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Friday, November 16, 2012

Did A Transhumanist Editor Lose Her Job For Publishing Something I Wrote?

Although 2012 is not yet over it seems likely that a blog post I published on May 27, The Unbearable Stasis of Accelerating Change will be Amor Mundi's biggest post of the year. This is a pretty safe bet, since at over fourteen thousand views it is already the biggest post by many thousands of hits of any I've ever published in the eight year history of this rather modest little blog of mine. A couple of weeks after the post appeared here, the editor of an online transhumanoid zine called humanity + (if you don't know what "humanity plus" is supposed to mean, it probably just means you're "humanity minus," doncha know) asked to republish the piece there. By then, of course, the piece had already been republished at the World Future Society, Bruce Sterling had already directed people's attention to the piece on his blog at Wired, hundreds of folks had raged edifyingly to and fro about the piece over at Charles Stross' blog, and a Kurzweil forum had already whined about it at length as well.

I mention this because it would be hard to say that the appearance of the piece at h+ was a marketing coup for me, exactly. Rachel Haywire (a name that inspires confidence, I must say), the editor of the magazine surprised me when she expressed interest in publishing my piece. I had little expectation that the True Believer types who throng its readership would be persuaded by my argument in the piece, but I am usually happy to expand my audience and I thought an openness to contrarian voices among a younger generation of transhumanoids was generally an impulse to be encouraged, and so I agreed. Given the comments it occasioned the Robot Cultists didn't seem particularly nonplussed by my piece, but their conversation seemed lively enough and I figured everybody more or less felt reasonably pleased about the outcome.

Imagine my surprise, then, to receive an e-mail from Rachel Haywire declaring, "I was harassed for posting your article to H+ Magazine by NVM and run out of my job as editor. The More Empire has exiled me." The "More Empire" refers, I presume, to the tinpot fiefdom in the Robot Cult archipelago ruled by Natasha Vita-More ("NVM") and Max More -- the Extropians (you know, no taxes! no death! no limits! Mommy!), cryonics (you know, brain hamburgerization immortality scam-artistry), and the transhumanist Art Movement (you know, terminally embarrassing soft porn and advertising images of ladies with big boobies but also wings or scales or circuit board skin peddled as "art"). I can't say that the internecine struggles of Robot Cultists are exactly fascinating to me, and so I can't say how much more there is to this story, but I can't say either that I would be particularly surprised that grumpy True Believers would circle the wagons and punish a contrarian without much reason to do so… nevertheless, neither can I say I'm exactly thrilled to think a choice to publish a lark of mine got somebody in even predictable trouble.

Rachel Haywire is a founder and organizer of the Extreme Futurist Festival, and so I have to think she remains more sympathetic to the transhumanoidal line than I am (I am a fan of V. Vale and Survival Research Laboratories who are at XFF this year, tho'), and it's not as if the Very Serious White Guys of The Future of the Robot Cult are so thronging with ladies that they can afford to cast them off willy-nilly at the first sign of spiritness. Far be it from me to offer the transhumanists advice (apart from the recommendation that they, you know, notice that they believe a whole lot of ridiculous and dangerous things, and should stop that and rejoin the world and help out), but I will say it seems, from my limited vantage at any rate, rather an unforced error to expel her and alienate folks like her for no good reason.


jimf said...

> [N]either can I say I'm exactly thrilled to think a choice
> to publish a lark of mine got somebody in even predictable trouble.

All churches respond in this way when a member becomes an apostate.

In fact, they tend to respond more harshly to apostates than to
"outside" skeptics or critics. In Islam, for example, an unconverted person
is in the condition of "jahiliyyah" -- benign ignorance -- and may
be left alone pending possible future conversion. On the other hand,
"riddah" -- apostasy -- once having known and then wilfully having the
rejected the Truth -- is punishable by death (unless the apostate repents and recants).

Similarly with the Church of Scientology. If you're just an ordinary "wog" --
an outsider -- you can be safely ignored. But if you've ever been a member
(let alone signed a billion-year contract with the Sea Org), and then decide
to quit (or, heaven help you, become a public critic), then you are
Declared as a "Suppressive Person", and may be hounded to the ends of
the earth.

jimf said...

