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

Friday, June 29, 2012


Okay, so, rather a long time ago I noticed that somebody had created and, it seems, still occasionally polishes and prunes a wikipedia page about me. This is something I try not to pay attention to because it's all rather appalling when you think about it, but I do know that students of mine often check that thing out when they are shopping for courses to take at Berkeley and at SFAI, and heaven only knows why they would go on to take a class with me on the basis of whatever it is that they are finding there. Now, obviously, I cannot in good conscience have anything to do with editing that page personally, since that would be too much like indulging in ugly self-promotional antics and actually seems actively unethical, come to think on it... But, if any of the people who are maintaining that page happen to number among my readers I really do ask you to think about the second sentence at any rate: "He is best known for proposing techno-progressivism as a more rational and sophisticated alternative to both transhumanism and bioconservatism." I mean, quite apart from the, let's face it, graceless and also weirdly congratulatory advertorial tone of that "more rational and sophisticated" remark, which surely has no place in what is supposed to be a reference piece, is it really true that I am "best known" (if I am "known," stricto sensu, at all) for my brief terminological flirtation with that "technoprogressive" tag -- a term I actively disavowed half a decade ago? Surely, I'm better known (if page views are any sort of indication) for my critiques of "geo-engineering" (like this one published by the World Future Society) and, obviously, of futurology (for instance, a bit notoriously, this), of transhumanism, singularitarianism, techno-immortalism, and so on. I also notice that some of the copy for the page is lifted from an old profile published by SFAI, which has since been updated in a way that better reflects my actual work: "Dale Carrico teaches philosophy, critical theory, and science and technology studies, focusing on the planetarity of both environmental concerns and peer-to-peer media formations... and writes about the politics of technoscience, developmentalist ideology, futurological subcultures, and the suffusion of public life by marketing norms on his blog, Amor Mundi." I daresay I'm making too much of this, having just looked at the thing and being a bit heeby-geebied by it, not to mention being terribly passive-aggressive about it, too, but honestly that page really is something of an embarrassment.


jimf said...

> . . .if any of the people who are maintaining that page happen to number
> among my readers. . .

Anybody named Desmond around here? ;->

Well, your entry seems to have been originally written (9 Feb 2006) and
to have since been largely maintained (last edit 28 March 2010) by a Wikipedia
user who calls himself "Loremaster".

Earliest 9 Feb 2006 (Loremaster)
"Although sympathetic to democratic transhumanism, Carrico is not a transhumanist.
He describes his cultural and political views as techno-progressive or,
more precisely, as progressive."

18 Feb 2006 (Loremaster)
Line "Although sympathetic. . .not a transhumanist." deleted.

2 March 2007 (RJASE1)
Article nominated for deletion.
(Separate article deleted as of 7 March 2007, first
redirected to "Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies",
later to "Techno-progressivism".)

22 March 2010 (Mporter) [Mitchell Porter!?]
Separate (short) article restored.
". . .critical theorist and techno-progressive best known for his
criticism of transhumanism as a form of 'superlative futurology'."

26 March 2010 (Loremaster)
". . .critical theorist best known for his criticism of transhumanism
as a form of 'superlative futurology' and proposing techno-progressivism as a more
rational alternative." Immediately amended to "a more rational alternative
to both technophilia and technophobia."

28 March 2010 (Loremaster)
". . .an American critical theorist and rhetorician. He is best known for
proposing techno-progressivism as a more rational alternative to both transhumanism
and bioconservatism."
". . .more rational alternative. . ." changed to ". . .more rational and
sophisticated alternative. . ."

About "Loremaster" (who's gotta be a fan!):

"Among the top 1000 Wikipedians by number of edits under the pseudonym Loremaster,
Desmond Collingworth. . ."

"I award this Barnstar to Loremaster for excellent work in
transhumanism related subjects. —Morphh 2007-2-20"

"I'm just a doctoral student in political sciences and an informal
member of the Skeptics Society. --Loremaster (talk) 18:53, 24 January 2011"
"For the record, I am not a member of the World Transhumanist Association
(a membership organization of the transhumanist movement) or the Institute
for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (a think tank for transhumanist and
non-tranhumanist thinkers) nor do I work for either organization. However,
I have developed friendships with a few people who work for both these
"And, between you and me, anyone who takes the content of that
quote [from Yudkowsky's "The Singularity Principles"] seriously enough to
wait around for this fantasy to happen when the world is heading toward
an ecological catastrophe, needs to see a shrink..."


Stephen said...

I note also that there was a nomination for deletion in 2007, which went ended up with the content of the article at that time being merged into the article for IEET. Three years later, someone re-created it, at which point loremaster remade it into it's current form over the course of two days.

I suspect another deletion nomination would succeed, if you're interested in that outcome.

Dale Carrico said...

I wouldn't object to a more perfect completion, but deletion is preferable to the present excretion.

jimf said...

> I wouldn't object to a more perfect completion. . .

