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

Monday, March 30, 2009

From Futurological Confusions to Futurological Delusions

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, friend of blog "Martin" rightly summarizes an element of my critique of superlative futurology that has been the subject of several recent blog-posts:
Right, the science is a means to an end: immortality, superintelligence, superhealth, etc. It is unclear if, how, and when those goals will be achieved. I don't know how one can assert that nanotech will be used to achieve any of those goals when we don't know what form nanotech will take.

That is right, as far as it goes (and it goes far enough to be fairly damning on its own to the presumptions of the futurologists and Robot Cultists and so on), but, remember, we are in a position to make an even more forceful critique.

It actually isn't at all new for True Believers to handwave about "immortality, superintelligence, superhealth, etc," after all. Priests and gurus have been selling that sort of crapola for centuries.

It actually matters that there are conspicuous conceptual confusions that beset notions of superintelligence, superlongevity, and a politics-circumventing superabundance if you really take the time to submit them to scrutiny. It's not just that the goals are questionable as to developmental timetables, it's not just that the technoscientific assumptions deployed in their service are marginal and yet treated as consensus.

It's that other things are afoot when people pine after or claim to be able to secure for the properly faithful an immortalization of life when life as it is lived in the world has always been a vulnerable embodied metapbolism of organisms with their environment... or to produce a spiritualized certainty-bearing superintelligence when intelligence as it is experienced in the world has always been embodied, social, contingent... or to arrive at a superabundance (whether technocraticized, roboticized, plasticized, fabbicized, nanoboticized, utilifoggicized, digitized, virtualized, femtocized, or who knows what the magick presently preoccupying the futurological congress happens to be) that could circumvent the actually ineradicable impasse of stakeholder politics in which a diversity of equitable peers differ on ends in a shared world, an impasse that cannot be circumvented but can only either be democratized (if you are of the left) or authoritatively controlled by force and its threat according to privileged ends (if you are of the right).

These aren't problems of misplaced confidence in marginal technoscientific or even pseudo-scientific notions mistaken for warranted consensus (although, of course, there is a whole hell of a lot of that kind of thing going on around here wherever corporate futurology and Robot Cultists are on the scene), but it is a problem of using words in a deeply problematic or confused way in order to feed personal delusions or sell some scam.

20 comments:

Martin said...

Priests and gurus have been selling that sort of crapola for centuries.

Aging researcher (and real scientist) S. Jay Olshansky was recently quoted as saying, "Longevity salesman is the second-oldest
profession." What we have now is a community of activists who are proposing the arrival of immortality and superintelligence, but for the first time, their claims are given a stamp of authenticity when they reference the technoscience that we've been talking about.

They aren't selling anything or profiting from it. They really believe it. They really believe that AGI and nanotech will be here in 10 years. It's the time frame that I criticize. It is born out of a hopeful (and hopeless?) optimism that isn't shared by the researchers who are doing the actual work of making these technologies a reality. Aubrey de Grey, whose predictions have been wrong more times than I can count, thinks that funding is the only thing holding SENS back, as if biology reveals itself to the researcher as predictably and straightforward as a programmer writes code.

I think that is as forceful as my critique gets.

Your critique, if I could be so bold as to offer my interpretation, is that they don't care about the social and political consequences of new technologies, or the social and political consequences of the their transhumanist goals (immortality, superintelligence, etc.). You're right, but who ever does? Ethanol biofuel caused a minor famine and mass protests not too long ago. Curing cancer may cause even worse starvation as the geo-social-political-economic equilibria are rebalanced. Every major new sociopolitical and technoscientific development runs that risk.

Dale, transhumanists are an insignificant group, globally speaking. By the time any of those technologies arrive, people who do care about the social, political, economic and environmental consequences will be ready to confront them in a responsible manner. The EPA has already done research on nanomaterial seepage into soil and water.

We can't control everyone. There is no global government. Even if you address the social and political consequences of emergent technology here, someone, somewhere will be free from all restraints.

jimf said...

Have you seen this interview with Douglas R. Hofstadter from the
_American Scientist_
http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/douglas-r-hofstadter
(via Richard A.L. Jones' "Soft Machines" blog -- "Brain interfacing
with Kurzweil"
http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=450 ):

> There's a popular idea currently that technology may be converging
> on some kind of culmination—some people refer to it as a singularity.
> It's not clear what form it might take, but some have suggested an
> explosion of artificial intelligence. Do you have any thoughts about that?

Oh, yeah, I've organized several symposia about it; I've written a
long article about it; I've participated in a couple of events with
Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec and many of these singularitarians, as
they refer to themselves. I have wallowed in this mud very much. However,
if you're asking for a clear judgment, I think it's very murky.

