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

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Democratizing Priority of Consensual Self-Determination in the Emerging Era of Non-Normalizing Healthcare

Upgraded and Adapted from the Moot:

The emergence of non-normalizing genetic, cognitive, and prosthetic therapies seems to me to demand a shift in the language of democratizing progressive healthcare advocacy from universal access (at least as its sole or even primary organizing principle) to consensual self-determination.

This suggestion raises understandable red-flags to those who know well how a focus on consent-talk over access-talk or over more "neutral" harm-reduction-talk in this area has often functioned as a reactionary strategy simply to deny healthcare to vulnerable people as a way of engaging in class warfare, often with the ugliest kinds of sexist, racist, colonialist inflections.

I would like to think I manage to circumvent appropriation of my own argument by such reactionary politics since I do insist that consent, when it is substantial rather than vacuously formal, must be actually informed and actually non-duressed -- a requirement that demands strong regulation and a substantial provision of social services (as close to universal basic income as we can manage, the widest possible access to reliable public knowledges, and so on) that tend to make my own version of consent-talk unappealing to anti-democratic politics.

Be all that as it may, a shift into consensual therapeutic self-determination is indeed a real shift for democratic-minded progressives to come to terms with, and much of that work remains for now in its barest beginnings.

Among the implications of this shift for me is that progressives need to understand that the familiar technocratic forms of eugenics (for which the transhumanists I decry here represent an extreme case) that would police lifeway diversity into "optimal/normal" forms is matched by conservative forms of eugenics (for which the bioconservatives I decry here represent an extreme case) that would police wanted lifeway diversity into "natural/customary" forms, and that some traditional progressive advocacy language is quite vulnerable to appropriation by anti-democratic politics in these two modes in the aftermath of the shift into non-normalizing therapy.

Further, both superlative and supernative futurological discourses (as well as the more mainstream developmental discourses these sometimes symptomize, sometimes exaggerate, and sometimes pioneer) seem to me to derange our capacity to think about this shift in a reasonable way at a time when it is fairly urgent that we do so.

I am interested in progressive healthcare discourse in an era of emerging non-normalizing therapy. I strongly regret and worry about the extent to which public discourse on these questions has been framed or frustrated by hyberbolizing and faith-based formations of superlativity and supernativity.

I also strongly regret that topics that are perfectly fitting and edifying (if your tastes incline that way, as mine do) for sf literary salons -- such as the question of what kind of coherent narrative subjecthood could be maintained through a completely speculative radically underspecified prosthetic prologation to the tune of centuries of something akin to what we presently mean by the terms lifespan or consciousness -- are sometimes treated as topics connected in even the remotest way to healthcare policy discourse. Nothing at all good ever comes of such confusions.

33 comments:

giulio said...

I guess I should inform you guys that we are launching the Upload Party. The political platform and its health care related components are under elaboration, but I can anticipate that we will launch a Uploading NOW! campaign in favor of vigorous public funding of mind uploading research.

Funds will be made available by significantly reducing expenses currently allocated to more mundane health care measures. Once we are elected to power in 2012, we will achieve mind uploading before the end of the decade. Uploading pilots and trials will be launched at all major hospitals and patients will be strongly encouraged to participate by means of appropriate disinformation.

Dale Carrico said...

This gambit is especially perplexing to me, Giulio. Presumably, you mean to insinuate that I exaggerate the transhumanist, extropian, singularitarian, and techno-immortalist claims in my critique of superlativity.

But... Google exists. One scarcely has to devote more then ten minutes' time to the perusal of your favorite Robot Cult organizations and literature to find countless instances of the insanities and inanities I talk about -- and I must say that I find you personally to be among the most relentless geysers of this batshit crazy stuff.

The level of dishonest denial here is especially flabbergasting when we realize that actually you have personally advocated the formation of a political party to facilitate your Robot Cult's aspirations at some point or other in the past, haven't you? And I daresay you would indeed advocate trials for brain scanning that you would indeed fantasize as bringing you one step closer to cyberspatial immortalization as an "upload," wouldn't you?

Maybe not, I suppose, but transhumanist types say these sorts of things -- and much more bonkers things -- literally all the time with a perfectly straight face and you well know it. And though it's hard to keep up with every specific twist and turn of position-taking from each of you guys, I really do think I remember explicit support from you personally of variations on the very things you seem to be parodying here as things you find absurd.

