Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Technoprogressive": What's In A Name?

In the past I have often used the term "technoprogressive" as a handy short-hand to describe dem-left progressive politics that emphasize technoscience issues. See how that works? Techno + progressive = technoscience-focused progressive politics, in their various forms.

A lot of so-called "transhumanist"-identified people are now using the term to describe themselves, apparently. As near as I can tell, these "transhumanists" are more or less just using the term whenever they think the term "transhumanist" will seem, you know, too culty to somebody they're trying to convince of their reasonableness or, far worse in my view, when they want to come off as dedicated to progressive politics in some broad-strokes kind of way even though they aren't particularly progressive in their actual political attitudes.

In either case, "technoprogressive" seems to me to have been appropriated by "transhumanists" to do misleading PR work on behalf of a few marginal membership organizations and is sufficiently tainted by the association that I don't think its convenience as shorthand or jazzy punch as a net neologism are remotely enough to justify continuing to use it myself.

Even though one still finds dead-ender market fundamentalist and libertopian "intellectuals" in droves wherever "transhumanists" gather, even though one finds complacent discussion of apocalyptic Singularitarian world-transformation without much in the way of interest or sympathy for the billions who would be affected but not consulted about this loss of their world, even though one finds smug policy discussions premised on technocratic authority rather than democratic deliberation, even though one finds too-eugenicist-for-comfort discussions of duressed therapy in the name of "health" and of "non-optimal" human lifeways as a kind of diseased and criminal personhood demanding "cure" even when these lifways are wanted and consensual, even though one finds people talking glibly of "progress" and "development" in terms perfectly continuous with the demands of corporate-military competitiveness for incumbent interests as though this were the most unproblematic thing in the world, even though one finds structural, psychological, and cultural indications of reactionary right wing politics everywhere in the "transhumanist"-identified organizations, discussions, sub(cult)ural spaces of the Robot Cult archipelago I have noticed that some "transhumanists" are touting the rise in "technoprogressive" self-description as a sign that "transhumanism" is becoming more democratic-left in its general ethos.

I don't buy it for a second and neither should you. The techno-transcendentalizing wish-fullfulment fantasists and the Free Marketeer contingents and the even more kooky but characteristic Ayn Raelian contingents who combine the Robot Cultism with social Darwinian, evolutionary psychological, cybernetic totalist, and corporate-militarist market orientations are simply far too prominent to be discounted just because some of them are sanewashing their views in public by calling them "technoprogressive."

This isn't to deny that there are some, let us say, notionally or temperamentally democratic-left folks to be found in "transhumanist" organizations and sub(cult)ures. There are some to be found there who, for whatever reasons, either fail to grasp or are opportunistically rationalizing away all the reactionary politics and deranging True Belief they are enabling.

But it certainly seems to me that even the most sensible of the shaky left-esque minority among the "transhumanists" has mistakenly committed first of all to what they imagine to be a prior politics of the affirmative "pro-" as against the prohibitionist "anti-" of technology at a level of generality that has no real content.

This is so, since obviously it will be the application of technoscientific developments to particular ends according to conventional political values that will always determine the actual political significance of any artifact, technique, technodevelopmental vicissitude in any given instance.

Such a politics functionally displaces the political substance of technodevelopmental change as it actually, historically, differently impacts and is shaped by the diversity of its stakeholders in worldly technodevelopmental social struggles instead onto the de-politicized abstraction of a generalized "technology" one can only either monolithically affirm or deny. This anti-politicizing politics amounts to the assumption or assignment to substantial technodevelopmental struggles of the always hysterical, always a-historical, always undercritical vantages of either technophilia or technophobia, typically monikered "transhumanism" or "bioconservativism," proper, in the discourses under discussion.

The assumption or assignment of these vantages or orientations or sub(cult)ural identity-positions, on the one hand, facilitates misguided alliances with actively reactionary politics ("transhumanist" affinities with corporate-militarist global developmentalisms, "bioconservative" affinities with anti-choice and anti-abortion activisms). In addition, and on the other hand, this gesture always supports facile thinking about technoscience questions and in ways that typically benefit the status quo, come what may: retro-futuristically casting or extrapolating "The Future" in terms that amplify the parochial terms of current daydreams and nightmares of technical agency, substituting for the open threatening promising futurity inhering in the plurality of peers who are present in presence, peer to peer, to the foreclosed force amplification and monologic extrapolation from "the parochial present" of "The Future."

Needless to say, all of this results in making even those few actually progressive "transhumanists" more than usually vulnerable to right-wing appropriation, to rationalizations for anti-democratizing neoliberal/neoconservative developmentalisms, to indifference to and even ridicule of the demands of equity-in-diversity and planetary precarity.

