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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Better Safe Than Sorry; Or, Why Bother With the Transhumanists?

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot

Of transhumanism and singularitarianism and the other branches of techno-utopian Robot Cultism I've been critiquing here rather a lot lately, an Anonymous comment in the Moot holds up a genial and calming hand and proposes that it is, after all, "mostly goofy fun that explodes in to heated debate equivalent to the way people get emotionally attached to discussions about who should play shortstop for the Yankees."

This comment recurs fairly regularly in some form or other in the Moot -- earlier versions of responses to it can be found here and here, for example. I understand the sentiment, and I would like to agree with it in a general sort of way, especially since I actually am a nerd and enjoy geeking out with science fiction enthusiasts on science fictional topics of the kind that preoccupy many transhumanists and since many transhumanist-identified folks are plenty likeable as far as that goes however philosophically incoherent and politically pernicious the roller coaster they are riding and exhorting others to ride with them actually happens to be… But there are a couple of things that give me pause in taking up this suggestion when all is said and done.

First, however goofy and marginal Superlative Technocentrics may seem (and, crucially, mostly are, so far) in their cul-de-sac sub(cult)ures, it is also true that they crystallize tendencies to techno-utopian hyperbole, technocratic elitism, scientistic reductionism, glib "enlightened" eugenicism, and odes to wild-eyed military spending that also characterize actually prevailing corporate-militarist developmental assumptions and rhetoric. But with the explicitly transhumanist versions of the rhetoric there is the benefit that the bloody-minded bat-shit craziness of this constellation of assumptions and aspirations is plainer to see for most people in its stark extremity, and hence exposing the one provides a good and underexploited way of trying to drive home the more general critique of corporate-militarist technodevelopmental rhetoric, policy, and outcomes as well.

Second, it is also true that the transhumanists and singularitarians and other Superlatives make good copy for corporate media outlets precisely for their goofiness and extremity and, frankly, from the perspective of lots of corporate-militarist incumbent interests, many of their views make good plain sense, too -- "in moderation," of course! -- and so transhumanists and techno-utopians generally have managed to make a good deal more noise and hence a good deal more mischief deranging sensible and progressive public discourse on technodevelopmental issues in my view than their persistently small numbers would otherwise justify.

It is indeed true that there can sometimes seem something rather silly and sad about all these privileged boys with their toys who think they're the smartest guys in the room indulging their fantasies, calculating the Robot God odds and contemplating imperishable robot bodies and nanobotic genie-in-a-bottle treasure caves and stainless-steel soopergenius labs in the asteroid belt, or whatever it is that is going on their heads…

Wouldn't it be better to be kind to the poor dears, after all?

But then I think how silly the Neocons once must have seemed in their forlorn whiteboy clubhouses, plotting and planning for the future in the University of Chicago or what have you, reading Milton Friedman and Atlas Shrugged and starting to craft their Noble Lies, their racist Southern Strategy, their Contract Hit on America, and their Project for a New American Century...

Then I find myself thinking it's a good thing indeed for at least a few of the folks who know enough to know better here and now to try to nip this thing in the bud via exposure, analysis, ridicule, and the proposal of more progressive alternatives.

Francis Fukuyama once declared transhumanism the most dangerous idea in the world. Of course, when he said that he was studiously avoiding the more obvious candidate for that title to which he himself had been so long devoted, Neoconservatism itself.

But there are good reasons for those of us who would gladly observe the ongoing eclipse of the Neoconservative movement in the ruins wrought by its false and facile fantasies to pay close attention to transhumanism as an aborning potential successor movement (think of Glenn Reynolds if you want to understand with what ease such a transition can be made), a retro-futurist successor to Neoconservatism just now stitching together its organizations, its donors, its think-tanks, its public intellectuals.

