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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Progressive Newcomers to Senate Suggest Crucial Filibuster Reform On the Way

Greg Sargent:
Senator Jeff Merkley, the co-author of a package of filibuster reforms, has secured commitments from nine leading Dem Senate candidates to throw themselves behind fixing the filibuster if they are elected... includ[ing] Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Martin Heinrich, Tim Kaine and Heidi Heitkamp. If Dems do hold the Senate, we could be looking at a more progressive Democratic caucus next year, thanks to this year’s crop of unexpectedly solid progressive candidates. This could result in more pressure on the Dem leadership to actually go through with reform. Merkley is calling for reforms that, among other things, would force the filibustering party to play a much more public role in obstructing the majority -- perhaps making it politically less appetizing. The Senate has already adopted one proposed reform, the elimination of the secret hold. This spring, Harry Reid caused a stir when he said he’d finally seen the light on the need for real reform... [T]he unprecedented GOP obstructionism of the last four years may have persuaded Reid, as David Dayen put it recently, that the Senate has become a “super majority institution” that is “governed by a tyranny of the minority” and is “horrendously broken.” ... It would be an ironic outcome if the very plot hatched by GOP leaders to deny Obama a second term -- abusing the rules and rendering the institution dysfunctional to turn his presidency into a failure -- is what finally created the political will among Dems to take steps towards ending such dysfunction and abuse for good.
This is such an encouraging prospect I don't even mind his misuse of the word "ironic" in reporting it.

Romney Campaign Is Denialisms All the Way Down

It is interesting that the Romney campaign, which is suffused with denialism through and through -- whether the macroeconomic denialism of trickle-down, or the anti-social denialism of "We Built This!" or the climate-change denialism of "Drill Baby Drill!" or the anti-democratic denialism of disenfranchisement via charges of in-person voter-fraud, or the anti-feminist denialism of Personhood, wherein fetal pre-persons get to be citizens but real people who happen to be women are reduced to incubators, or even on the bald denial that the incumbent President of the United States is legitimate or possibly even a real citizen at all simply because he is black -- it is, I say, both interesting and apt that a campaign predicated on so much denialism ends its run in the denial of even the basic reality of the state of the race itself as it is actually running in real time as that reality is registered in objective measures like actual polls, actual numbers of campaign contributors, actual reports of party identification, actual early voting reports, and so on.

I Seriously Need This Election To Be Over Already

That is all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Teaching Day

It's Clay Shirky and Claire Bishop in my Peer to Peer Democratization and Anti-Democratization Course in the City this morning. Blogging low to no until later in the afternoon as a result. Uneasy election thoughts suffuse my days these days and play out in theatrical dream analogies at night. There are quite a few friends of the blog around NYC, hope all is well with them.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Calling A Lie A Lie

Gotta Vote

Go there.

Romney Thinks Public Disaster Relief Is Immoral

Just something to think about as you are watching the Frankenstorm disaster footage... And realize, as you stare at those rising waters and swirling day-glow inkblots on weather maps, somewhere in America Mitt Romney is watching the same footage and thinking about what a profit making opportunity all that human suffering could be for rich assholes like him.

Video of Romney Being A Hateful Antigay Bigot

Act surprised.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Teaching Day

I have the last of my MA Thesis student Intermediate Reviews today in the City. There's no reason for you to know what that means. Until I get back, tho' blogging low to no.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Why I Support Obama"

Every day from now until Election Day, we'll send you something that makes the case for voting for Barack Obama. Today, it's a supporter's handmade list of why they support our president. If you like it, we ask that you share it with any friends, family members, and neighbors you know who are still making up their mind about who to vote for (and everyone knows some). All you have to do is pass it on -- forward it, share on Facebook, or on Twitter. If you spot something that's especially persuasive or inspiring, or if you want to share your own graphic, essay, or personal story, send it on to and we'll pass the best ones along. With 12 days to go in this election, and millions of voters still making up their minds, it's the job of everyone who supports President Obama to let everyone else know who they're voting for this year -- and why. Thanks for your help.

Obama for America

Today's Random Wilde

I have never learned anything except from people younger than myself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Athena on Alpha Centauri and Squee Harshers Like Me

When I say humans aren't going to Alpha Centauri (a point extensively elaborated here), I am in congenial company. Here's the always marvelous Athena Andreadis on the topic.

I especially liked this observation of hers, which has a very useful more general applicability:
Science fiction has been the entry portal for many scientists and engineers. The sense of wonder and discovery that permeates much of SF makes people dream -- and then makes them ask how such dreams can become real. The problem arises when science fiction is confused or conflated with real science, engineering and social policy.
No doubt the very same observation could be made about the impact of Hollywood sword and sandal epics in the formation of some who go on to become archeologists and historians of Roman antiquity, but it is interesting that comparatively few would try to draw from this observation the conclusion that campy gladiator flicks are themselves a form of serious historical scholarship or that this sort of inspiration is indispensable to the accomplishments of Roman archeology. It's not as if nobody would have ever grasped the wonder and mystery and provocation of our fantastically complex universe without science fiction to let us in on it, after all -- indeed, our sense of wonder at the cosmos preceded, enabled, and fuels sf's sensawunda to this day.

I suspect that part of the difference between space opera and toga melodrama in this connection is a matter of the extent to which futurological pop-tech conceits have actually become roughly co-extensive with the marketing and promotional forms that now suffuse our public life. Deceptive, reductive, hyperbolic claims about anti-aging skin creams, smart phones making smart users, artificially intelligent automobiles, and our greenwashed clean coal future use pop-tech pseudo-science to peddle complacent consumption in the present as if that is a rocketship to "The Future" all the time: Robot Cult protestations about the supreme scientificity of their techno-transcendentalism are simply a reductio ad absurdum of the prevailing pattern at its extreme edge.

Andreadis continues, "many people fall back to the Kennedy myth: that we went to the moon because of the vision of a single man with the charisma and will to make it reality. Ergo, the same can be done with any problem we set our sights on but for those fun-killin’ Luddites who persist on harshing squees." She points out that comparable gestures of would-be charismatic men, "wars" declared on complex problems like cancer, drugs, and terror expose the folly of such generalizations, and recommend closer scrutiny of the specific circumstances that made Apollo possible. (And as I have said before, Apollo might well be considered a stunt, glorious though it was, and one that not only did not bootstrap a sustainable space program beyond its accomplishments but might not even be repeatable today on its own terms.)

What really strikes me in her observation, however, is the way it evokes the way so many techno-transcendental futurologists of the True Believing Robot Cultic variety seem so often to be indulging in the flabbergastingly fantasy that the role of the charismatic Kennedy figure in this little drama is themselves. They seem to think that somehow by blogging fervently about how awesome it would be if nanobots could make next to anything for next to nothing, or how awesome it would be if a brain scan of them was the same thing as them and cyberspace was the same thing as heaven and uploading a brain scan into cyberspace would techno-immortalize them, or how awesome it would be if the same petro-industrial corporate-military organizations that are destroying the planet could build mega-engineering planet-scrubbers for profit instead, and on and on and on in this vein, that they are somehow acting as heroic protagonists championing science and progress against the forces of darkness, by contributing energy to what will be an irresistible wave of can-do techno-magick through which all their dreams will surely come true.

Science is about the long, hard work of forming and testing useful hypotheses, progress is a matter of slow heartbreaking collective historical struggle. Science isn't about wish-fulfillment fantasies, progress doesn't come from clapping louder. Anti-futurological squee harshing in an epoch of complacent consumerism, self-promotional fraud, and scientific illiteracy is indispensable to the mobilization of imagination and effort through which means are translated into actually progressive ends.

Lady Brains in the Voting Booth Moody and Unpredictable

Science! At least according to the ever less relevant CNN.

