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

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Attack on Mann NOT First Attack on a Cyborg

Very predictably, the futurological dunderheads at Kurzweil are megaphoning the "first attack on a cyborg" angle of the Steve Mann assault. As I insisted in my account of the attack last night,
Those who are proposing that this assault might represent a "first" instance of anti-cyborg bigotry are doubly wrong -- first, and most obviously, because this isn't even the first instance in which Mann himself has been assaulted for his prostheses (recall the ordeal to which he was subjected by airport security near the height of the Bush phase of GWOT in 2002), but, second and more interesting to me, because I think a de-naturalization that spotlights the inherently prosthetic character of all culture is so central to so much bigotry, as witness violent assaults on transgender folks or prejudice based on sartorial signals of ethnicity or bullying of the differently enabled.
Robot Cultists often like to pretend that criticism of the more ridiculous statements they have offered up to public scrutiny (and, yes, it's ridiculous to say you expect your "information-self" is going to be migrated to and then eternalized in virtual nanobot sexbot heaven under the ministrations of the sooper-parental history-ending Robot God some amateur self-appointed soopergenius guru-wannabe is presumably coding in his basement) constitutes harassment, so I would not be surprised if this framing of the Mann attack will set the scene for an enormously satisfying paranoid victim narrative in which futurologists fancy themselves a persecuted minority forever imperiled by roving bands of deathist luddites ready to bash them because of their blocky nerd hipster spectacles and iPhones.


Barkeron said...

In my eyes (no pun intended) this looks less like a "hate crime" (I've actually seen transcientologists use this term) and more like the boiled over reaction of members of the precariat to the sudden, in-your-face intrusion of surveillance into their everyday life.

CCTV cams are comparatively more inconspicuous, so that you can get accustomed to their presence, but this?

Try to explain the difference between surveillance and counter-surveillance and why the latter as being carried out by random, unelected private persons is supposed to be better to the little man on the street.

And lastly, where were the Robot Cultists when protesters were assaulted (or even killed) for possessing actually existing "enhancement" devices like cell phones with video capability and camcorders at the Arab Spring and a host of other modern revolutions?

Most probably browsing hentai sites because said protesters weren't nearly as nerdy and white as themselves.

Red Pill Junkie said...

I don't know if that's the point of this story.

The point is that technology advances at a much faster rate than social norms, and legal regulations, hence our generation is the one who will suffer the most coping with the much trial and error we'll experience in the years to come, when technology which is now just being used by a handful of individuals become more ubiquitous.

Let me throw you a cultural parallel here: I'm Mexican, and Mexican banks for some time have issued rules against using a cellphone inside their buildings —the idea was to prevent muggers to coordinate themselves and have a 'hawk' looking for a suitable target.

But recently I've noticed that the banks are getting less anxious with customers and their cell phones, and there's a reason for it: people don't use their Blackberries or iPhones JUST to talk; these gadgets have replaced our dairies, log books and address books, and so banks had to restore their tolerance.

I think something similar might happen in the future when devices like Mr. Mann's eyeware become more and more common. Soon a museum guard would not be able to prevent you from taking a snapshot of the Mona Lisa, because the camera and your eyeballs will be one and the same :)



Dale Carrico said...

Red Pill, look at that verb "advances" and think about the work it is doing.

Red Pill Junkie said...

@ Dale, most definitely I agree that the way technology progresses shows a lot about the given culture in which the progress is observed.

I remember this monologue given by comedian Jack Black one day on the Daily Show, showing his iPad and addressing his audience by pointing out at the quasi-miraculous technology which could allow him to watch 3 million vaginas without getting up from his seat. It was a good joke, but also good food for thought.

Listen, if you think I'm one of those guys anxiously waiting for the prophet Kurzweil to deliver us from the maladies of our dreadful world in one Singular Rapture, let me assure you that I'm not. I'm aware of the possibility that our generation will see the rise of cybernetically-enhanced humans, and at the same time I fear it.

I fear it because it might further widen the gap between the rich and the poor and turn it into an uncrossable chasm --or a moat if you will.

I fear it because it might worsen our energy crisis, as our personal consumption of electricity will skyrocket if we're online all the time.

And yes, I worry about the privacy issue too. There was a recent news in Mexico that the Army bought equipment worth almost 500 million dollars for computer and cell phone surveillance. Orwell would crap his pants if he saw what we put up with now!

But I still have hope that common people will strive to make use of technology for good, and that the Internet and social networks will remain being the great equalizer which empowers private citizens against the abuse of their governments :)

Great things are coming, both nice and... not so.



Dale Carrico said...

I think it is important to grasp that there is no such as "technology" monolithically progressing at all. Definitely I think when one speaks of "quasi-miraculous" artifacts of all things that nothing useful is likely to proceed from there. As I commented already, I think it is crucial to grasp the ways in which talk of "enhancement" displaces all the relevant political stakes from technodevelopmental struggle in actual history. I don't think you are being nefarious or anything at all -- far from it! I am trying to intervene in the ways in which we engage in technoscience discourse the better to facilitate progressive technodevelopmental struggles in their specificities. I think this business of talking about technology as a "great equalizer" at best or "it" as widening the gap between rich and poor at worst are actually equally mystifying ways of not attending to the specific artifacts and techniques in specific stakeholder struggles for example. This isn't about scolding you -- this is about reconsidering language the better to facilitate equitable-in-diversity outcomes you seem to want as much as I do.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Arthur C Clarke wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic, so why not marveling at the magic of the iPod? Yes I know there must be a lot of folks far more intelligent than I am who can understand who every element of the phone works, but I certainly don't! and neither do the great majority of the population for that matter. I believe this is an important factor to consider when addressing the political and sociological implications of technology --yes, perceived as a 'monolithical' idea, a mental construct, just the kind of word which expresses an abstract term that is far more easy to grasp than to define --like the word 'soul' for example.

So you want to delve on the specifics, great. More power to you and I commend you for your dedication. I personally try to think about things in a more 'holistic' way if you will --yes, I do come from circles where we use that kind of words, and NO my room is not filled with Tibetan mandalas or quartz crystals ;)

Looking at specific examples can be great tools to bringing a wider understanding of things, but i do think if we don't attend to 'the bigger picture' all our effort is moot.

Dale Carrico said...

Magic isn't real. And too often in the world of pop tech discourse "the big picture" is nothing but a shiny pseudo-object a huckster is using to sell you something.

Red Pill Junkie said...

>Magic isn't real.

Oh how I beg to differ! ;)

Magic is a loaded term, yes. It conveys images of flying brooms and boiling cauldrons. But I've experienced enough weird events in my own life to realize the Universe cannot be fully explained by our mechanistic models. I'm not saying we should get rid of Science! What I say is that Science is great tool, but not the only tool we have at our disposal to gather information about the world, and ultimately ourselves.

But I digress...

Yes, our technology seems to be driven by our hunger for commodities. We appreciate technological advances from a standpoint of consumers. The news of 2 weeks ago that the Higgs boson was (probably) detected was received with great elation by some, and with cold disdain by many others. Those who showed disdain said "that's well and good, but how is this gonna give me a better iPod?"

Yet I do think there are still instances in which we can observe applications that have the potential to go beyond the 'gadgetrization' of technology. Take 3-D printing for instance. Right now it's only good to make little toys and small models, and people don't yet see the great potential of these machines. It's like the 80s all over again, when you asked your dad for a computer and he said "what the hell do you need a computer for?"

Yes, I'm a hopeless fanatic of 'The Big Picture', but that's not saying The Big Picture is awfully difficult to perceive ;)

Dale Carrico said...

Well, I teach philosophy so it's not exactly like I don't have my Big Picture moments, and I teach in an art school so it's not exactly like I don't have my Big Imagination moments, either, but I do have standards I try to take responsibility for and with and I do have proper warrants for the beliefs I assert to be true that I am willing to risk standing by and I can't say that I think being stupid or credulous or loose-talking is particularly insightful or imaginative on the actual merits. Do read more about the premises in the background of my observations and conclusion available in the pieces anthologized under "Best Writing" on the sidebar if you want to continue this conversation in an engaged way, otherwise I fear we'll just be flinging near-vacuities at each other without a clear sense that we even mean the same sorts of things in saying them. Thanks for reading.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Fair enough, thanks so much for this exchange :)