The reason I have injected myself into that world, unsavory though I find
it in many ways, is that I think that it's a very confusing thing that
they're suggesting. If you read Ray Kurzweil's books and Hans Moravec's,
what I find is that it's a very bizarre mixture of ideas that are solid
and good with ideas that are crazy. It's as if you took a lot of very
good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you
can't possibly figure out what's good or bad. It's an intimate mixture
of rubbish and good ideas, and it's very hard to disentangle the two,
because these are smart people; they're not stupid.

. . .

That's why I organized my symposia. I organized one right after the 1999
book by Kurzweil came out [The Age of Spiritual Machines] and a similar
one by Moravec [Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind]. I organized
my symposium here at Indiana University to confront these questions, and
I found that nobody at my university even had any idea what to say—a three-
or four-hour symposium and basically people avoided the topic. I couldn't
believe it. So a year later, when I was on sabbatical at Stanford,
I organized a full-day symposium, and I invited Kurzweil and Moravec
and [University of Michigan computer scientist] John Holland,
[Sun Microsystems cofounder] Bill Joy, [SETI Institute director] Frank Drake
and [Wired magazine founder] Kevin Kelly. I had a lot of these people
together, and they talked about their views, but once again, it was
as if Kurzweil and Moravec felt a little bit inhibited by the context
and they didn't talk about their far-out views. They talked about
rather conservative images of what was going to happen. And I had
to go into their books and read out loud their most crazy quotes in
order to say, "Look, you're not saying in front of this audience of
a thousand people what you've said in your books. Here's what you've
said in your books. What do you think of this?"

The symposia weren't satisfactory to me; the people didn't confront their
own ideas. I feel as if there's an evasion in our culture. Ray goes around
saying it's going to happen, and he says it's all going to be bliss. Our
brain patterns will be uploaded into software, we're all going to become
immortal, everything is going to go faster and faster, our personalities will
all blend and merge in cyberspace—the craziest sort of dog excrement mixed
with very good food. It's bizarre, and I don't have any easy way to say
what's right or wrong.

Kelly said to me, "Doug, why did you not talk about the singularity and
things like that in your book?" And I said, "Frankly, because it sort of
disgusts me, but also because I just don't want to deal with science-fiction
scenarios." I'm not talking about what's going to happen someday in the
future; I'm not talking about decades or thousands of years in the future.
I'm talking about "What is a human being? What is an 'I'?" This may be an
outmoded question to ask 30 years from now. Maybe we'll all be floating
blissfully in cyberspace, there won't be any human bodies left, maybe
everything will be software living in virtual worlds, it may be
science-fiction city. Maybe my questions will all be invalid at that
point. But I'm not writing for people 30 years from now, I'm writing
for people right now. We still have human bodies. We don't yet have
artificial intelligence that is at this level. It doesn't seem on
the horizon. So that's what I'm writing for and about.

And I don't have any real predictions as to when or if this is going to
come about. I think there's some chance that some of what these people are
saying is going to come about. When, I don't know. I wouldn't have predicted
myself that the world chess champion would be defeated by a rather boring
kind of chess program architecture, but it doesn't matter, it still did it.
Nor would I have expected that a car would drive itself across the Nevada
desert using laser rangefinders and television cameras and GPS and fancy
computer programs. I wouldn't have guessed that that was going to happen
when it happened. It's happening a little faster than I would have thought,
and it does suggest that there may be some truth to the idea that
Moore's Law [predicting a steady increase in computing power per unit cost]
and all these other things are allowing us to develop things that have
some things in common with our minds. I don't see anything yet that really
resembles a human mind whatsoever. The car driving across the Nevada desert
still strikes me as being closer to the thermostat or the toilet that regulates
itself than to a human mind, and certainly the computer program that plays
chess doesn't have any intelligence or anything like human thoughts.

But as things develop, who knows? Ray Kurzweil and others are predicting
that there's a tidal wave coming. But they say it's bliss—it's not bad,
it's good, at least if you're surfing it in the right way. If you own
the right kind of surfboard, it'll be fun.

jimf said...

> > Priests and gurus have been selling that sort of crapola
> > for centuries.
>
> Aging researcher (and real scientist) S. Jay Olshansky was
> recently quoted as saying, "Longevity salesman is the second-oldest
> profession."
>
> What we have now is a community of activists who are
> proposing the arrival of immortality and superintelligence,
> but for the first time, their claims are given a stamp of
> authenticity when they reference the technoscience that
> we've been talking about.

Of course. In a milieu in which miracles and claims to divinity
carry authority, the gurus and hucksters will annex the persuasive
power of miracles and claims to divinity. In an era in which
science carries that authority, they will annex the mystique and
intimidating aura of science. So what else is new?