CNN has pulled the post. Hope netroots ridicule is enough to squash Romney and keep the Senate as well.

Latest Report on Low Tech Books Purchased from Amazon!

Following recent news reports about users of Amazon's Kindle, I very anxiously perused a stack of bound volumes I have purchased from over the last few months myself. So far it appears that the inked contents have not been remotely wiped by the company for alleged unspecified violations of "policies." None of the volumes have cracked, despite some of them falling onto hard floors over the course of my reading of them. Their platforms still seem to support the typographical configurations of used books even many decades old, even for rare books otherwise long out of print. I have read many of these volumes without anxiety or fogging in bathtubs filled with hot water. None of the volumes interrupt my reading with ads crawling over the content and vying for my attention (believe me, it's coming). Although I am well aware that I must be a very terrible and irrational luddite reactionary for sticking to these primitive, profoundly inferior, definitely not-slick and not-bleeding-edge bound and inked devices for accessing the written word, it would appear that so far at any rate I have not paid too steep a price for judging books a still perfectly reasonable and appropriate reading technology. YMMV (but I doubt it).

Very Serious White Guy of the Future Contemplates Vampire Techno-Immortalization Scheme

On the free scribble page provided for some unfathomable reason by the otherwise mostly excellent io9 for Robot Cultist George Dvorsky, the question is asked: Could injecting yourself with blood of the young reverse the aging process?

In a word, George. No.

Also, just to review, the computer tech guy pretending to be a gerontologist Aubrey de Grey is not going to come up with genetic and prosthetic magicks to keep your aging heap on the road indefinitely, your cryonically hamburgerized brain is not going to be revived by nanobots and scooped into a shiny robot body with comic book sooper-powers including truncheon scale chrome dildo, you are not a picture of you so your "info-soul" is not going to be "migrated" or "uploaded" into Holodeck Heaven, and your vestigial signal is not going to be resurrected out of the noise at the heat death of the Universe by the sooper-intelligent sooper-parental Robot God your sooper-genius friends are coding in their basements even as I write these words.

George Dvorsky, you are going to die.

h/t JimF

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rape As God's Precious Gift of Life

Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock (R) in his debate tonight with Joe Donnelly (D). Today's Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen: the party of Todd "legitimate rape" Akin, the party of Bob "forced vaginal ultrasound probes" McDonnell, the party of the War on Women that wants to defund Planned Parenthood's cancer screenings for underserved communities, the party of "small government" that wants to force women to carry their rapists pregnancies to term against their will at the point of a gun because Jesus says so, only just, you know, nowhere in the Bible.

Nice Car! (Shame About Your Penis)

Pandora Boxx was robbed last night on Drag Race, but she is still winning the human race or something.

Teaching Day

The Declaration's "Publish and declare," pamphlets, blogs, microblogs, online news, and Assange this morning in the City in my p2p Democratization and Anti-Democratization course. So low to no.

The Closer

Monday, October 22, 2012

Homoland Security

Skipped the debate to watch Drag Race All-Stars. Feeling much better about the nation.

TED Pulls Pseudo-Science Talk

That's one down, one bazillion to go.

Robot Cultist Pout and Stamp; Or "Manifest Destiny"

Widely respected in transhumanoid circles -- universal laughingstock outside the Robot Cult -- Giulio Prisco has posted a "response" to my brief Humans Aren't Going to Alpha Centauri post (the discussion in the Moot to that post has been lively and well worth reading generally speaking if you haven't taken a look yet, even without any luminous insights from Prisco to illuminate it). His post is entitled Let's Go to Alpha Centauri (and Leave Some Crap Here). Just to be clear, the crap to which he refers in the title (longtime readers will note Prisco's curious obsession with poop remains in force, ridiculed in the past by me here and here and here and here and here and here), well, that "crap" is me. Writes Prisco:
In a new episode of his clown act against imagination, Dale Carrico replies to the io9 article proclaiming that “Humans Aren’t Going To Alpha Centauri.” The rude, aggressive and self-righteous tone that he uses in the text and the comments (as usual) shows that this is not a prediction but a rabid Thou-Shalt-Not in pure taliban style.
Needless to say, not everybody will agree with everybody's favorite li'l Robot Cultist that exposing his fraud is tantamount to declaring war on imagination as such, nor that criticizing arguments he invites public scrutiny of through publishing them is tantamount to hate speech against the persecuted minority of privileged straight white techno-fetishists, nor that ridiculing what I take be ridiculous under my own name and risking the same ridicule from those who disapprove of my stance is tantamount to murdering and terrorizing my opposition in the manner of the Taliban... but, well, this is Giulio Prisco we're talking about here, and one doesn't expect sense or sanity from Giulio Prisco. As always, the reason to draw attention to the rantings of this rather ridiculous person is not to indulge in gratuitous cruelty but to point out yet again that this is a very active, widely read, widely respected person in transhumanoid, singularitarian, techno-immortalist precincts, officer and even founder of many of the higher profile and presumably respectable organizations and campaigns associated with what I call (as you see, for a reason) the Robot Cult archipelago. Prisco writes:
There are a few “slow” (in the sense of slower than light) ways to get to Alpha Centauri. We could get there with generation ships, much slower than light, which would take centuries (many generations). To achieve a respectable fraction of light speed… [But i]t may seem that it makes more sense to wait for the development of mind uploading technology, and then go to the stars… Our post-biological mind children, implemented as pure software based on human uploads and AI subsystems, will colonize the universe. As Sir Arthur C. Clarke said, they will not build spaceships, because they will be spaceships. Eventually, post-biological humans will travel between the stars as radiation and light beams. Similarly, it may seem that it makes more sense to wait for the development of really weird physics and 'magic' space transportation technologies before trying to go to the stars. As io9 says, faster than light travel and warp drives 'may not be as unrealistic as once thought.'
As I already recently discussed in the post Robot Cultist Adds Two Fantasies Together To Arrive At Third Fantasy it isn't actually true to anybody but pop-tech pseudo-scientists that "warp drives may not be [as] unrealistic as once thought." Just because speculative physics not about warp drives at all are made to seem to be about warp drives by introducing all sort of additional stipulations not found in the original speculative physics and not justified by any physics, speculative or not, let alone any kind of reasonable cost-benefit or historical or political analysis hardly makes warp drives more "realistic" to hope for than they were. In other words, a very conventional futurological fraud is being committed in such formulations in which wish-fulfillment fantasists seek to attract attention and other rewards they have not and could not earn on their own terms by riding on the coattails of scientists and theorists whose work they profoundly distort in the process. I generalized the point in a later post referring to Futurology's If Magic Were Real Paradox, pointing out the typical sleight of hand through which futurologists make claims about the plausibility of superlative, probably impossible, essentially magical, outcomes by foregrounding a sound but speculative scientific or theoretical point and then smuggling all sorts of magical stipulations into intermediary steps.

As for Prisco's techno-immortalization via soul-uploading of cyber-angels into Holodeck Heaven, this premise is not just probably magical (and not in a good way) but actually conceptually incoherent. A commitment to materialism about consciousness actually demands the recognition that the organismic and historical incarnation of actually-legible human intelligence is non-negligibly materialized in brains, bodies, and social dynamics, and hence glib talk of "info-souls" and "soul migration" and "soul uploading" is precisely the vestige of theology it sounds like rather than the strict functionalist embrace of science the Robot Cultists like to peddle their views as for the rubes. They even accuse critics like me of advocating "vitalism" for noticing that a picture of you isn't you, thus demonstrating how completely captured they remain by the gravity well of spiritualist superstitution!

