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

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Post-Gender" or Gender Poets?

Hearing so-called transhumanists calling gender a "disease" fills me with unease. After all, the transhumanists also like to say that aging and death are diseases, and seriously propose that imminent medical breakthroughs will eliminate vulnerability and mortality altogether, that freezing their brains will enable them to be revived in immortal robot bodies, or that they will be able one day to "upload" a snapshot-scan of their minds into heavenly digital-spiritual computer networks. My point isn't to dismiss these beliefs because they're weird (lots of weird beliefs end up becoming commonsense in time, after all) but to point out that this is just techno-triumphalism, a fantasy that loose talk of "science" and "technology" can handwave away what are essentially social and political and cultural problems. Sexism isn't something science can steamroller away on the road to a techno-utopian future. It is far more likely that sexism will shape the uses to which scientific discoveries are put in ways few but feminists will be warning us about.

In the first sentence of his "Postgenderism" article, George Dvorsky first claims to be "frustrated with modern feminism" and to desire a "sensible male approach to gender issues." Apart from wondering why a "post-genderist" would have truck with the very idea of a "male approach" to anything, let alone "gender issues" (shouldn't he be "post" both of these things?), the simple truth is I get nervous when another straight white guy claims to be frustrated with "feminism" -- as if that were a single thing -- and then proposes to junk "it" and replace "it" with another internet manifesto and "movement" he just invented consisting of a neologism and a few ideas every one of which has already been under discussion by at least some feminists for years and years.

In several of his writings on this topic Dvorsky claims that Donna Haraway is another contributor to this "movement" he is talking about. Perhaps he would be interested in a few comments made by Haraway in 1999, published in the Donna Haraway Reader in 2004.
DH: I have no patience with the term "post-gender." I have never liked it.

Interviewer: But you used it in the manifesto…" [The interviewer refers to Haraway's "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s," published fifteen years before the interview, and probably her most influential essay so far. --d]

DH: Yes, I did. But I had no idea that it would become this "ism"! [Laughter] You know, I have never used it since! Because post-gender ends up meaning a very strange array of things. Gender is a verb, not a noun. Gender is always about the production of subjects in relation to other subjects, and in relation to artifacts. Gender is about material-semiotic production of these assemblages, these human-artifact assemblages that are people. People are always already in assemblage with worlds. Humans are congeries of things that are not us. We are not self-identical. Gender is specifically a production of men and women. It is an obligatory distribution of subjects in unequal relationships, where some have property in others. Gender is a specific production of subjects in sexualized forms where some have rights in others to reproductivity, and sexuality, and other modes of being in the world. So, gender is specifically a system of that kind, but not continuous across history. Things need not be this way, and in this particular sense that puts focus on a critical relationship to gender along the lines of critical theory's "things need not be this way" -- in this sense of blasting gender I approve of the term "post-gender." But this is not "post-gender" in a utopian, beyond-masculine-and-feminine sense, which it is often taken to mean. It is the blasting of necessity, the non-necessity of this way of doing the world….

It has much to do with "post-gender" in the sense of blasting the scandal of gender and with a feminism that does not embrace Woman, but is for women. This kind of "post-gender" involves the powerful theories of intersection that came out of post-colonial theory, and women of color feminist theory, and that came overwhelmingly, though not only, from people who had been oppressed in colonial and racial ways. They insisted on a kind of relentless intersectionality, that refused any gender analysis standing on its own, and in this context, I find that the term "post-gender" makes sense. Here it can be understood as a kind of intensified critical understanding of these many threads of production of inequality.
As you can see, Haraway doesn't reject the term completely, probably reluctant to throw out completely any tool that shows any promise at all of helping us tinker with patriarchal sex-gender systems in ways that might help more actually existing people live more freely and more legibly within its shifting still too constricting terms. But I don't think Dvorsky -- and other so-called "technoprogressives" and "transhumanists" -- should take much comfort in Haraway's concession because I think his use of the term exactly the sort of clumsy insensitive techno-utopian appropriation she is so skeptical of.