> They aren't selling anything or profiting from it. They really
> believe it.

Some of them do. Some of them simply believe in **themselves**,
to an absurd degree.

> [T]ranshumanists are an insignificant group. . .

Well, yes, and so, in a way, are the Scientologists. And the
Mormons. And the Objectivists. And the followers of Werner
Erhard, or Keith Raniere, or Andrew Cohen.

The overall phenomenon is by no means "insignificant", however. By
"overall phenomenon" I mean what's being described in books
like

_Feet of Clay_ by Anthony Storr
http://www.amazon.com/Feet-Clay-Anthony-Storr/dp/0684834952

_The Guru Papers_ by Kramer & Alstad
http://www.amazon.com/Guru-Papers-Masks-Authoritarian-Power/dp/1883319005

_Stripping the Gurus_, by Geoffrey D. Falk
http://www.strippingthegurus.com/
(this one's available in its entirely on-line)

or _The Ayn Rand Cult_ by Jeff Walker
http://www.amazon.com/Ayn-Rand-Cult-Jeff-Walker/dp/0812693906

From the latter (via http://www.holysmoke.org/cos/ayn-rand-and-hubbard.htm )

"There have been other Ayn Rands, before and after Ayn Rand. throughout this
book I draw attention to the striking parallels between Rand and such figures
as Mary Baker Eddy, Edward Bellamy, Count Alfred Korzybski, L Ron Hubbard,
Werner Erhard and Bhagwan Rajneesh. The phenomena she represents are common
and recurring ones that say a great deal about the nature of individuals and
society." (page 4)

"Most of the star gurus, certainly Reverend Moon, L Ron Hubbard, Rajneesh
and Werner Erhard were partly innovative and partly syncretic, all to a
significant degree breaking with traditional religion, but all offering
doctrines which were amalgams of pre-existing traditions...bits and pieces
of Objectivism have been around for ages before her (Rand). Rand's -
and Branden's - contribution was to select them, string them together
and package them for mass consumption." (page 68)

"For many, Rand's Objectivism was a way station between L Ron Hubbard's Dianetics
and Werner Erhard's est...not only has the Objectivist movement been a
classic cult as defined in the dictionary, it may arguably be viewed as a
destructive psychotherapeutic-religious cult..." (page 98)

"Ayn Rand was not the first to propound an ethics for the masses based on
survival as a rational being. That honor goes to fellow novelist and cult
leader L Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), the science-fiction writer who founded
Dianetics and the Church of Scientology. Dianetics preceded NBI's start-up
by eight years and the Objectivist ethics by 11 years. Dianetics groups formed
on campuses during the 1950's, much as Ayn Rand clubs would in the 1960's.
Many who flocked to Objectivism in the 1960's had previously had some
contact with Dianetics or Scientology. Dianetics used reasoning somewhat
similar to Rand's about the brain as a machine. Hubbard's 'analytical'
versus 'reactive' mind has its equivalent in Rand's system. Both have
a higher mind reprogramming the rest of the mind. Hubbard and Rand were
both extremely intelligence- and survival oriented, in the interest of a
rational man. They counseled the uprooting of irrational premises (or 'engrams').
Both contended that the resulting enhanced rationality leads to greater
capacity for healthy emotion. Perceptual data is immaculate for both. Both
regard our often being unconscious of incoming data as the real problem. After
many years of working at it, the student of Dianetics becomes a 'clear,' while
the student of Objectivism becomes a full-fledged Objectivist...Both
Dianetics and Objectivist psychology draw fire from the psychiatric establishment.
The philosophy of each relates immorality to decreasing one's survival potential.
Each claims to be science- and logic-based. Both share a benevolent universe
premise...Hubbard and Rand are very much against all rule-by-force. Both
assert that rational men have no real conflicts of interest. Each deplores
social complexity being wielded as an excuse for introducing government
regulations when it is the latter that generates the former in a vicious
cycle...Each was lambasted by biographers for serious personality problems.
And both figures have been denounced by former associates who claim that
the leader had feet of clay and the doctrine is detrimental to its adherent's
health.

Because Hubbard and Rand shared a number of quirks and basic ideas, it does
not follow that their complete philosophies are essentially similar - that is
hardly the case. What we can see is that those basic ideas were circulating
within the culture of mid-century America and that both figures exemplify
the growth of a cult preaching 'rationality'."