About the notion of "Generation Ships," I have long ridiculed the fancy that cooping up a crowd of stir-crazy perspiring hierarchical human mammals on a multi-century incommunicado trip to an alien planet likely at best to be worse than earth on a bad day in every way via an actually literally unspecifiable unreal space ship isn't exactly my idea of a more "plausible" alternative to warp-drive or teleportation magicks when subjected to actual scrutiny either. Frankly, just sending the crew directly smack into the sun would produce an effect indistinguishable in every empirically observable way from the futurologically pined-for outcome in question since no real time communication, no discernible results, no impact on remaining human civilization would follow from either alternative. And, again, in a very real sense, in terms of actual, you know, building specs there really is no substantive difference in the so-called reasonable futurological middle-way proposal of a Generation Ship from, say, the Starship Enterprise on one side and the Tardis on the other. The slightly less magical 'cuz futurologists say so nuclear-powered Generation Ship and the Starship Enterprise BOTH remain literally unbuildable by anyone, BOTH would require untold scientific breakthroughs to happen which have not and which are just as or more likely not to happen than to happen, and BOTH would require organizational agencies absolutely unavailable to present or real-world relevant effort. One would think such things would matter to folks who claim to be oh so supremely scientific and oh so supremely rational about their desired outcomes. Sadly, no.

Quite apart from all that, before humanity could arrive at anything like the technical breakthroughs and infrastructural implementation to even approach achieving the utterly nonsensical vision of offworld migration to Alpha Centauri (by the way, we wouldn't even want to live on the planet the scientists found there, just sayin'), there are literally countless environmental crisis and social problems of actually existing human beings in the actually existing world that would be infinitely better served as the focus of such energies and creativity. Prisco concedes that "thinking of today’s crisis economy and the political situation, it is difficult to imagine a mission to the stars in this century." He adds what I regard as the objectively nonsensical caveat that "it would have been as difficult in 1929, at the time of the great depression, to imagine a mission to the Moon in 40 years." Given the status of rocketry in 1929 I do not agree that it was the least bit difficult to imagine the stunt we pulled with Apollo, but I do think some might have said such a way of getting to the Moon didn't look like a sensible way to bootstrap a long-term sustainable human intercourse between the Earth and Moon, or from the Moon to other planets in our solar system. I am a huge fan of Apollo, but I do think such critics would have had a point. But that is beside the point. Prisco's Generation Ships and Mind Upload interstellar diaspora have much larger existential dilemmas going against them than the difficulties of planning a trip to the Moon in the depths of the Depression: as I said, there are profound denials of psychological, political, and even ontological reality at the heart of Prisco's proposals. Be that as it may, however, Prisco goes on to say:
We need to go to the stars, for the mental health of the zeitgeist. Not everyone can be a space explorer, but we are all partners and stakeholders in the cosmic future of our species and its “manifest destiny” among the stars. This is a powerful meme that could result not only in much more support for space, but also in a more positive and proactive attitude on other pressing issues, at a moment of our history where we need positive thinking, confidence and optimism.
I simply could not disagree with Prisco more. I think it is, very much to the contrary, indispensable to the survival and flourishing of humanity that we grasp the shared vulnerability and shared potential for mutual aid of ourselves with all of our fellow earthlings. I think the death denialism and earth-alienation of the transhumanoids justifies and fuels and even demands suicidal unsustainability and complacent consumption and mindless fetishization that deals in endless death. I deny that there is anything even remotely "positive" or "proactive" or "optimistic" about wish-fulfillment fantasies of sexbots and techno-immortality and free nano-abundance and sooper-AI parents saving us and kissing all our booboos away forever. I think what Prisco fancies as a rocketship to sooper autonomy is nothing but rank infantilism, what Prisco fancies as a radical vision is just an amplified variation of the most complacent consumer celebration of the status quo imaginable. Prisco and the Robot Cultists who respect him may think they are on the Royal Road to "Manifest Destiny," but I daresay they might take a closer look at the genocide and exploitation and irrationalism and cynicism of historical celebrants of that very term.

To return by way of conclusion to the title of Prisco's reponse, "Let’s go to Alpha Centauri (and leave some crap here)," setting aside the scatology for the moment, I want to point out that the contraction "let's" is short for "Let Us" and that it would serve the futurologists well to remember that it is reality that isn't "letting" the Robot Cultists wallow in the techno-transcendence they pine for. I'm not the one taking all their toys away, I'm just the one pointing out that they don't have any toys to speak of and that they are not likely to get anything like what they want and hence they might be better served wanting something actually attainable and valuable instead.

Is the Right to the City Just Fordist Urbanism?

David Harvey:
I’ve tried to think in very simple terms, which is that those people who build and sustain a city should have a right to residency and to all the advantages they’ve spent their time building and sustaining: simple as that.
Harvey also makes the point that the developmental displacement of the "infrahuman" precariat to suburbs to cater to the 1% exacerbates catastrophic climate change by demanding petrochemical subsurbanization -- so much for futurological "green cities"! I find myself strongly agreeing with Harvey's observations and his recommendations here, but also find myself wondering if he should so glibly identify his critique with "anticapitalism."

As with so much resistance to the neoliberal model of financialization and precarization and network-mediation it seems to me "anti-capitalism" takes the form more of a pining for older formations of capitalism over the latest one, rather than a transcendence of capital altogether. Doesn't Harvey's initial insight simply reproduce Fordist commonsense? Isn't the sustainability criterion he depends on in his second insight a notion introduced to protect capitalist progress ideology from the critique of deep ecology?

By the way, I am far from exempting myself from this tendency, as when I write, say, "LXXIV. Mine is an anti-capitalism that will be quite content with an environmentally sustainable social democracy in which universal healthcare, education, income, expression, recourse to law and franchise is funded by steeply progressive taxes even if everybody decides to call that outcome 'capitalism' for whatever reasons perversely appeal to them."

Debord's point that the Spectacle is very good at deluding combatants into imagining internecine skirmishing feeding plutocracy is revolutionary resistance to plutocracy is a good point, but the force of the point itself implies that it is not an Iron Law. The fandom of peer-to-peer democratization may enable ubiquitous corporate-military surveillance and advertorial harassment and the "participation" of zero comments, but that is not the whole story (it risks becoming the whole story only when the first observation is denied). The fight for commons may be -- as Zizek, Negri, and the like are prone to declare these days -- the contemporary face of communism, but that is not the whole story either (look what happens when what is championed is the "innovation commons" or "commonwealth" or "common law" with their not-communist communitarianisms).

I do think those of us who are struggling for democratization, sustainability, and equity-in-diversity should take greater care about what exactly we are resisting when we make glib recourse to terms like "anti-capitalism." There are and have been many capitalisms, and it is better to try to know which ones are we resisting, when and how?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MundiMuster! Don't Dismantle Social Security and Medicare

I just signed a petition Bernie Sanders is pushing under the title “Stop Dismantling Social Security and Medicare” hosted on

To which I appended the comment:
And then strengthen SS by raising the taxable cap, expand Medicare to all, lower the retirement age, refi underwater mortgages, and forgive student loan debt over 15g, paid for by more progressive taxes, taxing cap gains as income, ending the wars early, legalizing and taxing pot and emptying jails of nonviolent drug offenders.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Technofixated Pseudosolutions

No political problem for which some imaginary superlative futurological technofix is posed as its pseudo-solution would not be better addressed directly through actually available regulatory, educational, and public investment than through the enablement of the technofix in question -- and all this on the assumption that the imaginary technofix were practically or even potentially possible at all, which in most instances of superlative futurology it is not. This is true, whether the futurologists are peddling "geo-engineering" or genetically engineered adaptation or diaspora offworld via multigeneration spaceships as technofixated solutions to environmental crises, or peddling superabundance via 3D printers or nanobotic desktop "replicators" or immersive virtual reality as technofixated solutions to poverty, or peddling "Friendly Superintelligent AI" as "solution" to the impasses of stakeholder politics in historical struggle, or peddling "soul uploading" or "medical miracles" or "cryonics" as technofixated solutions to infantile denial and fear of mortality.

