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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"The Future" As Prologue

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot.

"Mike" comments that I simply must take the various futurological predictions of the techno-utopian Robot Cultists I ridicule hereabouts at least somewhat seriously on their own terms, else I would not devote so much time to them in the first place or at any rate devote so much time to understanding them well enough to criticize them on the conversant terms I do.

The simple truth is that I write about these topics not because "they are remotely possible" or whatever thread techno-utopians taking this tack are hanging onto here, but mostly for the reasons I actually say I am -- namely, that here and now these formulations have a deranging impact on present and proximate understandings of ongoing technodevelopmental social struggle (both generally and often on a case by case basis, especially where medical and media and military technoscience are under discussion) and on concrete policy discourse.

That's why "Mike" is really missing the point in my view when in his comment he ascends into a high orbit from which to declare my own advocacy of presently implausible policy initiatives like basic income guarantees "utopian" and then declare "mind-uploading as a path to techno-immortality" to be comparably utopian, and so, somehow, equivalent as topics to discuss.

Actually, as it happens, techno-immortalism is literally impossible in any version that isn't essentially religious in nature and mind-uploading is actually incoherent -- inasmuch as our minds are incarnated in our brains in particular and even if other kinds of materializations of consciousness are eventually possible this lends no credibility even in priciple to the notion of a migration of mind from one substrate to another, not to mention the more general point that we actually are embodied finite beings whose embodied finite lives could not be "immortalized" and remain legible as lives in any case -- whereas basic income guarantees are only implausible in the way European Welfare States might have seemed implausible to Charlemagne, which is actually a difference that makes a difference on the "implausibility" front that I won't let "Mike" or anybody else get away with the elision of.

But be all that as it may, the thing to understand is that I'm not even playing the game "Mike" seems to think I am playing here. That is to say, I am not standing over the roulette table, calculating the Robot God odds as compared to the democratic world federalism or eco-socialism odds or what have you, and then assigning different values to these than Robot Cultists do and so distributing my attention and ridicule in proportion to these assignments... My interest in Robot Cultism is not senso strictu futurological at all, but rhetorical: I am interested in its impact as a discursive and social formation on the practical technodevelopmental imaginary here and now, and also taken as a symptom and even an extreme version of neoliberal and neoconservative global development discourse more generally.

My concern is far more present and proximate than people often seem to realize, even if I talk a lot about people who talk a lot about what they fancy as "the future" rather than the present themselves. Of course, no small amount of what they are really talking about when they talk about "the future" is what they desire and despise in the present, anyway, but in the funhouse mirror of futurological projection.

2 comments:

JM Inc. said...

Now, Dale, I'm curious about something here. This is just a particular point on something you've said, so superlative technocentricities aside; I've noticed that you've gone out of your way at various times to trash the idea of "mind uploading".

Now this has confused me; are you actually making a prediction here or are you just getting at something rhetorically? For instance, in this post you say:

"mind-uploading is actually incoherent"

By this do you mean to get at the absurdity of predicting mind uploading, or are you actually going out of your way to predict against mind uploading?

If you are in fact predicting against mind uploading, on what are you basing your prediction?

And before you knock me on missing the point of this post, I didn't actually miss it (I'm pretty sure), I'm just curious about this tendency to specify what appear to me to be predictions on this subject.

Dale Carrico said...

I predict the square will be circled.