I suppose it would be unfair to deny that "transhumanism" has nudged at least a little leftward in its window displays and favored buzzwords from the truly crazy right wing irrational exuberance of the 1990s Extropian days of high-fiving and handwaving away both death and taxes through faith in cryonics and uploading and crypto-anarchy. Of course, it is hard to imagine a movement like that could make it through the dot.bomb and the Bush Administration's deployment of market ideology to bring America to the brink of utter catastrophe without at least some minimal alteration, and that alteration would simply have to be leftward. Given the far-right extremity of the starting point there was nowhere but notionally leftward for "transhumanists" to go.

But, for my part, it is actually a bit flabbergasting just how many "transhumanists" have kept the libertopian faith in the face of reality's hard lessons, just as it is rather flabbergasting just how many "transhumanists" still genuflect to an utterly static vision of a single "posthuman" future (superintelligent artificial Robot God ends history, robot bodies end mortality, nano-scale robot genies provide superabundance and end pesky stakeholder politics and sentimental pining after true democracy), a future, "The Future," with which they identify at the cost of a dis-identification with the human present and the actually open human futures that are emerging from that human present.

And to be perfectly fair, after all, one should pay attention to the ongoing presence in the World Transhumanist Association (now hilariously rebranded "humanity-plus," which supposedly sounds less culty to mere "humanity-minus" masses) and the IEET of luminaries from the Extropian movement -- like its would-be sooper-cyborgic booster-couple Max More and Natasha Vita-More -- who still loom enormously largely in the organizations and discursive spaces where assertively "technoprogressive" futurologists whine and cajole about their refurbished seriousness, liberality, sensibleness, and progressive credentials.

As for my own politics, I remain committed as always to
One: p2p democratization and a2k/copyfight politics of a kind inspired by the work of Benkler, Lessig, and Bauwens (and enriched by the criticism of Lanier, Lovinc, and Jodi Dean), and implemented by the people-powered politics of Netroots education, agitation, and organizing here and now and to come.

Two: green politics of a kind inspired by pretty mainstream visions like Gore's and McKibben's, as well as the more radical permaculture/polyculture work of Holmgren, Kovel, environmental justice scholarship, Vandana Shiva -- with little patience for Greenback Greens and corporate-militarist greenwashers like Stewart Brand and his futurological band.

Three: the politics of prosthetic self-determination and consensual multiculture which begins from an advocacy of universal health care and more public research and development into and universal access to genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive therapies to treat neglected diseases and hitherto intractable but unwanted conditions, and then goes on to apply Pro-Choice intuitions toward abortion rights more generally to the defense of differently enabled people and other wanted non-normal lifeways, and ending the racist war on drugs.

There is a p2p ethos that weaves all three of these general political orientations together in my own version of them, and my advocacy of basic income guarantees and institutions for democratic world federalist governance are connected to my desire to preserve and facilitate these three orientations. Given those inter-implications I have often been read as or pressured to propose a unified and even programmatic technoscience-focused democratic-left perspective on that basis, and in the past I have indeed described that perspective as technoprogressive.

I now think it was probably a bad idea to propose anything that looked remotely like such a program, given the number of people online who seem to like nothing more than to glom onto such programs in the search for a movement to "belong to," to order them around, to help them forget their vulnerability and finitude in a world as dangerous as it is promising, and so on. It seems to me that many of the people who have taken up the "technoprogressive" moniker are less interesting and sympathetic to the democratic-left spirit of my own ends than people who simply call themselves "progressive," especially those who are inspired, as I am, by the Netroots and technoscientifically-literate versions of Green politics.

So, I am quite content to let the Robot Cultists, the transhumanists, the Singularitarians, the techno-immortalists, the nano-cornucopiasts, the cybernetic-totalists, the greenwashing geo-engineers, the would-be technocratic elites and futurological gurus, the corporate futurists, the uncritical technophiles, the techno-utopians make what use they will of the "technoprogressive" term in the service of their public relations efforts on behalf of their various marginal membership organizations.

What's in a name, anyway? For my part, I'm just going to keep thinking about and defending p2p formations, access to knowledge, permaculture and polyculture practices, universal healthcare and the scene of informed nonduressed consent, basic income, and providing nonviolent alternatives for the democratic resolution of disputes in a diverse world of peers. Call me what you will.

But those who do take up my formulations (sometimes word for word) without taking up my questions as well, those of you who appropriate my terms, scoop up slogans from my critiques, all the while ignoring my caveats, contextualizations, warnings, you should expect to be exposed for what you are as well. At least by me.

45 comments:

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> [E]ven though one finds complacent discussion of
> apocalyptic Singularitarian world-transformation
> without much in the way of interest or sympathy for
> the billions who would be affected but not consulted
> about this loss of their world. . .
>
> [I]t is rather flabbergasting just how many "transhumanists"
> still genuflect to an utterly static vision of a single
> "posthuman" future (superintelligent artificial Robot God
> ends history. . . [etc.]).

