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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three Pillars of Robot Cultism

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, Friend of Blog James F. notes:
[T]he Three Pillars of the Transhumanist Creed these days seem to be: (1) superhuman AI, (2) nanotechnology and (3) physical immortality. Either (1) begets (2), or (2) begets (1), and (1) and (2) beget (3).

I'll note that Jim's Three Pillars here evoke the three super-predicates of my critique of superlative futurology -- superintelligence, superabundance, and superlongevity -- which mobilize in my view the three conventional omni-predicates -- omniscience, omnibenevolence, and omnipotence -- in a theologically-freighted techno-transcendental amplification of the marketing-promotional discourse already fraudulently suffusing mainstream neoliberal developmentalism (as discussed reasonably fully but succinctly in the Condensed Critique of Transhumanism). Jim's point that these three wish-fulfillment fantasies are presumably developmentally correlated in superlative futurology, mutually dependent, mutually reinforcing, is especially interesting in this connection, since everybody knows the three omni-predicates are mutually exclusive, a paradox only "resolvable" by recourse to faith over reason, and precisely the faithfulness Robot Cultists themselves disavow through their belligerent spectacle of superficial and pseudo scientificity.

1 comment:

jimf said...

> these three wish-fulfillment fantasies. . . [together with a]
> belligerent spectacle of superficial and pseudo scientificity. . .

And finally, stir in a few "sooper-genius" guru types, and what
have you got?

"Cult of Personality"
Forbes Magazine/October 13, 2003
By Michael Freedman
Once a day the attendees [at one of Keith Raniere's "Executive Success"
training seminars] recite a 12-point mission statement
written by Raniere. (Sample: "There are no ultimate victims; therefore,
I will not choose to be a victim.") It is apocalyptic in tone, with
the occasional grammatical error--his genius notwithstanding. The world
is full of people who try to "destroy each other, steal from each other,
down each other or rejoice at another's demise." Thus, he writes,
"it is essential for the survival of humankind" that the world's wealth
and resources be controlled by "successful, ethical people"--i.e.,
those trained at Executive Success.

It is quite a sales job, one that comes naturally to this corporate
Svengali. Born in Brooklyn and bred in the suburbs, Raniere has a
flair for promotion, like his adman father. An old bio labels Keith
"one of the top three problem solvers in the world." His current
Web site quotes Albert Schweitzer, Margaret Mead--and himself.
"Humans can be noble. The question is: Will we put forth what is
necessary?" he writes, concluding that his program "represents the
change humanity needs in order to alter the course of history."

Raniere claims he spoke in full sentences when he was a 1-year-old,
taught himself high school math in 19 hours when he was 12 and,
by 13, had learned three years of college math and several
computer languages. As a boy he read an Isaac Asimov sci-fi novel
about a brilliant scientist who knew his galaxy was in irremediable
decline and had reduced all human behavior to elegant mathematical
equations. It inspired Raniere later to try to do the same.
After graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in
Troy, N.Y. in 1982, with majors in physics, math and biology,
he went to work in computer programming and consulting.

On the job he began to nurture his notion of unalloyed self-interest
as the path to ethical behavior. He felt employees too often took jobs
they didn't like and made decisions they didn't believe in.
A more ethical world, he reasoned, would consist of people who
understood their goals and pursued them. Raniere says he found
inspiration in [Ayn] Rand's books. The protagonists in Atlas Shrugged
and The Fountainhead are über-individualists, aggressive and ruthless.

In 1990 Raniere decided to apply his theory to his new business,
Consumers' Buyline, a multilevel marketing program near Albany that
promised lucrative commissions to old customers for recruiting
new ones. He barnstormed the nation promoting discounts on groceries,
dishwashers and even hotel stays, stoking crowds of a thousand
pumped-up and profit-hungry people. "He was like a mythological
figure--the guy with the 240 IQ was coming to town," says
Robert Bremner, a former distributor for the outfit. . .