Born in the irrational exuberance of digital techno-utopianism, in the freewheeling anarcho-capitalist crypto-anarchist cryonicist gun-nut techno-utopianism of the California Extropians movement, devoted to market fundamentalism and limit-denialism (a hostility to biological life and death, a hostility to sensible regulations of corporate greed, a hostility to environmental concerns), now transhumanism is trying to be a wee bit more suave and more savvy in its surface representation -- even though the market fundamentalists, the social Darwinists, the scientistic reductionists, the technocratic elitists, the liberal eugenists are all still there, even among the so-called "democratic transhumanists," making their "serious" cases to their respectful colleagues, thronging their organizational advisory Boards, providing more and more of the donor dollars on which they depend to do their futurological "work."

I hope the transhumanists are as harmless as they deserve to be. I would like to enjoy blue-skying with them as geeks who like some good science fiction if they would just drop the pretensions to being a "movement" holding the Keys to History, the self-appointed assumption of a Priestly "protectorate" of Science and Enlightenment on their parochial construal of it, and all the fundamentalist paraphernalia of their Superlative Technocentricity.

But just in case, I think there is something to be said for paying attention to them, naming names, following the money, mapping the organizations, their staffs, advisors, donors, and inter-relations, and otherwise connecting the dots. Better safe than sorry.

21 comments:

jfehlinger said...

> Then I find myself thinking it's a good thing indeed for
> at least a few of the folks who know enough to know better
> here and now to try to nip this thing in the bud via exposure,
> analysis, ridicule, and the proposal of more progressive alternatives.

And that's **hard**, you know. Which is why you're doing a valuable
thing by providing a public forum (however sadly ignored, as certain
people keep pointing out over and over again -- only 3 or 4 readers,
but how many does "Anonymous" count for?) for that sort of unpopular
(with the transhumanists themselves, of course) analysis.

It's frankly shocking to me how easy it is to police public
discourse, even when there are no literal police coming to take
you away, no threat of losing your job, and the like.

The guardians of the party line seem to emerge in every significant
forum and basically dictate the limits of what counts as
"polite", "rational", etc. And those limits are far narrower
than you might imagine.

Noam Chomsky was on to something when he began talking about these
things in the larger world and the pre-Web days. "Manufacture of
consent", indeed.

De Thezier said...

Dale Carrico said:

But there are good reasons for those of us who would gladly observe the ongoing eclipse of the Neoconservative movement in the ruins wrought by its false and facile fantasies to pay close attention to transhumanism as an aborning potential successor movement [...], a retro-futurist successor to Neoconservatism just now stitching together its organizations, its donors, its think-tanks, its public intellectuals.

Although one could argue that the difference between transhumanists and neo-conservatives is that, unlike the former, the latter group were already part of the American upper class and/or political Establishment even if they didn't hold power yet, I think you will be hailed as an academic "prophet" if you turn out to be right.

Ever thought of turning your warning into the plot of a good political thriller/science-fiction novel?

Dale Carrico said...

you will be hailed as an academic "prophet" if you turn out to be right, quite apart from the fact that that is rather tautological, it is also true that the very notion of being "hailed as a prophet" makes me want to puke. The best foresight and analysis has the consequence of making bad possibilities not come true, which seems to me by far the better result in any case.

I wonder if you are right about how much richer and better-connected the people we have come to identify as the key Neocons really were when their movement was at a comparable organizational stage to the transhumanist movement over the last nine years to the present.

If I ever tried my hand at science fiction it would likely be closer to phantasmagoric pornography than to policy-wonkery in its results.

bambi said...

A certain amount of balance is pleasing -- if a world has some folks who think they are werewolves, it seems only natural for there to be other folks who stock up on silver bullets.

I haven't read all of your essays so you might have already used these criticisms, but here's a couple effective lines of attack you're free to adopt if you want:

1) Transhumanism is really just mental hedonism, so all the critiques of traditional hedonism apply to transhumanism.

