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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Politics of Futurological Anti-Politics

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, Jim wrote:
The uber-rationalists over at L[ess]W[wrong] (taking their cue from their uber-rationalist fearless leader) have calqued their own SF-fan proverb on this bit of SFnal lore: "Politics is the mind-killer." [*] So don't expect them to declare as "reliable allies" to any "movement" except their own. You might well expect them to vote Republican, though, faute de mieux. ;-> [*] Note that this piece, in isolation, has a soothingly reasonable tone. In other contexts, or as taken up by other Robot Cultists, this mantra can have distinctly less benign interpretation. In practice, it seems to be used on LW to ban any discussion that doesn't align with the prevailing politics-that's-not-politics. (You can guess what that might be.)
Yes, the politics of a-politicism tends to be reactionary, since it is almost inevitably premised on the naturalization as "non-politics" of the political assumptions and workings of the status quo.

Consider the familiar conceits of futurological anti-politicism. Self-congratulatory utilitarian and technocratic anti-politics (the transhumanist advocacy of "enhancement" is a conscpicuous example, but only one among many) simply pretend their values are neutral or optimal or beyond reasonable contestation -- a frankly anti-democratizing gesture.

Still rampant among futurologists -- though savvy Robot Cultists prefer suave neoliberal pieties to the full-throated Randian and Friedmanian extremes of their earlier Extropian phase -- market libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism, though it likes to peddle itself as "beyond left and right" is an especially egregious form of reactionary right politics, pretending plutocratic exploitative hierarchy is a "spontaneous order" and declaring contractual exchanges -- whatever the reality of inequity, misinformation, or precarity that articulate their terms -- "voluntary" by fiat, and then, to add insult to injury, crow about how their sociopathic celebration of violence constitute a supreme politics of love and nonviolence.

The so-called left libertarians are scarcely better -- recognizing the permanent vulnerability of the state-form to violence and injustice they eschew its indispensability to the work for justice and of non-violence, and divert energy from the work of democratizing education, agitation, organization, and reform into non-sustainable non-scalable party-events among the privileged that function as amplified modes of the generalized consumerism through which notionally representative state-forms domesticate the permanent possibility of real democratic work in the service of equity-in-diversity in the first place.


Black guy from the future past said...

People seem to not recognize or understand that to be "apolitical"...IS a political statement. And a very bad one at that. These "apolitical" types always seem to fall right into the conservative/libertarian/an-cap crowd. Doesn't seem very "apolitical" to me.

jimf said...

> "Politics is the mind-killer."
Luke [Parrish]
June 6, 2012 18:20

Dale's rants are a great example of the kind of diseased
thinking that makes politics such a minefield of cognitive
bias induced irrationality. It's a mindset that cares much
more about making the opponent look bad, about winning,
rather than about making a solid argument on impartial

More zingers, pro and con, from that thread:

Deconstructing our future
By Charlie Stross

Here, flagged up by Bruce Sterling, is an absolutely vital rant (by Dale Carrico)
[ ]
for anyone with even the most remotely passing interest in transhumanism,
extropianism, the radiant future, etc. etc. . . .

soru | May 30, 2012 11:43

I am curious as to what you found of value in it. It looked to me to be
pretty much a context-free aggregation of words gesturing vagely in the
direction of a point.

May 30, 2012 12:09

Are you *sure* that wasn't output from by a post modern essay generator?

David Given
May 30, 2012 12:12

Yeah, any potential meaning in that was totally buried in an enormous
pile of reeking smugness and emotionally laden words.

Charlie Stross replied to this comment from soru
May 30, 2012 12:12

You didn't read it, did you?

It's from outside the transhumanist reality-tunnel, looking in.

Charlie Stross replied to this comment from zornhau
May 30, 2012 12:14

No, it's output from a postmodernist scholar. They tend to talk
in 50 word sentences and use nested subordinate clauses. This is
not good practice if you want to communicate clearly. However,
the point this piece is making is so important that I felt the
need to drag it in front of my regular peanut gallery.

Charlie Stross replied to this comment from David Given
May 30, 2012 12:17

> Yeah, any potential meaning in that was totally buried in an
> enormous pile of reeking smugness and emotionally laden words.

