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

Monday, July 27, 2009

Futurological Brickbats Anthology

Here are all my occasional "Futurological Brickbats" arranged and updated roughly chronologically. For the funnier ones, just scroll through to the one liners. Further elaboration of many of the ideas in these assertions are archived under The Superlative Summary, Futurology Against Ecology, and in my Condensed Critique of Transhumanism.

I. The words "technology" and "democracy" are much more like verbs than the nouns they appear to be.

II. I think of "technology" as simply the ongoing collective prosthetic re-elaboration of inter-personal agency, while I think of "democracy" as simply the ongoing collective implementation of the idea that ever more people should have ever more of a say in the public decisions that affect them.

III. Expressing, befuddling, enabling, implicating one another, technology and democracy are caught up in a circuit of interminable technodevelopmental social struggle, which constitutes the ongoing conversation in which humanity redetermines the meanings and movements available to it, and rededicates itself to that futurity the reopening in which humanity knows itself becoming itself.

IV. A peer is not an equal -- for there are no equals in a world of differences -- the peer is the one who appears in and by virtue of the public square, be it the polis of the streets or of the nets, who appears as one who contributes, contests, collaborates, and has a stake in the shared and made world in her differences from others who also so appear. The ethos of politics, peer-to-peer, is one and the same as the ethos of democratization, the interminable dynamic of equity-in-diversity.

V. Futurity is a register of freedom, "The Future" another prison-house built to confine it.

VI. Futurity is the openness in the present arising out of the ineradicable diversity of calculating, contending, and collaborative stakeholders who struggle to make and remake the shared world, peer to peer.

VII. Futurity cannot be delineated but only lived, in serial presents attesting always unpredictably to struggle and to expression. "The Future," to the contrary, brandishing the shackle of its definite article, is always described from a parochial present and is always a funhouse mirror reflecting a parochial present back to itself, amplifying its desires and fears, confirming its prejudices, reassuring its Believers that the Key to History is in their hands.

VIII. All progress is progress toward an end, but there can be no progress in the formation, expression, and evaluation of ends themselves, only either their circumscription or proliferation. To treat progress as an end-in-itself is to relinquish the specific stakes and situations without which any notion of progress at all is finally unintelligible.

IX. The discourses of futurology are in the business of investing the vicissitudes of ongoing technodevelopmental social struggle with the auras of novelty, nostalgia, or inevitability and then peddling these evocations of mood as pseudo-truths denominated "trends." Never once has a futurologist made a contribution to actual sense or to the solution of actually shared problems by means of this odd operation, but what a business it is.

X. Futurologists really have only four stories to tell with which they account for any real or imagined device, technique, or developmental moment: Genesis, Resurrection, Ascension, and Apocalypse. As any evangelist will tell you, that's more than enough to fleece a flock with.

XI. Futurology is not foresight, and it is farther still from wisdom, in the same ways that and for the same reasons that speculation is not investment, marketing is not deliberation, hyperbole is not critique, a syllogism is not a plan, a scenario is not a story, and a calculation is not a judgment.

XII. To speak of "The Future" is always to indulge in reaction. All futurisms are finally retro-futurisms.

XIII. All culture is prosthetic, all prostheses are culture.

XIV. Discourses of "Bio-Enhancement" always presume that certain incumbent interests or self-appointed biomoralist elites are authorized to designate what constitutes an "enhanced" human capacity, morphology, or lifeway -- whatever informed, nonduressed consenting persons might say to the contrary -- and hence all such discourses express a factual or aspirational eugenic outlook. Anyone who would claim or aspire to engineer an "optimal," idealized, postulated homo superior with which they presently identify, always at the cost of a dis-identification with the lifeway diversity of humanity with whom they actually share the world, are advocating a de facto eugenicist politics, whatever their claims or desires to the contrary.

Discourses of "Bio-Conservatism" always presume that certain incumbent interests or self-appointed biomoralist elites are authorized to designate what constitutes a "normal" or "natural" human capacity, morphology, or lifeway that must be protected and insulated from change -- whatever informed, nonduressed consenting persons might say to the contrary -- and hence all such discourses constitute a factual or aspirational eugenic outlook as well. Anyone who would ban reasonably safe, actually wanted, but non-normalizing medical interventions in an effort to "preserve" a static, idealized, postulated homo naturalis with which they presently identify, always at the cost of a dis-identification with the lifeway diversity of humanity with whom they actually share the world, are likewise advocating a de facto eugenicist politics, whatever their claims or desires to the contrary.

XV. Iconoclasts should always smash their mirrors first.

XVI. To care most about things that are merely not impossible is simply not sensible.

XVII. It is curious the number of twenty-first century futurologists whose notions of political economy remain firmly in the eighteenth century.

XVIII. To be marketable is not the same thing as to be insightful.

XIX. Every priestly peddler of immortality has died. Every one. And this is most certainly true as well of the priests of faithly medicine and reductionist scientism.

XX. To deny death out of a fear of it is to court a death in life worse by far than the death that is surely coming for you, for while immortality is not possible for you, it is indeed possible, and good, to live.

XXI. If you would find a conformist, look first to those who declare their faith in Progress.

XXII. To profess the dream of making an intelligent robot is always to confess the nightmare of being an unintelligent robot.

