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

Monday, November 10, 2008

Techno-"Progressive" Priorities Among Our Brave Blinkered Futurologists

I know I don't talk about this stuff as much as I used to, but one simply reaches a point of rapidly diminishing returns with Robot Cultists, it seems to me.

Not to put too fine a point on this, I believe we need universal healthcare and a re-invigorated labor movement before we can get the basic income guarantee and subsidized consensual prosthetic self-determination I think would be so emancipatory (not to mention neat), and we need sustainable energy and waste disposal infrastructures before we get space elevators and a solar diaspora I geek out over the prospect of.

Handwaving about the latter outcomes at the expense of, or even as a substitute for, education, agitation, and organization to accomplish actually progressive priorities is finally not progressive, but functionally reactionary -- even if you slap a "techno-progressive" moniker on it, or claim to affirm actually progressive priorities while never actually talking about them if you can help it or really doing much of anything to bring them about.

As far as I can see, progressivism is already substantially techno-scientifically astute (defending consensus science over faith-based BS about climate change, industrial toxins, science education in public schools, and harm-reduction over faith-based puritanism in drug policy and reproductive health, fighting for net neutrality and free wireless access, funding stem-cell research and renewable energy technologies and so on) and has no real need of a special "techno"-progressivism that adds nothing to this substance while working in the main to distract some progressives from the more proximate struggles that are the preconditions for the very outcomes self-described techno-progressives presumably crave.

I say that progressivism is already substantially techno-scientifically astute, but of course there are voices in the rich ongoing progressive conversation that seem to me rather ill-informed and reactionary in their techno-scientific ideas and attitudes.

So what? That hardly means one has to join a Robot Cult to work for actually progressive techno-scientific outcomes. Indeed, the opposite is far more likely to be the case.

It is surely true that there are indeed some less-informed, more-alarmist, pastoral-fantasist folks who are included in the voices taken seriously among conventional progressives when talk turns to planetary technodevelopmental politics. But my strong impression is that those few truly progressive persons who have shifted their focus from conventional progressive to more "futurological" politics out of frustration with these voices (or so they say) have ended up making surreally bad decisions about who it makes more sense to make alliances with instead:

Market fundamentalist dead-enders and right wing Glenn Reynolds and Newt Gingrich types, still-smug Ayn Rand enthusiasts for heaven's sake (what is this, the 80s?)? Narcissistic silicon valley entrepreneurs looking for circles of admirers to proclaim them gurus while they wait to hype the next techno-bubble? Bio-fetishistic reductionists who take The Bell Curve seriously? "Liberal Eugenicists" who disapprove of deaf parents who approve of their deaf kids or who pine for "cures" for "too"-stressed, "too"-depressed, "under-performing," or otherwise "neuro-atypical" people? "Champions of Science" who are given in their Championing to imperially triumphalist declarations about overcoming the "pomo relativism" coming out of Humanities Departments (what is this, the 80s?) blithely unaware that they are re-enacting the dull disastrous discredited nineteenth century scripts of Social Darwinists or even phrenologists?

Even worse, look at the surreally bad decisions our "techno"-progressives make about what they should be taking seriously in the way of topics: The just-around-the-corner Robot God Singularity? Dealing with comet impacts with bazillion dollar comet-blaster mili-tech? Wondering how soon before we are all going to upload into somehow immortalizing data-streams? (Answer: Never.) Wondering whether nanoscale robot worker-bees are more likely to deliver superabundance via genies-in-a-bottle or to reduce the world to goo?

Look. Want to participate in a truly techno-progressive politics? That is to say, want to devote yourself to progressive and democratizing technodevelopmental social struggles that seek to increase technoscientific knowledge through education, funding, regulation, and wider participation, all the while struggling to ensure that the costs, risks, and benefits of technodevelopmental change are all fairly shared by all the actual stakeholders to that change on their own terms?

Then strive to be a technoscientifically literate conventional progressive and act accordingly.

Everything else is a distraction at best and a sad scam at worst.

19 comments:

Kate said...

