There are also, as it happens, a number of technophiles who combine a faith in some variation of neoliberal market-fundamentalist "laissez-faire" ideology -- familiar from the nineteenth century as a rationale for brutal British colonialism and for the injustices of America's corrupt Gilded Age -- with an enthusiasm for actually existing techniques but also sometimes for non-existing idealized technological devices (like strong artificial intelligence, molecular manufacturing, rejuvenation medicine, digital mind uploading, general purpose robots, immersive virtual reality, and so on). These retro-futurists do not lodge their own conservative politics in the asserted defense of a parochially "naturalized" body (indeed, they often celebrate the technoscientific obliteration of the body in the flows of digital information or, more to the point, global capital), but in the asserted defense of a parochially "naturalized" market order and of the "emancipatory" energies of innovation it is said uniquely to unleash. Despite their key differences it is especially interesting to observe the continuity of bioconservative and retro-futurist defenses of incumbent interests through the invocation of a defense of "nature" and in their shared denigration of genuinely democratic stakeholder deliberation over the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscientific changes that affect them.
For more of my writing on Retro-Futurism I recommend the short formulations and aphorisms in the Futurological Brickbats Archive, among them, especially:
IV. Futurity is a register of freedom, "The Future" another prison-house built to confine it… XI. It is curious the number of twenty-first century futurologists whose notions of political economy remain firmly in the eighteenth century… XV. To speak of "The Future" is always to indulge in reaction. All futurisms are finally retro-futurisms. XVI. In their obsession with speed (think, "acceleration of acceleration") and with the metalization of the body (think, cyborgic-ecstasies and "techno-immortalization"), among many other topoi the Italian Futurists anticipate quite a lot of the quirks of trans/post-humanist futurological handwaving. Like the transhuman-types, the Italian Futurists were mostly just alienated white boys barking and banging into one another, flirting with fascism ("optimizing" humans with science, stainless steel technocracy, hostility to "degenerate" humanities, soft-porn and advertising imagery mistaken for art, disasterbatory Götterdämmerung fantasies of bad god AIs and nano-goo). Unlike our Robot Cultists, many of the Italian Futurists at least could write reasonably well -- no doubt due to their dabbling with avant-garde art movements. Most of the superlative futurological writing coming from transhumanists, extropians, singularitarians, techno-immortalists, and digital utopians, sounds something like a pastiche of Ayn Rand potboilers, an instruction manual for assembling a lawn mower, a Fox News broadcast, and garbage-disposal-loud commercials hawking teeth whitening and boner-pills after midnight. XVII. All progress is always progress toward an end, but there can be no progress in the formation, expression, and evaluation of ends themselves, only either their circumscription or proliferation. To treat progress as an end-in-itself is to relinquish the meaningfulness without which any notion of progress at all is finally unintelligible.Also relevant are the pieces in the Superlative Summary, especially, I suppose, Futurology Is the Quintessential and Consummating Discourse of the Unwholesome Whole That Is Neoliberal/Neoconservative Corporate-Militarism
I know that a couple of readers are translating the Technoprogressivisms essay into their own languages at the moment, and I wanted to let them know about the retro-futurism addition since it seemed an important addition, especially considering just how much reactionary politics is getting stealthed in the form of futurological handwaving these days.
Of course, the problem with an online text undergoing constant revision is that different people come to identify a text with different particular versions of it, sometimes possibly to the cost of a shared comprehension of the meaning available in that text (the problem facing my translators is an extreme variation on this problem, since I tinker with online posts incessantly as my ideas change). If the piece were ever published in a print publication or in an especially widely-read online site unconnected to Amor Mundi I would to treat the text then and there as "stabilized" by my agreement to release it from my own site. But part of the improvisatory, off-the-cuff, conversational quality of the blog for me is that everything is always inviting tinkering, nudging, experimentation in a way.
I can't help but think my cheerful sense of the perpetual contingency of a signed text nonetheless circulating in public and soliciting the comment of readership makes me think of publication (and its role in the process and ethos of my idiosyncratic path or non-path of academic professionalization) differently than scholars in the academy have usually done.
I realize that this opens up discussion to at least two completely separate topics -- the characterization of retro-futurism offered up here in particular, and also the question of the citational status of open-ended online texts -- but I am curious to know if people have opinions on either of these questions. You know where to comment or e-mail me.