Historically, as more medical techniques to help women more safely end and prevent unwanted pregnancies, as more alternate reproductive technologies (ARTs) to facilitate wanted ones, as more transsexual surgeries and therapies and so on become available they have been taken up creatively and opportunistically by people to practice their sexed, gendered, desiring lives in ways that accord better with their own sense of who they are and what they want, while at once, to be sure, these emerging techniques have also been deployed in risky, confused, exploitative ways (surrogacy and organ harvesting stratified by realities of poverty, fraud, misinformation, duress, for example -- and one can only imagine the abuses in unregulated quests for reproductive cloning given current ignorance and risks) and were understood in terms of prevailing norms used to police possibility and constrain sexed-gendered lifeways even as they ramify them. Technology isn't inherently emancipatory -- it isn't inherently anything -- techniques and artifacts become emancipatory only as they are taken up by people organized to ensure emancipatory outcomes. The very same gender reassignment techniques that empower an informed and consenting transsexual person might be deployed to coerce an intersex child in ways that disempower them catastrophically. I worry that the technological determinism of Dvorsky's transhumanist handwaving about inherently emancipatory technologies, his airy dismissal of modern feminism, his glib acquiescence to a simplistic and sexist vision of genetic destiny (why treat the ways in which men and women presumably are different from one another as more salient than the ways in which men differ from one another and women differ from one another?) all point to an epic underestimation of the practical political work of anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-heterosexist, anti-cisssexist discourse and practice and witness and play to democratize gender, peer-to-peer.

Part of what Haraway is getting at that seems a bit lost on the transhumanist "post-genderists" is her point that sex-gender is, in her words, "an obligatory distribution of subjects in unequal relationships." I mean, leave it to a straight white guy to actually imagine he has "accomplished" the incarnation of a post-gender subjecthood. It isn't enough to point to the evil of the violations and vulnerabilities of sexism and heteronormativity, the fact remains that sex-gender is not so much a disease as a language we all speak, a language we learn if we are to speak at all. People who recognize that language can be used to lie or confuse don't declare ourselves post-linguistic, but strive to remake language to tell more truth. We use it to testify to neglected experiences, we subject it to critical scrutiny, we use it to make poetry.

When we push against the customary demands and expectations of sex and gender to live our lives more as we see fit, we are subversively citing and reciting sexed and gendered terms in the world we are born into. We are not then "post-gender" so much as we are striving to write new poetry with gender. And when we push against sex and gender in the real world we know that sex and gender push back, they exact costs on us, they impose risks on us, they take us by surprise in ways that can be dangerous and deranging. Deviance and defiance aren't happening on the Holodeck in an episode of Star Trek. Who needs to cheerlead about shiny immortal teledildonic robot bodies that may never arrive when people here and now are using language and bodylanguage and artifacts to play with sex-gender norms and make them sing a new tune, with real costs and real risks at stake? There is nothing "post-gender" about subversive but still citational queer practices (and I mean queer in the most capacious understanding of that term) of butch/femme, polyamorous, top/bottom, S/M, bisex/asex/intersex recodings of desire and pleasure and practice. This is about the real world politics of consensual lifeway multiculture, peer to peer. I think I'll stick with the feminists in the real world for now, thanks, and leave the transhumanoid "post-genderists" in the science fiction aisle (after all, we might have a good mutually enriching conversation about Octavia Butler's novels there).

20 comments:

John Howard said...

Thanks for this great post at PHB. I've been trying to collide these worlds for a while now, but there is much resistance and downright censorship, it makes people uncomfortable to think about where some of these ideaologies are leading.

My blog is eggandsperm.blogspot.com and it's dedicated to stopping GE and preserving natural conception. I'm trying to harness the gay marriage debate to this cause by way of a civil union compromise, where CU's would get federal recognition as long as they were defined by the states as being exactly like marriage but not having the right to conceive children together. As the other side of the compromise, marriage would be preserved as the right to conceive children together, and non male-female natural conception would be prohibited. It seems like the only sensible solution to me, but yet no one seems to like it or think it would work. what do you think?

Dale Carrico said...

I don't believing in "stopping G[enetic] E[ngineering]" because it remains to be seen how many things subsumed under that general heading can be safe and useful and emancipatory to the extent that their costs, risks, and benefits are actually distributed more fairly according to the informed, nonduressed wants testified to by the actual stakeholders to their development.

It seems to me that progressive technoscience politics should focus on democratizing the scene of technodevelopmental deliberation, through p2p, a2k, plos-model open research, copyfight, media de-consolidation, transparent and noncorrupt regulatory oversight of Big Pharma, no proprietary secrecy for research results indicating public harms, stringent controls on misleading advertising claims, fighting corporate biopiracy, prioritizing literacy, critical thinking skills, and science education, shifting from puritanical to harm-reduction models of social welfare provision, expanding the genomic commons, promoting seed-sharing and water sovereignty, supporting permaculture practices, and so on.

