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

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Shooting Blanks

Futurology is a form of masturbation resulting in neologism.

More Futurological Brickbats here.


jimf said...

> Futurology is a form of [religion]. . .
Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss believes that in a generation religion
could disappear. . .

“Change is always one generation away. So if we can plant the seeds
of doubt in our children, religion will go away in a generation, or
at least largely go away. And that’s what I think we have an obligation
to do.”

Krauss also discussed the way that critical thinking should be
taught in schools — not teaching logic in the abstract but having
children confront their own misconceptions. He also stated that teachers
and parents should instill curiosity and doubt in their children, and
not what to learn but train them how to think. . .


**Your** religion may be gone in a generation, but **my** --
Let's not call it a religion, OK? There's no need to be rude! --
coccoon of conveniently-comforting beliefs -- is perfectly reasonable.

(Same with my politics, BTW. Only let's not call them politics, either.)

"Train them how to think"? My guide-to-applied-rationality
("Guru" you say? Shut your mouth!) taught **me** how to think.
And he's smarter than all of you!

So there.

jimf said...
Make technological utopia easier with this one weird trick
Paul Raven
12 Oct 2014

Kevin Kelly’s “desirable-future haikus” thing on Medium
( )
is a great example of what I believe to be the standard blindspot of
I[nformation and]C[communication]T[echnology]-focussed futurists,
in that they’ve forgotten that anything other than ICT could possibly
matter or make a difference to the way we live. . .

What comes as no surprise is that the resulting scenarios (with a few exceptions)
are packed full of all the standard transhumanist techno-cornucopian tropes
(**immortality! super-abundance! energy too cheap to bother metering!
perpetual economic growth from the free-est algorithmically-managed markets EVAR!**)
with a few recent additions to the pantheon
(**the [{Bitcoin} blockchain/free-energy-device/fusion/Big Data/quantitative analysis] will save us!**),
all of which share. . . the belief that, if we can just invent or code up that
one perfect bit of technology we’re missing, everything will fall into place. . .

[Another]. . . trait is that most of them read as ridiculously naïve. . .
Kelly’s problem – the unwritableness of a “plausible technological future” – is
implicit in his formulation; it’s impossible to write a believable
future where technology has fixed everything because “technology” doesn’t
make things better. People make things better – sometimes through the use
of new technology, but certainly not exclusively. . .

[W]hat bothers me about these scenarios is that they largely remove agency
from human subjects, being variations on the Software Salvationism which
believes that all obstacles might be overcome through the addition of
EVN MOAR ALGOS PLZ, and assumes (falsely, I hope) that people would like
less direct control over the way their world works rather than more. . .

But it’s easily enough stepped out of; all you need to do is
take the “technology” specifier out of the question, and/or avoid
asking it of people who identify with technology in either an
entrepreneurial or quasi-religious manner (no beer for you, Ray Kurzweil).
By way of example, here’s my own late submission to Kelly’s call,
a 101-word haiku describing a desirable future:

> No one goes hungry. No one sleeps outdoors, unless they choose to.
> No one is conscripted as a child-soldier. No one is maimed by land-mines
> made on the other side of the world. No one is exploited for the
> betterment or gain of another. No one is a second class citizen to anyone.
> Nothing is wasted. Things – whether material or digital – are made with
> care and thought, and are made to last a long, long time. We appreciate
> a plurality of systems of value alongside the legacy cash-money system,
> which we keep going as a honey-trap distraction for the instinctively
> acquisitive.

If that’s not utopian and desirable, I don’t know what it is. And as implausible,
unlikely and peacenik-pie-in-the-sky as you might (very reasonably) choose to
call it, it is possible — because it doesn’t require us to make a single damned
invention or piece of software we don’t already have. . .

jimf said...
Festival of Dangerous Ideas: Panel - The End Of The World As We Know It
Published on Sep 1, 2014

What does the future hold? A reign of world peace with stunning medical
breakthroughs? Or a world where human beings have destroyed the web of
living things and put our own existence at risk by playing with science
we don’t fully understand?

Steven Pinker is the big star. He's an "existential risk" skeptic.

Jaan Tallinn[*] is one of the four participants.
It's unfortunate that he has the handicap of
being a non-native speaker of English.

[*] Tallinn is listed as a co-founder of the Future of Life Institute
(in Cambridge, MA and claiming some MIT professors as co-founders, but
not, as far as I can tell, actually **affiliated** with MIT)
Hey -- they've got Alan Alda and Morgan Freeman, too!
Bring on the celebs! Celebs for The Future!

He's also thrown bucks at the Future of Humanity Institute
in Oxford, and is a backer of MetaMed (you know, the doctors
who will be Less Wrong for you, if you can afford them. ;-> ).