What puzzles me is, well, if you really are sensible enough to realize that the exposure of this sort of nonsense is so beyond scientific and political credibility as to be deeply damaging to your reputation so that you would ridicule it as hyperbole on my part, why can't you take the next baby-step and actually grasp that it really is, you know, incredible and simply drop the whole Robot Cult in the first place? What is your cultism concretely bringing to you life, what is it concretely contributing to social justice or, hell, even scientific or engineering outcomes in the world?

Why not just be a nice techno-science literate secular democrat or whatever actually intelligible political flavor fits, and actually be interested in the politics of supporting public science education or medical research, and take up concrete campaigns to facilitate these ends in the world. It's true this won't make you immortal (or even enable you to indulge the facile "indefinite-lifespan" dodge), it won't give you comic-book superpowers, it won't enable you to "upload" your soul into virtual reality, it won't deliver you nanobotic fog that caters to your every wish, and so on. But there is nothing on earth that will bring you any of that anyway, or anybody else. It would be far better for you to get a nice therapist to help you work through whatever it is that makes you devote so much of your time and energy to these wish-fulfillment fantasties in the first place. And, hell, if you like to indulge in a little harmless geekboy sensawunda as a hobby I would be the last one to ridicule you on that score, being a silly nerd myself -- join a good sf discussion group and collectively enthuse to your heart's content and leave it at that.

But quit confusing sf for policy or philosophy, stop weaving all this together into an ideology with the Keys to History or a faith-based denial of death and the contingencies of human life and history to the detriment of practical work and theoretical sense in the very areas that presumably interested you in all this Robot Cult foolishness in the first place.

I mean, of course, you're free to believe whatever you want. But if you present an organizational face to the world, when you publish arguments to a general readership these are invitations to critical engagement. Superlativity doesn't stand up to critical scrutiny. It is scarcely sensible enough to demand more than ridicule, frankly.

Dale Carrico said...

You'll notice that we are not discussing the terms under which consent is rendered legible and substantial in the face of non-normalizing medical practice here, but the completely impossible and incoherent Robot Cult topic of "mind uploading" instead, which, I suppose has to count as another Mission Accomplished for superlative technology discourse which, after all, never met a derangement of technodevelopmental deliberation it didn't like.

Anonymous said...

I guess I should inform you guys that we are launching the Upload Party. The political platform and its health care related components are under elaboration, but I can anticipate that we will launch a Uploading NOW! campaign in favor of vigorous public funding of mind uploading research. Funds will be made available by significantly reducing expenses currently allocated to more mundane health care measures.

Replace the word "uploading" with "cryonics" in that paragraph and it will sound almost exactly like something Simon Smith wrote for his Betterhumans website not too long after it was launched...

Anonymous said...

What is your cultism concretely bringing to you life [...]?

Like all good religions, a meaning to life and a sense of purpose in a world "adrift in a foggy sea of postmodern cynicism and anomie"...

Dale Carrico said...

Like all good religions, a meaning to life and a sense of purpose

Not my cup of tea (I personally prefer theory, sex, aesthetics, and intoxicants as avenues to a life imbued with meaning -- only connect!), but that's fine. Let a bazillion blossoms bloom, and so on. As long as they don't try to sell their religion as a mode of scientific description or public policy deliberation we're good.

Dale Carrico said...

Replace the word "uploading" with "cryonics"

Oh, yes, the Robot Cultists have several pet projects that will get them into a comparable lather of superlative silliness -- cryonics, uploading, Friendly and Unfriendly Robot Gods on the horizon, drextech Desktop Anything boxes or planet-eating goo swarms, many things. They really are quite as absurd as the biocons losing their lunch over clone armies, designer super-babies, and labgrown centaurs.

Anonymous said...

the biocons losing their lunch over clone armies, designer super-babies, and labgrown centaurs

Well, you have to admit that it would be cool IF biotechnology could allow us to one day create some of the creatures of fantasy...

Aren't there scientists working on re-creating mammoths and saber-toothed tigers as we speak? I don't see biocons losing ther lunch over that or maybe they already are...

giulio said...

Re "Presumably, you mean to insinuate that I exaggerate the transhumanist, extropian, singularitarian, and techno-immortalist claims in my critique of superlativity. "

Not quite - I am referring to "topics... for sf literary salons... are sometimes treated as topics connected in even the remotest way to healthcare policy discourse."