"Letters to the editor in defense of Ayn Rand dismiss her critics not just
as 'hoodlums' and 'thugs,' but as cockroaches.' Rand herself deploys 'vermin'
in one letter and her orthodox heirs would dismiss Barbara Branden, until late
1968 ranked number three in the Objectivist movement, as 'lice.' Considering
that lice and cockroaches are owed no moral consideration, and that in any
case, as Nathaniel Branden put it, 'once somebody is declared an *enemy* of
Ayn Rand, all morality is suspended,' one shudders at what *some* literal-minded
Objectivists might do to an enemy they saw as posing a threat to the
future of the Objectivist movement and hence of civilization." (page 18)


In many way, what passes for "transhumanism" is just another turn of the same
old wheel, this time with the accretion of a couple more decades' worth of SF --
particularly tropes about "molecular nanotechnology" and "artificial intelligence".

jimf said...

From _Stripping the Gurus_, Chapter XX
"Da Avatar, Da Bomb, Da Bum"

Also blurbing [for Adi Da's books] have been “stages of dying”
expert Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross, and Barbara Marx-Hubbard.
The former was credited by _Time_ magazine as being one of the
“100 Most Important Thinkers” of the twentieth century. The latter,
Marx-Hubbard, is the president and a founding member of
The Foundation for Conscious Evolution; she was once called
“the best informed human on the concept of futurism,” by
Buckminster Fuller.


well golly, Batman!


Dear Friends,

This Conversation of the Century features Joe Firmage
who is one of the leading geniuses in the field of conscious evolution
and collective intelligence. A master of the digital universe with
spiritual experiences of the multi-dimensional aspects of life, we are
both of the same vision of the planetary awakening.

He says in our conversation that we are approaching a singularity
of unimaginable dimensions - a point of completely non-linear
changes that are theoretically unpredictable.

To listen to the free audio download of my conversation with Joe please
click here.

http://www.barbaramarxhubbard.com/content/blog/?p=12


At 28 [as of December, 1998], [Joseph P. Firmage is] a decamillionaire
with two wildly successful high-tech startups under his belt.

Having founded USWeb in 1995 and in three years built it into a
public company worth about $1 billion, Firmage has made himself and
a lot of other people very rich, very fast. Firmage founded his
first company, Serius Corp, when he was just 18. Those who know
him seem to fall into two camps: those who think he's brilliant,
and those who think he's a genius. . .

"I am directly challenging the scientific presumption against
the viability of visitation by extraterrestrials. And I have the
evidence to show for it that will be published tomorrow. . ."

Over the past year he has worked nonstop on a work he has titled
_The Truth_, a 600-page hypothesis appearing on the Web site
www.thewordistruth.org, all the while running USWeb, a company
which now has more than 1000 employees in more than 50 offices
on three continents. . .

[A] year ago, he was awakened by his alarm at 6:10am one morning
but then he decided to hit the snooze instead of going to the gym.

"A remarkable being, clothed in brilliant white light, appeared hovering
over my bed in my room," he writes. "Out of him emerged an electric blue
sphere, just smaller than a basketball, which was swirling with what
looks like electrical arcs. It left his body, floated down, and entered me."

Firmage soon founded the International Space Sciences Organization
with $3 million of his own money to administer a project he called
"Kairos," a Greek word meaning "the right moment" or "a critical time."
Firmage believes we live in a "kairos" in which humanity is finally
advanced enough to comprehend alien beings.

http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/12.10.98/cover/joefirmage1-9849.html

Dale Carrico said...

Your critique, if I could be so bold as to offer my interpretation, is that they don't care about the social and political consequences of new technologies, or the social and political consequences of the their transhumanist goals (immortality, superintelligence, etc.). You're right, but who ever does?

My critique is less that futurologists are uncaring than that they are insensitive to certain objective realities that render them unintelligent. I am arguing that they insensitive to the ways in which their observations, explanatory frames, assessments, and aspirations are embedded in discourses that are hardly original and hardly inevitable. It is simply wrong to suggest that transhumanists are in some general sort of way mean-spirited, although many of them seem to be, but to say that they are caught up in discourses that yield mean and impoverished attentions and hopes, whether they like it or not.

You suggest that nobody takes these things into consideration, but that is importantly untrue -- many people are enormously sensitive to these sorts of questions. And I venture to say that technodevelopmental deliberation is enormously invigorated when rhetorical and historiographical and other sorts of "humanistic" concerns are given weight and respect in their proper precinct as are more strictly instrumental concerns.

Dale, transhumanists are an insignificant group, globally speaking.

This is true and also not true. Robot Cult formulations and practices symptomize in their extremity prevailing arguments, attitudes, passions of corporate-militarist technodevelopmental discourse more generally, they are revealing, clarifying, often functioning as reductios of a sort. Futurology is the quintessential discourse of neoliberalism in my view, and their is a sense in which transhumanism is in turn the quintessential futurological discourse. There is the added issue that small marginal groups of people with wacky ideas useful to incumbent powers often acquire an influence far disproportionate to sense -- as witness, the neocons. This is not true of transhumanism, but once bitten twice shy as the saying goes.