I've just recently been (re)reading _The Apostasy of a High Priest:
The Sociology of an American Cult_ by Park B. Romney (a second cousin
of our recent also-ran presidential candidate)

The author describes thus his treatment by erstwhile Mormon
friends and family:

"There will be members of the Church, even perhaps members of the priesthood,
who will take advantage of the cultural and social biases against me as
an apostate, among members of the Church, by encouraging the belief that
I am not telling the truth and am motivated by a dark and evil spirit in
making a point of these matters. I have already been subjected to years of
this type of spin at the hands of Mormons who have a deep social interest
in the belief that I am evil. I have been lied to by temple recommend holding
Mormons, lied about by temple recommend holding Mormons, cheated in
business by temple recommend holding Mormons, and falsely accused, set up,
framed, and personally threatened by those who know of my apostasy.
Some of these people are members of my own family. I surmise that they
justify their behavior towards me on the basis of my apostasy. I now
live largely in seclusion. . .

As a matter of Church protocol, a Mormon cannot even sympathize with
an apostate to be considered worthy of temple attendance. This is one
of the mandatory temple worthiness questions in the interview. 'Do you
sympathize with any apostates?' A Mormon individual who spent considerable
time with me for a while suddenly informed me that she had been threatened
to be brought before the local Mormon High Council on charges of
sympathizing with an apostate. . . I was abruptly informed that I
was no longer welcome as a guest in her home. She had employment in
a county where her boss was a high-ranking official in the local Mormon
Church. I surmised that she felt her employment was at risk. . .

I no longer believe that the Mormon Church is true. I cannot sell out
intellectual integrity and honesty for social acceptance. . .
I remain. . . [hopeful] that one day I might be considered a decent
human being. . ., worthy of at least some small measure of kindness
and consideration from my fellow man without being a Mormon. I have
ceased to seek such comfort amongst Mormons. . . My religion, now,
is the simple pursuit of truth and quest for integrity. . ., wherever
it may be found. That pursuit has cost me all that I ever loved.
I still think it's worth the price. I not only would sacrifice all
that I have for it, I already have sacrificed all that I had for it,
including the respect of most of my family and friends. I have nothing
left but hope and belief in the merits of smple goodness, human
decency, and a quest for integrity for no other reason than to feel
comfortable with who looks back at me in the mirror. . ."

See also:
_Standing For Something More: The Excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn_

_The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology_
(still listed on Amazon, at least in the U.S.!)

_Therapist_ by Ellen Plasil (her experience with the Objectivists)

Freedom of speech -- even freedom to use basic common sense
and rationality -- cannot ever be taken for granted!

joe said...

I'm absolutely shocked that these two would fire someone for publishing something they disagreed with....shocked I tells ya!

Seriously why would anyone be surprised by the actions of someone who pulled a Homer Simpson and changed their name to something so silly and are self abosorbed to the point of possibly being a parody....
Max Power meet Max More, you two will get on like douchebags on fire.

jimf said...

> [W]hy would anyone be surprised by the actions of someone
> who. . . changed their name to something so silly. . .?

The Extropian wing of the >Hist crowd take the name
change thing quite seriously. It's symbolic of a kind of baptism or
transubstantiation of the personality -- a token or badge (the "outward
and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" as the Anglicans say)
to wear in the mundane world as a reminder to oneself and others of the
glorious life to come (come the Singularity, or come being uploaded as
an AI, or come being woken up after a century in the dewar).
Also good practice for thinking of yourself and behaving like a more
godlike character, to be able to fully deserve and enjoy your new
Primo 3M+ Posthuman body
( ).
Hence "Nancie Clark O'Connor" becomes "Natasha Vita More",
"Mark Potts" becomes "Mark Plus", etc.

Sez Mike Darwin in a 1997 Cryonet posting:

"In my personal experience, somewhere around 50% of the cryonicists I've met meet
the DSM classification for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. . .
It has a great deal to do with: . . .
. . .having a sense of comic book grandiosity such as renaming yourself Tom Terrific
or Super Mann. . ."

