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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Anne Corwin is Talking Sense on Superlativity

Just because I think superlativity tends to distort dialogue and make it difficult to focus on what can actually be done in the real world does not mean I disparage the power of human imagination or our capacity to change things for the better.

When I say that superlativity is annoying and damaging to longevity-medicine dialogue, I am saying that no, it will not in any way, shape, or form help your grandmother live longer if you go around spouting off and gesticulating about how someday super-AIs will be able to extract the molecular patterns of people long-dead out of the atmosphere and reconstitute those people in some strange zombie homeopathy.

What will help is advocacy to improve elder care so that people don't end up wasting away in nursing homes. What will help is good, solid research. What will help is a shift in attitude away from judging people on the basis of how many hours they can put in the cubicle farm and toward greater valuation of all kinds of people, regardless of age or disability or anything else.

I'm sorry if that sounds plodding and boring, but I actually want people to live, and I am not getting the sense from actually looking at reality that engaging in homeopathic zombie and upload fantasies in any context outside science fiction or salon philosophy is going to help anyone actually live.

The whole piece is over at Anne's blog, Existence Is Wonderful.


jimf said...

Anne Corwin wrote (in
neither-transhumanist-nor-pessimist-and.html )

> . . .the main difference I see between regular, fun,
> nerdy discussions of this kind of thing and
> "transhumanist" discussions of this kind of thing. . .

The main difference I see is the utter humorlessness of
the latter. "Fun"? How dare you! This is no laughing
matter! We are assuming control of the destiny of
intelligent life in the (at **least** one, maybe an
infinite number of them!) universe! Our activities here in
this very conference room will be remembered, yea, unto
the heat death of the Cosmos! (And beyond! Heat
death? There will be no death!)

And so on.

H. L. Mencken should be a fly on the wall.
(But he's daid.)

BTW, the tone deafness of some many >Hists is a source
of endless frustration to a few folks who hear through
to the ridiculousness quite clearly but who are nevertheless
themselves True Believers. E.g.,

"Since the group's intention appears to be genuinely and
indeed cosmically serious--an attempt to build a sort of god-free and rational
equivalent to a religion (as the Prospectus makes clear)--I suggest it's
worth thinking this through as carefully as possible."

Uh **huh**!

(Anne herself participated in this exchange:

> Damien said:
> "The distinction seems pretty clear, which is why it's not juvenile.
> These folks really *are* engineers, they don't just play one in World
> of Bashing Imaginary Stuff."
> Firstly, I have no intention of joining any Order, cosmic or otherwise.
> That said, I can definitely concur that actual engineering is absolutely
> nothing like imaginary engineering.
> In my Real Job (which is quite frequently difficult, time-consuming, and
> paced in a manner that would probably be described as "agonizingly slow"
> by many) as an electrical engineer, I run up against all kinds of real-world
> complications that must be dealt with before any nifty idea can actually
> be implemented. Stuff gets built, to be sure, but it doesn't get built
> as a function of anyone's hand-waving or wishing (though I'm sure managers
> would love it if that were the case), and it always takes longer and
> involves more annoyances than you would think.
> And no, this isn't because real engineers suck at what they do (or
> because real engineering isn't fun -- it can be, but it's generally not
> instant-gratification fun) -- it's because engineering that actually works,
> let alone works well, can actually be difficult for reasons that can't
> be resolved simply by wanting something really really badly and
> thinking it would be really really cool if you could build it.
> On the other hand, my level 55 undead mage engineer is able to build
> mechanical chickens via literal (if digital) hand-waving, in seconds
> flat, on the mere whim of her human controller (i.e., me). In that
> imaginary universe, everything comes out neat and as-intended, with
> no approvals to obtain, no forms to get signed, no committees to consult,
> no time charging numbers to worry about -- not to mention the fact
> that you get some of your raw engineering materials by beating up your
> enemies and looting their bodies. Is it fun? Absolutely. Is it anything
> like actual engineering? Not in a gazillion years.
> - Anne


jimf said...

> The main difference I see is the utter humorlessness. . .

Well, OK, **some** >Hists have a sense of humor.