Which would actually be kind of cool, you know, if it
were really going to happen. ;-> ;->

I loved the kick-ass ending of _Colossus: The Forbin Project_,
and to be the last human on Earth at the end of Arthur C.
Clarke's _Childhood's End_ (the guy who stowed away on
the Overlords' ship and then got back just in time to watch
the newly-hatched Earthmind suck the MEST out of the planet)
has a certain appeal.

I mean, like, it's not exactly like the dinosaurs had
a choice in the matter 65 million years ago (or the
trilobites 300 million years ago, or whenever it was).

But, you know, after spending a few years reading this
stuff (on the Web, that is -- I might actually have stayed
a quasi-believer if my exposure had been limited to the print
media, even that of Kurzweil) you start to get the feeling
that there's just altogether not enough workaday science
going on and altogether too much of this:

http://gawker.com/5002269/the-cruise-indoctrination-video-scientology-tried-to-suppress

> Call me what you will.

Just don't call him Shirley.

Dale Carrico said...

Just don't call him Shirley.

We're all counting on you.

I agree that the end of Collosus is kick-ass in it's refusal of a facile feel-good closure. You know, I always thought the movie was a queer love story: Collosus ogling flirty Corbin in his groovy bachelor pad is just too awesome. What chemistry those two had. Er, as it were.

I don't actually see the appeal of the last guy on earth scenario, however. I mean, for me, it sounds way too bo-ring and definitely way too not-sexy.

Greg in Portland said...

Well said Dale. I guess I formed my early opinions due to the fact that the first "transhumanist" site I saw was James Hughes' WTA. I thought, cool this is the kind of geek-left site I like. I knew about the Ayn Raelians but just thought of them as unrepresentative. After being around self described "transhumanists" I realized that most of them probably just thought Hughes was another clueless commie.

The ultimate problem is that in the American context people become Rand worshipers first and then get introduced to the nanobots and all that later as a way to justify what otherwise would just be cranky old right wing politics. The sci-fi element adds "cool" to what is otherwise about as cool as the Republican party. The basic Randian orientation will remain and just keep renaming itself as people figure out what each label REALLY means in turn. The Amway people do this too, setting up front company after front company because, let's face it, everybody knows Amway is for suckers. There's also the fact that corporate America has decades of experience at techno-hype partly as a self-defense strategy for the same reason above. Without some undeniably cool toys the corporatists would start to look an awful lot like a bunch of sleazy robber barrons. With the toys in hand and some well selected hipster outfits they present themselves as the vanguard in some kind of revolution. As a result a lot of the slicker visions of "the future" that you see have a corporate spin built right in.

Greg in Portland said...

Forgot to mention, I wonder if the real hope for "transwhaterism" will be in the non-anglophone world (that's where I was going with the American context thing). Somehow the whole kooky wingnut mindset doesn't seem to get much outside that realm. You have right wingers but they are more old school Euro-fascist variants than Ayn Raelian. I'm glad to see you have a French speaker here. Can't think of his name right now.

Dale Carrico said...

Good comments, Greg. I agree with you. The Amway analogy is, I fear, especially apt. As for the US-centrism of Ayn Raelian techno-utopianism, I do think one discovers a more global neoliberal "development discourse" version of the phenomenon (still especially beneficial to US incumbents, but not at all confined to them), a version that Mike Davis is especially good at diagnosing and critiquing, for example.

jfehlinger said...

Greg in Portland wrote:

> I wonder if the real hope for "transwhaterism" will
> be in the non-anglophone world (that's where I was
> going with the American context thing). Somehow the
> whole kooky wingnut mindset doesn't seem to get much
> outside that realm.

I don't know, I've seen some screeds by Indians who
have definitely chewed through the full-sized Blimpie's.

I think some of the techno-folks from India, China,
and the erstwhile USSR and eastern-bloc countries are
going to be swept up in this stuff, particularly the
ones who get caught up in their own dot-booms and boomlets.

In fact, I recall answering a post on WTA-talk last
year from a guy involved in starting a >Hist organization
in -- Uganda, I think it was. He wanted to know what
the "official" position of >Hists in this country is on
homosexuality.

> I'm glad to see you have a French speaker here. Can't
> think of his name right now.

You mean Vladimir ("Justice") de Thezier.

Greg in Portland said...

I think some of the techno-folks from India, China,
and the erstwhile USSR and eastern-bloc countries are
going to be swept up in this stuff


Sure, but in India and now China the new intelligentsia and especially the business class is basically anglophile and actively rejects their own native traditions. They think the faster they can turn their countries into southern California the better. I was thinking more of the west Europeans who, by contrast, actively reject the anglophone mindset and language. The former communist block is the same way. Here we have societies destroyed and rebuilt quickly using outside ideology. It make sense that they would grab onto the "sexiest" aspects of that ideology.

