-- David "Skinny Devil" McLean
first published at Tinfoil Music
Friday, 11 August 2006 08:30
those who already know of Natasha Vita-More, no introduction is needed.
For those unfamiliar with her, suffice it to say she is a HUGE thinker
not just in the world of technology, but in the world of ideas. Her
scope goes far beyond one or two focus groups and covers art,
technology, fashion, science, politics, sex, religion...from primitive
past to brilliant & kaleidoscopic future.
sculpts her body and her mind with old-fashioned work and new-fangled
technologies, and gazes into the future with dazzling clarity. She is
award-winning artist, actress, author, speaker, television show host.
She holds a BFA from University of Memphis, MS from University of
Houston (Future Studies), and is a Ph.D. candidate at University of
Plymouth. She holds certificates from the AMFA as nutritionist &
personal trainer, from Blackstone School of Law in paralegal studies,
HTML writers Guild in animation. She was president of the Extopy
Institute from 2000-2006 (ExI officially "closed it's doors" earlier
this year), is founder & director of Transhumanist Arts &
Culture, honorary vice-chair of the WTA, & sits on the council of
advisors for the Alcor Foundation. She has delivered speeches to
hundreds of thousands at various conferences around the world, been
interviewed by newspapers like the New York Times & Village Voice
and magazines as diverse as Wired, US News & World Report, and
Harper's Bazaar. She has appeared in television & film for over 20
years and her artwork has been exhibited from coast to coast in the US
as well as Europe and Japan, and her bio is featured from the Who's Who
to Kurzweil AI.
short, she is a brilliant artist and futurist. In the expanding world
of transhumanism, extropianism, and art, she is a legend. She has been
married to the equally brilliant strtegic futurist Dr. Max More since
1996, and though she was born mid-way through the last century, she
looks like an Olympic athlete half her age.
had the chance to speak to Natasha recently (note: this interview took
place in the spring of 2006), so here is the first of a 2-part series.
Hang on - it's a wild ride.....
1) Hi, Natasha! Welcome to Tinfoil Music. How's the weather in Austin?
was just in San Francisco over the weekend, but since I've been back
the weather is lovely - crisp with Willie Nelson's Blue Skies - just
right for this time of year.
You've had a long, diverse, & fascinating career as producer,
artist, actress, social commentator/forecaster, TV host, author, public
speaker, and so much more, so I'd like to touch base on a few of those
things. First, your book "Create/Recreate: The 3rd Millennial Culture"
was released in 1997 (2nd addition issued in 2000) to rave reviews. Do
you have plans for another book?
first book was intentionally designed to be a "hands on" project. I
enjoyed writing the essays and designing the book as an artistic
endeavor-like the books one sees in art museums, untainted by
publishers. I wanted it to be my personal viewpoint about the emerging
culture as I experienced it.
next book on transhumanism will be a much more serious endeavor and for
this project I will be more conventional in regards to structure. The
content will be a profile of transhumanity's beginnings, its present
condition, and its future.
From 1985 through early 2005 you were engaged in quite a bit of public
speaking (from the "Art, Music, & Entertainment" conference in Japan
in 1991 to the "Future of Gender & Sexuality" conference in 1997 to
an Alcor presentation in 2000). Do you have a favorite among these
enjoyed the Japan conference because it was produced with sense of
quality and style. I facilitated a panel on arts and entertainment, and I
also had the marvelous opportunity to meet the Prime Minister of Japan
as well as the Princess of Japan. I thoroughly enjoyed the televised
portion of the conference. The Extropy Institute conferences are always a
hit, and they are favorites. But to date, my number #1 conference was
in Estonia where I presented the keynote talk at the Cumulus European
design conference. But for a one-day roundtable conference of experts, I
enjoyed Terasem Movement, Inc.'s webcast produced by Martine Rothblatt
which was held at the Terasem retreat in Vermont.
4) Will you be engaging in more public events in 2006?
There are a few documentaries I will be appearing in, and some print
publications. I have a "Futures Podcast" and will be speaking at the
World Futures Society conference in Toronto this summer.
Many people are either new to Transhumanist/Extropian ideas, or have a
very superficial view of the movement. Can you briefly outline
"transhumanism" and "extropy" for our readers?
me give you a visual: Transhumanism is the big sky of the future and
Extropy is a shining star in the sky that has been catalytic in
introducing people to the big sky and bringing people into the big sky
by encouraging critical thinking and creativity as we drive toward the
future with our hopes and dreams.
are part of an international cultural movement of individuals who
advocate researching, developing and implementing different types of
technologies that are ecologically viable and the best possible
alternatives to problems relating to the environment, health,
communication and transportation. Extropian individuals are the original
Transhumanists who developed the transhumanism and the Transhumanist
movement. Simply put: Extropy Institute is the first Transhumanist
organization and pioneered the Transhumanist movement through the
philosophy of Extropy - which is a unique philosophy within
is a modern philosophy was created the philosopher Max More. Dr. More
defined transhumanism as "Philosophies of life, such as extropy, that
seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent
life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of
science and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values."
is the Transhumanist philosophy with a clearly defined perspective on
transhumanism which are expressed in The Principles of Extropy. Extropy
and Extropy Institute are non-partisan for the key reason that solutions
to challenges are best discovered through strategic, interdisciplinary
approaches rather than through biased political dogma, which lacks
objectivity and openness to change. Specifically, extropy is the extent
of a system's intelligence, energy, experience, diversity, opportunity,
The Principles of Extropy are:
Perpetual Progress: Extropy means seeking more intelligence, wisdom,
and effectiveness, an open-ended lifespan, and the removal of political,
cultural, biological, and psychological limits to continuing
development. Perpetually overcoming constraints on our progress and
possibilities as individuals, as organizations, and as a species.
Growing in healthy directions without bound.
Self-Transformation: Extropy means affirming continual ethical,
intellectual, and physical self-improvement, through critical and
creative thinking, perpetual learning, personal responsibility,
proactively, and experimentation. Using technology - in the widest sense
to seek physiological and neurological augmentation along with
emotional and psychological refinement.
Practical Optimism: Extropy means fueling action with positive
expectations - individuals and organizations being tirelessly proactive.
Adopting a rational, action-based optimism or "proaction", in place of
both blind faith and stagnant pessimism.
Intelligent Technology: Extropy means designing and managing
technologies not as ends in themselves but as effective means for
improving life. Applying science and technology creatively and
courageously to transcend "natural" but harmful, confining qualities
derived from our biological heritage, culture, and environment.
Open Society: Extropy means supporting social orders that foster
freedom of communication, freedom of action, experimentation,
innovation, questioning, and learning. Opposing authoritarian social
control and unnecessary hierarchy and favoring the rule of law and
decentralization of power and responsibility. Preferring bargaining over
battling, exchange over extortion, and communication over compulsion.
Openness to improvement rather than a static utopia. Extropia
("ever-receding stretch goals for society") over utopia ("no place").
Self-Direction: Extropy means valuing independent thinking, individual
freedom, personal responsibility, self-direction, self-respect, and a
parallel respect for others.
Rational Thinking: Extropy means favoring reason over blind faith and
questioning over dogma. It means understanding, experimenting, learning,
challenging, and innovating rather than clinging to beliefs.
Many people view the Transhumanist & Extropian movement(s) as
technology centered, but you've publicly said, "Transhumans and
transhumanism is not just about technology. It is about expanding human
understanding and intelligence." Can you expound on that idea?
always been technology centered and, as such, sought to increase
innovation through the technology of the times. Whether the technology
of the time is a caved arrow out of stone or a nanochip out of
carbon-people will seek to innovate with the miraculous materials which
they discover or manufacture. What has changed over time is not the fact
that society is technologically centered, but that the materials with
which we innovate, design and build, are unfamiliar. It is the
unfamiliarity of the materials that punctuates society's fears, not the
fact that we use technology. Now with that said, I'll address your
and transhumanism are not the same thing. One is engineering and the
other is a cultural movement. Transhumanism and especially its
philosophy of extropy were developed as a means to help people deal with
the massive changes that occur, the uncertainties and discontinuities
of the world around us in advancing into the future. Extropy was written
as a blueprint guidepost to help people develop skills to adapt to
change, develop critical thinking skills, encourage their own creativity
and understanding of the future.
