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

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

For Giulio Prisco

Upgraded from the Moot, a response to an Italian "Transhumanist" muckety-muck who disliked what I had to say in this post.

You actually live in a vulnerable, aging, mortal body, incarnating a conscious narrative selfhood riven by ambivalences and definitively opaque to itself, however promising, creative, and hungry for the pleasures and dangers of connection it may be. You quite simply do not live in the made up bullshit you pretend to live in.

By "made up bullshit" here I don't even mean to refer to the digital "body" flitting about in "cyberspace" or the shiny sooperhuman robot "body" you so desperately pine to "live in" and claim to expect will be a real option for you or at least some lucky others in the near future, beliefs you hold as a weird techno-immortalist robot cultist. No, I refer to the go-getter goal-oriented no-ambivalences in sight rugged individualist cartesian theater you seem to believe yourself to be here and now even in your pre-techno-barnacled pre-sooper-robotized state.

I'm truly sorry that you are so scared at the prospect of dying and so dispirited at the prospect of continuing to have to poop or whatever it is that freaks you out so much about bodily life. I don't know anybody on earth who is thrilled particularly at the prospect of lethal cardiac arrest, any more than dying of a stab wound. Certainly I'm not writing sweet sonnets to the prospect as you seem to think I do merely because I think there are worse things than my personal mortality to worry about in the world.

But none of that makes your own koo-koo bananas mode of denial of your mortality or disavowal of the constellation of more modest limits that constitute the ineradicable finitude of the human condition (including the limit that as historical and socially situated and yet free and inventive beings we cannot know just what the definitive limits will be in our lives) the most useful or healthy or even minimally sane approach to such questions.

As for your hysterics about why only robot cultists and techno-immortalists like yourself can call themselves genuine people of the left or consistent secularists -- if I am reading your extraordinary claims correctly that my dem-left and secularist commitments are in question because I won't join your weird "transhumanist" cult -- the level of batshit crazy in evidence in such an argument is obviously self-refuting. Given their penchant for technocratic circumventions of democratic deliberation, often in the service of "friendly" variations of eugenic medical "enhancement" figured as "optimal functioning," it isn't clear to me that even declared leftists among the "transhumanists" are inhabiting a legible or at any rate consistently democratic left position -- and that isn't even taking into account their cheerful ongoing alliances with the sizable contingent of self-described "transhumanists" who are proud market fundamentalists and Ayn Randian reactionaries among them. No doubt in outer space the distinctions between left and right might grow more confused, but as far as I can tell, here on planet earth it isn't quite so difficult to determine what side people are really on however desperately they may promote themselves as "progressives" while shoring up their positions in marginal membership organizations devoted to reactionary politics.

I would recommend you think a little bit before you say such palpably idiotic things in public places like searchable online networks. I would also recommend that anybody who entertains the notion of taking so-called "transhumanism" seriously take into account the kind of facile, stupid, hyperbolic, out of touch, deeply embarrassing attitudes and rhetoric that issue forth quite regularly from so many of its, er, luminaries.

57 comments:

giulio said...

I suppose I should feel honored to see a post dedicated to me.

So perhaps this time I should not even reply to your usual histrionics. Especially since you said nothing relevant to the point I was addressing.

I hope humans will soon enjoy a radically extended lifespan and overcome many limitations of our current biological body1.0.

But certainly I do not deny that we still have to live with mortality, disease and other limitations. Denying it at this moment in history would be a delusion.

But revering and exalting death, disease and limitations, as you often do, is much worse. It is like, as I said, telling the poor that they should enjoy and revere the beauty of being poor instead of dreaming of a better life. This is decadent romanticism that has nothing to do with the Left. The Left is about getting things done and changing what we don't like. Read Marx.

One more thing - insults like batshit and idiocy do not really bother me, I consider them as just the last verbal resort of someone who does not have real arguments to offer. Please consider this before continuing to make a fool of yourself.

Dale Carrico said...

I would respond, but I really must be off to exalt death and disease and revere poverty now. It is indeed regrettable, though, that I lack arguments and thoughts and so must content myself with ridiculing the ridiculous rather than pretending it worthy of serious consideration. Maybe the Robot God will make me smart like you one day if I try really, really hard to be good.

giulio said...

Re: "Maybe the Robot God will make me smart like you one day if I try really, really hard to be good"

That will depend, Brother, on the strength of your faith and the purity of your soul.

Dale Carrico said...

No doubt, no doubt.

Casual readers of Amor Mundi, don't let Prisco's levity here fool you, by the way -- he literally affirms techno-immortalist and singularitarian viewpoints that are techno-utopian and freighted with uncritical transcendentalizing priestly-scientistic religiosity, and he is a key advisor to a number of techno-utopian organizations with problematic politics.

Use the Google, it all becomes clear enough quickly enough.

De Thezier said...

giulio said:

But revering and exalting death, disease and limitations, as you often do, is much worse.

Can you please tell us when Dale has ever done this?

Eloquently acknowledging the human struggle with death, disease and limitations is obviously not the same thing as revering and exalting death, disease and limitations.

Why can't you grasp the difference when everybody else who reads this blog is able to?

Robin said...

Dale Dale Dale. If only I weren't married and you liked girls.

Lincoln Cannon said...

Appeals to absurdity are poor arguments, but poorer still are arguments based in the ironic demonization of religion.

Dale Carrico said...

Lincoln, if you've taken umbrage at my phrase "uncritical transcendentalizing priestly-scientistic religiosity" I think you should realize that priestly-scientistic are the terms that bear the weight here (and I think this is a phrase without "demonization" in tow, however critical it may be), and that if you care to search the archive you'll find I am as cheerfully nonjudgmental a crusty atheist as one could wish for.

Greg in Portland said...