I appreciate what you have to say (and as a whole agree with you), but with one caveat. Your reference to "liberal eugenecists" is a pretty accurate one, but the problem is that it sounds like you're arguing that this is a non-issue, and shouldn't be worried about. I assume in your reference to deaf parents with deaf children that you're thinking of the case in England last year with a deaf couple who were concieving via vitro fertilization (or something like that) and wanted to have a deaf child; the problem being that English law stated that any eggs carrying the DNA of a genetic atypical condition (even one as comparatively common and largely harmless as deaf/HOH) were not to be used in the fertilization process. This caused considerable uproar within the Deaf culture, especially since we're a culture which is fast diminishing due to parents getting their children cochlear implants when they're still young (a choice I disapprove of, by the way--it should be the child's decision, not the parents'). I think the issue of "liberal eugenics" needs to be addressed now and firmly because genetic engineering is progessing at a fast and worrisomely unregulated speed. It needs to be regulated, and there needs to be a line drawn between eliminating life-threatening and painful conditions (cri-du-chat, Huntington's Chorea, etc.) and cutting out other conditions that might involve problems of some sort, but are in no way life-threatening. Eugenecists believe that disabled people are unhappy and miserable in their lives because they see others who are truly happy with their lives and believe they're happier because they're not disabled, which is nonsense. A lot of people still hold this belief, and we don't necessarily need to convince all of them otherwise, just the ones who try to involve themselves legally/scientifically in favor of modern eugenics.

Dale Carrico said...

Hi, Kate. I am expressing strong disapproval here of the idea that there is anything wrong with deafness in principle, or wrong with wanting a deaf child (or the contrary, actually), as some sort of generalizable ethical principle. I am far from thinking this a non-issue. My grammar must have been unwieldy if you got the contrary impression. I don't even approve the prejudicial word "disabled" to describe differently enabled people, and strongly agree with you that eugenicists are wrong to believe that what parochially passes for neuro- or morpho- typicality represents some kind of Royal Road to happiness or dignity or worth. For me dignity is a collective accomplishment that requires a whole lot of listening, toleration, access to reliable information, and strong supports for informed, nonduressed consent in the context of truly equal access to law.

Antonin said...

The same compelling argument as before. You have to wonder how is it that these people, scientifically literate as they purport to be, cannot for the life of them consider the simple fact of their own amalgamation in a cult-like structure of otherworldly and counter-democratic beliefs, the very same structure they probably project onto any show of futurological skepticism.

Wanting to extend your thinking to long-term technological or environmental scenarios shouldn’t make you blind to the present debates and issues that will shape the actual lives of actual people. The distinction between forward-thinking and political escapism should be explained to them again and again until they (and, for that matter, all ideologues) finally drop the teleological tantrum.

jimf said...

> You have to wonder how is it that these people,
> scientifically literate as they purport to be,
> cannot for the life of them consider the simple
> fact of their own amalgamation in a cult-like structure
> of otherworldly and counter-democratic beliefs,
> the very same structure they probably project onto
> any show of futurological skepticism.

A [p]rejoinder from the other side:

http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2008/03/annalee-newitzs-vitriolic-anti-transhumanism/#comments

"I think they [the criticisms (referred to as
"vitriolic anti-transhumanism" in the original
context) of Annalee Newitz and Dale Carrico]
originate from a mix of misunderstood Leftist
ideology, decadent romanticism and silly religious, or in
their case probably New Age, notions of reverence for nature,
humility and similar crap. I say misunderstood because real
Leftist thinkers are not given to New Age-ish whining.

What they really hate is the notion of empowerment and
achievement: the dangerous idea that you can get things
actually done if you work hard enough and smart enough.
They love all losers, and hate all winners.

Another thing they hate is common sense. This can be seen
in some recent threads on Carrico’s blog, where he demonizes
the common sense 'every coin has two sides'. Of course they
would like every coin to have just one side, theirs."


"They love all losers, and hate all winners."
Somebody's channelling Ayn Rand, all right.

Martin said...

I expressed similar sympathies to yours over on George Dvorsky's blog when he suggested we vote for Obama because he is pro-science. While science funding is extremely important to me (I am a scientist after all), it is not the only issue. Like you point out, there are so many other important issues.

Also, I find it interesting that so few transhumanists, while preoccupied with science and technology, are actually scientists. There's a saying in the transhumanist community that the best way to predict the future is to create it. Then the best way to ensure a transhumanist future is to get involved in science and technology.