Correlated to this principle is another, that no political problem for which some imaginary superlative futurological technofix is posed as its pseudo-solution would not bring that very problem with it into the implementation of the technofix itself -- unsustainable practices would follow us off-world, inequity would stratify the distribution of superabundance, stakeholder struggle would not be circumvented but expressed in the code of the super-AI, the fear of death would render the usual death-dealing and death in life however long lives were prolonged -- and again, as before, all this on the assumption that the imaginary technofix were practically or even potentially possible at all, which in most instances of superlative futurology it is not.

This caveat appended to the principle and its corollary reminds us that superlative futurology is not simply in the business of incessantly proposing pseudo-solutions to real problems -- directly diverting our intelligence and effort away from real solutions to urgent problems, but more generally promoting a technofixated imaginary incapable of understanding and addressing political problems on their actual terms -- but does so through what can only be described as pseudo-science.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Onion Begins TED Squawk Parody Series

Idea Man! Creator! Innovator! Cerebrator! -- The Hudsucker Proxy

Essentially, every TED Talk sells you something, while incidentally pretending to teach you something. -- Fool Me Tee Vee
The techno-utopian neologism-spewing pseudo-intellectualizing cosmic-engineering geo-engineering imagineering profiteering self-appointed self-congratulatory investor-class ruling-class TED squawkers have long been a target of my derision, and I am thrilled to observe the recent multiplication of darts headed their way these days, culminating one hopes in a lethal Onion-visceration... The tears, they are the tears of righteous joy!

Here is a preview of the Onion Series to come, followed by its first installment:

Cyberpunk 2020 Hindsight Is... 2077?

Kotaku reveals that among CD Projekt Red's necessary adaptations in translating the well-beloved pen-and-paper game "Cyberpunk 2020" into a new mature multithread RPG was the change of its name to "Cyberpunk 2077" -- since Netizens of 2012 cannot plausibly pretend the atmospherics of Gibson's Sprawl or Scott's L.A. are remotely in the offing and cyberpunks don't seem quite ready to give up the ruggedly individualistic cyberspatial dream and embrace the punk noir beat meat male aesthetic in the mode of retro-futural nostalgia.

I am well pleased to be amused at the bemusement this should provoke in the futurologically-minded fandoms that routinely confuse science fiction with science, of course, as always. But I would point out that my view has always been that great science fiction (like Gibson's and Scott's), like great literature and art more generally, is a poetic responsiveness and coping with the present.

And so, it is important to grasp that it is the specificity of the failure of literary cyberpunk as a prophetic canon or modality of systematic foresight, on the one hand, and the movement of our own present from the present of the 80s out of which that literary cyberpunk mostly emerged and to which it was originally responsive, that accounts for the need to change the title and project its "Future" forward more decades still.

My amusement, then, is solely at expense of the futurological misconstrual of cyberpunk (which was never prophetic nor policy-making, but a critique of a present past), and it should hardly be taken as a denigration of the ongoing accomplishment and poetic force of the genre that has inspired the game. -- h/t Eric, again.

Humans Aren't Going To Alpha Centauri

io9 asks the question, How Will Humans Get to Alpha Centauri? The actual answer -- "We won't." -- won't fill those column inches, so much futurological handwaving commences instead. It would be a rather demoralizing spectacle if not for comments like one "corpore-metal"'s pitch-perfect bit of sane snark, "If there is any one piece of magic I really, really want to believe in it's FTL -- not time travel, not teleportation, not flying cars and such nonsense. But I call it magic because I don't think it's ever gonna happen." I think anti-futurological bullshit detectors are on the rise a bit lately. It is heartening, and I welcome reports of comparable signs elsewhere. -- h/t Eric

Ill Doctrine on the Debate: "Don't Call It A Comeback"

Egg-ZACTly, all counts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Both/and, Vote/and

Upgraded and adapted from an exchange from the Moot with my friend Ian Paul:
I'm always in the mood to pick a fight, Dale ;-). As usual, what isn't being discussed (what is considered outside of the discourse) is usually more important to critically reflect upon than what was actually said. What we didn't hear about during the debates:
-Climate Change
-National Defense Authorization Act
-Drone Assassinations
-NSA warrantless wiretapping
-Largest Incarcerated Population in the History of the U.S.
-Unprecedented Global Protests
Is Obama a better choice in light of these issues? Yes, of course. But nonetheless I feel it's incredibly important to deeply think about why global hegemony has shifted so far to the right over the past couple of decades. This shift is not necessarily the result of the processes of electoral politics, and perhaps (in line with critiques of idealist conceptions of democracy) electoral politics aren't capable of remedying this shift. Thoughts?
I reply:

I agree that it is ridiculous that these topics (and others) have not come up in the debates.

I also agree that the current electoral process is obviously unequal to these and other questions. Education, agitation, and organization as political exercises exceed the electoral even if they ultimately find their fruition in reforms and regulations and public investments implemented through partisan governance.

Since you concede that Obama is a better choice or no worse than the alternative actually on offer I don't see why you would think saying anything you do here would feel to me like you are picking a fight. I think I agree with you in everything you are saying here, even if I might not be so quick to concede there is such a thing as "the discourse" politically or maybe I don't agree with you that the electoral properly exhausts what even constituted institutions treat as "the discourse" when all is said and done, and also I would suggest that at least sometimes electoral politics do indeed address some of the things that are as important as the things they do not at the moment (which I doubt you would really disagree with, and I admit such nuance wreaks havoc on elegant formulation).

I don't think that elections are a place where deep necessary critique really is happening for the most part. I don't even think that elections are particularly suitable for such discussions. I don't think the highly partisan election-analysis to which you responded should be construed as such a discussion (though I do think I have engaged in many discussions otherwise that should be so construed). I don't think political discussions should be confined to discussions of the electoral, even tho' I think electoral discussions as they play out in our media are absurdly more circumscribed than they need be and more than even ill-educated complacent Americans would prefer them to be, bad as they are.

But I also think that voting produces differences that make a difference in peoples' lives, that sometimes it produces differences more dramatic than those that are otherwise available to collective agency in a particular historical moment in respect to vital particular causes or problems and that none of the things I agreed with you about up to now properly yields the conclusion that it is wrong or mistaken or a distraction to vote.

I think one should vote for (or organize for, or sometimes maybe even try to BE) the best viable candidate actually on offer -- AND educate, agitate, and organize politically beyond voting so that in the longer term one finds oneself, if one is patient and disciplined and lucky, voting for things that are better still.

I have the sense that you advocate a both/and vote/and attitude as well.

If yes, what's not to like?

Three Weeks Out, Three Debates Over, Some Basics:

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:

An incumbent has a natural advantage (the economy might have been a game-changing liability had the blame not remained so squarely on Bush and the confidence numbers not started to rise and had Romney not slotted so clearly into the 1% narrative framed last year by Occupy) and the challenger basically has four reliable shots to flip the script: nabbing the nomination, the veep pick, the convention, and the debates.

Although Romney -- who had been running for something like nine years by then -- nabbed his party's nomination and saw his numbers nudge up a bit for the first time, he still trailed more than anybody would want. The Ryan pick -- which was pushed ahead of the usual schedule precisely because Romney's numbers weren't getting better -- did not confer the expected advantage, and then Romney's convention was way more dud than stud compared to the Dem convention the following week and then the whole 47% debacle day after day after day.

