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

Monday, January 14, 2008

Okay, a Belated Resolution

This year, I think I need to post more material addressing itself to ideas and ventures I personally find appealing and want to understand and facilitate because they're appealing to me, in the hopes, among other things, of attracting the conversation of more people I find appealing.

The years during which I've been blogging here have been years of anger and sadness for me in many ways. I mean, not so much in my private life as in my life as a kind of "public intellectual," to use a rather self-aggrandizing term. But I know that this anger and frustration and sometimes desolation really comes through in a lot of my writing here.

I guess I'm one of the "angry bloggers," blogging angry, trying to get a handle on some of what it is that makes me angry, trying to express it and release it and sometimes exorcise it, else it pin me to the wall like a bug on a board.

The crimes of the Bush Administration here in my country, the global catastrophe of racist patriarchal capitalism in its neoliberal and neoconservative faces… all this palpable avoidable catastrophe, all this marauding arrogance, all this stupid waste of lives and knowledges, all this murder and thievery and recklessless and mayhem all so that a few scared scarred people can accumulate more of whatever it is that never seems to make them feel they have a life worth living but which they cling to even at the cost of extinguishing life after life after life in the world… giving voice to all this is what drove me to blogging in a way.

Of course, my special idiosyncrasy is that I am fascinated by technodevelopmental social struggle, and that is what I write about here more than anything else. But in this area, too, I have found myself directing lots of attention onto forces that are damaging and dangerous and dumb. And oh so desolating, sometimes.

For me, technodevelopment should be democratized and democratizing, but "technology" has become a word to conjure with, a fetish of would-be priestly technocratic elites in labcoats, a transcendentalizing abstraction eliciting faith rather than collaboration, a promise of technofixes to distract us from the avoidable damage we do in the name of "development," an alibi for environmental crimes and social injustice imposed on the most vulnerable.

I do think that what I have been calling a Superlative attitude toward technology drives a techno-utopian arrogance in especially the privileged countries of the North Atlantic, deranging the sense of too many intelligent people whose intelligence is needed in a damaged and imperiled world, functioning as an alibi for crimes and mischief and distraction as the clock is running out.

I also do think that bioconservatives who claim to want to "preserve humanity" and then decry the emerging scene of consensual self-creative therapeutic multiculture (what I think of as the promise of "Pro-Choice" politics applied to emerging genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive techniques and lifeway diversity more generally) are engaging in a deeply reactionary and eugenic project, easily as arrogant and anti-democratic as the eugenics they themselves also rightly discern and forcefully critique in many of the enthusiasts for "enhancement" who seek to engineer whatever they parochially fancy to be an "optimal posthumanity."

What disturbs me in all this anti-democratizing technological discourse -- all the scientistic reductionism, all the techno-transcendentalism, all the competing eugenicisms -- is just how rarely questions of consent, democracy, diversity, and social/environmental justice seem to be foregrounded in the discussions of the people focused, as I am, on technoscience and technodevelopmental issues.

Apart from occasional genuflections to the ethical that people make in the face of especially stinging criticisms that break through the handwaving into public scrutiny from time to time, little truly stalls or interrupts the torrent of deranged and deranging ecstatic or apocalyptic techno-hyperbole. I mean, it's a commonplace at this point to say that there really does seem to be a perverse and almost irresistible tendency toward either uncritical technophobia or technophilia in people's assumptions and conclusions about technodevelopmental change, of either conspiratorial paranoia or utopian enthusiasm in popular technology discourse. But this oft-repeated chestnut seems to do little to dislodge the tendency itself.

Exposing these anti-democratizing dimensions of technodevelopmental discourse wherever I find them does seem important to me -- mostly because I really do believe that technoscience can be both democratized and democratizing, and hence, emancipatory -- but again I find all this leads me into very angry and melancholy terrain, and fills my e-mail with dumb and demoralizing conversation from offended enthusiasts in various camps.

Although I certainly am not foolish enough to pretend I won't be writing diatribes against Movement Conservatism in America (in an Election year? Get real!), or global neoliberalism, or the destructive persistence of the industrial model of extractive, petrochemical, media, and agricultural production, or the apologias of corporate futurism, or the anti-choice eugenicism of bioconservativism, or the body-loathing or techno-utopian eugenicism of "enhancement" discourse, or the various flavors of loony Robot Cultism I keep encountering in my travels.

But I do hope to focus as well on technodevelopmental ideas, campaigns, and forces afoot in the world that seem to me more appealing, more promising, more pluripotent, more emancipatory, more technoprogressive, in the hopes that this focus will help me connect to more people who can feed my hunger to celebrate the worldsharing, worldmaking, worldopening I know is out there, happening right now.

The topics I mean to explore this year here on Amor Mundi and in my work more generally:

[1] The politics of p2p/a2k democratization;
[2] Techniques of permaculture/polyculture;
[3] Emerging consensual self-creative therapeutic multiculture;
[4] Secularism and nonviolence;
[5] Basic Income Guarantee;

And what interests me especially is what I see as the inter-implications of these five topics, especially how p2p forms a kind of connective tissue between them all that wants more exploration. Whatever else I do this year, I hope to contribute to this exploration of p2p democratization and the way it connects up to to the politics of permaculture, pro-choice, and nonviolence.

By way of conclusion, I especially want to thank Anne, Eric, Jamais, Jim, Greg, Nato, Robin, and Vladimir (and I'm sure I've missed a few others) for their great and sympathetic comments and contributions in the Moot. I hope the community of conversation that sometimes emerges there abides and grows this year. Here's hoping a focus this year on promising technoprogressive material will attract more promising and provocative technoprogressive collaborators.


Jamais Cascio said...

Glad to read this, Dale. I greatly look forward to seeing you apply your laser-like focus on how to make this intersection of culture, technology, and politics *work*. Identifying the many flaws in the arguments of opponents (and allies) is useful, to be sure, but I find the articulation of a desirable result to be even more compelling.

Eric said...

Sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes and humming "Don't Worry, Be Happy" when the world is falling apart isn't helpful to anyone (expect maybe the entrenched interests who are causing the problems in the first place), so go on with your bad self.

People who harp on acknowledging and attacking problem s and call it 'negativity' as if it is some talisman that brings doom, especially in times like these, are either too privileged and self-centered to truly care about the very real and potentially catastrophic problems we all face (global climate change, structural economic problems, neo-con warmongering, peak oil, etc.) or they are simply too frightened to face it all.

Dale Carrico said...

Don't worry, I'm not going to "go positive" -- since it has always seemed to me that there was plenty that was positive in the things I've said that have been criticised as "too negative" in the past. Speaking truth to power is positive, even when its makes the powerful feel bad. I guess what I meant to say in this post is that exposing the silliness of Robot Cultists gets me a lot of defensive Robot Cultists here, and the things they say kinda sorta depress me. I'd like to attract more of the brilliant provocative p2p a2k permaculture pro-choice people I know are out there onto Amor Mundi and into the technoprogressive conversation, not just because it will be interesting and useful but because it would do me good personally to hear more from those people, my true kindred spirits. It's nice that Jamais and Eric (who is also my partner, for those of you who didn't make that connection), two kindred spirits who already post here, are two of the first to respond to this e-pistle. Probably a good sign.

Robin said...

I look forward to another year of great interactive insights :)

AnneC said...

I concur with Robin. :D

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> I find all this leads me into very angry and melancholy terrain,
> and fills my e-mail with dumb and demoralizing conversation from
> offended enthusiasts in various camps.

Not too many misspelled death threats, I hope!

De Thezier said...

I propose you had a Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (SRA) as both a topic of exploration and a possible technoprogressive campaign to your list.