I disapprove of blanket bans and monolithically demonizing discussions of technodevelopment just as much as I disapprove facile laissez-faire recommendations and techno-utopian hype.

I also don't believe that there is such a thing as "natural conception" for anybody to "preserve" in the first place -- only historically and geographically diverse practices of conception freighted with even more diverse significances. At this level of abstraction, when emerging technologies are woven into human practices of conception this is nothing but an ongoing elaboration of what such conception has always already been, already more of a "preservation" of "natural conception" as it has historically been expressed as any blanket banning of techniques parochially construed as "unnatural" for now would be.

I disapprove of civil unions (although, full disclosure, my partner and I are domestic partnered here in California for practical legal reasons) for the reasons I disapprove separate but equal in the administration of civil liberties in general. And anyway, it's love that makes a marriage, not offspring, so why pretend otherwise?

I think connecting an already problematically stigmatized "separate but equal" pseudo-marriage to a state-mandated policing of certain reproductive customs as "natural" is a dangerous and disastrous road to contemplate.

Eric said...

"I mean, leave it to a straight white guy to actually imagine he has "accomplished" the incarnation of a post-gender subjecthood."

In other words: "I've got mine, so screw you".

Reminds me of the "post-gay" movement from some years back that curiously seemed to be formed entirely of white, well-off, gay men.

peco said...

why treat the ways in which men and women presumably are different from one another as more salient than the ways in which men differ from one another and women differ from one another?

There is a difference between different groups of females (sex, not gender), but that has nothing to with feminism or postgenderism. That difference might be extremely important (racism), but it still has nothing to do with feminism.
presumably

There are obviously some differences (of any kind) between the average male and the average female, or there would be point in calling people male or female.
I worry that the technological determinism of Dvorsky's transhumanist handwaving about inherently emancipatory technologies

No technology is guaranteed to be emancipatory (is that what you mean by inherent?)--all technologies require people to use them correctly. However, some technologies probably will be emancipatory, unless all technologies probably won't be. You don't need to make sure that a technology will be emancipatory if it has a very high chance of being emancipatory anyway.

(hopefully this post won't be as trollish)

Dale Carrico said...

There is a difference between different groups of females (sex, not gender), but that has nothing to with feminism

Says who?

There are obviously some differences (of any kind) between the average male and the average female, or there would be point in calling people male or female.

Needless to say, the point is to determine what will get construed as "averageness" in these formulations, what significances will attach to them, what will be posited as arising from some sexual dimorphism which in fact are always imbricated in historically contingent systems of value and custom, understanding the assignment of salience to sexed and gendered "traits" in this historical complexity and so on. Feminism 101.

No technology is guaranteed to be emancipatory (is that what you mean by inherent?)--all technologies require people to use them correctly. However, some technologies probably will be emancipatory, unless all technologies probably won't be. You don't need to make sure that a technology will be emancipatory if it has a very high chance of being emancipatory anyway.

No technoscientific knowledge in inherently emancipatory, while almost any technoscientific knowledge can be taken up by people to in the right context to facilitate emancipatory outcomes. You can't finesse this issue by assigning what amount to arbitrary (however much you are sure to protest to the contrary, and I can already imagine the squalling chorus of what about the wheel! the lever! the printing press! penicillen! and so on) values of "chance of success" by fiat abstracted away from the actual concrete circumstances in which technodevelopment actually occurs. This is just a way of pretending to grant the force of my point but then evacuating it of any actual force.

No, this is not a trollish post at all. I shudder to imagine what comes next, however.

peco said...

however much you are sure to protest to the contrary, and I can already imagine the squalling chorus of what about the wheel! the lever! the printing press! penicillen! and so on

I wasn't going to say that.

I can't think of any major technology except for weapons that hasn't either been emancipatory or neutral. If 70% of major technologies have been emancipatory and 25% have been neutral, a random major future technology that you know nothing about has a ~70% chance of being emancipatory and only a ~5% chance of being the opposite (this is like saying that the sun will rise tomorrow because it has done so 100% of the time. That argument works even if you don't know how the sun rises; this argument works even if you don't know what makes a technology emancipatory.).

I'm not saying that 70% of major technologies have been emancipatory, but the percentage is probably pretty high.

Dale Carrico said...