The reason Romney's win in debate one mattered so much, then, was because if he had failed it was feared the floor would have fallen out from under the Romney campaign, and then money would likely shift downticket in a big panicky way to compensate for the death spiral fueled in part by the shift itself. For Dems, a knockout would have provided a near-miraculous chance at regaining the House (as a flabbergastingly dismal crop of GOP candidates already killed just as nearly miraculously the chance Republicans had for taking the Senate this year).

Substantively, last night's Obama victory might have "changed the minds" of folks who were worried that Romney was an evil figure not because they understand politics and economics enough to understand that he really is an evil figure but only because the Obama campaign effectively if somewhat cartoonishly cast him as such a figure over the summer, but who managed to seem comparatively less threatening and more presidential in the actual scene of the debate itself, or those who were iffy about Obama because of a little stealthy racism or dumb-dumb fears of Big Bad Gu'ment or whatever and the atmospherics of debate one provided them an alibi for that nonsense. Last night's debate re-introduced the worrisomely possibly evil Romney cartoon while smudging the weak Obama atmospheric alibi for crypto-racism and know-nothingism voters and hence nudged the dynamics closer to where they were just after the Conventions again. That is to say, "changing minds" is a generous phrase, to say the least, to describe such rhetorical operations -- but that is what debates are about this late in the campaign and everybody knows it, and Obama should sure as hell have acted more like somebody who knows it too in debate one, as he just as surely did so act last night.

Again, the fundamentals have always been with Obama -- incumbency, multicultural demographics, smart OFA organizational decisions versus clown college GOP foolishness over the nomination season and subsequent disenfranchisement summer, ongoing Romney sub-basement likeability numbers -- but with last night's debate victory (and Biden's shot in the arm for the Base in his debate last week) the campaign momentum has returned to Obama, "independents" are motivated both to vote and in the way they vote by momentum and the feeling they have a piece of it by conforming to their sense of it (because they are, face it, idiots).

The foreign policy debate next week is unlikely to turn things back to Romney given his inexperience, his disastrous gaffes in this area up to now, and the fact that Obama plays Commander-in-Chief lethally (something he did last night, but has done so often it makes no sense that Republicans seemed so unprepared for it), but in any case voting is already underway, swing states are solidifying enough to give him an Electoral College firewall, it's now or never to shift money to make a difference downticket, and that's where the action is.

The "race is tightening" narrative is a mirage largely produced by the fact that the South is solidifying for Romney in a way that has no impact on the Electoral College and little impact on Congressional expectations (four of the 25 seats targeted by Pelosi for pick up are in New York, ditto Cali, Blue State seats conservative enough to fall for the Teabagger scam), but which portends the ongoing catastrophic suicidal self-marginalization of the GOP from plausibly-national governing party to neo-Confederate rump.

Since I'm flinging out opinions willy-nilly in this post I'm sure there's plenty for smart folks to quibble with here and there, but to be honest I don't really think any of this is particularly insightful, but just a quick delineation of reasonably sound but conventional background assumptions out of which more interesting discussions might emerge.


I like my art revolutionary, my administration liberal, and my engineering conservative.

Comte de Saint Germain As Proto-Transhumanoid Flim Flam Artist

io9 provides a sketch of the 18th century Robot Cultist (in an alchemical kinda sorta way) famous for being famous and for pretending he was a cosmic engineer of techno-immortality and diamondoid superabundance and blah blah blah. Few modern day transhumanoids actually have the wit to survive five minutes in an aristocratic court with actual intellectuals present, let alone speak multiple languages or pass muster as classical violinists so the analogy only goes so far after all, still the profile is worth a read. --h/t JimF

If A Face Could Sink A Thousand Ships

What I tweeted last night before the debate:

Just so you know, win the debate tho' Obama certainly did, I rather doubt he turned it around enough to give us a fighting chance of winning back the House (as he certainly would have had he won the first debate as handily as last night's), but the effort is not entirely quixotic anymore at any rate. To be honest, the outcome of the Presidential race wouldn't have been truly threatened even if he lost all the debates in my opinion, given the underlying fundamentals, and for me this has always been mostly a matter of the role of the Presidential campaign downticket, all the mainstream horse-racification to the contrary notwithstanding.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Explainer-in-Chief Exposes Romney Tax Flim-Flam

Would like to see an Obama variation on these themes tonight.

Women, Lovers of Women, Feminists, Citizens Who Care About Women's Health, VOTE!

I know it's hard to believe that Roe v Wade could be overturned after forty years, I know it seems as if America is simply not a country in which such backwardness could be tolerated, but the truth is that had Obama NOT been elected in 2008, had he NOT appointed two pro-choice women to the Supreme Court, Roe v Wade would ALREADY have been overturned by now and the looming appointments to the Courts made by a Mitt Romney on the record as a foe of Roe v Wade and a champion of "personhood" laws eliminating not only abortions but many mainstream forms of contraception would unquestionably bring Roe v Wade to and end... while, even now, in any case, across the country, state by state, Republican legislators are eliminating access to abortion and freighting women's health care with outrageous burdens, thus overturning Roe v Wade in substance.

Teaching Day

Screening the Sputnik-era crazy sexist li'l bit feminist occasionally racist "electronic brain" obsessed Tracy/Hepburn rom-com "Desk Set."

Monday, October 15, 2012


You've already seen it, but Rosie Perez is awesome (the laughter at the beginning alone repays multiple replays), so see it again.

Closing Argument

Notice this is a "positive" ad rather than a "negative" one, even if more somber than soaring, grounded in the choice this time of Morgan Freeman over Tom Hanks as the iconic everyman narrator, and organized around a muted variation of Biden's infamous one-line case for a second term "Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive" (a truly appalling slogan neither the ethician nor the wonk, but only the rhetorician in me knows how to appreciate).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Immoderate Maleness of Middle Earth

-- h/t Feministing, then Blame It On the Voices.

Not All Ridicule Is Hate Speech

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot to this post, in response to the whining of a Robot Cultist who has been sniping at me for years and really should know better by now:

You were not born a Robot Cultist, let alone an indefatigable proselytizer for the ridiculous views of the Robot Cult for which I ridicule you. I don't know you as a person, and I presume there is more to you than transhumanoid, digital-utopian, and techno-immortalist positions for which you advocate so nonsensically in public places and in ways that solicit scrutiny.

Critique, satire, parody, even ridicule of views and fallacious reasoning is not hate speech, however discomfiting it may be. You actively seek out attention for your views -- indeed, no small share of the ridicule you suffer from me is prompted by comments YOU publish on MY blog -- nor do I occupy a position of privilege over you from which I attack you in some disadvantage or vulnerability over which you have no control and so neither is this properly conceived as a matter even of bullying.

You are simply seeking to insulate some of your dangerous and nonsensical views from criticism through the pathetic charge that such criticism is hate speech unless it is superficial enough to concede the essential seriousness of your discourse or the validity of its most basic premises as I do not.
Debates about political questions, or moral differences, or matters of taste really are contentious and should be. They are contentious because they arise from differences that are really different, and they should be contentious because there are real stakes in play. As someone who actually was traumatically bullied as a kid for being effeminate I do not approve at all the ease with which the seriousness of that issue is evacuated of its substance and treated as an occasion for mostly privileged people to express their distaste at the fact that they are questioned in ways that make them uncomfortable in their enjoyment of their privileges, which is what a lot (obviously not all) of the "incivility" and "negativity" and "online bullying" discussions really finally amount to in my opinion.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Songified Veepscrum

Entirely Atheist Yet?

Among many who profess to be atheists one will still find the curious belief that the Universe has preferences in the matter of which words humans use to describe it with and what values humans use to live it with.

