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

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Amor Mundi and Technoprogressive Advocacy


My name is Dale Carrico. I grew up in a town called Floyds Knobs, Indiana, which was pretty much what you are imagining a place called Floyds Knobs, Indiana, would be like. I made money as a kid acting professionally in musicals in the weird archipelago of dinner theaters across Kentuckiana, a region wild for such entertainments you may know, and for about fifteen years now I have been a precarious sort of itinerant, troubadour adjunct lecturer in university settings, which is not so very different from dinner theater when it comes to it. I am presently a member of the visiting faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute as well as a lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley from which I received my PhD in 2005. I suppose I am a rhetorician, then. I am trained in philosophy, critical theory, and literary and cultural criticism. I live in a rented apartment overstuffed with books in a sprawling warren of mid-century mousetraps on top of a hill in a bucolic neighborhood of Oakland, California, with my partner of many years, Eric, and our unusually dim-witted cat, Sarah. We're all getting old.

My work tends to focus on the politics of science and technology, especially peer-to-peer formations and global development discourse and is informed by my commitment to democratic socialism (or social democracy, if that freaks you out less), environmental justice critique, and queer theory.

I criticize futurological discourses a lot, especially here on the blog. I critique futurology both in its mainstream corporate-militarist forms as a sort of fraudulent, hyperbolic advertising, promotional, justificatory discourse disastrously suffusing our public life today, as well as in its more extreme and clarifying (also: often hi-larious) forms, variations that tend take on the kooky theological coloration of promises of techno-transcendence and which tend to have sub(cult)ural organizations in tow.

The thinker to whom I am probably most indebted is Hannah Arendt (from whose personal motto the name of this blog is taken) and also Judith Butler, who I came to California to study with and under whose direction I wrote my dissertation.

I am a registered Democrat in the United States of America in the brutal and debasing years of its imperial consummation, and I am still a believer with Michael Harrington that "the best liberalism leads toward socialism. I’m a radical, but... I want to be on the left wing of the possible." I was an activist trained in nonviolence at the King Center with Queer Nation Atlanta in the early nineties, I have been an ethical vegetarian and a cheerful atheist for well over half my life, I am a liberal theoryhead academic of the elite effete aesthete sort, am a big fag and an even bigger geek.

Eric and I possess no car, no laptop, no cellphone, no clothes dryer, no marriage license (though we fight to make gay marriage legal so that when we disdain it we do so by choice and not by necessity) and we disapprove of them and also of you, at least a little bit, in a friendly sort of way, for thinking you can't live without them yourself despite the fact that they are destroying the planet, diminishing your liberty, giving you cancer, and confusing you into mistaking possession for love. We are cantankerous and judgmental and are enjoying ourselves immensely.


The motto that defines the project of Amor Mundi appears at the top of the page, as well as appearing as the first line in most of the profiles I have written that would direct people here: "Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All."

For me, both the words "Technology" and "Democracy" in the motto are much more like verbs than the nouns they appear to be. They are words that denote ongoing collective struggles -- collective in a sense that contains both collaborations and contestations -- and these struggles, these verbs that we stabilize for a time sometimes into nouns become in those moments like hand-holds across the sheer cliff face of social struggle in history.

I'd say that "technology" is the ongoing collective prosthetic re-elaboration of personal and inter-personal agency, while "democracy" is the ongoing collective implementation of the idea that all people should have a real say in the public decisions that affect them.

The thing is, for nearly a century by now we have lived in an epoch for which the seductive, empowering, disruptive, devastating intensity and ubiquity of our technique is such that whatever we mean by "democracy" now or next -- unless it truly understands, actively takes up, responds through, and manages to direct the energies released by that technique -- will surely fail in its emancipatory aspirations, will fail utterly in the face of technocratic tyranny or the mad insensitivity of reductive idealism. And at the same time, for the same reasons, whatever we mean by "technology" now or next -- unless the distribution of its costs, its risks, and its benefits are made to express the aspirations of the actual diversity of stakeholders to its impacts -- will surely destroy the world.

Expressing one another, befuddling one another, enabling one another, inter-implicated in one another, technology and democracy are now caught up in the circuit of interminable technodevelopmental social struggle, and now constitute the ongoing conversation in which humanity continually redetermines the meanings and the movements available to it, and rededicates itself to that futurity the openness of which is itself the space in which humanity knows itself becoming itself.