Ultimately, having read some of Giulio's blog I can say that he seems to be a well meaning leftoid who nonetheless seems drawn to certain Randoid and American notions of "entrepreneurship". Having lived in this paradise of entrepreneurship for almost 4 decades I feel compelled to point out what a sham it all is and what a bunch of sociopaths and con men most self-styled "entrepreneurs" really are. Indeed, when I see in a job listing that the company in question is "entreprenuerial" I immediately understand that should I make the mistake of taking the job I will be working for a veritable living illustration of the DSM-IV and am quite likely to end up as either the perpetrator or victim or one of those mass office shootings you read about.

In short, Europeans, "transhumanist" or not have nothing to learn from this sad place except perhaps "this is how not to run a society". Just wait a little longer as our currency collapses even more and oil prices go even higher and you'll start to see that the "prosperity" you see here and long for is a mirage. You'll be thanking the gods for your trains and busses while we are shooting each other at gas stations for the last bit of $10/gal gas.

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> You actually live in a vulnerable, aging, mortal body, incarnating
> a conscious narrative selfhood riven by ambivalences. . .
> You quite simply do not live in the made up bullshit you pretend
> to live in. . .
>
> [Y]our. . . koo-koo bananas mode of denial of your mortality or
> disavowal of the constellation of more modest limits that constitute
> the ineradicable finitude of the human condition. . . [is not]
> the most useful or healthy or even minimally sane approach to
> such questions.


Obligatory Joni Mitchell quote ;->

Oh I am not old, I'm told, but I am not young --
oh, and nothin' can be done.
Don't start, my heart is a smoking gun --
oh, and nothin' can be done.

Nothin' can be done, nothin' can be done.
Nothin' can be done.

Nothin'! Nothin'! Nothin'!
Oh, nothin' can be done!
Nothin' can be done.

Must I surrender, oh, with grace
the things I loved when I was younger?
Mmmmm, sweet embraces.

Must I remember your face so well?
(Nothin' can be done.)
What do I do here with this hunger?
Nothin' can be done.

Oh I am not old, I'm told, but I am not young --
oh, and nothin' can be done.
Don't start, my heart is a smoking gun --
oh, and nothin' can be done.

Nothin' can be done, nothin' can be done.
Nothin' can be done.

Ooooh, nothin' can be done. . .

smartypants said...

Giulio, give it up. I mean, really. This is Dale's blog, his podium. If you haven't noticed, this comment area is meant for the applause. Critical comments are not worth the effort. There is no discussion to be had here.

De Thezier said...

Giulio, give it up. I mean, really. This is Dale's blog, his podium. If you haven't noticed, this comment area is meant for the applause. Critical comments are not worth the effort. There is no discussion to be had here.

Although Dale may have a short fuse, I've always found him open to critical comments.

However, anyone who thinks the rantings of a crank on the lunatic fringe of techno-utopianism (Giulio) or libertarianism (peco) are "critical comments" is in need of a serious reality check.

Dale Carrico said...

If you haven't noticed, this comment area is meant for the applause. Critical comments are not worth the effort. There is no discussion to be had here.

You must be hoping nobody takes you up on your offer and actually surveys the Moot in any depth, inasmuch as it often contains enormously sustained and engaged discussion. It also becomes clear with such a survey that I adore intelligent criticism and am very pleased to learn from it, though it is also clear that I don't suffer fools (in my estimation) gladly.

By the way, the better, clearer, and more appropriate response to this point would have been simply to say: "Boo Hoo." But with some people, apparently, you really have to spell these things out.

giulio said...

Greg, I do thank God for our trains and busses. I go frequently to a city more than 450 km south, and the high speed train takes one hour and a half, not significantly longer than the longest subway trip in a bog city like London, Paris or Madrid. BTW subways are another very useful thing.

High speed train and subway networks cannot be build without significant commitment and investment from a strong public sector, which I support.

But not all entrepreneurs are greedy sociopaths and con men. There are also entrepreneurs who simply roll their sleeves up and, with some hard work and some management skills, provide useful services to the rest of us, while of course making a living out of it.

In Europe we have far too much paperwork and regulations. It is evident that the objective is to make life difficult to the first type of entrepreneurs (greedy sociopaths and con men). But these people, if they have enough resources, can always bypass the paperwork and regulations. The effect is to make life impossible to the rest of us. You must have heard stories of normal people like us who had to move to the US because there was just no ways to accomplish their objectives in Europe.

I do appreciate many things in our societies. In the US, people are scared to send kids to public schools because of shootings. This does not happen in Europe. I am happy to know that, even if bad things happen to me, I will be always be able to rely on reasonably good public social security and health systems.

But every coin has two sides. The other side is that most European societies are static, boring and unnecessarily slow nanny states.

Perhaps you cannot have one thing without the other, but I keep longing for a society that offers at the same time a reasonable degree of public infrastructure and social security, and a reasonable degree of dynamism and encouragement to entrepreneurs.

Greg in Portland said...

dynamism

Yeah, was wondering when that word would appear. The US is so much dynamistic niceness donchaknow? That's why we pay out the wazoo for slow "broadband" internet that they've had for years in Europe for a lot less money and with better speed and coverage. That's why our cellphones do about half what yours do for lots more money. That's why it takes 10 hours to cross Pennsylvania by train. The fact is that by most standards of "dynamism" the US is behind and falling further. Nobel prizes per capita? I think the Swiss have that one. Compare our 300 million people to any 300 million of yours and I'm sure you'll see more real innovation and progress in the latter. Most of our "entrepreneurs" do not have a new idea. They have instead the idea that "I should be rich" and our whole society is designed to make this happen for them no matter how much chaos and suffering it causes. Maybe I'm bitter. Well I am bitter. I've worked for some of them. I may not be an economist (thank the Robot Gods) but I know that designing your society around the desires of the infantile and the insane is a bad idea.

Greg in Portland said...