In my view, the transhumanist community has too few scientists and too many science fiction fans. I think that's the difference. Scientists are too skeptical, on the whole, to join transhumanist communities. But most of them do vote progressive.

jimf said...

> I find it interesting that so few transhumanists,
> while preoccupied with science and technology,
> are actually scientists. . . [T]he transhumanist
> community has too few scientists and too many
> science fiction fans. I think that's the difference.
> Scientists are too skeptical, on the whole, to
> join transhumanist communities.

Did you catch the Nov. 1 bloggingheads exchange between
Eliezer Yudkowsky and Jaron Lanier?
( http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/15555 )

Yudkowsky begins by stating that he is a "rationalist
a la Daniel Dennett" (or words to that effect), and
Lanier immediately jumps in with "Dennett is not a
rationalist. He's a religious extremist."

So much for an agreed-upon notion of "rationality".

But yes, I'm afraid that when it comes to >Hism,
there's more of Scientology than science going on.

I wonder if computer folks are more susceptible to this
sort of thing than other science types. I was dismayed,
for example, to read in John Markoff's
_What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped
the Personal Computer_
( http://www.amazon.com/What-Dormouse-Said-Counterculture-Personal/dp/0670033820 )
that Douglas Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center (ARC)
got heavily involved with (Werner Erhard's) est back in
the 70's.
(See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Engelbart ).

Science-fiction fandom has been over-represented during the
formative years of earlier cults such as Ayn Rand's
(or Nathaniel Branden's) Objectivism,
and L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics (Scientology).

It is, to be fair, also true of the sharpest modern SF authors
(if less so of their fans) -- I'm thinking of folks like
Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and S. M. Stirling (and no
doubt William Gibson, and probably David Brin and perhaps
even Vernor Vinge) -- that they are aware of the difference
between reality and the tricks of their trade. They
don't get drunk on their own moonshine -- at least
the brightest of them don't. Of course, even a few
decent authors go off the deep end -- A. E. Van Vogt,
and also, I'm afraid, Arthur C. Clarke.

jimf said...

> ( http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/15555 )

I was also a bit startled when Lanier dared to use
the N-word. He said something along the lines of
"being so certain of yourself amounts to a kind
of scientific narcissism" (or words to that
effect).

Speaking of which, I was browsing on the bus this
morning in a book by social psychologist
Roy F. Baumeister -- _Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty_
( http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Inside-Human-Violence-Cruelty/dp/0805071652 )

Baumeister has participated in studies debunking the
popular notion that bullies pick on other people because
they have low self-esteem (he's a sort of anti-Nathaniel Branden).

Anyway, in his concluding chapter, Baumeister lists four
major root causes of evil:

1. Simple desire for material gain -- money and power.

2. Threatened egotism. "Villains, bullies, criminals,
killers, and other evildoers have high self-esteem, contrary to
the comfortable fiction that has recently spread through
American culture. Violence results when a person's favorable
image of self is questioned or impugned by someone else."

3. Idealism. "When people believe firmly that they are on
the side of the good and are working to make the world a better
place, they often feel justified in using strong measures against
the seemingly evil forces that oppose them."

4. Sadistic pleasure. "This root is responsible for a much
smaller proportion of the world's evil than the others. . .
Moreover, sadism appears to be an acquired taste."

Notice that 1-3 above are always involved in the formation
and maintenance of cults.

---------------------------------
Penthouse: What did you promise them. . .?

L. Ron Hubbard, Jr.: We promised them the moon and then demonstrated
a way to get there. They would sell their soul for that.
We were telling someone that they could have the power of a god --
that's what we were telling them.

Penthouse: What kind of people were tempted by this promise?

