Re: Glowing Grass

From: Joseph Sterlynne (
Date: Tue Jul 11 2000 - 09:44:17 MDT

Once again---this time mainly represented in this [Glowing Grass]
thread---we observe this recurring concern about stepping beyond the
boundaries of a small but growing transhumanist community to promote our
interests and interact with the All-powerful Media, governments, and
individuals and groups opposing some areas of research and development.

Below is a summary in brief outline form arranging opinions and suggestions
presented on the list (in [Glowing Grass] and other threads). This outline
focuses on social/legal/political concerns; mention of the important
stuff---actual transhumanward research and development---generally is not

Some notes: I'm personally in this post not endorsing or disagreeing with
particular statements or suggestions. Obviously the concerns and opinions
can be complicated and separated by differences, subtle or otherwise.
Direct social/legal/political action or involvement is not viewed as
necessary or desirable by everyone. The outline is not exhaustive. The
goal here is simply to summarize and clarify the main issues in order to
promote focused discussion. Prices include all rebates and factory-to-
dealer incentives. Pictures for illustration purposes only and may differ
from actual items.

So: how might this be revised? What is missing? Can we elaborate on
individual topics? Come on, you extra pins!


 I. A major battleground for public opinion and governmental policy is the
    mass media and traditional political venues.

    1. The opposition.

       a. Has already succeeded in securing attention by various means.

       b. Is better at media and political publicity and suasion for
          various reasons, some of which may be:

            i. Good organization and communication. (Some of this may
               derive from extensive past experience providing public
               opposition to other (possibly related) issues.)

           ii. Primacy and aggressiveness in attracting media coverage.

          iii. Dramatic, controversial, sometimes illegal instances of
               activism, such as destruction of GM crops.

           vi. Unified, simple, consistent, easily-replicable themes.

            v. Appeal to widely-held conservatism, religious beliefs,
               suspicion, and/or safety concerns (reasonable or otherwise)
               of the general public.

    2. Supporters (including large biotech corporations):

       a. Have generally been absent from attention or acting defensively,
          attempting to counteract activist complaints and reassure the
          public after media or political exposure.

       b. Are not necessarily inclined toward public relations work
          (probably for good reason). (Biotech firms, however, have
          resources for and experience in self-promotion and PR of various

       c. Have publicized or released products which are ultimately
          undesirable or are more sensitive to negative publicity (e.g.,
          pesticide) instead of fairly unambigiously positive applications
          (e.g., nutritional enrichment).


II. Strategies and internal goals.

 1. The items in I.b are quite traditional methods. Discussion on the
    Extropy and the Transhuman list highlights transhumanists' lack of such
    basic strategies and resources.

 2. One solution: imitate/adopt the traditional methods (and continue and
    expand Internet-based communication). Produce transhumanist versions
    of some of i through v above.

 3. Irrespective of various details a few fundamental desiderata are
    generally agreed upon:

    a. Communication and organization networks.
       Mailing lists, Web discussion forums, personal Web sites, offline
       communities, et cetera. Universities, institutes, organizations,
       businesses, et cetera.

    b. Awareness and action.
       Description of the status of issues in private or public domains.
       Identification of opportunities for some type of (non)coordinated


III. Goals.

 1. The following are some basic memes which should be promoted.

    a. (Auto)morphological freedom is a basic freedom.

    b. Powerful, potentially dangerous, or controversial technology can be
       responsibly developed and controlled without use of coercion and

    c. Large-scale, centralized planning and control rarely proves
       effective or acceptable.

    d. Open, accessible, and rational criticism, analysis, and debate of
       all issues is absolutely necessary.

    e. Accountability of the entities making decisions and discussing or
       reporting on the issues will result in greater awareness and choice.
       (These would of course include governments, businesses and
       corporations, laboratories, organizations, media outlets, et cetera.)

 2. Obtain and maintain a presence in the media and government as a strong
    and well-represented opinion.

 3. Encourage---or ensure a suitable environment for---free research and


IV. Action.

 1. Traditional PR.

    a. A clear, well-written tutorial on the specific technology.
       Such material should provide a quick summary, a description of the
       state of the art, a view of the present frontiers of research and
       development, and a projection of short-, mid-, and long-term
       benefits. It needs to be punchy and easy to read and, ideally,
       organized in short, easily-digested bulleted points.

    b. Television ads and other traditional advertising venues.
       Call Madison Avenue, play the old game of carefully crafting
       propagandistic, unctuous 30-second spots between those for theme
       parks and investment firms.

 2. "Progress Coalition" (Greg Burch)
    A financed organization dedicated to interface supporters with public
    policy and opinion through advertising and lobbying.
        People with contacts in media and industries and organizations
    involved should contact those who might be interested in joining and
    providing financial support.
        Could fund projects such as those in III.1.

 3. Direct political involvement.
    Establishment of a political party/platform or organized support of an
    existing one.

 4. Alternative economic/social/political systems.

    a. Establish a secure, well-funded, well-staffed "free science enclave"
       located beyond the legal, physical, et cetera reach of unfriendly

 5. Public commentary.
    Rebuttals, arguments, corrections, and commentary can be sent directly
    to journals, magazines, online forums, authors of texts (opposing or
    supporting), television programs, and various media outlets.

    a. Success will more likely result if done:

         i. Consistently and frequently.

        ii. By a large number of people.

       iii. By individuals with degrees, organizations, and/or previous
            accomplishments associated with them (while sometimes unfair
            it's true; but of course that shouldn't stop others).

        iv. In an articulate, calm, and intelligent manner.

 6. Direct engagement of opposition.
    Public, positive, directed, and rational discussion with opposing
    parties on their mailing lists (harrr...prepare to board, me maties!)
    or on other lists or in forums initiated for that purpose. (The items
    in 5.a of course apply here as well.)

 7. Network, reference resources.
    Online, freely-accessible, maintained lists tracking and informing about:

    a. Opposition groups.
       (See, for example, Greg's page at

    b. Supporters and supporting groups.
       List of individuals and organizations; list of transhumanists' and
       supporters' Web sites and e-mail addresses. (See, for example,
       Transtopia at

    c. Geographical coordinates.
       Database of physical locations of fellow transhumanists for offline
       communities, gatherings, and activities.

    d. Political activity.
       Database of politicians' voting records on science and technology
       research and development, privacy, civil liberties, et cetera.
       Assign ratings and comments in easily-browsable format. For the
       purposes of voting, contributing, letter-writing campaigns, general

    e. Collaborative projects.
       Database listing requests or suggestions for software projects and
       writing opportunities.


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