What am I supposed to say? Oh, no peco, I disagree, actually 43% of "technology" has a 13% chance of being emancipatory, and a 17% chance of being neutral. None of this connects to reality in any way, none of these numbers mean anything, they are just another way to pretend to deploy a technical vocabulary of mastery that just obscures more than it clarifies.

No technology is "neutral." None, never. No one can say in advance what will be all the uses to which all the people will put all the things that might get called technology in history.

Perhaps a way to get at what I'm saying is to tell you to think of "technology" more as a verb, as a word to describe practices of invention, regulation, application, education, distribution, rather than as a word to describe things you think you can characterize in the abstract apart from the discourses in which they arrive and make their unpredictable play in the world.

Now, let's stop here while we're ahead, please, peco, right here.

John Howard said...

Well, we are all stakeholders in the development of genetic engineering and the development of same-sex conception, both through the direct costs and resources that are diverted to developing it, as well as our stake in preserving liberty for our posterity.

Are you in favor of allowing the use of "female sperm" or "male eggs" derived from stem cells? I got the impression from your comment that you felt that it was unwise and unnecessary.

And I think you underestimate the positive value of a blanket ban as opposed to a constant ongoing debate along the slippery slope. With a blanket ban, people can know for certain that it is forever OK to use their natural gametes and that it will never be allowed to try to improve them. Research can be devoted to health care instead of stuck in a grey area of maybe-it-will-be-legal-someday.

And by "natural conception" I mean that people are the genetic offspring of their mother and father, and there have been no genetic modifications. So far, that has been true of every human born, including people born from IVF and donor gametes and rape and incest. Don't muddy those waters, it is pretty darn obvious what is meant by "natural conception", especially in contrast to the very real things that Transhumanists want to start doing.

I really think you should consider the compromise I'm proposing, even if it requires you to reconsider your position on SSM. You are already half-way there, since you agree that the laissez-faire approach is wrong and therefore (I hope you will agree that it is 'therefore') we can't automatically allow people to conceive with someone of their same-sex. And hopefully you will agree though that we DO have to continue to let marriages attempt to conceive together, so there is a difference in rights that won't be going away unless we allow same-sex conception or remove the protections of conception rights that marriage has always offered. And just speaking practically, the compromise will break the impasse and allow Congress to recognize same-sex civil unions. Don't you want to have federal protections, or don't you know older same-sex couples that do?

peco said...

What am I supposed to say? Oh, no peco, I disagree, actually 43% of "technology" has a 13% chance of being emancipatory, and a 17% chance of being neutral. None of this connects to reality in any way, none of these numbers mean anything, they are just another way to pretend to deploy a technical vocabulary of mastery that just obscures more than it clarifies.

"Infant mortality per 1,000 is 6.4 in the United States" doesn't obscure anything. It tells you the probability that a random child born in the United States will die before the age of 1 if you know nothing else about the child. "Acceptable application of important inventions excluding weapons is x per 1,000" isn't well-defined, but it tells you the probability that a random important invention (except for weapons) will be applied acceptably. It obviously isn't 1 per 1,000 or 1,000 per 1,000, so it gives you some information. And if you get a representative sample of important inventions and a definition of "acceptable application," you can get a more precise probability (for you--other people will define "acceptable" and "important" and "weapon" (etc.) differently). But if you yourself get 48 acceptable applications per 50 inventions, you can't say you selected the technologies wrong.

No technology is "neutral." None, never. No one can say in advance what will be all the uses to which all the people will put all the things that might get called technology in history.

OK. It wasn't a very important part of what I was saying anyway.

Perhaps a way to get at what I'm saying is to tell you to think of "technology" more as a verb, as a word to describe practices of invention, regulation, application, education, distribution, rather than as a word to describe things you think you can characterize in the abstract apart from the discourses in which they arrive and make their unpredictable play in the world.

What I am trying to say: after invention, application is almost always acceptable (except for weapons). As for regulation, education, and distribution:

(1) Regulation is supposed to control application and distribution, so it is acceptable if they are

(2) Distribution that makes one group better off without harming anyone isn't that bad (would you want white people to have clean water or for nobody to have it?), so it is mostly acceptable if application is acceptable (if white people use clean water to build weapons to shoot black people, that would be a problem)

(3) Education is supposed to teach people how to use the technology (distribution) and how not to use it (application), so it is acceptable if application is.

(That makes application and invention the only things that ultimately matter.)

Dale Carrico said...

