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

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bioconservative Fearmongering and Transhumanist Hypewhomping Against the Progressive Advocacy of Consensual Lifeway Multiculture

From a comment upgraded and adapted from the Moot

Amor Mundi's resident bioconservative sniper seeks in one fell swoop to undermine my credibility as a progressive and to smear me as one of the very transhumanists to the critique of whom I've devoted at this point thousands upon thousands of words of denunciatory analysis. He wants to know, do I or do I not actually believe that support of "same-sex conception" is a mainstream progressive position.

The problem, of course, is that there is no "same-sex conception" to actually support or not in the actual world, even if science and policy are beginning to nibble around the edges of such technique. This is a point that recurs in many of my critiques of both bioconservative and transhumanist discourse and so I want to elaborate it in more detail. What I want to insist on first of all is that progressives must pay very close attention to what is actually being supported and disapproved of through the conjuration of the spectacle of a not-yet existing but possibly-emerging but crucially not-actually-characterizable technique either by fear-mongering bioconservatives or by hype-whomping transhumanists.

Such always-idealized technique (and this point is generalizable, the same goes for the whole constellation of hypothesized technique hyperbolized, superlatized, demonized by, and definitive of, both transhumanist and bioconservative discourse) would arrive, were "it" to arrive, only by way of a contingent and contested developmental path of funding, discovery, regulation, publication, application, education, distribution, appropriation, interpretation, and use none of the concrete vicissitudes of which can be specified at a level here and now to yield much if anything in the way of either science or policy.

Instead, abstract projections of "technodevelopmental outcomes" but indifferent to the historical, social, practical vicissitudes of which technodevelopment actually always consists are offered up to our scrutiny: Debates about the logical feasibility of these abstraction are proposed as "technical" and "scientific" discussions -- deranged away from the actual state of the art of scientific consensus. Irrational passions of impotence and omnipotence occasioned by these hyperbolized abstractions churn up dystopian and utopian imaginings the debates about which are proposed as "serious" and "policy-oriented" discussions -- deranged away from the actual testimony of actual stakeholders to deliberation who exist in the present not "the future," and are coping with current, emerging, and proximately upcoming technoscientific change.

So, what do I "support," exactly, on the question of "same-sex conception"? What do I think mainstream-legible technoscientifically-literate progressives would and should support?

It's perfectly simple.

I expect that fraudulently promoted, unsafe, deregulated for-profit, dangerously developed, prohibitively expensive versions of "same-sex conception" therapies would not be supported by mainstream progressive opinion (and rightly so), while scientifically warranted, reasonably safe, well regulated, transparently developed, fairly available "same-sex conception" therapies would indeed be supported by mainstream progressive opinion (and rightly so).

Bioconservative horror of idealized techniques they have fixated on as "unnatural" too often seems to derange their capacity to focus in on the actually relevant factor to a properly progressive perspective: that what matters for human dignity is the respect for informed nonduressed consent and the celebration of the lifeway diversity arising out of its exercise, not the policing of consensual lifeway diversity wherever it happens to scare them because of its "difference" from their own parochial preferences and the privileges they imagine to depend on the preservation of that parochialism. So, too, Transhumanist devotion to idealized techniques they have fixated on as "optimal" or otherwise "post-humanizing" too often seems to yield comparable derangements, an ecstatic identification with "the future" and its idealized membership purchased at the price of a dis-identification with their peers in the present, a disdain of scientific consensus mistaken for a "championing of science," a denigration of democracy for technocratic and sometimes disturbingly eugenic circumventions of the plurality of political contestation.

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