L. Ron Hubbard, Jr.: A whole range of people. People who wanted to raise
their IQ, to feel better, to solve their problems. You also
got people who wished to lord it over other people in the
use of power. Remember, it's a power game, a matter of climbing
a pyramidal hierarchy to the top, and it's who you can step
on to get more power that counts. It appeals a great deal to
neurotics. And to people who are greedy. It appeals a great deal
to Americans, I think, because they tend to believe in instant
everything, from instant coffee to instant nirvana. By just
saying a few magic words or by doing a few assignments, one
can become a god. People believe this. You see, Scientology
doesn't really address the soul; it addresses the ego.
What happens in Scientology is that a person's ego gets pumped
up by this science-fiction fantasy helium into universe-sized
proportions. And this is very appealing. It is especially
appealing to the intelligentsia of this country, who are made
to feel that they are the most highly intelligent people,
when in actual fact, from an emotional standpoint, they are
completely stupid. Fine professors, doctors, scientists,
people involved in the arts and sciences, would fall into Scientology
like you wouldn't believe. It appealed to their intellectual level
and buttressed their emotional weaknesses. You show me a professor
and I revert back to the fifties: I just kick him in the head,
eat him for breakfast.
---------------------------------
http://www.lermanet.com/scientologynews/penthouse-LRonHubbardJr-interview-1983.htm

Dale Carrico said...

It is easy to see why I don't indulge in conversation with Robot Cultists so much anymore -- I mean, accusing me of advocating New Age views? Accusing me of hating achievement and common sense? Do people who say these things actually expect me to respond to them? This stuff from them is so stupid I would be flabbergasted… but then I remember these are Robot Cultists, after all. Their "true-left" (specifics, please?) anti-New Age (where does this even come from?) love of "achievement" (what have Robot Cultists actually achieved again?) and commonsense (do these people seem commonsensical to… anybody but the hundred or so True Believers who keep their Robot Cult in business?) has also led them to expect the arrival of a Robot God via AI "Singularity," to expect personal immortalization via shiny robot bodies or "uploading their consciousness" into a computer, and to expect fantastic super-wealth via worker-bee swarms of nano-santabots. All of which is to say that of course what they are blathering on about me is stupid. Almost everything they seem to be saying about everything is stupid.

jimf said...

Dale wrote:

> Their "true-left" (specifics, please?) anti-New Age
> (where does this even come from?). . .

Oh, I can at least guess where he's coming from here.
He's trying to make a distinction between the "manly"
1930s Communist left (back when Communism was intellectually
respectable -- think Socialist Realist paintings of
factory workers with bulging biceps and Comrade Alec
Guinness in the shiny hydroelectric plant at the
beginning of _Dr. Zhivago_) and the drugged-out lazy
effeminate hippies of the 1960s (the latter being
"New Age", at least when they burn incense and listen
to sitar music).

> ". . . notions of reverence for nature,
> humility and similar crap. . ."

A swipe at environmentalists, presumably. Or maybe at
Cat Stevens (I'm listening to _Teaser and the Firecat_
at this very moment -- "Oh man may live, and man may
die, searching for the question why / But if he
tries to rule the sky, he must fall.").

> ". . .decadent romanticism and silly religious. . .
> notions. . ."

Possibly a swipe at anybody (like me) who reads
J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis with pleasure.
Down with Elves! Where's my Iron Crown?

Dale Carrico said...

If so, it's all just too painfully stupid for words. It is a kind of degradation even to address it seriously -- although ridicule is probably apt enough if one has the time and is in the mood to indulge in it.

The Robot Cultists are finally just straightforwardly unserious (however earnest some of them may be, poor dears), permanently marginal cranks. It is more sensible, and finally may even be kinder, to treat them less as conversational partners (in these matters, I mean, in particular) to be debated on their own terms than simply as highly symptomatic behaviors or texts to be analyzed and read for the insights we may glean from them as curious observers of weird conduct.

As symptoms and figures, Robot Cultist ideas and attitudes, it is true, can be nicely clarifying and illustrative in their very extremity, of certain broader, usually more supple, and actually incomparably more forceful if more fraught reductionist, determinist, technophilic or technophobic, millenialist, moralizing, retro-futural, and eugenicist strands of technocultural discourses already centuries old, giddily doing their mischief across the terrain of actually ongoing technodevelopmental social struggle.

Robot Cultists in their more superlative modes, in their frankest moments of sheer crackpottery, that is to say, Robot Cultists in their Robot God Singularitarian Rapture modes, their Nanosantalogical robot worker-bee-swarm modes, and their digital or robo Techno-Immortalizing modes, are really simply piggybacking on these more conventional and more hegemonic technocultural discourses I mentioned (reductionism, eugenicism, and all that), and contribute little of substance -- but, I suppose, no end of flash -- to deserve much in the way of our sustained and serious attention.