(Ironically, Mr. "Darwin" himself is actually named
Mike Federowicz. He claims to have come by the alias
"honestly" though -- he says he didn't pick it himself,
it was bestowed on him by his friends. He uses it with
a straight face, though.)

> . . .and are self absorbed to the point of possibly being a parody...

Well yeah, the Extropians have taken a personality trait
that most of them probably come by naturally and elevated it
into a virtue.

They subscribe to the Nathaniel Branden school of "self esteem".
It's part of the definition of Extropy -- no Debbie Downers
or Shrinking Violets allowed. Branden himself, of course,
inherited all this from Ayn Rand.

joe said...

Thanks Jim, you always have interesting stuff to add to the conversation :)

"Hence "Nancie Clark O'Connor" becomes "Natasha Vita More"

Seriously is she an X-Men villian who leeches life as her ability?


To be honest with this lot and Larry King and Simon Cowell ect all getting popsicled when they croak, I'm pretty certain that even if this was all proven to work I still wouldn't do it......

Living forever in a World or indeed the Universe with all of them would be a nightmare.

Which I could only assume was the punishment from a vengeful God.

Anonymous said...

Natasha Vita More is a very stupid, very silly woman whose main claim to fame is fucking FM-2030 and Max More, two self-styled progenitors of the transhumanist movement. Nothing she writes ever makes any sense. And I'm reasonably sure she's never had an original thought in her life.

Aside from that, she's pure win.

Dale Carrico said...

When it comes to vituperation and Vita-More, less is not more: why stop with invective when adducing actual examples of her vapid senseless often outright ungrammatical prose is so easy and so very enjoyable? I have often quoted her nonsensical crayon scribbles here, but she also posts scads and scads of it online for anybody to see who can use the google. All that said, even I will grant there is more to More than the men (including More) she sleeps with, even if I might agree with you that there is little to the men. "Slut shaming" is boring and reactionary even when it targets silly futurists, as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

Slut shaming? I'm not saying she's a slut, nor am I saying there's shame in fucking Max More or FM-2030. I'm saying she's a relentless self-promoter, and she's in the public position to promote herself simply due to her historical proximity to transhumanist celebrities, some of which she happened to be fucking. It's her only resume entry.

I can understand the need to avoid sexism, but really, I thought it was understood we aren't talking about Natasha Vita More the person, but Natasha Vita More the public figure. Her public persona is better understood in the context of these relationships. And they're not irrelevant.

Dale Carrico said...

I can understand the need to avoid sexism

Excellent, since otherwise I quite agree with you that NVM says all sorts of extremely silly things in public places.

jollyspaniard said...

Similarly with the Church of Scientology. If you're just an ordinary "wog" --
an outsider -- you can be safely ignored. But if you've ever been a member
(let alone signed a billion-year contract with the Sea Org), and then decide
to quit (or, heaven help you, become a public critic), then you are
Declared as a "Suppressive Person", and may be hounded to the ends of
the earth.

Not to mention thrown in a concentration camp where they will abuse you until you break down and go mad. They reserve that for high level apostates.

jimf said...

> Not to mention thrown in a concentration camp where they
> will abuse you until you break down and go mad.

They call it "rehabilitation".

> They reserve that for high level apostates.

Actually, it seems you don't even have to be an apostate
to be sent to RPF. All you have to do is look funny at
a higher-up, or fail at some task that was assigned to you.
Like the impossible one described in John Duignan's book
of building your own computer system by recalling past
lives where you knew about the computers used by the
Galactic Confederacy.

jimf said...

> I'm saying she's a relentless self-promoter. . .
> It's her only resume entry.

Well, I can't resist adding that once upon a time, on her Web site
(I don't know if it's still there) she adduced for public
consideration the fact that Warren Beatty allegedly once
called her "a fascinating woman".

Warren Beatty! Hey, I was reading in a celebrity rag last
Sunday at the laudromat, in an article about Richard Burton's
private diaries, that Warren Beatty and Maria Callas once
had dinner with Richard Burton and Liz Taylor.

Warren Beatty! Maria Callas! (Aristotle Onassis! Jackie!)
La Liz!

How much closer to divinity can you get than that?