And by "natural conception" I mean that people are the genetic offspring of their mother and father, and there have been no genetic modifications.

I would have absolutely no objections to actually wanted pregnancies that would involve offspring from two mothers, or a dozen parents of either sex or sexes yet to be imagined if any of these things were safely possible and actually available, genetically modified in any way that is actually wanted and actually possible -- just so long as what is wanted is genuinely safe, and to the extent that it is genuinely consented to in an informed, nonduressed way.

I think people are generally competent to make decisions about the health of their own bodies or about the health of their kids. I think the so-called terrifying specter of designer babies and clone armies are mostly hyperbolic foolishness, funhouse mirrors in which people are clumsily trying to work through disavowed concerns with actually contemporary anxieties involving inter-generational tensions, multicultural tensions, awareness of global environmental stress and developmental injustice and neoliberal precarity, and so on.

The truth is that so much of what the transhumanists claim to "want to start doing" is actually incoherent -- from techno-immortalism to digital mind uploading to cartoonish sooperpowers and soopergenius brain fantasies and so on -- I honestly think it is absurd to critique them on terms that pretend otherwise.

We should be focusing our attention on actually employed medical techniques about which people are disastrously misinformed, about scenes of medical "consent" in the present day that take place in the context of the extreme duress of legal and financial insecurity, about fraudulent hyperbolic claims made on behalf of emerging techniques promoted by for-profit Pharma, about proprietary secrecy creating barriers to access to knowledge people (among them our elected representatives) need to make informed healthcare decisions, about budgetary priorities for public r&d that are grotesquely skewed away from neglected but treatable conditions in overexploited regions of the world, and so on.

Who cares about the Superlative fancies of the transhumanists? These are interesting mostly as symptoms of technophilic irrationality in prevailing neoliberal global "Development" rhetoric more generally, in my opinion. Panicking about this hyperbolic nonsense and proposing overambitious legislation to ban what will never happen in any case looks to me far too much like an hysterical overreaction that skews priorities and strategies to the cost of us all.

The truly progressive impulse underlying this overreaction in most who are exhibiting it would be far better directed instead in my view to supporting universal free access to all safe medical techniques (whether "normalizing" or not in their effects), demanding universal free access to all reliable knowledge on the basis of which citizens make genuinely informed decisions about which techniques are wanted for themselves and for the people to whom they are responsible, and ameliorating the conditions of economic and social duress (poverty, informal status, stigmatized lifeways, etc.) that undermine the scene of legible consent.

Don't muddy those waters

I have to be honest with you: I would like the reproductive waters to be very muddy and very queer, indeed, especially when the alternatives seem to involve fantasies of wholesome "naturalness" and "purity" and so on.

You are already half-way there, since you agree that the laissez-faire approach

I'm an advocate of consensual lifeway diversity and democratic technodevelopmental social struggle, peer to peer. It is very hard for me to fathom why you would believe that my rejection of the foolishness of "laissez faire" ideology takes me even halfway to a point where I would agree that
"we can't automatically allow people to conceive with someone of their same-sex."

First of all, who is "we"? I know plenty of same-sex couples who I would celebrate to no end were they to conceive wanted children on whatever therapeutic terms were available to them. If by "automatically" you mean to point out that we really do have to ensure that emerging techniques are safe before they are made available, that they are developed and distributed in ways that actually allocate costs, risks, and benefits fairly, and that the determination of their safety and this fairness cannot be left to the palpably unreliable devices of for-profit enterprises or corrupt regulatory agencies run by coporatist functionaries in a revolving door between jobs in the industries they presumably regulate in the public interest (as you clearly imply when you ask, "don't you want federal protections?"), well, then, yes, of course I agree with you.

But I certainly don't think such points have anything at all to do with fetishizing "natural" reproduction on some parochial construal invested with a moral significance that trumps our commitment to democracy and a scene of informed nonduressed consent registering the equity and diversity of all citizens, peer to peer. I don't think such points have anything to do with being scared of what transhumanists think they want to do when their Robot God arrives for the "Singularity" or what have you.

History is on the side of queer marriage already, and the "impasse" you speak of looks like a steamroller to the Promised Land to somebody like me who was in the streets of Atlanta in the early 90s protesting sodomy laws on the books there and who never imagined we would have come so far so fast -- and there is just absolutely no reason at all to weigh down that momentum with the anchor of second class reproductive citizenship just because some people are scared of the idea that women might one day cheerfully and safely have babies without men getting in on the act. At least that's how it seems to me!

