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.