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Zero-Sum Superheroes:  Can Transhumanism Overcome 30 Centuries of Bad PR?

This presentation will study radical enhancement as a marketing challenge.  We will start with the centuries-old tropes that make it a hard sell today, study positive models, then briefly outline what a marketing campaign for Transhumanism would look like.  Western culture has been on an invisible, centuries-long campaign against the concept of human enhancement.  The vision of a technologically-enhanced human being has been locked in mortal combat with Rousseaus Noble Savage and the concept of Man-As-God-Intended.  The result is a conflict between our programmed fear of Frankensteins and our instinctive human fascination with knowledge, change, and increased power.  This has produced a cultural stalemate: a zero-sum trope of enhancement and transhumanism where each advancement in capability must be met with an equal amount of tragedy and loss.  From Adams expulsion from Eden to Robocops banishment from his own family, from the fall of Icarus to the Silver Surfers exile, cultural tropes have led us to believe that great gain must be accompanied by great loss.  In the game of radical evolution, the winners must also be losers.  While this presenter is agnostic about many Singularitarian and Transhumanist concepts, its clear were going to change a lot.  How do advocates for significant change break down public resistance?  And how can one overcome the more subtle age-old programming behind the zero-sum vision of what might be called Tragic Transhumanists, tormented heroes like Spiderman and Spawn?  The surprising answer may come from the one aspect of modern culture where great power does not typically mean great loss:  advertising.  From Mr. Clean to the eSurance Saleslady, from the White Tornado to the guys in those Viagra ads, ad agencies have been modeling unambiguously powerful meta-humans as happy, well-adjusted success stories. With tongue only slightly in cheek, we discuss how guys with ED may represent one of several ways to market radical enhancement as a uniquely healthy and uniquely human endeavor.

Richard Eskow is a consultant with a background in IT, social science, health care, public policy, and long range planning. He pioneered the use of informatics to study and influence provider/patient behavior, helped lead national health transformation in several former Communist countries, and has had executive positions in several companies.  His consulting projects typically involve systems development & marketing strategies (especially in health care), finance & insurance, public policy, or related issues. Richard’s also a writer who covers health, politics, religion, and pop culture. He has been published in a number of print and online venues, and was anthologized in Best Buddhist Writing of 2008. 

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