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

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Uploading As Reactionary Anti-Body Politics

A reader in the Moot describes some typical transhumanoid versions of "doing radical social criticism... saying something along the lines of, say, gender won't matter anymore when we upload our minds to the noosphere." For transhumanoid radical race critique fill in the blank (and try not to think too much about the history of eugenics, or how transhumanists seem to be a whole lot of white guys), for transhumanoid radical class critique here comes NanoSanta Clause.

Of course, not only is this not "doing radical social criticism" but it seems to me pretty explicitly straightforwardly reactionary, even when accompanied by citations of actual feminist, queer, or anti-racist criticism. Complacent consumers who want to enjoy a little liberal guilt to spice their entertainments will always rationalize the violence and inequity of the present by declaring the debased now better than before or on the road to better still and then grabbing a beer from the fridge, or clicking the buy button, or getting out on the dancefloor.

Plutocrats always naturalize their hierarchies as meritocracies. In much the same way, the whole robocultic uploading schtick is obviously a denigration of materiality of the body, and it is always of course the white body male body straight body cis body healthy body capacious body that can best disavow its materiality because its materiality isn't in question or under threat, right?

It can be a mark more of privilege than perceptiveness to call into question that which won't ever be in question for you whatever. The bodily is always constituted as such through technique (from language to body language to posture to wearability), and the social legibility of every body is of course performatively substantiated. To grasp that point is to trouble or question the prediscursivity of the body or to recognize that prediscursivity is always a discursive effect. But this recognition is at best a point of departure and never the end-point for the interrogation of prevailing normative bodies and their abjection of bodily lifeways otherwise.

The denial or disavowal of differences that make a difference is much more likely effectively to endorse than efface them. Imaginary digi-utopian and medi-utopian circumventions of raced, gendered, abled bodily differences function in the present to deny or disavow rather than critically or imaginatively interrogate their terms. These omissions are all the more egregious when we actually turn our minds even cursorily to the perniciously raced and sexed histories of the medical and the digital as actually-existing practical, normative, professional sites.

Setting aside questions of the utter implausibility and incoherence of the techno-transcendental wish-fulfillment fantasies playing out in all this, why even pretend that recourse to digital dematerialization or to medical enhancement would circumvent rather than express the fraught, inequitable legibility and livability of wanted lifeway diversity? It will surely be the more urgent task to attend closely to the ways in which these very differences, race, sex, ability, shape the distribution of costs, risks, benefits, access and information to actually-available prosthetic possibilities. 

I must say it has always cracked me up that since all information is instantiated on a material carrier, then even on their own terms the spiritualization of digi-info souls is hard to square with the reductionist scientism these folks tend to congratulate themselves over -- not that it would be anything to be proud of even if they managed to be more consistently dumb in that particular way.

What can you really expect from techno-transcendentalists apparently so desperate not to grow old or die that they will pretend a scan of them would be them when no picture ever has been and that computer networks could reliably host their "info-souls" forever when most people long outlive their crufty, unreliable computer networks in reality, and all just so they can day dream they will be immortal cyberangels in Holodeck Heaven? Science!


jimf said...

> What can you really expect from techno-transcendentalists
> apparently so desperate not to grow old or die that they
> will pretend a scan of them would be them. . .

From today's New York Times magazine:

"And if science were to gain the power to record and
store connectomes, then it would be natural to speculate,
as Seung and others have, that technology might some
day enable a recording to play again, thereby reanimating
a human consciousness. The mapping of connectomes,
its most zealous proponents believe, would confer nothing
less than immortality."

Nothing less. ;->

Dale Carrico said...

recording to play again, thereby reanimating

"thereby" wtf?