Sort of like Ray Kurzweil's effusions about the future, then?

Ed Regis said much the same in _Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition_
back in the 90s, but I wasn't paying enough attention. Also, the degree
of noise in the hyper-capitalist echo chamber has risen to a deafening
crescendo since then.

There is a rottenness at the heart of the transhuman project, and the
biggest symptom of it is blindness to its own origins: a mixture of
warmed-over Christian apocalyptic eschatology (which Cory Doctorow
and I poke with a stick in "The Rapture of the Nerds") and the
Just-So creation mythology of the smugly self-satisfied hypercapitalists
who have unintentionally done so much to destroy so many of the
moral and interpersonal values of post-Englightenment civilization.

May 30, 2012 12:30

"There is a rottenness at the heart of the transhuman project. . ."

I.e, "Fuck off, I am an entirely new order of being and no human
concerns of yours apply to me"?

Charlie Stross replied to this comment from C
May 30, 2012 12:34

Yes. You got it.


jimf said...

> Dale's rants are a great example of the kind of diseased
> thinking that makes politics such a minefield of cognitive
> bias induced irrationality.

"How is an AGI going to become a master of dark arts and
social engineering in order to persuade and deceive humans?"
( )

Dale! I just realized something!

**You** must be working for an Unfriendly AI from the Future
(or maybe one in an alternate quantum reality ;-> ).

That explains everything!

So how did you get in touch with it? Is it anything like
John C. Wright's "Nothing Sophotech"? Can you get me an

Have you been playing games like this?
(_Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the
Prison of Belief_, Lawrence Wright, p. 45)
Jack Parsons experimented with [Aleister] Crowley's rituals. . .
His personal brand of witchcraft centered on
the adoration of female carnality, an interest [L. Ron] Hubbard evidently
shared. . . He appointed Hubbard to be his "scribe" in a ceremony
called the "Babalon [sic] Working." . . .
Night after night, Parsons and Hubbard invoked
the spirit world in a quest to summon up the "Scarlet Woman," the
female companion who would play the role of Parsons' consort.
The ceremony, likely aided by narcotics and hallucinogens, required
Hubbard to channel the female deity of Babalon as Parsons performed
the "invocation of wand with material basis on talisman" -- in other
words, masturbating on a piece of parchment. He typically invoked
twice a night.

Hey, is the "Scarlet Woman" the big bad Silent Oecumene's
Unfriendly AI equivalent of the Eveningstar Sophotech (ugh, Robot
God versions of Tolkien's Elves)?

Um, how many times a night do **you** "invoke"?

:-0 ;->

jimf said...

> People seem to not recognize or understand that to be
> "apolitical"...IS a political statement. . .

Somebody else who is irritated by this pose:
Less Wrong: What annoys me MOST
2012-11-05 in MIRI/LW

. . .

I just have to write this down. What annoys me the most about is not, as you might have thought, the in-group
favoritism, cultish and creepy behavior, doom-mongering, naive
belief in progress, constant moralizing, horrible moderators,
reputation system, insane bullshit, censorship, condescending
attitude, or their withdrawal from any criticism.

What really makes me cringe is their “Politics is the Mind-Killer“
credo. They parrot it like a bunch of zombies!

To quote RationalWiki:

> “Politics is the mindkiller” is the mindkiller. The meme came from
> a Yudkowsky post about how politics-related discussion reliably goes
> off the rails. This has developed into a community aversion to anything
> even tangentially political — even the word “politics” itself is
> avoided and euphemised as “mindkilling” as a discussion-stopper.
> This gets wacky when the discussion is of an actual existential risk
> to humanity, global warming, or indeed almost anything else actually
> practical, despite the site’s claimed serious interest in existential
> risk, as these genius autodidacts show just how to use their newfound
> rationality skills for rationalisation. Libertarian politics are of course
> the neutral baseline, it’s other politics that are mindkilling.

Please stop it! It is ridiculous! If all of your dearly beloved rationality
does not enable you to talk about such a mundane subject as politics in a
civilized and thoughtful manner then you are doing it wrong!

(The RationalWiki quote has since been deleted from the site.)