You must have heard stories of normal people like us who had to move to the US because there was just no ways to accomplish their objectives in Europe.

Almost forgot. Yes, I've known a few of those expat Euros. Funny, they always came across as typical privileged whiners usually along the lines of "my taxes, my taxes, too high, too high, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!". Somehow, as someone with no health care but nonetheless paying taxes to keep these Eurotrash fools' visas freshly stamped I never felt much sympathy.

Anonymous said...

I don't feel comfortable with the phrase "nanny state". Even at their most caring, European countries still have a lot of suffering to offer for their less fortunate citizens. As long as unemployed people -- and let's not forget that the percentage of working poor is rising in Europe -- have to struggle to pay for, and often aren't able to afford, even the absolute necessities of life, there is no "nanny state" problem for me (quite the contrary).

It's surprising, since Mr. Priscio mentioned Marx, that he says "bad apples" are the cause for roadblocks to "entrepreneurial potential", instead of the more Marxian line of thought that the capitalist system itself is the culprit which forces even well-meaning people to act in certain ways in order to survive.

FrF

jfehlinger said...

"smartypants" wrote:

> Giulio, give it up. I mean, really. This is Dale's blog, his podium.
> If you haven't noticed, this comment area is meant for the applause.
> Critical comments are not worth the effort. There is no discussion
> to be had here.

Translation: "transhumanists", Singularitarians, Extropians,
Libertarians, Ayn Rand admirers, and defenders and acolytes
of certain self-appointed High Priests of Artificial Intelligence
and Defenders of the Future of the Human Race (to one or more
of which categories Mr. "smartypants" presumably belongs)
do not get to have the last word here.

Said last word being enforced in other (also private) forums
(WTA-talk, SL4, etc.) by outright banning of posters of
uncongenial opinion.

Dale Carrico said...

High speed train and subway networks cannot be build without significant commitment and investment from a strong public sector, which I support.

But not all entrepreneurs are greedy sociopaths and con men.


First of all, how do these two positions function as a frame to the point you are trying to make? What connection are you proposing obtaining between them?

Second of all, if you hear a blanket condemnation of all entrepreneurship in the arguments here it is because you are hearing with ears that are careless and clueless.

The word "entrepreneur" (like Investor Class or Creative Class or Ownership Society or any number of comparable self-congratulatory repackagings of right-wing politics of incumbent interest) has indeed largely been co-opted in the service of a deeply dishonest and reactionary neoliberal and neoconservative (what I call corporate-militarist) "free market" ideology in the US, and people of the dem-left with any intelligence or conscience at all are wary of them. No doubt different conditions prevail somewhat in your neck of the woods (I'm being far more generous with you than you deserve, since as it happens I know a thing or two about neoliberalism and precarization and anglo-economism and Euroskepical politics in Europe, even to the exptent of an awareness of different expressions of these tendencies in the UK, France, Italy, and Spain, especially, and I know that as a person of the dem-left you should know more than you seem to and frame these questions differently than you seem to), but it should not be that difficult to grasp the actual force and focus of the critique being mobilized here.

There are also entrepreneurs who simply roll their sleeves up and, with some hard work and some management skills, provide useful services to the rest of us, while of course making a living out of it.

The fact that you feel it necessary to say this at all demonstrates that you don't know what is going on here.

In Europe we have far too much paperwork and regulations.

Here we go.

It is evident that the objective is to make life difficult to the first type of entrepreneurs (greedy sociopaths and con men). But these people, if they have enough resources, can always bypass the paperwork and regulations.

Yes, George Bush argues that the criminal rich will all evade taxes (it is actually Bush's formulation, not mine that assimilates all the rich to criminality here, so don't even start sputtering, learn to read) so the progressive tax structure that is literally indispensable to a functional democracy here is rejected out of hand in an immediate exhaustive capitulation to criminality (Bush is a criminal and this makes a certain sense). So too gun-nuts argue that the most palpably sensible gun regulations will be evaded by criminals, and so regulation is to be rejected out of hand while guns kill vulnerable citizens everywhere here as they do not in nations with sensible regulations. And on and on and on, and so it goes. The argument is an apologia for criminality expressed from a position of sympathy with criminality to abet criminality (confiscatory profit-taking, socially irresponsible gun-trafficking and so on).

The effect is to make life impossible to the rest of us.

Boo hoo.

You must have heard stories of normal people like us who had to move to the US because there was just no ways to accomplish their objectives in Europe.

Newsflash Mr. "Futurist" -- but the stories you'll be hearing for the rest of your life will more likely be about "normal" people fleeing this violent crumbling cesspool for more civilized places. And if we are trading completely anecdotal subjective impressions here, frankly, most of the people I've heard you say they had to leave Europe to accomplish their goals in the US (apart from some academics who happened to come here because they wanted to work with some particular scholar who happened to be here, or people in mixed-nationality couples dealing with those dynamics) were whiny assholes up to no good at all.

But every coin has two sides.

But almost none of the things that are interminably talked about following the utterance of this facile observation are coins. Most things are more like ecologies than coins.

The other side is that most European societies are static, boring and unnecessarily slow nanny states.

That's the "other side" is it? Whatever you imagine yourself to be as a person who has imbibed the ubiquitous accomplishments of social democracy enough to have accepted at least some of them as common sense, the thing that makes this last statement of yours make sense to you, and seem more important to you than many other things that you might have mentioned at this point in the conversation, that thing in you is deeply conservative. You may deny it, you may pout and stamp, you may accuse me of name-calling and defamation rather than argument and all the other bullshit you say to me in moments like these, but it is still quite true nonetheless.

Perhaps you cannot have one thing without the other,

sigh... and from here the incumbent entailments follow with bleak inevitablility, each feeling like an "insight" or "observation" but in fact just a set of automatic conclusions arising from the programmed tune creaking out of the crank of the calliope handle...

but I keep longing for a society that offers at the same time a reasonable degree of public infrastructure and social security, and a reasonable degree of dynamism and encouragement to entrepreneurs.