XXIII. The answer to the Fermi Paradox may simply be that we aren't invited to the party because so many humans are boring assholes. As evidence, consider that so many humans appear to be so flabbergastingly immodest and immature as to think it a "paradoxical" result to discover the Universe is not an infinitely faceted mirror reflecting back at us on its every face our own incarnations and exhibitions of intelligence.

XXIV. Whenever a software coder fancies that his trade renders him a philosopher, an economist, a poet, or, bless his heart, a biologist you can expect no end of foolishness and mischief from him.

XXV. It is always magical thinking to declare an outcome need only be profitable for it to be possible.

XXVI. Our foolish futurologists are peddling their wishful wares unaware that our world is the ruin of the futurological foolishness of their fathers.

XXVII. Those who dream of making themselves gods through technology are lying to themselves not least because god is already a dream we made ourselves through the technology of lying.

XXVIII. If I cannot dance I want no part in your reductive interpretations of evolution.

XXIX. We can use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house, indeed we must do so, because in taking up the master's tools and turning them to unheard of tasks we make the tools our own.

XXX. There is nothing more pathetic than boys who strive to sound prophetic.

XXXI. Computer science in its theological guise aims less at the ultimate creation of artificial intelligence than in the ubiquitous imposition of artificial imbecillence.

XXXII. The technological, properly so-called, is finally more stylish than it is truthful.

XXXIII. There's a sucker born every minute, and every futurologist you will ever meet is either one of them or hoping like hell you are.

XXXIV. The prefix "bio," when appended to the word "ethics," tends to have the curious effect of draining all the life out of ethics.

XXXV. The breathlessly ramifying "techno-ethical" pseudo-disciplines -- bio-ethics, neuro-ethics, net-ethics, nano-ethics, robo-ethics, and so on -- should all be regarded as essentially public relations and marketing subdisciplines, very much in the spirit of the "business ethics" out of which all these anti-ethical hyphenated-ethics have sprung.

XXXVI. Institutional "ethicians" are not educators so much as they are salesmen. And they should be treated as such: that is to say, in the expectation of attack or fraud.

XXXVII. The speculative fictions and scenarios and games of the futurologists are "speculative" less in the sense of critical thought than in the sense of financial speculation, just as their "futures" are far closer to the ones that get traded on stock exchanges, especially as bundled-risk pseudo-commodities.

XXXVIII. Your wishes are not insights, although they may provide insights for your therapist.

XXXIX. Futurological "optimism" is always a crassly opportunistic affair. Whenever a pop technologist puts his "Can Do" face on, you can be sure he fancies he sees a mark.

XL. Futurological declarations that there are No Limits! always ultimately translate to the customary conviction of very pampered and irresponsible people that there will always be other folks on hand to clean up their messes for them.

XL. From digitization to financialization to outsourcing to promotional re-branding of the status quo as "novelty" and "progress," time and time again neoliberalism indulges in fraudulent schemes in which insubstantial wishes and promises are peddled through deception as if they were substantial products, or through misdirection away from substantial costs and risks onto geographical or futurological distances, where devastating labor conditions and catastrophic environmental impacts and tragic personal dislocations vanish from our substantial concern.

XLI. The delusion of neoliberal immaterialism ultimately plays out in its fervent disavowals, first, of the material bodies and lifeways of the planetary Precariat obliterated in the supposedly frictionless flows of informal-informational capital, second, of the material bombs and bullets of neoconservative militarism that indispensably compel and enforce the adherence of the planetary Precariat to the supposedly "free trade" of duressed, vacuous-voluntary libertarianism, and third of the material metabolic limits and geophysical conditions of a precarious planet wounded, potentially beyond healing, by human enterprises driven by fantasies of infinite growth, infinite profit, infinite resources, infinite exploitation, infinite waste, infinite gratification, infinite willfulness.

L. To declare oneself "for" or "against" technology -- a technology-in-general treated as an abstraction indifferent to the different ways techniques and artifacts are actually historically and positionally deployed and understood -- is to engage in a technology politics that takes as its point of departure the de-politicizing evacuation of all the actual political substance at hand.

LI. Futurological movements are faith-based initiatives, translating familiar religious aspirations for "transcendence" into superficially techno-scientific terms, denying the present for a mutually-reinforcing hallucination of "The Future," and disdaining the lifeway diversity of the peers with whom they share the present world for an identification with an idealized post-human species.

LII. Futurologists keep confusing making bets with having thoughts.

LIII. Whenever I hear the word "trend," I reach for my brain.

LIV. Futurological predictions are just prescriptions without the courage of convictions.

LV. Evolution is not a design process, and no implemented design is more natural than any other.

LVI. The future, as it arrives, always kicks you in the crystal ball.

LVII. "Coincidence" is so much the spell that dispels magic it is easy to confuse its charm with the magic it displaces.

LVIII. While it is true that science's toypile can never connect consumers with Heaven, Job's dungheap never managed that trick for sinners either.

LIX. Separating people from their money promising they can get rich investing in the Next Big Thing or reassuring tragic gizmo-fetishes they are truly on the Bleeding Edge doesn't make you any kind of intellectual. It almost certainly does make you a scam artist, whether you are actually in on the scam yourself or not.

LX. All Your Gene Are Belong to Us

LXI. The Futurological Future: Same As It Ever Was.

LXII. The McKinley Administration + Robots. Sure, it sounds like feudalism, only... it's The Future!

LXIII. Far from endowing our artifacts with intelligence, we are mistaking for such endowment the process by which we are becoming ever more superficial and uncritical through our mediation and consumption of unintelligent artifacts.

LXIV. The Turing Test only tests us.

LXV. In coming to terms with the present, especially in grasping the meaning of what has taken us by surprise, we understand and, better still, become understanding. In predicting the future, especially in proposing coinages that would work as spells to dispel being taken by surprise, we become ever more susceptible to fraud and, worse still, become frauds. Where thinking is concerned, this is a variation on the difference between investment and speculation.

LXVI. Futurologists are a science fiction fandom pretending to be philosophers and policy wonks in a bid for attention and, for a few, for money.

LXVII. Futurological “scenarios” are usually just science fiction, but entirely bereft of clever plots, interesting characters, or sustained themes. Indeed, most futurological “scenarios” amount to little more than stipulated settings of a scene (hence their name). Inevitably, these settings are borrowed from actual science fiction writers, and given the plausibility that attaches to the familiar, futurologists tend to recycle those conceits real writers would disdain as cliches.

LXVIII. I Predict That In Twenty Years Futurological Predictions Will Still Inevitably Begin "I Predict That In Twenty Years"

LXIX. Futurology peddles expectations in the form of expectorations.

LXX. I know enough to know I don't know enough to be a scientific authority, while futurologists know enough to know that most people don't know enough to know the difference when they pretend to be scientific authorities.

LXXI. It is almost never safe to assume that something will happen just because it is technically feasible and obviously useful, but it is almost always safe to assume that something will not happen if it is more profitable to incumbent interests to frustrate it even when it is technically feasible and obviously useful.

LXXII. How do you know you're not conversing online with a bot? If you're really not sure, then you've become little better than a bot yourself so it doesn't much matter. Turing's Test was never really a measure of the arrival of artificial intelligence in nonhumans, but of the arrival in humans, through their involvement with idiotic implements, of artificial imbecillence.

LXXIII. Falling asleep in 1912 and waking up in 1962 would be such a flabbergasting leap into future shock you would probably think you were still dreaming. Falling asleep in 1962 and waking up in 2012 would be such a shattering disappointment you would probably crawl back to bed to return to your dreaming.

LXXIV. For decades the futurists crowed that robots would liberate laborers from the scourge of toil. Since the bosses predictably decided to pocket any extra profits the robots made, this meant instead restraining laborers to robotically meaningless low paying jobs and chronic unemployed poverty. Fewer futurists still anticipated laborers would then be seduced into buying cellphones that shackle them to their work every waking hour. Progress!

LXXV. When capitalists want you to forget The Revolution they talk to you about The Future.

LXXVI. Advertising is that grand enterprise through which the present is interminably and profitably re-branded and then re-sold as "The Future."

LXXVII. Today's tomorrow is nothing but less today peddled as more today.

LXXVIII. "X Changes Everything" + Elapsed Time = "Nothing Has Changed"

LXXIX. Cryonics isn't a more grisly way to treat a corpse than embalming is, but cryonics isn't a more scientific way to ensure the resurrection of a corpse than mummification is either.

LXXX. While it is true that paradigm shifts in the elaboration of human knowledge do indeed occur, it remains true as well that for every maverick dismissed as a crank there are countless cranks who fancy themselves mavericks.

LXXXI. Any sufficiently advanced futurology is indistinguishable from con artistry, er, magic.

LXXXII. They fear death who suspect their mortality but do not know it.

LXXXIII. I like my art revolutionary, my administration liberal, and my engineering conservative.

LXXXIV. It's hard to decide whether the futurological fantasists or the chemtrail conspiracists represent the most depressing derangement of environmentalism enabled by "geo-engineering" discourse.

LXXXV. When I was a kid every refrigerator had a bottle of Thousand Island dressing in it. Now, every refrigerator has a bottle of Ranch dressing in it. Progress under consumer capitalism is, we all know so well, marvelous and inexorable. Who knows what salad dressing will grace the refrigerators of the future?

LXXXVI. You Are Not A Picture of You. Brain emulation cheerleaders and uploading enthusiasts, please make a note of it.

LXXXVII. Crowdsourcing will always only amount to exploitation until it is subsidized by a public living income. Celebrating non-subsidized crowdsourcing is always only an apologia for plutocracy peddled as peer-to-peer.

LXXXVIII. Transhumanism paints its Future on black velvet.

LXXXIX. Things are getting so different so fast sometimes it's hard not to yawn from the future shock.

XC. Scientific exposures of the non-reality of freedom confuse an "ought" discussion with an "is" discussion. This confusion is not proof of fearless intellectual genius but of, you know, confusion.

XCI. Transhumanism wants to be Scientology when it grows up, Scientology wants to be Mormonism when it grows up, Mormonism wants to be Catholicism when it grows up, Catholicism wants to be the Empire when it grows up.

XCII. Successful mainstream futurology amplifies irrational consumption through marketing hype and makes profitable short term predictions for the benefit of investors, the only reliable source for which is insider information. Successful superlative futurology amplifies irrational greed and terror through the conjuration of a techno-transcendent vision of "The Future" peddled as long-term predictions the faithful in which provide unearned attention and money for the benefit of guru-wannabes and pseudo-experts, the source for which is science fiction mistaken for science practice and science policy. You will have noticed that fraud is the common denominator of futurology in both its mainstream and superlative modes.

