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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Circled Wagons For Some, Circular Firing Squads For Others!

TrumpKang/BernieKodos 2016


jimf said...

Speaking of circled wagons --

No doubt you remember the unfortunate Kim Suozzi case from a few
years ago:

Dale's characterization of cryonics as a "scam" got cryonics
advocate Mark "Plus" (Potts) indignant to the point where he was
apparently soliciting legal advice (on the New Cryonet
Yahoo group) as to whether such a characterization could
be the basis of a successful libel suit:
(the link to the original New Cryonet post is no longer accessible, as
the whole group has been taken private -- members only. Typical.)

It seems that just a few months ago, a video of Ms. Suozzi being
interviewed at a cryonics facility shortly before her death came
to the attention of none other than P. Z. Myers, and elicited this Pharyngula post
(which I hadn't noticed before):

Extropians, Kurzweil, Libertarians, and the deluded immortality scam

Myers unabashedly uses the word "scam" in addition to some other unflattering
characterizations ("bogus science", "vultures" "outright venal
stupidity", "malicious ineptitude", "cargo cult science", "credulous").

This time, it's not Mark "Plus" who weighs in in the comment
thread -- the cudgels have been handed off to long-time Extropian
(one of the founders of the original Extropians' mailing list,
back in the 80's, if I'm not mistaken), hard-core libertarian,
and Ayn Rand acolyte Perry Metzger, who expatiates as only
he can. (I've heard Mr. Metzger do this in person, at restaurants
and at the home of some erstwhile friends -- they all live
in New York City -- and believe me, if you're ever sitting across
a table from him, you won't get a word in edgewise!).

One of the aspects of the whole Transhumanist/Singularitarian/Extropian
(/Cryonics/'Friendly' AI/Nanotechnology) mishegas that bothered
Robert Gross (the guy who made this video:
LessWrong / CFAR / MIRI / Eliezer Yudkowsky / Julia Galef / Skeptics? )
is that the >H/S^ belief package has infiltrated circles and organizations
who self-characterize as "skeptics". Some of the people I know
personally among the New York Skeptics are (like Sam Harris is now,
apparently) inclined to be rather uncritical consumers of this stuff.
One person, a rather prominent member of this circle, considers
Julia Galef a personal friend and **just doesn't want to hear**
any criticism of her. This same person is also strongly libertarian-
leaning, an unapologetic Ayn Rand aficionado, and expresses
distaste for the "regressive Left", the "Social Justice Warriors",
and so on (although, amusingly, at any in-person get-together he's
hosting/moderating/MCing, he wields the mighty ban-hammer to
quash any discussion he hears as threatening to degenerate into
"politics" ;-> ).

So it's kind of refreshing that P. Z. Myers isn't drinking the Kool-Aid.
On the other hand, none of the "skeptics" I know personally seem
to think much of P. Z. Myers (or "Atheism Plus"). The "skeptics" I know
personally seem to skew right/libertarian. I don't know (personally)
any self-styled skeptics who skew left/"SJW". (It's rather unfortunate,
though, that Gross himself was roundly booed off of Pharyngula
when he attempted to "warn" the folks there about LessWrong -- see
links in the comment thread of .
The comments section of Pharyngula is **not** a friendly "room".
;-> )

jimf said...

> . . .who expatiates as only he can. . .
> . . .you won't get a word in edgewise!
The Trumpian Dreams of Silicon Valley
JULY 27, 2016

(Noam Cohen is writing a book, “The Know-It-Alls,”
about the radical politics of Silicon Valley.)

. . .

It is easy to depict Mr. Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal,
board member at Facebook and influential investor, as an
outlier even in the oddball tech world: He believes there
will be a cure for death, promotes the construction of
floating islands exempt from society’s rules and secretly
financed a lawsuit to take down Gawker.

But Mr. Thiel isn’t just embedded in the business of Silicon Valley.
He’s also deeply embedded in the worldview of Silicon Valley
that, despite many disagreements with the Republican platform,
matches up surprisingly well with Mr. Trump’s ideas about
fixing government.

Like many of today’s technology entrepreneurs, Mr. Thiel grew up
in the early days of the web when it was a true libertarian’s
dream, a fringe system that allowed people to share thoughts
and ideas undisturbed and unmonitored. It was a place for
individualists: You alone determined your place in the world. . .

Twenty years later, Mr. Thiel’s embrace of Mr. Trump reflects
a different time in Silicon Valley, as tech companies are increasingly
moving into offline real-world businesses and bumping up against
government regulations and traditional institutions. . .

For these companies, government regulation is the enemy when
it fails to appreciate the genius of their schemes and tries to
slow them with Old World concerns over safety, privacy or
copyright infringement. They are also now coming under scrutiny
for their lack of diversity. The fantasy of the early web — a
world without color or sex — fostered a belief that the world
was largely past issues like inequality. Companies that
strive for greatness, some argue now, naturally seek out employees
with elite backgrounds. Larry Page of Google could have been
speaking for many in the Valley when he said that from the start,
“We just hired people like us.”

But Silicon Valley doesn’t hate government categorically. When Mr. Thiel
harked back to the great projects of the past, like building the atom bomb,
creating the internet and landing a man on the moon, he was citing
three of the most important United States government initiatives
of the last century. . .

By nominating Mr. Trump, Republican primary voters have abruptly left
behind the party that believes in Ronald Reagan’s gospel that
“government is not the solution to our problem; government is the
problem.” It is now firmly in the camp that believes that when
it comes to certain issues, “only government can do this” or, in
Mr. Trump’s phrase, “I alone can fix it.”. . .

Mr. Thiel comes from Silicon Valley, where the belief in talent,
and the rewards owed to talent, are paramount. “. . .

Mr. Trump’s appeal to someone like Mr. Thiel is that they both believe
that government should be brash and bold, while politics as usual
produces tame mediocrity. They also believe they are the right kind
of people to change that.