I cannot honestly remember when I have said or written anything in support for public funding of very speculative research at the expense of more pressing concerns. As a matter of fact, I do not remember any of my transhumanist connections saying or writing such things either.

If I am mistaken, perhaps you might care to correct me with some actual quotes of my or other writings. You know, like actual facts, kind of. I know that you perhaps consider such mundane things as facts below your dignity, or at least not so interesting as indulging in straw-man "arguments" but, you know... Google exists.

For example, I have never advocated the formation of transhumanist political parties. Actually, I have often said that it would be a stupid idea even if it were practical. Just use Google.

It is certainly true that I have written, and continue to do so, about the desirability of transhumanist interest groups within political parties such as European Radical Parties. But if you care to take a look at the actual programs that I and others think such interest groups should promote, you will not find anything related to speculative developments, and a lot related to here-and-now civil rights which (I hope), you also support.

"why can't you... simply drop the whole Robot Cult in the first place"

This is an interesting option and I will certainly consider it with attention. Let me make a counterproposal though. Why can't you simply drop the histrionics, cut the crap, and start reading what others actually write.

Dale Carrico said...

Why can't you simply drop the histrionics, cut the crap, and start reading what others actually write.

Order of Cosmic Engineers

Society for Universal Immortalism

GP: Transhumanism Plus Hope

One among many examples of close reading on my part of something he actually wrote.

I am quite content for sane readers to come to their own conclusions about what you actually write.

giulio said...

Dale, I thought we were talking about policy.

I asked you " I cannot honestly remember when I have said or written anything in support for public funding of very speculative research at the expense of more pressing concerns... If I am mistaken, perhaps you might care to correct me with some actual quotes of my or other writings."

Now, just what the FUCK do the four links you posted have to do with policy?

JM Inc. said...

Giulio, if transhumanist interest groups within political parties are working towards things like.... healthcare, and civil rights, and the ongoing democratisation of social institutions, then what exactly makes them "transhumanist"?

These are all very standard, uncontroversial leftist projects. In what way are you not just appropriating sane policy to improve the risidual self image of your most favourite self-descriptor?

Dale Carrico said...

I have never advocated the formation of transhumanist political parties.... It is certainly true that I have written, and continue to do so, about the desirability of transhumanist interest groups within political parties such as European Radical Parties.

Mm hm.

But if you care to take a
look at the actual programs that I and others think such interest
groups should promote, you will not find anything related to
speculative developments, and a lot related to here-and-now civil
rights which (I hope), you also support.


I notice that you provide no links for me to peruse that you will stand by as representing your concern with politics here-and-now as opposed to more "speculative developments." I would get a kick out of seeing what you come up with.

Dale Carrico said...

Well, you have to admit that it would be cool IF

Can we just be clear that however edifying the conversation arising out of this observation might manage to be it would not likely constitute a philosophical argument, a scientific practice, or a policy discussion?

Dale Carrico said...

[W]hat the FUCK do the four links you posted have to do with policy?

I'll do you one better. What the FUCK do they have to do with anything?

Dale Carrico said...

In what way are you not just appropriating sane policy to improve the risidual self image of your most favourite self-descriptor?

An excellent question.

Dale Carrico said...

Well, you have to admit that it would be cool IF biotechnology could allow us to one day create some of the creatures of fantasy...

If a good-looking centaur made the offer you gotta just know I'd hit it.

giulio said...

Dale: so, you refuse to answer my question (I knew that, of course). Selective deafness?

JM Inc, if local interest groups within political parties are working towards things like.... healthcare, and civil rights, and the ongoing democratisation of social institutions, then what exactly makes them "local"? Perhaps nothing. Yet, I am sure local neighborhood groups can give a useful contributions to a party's policy. They will of course focus on their local concerns more than on global issues, but can still give a useful contribution to global issues.

Dale Carrico said...

What's the question I'm refusing to answer, again?

JM Inc. said...

Well, ok, but I mean, that's just my point, Giulio. Anyone can contribute to these sorts of actual problems by proposing actual solutions, or steps toward actual solutions.

What I'm asking is, what new solutions, or steps toward solutions, or what new relevant perspectives are transhumanists bringing to actual issues that they are contributing to? I'm not saying, 'well, transhumanists are all lazy and don't do anything and just sit around in their underwear talking about sexdroids all day', I'm perfectly aware this isn't the case, but in what way does calling one's self a transhumanist qualify one to make a special contribution? In what way are the contributions being made by transhumanists different to those being made by garden variety socialists, democrats, secularists, anarchists, feminists, greens, queers, etc.?

