better.


* Well, okay, there is the one dude who always wants to talk to me about his plan for an army of robotic Supermen. (I believe I posted a video of him talking about that at the Singularity Summit last year.) Anyhow I think he's kidding. I mean, he's most likely kidding...right?

Comments

I was right there objecting to the elitist line of thought! I do think that many transhumanists/futurists tend to be smarter than average, but not by as much as we think, and it doesn't change the equation as much as many believe. To "win the meme wars" we need to connect with more of the mainstream, not dismiss it.

AI to the rescue! -- I found it amusing that all the google ads that came up with this post have to do with curing or overcoming narcissism! :-)

Seriously, I just wanted to commend you on the FFR shows and coverage on Convergence 08. It's nice to read the things that all of these people write, but much more fun and illuminating to listen to them in conversation.

Yes, let the record show that Michael was a member of the vociferous minority!

Leslie -- I'm seeing ads for flying cars. But then, I always do... ;-)

As far as the elitist meme goes, it is in part quite correct. Most of the changes we dream of will come from the far right side of the IQ normal distribution. This has been true of pretty much all innovations among humankind throughout history. The majority were not polled beforehand even to the degree that likely outcomes of past changes were forseeable which mostly they were not. So why are these changes really any different? The vast majority of humankind is not even capable or willing to understand the rudiments of the science behind so much of what is around them today. The majority are unwilling to consider the unfamilar or question their mostly implicit assumptions. So how could it ever happen that we really, not as a political game but really, get the majority to understand what is possible, its possible implications and somehow choose? It seems to me to be an utter fantasy.

Most of the changes we dream of will come from the far right side of the IQ normal distribution. This has been true of pretty much all innovations among humankind throughout history. The majority were not polled beforehand even to the degree that likely outcomes of past changes were forseeable which mostly they were not.. So why are these changes really any different?

Well, what about those who live on "the far right side of the IQ normal distribution," but who have never heard of any of this stuff? Some of them may be poor, lacking a TV or Internet connection, others may have just never heard about these things, but would be highly interested if they did.

(Or, as I would like to have explained to certain members of my audience, some of them don't even live in the Bay area!)

Assuming you to be a person of good will, Samantha, I would expect you to disagree with the following reasoning:

"Most human beings have been exploited and abused for most of human history. Usurping power and exploiting our fellow human beings is the natural state of things -- why should we expect that things will ever be any different?"

History tells us how things have been; it doesn't dictate how they have to be. I think there are many people who would like to be involved in moving human evolution forward, given the opportunity to do so. Why deny them the opportunity? Because our ancestors would have?

Lot's to say on the topic of supposed superiority
... but start here: To get away form the "all the right answers are in the Bay area" myth, have the event next year in Cody, WY.... or North PLatte NE, or....

I just think this is PJ's tribalism and lack of empathy in action, and it's really just a kind of preemptive defensive posturing. We're mostly geeks, after all, and by and large we learned early on that there's rarely bedroom furniture any point bothering with most of the other kids -- they don't "get" us and they can be pretty mean when they want to. And there's no way of saying it that doesn't sound conceited, but we know it's true.

I do think that many transhumanists/futurists tend to be smarter than average, but not by as much as we think, and it doesn't change the equation bedroom furniture as much as many believe. To "win the meme wars" we need to connect with more of the mainstream, not dismiss it.

This has been true of pretty much all innovations among humankind throughout history. The majority were not polled beforehand even to the degree that likely outcomes of past changes were forseeable which mostly they were not. So why are these changes really any different? The vast majority of humankind is not even capable or willing to understand the rudiments of the science behind so much of what is around them today.

Post a comment

(Comments are moderated, and sometimes they take a while to appear. Thanks for waiting.)






Be a Speculist

Share your thoughts on the future with more than

70,000

Speculist readers. Write to us at:

speculist1@yahoo.com

(More details here.)



Blogroll



Categories

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2