Ethics Is Not Politics

The lesser of two evils is still evil, but the difference between them can still make a difference.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nobel Awards Peace Prize to EU As EU Continues to Wage War of Austerity Against Its Citizens

Presumably Golden Dawn is already wiping its ass with the award. (My point is not to suggest that Golden Dawn is representative of the EU, but to suggest that Golden Dawn is a symptom of catastrophic EU economic policies that should, in my view, disqualify the EU from consideration for the Prize right now.) Announcing the award the committee chair Thorbjoern Jagland declared:
The EU has been a key in transforming Europe "from a continent of wars to a continent of peace... This is a message to Europe to do everything they can to secure what they've achieved and move forward..." and a reminder of what would be lost "if the union is allowed to collapse."
So, it would seem that like the head-scratcher award of the Prize to President Obama before he had actually done anything but not being George W. Bush, this was more an award signaling hopes and fears than an award recognizing accomplishments (which is not to deny the EU's real accomplishments). The Right Livelihood Award has seemed more reliably Nobel Peace Prizey than the Nobel Peace Prize for years now. I agree that the accomplishment of the EU is historic and its failure would be catastrophic, but I disapprove the extent to which the EU's emphasis has been economic rather than civic, while this award disavows the economic in a way that threatens to evacuate the civic.

Teaching Day

I've got a grad student's intermediate review this morning in the City, and then the MA thesis workshop later this afternoon. Be back later.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

In A Few Hours...

...Republicans will be genocidal because their guy disappointed them, or Democrats will be suicidal because their guy disappointed them. I doubt anybody will know anything they didn't know before, including the "independents" who didn't know anything before but will have already it forgotten again within minutes. I'm kinda sorta hoping Biden manages somehow to get the punditocraps to fall more in love with him than their bogus horserace narrative so that Obama supporters can work on the coattails to get a Congress capable of implementing some solutions to our shared problems with the mandate he will win but otherwise won't be able to exercise over Republican obstructionism, but that's definitely not something I'm counting on.

Elizabeth Warren: "For All of Our Daughters"

Severely Conservative Romney Is Seriously Kidding Himself

This Exists

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Republican wtf Episode Eleventy-Million

So, I guess a whole lot of Republican men spend a whole lot of time feeling disgruntled about the prospect of women making false rape allegations, then?

Of course, back here on planet earth, the real problem is that the majority of actual rapes go unreported, and less than two percent of actual allegations turn out to be false, but, you know, whatever.

Signs of the Singularity on the Campaign Trail!

Ever eager to cough up a hairball of scandal about the consummately competent and upright Obama administration, people dumb enough to be right-wing Republicans in this day and age were also dumb enough to rely on the artificial imbecillence of Google Translator to do the trick and then just ran with it.

For the whole story go to ThinkProgress.

Some Serious Questions for Futurologists Hyperventilating About 3D Printing

So, when 3D printing doesn't Change Everything… When it doesn't create cheap superabundance… When it doesn't "print out" superhero replacement bodies for you to strut around in…

Will you, like, be embarrassed?

At all?

Will you have become a little more skeptical about techno-utopian claims?

Will you have learned anything about confusing ideal devices with real ones?

Will you hesitate from then on to pretend cartoons are the same thing as working models or actual specs?

Will you consider pausing for a moment before imagining technological outcomes occur without a socioeconomic context, without learning curves, or unforeseen engineering hurdles, or funding struggles, or regulatory pressures, or stakeholder struggles?

Will you come to question even a little bit the motives of those who attract attention and money they would not otherwise get by appealing to what look a whole lot like wish-fulfillment fantasies?

As someone who has witnessed, one after another, the irrational exuberance over the "new" digital economy, virtual reality heaven preachers, nation-state smashing crypto-anarchists, nanotech paradise boosters, genomic soopermen overlords, social network digi-radicals…

I'm guessing the answer will be… No.

Big Dog on the Big Liar

I can't say I've been the world's greatest fan of Bill Clinton (although, to give him credit, he certainly was the best Republican President since Eisenhower), but I must say it is nice to witness a supporter of Obama responding to the first debate by having a good time with the nonsense rather than indulging in the suicidal feckless freakout so many others have so unaccountably and unattractively opted for.

Romney Debates Himself

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

BLRing Debate One

Now I understand what the Andrew Sullivan meltdown was all about!

Teaching Day

It's Cory Doctorow and James Boyle in my p2p Democratization and Anti-Democratization course in the City this morning. Public Domain and copyfight, baby.

Ready, Steady, Go

I'm far less stunned by the fact that a respectable outlier poll has Romney dramatically ahead in the race -- these things happen all the time -- than I am stunned by the fact that Obama supporters like Chris Matthews and Andrew Sullivan who are supposed to be professionals freaked out after the debate so immoderately -- although given the wall to wall coverage they attracted by freaking out I guess this is isn't really unexpected either. None of the fundamentals of the election have changed, in the battleground states Obama's leads have narrowed (again, expected, again, this has happened before, this should happen again) but remain and projected electoral vote counts still favor the President, while Obama's favorability continues to rise, economic indicators continue to rise, Romney's likeability remains in the basement, Republican ID remains in the basement, blame for the recession is still firmly fixed on Bush as it should be, the GOP's alienation of women, African-Americans, latinos, lgbts, young people, public sector workers are all dauntingly high, Democratic support among traditionally GOP-leading constituencies like the military and retired voters are at record highs due to fears of GOP saber rattling in a population tired of war and fears of social security privatization and medicare voucherization. Get out the vote is important, as it always, GOP voter suppression remains a worry despite a spate of favorable late court rulings, complacency is never warranted, but there is nothing in reality to justify the freakout among Democrats and across the media. It reminds of nothing so much as last week's right-wing paranoid conspiracy about skewed polls and cooked BLS statistics. The punditocracy and those who look to them for their bearings seem extremely susceptible to unmooring from political reality. It's rather uncanny. We're less than a month out. Vote, make sure your friends and family know the differences that make a difference between the candidates (a Romney presidency probably means dismantlement of the Affordable Care Act and millions upon millions becoming catastrophically uninsured, tax cuts for the rich paid for by dismantlement of social programs for the vulnerable, a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v Wade, further deregulation of the financial sector, and war with Iran) and vote, too. Ready, steady, go.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Why Obama Now

Lovely animation here.

It Really Is Possible to be a Post-Structural Pragmatic Pluralist Queer And Yet Still Reasonable (Indeed, My Problem With Correspondence Theories of Truth and Parochial Foundationisms Is That They Are Unreasonable)

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, a more-radical-than-thou critic declares (in the bazillionth variation of a cherished theme of theirs): "You employ harder borders and binaries than I find tenable." I reply:
I strongly doubt that's true, but whatever. As a pragmatist I regard all beliefs, even reasonably warranted ones, as contingent. As a post-structuralist, I regard literal language as the provisional orchestration of the play of signifiers into salience in the service of a plurality of values (prediction and control, belonging, contingent universalization, stakeholder reconciliation, and so on), and always in a way that imposes costs even when it confers benefits. As a queer theorist, I regard sex-gender as a literalizing language through which patriarchy polices material-semiotic hierarchies (stratified by concurrent policing of race, class, ability, sanity, morphology, etc) that systematically denigrate that which is produced and assigned and maintained as feminine in respect to that which is produced and assigned and maintained as masculine, and that through living otherwise and testifying otherwise and connecting otherwise we mobilize the figurative dimensions of that language to resist that policing and render it more capacious. I am not even averse to the Burroughsian suggestion that this figurative dimension in every language might be well described as a "magical universe," and that all artists, indeed all people when and to the extent that they are being creative, inhabit it. This is what I teach my students in critical theory classes at any rate, hundreds upon hundreds of them, and have done for seventeen years now. All this is to say, you don't know dick about me, and when you pretend that not buying into patriarchy or correspondence theories of truth absolves you of responsibility for trying to be helpful or voting or owning up to beliefs you publish in the world of which you are a part whether you like it or not, well I still say that's just bullshit narcissism on your part.