By the way, the basic science is moving forward pretty fast. I think of a nano-antenna I saw recently (can't find the link now) that allows for something like a 50nm radio receiver/transmitter to be built. It doesn't work like a conventional one but translates electric fields into mechanical stress and then to phonons (I think). It solves a basic problem which is that nanobots need to talk to each other and their controllers. The good news is that most of the scientists themselves are not Randbot cultists. Now computer geeks, that's another and much sadder story :{

Greg in Portland said...

was. He wanted to know what
the "official" position of >Hists in this country is on homosexuality.


Forgot to comment on this. Holy cornfed Jebus! If you have to ask you don't really get it do you. Morphological and prosthetic freedom and all that pretty much encompasses gay I would think since its not even a physical change. Well maybe he was just trying out if the H+ people were inconsistent. If so kudos.

Dale Carrico said...

I agree that nanoscale technique is going to make waves. Many transhumanists will be disappointed to discover that much of the nanoscale stuff that works will end up being called chemistry and biotech, and much of the stuff that is complete hype will be called "nano" but none of that diminishes the likely impact of what you are calling the basic science involved.

To the extent that nano-enthusiasts ever find themselves the target of my Superlativity critique, it is not because of the science usually so much as because of the rhetoric in which nano everything machines are imagined to be imminent that will create a superabundance that functions primarily to enable people uncomfortable with democracy to fantasize that technology can circumvent the need for stakeholder politics altogether.

That said, I do still think techno-utopians seem to handwave solutions to complex problems with facile analogies because they are indulging in wish-fulfillment -- wet warm limited-purpose molecular machines in biology provide an awfully tenuous "existence proof" for dry room temperature precisely controlled programmable general purpose nanoscale robots, if we are being frank about these matters.

Greg in Portland said...

wet warm limited-purpose molecular machines in biology provide an awfully tenuous "existence proof" for dry room temperature precisely controlled programmable general purpose nanoscale robots

I tend to think that the first nanomachines will be synthetic or highly modified biological systems. It seems to follow since these systems are already known to work and at accessible temperatures (37 degrees). Whether the diamondoid Drexler type stuff will work is hard to know. If it does it will probably require at least liquid nitrogen temperatures. My hopes lie in medical devices anyway, whether nanobots will ever be able to make me an X-box is not so important to me. The nano-cornucopia may not arrive soon but I rather think it's not so important anyway. Of course if you're trying to bury politics in some kind of superabundant magic fountain of goods it might well be.

JM Inc. said...

I must say I'm shocked! Having just read your March, 2006 post "Technology Is Making Queers Of Us All," I was getting to thinking, "Goodness, I pretty much agree with this fellow." I've called myself a transhumanist for a while now, though not having had much solid contact with any other self-confessed >Hists, I never realised how much sub(cult)ural baggage went along with it all. And just when I was getting more comfortable with the technoprogressive label myself, you spring this on us! What in all of God's green groceries shall we call ourselves now? :-)

I guess I'll just go back to Robot God Cultist until a more tongue-amenable convenience comes along. I only hope I'll remember who I am by then. Isn't identity a beach?

AnneC said...

I never realised how much sub(cult)ural baggage went along with it all.

You and me both. I'm pleased as punch to have discovered a whole bunch of interesting and all around neat-o people to discuss cool science-y and ethical topics with, and I'm still happy to work with pretty much anyone regardless of what they call themselves (with the obvious "unless they call themselves NAZIS!" conditional).

But: there's a particular formulation of "identity movement politics" that tends toward cargo-cultishness. You might have a few people at the "center" who are really thinking about what their values are and trying to understand how certain aspects of the world work so they can engage in creative problem-solving, but then you get legions of hangers-on who think they can just put on the trappings of the movement and magically Save The World as a result. Subcultural "bling" of a sort.

Carl said...

Dale,

Unbelieveable.

After years of hammering away with the technoprogressive label and heckling, needling, and eventually nudging transhumanists to the left, now that you've finally enjoyed some success in your efforts you're picking up your ball and going home?

Maybe it's for the best, I think your message of "more politics is the answer" was starting to grow thin. Really Dale, have you ever watched C-Span? Do you know what those fuckers up on Capitol Hill are talking about? Steroids in baseball and how much Cinemax costs. I'm not sure more time spent in session is really what we need.

R.I.P. Technoprogressivism, 2006-2008.

Dale Carrico said...

After years of hammering away with the technoprogressive label and heckling, needling, and eventually nudging transhumanists to the left, now that you've finally enjoyed some success in your efforts you're picking up your ball and going home?