If this is your frame, if this is the "dilemma" at hand, then whatever your blandly genial intentions your politics will always conduce eventually to the benefit of incumbent interests. The frame carves up the sociopolitical terrain in a way that will always facilitate conservative to reactionary formulations and strategies and outcomes.

Dale Carrico said...

Even at their most caring, European countries still have a lot of suffering to offer for their less fortunate citizens. As long as unemployed people -- and let's not forget that the percentage of working poor is rising in Europe -- have to struggle to pay for, and often aren't able to afford, even the absolute necessities of life, there is no "nanny state" problem for me (quite the contrary).

Yes, this is very true. Of course, Prisco's protestations to the contrary, he is not reliably a person of the dem-left, although he is clearly in a genial well-meaning person in many respects and like many such people imagines this makes him progressive (it doesn't). My partner Eric and I are very likely to emigrate to Europe if things get much worse in the US -- another Republican presidency, failure to repair and strengthen civil liberties dismantled by the Killer Clowns, further inroads by America's militant fundamentalst minority, failure to enact key commonsense gun regulation, media rules, election reforms, universal(izing) healthcare soon -- and we have already got quite a sense of the sorts of political issues that are likely to loom large in our concern: growing precarization of labor and necessity for basic income guarantees, failed anglo-model neoliberal ideology dismantling working social democracies, fighting racist politics around immigration issues, fighting unfair trade practices and industrial agriculture model imposed on Africa, fighting parochial euro-skepticism and demanding a democratic socialist Europe, defending wind-energy and organic farming movements (espcially if we go to the UK).

It's surprising, since Mr. Priscio mentioned Marx, that he says "bad apples" are the cause for roadblocks to "entrepreneurial potential", instead of the more Marxian line of thought that the capitalist system itself is the culprit which forces even well-meaning people to act in certain ways in order to survive.

It isn't surprising at all since Marxism isn't a discourse Prisco knows enough to contribute to, it is a Logo he flashes at certain opportune moments as a substitute for the actual thinking that is demanded in those moments. There's an enormous amount of that sort of thing happening among the so-called "transhumanist," "singularitarian," "techno-immortalist," "techno-utopian," and "futurist" milieu he frequents.

giulio said...

Re: "First of all, how do these two positions function as a frame to the point you are trying to make? What connection are you proposing obtaining between them?"

No special connection, Greg mentioned both points in the post I was replying to. But you know that, don't you.

Re: the rest of your post

One word: pathetic.

BTW, re: "Prisco's protestations to the contrary, he is not reliably a person of the dem-left"

So what?

Friend, I am not as focused on identity as you are. Feel free to label me whatever you like and rest assured that, and I am sorry if this can hurt your inflated ego, I just won't give a damn.

I usually label myself dem-left because I often agree with policies that are usually described as dem-left. It is not an identity thing, and I certainly do not police my own mind by discarding thoughts that are not dem-left enough.

So please call me whatever you like. I will not lose any sleep on it and will probably continue to vote for dem-left policies, of course on a case by case basis.

giulio said...

Re: "Said last word being enforced in other (also private) forums
(WTA-talk, SL4, etc.) by outright banning of posters of
uncongenial opinion"

Cut the crap. You were not banned from wta-talk because of your opinions, but because you answered with insults to many polite requests to be more concise.

De Thezier said...

Dale said:

My partner Eric and I are very likely to emigrate to Europe if things get much worse in the US

I was thinking of emigrating to Barcelona, Spain, for the same reasons. However, reading the following article made me pause:

Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2004/feb/22/usnews.theobserver

"Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.. A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world."

:/

Dale Carrico said...

Re: the rest of your post

One word: pathetic.


Hurt your head too much to read, did it?

BTW, re: "Prisco's protestations to the contrary, he is not reliably a person of the dem-left"

So what?

Friend, I am not as focused on identity as you are.


I'm not your friend. And like all cultists your politics are almost exhaustively describable in terms of identity, you doofus.

Feel free to label me whatever you like and rest assured that, and I am sorry if this can hurt your inflated ego, I just won't give a damn.

Giulio Prisco, ladies and gentlemen, one of the key advisors and officers of any number of "transhumanist" organizations and one of the go-to "intellectual" leaders of the public culture (such as it is) of "transhumanism."

Thus endeth the lesson. See how easy that was?

Dale Carrico said...

Cut the crap. You were not banned from wta-talk because of your opinions, but because you answered with insults to many polite requests to be more concise.

I know enough of this backstory to know that your response here is misleading in the extreme. "Concise" is the neutral term under which thought-policing was stealthed in most of the cases under diuscussion in my view. Transhuman types are always eager to hide their reactionary and authoritarian politics behind the apparently apolitical veil of (highly selective applications of) "technical" claims like "healthy optimality" to justify eugenicism, "enlightenment" to justify anti-intellectual reductionism and censoriousness, and "bandwidth" and "on-topicality" to circumscribe topics of debate and expression of positions within them.

Jim has a posting style that differs from many people, including me, and some of his interventions are more and some less effective to me in consequence of that difference...

But the inability of transhumanists to cope with these differences gives the lie (as do many other things more forcefully still) to their claims to embrace the diversity of forms inevitably arising out from any truly open and democratized technodevelopmental social struggle -- exposing their vision of emancipation as yet another boring expression of fanboy technofetishizing consumerism, offering up superficial choices in shopping monoculture as a vision of liberty, begging for brain-dulling distractions from the pain of contemplating social injustices that implicate them and the existential dilemmas introduced by their vulnerability, mortality, and prone-ness to error as finite human beings in the world.

smartypants said...

Translation: "transhumanists", Singularitarians, Extropians,
Libertarians, Ayn Rand admirers, and defenders and acolytes
of certain self-appointed High Priests of Artificial Intelligence
and Defenders of the Future of the Human Race (to one or more
of which categories Mr. "smartypants" presumably belongs)
do not get to have the last word here.


Yes, as I said, this comment area is for the applause. And Mr. "jfehlinger" applauds only a bit less frantically than Mr. "de thezier", though both of them seem able to applaud only when using other people's hands.

Mr. "greg in portland" (the other fan boy) applauds pretty loudly, too. But to his credit, he at least uses his own parts to make the requisite noise.

But by all means continue this activity. The discursive dance here is interminable and it should be punctuated by applause periodically.

But, I fear, there is no last word to be had in a tautology.

Dale Carrico said...

"smartypants," is it your point to disapprove of the fact that some of the regular commentors here appear to approve of what they see here or otherwise enjoy themselves? And are you trying to imply that this obvious truth (surely fairly commonplace in communities where people exhibit intellectual or temperamental affinities, among them communities unlike this one in which you approve yourself of the content soliciting these affinities) substantiates your earlier and palpably false claim that no engaged discussion happens here, but only endless ego-stroking of the present writer?

Your pants are not smart, but on fire. Ninny-ninny boo-boo.

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> But the inability of transhumanists to cope with
> these differences gives the lie (as do many other
> things more forcefully still) to their claims to
> embrace the diversity of forms inevitably arising
> out from any truly open and democratized technodevelopmental
> social struggle -- exposing their vision of emancipation
> as yet another boring expression of fanboy technofetishizing
> consumerism, offering up superficial choices in shopping
> monoculture as a vision of liberty. . .

Yes, I call this the "shut up and shop" approach to
one's customers or clients, or indeed to the rest of humanity
seen as customers, clients, or vast faceless "market".

It was exemplified -- back in the days when the public at
large had no access to the Internet per se, but only to
little playgrounds supervised by CompuServe, or Prodigy,
or whoever -- by the nervousness shown by the moderators
employed by those proto-ISPs toward anything that started
to get too real in the way of discussion among the
little boys and girls. You're not here to conduct politics,
people -- it's against the terms of service! Just shut
up and shop.

Greg in Portland said...

Mr. "greg in portland" (the other fan boy) applauds pretty loudly, too. But to his credit, he at least uses his own parts to make the requisite noise.

Actually, I disagree with most of what Dale says about life extension and am far more sympathetic to the transhuman agenda than he seems to be. When it comes to silly market fundamentalist ideology though I guess I am on the same page. You don't need to agree on the details of some technical project with someone to know that Scientology or Randism are cultish bullshit that could never survive outside the hothouse of American crackpottery.

De Thezier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
De Thezier said...

smartypants said:

Yes, as I said, this comment area is for the applause. And Mr. "jfehlinger" applauds only a bit less frantically than Mr. "de thezier"

Since Dale and I are both technoscience-focused progressives who are trying to collaborate on a few social-activist projects closely related to issues discussed on our respective blogs, I don't think it comes to a surprise to anyone that we often agree on these issues and even "applaud" each other when we feel that one of us has framed and formulated one of these issues in a provocative way.

That being said, I think you are confusing my defense of Dale Carrico's reputation from hysterical attacks by Giulio Prisco for "applause" when I am simply seizing on yet another opportunity to expose Prisco for what he is: the poster boy for everything that is wrong with transhumanism or belief in weird things.

though both of them seem able to applaud only when using other people's hands. Mr. "greg in portland" (the other fan boy) applauds pretty loudly, too. But to his credit, he at least uses his own parts to make the requisite noise.

Other people's hands? Are you referring to the fact that I like to create awareness of the thought and work of academic scholars or social critics that I find many people are sadly ignorant of, which either support or question Dale's argument?

De Thezier said...

greg in portland said:

Actually, I disagree with most of what Dale says about life extension and am far more sympathetic to the transhuman agenda than he seems to be

What is the "transhuman agenda"?

peco said...

However, anyone who thinks the rantings of a crank on the lunatic fringe of techno-utopianism (Giulio) or libertarianism (peco) are "critical comments" is in need of a serious reality check.

I am not a libertarian.

peco said...

I only respond to the things I disagree with. I agree with nearly everything else.

peco said...

I am not a libertarian.

Quote from here:

My fundamental disagreement with libertarians is ethical: libertarians see property rights (and human rights, which can be defined as property rights) as moral absolutes, whereas a formalist such as myself sees property as an instrumental means to the end of minimizing violence. Thus I am perfectly willing to concede that the US Government is the legitimate proprietor of the powers it exercises at present, regardless of the means by which it acquired these titles. To a libertarian, taxation is theft; to a formalist, taxation is rent.

Greg in Portland said...

What is the "transhuman agenda"?

I probably should not have said "agenda". What I mean is the technical program of life extension and nanotech, things I'm very interested in and less skeptical about than Dale seems to be. The "transhuman agenda" seems to be the idea that these things allow a bypassing of politics and some kind of automatic utopia. I certainly don't sympathize with that for all the reasons Dale has given in detail.

De Thezier said...

peco said:

I am not a libertarian. I only respond to the things I disagree with. I agree with nearly everything else. My fundamental disagreement with libertarians is ethical: libertarians see property rights (and human rights, which can be defined as property rights) as moral absolutes, whereas a formalist such as myself sees property as an instrumental means to the end of minimizing violence. Thus I am perfectly willing to concede that the US Government is the legitimate proprietor of the powers it exercises at present, regardless of the means by which it acquired these titles. To a libertarian, taxation is theft; to a formalist, taxation is rent.

I stand corrected. How would you describe your political stance?

smartypants said...

The core is getting impatient with me. I had written a response, but then I read this gem from Mr. "greg in portland":

I certainly don't sympathize with that for all the reasons Dale has given in detail.

--insert applause track here--

Remind me later to comment on Mundism and the Mundists. Rael has nothing on Dael.

--insert laugh track here--

peco said...

Justice: Formalist (read this) and progressive (I can't decide).

De Thezier said...

I probably should not have said "agenda". What I mean is the technical program of life extension and nanotech, things I'm very interested in and less skeptical about than Dale seems to be.

Although we are strongly critical of hysterical (and arguably counter-productive) discourse of technological immortalism, both Dale and I endorse securing the Longevity Dividend by building a campaign for anti-aging science.

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/eventinfo/londiv20070723/

As for molecular technology, I can only speak for myself when I say that I rarely question the possibility that it could and may well be developed before the end of this century, I strongly doubt that it will usher in a post-scarcity utopia.

The "transhuman agenda" seems to be the idea that these things allow a bypassing of politics and some kind of automatic utopia. I certainly don't sympathize with that for all the reasons Dale has given in detail.

To be fair, transhumanism is simply the affirmation of the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making available (to the masses or a select few) technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. The transhumanist agenda is therefore investigating how best to (attempt to) achieve these desired goals and fight all structural and/or deliberate resistances to their implementation. The problem is that transhumanists' assumptions, expectations and *faith* concerning developments yet to come undermine the quality and effectiveness of their investigation and fight...

Example? As Remi Sussan pointed out in his book Utopies Posthumaines ("Posthuman Utopias" in English), ''some moderately appreciate the way cryonicists have of behaving themselves as evangelists concerned with always convincing the world instead of thinking as researchers interested in solutions by experimentation. This attitude has certainly hastened their exclusion from the circles of traditional research, especially cryobiology. Thus, without access to the best labs and the resources of universities, it is hard to see how cryonics could one day progress.''

Greg in Portland said...

You should be proud of yourself Dale, I can remember when hardly anyone commented here and now you've managed to pick up a troll in the form of Mr. sillytrousers here. Your very own troll. Don't forget to get it neutered though.

giulio said...

Re: "you doofus"

Wow, a word that I did not know! I had to look it up in a dictionary.

Thanks for helping me to improve my English with this new word. I will certainly use it in debates, with all other insults that I can think of, when I have no actual argument.

Dale Carrico said...

Greg wrote: You should be proud of yourself Dale, I can remember when hardly anyone commented here and now you've managed to pick up a troll in the form of Mr. sillytrousers here. Your very own troll.

Is smartypants a troll? I can't quite make out what she or he is up to. I'm a bit intrigued by the moves they are making.

Smartypants wrote: Remind me later to comment on Mundism and the Mundists. Rael has nothing on Dael.

First of all, I think credit where credit is due, the Rael Dael pun is pretty good for a transhumanist.

I would frankly be very pleased if somebody were able to provide a critique of views of mine that seemed to them to exhibit some kind of systematic exhortation to True Belief and so on. Honestly, smartypants, please make the effort. If you really believe that my published arguments are especially vulnerable in some way to encouraging uncritical faith and icky in-group politics in some of my readers I would be very interested to see that critique, and happy to apply anything that seemed relevant to nip that sort of thing in the bud.

The perplexing thing is this ongoing insistence of smartypants on characterizing literally any exhibition of agreement with things I say or any appreciation of my perspective on the part of readers here as a kind of "cultishness." It's hard to believe that smartypants really thinks that this is a reasonable characterization. I mean, it is hard to imagine she or he would propose that every blog with any kind of following is a "cult," surely, especially a "following" as intimate as the community here? Is Eschaton some kind of megachurch on this model?

It's true that a small group of readers seem to return regularly to the blog and seem to have a certain affinity for at least some of my outlook (it's hard to imagine many people would find all the things I blog about appealing -- the permaculture stuff, the p2p stuff, the defenses of critical theory against reductionism on both the right and left, the many critiques of marginal robot cultists, the queer politics stuff, the pretty conventionally dem-left Netroots political commentaries, the references to reality tv, the Wilde quotes... I mean it's an awfully mixed bag, isn't it?), and it's true that Robin and Jim and Greg and Nato and a handful of others have become familiar enough that I find myself looking forward to what they will say when I notice they've posted. Martin and Vladimir and a handful of others post here (sorry if I have forgotten any names off the top of my head like this!) and actually we have been known to disagree with one another in some moments, while agreeing with one another in many more. I mean, isn't that just... blogging? I guess I'm not sure what smartypants is trying to suggest with all that applause stuff.

By the way, don't get me wrong: If people are really contemplating starting to applaud me in comments, heck, don't let me stop you -- that sounds like it might be rather gratifying for a change, in moderation at any rate. As it is, half my comments seem to involve mouthbreathing Ron Paulites and silly Robot Cultists pouting because I've said they're dumb. Yes, applause, applause! Send your applause, minions! I could have a wee All About Eve moment.

My suspicion -- and I definitely could be wrong -- is that a few transhumanist organizations are feeling discomfited by my critiques and some True Believer type among them is trying to diffuse the force of especially my critique of their obvious cultishness by the expedient of a fairly straightforward attempt at defensive projection... "I know you are but what am I."

This sort of thing works for dumbass Movement Conservatives (or at any rate it used to) so it would surely work as well with Robot Cultists, too? I don't know. What's a poor robot cultist to do? If the Robot God had arrived on time according to earlier schedules proposed with utter confidence every year on the year for the last half century they could just sic Its Almighty Algorithmic Badness on me for being mean to the poor techno-immortalists and Nanosantalogists and so on, but until then, I'm afriad, one must content oneself with more Rovian and Machiavellian moves.

