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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Futurological As Reactionary Point of Entry in Liberal Discourse

Of course, I just posted this unexpected diatribe against Krugman this morning for his recapitulation of futurological conceits that do not conduce in my view to the values and ends for which he usually advocates (and for which I admire him otherwise). And I have regularly complained about the blatant informercial fluffing of gizmos and AI handwaving over at Talking Points Memo, too.

But now I also want to mention that over this winter break I have been watching the daytime MSNBC polichat show "The Cycle" sometimes. I guess the draw of the show is that it has younger than the usual pundits wisecracking in buzzier than the usual ways on it, but I have been appalled to see futurological guru Ray Kurzweil on the show (they didn't ask him about his techno-immortalizing tap-water rig or his pill popping regimen or his faith in a Robot God for some reason, I wonder why?), just as I have seen vapid pop-finance and net-jazz gurus regularly taking up segments, offering up stale free-market pieties but with new neologisms to garb them, and what amount to elite incumbent rationales as if they were poems to an "openness" which is vacuous at best and anti-democratizing at worst, with talking heads indulging in evo-psycho reductionism and techno-triumphalism and on and on. (I get the feeling Toure is the biggest booster for this crapola on "The Cycle," while Steve Kornacki is skeptical about it but hasn't quite managed to formulate a systematic critique to give direction to his skepticism and do justice to his own geekery -- maybe this is just because I think I like Kornacki best on the show, I dunno.)

I don't have an elaborate thesis to offer here, I merely have a host of uneasy observations and anecdotes to testify to. I really do think the wholesome defense of consensus science, science and medical research, investments in education and sustainable infrastructure, harm reduction policy models, and so on -- very much in opposition to the biological illiteracy, macroeconomic illiteracy, sex panics, climate denialism of Movement Republicanism -- sometimes yields a compensatory credulity toward dramatic pseudo-scientific noises in digital utopian cadences, giving in to longevity and enhancement hype, flogging terrorizing existential risks at the expense of dealing with fraught real risks, offering up facile latter day reactionary social darwinisms, and so on.

You know, I remember so well in the early to mid eighties when libertarian pseudo-intellectuals on campus kept getting called "ideas guys" and Randroidal/ Friedmanian nonsense rhetoric was credited on tee vee and in magazines with all the "energy" and all the "momentum." It never seemed particularly true to reality on the ground, even though the resulting wreckage pile was certainly palpable enough, any more than the anti-feminist backlash a decade later ever seemed quite true to the reality on the ground either, I must say. It was just like somewhere somehow our ship had hit an iceberg or got torpedoed and now the deck was beginning to slant, a promotional GOP gravity well condensing at the site of endless repetition drawing everybody irresistibly down in the same direction... And I fear a comparable cloud of reactionary nonsense threatens to crystallize on the left among "tech-savvy" types who fail to grasp the connection of gizmo-fetishization to unsustainable consumer waste or techno-triumphalism to corporate-military ideology. It irritates me, sure, but it worries me, and that's much worse.


Black guy from the future past said...

Here you go Dale. The trajectory of mankind in a 3 min video.

Anonymous said...

scathing, vicious, funny review of "Extreme Futurist Festival 2012"