Robot Cultists [who] like to paint themselves as brave for devoting their adult lives to daydreaming about how awesome it would be if magic were real, . . . then they like to rail against phantom armies of supremely powerful mortality-loving disease-loving luddites who presumably stand in the way of the spontaneous emergence of all the magic.In the Moot, longtime Friend of Blog "JimF" quoted that passage and inserted between "luddites" and "who stand in the way" the additional phrase "and non-libertarians (especially Democrats)," which I think is interesting and important, but actually quite complicated. I am promoting the scattered speculations of my response to a post of its own.
"That's a tricky connection -- the one identifying Robot Cultism, usually but not always through some variation on libertopianism, with reactionary politics -- but I do agree with you about it when all is said and done. As you know one of my futurological brickbats more or less baldly asserts "every futurism is finally a retro-futurism," but I do think the critique is a bit more complicated than that pithy assertion suggests. Of course, with some sects of the Robot Cult, like the Extropians, the case is cut and dried, since they mostly affirm (affirmed?) the connection outright, and their slogans (no death, no taxes!), their attraction to explicitly libertopian sf like early Vinge and campy Wright and others, their curious attachment to gun-nuts and Bell Curve apologists and crypto-anarchists and so on, are all available for anybody to see who can use the google, and of course I haven't forgotten Tech Central Station, the fraudulent "think tank" celebrating high tech and free markets in ways that were characteristic of the whole futurological archipelago but got exposed as corporate-militarist right wing tools -- this is why I often deride an Ayn Raelian spirit in so much futurology.
"But things get trickier with the futurologists who claim liberal and democratic socialist and even anarcho-socialist roots. I happen to think even futurists with good intentions and earnest progressive assumptions are incredibly vulnerable to right-wing appropriation but also structurally tend to advocate variations of progressivism that are more authoritarian than not (eg, technocratically elitist policy wonk circle-jerks and ultimately anti-democratizing design discourses) or only vacuously democratic (eg, digital utopians mistaking surfing of packaged advertorial content in highly surveilled contexts as "open access" and superficial tweeting as "deliberation" and self-promotional deception as "free expression").
"There is a real sense in which the progressive developmentalist investment of Dewitt Clinton (who shepherded the Erie Canal and en-gridded Manhattan in a way that fostered both democracy and eventually progressive infrastructure services there) is hard to separate from the more fraudulent speculative mindsets that yielded vast periodic economic panics (including Depressions) in the name of exorbitant wealth-capture. That progressive-reactionary investment/speculation ambivalence in developmentalism is already there in Alexander Hamilton and still there in FDR -- and I personally see this as a prefiguration of the uniquely American varieties of futurological discourse (arising out of the ferment of the Second Thirty Years' War, that is to say the two twentieth century World Wars that concluded Westphalian European internationalsm and then implemented post-war globalism).
"I suspect that sustainable urban planning and progressive macroeconomics and democratizing planetary developmentalism (and I do not mean by this Washington Consensus globalization in its complementary neoliberal and neoconservative faces/fasces, but technodevelopmental social struggle of a kind informed by environmental justice critique and social democracy/democratic socialism) provide the sensible substantial kernel out of which much well-intentioned futurology finds the foothold it goes on to derange out of too superficial popular scientific understandings, too privileged penchants for undercritical enthusiasms, and common or garden varieties of greed for easy profit and a fairly widespread death-denialism (more usually in the form of mid-life crises, but in futurology, as you know, sometimes taking far more extreme forms taking us into the territory of organized religiosity and un(der)critical True Belief)."