John Howard said...

So what the heck are you talking about then? You bs artist, you aren't any different from Dvorsky. Do you think he is advocating for it to be allowed even if it is unsafe or something?

Same-sex conception is proven to be not safe, and can never be shown to be safe prior to someone attempting it and monitoring the whole lives of the people born from it, and the lives of their children also. But you don't care, you don't want it banned, this "only if it's safe" line is complete BS, you want it legal even though it isn't. Do you deny that it isn't safe? Yet, it is legal and you want it to remain legal. You want laissez-faire no-prohibitions everyone-do-what-they-want freedom. Even as you say that it is foolish. In what way do you disagree with a Laissez-faire approach, then? What laws do you propose, for right now?

"We"of course is our democratic system, our Congress of elected legislators. They are we, the people who could give federal protections to same-sex couples, but won't, because we have an intuitive rejection of giving the same rights to same-sex couples that a man and a woman have together.

Is same-sex conception really that important to you that you would insist on that right over equal protections for couples across the US?

jfehlinger said...

John Howard wrote (to Dale):

> So what the heck are you talking about then? You bs artist. . .

Well, here's an interesting phenomenon. Something that Vladimir de Thezier
predicted a while ago, if I'm not mistaken.

Here's somebody who has apparently mistaken Dale's critique of
techno-superlativity for some kind of bioconservatism.

I'm afraid Mr. Howard is in for a disappointment.

Dale Carrico said...

Same-sex conception is proven to be not safe, and can never be shown to be safe prior to someone attempting it and monitoring the whole lives of the people born from it, and the lives of their children also.

Never be shown to be safe prior to someone attempting it? Monitoring them and their offspring their whole lives? Are you equally stringent at the prospect of every emerging therapeutic intervention or is it just queers who want kids and their families who would be earmarked for such lifelong monitoring?

But you don't care, you don't want it banned, this "only if it's safe" line is complete BS, you want it legal even though it isn't.

I don't want it legal so long as it isn't safe, and if you want to propose that same-sex conception will always be unsafe I wonder what it is that makes you so sure? Are you equally fervent about blanket prohibitions of genetic interventions into other hitherto untreatable conditions?

I am certainly glad that there is a prohibition of reproductive cloning given our actual knowledge and the state of technique, for example.

I think contemporary practices of surrogacy and egg-harvesting and the deliberate conception of sibling medical-donors, especially in a transnational context, all demand greater regulation and scrutiny than they presently have, and I am certain that acts of "consent" to these practices are all too typically misinformed and duressed in ways that demand much more oversight.

I think there is real suffering and abuse happening in these practices that demands attention and redress from progressive people. But I can't say that I object to these practices because I find them "unnatural," nor do I see them as always inevitably doomed to remain unsafe or improper in ways that demand talk of eternal bans.

I see no reason to eschew limited voluntary clinical trials when scientists without a conflict of interest in the matter reach a reasonable consensus that the level of our knowledge given the desirability of a treatment warrants them.

I don't see any reason to assume reproductive cloning techniques will never be safe enough to become a form of ART informed people might sensibly consent to if other options were unappealing for other reasons, and if it really were safe I have no moral stake in prohibiting it, for example, though clearly it is unsafe for now and should remain illegal in consequence.

It isn't only some rogue violation of the law that could give us the data on the basis of which we might decide to reassess that safety. I certainly would feel better about such reassessments were our regulatory agencies less corrupt and our medical practices not corporatized.

And I think progressive politics around these issues should focus precisely there -- ensuring less corrupt oversight, better access to reliable information, universal healthcare provision, more social supports to ensure acts of consent are nonduressed -- rather than on demands for repudiations of intervention in principle even where people may be suffering needlessly.

Do you deny that it isn't safe? Yet, it is legal and you want it to remain legal. You want laissez-faire no-prohibitions everyone-do-what-they-want freedom.

Well, no, I don't. I guess I am a little unclear about your position -- are you claiming that it is premature for clinical trials for ARTs involving "artificial gametes"? Certainly I would agree with you. But it isn't clear to me that anybody is proposing such a thing, are there, even if there appear to be a few impractical but attention-grabbing patents happening at the moment? Or are you claiming that same sex conception can never be safe, nor should biological science follow any avenues of research that might eventuate in knowledges that might contribute to techniques that could more safety empower such techniques? In that case, I can't agree with you at all.

