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

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anarcho-Anti-Sexist Robot Cultist Decides Feminism Is Too Hard, Declares Himself A Robot

Over at the Robot Cult outfit IEET, the Institute for Ethics (where the ethics are rarely really discussed) and Emerging Technologies (where the technologies are rarely really emerging), one Very Serious White Guy of The Future Kris Notaro quotes another Very Serious White Guy of The Future William Gillis about how being a Robot Cultist enables you to skip all the hard work of feminism and queer activism. As I said a while back about another Very Serious White Guy of The Future George Dvorsky's "post-gender" manifesto: "I get nervous when a guy claims to be frustrated with 'feminism' … then proposes to junk 'it' and replace 'it' with some newfangled internet manifesto..."

I sympathize with the frustration that inspires the piece, to wit:
Imagine the situation. Bro-dude #1,459,005,410 has constructed some meticulous and elaborate set of bullshit anecdotes, his own evolutionary psychology fanfic and dozens of “social science” references. All to prove some ridiculously totalizing and conceptually hazy statement about women or men that they cling to as their own personal patriarchy-justification-wand. They’re expecting you to get bogged down in a fruitless quagmire contending all the things in order to avoid what is ultimately a really laughable appeal to the naturalistic fallacy. “Look, babe, this is just how the world works.” But whether or not something’s genetic or inherent to our bodies or “built-in” really shouldn’t matter. And giving that assumption fuel by fighting it on its own terms is actually kind of reckless.
I quite agree one should not argue against sexist, racist, imperialist declarations about the natural inferiority or proper quiescence of the ladies, the blacks, the poors, the furriners and so on offered up in the pseudo-scientific garments of latter day social Darwinism of the memetic digi-war or evo-psycho varieties by accepting the enabling terms of this reactionary nonsense wholesale, but then simply flinging one's own parochially preferred anti-sexist, anti-racist but ultimately no less ahistorical reductionist techno-triumphalist anecdotes back in the faces of the jerks.

Imagine the tableau of a heated battle between "progressive" and reactionary phrenologists. Not edifying.

But sympathize though I do with these frustrations, I am afraid I can only offer up a course of painstaking argument, critique, satire, education, agitation, organization resisting such reactionary, reductionist, sexist, heterosexist, racist, imperialist ideas, efforts, works in their assumptions, their aspirations, and their effects. I have no sympathy at all with the Robot Cult alternative proposed instead:
Transhumanists obviously don’t have to put up with that shit. In fact we can slide directly into terms of “abolishing gender” from the get-go to directly negate MRA-era contortions around “equality” without even having to slog through a lengthy education process about distinctions between gender and sex… Fuck you, I’m a robot. I’m a whatever. They’re whatevers… This is the future. We’re all becoming cyborgs and queers and entirely new ways and forms of existing. We’re self-altering, self-determining. There is no “women” just as there is no “men”. What there are are douchebags and fucked up social systems doing very real damage that happens to be based on the assumption that such genders exist or should exist. Patriarchy is the enemy and I don’t give a shit what it takes to bring the fucker down. If gender actually conflicts with ethics, then we should chuck gender. If human biology actually conflicts with ethics, then we should move to chuck human biology… So the next time someone starts rattling on about their crackpot gender essentialist theory may I recom[m]end countering with an ["]Even if that were remotely plausible, why would it matter in the slightest to the basic ethics of how minds should treat one another? Fuck you, I’m a floating metal sphere.["] And then just pummel them with future-shock and uncompromising radicalism until they’re in a fetal position.
Of course, Kris Notaro, of course, William Gillis, of course, George Dvorsky, none of you are actually Robots. Whatever "whatevers" you happen to be, you are socially legible bodies speaking legible languages which precede and exceed you, which in being spoken by you, also speak you.

You are raced, sexed, classed, gendered, aged, abled in ways that you are articulated by even as you are articulate them. You might think you are beyond sex, beyond gender, beyond race, but at most you practice sex, gender, race, and the rest in ways that render them more capacious than they otherwise would be. There are no shortcuts. And I can't help saying even looking for shortcuts when it comes to this stuff is something of a dick move, if you know what I mean?

François Poul-lain de la Barre declared that “L'esprit n'a point de sexe,” but of course sex and gender norms profoundly articulate who has or had a say in what is legibly apportioned to the sphere of "mind." He was a Very Serious White Guy too, you know (hell, so am I)! Those who would identify as minds while dis-identifying with their bodies confront (or disavow) the pickle that you can't "chuck human biology" without "chucking human mind" too. This intellectual puzzle is quite apart from the fact that nobody actually is "post-biological" in the sense being triumphantly crowed about here, very much including the very human very biological very white very male guys presently under discussion, and also from the fact that actually only crazy people seriously pretend anyone is about to do any such thing in any practical sense even if one finds some intellectually coherent way even to talk about the prospect of doing such a thing in the first place -- which I have yet to find anybody offer anywhere anyway. Mind, consciousness, intelligence is ineradiacably materialized, and so far always only incarnated in the materiality of biological brains and implemented in the materiality of historical struggles.