By the time any of those technologies arrive, people who do care about the social, political, economic and environmental consequences will be ready to confront them in a responsible manner.

Technodevelopmental social struggle is happening right now, superlative discourses have their primary substance and impact not in the imagined futures they pretend to be preoccupied with, but in the present, in the derangement of our sense of our moment. This should come as no surprise -- sf, too, has more often been a funhouse mirror in which the present is reflected in the name of "the future" and most "non-fictional" futurology is itself just substandard sf, sf without characters, stories, and integrated milieu, themes, and so on to justify its existence (that's why it pretends to be a mode of quasi-science instead for rubes who wouldn't know real science if they were wiping their asses with it, which, figuratively speaking, they more or less are).

We can't control everyone. There is no global government.

The point is to inform not to control, the point is contribute a measure of criticism and intelligence and justice to technodevelopmental social struggle.

Even if you address the social and political consequences of emergent technology here, someone, somewhere will be free from all restraints.

Nobody anywhere is free from all restraints ever, but I doubt that's what you meant of course.

Dale Carrico said...

what passes for "transhumanism" is just another turn of the same old wheel, this time with the accretion of a couple more decades' worth of SF -- particularly tropes about "molecular nanotechnology" and "artificial intelligence".

This seems to me exactly right, and it is especially nice to see the proper rhetorical word "tropes" used to describe what is afoot here as far as I can see, too.

Martin said...

jimf: So who are the gurus of transhumanism? Who are the uncriticized beacons of light? Read the mailing lists. They are full of debate and disagreement. The closest anyone comes to being a guru is Eliezer Yudkowsky, and even he has his transhumanist critics.

jimf said...

> So who are the gurus of transhumanism? Who are the uncriticized
> beacons of light? Read the mailing lists. They are full of debate
> and disagreement.

Are they indeed?

Are you aware, just as one example, of the incident alluded to in
this post:
http://www.mail-archive.com/singularity@v2.listbox.com/msg00842.html

jimf said...

Strange (or maybe not so strange) bedfellows:

http://www.businessweek.com/2001/01_04/b3716032.htm

The prospect of partnering with a UFO enthusiast to launch an
Internet site focused on serious science would be enough to give
anyone pause. So it was especially jarring for Ann Druyan -- the
widow of renowned scientist Carl Sagan -- when Web entrepreneur
Joe Firmage approached her with such a plan early last year [2000].

Firmage. . . became a legend in Silicon Valley in November, 1998.
That's when he posted a bizarre 600-page diatribe on the Web called
"The Truth," which attempted, among other things, to prove that aliens
have visited earth and the government has covered it up. It was
enough to make Sagan spin in his grave. Yet two years later Druyan
and Firmage have joined forces to launch OneCosmos Network. The venture,
which debuts this month [January 2001], has two arms. OneCosmos.net,
run by Firmage out of San Francisco, is a Web portal offering science-related
information. Los Angeles-based Cosmos Studios Inc., which Druyan manages
from her hometown of Ithaca, N.Y., will produce educational programs similar
to Cosmos, the 1970s show that she co-produced with Sagan. . .
"It's the Discovery Channel plus 50 IQ points," says Firmage, 30, who
worshiped Sagan as a child.

Hard sell. But how Druyan, 51, came to trust Firmage to carry out that
vision is a remarkable story about the meeting of two wildly different minds.
Indeed, anyone who thinks that The X-Files' pairing of skeptical scientist
Dana Scully with alien-hunting dreamer Fox Mulder could only happen on
TV clearly has not met Druyan and Firmage. "I cling to the scientific method,"
Druyan says. "I am a true skeptic. Joe is not."

In fact, Druyan was so concerned about Firmage's out-there reputation that
she required him to sign a contract stating he would not use OneCosmos to
promote fringe theories. That pact may be a key to OneCosmos' survival.
Firmage and Druyan have so far raised $25 million to fund OneCosmos,
and they are now trying to scrape up more. At a time like this they
can't afford to look flaky. . .

For Firmage, OneCosmos represents a true calling. Born in Salt Lake City,
the fifth of seven children in a close-knit Mormon family[*], Firmage was
fascinated with what makes things work from the time he was a baby. "He used
to crawl into the closet and disassemble and reassemble the vacuum cleaner,"
laughs father Edwin Firmage, a law professor at the University of Utah. His
parents encouraged his insatiable curiosity, buying him science kits and
plopping him in front of the TV to watch Cosmos.

Firmage was well on his way as a science prodigy, skipping two grades and winning
a physics scholarship to the University of Utah. Then the entrepreneurial bug bit. . .
Serius [was] a company he started at age 18 with the help of his parents. Serius
made software-development tools for the Macintosh. Four years later, they sold
it to Novell Inc. for $24 million. . .

