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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Revolutionary Fanwanking of the Robot Cultists

Adapted and upgraded from the Moot
Commenting on my post The Fandom Menace "Summerspeaker" proposes that
While fandom as you describe it is one element of transhumanism, the movement contains a meaningful political ideology as well. Like Marxism, anarchism, and radical feminism, it advocates fundamental change in the world and a path to get there. It's this unabashedly revolutionary spirit that I find so thoroughly appealing.

Let's take a look at the key bits one at a time:
the movement contains a meaningful political ideology

I disagree. To the extent that ideology is present in futurological discourse it is usually altogether familiar left-progressive or reactionary-oligarchic ideology onto which a bit of big-talk techno-whizbang has been awkwardly appended in my view. I daresay sometimes transhumanists will also introduce a dose of reductionist-scientism and/or eugenicism into the mix, which I will admit are also fully-fledged ideologies. But, again, these are neither of them exactly new or unique to transhumanism, just, you know, ugly and wrongheaded in well-understood ways.
advocates fundamental change in the world and a path to get there

It is a commonplace to say that technoscientific change has historically been and can be expected to remain fundamental in at least some of its aspects in times to come. One need not turn to silly Robot Cultists of all people for insights or guidance in these matters. Handwaving that "science" will soon spit out a superlative toy pile delivering superintelligence, superlongevity, and superabundance hardly looks like "advocat[ing]... a path," properly so-called, in my book. But, then, I have actual standards.
unabashedly revolutionary spirit

I do realize that we have all been so regularly bombarded with advertizing claims that this or that landfill-destined gew-gaw represents a consumer revolution (join the shaving revolution with five blades! now with the revolutionary EZ-pour spout! now with revolutionary extra stain remover packet!) that we have allowed that term to be evacuated of all content, but as a student of revolutionary phenomena I must say that I for one fail to see how pining for capacitition via undercritical faith in technoscientific progress amounts to "unabashed revolutionism." May I recommend, at a bare minimum, that you read at least Arendt's On Revolution before falling for such PR crapola? Is every dot-eyed fundy praying to their sooper-parental Sky Daddy for eternal life among harp-strings and roseate clouds an "unabashed revolutionary" in your view, just because they think big even if their thinking isn't really very thought-like come to think of it?

73 comments:

Summerspeaker said...

You've yet so much as show any robot cults exist, Dale. If they do, I'm not familiar with them. The fact that transhumanism includes and/or combines with various existing ideologies hardly should exclude its membership from the club. Well-established worldviews such anarchism and radical feminism likewise share features and accept integration with their peers. Thus we have anarcha-feminism, socialist feminism, communist anarchism, and so on. This is normal and natural. The specific element that transhumanism brings to the table would be the desirability of modifying the body. Anarchism identifies the illegitimacy of the state, communism opposes the oppression of capital, and transhumanism struggles against the tyranny of biology.

As a practicing anarchist on the street as well as a student the historical social movement, I have no sympathy for or interest in consumer revolutions. Transhumanism is revolutionary in that it proposes solving unpleasant aspect of the human condition such as aging and disease. I cannot help but applaud that. Needless to say, I consider the scientific foundation of our predictions far firmer than you suggest. Perhaps more than anything else that underlies our disagreement.

Dale Carrico said...

You've yet so much as show any robot cults exist, Dale.

Given the thousands upon thousands of words I have devoted to this topic, most of the best of which are archived by topic on the sidebar, I am quite content to suggest that if I haven't shown you anything that passes muster for you on this score yet that I am little likely to manage it otherwise. Some people eventually have to agree to disagree and take what comes.

You propose that transhumanism "brings to the table" the notion of "modifying the body" -- while for me it is quite clear that all culture is prosthetic and all prostheses are culture (this is one of my Futurological Brickbats, archived at the sidebar if you care to read more), that what counts as "the body" in the first place has always been the socially legible and normatively freighted body, that body modification has been "on the table" since before humans were using language or settling into lifeways. At this level of generality, "transhumanists" are just stumbling onto a facile grasp of what thinkers have been talking about when they talk about politics, sociality, culture for millenia. You'll forgive me if I fail to be impressed by the slogans futurological gurus bring to this discussion in their efforts to seize online and mass-media attention.

I must add that while most people agree that medicine is a good thing, that it is better to a live a longer and healthier and more flourishing life than not, that more choices and capacities are better than fewer, and so on, especially if all the costs, risks, and benefits are equitably distributed by their lights to all the stakeholders to their development, I for don't see how this altogether mainstream-legible viewpoint is an attitude fostered in the least by the framing all too typical of transhumanist-types of "biology as tyranny" (a statement which seems to me a symptom of mental illness, frankly).

Transhumanism is revolutionary in that it proposes solving unpleasant aspect of the human condition such as aging and disease. I cannot help but applaud that.

Unfortunately, applauding is pretty much all you people can do. "Clap louder and pass the collection plate" seems to me pretty much the whole of your, ahem, "revolutionary program." Nobody likes to be ill or frustrated, particularly, but transhumanists and the other superlative futurologists seem to have come to the perplexing conclusion that their own declarations of discomfort and frustration in these matters constitute some kind of stunning unique worldview. It is very odd, and it becomes nothing but odder the most closely you scrutinize it, I must say.

I consider the scientific foundation of our predictions far firmer than you suggest

No doubt that is why vanishingly few practicing scientists say the sorts of things you Robot Cultists do in peer-reviewed and actually cited papers, while most of the people who do say the things you Robot Cultists do are sf-fanboys and coders in the veal-fattening pens of white suburbia.

Dale Carrico said...

As a practicing anarchist on the street as well as a student the historical social movement, I have no sympathy for or interest in consumer revolutions.

If this statement is sincere and if your intelligence is the least bit diligent, you will not long remain enamored of the futurological congress. May I suggest this?

Summerspeaker said...

If this statement is sincere and if your intelligence is the least bit diligent, you will not long remain enamored of the futurological congress.

Sincerity I posses in spades. I make no similar claims about intelligence; I favor enhancement for a reason. To clarify, I wouldn't say I'm exactly enamored with the current transhumanist scene. My blog exists to critique the movement. You make many solid points when you get past the robot cult fixation, but I've chosen the path of trying alter transhumanism from within rather than assault it from without. I find the notion of leveraging technology to address problems considered unsolvable too profoundly liberating and revolutionary to discard. It's a natural extension of the old anarchist dream.

Summerspeaker said...

Given the thousands upon thousands of words I have devoted to this topic, most of the best of which are archived by topic on the sidebar, I am quite content to suggest that if I haven't shown you anything that passes muster for you on this score yet that I am little likely to manage it otherwise.

Perhaps I've missed the content because of sheer volume, but I've only read assertions. No substance. You can read on my blog how I define the distinction between religions and secular ideologies. Transhumanism lacks both effective authority and belief the in supernatural. As such, it fails to qualify as a cult.

At this level of generality, "transhumanists" are just stumbling onto a facile grasp of what thinkers have been talking about when they talk about politics, sociality, culture for millenia.

This reminds me of how certain folks my field talk about postmodernism.

"Oh, that. We historians have known that for ages! Foucault brought nothing new to the table. I was doing discourse analysis long before it became trendy."

Few have talked about modifying the body and mind in the way transhumanists do because the required technology is in its infancy even now. The enhancements we desire differ from those culture can produce.

I must add that while most people agree that medicine is a good thing, that it is better to a live a longer and healthier and more flourishing life than not, that more choices and capacities are better than fewer, and so on, especially if all the costs, risks, and benefits are equitably distributed by their lights to all the stakeholders to their development, I for don't see how this altogether mainstream-legible viewpoint is an attitude fostered in the least by the framing all too typical of transhumanist-types of "biology as tyranny" (a statement which seems to me a symptom of mental illness, frankly).

Considering the wailing and gnashing of teeth I consistently encounter at the mere mention Aubrey de Grey, you'll forgive me if I'm not convinced here. The extent to which people worship death confounds the brain. Despite your best efforts to make transhumanism seem like old hat, the fact is that numerous folks vehemently reject the desirability of indefinite lifespan and morphological freedom. I know this from firsthand experience.

I should note that I draw the phrase "the tyranny of biology" from radical feminist writer Shulamith Firestone. I would call her an early transhumanist, though she's not widely recognized as such. She advocated using artificial wombs to free women from being the means of reproduction and thus as a critical part of the feminist revolution. Her plan additionally included the casual acceptance of human-level thinking machines that would bolster the desired automated communistic economy once they appeared. If radical feminism is mental illness, then I'm crazier than a cuckoo.

You need not experience childbirth to understand how biology oppresses, however. Each time I'm sick or injured I remember.

Unfortunately, applauding is pretty much all you people can do.

For better or worse, transhumanists with wealth and influence do far more. Some of them (de Grey, Goertzel) are personally developing the technologies of the future. My relative impotence as a transhumanist activist reflects my general lack of power. I do only incrementally better for other causes. Such is life on the margins.

No doubt that is why vanishingly few practicing scientists say the sorts of things you Robot Cultists do in peer-reviewed and actually cited papers, while most of the people who do say the things you Robot Cultists do are sf-fanboys and coders in the veal-fattening pens of white suburbia.

Worrying about 2050 makes little sense as practicing scientist. Few are a lucky enough to get a forty year grant. They're not typically futurologists and have no reason to be.

Dale Carrico said...

I've only read assertions. No substance.

Well, no problem for you then.

Dale Carrico said...

The extent to which people worship death confounds the brain.

The extent to which Robot Cultists make this palpably batshit crazy claim confounds the brain.

Dale Carrico said...

I draw the phrase "the tyranny of biology" from radical feminist writer Shulamith Firestone.

I daresay there are many technoscientifically literate technodevelopmentally concerned feminists you have neglected to read, and very much to your cost.

Dale Carrico said...

biology oppresses

Hey, paranoid dude, biology isn't a person oppressing you.

Dale Carrico said...

de Grey, Goertzel... are personally developing the technologies of the future

bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Dale Carrico said...

I favor enhancement

There is no such thing as "enhancement in general" for you either to favor or disfavor -- there are only cultural/prosthetic interventions that enhance -- whom among others? what as opposed to what? in the service of what end at the expense in what other end? according to what standard as opposed to which others? against the ground of what norm as against what others? Handwaving about "enhancement" in general, like handwaving about "technology" in general is an active obfuscation masquerading as insight on the part of charlatans and ignoramuses. Feel free to disregard as substance-free these "assertions" of mine. Good luck with that.

Dale Carrico said...

I find the notion of leveraging technology to address problems considered unsolvable too profoundly liberating and revolutionary to discard.

Discard? Wake up the slumber of the Robot Cult, and you'll notice that the idea of folks applying consensus science and sound techniques, peer to peer, to the solution of shared problems is a commonplace.

Robot Cultists of all people didn't invent, do not exemplify, and have never yet contributed anything of substance to this wholesome notion, though their hyperbole, their reductionism, their moralism, their activation of irrational passions have done plenty in my view to derange sensible and progressive technodevelopmental deliberation at the worst possible moment and very much in ways that conduce to the disproportionate benefit of incumbent interests.

Again, I recommend you survey Environmental Justice literature and Science and Technology Studies, if you truly care about these issues. I'm treating you generously, quit while you're ahead.

Athena Andreadis said...

Far be it from me to deny anyone the comfort of his religion. But as a molecular neurobiologist who's doing research on regulation of brain genes that link to dementia, I must add that de Grey has zero qualifications and has not uttered a single original statement. His "work" is rehashed Bio 101 from the seventies.

The infallible marks of charlatans is that they 1) they present themselves as misunderstood and persecuted geniuses and 2) they speak of physics to computer programmers and of biology to physicists.

jimf said...

> I do realize that we have all been so regularly bombarded with
> advertizing claims that this or that landfill-destined gew-gaw
> represents a consumer revolution (join the shaving revolution
> with five blades! now with the revolutionary EZ-pour spout!
> now with revolutionary extra stain remover packet!) that we have
> allowed that term to be evacuated of all content. . .

You know, somebody who doesn't read the technical (and techno-business)
press might be forgiven for thinking that this sort of evacuated
marketing is restricted to the manufacturers of laundry soap or
dishwashing liquid. Far from it!

Joel Spolsky, the CEO of a software company in New York who has
become something of a Web pundit on the computer programming
biz, writes entertainingly about this in his book _Joel on Software_.

