Sometimes I find it difficult to determine whether an interlocutor's turn to this (to me) rather trivial non-question is a result of an unserious person literally incapable of taking my serious questions seriously, or an effort at distraction on the part of an organizational opportunist trying to divert attention away from a threat in a fairly obvious PR move, or simply the sort of thing that happens when perfectly likeable but earnestly dull people don't know exactly how to deal with substantive critiques that happen to be sprinkled with little bits of irony and facetiousness and wit and are therefore a little harder to read than is, say, People Magazine.
Were the Extropians a cult? Is cryonics a scam? Are singularitarians a Kurzweil fandom or engaged in some geek headgame variation of a kind of silly eXtreme sport for boys? What about people who call themselves transhumanists, who declare themselves to be part of a "movement," to have a transhumanist "identity," some of whom are literally members in "transhumanist"-identified membership organizations and so on? Are they more like a science fiction fandom for folks who prefer the quasi-nonfiction futurist subgenre of science fiction? or more like members of a marginal not-particularly-coherent fledgling school of philosophy? or a noisy flashy sub(cult)ure that has attracted attention from mainstream media outlets out of proportion to its size? or an ideology trying to make a political movement or a political party but just unusually inept in these efforts? or a marketing scheme for a handful of wannabe gurus slash public intellectuals?
Are the ferocious fans of Ayn Rand's screeds and romance novels strictly speaking a cult, given their ongoing organized existence and annoying inability to talk sense? Are Scientologists still a cult once they have arrived at a certain number of adherents and garnered a certain amount of real estate and legal resources? If yes, is Mormonism a cult, if no, is Mormonism a cult? What about rabid pop fandoms and online conspiracist sub(cult)ures? What are they and is transhumanism whatever it is that they are?
These questions are all interesting questions, I suppose, but I can't say that these are the questions about superlative futurology as a discursive phenomenon to which I have devoted the lion's share of my own critical attention. A debate about none of them would provide the grounds for a substantive response to my critiques of superlative futurology as far as I can tell.
I do think there are things about especially organized transhumanist discursive formations which get a little bit culty, certainly enough so to upset (in a good way, to my mind) especially the real True Believer types or defensive organizational figures who tend to gravitate into conversation with me here on this blog. To be honest, it's hard for me to see how a sub(cult)ural ideological futurological formation freighted with explicit promises of personal and historical transcendence (even if "techno-transcendence") is not going to have some culty paraphernalia about it, after all, especially to the extent that it remains marginal and defensive, as the transhumanists-singularitarians-technoimmortalists-etalia certainly all are. If pointing out that obvious sort of thing freaks the Robot Cultists out, so much the better.
But setting all that aside, for the moment, it should be plain to the meanest intelligence devoting any time or attention at all to my many critiques of superlative and sub(cult)ural futurological formations (both organized and discursive), many of which are both topically and chronologically archived at the sidebar for anybody who actually wants to know what it is they are talking about if they are excoriating me for my so-called distortions and dishonesties, I tend to say a few basic things, over and over again:
First of all, I describe futurological marketing and promotional discourse as the prevailing, definitive discourse of contemporary capitalism in what is otherwise described as its current neoliberal/neoconservative corporate-military developmental-networked mode, and I declare that superlative futurology is most usefully understood as an especially illustrative and structurally clarifying extreme set of variations on -- or symptoms of -- that prevailing or mainstream futurology.
In the introduction to the Superlative Summary (the most sprawling -- also, admittedly, daunting and, after all, sometimes repetitive -- chronological archive of my critiques of superlative futurology over the years) I write, for example, that "[t]here is considerable overlap between… mainstream and superlative futurological modes, [since] both share a tendency to reductionism conjoined to a (compensatory?) hyperbole bordering on arrant fraud, not to mention an eerie hostility to the materiality of the furniture of the world (whether this takes the form of a preference for financialization over production, or for the digital over the real), [as well as] the materiality of the mortal vulnerable aging body, the materiality of the brains, vantages, and socialities in which intelligence is incarnated, among many other logical, topical, and tropological continuities."
In a piece I posted just yesterday, I made (yet again) the second, substantial claim that recurs in my actual critique:
[W]hatever its insistent but superficial scientificity, the substance and primary work of superlative futurology remains, as it always has been primarily:one -- either ideological, consisting in prophetic utterances in the form of hyperbolic threat/profit assessments and marketing/promotional discourse wrapped in superficially technoscientific terminology providing incumbent-elite corporate-industrial interests rationales to justify continued profit-taking at the expense of majorities
two -- or theological, consisting in priestly utterances in the form of apocalyptic warnings of looming total catastrophes but also promises to the faithful of a techno-transcendence of mortality via super-longevity, error and humiliation via super-intelligence, and stress and worldly defeat via super-abundance providing both reassurance and consolation especially in the midst of the economic and ecologic distress of neoliberal-neoconservative technodevelopmental planetary precarization.
To return yet again to my Introduction to the Superlative Summary, I elaborate this second substantive point there as well, saying:
The characteristic gesture of superlative, as against mainstream, futurological discourses will be the appropriation of worldly concerns -- such as the administration of basic healthcare, education, or security, say -- redirected (in a radically amplified variation on conventional marketing and promotional hyperbole) into a faith-based discourse promising not just the usual quick profits or youthful skin but the promise of a techno-transcendence of human finitude, a personal transcendence modeled in its basic contours and relying for much of its intuitive plausibility on the disavowed theological omnipredicates of a godhood (omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence) translated instead into pseudo-scientific terms (superintelligence, superlongevity, superabundance).
Again, I can see how a discussion of the relative cult-likeness or not of the various sects or flavors or genres of transhumanist-singularitarian-technoimmortalist-nanocornucopiast-geoengineering discourses, organizations, subcultures, whatever might lead us to nibble around the edges of some of my actually stated concerns about superlative futurology, but, frankly, it is hard to see how an exclusive or sustained focus on the cult debate is anything but a failure of intelligence, honesty, or nerve. As I said yesterday, I continue to welcome any serious engagement with my actual critique and especially welcome evidence of the dishonesty and distortion I regularly get accused of by some of the most foolish and most culty of the Robot Cultists (insert longer, unwieldy but just as damning phrase provided above here if so inclined, it makes no difference to me) in the Moot.