You criticize them a lot, but within the transhumanist community, George [Dvorsky] (and Michael [Anissimov, presumably?]) are not your enemies. George put forward a moral argument for enhancing the lives of nonhuman animals. I personally think the technology is so distant, if it's ever possible at all, that it's not worth speculating about. More to the point, after reading George's article, I can't seem to make myself care about that issue. After all, there are human animals who are suffering right now, and who could use a little uplift. The same moral imperative applies to them…. I don't know if George would agree with me, but that's what I take away from it.Dvorsky advocates the forcible re-writing of nonhuman animal cognition and morphology into forms more congenial and familiar to human animals. I explained at length in the response to Dvorsky I linked to why it is wrong to use "enhance" as though it were a neutral designation in such arguments.
It is one thing to work to eliminate the suffering of nonhuman animals at the hands of human ones in the present world, it is actually quite another thing -- and a far more profoundly questionable one at that -- to propose that nonhuman animals suffer simply in being different from human animals in their way of being in the world, let alone to propose that we can simply assume in advance that it is neutral to claim it is so much better to live and think in a human way (a construction that already fancifully and possibly perniciously presumes human beings themselves have only one way of living and thinking that is proper to them) that we can just pretend in advance that nonhuman animals would consent to their forcible policing into conformity with more human ways of living and thinking.
Democracy is the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them, and I happen to believe that most nonhuman animals do have a voice already in which they communicate their dissatisfaction with violation and exploitation quite well -- I hardly regard it as democratic to treat nonhuman animals instead as ventriloquist dummies congratulating humanity for the inherent superiority of our manner of cognition to justify whatever parochial preferences we happen to hold at the moment for how we want to treat them as raw material for our megalomaniacal project of the day.
The outrageous episode of futurological immodesty represented by their "animal uplift" arguments is, by the way, just one of many symptoms of the same parochial hubris that plays out time after time in the neoliberal eugenicism of the transhumanoid bioethical stances.
To frame as neutrally desirable "enhancement" what always amount to actually parochially preferred values is to render sensible deliberation on matters of prosthetic intervention in an era of non-normativizing therapy considerably less clear. I have argued for years that non-normativing medicine brings quandaries of consent to the fore -- that the politics of prosthetic self-determination demand a scene of consent that is legibly informed and non-duressed in ways that demand considerably greater entitlements than most notionally democratic states are willing to contemplate at the moment.
Certainly, the vacuous pro forma consent that satisfies market ideologues is profoundly inadequate here, given how stratified such scenes of "consent" happen to be by the inherent threat of precarity and informality and by the misinformation and fraud of marketing norms and profit-taking scams.
I would say that most futurological discussion of "enhancement medicine" with their activation of wish-fulfillment fantasies of eternal youth, marketable attractiveness, invulnerability to dis-ease, comic book super-capacities, body loathing, and all the rest are really best regarded as simply the extreme end of the marketing and promotional culture that already hyperbolically and fraudulently suffuses medical development discourse in North Atlantic societies.
Martin may be right to say that "enemy" is a rather overdramatic word to describe my relation to these transhumanoids, but certainly, to say the least, our disagreements are very strong and very deep. Now, if the actual plausibility of the "tech" they talk about was a precondition for critiquing transhumanoids and singularitarians and nanocornucopiasts and techno-immortalists I daresay I wouldn't ever talk about those assorted nuts at all, "ape uplift" handwaving certainly not excepted.
Again, their futurological discourse strikes me as interesting these days almost entirely as a symptomatic matter -- in the "animal uplift" stuff, for example, replaying tropes and moves from colonialist discourse in clumsy labcoat drag. Usually futurology is little more than a kind of fun house mirror and clarifying amplification of the pathologies and deceptions of mainstream advertizing culture, neoliberal developmental discourse, and techno-hype, it seems to me.
In practical terms, here and now, I still think futurology deranges technoscientific deliberation with hyperbole and terror and fraud in profoundly pernicious ways, and I also do indeed think its organizational life bears watching in the way comparably nutty celebrity cults but also, say, neocon think-tanks do.
Anyone who knows the history of Movement Republicanism and the role of a handful of impassioned ideologues backed by a handful of super-rich donors in the creation of an institutional archipelago that disseminated a deranging anti-governmental discourse and organized a legislative program that turned the tide of New Deal to Great Society civilization into Reagan era through Bush and Teavangelical anti-civilizationism (about which I've said more here), should pay close attention to PayPal billionaires Peter Thiel and Elon Musk and their coziness with transhumanoid and singularitarian and futurological would-be gurus, from Kurzweil to Brand to Brockman, their support of the rhetoric of "spontaneous order" and hence the practice of privatization of public investment and culture (for example, of public education, security, infrastructure, the space program), their inevitable hypocritical reliance on government coupled with anti-government rhetoric, their peddling of reactionary geo-engineering and Web 2.0 superficialization schemes as though these are in some way "green" or progressive (aided and abetted by many progressive-identified folks whose fetishization of "technology" renders them, as so often happens, particularly susceptible to reactionary authoritarian politics).
Be all that as it may, however, these days I really do think the various superlative futurologists are mostly worthy of attention for what they expose, clarify, and illustrate about more mainstream technoscientific hyperbole, reductionism, denialism, and anti-democracy. Also, of course, they are usually good for a few laughs.