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

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rebel Rebel: Death Denialism As Utopian Politics

Upgraded and adapted from an exchange in the Moot with an annoyed Robot Cultist:
Dale, your insistence on death as an essential and thus valuable aspect of human condition proves the worth of transhumanist cultural campaign for indefinite lifespans.
My "insistence on death"? You mean my recognition of it? You mean my recognition that there are worse things than death?

My "insistence on death... as valuable"? You mean, my recognition that human beings are capable of meaningful, beautiful, satisfying lives even though they are mortal?
Regardless of the technical details,
Yes, you would indeed have to set those pesky details aside, wouldn't you? Especially, given your description of this Robot Cult techno-immortalist project as "cultural..." with my emphasis on the cult. (By the way, I wouldn't tell too many of your Robot Cult friends that you think they are artistes and not hard-core scientists, they might not take too kindly to the implications.)
considerable philosophical and psychological advantages stem from rejecting the inevitability of the grave.
Are there comparable advantages that stem from proposals to square the circle or invent a perpetual motion machine, pray tell? Do inform us of the wholesome and revolutionary forces unleashed by comparable denials, not only that humans are mortal, but how about interdependent? uncertain? error-prone? given to misunderstanding one another? vulnerable to retroactively rationalizing bad conduct? What other expressions of human finitude does baby want to deny before it's time for his bottle?
The revolutionary spirit centers on denying supposed givens and demanding fundamental transformation in this world. Claims of immutability serve reactionary ends.
Your own declaration depends for its intelligibility and force on givens, you know -- you affirm not only the possibility but the desirability of transformation in a way that implies a susceptability of the world in some construal to the intervention of agency in some construal. Do you deny that these construals and the mechanisms you posit have entailments? Presumably, you expect at some level to be understood, yes? Why doesn't the fundamentality of transformation you claim to champion bedevil your effort to testify to your aspirations else it demand the reactionary immutability of basic intelligibility as such? It's easy to indulge in cheap oneupsmanship with good-faith interlocutors in a radicality competition -- and doing so is indeed fairly common among boastful boys who don't much care for practical results and actual contexts. Of course, real political radicals and revolutionaries do care enormously about such things.
I will never accept horrors like capitalism, war, and physical degeneration as unchangeable.
Revolution is a political category. Describing teschnoscientific invention and application as "revolutionary" I leave to the PR companies and their intellectual apologists in futurology who never tire of selling their crap products in such terms to uncritical consumers in lieu of freedom and to the ruin of the world. And until I have the sense that you are an actual reliable collaborator in actual struggles on the ground against the inequitable and violent forms that capitalism take here and now, against the actual threats and crimes that war confronts actual people with here or there, you will forgive me if I don't give two shits about your histrionic declarations that you will not "accept" sweeping abstractions like "capitalism" and "war."
As long as I live I will struggle toward the radiant dream of freedom. Only in this process will I discover how far I can go.
You have obviously confused an essentially aesthetic attitude with a political one, with the usual result. "Struggle" involves more than running your mouth in front of a mirror.

I must say, by way of conclusion, debauching your revolutionary aspirations in exchange for aestheticism is an especially hilarious mistake to make when, in addition to everything else, you are drawing your aesthetics from the Robot Cultists, of all people. I mean, I don't know if you've noticed, but the great example of "transhumanist aesthetics" is the terminally awful Natasha Vita-More, who really is a worse than third rate fraud, a kind of Ayn Rand meets tee vee infomercial model who does digi-daub soft porn that manages at its best to be completely unintentional and earnest camp (and given the rarity of laugh out loud camp in this age of cheap bubble-head cynicism I certainly appreciate it as that).

As for politics, the transhumanists and the rest of the Robot Cultists are committed, if not in word then in deed, to uncritical hyper-consumerism amidst corporate-military developmentalism, whether they are loud-and-proud right-wing reactionaries or defensive lefty sellouts. Pouting and stamping your foot at aging might not change the world, but you better believe it gets those phony skin cream jars flying off the shelves at forty bucks a pop.
Rebel Rebel, your pose is a joke,
Rebel Rebel, you're stuck in a cult,
Rebel Rebel, how come you don't know?
Hot mess, take your tired ass home.


jimf said...

> > considerable philosophical and psychological advantages
> > stem from rejecting the inevitability of the grave.
> Are there comparable advantages that stem from proposals to square
> the circle or invent a perpetual motion machine, pray tell?

You know, people (particularly the transhumanists! the "brights")
criticize the established churches for preying on fear and superstition
by using the carrot of heaven and the stick of hell (both of
which reject the "inevitability of the grave") to bamboozle
the irrational herd.

But every penny-ante guru seems to make the same claim, in some
form or other. Deepak Chopra? -- meditate hard enough and your
cosmic consciousness can control the quantum field of your
body and stop aging. The Scientologists? -- your thetan is
eternal, and you'd better believe your contract with the Sea Org
is for a billion years.

35 yeas ago I briefly got into something called "Re-evaluation
Co-Counseling", a sort of amateur psychotherapy (like Scientology,
but without the E-meter and without the $$$ courses -- you
and a friend trade off on being the "therapist" and the
"patient"). One of the things that eventually turned me off
(apart from the really uncool idea of stripping your psyche bare
to an amateur -- particularly a friend) is that apparently
Harvey Jackins, the inventor of the thing, had a crackpot notion
(not unlike the Scientologists') that if you got rid of all
your hang-ups (what the Scientologists call -- or used to call,
at least -- "engrams") you can greatly extend your lifespan --
like, to 150 years. Yeah, right.

Dale Carrico said...

And what, really, after all, is more revolutionary and avant-garde than being skeeeeeered to diiiieee!!!!