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

Friday, August 03, 2012

More Anti-Futurological Histrionics

Giulio Prisco has stumbled upon my latest contrarian column (where I argue, to put it baldly, that everybody dies, which is obvious to everybody but Robot Cultists and true for everybody including Robot Cultists) at the World Future Society and he posted this rather characteristic response:
As usual, Carrico seems to believe that very strong histrionics can compensate for very weak logic. According to Carrico’s flaky “logic” Armstrong didn’t walk on the Moon, since nobody had ever walked on the Moon before 1969. Women cannot vote in the U.S. today, since they could not vote until the late 19th century. People with poor eyesight cannot read, since they could not read before eyeglasses were invented. Forget your politically incorrect dreams to make the world a better place, things will always stay the way they were, because that’s the way things are, and Carrico proves it with a syllogism!!! I wonder how poor Socrates would feel seeing his name used to justify similar crap. I cannot post a link to my full reply, because the spam filter eats posts with links, use Google.
I do hope Prisco has managed to draw more eyeballs to his latest blog (he changes blogs more than most people do, perhaps confusing paddling in place for forward motion if it is frantic and splashy enough, a confusion that I daresay applies to his futurological worldview more generally as well) in that final self-promotional bid! His reference to Socrates is due to my reminder in the original post that the syllogism "All humans are mortal, Socrates is human, therefore Socrates is mortal" is the endlessly reiterated classical example through which logic is taught to students, pointing out that the recognition of human mortality is not only universal (unless you are a Robot Cultist) but at the root of the rational human imaginary in pedagogical practice as well as basic human sanity. Prisco, it seems, has decided to become Socrates' legal guardian -- I've noticed Robot Cultists love to pretend that they speak for all sorts of luminaries who wouldn't give any of them the time of day -- and let us know that Socrates would be, like, totally into his Robot Cult. What is one supposed to say in response to such things? Shine on, you crazy diamond, I guess. Anyway, here is my actual response to Prisco, but not so much for Prisco himself -- who is clearly beyond reach of any help I could provide -- as for all the reachably sane futurologists in the peanut gallery for the exchange:
The Transhumanists in a Nutshell, Ladies and Gentlemen

Yes, Giulio, it is true, the reason you aren't living in your shiny robot body or as a cyberangel among nano-genies-in-a-bottle and sexy sexy sexbots under the care of the history-ending Robot God of loving grace you and your special friends are coding is because "politically correct" (?) Debbie Downers like me keep noticing that human beings are mortal, that science fiction isn't science, that a picture of you isn't you, that materialism about mind actually denies rather than enables daydreams of "soul" migration and eternalization, that policy should be accountable to actual stakeholder interests as well as to the verdicts of consensus science (not pseudo-science or hyperbolic for-profit press releases or loose pop tech journalism), that making bets is not at all the same thing as having thoughts, and that ecosystems have limits that constrain the terms on which we can sustain civilization.

Look, I'm going to assume in advance that anybody who doesn't grasp the flabbergasting irrelevance and absurdity of your "response" isn't likely to be worth trying to reach in the first place, but I do want to point out to anybody reading this who might not know it already that Giulio Prisco is not some random anonymous transhumanoid hanger on but a highly visible, very long-time member of the Robot Cult, founder and directer of many of its various "institutes" and "campaigns" and author of endless online "manifestos," widely respected (you know, in his sub(cult)ure, as far as that goes).

This is what you are joining up with when you decide "futurism" isn't going to be about the advocacy of more and better science and critical thinking education, the advocacy of more money for scientific research and discovery toward the solution of urgently shared problems (like anthropogenic climate change, neglected treatable diseases among overexploited populations, diminishing access to freshwater, ramifying military grade weapons trafficking, labor precarization via automation and crowdsourcing, and digital-network enabled surveillance, misinformation, financial fraud, and the suffusion of the public sphere with the deceptive, hyperbolic, sociopathic norms and forms of marketing and promotional discourse), the advocacy of public policy and public investment that reflects scientific and relevant expert consensus, and the advocacy of technodevelopmental change made progressive through the insistence that the actual risks, costs, as well as the benefits of that change are equitably distributed to the diversity of its actual stakeholders...