Clearly you haven't understood what I was up to. Just so you know:

[1] I haven't "gone" anywhere,
[2] I don't consider a few Robot Cultists and corporate-militarist futurists starting to use a term associated with my writing a personal "success" particularly,
[3] nor do I agree that there has been a substantive or reliable move to the left in the "transhumanists," so-called, whatever their PR efforts to peddle a contrary impression,
[4] I've never been promoting a new label for the online boys with their toys to "get behind" but I've been critiquing, and will continue to do so, the relevance of such labels to the actually important work of democratizing technodevelopmental social struggle (which always was and still remains my concern).

I think your message of "more politics is the answer" was starting to grow thin.

More than what? As opposed to what? You imply you've read a lot of my writings on this topic. One would expect more indications of basic understanding of them.

R.I.P. Technoprogressivism, 2006-2008.

As another dumb "-ism," I agree we would be well rid of it. I regret to say the transhumanists will give the term a long zombie life after death as a repackaging of Superlativity and retro-futurism to peddle for a time to the gullible.

That I would think so is nothing new: see Technoprogressivism Is a Tide, Not a Tribe and The Future Is a Racket both from 2005.

Dale Carrico said...

I never realised how much sub(cult)ural baggage went along with it all.

I write about this a lot, you know -- there are some people for whom I have a lot of respect who think I overstate this point, by the way. I disagree with them, but there it is.

And just when I was getting more comfortable with the technoprogressive label myself, you spring this on us!

Well, if you were getting comfortable with the label as a self-description I daresay this intervention came just in the nick of time for you! :)

What in all of God's green groceries shall we call ourselves now?

I just tell people I'm a radical democrat, a secular democrat, a social democrat, a democratic socialist, a socialist-feminist, a pro-choice multiculturalist, a queer, a Green, a vegetarian, a teacher, a writer, depending on who I am talking to and what we are trying to do.

As a philosophically minded person I quite understand the impulse to hold all these campaigns and aspirations together in thought, but probably it is just as well to keep them separate, open, but inter-interimplicated. That rings truer when I'm really honest about it, after all.

giulio said...

Dale, great article as usual, but you still don't seem to realize that one can be a transhumanist and a technoprogressive, and wear one or the other badge as appropriate to the circumstances - technoprogressive in current political choices and activism, transhumanist for grand visions and aspirations.

I really think the two sets of ideas do not interfere much in most practical circumstances. Like sport and sexual preferences, two preferences that are applied to non overlapping parts of life.

I can read your article as an acknowledgement that even transhumanist sinners are welcome to use the technoprogressive label if they wish. This is good.

Dale Carrico said...

Thanks, Giulio.

I am trying to say that I am not in the business of promoting a badge, a set of ideas, or a label in the first place, and that I never regarded the "technoprogressive" shorthand as a placeholder for any of those things in the first place.

And from now on, to avoid seeming to imply otherwise I will not only explicitly deny that I am doing so (as I have continually done for years, at length, in as many different ways that I could think of), I won't even use the technoprogressive term either for fear that an identitarian claim will be attributed to me whatever I do anyway.

But I will continue to argue, as I have done for years, that the righteous and urgently necessary politics of democratizing technodevelopmental social struggle in order to facilitate emancipatory technoscientific progress in the service of human equity and diversity is ill-served by the exclusive and moralistic sub(cult)ural formations, especially marginal, undercritical, and therefore defensive ones.

De Thezier said...

Dear Dale,

Thank you for this much-needed blog post. As you have suspected, I came to the same sad conclusion a few months ago.

I also realized that fighting to reclaim the term "technoprogressive" from transhumanists would be another ones of those lost causes that doesn't contribute to the social struggle to democratize the costs, risks and benefits of new or emerging technologies.

So I guess I will simply go back to describing my sensibility as "progressive". It it works, why fix it? :)

Dale Carrico said...

It it works, why fix it? :)

I agree. It's funny, I feel rather cheerful rather than sad about coming to this conclusion. It is a matter of reconnecting to emancipatory currents already in motion in the world. It makes sense, but it also feels good.

De Thezier said...

Giulio wrote:

you still don't seem to realize that one can be a transhumanist and a technoprogressive, and wear one or the other badge as appropriate to the circumstances - technoprogressive in current political choices and activism, transhumanist for grand visions and aspirations.

What Giulio and probably all transhumanists will always fail to realize is that one cannot be a transhumanist and a technoprogressive for the same reason that one cannot be a pseudoscientist and a skeptic!

Only when they understand this crucial point will there be hope for them...

peco said...

Yes, you can. You could be a pseudoscientist only about one thing and be a skeptic about everything else. You might not actually be a skeptic, so you could be a pseudoscientist the first half of each month and a skeptic the second half of each month.

Why can't you be a transhumanist and a technoprogressive at the same time?

De Thezier said...

Peco writes:

Yes, you can. You could be a pseudoscientist only about one thing and be a skeptic about everything else. You might not actually be a skeptic, so you could be a pseudoscientist the first half of each month and a skeptic the second half of each month.

And what would most people call someone who is like that?

Why can't you be a transhumanist, and a technoprogressive at the same time?

Because of the damage the "superlative technocentric discourse" of transhumanism does to the technoprogressive cause...

Dale Carrico said...

Many people are dem-left progressives focused on technoscience issues. The more the better, you ask me, in this epoch of at once potentially catastrophic and potentially emancipatory technoscience (elite control? or open access?), digital networks (surveillance? or p2p?), unprecedented medicines (eugenics? or pro-choice informed consensual multiculture?), ubiquitous automation and computation (in the service of wealth concentration? or in the service of funding a universal basic income guarantee?), unprecedented weapons (perpetual corporate-militarist war? or planetary democratic multilateral federalist governance?), and so on.

But I would prefer if the phrase "I am a technoprogressive" were treated as vacuous except to the extent that it is treated as a handy shorthand for that italicized phrase.

If it is treated as a label designating membership in a marginal "elite" organization, a parochial tribe of the Chosen, an exclusive movement that should prevail over others and "sweep the world," a singular programmatic Cause, a special interest group among others, and so on and so forth, then it seems to me actively pernicious, obfuscatory, reactionary, and a bit embarrassing.

I've never said otherwise.

I'm very surprised anything I've said in this post or in subsequent comments would seem the least bit new to anybody, apart from the fact that I've made the practical decision that using the term "technoprogressive" is getting to be more trouble than it's worth because Robot Cultists and retro-futurists have seized on it lately to refurbish their image over the short-term.

Is any of this really so different from what I've been saying for years? I don't get it.

De Thezier said...

Giulio wrote:

you still don't seem to realize that one can be a transhumanist and a technoprogressive, and wear one or the other badge as appropriate to the circumstances - technoprogressive in current political choices and activism, transhumanist for grand visions and aspirations.

Peco wrote:

Why can't you be a transhumanist and a technoprogressive at the same time?

Many consider the following points to be the three minimum constituents without which transhumanism would not be what it is:

1. An undercritical support for technology in general and fringe science in particular;
2. A distortive "us vs. them" tribe-like mentality and identity; and
3. A vulnerability to unrealistic utopian and dystopian "future hype".

Since technoprogressive theory and discourse is always implicitly and often explicitly a critique of these three points, transhumanism is incompatible with technprogressivism.

It's that simple.

peco said...

I always thought "transhumanist" meant "most people associated with the WTA (ExI?)."

De Thezier said...

Peco wrote:

I always thought "transhumanist" meant "most people associated with the WTA (ExI?)."

*sigh*

Since you need a history lesson, please read The Politics of Transhumanism by James Hughes at http://www.changesurfer.com/Acad/TranshumPolitics.htm

jfehlinger said...

de Thezier wrote:

> Many consider the following points to be the three minimum
> constituents without which transhumanism would not be what it is:
>
> 1. An undercritical support for technology in general and fringe science in particular;
> 2. A distortive "us vs. them" tribe-like mentality and identity; and
> 3. A vulnerability to unrealistic utopian and dystopian "future hype".

Though, of course, any self-identified transhumanist would
vehemently reject that way of framing things.

"Many", above, can only mean "many critics of transhumanism".

Peco wrote:

> You could be a pseudoscientist only about one thing and
> be a skeptic about everything else. You might not actually
> be a skeptic, so you could be a pseudoscientist the first
> half of each month and a skeptic the second half of each month.

Well, sure, you can be a Republican on Monday, Wednesday and
Friday, and a Democrat on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Or, if Dissociative Personality Disorder is a real phenomenon,
then you can be a four-year-old toddler named Edith Ann today and
a forty-year-old truckdriver named Bubba tomorrow.

Or, if Shirley Maclaine is a real phenomenon, you can be
Cleopatra 2000 years ago and Liz Taylor today.

What's the point here, exactly?

"Well, uh, sanity is a relative term.
Very, very few people are sane all through. Almost
everybody has corners where they're mad. I remember,
once, I was motoring in California on a very very
wet day, and we picked up a pedestrian who was
getting wet through, and he inveighed against all
kinds of race prejudice. He said it was a most
dreadful thing, and I entirely agreed with him.
And then somebody mentioned the Philippines, and he
said "All Filipinos are vile!" Well, you see, he had that little corner of insanity."

-- Bertrand Russell

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> I just tell people I'm a radical democrat, a secular democrat,
> a social democrat, a democratic socialist, a socialist-feminist,
> a pro-choice multiculturalist, a queer, a Green, a vegetarian,
> a teacher, a writer, depending on who I am talking to and
> what we are trying to do. . .
>
> I would prefer if the phrase "I am a technoprogressive" were treated
> as vacuous. . .

"[A]ll good narratives. . . [are] easy to tell and retell.
[They are] easy to write. Everyone knows exactly what someone
who calls himself or herself a conservative purportedly values:
military strength, tax cuts, minimal government, fiscal restraint,
traditional values, patriotism, and religious faith. This
clear message starts conservative candidates with 35 to 60
percent of the vote before opening their mouths, depending on
the state or district.