"Amor Mundi" is the love of the world. It is the love of the worldly. It is the worldly love of that becoming that becomes us. It is the love of the collective struggle of which that becoming consists, and on which that becoming depends for its force, for its serendipities, for its pleasures, and for its dangers.

My project here on Amor Mundi is to understand and to articulate ongoing technodevelopmental social struggle from my own absolutely and fortunately limited perspective and to connect it from here to my aspirations as a person of the emerging sustainable peer-to-peer planetary polycultural democratic convivial consensualist left, as an opponent of corporate-militarism, as a queergeek all the way down, as an intellectual in an anti-intellectual society, as an angry person these days, as a person moved by idiosyncratic efforts to create beauty and reconcile differences.

I can't think of anybody who agrees with everything that I say, thank heavens, and I would never presume to speak for anybody but myself. I do like to figure things out for myself, to provoke thought, to facilitate creative and democratizing projects, to make people laugh, to stop idiocy in its tracks occasionally, to raise hell, to direct people's attention to things I judge to be worthy of it, and so on.

What better place than a blog to do all these sorts of things at once?

That's Amor Mundi.

For a more concrete, more "positive" (for all you naysayers), or at any rate more pragmatic, indication of my present preoccupations, let me describe some of the areas of technoprogressive advocacy that seem to me to matter most at the moment, and then to offer up a few comments about how they hang together (or not) in my view:


1. Advocating permaculture (resilient sustainability) -- we should be subsidizing research and practices of agroforestry, polyculture, organic and local agricultures, defending seed saving and seed sharing as basic human rights, regulating nonselective pesticide and high-energy-input, especially petrochemical fertilizer use, encouraging vegetarian, organic, local-food lifeways through accurate nutrition labeling, special taxes on food-corpses and highly salty, fatty, sugary processed foods, incentivizing climate-appropriate and edible landscaping, supporting organic, heirloom, and superorganic cultivation, vastly expanding research and development and infrastructure investment into p2p renewable energy-provision like decentralized solar grids and co-op windmill farms, energy-efficient appliances, desalination techniques, sustainable irrigation practices and biomimetic urban sewage treatment techniques, as well as passenger rail infrastructure across the world and facilitating non-automobile transportation in cities (free or small-fee distributed bike co-ops, for example, and transforming more urban car-lanes into pedestrian malls) -- increasing public awareness of and encouraging collective problem solving in the face of energy descent, overurbanization, species loss, extractive industrial depletion of topsoil and aquifers, toxicity of materials and industrial processes, waste/pollution, catastrophic human-caused climate change, and so on.

2. Advocating p2p (peer-to-peer formations) and a2k (access to knowledge) -- we should be strongly supporting net neutrality, institutionalizing creative commons, subsidizing personal blogging and peer credentialization/production practices, radically restricting global copyright scope and terms, expanding fair use provisions, providing public grants for noncommercial nonproprietary scientific research and access to creative expressivity and public performances, opening access to research and debate in science and the humanities, experimenting with science and public policy juries and networked townhalls, facilitating accessibility of information for differently enabled people (blind, partially blind, deaf, etc.), securing open knowledge transfer to people of the overexploited regions of the world, demanding transparency from authoritative institutions, especially governments, limited liability corporations, public universities, organizations funded by public resources or engaged in public services, strongly opposing institutional secrecy, especially corporatist proprietary secrets or militarist state secrets, ensuring universal free access to networked media, free reliable wifi, supporting community and minority-run radio, demanding corporate media disaggregation, facilitating small campaign donor aggregation and restricting other forms of patronage/lobbying/conflict-of-interest for elected representatives and professional appointees to public service, making access to education universal and free from pre-kindergarten through college, enacting strong whistleblower protections for public officials and corporate employees, introducing labeling standards to distinguish advertising, advocacy, journalism, and strengthening protections for consumers from fraudulent claims, and so on.