(Chapter 14, "Don't Let Architecture Astronauts Scare You"
[Saturday, April 21, 2001], p. 111)

"When great thinkers think about problems, they start to see
patterns. . . [O]ur clever thinker invents. . . new, higher,
broader abstraction[s]. . ., but now it's getting **really**
vague and nobody really knows what they're talking about any
more. . .

When you go too far up, abstraction-wise, you run out of oxygen.
Sometimes, smart thinkers just don't know when to stop, because
they won't stop thinking about architecture. . . They tend to
work for really big companies that can afford to have lots of
unproductive people with really advanced degrees that don't
contribute to the bottom line. . .

Another common thing Architecture Astronauts like to do is
invent some new architecture and claim it solves something.
Java, XML, Soap, XML-RPC, HailStorm, .NET, Jini, oh lord I
can't keep up. And that's just in the last 12 months!

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with these architectures...
by no means. They are quite good architectures. What bugs me
is the stupendous amount of millennial **hype** that surrounds
them. Remember the Microsoft .NET white paper [June, 2000]?

'The next generation of the Windows desktop platform,
Windows.NET supports productivity, creativity, management,
entertainment, and much more, and it is designed to put users
in control of their digital lives.'

That was about nine months ago. Last month, we got
Microsoft HailStorm. That white paper [March, 2001] says:

'People are not in control of the technology that surround
them. . . HailStorm makes the technology in your life work
together on your behalf and under your control.'

Oh, good, so now the high-tech halogen light in my apartment will
stop blinking randomly. . .

And don't even **remind** me of the fertilizer George Gilder
spread about Java [August, 1995]:

'A fundamental break in the history of technology. . .'

That's one sure tip-off to the fact that you're being assaulted
by an Architecture Astronaut: the incredible about of bombast;
the heroic, utopian grandiloquence; the boastfulness; the complete
lack of reality. And people buy it! The business press goes
wild!

Why the hell are people so impressed by boring architectures that
often amount to nothing more than a new format on the wire for
RPC, or a new virtual machine? These things might be good
architectures, and they will certainly benefit the developers who
use them, but they are **not**, I repeat, **not**, a good
substitute for the messiah riding his white ass into Jerusalem,
or world peace. No, Microsoft, computers are **not** suddenly
going to start reading our minds and doing what we want automatically
just because everyone in the world has to have a Passport
account. No, Sun, we're **not** going to be able to analyze our
corporate sales data 'as simply as putting a DVD into your
home theater system.'"

;->

Summerspeaker said...

The extent to which Robot Cultists make this palpably batshit crazy claim confounds the brain.

All sorts of people have told me that it's natural and morally right for human beings to grow feeble, suffer, and die. I will never accept that sort of thinking. Here I find transhumanism valuable.

I daresay there are many technoscientifically literate technodevelopmentally concerned feminists you have neglected to read, and very much to your cost.

Out of curiosity, are you familiar with Firestone?

Hey, paranoid dude, biology isn't a person oppressing you.

Quite the contrary. I'm suffering from a nasty little bug at the moment.

Handwaving about "enhancement" in general, like handwaving about "technology" in general is an active obfuscation masquerading as insight on the part of charlatans and ignoramuses.

While you're correct that the term means nothing out of context, you know exactly what I mean. "Modification" would perhaps to be a better word. We transhumanists think folks should be able to alter their bodies as desired. As in the case of death, this position remains controversial. Some believe human beings should stay as we are now. I've been arguing the subject with Mark Gubrud recently.

Wake up the slumber of the Robot Cult, and you'll notice that the idea of folks applying consensus science and sound techniques, peer to peer, to the solution of shared problems is a commonplace.

There's neither robot cult nor slumber. Of course all sorts of people do the things listed, and that's wonderful. You're trying to construct a false dilemma. It's not a matter of choosing between transhumanism and, say, environmentalism. I can can happily identify with both.

I'm treating you generously, quit while you're ahead.

Believe me, I appreciate the condescension.

But as a molecular neurobiologist who's doing research on regulation of brain genes that link to dementia, I must add that de Grey has zero qualifications and has not uttered a single original statement.

Luckily for the longevity project, he's not the only one involved. Various scientists are making encouraging progress with extending the lifespans of lower-complexity creatures. Certain organisms show no increase mortality with age, so there's every reason to believe in the physical possibility of the program. Thus de Grey does valuable cultural work even if we're much farther way from the goal than he predicts. I have little confidence in rejuvenation therapy within my lifetime, but consider the cause worth a shot. After all, thousands do die each day from aging-related diseases.

jimf said...

"Summerspeaker" wrote:

> You've yet so much as show any robot cults exist, Dale.

Dale is hardly the only person to have characterized the organized
(and overlapping) circles of Extropianism, Transhumanism and
Singularitarianism as "cults" (or at least as milieux having
"cultic overtones" or showing the signs of being "proto-cults").

Here's a recent example -- John Horgan. He's a science journalist
(e.g., _The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication,
Medication, and Explanation_
http://www.amazon.com/Undiscovered-Mind-Replication-Medication-Explanation/dp/0684865785 )
who has also covered the pursuit-of-"spirituality" scene
(e.g., _Rational Mysticism: Spirituality Meets Science in the
Search for Enlightenment_
http://www.amazon.com/Rational-Mysticism-Spirituality-Science-Enlightenment/dp/061844663X )

He has a rather jaundiced view toward both superlative hopes
for science and technology **and** the pretensions of peddlers
of "enlightenment".

See also, for example, his essay "The Myth of the Totally Enlightened Guru"
on the Andrew Cohen cult.
http://www.johnhorgan.org/the_myth_of_the_totally_enlightened_guru_15274.htm

Anyway, Horgan has turned his skepticism on the "Singularity"
in "Science Cult"
http://www.newsweek.com/2009/05/17/science-cult.html
in which he concludes "The last thing humanity needs right now
is an apocalyptic cult masquerading as science."

Horgan also exchanged strong words with Singularitarian
cheerleader Michael Anissimov at
http://www.stevens.edu/csw/cgi-bin/blogs/csw/?p=388:

----------------------------------
"MICHAEL TO JOHN: . . . I think it’s dishonest to pump up the
“cult” meme as a rhetorical device. You could be putting us in
personal danger down the road. Some deep greens already want to kill us:
http://www.greenanarchy.org/index.php?action=viewwritingdetail&writingId=182

If our ideas are so wrong, you should be able to criticize them
without the “cult” label… what about real cults like Scientology,
Raelians, etc? If anything, our “cult” is more analogous to the
enthusiasm that caused the dot com bubble — futurist enthusiasm
about technology.

JOHN TO MICHAEL: Michael, it’s not a rhetorical device. I do indeed
think the Singularity movement, as represented by Kurzweil and Vinge
and others who talk about the end of everything as we know it
real soon, is a cult. A harmful one, as I’ve said, in an age when
science’s reputation is under attack. Cults often coalesce around
these sorts of apocalyptic fantasies, and true believers display
us-vs-them insularity, hostility and arrogance toward non-believers
etc. You seem quite reasonable yourself. You seem to think merely
that AI is gonna happen some day, but then I’d say you’re not a
Singularitarian. And that’s not the sort of prediction that sells
books, generates cover stories, gets the attention of nasty a-holes
like me, etc.

John

jimf said...

Similarly, the word appeared in a recent exchange in the
comments section of an article on the "Futurisms"
blog, between Max More and the article's author:

Thursday, June 10, 2010
Why Transhumanism Won’t Work
Mark A. Gubrud

http://futurisms.thenewatlantis.com/2010/06/why-transhumanism-wont-work.html#comments

Max More said...
June 15, 2010 12:47 PM

"The uploading idea is not dualist, it's functionalist. That
distinction is clear to anyone who has studied the subject.
As a transhumanist referred to in this article (falsely as leader
of a "cult" -- a typically dishonest attempt to dismiss ideas),
let me note that I wrote my PhD dissertation on this very topic.

. . .

Mark Gubrud said...
June 16, 2010 7:00 PM

"I characterize the transhumanist movement, and even more
so its "Extropian" forerunner as a "cult" based on my experiences
with members of this cult."

jimf said...

MICHAEL TO JOHN: A “cult” is a centrally organized, physically in-contact
group that does things like alienate you from your family. A “movement”
is a general ideological thrust. It’s absurd to call a loosely
connected, online movement a “cult” when its members disagree so
thoroughly on the details and aren’t even attempting anything dangerous.

Superintelligence is not a fantasy, it’s a real possibility — the
question is when. It makes sense to worry that superintelligence
could wipe us out — did we not wipe out the Neanderthals? . . .

I do think we could be facing the end of the world as we know it,
due to the threat we face from recursively self-improving AI.
If AI is very difficult and takes centuries — great — that gives
us more time to prepare to ensure that it’s programmed to be human-friendly.

The extreme fuzziness within the “Singularity movement” belies your
claim that it is a cult. I am right in the thick of it — I’ve been
promoting Singularity-related ideas for a decade. If there were
a cult, I would be in its leadership. But there is no such thing.

. . .

JOHN TO MICHAEL: Michael, you protest too much. My guess is that you’re
going thru a crisis of faith, as well you should. You’re obviously
a very smart knowledgable guy. Is this really what you want to spend
your life on? I asked Elizer the same thing on Bloggingheads, and I
meant it, it’s not a rhetorical ploy. And I mean it when I say that
the Singularity is giving science a bad name, because it’s not
based on a rational appraisal of current science. If it’s any
consolation, I also consider Christianity, Buddhism, Islam,
psychoanalysis and lots of other belief systems to be irrational
and hence cultish. They just have more adherents than you do.
Go ahead and keep the faith, but don’t blame others who find your
faith absurd and wasteful. John

MICHAEL TO JOHN: Yes, among other things, this is what I want to
spend my life on. . . When superintelligence does come about,
it could be a big deal, as in having the potential to threaten all
humanity. . .

JOHN TO MICHAEL: Come on Michael, listen to yourself! We’ve got problems
that threaten us right now! Fundamentalist suicidal religious cults,
collapsing states, proliferating nukes and other deadly weapons in
unstable regions, surging populations in some of those same regions,
global warming and other more tangible forms of pollution. And
you’re fretting about supersmart cyborgs or bots or cyberentities or
whatever, stuff that MAY–and may not–happen within 500 years?
Why not waste your life agonizing over the dangers of time travel
or evil aliens?

Also it pisses me off when you and your ilk–including Kurzweil–accuse
me of “fearing” the Singularity or of merely dismissing it as “weird.”
That’s bullshit. Sure, I make fun of you guys, because I’m trying
to entertain people. But in my Spectrum article and even that crappy
little Newsweek piece I also present specific counterarguments to the
wild extrapolation upon which the Singularity is based. My first
two books also have a detailed critique of the fields you think
will produce the Singularity, including AI, neuroscience, genetics
and so on. You Singularitarians, for all your vaunted cleverness,
display an extraordinary and I can only assume willful ignorance of
the complexities of biology, including how the genetic code produces
bodies and how the neural code produces minds. When someone draws
your attention to these issues, you respond with what you accuse
critics of, ad hominem attacks. There’s the cult-like insularity
and arrogance I talked about before. And that’s why you don’t deserve
to be taken seriously.
----------------------------------

Dale Carrico said...

people have told me that it's natural and morally right for human beings to grow feeble, suffer, and die. I will never accept that sort of thinking.

You're going to die.

are you familiar with Firestone?

I've taught Firestone. I've even read Airless Spaces. And?

I write: "biology isn't a person oppressing you." You respond: Quite the contrary. I'm suffering from a nasty little bug at the moment.

Not every unpleasantness is oppression, surely? Will you now declare me a flu enthusiast, a Floozy, just because I don't pine for a postflunomic robot body and opt instead for a flu shot... rather like Robot Cultists describe as "Deathists" folks who have come to terms with their mortality as actually sane adults all must do?

the term [enhancement] means nothing out of context, you know exactly what I mean

Oh, yes, indeed I do! You want to claim to be "pro" enhancement, technology "in general," as against those you paint as "anti-" when none of these terms have any real meaning at this level of generality at all, when the actual value and substance of what comes to count as technology or enhancement or development or progress radically depends on historical and positional specificities through and through. You evacuate urgent technoscientific changes of their historical substance and political stakes, indeed you narrativize these changes in ways that actively occlude and derange their sensible address, and then, flabbergastingly, go on to crow and congratulate yourselves on the extreme radicality and enlightenment of your perspective. You guys really are among the most relentlessly stupid misguided dangerous pseudo-intellectual commenters on technoscientific matters imaginable.

transhumanists think folks should be able to alter their bodies as desired.