But I do think these Robot Cultists often do capture the too often ill-informed, too often fearful, too often manically greedy pockets of the popular imagination in the ways extreme simplifying distortions and emotional appeals often manage to do, and as such the Robot Cultists do hyperbolize and derange public technodevelopmental discourse more generally and hence may undermine the efforts of those of us who would engage in progressive technodevelopmental social struggle.

That they do so usually just in order to funnel more cash from vulnerable and impressionable rubes into the sticky-handed grasp of embarrassingly marginal cult-like membership organizations -- or, worse, too often to work out rhetorical trial-balloons for future corporate-militarist rationalizations for skewed death-dealing r & d agendas -- isn't something that endears me much to the Robot Cultists, either, I must say.

Anonymous said...

The one main advantage of a Robot Cult that I see is putting "techno-scientifically astute" people all in one place, instead of in 10 separate groups that nobody knows about.

Dale Carrico said...

I think the number of people who are actually both progressive and techno-scientifically astute is considerably higher than is implied by the "10 separate groups" you mention. I don't think that secular democratic and technoscientifically open and literate progressives are a marginal force -- I think they are a mainstreaming force. Certainly I think Americans need to devote considerable energies to education to undo the damage of Movement Republican downsizing efforts and Christianist indoctrination efforts, but America remains a multicultural, secular nation eager to invest in medical, renewable energy, and space techs.

Robot Cults only manage to corral together in one place people who think it is a sign of their own technoscientific astuteness the fact that they cannot distinguish science from science fiction. I would never turn to Robot Cultists -- when they've got they Robot Cult Caps on, at any rate -- if I were looking to find either technoscientific astuteness or a good geek-out over science fiction. Robot Cultists just act dumb when they get together as far as I can tell.

jimf said...

> I would never turn to Robot Cultists. . . if I were looking
> [for]. . . a good geek-out over science fiction.

No, unfortunately, the RCs' taste in SF is strictly
limited. Not that my preferences entirely exclude theirs.
After all, I stumbled on them 11 1/2 years ago while
Alta Vista'ing for Iain Bank's "Culture". I like Banks,
and also Greg Egan (who was on the Singularitarians' approved
reading list once upon a time, though he may be on their sh*t list now
that he's publicly disassociated himself from the >Hists).
Also Vernor Vinge, of course (especially _A Fire Upon
the Deep_). David Brin. Greg Bear.

But other voices seem to be beyond the pale, as far as the
RCs go. William Gibson. Bruce Sterling. Anything "New Wave",
including the guy who started it all, J. G. Ballard.
Gene Wolfe. Anything that smacks of "feminism" -- Ursula LeGuin,
Octavia Butler. James Tiptree, Jr. Olaf Stapledon.

Even Arthur C. Clarke seems to be suspect -- what I appreciate
as his flights of lyricism was described by one Extropian as
typically entropic British melancholy ("la fatigue du Nord",
as Anthony Blanche put it in _Brideshead Revisited_), and
fie upon it.

Now give them an Ayn Rand retread, like John C. Wright's
egregious "Golden Age" books, and they'll go into frenzies
of ecstatic appreciation.

Speaking of whom, his reaction to the Obama victory is
amusing ( http://johncwright.livejournal.com/
Thursday, November 6th, 2008
5:10 pm "It is going to be a long four years").
OTOH, he's consoling himself by looking forward to 2012:
"In four years, we shall see another historical first,
as Sarah Palin becomes the first lady President,
and her husband becomes First Dude."

jimf said...

Ayn is Ayn, thankyouverymuch.

Courtesy of John C. Wright
(http://johncwright.livejournal.com/):

"Proposition 8 in California, of all places, just passed
with a comfortable margin. (The news, in typically Orwellian
lingo, is calling it a 'gay marriage ban' as if anyone
in history ever heard of such an insolent absurdity as
celebrating a sexual deformity with the rites of marriage,
and that we just fell out of bed this morning and decided
to throttle this ancient and honorable practice. Oh, puh-leese.
It would be better called a 'marriage is marriage' act,
or, better yet, 'A is A' thankyouverymuch.)"