3. Advocating prosthetic self-determination (Pro Choice) -- we should be defending absolutely every woman's right to choose safe, free, accessible abortion techniques to end unwanted pregnancies, as well as facilitating wanted pregnancies with alternate reproductive techniques, legalizing and then taxing all informed, nonduressed consensual recreational drug use, redirecting public resources to policing actually dangerous or disorderly public conduct, regulating controlled substances for unnecessary harm, and expanding public education and drug rehabilitation programs, vastly expanding public research into genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive modification medicine, defending individuals and communities with atypical capacities and morphologies, expanding access (while prohibiting compulsory recourse) both to consensual medical and modification therapies as well as to reliable information about them, providing universal single-payer basic healthcare, planet-wide provision of safe water and nutritious food, and subsidizing access to all wanted therapies that meet basic threshold safety and transparency standards with a stakeholder grant for non-normalizing modifications in exchange for open access to clinical trial data associated with all experimental procedures.

4. Advocating BIG (basic income guarantees) -- we should be providing a universal, non means-tested basic guaranteed income to every person on earth as a foundational right of human civilization -- or at any rate a substantial increase in welfare and public services to bring us closer to BIG or its equivalent, yielding as we approach BIG ever more of its wholesome, emancipatory, consensualizing, and democratizing effects -- not only to complete the traditional progressive project of ending slavery (including still existing wage slavery) and ending military conscription (including still existing conscription through the duress of the vulnerable, through poverty, illiteracy, stigmatized lifeways, and precarious legal status), and supporting collective bargaining (by providing a permanent strike fund for all workers) -- but also to combat contemporary and emerging and conspicuously amplifying forms of technodevelopmental abjection in particular: for example, current confiscatory wealth concentration through automation, outsourcing, and crowdsourcing; protecting vulnerable populations from duress to ensure all experimental medical decisions are truly consensual; and to champion p2p democracy by subsidizing the practices of true citizen participation, peer production of appropriate and appropriable technologies, and free open secular multiculture.

5. Advocating the democratization of global governance (democratic world federalism) -- the institutions of global governance already exists, of course, but in catastrophically non-democratic corporate-militarist forms that are destroying the world, and so the fight for democratic world federalist governance is not properly dismissed as a fanciful or dreadful desire for some ex nihilo planetary state, but in reality the fight to smash the corporate-militarist world state that actually exists and to democratize it as and for the people, peer-to-peer (in democracies, properly so-called, government is the people, and so to express hatred of government is to express hatred of the people and such slogans should be understood with that in mind), all in the face of unprecedented planetary problems and the unprecedented planetary consciousness created by global networked participation and in the light of our emerging awareness of global ecologic and economic interdependence -- and it doesn't matter to me whether this "smashing of the states" and democratization of global governance is implemented through the expansion and democratic reform of the United Nations, or through the creation of alternate or supplementary planetary institutions, or through the proliferation and ramification of multilateral treaties and monitoring and institutions, or what have you, since many pathways are and will continue to present themselves to do this work -- but it will likely eventuate in a federal form, encompassing already existing formations, a form emphasizing subsidiarity (which is a principle directing governance always to the most local layer adequate to a shared problem), and protecting planetary secular multiculture, and directed to the tasks of monitoring global storms, pandemics, weapons, enforcing global environmental, labor, police/military conduct standards, providing institutional recourse for the nonviolent resolution of interpersonal and intergovernmental disputes, and facilitating the universal scene of legible, that is to say, truly informed, nonduressed consent.


1. These five preoccupations look distressingly like a Program, and so I want to begin by pointing out that they are incomplete, that they are a point of departure and not a settlement, and that they are most interesting to me in the provocative and as yet underelaborated connections that obtain among them. How do the politics of p2p democratization change Green politics or the politics of Choice, for example? How do these connections renew or replace old utopian socialist and world government politics? And so, given this incompleteness, this openness, this idiosyncratic partiality, this promising inadequacy it seems to me that anybody who wants to find in these preoccupations the seed for a philosophy to follow, a party platform, an organizational manifesto has really, truly lost their way here. One scarcely glimpses in this delineation even my own preoccupation with anti-racist work, all my feminist commitments, the full scope of my anti-militarism (my insistence that we should make war literally unprofitable, for example), my animal rights work, my interest in all sorts of questions peculiar to my training in rhetoric, in American pragmatist philosophy, or in critical theory, my worries both about judeochrislamic fundamentalisms and the reductive scientisms and militant atheist counter-reactions they have incubated, my ongoing hostility to the Bush Administration, Movement Republicanism in general, Neoliberalism even more generally, and much more. I have just sought in the delineation of these five advocacy areas to provide a sense of what I think technoprogressive advocacy looks like, what sorts of connections and campaigns a technocentric democratic left political perspective like mine might illuminate and contribute to. Other technoprogressive people will surely emphasize things differently, connect issues and campaigns differently, focus their work on just one project or another, and so on. That is exactly as it should be.

