Teaching futurism to children and teens

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” Plato (BC 427-BC 347) Greek philosopher.

Of course, children are the future. Some children are planned, their parents very much wanted them. Their parents wanted to see what their loved one would look like combined with their own genes, they wanted to create their own offspring: love, care for them and guide them—be proud as they grow.  Some children are accidents, their parents weren’t ready or something went wrong in their lives and they must let others care for their children.  In any case, that child ends up being raised—sometimes by loving grandparents, aunts or uncles, sometimes friends that can adopt them, sometimes a loving adoptive couple or sometimes a successive string of foster care and modern orphanages.  Humans, with the longest period of infancy and growth into maturity of any species, create babies that must be cared for for years and even guided throughout life in some ways after they become adults.

For the most part the education systems of the industrialized nations are functional in that they cover the basics: reading, writing, science, and arithmetic.  There is systematic guidance in the form of counselors in schools once a child becomes an adolescent and help is given for the child to develop into their adult career.

Guardians want the best for their children, for them to be happy and successful as they become adults, for them to give back to society through their contributions.  Guardians love their children very much, but at some point as that baby grows—the child first adores their guardian then the child looks to its peers, and its society’s ‘popular culture’ as to how they should style their life.  Guardians/parents/loved ones do what they can to show what they think the right way in life is, and in the end the child internalizes bits and pieces from all they have read, studied, learned and observed—and they decide what kind of life they want to lead, what kind of person they want to be.

Sometimes they choose the religion, social status or business of the loved ones who raised them.  Sometimes they build radically different lives, as they become themselves.  No matter what, they become the future.

What is a futurist to do to inspire the next generation?  An adult who believes that someday humans will end aging, that nano-technology and free energy will alleviate some of humanities inequality and suffering wants to share these things with children to inspire them—how can they do that?  An adult who is a transhumanist, an extropian, a cryonicist, someone who spends their time thinking about the extreme far future, and how to help humans get there wants children to grow up to care about the same things. These futurists feel passionately that their children, or children they know—should feel the same excitement about the future.  Just as if you strongly believe in the truth of a religion, or the excellence of a business, or the love of a country or place—you share what you know.

Children thrive on the truth.  When you tell a child what to believe, and give negative consequences for not believing what you say ‘using force’—that child internalizes that you are not nice, don’t care about them—and are ‘mean’.  When you share what you believe with a child, that engenders trust on their part and lets them open up and share what they in turn believe. When you share what you believe, and your own excitement with what you think could happen in the future—it opens the child’s imagination, it stimulates their own hopes and lets them express their fears. Children want to be listened to, each wants to feel that they are important–that they have genius, that they are special. The adult that educates them, in the classroom or the home, must remember that each child has genius and that the way to acknowledge that so the child feels it—is to encourage them in their interests.

A futurist can share sci-fi books such as Stephen Hawking’s new book for children “George’s Secret Key to the Universe”, or a transhumanist adventure based on what is seen as possible by scientists now –like my book “21st Century Kids”, but they still must encourage the child’s own loves, even if they are radically different.  The important thing is to give them the ideas, read to them about the vast amount of time we know of in history and in the future.  What will happen in a million years? What happened a million years ago?  What do you think would happen to you if cryonics worked?  What could you do with a robotic body?  Do you think aging should be ended?  You can guide them, debate with them, and share your own views—but realize that they will be developing their own, and all of us humans have differences.

There is no age that is too young to engage in a conversation about the future—to have Earth history time-line posters on the wall, to have charts showing the size of the universe, to broaden a child’s outlook—make them realize they might have a chance to see the far future.  It is one more balanced way of educating them, along with the language they are being raised in, the history of their culture, basics in math and science—to give them the out-look of the extreme far future.  When that baby has passed through the wonder of childhood, and is a teen struggling with coming to terms with being themselves and an adult, you can still engage them in conversations about things you read in the news from the transhumanists, life extensionists, artificial intelligence sites—it is a wonderful way to transcend the popular culture that teens live in, the culture of now-–of fame and beauty.  Engaging in conversation with them, listening to their responses, their views, makes them feel like they have genius.  Talking about the future, and what experts now see as possible, helps the developing teen to keep in mind something bigger than their current problems. Talking about the future, inspires young children, stimulates their imagination—and then as they grow and become young adults, they’ll still have that foundation within to call on as they must make important and sometimes painful life decisions.