Does the fact you can't and won't influence your declarations in this heroic vein? And even if you "could": No matter what the consequences? Whether or not, the "desire" is informed or duressed, even on the most liberal construal of those terms? Has it ever occurred to you that it may be because you do not control all the terms of your selfhood that your self has desires in the first place?

There's neither robot cult nor slumber.

You do seem to me to be sleepwalking, if your comments are any kind of apt representation, and, well, transhumanism and the other sects of superlative futurology do indeed seem to me faith-based initiatives using basic confusions of science fiction for science as the springboard for infantile wish-fulfilment fantasizing of a truly pathetic and pernicious nature.

It's not a matter of choosing between transhumanism and, say, environmentalism.

I regard futurism as the most profoundly anti-environmentalist discourse on offer.

I appreciate the condescension.

There's plenty more where that came from.

Luckily for the longevity project...

...it belongs in a Vegas hotel's mildew-suffused convention space along with the boner-pills and anti-aging skin cream hucksters as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, actual medicine is a good thing -- and more so when available to all and well-regulated for safety. Most anybody will attest to its value. The longer healthier more flourishing lifeways medical science affords are very much to be supported and celebrated. Nobody needs some silly Robot Cultists to grasp that commonplace, especially since you so quickly derange that commonsense commonplace into masturbatory fantasies about uploading into cyberspatial heaven and barnacling your bodies with comic book prostheses.

Athena Andreadis said...

"Certain organisms show no increase (sic) mortality with age, so there's every reason to believe in the physical possibility of the program. Thus de Grey does valuable cultural work even if we're much farther way from the goal than he predicts."

I have written about these topics extensively and won't go into detail again. You don't have to believe me when I tell you that true immortality (accompanied by robust health, particularly of the brain) is not feasible for complex organisms. All you have to do is read some real basic biology.

De Grey and his ilk indeed do something in/to the culture: they do no real, concrete work toward their stated goal but they still discredit real science for the laypeople who wonder why "eggheads" don't come up with the promised goods.

In some ways, de Grey reminds me of teenagers who triumphantly announce they "discovered" or "invented" sex and feel oppressed when told that it's not strictly news -- as witnessed by their own existence. In de Grey's case, as witnessed by the countless qualified scientists hard at work on the problem way before he decided to entertain and enrich himself by assuming the pose of a prophet.

jimf said...

"Summerspeaker" wrote (below, under
"This Week's White Guys of 'The Future' Report"):

> I believe you must be working with a different definition of
> "cult" than I am. Subcultural movements and identity politics
> have only distant connections to strictly hierarchical and
> controlling religious groups.

and (above):

> Transhumanism lacks both effective authority and belief the in
> supernatural. As such, it fails to qualify as a cult.

Belief in the supernatural (for some value of "supernatural")
is neither necessary nor sufficient to define a cult.

As for "effective authority" among the >Hists -- if you
haven't noticed the sources of **that**, you haven't
been paying attention. The discourse is strictly policed
(and I'm not talking about "policing" in the sense of imposition
of generally-accepted academic or scientific standards --
I mean groupthink among the insular circle of >Hist true believers
themselves, with almost no connection to peer-reviewed science).
There are also political assumptions (not admitted to be political)
that a self-identified >Hist may challenge only at the risk of
excommunication from the Community of the Faithful.

The content of movements that may be characterized
as "cults" can vary, whether it's technological
transcendence, achieving pure rationality by
exhaustively cross-checking all your "premises", neutralizing all your "engrams"
and "going Clear", or expiating all your bad Karma in a
single lifetime with the help of a guru. But the structural
similarities, especially when it comes to relationships of power
and authority between the leaders and the followers, are striking.

Recommended reading:

_The Mother of God_
by Luna Tarlo (1997)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1570270430

_Enlightenment Blues: My Years With an American Guru_
by Andre Van Der Braak (2003)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0972635718

(Both of the above are by people who spent
time with guru Andrew Cohen -- the first author
is Cohen's mother.
http://www.geocities.com/brianperkins77/179andrewcohen.htm
Author John Horgan casts a somewhat jaundiced eye
at Cohen in "The Myth of the Totally Enlightened Guru",
http://www.johnhorgan.org/work8.htm
Neverthless, Cohen is apparently thought highly of
by New Age philosopher Ken Wilber. ).

_The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power_
by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad (1993)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1883319005

_Feet Of Clay_
by Anthony Storr (1996)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0684834952

_Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing
Fight Against Their Hidden Menace_
by Margaret Thaler Singer (Revised edition, 2003)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0787967416

_Stripping the Gurus_
by Geoffrey D. Falk
http://www.amazon.com/Stripping-Gurus-Geoffrey-D-Falk/dp/0973620315

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

"The Unlikeliest Cult in History" [Ayn Rand's Objectivism]
by Michael Shermer
http://www.2think.org/02_2_she.shtml

_"Norman Einstein": The Dis-Integration of Ken Wilber_
by by Geoffrey D. Falk
http://www.normaneinsteinbook.com/

The _Penthouse_ interview from 1983 with L. Ron Hubbard Jr.
(son of the founder of Dianetics/Scientology)
http://www.rickross.com/reference/scientology/scien240.html

_The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of
the Church of Scientology_
by John Duignan and Nicola Tallant
http://www.amazon.com/Complex-Insider-Exposes-Covert-Scientology/dp/1903582849

jimf said...

Again, it's the **style**, not the **content**, that
characterizes the cultishness of a cult.

From Margaret Thaler Singer, _Cults in our Midst_
(revised edition 2003), Chapter 1 "Defining Cults"
-------------------------
A cult can be formed around any content: politics, religion,
commerce, self-improvement techniques, health fads, the
stuff of science fiction, psychology, outer-space phenomena,
meditation, martial arts, environmental life-styles, and
so on. Yet the misconception that all cults are
religious has left many unaware not only of the variety of
cult contents but also of the plethora of cults, large
and small, that has spread throughout our society. . .

A pied piper with sufficient determination and a touch of
charm, charisma, seduction, or simply good sales skills
can, with enough time and effort, secure a following
around almost any topic. Regardless of the type of cult
they have fostered, cult leaders induce the sad, the
lonely, and the disaffiliated to join, as well as those
who are merely available and who respond to an invitation
at some vulnerable point in their lives.

In the United States, there are at least ten major types
of cults, each with its own beliefs, practices, and social
mores. The list below is not exhaustive, but most cults
can be classified under one of the following headings:

1. Neo-Christian religious
2. Hindu and Eastern religious
3. Occult, witchcraft, and satanist
4. Spiritualist
5. Zen and other Sino-Japanese philosophical-
mystical orientation
6. Racial
7. Flying saucer and other outer-space phenomena
8. Psychology or psychotherapeutic
9. Political
10. Self-help, self-improvement, and life-style
systems
[and I suppose you can now add:
11. Technophile and techno-apocalyptic]

Cult names suggest further groupings and emphases.
Some sults start their names with "The," implying
that theirs is the only way to be, to think, or
to live. Examples include The True Believers,
The Way International, The Walk, The Process,
The Foundation, The Body, The Farm, The Assembly.

Other groups emphasize the concept of family:
The Family, The Love Family, The Family of Love,
The Rainbow Family, The Forever Family, The
Christ Family, The Lyman Family, The Manson
Family. . .

This kind of listing could go on and on, exposing
the sheer numbers and scope of the cults around us.
Yet, on one level, all cults are a variation on
a single theme. And ultimately, that theme has
nothing to do with belief. In cultic groups,
the belief system -- whether religious,
psychotherapeutic, political, New Age, or commercial --
ends up being a tool to serve the leader's desires,
whims, and hidden agendas. The ideology is a double-
edged sword: it is the glue that binds the member
to the group, and it is a tool exploited by the leader
to achieve his goals.
-------------------------

jimf said...

More from Jeff Walker:

"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..."

"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'."
---------------------------
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.religion.scientology/msg/ebfd42a0ea50d641

jimf said...

Part of cultic style is the old carrot-and-stick routine,
adapted to whatever the content or ideology happen
to be.

From Jeff Walker, _The Ayn Rand Cult_, Chapter 2
"Entrails: The Anatomy of the Cult"
-------------------------
In a typical cult, its utopic vision is merely implied
while its apocalyptic scenario is depicted in graphic
detail. Such is the case in Objectivism's founding document,
_Atlas Shrugged_. The utopian forecasts certain
disaster unless he has his way. Rand once speculated
in such 'either-or' extremes. The Aristotelian philosopher
of _Atlas_ is Hugh Akston who tells Dagny: "I am writing
a book . . . defining a moral philosophy . . . it
could save the world . . ." A world failing to heed
this book will perish.

This represents Rand's view, and hence Peikoff's view,
of _Atlas Shrugged_. In echo, Peikoff said in the
1980s, "If we fail" at carrying Rand's legacy into
the future "there will be no future for mankind . . .
I think there is still time. Despite everything we
have against us, we can see to it that Ayn Rand's ideas
**do** save the world.". . .

There is the utopian carrot. There is the apocalyptic
stick. John Ridpath reassures us that "Ayn Rand's
discoveries **will** come to be understood for
what they are and applied," but "there is **no** chance
that we will have a capitalist future without that."
Peikoff has said that if the few real Objectivists,
"who understand the issues, speak out, . . . the long
range result will be a new lease on life for
mankind." But to not speak out, to instead tolerate
the Brandens and other dissidents would reduce us to
their status -- "frauds in the short-term and monsters
long-range." Submit completely to the genius of
Ayn Rand or Mankind's lease on life will not be renewed.

Cult leaders claim discovery of new knowledge or
**re**claim exclusive access to ancient knowledge, or
more often, combine both, by way of justifying a special
life mission. Abenst a successful completion of that
mission, we are all doomed. Those who buy into this
'continual crisis' mentality lose sight of the fact
that most 'crises' are really long-term though manageable
problems. societies **do** typically muddle through.

Strong empathizers have the advantage of often being
able to anticipate the next move of their opponent.
Rand prescribed contempt for her intellectual opponents,
a stance precluding empathy. But elites' contempt
for the non-elect can lead to grossly underestimating
them. Objectivists have consistently underestimated
the average American and thus are at a loss to
explain the resilience of capitalism in an America
that may have read Rand's novels but never accepted
her philosophy.

Rand declared in her final speech in 1981 that to win an
Objectivist future "requires your **total** dedication
and a **total break with** the world of your **past** . . .
Fight with the **radiant certainty** and **absolute
rectitude** of knowing that yours is **the** Morality
of Life and that yours is **the** battle for **any**
achievement, **any** value, **any** grandeur,
**any** goodness, **any** joy that has **ever** existed
on this earth" (my emphases). One has to admire the
chutzpah of usurping all worthwhile values of all
civilizations past, present, and future. It is
absolutism in overdrive.
-------------------------

jimf said...

And here's the view from the perspective of a more-or-less
naive consumer:

"In this post I am looking back at the sequence of events which
attracted me in scientology. I am retrieving old goals; a few were
attained, many of them were not; but they are still alive, and this is
an occasion to postulate them again in present time.

It all started by reading the novel from A.E. Van Vogt: _The World of
Null-A_. I was enthralled by this book. Here I became aware of several
goals I had, which were expressed in this book:

- A technology able to remove the aberrations of man (general semantics)
- A solution for immortality
- Advanced abilities: teleportation, telepathy
- Contacting extra-terrestrial civilizations
- An organized teaching and training system designed to attain these
goals
- Building a new civilization without war and crimes

I had the idea to study the general semantics, but after that I was
reading a biography of Van Vogt, which indicated his interest in
Dianetics; eventually I found this book, and this was the beginning of
my road in scientology.

I received a scientific education, and had many doubts about religions.
I was hoping that spiritual abilities did exist, but I was not
satisfied by just hopes and never certainty. I was looking for proofs.
For example I had a project to do scientific experiments in a haunted
house. But I canceled this project when I discovered scientology.

. . .

With the discovery of scientology, I formulated a new set of goals:

1 - Freedom from unwanted reactions and emotions, and from past painful
experiences
2 - Retrieve my past lives
3 - Being exterior with full perceptions
4 - Immortality as a conscious being (going into the next life without
amnesia)
5 - Ability to heal other people
6 - OT ["Operating Thetan"] abilities (teleportation, etc.)

Eventually I did quit the scientology path for different reasons.
Especially the high prices. . .