2. My point is that technoprogressivisms will never properly crystallize into a tribal designation, an identity movement, a political party machine, a subcultural movement, an army marching in lockstep toward "the future," or any such thing. The future is not a place or a "goal": futurity is the political condition of plurality, democracy, freedom... and it is open, unpredictable, collective, promising, unforgivable or it is nothing at all, whatever it calls itself. Democratic and progressive movements are inherently anti-monolithicizing, inherently pluralizing. It is true that emancipatory politics is forever discovering the connections between oppressions as a way of overcoming them, but finding and untangling these connections is an interminable process, it is not the building of a new Pyramid to survey the scene from, it is not the delusive discovery of the One True Way yet again. Democratic organizing directs itself to proximate, ongoing, and emerging sites of struggle, it is not a matter of the creation of the Truth that Says the Way the World Is, it is not a matter of evangelizing for that Truth that Holds the Keys to History, it is not a matter of becoming part of the Movement that will Sweep the World. These are fundamentalist perspectives, and always utterly anti-democratizing (even when they appropriate the terms and superficial forms of democracy in their public relations).

3. I just want to point out that one doesn't have to join a Robot Cult to devote oneself to any of the campaigns delineated above, and, as I have been explaining here in the aftermath, one can have a tantalizing glimpse of the connections between many of these technoprogressive struggles without imagining thereby that one has become a particular kind of person different from or superior to other people with whom you share the world here and now, however much you may disagree with them on particular questions, or differ from them in your aspirations. I don't think that all progressives are technoprogressives, inasmuch as not all progressives would agree with me or have necessarily given a lot of thought to the specific inter-implication of contemporary democratic struggles and technoscientific change that preoccupies my own attention. But I do think that all technoprogressives are just progressives, and people of the legible democratic left. I think technocentric analyses can provide interesting perspectives, analytic tools, strategic recommendations, creative provocations, and novel sources for solidaity for progressive democratic-left politics in its more conventional guises. But I think all five of my technoprogressive advocacy areas are completely legible in terms of those more conventionally progressive perspective -- permaculture, p2p, a2k, Pro-Choice, basic income, and planetary democracy. There is nothing Superlative to be found here, no promises of transcendence, no One True Heaven to die for (or to live for, and in so living die in one's life).

4. I am often accused of trying to stamp out imagination when I offer up my critiques of Superlative technology discourses and movements, but it is clear that imagination suffuses my moral, aesthetic, and political perspective. It's just that I know that True Belief is not imagination, delusion is not imagination, evangelism is not imagination, anti-democracy is not imagination, finding in "the future" always only a mirror of your heart's desire or secret dread is not imagination. The Superlative super-predicated aspirations to technoscientific superintelligence, superlongevity, and superabundance that define so much technocentric discourse -- functioning as the disavowed regulative ideals articulating prevailing neoliberal "Developmental" and "Progressive" discourses but explicitly avowed in their clearer, more marginal and extreme sub(cult)ural "futurist" variations -- are, as much anything else, symptoms of the fears and fantasies of precarious agency in an era of unprecedented disruptive technodevelopmental change as well as expressions of opportunistic, usually anti-democratizing, will-to-power in the face of that change. Technoprogressive perspectives, to the contrary, seek to democratize ongoing and interminable technodevelopmental social struggle so that the distribution of the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscientific change better respond to the aspirations of the actual diversity of stakeholders to that change.

5. I am also often accused of excessive "negativity" and I have tried in this post to offer up something conspicuously "positive" instead. But what should emerge from this delineation of what Amor Mundi is for is a sense of the perspective in which my "negative" critiques are lodged as well, a sense of what I am positively defending when I am negatively decrying formulations, tendencies, and attitudes I regard as pernicious. Amor Mundi is love of the world, and the Yes of that worldly love reverberates in the No with which I confront the would-be destroyers of the world, both those who would destroy the living world through reckless extractive industrialism and corporate-militarist competitiveness, as well as those who would destroy the open world of plurality through reactionary politics, technocratic elitism, fundamentalism and True Belief, or moralizing, evangelical movement anti-politics.