I have to admit, I do enjoy reading this stuff.

jimf said...

From the Department of Special, er, Circumstances.

The perks of being a world-wide cult -- something for the >Hists to look forward to:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/12/wikileaks_scientology_documents/

The purpose of the Department of Special Affairs is to accomplish total acceptance of Scientology and its Founder throughout the area. . . [T]he Department of Special Affairs takes responsibility for cleaning up the rotten spots of society in order to create a safer and saner environment for Scientology expansion and for all mankind." ®


http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/11/amazon_pulls_scientology_expose/

Amazon UK has barred the sale of a new Scientology exposé penned by a former member of the church's "elite paramilitary group."
The British incarnation of the world's most popular etailer is no longer offering The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology, a 318-page tome from John Duignan, who spent 22 years inside the top secret organization.
In a recent post to an anti-Scientology discussion forum, an Anonymous Brit says that after pre-ordering the book, he received an email from Amazon announcing it had been "removed from sale for legal reasons".

Anonymous said...

Even though I would consider myself a "transhumanist," I find myself in almost complete agreement with you, Mr. Carrico, when it comes to the dumbass robot cultists out there. They all, in their minds, live in this pie-in-the-sky future, with all of the gadgets that you already mentioned, but are, in the real world, truly angry because we aren't yet immortal, etc.

I have met some of these people at local transhumanist events, seeking like-minded people, but have only found some of the most deplorable people imaginable. From what I can tell, these people share virtually no similarities to me, except that they use the same clichéd term to describe themselves as I. I consider myself a transhumanist simply because I believe (key word: believe) that most of this future crap is possible, and the development of which might even be likely in the relatively near future.

However, I am under the impression that you should be more careful when describing all, or most, futurists as robot cultists, since there certainly are exceptions to the rule. And just as a side note: there are a fair number of futurist scientists, such as myself (though I'm involved in pure mathematics, so it's not too relevant) and some physics and astronomy professors, who would describe themselves as transhumanists.

Dale Carrico said...

Any truly reasonable "transhumanist" will abandon that idiotic self-designation soon enough that it isn't a particular worry of mine that all three of them will be annoyed by their inclusion in my blanket dismissal between now and then.

But let me be a tad more generous with you for a moment. Are you sure you aren't just a common or garden variety geek or, you know, a nice sf fan? If you are just a reasonably technoscientifically literate person interested in progressive technodevelopmental outcomes there isn't really any reason for you to join a Robot Cult to participate in such struggles.

Investment in highly particular visions of "the future" -- or worse, forming parochial self-marginalizing identities politics and defensive membership organizations around such particular visions at the expense of the indefinitely many other outcomes open to us and under contestation at present -- is not at all the same thing as foresight, or even enjoyable blue-skying about logically possible engineering implementations and their imagined impacts.

If you think it through you will discover there is nothing reasonable about whatever it is that brings you to the odd choice of "identifying" as a "transhumanist" (or HumanityPlusTron, or whatever the PR campaign of the moment would have it). Tell me anything at all that is clarified about an outcome by adding to it the designation "transhumanist." Name one belief common to most self-identified "transhumanists" that is not held
by far more people who do not so self-identify -- and chances are you will have described one more flabbergasting bit of crackpottery of the kind you claim to disdain alongside me.

As for your side-note -- I think you wildly overexaggerate in the usual manner the actual number of serious people who would self-identify as "transhumanists," or "singulariatiarians," or "techno-immortalists," or "cybernetic-totalists," or whatever other identity-formations crystallize for the moment around superlative technocentrisms, though I have no doubt at all that many people you might be tempted to describe in these terms do indeed exhibit the more familiar reductionisms, scientisms, technocratic antipoliticisms, eugenicisms of which "transhumanist" sub(cult)ures represent the photogenic extremities presently in play.

Think about it.

jimf said...

> > ". . . notions of reverence for nature,
> > humility and similar crap. . ."
>
> A swipe at environmentalists, presumably.