It was at Novell that Firmage conceived the idea of USWeb. . .
Two years of 90-hour workweeks, and Firmage and [his business
partner] were on their way to an initial public offering.

That's when everybody's vision of who Joe Firmage was--including his own--changed
forever. Early one morning in November, 1997, he says, he awoke to find a bearded
man hovering over his bed. Firmage confessed to the glowing figure that he was
willing to die for the opportunity to travel in space. Then, as Firmage recounted in
"The Truth," an "electric blue sphere" traveled from the being's body to
his own, causing "a pleasure vastly beyond orgasm."

To this day, Firmage insists he doesn't know if it was a dream or an actual
alien encounter. All he can say for certain is that it was a major wakeup call
that his life was headed in the wrong direction. . . "Here I was as the CEO
of a large company, scaling up commerce. I was playing a powerful
role in the destruction of life," he says.

Firmage hoped he could use his clout as a business leader to bring attention
to his cause. Over the next year, he wrote "The Truth" with the help of 15 friends.
Not everyone thought it was such a great idea. "I put my arms around him and cried,"
says his father. "I told him if he didn't keep it to himself, it might cost
him his leadership role." His strong-willed son went ahead anyway.

Dad was right. Although much of the book was focused on themes such as environmental
sustainability, the media latched onto the alien tale and ran with it. Branded as
a wacko, Firmage resigned under pressure from USWeb in January, 1999, less than
two months after "The Truth" appeared. . .

The very mention of his name still elicits snickers. But those who know him
personally say his detractors don't know the real Joe Firmage. "He's the least
crazy person I've ever met," says Reuben Steiger of OVEN Digital, a Web-page-design
outfit that designed OneCosmos.net. He certainly came down to earth quickly after
"The Truth" failed to spark the social revolution he hoped for. He pulled it
off the Web and decided to go about his quest in a more measured way. He has quietly
embarked on a plan to give away 90% of his wealth--at the height of USWeb's success
he was worth more than $60 million--to environmental and political causes. He's a
supporter of the State of the World Forum, an international environmental group. . .

[*] [From "The CEO From Cyberspace: Joe Firmage, A Master of the Universe at 28",
_Washington Post_, Mar. 31, 1999: All roads in the Firmage universe lead to UFOs.
For Firmage, the visions reported by prophets and religious figures -- including
Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith -- are strikingly reminiscent of
modern encounters with aliens.]


Hm. . . Firmage may believe, as he mentioned to Barbara Marx-Hubbard, that
the Singularity began when the the Internet "held up a mirror to the whole
human race", but that hasn't stopped him from attempting to block the view.
"The Truth", it seems, is either no longer the truth, or is no longer
considered fit for public consumption:

INTERNET ARCHIVE WaybackMachine

Robots.txt Query Exclusion.

We're sorry, access to http://www.thewordistruth.org/ has been blocked
by the site owner via robots.txt. . .

jimf said...

> [V]isions reported by prophets and religious figures -- including
> Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith -- are strikingly reminiscent of
> modern encounters with aliens.

Gee, does that mean -- Somebody Up There doesn't like fags?

Martin said...

jimf: What is your point? Looks like a disagreement to me. And you never answered my question.

Also, maybe you should get a blog instead of flooding these comments with cut/pastes. It makes it hard to find the original content being posted by Dale's readers.

jimf said...

Martin wrote:

> Also, maybe you should get a blog instead of flooding these
> comments with cut/pastes. It makes it hard to find the original
> content being posted by Dale's readers.

You're not the first to make that suggestion.

And my response to you is the same as the response I made to
the earlier person:

FUCK YOU.

It's none of your goddam business whether I "flood these comments
with cut/pastes." It's Dale business -- and he's already
moderating his own blog comments, thank you very much for
volunteering.

If you don't like it -- take the gas pipe.

jimf said...

> What is your point? Looks like a disagreement to me.

Yeah. It's a disagreement. The context and the responses to
that disagreement were precisely my point.

> And you never answered my question.

Yes, I did. As clearly as it deserves to be answered.

What are you trying to do here -- act as an agent provocateur?

Trying to stir up a little libel are we? Give somebody an
excuse for a lawsuit (in England)?

Dale Carrico said...

Now, now. I am pleased to have both Martin and Jim commenting here, although I can't say that I've always appreciated everything each has posted, I am sure Amor Mundi has benefited enormously from their comments, their different styles of posting, their different modalities of argument, and so on. It's not so hard to skim the bits that don't appeal, it's not so hard to stay on point. Jim's walls of text can be off-putting to some, but few who are drawn to a blog with such long posts as mine, surely, and I do want to point out that some of what you might imagine to be cut and paste jobs are in fact transcriptions of materials unavailable online otherwise. Sometimes the results are annoying, sometimes a public service. Like everything, you get something you give up something.