But if I have to choose a main goal, this is the goal of
immortality as a conscious being. . . Without this preliminary
goal, it is impossible to do long term planning."
http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=8md0lp%24l9d%241%40nnrp1.deja.com

Sound familiar?

jimf said...

Many self-help/psychotherapeutic cults, from General Semantics
and Dianetics/Scientology all the way up through modern-day
"Neuro-Linguistic Programming" and Keith Raniere's "NEXIVM"
take a superficially scientific-sounding approach to "programming"
the human brain. This is the sort of thing they peddle:

"The last several decades of research have shown us that
the limbic brain directs the operations of the cortex, governing
not only learning but all intellectual behavior. This was already
suspected as early as the 1930s. In that era, general semanticists
instituted the practice of a "cortico-thalamic pause," in the midst
of crisis, where one aimed to remain consciously aware that his
every thought and perception was traveling not only through his
cortex but through the thalamus (seat of emotions and indeed
a center for nearly all the traffic in the brain). Taking that process
into account and taking one's emotional color into account, he
slows the process to optimize clarity of thought and to optimize
awareness of choices for how to act."
http://www.winwenger.com/limbic1.htm


Again, there are often science-fictional overtones and
connections in these movements -- a yearning to liberate
"hidden powers of the mind", to transcend human limitations, to
become a superhuman X-man or "Slan":

"Keith Raniere says he conceptualized a practice called "Rational Inquiry"
at the age of 12 while reading [SF novel] _The Second Foundation_ by Isaac Asimov.

The premise of the science fiction series is that a mathematician forecasts
the end of civilization and devises a plan to shorten the period of barbarity
before a new civilization is established.

Rational Inquiry, a formula for analyzing and optimizing how the mind
handles data, as Raniere describes it, is the basis for NXIVM
(pronounced NEX-ee-um), a multimillion-dollar international company. . ."
http://www.rickross.com/groups/esp.html

jimf said...

Some >Hists frankly **look forward** to becoming a "successful
cult" along the lines of Scientology:


"If ExI had the power and resources of Scientology or the Unification Church
things would be looking up. It may only be a matter of time before
Transhumanism spawns such a successful cult itself."
http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/2006-February/025110.html

Wouldn't it be nice. :-/

I guess I'm just what the Scientologists call a "suppressive
person" (what the Objectivists call a "cockroach" or a
"louse"). ;->

There's also nothing new about a movement such as
Scientology (ne "Dianetics"), now widely regarded as a cult,
being associated in its infancy with science fiction authors
and/or science fiction fandom.

A. E. Van Vogt, a popular SF author in the 40s and 50s, was
involved with both Dianetics and Alfred Korzybski's
"General Semantics":

"In about 1972,I had the occasion to meet privately
with [A. E. Van Vogt] in a bar in Washington DC.
One of the things I wanted to talk about was his relationship
with Hubbard and Scientology. (Van is the only celebrity
I've actually personally spoken with on this subject, but
I'll guarantee what I say here is a true
and correct recollection of this discussion.)

Anyway, by the time I met with Van, he no longer believed
in any of the stuff put out by Hubbard. Also, he felt he
had to remain silent because of threats against him and
his family. Accordingly, he asked me not to broadcast
his story since he still lived a bit in fear of Hubbard and
his minions.

Van had nothing flattering to say about either Hubbard,
Dianetics, or Scientology during that meeting. I'd say
he was totally disillusioned by his experiences.

He had involved himself with Hubbard as part of an exuberance
of youth; a group of people out to 'set the world right' and
'make a difference.' What that group evolved into, we now know.
But in the beginning, all of the people involved were filled
with idealistic visions of what the world would be like if
people were free of the bad motivations inside themselves."
http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=6v0g2l%248u1%241%40nnrp1.dejanews.com

Summerspeaker said...

jimf, if it is a cult, where's the authority? Am I only sheltered from the rigid structure by not knowing folks like Kurzweil in person? I've never experienced anything like what you're referring to in online debates. As with any other idea, I use transhumanism as I please, making it groan and protest.

You're going to die.

I have only limited interest in personally partaking of rejuvenation therapy. The state of the world today makes enduring even another decade sound like an awful chore. For me, advocacy for reversing aging is a matter of consistency and potential pragmatic benefit. If life is good, I discern no reason to applaud its end and every reason to endeavor for extension. If life is bad, then give me a painless suicide kit as soon as possible.

I've taught Firestone. I've even read Airless Spaces. And?

It's encouraging to debate with someone who knows what I'm talking about. However, if you've read Airless Spaces your earlier remark about mental illness appears in decidedly poor taste.

Will you now declare me a flu enthusiast, a Floozy, just because I don't pine for a postflunomic robot body and opt instead for a flu shot... rather like Robot Cultists describe as "Deathists" folks who have come to terms with their mortality as actually sane adults all must do?

You might as well ask me to come to terms with capitalism, male supremacy, racism, militarism, and the gender distinction while you're at it. Many others have. You're making a solid case for why I view transhumanism as containing the essence of the revolutionary spirit.

And even if you "could": No matter what the consequences? Whether or not, the "desire" is informed or duressed, even on the most liberal construal of those terms? Has it ever occurred to you that it may be because you do not control all the terms of your selfhood that your self has desires in the first place?

I'm familiar with ideas of constrained agency and fully acknowledge the countless problematic uses of body modification. I've written about this on my blog. As Shevek says, "Freedom is never very safe." It remains a worthy goal. My response to the dangerous is consciousness and community building rather than opposing giving folks additional options.

Summerspeaker said...

You do seem to me to be sleepwalking, if your comments are any kind of apt representation, and, well, transhumanism and the other sects of superlative futurology do indeed seem to me faith-based initiatives using basic confusions of science fiction for science as the springboard for infantile wish-fulfilment fantasizing of a truly pathetic and pernicious nature.

As you've offered your assessment of me, it's only courteous that I return the favor. Your animosity toward transhumanism borders on the pathological and suggests some unpleasant personal experience you can't get past. Your rhetorical repertoire focuses far too heavily on ridicule and derision. Your affection for Obama and reform neatly aligns with your rejection of grand transformative visions.

It's all good, though. I'm happy to see anybody out to smash militarism and corporatism. No one I know in person agrees with me about this stuff either; most of my comrades are primitivists.

I regard futurism as the most profoundly anti-environmentalist discourse on offer.

If people who legitimately want to convert the planet into computronium or a Dyson sphere exist and you're talking about them, perhaps. Otherwise, not at all.

You don't have to believe me when I tell you that true immortality (accompanied by robust health, particularly of the brain) is not feasible for complex organisms. All you have to do is read some real basic biology.

What do you mean by true immortality? It's premature to talk of literally living forever with our limited understanding of time and the ultimate fate of the universe. However, there's no consensus position in biology against radically longer lifespans. I don't how SENS will turn out, but the untold reduction of human misery if it succeeds makes me think it's worth a shot.

In case anyone thinks otherwise, the futurist community does not universally consider rejuvenation therapy likely. John Smart argues against the notion of significant biological enhancement in the near term. You'd think a cult would better control for that sort of thing.

Dale Carrico said...

The interminable struggle for greater democracy is different in kind from the infantile denial of death. That through your indoctrination by Robot Cultism you have lost sight of the difference despite being a well-intentioned intelligent person goes a long way toward explaining why I critique superlative futurology. Your insinuation that no serious or sensible person would devote such energies as I do to criticizing futurological discourses and the sub(cult)ural organization devoted to them seems a curious but after all quite familiar move. After all, you are hardly the first True Believer for whom the only extended attention to your marginal and defensive worldview that seems acceptable or even sane takes the form of cheerleading.

Dale Carrico said...

I wrote: "I regard futurism as the most profoundly anti-environmentalist discourse on offer."

Pseudonymous "Summerreader" replied: If people who legitimately want to convert the planet into computronium or a Dyson sphere exist and you're talking about them, perhaps. Otherwise, not at all.

What perfect absurdity. Who cares if some loon advocates converting the planet to goo or a Dyson Sphere? That is so remote from reality it is tantamount to pee-stinking zealots raving about lizard people taking over in 2012. Futurological discourse is suffused with corporate-militarist apologiae and pork-rationalizing scenario-writing and technofix distractions not to mention endlessly indulged hostility to actual lifeway diversity and biology and all the rest. Deny it all you want, I know the score. As I said, if you're politics really are what you claim they are and you have the least bit of intellectual integrity, you will not long remain infatuated with the Robot Cultists.

In case you are curious, I am writing a much longer piece on the topic of futurology specifically in its anti-environmentalism.
Contemporary futurism as anti-environmentalism began in my view with Stewart Brand's Whole Earth review which pretended that assuming a post-human god's eye view of the earth and then advocated techno-fix after techno-fix (incubating the whole GBN, Long Now, Edge chatterers, advocating the Drexlerian derangement of nanoscale technique as a techno-fix while claiming at one and the same time to disdain technofixes, and now finding its consummation in the current hype-notizing geo-engineering bait and switch hogwash) -- while the real contemporary phase of environmentalist discourse (the shift from the earlier rather racist conservationist phase of the hundred years prior) began with the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, already attuned to the derangement of consensus science by corporate marketing and opening the way to the vital EJ/STS environmentalism to which I personally stand committed in the present.

Dale Carrico said...

What do you mean by true immortality? It's premature to talk of literally living forever with our limited understanding of time and the ultimate fate of the universe. However, there's no consensus position in biology against radically longer lifespans.

No doubt the usual "indefinite lifespan" dodge is forthcoming, whereby the palpable absurdity of literal immortalism is "evaded" through the sleight of hand of advocating a longevity always only long enough to provide the irrational reassurance of belief in immortality while always only short enough to finesse the incoherence of outlasting the heat death of the universe or bloating narrative-selfhood beyond logically possible coherence and so on.

Look, medical research and development coupled with the political project to ensure universal access, regulate safety, and ensure the scene of consent to therapeutic intervention is informed and nonduressed provides all the health and longevity and flourishing anybody will ever actually attain in the world. No Robot Cultist has anything the least bit useful to contribute to that effort or to making sense of it.

Dale Carrico said...

most of my comrades are primitivists

While public discourse is drawn via brain-dead titillation-seeking media narratives to the transhumanist and bioconservative extremes, as also do the irrational passions always already associated with the technodevelopmental elaboration of agency -- dreams of omnipotence or nightmares of impotence, transcendence or apocalypse, infantile plentitude or infantile trauma, under-critical technophilia or under-critical technophobia -- the fact remains the almost every interesting idea and value and effort is taking place in the miles wide terrain between the inch-thick attention-getting extremes. There is a ferocious need for technoscientifically-literate technodevelopmentally concerned education, agitation, and organization devoted to equity-in-diversity and the scene of informed nonduressed consent in secular sustainable democratic orders struggling to ensure that the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscientific change are equitably distributed to the diversity of their actual stakeholders by their own lights. Quit the Robot Cult and help out for real, howzabout?

Summerspeaker said...

The interminable struggle for greater democracy is different in kind from the infantile denial of death.

I find the parallels valuable and instructive, especially with the gender distinction. After all, sex is biological and thus natural. It's part of the human condition. Plenty of people have told me I'm insane for wanting to abolish gender. You get used to it.

Your insinuation that no serious or sensible person would devote such energies as I do to criticizing futurological discourses and the sub(cult)ural organization devoted to them seems a curious but after all quite familiar move.

Considering that my own project focuses on critiquing the movement, that would be a strangle accusation to make. No, it's your rhetorical style and ferocity I object to. I'm quite desperate for quality leftist input on transhumanism - hence my disappointment.

Futurological discourse is suffused with corporate-militarist apologiae and pork-rationalizing scenario-writing and technofix distractions not to mention endlessly indulged hostility to actual lifeway diversity and biology and all the rest.

There's plenty of pro-corporate sentiment, no doubt about that, but the views of many transhumanists roughly resemble your own reformist stance. They like Obama too. I'd identify green consumerism as the standard. Nothing to be excited about, but hardly worthy of an "OMFG t3h Robot Cultists are going to destroy the planet!" Culturally many transhumanists remind me of the folks my sister, a population biologist, runs with.

Deny it all you want, I know the score.

For the record, I don't deny the presence of myriad lines of oppressive and pernicious thinking within transhumanism. It's full of corporatism, capitalism, misogyny, reductionism, positivism, elitism, and so on. There's even a bit of homophobia and militarism. I regularly despair at interactions with my fellows.

