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

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Another Cryonical Bionical But Far From Laconical Skirmish

For shits and giggles, here's another of my responses to criticism in the discussion of my anti-cryonics piece over at the World Future Society (by all means, jump right in, the more the merrier):
The only person alluding to such preposterous nonsense is you.

I made the observation that exchanges with Robot Cultic True Believers devolve into robotically (heh) swapped charges of "I know you are but what am I?" and you respond, Taurus, in a surprise move, more or less by charging, "I know you are but what am I?"

Perhaps we can move beyond this joyless ritual and also beyond your curious complaint that I am demanding uncritical obedience as some sort of authority ("cuz Dale sez so!") when I am simply insisting on skepticism of pseudo-scientific aspirations and exposing phony authorities, which seems a rather strange pathway to gathering an army of uncritical slave minions. But I guess lots of things might start to look that way when you spend too much time among Robot Cultists, even if you yourself are merely, er, Robo-Adjacent as you seem to want to insist.

Rather than stridently assert my conclusions, howzabout this? Anyone who can use the google can look up "transhumanism", "cryonics", "uploading", "cyberangels", "mindfiles", "indefinite lifespan", "desktop nanofactories", "utility fog", "singularity", "friendly AI", "order of cosmic engineers", "terasem", "cryonet", "alcor", "IEET", "SIAI", "Singularity U", "Future of Humanity Institute", "Lifeboat Foundation", "Society of Venturism" and then they will notice whether or not certain names pop up over and over again (I wonder, do you wonder, Taurus, how often your name might appear in such searches?) and they will also notice whether or not people claiming to be champions of science seem to be drawn not once but time after time after time to marginal/ pseudo-scientific enterprises connected to would-be gurus promising transcendent outcomes -- immortality, superpowers, superintelligence, superabundance -- and whether or not I am the only one to propose these outcomes look a lot like magical thinking, religiosity, pseudo-science, nerd rapture, New Age transcendence translated into a superficially techno-scientific vocabulary aimed at fandoms of pop-tech pop-sci journalism/ marketing/ scams.

All it takes is the google, Taurus, and all these "nonsensical allusions" you seek to sanewash away may immediately and obviously and overabundantly appear at anybody's fingertips. Deny away! I am content to let people see for themselves what your sooper-science friends claim to be up to in their own words.


Eudoxia said...

>I am content to let people see for themselves what your sooper-science friends claim to be up to in their own words.

Not all of the Robot Cultists have to be best pals. Didn't Taurus say he hated Anissimov/Yudkowksy before? And I'm sure he doesn't believe in the resurrection-without-trying schemes of the whole Terasem/Turing Church/Giulio Prisco/PRAISE TIPLER camp.

Dale Carrico said...

Inter-sectarian clashes are commonplace in faith-based formations, especially defensive ones.

Nevertheless, the discursive, cultural, organizational, associational, financial ties are unmistakably there, and they are far from secret from the most part (though some of this is changing).

It's not like the Robot Cult has been any kind of conspiracy, they have been, to the contrary, preaching for converts and barking the con at the top of their lungs from the rooftops. Robot Cultists have long struggled to overcome the substantial indifference of the mainstream: independent academic attention, consensus science, major financial backing. Only lately has some of that last leg started coming in, thanks to the existence of celebrity tech CEOs with far more money than sense.

As a rhetorician and critical theorist interested in the Robot Cult as a discursive and sub(cult)ural phenomenon, but also interested in technodevelopmental deliberation, discourse, and social struggle more generally, I think it is intriguing to note that the Robot Cultists have remained so marginal, defensive, and frustrated even as their sensational narratives and hyperbolic frames defined and deranged the terms of quite a lot of public technodevelopmetnal deliberation through a complicit ignorant superficial sensationalist mainstream and online media complex and structurally congenial marketing and advertizing forms. But I digress.

Dale Carrico said...

Many quarters of the Robot Cult have sought deliberately to sanewash their public profiles through re-branding efforts (the embarrassing WTA to h+ gambit, for instance) or through the creation of respectable think-tanks like IEET and the Future of Humanity Institute, but they were never particularly scrupulous about erasing their interpersonal ties with the more marginal extremes from which they were distancing themselves. The founders of crazytown nodes in the network are often the same people who went on to found Very Serious respectable newcomer nodes. Very Serious sanewashed islets of the Robot Cult archipelago still let through marginal voices, trying to provide of patina of respectability to marginal figures to whom they still retain conspicuous ties. Notice how the most respectable transhumanist Nick Bostrom still coddles patently ridiculous guru wannabe, or how a mainstream legible figure like James Hughes facilitates the fanatic ravings of Giulio Prisco.

One can connect historical ties as well -- you can draw lines from the L5 society to Drexler's Foresight Institute to the briefly respectable seeming CRN (I'm not sure where the nano-cornucopiasts are these days, the absurd 3D printer vogue seems to have complicated that trajectory), or, say, from Durk and Sandy's nutritional supplement hype empire to Extropy to Alcor and cryonics and Venturism to the Very Serious (but not) SENS folks, or very long ties in today's Singularitarians with a long tale of GOFAI (good old fashioned Artificial Intelligence) dead-enders.