2) One of the larger actual dangers of Transhumanism is that it provides such a convenient excuse for inaction. It could be quite attractive to the "masses" when faced with, for example, global warming, to say "things look pretty bad fifty years down the line but by then the Robot God will have saved us, so there's no real need to do anything about it". With constant exposure to rather alarming graphs of population, projected global energy demand, greenhouse gasses, and so on, escapism could become more and more popular as a sociopolitical force.
-----
Also, "naming names, following the money, mapping the organizations..." and so on is always a good idea, much more tasteful than broadly-aimed smears. Even I, a lower-case-t-transhumanist, think such transparency can only be good.

Onward! Upward! To infinity!

De Thezier said...

quite apart from the fact that that is rather tautological, it is also true that the very notion of being "hailed as a prophet" makes me want to puke.

Well, I was being facetious.

The best foresight and analysis has the consequence of making bad possibilities not come true, which seems to me by far the better result in any case.

Ideally perhaps but I was thinking more how Mary Shelley, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are now viewed due to the foresight and analysis contained in their works of fiction.

I wonder if you are right about how much richer and better-connected the people we have come to identify as the key Neocons really were when their movement was at a comparable organizational stage to the transhumanist movement over the last nine years to the present.

OK. Let's compare neo-conservatives such as Irvin Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Paul Wolfowitz to transhumanists Max More, Natasha Vita-More and .

If I ever tried my hand at science fiction it would likely be closer to phantasmagoric pornography than to policy-wonkery in its results.

Hehe. I wasn't thinking of focusing on policy-wonkery as much as the consequences of policies. An author reading literature from the Project for the New American Century in the 1990s could have easily written a Robert Ludlum-like political thriller which uses as a backdrop America's quest for global dominance leading to a military adventure in the Middle East which ends in fiasco.

So reading transhumanist literature, one can easily imagine a near-future where people struggle with the consequences of the retro-futurist visions of Glenn Reynolds...

Dale Carrico said...

[O]ne can easily imagine a near-future where people struggle with the consequences of the retro-futurist visions of Glenn Reynolds...

Two words: William Gibson.

De Thezier said...

Dale Carrico:

Two words: William Gibson.

Touché!

Have you read any of Gibson' most recent stuff?

'After All Tomorrow's Parties, Gibson began to adopt a more realist style of writing, with continuous narratives – "speculative fiction of the very recent past." SF critic John Clute has interpreted this approach as Gibson's recognition that traditional science fiction is no longer possible "in a world lacking coherent 'nows' to continue from", characterizing it as "SF for the new century". Gibson's novels Pattern Recognition (2003) and Spook Country (2007) were both set in the same contemporary universe – "more or less the same one we live in now" – and put Gibson's work onto mainstream bestseller lists for the first time. As well as the setting, the novels share some of the same characters, including Hubertus Bigend and Pamela Mainwaring – employees of the enigmatic marketing company Blue Ant.

A phenomenon peculiar to this era was the independent development of annotating fansites, PR-Otaku and Node Magazine, devoted to Pattern Recognition and Spook Country respectively. These websites tracked the references and story elements in the novels through online resources such as Google and Wikipedia and collated the results, essentially creating hypertext versions of the books. Critic John Sutherland characterised this phenomenon as threatening "to completely overhaul the way literary criticism is conducted".

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, with about 100 pages of Pattern Recognition written, Gibson had to re-write the main character's backstory, which had been suddenly rendered implausible; he called it "the strangest experience I've ever had with a piece of fiction." He saw the attacks as a nodal point in history, "an experience out of culture", and "in some ways... the true beginning of the 21st century." He is noted as one of the first novelists to use the attacks to inform his writing. Examination of cultural changes in post-September 11th America, including the "infantilization of society", became a prominent theme of Gibson's work. The focus of his writing nevertheless remains "at the intersection of paranoia and technology".'

Dale Carrico said...

I read every William Gibson novel from cover to cover on the day it becomes available. Count Zero remains my favorite, weirdly enough. I didn't like the most recent novel, actually. Too dull in its diffusion, but as always many nicely delicate details.

De Thezier said...

Dale Carrico said:

I read every William Gibson novel from cover to cover on the day it becomes available.

So you might be the perfect person to ask the following question. In a 1991 interview conducted by Larry McCaffery, American-Canadian cyperpunk writer William Gibson was asked what got him started writing science-fiction. He answered:

''A series of coincidences. I was at the University of British Columbia, getting an English B.A.- I graduated in '76 or '77- because it was easier at the time than finding a job. I realized I could get the grades I needed as an English major to keep getting the grants I needed to avoid getting a job. There were a couple of months during that period when I thought very seriously about SF without thinking I was ever going to write it- instead, I thought I might want to write about it. I took courses with a guy who talked about the aesthetic politics of fascism- we were reading an Orwell essay, "Raffles and Miss Blandish," and he wondered whether or not there were fascist novels- and I remember thinking, "Reading all these SF novels has given me a line on this topic- I know where this fascist literature is!" I thought about working on an M.A. on this topic, though I doubt that my approach would have been all that earthshaking. But it got me thinking seriously about what SF did, what it was, which traditions had shaped it and which ones it had rejected. Form/content issues.''

Since I'm not familiar with the topic of hard science fiction (as opposed to soft science fiction) novels as fascist literature, I was wondering what some of you might know about it and think

jfehlinger said...

de Thezier wrote:

> Since I'm not familiar with the topic of hard science fiction. . .
> as fascist literature, I was wondering what some of you might
> know about it. . .

You might want to check out Michael Moorcock's essay
"Starship Stormtroopers" at
http://flag.blackened.net/liberty/moorcock.html

There's also Norman Spinrad's essay "The Emperor of
Everything", collected in the book _Science Fiction in
the Real World_. It's available on-line at
http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=62259858
but it costs money (you have to subscribe to read
anything past the first page).

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> I read every William Gibson novel from cover to cover on
> the day it becomes available.

It came as a shock to me when I discovered that the on-line
transhumanists **do not like** William Gibson, and
that mentioning him in one of their forums seems to
be tantamount to farting in public.

He just doesn't seem to have the right attitude for
them. _Neuromancer_ certainly ends with a
Singularity event (though not called that, and certainly not
the **kind** of Event the >Hists are hankering after, though
plausible enough on its own terms: the two subsequent
books in that trilogy, _Count Zero_ and _Mona Lisa Overdrive_
are actually post-Singularity); and the _Virtual
Light_ trilogy (_Virtual Light_, _Idoru_ and _All
Tomorrow's Parties_) also ends with a Singularity
event.

http://project.cyberpunk.ru/lib/neuromancer/
-------------------------------
`Case.'
He turned, cold slick glass in one hand, steel of the shuriken
in the other.
The Finn's face on the room's enormous Cray wall screen.
He could see the pores in the man's nose. The yellow teeth
were the size of pillows.
`I'm not Wintermute now.'
`So what are you.' He drank from the flask, feeling nothing.
`I'm the matrix, Case.'
Case laughed. `Where's that get you?'
`Nowhere. Everywhere. I'm the sum total of the works, the
whole show.'
`That what 3Jane's mother wanted?'
`No. She couldn't imagine what I'd be like.' The yellow
smile widened.
`So what's the score? How are things different? You running
the world now? You God?'
`Things aren't different. Things are things.'
`But what do you do? You just _there?'_ Case shrugged, put
the vodka and the shuriken down on the cabinet and lit a
Yeheyuan.
`I talk to my own kind.'
`But you're the whole thing. Talk to yourself?'
`There's others. I found one already. Series of transmissions
recorded over a period of eight years, in the nineteen-seventies.
'Til there was me, natch, there was nobody to know, nobody
to answer.'
`From where?'
`Centauri system.'
`Oh,' Case said. `Yeah? No shit?'
`No shit.'
And then the screen was blank.
-------------------------------

I sometimes get the impression that the >Hists are still
on the wrong side of the "New Wave" transition that SF
underwent in the 60's, as mentioned in Julie Phillips'
bio of "James Tiptree, Jr." (Alice B. Sheldon):
"The "rocket jocks" (who had also hated the New Wave) insisted
women couldn't write real, "hard" science fiction and
probably shouldn't even be reading it. . ."

Tiptree herself is, of course, another author sternly ignored
by the >Hists, though "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" was
one of the prototypes of the cyberpunk genre. She's
too left-wing, anti-authoritarian, anti-corporate, I guess
(just like Gibson). She's also skeptical that technology will
do much to ameliorate the pain of the human condition.

As mentioned in a post on Usenet:

http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/05e41e8f12e9c505
---------------------------
Someone wrote:

>>. . . Tiptree may well be a new name to
>>newish readers, as she passed away in 1987. So here's a good,
>>effortless chance to try her. You'll be glad you did. Bleak but
>>poetic visions of the human future.

Emphasis on "bleak".

Your mileage may definitely vary. Powerfully, evocatively
written, yes. But I haven't read anything of hers that I would
ever want to read again, or that I am glad that I read. What
I have read makes me want to avoid other titles by her in the
future.

"Bleak" is too mild a word. Unrelieved bleakness. Bleakness
so vast and oppressive and all-encompassing that you'd better
not have any suicidal tendencies when you read her stories.
---------------------------

So I guess it's not surprising that James Tiptree, Jr. is not very popular
among the Extropians. But "Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death",
"The Girl who was Plugged In", and "The Last Flight of Dr. Ain"
made a pretty big impression on me back in the late 70's when
I bought _Warm Worlds and Otherwise_.

And then of course there's J. G. Ballard, pioneer of the New Wave,
many of whose books and stories involve Singularities of one sort
or another, though not necessarily ones like the >Hists think
they're asking for.

"[T]here is an immense reward to be found in that frozen forest.
There the transfiguration of all living and inanimate forms
occurs before our eyes, the gift of immortality a direct
consequence of the surrender by each of us of our own physical
and temporal identities. However apostate we may be in this
world, there perforce we become apostles of the prismatic
sun.

So when my recovery is complete I shall return. . . to the
solitary church in that enchanted world, where by day fantastic
birds fly through the petrified forest and jeweled crocodiles
glitter like heraldic salamanders on the banks of the crystalline
rivers, and where by night the illuminated man races among
the trees, his arms like golden cartwheels and his head like
a spectral crown."

-- J. G. Ballard, _The Crystal World_

And Giulio prates about "lack of imagination". Tsk, tsk, tsk.

AnneC said...

I read a Tiptree story collection about three or four years ago, after only having read one other piece by her -- "The Milk of Paradise", from Harlan Ellison's Again, Dangerous Visions anthology. And yes, much of it was very bleak, but it was still so beautifully and sharply written that I couldn't help but appreciate it.

I can't recall exactly what the collection I read was, but it included some essays and letters interspersed between the various fiction pieces, and some of these were absolutely haunting as they kept me up at night. Tiptree didn't pull punches in her observations on life or in her stories, that's for sure.

As for Gibson: I started Neuromancer and couldn't finish it -- his writing style is just incomprehensible to me for some reason.

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> [t]t is also true that the transhumanists and singularitarians
> and other Superlatives make good copy for corporate media outlets
> precisely for their goofiness and extremity. . .

Yes. Or as Scott Adams put it (as quoted by John Bruce in
his blog entry "Who Is Raymond Kurzweil?"
http://mthollywood.blogspot.com/2006/03/who-is-raymond-kurzweil-raymond.html ):

1. People want to believe [X].

2. The media loves that kind of crap.

3. A good way to get attention is to claim
you proved [X].

;->

jfehlinger said...

Anne Corwin wrote:

> I can't recall exactly what the collection I read was, but it included
> some essays and letters interspersed between the various fiction pieces

Sounds like it might be _Meet Me At Infinity: The Uncollected Tiptree:
Fiction and Nonfiction_
http://www.amazon.com/Meet-Me-Infinity-Uncollected-Nonfiction/dp/031286938X

There's another collection currently in print that you might
enjoy: _Her Smoke Rose Up Forever_
http://www.amazon.com/Her-Smoke-Rose-Up-Forever/dp/1892391201
http://home.earthlink.net/~copaceticcomicsco/TiptreeSmoke.html

Contents:

introduction by Michael Swanwick

•The Last Flight of Doctor Ain
•The Screwfly Solution
•And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side
•The Girl Who Was Plugged In
•The Man Who Walked Home
•And I Have Come Upon This Place By Lost Ways
•The Women Men Don't See
•Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light
•Houston, Houston, Do You Read?
•With Delicate Mad Hands
•A Momentary Taste of Being
•We Who Stole the Dream
•Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
•Love Is the Plan and the Plan Is Death
•On the Last Afternoon
•She Waits for All Men Born
•Slow Music
•And So On, and So On

jfehlinger said...

bambi wrote:

> One of the larger actual dangers of Transhumanism is
> that it provides such a convenient excuse for inaction.
> It could be quite attractive to the "masses" when faced with,
> for example, global warming, to say "things look pretty
> bad fifty years down the line but by then the Robot God
> will have saved us, so there's no real need to do anything
> about it". With constant exposure to rather alarming
> graphs of population, projected global energy demand,
> greenhouse gasses, and so on, escapism could become more
> and more popular as a sociopolitical force.

Yes, Bruce Sterling mentioned this sort of inertia,
though he credited it as a cause of their being so "well-behaved",
as cults go. Some high-profile >Hists are themselves
disgusted with this "sit back and wait for it"
attitude, and want to be more proactive. Those are
the ones who give me pause.

(Bruce Sterling, "The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole",
Eighth "Seminar About Long-Term Thinking"
[ http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/ ]
given by the Long Now Foundation at
Fort Mason Center, San Francisco,
11 June 2004)
-------------------------------------
Oh, um -- here we have some groups who've
been associating themselves with Singulatarian --
Singu**lar**itarian ideas. And they're all
Web-based groups. . . Um, now -- what's, uh, what's
with these groups? Well, they --they're rather
kind of similar to virus-writing groups, in
that they're electronically-based enthusiasts --
people -- and they're almost all on-line;
they're small groups of loosely-attached thinkers,
widely scattered geographically. Probably
easily rounded up should they ever create serious
trouble. [laughter]

. . .

And the, the thing I like best
about these guys, and there are kind of a
lot of 'em, although they're basically 30
guys under a different set of bumper-stickers
[laughter] um, is, is that they don't shoot
each other, or at least they don't **yet**
shoot each other. They're, they're small
extremist groups, and they **are** extremist
groups, but they're not that bad to have
around -- they, they've got a track-record;
there's, you know, been quite some time that
people have had serious interest in Singularity
activism, but they don't seem to do anything
illegal; there's, like, no public fist-fights,
very few lawsuits, they're not siccing the
law on one another; we haven't see a cult
slaughter along the Heaven's Gate-style thing;
they, they haven't placed any nerve-gas in subways.
They just don't behave like classic cultists.

. . .

You know, you have to wonder **why**, you know,
that these, these Singulatarian groups, you know,
why haven't they, like, started tyin' into
one another? Why aren't they flame-warrin', you
know, why aren't there purges, why isn't there,
like, bitter fighting between Popes of
post-humanism? You know, why are they so
relatively well-behaved and really even
kinda civilized and artsy? Um, why are they
so charmingly innocent and unworldly, really?

And I think one of the reasons is they don't
feel that they have to **work** very hard.
[laughter] They don't feel they have to work
very hard because they think historical
determinism is on their side; they're really
mesmerized by the auto-catalyzing cascade-effect
of a Singularity. They don't have to fret
about rounding up voters, or raising funds,
or seriously persuading the press, 'cause,
you know, they've just got this sort of smooth
line on a 2-D graph. [laughter] You know,
why **bother**, I mean, pretty soon, we'll
be superhuman. And it's bound to happen
to **us**, because **we're** the early
adapters! [laughter]

You know, it never occurs
to these pioneers that they might be just
brusquely cast aside, while actual improvements
were monopolized by the genuinely rich and
powerful elite within our society. Never
occurs to them. [laughter] And it doesn't
really occur to them, either, that high-speed
technologies might spread like bread mold,
but have very short life-spans. That you might
see Apple IIs everywhere and then just see
them vanish like the morning dew. Achieve
nothing that lasts. Just like LSD, and Our
Friend the Atom, and the empty offices of
the dead dot-coms. It's not on their emotional
radar.

jfehlinger said...

Speaking of SF, I was at the local Barnes & Noble yesterday
and picked up a couple of books to browse in. One was about
family influences on George Bush's "tragic" presidency;
but the other was about something I'd never heard of before.

Apparently there was a species of hominid living in South
Africa 10,000 and more years ago, called the "Boskops"
(not to be confused with the department store ;-> ) who
had brains 30% bigger than modern H. sap. They're being
touted in a new book, _Big Brain: The Future of Human Intelligence_
http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2008/03/16/all_creatures_great_and_overrated/
http://discovermagazine.com/2008/mar/21-the-extinct-human-species-that-was-smarter-than-us

Sounds like something right out of Olaf Stapledon.
I wonder if Michael Crichton is gonna do a movie
treatment.

De Thezier said...

AnneC said:

As for Gibson: I started Neuromancer and couldn't finish it -- his writing style is just incomprehensible to me for some reason.

I had the same problem the first time I started reading Neuromancer so I stopped after a few pages.

A few years later, I kept hearing that Neuromancer was considered "the archetypal cyberpunk work", and its winning the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards had legitimized cyberpunk as a mainstream branch of science fiction literature; that it was among the most-honored works of science fiction in recent history, and had appeared on Time magazine's list of 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.

So I forced myself to read it and slowly started grasping and appreciating the postmodernist prose he uses to describe the often nihilistic underground side of an electronic society.

Dale Carrico said...

Here's the trick -- read a few novels by William Burroughs (which everybody should do for their own sake in any case), then go back and read Neuromancer and you'll find it's a piece of cake. Not because Burroughs is "harder," but because it provides the template.

jfehlinger said...

> Apparently there was a species of hominid. . . called
> the "Boskops" (not to be confused with the department store ;-> )

Ehh. Stick with the department store.
http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/brain/paleo/lynch-granger-big-brain-boskops-2008.html

jfehlinger said...

de Thezier wrote:

> Since I'm not familiar with the topic of hard science fiction. . .
> as fascist literature, I was wondering what some of you might
> know about it. . .

and I replied:

> You might want to check out Michael Moorcock's essay
> "Starship Stormtroopers". . .
>
> There's also Norman Spinrad's essay "The Emperor of
> Everything". . .

You might also want to have a look at David Brin's
essay "'Star Wars" Despots vs. 'Star Trek' Populists"
http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/06/15/brin_main/

Marc_Geddes said...

Dale,

Lets not forget disgruntled *former* transhumanists, people that the transhumanists have pissed off.

You all know that I'm mad as hell and I'm still looking for a spectacular rock 'em, shock 'em Singularitarian style 'quick score'.

Installing myself as the first President of the World is simply the only way I'm going to get any damn respect around here.

Rest assured though Dale, my first move would be to smash corporate power - you should be pleased to have me as the first President of the World.