of the most obviously serious issues that we face in the world today is
the fact that people around the world are not knowledgeable about
dealing with change and are basically uneducated with understanding how
to strategize the future. Most people live in either the present or the
past and believe or hope that things will remain safe enough for them to
get by. Few people, very few people as a world populace, are educated,
informed and adept at forecasting, building scenarios for the future and
applying these elements to their own lives, as well as applying
knowledge about the future to their businesses and lifestyles.
want to be informed. Transhumanists want to be aware. Transhumanists
are learning how to adapt to change. Transhumanists challenge and
of the most important elements of extropy and transhumanism is the art
of questioning and the art of the challenge. A challenge is not easy for
anyone, but we all have to deal with challenges every day of our lives.
As an artist, your work has been shown at a startling array of
exhibitions, from "virtual galleries" like EZTV to the Kyoto, Japan
Convention Center and the London Institute of Contemporary Arts. What is
your newest work, and what will we see from you in 2006?
newest work is "Primo Posthuman 2006" the future human prototype. It
developed as a single cell idea, crystallized into a computer graphic
array of images, and then evolved into the first future human body
prototype. The beauty of this piece is that it keeps evolving and it
keeps getting media attention. During 2006 it will develop a virtual
voice and consciousness and present a series of questions for people to
ask themselves about their own image and the future. It will be
educational and poetic-informative and inspiring.
As an actress & performance artist, you've been involved in
projects as diverse as 1985's "Liquid Sky" to the 1996 movie "Tim". Is
this a medium you plan to explore more in the future?
would like to, yes indeed. I got tired of Hollywood and the business. I
think I actually had it best when I lived in Telluride, Colorado and
performed at the Telluride Film Festival and had the opportunity to meet
so many fascinating directors and actors. I loved being in that
mountainous environment with such talented people to learn from and
9) Similarly, you were host of the LA-based TV show "Transhuman Update" from 1987-1999. Do you have plans to revive the program?
am in the process of developing an online video show on transhumanism
and the future called "Futures Vodcast" which I will host, starting in
2006. I hope it will be newsworthy and fun - and an appropriate partner
for my Futures Podcast.
You are affiliated with The Association of Professional Futurists,
Foresight Institute, WTA, Alcor, and other such organizations. You are
also founder of Transhumanist Arts & Culture as well as current
president of the Extropy Institute. While futurists in general are
supportive of these organizations, you've taken some heat, if
indirectly, from thinkers such as Bill Joy to well-known Luddites to
Monday morning quarterbacks following the Ted Williams issue. What do
you have to say to your critics?
will end up in the future, even if kicking and screaming all the way. I
don't know if it is a psychology or a genetic link, but there are some
people who just run on a fuel of high-fear. It is as if they need to get
pumped up with ideas that will scare the hell of out them in order to
find their place in the universe. Often, what is lacking in their
assumptions is the art of critical thinking. It is a fact that some
technologies are scary and it is a fact that humanity often does things
that are foolish and backfire. Albeit, it is also a fact that we cannot
live without technology and that our innate instincts cause us to want
to learn more, crate more, invent more to improve the current condition.
Today we are working toward improving the current condition by looking
for the means to extend and improve human life and to provide better,
safer, cost-effective, sustainable transportation and communication
devices. If the technologies that will provide these elements are new,
then it is common place that some people will freak and try to freak out
others. This what Bill Joy and others have done. Rather than look at
the situation and actually talk with people about it who they could
learn from (heck, I never got a call from Bill Joy before he slammed
"us"); he might have produced better judgment calls. But he got a lot of
press for his salvo and it was timely. The upside is that it caused
"us" to take action in realizing that there are conservatives who we do
have to deal with today and in the future.
(This concludes part one. Part 2 of the interview will be featured here soon. In the meantime, visit Natasha HERE and visit my index of transhumanist/extropian artists & musicians HERE.)
Up-date: Part 2 of this interview can be found HERE.