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

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When Nanosanta Gets Called On It

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:

Michael Anissimov writes: "The majority of CRN task force members are not transhumanists. Most members of Foresight aren't transhumanists either. However, among those who see a substantial chance that MNT will be developed in coming decades, many are indeed transhumanists. This is a common response"

-- among the vanishingly few, and therefore actually completely uncommon, folks who buy in --

"to the possible (human enhancement) futures this technology would enable."

Would. Mm-hm.

"So it is hardly a surprise that many who assign a non-negligible probability to MNT are transhumanist."

Quite to the contrary of the insinuation of your initial protestations, then?

Of course, elsewhere Michael quite straitforwardly identifies both Foresight and CRN as "transhumanist organizations," for example here.

Hey, Amorous Mundyites, just for fun, how many other places can you find in which Michael identifies CRN and Foresight as "transhumanist organizations" or part of the "transhumanist movement"? The Google is fun! Keep those cards and letters coming in, kids!

I see no reason we can't disentangle these ideas and look at them separately.

Especially when doing so relieves the strain a forceful critique imposes on what one takes to be the more respectable and enabling associations for one's personal Robot Cult, eh?

My own position is that MNT seems plausible -- I'd give it at least a 50% chance of being developed in the first half of this century.

That nanoscale techniques will likely transform materials science and manufacturing processes is indeed highly plausible.


That the very particular outcomes labelled "MNT" with which transhumanists and singularitarians are so personally identified seems to me less plausible...

that these outcomes would emerge in isolation from other outcomes that would undermine the arrival of the specific futures in which these particular visions of "MNT" figure definitively and with which these transhumanists and singularitarians also identify seems to me vanishingly implausible...

while the anti-political fantasy of the technoconstituted arrival of superabundance via this "MNT" (or via ubiquitous automation, immersive virtuality, or what have you, there are many variations) by means of which stakeholder politics can be permanently circumvented -- what I denote as the Nanosanta variation of Superlative Technology Discourse -- seems to me impossible.

My transhumanist beliefs are there, but like other MNT-watchers, letting them inject irrational wishful thinking into the analysis is something to be avoided.

At least when you get called on it.

I repudiate Kurzweil's technological determinism.

At least when you get called on it.


Anonymous said...

At least when you get called on it.

Examples for the second one? His blog rejects it even when he isn't called on it.

Michael Anissimov said...

Foresight and CRN obviously have a fair portion of transhumanists, but my point is that they aren't the majority and that numerous non-transhumanists are interested in what advanced nanotechnology means for the future. Walk around at a Foresight meeting and you'll see what I mean.

"MNT" refers to any form of molecular manufacturing, dry or wet. We're already stepping into a primitive form this year with synthetic biology. I'm not personally identified with any vision, when called on it or not. I've said many times that if MNT fails completely, "I won't cry about it".

When and if MNT reaches maturity, it will do so within the context of the world's complex political systems. MNT may allow certain leaders to circumvent democracy by using MNT for military or oppressive purposes, but this is something to fight. MNT does not allow transhumanists or anyone else to fantasize about post-political worlds, although it would change the board on which political games are played significantly.

As for the last two statements, anyone who follows my writing knows these have been my stances for a long time.

Michael Anissimov said...

As for "would enable" I mean "would enable if the technology comes to pass". I'm not arguing for any highly specific outcome, except for the very general idea: "MNT, if developed, would enable a wide range of human enhancement technologies". This is not controversial, the controversy is whether MNT is possible at all.

You can call for futurists to be non-deterministic, but when you jump on *any claim at all* and call it deterministic, then obviously it's impossible to meet your standards.

Dale Carrico said...

You can call for futurists to be non-deterministic, but when you jump on *any claim at all* and call it deterministic, then obviously it's impossible to meet your standards.

It's so true, Michael, why, people who are interested in science and technology issues just fall into Robot Cultism without even meaning to happens all the time, it's well-nigh inevitable! One minute you're thinking about biochemistry and then -- wham! -- suddenly you're contemplating techno-immortalized superbodies and superintelligent Robot Gods, it happens all the time. My standards in advocating a fair distribution of technodevelopmental costs, risks, and benefits peer-to-peer and consensual healthcare in the midst of lifeway multiculture are just impossible to meet. The way I'll "jump on any claim at all," just because it involves perpetual motion machines or Robot Gods or fantasies of post-political abundance or human intelligence without a body or what have you really is just an outrage. So very unreasonable. No wonder you get so frustrated with me, Mikey.

Brave Anonymous said...

involves perpetual motion machines

No (they may be implausible, but they are not perpetual motion machines),

Robot Gods

He never said they were inevitable.

fantasies of post-political abundance

He never said this or implied this

human intelligence without a body

You could jump on this, but you still jump on claims that (1) weren't made or implied or (2) are non-deterministic or plausible.

Dale Carrico said...

Anonymous Coward "Brave Anonymous" defends Michael Anissimov with a passion that leads me to wonder if he is Michael Anissimov and to hope Michael is paying him for the privilege if he's not and suspect either way that he is unaware that Michael's comments have occurred in the context of an incredibly long and essily googlable history of techno-utopian comments.

This context is part of what I am responding to, and definitely such contexts impact any reasonable person's sense of what exactly is being "implied" in comments in any given exchange.

As for the final suggestion that I am "jump[ing] on claims that... are... plausible" -- well, tell me, which ones are those?

Is it the Robot Gods that are plausible (even if he concedes they are "non-inevitable" -- wow! what an earthshattering concession to the obvious), is it the immortalized super bodies that are plausble, or is it Nanosanta that is plausible (I am the one who characterizes the term in my Superlative critique as a fantasy of technoconstituted post-political superabundance and those who defend "nanosanta" in the context of my critique can actually be presumed to be advocating it then on the actual terms in play, seems to me), or is it human intelligence without a body that is plausible?

Which are the plausible claims here again, oh Brave One?

Brave Anonymous, also known as peco said...

Oops--none of them.