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

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

More "Trouble"

I’ve been very gratified by the conversation emerging out of the column “The Trouble With Transhumanism” (Click here for Part One, and here for Part Two) I published earlier this month on

Fellow IEET Fellow Russell Blackford responded to the columns on Betterhumans itself, and then amplified his points in an interesting subsequent entry on the IEET blog.

Blackford shares my own ambivalence about the attribution of transhumanist identities but suggests that there is a place for some kind of label to describe tech-progressive advocacy. Ultimately, I am not sure I agree that identity politics can contribute much to the facilitation of progressive developmental outcomes (which is my own emphasis) in time-frames relevant to the urgency of some of the developmental quandaries we need to tackle, but for my money I think a better focus for a progressive identity-orientation would be to nudge the politics around such identities as “liberal,” “progressive,” “scientifically-literate,” "reality-based," “modern,” “Green,” “civil libertarian,” or what have you to embrace a quicker and safer development of emancipatory technologies and a fairer distribution of their benefits, costs, and risks than to try to scare up and then police a community around the troubled term “transhumanist” to achieve the same outcomes. This seems especially so to the extent that the “transhuman”-term seems freighted with (to me) unappealing associations with market libertarian politics, uncaveated hypnotized techno-utopianism, and reductive scientism.

Despite all this, I see the sense of many of his points, and found his interventions very helpful. And of course I agree that there are many transhumanist-identified people (especially the ones who gravitate toward James Hughes’ writings and efforts) doing worthy and interesting things that are well-deserving of support.

Jamais Cascio over at the endlessly wonderful WorldChanging blog offered an interesting brief review of my piece which provoked a very interesting unexpected discussion of Jurgen Habermas and Peter Sloterdijk, most of which I can’t make sense of with my poor excuse for a reading-comprehension of German.

But perhaps most interesting to me of all was Robin Zebrowski’s discussion of my column over on her blog hyper-textual ontology, and the very provocative and rich conversation it subsequently inspired (to which I added a few of my own too-cantankerous contributions).

Again, I am very pleased at all the comments, here, in private e-mail, and elsewhere. By all means, check them out and add to the conversation here or there if there is anything more to say for now. I’ve gotten a lot of food for thought and hope to return the favor soon enough. There are some more in-depth comments that I hope to sculpt out into more sustained blog-posts over the next few days. Until then, thanks to all for your ongoing provocations!

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