XCIII. "The Singularity" happens not at the moment when machines become more intelligent than humans, but at the moment when the way humans talk about machines makes them less intelligent.

XCIV. Those who worry about workers being replaced by robots fail to grasp that workers being treated AS robots is always a more urgent worry -- and sets the terms for their robotic replacement as well.

XCV. "Artificial Intelligence" is always an essentially fetishistic misrecognition of computer-mediated relations among intelligent humans.

XCVI. For generations now science fiction cover art has prophetically anticipated the breathtaking future of America's amusement parks.

XCVII. Futurism is redundant, after all, since one can always be an actual scientist or policymaker if you want to contribute to technodevelopment, and one can always be a real sf fan if you want to be excited about highly speculative projected technoscience.

XCVIII. No matter how big Big Data gets it will still be dumb data.

XCIX. "Artificial Intelligence" is an unintelligent description of unintelligent artifacts by unintelligent people.

C. Futurologists saying things we can't do would be cool if we could do them aren't actually contributing to science. Futurologists saying things we can't do could be done if we discovered how to do them aren't actually saying anything. Futurologists saying we will discover how to do things we can't do just because we don't know we can't is fraud, or at best false advertising.

CI. Computers no more play games of chess than chess boards do.

CII. Silicon today, siligone tomorrow.

CIII. Transhumanism is an effort to pretend confusing humans for robots and mistreating humans as robots is a science of humans becoming robots.

CIV. VACUING, n., The practice of analogizing every practice with computer hacking in the expectation that this will provide insight, but with the consequence of evacuating all substance and interest.

CV. More cameras don't only converge onto "the facts" when more cameras also have more readers.

CVI. That we will be profiled by ubiquitous corporate-military surveillance may be irresistible. That we will be defined by these profiles as people or our status as citizens determined by them absolutely can and must be resisted.

CVII. Is there any sweeter song in all the world than elites peddling predation and denial as "optimism"?

CVIII. Books shouldn't have buttons, the better to push them.

CIX. Every book was already a screen, reading them on screens adds nothing but the threat of losing everything.

CX. Urgent truths are just as likely to be concealed as exposed by more data.

CXI. Whole Earth was TED before TED. You do realize nothing more damning could be said?

CXII. "We are as gods and might as well get good at it" is best read as an exhortation to non-existence for megalomaniacal technofetishists.

CXIII. "Stay hungry" is a curse and not a virtue in the world beneath privilege. "Stay foolish" is privilege making fools of the hungry.

CXIV. Prophesy's false promise destroys memory's true wisdom.

CXV. The singularity happens when we are all reduced to artificial imbecillence by autocorrect.

CXVI. Because of the futurological framing of history they buy into, tech companies are forever confusing crap consumers buy with history.

CXVII. Google Glassholes all think they are Locutus of Borg. But we will not be assimilated.

CXVIII. Always an ought and never an is, "coolness" is not in features themselves but in the investment of features with a narrative of transcendence. And the discourse of "innovation" now amounts mostly to skirmishes over this coolness.

CXIX. There's a persistent mismatch between techies who desire gadgets that help them pretend to live in or closer to "The Future" and consumers who desire gadgets that actually do useful things well in the present.

CXX. "Trends" are not ridden but written.

CXXI. If you think about "technology" as singular not plural, as noun not verb, as destiny not history, as it not us, you're doing it wrong.

CXXII. Compared with the Pill, the "digital revolution" really is a nonstory, and one endlessly retold only because men fancy themselves the protagonists.

CXXIII. Every time a person uses the word "meme" a human mind loses her wings.

CXXIV. Making their new predictions is the way futurologists distract you from the failure of their old predictions.

CXXV. "tl;dr" is the appropriately illiterate abbreviation for the self confession: "Too stupid, won't read."

CXXVI. The social and cultural study of technoscientific changes does not threaten discovery but only marketing.

CXXVII. Those who decry the menacing relativism of situated technoscience scholarship rarely have something to tell us but invariably have something to sell us.

CXXVIII. There is no more fundamental misrecognition of the force of science fiction than to think it concerns what if more than what is.

CXXIX. The thing you need to remember about the Luddites is that smashing machines is itself a machine. As they well knew.

CXXX. Design ideology's self-congratulatory MAYA Principle declares "Most Advanced Yet Acceptable" what is usually Merely Adequate Yet Acclaimed.

CXXXI. When science fiction conceits become too tired even for hacks, that's when futurists can be counted on to arrive to turn them into ad copy.

CXXXII. To lose the expectation of privacy is substantially to lose the presumption of innocence. To live under surveillance and profiling is always to be committing the not-yet-determinable crimes for which you are being framed.

CXXXIII. The pretense that Technology "Is" a thing enables only the technology writer/promoter, just as the pretense that there "Is" a God enables only the priest.

CXXXIV. The quintessential literary genre of the neoliberal epoch, our Digital Gilded Age, is the futurological scenario: an indulgence in artless, reductive, promotional fraud.