VDT said...


Poor Richard said...

Heck of a good "to-do" list, Dale!

I'm curious why you may have put "appropriate and appropriable technologies" near the end of Preoccupation #4 instead of maybe near the top of #1, especially in light of the prominence you give it in the form of "Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All".

These five preoccupations look distressingly like a Program, and so I want to begin by pointing out that they are incomplete...they are most interesting to me in the provocative and as yet underelaborated connections that obtain among them. How do the politics of p2p democratization change Green politics or the politics of Choice, for example? How do these connections renew or replace old utopian socialist and world government politics?

Well put. I would love to see the underelaborated connections issue approached using a hybrid between one of those on-line graphical "idea mapping" presentation tools like Prezi combined with an open, shared authoring/editing back end like a wiki so you, I, and anyone else interested could keep elaborating it endlessly.

You have probably seen this but if not you must: Everything Open and Free

Its a p2p idea map using the "Prezi" graphical presentation tool. I think the author made it for a TED talk last year.


Dale Carrico said...

Thanks for the many kind words, and your serious attention, PR.

why... have [you] put "appropriate and appropriable technologies" near the end of Preoccupation #4 instead of maybe near the top of #1[?]

No reason at all, actually -- as you see, in #1 I am already talking about "climate-appropriate and edible landscaping... infrastructure investment into p2p renewable energy-provision like decentralized solar grids and co-op windmill farms... biomimetic urban sewage treatment techniques" and so on, all of which could be subsumed well enough under the Appropriate and Appropriable Technology moniker.

Since the underelaborated connections are owned by readers as much as by the writer who released the initial prompt into the world, one way to see them would be for you to put them there for all to see!

Lily Fisher would seem to be a fan of my friend Michel Bauwens and "his" p2p Foundation -- a treasure trove of great ideas.

Poor Richard said...

I agree that Michel Bauwens and "his" p2p Foundation are intellectual treasures. I was recently honored to have several of my Poor Richard'a Almanack 2010 posts republished on "his" blog.

One thing I have been wanting to engage with p2p peeps on, but haven't yet felt adequately prepared to discuss intelligently, is to compare and contrast p2p theory and various libertarian and "anarchy" theories. Have you written or come across anything on those lines?


Dale Carrico said...

If you go to the p2p blog and input my name Dale Carrico in his search window you'll find a host of excerpts of pieces of mine haranguing precisely the tendency of too many p2p-enthusiasts to reproduce facile libertopianisms concerning "spontaneous order" and state smashing "competitive optimalities" and other such nonsense.

Poor Richard said...

Dale, I'll do that. I also plan to start using Libertopia/libertopianism at my first opportunity. Do I attribute this to you are did you shamelessly rob someone else's intellectual property?


Dale Carrico said...

I enjoy basking in warm recognition as much as the next guy, but formal intellectual property is an abomination.

Poor Richard said...

"formal intellectual property is an abomination. "

Dale, your positions are usually more nuanced. I heartily agree with you in the case of not-for-profit public intellectual discourse such as this. But I also recognize that many people do creative work for a living and I support a fair and reformed system of intellectual property rights (shorter duration, stronger fair use, etc.)

I use one of the Creative Commons non-commercial designations on my pages. In my case I only want permission required in the unlikely case someone was going to make money off my work somehow. In that case I'd like a cut.

For me personally its pretty moot, but I would like to see individuals more enabled to make a living through their creative efforts, not less.

Dale Carrico said...

In the actual text to which this comment is appended I declare that "we should be strongly supporting net neutrality, institutionalizing creative commons, subsidizing personal blogging and peer credentialization/production practices, radically restricting global copyright scope and terms, expanding fair use provisions, providing public grants for noncommercial nonproprietary scientific research and access to creative expressivity and public performances, opening access to research and debate in science and the humanities," which I daresay should count as the delineation of the "more nuanced position" you decry the lack of here! I don't think it is too much to hope folks can scroll up an inch or two should they need to consult the context against the background of which I declare intellectual property an abomination in the Moot.