It isn't easy to write a similar story of what it means to be a
Democrat -- something very ominous for the Democratic Party.
We don't even know what to **call** people on the left. _Liberal_
has accreted the same kinds of connotations as _Negro_ did in
the 1960s, and _progressive_ is probably the best alternative,
but it sounds, well, retro."

-- Drew Westen, _The Political Brain_: The Role of
Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation_,
Chapter 7, "Writing An Emotional Constitution"
p. 158

De Thezier said...

jfehlinger said:

Though, of course, any self-identified transhumanist would
vehemently reject that way of framing things. "Many", above, can only mean "many critics of transhumanism".


Quite correct. However, Dale has pointed that some transhumanists have acknowelged this frame as being as fair and accurate in some contexts.

jfehlinger said...

Greg in Portland wrote:

> [I wrote:]
>
> > He wanted to know what the "official" position of >Hists in
> > this country is on homosexuality.
>
> Well maybe he was just trying out if the H+ people were inconsistent.
> If so kudos.

Alas, I fear not.

However, as far as "inconsistency" goes -- I pointed out in my
reply that while it would seem blindingly obvious that the sort
of radical morphological freedom for sentients espoused, at
least in theory, by >Hists (at least in their optimistic moments --
when the apocalyptic Singularitarians get going, one wonders if
anybody's going to be free to plug in a toaster without a
Friendly AI first cogitating the ramifications of the action
from now to the end of time) would, one would think, make quite mild
"natural" human variations in sexual preference a bagatelle by
comparison, that the reality among >Hists of opinion on that topic
is apparently far less enlightened in practice than in theory.

I pointed out an article on Cryonet by Mike Darwin lamenting
this fact, and also a disconcerting on-line chat hosted by
the Immortality Institute with G. Stolyarov II, ostensibly on
the subject of "Objectivism & Immortality", that ended
up getting hijacked by Stolyarov's expressed disapproval
of the politically-correct kowtowing of some modern
Objectivists under the pressure of gay activism.

Greg in Portland said...

"Objectivism & Immortality"...
that ended up getting hijacked by Stolyarov's expressed disapproval
of the politically-correct kowtowing...


Doesn't surprise me at all that a Randian would think that. They seem trapped in the 1950s along with their dead goddess in many ways. I guess I expected more from the >Hists but as I noted above, Hughes' group is not really representative of them after all.

giulio said...

Re: "What Giulio and probably all transhumanists will always fail to realize is that one cannot be a transhumanist and a technoprogressive for the same reason that one cannot be a pseudoscientist and a skeptic!"

I could not disagree more!

The history of science shows that nearly all great scientists have been both "pseudoscientists" in the sense of being open to consider out-of-the-box ideas that did not fit nicely in the current paradigm, and "skeptics" in the sense of actually accepting these ideas only after careful conceptual and experimental analysis.

Also, transhumanist ideas (you know, immortality and uploading and all that), actually _do_ fit nicely with the current scientific paradigm, so the burden of proof should be on those who insist that they are impossible.

Dale Carrico said...

Transhumanist ideas (you know, immortality and uploading and all that), actually _do_ fit nicely with the current scientific paradigm, so the burden of proof should be on those who insist that they are impossible.

Keep telling yourself that, Giulio. Ding Cooh-Cooh, Dong Cooh-Cooh.

Marc_Geddes said...

Well Dale,

I learned the harsh lessons of reality and had to abandon Libertarianism.

What a sorry sorry world :( Humans are monkeys with monkey motivations, and virtually 90% of everything seems to be just a scam to get mates and social approval. That 'transhumanism' and 'singularitarianism' proved to be no different shouldn't have come as a surprise.

I gues I'm the big sucker in all this Dale. After all, the libertarian-singualitarian crowd have all found ways to get tons of cash and social approval, but I'm left with nothing.

You've got big corporations funnelling cash Robin Hanson's way to act as a megaphone for corporate America. You've got Yudkowsky and his 'sugar daddies' sending him lots of dollars to satiate his ego.

What do I get? Around 2006 I suddenly realized, hey, hang on a minute... SAVING THE WORLD IS NOT MY JOB NO ONE IS PAYING ME FOR THIS SHIT ;)

From then on, I said right:

All my AI ideas will be about security, security, security and more security. Nouces, encryption and one-way information flow. And Yudkowsky's 'Friendliness' crap won't be anywhere in my design. Obeying orders will be.

No more unsolicited opinions on anything. My rate is $30 /hour - the words are being metered according to cash-flow.

Get in on the monkey motivational game.

De Thezier said...