If you are raising children or you know young children, share with them what you think about the future and ask them their views, find their genius and they’ll always have that with them in their life.

Feedback on this article is encouraged at the Immortality Institute forum.

Shannon Vyff on teaching children about the future, caloric restriction, and cryonics

Over the next three days Shannon Vyff will be guest blogging for Depressed Metabolism. Shannon Vyff is a practicing caloric restrictionist, Alcor member, and Methuselah Foundation supporter. Shannon also volunteers for her local Unitarian Universalist Church and La Leche League group.  She lives with her three children Avianna, Avryn, and Avalyse, and husband Michael (all Alcor members) in Austin, Texas.

She is the author of the book 21st Century Kids, which is “an adventure into the future of two children who are re-animated 200 years from today.” She is also author of the essay ‘Confessions of a Proselytizing Immortalist’ in The Scientific Conquest of Death, a publication by the Immortality Institute.

Shannon will be blogging on “Teaching Futurism to Children and Teens,” “Living With Children While Practicing Calorie Restriction,” and ” Teaching Children About Cryonics.”

Ev Cooper's cryonics classic published online

Few, if any, cryonicists today can retrace their personal interest in cryonics to Evan Cooper. Despite the broader recognition of Robert Ettinger’s book, “The Prospect of Immortality,” which was commercially published in 1964, Cooper’s privately published 1962 manuscript, “Immortality: Physically, Scientifically, Now,” is an important parallel effort in what would later become known as cryonics. Soon afterward Ev also started the first cryonics organization, the Life Extension Society (LES), from which several other cryonics societies eventually emerged.

Ev was a charismatic leader, but the LES lost influence over the years as the various Cryonics Societies began to operate in earnest; particularly after the Cryonics Society of California performed the first human cryopreservation of Dr. James H. Bedford in January 1967. Later that year Ev called off his annual LES conference and  began to diminish his efforts, leaving the movement by 1970.

Always an enigmatic character, no one knows much about why Ev disappeared and removed himself from cryonics. Cryonics activist Mike Darwin notes in the March 1983 issue of Cryonics Magazine that Ev’s former wife, Mildred, said that “he turned away from cryonics because of overload, burn-out, and a general sense that it was not going to be a viable option in his lifetime.” In the same issue, Saul Kent notes that the political struggles engendered by the emergence of the new cryonics societies also seem to have played a role in Ev’s decision to walk away from cryonics. He spent the remaining years of his life sailing along the Eastern seaboard until he failed to return home after an attempt to sail his inadequately repaired boat from Martha’s Vineyard to Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1982. Ev Cooper was presumed lost at sea.

We may never know exactly why Ev Cooper turned his back on cryonics — he destroyed all personal papers and most of his correspondence sometime before his death — but we can surmise that in order to have been the first cryonicist (or at least the first advocate of forming a cryonics movement), Ev must have been an optimist. His book, reissued by the Society for Venturism in 1991 and offered below in both printable HTML and PDF formats with the help of Mike Perry, is a forward-looking synthesis of information, indicative of Ev’s ardent hope for the potential of science to benefit humankind. Ev’s book not only discusses the use of cold to preserve patients in the hope of future resuscitation, a substantial part of his manuscript is devoted to reviewing different scientific means to achieve “physical immortality.” The author also anticipates a lot of other “futurist” topics like synthetic biology, transhumanism, mind uploading, and the singularity.

We remain hopeful that Ev’s other expectations in life were met, and are duly thankful for his early and unique contribution to the field of cryonics.

“Immortality: Physically, Scientifically, Now” by Ev Cooper (writing as Nathan Duhring):

** HTML format

** Adobe portable document format (PDF)