What important, socially and culturally relevant perspectives are transhumanists bringing to the table that aren't already being brought by ordinary secular democrats, who support science funding and science education, and medical research funding, and so on?

Anonymous said...

Can we just be clear that however edifying the conversation arising out of this observation might manage to be it would not likely constitute a philosophical argument, a scientific practice, or a policy discussion?

Of course. I just wanted to poke some humour out of you.

If a good-looking centaur made the offer you gotta just know I'd hit it.

There you go. ;)

Although this begs the question: Which part of the centaur would you hit? The half-man part or the half-horse part?

Dale Carrico said...

I'm not saying, 'well, transhumanists are all lazy and don't do anything and just sit around in their underwear talking about sexdroids all day'

I don't even think there would be anything wrong enough with such a state of affairs if it were true that I would devote energy to criticizing it given the real problems there are in the world demanding redress, just so long as the Robot Cultists in question didn't try to peddle this way of life as

[1] constituting a novel, coherent, and systematic philosophical viewpoint; as

[2] advocating a unique, coherent, and needed political program; as

[3] contributing somehow to scientific knowledge or useful technique; or as

[4] engaging in serious public policy deliberation.

Anonymous said...

In what way are the contributions being made by transhumanists different to those being made by garden variety socialists, democrats, secularists, anarchists, feminists, greens, queers, etc.? What important, socially and culturally relevant perspectives are transhumanists bringing to the table that aren't already being brought by ordinary secular democrats, who support science funding and science education, and medical research funding, and so on?

That's an easy one! Transhumanists strategically support only the standard, uncontroversial policy projects that will ensure the path to a posthuman future while oppose the projects that threaten said future (this foresight is their special contribution)... much like some Christian Zionists involved in politics are an obstacle to a resolution of the Isreali-Palestinian conflict because they are paving the way for the return of Super Jesus and the establishment of his millenial kingdom in Jerusalem! Don't you see how it makes perfect sense? :D

Dale Carrico said...

Which part of the centaur would you hit? The half-man part or the half-horse part?

Where queer chimera-human congress is concerned I think it is best to let these things play out naturally.

Robin said...

if local interest groups within political parties are working towards things like.... healthcare, and civil rights, and the ongoing democratisation of social institutions, then what exactly makes them "local"?

A lot of people seem ok with this absurd claim, but I'm going to have to offer a straightforward answer: um... Location? I certainly wouldn't have an online forum with people from all over the world and call it a "local" group - the word actually HAS meaning. And it certainly DOESN'T make any claims to offering something BEYOND that meaning. It can offer exactly the same suggestions an "academic" or "online" or "administrative" group can offer, but it happens to be comprised of local people. Those people make exactly ONE claim that holds them together: they live near one another.

Transhumanism does not make ANY such claim - the sort of glue holding transhumanists together is NOT the same as the glue that holds local organizations together. One is an accident that is taken advantage of to make progress on an issue of non-accidental proportions. The other is a CHOSEN association with CHOSEN goals as REASON FOR the association. The local group comes together because they're proximal (making it convenient) and want to make progress on a specific project. Your group comes together with a project in MIND, so claiming that you just happen to also be working on this other thing as one of your goals is either seriously dishonest to your members or seriously dishonest to yourself. That's like asking why your church can't get together to offer health care. That's not why members of a church come together and unless there is an EXPLICIT claim made ABOUT that goal in the chosen association, then yeah - your group is not "accidentally" advocating a certain kind of healthcare like a local group would be. Your analogy is absolutely horrible.

A local interest group already IN a political party has that explicit political association holiding them together with explicit goals. So the locality is trivial and it is the political association that matters.

If there's one thing I've learned about transhumanism is that there's NO explicit political affiliation. In fact, once I realized how few democratic-leftists there were (and how many capitalist libertarians there were) I quickly realized that the very claim that there could ever be a transhumanist-political movement was inherently contradictory. So I'm still not at all clear on how (or why) a transhumanist group would be working together on straightforward mundane political issues, unless the transhumanist label is purely coincidental. And that seems to be the exact paradox you're asking people to swallow.

I would, however, like to hear more about these hot centaurs.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people seem ok with this absurd claim.

Actually, it was such an absurd claim that it didn't deserve an answer. From now on we should call those "Giuloisms". ;)

I would, however, like to hear more about these hot centaurs.

There is a great 1997 comic book limited series written by Chris Claremont called 'Whom Gods Destroy' where Superman is temporarily transformed by an enemy into an evil hedonistic centaur who spends most of his waking time having hot equine sex with female centaurs and forgets about the rest of the world. I've never thought about centaurs the same way ever since... :p

Dale Carrico said...

Okay, that does it. Amor Mundi gets a new feature.

giulio said...

Re "What's the question I'm refusing to answer, again?"

I asked you to remind me of when I have said or written anything in support for public funding of very speculative research at the expense of more pressing concerns. This was the initial claim you made, and, since it is factually wrong, you are not able to find any evidence to support it.

No big deal here, people make wrong statements all the time. You should answer "sorry, I was wrong, I did not check my facts before writing".

But this is not your style, is it. Instead you try to hide your false claims behind torrents of words on unrelated issues, hoping that the readers forget the initial wrong claim.

Nothing wrong again -- this is your own blog. But I hope other readers will notice that you often construct a straw-man based on false facts, and then redirect the discussion on irrelevant things to hide them. While, of course, knowing that your claims are false. How do they call people who insist on making statements that they know false? Ah yes: liars.

OK, got some more useful things to do now. Take care.

Dale Carrico said...

Giulio Prisco,

You write an enormous amount of discourse about superlative outcomes you desire or feel some kind of enthusiasm for -- you write manifestos, you found organizations, you offer up declarations of shared principles, you set up talks for transhumanist speakers, and all that sort of thing.

Presumably you do all this to produce some impact in the world at some level? Organizing to make an impact is politics.

The impact of superlative frames on technodevelopmental politics is pernicious in my view. This is a view I have outlined at considerable length, as you know.

Now, sometimes you seem to imply that you are not being political in your work in the superlative mode. Or you seem to think your transhumanist advocacy doesn't impact the present into which it is actually being pitched. Or you think you are sometimes political, but not in a superlative way -- even when this politics is still transhumanist despite this.

I honestly cannot figure out what it is you are trying to accomplish. If you aren't trying to accomplish anything, if you just want to express some sort of generalized enthusiasm for certain literary forms -- well, first of all I can't agree that this sort of desire for neutrality assures anything like the accomplishment of it, but apart from that, it is hard to understand why a literary salon also solicits all these claims about "belief-systems" and "cultural identity" and "political movements" and so on, which don't usually accompany fandoms in this programmatic sort of way in other cases.

You wrote: I asked you to remind me of when I have said or written anything in support for public funding of very speculative research at the expense of more pressing concerns.

Well, my point, obviously is that literally everything you write in the mode of superlative discourse could very well contribute to a pernicious skewing of funding priorities (among other things -- the framing of technodevelopmental problems, the perception of possibilities, and so on) away from proximate developmental concerns.

This is, of course, one of the key and endlessly reiterated points of the critique of superlative technocentricity in the first place. That has not changed. That is what we are talking about, after all.

Now, are you asking me to find sentences in which you personally, literally, explicitly testify to a desire to shift some specified amount of public or entrepreneurial money from practical developmental problems toward pseudo-research presumably facilitating the emergence of Strong friendly AI (so-called), mind uploading (so-called), utility fog (so-called) or some comparably iconic superlative outcome? Is that a demand you feel entitled to make in the face of my critique?

It may indeed be true that you have never made such a proposal at that level of specificity. I'm honestly not under the impression that you have ever really written anything that connects to reality that concretely in the first place, whether I agree with it or not.

Do you ever offer up actual research proposals, or budget recommendations, or actually substantiated time-line forecasts (I don't mean the inevitable futurological BS: "in, uh, twenty years, yeah, that's the ticket, twenty years -- Fully Immersive Virtuality! Robot Gods! Energy Too Cheap to Meter! and so on, I mean actually substantiated step by step, no hanwaving "and then a miracle occurs" intermediary steps timelines) in the first place?

My point isn't to say that only such formulations have value -- my own arguments don't take that form either, after all: I'm doing technodevelopmental variations on political philosophy and cultural theory, obviously.

But the point is, you seem to be implying that the only legitimate response to your rhetoric is to locate claims of a kind you don't make, pitched at a level that isn't the one any of the critique is pitched at in the first place here.

Perhaps I'm completely misunderstanding the force of your point here. Why, after all, would this sort of demand insulate you from the critique I am leveling at Robot Cultists?