And one can follow the money: Peter Thiel, Ray Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Elon Musk, Global Business Network. A slightly more respectable second sociocultural layer of hyperbolic techno-science (but often with prickles of legitimate academic and scientific work) cross-pollinates with the Robot Cult -- Well vestiges and Brand efforts, Wired vestiges and Kelly efforts, Edge and Brockman, TED and its hucksters, and so on. I suspect that the SENS folks and the Oxford transhumanoids are bidding to arrive at this second layer.

In a techno-triumphalist, consumer-fetishistic, competitive-conformist, corporate-militarist society such as our own there are broad affinities between the superlative futurological discourses in which I say the various sects of the Robot Cult indulge and more mainstream futurological frames and conceits that prevail over the deceptive, hyperbolic, developmentalist marketing forms that suffuse our public life more generally. Mainstream and superlative forms respond, exemplify, supplement one another. In many ways, extropian transhumanism was a kind of reductio ad absurdum of neoliberal globalism. In many ways, techno-immortalism is a clarifying extremety of the sexualizing death-denying motor at the heart of most television advertizing. In many ways, the eugenic "enhancement" discourse of the transhumanists exposes the coercive conformism driving competitive exploitive precarious industrial-extractive "market" oriented societies.

jimf said...

> . . .from Durk and Sandy's nutritional supplement hype empire to Extropy. . .

A bit of entertainment from 1979 (via YouTube):

Tom Snyder Interviews Durk Pearson and Jerry Pournelle Pt 1

Tom Snyder Interviews Durk Pearson and Jerry Pournelle Pt 2

Tom Snyder Interviews Durk Pearson and Jerry Pournelle Pt 3
"While a student at MIT, he was a member of the
MIT Science Fiction Society and one of the writers for
the early underground comic _God Comics_. Pearson graduated
from MIT with a triple major in physics, biology, and

Pearson has patents in the area of oil shale and
tar sands recovery, lasers, holography and supplement
formulations. Pearson assisted with equipment design
and experiments for NASA's Space Shuttle. Pearson is also
an International Society for Testing and Failure Analysis

Pearson and Sandy Shaw are the coauthors of _Life Extension:
A Practical Scientific Approach_ (ISBN 0-446-51229-X, Warner Books, 1982),
_The Life Extension Companion_ (Warner Books),
_The Life Extension Weight Loss Manual_, and
_Freedom of Informed Choice: FDA v. Nutrient Supplements_,
(Common Sense Press, 1993). He and Sandy Shaw have co-authored
numerous articles on Life extension, cognitive enhancement,
anti-aging, Weight loss, and other aspects of nutrition.

Sadly, decades of supplementation do not seem to have
significantly retarded his own aging, **or** allowed him
to keep the weight off. Durk in 2009:

A bit of Durk Pearson trivia:
Wilson "Bob" Tucker, a fan who turned pro in the 1940s used to
use his friends, or at least their names, in his sci-fi and mystery
books. Other authors copied him, and using your friends or their
names on a sci-fi book became known as "Tuckerizing."

Dave did this a lot in the [Man From] UNCLE books. . .

To provide a sample, in the Dagger Affair, the inventor of the
energy damper, the mad scientist Keldur, was modeled on Durk Pearson,
who had just graduated magna cum everything from MIT and
was doing post-grad work at UCLA in physics. Durk went on to
become the famous life extension guru to the stars and
author of the book of the same name with Sandra Shaw, with
whom he co-wrote one of the Dirty Harry movies, _The Dead Pool_,
for client Clint Eastwood.

jimf said...

> I think it is intriguing to note that the Robot Cultists have
> remained so marginal, defensive, and frustrated even as their
> sensational narratives and hyperbolic frames defined and deranged
> the terms of quite a lot of public technodevelopmental deliberation. . .

To say nothing of the popular "science" newsstand magazines.

_Popular Science_, of course, has had flying cars and nuclear-powered
space planes on its covers since the 60's, when I was a kid. But
nowadays rags like _Discover_, and even the much-debased from its
glory days _Scientific American_ have life extension and brain-
computer interfaces as all-too-frequent cover articles.

There's a standard formula followed by these hyperventilating articles, of
course, which is also apparent in the glossy general-interest
news rags like _Time_ and _Newsweek_ when they have "Finally,
A Cure for Cancer?" or "Artificial Heart Right Around the Corner?"
or "Can a Pill Make You Smarter?" cover stories. That is, after a
couple of pages of hyperventilation, there'll be a final two
"Whoa there, Nelly!" paragraphs that basically reply to the cover
question with the answer "Probably not, or at least not anytime

jimf said...

> Didn't Taurus say he hated Anissimov/Yudkowksy before?

When and where did he say that? (And why would he say that?)

The only time I can recall his mentioning them at all was
recently in a comment thread on the "Chronosphere" blog[*] in
which he said "Mark ['Plus']’s insistent dismissal of Yudkowsky
as a 'high-school dropout' is myopic. Yudkowsy and Anissimov
are very clearly more astute than the vast number of inculcated
academics like Carrico."

[*] BTW, my comments in that same thread have not appeared,
and it's been more than a couple of days. So I think I
can assume with some confidence that they went straight into
the pooper. Taurus Londono should consider himself
privileged to the extent that, with Dale, he gets to poop
on both sides of the fence. ;->

Dale Carrico said...

Hey, Jim, I hope you don't mind but I have been re-posting your comments on the "Connecting the Dots" post I made out of a comment on this thread, since it seems to me your comments are getting more attention there. Also, I now realize, there is a compensatory poop multiplier effect to consider as well.