About creative business
Transhumanism, or “H+”, is a philosophy and social movement that suggests it is possible, and desirable, to enhance the body and mind through technology and science.
It proposes that through reason and critical thinking, we explore and create desirable futures that enhance our experience, longevity and intelligence.
Here, Peter Rothman, Editor of H+ Magazine, assesses the impact transhuman technologies could have on traditional marketing and advertising.
Transhumanists are interested in a variety of specific technologies and sciences, sometimes referred to as “NBIC” – Nanotechnology Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Technology.
Some specific applications of these ideas include:
- Life extension and halting age
- 3D printing, molecular manufacturing and abundant societies
- Diet and health, including nootropics and supplements
- Robotics, cyborgs and man/machine symbiosis
- Space exploration, asteroid mining, and interstellar travel
- Artificial intelligence, brain computer interfaces, the quantified self, virtual realities and cryonic suspension
While there are many existing products, few are well advertised at this early stage.
Many of the world’s best known technologists identify themselves as transhumanists. Google’s Ray Kurzweil is perhaps the best-known proponent. He promotes the idea of a technological ‘singularity’, due to accelerating advances in computers and communications technologies eventually producing a greater than human intelligence.
Transhumanism is not only about the future; many early transhuman ideas are already a reality. For example, thousands of people are now real world ‘cyborgs’, with electronic cochlear and retinal implants. These devices are rapidly advancing, it will soon be possible for them to exceed human sensory acuity, sensitivity, and range.
In the near term, transhumanism provides opportunities for advertisers, products and marketers.
Transhumanists are interested in extending their personal physical and cognitive abilities. These will provide exciting possibilities for events and achievements, along the lines of Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the edge of space. Consider how the original ‘space race’ influenced style, culture and advertising in the 1950s and ‘60s.
In the medium term, transhumanist technologies promise to radically alter the nature of products, and in turn, transform advertising and marketing beyond recognition. They will open new markets, create new product categories and extend customer lifetimes; radically reconfiguring how and where we work and buy things.
Advancing technologies will provide us with the ability to work from wherever we choose, using augmented reality and telepresence. Machines, including both software AIs and physical robots, will do increasingly complex work, replacing many human jobs.
Initially these tools will be a boon to advertisers and creatives who will be able to augment their ideas with machine intelligence and ‘big data’ mining, enabling things like sentiment analysis. In the near term, advertisers will have the ability to create interactive and responsive AI advertisements that are aware of where they are or who is near them.
Google Glass will allow new forms of location-aware advertising, using the content of the scene viewed to tailor ads. For example, the glasses might display related promotional offers when the wearer looks at a can or box. Alternatively, an AR system could be used to implement a ‘real world’ ad blocker that would black out billboards or even replace appearances of a competitor’s logo when it is view through the glasses.
In the long term, advertising might become irrelevant. Transhumanists seek to employ critical thinking rather than immediate emotional reactions to influence decision-making. A transhumanist might apply mathematical decision theory in deciding which car to purchase, rather than reading reviews in Car and Driver magazine.
Beyond this, transhumans may enhance themselves so that they are less subject to social influence, engineering systems to allow direct control over their ‘hedonic set point’. These future humans will be happy, and classical ‘fear of loss of status’ based advertising methods won’t work at all.
More importantly, molecular manufacturing and 3D printing promises to radically alter the nature of products, so that the idea of a fixed product to advertise loses prominence. Tangible physical products may become entirely digital, reconfigurable, and infinitely reproducible. People wouldn’t need anything that they couldn’t print out on demand.
Through quantified estimates of their actual bodily needs, environment measurement, and knowledge-based predictive models, transhumans will signal their desires to product providers in real time. We can imagine an “app” that measures the actual nutritional needs of an individual before ordering food products and supplements.
Using software AI surrogates, intelligent software agents acting on their behalf, consumers will be empowered to shop globally, with their agents seeking out the best prices and products.
Instead of promoting products to human consumers, the need will shift to providing readily consumed digital symbolic information to information systems. If this sounds a lot like today’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) business to you, then you are getting the idea.
In summary, transhumanism and NBIC technologies promise to radically alter advertising. While predicting specific effects is difficult, the range of possibilities is so large that we can be certain of significant changes to today’s advertising ecosystem. The nature and places of work will be transformed, as will the products and media used to promote them.
Finally, I note that regardless of the specifics, transhumanism always seeks to transform the human condition for the better, therefore, to the extent that advertising is part of the human condition, we also expect it to be radically transformed – for the better.