Something I saw in the latest (Nov. 10) _New Yorker_,
Profiles: "The Bright Side. The relentless optimism
of Thomas Friedman" by Ian Parker" (p. 55).


"Friedman. . . has an office in the [New York] _Times'_
Washington bureau, and I walked with him one morning
across the city. . . He was gracious, but spoke to me
as if to a room full of people. 'I'm a big believer in
"To name something is to own it,"' he said. 'And the
people who named "green" -- they named it liberal,
tree-hugging, sissy, girlie-man. I'm out to rename
green. If you rename it geopolitical, geo-strategic,
capitalistic, strong, you're going to get a totally
different response.' I had read some of this before --
Friedman's job is to lure readers, and he no more
apologizes for repetition than does a hot-dog vendor
in a ballpark."


I'll take mine with yellow mustard, please.

Anonymous said...

Carrico; you mean well. The ways you are going about "facilitating concrete progressive technodevelopmental outcomes" are of no consequence or influence though, or worse: counter-productive. You are not helping towards your stated objectives. On the contrary. You need to thoroughly change your tactics.

The searing criticism levied at Althusser -a Marxist thinker (too?)- applies to your tactics too: "Althusser a rien". Your surname does not lend itself to an equally satisfying pun in English, but the core of the criticism is identical: you(r tactics) are useless.

Case in point, your by now yawningly repetitive satirizing tirades against transhumanists. Your cutting pen shows you are not a minus habens, so when will you finally use your above average IQ to realize that, in the same way that competition is validation for the business ideas of a new start-up, that criticism is validation for new worldviews.

By showering so much attention on transhumanists, by showing transhumanists to be worthy of so much criticism... you are VALIDATING transhumanists ever more. Transhumanists should actually thank you for your active assistance in raising their profile.

Come to think of it, maybe you are so smart -and devious- that you realized this all along and your plans-within plans-within plans and feints-within feints-within feints are to actually help transhumanism. Which would make you a hardcore transhumanist activitist.

In both cases, you are helping transhumanists far more than you think you are their detractor. You are helping transhumanists... and not your own cause.

When it comes to your relationship with transhumanism, perhaps you fancy yourself to occupy the function which Socrates fancied he was called to perform: that of the hornet on the broad butt of the farm-horse Athens. Maybe transhumanism is deserving of such, but if you do, do take a lesson from history: Socrates lost big time in the short run (they had him put to death on bogus charges) and Socrates was far from being "right" about many of the things he cared about deeply in the long run too. And no, your cause will not really be served by your becoming a martyr of any kind.

You cap your post with "No need to thank me. I'm here to help." Rest assured that you will not be thanked. Except maybe by transhumanists for all the attention and validation you lavish on transhumanism.

You genuinely believe that you are here to help and that what you do is helpful. You are woefully self-delusional on that point. Because you are not helping. Au contraire. You are helping those that you are bashing, satirizing, badmouthing and fighting.

Give your own cause a break. Stop being so vitriolically reactive against transhumanists etc. (On the point of your forum and blog discussion tactics, as an aside: do stop stooping to facile rhetorical skulduggery consisting of burying under a mountain of po-mo verbiage the sayings of people who respectfully disagree with you. Try proactiveness for a refreshing change. Try tangible *action* instead of this endless talk, this verbal diarrhea. Stop being so narcistically in love with your own facility with words. Yes, you have a way with words. Get over yourself already and put that valuable gift to actual and really good use. Besides, there's plenty of people out there with equal or greater -and with greater intellectual finesse- mastery of rhetorics out there. Get out of your vanishingly small pond, you big fish.)

Instead: focus like a laser on your own cause and how to really get THAT show on the road. So far your techno-progressive faction is not getting any traction at all that registers on any radars that matter. You don't even have any serious critics to validate your existence!

So... get your techno-progressives properly organized. Come down from your toweringly high horse, shed some undeserved and useless pride and, yes, stoop to the level of making your cause an -ism. Get down here in the gutter with the rest of us and proselytize properly like any cause worth its salt has to do.

If you show more sense and humility that becomes you... I may even join your cause... or otherwise help you and validate you by becoming your serious critic.

If not, the best thing you could do in your own interest as well as in the interest of everybody else... is to retreat to silence.