Not all of the Robot Cultists have to be best pals. Didn't Taurus say he hated Anissimov/Yudkowksy before? And I'm sure he doesn't believe in the resurrection-without-trying schemes of the whole Terasem/Turing Church/Giulio Prisco/PRAISE TIPLER camp.Inter-sectarian clashes are, of course, commonplace in faith-based formations, especially defensive ones.
Nevertheless, the discursive, cultural, organizational, associational, financial ties are unmistakably there, and they are far from secret for the most part (though some of this is now changing).
It's not like the Robot Cult has been any kind of conspiracy, they have been, to the contrary, preaching for converts and barking the con at the top of their lungs from the rooftops. Robot Cultists have long struggled to overcome the substantial indifference of the mainstream: independent academic attention, consensus science, major financial backing. Only lately has some of that last leg started coming in, thanks to the existence of celebrity tech CEOs with far more money than sense.
As a rhetorician and critical theorist interested in the Robot Cult as a discursive and sub(cult)ural phenomenon, but also interested in technodevelopmental deliberation, discourse, and social struggle more generally, I think it is intriguing to note that the Robot Cultists have remained so marginal, defensive, and frustrated even as their sensational narratives and hyperbolic frames defined and deranged the terms of quite a lot of public technodevelopmetnal deliberation through a complicit ignorant superficial sensationalist mainstream and online media complex and structurally congenial marketing and advertizing forms. But I digress.
Many quarters of the Robot Cult have sought deliberately to sanewash their public profiles through re-branding efforts (the embarrassing WTA to h+ gambit, for instance) or through the creation of respectable think-tanks like IEET and the Future of Humanity Institute, but they were never particularly scrupulous about erasing their interpersonal ties with the more marginal extremes from which they were distancing themselves. The founders of crazytown nodes in the network are often the same people who went on to found Very Serious respectable newcomer nodes. Very Serious sanewashed islets of the Robot Cult archipelago still let through marginal voices, trying to provide of patina of respectability to marginal figures to whom they still retain conspicuous ties. Notice how the most respectable transhumanist Nick Bostrom still coddles patently ridiculous guru wannabe Elizer Yudkowsky, or how an off-the-rails but mainstream-legible figure like James Hughes facilitates the fanatic ravings of Giulio Prisco. One can connect historical ties as well -- you can draw unbroken lines from the key players in the L5 society to Drexler's Foresight Institute to the briefly respectable-seeming CRN (I'm not sure where the nano-cornucopiasts are these days, the absurd 3D printer vogue seems to have complicated that trajectory)... or, say, from Durk and Sandy's nutritional supplement hype empire to Extropy to Alcor and cryonics and Venturism to the Very Serious (but not) SENS folks... or indispensable ties in today's Singularitarians with a long tale of GOFAI (good old fashioned Artificial Intelligence) dead-enders.
Or one can follow the money: Peter Thiel, Ray Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Elon Musk, Global Business Network. A slightly more respectable second sociocultural layer of hyperbolic techno-science (but often with prickles of legitimate academic and scientific work) cross-pollinates with the Robot Cult -- Well vestiges and Brand efforts, Wired vestiges and Kelly efforts, Edge and Brockman, TED and its hucksters, and so on. I suspect that the SENS folks and the Oxford transhumanoids are bidding to arrive at this second layer.
In a techno-triumphalist, consumer-fetishistic, competitive-conformist, corporate-militarist society such as our own there are broad affinities between the superlative futurological discourses in which I say the various sects of the Robot Cult indulge and more mainstream futurological frames and conceits that prevail over the deceptive, hyperbolic, developmentalist marketing forms that suffuse our public life more generally. Mainstream and superlative forms respond, exemplify, supplement one another:
And so, in many ways, extropian transhumanism was a kind of reductio ad absurdum of neoliberal globalism. In many ways, techno-immortalism is a clarifying extremity of the sexualizing death-denying motor at the heart of most television advertizing. In many ways, the eugenic "enhancement" discourse of the transhumanists exposes the coercive conformism driving competitive exploitive precarious industrial-extractive "market" oriented societies.
As I have pointed out repeatedly, perhaps most concisely here:
"Futurological rhetoric and fandoms represent the extreme amplification and reductio ad absurdum of the body-loathing, narcissistic death-denialism, crass materialism, complacent consumerism, technocratic elitism, market triumphalism, fraudulent profit-taking, hyperbolic deception and self-promotion that now utterly suffuses our public life through the prevalence of advertizing and marketing norms and forms and of neoliberal global developmentalist narratives and rationalizations. To grasp the ugliness and absurdity of these extreme forms is to gain insights into the pathology of many mainstream values and the deception of official elite-incumbent justifications. Where we have grown accustomed and complacent to these pathologies and deceptions looking at ourselves from the alienating margins of our own discourse can help us see ourselves and the urgency of the need to change all the more clearly." Nevertheless, "As Margaret Mead famously insisted, 'Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.' The example of the neoliberals of the Mont Pelerin Society reminds us that a small band of ideologues committed to discredited notions that happen to benefit and compliment the rich can sweep the world to the brink of ruin and the example of the neoconservatives reminds us that a small band of even ridiculous committed people can prevail even when they are peddling not only discredited but frankly ridiculous and ugly notions. Futurologists pretend that hyperbolic marketing projections are the same thing as serious technoscience policy deliberation, which is a gesture enormously familiar to the investor class and the technology sector's customary membership, and the futurologists inevitably cast rich entrepreneurs as the protagonists of history, which is a gesture enormously attractive to the skimmers and scammers and celebrity CEOs of the technology sector's essentially narcissistic culture. Although their various predictions are rarely more accurate than those of chimpanzees at typewriters, although their various transcendental glossy-mag editorials and tee-vee ready techno-rapture narratives are rarely more scientific in their actual substance than those of evangelical preachers, although their dog and pony show sounds almost exactly the same now as it did five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, twenty-five years ago as they still drag out the same old tired litany (super-parental robot gods! genetic fountains of youth! cheap nanobotic superabundance! better than real immersive VR treasure caves! soul-uploading into shiny robot bodies!), and all with the same fervent True Belief, the same breathless insistence that this is all New! the same static repetition that change is accelerating up! up! up! it is not really surprising to discover that the various organizations associated with superlative futurology are attracting more and more money and support and attention from the rich narcissistic CEOs of the technology sector whose language they have been speaking and whose egos they have been stroking so assiduously for years and for whom they provide such convenient rationalizations for elite-incumbent rule. You better believe that, ridiculous and crazy though they may be, the Robot Cultists with well funded organizations (like the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, Global Business Network, Long Now Foundation, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, Singularity Summit to name a few) to disseminate their pet wish-fulfillment fantasies and authoritarian rationalizations can do incredible damage in the real world."