Dale Carrico said...

Now, now. I am pleased to have both Martin and Jim commenting here, although I can't say that I've always appreciated everything each has posted, I am sure Amor Mundi has benefited enormously from their comments, their different styles of posting, their different modalities of argument, and so on. It's not so hard to skim the bits that don't appeal, it's not so hard to stay on point. Jim's walls of text can be off-putting to some, but few who are drawn to a blog with such long posts as mine, surely, and I do want to point out that some of what you might imagine to be cut and paste jobs are in fact transcriptions of materials unavailable online otherwise. Sometimes the results are annoying, sometimes a public service. Like everything, you get something you give up something.

jimf said...

> Now, now. . .

I apologize to Martin (Martin Striz, I assume, habitue of SL4
and other >Hist watering holes) for my use of gutter language.

I'm sorry he doesn't appreciate my "walls of text" (as another
>Hist once said to me, "tl:dr") -- he may be amused to know
(or maybe he already does know) that I was moderated off the
WTA Talk list a couple of years ago for just that reason.

However, it is after all Dale's call on this blog: Martin will,
just as he suggests to me, need to get his own blog to indulge
the pleasures of moderation and censorship.

As far as answering his question is concerned -- I think I
did, in fact, answer it, as far as is prudent in a public
forum. Yes, the link I supplied points to a disagreement
(and in turn to an earlier disagreement, in another forum) -- the
context of and responses to those disagreements are precisely the
point I was trying to make. I don't think I really need
to spell it out.

It is kind of ironic, in light of that very point, that if some
folks could persuade (or failing that, to force) Dale to shut
up about >Hism, they would certainly do so (which would of
course eliminate this blog as a convenient place for me
to sound off on the subject as well).

jimf said...

> > [V]isions reported by prophets and religious figures -- including
> > Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith -- are strikingly reminiscent of
> > modern encounters with aliens.
>
> Gee, does that mean -- [UFO space aliens don't] like fags?

Mormon missionary boy falls in love (with a guy).
Mary Kay Place is his mom.

Latter Days Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yf4iGDiPcEI

Latter Days Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvFVvTftmIA

Latter Days Part 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLCDMN9T5vw

Latter Days Part 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miwBbWrm0_s

Latter Days Part 5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9AC8GbdIxg

Latter Days Part 6
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W0rmBDWHaw

Latter Days Part 7
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6iR8y33jDg

Latter Days Part 8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kg4zWJ3tPQc

Latter Days Part 9
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeFiVU2ygiE

Latter Days Part 10
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCJQQ4frstM

Latter Days Part 11
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPHXWHGt80c

jimf said...

A remark by David Brin:

http://www.sentientdevelopments.com/2009/03/singularity-schmingularity-are-we.html

March 26, 2009
"Singularity? Schmingularity? Are we becoming gods?"

[O]ne thing about all this fascinates me -- that personality
generally overrides culture and logic and reason. More and more,
we are learning this. Somebody who would have been a grouch
500 years ago is likely to be one, today. The kind of person
who would have been a raving transcendentalist in Roman days,
foretelling a God-wrought ending time - either in flames or
paradise - would today be among those who now prophecy either
world destruction or redemption... by means of science. The
envisioned means change, but the glorious vision of doom or
glory do not.

Oh, what is a pragmatic optimist to do? We are beset by exaggerators!
When what we need [is] to. . . pursu[e] all the good things without
allowing our zealotry to blind us to the quicksand and minefields
along the way. Simplistic dogmas are dumb, whether they are
political or techno-transcendentalist.

jimf said...

More Brin comments:

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2005/03/miscellaneous-asides-about-modernism.html

Bizarre that anyone would even remotely try to claim that today's
terrorism threat could be compared to the Damoclean threat of imminent
nuclear war that hung by a thread over our heads for decade after
horrible decade. The person who says this must be either under
25 years old or capable of incredible amnesia and rationalization.

Yes, deterrence sounds nice and neat and perfect... in retrospect. But
there was NEVER any guarantee that people would behave rationally,
according to game theory! 6,000 years of human history... AND recent
events re terrorism ... show that people are NOT reliably rational.
We came very close to frying the planet, many times. And that is vastly
worse than any present day terror scenario. Even a dirty bomb or two. . .

But right now, the real damage done by Al Quaeda calculates out as
lost human lifespan spent going through excessive security, along with
polarization and ridiculous paranoia in a country that is prosperous
and at peace.