Mortal Knowledge

They fear death who suspect their mortality but do not know it.

From Romneyshambles to Earthlyshambles

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Election Day Is Less Than One Month Away

Today over at
The Democrats need to win a net of 25 seats in the House to take back control but the current polling data suggests they are probably going to fall short and pick up only about a dozen or so seats. In fact, at this point the most likely outcome of the elections is no change. Barack Obama will be reelected President, the Democrats will hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate (possibly smaller than the 6-seat margin they hold now), and the Republicans will control the House, probably with fewer seats than they hold now. If that happens, we will have spent a year screaming, wasted billions of dollars, and be in the same position as when the whole circus started.
I think this is a reasonable prediction of the election results numerically, but I disagree with the assessment of its consequences. Even without re-taking the House, this changed composition could break the back of the crazytown caucus and hence give the ineffectual John Boehner a little more control to accomplish more than the last do-nothing congress did (at least they should be able to keep the lights on and pass farm and transportation bills in co-operation with the Democrats), and since Harry Reid has already expressed interest in filibuster reform after the dysfunction produced over the last two years of McConnell's obstructionism we can hope that even with a slimmer majority Senate Democrats might accomplish more in their next session as well. Beyond all this, it seems to me that the failure of their strategy to block a second Obama term together with the falling approval numbers occasioned by the strategy -- not to mention the fact that there will not be a third Obama term even if we wanted one -- should redirect the incentives of at least some Republicans away from monolithic toward more occasional obstructionism. I am hoping the pressures of the Fiscal Cliff will finally turn the anti-tax tide and introduce more progressivity into the tax code through the lapse of tax cuts for millionaires followed by Democratic sponsored tax cuts for the middle class in the lame duck session, AND I am hoping that Obama's mandate opens a window long and wide enough to punch his Jobs Bill through, AND I am hoping that even Republicans have to see the demographic writing on the wall clearly enough to make compromise on comprehensive immigration reform possible as well. The continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the confirmation of liberal/moderate justices to the Supreme and other courts probably rounds out the accomplishments we can expect in a second Obama term, unless the mid-terms manage to create a still more congenial Congress capable of getting EFCA, cap and trade, some commonsense gun regulations, and more public investment in renewable energy and mass-transit infrastructure for Obama to sign. I'd like to think a more progressive Congress would help keep us out of war with Iran and also put pressure on the Obama administration to end the drone program, but I suspect that this pressure will have to continue to come from mass mobilizations from the left of Congress for a while longer (from good citizens who continue to vote but also know that voting isn't enough).

Hello, Romney Lied

A Comment on Artificial Imbecillence

Also published at the World Future Society.

Nobody thinks that pouring more sand onto a pile of sand -- or even pouring more abacuses onto a pile of abacuses -- is the least bit likely eventually to prompt the pile to "wake up" and become intelligent, even though the pile grows incomparably more complex the larger it grows. I suspect the reason why some people think that computers, networks, or software might eventually "wake up" and become intelligent if they keep making them more and more complex is often just because they are already using computational, networked, and coding metaphors to think about intelligence in the first place.

I fear it is not so much that computers are liable to wake up any time soon, as that we are falling asleep to the distinctiveness of actually incarnated intelligence through a fashionable computational figuration of intelligence.

It should not be difficult to grasp that while such metaphors may capture some of the qualities of intelligence as it is incarnated in the material dispositions of brains, it is also obviously true that brains are finally much less like what we think of when we think of computers than they are like what we think of when we think of glands and hence that we probably have plenty of reasons to think metaphors proposing otherwise may be misleading us at least as often as they are enlightening us.

That advocates of artificial intelligence have been confidently predicting the arrival of artificial intelligence more or less since the inaugural moments the disciplines of cybernetics and computer science and robotics emerged on the scene with an incessance undiminished by the absolute relentlessness of their failures to be right on this and other key questions is just one of the ways in which these metaphors might be said to be misleading those who make recourse to them. But I think the more damaging and dangerous consequence of this inapt metaphorization of intelligence is that it is now leading so many of us in our everyday lives to attribute intelligence to bleakly unintelligent artifacts like automobiles and media devices with the consequence that we are rendered less capable of grasping and honoring what is so vitally different and indispensable to the dignity and destiny of actually intelligent beings in the world and owning up to our responsibilities to that intelligence in its lived differences.

Futurology's "If Magic Were Real" Paradox

Yes, if magic were real it would be possible to create all sorts of magical artifacts that do all sorts of magical things and magically solve all of our problems, but if magic were real there also would be no need to have artifacts to do anything anyway and we would have no problems to solve. So, if you have to introduce all sorts of "if magic were real" stipulations about controlled navigation and energy consumption and mass protection in order to make a paper that faintly suggests something like faster than light traversal phenomena may sometimes be possible seem to suggest as well that Star Trek starship warp drives are also possible (and because possible somehow "therefore" plausibly on the way -- dood, excellent!) the question is: why delay the introduction of your "if magic were real" stipulations so long? After all, if you are just going to rely on "if magic were real" anyway, then why not start that way? Winkle your nose like Samantha on Bewitched, cross your arms and blink-nod like Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie, flick your stick like Harry Potter at Hogwarts and you can be anywhere, anywhen, anyhow. True, you won't be able to bamboozle anybody into thinking you are engaging in some sort of sophisticated scientific dialogue that way -- but you aren't after all. You'll just be indulging in fanboy fanwanking that has little to do with actual science, theory, or policy. And there's nothing wrong with that, and there can be plenty that is edifying about that, so long as don't forget that science fiction isn't science, wanking isn't policy-making, and fandoms aren't movements.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Robot Cultist Adds Two Fantasies Together To Arrive At Third Fantasy

Over at stealth Robot Cult outfit IEET, the Institute for Ethics (where the ethics are rarely ever discussed) and Emerging Technologies (where the technologies are rarely ever emerging), Very Serious White Guy of the Future Dick Pelletier says "Forget Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" -- and other actually existing transportation methods with all those factual details and stuff and all their pesky problems -- because teleportation is closer than you probably think!
Are we headed for a teleportation future? If we blend tomorrow’s predicted nanotechnology and artificial intelligence advances with human ingenuity, the answer is a resounding yes!
It is an interesting business, isn't it, this futurological "blending" of two non-existing things into a third non-existing thing, this futurological fancying that there is something somehow "scientific" or "progressive" or useful about any of this sort of nonsense?

Not that molecular biology and materials science and expert systems and network security aren't all perfectly real, and awfully interesting, and chock full of problems and potentials well worth thinking about, mind you, but, well, that's not what Pelletier really means when he is blathering on about "predicted nanotechnology and artificial intelligence advances," now, is it? No, he means, as futurological wish-fulfillment fantasies always do by these terms, robust, reliable, comparatively inexpensive, universally programmable, self-replicating, room-temperature, desktop, nanoscale manufacturing devices and he means legibly intelligent but also orders of magnitude "more" intelligent, too, non-biologically incarnated, agentic but servile and not rights-bearing artifacts, and not only do these not exist but there are no good reasons AT ALL to think these are plausibly developmentally proximately-relevant or even ever-to-be-existing things.

