poly: BBC Polemics: Help needed!

From: Bostrom,N (pg) <N.Bostrom@lse.ac.uk>
Date: Fri Jan 14 2000 - 07:48:00 PST

I've been talking to the producer of the BBC television programme Heart of
the Matter, and it now looks like they want to do a show on life-extension
(maybe touching on cloning as well).

The show takes itself quite seriously, it is broadcast prime time, and the
producer seems relatively knowledgable and positive. The format is as
follows: The show starts out with a "polemics": about 8-minutes of arguments
and soundbites in favour of some position or proposal. This is then followed
by a studio debate, where maybe half a dozen people argue about the issues
raised by the polemics. The general style is quite serious and (for being
TV) intellectual.

I've been asked to prepare a few-hundred words draft for the polemics, and I
may also take part in the studio debate. I'm working on getting them to
invite my friend David Gems, who is a geneticist and life-extension
researcher, and, shall we say, open to the transhumanist point-of-view.

Since the show is on prime time BBC national television, and we might get up
to eight minutes of free air time (what would that cost in advertising
money?), it is worth putting some effort into this. The draft for the
polemics need to be available for the producer when he arrives at his desk
on Monday morning, so we need to get to work right away. There is no
guarantee that they will use it, but if we do it well, I think there is a
50% chance.

So what I need help with from knowlegable people here is to prepare the "few
hundred" words polemics. It doesn't matter if it's longer, because they will
have to trim and modify it anyway if they decide to use it. I want it to
achieve two basic things: 1) explain to the viewer that radical life
extension can be made possible, it's only a matter of time; and 2) make the
viewer activly desire life-extension for herself. I have not yet decided
whether or how to: introduce cryonics; talk about extreme life-extension
(abolition of ageing) or only moderate life-extension; explain
nanotechnology; introduce uploading; broaden it to include some other
transhumanist themes as well.

As a starting point, we may use the following section from the FAQ (sorry
this message is getting a bit long - those who aren't interested in
participating may tune out at this point):

Why do transhumanists want to live longer?

 Have you ever been so happy you almost wanted to scream? Was there a
 moment in your life when you felt something so deep and sublime that it
 like all your everyday life was but a dull gray slumber?

 It is so easy to forget how good things can be when they are at their best.
But on
 those rare occasions when you do remember---whether it's through being
 absorbed in creative work, or it's the sense of achievement, or the ecstasy
 romantic love---you realize just how valuable every single minute of
existence can
 be. And you may have said to yourself: "It ought to be like this always.
Why can't
 this last forever?"

 Well, what if it could?

 When transhumanists seek to extend human life span, they are not trying to
 a couple of extra years of senility and sickness at an old persons' home.
 would be pointless. No, what they want is to create more healthy, happy,
 productive years. Ideally, everybody should have the right to choose when
 how they want to die---or not to die at all. Transhumanists want to live
 because they want to do, learn and experience more than they can in a
 human life span. They want to continue to grow and mature and develop for
 much more than the meager eight decades allotted to us by our evolutionary
 past. As the sales pitch for one cryonics organization goes:

 "The conduct of life and the wisdom of the heart are based upon time; in
the last
 quartets of Beethoven, the last words and works of 'old men' like Sophocles
 Russell and Shaw, we see glimpses of a maturity and substance, an
 and understanding, a grace and a humanity, that isn't present in children
or in
 teenagers. They attained it because they lived long; because they had time
 experience and develop and reflect; time that we might all have. Imagine
 individuals---a Benjamin Franklin, a Lincoln, a Newton, a Shakespeare, a
 an Einstein---enriching our world not for a few decades but for centuries.
 a world made of such individuals. It would truly be what Arthur C. Clarke
 'Childhood's End'---the beginning of the adulthood of humanity. You could
be a
 part of this. And you should be. Join us. Choose life." (The Cryonics

Depending on which other themes we choose to introduce, other FAQ sections
may also be relevant. But at a minimum, we need to extend these paragraphs
with an argument for why life-extension is feasible. (The producer
explicitly said that he wanted that.) So we should explain what the most
promising avenues of research are and probably mention some of the
following: gene therapy (somatic or germ line), as following on the human
genome project; stem cells research; organ replacement; antioxidants;
caloric restriction; nanomedicine; some recent exciting findings (DAF-genes
etc.); other interesting data.

If someone could write a few paragraphs about these things, that would be
most helpful. Other people, who are not expert in this area, can also help
by providing sound bites, quotes, interesting points or arguments, or any
other resource that can help. It has to be done immediately. I need to have
it by tomorrow noon, so I can post a draft for feedback tomorrow evening.

A crucial consideration: we can't use anything dry. It has to make people
"sit up & take notice", the producer said. So we want snappy, witty,
fascinating stuff that takes us into the "WOW this is it!"-zone. If anyone
can deliver something on such short notice, I'd appreciate it very much.

Nick Bostrom
Dept. Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics
Email: n.bostrom@lse.ac.uk
Homepage: http://www.analytic.org
Received on Fri Jan 14 07:51:04 2000

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