This was the initial claim you made, and, since it is factually wrong, you are not able to find any evidence to support it.

Heaven only knows what you have seized on as "the initial claim" in this exchange. There is little point, I'm sure, in tediously reconstructing the whole exchange, since I can't honestly say that I expect good faith on your end, and I also expect that this level of boring recapitulation makes both sides look equally petty whatever the merits in fact. But here goes anyway, to the best of my ability --

This is a very early claim I made (quite visible by just scrolling up the comments):

"One scarcely has to devote more then ten minutes' time to the perusal of your favorite Robot Cult organizations and literature to find countless instances of the insanities and inanities I talk about -- and I must say that I find you personally to be among the most relentless geysers of this batshit crazy stuff."

That remains perfectly and obviously true, in my opinion, quite as true as when I wrote it, and in my view exactly as damning to your case as it ever was. Nothing has changed at all.

Next I expressed surprise at your apparently parodic announcement about forming a political party to facilitate "uploading" because I seemed to remember you actually had taken part in trying to organize for such outcomes at a partisan level. Here is the actual sentence (again, available just by scrolling up).

"[Y]ou have personally advocated the formation of a political party to facilitate your Robot Cult's aspirations at some point or other in the past, haven't you?"

(Notice the question mark?)

In the next paragraph I amplify the point:

"[I]t's hard to keep up with every specific twist and turn of position-taking from each of you guys, I really do think I remember explicit support from you personally of variations on the very things you seem to be parodying here as things you find absurd."

You corrected me thus: "I have never advocated the formation of transhumanist political parties....
It is certainly true that I have written, and continue to do so, about the desirability of transhumanist interest groups within political parties such as European Radical Parties."

I'm pretty sure that it is precisely the latter effort you just mentioned that I was remembering in my earlier assertion -- imperfectly, as you say, but am I in error in a way that really matters so urgently? I certainly believe you now when you say you didn't try to organize a transhumanist political party, when instead you were trying to organize a transhumanist caucus or whatever it was within existing parties instead. It isn't clear to me that this has any impact on the actual point I made -- that you actually have engaged seriously in partisan organizing to facilitate superlative outcomes even though you parody that very conduct as a way of illustrating how exaggerated my critique is supposed to be. Maybe I'm still getting this wrong, but for the life of me I can't see how.

I certainly don't see how I got something wrong enough for you to feel justified in accusing me of lying, cheating, misleading, spinning falsehoods, engaging in trickery and all the rest.

Quite apart from all that, surely you see that this level of detail is pretty incidental to the actual critique I am offering anyway? This isn't some he said-she said debate, but a debate about the technodevelopmental impact in the actual world of superlative discourses.

I think it deranges our perception of actually urgent political and also technical technodevelopmental questions to frame them through the lens of superlative outcomes arising out of hyperbolic and conceptually confused fantasies and fears of agency in an era of disruptive change.

You should answer "sorry, I was wrong, I did not check my facts before writing". But this is not your style, is it.

Simply amazing, I must say. I cannot say even up to this very moment of writing that I am entirely sure what "fact" it is that you think I got so wrong that it demands this apology. I have just tried to reconstruct the context of one possible candidate that might be the one inspiring all this. I still don't think there is even remotely any suggestion of me being intentionally misleading or claiming certainties where I didn't have them about points that were never central to my concern in any case. But even more to the point I don't see how a discussion of this sort of "fact" constitutes anything of actual interest to the critique that is play here. Heaven only knows what you have in mind.

You accuse me of lacking manners and good will (I'm assuming the style comment goes to that), whatever pains I take to wade through your arguments, and you accuse me of lying and indulging in all sorts of trickery -- as if one needs to resort to trickery to expose the idiocy of Robot Cultists pining after techno-immortality in cyberspace among Robot Gods to anybody with half a brain.

You declare me to be concerned with "unrelated issues," "straw men," "irrelevant things" -- but I think it may just be that you don't quite understand my critique at a pretty basic level, or maybe you simply disagree that it matters. None of that justifies the accusation of deception and lying.

You claim that I "know [my] claims to be false." On the basis of what do you claim to know such a thing? The fact is -- and obviously you will take or leave this declaration as you choose -- I do not believe that is even remotely the case. I am struggling to understand the theoretical connections and practical implications of superlative discourses like yours absolutely diligently, and I take this project enormously seriously. I feel quite confident about the force and relevance of my critique. I support my claims with close readings and arguments offered up to public scrutiny. That is all that anybody can do.

