I admire a few who post at Edge.org (Lanier, Sterling, Margulis) but cannot say that I am a fan of the site more generally. What seems to be meant by the "Third Culture" there is one culture (a clumsy corralling of disciplines under the heading "hard and hard wannabe sciences") ignoring the other (no less clumsily, "humanities"), sometimes barking over the other, and then declaring this ignorance to be some kind of enlightened synthesis or detente.
Also, John Brockman is a key vector through which pop futurology, reductionist scientism, and neoliberal triumphalism is disseminated in my view, in parallel with the mainstream corporate-militarism of GBN (Global Business Network) and other "Long Boom" peddlers (to know what I think of Stewart Brand et al, you might read this).
The organizational archipelago of futurology is a richly layered one, and while most readers here probably know me best for my critique of its most hyperbolic forms -- the transhumanists, the cybernetic-totalists, the singularitarians, the techno-immortalists, the nano-cornucopiasts, what I like to deride as The Robot Cultists -- to me it is crucial to grasp the ramifications of futurological assumptions, aspirations, formulations, figures, forms in more mainstream discourse and organizational life as well, from deceptive hyperbolic advertizing norms suffusing public life to the unsustainable precarizing terms of corporate-military neoliberal developmentalist policy-making.
Just as the WTA (The World Transhumanist Association, er, now monikered HumanityPlus!) connects directly to IEET (the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, whose founders and many of whose leading lights are also those of WTA) which connects directly to Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute (again, the name has changed but the faces remain the same) so too one can draw lines connecting Edge.org to GBN to Wired Magazine to futurological impresario and guru Kurzweil to the libertopian and libertechian Extropian subculture to the Singularity Summit.
One can trace comparable lines of influence and force across the libertopian to Movement Conservative archipelago (with the same kinds of plausible deniability and sectarian squabbling to render connecting the dots a complex matter), for example. And, one can draw comparable lines between PayPal's Futurological FunderTwins Elon Musk and Peter Thiel with the futurological complex as one can draw between the Koch Brothers and the libertopian complex.
There are even points of connection between these complexes (the reactionary rhetoric of "spontaneous order" binds them ideologically, among other things), although the futurological complex hasn't quite managed the mischief the Neocons have, though I regard them as fully capable of it.
Although my critique of futurology has tended to focus on discourse analysis and philosophy (in which I am trained), as well as pseudo-science, forms of true belief, and both practical and conceptual affinities with reactionary politics, I must say that there remains an opportunity for some enterprising journalists and historians to document (and expose) the institutional structure of organized futurology from its mainstream to its superlative advocacy from the WW2 era emergence of modern information and computer science through to the contemporary epoch of irrational exuberance and greenwashing. I've done some small amount of that work, but it isn't really my area of expertise, and yet it is quite important work to be done.
These connections are not a matter of conspiracy so much as subculture and political organization in an epoch of network formations. But it is crucial, nonetheless, to grasp these ideological, subcultural, political, funding connections, whatever their measure and extent if we would resist the True Belief peddled by futurology through pseudo-science, the corporate-militarist PR peddled by futurology as policy-making, the derangement of public deliberation about technoscience issues by futurology's sensationalist hyperbole and fear-mongering, the circumvention of the political address of climate catastrophe by futurological geo-engineering greenwashing and boutique green consumer spectacles, the eugenicism of futurological "enhancement" discourses, the devastating ongoing anti-intellectualism of death-denialism, techno-fetishism, consumer culture by futurology's phony revolutionary amplification of the status quo peddled as "accelerating change."
Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All
Friday, September 09, 2011
Mapping the Futurological Complex
This post began as a response to somebody who recommended Edge.org in the still-ongoing discussion mentioned below taking place over at Michael Anissimov's "Accelerating Future" blog, but I have edited and adapted it a bit: