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

Friday, July 23, 2004

A Cliche from the Future...

I predict the following claim will be a commonplace in books about the American era through which we are living now:  "While the socially conservative Presidency of George W. Bush is widely considered the culminating Administration of the disastrously violent Twentieth Century, it is the Administration of William Jefferson Clinton which preceded the short, troubled Bush Presidency that tends to be regarded now as the first Administration of the Twenty-First Century."   

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Random Wilde (Special Marriage Debate Edition)

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.

Taking Stock of Stock Market News

My partner Eric just sent me a frustrated e-mail on a topic we often go back and forth on.  He writes:

"Over the past few days, the stock market has dropped by over 200 points and is now once again below the 10,000 mark.  [Instant by instant vicissitudes, notwithstanding.--d] 

"This is not really 'news', of course.  Nor will it be 'news' tomorrow if the market goes back up 30 points, even though the headlines will blare: 'Stock Market Surges Up!!!'

"I wonder what happened to that group of 'experts' a few months ago who dominated the headlines for a day saying that the 'kinks' were out and the stock market would generally rise from that point (where it was above 10,000 already mind you), since the 'recovery' was underway, yadda, yadda.

"I wonder if they lost their jobs?

"Just kidding, I know they haven't."

I agree that there is a very damaging double standard where reporting about the vicissitudes of the Stock Market is concerned.  When the Market drops it is "profit-taking," or at worst a "stumble," or a "pause," whereas even modest upticks get breathlessly reported as rocketing, surging, rising ever ever upward like coporate souls taking flight unto Heaven. 

It bothers me that this isn't one of the things the liberal blogosphere (so-called) doesn't flog relentlessly.  This misleading tic or prejudice or laziness or whatever it is in the culture of business reporting should be exposed and derided every time it happens, because until accountability attaches to these sorts of distortions people are going to be hurt by the irrational exuberance inspired by this crap.

Frankly, I don't even understand why up to the split second charts of stock market performance so often get front page pride of place in mainstream news outlets, apart from the implicit assumption that (most? all?) readers of the news have a stake in the stock market.  Or maybe it's just that the readers who are also advertisers do.  

To the extent that the stock market doesn't seem like the leading indicator of the state of the economy (if it ever was) it seems an active and ongoing misrepresentation of the economic state of the Union on the part of corporate media that just this one indication is offered up as a snapshot, minute by minute, front and center, often above the fold, of economic health. 

I submit that in these days of war profiteering and wealth concentration via outsourcing and socially insensitive automation, a soaring stock market often spells, to the contrary, actual disaster for the economic well-being of most people. 

I'm not an economist, though, and I welcome contrary views that might explain this or make me feel less angry and worried about it.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