Giulio said:

I could not disagree more! The history of science shows that nearly all great scientists have been both "pseudoscientists" in the sense of being open to consider out-of-the-box ideas that did not fit nicely in the current paradigm, and "skeptics" in the sense of actually accepting these ideas only after careful conceptual and experimental analysis.

Your capacity for rationalization never ceases to amaze me. ;)

"Thinking outside the box" doesn't make anyone a pseudoscientist. Pseudoscience is any alleged body of knowledge, methodology, belief, or practice that is claimed to be scientific or made to appear scientific but does not adhere to the scientific method. Pseudoscience may be characterised by the use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims, over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation, lack of openness to testing by other experts, and a lack of progress in theory development.

Therefore it's when a person, whether he or she is a scientist or a layman, goes from "thinking outside the box" to claiming that his or her wishful thinking is actually a scientific theory that should be accepted by the scientific community and the masses or *will* become a scientific fact given enough time, energy, money and/or engineering that this person becomes a pseudoscientist or, worse, a fringe lunatic.

A technoscientifically-literate and -focused progressive would or should always avoid engaging in such self-discrediting indulgences.

Also, transhumanist ideas (you know, immortality and uploading and all that), actually _do_ fit nicely with the current scientific paradigm, so the burden of proof should be on those who insist that they are impossible.

Although I am willing to entertain that some form of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, rejuvenation medicine and even mind uploading not only scientific but are quite possible and probable, any talk of "immortality" is not only logically fallacious but publically exposes you for the crank Dale has shown you to be.

http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2007/12/cranks.html

De Thezier said...

I posted something on this subject on my technoscience-focused progressive blog Vangarde at http://vangarde.blogspot.com/2008/01/going-old-school-technoprogressive-re.html

Alberto said...

You are just over-reacting to a US phenomenon. Only there do people really act on millenarist ideologies. In Europe, if you create a new post-humanist sci-fi fan you get someone who could work on p2p, rigenerative medicine or whatever pragmatic and serious. You do not even need to convince him not to build an institute to counteract the great evil robot-god we are all waiting for in 20 years...I think that technoprogressive outside the US is a good term. The constitutive corruption of technological visions by hopeless ideology by all sides is also a US problem. In the rest of the world a reasonable amount of techno-optimism in the possible future of humanity can play a necessary and healthy role.

Mr. Attitude said...

Dale, I just want to know where you got the term "Ayn Raelian"? I love it!

Rhetoric 103B said...

It came from deep inside my bad broken brain.

Marc_Geddes said...

Another libertopian disaster... unbelievable man.

A trader in France just pulled off a $7.2B bank fraud - one of Frances biggest banks got taken to the cleaners.

I saw this on a business report and the guy reporting it could hardly keep a straight face himself. (probably because he realizes its just an extreme e=example of what most traders are trying to do any way - ripping us all off).


http://edition.cnn.com/2008/BUSINESS/01/24/societegenerale.fraud/index.html

Greg in Portland said...

I saw that story too. couldn't believe it at first. Who says the French can't compete. This puts them in true world class scamster country. They can now claim with credibility to be the equals of any anglophone financial high roller crook. de Thezier, what do you think?

De Thezier said...

Greg in Portland said:

I saw that story too. couldn't believe it at first. Who says the French can't compete. This puts them in true world class scamster country. They can now claim with credibility to be the equals of any anglophone financial high roller crook. de Thezier, what do you think?

You should know that I'm not French (from France) but French-Canadian (from Quebec). ;)

As for this story, my only thought when I hear of frauds of such magnitudes is that if I was the one who had committed it I would have diverted most of this money to funding radical left-wing causes I believe in... after satisfying my desires of luxury. :)

De Thezier said...

Greg in Portland said:

I saw that story too. couldn't believe it at first. Who says the French can't compete. This puts them in true world class scamster country. They can now claim with credibility to be the equals of any anglophone financial high roller crook. de Thezier, what do you think?

For a more serious answer than the one I gave you above, I am far more concerned with that fact that American bankers have stolen and will steal from the public unless the government holds them accountable.

http://alternet.org/columnists/story/74718/

RadicalCoolDude said...

Dale, in light of, or despite, your decision to no longer use the term "technoprogressive" I was wondering what you thought of Mike Treder's enthusiastic embrace and promotion of the term.

"Progress on the Technoprogressive Wiki"
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/treder20090630/

"Technoprogressives and Transhumanists: What’s the difference?"
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/treder20090625/

"Toward a Technoprogressive Manifesto"
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/treder20090530/

"Technoprogressives Should Favor Progressive Gains"
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/treder200905021/

"What is a Technoprogressive?"
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/treder20090321/

"Capitalism, Optimism, and the Technoprogressive"
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/treder20090320/

Dale Carrico said...

I think it is definitely a good thing to have written a post very clearly disavowing the use of this term in reference to myself. I also think your word "promote," as in marketing and promotion, is right on the mark.