As for less angrifying comments, please, I am a moderate about the Singularity,
like most other things. The parallel with 80s space colonization is apt.
The readiness of so many to romanticize what is deep-down a relentless
process of pragmatic problem-solving (e.g. the Singularity = the Rapture)
is one we all have to watch out for.

Indeed, it is one of my points! Our personalities are demonstrably far more
romantic than modernist! If you give a modernist reformer any adulation,
he or she will rapidly become a guru-like figure, cranky and tyrannical.
Close-minded and doctrinaire. Take Freud and Marx, who started out brilliant
and became cult-leaders. Take Ehrlich and Nader. Nearly all the neocons.

The enemy of modernism is not any particular ideology of left or right. It
is human nature itself.


http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2007/12/proof-of-uplift-or-at-least.html

The power of the Enlightenment has not come from applying reason and logic
to human affairs, as much as it has come from applying some very basic tools
to combat **human self-delusion**. Logic and reason are all too often **vehicles**
for massive delusion! It is THE essential human quandary, [which] the
Enlightenment fights with processes of transparency, openness and reciprocal
criticism.

---------------------------

"Human self-delusion", while ridiculous (and worthy of ridicule) on
one level, can sometimes lead directly to human tragedy and will
then elicit in its witnesses a direct human response to the pathos
of the event (in contrast to the indirect, more easily ignored
and diffuse tragedies of the followers of a Pied Piper).

---------------------------

From: [JimF] on 15/05/2006 06:09 PM
Subject: Ratty little twerps

It's hardly a matter for gloating, but another self-appointed AI
guru -- Christopher McKinstry, founder of a company called
Mindpixel -- committed suicide this past January.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_McKinstry

There was an obit on SL4.

He seems to have had rather a controversial career:

"Christopher McKinstry: master hoaxster?"
Jorn Barger July 2002
http://web.archive.org/web/20080122104424/http://www.robotwisdom.com/ai/mckinstry.html

http://groups.google.com/group/wpg.general/msg/a06e3e15511c56be
---------------
From: "Norman Gall"
Subject: Re: concerns
Date: 1999/10/03

. . .

kcmckins...@hotmail.com wrote:

> [W]hat is it about you, that causes you to act in a hostile
> manner to someone who lives on the other side of the planet and whom
> you've most likely never met? . . . [W]here does your malice come from?
> . . . and why can't you control it?

. . .

Well, let's face it: you took yourself hostage at gunpoint in Toronto -
making the front pages of all three dailies, you admitted in open court
to pistol whipping your wife, you were hauled off to
H[ospital for]S[ick]C[hildren] for an overnight psych exam
(which you barely passed over the objections of the
officers that took you there), and bilked city and provincial
governments and an untold number of private investors, employees, and
businesses.

When we think of assholes, confidence men, scams, psychotics, and/or
self-important weasels, you're the King. For anyone even remotely
acquainted with the facts, you immediately come to mind... much in the
same way we think of Clifford Olsen when people talk of paedophiles or
Ted Bundy when talk strays to serial rape.
---------------

Ouch.

---------------------------

"Two AI Pioneers. Two Bizarre Suicides. What Really Happened?"
By David Kushner
_Wired_, 01.18.08

http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/16-02/ff_aimystery?currentPage=all

jimf said...

I wrote (in response to Martin Striz):

> As far as answering [Martin's] question is concerned
> ["So who are the gurus of transhumanism? Who are the uncriticized
> beacons of light? Read the mailing lists. They are full of debate
> and disagreement."] -- I think I did, in fact, answer it, as far
> as is prudent in a public forum. Yes, the link I supplied
> [ http://www.mail-archive.com/singularity@v2.listbox.com/msg00842.html ]
> points to a disagreement ([which] in turn [links] to an earlier
> disagreement, in another forum) -- the context of and responses
> to those disagreements are precisely the point I was trying
> to make. I don't think I really need to spell it out.

A case study in why it's a waste of time to attempt to engage
in serious intellectual debate with a guru and his claque of
True Believers:

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 1
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-1-to14006372.html#a14006372

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 2
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-2-to14006375.html#a14006375

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 3
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-3-to14006370.html#a14006370

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 4
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-4-to14006371.html#a14006371

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 5
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-5-to14006373.html#a14006373

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 6
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-6-to14006376.html#a14006380

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 7
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-7-td14006374.html#a14006374

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 8
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-8-td14006377.html#a14006377

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 9
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-9-td14006368.html#a14006368

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 10
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-10-td14006369.html#a14006369

Loosemore's Collected Writings on SL4 - Part 11 - end
http://www.nabble.com/Loosemore%27s-Collected-Writings-on-SL4---Part-11---end-td14006378.html#a14006378