Well, seeing as he's taken some pains to polish the article
over several years (both the original that he wrote, and the
reincarnation following deletion), if you made a revision as you'd
like to see it and sent it to "Loremaster", maybe (**maybe**)
he'd be willing to perform the edits.

(You could try editing it yourself, but I don't know if
Wikipedia officially frowns on that sort of thing or not,
apart from the embarrassment of it. It seems slightly less
embarrassing to let the original author decide what to do
with your updates.)

I'd send him the email **and** put a note on his "Talk"
page telling him that you've done so.

Or you could just ignore it all. ;->

Barkeron said...

I don't think it's an inexcusable faux pas if the subject of an article edits it as long as one abides by their policies.

I would do it myself, but I fear my wiki-fu isn't strong enough to make a lasting change. The Big W's bureaucracy can be excruciatingly anal-retentive at times. If I could just find the report in which a history professor writes about how he found a factual error in an article about a Gilded Age terrorist trial and was prevented from correcting it because it wasn't the scientific majority opinion as expressed in [x] books...

You're better equipped to find the necessary citations as you can simply cite your blog posts as primary sources (or so I guess).

jimf said...

> The Big W's bureaucracy can be excruciatingly anal-retentive at times.

"Excruciatingly" hardly even begins to describe it. ;->

> you can simply cite your blog posts as primary sources (or so I guess).

I gather that reliance (or at least **sole** reliance) on self-authored
material is a big no-no for Wikipedia. Also "original research".

Now if Dale could locate some **independent** source which describes
him more accurately (from his own point of view), then that
could be pointed to as justification for a Wikipedia edit.

It could also be, though, that **any** new activity on Dale's
Wikipedia article could have the effect of alerting the
editor (or some other editor) who didn't think the article
should be there in the first place ("not a significant enough
person") to re-nominate the article for deletion.

which might not be a bad thing, as far as Dale is concerned.

Lorraine said...

Maybe an author thinks 'equity in diversity' is a technoprogressive slogan. FWIW, I just added technoprogressive to my spelling dictionary.

Dale Carrico said...

If you google the phrase "equity in diversity" it will be revealed as a fairly mainstream phrase in progressive left policy discourse. For what it's worth, I always thought of the "technoprogressive" term in much the same way.

Definitely, I never used the term "technoprogressive" as a moniker for some New or Unique program or platform or philosophy or party. I have never approved of the racket in which, usually, a handful of snotty white guys try to attract attention to themselves by scribbling some generic online manifesto under the heading of some punchy neologism and then pretend that they are Very Serious and are Doing Something About Something.

For me, "technoprogressive" was always a shorthand term for the gawky awkward phrase "technoscientifically literate and technodevelopmentally focused progressive," and I never thought that either mainstream or superlative futurological types, even in their most reasonable guises, were special exemplars of such an attitude.

Indeed, I always used to describe "technoprogressivism" as a burgeoning tendency in mainstream democratic thought and activism, concerned with the defense of public policy based on consensus scientific and empirically validated viewpoints on climate change, Darwinian evolution, harm-reduction drug policy, health care and family planning, Keynesian macroeconomics, as well as support of net neutrality, medical research, space science, science education and critical thinking skills in schools, and so on.

I think such concerns are actually far from aligned with the real priorities -- as against the sanewashing PR initiatives -- of superlative and sub(cult)ural futurisms of the transhumanoid, singularitarian, techno-immortalist, nano-cornucopiast, and greenswashing geo-engineering varieties.

I still most of what I said when I was using the term myself is perfectly legitimate, but I gave up making this sort of case in these rhetorical terms because transhumanists were aping my discourse and deploying it in the service of their deceptive PR to seem like Very Serious policy wonks while in fact trying to promote their robot cult in mainstream media and attract members. I didn't want to be any part of that sort of thing if I can help it. I worry that I have already leant their project credibility by allowing them in the past to publish my criticisms of transhumanism under their own auspices, thereby creating the false impression that they were not primarily Robot Cult outfits but science policy and developmental ethics fora in which many Robot Cultists just happen to congregate. I never felt particularly comfortable about that, but gave them the benefit of the doubt, and I think my worst fears were confirmed over the course of the experiment, to tell you the truth.

Dale Carrico said...

From becoming an unperson to being deemed not a significant person would certainly offer an inspiring biographical trajectory for us all to contemplate.

jimf said...

> . . .not a significant person. . .

Not **notable**, actually. That's the word they use,
and it has a quasi-technical meaning -- as in, not having
garnered enough attention from (themselves notable)
third parties to warrant inclusion in an encyclopedia.

Nothing to do with being worth the air you breathe, or
anything like that. ;->

Dale Carrico said...

It all sounds rather like discussions half a century ago of who's in who's who, rather silly. I don't mind that some people think I've made a splash worth splashing around in, in fact I don't think it's really my business whether some people think that or don't, to be honest. But these sorts of considerations are all rather embarrassing, you have to admit, at least to my way of thinking, and it is hard for me personally to separate what I think is broadly embarrassing about being noticed at all from what is embarrassing in the form that particular notice of being noticed takes.