There is nothing in any scientific journal or in any actual laboratory anywhere suggesting that the teleportation of mammals from one place to another is theoretically possible at all or practically plausible, let alone even remotely developmentally proximate or, why even pretend to know what it might mean to wonder if "it" were, you know, reasonably expected to be a safe cost-effective alternative to any of the actually existing transportation methods the costs, risks, and benefits of which demand our urgent ongoing consideration. (The teleportation not of mammals but of uploaded "information-selves" takes us into yet another non-existing, not ever-to-be-existing non-thing, that is to say, biologically incarnated selves somehow transformed without loss into non-biological selves, usually on the idiotically fantastic premise that a picture -- however elaborate -- of someone is the same thing AS them, which it obviously isn't, which is usually then coupled as well with the even more idiotically fantastic premise that not only does this make sense at all when it doesn't but that somehow the procedure would also manage delightfully to immortalize the self it otherwise IS by being a picture of it.)

Brushing aside existing phenomena and all their attendant dilemmas and demands the better to indulge in bullshit wish-fulfillment fantasizing is what Dick Pelletier calls "bold" and "forward thinking."

It is, in a word, not.

What are some other words that might help us describe what it is? I know, kids! There's... Mistake. Lie. Delusion. Idiot. Annoyance. Scam.

I know I haven't posted much anti-futurological critique here lately, even though that is kinda sorta one of Amor Mundi's major things. And this has not only been because the new school year and the upcoming election have somewhat preoccupied my attention, as clearly they have, but also because lately reading futurology makes my brain die.

Speaking as one Star Trek fan to (I am assuming?) another -- Dick, dude, it's a show, it isn't real.

Today's Random Wilde (With An Assist From They Might Be Giants)

I like Wagner's music better than anybody's. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without people hearing what one says.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Teaching Day

I've got a few hours workshopping MA thesis extracts in the City this afternoon, so low to no for a while on the blogging front.

Just Your Ordinary Extraordinary

I was going to say that I find it extraordinary that Republicans are suddenly declaring the Bureau of Labor Statistics a house of lies and "Chicago Style Politics" because it has reported that unemployment has fallen to less than eight percent when Republicans have obstructed Democratic efforts to pass the Jobs Bill for month after month after month just so they could tout the numbers reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as proof of Obama's failure to clean up the catastrophic mess left by the Bush administration for them fast enough. But this sort of thing is so ordinary for the birther, death-panel, anti-Darwinian, climate change denialist, macroeconomically illiterate, legitimate rape and recreational abortion Movement Republicans it would simply be untrue to call it extraordinary, extraordinary though it is.

Rob Zerban Invites Doll Eyed Dolt Paul Ryan to Move to Galt's Gulch

I'll admit denying the self-appointed sooper-man and pseudo-intellectual Randroid Ryan the Vice Presidency AND booting him from his Congressional perch in a single night would be sweet indeed.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Romneyshambles Already?

So, it's looking like the Republican Reptile brains liked Romney's assertiveness last night because they experienced in it the vicarious thrill of insulting the blacketyblackblack President as lazy and illegitimate and alien, whereas pretty much everybody else was mostly unmoved or bored or even a little impressed (so-called independents actually seem to have liked the President's performance better than the commentariat gossips spoiling for a cockfight to cackle over, go figure). Meanwhile, beginning in real time in the twitterverse, the truth-squadding of Romney's serial lies and reversals and obfuscations set the scene for the fact-checking and pushback that gathered volume all the livelong day today, culminating in Romney campaign denials and Fox confessionals that he didn't mean what he said when he said what he said except when he says it again. It's starting to look like a death-threat issued to Big Bird and a rictus grin issuing lies are the only lingering traces this debate will leave us with. I didn't think the debate was the total triumph for Romney many commenters seemed to think, but I did think it was a stay of execution for a campaign in crisis and that this was triumph enough to call it a clear win, even if I didn't expect it to change much for long. I am a bit surprised to see the sign of incipient shambles less than a day after.

The Debate Ain't Over Till the Echoes Die Down, And That's When the Final Verdict Is Declared

Republican Death Threats Have Their Compensations

Michael K Declares Big Bird Hot Slut of the Day.

My Two Cents in the Debate on the Debate

I don't think debating says much about presidenting and can't pretend to care more than I do about the fact that the president I support didn't win last night's debate against the candidate I oppose, but it would be silly to pretend I wouldn't have preferred victory over defeat in the debate or to pretend victory happened when it didn't. Given the stink of conspicuous defeat that has been growing on Romney since his disastrous VP pick and lamentable convention failed to move the deadly defining plutocratic-alien narrative the Obama administration wrote for him over the summer, it was clear that last night's debate was Romney's last obvious chance to save his skin, and that he had to win the night to manage it. He did, and largely because Obama failed to fact-check rather a lot of facile healthcare lies that could and should have been real Romney vulnerabilities.

Still, I think the debate was frankly too dull to have much impact on the overall race, and I doubt that the poll numbers next week will look ominously different from this week's numbers. But in failing to lose Romney prevented the bottom from dropping out of his campaign altogether. Romneyshambles is for the moment in abeyance. Let Romney be Romney and Romneyshambles will re-emerge soon enough. The chief implication of his not losing, as far as I can see, is that nervous GOP superPACs are a little less likely to write Romney off and divert their cash to downticket races where their money would frankly do more damage to progressive priorities. I don't think Romney's comparative success last night made him more likeable or relatable to voters by any stretch of the imagination (you could make the case that the debate was actually a draw on that basis), and I don't think Obama's rather lackluster low-key performance made him less likeable or made anybody forget he is the President or think there is any reason to fire him. I honestly don't think Obama would lose this election even if all three of his debates went down like last night did, but I think the Town Hall format coming up will be more congenial to Obama in any case and will probably set the stage for a rather triumphalist media narrative in the homestretch.

I'm personally hoping Romneyshambles remains impalpable long enough for the GOP to waste their substance on their loser rather than shoring up House races, so that when the blowout comes it has the coattails to give Obama the Congress he needs to implement the mandate he will in fact have been given for serious public-sector jobs growth, more renewable infrastructure investment, more progressive taxes, immigration reform, continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and shepherding the beginning of state by state expansions in the direction of single payer in Vermont and California and elsewhere, card check, a Supreme Court resisting the Republican War on Women, the beginning of the end of the racist War on Drugs, the return to sensible gun laws as a Democratic priority, and a more diplomatic than not circumvention of war with Iran (and ideally a sufficiently forceful and progressive Congress to pressure Obama to reverse course on the Unitary Executive and drone fetish ugliness).

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Today's Republican Party

Obama is not only really a homogaysexual, but also a murderer, and also, too, you may not have noticed, blacketyblackblack. The GOP truly is the future of urban living.

School Daze

I'm going in to the City later this afternoon for a Faculty Senate meeting. Waiting for trains and buses, all told, I suspect my commute there and back again will take something like twice as long as the eventual meeting in between. Isn't that adorable?

Desperate for Their Horse Race

The latest poll by NPR and its bipartisan polling team shows President Obama with a 7-point lead among likely voters nationally and a nearly identical lead of 6 points in the dozen battleground states where both campaigns are spending most of their time and money.
The headline? "NPR Poll Shows Romney Within Striking Distance"

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Teaching Day

It's Cybernetic Totalism and the California Ideology in my Peer to Peer Democratization and Anti-Democratization course in the City this morning, then a little Hayles on Weiner and Heidegger on Tech for context. Later in the day one of my MA students has her Intermediate Review. It's a long day ahead, I'm afraid, so blogging low to no.

Monday, October 01, 2012

For Pete's Sake Just Look At the Tape

Those who are leaping to the defense of this cop need to actually spend the half minute it takes to watch the damn tape first. This extraordinary and to say the least excessive force would not be justified even if this obviously nonthreatening woman exercising her constitutionally protected right to free assembly in this country actually had sprayed this officer with water, but quite apart from all that it is conspicuously clear from the tape that the water sprays from off frame well away from the woman thereupon brutally attacked by this cop. Don't get this twisted people. This is an obvious outrage.

Today's Random Wilde

Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless.