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

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Superlative Strategery

STEP ONE: Read science fiction.

STEP TWO: Circle-Wank.

STEP THREE: Techno-heaven!


Anonymous said...

Actually, there are many transhumanist-minded people who don't read science-fiction books much. However, almost all of them read science and technology headlines and newsflashes which they misinterpret as "signs" that a techno-heaven on Earth is right around the corner...

jimf said...

> STEP TWO: Circle-Wank.

And be sure to follow Bertrand Russell's advice (this is reputed
to have been a slap at D. H. Lawrence):

"If there are among my readers any young men or women who
aspire to become leaders of thought in their generation, I
hope they will avoid certain errors into which I fell in
youth for want of good advice. When I wished to form an
opinion upon a subject, I used to study it, weigh the
arguments on different sides, and attempt to reach a
balanced conclusion. I have since discovered that this
is not the way to do things. A man of genius knows
it all without the need of study; his opinions are
pontifical and depend for their persuasiveness upon
literary style rather than argument. It is necessary
to be one-sided, since this facilitates the vehemence
that is considered a proof of strength. It is essential
to appeal to prejudices and passions of which men
have begun to feel ashamed and to do this in the name
of some new ineffable ethic. It is well to decry the
slow and pettifogging minds which require evidence
in order to reach conclusions. Above all, whatever is
most ancient should be dished up as the very latest

There is no novelty in this recipe for genius; it
was practised by Carlyle in the time of our grandfathers,
and by Nietzsche in the time of our fathers, and it has
been practised in our own time by D. H. Lawrence. Lawrence
is considered by his disciples to have enunciated all
sorts of new wisdom about the relations of men and women;
in actual fact he has gone back to advocating the domination
of the male which one associates with the cave dwellers.
Woman exists, in his philosophy, only as something soft
and fat to rest the hero when he returns from his labours.
Civilised societies have been learning to see something more
than this in women; Lawrence will have nothing of civilisation.
He scours the world for what is ancient and dark and loves
the traces of Aztec cruelty in Mexico. Young men, who had
been learning to behave, naturally read him with delight and
go round practising cave-man stuff so far as the usages of
polite society will permit.

One of the most important elements of success in becoming
a man of genius is to learn the art of denunciation. You
must always denounce in such a way that your reader thinks
that it is the other fellow who is being denounced and not
himself; in that case he will be impressed by your noble
scorn, whereas if he thinks that it is himself that you
are denouncing, he will consider that you are guilty of
ill-bred peevishness. Carlyle remarked: ``The population
of England is twenty millions, mostly fools.'' Everybody
who read this considered himself one of the exceptions,
and therefore enjoyed the remark. You must not denounce
well-defined classes, such as persons with more than a
certain income, inhabitants of a certain area, or believers
in some definite creed; for if you do this, some readers
will know that your invective is directed against them.
You must denounce persons whose emotions are atrophied,
persons to whom only plodding study can reveal the truth,
for we all know that these are other people, and we
shall therefore view with sympathy your powerful diagnosis
of the evils of the age.

Ignore fact and reason, live entirely in the world of
your own fantastic and myth-producing passions; do this
whole-heartedly and with conviction, and you will become
one of the prophets of your age."

-- Bertrand Russell in the _New York American_ and other
Hearst papers, December 28, 1932; reprinted in _Mortals and
Others: Bertrand Russell’s American Essays 1931-1936_,
v.1, Harry Ruja (ed.), Allen & Unwin, 1975, pp. 148-149.

Go Democrats said...

Dale, I told you that I assigned the Transhumanist Faq in my grad class; and we were lucky enough to have 2 actual transhumanists sit in. Despite the fact that both of them were nice people, my students found the Faq completely chilling, were forcibly reminded of the Nazis, questioned the entire "progress" meme as a familiar trope of modernity, and even accused the transhumanists of contempt for their intelligence once the 2 of them were out of the room. I don't think any of the transhumanists realize that it's quite possible for reasonable people to find their proposals alarming.

What I found most alarming was the happy profession by one of them that, in the future, those choosing unmodified lifeways would be relegated to special "zones" on the globe to make room for the enhanced. Indian reservations, anyone?

Dale Carrico said...

I guess it's a comfort they weren't "reluctantly" conceding that "mehums" would be relegated to computronium feedstock for expansionist upgrades of the Robot God...

jimf said...

> What I found most alarming was the happy profession by one
> of them that, in the future, those choosing unmodified lifeways
> would be relegated to special "zones" on the globe to make
> room for the enhanced. Indian reservations, anyone?

You should get your class to read Damien Broderick's

It portrays this idea, with an additional twist.