You don't like what I say, but that doesn't make me a liar. You don't seem to be willing or possibly capable of understanding what I say, but that doesn't make me deceptive.

giulio said...

Re "Now, are you asking me to find sentences in which you personally, literally, explicitly testify to a desire to shift some specified amount of public or entrepreneurial money from practical developmental problems toward pseudo-research... It may indeed be true that you have never made such a proposal at that level of specificity." and "my earlier assertion -- imperfectly, as you say, but am I in error in a way that really matters so urgently?"

Thanks for acknowledging this. I am quite willing to discuss everything, but not on the basis of wrong facts.

In passing, as a citizen I do have opinions on how public money should be spent and on the basis of which priorities, but I don't consider how entrepreneurial money is spent as something I need to be concerned with, as long as both its origin and use are within the law.

If your point is, as you say, that "literally everything I write in the mode of superlative discourse could very well contribute to a pernicious skewing of funding priorities... away from proximate developmental concerns. ", then:

I disagree. But since this is your opinion, and it is framed without insults, I have no problems debating it.

Anonymous said...

but I think it may just be that you don't quite understand my critique at a pretty basic level

Beyond the fact that Prisco is obviously an idiot, why do you think many people seem to not understand your critique at pretty basic level? And is there a way to correct that?

Dale Carrico said...

why do you think many people seem to not understand your critique at pretty basic level?

I don't think many people, strictly speaking, have even read the critique. Of the ones who have read it I don't actually think more misunderstand it than understand it. I do think plenty who comment in the Moot exhibit such misunderstanding, however.

But there are plenty of reasons why that might be so. An obvious one is that it is very proper to use a comment space to seek clarification if you don't understand something, while there rarely seems much point in using a comment space simply to declare that one understands or agrees with a piece.

Much more to the point, though, many of the people who care enough about the critique to comment on it seem to me to be public advocates of superlative themes themselves: Many of them aren't familiar with the customary moves and terminologies of cultural and rhetorical arguments like mine in the first place, many of them don't even know how to take such arguments seriously, many defensively prefer to treat the arguments as some kind of con-game rather than shifting perspective enough to grasp the force of the critique, many of them feel personally maligned by the argument more than anything else and so they are already predisposed to this defensiveness.

To adapt the critique to ameliorate the distress of these readers makes less sense than it might seem to do, since I think the necessary adaptations would blunt the force of the critique on its own terms into irrelevance. And when all is said and done, whatever the proportion of their participation in the Moot, Robot Cultists whose feelings get hurt by the superlativity critique are far from its target audience in any case.

Dale Carrico said...

Thanks for acknowledging this. I am quite willing to discuss everything, but not on the basis of wrong facts.

Not to puncture your baby balloon here, but you seized on an incidental point and "scored" a painless correction that has little conceivable bearing on the actual discussion.

If your point is, as you say, that "literally everything I write in the mode of superlative discourse could very well contribute to a pernicious skewing of funding priorities... away from proximate developmental concerns", then: I disagree. But since this is your opinion, and it is framed without insults, I have no problems debating it.

You disagree? You disagree that devoting so much energy in the present to "futurological" topics freighted with the hyperbolic hopes and anxieties occasioned in the present by disruptive technoscientific change, conspicuously tapping into the transcendentalizing iconography and faith-based formations (omni-predicated agency, millennium, soul/body split yoked to promises of salvation, truth as the word of God/Cosmos known by priestly authority) of incredibly ancient and deep organized religiosity reverberating into the present, all the while providing rationales for reductionist, technocratic elitist, centralized-industrial corporate-militarist (neoliberal) developmental priorities in an era -- the present -- when emerging environmental consciousness and proliferating p2p-formations otherwise threaten incumbent elite interests, will have any impact on our understanding of and responsiveness to the problems, possibilities, and the priorities of technoscientic change in the present?

Uh, okay. Well, as you say, I disagree with that assertion.

Again, one has to wonder what you even think you're up to on your own terms if you really do eschew the possibility of this kind of impact, but far be it from me to try to render a cultist more reasonable.

Beyond our "disagreement," though, I have to say it isn't clear to me you even understand what I have said to disagree with it. I fear a deep problem remains to frustrate any "debate" -- that you literally don't know what you are talking about. It seems to me the more reasonable thing to do is just to continue making fun of you as a symptom of the lunacy of Robot Cult formations in general.