In case you are curious, I am writing a much longer piece on the topic of futurology specifically in its anti-environmentalism.

I am curious. A suggestion: If only for novelty, try to minimize the use of "Robot Cult."

Look, medical research and development coupled with the political project to ensure universal access, regulate safety, and ensure the scene of consent to therapeutic intervention is informed and nonduressed provides all the health and longevity and flourishing anybody will ever actually attain in the world. No Robot Cultist has anything the least bit useful to contribute to that effort or to making sense of it.

Here we differ on assessment of probabilities and perhaps ambition. If Aubrey de Grey happens to be correct, then transhumanism makes a tremendous contribution. Despite what the Kurzweil model might suggest, technology doesn't proceed magically forward by its own volition. Not yet, anyways. We humans guide the progress. Dreams of immorality might get the SENS the required funding to make a meaningful impact on aging-related suffering. If the project fails, as it well may, we could still learn a lot from the process.

Quit the Robot Cult and help out for real, howzabout?

You'll find me on the street sharing food and anarchist propaganda, as well as materially supporting local collectives and radical groups. The physical labor involved isn't terribly glamorous, but we aren't all privileged enough to lecture at Berkeley.

Dale Carrico said...

sex is biological and thus natural. It's part of the human condition. Plenty of people have told me I'm insane for wanting to abolish gender.

What counts as "gender" is historically contingent and with what "natural significance" gender gets variously freighted is also historically contingent, hence I do not know that I agree with either the glib declaration that sex (which is, of course, deeply imbricated with gender) is "natural" or with the glib aspiration to "abolish" "it." Do you really mean "abolish" in the rather facile way many white guy Robot Cultists who declare themselves to be "post-gender" do, or do mean you struggle to subvert and/or render more capacious the prevailing terms of the sex/gender system for example, through feminist and queer and punk interventions? I do recommend reading Judith Butler's very fine Undoing Gender.

my own project focuses on critiquing the movement

That's the first indication I've heard from you to this effect. Forgive me for remaining skeptical for now.

For the record, I don't deny the presence of myriad lines of oppressive and pernicious thinking within transhumanism. It's full of corporatism, capitalism, misogyny, reductionism, positivism, elitism, and so on. There's even a bit of homophobia and militarism. I regularly despair at interactions with my fellows.

Quite so.

A suggestion: If only for novelty, try to minimize the use of "Robot Cult."

Fat chance. Own up or move on.

If Aubrey de Grey happens to be correct,

As opposed to all the endlessly many researchers and academics and doctors and progressive healthcare policy makers who happen not to be computer guys pretending to be techno-immortality prophets?

Despite what the Kurzweil model might suggest,

Might?

technology doesn't proceed magically forward by its own volition. Not yet, anyways.

Not yet? What ever leads me to describe superlative futurologists as Robot Cultists I wonder?

Dreams of immorality might get the SENS the required funding to make a meaningful impact on aging-related suffering. If the project fails, as it well may, we could still learn a lot from the process.

Lies and hyperbole and wish-fulfillment fantasizing might divert funds into lines of research that might accidentally deliver the magic toypile so all the lies and hyperbole and fantasy is really truly enlightened and serious after all, right? Right? Right?

we aren't all privileged enough to lecture at Berkeley

If only job security and health benefits and a student loan debt smaller than the size of a home mortgage over my head came with all this privilege I got...

Summerspeaker said...

Do you really mean "abolish" in the rather facile way many white guy Robot Cultists who declare themselves to be "post-gender" do, or do mean you struggle to subvert and/or render more capacious the prevailing terms of the sex/gender system for example, through feminist and queer and punk interventions?

Mainly I consider the gender distinction a system of oppression against women and advocate its abolition on that basis. You're familiar with Firestone; she's my guide.

I do recommend reading Judith Butler's very fine Undoing Gender.

Yes, reading some more Butler couldn't hurt. As a side note, I believe one of your Robot Cultist critics (dear God, it's catching!) mocked your invocations of Butler and Foucault. It shows the different disciplines folks come from.

That's the first indication I've heard from you to this effect. Forgive me for remaining skeptical for now.

Oh, I forgot my blog wasn't linked to my name over here. I believe I've rectified that. Read it and see. Michael Anissimov recently told me I'm "against anything that affirms the power or beauty of the individual or in any way undermines us from all becoming socialist drones." He tried to expel me from Robot Cult (damn you!) once but to little affect.

Fat chance. Own up or move on.

You know I'll just appropriate it as a positive self-identification. We queers are famous for that.

Lies and hyperbole and wish-fulfillment fantasizing might divert funds into lines of research that might accidentally deliver the magic toypile so all the lies and hyperbole and fantasy is really truly enlightened and serious after all, right?

More or less. If you actually think you can show SENS to unworthy of learned debate, I believe MIT still has $20,000 with your name on it. The scientific establishment has not yet come to a consensus position on the matter.

If only job security and health benefits and a student loan debt smaller than the size of a home mortgage over my head came with all this privilege I got...

They don't even give you health insurance? That's outrageous. I feel you on the student loan debt; I've got some of that myself but with less to show for it at present.

jimf said...

"Summerspeaker" wrote:

> if it is a cult, where's the authority? Am I only sheltered
> from the rigid structure by not knowing folks like Kurzweil
> in person? I've never experienced anything like what you're
> referring to in online debates.

Well, YMMV, I guess. Other folks have had other
experiences.

http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2007/10/superlative-summary.html
http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2007/10/superla-pope-peeps.html
http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2009/03/from-futurological-confusions-to.html
http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2009/04/lets-talk-about-cultishness.html
http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2009/08/treder-traitor.html

> As with any other idea, I use transhumanism as I please, making it groan
> and protest.

"In the spring of 1992, Jerry [Seinfeld, the comic]
sat down for an interview with. . . the _Washington Post_'s
respected and **very** tough-minded TV columnist, Tom Shales.
Shales had done his homework and learned from Roseanne and
Tom Arnold that Jerry was a Scientologist.

Jerry acknowledged to Shales. . . ". . .It was great:
how to improve certain conditions in your life, your
ability to work, your relationships. It was very
pragmatic. That's what I liked about it. . ."

Shales pointed out that a 1991 _Time_ magazine story
had been critical of Scientology, but Jerry dismissed
the article in his sit-down with Shales as "really
poor journalism."

An infuriated Shales noted in his piece: "Look who's
an expert on journalism now!"

Referring to _Time_'s reportage, Jerry told Shales, "I
don't let that stuff stop me from getting the information
I want," adding, "there are things in yoga that I
don't agree with and I don't do. I go to get what I
need. And that's the way I approach everything. . .
To me, life is like flipping around the TV yet,
you know? I flip around to get what I want.
It's there for me. But I don't embrace things
wholeheartedly. I dissect them and take what I want."

-- _Seinfeld: The Making of an American Icon_
by Jerry Oppenheimer; Chapter 19, "The Dianetics Kid"


;->

Dale Carrico said...

You know I'll just appropriate it [Robot Cultist] as a positive self-identification.

You won't be the first to try. You can be the next Giulio Prisco. (Hint: You don't want to be the next Giulio Prisco.)

The scientific establishment has not yet come to a consensus position on the matter.

The only people who agree with you on that are the people who desperately want to agree with you on that. I know there is a desperate little klatch of True Believers who will howl to the contrary, who will declare my saying so to indicate my ignorance of science -- but stick to peer-reviewed publications and citation indexes and you will know the score soon enough if you're honest about it.

Dale Carrico said...

Of the links to older pieces of mine to which Jim kindly directed the Moot, I think probably this one speaks to our present concerns most directly. Thanks for remembering that one, Jim!

Summerspeaker said...

The only people who agree with you on that are the people who desperately want to agree with you on that.

Do you have any evidence to cite for your position? I've provided mine. Was the MIT challenge rigged by the nasty Robot Cultists? Frankly, you're paddling against the current on this one. De Aubrey appears on mainstream programs now. I'm no believer in the infallibility of big science (far from it), but it can be a decent yardstick.

I have scant respect for anyone, physicist or biologist, vehemently protesting against ambitious plans at the edge of existing knowledge. Even a brief look a the history of technological progress demonstrates that we wouldn't be having this debate if not for eccentric folks with wild ideas. The the founder of computer science dreamed of thinking machines and slept with men. The state drove him to suicide. It's a damn good thing we didn't dismiss the personal computer as tool of that queer Robot Cultist.

Other folks have had other
experiences.


As I've said, I know the movement strictly through the internet and books. Perhaps it has cult-like aspects for the rich folks at the center; I'm not privy to that reality. Nor do I particularly care. Kurzweil rubs shoulders with Bill Gates of all people - I know they're not paragons of morality. I'm interesting in the ideas, and I'm not above taking worthwhile thoughts from a cult. The 1930s technocracy movement fascinates me. I support the vision regardless of the profound organizational pitfalls the group succumbed to.

Dale Carrico said...

you're paddling against the current on this one

You will die. You won't outlive the century. You will never have an AI friend. You will never step onto a Holodeck. You will never have a desktop nanotech everything machine. I don't have "evidence" for any of these statements because it is extraordinary claims that require extraordinary evidence and it is the contrary of these claims that is extraordinary. You've been pretending to be comparatively sane over your last half dozen or so comments, but clearly it's becoming a strain for you and the crazy is starting to show and you're beginning to bore me again.

I have scant respect for anyone, physicist or biologist, vehemently protesting against ambitious plans at the edge of existing knowledge.

Being a crank isn't "edgy," pretending you will go to tech-heaven if you clap louder isn't "ambitious."

Alan Turing did have some crackpot ideas -- and, funnily enough, they tend to be the very things the Robot Cultists like best about Turing.

Perhaps it has cult-like aspects for the rich folks at the center; I'm not privy to that reality.

Because True Belief in a defensive marginal white-boy tech-fetishization fandom is only cult-like if you're rich?

Go to bed.

jimf said...

"Summerspeaker" wrote:

> I have scant respect for anyone, physicist or biologist, vehemently protesting
> against ambitious plans at the edge of existing knowledge.

Hm, this reminds me of something. There's a lady named Laura Knight
(who, after marrying physicist[*] Arkadiusz "Ark" Jadczyk calls
herself Laura Knight-Jadczyk).

She gets messages from entities she calls the "Cassiopeians" who live
in something called the "Sixth Density" (we only live in the
"Fourth Density") which is, from our point of view,
in the future (or something) and who are travelling
backwards in time (or something) and will merge with our
Density (or elevate our Density to the Sixth level) in an
approaching apocalyptic event called The Wave.
The conversations between Laura and the Cassiopeians take
place via a Ouija board (at least on her end).

Talk about "ambitious plans at the edge of knowledge":

http://www.vincentbridges.com/acac.html
--------------------------
They [Laura and Ark] also told me directly that a rich Finnish
businessman was coming to visit and they wanted their publisher
[i.e., the narrator, Mr. Bridges] there to give them
an extra dollop of credibility. The idea was
to get the Finn to donate a large chunk of money for
anti-gravity and time travel research based on the
Cassiopaean information. . .

I listened for many hours to Laura and Ark as they
tried to convince a legitimate businessman to give
them several million dollars to build an anti-gravity
device as suggested by the Cassiopaeans. It came across
as a direct and naïve attempt at a con job. After
the Finnish businessman had gratefully escaped, I
tried to have my conversation about publishing,
money and the dubious morality of running anti-gravity
scams.
--------------------------

[*] At least he calls himself a physicist. Or she calls
him a physicist. Or something.


And speaking of extraterrestrial technology, there's a very
funny (at least from the outside; I wouldn't want to
have been there) episode recounted in John Duignan's book
_The Complex_ (a view of Scientology from the inside).

A couple of decades ago, Scientology upper management
decided they wanted to enter the Information Age and
put their voluminous paper records in a computer
database.

So they got a bunch of computer-savvy rank-and-filers to
"volunteer" to put the system together. However,
these systems folks were **not** permitted to consider
commercial software for the job, **or even commercial
hardware**!!

Since an "advanced" Scientologist is supposed to have
conscious access to "past lives" (including pre-earthly
lives), these folks were told to recover their "memories"
of Galactic-civilization computer technology, and
reproduce it here on Earth for the Scientology system
(which would, of course, be more advanced than anything
than Microsoft and IBM and Google put together could
come up with, even today).

Needless to say, this was an, um, unproductive approach.

As I say, this is only funny from the outside -- the
"Suppressive Persons" who failed in this effort were
subjected to the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF),
Scientology's disciplinary gulag, which is not, by
all accounts, a very pleasant experience.

