[extropy-chat] RE: [wtaboard] Report from Balticon

mike99 mike99 at lascruces.com
Mon May 30 02:44:06 UTC 2005

Bravo! Excellent work at Balticon!


Michael LaTorra

mike99 at lascruces.com
mlatorra at nmsu.edu

"For any man to abdicate an interest in science is to walk with open eyes
towards slavery."
-- Jacob Bronowski

"Experiences only look special from the inside of the system."
-- Eugen Leitl

Board of Directors, World Transhumanist Association: www.transhumanism.org
Board of Directors, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:
Extropy Institute: www.extropy.org
Alcor Life Extension Foundation: www.alcor.org
Society for Universal Immortalism: www.universalimmortalism.org
President, Zen Center of Las Cruces: www.zencenteroflascruces.org

> -----Original Message-----
> From: wtaboard-bounces at transhumanism.org
> [mailto:wtaboard-bounces at transhumanism.org]On Behalf Of Joseph Bloch
> Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 7:30 PM
> To: WTA Board of Directors List; wta-chapter-officers at yahoogroups.com;
> World Transhumanist Association Discussion List; ExI chat list
> Subject: [wtaboard] Report from Balticon
> I've just returned from a most extraordinary visit to Balticon
> (http://www.balticon.org), the annual convention of the Baltimore
> Science Fiction Society. I had arranged to get an exhibitor table, and
> was scheduled (along with fellow WTA member Jeff Medina, who also held
> the banner high for SIAI and was a welcome expert on the many questions
> that came up on the subject of artificial general intelligence) to give
> two talks on >H as part of the science track of presentations on
> Saturday (family commitments prevented me from staying through Monday,
> even though the convention was still going strong when I left).
> I arrived on Friday afternoon and set up the info table with a number of
> flyers (downloadable from the WTA website--
> http://transhumanism.org/index.php/WTA/resources/) I had printed out, as
> well as literature from Alcor (http://www.alcor.org), the New Jersey
> Transhumanist Association (http://www.goldenfuture.net/njta) and my own
> Center for Human Enhancement (http://www.humanenhancement.com). I didn't
> stay around on Friday night, as I was due at some friends' house, but
> figured a few interested early-comers might take some flyers.
> Boy, did they! When I arrived to man the table on Saturday morning,
> almost all of the flyers I had left the night before had been taken. I
> know it wasn't a case of someone just cleaning off the table, as
> _everything_ wasn't gone, but 90% of what had been there wasn't there
> any more. I was starting to feel good about this event. I put out more
> of the literature I had brought with me, set up the signs and
> literature-holders, and hung up the 6' vinyl WTA banner in front of the
> table, and even before I could sit down, folks were coming up and asking
> me questions about Transhumanism; turns out some of them had read the
> flyers from the day before and wanted to know more! Many folks stopped
> by and said they had seen our presentations in the convention schedule
> and were very interested and planning on attending.
> I was definitely feeling good about this. In fact, by the time Saturday
> was over, four new people had signed up as WTA members on the spot, and
> many more said they would do so on the website.
> Throughout the morning, there was such a crush of people asking
> questions, taking literature, and so forth that I barely had time to
> take a ten-minute break and scan through the dealers' area for souvenirs
> for my wife and daughter. Certainly I wasn't going to be attending any
> of the programming myself.
> In the nick of time, Jeff showed up for our first presentation at 1 PM,
> "An Introduction to Transhumanism". Without the benefit of any
> PowerPoint slides, any script, or really any preparation, we held an
> audience of 40 or so people enthralled with our description of the
> promise of Transhumanism. Almost as soon as our first sentence had been
> uttered, hands went up with questions, and the hour went by in an
> instant. Folks followed us back to the table, engaged in deep and
> thoughtful conversations.
> The 6 PM presentation, "Anti-Transhumanist Themes in 'Star Trek'" (based
> on a paper I am submitting to JET) was an even better success. The
> audience was completely engaged, asking really deep, penetrating
> questions, and the whole thing was completely fun, being bound together
> by examples from the various 'Star Trek' series that the audience could
> relate to directly. Naturally, it wasn't all on a science fiction plane,
> as we took pains to keep reminding everyone that these technologies are
> going to be here long before the 23rd century. After this presentation
> was over, we stayed in the room for a full 45 minutes past the end,
> chatting and answering questions from the audience, until we were
> compelled to leave by the staff (we were the last presentation in the
> room, but it needed to be set up for the costume contest later that
> evening). The conversation continued, once again, as we repaired to our
> exhibitor table. (Both presentations were videotaped, and I'll try to
> make a digitized version available on the WTA website as soon as
> practical.)
> This was such a different experience from my time at Lunacon. I can only
> think that it is the nature of the convention which accounts for the
> difference in response. Lunacon is primarily a literary science fiction
> convention, without any sort of science programming, and I think the
> people who attend reflect that emphasis. Balticon is a much larger
> convention, and has a well-established science programming track, and
> some people come just for that. Even those people who never go to the
> science programming are more (pro-)scientifically-oriented, and I think
> they regard the science programming track much like some people regard
> the existence of their city's philharmonic orchestra; they don't want to
> go see it, but they feel a certain comfort that it is there.
> This isn't to say that everything was wine and roses, of course. There
> were a few folks who were cautious at best regarding >H's claims
> regarding the promise of technology, and they certainly gave spirited
> arguments. Some folks had their own axes to grind, and imposed their
> expectations on >H and found it lacking. But on the whole, >H was
> extremely well-received by many people at Balticon, and I find the
> experience completely positive overall. I will hopefully be attending
> several more such conventions in the coming year.
> We've been invited back to Balticon next year, and I will certainly take
> them up on it. And next time, I'll have a few PowerPoint presentations
> with me.
> Joseph
> Enhance your body "beyond well" and your mind "beyond normal":
> http://www.humanenhancement.com
> New Jersey Transhumanist Association: http://www.goldenfuture.net/njta
> PostHumanity Rising: http://transhumanist.blogspot.com/ (updated today!)
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