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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Future Is A Fraud

I am presently expanding my Futurological Discourse and Posthuman Terrains essay into a short book-length piece. By short, I mean just a little over a hundred pages for now, more than doubling it, but not by too much. All of the sections are getting plumped up a bit, and I think the third section on the flaws and fashions of futurological methodologies requires the most original thinking and writing work I face from the project.

One of the pleasures I am finding is offering up lots of amplification and backup on various points from the tradition of critical theory I have been teaching for years (Marx, Benjamin, Adorno, Barthes, Debord, Lyotard, Haraway) and from texts from the history and best contemporary technology criticism (Ellul, Mumford, Winner, Noble, Morozov, Pasquale, Golumbia), which I think enriches the intellectual heft of the piece. But if you are worried all this citational supplementation will render what was a fairly concise formulation (at least for me) into a ponderous cloudbank of academese, I am happy to report that there are a surprising number of deliciously polemical zingers getting sprinkled in via this material.

The other real difference is that I am adding in a large historical survey of transhumanoid precursors, fellow-travelers, and organized sects (Extropians, Singularitarians, Techno-Immortalists, Nano-Cornucopiasts, Digi-Utopians, Geo-Engineers, etc) and charting -- the often stealthy -- ties connecting their memberships, funding, canons, and so on. These are things only hinted at in the essay but quite important in my critique -- connections I scarcely hinted at in the shorter piece.

The title of the essay (which remains the published writing of which I am most proud) would become the subtitle of the book. The title I am inclining to is: The Future Is A Fraud. Before you accuse me of sensationalism, the title actually refers to a central contention of the essay and of my critique, but one which has gotten little attention. From the original essay:

Successful mainstream futurology amplifies irrational consumption through marketing hyperbole and makes profitable short term predictions for the benefit of investors, the only finally reliable source for which is insider information. Successful superlative futurism amplifies irrational terror of finitude and mortality through the conjuration of a techno-transcendent vision of "The Future" peddled as long-term predictions the faithful in which provide unearned attention and money for the benefit of gurus and pseudo-experts, the source for which is science fiction mistaken for science practice and science policy. Something suspiciously akin to fraud would appear to be the common denominator of futurology in both its mainstream and superlative modes.  

1 comment:

Chad Lott said...

I could see this being put out by Zero Books.