Summerspeaker said...

Dale, your error is in denying possibility of transformative technology merely because it's transformative. The universe doesn't work like that. It doesn't care what impact a certain law or principle will have on human society. If it can be done, it can be done. Recent history stands replete with examples of profound and often sudden change. Familiarity with the progression of science should make you more wary about making claims of impossibility. We live in an uncertain world. Neither you nor I nor Kurzweil knows what the world will look like in 2050. We're all just offering informed guesses. Deluding yourself into believing your guess is established fact benefits nobody.

Dismissing everyone who gives higher odds to life extension, artificial general intelligence, and molecular nanotechnology than you do just makes you look obsessed and petulant.

We can argue endlessly about the timeline, but every one of the technology you listed appears decidedly physically possible under our current understanding of the universe. They're worthy long-term in any case. History gives us countless examples of the dream delayed.

Alan Turing did have some crackpot ideas -- and, funnily enough, they tend to be the very things the Robot Cultists like best about Turing.

He's a fascinating figure in countless respects. Even under your interpretation, he demonstrates crazy Robot Cultists can contribute significantly to technological progress.

Because True Belief in a defensive marginal white-boy tech-fetishization fandom is only cult-like if you're rich?

I was been generous to your thesis by acknowledging transhumanism may show cult-like tendencies in places I'm unaware of. Cults and rich folks do tend to go together. If there's a true believer here, it's you. I'm not the one making categorical statements about the future. Lend me your crystal ball sometime, will you?

jimf, if you're having trouble discerning between Scientology and transhumanism, I don't believe we have much basis for discussion. Whatever you think of Aubrey de Grey's project, it's meaningfully different from trying to cure aging by employing alien ghosts.

Dale Carrico said...

your error is in denying possibility of transformative technology merely because it's transformative

I don't do that, so it can't be "my error." Transformation is not Transcendence. The problem with Robot Cultists is that they only say two kinds of things -- commonplaces nobody needs them for, and infantile impossibilities nobody in their right mind should take seriously.

Dismissing everyone who gives higher odds to life extension, artificial general intelligence, and molecular nanotechnology than you do just makes you look obsessed and petulant.

To Robot Cultists certainly, and possibly to folks who don't much care about technodevelopmental politics, but to very few people whose opinions matter to me. Now, pretending that calculating the Robot God odds and smacking your lips in anticipation of the arrival of nanobotic Everything Machines and VR treasure caves and comic book life-extension puts you on the scientific cutting edge is straight up delusion. It's embarrassing. It's utterly unserious.

No doubt it attracts attention from media folks who like weird disasterbatory jazz riffs, and there will always be the circled wagon circle jerk of tragic white boys slobbering over their dreamtoys for you to hobnob with.

You're still going to die and that toypile to Tech-Heaven never will arrive, you know, and refusing to come to terms with that makes you a bit of a joke and basket case, of course, but at least you can continue to enjoy the fanwanking among likeminded numbskulls. So long as you don't expect people who know better to abet your scam that your Robot Cult is engaging in serious science or policy deliberation who cares what you kids want to beat off over in your spare time?

jimf said...

> If you're having trouble discerning between Scientology
> and transhumanism, I don't believe we have much basis
> for discussion.

It's a funny thing about that. About, oh, 13 years ago now,
I discovered the on-line >Hist community
(via Alta Vista; Google didn't exist back then). I was
looking up stuff related to Iain Banks' "Culture" when I
came across a Web site that took Vernor Vinge's "Singularity" --
(which I had read about years before in _Across Realtime_)
awfully seriously.

I was kind of excited by it, and I mentioned it to a woman
at work, a fellow computer programmer and science-fiction
fan. Her reaction left me startled and a bit nonplussed.
It was something along the lines of "What is this, some kind
of Scientology front?" "No, no, you've got it all wrong!"
I said, thinking "What could possibly make her think
a prediction about the transformation of society by the advent
of artificial intelligence could have anything at all to do
with Scientology?"

A few years later, I realized she was right (in spirit,
if not literally -- she had the right kind of BS detector).

> Whatever you think of Aubrey de Grey's project, it's meaningfully
> different from trying to cure aging by employing alien ghosts.

You think? Quite a few people believe in ghosts, you know,
and in aliens (and even in aliens in UFOs who visit Earth).
I know a guy who thinks he has a serious shot at the White House
who believes (or professes to believe) that the Angel Moroni
(a real angel, not some dude from a mixed Italian/Latino family) visited
a guy named Joseph Smith and gave him the low-down on the history
and future of the human race. In fact, there's a guy described
as a "Silicon Valley wunderkind" in
http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/12.10.98/cover/joefirmage1-9849.html ,
a "decamillionaire with two wildly successful high-tech startups
under his belt" who switched from believing in angels to
believing in angels in UFOs. "He argues that most major Biblical
events actually happened pretty much as described, orchestrated
by 'teachers' or angels who appeared throughout history to
bring needed lessons to our rambunctious race. 'Why do we
call them angels?' [he] asks. 'Because it's a nicer
term than aliens.'"

So why **don't** I (or you, presumably) believe in ghosts,
or angels, or UFOs, while the lady down the street goes to a psychic
who lets her talk, so she believes, to her dead mother,
and the guy across the hall has a library full of books
about UFOs, and my own parents had _The Prophecies of
Nostradamus_ on the bookshelf?

Well, maybe it's because I just don't have any imagination
or sensawunda. Maybe it's a sign of [lack of] intelligence;
maybe it shows a lack of "spiritual sensitivity."

I don't believe in these things because they just aren't
congruent with the network of beliefs I've picked up via
my familiarity (such as it is) with the network of beliefs
shared (or so I believe) by most practicing scientists.

But I am **not** a practicing scientist (and neither are you).

When it comes to science-fictional (thrilling, you know, in
a well-written SF novel) speculations at "the edge
of knowledge", I'll defer to scientific consensus for
the same reason I defer to it on such matters as the
plausibility of ghosts, UFOs, life after death, and reincarnation
(pace Shirley Maclaine).

And I flatter myself that I'm level-headed enough to have
a perception of "scientific consensus" relatively
undistorted either by my own hopes for personal
immortality, or transcendence, or whatever goodies the
>Hists (or the Scientologists, for that matter) are promising,
**or** by the in-group mutually-reinforcing hype machine
that the cozy clubbishness of an identity movement so
often becomes.

Summerspeaker said...

To Robot Cultists certainly, and possibly to folks who don't much care about technodevelopmental politics, but to very few people whose opinions matter to me.

Though it may be a boringly earnest rhetorical strategy, it's possible to disagree with folks without calling them insane Robot Cultists. You surpass any transhumanist I've ever debated when it comes to aggressive hubris. Really, that's quite a feat.

If I wanted to play the same game, I could rant at length against your reformist Obamabot politics. There's a better case for that movement being a cult than there is for transhumanism.

But it's still not a good case, and taking that road would produce nothing of value.

Now, pretending that calculating the Robot God odds and smacking your lips in anticipation of the arrival of nanobotic Everything Machines and VR treasure caves and comic book life-extension puts you on the scientific cutting edge is straight up delusion.

Sure. Just as back in 1970 it would have absurd to contemplate that widespread computing would allow the virtually free duplication and distribution of video, sound, images, and text.

"Digital abundance is ridiculous pipe dream. Books cost money you stupid kid!"

They would have laughed when you told them about this tiny device called the iPhone that gave the user easy access to more information than the world's largest library contained. The notion people from across the planet would someday communicate with one another cheaply and effortlessly through a distributed worldwide network would have indicated insanity back then. I wouldn't even bother trying to tell them about the life-like robots and mind-reading brain scans.

Look around you, Dale. A fair amount of science fiction has already become reality. We don't know the future will bring, but the recent historical record suggests the decent probability of profound change. Given the potential benefits, this research should be encouraged rather than dismissed.

It's embarrassing.

To whom?

You're still going to die

I'll probably die in prison like so many other anarchists. We're not known for longevity, Zinn and Chomsky notwithstanding.

Dale Carrico said...

it's possible to disagree with folks without calling them insane Robot Cultists

There are plenty of positions with which I cheerfully and easily respectfully disagree. I have zero respect or patience with Robot Cultism, which I understand better and more exhaustively than you quite realize I suspect, which I regard as utterly ridiculous and deserving of nothing but ridicule, which remains interesting as a symptom of the pernicious PR hyperbole and fraud, reductionism, elitism, industrialism, eugenicism, immaterialism that suffuses neoliberal developmentalism more generally but not in itself particularly, which remains for now marginal enough to squash before it does the kind of mischief of which I sincerely think it capable.

As for your nonsense about iPhones and how inconceivable our tech-heaven might have seemed in 1970, let me just say that as someone who was alive and reading sf in 1970, 2010 is a pile of crap, and that anybody who thinks we are caught up in an accelerating future is a con artist a dupe or both. Telegraphy was the Victorian Internet, and there are no life-like Robots, give me a break. I would continue on in this plangent vein but I'm afraid I must away to catch the Concorde now then zip off to my free-enterprise space program rocket ship to the orbiting space hotel.

Science fiction in my view isn't prophesy -- at least it is never more than incidentally so -- science fiction is a commentary on the present in the present. There is no such thing as "The Future" -- "The Future" is a scam, its prophets are parasites draining the life out of the open futurity inhering in the diversity of peers acting in the present. There is no identification with The Future that is not purchased through the denigration of the futurity in the present, there is no identification with the post-human that is not purchased through the dis-identification with the diversity of human lifeways in the present. Understand what I am saying before you shoot off another reply, no respectable left anarchist should be indifferent to what I am saying here. You don't have to be a silly Robot Cultist, it's not too late for you.

jimf said...

"Summerspeaker" wrote:

> [B]ack in 1970 it would have absurd to contemplate that
> widespread computing would allow the virtually free
> duplication and distribution of video, sound, images, and text.

Not at all absurd, but perhaps simply too **boring** to
engage the attention of SF authors and their readers.

Remember, back in 1970 (and for that matter, from the 1940s
through the present), "computing" in science fiction meant
Arthur C. Clarke's HAL (or the "Central Computer" of
Diaspar in _The City and the Stars_), the "Games Machine"
of Van Vogt's Null-A books, "Colossus" in D. F. Jones'
novel and the movie based on it, "M-5", "Nomad",
"Vaal", "Landru", etc. in _Star Trek_, "R. Daneel Olivaw"
in Asimov's Robot books, H.A.R.L.I.E. in David
Gerrold's novel, etc., etc., etc.

> [And above,] [Y]our error is in denying possibility of
> transformative technology merely because it's transformative.
> The universe doesn't work like that. It doesn't care what
> impact a certain law or principle will have on human society.
> If it can be done, it can be done. Recent history stands
> replete with examples of profound and often sudden change.
> Familiarity with the progression of science should make you
> more wary about making claims of impossibility.

Here's another thing the universe "doesn't care about" when
it comes to "allowing" the possibility of "transformative
change": "It's gotta happen, gosh darn it, because I
want it so bad!"

Familiarity with H. L. Mencken makes one
more wary about making claims of possibility (**let
alone** of inevitability!):

"Unluckily, it is difficult for a certain type of mind to grasp
the concept of insolubility. Thousands...keep pegging away at
perpetual motion. The number of persons so afflicted is far
greater than the records of the Patent Office show, for beyond the
circle of frankly insane enterprise there lie circles of more and
more plausible enterprise, until finally we come to a circle which
embraces the great majority of human beings.... The fact is that
some of the things that men and women have desired most ardently
for thousands of years are not nearer realization than they were
in the time of Rameses, and that there is not the slightest reason
for believing that they will lose their coyness on any near
to-morrow. Plans for hurrying them on have been tried since the
beginnning; plans for forcing them overnight are in copious and
antagonistic operation to-day; and yet they continue to hold off
and elude us, and the chances are that they will keep on holding
off and eluding us until the angels get tired of the show, and the
whole earth is set off like a gigantic bomb, or drowned, like a
sick cat, between two buckets."

-- H. L. Mencken, "The Cult of Hope"

jimf said...

Dale wrote:

> [A]s someone who was alive and reading sf in 1970,
> 2010 is a pile of crap. . .

Hm. Do you mean 2010 the current year, or
_2010_ the Arthur C. Clarke novel (and the
movie with Helen Mirren doing a Russian accent)?

;->

Dale Carrico said...

