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

Thursday, March 06, 2014

"Google, Please Solve Death!"

When I first saw this image I assumed it was a parodic skewering of corporate-militarist techno-utopianism in the spirit of the Yes Men, but at least some people seem to regard it as a legitimate "Street Action for Transhumanism." Not to put too fine a point on it, but picketing a corporate headquarters not to protest its crimes but to promise to buy more of its products in the hopes that they will eventually make you effortlessly rich, sexy, and immortal isn't exactly my idea of a "Street Action" in any emancipatory politics worthy of the name. I have long argued that transhumanoid, singularitarian, techno-immortalist, nano-cornucopian, digi-utopian futurisms always tend to support reactionary corporate-military politics, even when their advocates earnestly do not mean them to do so, by substituting passive gizmo-fetishizing consumer fandoms for political organization, by endorsing elite technocratic circumventions of democracy through proposals of social change primarily or even exclusively through profitable design interventions, by reducing to the terms of technical amplification any aspiration for progress for which political struggles among stakeholders in history in the direction of equity-in-diversity are always required in fact, and by celebrating current hierarchies through a paradoxical naturalization of them in which fantasies of status quo amplification are peddled as if they constitute "disruption" and "accelerating change" when they disrupt and change little that matters for real social justice.

1 comment:

jimf said...

> "Google, Please Solve Death!"

And while you're at it, Google, please solve the energy
crisis and global warming! (Maybe you can get Amazon and
Wikipedia to help.)
What should we do about climate change?
Two opposing views, and they’re both wrong
March 6th, 2014

In the last 250 years, humanity has become completely
dependent on fossil fuel energy. . . While uncertainty
remains about the future extent and consequences of
climate change, there is no uncertainty about the causal
link between burning fossil fuel, increasing carbon dioxide
concentrations in the atmosphere, and a warming world. . .
What should we do about it? From two ends of the political
spectrum, there are two views, and I think they are
both wrong. . .

The “environmentalists” are right about the urgency of
the problem, but they underestimate the degree to which
society currently depends on cheap energy, and they
overestimate the capacity of current renewable energy
technologies to provide cheap enough energy at scale.
The “realists”, on the hand, are right about the degree
of our dependence on cheap energy, and on the shortcomings
of current renewable technologies. But they underplay
the risks of climate change, and their neglect of the
small but significant chance of much worse outcomes than
the consensus forecasts takes wishful thinking to the
point of recklessness.

But the biggest failure of the “realists” is that they don’t
appreciate how slowly innovation in energy technology is
currently proceeding. This arises from two errors.
Firstly, there’s a tendency to believe that technology
is a single thing that is accelerating at a uniform rate,
so that from the very visible rapid rate of innovation
in information and communication technologies we can
conclude that new energy technologies will be developed
similarly quickly. But this is a mistake: innovation
in the realm of materials, of the kind that’s needed
for new energy technologies, is much more difficult,
slower and takes more resources than innovation in the
realm of information. While we have accelerating innovation
in some domains, in others we have innovation stagnation. . .

Hey, no problem! Materials science is moving too slowly?
Just rename it "nanotechnology" and watch it take off!
I used to work next to the center for nanotechnology. The first
indication I had that there was something wrong with the
discipline of “nanotechnology” is I noticed that the people
who worked there were the same people who used to do
chemistry and material science. It appeared to be a more
fashionable label for these subjects. Really “material science”
was a sort of fancy label for the chemistry of things we
use to build other things. OK, new name for “chemist.”
Hopefully it ups the funding. Good for you guys. . .