Setting aside these actually devastating quibbles for a moment, I find myself wondering as well if it has occurred to any of these fellows that their instrumental conception of historical agency, their techno-fetishizing priorities, their techno-triumphalist reconciliation with actually-existing diversity, their whole techno-transcendentalizing denigration of bodily finitide, error-proneness, vulnerability, and mortality really looks an awful lot like fairly conventional patriarchial categories and norms rather than the self-congratulatory "overcoming" these privileged white boys all seem so cocksure to report about themselves? The declaration that "[w]e’re self-altering, self-determining," all ruggedly individualistic in our cyborg-armor, is hardly new, and neither is it exactly bereft of gendered/raced baggage in its triumphalism. The image with which we are left in the piece, of an opponent "reduced to the fetal position" after being "pummeled" by the "radicalism" of a futurologist's "Fuck You!" hardly seems, you will forgive me, particularly beyond patriarchal masculinity let alone even remotely "post-biological" in its assumptions or aspirations. Future Shock, indeed!

Be all that as it may, there is certainly nothing "uncompromising" or "radical" about boys taking their toys and going home when there is serious work to be done. It's one thing to admit one is not decent enough to care about sexism or racism or exploitation in the world, but it is quite another not to care about any of these enough to do anything about them but then to demand one be celebrated as a champion of that which you disdain in the very moment of your relinquishment of the field of struggle itself.

May I gently point out that you are not a Floating Metal Sphere?

Maybe, just maybe, you are just a dick?


jimf said...

> François Poul-lain de la Barre declared that
> “L'esprit n'a point de sexe,” but of course sex
> and gender norms profoundly articulate who has
> or had a say in what is legibly apportioned
> to the sphere of "mind."

Also, clearly M. de la Barre didn't know his
_Star Trek_ canon.

Original Airdate: Nov 10, 1967
COCHRANE: Captain, why did you build that translator
with a feminine voice?

KIRK: We didn't.

COCHRANE: But I heard. . .

KIRK: The idea of male and female are universal constants,
Cochrane. There's no doubt about it. The Companion is female.

COCHRANE: I don't understand.

MCCOY: You don't? A blind man could see it with a cane.
You're not a pet. You're not a specimen kept in a cage.
You're a lover.

COCHRANE: I'm a what?

Black guy from the future past said...

Oh my gosh! The "future" is to be a floating metal sphere with digitized patterns of thought and totally indistinct in terms of appearance and embodiment? NO SIREE! That is not a future! Sounds like homogenization and genocide of actually existing differences and diversity to me! These "transhumanists" are ludicrous and asinine in their conception of actual human struggles and the remedies to these struggles. I am glad I found this blog and tossed aside any notion of seriously considering transhumanism as a valid philosophy or prospect. SHEESH!

*Although I must also point out Dale, me being A Very Serious Black Guy(pun intended). I am wary about the humanist aspirations that you champion, as well. Although, their methods and goals are far more realistic, I just can't shake the reality that these aspirations and notions have been historically defined by racist white men and women. This leads me to seriously question western values and ideals, akin to Nietzsche and question what exactly is there for me, as a black man, in the incomplete and mostly hypocritical western conception of "humanity" and "humanism"?

Dale Carrico said...

Do I champion humanism? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a close and sympathetic reader of Fanon (and contemporary scholar Paul Gilroy who follows from him) both of whom demand, to say the least, a qualified embrace of humanist universalism aware of the actual limitations and violations facilitated via humanism, as well as the inadequacies of any too naive UN-humanism in current politics. I teach Foucault and Nietzsche at the University level, I do queer theory, I am an ethical vegetarian, it is a complicated business to ascribe humanism to me. Just saying.

jimf said...

> The "future" is to be a floating metal sphere with digitized
> patterns of thought and totally indistinct in terms of appearance
> and embodiment?

Well, if you must stick out from the crowd, you can be a pointy
polyhedron, I suppose.

Or -- a piece of Samsonite. Like the drones in Iain Banks'
"Culture" novels. But without wheels. They can fly, you

Dale Carrico said...

I think they should all go for the chrome dildo option -- I mean, it's not like they're fooling anyone anyway.

Eudoxia said...

>That is not a future! Sounds like homogenization and genocide of actually existing differences and diversity to me!

Would you say gender reassignment therapy is the homogenization and destruction of gender identities?

Dale Carrico said...

Won't speak for him, but I am curious what makes you think his comment might seem to imply such a view?

jollyspaniard said...

Well, if you must stick out from the crowd, you can be a pointy
polyhedron, I suppose.


You might get thrown Dungeons and Dragons gamers.

Khannea Suntzu said...

Happy solstice!

jimf said...


In a world where carpenters are resurrected, anything is possible.

Dale Carrico said...

I never fail to marvel at the quickness of Robot Cultist minds.

Anonymous said...

Rudy Rucker's scifi epics feature partly organic AI's who find out how to get high on drugs and then make their shapeshifter bodies (magnetic fields applied to mythological fluid metall-plastic imbedded with algae, mold and gene tweaked human neural cells) into giant copies of the Book of Mormon, and the LDS reaches out to its new Congregation ....