But, let me say more -- because I suspect I do indeed hold a version of the kind of sweeping rejection of IP you pooh-pooh in this slogan after all. I happen to be a person whose entire life is given over to creative expressivity -- I'm not only a teacher and a writer and a thinker but a teacher in an art school among artists who grew up acting and singing professionally. And I still do say that intellectual property is an abomination.

When artificial rivalrousness was implemented by the Constitution to "promote the progress" this implied that should conditions under which progress is made change this artificial bottleneck might need to be reconsidered.

By the time digitization of writing, publication, and distribution practices, lowered the Coasian floor (in Shirky's phrase in line with Benkler's argument) of networked organizations, of course a romantic and reactionary fantasy of authorial selfhood denying the utter dependency of all problem solving and creative expressivity on a shared inheritance and inter-dependent sociality as well as an identification of capitalists with indispensable gatekeepers had created new orthodoxies the ideology of intellectual property were mobilized to protect.

Ultimately I advocate a basic income guarantee or sufficient welfare system to subsidize the lifeways of creative people who thrive on the pleasures of meaning making and acclaim (which is not to deny that such creative work will occasionally and nonharmfully yield fame and fortune as well).

As I delineate above, I do advocate many changes to current intellectual property regimes to unleash expression, criticism, assembly, problem-solving. But the deeper conceptual underpinnings of intellectual property also assume and inculcate idiotic "autonomous" understandings of selfhood, dignity, and intelligence in my view that should also be attacked in a fuller accounting.

There, more nuanced after all?

Poor Richard said...

"There, more nuanced after all?"

Begging your pardon... I'll familiarize myself more with your writing before engaging such complicated issues.

My sense is that you have studied this more than I but that we probably have some differences that are not fully accounted for by that. My position on IP is related to my position on property in general-- that 1) like government in general it can stand some reform but still has utility evolved over thousands of years, and that 2) there is a big difference between a pragmatic analysis of property and an idealistic/ideological one. For example, property is deeply embedded in most legal systems throughout the world and those systems seem to want/need to become ever more interoperable.

But lets leave that until I've reviewed your site in more depth and your annoyance at my impertinent ebullience has faded.


Dale Carrico said...

your annoyance at my impertinent ebullience has faded

Nonsense, it's been fun.

Poor Richard said...

I've been looking at your posts on the p2pf blog as your suggested and I'm wondering about the best way to comment. I followed one link back to your amor munidi, Since this is in your 2004 archive I did'nt want to comment there unless you are still tracking comments to such old posts.

I tend to agree with your criticisms of libertopianism, hyperbolic/superlative formulations of anarchy, spontaneous order, markets, etc. especially as those things find their way into the thinking of the progressive left and the p2p community.

On the other hand, a theoretical assertion that any network of relationships might be construed as a "market" would not necessarily draw my ire. I would say, OK, consider/call it a "market" as long as you adequately address the issues of accountability, transparency, information asymmetry, externalities, etc. and as long as you admit that any market is regulated whether the rules and forces are implict or explicit, obscure or obvious, etc.

I confess I am always looking for alternatives to a political process that seems increasingly captive to "elites". As such my favorite strategies tend to be forms of "economic voting" such as broad, permanent strikes & boycotts supported by various kinds of local initiatives and local self-reliance (and I see examples of that in your "preoccupations" above).

No matter how much I would like to abandon the formal political process I recognize the self-defeating consequences. At best, I can only justify inverting the priorities: getting my own household and/or community off the grid is a prior and more proximate goal/priority than reforming the national energy policy.


Anonymous said...

So many have the correct ideals, and they do work, but ignore the greater problem of; how do we, Citizens of Earth, rid ourselves of the parasitic/vampiric Global Military-Industrial-Complex Corporate Control Grid? They will go to ANY lengths to preserve their power, including thermonuclear war and a global contagion/epidemic....Now we have the Rise of the Machines and autonomous A.I.,s for more efficient killer bots to subjugate the rest of humanity. See the trailer for "ELYSIUM" for a in-your-face scenario for the future Matrix Control Grid.

Paqtesm said...

You and your blog had me at,
We are cantankerous and judgmental and are enjoying ourselves immensely.

Walticular said...

