The statement following one of my posts yesterday to which Michael Anissimov takes such exception in his own comments in the Moot is this one:
"You join Robot Cults for other reasons -- because you're greedy, or stupid, or scared, or narcissistic, or invested in reductive scientism or some comparable parochialism, or you want somebody to tell you what to do or think and transhumanism just happens to be the cult you fastened on to."
This occurred in the context of my proposal that the technology-talk which actually seems to preoccupy the attention of superlative technocentrics like transhumanists and singularitarians and techno-immortalists functions more often than not as a pretext for the very different edifications of sub(cult)ural identification and True Belief in the face of the distress and provocation of disruptive technoscientific change. The actual statement providing this context is the following:
The few people who feel a compelling tug from transhumanism don't feel it from the technology. One can find blue-skying about technology across good old fashioned still-vital sf fandoms and general geeky discursive spaces, none of which solicit True Belief in Superlative Techno-Futures or substitute techno-utopianism for policy discourse, or try to whomp up collective enthusiasm for pan-movements with the Keys to History that seek to prevail across the earth. The "technology-talk" which appears to be the focus of transhumanist discourse is in fact little but the occasion, the pretext for its Superlative freighting, for the problematic authoritarian compensations of Faith in the midst of the distress and dumb desires provoked by rapid, radical, ongoing and emerging disruptive technoscientific change.
I pointed out that one doesn't need to join a Robot Cult to engage in discussion of the scattered moments of substance one can find here and there in transhumanist or singularitarian discourse, or to organize concrete campaigns for actually progressive technodevelopmental outcomes. (As an example of such a kernel of substance one finds the iceberg tip of in transhumanist salon-culture is the notion that emerging medical technique deranges our customary expectations about morphologies, capacities, and lifeways that may incarnate human flourishing. For me, by the way, this kernel leads to the demand that we reframe progressive rhetoric about a human right to healthcare from a universalizing language organized by the notion of a shared sense of legible optimality instead to a language of informed nonduressed consent to non-normalizing freely available therapeutic intervention. While in many transhumanists it seems to me to authorize worrisome anti-democratizing intuitions, come what may the kernel of actual technodevelopmental substance is there however much it may go on thereafter to be redirected into arguments for eugenicist policing or indulgences in techno-immortalist fantasy.)
Be that as it may, one tends to join cults for other reasons, as is well known. Among these are greediness for the cash of marks among some of the more cynical figures higher up in the organizational hierarchy, as well as the kind of stupidity that settles for the comfort of broad brush-strokes accounts of an actually complex world, or the kind of narcissistic steamroller that finds in such accounts an easy sense of needed mastery, or out of deep anxieties garnered who knows how but now seeking the reassurance of placement in authoritarian hierarchy, or out of commitments to marginal propositions that are indulged only in certain marginal locations, and so on.
I have said that transhumanism is neither a scientific research program nor a philosophical vantage nor a policy-making apparatus (all of which it promotes itself as in an effort to distract attention from its conspicuous limitations), but a fairly simplistic ideological formation connected to a handful of minor but noisy (and currently consolidating) membership organizations that disseminate it and rely on it while exhibiting many of the characteristics of conventional cults. To the extent that I am right to compare these organizations to cults, it follows that I would attribute to the attraction of their members to these organizations the sorts of attitudes and issues that I think attract people to cults in general.
Obviously I wouldn't expect Michael to be pleased by these observations, but it is interesting that -- quite true to form for a cultist -- he immediately identifies the critique as nothing but defamation, he claims I am calling particular people names when I am clearly pointing out reasons among many why people join cults of which I think transhumanism is one (I call it a Robot Cult, after all), he calls it hate speech, ad hominem, libelous and so on, quasi-legal insinuations Giulio Prisco also takes up in his pile-on post. I must say, transhumanist muckety-mucks do e-mail me weaselly little insinuations about suing me all the time, by the way -- and my reply is: just try it, you big babies, I am not scared of you, and I could use the inevitable settlement to pay off my student loans.
Michael goes on to claim that reading my posts for him is like a person of color reading the fulminations of a white supremacist or a Jew reading an antisemitic screed. It is in moments like this when you get a glimpse into the fully crazy place transhumanist sub(cult)ural "warriors" have found their way to in their substitution of an identity movement organized by investment in an idiosyncratic construal of "technology" and fantasy of "the future" for actually serious deliberation about technodevelopmental topics.
That is to say, in this very response Michael clearly exemplifies the True Believer Groupthink irrationality I attributed to transhumanism and which he is taking such exception to in the first place. No, Michael, reading a persistent and forceful and even contemptuous online critique of the ideological positions you and a few hundred other mostly privileged white guys advocate while promoting your marginal membership organizations as the spear-tip of the world-historical movement you think they represent is not actually the same thing as what it is like for a Jew or person of color to confront expressions of genocidal rage arising out of long histories of literally genocidal conduct and ongoing violence.
I say transhumanists and other superlative technocentrics are wrong for reasons I delineate at considerable length, and I say that much of what they advocate is stupid and pernicious for reasons that are obvious to anyone who reads the reasons I think they are wrong. But when they go on to try to take up the mantle of a persecuted minority facing a threat of extermination because somebody says their Robot Cult is dumb they'll have to forgive me if I point out how unbelievably, well, dumb that is.
The level of stupidity, insensitivity, cluelessness, and rampaging narcissism in evidence in such claims makes it very difficult not to portray transhumanists as the very cartoons Michael complains of finding in my critiques, frankly. Quite to the contrary of his accusation, however, incredibly enough, I have devoted years of time and thousands upon thousands of words to formulations of ideas, frames, entailments that try to understand better the allure and dangers of transhumanist ideologies in terms that take them far more seriously than Michael implies (and almost certainly far more seriously than they deserve).
Jim Fehlinger also made the point in one of his replies that I have got something of "a 'vendetta' against the political right wing, that's for sure, and I think he can make a disturbing case that the >Hists are all too amenable to right-wing political agendas, if they're not out-and-out right-wingers themselves."
Of course, this is a critique I make quite explicitly in a number of places (most recently, here), and it is indeed true that this is a worry of mine.