CXXXV. Just as the futurological championing of "enhanced" humans is really an expression of disdain for the living diversity of humans with which we share the world peddled as the generosity of healthcare, futurological enthusiasm for space as an "escape hatch" from political and environmental problems is an expression of disdain for the living earth on which we have evolved to flourish peddled as the wonder of exploration.

CXXXVI. A futurist's resume is a dating profile in which hobbies and interests are mistaken for areas of expertise. This reflects the fact that corporations are the only people willing to date futurists, my friend.

CXXXVII. Reactionary discourse in general misconstrues observations as predictions, usually in the form of threats, while reactionary futurological discourse in particular peddles predictions as observations.

CXXXIX. The wireless future is the rabbit ears past.

CXL. Pretending software is people interferes with the work to make software more user-friendly or networks more secure in much the same way that pretending corporations are people interferes with the work of democratizing enterprise.

CXLI. "Transparency" names official interpretations that target and frame you for the benefit of incumbent elites via traces they select from the ones you leave. "Transparency" is plutocracy's opacity.

CXLII. Futurology is an anti-disciplinarity pretending to be inter-disciplinary.

CXLIII. There is no such thing as "the internet" apart from laws, norms, practices, affordances that exceed "the internet." There are no natural, spontaneous, abiding, spatial realities that are either "the internet" or "the market," only histories, contingencies, and parochialisms. It is no surprise that arguments presumably defending, saving, promoting "the free internet" are made so often by the same people who make arguments defending, saving, promoting "the free market" -- and so often in ways that re-enact the false, facile terms made defending, saving, promoting "the free market" -- nor that the freedoms that would be sited and secured there inevitably find no hook to hang their hat on.

CXLIV. The downcast eyes of people staring into cellphones, penitents forever contemplating their unredeemable Original Debt to consumer society.

CXLV. Every libertechbrotarianism rationalizes techbroverlordism.

CXLVI. AI discourse is mostly an hilarious effort to mansplain intelligence to an indifferent reality.

CXLVII. It is revealing how often the choice of effective, familiar, appropriate techniques and technologies over untried or unduly complex ones will invite charges of "luddism" or "technophobia."

CXLVIII. Futurism is the denial of futurity. Futurology is the appropriation of the emergent by the dominant.

CXLIX. Our futurity is not The Future: Progress is a struggle, not a marketing campaign.

CL. The internet without a safety net leaves everybody smashed on the Coasean Floor.

CLI. Digitization didn't smash the state, it is the crisis in which the interminable alternative is posed to a new generation: Socialism or Barbarism?

CLII. Universal BIG + Zero IP = Free As In Democracy

CLIII. There are real unethical robots in the military to worry about and they are all Brass.

CLIV. Phanwanking, phanwankery, n. -- related to fanboy fanwanking/fanwankery, a form of ludicrously elaborate rationalization to which futurologists are prone, but involving speculative pseudo-science rather than speculative science-fiction.

CLV. Singularitarians have a black hole where their brains should be.

CLVI. Techno-utopians like AI-deadenders and missiledefense-deadenders truly seem to love crowing over test results that reveal nothing but their serial failures.

CLVII. Using the term "technology," like using the passive voice, distracts attention from or disavows responsibility for actions of human beings.

CLVIII. Futurology peddles SF's poetry as prophesy to profiteers for profit.

CLIX. The priests of artificial intelligence offering up their digital confessions and performing their digital exorcisms will never ameliorate the work of software as a worldly instrument of terror.

CLX. Climate change is already the end of the world for countless people on earth, and to displace climate catastrophe onto "The Future" is always first of all an ugly admission of indifference to suffering and death in the present.

CLXI. The Future is always a violent occupation of the present.

CLXII. Techno-transcendentalists really bring the idiocy to theodicy.

CLXIII. When it comes to the movies, most science fiction would be more accurately described as pseudoscience fiction.

CLXIV. Perhaps the President could declare the internet a National Park or Wilderness Area and fund it by making advertisers pay through the nose for trying to pollute the place.

CLXV. Futurology is what happens to thinking when marketing happens to commonsense.

CLXVI. Futurist explains it's supposed to suck. Demands payment.

CLXVII. Body-Cameras as the ready technofix for the political problem of police violence disavows the politics policing the significance of surveilled images. It is all too easy for the police to frame an avalanche of mediated spam, flak and spin as "transparency": After all, the same stratifications enabling police violence will articulate the interpretation of its image.

CLXVIII. Every panopticism is always a pancryptism: every transparency is enabled by opacities.

CLXIX. Prior to the positing of any "technofix" for a political problem is always the technofixation that disavows its politics to subvert politics.

CLXX. Our digital devices are documenting stasis not progress.

CLXXI. Futurology in its techno-transcendental moods is infantile wish-fulfillment, in its existential risk moods infantile attention seeking.

CLXXII. tr;dl: too real, didn't live

CLXXIII. Every tool and every technique is a text.

CLXXIV. It makes sense, I suppose, that robot cultists would be so robotically predictable.

CLXXV. First as futurism, then as food court.

CLXXVI. To declare yourself a "Friend of the Future" is always to ally with its stakeholders against those of every alternate future, and against open futurity as such.

CLXXVII. The Future of the futurologists is the lottery you will never win.

CLXXVIII. The problem with pleas for more "positive" or "utopian" sf is that they are essentially efforts to replace literature with advertising.

