Thank you for the invitation. I appreciate both its seriousness and its generosity. The truth is I don't think I know enough about the specifically "Mormon" sub-sect of transhumanist faith to really critique it differently than I do common or garden variety transhumanism more generally.
You know, although I am a convinced and cheerful atheist of many many years standing, I must admit I am not a militant about it, at least not so long as "militancy" is meant to indicate the belief of some atheists that everybody should be an atheist like they are. I am perfectly content to affirm, for example, that there are technoscientifically literate people of faith who embrace the secular separation of church and state and who struggle for social justice and who are perfectly lovely, reasonable people. Probably that includes at least some Robot Cultists in their transhumanoid, singularitarian, and techno-immortalist faiths as well, although I wonder if they really can have thought about their position very clearly.
Actually, when I am defending humanistic education or multicultural values against some militantly math-and-science fixated educational warriors or some clash of civilizational warriors, for example, I sometimes find that I am making arguments that have a certain kinship with some of the arguments at least some people of faith also make in defending their moral and cultural values from the more strident champions of scientism or objectivism. I believe that there is more to being reasonable than being scientific, and indeed I believe it is both unreasonable and unscientific to pretend that what makes moral, aesthetic, legal, ethical, and political beliefs reasonable (and most religious beliefs seem to be moral and aesthetic in character to me) is the same thing that makes scientific beliefs reasonable. Indeed, I tend to focus my anti-religious critiques mostly on the claims of the faithful when they would subvert science through the pretense that instrumental and faith claims have the same warrants or status, or when people tie their faiths to authoritarian or exclusionary or abusive politics or moralism (as abundantly many but by no means all people of faith tend to do).
Frankly, my critiques of superlative futurology are much the same: As a lifelong enthusiastic geek and sf fanboy, I enjoy much the same blue-skying and occupy some of the same nerd subcultures that many transhumanists do, but I strongly disapprove what happens when a fandom seeks to promote itself as a kind of policy-making apparatus, a form of scientific research, a legitimate and rigorous philosophical activity, or when its subcultural defensiveness leads it to embrace circuits of True Belief or guru-worship or incipient authoritarianism in an aspirational "movement" formation. But the problem with futurology, and this is even more obvious if not even more true with the superlative varieties of futurology I tend to lampoon as Robot Cultism -- the transhumanists, singularitarians, techno-immortalists, digital-utopians, and so on -- is that it seems to me the term "futurology" is premised on and always signals precisely these sorts of faithful misconduct. I think the people who might seem like futurologists or futurologically-adjacent but who DON'T try to peddle their interests as fraudulent pop-tech marketing pretending to be real policy-making or legitimate philosophical thought or who DON'T indulge in collective wish-fulfillment fantasizing while pretending to be championing warrantable scientific practices are never futurologists, conventional or superlative: they are just, you know, sf fans, or geeks, or policy wonks.
As for the "technoprogressive" moniker, I still endorse some older pieces of mine in which I use that phrase, but I frankly jettisoned it a while back as introducing more confusion than clarity into discussions. There is too much jargon-coinage and PR-repackaging that is confused with productivity or insight or political work online and especially in futurological precincts online, if you ask me. I am still a technoscientifically literate and technodevelopmentally focused sustainable secular social democrat/democratic socialist-feminist (which is what that term always was a shorthand convenience for, in my use of it), but I think this term "technoprogressive" now lends itself to misconstrual as some kind of would-be "identity"-signal or "movement"-logo which I personally disapprove. As a programmatic designation, a "techno" fixated progressivism will tend (and has tended) too easily to reductive technological determinism, to insensitivity to the diversity and contingency of actually always fraught technodevelopmental stakeholder struggle, and to techno-fetishisms that ally too readily with extractive-industrialism and corporate-militarism, especially for Americans in our bubble of mass-mediated-and-armed-to-the-teeth-consumer-petrochemical spectacle.
So, I think I'll decline the invitation but thank you for offering me a chance to speak at your conference. I doubt it's really my kind of thing.
Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Why My Atheism Extends To Futurology, But Why My Tolerance Might Not
I received a very nice invitation from a Robot Cultist asking if I would like to offer a "technoprogressive critique of Mormon transhumanism" at a conference of the faithful later in the summer. I seriously doubt it would be a particularly enjoyable scene for me, or ultimately of any real use to anybody present, but I also doubt my exact positions are quite the ones I would probably be expected to hold and so I explained them in declining the invitation. I thought it might be worthwhile to rehearse them here, too (the text is adapted):