But surely this is far from the same thing as advocating a laissez-faire attitude or only paying "lip-service" to actual safety concerns and regulations that would ensure that experimental procedures are undertaken in ways that distribute risks, costs, and benefits equitably. I know that corporatists will often and professional bioethicists will sometimes pay lip service to concerns about safety and consent and all too often show little sign of taking these commitments seriously where actual practices are concerned, but that cannot mean that every affirmation of respect for safety and fairness and truly informed, nonduressed consent amounts then to such an exercise in cynicism and deception.

You can ascribe such an attitude to me, I guess, but it just isn't true. I may be underinformed on the state of the art concerning particular therapeutic interventions -- I am not a professional bioethicist, I am interested in bioethical issues from the standpoint of network media criticism with a special emphasis on the ethos of peer-to-peer democratization on questions of technodevelopment -- but I have the feeling that our actual contention is happening on more general principles.

You know, there really is an enormous amount of ground between libertopian laissez-faire ideology and a tyrannical policing of stasis in the defense of parochial customs identified with "nature," just as there is an enormous amount of ground between transhumanism and bioconservativism.

Since many transhumanists like to accuse me of being bioconservative it is only fair I guess that many bioconservatives will accuse me of being transhumanist for good measure -- I must be doing something right, since I disapprove of both perspectives pretty much equally. Notice, as I've said all along, these two hyperbolic discourses feed on one another, and both function as a moralizing denigration of informed nonduressed consent the better to implement an essentially eugenic vision (eg, transhumanists invested in engineering "optimal" humans according to their parochial perspective, bioconservatives invested in "preserving" a no less parochial humanity they identify as natural).

I do think that those people who want to start a "serious" conversation about how engineering artificial gametes might help circumvent the actually necessary political work through which same-sex marriage will be secured for queer folks as a civil right are fairly idiotically substituting science fiction for political organizing -- something that transhumanists absurdly do writ large when they claim accelerating change trumps public deliberation or nanotechnology will trump the problem of poverty. Proposing pre-emptive scare-mongering bans against non-existing techniques that can function here and now only to circumscribe research and development that might ameliorate needless suffering from actually-existing hitherto untreatable conditions hardly seems the best way to go if one wants to challenge facile anti-political techno-enthusiasms, however.

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> [John Howard wrote:]
>
> > Same-sex conception is proven to be not safe, and can never
> > be shown to be safe prior to someone attempting it and monitoring
> > the whole lives of the people born from it, and the lives of
> > their children also.
>
> . . .
>
> [I]f you want to propose that same-sex conception will always
> be unsafe I wonder what it is that makes you so sure?

Well, the offspring might turn out to be the Antichrist, like
Nicolae Carpathia in the _Left Behind_ books. (The Devil chose
as his earthly host the genetically-engineered result of an
unholy union between two gay men -- very appropriate! ;-> ).

John Howard said...

Are you equally stringent at the prospect of every emerging therapeutic intervention or is it just queers who want kids and their families who would be earmarked for such lifelong monitoring?

All use of stem-cell derived gametes and other methods of conceiving people that are not from a man and a woman's unmodified gametes. They wouldn't be earmarked for lifelong monitoring if they are not created to begin with. But they certainly will have to be if they are, right? How else will you ever satisfy your demand that it be safe?

And you are aware that it is legal now, right? Only Missouri, as far as I know, has a law against using artificial and/or modified gametes.

Tell all your transhumanist critics that they should rest assured, you are on their side, a transhumanist through and through. There is no middle ground between transhumanism and human or natural conception, either we stick with everyone using their own genes and combining them with someone's of the other sex, or we allow people to create people other ways. It's not a question of when or how that separates transhumanists from humanists, it's a question of why and whether.

jfehlinger said...

> Tell all your transhumanist critics that they should rest
> assured, you are on their side, a transhumanist through and through.

Good news, Dale! No doubt IEET is even now preparing to
rematerialize you. I'm sure your transporter trace was still
in a backup pattern buffer somewhere in their tape library.
Now if they can just find it. . .

Dale Carrico said...

John Howard wants to ban, in perpetuity: All use of stem-cell derived gametes and other methods of conceiving people that are not from a man and a woman's unmodified gametes.

Purity of Essence! Defend the Race! And no poofters!

They wouldn't be earmarked for lifelong monitoring if they are not created to begin with.