While there seems to be a to learn here, I agree with other critics who question your windy writing style. It takes will power just to read it, and reminds me of the loopy, big-word gibberish of Scientology. How you plan to reach the greater population with this self-aggrandizing maze of words is beyond me.

Insofar as I can decipher it all, what is conspicuously lacking is a plan to reach your prominent stated goals. International cooperation, democratic socialism, economic and lifestyle freedom, etc. are not going to magically appear when everyone becomes enlightened after slogging through your blog. Do you imagine for a moment that the largely parasitic oil princes, finance barons, and techno-billionaires will simultaneously have a revelation, and dump their pocketbooks on the streets? As a philosopher, you must know this is utopian in the extreme.

I came here at the recommendation of a friend, who said that these pages would clarify why I should not support transhumanism. There is still more (and more and more and more) to read, but I'm not getting it at this point. While there may be cultish, self-hating, and other twisted elements who claim this banner, its basic thrust is that we can become better through technology. I happen to have aural, visual and oral implants that save me from social isolation and a baby food diet that was the fate of people my age in the past, and anyone who says its wrong to have them is simply mad. Anyway, it surely would be nice if you could summarize your critique of transhumanism into a couple paragraphs, employing only words in common usage.

Dale Carrico said...

I'm sorry that it hurts your head to read my writing. It's curious that people who find my writing tedious often ascribe to me desires to impress them -- as though I would be especially eager to impress people who can't muster the attention to read writing like mine? Why exactly would I imagine people incapable of getting my arguments would likely be impressed by that failure? That doesn't really make a whole lot of sense now does it? I make arguments to change convictions and conduct on the topics that interest me -- it isn't clear to me where magic or revelation or sudden sweeping enlightenment comes into the picture. I say what I think is important and true for reasons I provide others who are willing hear me out. My ambitions do not extend beyond that particularly. Be that as it may, nothing I have ever argued suggests I disapprove of actual medicine -- the practice and progress of which transhumanists have had and will have nothing to do with.

Joe said...

Mr. Carrico,

I've been reading the works of Ivan Illich and Jaques Ellul with some interest recently.

Would it be accurate these two authors might influence your thinking as well?

If not, I'm curious as to the distinctions you might be willing to make between their work and yours.

Dale Carrico said...

I've read both -- I've even taught a smattering of both -- but I think I came to them too late for them to represent formative or even strong influences. I found them congenial but because I had already found my way to some similar positions. There is no question that my formative influences are Hannah Arendt, Donna Haraway, and Judiith Butler. A late but rather transformative influence for me were the works that get corraled under the heading of environmental justice critique. There's also a Rorty undercurrent and a sprinkling of Wilde. I've been teaching critical theory to college undergraduates for twenty years and so the usual suspects also rear their ugly heads: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Frankfurt, Birmingham, STS, post- colonialism, queer theory. What I do officially (as it were) is labeled STS technocultural studies new media network formations digital humanities -- but that stuff is a mixed bag, some great, some in the tank for neoliberalism, so take that with a grain of salt. As for sustained critiques of Illich or Ellul (whose names are rather euphonious side by side I must say), their careers were varied -- any specific formulations you would want me to zero in on? Thanks for your interest and attention.

Joe said...

I appreciate your response.

The reason I started reading your blog is because I'm very interested in the technocultural undertones of your writing.

That said, in terms of intellectual depth I feel a little "out of my league" here.

So, to answer your question about "formulations," I hope I answer it correctly...

Illich, in Energy and Equity for example, seems to focus on transportation as the basis for his conclusion. Simply put, the conclusion seems to center on the fact that "we create all of this technology" but we don't factor in the "equity" we get out of it.

Therefor, we are tending to create technologies that provide the "appearance" of progress and benefit, but the "workload" and costs those technologies create for society don't provide the true and measured benefits we think we are getting.

Ellul, well, I wrote about him in The Digital Society, which you can read here if you like...

The summary is Ellul seemed to focus on is the efficiency provided by technology is actually diminishing our capacity to truly be human.

Could you perhaps provide, or point me to where you've written on the general concepts I've outlined here?

I appreciate your engagement, even though I may lack the intellectual depth to engage in a much deeper way.

Dale Carrico said...

I'm grading final papers right now so a deeper engagement will have to put off for a few days -- I thinkk the best introduction to my critique is the Existenz essay published here: