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

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Anne Corwin on the Pernicious Impact of Superlativity on Healthcare Discourse

Excerpted without comment from Existence is Wonderful, Friend (and friend of blog) Anne Corwin is making good sense:
There is no magical property to handwaving that somehow makes handwaved potential outcomes more likely to happen, and I am quite worried in fact about the effects of large groups of people thinking that they can personally stave off age-related illness and death through sheer indignation at its occurrence (and in doing so, potentially losing sight of the fact that while they're fantasizing about nanorobotic cell repair, we still have kids in the United States dying because their family couldn't afford proper dental care).

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Transhumanists believe that these imaginary technologies will eventually trickle down to the little people. And if a few million proles have to die on the way to the development of nano-medicine, hey, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

Dale Carrico said...

Where these foolish and fraudulent fantasies are concerned I suspect that we are getting pissed on and told that it is raining. The usual meaning of trickle down, if I'm not mistaken.

James said...

I would just like to point something out (I certainly don't subscribe to this, by the way):

Isn't it at least remotely possible that needs of the few could outweigh the needs of the many? Hear me out, even if the techniques for radical life extension don't trickle down to the less fortunate, couldn't the entire scenario still come out a winner? Even if only a tiny fraction of the population were to benefit, those lucky few would end up living for a tremendous period of time, and they, having had so many life experiences/opportunities to gain new skills, would likely be able to contribute a tremendous amount to science and other worthwhile endeavors. After all, isn't it better to have a few people live very long lives than to have everybody living normal lifespans (as long as the long-lived don't exterminate the "normals" or the other way around, that is ;-))?

Dale Carrico said...

[I]sn't it better to have a few people live very long lives than to have everybody living normal lifespans?

Better for the few, that is to say our "betters," no doubt.

The more futurists handwave accelerating change the more their "change" amounts to more of the same.

Healthcare as class struggle.

Same as it ever was.

James said...

"The few," "betters," that's just semantics. Bottom line: there would be humans beings living for tremendous periods of time. This seems like it could be at least worthwhile. Maybe "equality" should be regarded as a rule of thumb instead of a firm rule, perhaps? I could see this scenario being a winner even if it's not completely equal for all parties involved.

Mildred said...

James wrote:

"After all, isn't it better to have a few people live very long lives than to have everybody living normal lifespans (as long as the long-lived don't exterminate the "normals" or the other way around, that is ;-))?"

Hell no. That would be a return to the nineteenth century, when the average lifespan of a wealthy person was about 50, and the average lifespan of a worker was in the twenties.

I had thought that one of the key aspects of the Enlightenment had been to awaken us to the humanitarian responsibilities we bear for others, but it seems like certain people like to pick and choose their Enlightenment philosophies depending on what day it is.

Mildred said...

James wrote:

"After all, isn't it better to have a few people live very long lives than to have everybody living normal lifespans (as long as the long-lived don't exterminate the "normals" or the other way around, that is ;-))?"

Hell no. That would be a return to the nineteenth century, when the average lifespan of a wealthy person was about 50, and the average lifespan of a worker was in the twenties.

I had thought that one of the key aspects of the Enlightenment had been to awaken us to the humanitarian responsibilities we bear for others, but it seems like certain people like to pick and choose their Enlightenment philosophies depending on what day it is.

Dale Carrico said...

Bottom line: there would be humans beings living for tremendous periods of time.

Why is this more of a bottom line than most people living longer and healthier lives?

This seems like it could be at least worthwhile.

It seems to me that most people think the idea of wildly unequal access to healthcare as straightforward social injustice. I certainly do.

Maybe "equality" should be regarded as a rule of thumb instead of a firm rule, perhaps?

Given the ease with which the word "equality" can be mistaken for "homogeneity, and given that diversity is exactly as basic a progressive value as equal-opportunity and equality-before-the-law, I personally prefer the term "equity" to describe this value. To have equity in a society is to have an abiding stake in its flourishing, and it seems to me that this stake is best ensured by the creation and maintenance of a scene of legible informed nonduressed consent. For me, the continuous strengthening of the scene of informed nonduressed consent is the priority value and struggle of proper democratization, because where the scene of consent is legible valued equity is assured, and where the scene of consent assured its exercise likewise assures valued diversity.

I could see this scenario being a winner even if it's not completely equal for all parties involved.

Yeah, the people love elitism so much they all hope in their heart of hearts to be able to write elitism via emerging genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive therapies into a kind of speciation. Forgive the irony, but I see this proposal as the furthest imaginable thing from a "winner" rhetorically, politically, or ethically.

AnneC said...

Mostly in response to James, or at least the sentiments he's relating:

Gah. This is...exactly the kind of distortion I'm talking about in the article of mine Dale quoted.

Next to nobody actually believes that it would be better for *no one* to have effective health care in old age than for some people to have effective health care in old age.

In reality in general, people don't all get access to the same benefits at the same time. This is because logistics are tricky, especially across vast populations, especially when everyone is arguing over resources and distribution methods ad infinitum.

But it would be a dumb, awful mistake to form some kind of ideology around the fact that humans find large-scale, inclusive, logistical matters really hard, or presume the stumbling and inequality that results from our actions in this domain a "feature" rather than the socio-economic malfunction it is.

Yes, eventually things may "trickle down". But to put blind trust in the idea that they *will*, and tack that trust onto a whole mess of nasty assumptions (poor people are lazy, people of X race are just culturally inferior, immigrants are evil and selfish, we can just ignore the existence of the poor, poverty isn't my problem, I can just keep going along doing whatever corporate tomfoolery suits me, etc.) is an error.

And that error is correctable, but first some people really need to get over themselves and stop latching onto ideologies that oh-so-conveniently don't require them to look any deeper than they've already looked at various issues, or change anything about the way they operate.

Dale Carrico said...

[I]n general, people don't all get access to the same benefits at the same time. This is because logistics are tricky, especially across vast populations, especially when everyone is arguing over resources and distribution methods ad infinitum.

But it would be a dumb, awful mistake to form some kind of ideology around the fact that humans find large-scale, inclusive, logistical matters really hard, or presume the stumbling and inequality that results from our actions in this domain a "feature" rather than the socio-economic malfunction it is.


This is especially good. Excellently put.

jimf said...

> But it would be a dumb, awful mistake to form some kind
> of ideology around the fact that humans find large-scale,
> inclusive, logistical matters really hard. . .

Yes, well, of course the SL4 types form **their** ideology around
the notion that >H superminds will **not** "find large-scale,
inclusive, logistical matters really hard" and that the
best we limited humans can do is put aside all the
distracting "politics" of the present and mobilize all
resources at hand (especially by voting Republican) to
support the rather-better-than-the-average-human minds
who are going to create the Superminds. Especially, you
know, the guys who are soliciting donations for this
sort of thing.

Dale Carrico said...

But there is a difference between the techno-elitists who don't care if majorities are flattened if superior minorities with which they happen to identify prevail as against the techno-elitists who don't care if majorities are silenced if superior minorities with which they happen to identify control things since think they are convinced they have all the answers that matter, largely because they are uninterested in or otherwise deaf to most of the questions actually on offer.