I have to say it's hard to imagine that they could actually believe such a strategy could work for them, if that really is what's affot here. Who has the membership organizations? Not me. Who tries explicitly and actually quite insistently to build sub(cult)ural "movements" of people self-identified as -ists or -ians of who knows what hokey technophiliac variety? Certainly not me -- I have critiqued this from over a dozen angles for years and years and years. Who believes weird things about superintelligent Robot Gods ending history and nanobot goo wars and scooping their brains into shiny metal Robot Bodies that don't poop and so on? Sorry guys, that would be you. The record's online. And it's not just me laughing out loud.

Actually, smartypants strike me as someone with a spark of intelligence (despite the moniker). Their sentences exhibit the occasional worthy turn. I'm not sure if they've just started reacting to my blog with very little acquaintance with its actual content, or if they're some poor robot cult intern sent on some sort of facile face-saving search-and-destroy PR mission. Hard to figure out. For me the jury is very much out on our newcomer smartypants.

Dale Carrico said...

peco says he's not a libertarian but a "formalist."

He'll have to forgive me if I admit what I hear when people say things like this online -- especially when they get called on their rather facile easily intelligibly right-wingnut prone views -- is

"I prefer to think of myself as a 'made-up-bullshit-ologist' who is not a conservative, no siree bob, even if it sounds like it, nope, not a conservative, not me, perish the thought."

Which I translate as: he's a conservative. (Libertarians are just conservatives who want to smoke pot legally and are down with the sex for pay thing, usually for obvious reasons.)

Dale Carrico said...

Giulio wrote: Thanks for helping me to improve my English with this new word. I will certainly use it in debates, with all other insults that I can think of, when I have no actual argument.

I never fail to marvel at the quickness of your mind, Giulio.

(Apologies to the Divine Kate, whose voice I am ventriloquizing here.)

De Thezier said...

Actually, smartypants strike me as someone with a spark of intelligence (despite the moniker). Their sentences exhibit the occasional worthy turn. I'm not sure if they've just started reacting to my blog with very little acquaintance with its actual content, or if they're some poor robot cult intern sent on some sort of facile face-saving search-and-destroy PR mission. Hard to figure out. For me the jury is very much out on our newcomer smartypants.

I actually agree which is why I was bit surprised to see him/her/it "go negative" on us for no logical reason.

Oh no! Was agreeing with Dale again some form of "applause"? Damn!

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> Yes, applause, applause! Send your applause, minions!

Clap, clap.

> The perplexing thing is this ongoing insistence of
> smartypants on characterizing literally any exhibition
> of agreement with things I say or any appreciation
> of my perspective on the part of readers here as a
> kind of "cultishness."

Just for the record, I'd like to say that I came to my
conclusions about the contemporary >Hists and Singularitarians
(the on-line variety) quite independently of Dale.
I discovered them in '97, considered myself more-or-less
one of them through, oh, 2001 (I even posted on the Extropians'
list between '99 and '01. Dale was there back then, too, and even
responded to one of my posts once, but I didn't know
much about him at the time.).

I made a record of some of the second thoughts I had
about the whole Singularity mishegas on Orkut,
back in '04 -- it's still there, FWIW:
http://www.orkut.com/Community.aspx?cmm=38810

Dale came to my attention, also in early 04, back when
WTA-talk was publicly accessible (on Yahoo, was it?)
and he was tangling with the barbarians in a thread
called "Libertopian Blight". So I wrote him:

> Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2004 3:04 PM
> Subject: Howdy from a fellow Orkut denizen
>
> Dale,
>
> We don't know each other, but I thought I'd take
> the opportunity presented by our both being on Orkut
> to offer my appreciation for the point of view
> you espouse in the WTA-talk BBS archives. I've
> really only become aware of your posts there during
> the past few months, when I started paying attention to
> your rather thankless position as a non-"Libertopian"
> transhumanist (and an openly gay man, I was
> intrigued to learn).
>
> I myself am something of a lurker in the >H community;
> I haven't posted to a publicly-archived mailing list
> since the spring of 2001 (the Extropians' list).
> While I've been inclined toward transhumanism all
> my life, I've been equally repelled, for just as
> long, by the nastiness of Ayn Rand zealots and similar
> types (the first Ayn Rand enthusiast I ever knew --
> at the age of 13 -- was, I now realize, a
> likely candidate for a diagnosis of Narcissistic
> Personality Disorder, and she certainly squelched
> any temptation I might've had to get mixed up
> with Objectivism). So it was with some dismay that
> I came to realize that the spirit of Ayn Rand
> is alive and well among many participants in the
> on-line transhumanist communities.
>
> It's been an equal shock to me to discover that
> homophobia, whether blatant or concealed, is also
> quite common in such groups. I'm still naive enough
> to be shocked by this -- I once innocently thought
> that only stupid people can be bigots, but this is
> certainly not true in cyberspace (there's a notorious,
> but obviously brilliant, homophobe and Usenet legend,
> for example, by the name of Mikhail Zeleny. He
> makes a sophisticated argument from Kant's Categorical
> Imperative for the immorality of homosexuality.)
> It also seems hysterically funny to me that people who
> affect to nonchalantly contemplate the radical transformation
> of human bodies and brains can **allow** themselves
> to be squeamish about a relatively innocuous natural
> human variation (without, moreover, realizing the full
> extent of their hypocrisy in doing so). Nevertheless,
> I once had an e-mail exchange with a very high-profile
> transhumanist, who informed me in a tone dripping with
> contempt that he did **not** value variation for
> its own sake, only variation that could be rationally
> justified (thus implying that homosexuality only
> merited favorable mention if it could be so justified,
> and further implying that in his opinion it could
> not -- shades of Ayn Rand announcing in public that
> she personally found homosexuality "deesgoosting").
> There is, of course, no arguing with such people.
>
> Even more dismaying, because so hard to come to
> grips with, is the deafening silence and lack of
> engagement one is greeted with when one broaches
> certain topics in transhumanist circles. Homosexuality,
> I believe, is one of these no-comment zones.
> Any political attitude contravening the libertarian
> orthodoxy is liable either to be flamed to a
> crisp or met with annoyed murmurs of "take the
> politics elsewhere. It doesn't belong here." or
> "You're projecting your own problems here. Fix
> your own thinking, and come back when you've
> embraced rationality." You've gotta wonder, though,
> what's in store for some of the cryonics enthusiasts
> if they turn out actually to be "lucky" enough
> to be woken up 100, 200, or 500 years from now,
> or whenever the techno-rapture arrives. Are
> they really arrogant enough to think that their
> own prejudices about the "good life" are **necessarily**
> going to be the ones embodied by the folks who
> revive them? Answer: yes, a lot of them **are**
> that arrogant (haven't they seen Woody Allen's
> _Sleeper_?).
>
> Anyway, just thought I'd offer my appreciation
> for your contrarianism. Also, I think it would be
> cool if gay transhumanists stuck together more
> than they do (I know there are some gay and
> transgendered folks on the Extropians'. But they
> don't talk about it much. It's, as I said,
> mostly a no-comment zone.)
>
> Jim F.
> http://www.orkut.com/Profile.aspx?uid=11353383788616290546