And if he stayed in the closet he wouldna got bashed, and she was askin' fer it, dressed like that! If they are wanted and the ARTs through which they arrive really are safe what on earth is so scary about queer born kids? This seems like hysteria to me, once we've agreed that basic safety standards (not yet met) are respected. Why this horror at the very idea of their unnaturaliness -- you think the queer kids would recruit the natural humans into queerness at naptime in kindergarten or something? I honestly don't get it.

How else will you ever satisfy your demand that it be safe?

I'm getting the impression that nothing could ever satisfy you as to their safety, because safety is a word you are using to designate "preserve the parochial customs I have come to identify as natural standards."

And you are aware that it is legal now, right? Only Missouri, as far as I know, has a law against using artificial and/or modified gametes.

Ah, Missouri, paragon of sensible reality-based creationism and "partial-birth abortion" bans! One wonders what other non-existing unnatural creatures we need to whomp up hysterical horror of and pre-emptively ban in perpetuity the better to control medical and science research, funding, and regulation of actually-possible treatments for actually-existing conditions so you won't be scared any more about losing your religion?

Tell all your transhumanist critics that they should rest assured, you are on their side, a transhumanist through and through. There is no middle ground between transhumanism and human or natural conception,

On the contrary, between the extremes of superlative transhumanist rhetoric and reactionary bioconservative rhetoric there is the whole world of contestation and collaboration of which technodevelopmental social struggle actually consists in history.

either we stick with everyone using their own genes and combining them with someone's of the other sex, or we allow people to create people other ways. It's not a question of when or how that separates transhumanists from humanists, it's a question of why and whether.

Maybe it's just me, but you honestly seem to have something of an unhealthy preoccupation with other peoples' sex lives, guy.

Seriously, humanity is a socialized, encultured, prostheticized, historicized, politicized constellation of beings through and through. The "natural" in the sense you are deploying it looks to be little more than a strategy through which incumbent interests seek to take the values, privileges, institutions, and assumptions with which they personally identify off the table of political contestation the better to enjoy the status quo to which they are accustomed.

My attitude is just secular democratic. To be a transhumanist I would need to be much more of a triumphalist reductionist, much more enamored of technocracy, much cozier with eugenicism (but, you know, "liberal"!), and would see in technoscience the material for a project of "transcendence" of the human condition mobilizing more or less conventionally theological pinings after eternal life, constant bliss, magical abilities, omniscience, and so on, but provided by priestly techno-utopians promising a heavenly toypile rather than conventional priests promising otherworldly rewards.

John Howard said...

I'm trying to defend dignity and individual conception rights. I have never mentioned gay people or people's sex lives, I bring up "man and woman" in the context of ethical reproduction, which requires a male and a female to join together.

How do you propose to declare same-sex conception or other uses of modified gametes safe? And why do you assume that safety is the only issue that concerns society? I will consider it safe if after a full lifetime and full reproductive life, people created through modified gametes or same-sex conception are shown to have no increase in any problems. In otherwords, I will not consider it safe at any point prior to it being attempted or the resulting children having been studied for their whole lives. When will you consider it safe, and what will you do if someone else decides to do it anyway? I get the impression that you are just BSing big time. It's not safe now, but it's legal now. Do you call for a law or even a moratorium? No, you just write words in your blog about how you are not a transhumanist.

You are a transhumanist, just like Wesley Smith is a transhumanist (bet you didn't know that). Anyone that doesn't call for a law against genetic modification that prohibits all but natural male-female actual gamete conception is a transhumanist, no matter how much they pretend to oppose this or that silly transhumanist goal.

jfehlinger said...

> It's not safe now, but it's legal now. Do you call for
> a law or even a moratorium? No, you just write words
> in your blog about how you are not a transhumanist.

But ya are, Blanche, ya are!

Dale Carrico said...

I have never mentioned gay people or people's sex lives, I bring up "man and woman" in the context of ethical reproduction, which requires a male and a female to join together.

Uh.... John? Did you still remember how your sentence began by the time it was coming to its end?

I get the impression that you are just BSing big time.

The transhumanists certainly agree with you.

You are a transhumanist, just like Wesley Smith is a transhumanist (bet you didn't know that).

No, I didn't "know" that...

Anyone that doesn't call for a law against genetic modification that prohibits all but natural male-female actual gamete conception is a transhumanist,

Uh, if you say so.

no matter how much they pretend to oppose this or that silly transhumanist goal.

I'm not lying or pretending when I say I oppose what I oppose.