I Believe

While I was preoccupied with teaching earlier this summer I fell out of the habit of blogging regularly.  Blogging, I realize, is for me a habit of reading differently than you otherwise would, reading to write.  Annotating the world is a very different and provocative way of inhabiting it, I have to say.  Anyway, I am making my return now, and to mark that return I want first to post some thoughts I had while I was away about just what it is I am up to here:
First off, I believe that technological development can and should be a genuinely emancipatory force. 
Within the lifetimes of many now living, emerging genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive medical technologies will likely provide the tools with which to eliminate many diseases and renegotiate lifespans, as well as to render traits of basic morphology and temperament radically more discretionary.  New renewable energy technologies could provide abundant, clean, and inexpensive alternatives to fossil fuels for developed and developing societies, while new biotechnologies could reinvent agriculture to feed burgeoning populations or to engineer microorganisms to help reverse the damage of primitive industries on the planet’s ecosystem.  Emerging digital networked information and communication technologies are already reshaping global cultures and economies, and are providing new tools to facilitate collaboration and proliferate intelligence, invention, and criticism.  With these tools we could expand the reach and force of democracy, support more representative and accountable global institutions, and secure the rights of humanity around the world. 
I regard technological development as the last remaining historical force that could plausibly be described as potentially revolutionary, and I find in it our single most tangible hope that humanity might truly and finally eliminate poverty, illness, ignorance, exploitation, inequality before the law, and social injustice for everyone on earth.  
But technological development is a process of profound social struggle.  It is anything but naturally or inevitably progressive in its effects. 
I believe that the paths and outcomes of technological developments now underway will be emancipatory only so long as they are driven by the efforts of people and institutions with an explicit commitment to social justice, only if they contribute actively to the strengthening of a global democratic culture of rights, and only if they are properly regulated by legitimate and robust global institutions to ensure that the costs, risks, and benefits are fairly shared by all of the actual stakeholders to these technological developments. 
Whenever technological development fails to reflect these ideals or fails to be governed by the legitimate democratic processes and institutions that embody them, whenever it is driven instead by parochial national, regional, or economic interests, I believe that it will almost certainly be a profoundly dangerous and often devastating force, exacerbating existing inequalities, facilitating exploitation, exaggerating legitimate discontent and thereby encouraging dangerous social instabilities, and threatening unprecedented risks and inflicting unprecedented harms on individuals, societies, species, and the environment as a whole.   
In my writing here and elsewhere I try to draw on and contribute to conversations in bioethics, neuroethics, roboethics, public policy, legal, literary, and media criticism (all of which represent, I believe, fledgling counter-discourses to the compromised but occasionally still-useful tools of canonical corporate and managerial futurism), through which activists and scholars and citizens are grappling with the problems and promises of emerging and converging technologies, prosthetic practices and ways of life, and proliferating technocultures. 
As a complementary ambition, I want to contribute somehow to what I believe is a vitally necessary renewal of a scientifically literate and technologically savvy politics in the mainstream and progressive left.  Too many in the left seem lost in a delusive New Age disavowal of their inescapable indebtedness to and inbrication in emerging technocultures.  Too many maintain the utterly defeatist stance and self-fulfilling prophecy that technological development is always only a force for the consolidation of regressive racist, sexist, militarist, corporatist ends.  I repudiate technophobic defeatism and want a left that actively participates in the processes of technological development to demand and ensure that their forms be democratically accountable, their risks, costs, and benefits fairly shared, and their energies explicitly directed into projects of global emancipation.  
While many social conservatives and environmentalist progressives claim to fear that new technologies will “rob” us of our humanity, I believe that the “essence” of our humanity is our capacity to explore together what it means to be human.  No sect, no tribe, no system of belief owns what it means to be human.  Humanity can be denied by violence, degraded by poverty, diminished by tyranny, but it cannot be robbed from us because nobody owns it in the first place.  Genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive enhancements are our generation's great contributions to the collective conversation we are having about what humanity is capable of, and those who want to freeze that conversation in the image of their pet platitudes are the only ones who look to me like thieves.
Too many who do recognize the radical and transformative potential of technological development seem to see this potential as merely an opportunity to make a quick buck.  I believe that the default market fundamentalism of especially America’s technophilic corporate culture and its cheerleaders among the self-appointed “digirati” is an invitation to the worst imaginable developmental outcomes.  When the excesses of the current American Administration of killer clowns finally end either in (another) election defeat or in a subsequent impeachment, it is too likely that the left will fragment once again soon after into ineffectual factions in an ever more debased public discourse drifting inexorably rightward into irrelevance and disaster.  I believe that the left needs to embrace the emancipatory forces of progressive technological development as its definitive project.  If the world is to find its way through the almost unimaginable technoconstituted transformations afoot and ahead it needs to embrace the deliberative, responsive, responsible, fair-minded pluralism of the left no less than the left needs to embrace the revolutionary potential of technology to find its own way back to its convictions.
I’m just saying.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

MundiMuster! STOP the Constitutional Amendment to Ban Same Sex Marriage

[via] The Republican Party announced that next week it intends to call the "Federal Marriage Amendment" (FMA) for a vote in the U.S. Senate. They started to debate the issue on Friday. The Federal Marriage Amendment, by outlawing marriage for same sex couples, should be considered an ANTI-marriage amendment. By denying legal rights, it would relegate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people into second class citizenship.