jfehlinger said...

> I never fail to marvel at the quickness of your mind, Giulio.
>
> (Apologies to the Divine Kate, whose voice I am ventriloquizing here.)

To which Prince John's reply was, IIRC, "You can't hurt me any more,
you bag of bile!"

;->

Greg in Portland said...

You've gotta wonder, though,
> what's in store for some of the cryonics enthusiasts
> if they turn out actually to be "lucky" enough
> to be woken up 100, 200, or 500 years from now,
> or whenever the techno-rapture arrives. Are
> they really arrogant enough to think that their
> own prejudices about the "good life" are **necessarily**
> going to be the ones embodied by the folks who
> revive them?


There's a great Family Guy bit where Walt Disney is revived from his cryotank. His first question - "are the Jews gone yet?". When the tech answers no he asks to be put back in.

Dale Carrico said...

To which Prince John's reply was, IIRC, "You can't hurt me any more,
you bag of bile!"


Prince John? That walking.... pustule!

jfehlinger said...

> That walking.... pustule!

"Did you hear what he called me?"

"Clearly, dear, now run along, it's nearly dinner time."

"I only do what Father tells me."

"Go and eat! And stand up straight, how often do I have
to tell you, you. . ."

jfehlinger said...

A delayed reaction:

http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/index.php?paged=2
------------------------------------------
Annalee Newitz, a tech writer in the Bay Area, is making it into
the public eye again with her new blog, io9. . . Unfortunately,
while an obvious tech head and science fiction fan, Ms. Newitz is
a strident anti-transhumanist. . . Read her well-known opinion piece,
“Extropian Trash”, published in the SF Bay Guardian in 2004. . .

Before I say anything else, I want to state that calling any group
of people “trash” is reprehensible. Journalists should not be
held to a lower standard of common decency than other people. . .

I am also worried about a possible growing phenomenon that
Newitz seems to partially embody: that it’s hip to be mean.
Growing up across the Bay from Berkeley my entire life, I sometimes
get the impression that some radical leftists are engaged in an
arms race to see who can be more angry and rude to their enemies.
This is anathema to what leftism in the San Francisco Bay
(and around the world) should really be about: love, peace,
and compassion.
------------------------------------------

Stealing from Kate again: "I am not moved to tears."

peco said...

he's a conservative

What makes me a conservative? I agree with literally everything you say that I haven't criticized...

peco said...

Actually, I didn't say I was a formalist. I said that I couldn't decide between being a formalist and being a progressive. Many of MM's (the blogger that I quoted) views are incompatible with progressivism, but formalism itself is compatible.

Quote (again, from the same source):
The basic idea of formalism is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence. The goal is to design a way for humans to interact, on a planet of remarkably limited size, without violence.

Also:
The key is to look at this not as a moral problem, but as an engineering problem. Any solution that solves the problem is acceptable. Any solution that does not solve the problem is not acceptable.

More (this explains why it's called formalism):
This suggests, at the very least, that we need a rule that tells us whose wallet is whose. Violence, then, is anything that breaks the rule, or replaces it with a different rule. If the rule is clear and everyone follows it, there is no violence.

In other words, violence equals conflict plus uncertainty. While there are wallets in the world, conflict will exist. But if we can eliminate uncertainty - if there is an unambiguous, unbreakable rule that tells us, in advance, who gets the wallet - I have no reason to sneak my hand into your pocket, and you have no reason to run after me shooting wildly into the air. Neither of our actions, by definition, can affect the outcome of the conflict.

Dale Carrico said...

What makes me a conservative?

Actually, I didn't say I was a formalist. I said that I couldn't decide between being a formalist and being a progressive.


Fine, you're not a conservative whatever that term means to you but a formalist whatever that term means to you or maybe a progressive whatever that term means to you. I think you should seriously consider posting comments in Esperanto. Just please don't explain yourself anymore, start a blog of your own or something.

peco said...

maybe a progressive whatever that term means to you

I'm mainly a progressive, whatever that term means to you (as long as it doesn't mean "knee" (or anything wierd)).

jfehlinger said...

> love, peace, and compassion. . .

Artifice, brutality, and innocence. . .

You know, Michael A. and his, er, boss have an extraordinarily
effective thing going. It's sort of like good-cop, bad-cop.
The guy who's setting the party line gets to be as nasty
as can be, because he's so smart dontcha know, and the guy
who's doing all the PR these days gets to play thin-skinned
Miss Manners when anybody dares to criticize. It doesn't
even have to be a deliberate strategy to work so well, it
can be just, you know, emergent. Two personality types
meshing ever so conveniently.