I actually consider both the novel and the film to be better than average as entertainments, I still occasionally re-read and re-watch for a mild diversion.

But the larger point about the pile of crap futurists peddle as "accelerating change to infinity and beyond!" at their pep rallies and sales events still stands.

jimf said...

I wrote (quoting
http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/12.10.98/cover/joefirmage1-9849.html )

> "He argues that most major Biblical
> events actually happened pretty much as described, orchestrated
> by 'teachers' or angels who appeared throughout history to
> bring needed lessons to our rambunctious race. 'Why do we
> call them angels?' [he] asks. 'Because it's a nicer
> term than aliens.'"

Do you suppose he's read Doris Lessing's _Shikasta_ (Vol. 1 of
her "Canopus in Argos: Archives"), or is it simply that he's
absorbed the same Zeitgeist that led Lessing to write the book
in the first place. Probably the latter, I suppose.

There's a lot to be said for Zeitgeists (in the sense not just
of "spirit of the age" but "spirit of a certain kind of community
or class" as well). It must be **very hard** for somebody
raised in a strict religious environment to quite escape the
metaphysics implicit in such a tradition -- the dualism, the
plausibility of life after death, ghosts, the idea of a
"grand plan" (or grand **conspiracy**) for the universe,
the embodiment of good and evil in superhuman intelligences,
etc. It must often lead to a certain vulnerability
to the same ideas in other contexts, such as Scientology,
or UFOlogy, and so on. Many people of my parents' generation and
class (including my own parents), who **were** raised to take
religious traditions very seriously indeed and were **not**
particularly scientifically literate -- people who watched
Lawrence Welk **and** Billy Graham on TV, and who were
all too susceptible to the quasi-Biblical gee-whizzery of
Nostradamus or Chariots of the Gods, inherited a Zeitgeist
in which it **is** all too likely to continue to believe,
perhaps more-or-less subconsciously, in ghosts, or
precognition, or psychic powers, or communication with
the dead, in "after-death experiences" -- the "light at the
end of the tunnel", in some form of Heaven and Hell, etc.,
even after having ostensibly fallen away from the religious
tradition in which they first imbibed these ideas. I was somewhat
appalled, in 1973 when my mother died, to see my father reduced to
tears as he begged the visiting minister for some reassurance
that my mother wasn't going to Hell.

I suspect that the transhumanists inherit from their SF-conner
antecedents and brethren a certain Zeitgeist that, while
**influenced** by the true scientific Zeitgeist, nevertheless
diverges from it in significant ways, and, as Zeitgeists
tend to be, is self-reinforcing and highly resistant to
"correction" by the more mundane, workaday scientific
Zeitgeist.

SF author Greg Egan wrote an amusing short story called
"Unstable Orbits in the Space of Lies", in which he
reifies "Zeitgeists" as literal force-field attractors
which the characters in the book are trying to skirt
the boundaries between without falling into them.
Egan revisits the same notion (of an inescapable "attractor")
with the idea of an "Outlook" in _Diaspora_.

Summerspeaker said...

[i]which I understand better and more exhaustively than you quite realize I suspect[/i]

I'm familiar with your involvement in the scene. You've actually dealt with prominent transhumanists in person, right? To me, that alone sufficiently explains your attitude. Bitter animosities develop even amongst people with similar views; I can't imagine what it's like to work with those guys. Everyone in the radical community here hates everyone else, and we have plenty of reason to get along.

[i]As for your nonsense about iPhones and how inconceivable our tech-heaven might have seemed in 1970, let me just say that as someone who was alive and reading sf in 1970, 2010 is a pile of crap, and that anybody who thinks we are caught up in an accelerating future is a con artist a dupe or both.[/i]

What science fiction before 1970 predicted the internet as we see it today? Even William Gibson missed the simple cell phone. Besides, your whole premise is misguided. Science fiction goes well beyond accepted near-term futures and by no means shows what people thought likely.

I'm a decade or two younger than you and the acceleration of computer hardware and software seems so intuitively obvious to me as to be beyond dispute. And I've never even used an iPhone. Shows the importance of subjectivity, I guess, or perhaps a generation gap. My first digital experience involved a monochrome terminal and text-as-graphics games. Even with all the idiotic restrictions, the internet has profoundly changed daily life. Not necessarily for the better; that's a separate argument.

Telegraphy was the Victorian Internet, and there are no life-like Robots, give me a break.

You're not familiar with YouTube? Lifelike and more than a little unnerving.

Science fiction in my view isn't prophesy -- at least it is never more than incidentally so -- science fiction is a commentary on the present in the present.

An uncontroversial opinion. Myself, I think it can be both. The present can't be easily disentangled from the future; that requires a lot of time spent practicing meditation.

There is no such thing as "The Future" -- "The Future" is a scam, its prophets are parasites draining the life out of the open futurity inhering in the diversity of peers acting in the present.

Again, I cannot but consider this stance fundamentally anti-revolutionary. What revolutionaries do is analyze the present and advocate radical changes that lead to a better future.

There is no identification with The Future that is not purchased through the denigration of the futurity in the present, there is no identification with the post-human that is not purchased through the dis-identification with the diversity of human lifeways in the present.

This also seems equally applicable to leftist revolutionary movements. Che's thorough identification with the desired socialist future surely cost him emotionally. It's an old line of criticism that has fair merit to it but is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Do futurist visions differ so completely from traditional leftist dreams a better society? If so, why and how? The political content strikes me as easy enough to manipulate. If not, and you dismiss both as pernicious, then good luck convincing me. I am a true believer in the revolutionary spirit.

Familiarity with H. L. Mencken makes one more wary about making claims of possibility (**let alone** of inevitability!)

As with anything else, the safest best bet is no bet at all. Saying nothing is only sure way to avoid being wrong.

jimf said...

> What science fiction before 1970 predicted the internet as we see it today?

E. M. Forster's (hardly somebody remembered for science fiction!)
"The Machine Stops" (1909!) comes pretty darn close.
http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html

> Even William Gibson missed the simple cell phone.

That's right. Even the opening line of _Neuromancer_ has to be **explained**
to somebody growing up in the era of digital TV. ("The sky was the
color of TV, tuned to a dead channel.")

It's also hard not to giggle at the idea of a street criminal fencing
a "hot megabyte of RAM".

On the other hand, Gibson's near-term-future setting of "microsofts" --
brain chips that let you speak another language, or "cyberspace decks"
that let you "jack into the consensual hallucination of the matrix"
where the "Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority" and the "Mitsubishi
Bank of America" are glowing geometrical shapes on the virtual
horizon, are as much fantasy furniture as Star Trek's warp drive
and transporter. And we don't have "simstim", Sense/Net or Tally Isham
either (more's the pity. Speaking of which, have you ever read "The Girl
Who Was Plugged In" by James Tiptree?)

It's hard to imagine the same kind of thrilling, high-impact story of Case,
Molly, Armitage and Wintermute taking place in the cartoon landscape
of Second Life. :-/

> I'm a decade or two younger than you[Dale] [a twenty-something,
> surprise, surprise] and the acceleration of computer hardware
> and software seems so intuitively obvious to me as
> to be beyond dispute.

Hardware, yes, in recent decades. I wonder how long it will
continue though. (I certainly hope it does for a while --
I like toys as much as the next person!)

The transhumanists' elision of digital computer hardware with
artificial life/intelligence is **much** more suspect.
(It may be "intuitively obvious" to you, but here's one place
you really need to find out more about expert opinion.)
I was recently watching clips of _Colossus: The Forbin Project_
on YouTube, and there's a scene early on in which Forbin says,
rather frustratedly, to the President or the head of the CIA
"I wish you people would start realizing that Colossus is
more than a glorified adding machine." Unfortunately (or
perhaps fortunately, depending on your point of view)
computers (no matter how many orders of magnitude faster,
cheaper, more capacious memory-wise, or more abundant
than they were in 1969) **really are** still only "glorified
adding machines".

Software, u[g]h. . . you're not a programmer, are you? ;->

Dale Carrico said...

You've actually dealt with prominent transhumanists in person, right? To me, that alone sufficiently explains your attitude. Bitter animosities develop even amongst people with similar views

Sufficiently, eh? I think I offer up too many actual arguments, frames, terms, and elaborated formulations which demand address on their actual terms for you to get away with this effort to circumvent them with a glib declaration that they amount to sour grapes or a fit of pique. And, anyway, you couldn't be more wrong. Nick Bostrom, Aubrey de Grey, Robin Hanson, James Hughes, Mike Treder are all enormously likable in person and can be quite fun to be around. I can tell you as a matter of fact that I muted my critiques of superlative futurology enormously and for years and years precisely in an effort not to hurt the feelings of transhumanists with whom I was relatively friendly, especially James Hughes, despite the many problems I discerned and the dangers I feared in their viewpoints.

That you also think my ideas are importantly "similar" to those of the superlative futurologists can only mean you have not quite grasped them yet, not to put too fine a point on it. Sure, I'm a geek, but few geeks are transhumanists, thank heavens. Few sf fandoms make the mistake of confusing their manifold geek edifications with actual science or with serious policy making or with formal philosophy. I'm a, you know, Pharyngula, Rachel Maddow, Star Trek, Donna Haraway secular democratic geek. Do please take the time actually to grasp the terms of my critique of superlativity (The Condensed Critique of Transhumanism really does offer a manageable abbreviation of those terms) before you glibly assimilate it to the catechism of the Robot Cult.

jimf said...

Dale wrote:

> I can tell you as a matter of fact that I muted my critiques
> of superlative futurology enormously and for years and years
> precisely in an effort not to hurt the feelings of transhumanists
> with whom I was relatively friendly, especially James Hughes,
> despite the many problems I discerned and the dangers I feared
> in their viewpoints.

Perfectly understandable when personal loyalties are involved,
but always a mistake in the end, don't you think? Even if
an honorably-motivated one.

"Summerspeaker" wrote (directed at me, above):

> If you're having trouble discerning between Scientology
> and transhumanism, I don't believe we have much basis
> for discussion.

I already answered this, elliptically, but I feel like making
a more direct answer.

If you don't "believe we have much basis for discussion" on
the topic of the comparison between Scientology and Transhumanism,
then you're basically begging the whole question (of whether
Transhumanism and its sibling movements can be fairly
characterized as "cults") and short-circuiting the whole
point of this comment thread (motivated in the first place
by your objection that Dale's repetition of the phrase
"Robot Cult" in connection with his critiques of Transhumanism
is both off-the-mark and "unethical").

Both Dale and I believe, obviously, that there **are** significant
points of similarity between organized Transhumanism, Extropianism,
and Singularitarianism (and by "organized" I mean the on-line
mailing lists, the conference circuit, the manifestos, the "Institutes",
the fund-raising, the courting of the wealthy [Peter Thiel,
Larry Ellison, Larry Page] and the famous [William Shatner],
and the PR activities) and other cults,
incuding both (Ayn Rand's) Objectivism and (L. Ron Hubbard's)
Scientology.

If you are serious about your commitments to social justice
(to say nothing about having your discourse taken seriously --
and you do seem to be trying out, at least, for the role of
some sort of public intellectual) then you ignore these similarities
at your peril.

On a more personal note, I had to laugh a bit at the tone of
your "don't believe we have much basis for discussion".
Back when I was actively participating in some of the >Hist
lists, there was a participant (still is, for all I know)
who was a master of the pout-and-stamp school of rhetorical
estoppel. Once upon a time, I mentioned that Ayn Rand
has been characterized (by Objectivist psychistrist
Alan Blumenthal, among others, as reported in Jeff Walker's
_The Ayn Rand Cult_) as having displayed the symptoms
of multiple personality disorders. "In any case," I
added, "Rand was clearly some sort of nut case."
My comment provoked a classic outraged squall from
this defender of the faith -- he got up on his high
horse and proclaimed "To call someone of Ayn Rand's
intellectual stature 'some kind of nut case' is clearly
beyond the pale of civilized discourse, and cannot
be tolerated on this list or in any other serious
venue.' Or words to that effect. This guy was
an absolute master of putting an end to a discussion
by sheer huff-and-puff. Other favorite maneuvers
were along the lines of "I cannot believe that
X could ever possibly have said Y about
Z, and unless you can provide forensically bulletproof
evidence of your assertion I don't want to hear another
word about it -- and neither does anybody else."
And "Neither I nor anybody else on this list is
interested in your dirty laundry -- take it somewhere
else." By the way, even though this guy was a bit
of an ass himself, he was an ultra-orthodox defender
of the faith, so nobody **ever** called him on it.