While many observers see the current chance of FMA passage as remote, we cannot be complacent. The effects of FMA would rebound well beyond the lesbian and gay community. Other than Prohibition, it would be the first time in the history of this country that the Constitution was amended to TAKE AWAY rights.

Passage requires a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures. Stopping it in the Senate is critical. With statehouses across the country packed with social conservatives who would like nothing better than to scapegoat gays rather than deal with serious domestic issues like health-care, jobs and ballooning budget deficits, the best chance of stopping the FMA is at the federal level.

Take a Stand -- Do What You Can to Stop the FMA!

1) Call your Senators and insist that they vote against the FMA. Do not be bashful, be insistent. If your Senator's staffers say they are on our side and will vote against the FMA, try to get it in writing. Do not allow them any "wiggle room" on the issue. To find out how to call your Senators, go

2) If you live in Los Angeles or Chicago, DC, Palm Springs, Tampa, Orlando, or Seattle, join with other local activists in protests or actions next week.

(a) If you live in or near LA, join the Monday, July 12th protest and vigil in West Hollywood, 7 PM gather at San Vicente & Santa Monica Blvd. Sponsored by the Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights, mcc church, and

(b) In Chicago, protesters will gather at 12 noon, Monday, July 12th at Federal Plaza, Adams and Dearborn Streets, after which we will visit both Illinois Senators' offices. At 7 PM on the night of the Senate vote, we will gather at Halsted & Roscoe for a PROTEST or CELEBRATION, depending on how the vote goes. Sponsored by the Equal Marriage NOW! coalition.

(c) Palm Springs, Monday, July 12, Rally at Palm Springs City Hall 7 PM sponsored by

(d) New York City July 12-Press Conference at City Hall at 11 AM, sponsored by marriageequality, NY.

(e) Tampa, Florida -11 AM,'s national co-chair, Robin Tyler, joins attorney's Ellis and Guy Rubin at a press conference to announce the filing of a lawsuit in Tampa on behalf of a lesbian couple, to overturn Florida's Ban on Same-Gender Marriage, and to protest the FMA. Place: Hillsborough County Courthouse, Tampa, Florida. Sponsors-National (The Equality Campaign) & dontamendtampabay.

(f) Orlando, Florida -3 PM at the Orange County Courthouse.'s National co-chair, Robin Tyler, joins attorney's Ellis and Guy Rubin at a press conference to announce the filing of a lawsuit in Orlando, on behalf of two gay male couples, to overturn Florida's Ban on Same-Gender Marriage, and to protest the FMA. Sponsors-National (The Equality Campaign).

(g) Seattle, WA at 10 AM July 12, DontAmendSeattle, Legal marriage Alliance of Washington, and Equal Rights Washington will be at the offices of Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell. They will hand in a petition with over 3,000 signatures to Oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment. A press advisory has
been sent out about this action.

(h) In DC, (JULY 14) the Student Equal Rights Campaign (SERC) will be holding an event outside the US Capitol to rally against the Federal Marriage Amendment. The rally will take place at 6 PM, July 14, 2004 in Upper Senate Park on US Capital Grounds.

3) Support the Marriage Equality Caravan, initiated by Marriage Equality California, and supported by and other groups. The October 4-12 caravan will feature a host of rallies as it makes its way from San Francisco to Washington, DC. Go to to find out how you can get involved in organizing a rally in your town, or otherwise supporting the Caravan.

4) If your city is having a demonstration or action against the FMA next week, please let us know and we will list it on our website. Email all details to and cc

5) We don't solicit donations very often, and we are non-paid volunteers who are involved with the Equality We are a 503c4, which means your donation is not tax deductible. However, even if it is $10.00 or $20.00, your donations go a long way in helping us to organize this grassroots effort. Please go to our website,, to not only make a donation, but to checkout all we have been doing, thanks to your generosity!

Get angry, get involved, defend our rights!

With Pride,

Robin Tyler, National Co-Chair,
John Aravosis, National Co-Chair, Dear
Andy Thayer, National Action Coordinator,