CLXXIX. Human beings are capable of almost anything. Hope is the last thing we should draw from this recognition, but it is one thing.

CLXXX. To trouble long definitive human limits with technoscientific change is not to put an end to all limits but to create and confront new ones.

CLXXXI. Foresight under capitalism amounts mainly to marketing failed warnings as successful predictions.

CLXXXII. Futurologists want to be corporate consultants who are taken to be culture critics.

CLXXXIII. Futurology is a form of masturbation resulting in neologism.

CLXXXIV. Predicting the future mirrors glorifying the past. Both conduce more to reaction than progress.

CLXXXV. Foresight arises from critical, empathetic, and scientific engagements in and with the present, while "predicting the future" is usually just a short-term sales pitch, a rationalization of abuses, or the reassurance of elites masquerading as foresight.

CLXXXVI. The digital utopians crowed we were witnessing a transition from atoms to bits. What we are witnessing instead is a transition from owners to renters, from peers to debtors, from citizens to targets.

CLXXXVII. Anything wearable is technology, so much of the work of “wearable technology” discourse is to deny most wearable technology is technology.

CLXXXVIII. When neoliberal futurologists replace public intellectuals and corporate-military think-tanks replace universities, you can be sure that marketing elite-incumbency in the name of "The Future" will replace the emancipatory work of understanding our present.

CLXXXIX. Driverless cars, 3D-printers, bitcoin will sweep the world! -- Futurists
Hula-Hoops, Frisbees, Slip'N Slides will sweep the world! -- Wham-O

CXC. The Future is Then.

CXCI. "Trends" are not actually existing phenomena exerting influence in the world or uniquely observable by futurological experts, trends are instead a narrative genre to which futurologists are devoted, simplifying to the point of denying history and hence providing reactionary rationalizations for and reassurances to incumbent elites.

CXCII. Those who forget the crappy commodities of the past are doomed to buy the same crap marketed as something new over and over again.

CXCIII. Ever notice how everything looks like a design problem to self-designated designers?

CXCIV. Design is what politics looks like when elite minorities make decisions for majorities and pretend it's okay because design isn't politics.

CXCV. There are basically two kinds of tech company: the ones that should be prosecuted for fraud and the ones that should be nationalized as public utilities.

CXCVI. "Future Shock" is what happens when advertizing hyping stasis as novelty, progress, and disruption makes you yawn so hard your head splits in half.

CXCVII. Why pine for escape to extra-terrestrial hellscapes when we can work to keep earth from becoming an alter-terrestrial hellscape instead?

CXCVIII. If you think the future is for predicting things in you've already gotten everything wrong.

CXCIX. I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian now, but obviously in The Future will be a digi-nano vegetarian.

CC. Curious the number of champions of artificial intelligence and artificial life who are unintelligent and don't have a life.

CCI. Rugged Individualism in the Technological Society: The body a cyborg shell made of genes and guns, the soul a target made of computation and marketing.

CCI. Superintelligent AI is like chemtrails for rich white tech CEOs.

CCII. If you are worried about superintelligence you should be worried about your intelligence.

CCIII. Algorithms may have a cult but they can never have a culture.

CCIV. After a quarter century of futurological criticism I can say with some confidence that The Singularity is an asshole.

CCV. It is worse than wrong to attribute intelligence or agency to an artifact, for not only is it neither but you too will have less of either.

CCVI. If you would "stop killer robots" you need only ensure those humans who make them to kill or use them to kill pay much more for so doing than they can ever profit.

CCVII. "Let us strangle the last tech CEO with the guts of the last techbro." -- Twenis Twitterot

CCVIII. When accelerating futurological marketing finally fools us into investing dull artifacts with the zing of intelligence and agency we will arrive at the zingularity.

CCIX. So much "futurological methodology" simply amounts to conventional con-man discipline: pick your buzzwords, keep a straight face, stay upbeat, stick to your story...

CCX. "Hard SF" gives techbros erections with a fetishism of gizmos and numbers, "Soft SF" causes techbro shrinkage with an awareness of social struggle and diversity.

CCXI. The People do not arise from The Internet, what passes for the internet arises from the struggles of people.

CCXII. Dear Futurists: Everything changes something but nothing changes everything. Please make a note of it.

CCXIII. Funhouse Mirror Stage: The future of the unconscious will be structured like Big Data.

CCXIV. Most futurologists are hacks peddling themselves as hackers.

CCXV. The technofix is always in.

CCXVI. Only tools talk of only tools.

CCXVII. Techbro + Mansplaining = Techbro-it-alls.

CCXVIII. Professional futurologists engage in two essential activities: making predictions and scolding people for expecting their predictions to come true.

CCXIX. "The Future" is tech bubbles all the way down.

CCXX.Why is it futurologists gazing in a crystal ball always see consumers grazing in a crystal mall?

CCXXI. "How do we make robots moral?" is a nonsensical question.
"How do we make roboticists moral?" is an indispensable question.

CCXXII. The "open" in Open Source is always open "for business."

CCXXIII. The term for an historical period in which most people are deliberately uninformed and misinformed is, apparently, an "Information Age."

CCXXIV. Everybody knows if you make a pile of abacuses high enough it will wake up and end history.

CCXXV. An Apple watch handcuff encircling our wrists to hector us every second of the day is truly the techbro idea of a virtuous circle.

CCXXVI. Extrapolation always begins as a parochialism and usually ends as an evangelism.

CCXXVII. Accounts of historical change that assume technological determinism or autonomous technology do not make tools into historical agents but deny historical agency to all but those incumbent elites who own and control most tools.

CCXXVIII. Fight The Feudal Future!

CCXXIX. Tech Talkers will never stop selling their landfill hellscape as a toypile to heaven. But we can stop buying it.

CCXXX. Sensawundabread: The uncritical enthusiasm of gizmo-fandoms for useless landfill-destined consumer crap peddled as paradigm-shattering.

CCXXXI. Nothing is more deranging to foresight than the pretense that it has anything to do with that impoverished imaginary object, "The Future."

CCXXXII. "Technology" is the magic word that turns progressive feelings into reactionary dealings.

CCXXXIII. There's nothing like a tech demo to reveal there's a sucker re-born every minute.

CCXXXIV. "Progress" is definitely not the word I would use to describe the replacement of the Space Age with the Cyberspace Age.

CCXXXV. "The Future" of the futurists has nothing to do with history. "The Future" is Heaven. "The Future" is Hell. "The Future" is Eden. "The Future" is Rapture. "The Future" does not, nor will it ever, exist.

CCXXXVI. The aspiration as well as the work of "The Internet of Things" has never been otherwise than to mediate the reduction of people to things.

CCXXXVII. Fermi's Truism? There are no signs of terrestrial civilization despite the abundance of apparently intelligent humans on earth.

CCXXXVIII. Free As In "Free, Just Pay!"

CCXXXIX. Do enjoy the micromoment of microlife afforded by this micropayment.

CCXL. Science is suffused with Not Knowing. Pseudo-science is enthused with Know-Nothings and Know-It-Alls.

CCXLI. No technodevelopmental outcomes are inevitable but that futurologists will declare them so.

CCXLII. The more things stay the same, the more they are marketed as change.

CCXLIII. Any sufficiently advanced magical thinking is indistinguishable from technology journalism.

CCXLIV. The Future's so bright I gotta give shade.

CCXLV. Truly effective Ad Blocker software would blank out most financial and technology journalism.

CCXLVI. Ever notice how films presumably dramatizing the implications of the Turing Test actually test whether a human actor can pass as a computer?

CCXLVII. The futurological delight in the term "resilience" is the ugly celebration of the capacity of some people to survive abuse and neglect so that plutocrats can accumulate more wealth.

CCXLVIII. It is odd that the proposal technodevelopment could be driven by sustainability concerns is regarded as fanciful when our survival actually depends on it. It is also odd that the assumption technodevelopment will always be driven by military concerns is regarded as realistic when it actually threatens our annihilation.It is odd that the proposal technodevelopment could be driven by sustainability concerns is regarded as fanciful when our survival actually depends on it. It is also odd that the assumption technodevelopment will always be driven by military concerns is regarded as realistic when it actually threatens our annihilation. With such conventional wisdom, I don't like our odds.

CCXLIX. The denial of human finitude is not transcendence but tantrum.

CCL. Any sufficiently marketed technology is indistinguishable from tragic.

CCLI. Tech-talk is the promotion of zeros as ones.

CCLII. It's telling how often the results of the "fully customizable" are indistinguishable.

CCLIII. The Driverless Car is the futurological promise we will save ourselves from car-culture by saving... car culture!

CCLIV. When someone declares themselves a "technologist" it is usually safest to assume they are bragging about using language and wearing clothes.

CCLV. Your favorite critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic drama will return after a word from these polluting luxury sedans, landfill-destined handheld devices and fraudulent pharmaceutical products.

CCLVI. "Ecce Homo!" -- every selfie ever.

CCLVII. Startups don't impress me, but their endups do amuse me.


jimf said...

> Every priestly peddler of immortality has died.

Except for the ones that haven't, or who have risen again.
Of course, in those cases, enthusiastic followers may be
suspected of having indulged in a bit of historical
revisionism. ;->

Funny, though, how malleable some folks' conception
of reality is in the face of True Belief, even as
concerns a topic so seemingly incontrovertible as death.

How many fingers, Winston?

“He has now moved on to his next OT, level of OT research.
This level is beyond anything any one of us ever imagined.
This level is in fact done in an exterior state, meaning that
it is done completely exterior from the body. At this level
of OT, the body is nothing more than an impediment and
encumbrance to any further gain as an OT. Thus at 2000 hours,
Friday the 24th of January, AD 1986, L. Ron Hubbard discarded
the body he had used in this lifetime for 74 years, 10 months
and 11 days. The body he had used to facilitate his existence,
in this MEST universe had ceased to be useful and in fact
had become an impediment to the work he now must do outside
of its confines. He felt it was important as Scientologists
that you were the first to become aware of this fact.
I can understand that many of you are probably feeling
the effects of a Secondary, however it is important that you
can put this in the proper perspective. LRH defines a body
in the Tech dictionary as, ‘An identifying form or a
non identifying form, to facilitate the control of,
the communication of and width, and the havingness of
the thetan in his existence in the MEST universe. The body
is a physical object. It is not the being himself.’
The being we knew as L. Ron Hubbard still exists, however
the body he had could no longer serve his purposes. His
decision was one made at complete cause by L. Ron Hubbard.”

-- David Miscavige at the announcement of L. Ron Hubbard’s death,
Hollywood Palladium, January 27, 1986.

(as quoted at )

jimf said...

> Few salesmen would properly be mistaken for intellectuals.
> To be marketable is not the same thing as to be insightful.
> There are few modes of discourse more debased and debasing
> than self-promotion.
> If you would find a conformist, look first to those who declare
> their faith in Progress.

[T]he modern American business man knows how to talk right up for
himself, knows how to make it good and plenty clear that he intends
to run the works. He doesn’t have to call in some highbrow hired-man
when it’s necessary for him to answer the crooked critics of the
sane and efficient life. . .

With all modesty, I want to stand up here as a representative
business man and gently whisper, “Here’s our kind of folks!
Here’s the specifications of the Standardized American Citizen!
Here’s the new generation of Americans. . . We’re not doing any
boasting, but we like ourselves firstrate, and if you don’t
like us, look out -- better get under cover before the cyclone hits town !”

So! In my clumsy way I have tried to sketch the Real He-man,
the fellow with Zip and Bang. And it’s because Zenith has so
large a proportion of such men that it’s the most stable, the greatest
of our cities. New York also has its thousands of Real Folks,
but New York is cursed with unnumbered foreigners. So are
Chicago and San Francisco. Oh, we have a golden roster of
cities—Detroit and Cleveland with their renowned factories,
Cincinnati with its great machine-tool and soap products,
Pittsburgh and Birmingham with their steel, Kansas City and
Minneapolis and Omaha. . . And all these cities stand together for power
and purity, and against foreign ideas and communism -- Atlanta with
Hartford, Rochester with Denver, Milwaukee with Indianapolis, Los
Angeles with Scranton, Portland, Maine, with Portland, Oregon. A
good live wire from Baltimore or Seattle or Duluth is the twinbrother
of every like fellow booster from Buffalo or Akron, Fort
Worth or Oskaloosa!

jimf said...

But it’s here in Zenith, the home for manly men and womanly
women and bright kids, that you find the largest proportion of
these Regular Guys, and that’s what sets it in a class by itself; that’s
why Zenith will be remembered in history as having set the pace for
a civilization that shall endure when the old time-killing ways are
gone forever. . .

I tell you, Zenith and her sister-cities are producing a new
type of civilization. . . The extraordinary, growing,
and sane standardization of stores, offices, streets, hotels,
clothes, and newspapers throughout the United States shows how
strong and enduring a type is ours. . .

I claim that Zenith is the best partner and the fastest-growing partner
of the whole caboodle. . . Every intelligent person knows that Zenith
manufactures more condensed milk and evaporated cream, more
paper boxes, and more lighting-fixtures, than any other city in the
United States, if not in the world. But it is not so universally
known that we also stand second in the manufacture of packagebutter,
sixth in the giant realm of motors and automobiles, and
somewhere about third in cheese, leather findings, tar roofing,
breakfast food, and overalls! . . .

I believe, however, in keeping the best to the last. When I
remind you that we have one motor car for every five and seven-eighths
persons in the city, then I give a rock-ribbed practical indication
of the kind of progress and braininess which is synonymous
with the name Zenith!

jimf said...

But the way of the righteous is not all roses. Before I close
I must call your attention to a problem we have to face, this coming
year. The worst menace to sound government is not the
avowed socialists but a lot of cowards who work under cover—the
long-haired gentry who call themselves “liberals” and “radicals”
and “non-partisan” and “intelligentsia” and God only knows how
many other trick names! Irresponsible teachers and professors
constitute the worst of this whole gang, and I am ashamed to say
that several of them are on the faculty of our great State
University! The U. is my own Alma Mater, and I am proud to be
known as an alumni, but there are certain instructors there who
seem to think we ought to turn the conduct of the nation over to
hoboes and roustabouts.

Those profs are the snakes to be scotched—they and all their
milk-and-water ilk! The American business man is generous to a
fault, but one thing he does demand of all teachers and lecturers
and journalists: if we’re going to pay them our good money,
they’ve got to help us by selling efficiency and whooping it up for
rational prosperity! And when it comes to these blab-mouth, fault-
finding, pessimistic, cynical University teachers, let me tell you
that during this golden coming year it’s just as much our duty to
bring influence to have those cusses fired as it is to sell all the real
estate and gather in all the good shekels we can.

Not till that is done will our sons and daughters see that the
ideal of American manhood and culture isn’t a lot of cranks sitting
around chewing the rag about their Rights and their Wrongs, but a
God-fearing, hustling, successful, two-fisted Regular Guy, who
belongs to some church with pep and piety to it, who belongs to the
Boosters or the Rotarians or the Kiwanis, to the Elks or Moose or Red
Men or Knights of Columbus or any one of a score of organizations
of good, jolly, kidding, laughing, sweating, upstanding, lend-a-handing
Royal Good Fellows, who plays hard and works hard, and whose
answer to his critics is a square-toed boot that’ll teach the grouches
and smart alecks to respect the He-man and get out and root for Uncle
Samuel, U.S.A.!

-- Sinclair Lewis, _Babbitt_ (1922)
(quoted at )