This is what you get instead when you decide "futurism" is going to be a faith-based initiative of True Believers and guru-wannabe hucksters, a pseudo-scientific techno-transcendental New Age cult, indulging in hysterical gizmo-consumption and tech celebrity CEO worship in the service of the amplification of the corporate-military status quo now rebranded as "accelerating future," endlessly mistaking fraudulent futures speculation for actual public investment and blue sky science fictional speculation for actual consensus science, all because you are possibly afraid to die or possibly because you are greedy for more More MORE! and you are sure there will always be suckers around to clean up your messes for you, or possibly because you are too lazy to live up to actual standards of warranted belief or sustainability or even basic decency or fairness and want everything for nothing like some permanent squalling infant.

That's how I see it, anyhow. You know, my usual histrionics. Cheers!
Although I do not approve of futurological discourse, I have been pleasantly surprised by the congeniality of Patrick Tucker, who invited me to publish my critiques at WFS and strongly supports my continuing efforts there even when I annoy his sizable transhumanoid audience, and I have discovered there are lots of readers there of a more skeptical science-literate pro-democracy bent who appreciate the sorts of contrarian interventions I post there. I consider the experiment to have been a great success so far, oddly enough.


Dale Carrico said...

In a comment to yet another post by Prisco -- in which his very characteristic obsession with hemorrhoids and diarrhea (as he would say, google it) recurs yet again as well -- and to which Hank Pellissier also comments that he finds my opposition to his "anti-deathism" (his term) "curious" (his reaction) -- I offered this further reply:

Hank, you are part of the “techno-immortalist” sect of the Robot Cult. You are not part of an “anti-deathist” resistance movement, because there is no such thing as a “deathist movement” for you to resist. To notice that everybody is mortal is not to be a “deathist,” it is to be straightforwardly sane.

If I may circumvent the inevitable objection, advocacy of more medical research and greater access to healthcare (which I fiercely approve) is not “techno-immortalism,” so do please refrain from trying to sanewash your soul-migration and shiny robot body wish fulfillment fantasizing by retreating momentarily to actually scientificially literate and progressively legible positions that nobody joins a Robot Cult to fight for.

I must say that it is “curious” indeed that one could read a piece providing reason after reason after reason after reason why it is nonsensical to indulge in technno-immortalist handwaving and then profess to be curious why a person might find techno-immortalism nonsensical.

Giulio, I thank you for continuing to link to and extensively quote my criticisms of your viewpoint — I daresay there are occasionally reachable folks among the Robot Cult ranks who can wake up before they waste too much time flogging for the guru-wannabes, scam artists, and tech celebrity CEO parasites who are the only real beneficiaries of all this pernicious crackpottery.

Giulio Prisco said...

My pleasure! I will continue to link to and quote your nonsense, and I accept the risk that some gullible readers may agree with it.

It is not I who is obsessed with hemorrhoids and diarrhea, it is you.

You seem to consider a short lifespan in a too vulnerable body as the essence of what being human means. For me, instead, the essence of being human is exploring new places and rejecting all limits.

Dale Carrico said...

There he goes, ladies and gentlemen, tranhumanoid luminary, Giulio Prisco.

jimf said...

> For me, instead, the essence of being human is exploring
> new places and rejecting all limits.

I thought that was the essence of being an adolescent.

Speaking of "rejecting all limits", there was an article in
today's NY Times whose title made me giggle a little:
"North Korea Must Become Prosperous, Leader Says"

Or what? Heads Will Roll?
I'm gonna throw a temper tantrum right here and now!

"Oh, I'll be hard to handle. I'm making it plain.
So just be a dear and scram out of here 'cause I'm
gonna raise Cain."

Ginger Rogers - I'll Be Hard to Handle from "Roberta" (1935)

Giulio Prisco said...

@Jim re "I thought that was the essence of being an adolescent."

Yes, it is. And adolescents are true, smart, fun and alive humans, before they become dull, sedate and boring. Have you already forgotten?

The essence of being adolescent and the essence of being human is the same.

Dale Carrico said...

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but being infantile actually isn't particularly youthful in a person your age, indeed in anybody past fifteen, and is certainly no key to eternal youth.

Athena Andreadis said...

Barbara Tuchman made a trenchant point in her landmark work, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Namely, that one reason why that era was so disastrous was because the ruling class was disproportionately made up of adolescents, due to the average life expectancy at that time even among the privileged.

