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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

TPM Doubles Down on Facile Futurology

After yesterday's post castigating TPM for frothing futurologically at the mouth, they have gone and nudged back to the top of the page their ridiculous let's-pretend-cartoons-are-real Skyscrapers of The Future! porn spread (so we don't have to think about the reality of sick enslaved insanely overcrowded pandemic-incubating utterly unsustainable slum-urbanity) and posted another ridiculous let's-pretend-IBM's-Deep-Blue-is-actually-intelligent (so we don't have to think about how Deep Blue isn't really playing Jeopardy or playing Chess, but Deep Blue's programmers who are playing Jeopardy and Chess on delay through their program -- note that if one changes the simplest rule of either game Deep Blue cannot do what a minimally intelligent actual player could and adapt to the change, but must be programmed by the actually intelligent programmers to play the new game -- all this, so we don't have to think about the reality that the only intelligence we have on hand to deal with the demanding problems of endless war, environmental catastrophe, devastating poverty and injustice, irrational passions and prejudices is our own contentious error-prone collective human intelligence, with no superintelligent AI, no post-parental Robot God on its way to save us from ourselves). By the way, TPM displaced an actually-political actually-important article about changed Democratic expectations in the Senate due to recent events in order to feature these fanboy fulminations. One wonders if TPM is getting paid by Kindle, Apple, IBM for this product-placement masquerading as journalism crapola?

I said it before, I'll say it again: It is a splendid thing that the Democratic Left has embraced fact-based policy making and supports continuing scientific research and technological investments to help solve our shared problems. But a pro-science progressivism shaped entirely by pop-science and pop-tech journalism and pseudo-scientific advertizing hype and techno-fetishizing imagery will be superficial, under-critical, vulnerable to deception and hyperbole and fraud and complacency and distraction. Foresight arises from real knowledge. Understanding is coming to terms with the unexpected present, not predictions and daydreams of "the future." Futurology is a gateway discourse to the confusion of pseudo-science with actual science, of science-fiction with actual science, of marketing and promotion with actual policy, of fraudulent speculation with sound public investment, of incumbent-elite corporate-militarism with actual progress.

It's one thing to be a geek and a liberal, too -- hell, that's a pretty good description of me -- but falling for futurological mystifications of science and geekdom is another thing altogether, and there is nothing good and certainly nothing progressive that will come of it.

1 comment:

jollyspaniard said...

They seem very silly. The water towers in the Himalayas would make a decent SF book cover but I found the image of these towers surrounded by an untouched landscape with people going about their lives in the foreground in a very low tech way very surreal. No access roads?

And the japanese windowless armoured skyscrapers are straight out of a video game. I can't imagine there'd be too many people who want to live in a windowless building even if it was well armoured.