Luke said...

Dale, you talk a lot.

Anyway. If you want to criticize transhumanism for not getting much done per unit resources consumed, that is a good criticism.

But that says nothing -- nothing -- about whether cryonics is the best rational bet for a human being facing death (it is) or whether aging will be cured at some point in the future (it will be).

Whether you feel that is revolutionary or not is irrelevant. I don't care. It is a message that needs to get out. Revolution is just another word for change; change costs resources, and can be wasteful or necessary. In this case, it is necessary. People are dying, *without* cryo preparations. That's just barbaric.

Dale Carrico said...

you talk a lot

No doubt in "The Future" everything will be so clear that Luke will never have to read anything more difficult than People magazine as he would prefer.

If you want to criticize transhumanism for not getting much done... that's good

Well, no, clearly I want to criticize transhumanism for being stupid, evil, deceptive, destructive, and wrong.

whether cryonics is the best rational bet for a human being facing death (it is) or whether aging will be cured at some point in the future (it will be)

Luke, honey, you are going to die.

Revolution is just another word for change

Well, uh, no, except in the sense that, say, apple and orange are just different words for things.

People are dying, *without* cryo preparations. That's just barbaric.

You have just characterized as barbaric every human being who has ever lived or is presently alive, a generalization so sweeping that it actually renders the judgment incoherent -- is it right to describe anybody as barbaric if nobody is not? I know you think you and your Robot Cult friends are not barbaric like everybody else because you have become post-mortals by clapping louder and louder together so that science fiction will become science fact. Unfortunately, none of that is true or clever or even particularly sane. Mortality is a fact of life. You are simply testifying in public to your alienation from the finite biological and social terms under which life is lived on earth, in mortal vulnerable bodies, in error-prone organismic brains, in diverse contingent societies, in interminable social struggles in history. I suspect you are a fellow of at least quotidian intelligence but very ignorant and over-confident, another Northern white guy who likes computers and science fiction and has gotten caught up in a deranging Robot Cult without quite knowing what you're in for. It's not too late for you -- you to school, actually become proficient in real science and engage in some real-world problem solving and you can surely outgrow this nonsense and contribute to your fellows.

By the way, don't be offended if I don't continue this exchange with you. You don't know enough or think deeply enough yet to hold my attention (unless, of course, you are a student and are paying for the privilege). Best to you.

Summerspeaker said...

Nick Bostrom, Aubrey de Grey, Robin Hanson, James Hughes, Mike Treder are all enormously likable in person and can be quite fun to be around.

Interesting. Down here in the gutter you'll find thick webs of personal animosity in even the smallest organization. I would suggest it has something to do with economic status, but I've witnessed exactly the same in academic departments and corporate workplaces. While the dynamics might seem free of drama initially, it's only a matter of time. If prominent transhumanists have managed to avoid that it's to their credit.

I can tell you as a matter of fact that I muted my critiques of superlative futurology enormously and for years and years precisely in an effort not to hurt the feelings of transhumanists with whom I was relatively friendly, especially James Hughes, despite the many problems I discerned and the dangers I feared in their viewpoints.

So you get along with folks well in person but have become infamous for your hostility in online debates? That's intriguing. I try to be cordial here in the tubes partially because I get my share of negative emotional energy from face-to-face interactions.

That you also think my ideas are importantly "similar" to those of the superlative futurologists can only mean you have not quite grasped them yet, not to put too fine a point on it.

That's a misinterpretation on your part. My comment was meant to contrast you and the transhumanists to people with similar views. Even folks with similar views hate each other, therefore there's even more reason for you and a Robot Cultist to not get along.

jimf said...

In my personal experience, somewhere around 50% of the cryonicists I've met meet
the DSM classification for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It has little to
do with "selfishness" in the sense it is being discussed here. It has a great
deal to do with:

*being unable to understand how other people feel

*being unable to reasonably anticipate how other people will react to social
situations

*being relatively insensitive to the subtle, nonverbal cues of others' behavior
which are critical to quality communication

*having a sense of comic book grandiosity such as renaming yourself Tom Terrific
or Super Mann.

*being unable to laugh at yourself and to see yourself in the context of your
own humanity, and, to quote Robert Burns "see ourselves as others see us."

*seeing others as either enemies or friends, as all good or all bad but not
being able to deal with shades of gray and to accept people as the complex,
flawed and often contradictory creatures they are

*believing John Galt, Dagny Taggart or any other Ubermensch are even possible
as real people, let alone desirable as ideals

*being unable to focus on the mundane tasks required to achieve dreams and goals
because they are always fixated on the ideal, the perfect, THE FUTURE.

*not being able to live fully and well now because they are held back by a crude
world, full of crude people who are keeping them from success and who will be
gone "comes the revolution" or "comes nanotechnology.

*seeing solutions to complex problems in terms of narrow, simplistic answers.


Such people are tiresome, unforgiving and often vicious. And yes, the world has
plenty of them who are most decidedly not cryonicists. Not all the
characteristics listed above are in every person with NPD. But enough are.

I have met a lot of "nice people" in my life. No, they are not Mother Teresa.
They are just people who you feel you can turn your back on without finding an
arrow in it. They have an easygoing sense about them that makes the NPD-type
look like a wound up clock spring. They can laugh at themselves and they are
genuinely interested in others -- and not just because their survival is at
stake. I recently received a multipage diatribe about how horrible the
situation was for the person who wrote it because the person they wrote it about
did not share their values and as a result, might genuinely threaten their
survival. Typical NPD. The kind of person I like to be around doesn't try to
remake you into them or something like them, nor do they assume you think and
feel as they do -- and if you don't then something is desperately wrong -- with
you!

I sincerely hope Steve Harris, who has a copy of the DSM, will add his comments
to mine since he is a far keener observer of cryonicists' behavior and far
better at articulating those observations.

So, you don't score points as a nice person by saving the whales. Every NPD
movie star in Hollywod (and most of them DEFINE NPD) has a "cause" to make them
look like caring human beings. Some people are nice just because it feel good.
Real mystery, huh?

jimf said...

"Summerspeaker" wrote:

> [Dale wrote:]
>
> > Nick Bostrom, Aubrey de Grey, Robin Hanson, James Hughes, Mike Treder
> > are all enormously likable in person and can be quite fun to be around.
>
> Interesting. Down here in the gutter you'll find thick webs of
> personal animosity in even the smallest organization. I would suggest
> it has something to do with economic status, but I've witnessed exactly
> the same in academic departments and corporate workplaces. While the
> dynamics might seem free of drama initially, it's only a matter of time.
> If prominent transhumanists have managed to avoid that it's to their credit.

They haven't, of course -- far from it! The following description
may not apply to Nick Bostrom, Aubrey de Grey, Robin Hanson, or
James Hughes, but there are **certainly** people in Extropian,
Transhumanist, and Singularitarian circles who match the description
below.

This was written in 1997 and posted to a cryonics mailing list,
but given the strong overlap between cryonicists and Transhumanists,
I'd say the characterization applies to the latter equally well.
Note the the author **is** a cryonicist and acknowledges that
the description applies **to himself** as well.


http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=7510
--------------------------------------
Date: 16 Jan 97 06:05:52 EST
From: Michael Darwin
Subject: Selfish cryonicists

There has been a good deal of response to my remark about selfish cryonicists
and how "it just ain't so."

I know many cryonicists who are generous, lovely people. But they do not
predominate, and in particular they are a rarity among the leadership and
activists in cryonics. For some time I made the observations I have about this
type of self-absorbed cryonicist until about a year ago Steve Harris put it
succinctly (having accumulated a significant mass of first hand experience as
well). He pointed me towards the DSM (the psych guys' diagnostic reference)
and a category in it called "Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)."
[see http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/ ]

Now, whether this is indeed a disease or disorder, I've no idea and could care
less. A scant few years ago homosexuality was classed as a disease in the DSM.
However, say what you will about the DSM, it often can't be beat for a succinct
description of a syndrome or pattern of human behavior (homosexuality included).
And, whether or not it is a disease or disorder, I find it damned unpleasant to
deal with people who are NPD. As a "victim" myself, I'm sure others feel
likewise ;-)

Dale Carrico said...

infamous for your hostility

Only among Robot Cultists and market fundamentalists all of whom deserve worse still.

robert desorum said...

CISHumanism seems to be a fine blend of Marxism and Sartre's Humanism.

Sartre was a mere beast who justified his own selfish / idiotic desires and went on to influence an entire generation of idiots whom sought instant gratification.

Transhumanism on the other hand is similar to Nietzsche's call for human excellence. Nietzsche's sister married a Nazi and proudly told her brother that she and her newly wed husband were going to help start an "Aryan Colony". Nietzche likened them to chimpanzees. Why? Because Chimpanzees wish to spread their genes, murder other organisms, steal resources, and so forth.

Why should we stay in this primitive state where murder/rape/theft/etc. still exist? Why can we not evolve beyond this "human" condition and move onto something better? We've come a long way since our ancestral origin in the Primordial soup. Lets work towards the next step.

Dale Carrico said...

You don't have to join a Robot Cult to join the actually-existing struggles for democracy and social justice. Confusing historical struggle with evolution is a profound category error, and together with your glib glosses of Sartre and Nietzsche you will forgive me if I declare you not exactly ready for prime time. May I suggest you spend some more time at the library before you spout off too much more idiocy online? I daresay the self-appointed sooper-geniuses of the transhumanoid fandoms will welcome you, but take it from me, you should not want to belong to any club that would have you as a member as things presently stand. The Nazi appropriation of Nietzsche amounted to a flabbergastingly facile misreading and I will concede your point that one discerns comparable foolishness in many transhuman, all too human, expressions of enthusiasm for some of his work.

robert desorum said...

Dale, are we stooping to ad hominem statements now? Historical struggle? What historical struggle. This is an evolutionary struggle in which man kind must shed his skin and come out of mud-hut in order to embrace reality as a whole.
Nazi appropriation? Nietzche condemned the Nazis and they ironically used his Ubermensch as a justification for Hitler's rule, when in reality, Hitler was nothing more than another power-hungry chimp, desiring to spread his troop across newly-acquired territories in order to gain newly acquired resources.

Why are you so sensitive, Dale? Why do empirical remarks upset you? Is reality that terrifying for your mind to handle?

robert desorum said...

Another thing, Dale, social justice and "democracy" are terms given to previously existing concepts by a feeble human intellect. If our species is to merge as one, we must strip ourselves of the NEEDS of the IRRATIONAL individual. Self interest is a valid concept. Egoism is not.
What your Philosophy proposes is not the well being of the lower-classes, but a Pandora's box which would falter us in our struggle to move past our primitive shell.

Dale Carrico said...

Am I the only one who is seriously turned on right now?

robert desorum said...

come out of his mud-hut*
And why? I'm merely pointing out how insignificant we are in the long-run. If we do manage the survive the next thousand years, we're likely to continue on fighting pointless wars, promote useless religious movements, and so fort. To use a derogatory/ sweeping generalization such as "Robot Cultist" only shows your level of intellect. You've wasted twenty years of your life coming up with a conspiracy theory and your only rebuff is that the rest of us are "Robot Cultists".
What are you, a late-age hipster?

Dale Carrico said...

You seem smart.

robert desorum said...

Human history up until this point = One group advanced monkeys decided to invade another group of advanced monkeys, so that their little offspring could undermine/destroy the offspring of the invaded group of monkeys. Some of these monkeys tried to stay out of this/these conflicts but they were dragged into it as well. The monkeys would use flags such as "religion" or "nationality" in order to defend their primitive urges (rape/murder/theft/etc), when they were merely denying the fact that they were no better than the animals they consumed on a daily basis.
The end.

Is my point easier for you to discern now? Or are you going to spout off your conspiracy on how a Robot Cult is promoting the extermination of mankind.

You need to read "Childhood's End". In it the human race goes extinct and a new race emerges (naturally). How? The human race decides to shed its skin and move past its impulsive desires.

robert desorum said...

Forth*
And is that sarcasm?

Dale Carrico said...

Everybody has something to hide but me and my monkey. Still, the time has come for you to start your own blog and stop boring the nice people here, dear.

robert desorum said...

I'd rather just challenge your flawed / groundless attacks on an advanced Philosophy. You're afraid of the unknown. I'm pointing out the flaws of that which is known.

Dale Carrico said...

I'm so afraid, Robert, hold me. Or better yet: stop spamming my Moot, take a deep breath, yer banned for now.