Being playful (in the sense of exploration and openness to new concepts, provided they're bolstered by real evidence and follow-up research) is not the same as being adolescent. Among other attributes of the latter state, which seems independent of body age: lack of first-hand experience (which is one reason that most fanfic sex scenes are so awful), real or willed ignorance of objective facts; varying levels of narcissism; and poor impulse control.

Some adolescents devolve into dull thuds; some adolescents remain daffy from the neck up without retaining the adolescent physique (which explains some of the TH objectives). And some adolescents actually become real adults: they keep the exploratory mindset, tempered by a sense of reality -- and by a wish to understand how the universe really works... which does not involve ever-ready-to-inflate lightsabers.

Giulio Prisco said...

@Athena - you didn't mention those adolescents who do _not_ keep the exploratory mindset and become walking corpses afraid of their own shadows and always opposed to the imagination and aspirations of the young.

As you say, the exploratory mindset should be tempered by a sense of reality. But, I wish to add, a sense of reality should be tempered by an exploratory mindset, otherwise it leads to dully embracing current conditions, whatever they are, and denying the possibility of any change.

Back to life extension, you say that science will not be able to radically extend lifespan, I say perhaps. Let's wait and see, and let experiment decide.

Dale Carrico said...

There, there, dear. Shall I help you back to your clown car now? The grownups are watching Curiosity at the moment and aren't much interested in Robot Cultists at the moment.

Giulio Prisco said...

Yes it was great to watch the landing online and chat with people from all over the planet. Today a robot on Mars, tomorrow uploaded humans roaming the galaxies. NO LIMITS!

Dale Carrico said...

Who invited that weird cult dude in here anyway? We were all having such a good time! No limits? Good thing NASA scientists don't hold with such nonsense or they'd be wasting their time playing at squaring the circle instead of painstakingly working to get Curiosity to Mars. Uploading? Yeah, migrating your "soul" into cyberspace by pretending a picture of you is you? Some scientist! Where's your lab, Hogwarts? What next, piss and ink baldness cures? What's he elbowing in for, anyway, peddling his scams where he isn't wanted? Aren't we celebrating a real accomplishment here? What an asshole!

Dale Carrico said...

Prisco, you can post your nonsense here, but I won't let you commandeer threads. I've deleted two infantile jibes from you already and I'm not letting any others through tonight. You're not spoiling this celebration of real science with your cult crowing. If you can't respect that, I can always spank. Thank you.

Barkeron said...

Prisco is a crank and a manchild?

Gee, I never.

Dale Carrico said...

Over on his blog, Prisco summarizes the exchange he commandeered and I halted, thusly:

Yes, the likes of Carrico see themselves as progressive and emancipated, but they propagate the mindless and bigot Thou-Shalt-Not crap of traditional religions. Carrico and his friends are really working for the Pope and the Ayatollahs. This is especially evident when they launch their vitalist edicts against machine consciousness and mind uploading.

I mean, I doubt Prisco is actually a crazy person rather than, you know, a bit dim and deluded and caught up in a froth of faithfulness from which he garners certain big-fish-small-pond side-benefits, nonetheless, his executive summary is simply shatteringly stupid and, not to put too fine a point on it, nuts.

It's flabbergasting how cocksure the Robot Cultists are that their mystic crystal revelations represent the Championing! of! Science!

Having standards of warrant to which you seek to be responsible and recognizing contingent limits (the contingency of which is another limit, not a license to pretend there are none), suddenly means you're in league with the Ayatollahs... pointing out that materialism itself nixes "mind-uploading" fantasias makes you a "vitalist" (especially ironic since Prisco is deeply enthusiastic about the Terasem foundation which calls biology a pseudo-science because "life" includes software/ robotic life forms -- which don't exist -- and proposes to replace this biological "pseudo-science" with a newfangled for-real -- that is, made up bullshit -- sooper-science they themselves call "vitalogy," sound familiar?)...

At this point, Prisco is practically in a wizard robe (have a look at the magick suffused imagery he usually opts for to illustrate his techno-transcendent posts, dig up his Order of Cosmic Engineers boilerplate, I am not calling names, these are literally available online for anybody to look at and draw their conclusions from), and is now howling that my saying magic isn't real makes me the Pope sending out the stormtroopers!

Pay close attention to these ravings, because they reveal in their unusual frankness and extremity broad governing associations inhering in superlative futurological discourse more generally (hence the designation, often a bit in jest, "Robot Cult" in the first place).