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

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Reactionary Robot Cultists (Again)

Some folks in the Moot and elsewhere are expressing surprise -- others, who've been around longer, are expressing amusement -- at the drift into conventional reactionary politics in the statements of certain high-profile Robot Cultists who, however silly the futurological moonshine they've been peddling, had at least seemed (or at any rate protested in public places to be) more reasonably progressive in their political viewpoints.

In my view, futurological discourses are best understood as hyperbolic variations on mainstream neoliberal corporate-military "developmentalist" rationalizations and amplified variations of the conventional norms and forms of marketing and promotional discourse (in the most extreme superlative variations of futurology I deride as Robot Cultism that amplification of advertising hype actually takes on transcendentalizing and hence quasi-theological tonalities), and it really shouldn't be that surprising to stumble onto structural affinities of such discourse to right-wing rhetoric after all.

As one of my Futurological Brickbats puts the point more brutally: "To speak of "The Future" is always to indulge in reaction. All futurisms are finally retro-futurisms."

A few years back, I elaborated some of the structural connections between futurology and anti-democracy here, for those who are interested or need reminding.

Of course there are a handful of self-identified radical leftists with a high profile in the Robot Cult archipelago, poor things, but I must say it takes a rather dim bulb (or perhaps an especially desperate person, afraid of death, eager for attention, happy to be in on the scam for once, whatever it may be) to mistake what amounts to an epic-scaled late-nite boner pill ad for a utopian vision of the revolutionary left.

Just to be clear, for the millionth time: Advocating for the "rights" of software doesn't put you on the cutting edge of a civil rights movement, it expresses sociopathic disdain for actually existing, actually exploited and precarious planetary peers -- Pining for a Robot God to End History and solve all our problems for us is straightfoward authoritarian navel gazing -- Dreaming of nanosanta overcoming the impasse of poverty isn't a form socialism but of rank acquiescence to the bloodstained status quo -- And handwaving about your "geo-engineering" wet-dreams is a particularly egregious form of corporate-militarist greenwashing, hardly a more radical and hardboiled realist variation of environmentalism.

To pretend otherwise is at best pathetic, at worst, outright pernicious.

1 comment:

jollyspaniard said...

I have to put my own hand up and say I've come around to your way of thinking.

There are a few lefty transhumanists who are well intentioned. And I had tempered my opinions on that scene due to that. However the grand trajectory of the movement remains incredibly reactionary especially with respect to taking action on Global Warming. Everyone focuses on creationist climate change deniers (with no sucess) but you don't hear much criticism for the Singulartarians Business As Usuall approach for salvation. And I've found this kind of thinking expressed by people in pubs in the most progressive town in the United Kingdom. These people wouldn't be able to tell you what the term transhumanism or Singularity means but they're thinking belongs in the same archipelago.
It kind of begs the question. If you aren't for progressive social change and action on the enviornment now what is going to change in the future? What are you waiting for? My takeaway is that they're not really waiting, the policies they support now are what they're likely to support in the future.