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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Future Schlock Credulity Levels

Across the Robot Cult archipelago the talk has turned, that is to say returned, to the topic of "Shock Levels," to futurists boasting about how much techno-transformative storm-churn their manly meme muscles can take as compared to meek mehum sheeple of the "luddite" herd. Writes Singularitarian Transhumanist Michael Anissimov, "Categorizing people by their shock level with regard to the future… it’s great!"

As with so much superlative futurology devoted to declarations about accelerating acceleration of acceleration blah de blah the objective observer is actually struck most of all by the stubborn stasis of the discourse.

As Paul Hughes indicates in the piece that has momentarily re-ignited the hubbub, all this talk of feeling accomplished without accomplishing anything via self-congratulatory self-reports of one's futurological unflappability is of course old hat, with Yudkowski offering up the locus classicus for this quintessential doctrine for boys for their toys back in 1999, before we all endured a lost decade the futurologists were sure would be a Long Boom.

Needless to say, reasonable skeptics will aver such "shock levels" rarely track much apart from the credulity levels of the futurological faithful.

You know, it's been a long time since the marginal and derivative literary genre popularized by Toffler's Future Shock has yielded much that isn't better described as Future Schlock. One notes with interest the showcased illustration accompanying the Hughes piece is of Montreal's Habitat 67, itself now nearly half a century old.

Little wonder that the sensible among us have long since moved on from future shock to future fatique.

12 comments:

jimf said...

> [W]e all endured a lost decade the futurologists were sure would
> be a Long Boom. . . Little wonder that the sensible among us have
> long since moved on from future shock to future fatique.

Dale, you've just gotta get get that future boom boom boom.

They're so three thousand and eight; we're so two thousand and late.

erickingsley said...

The comments on the Hughes piece are priceless. My favorite line is:

"You have to viscerally understand that WE WILL BE WHAT WE HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT OF AS GODS."

This chap seems terribly earnest about his imminent all-caps godhood, although he could be an outrageous troll I suppose.

erickingsley said...

Also, I note that the illustrations of the "Shock Levels" above "zero" (aka: actual reality) are all bad sci-fi book cover art.

Granted, it is a bit difficult to find actual photos of "interstellar travel", "uploading" or "Powers" (???) but couldn't they at least find a nice render of a Star Trek ship or something? Google Images people...you'd think they'd know about that, eh?

Chad Lott said...

"You have to viscerally understand that WE WILL BE WHAT WE HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT OF AS GODS."

Well, I guess I better get used to the tentacle face and all that being not dead, but dreaming business.

jimf said...

> Well, I guess I better get used to the tentacle face
> and all that being not dead, but dreaming business.

Looking forward to your dream job:

http://hilobrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/cthulhu-hentai.jpg

jimf said...

> "Powers" (???). . .

Oh, that's an allusion to Vernor Vinge's _A Fire Upon the Deep_,
in which "transcended" machines (computers) become "Powers"
(if they happen to live in a part of the galaxy -- the "Zone of Thought"
known, naturally, as the "Transcend" --
that physically permits such shenanigans).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Fire_Upon_the_Deep
(I see there's a new sequel due out in a few weeks:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernor_Vinge#Zones_of_Thought_series ).

When Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote "Staring into the Singularity"
back in '96, he was big into Vingean allusions -- he used
the term "Power" for a super-duper AI, and called his Web site "The High Beyond"
(another Vingean "Zone of Thought", right next door to the Transcend).

I've sometimes thought the term "Powers" in Vinge might also
have been a deliberate hat-tip to J. R. R. Tolkien, whose translation of
"Valar" was also (often) "The Powers". There are plenty of
(mostly bad, I'll grant) illustrations of **them** on
the Web.
http://marialombideezpeletaart.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/957-valar-ainu-small.jpg
(I like the tortoise tatoo. Can't guess who that's supposed to
be, though. If the ones reclining in the left foreground are
Manwe and Varda, and the one petting the cat is Yavanna, and the
big guy sitting next to her is Aule, is the one with the
turtle supposed to be Ulmo? But then, why a **land** tortoise?)

jimf said...

> Also, I note that the illustrations of the "Shock Levels" . . .
> are all bad sci-fi book cover art.

Here ya go, right from the adjacent blog-roll.

L. Ron Cyborg:

http://www.somethingawful.com/d/dungeons-and-dragons/cyborg-gygax-1987.php

(I have to admit I have a weakness for chrome-plated
jockstraps, though.)

Dale Carrico said...

Talk about future schlock... "I'll be hack."

jimf said...

Yea, brethren, the Singularity is near.

http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/kurzweil.jpg

Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jimf said...

> Who at the time didn't think we'd be living in space in another 30 years?

My grandma, who insisted (though I was never sure whether she
believed it, or just said it to get my goat -- maybe a little
of both) that the moon landing was faked. (And she was one of the
folks, born in 1889, who people like Tyler Cowen like to remind us
saw vastly more change in their lifetimes than us folks born
after the middle of the last century.)

;->

Paul said...

I was catching up on my blog reading after being out of the country the last three weeks and noticed his comment on your blog post about "transhumanism". Then in turn, noticed a link to a post I made 8 years ago, and which was reposted more cecently by Michael A. My critiques of transhumanism have been long and running (although not nearly as cutting as yours Dale). In defense of my writing, I believe I was being rather dispassionate in simply describing Eli Yudkowsky idea that some ideas are more "shocking" than others, with some discreetness. At no time was I cheerleeding for them. Also, having just re-read the article, I can see nowhere where I said, "You have to viscerally understand that WE WILL BE WHAT WE HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT OF AS GODS." If those words are there, they are not mine.

Cheers.