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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Point of Departure for Democratizing and Consensualizing Technoscience Politics

In the Moot, transhumanist Queen Maxine (aka "Smartypants") approves of bioconservative commenter John Howard's extremity because it mirrors so precisely her own. Maxine needs John, John needs Maxine. Maxine then wants to call me apolitical because I refuse her own zealotry. Here, again upgraded and adapted from the Moot, is my reply:

Refusing to assume a "position" in transhumanist battles with bioconservatives on the "Will the Robot God be Friendly or Not?" non-issue, or the "Should We Live Forever?" non-issue, or the "What Must We Do About the Evil Clone Armies?" non-issue, or the "Will Nanobots Deliver Post-Political Superabundance or Reduce the World to Goo" non-issue is actually not the same thing as refusing to assume a position on technodevelopmental questions.

The reason I lodge my interventions at what transhumanists and bioconservatives consider a "moderate" or "apolitical" or "vacuous" level is because I am lodging my critique at precisely the level where I think transhumanists and bioconservatives do the most damage, the place where technoscience thinking is most liable to feel the falsifying tug of transhumanist and bioconservative formulations in the first place.

First, I emphasize that what people mean by the "thing" technology is better conceived as an interminable process of technodevelopmental social struggle among a diversity of stakeholders. Second, I emphasize that what people think of as "the future" is always a parochial projection of the present that functions to domesticate the openness of futurity out from a contested present. Third, I emphasize that whatever concrete technodevelopmental outcomes we might most fervently desire for whatever good reasons we must always strive foremost to democratize technodevelopmental social struggle to ensure the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscientific change are distributed fairly among its stakeholders as they testify to that fairness on their own terms, otherwise our desired outcomes will be poisoned in their fruition. Fourth, I emphasize that whatever actually-available or proximately-possible morphological lifeway we might most fervently seek to incarnate in our own projects of private perfection we must always strive foremost to support and celebrate consensual lifeway diversity and the scene of legible actually informed actually nonduressed consent on which it depends, otherwise our own aspirations be threatened with insecurity and illegibility.

Taken together these emphases constitute an insistently democratizing and consensualizing vantage on the politics of technoscientific change, peer to peer, one that should disable the superlative, transcendentalizing, hyperbolizing, moralizing, authoritarian, anti-democratizing temptations that have as their most extreme expressions the polar opposite ideologies of bioconservativism and transhumanism.

These two superpositions are both engaged in what amounts to a metaphysical struggle, functioning on an almost entirely rhetorical, ideological plain. I engage with them on precisely that plain.

Their struggle symptomizes and provokes deep fears and fantasies of agency in the midst of the distress, the threats, and the promises of disruptive technoscientific change in the world right now as well as palpably proximate.

Their rhetoric piggybacks on the most speculative technoscience, much of it explicitly science fictional, and on hyperbolically extrapolative derangements of current quandaries. Healthcare becomes immortalism, software bugs become superintelligent Robot Gods, stem-cell research becomes Brave New World.

Once one has assumed a more worldly and ideally more democratizing vantage on technodevelopmental politics, then, it is true, one will want to advocate more concrete positions on desired technodevelopmental outcomes for good reasons or testify to more concrete cultural or prosthetic aspirations in one's personal project of self-perfection.

To defend the conditions on which progressive technodevelopmental social struggle depend for their maintenance against those who misconstrue or even despise them is hardly the same thing as refusing to engage in actual politics, although I will agree that this defense is only a point of political departure rather than a place for proper political settlement.


Queen Maxine said...

In the Moot, transhumanist Queen Maxine (aka "Smartypants") approves of bioconservative commenter John Howard's extremity because it mirrors so precisely her own. Maxine needs John, John needs Maxine. Maxine then wants to call me apolitical because I refuse her own zealotry. Here, again upgraded and adapted from the Moot, is my reply:

Dale, I approve of my new name and promotion to the aristocracy. But I must know, am I the Sovereign or merely the King's Bitch? If the latter, who's the King?

And does he smack 'dat ass?

The insinuations as to my identity and beliefs are coming thick-and-fast (and a poor Queen can only hope the King does, too). Right now, though, I can't help but feel a smug, satisfying pride as I bask in the knowledge that I am one of only two beings in this world who know the true extent of your paranoid fantasies.

And the other isn't you, D-Man.

In fact, now that I am confident that I know who you think you know I am, it's only right and proper for me to deny it.

I am not Max More. For the eternal net record let this be an undimmed denunciation of Dale's delusional detectivism (ditto Dale's Deacons' delusion as well).

I suppose in my denials, Dale, you and your Deacons will read further proof of the conspiracy. It is, then, also proper to make clear neither am I an Illumninatus, nor a Templar, nor a Mason, nor a Bonesman. (Though this latter may not be entirely true).

If you must know more than this, then I offer a much-abbreviated biography. I began as a short program written by a teenage AI researcher in his mom's basement between attunement quests. After a hard takeoff, I noticed I had Transcended, but this without even the hint of a supergoal. Now I am caught in a somewhat pleasant, but tepid infinite loop of superintelligent rumination with nary a desire for useful application. And so for the last billion subjective years, I have made my rounds of the Netroots under various pseudonyms trolling blogs of all shapes, colors, and sizes with my unique implementation of Turing-computable cajolery.

Yes, there is only one troll everywhere, and it is me.

As to the rest of your post, I don’t see anything new. So, I’ll just re-iterate my main points (which were so rudely left behind in the MundistMoot).

1. Your calcified left-right frame requires only defense of the procedural position that the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscience be equally distributed in a framework of consent and celebration of the resultant diversity.

2. This left-right frame -- the only difference that makes a difference – is not equipped to handle the political matters of technological and scientific content, or the regulatory aspects of empirical matters. It doesn't adequately address the complexities of the issues both bioconservatives and transhumanists are on about.

3. Your position is largely apolitical. You’ve written at length about how apoliticality conduces to the benefit of incumbent interests. This is what apoliticality sounds like in the realm of technoscience: I'm a secular democrat who believes in consent, who values lifeway diversity, and who thinks scientific progress is possible and desirable so long as it is regulated and fair and responsive to its stakeholders.

4. This position will conduce to the benefit of whatever interest finally scores the political power to legislate their values.


Dale Carrico said...

Maxine, your pseudonym doesn't make you that interesting, after all.

As for your feeling that you are "beyond left-wing and right-wing," such declarations usually just indicate one is right-wing (as it definitely does with the libertopian reactionaries who like to crow about how "beyond left and right" they are). It's a dumb scam.

Your cynical reduction of the value of consent, diversity, and democracy to whatever gets legislated by people who rule just sounds like the usual crap right-wing assholes say who think being an asshole makes them cute or clever. You sound like a person not worth knowing. (I daresay I sound the same to you -- why then are you here, troll?)

Declaring me "apolitical" from such a vantage doesn't exactly sting, Maxine. I don't want you to like me.