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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Diatribe Against the Robot Tribe

A few days back I poked fun at some silliness appearing in the pop-tech Robot Cult zine h+ (that stands for "Humanity plus," and if you don't know what that is supposed to mean, well, that just means you're probably "humanity-minus," right?), and in the comments for the piece itself, I have been discussed a bit among the gathered Cultists. Comments sections at transhumanoid zines are seriously seeds and stems (Mark Plus makes an appearance to defend the white race against me at one point, for example) and so there is little reason to engage them. But I must say reading the outraged comment of one Robot Cultist tickled me too much to ignore this morning, one "Yosarian" sputtering that his desire to live 300 years and become techno-invulnerable to sky-diving accidents and such is the furthest imaginable thing from a "juvenile fantasy," indeed, such dreams represent (this is in quotes because I am quoting) "a baseline minimum of what to expect from the future." Why, Yosarian goes on to explain Robot Cultism is nothing, after all, but believing in science and progress and reason and apple pie! We are then assured, "It’s a good bet... to assume that anything that is allowed by the laws of the universe is something that we eventually will be able to do." If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times, futurologists keep confusing making bets with having thoughts, but this one really is classic -- hell, simple straightforward logic alone pretty much guarantees humans will crank their way eventually into becoming omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Robot Gods! After all, if history teaches us anything it is that developmental vicissitudes unfold along pristine logical lines (er). But, gee, it's all so obvious, so very sane, and so very modest as lines in megalomania go! To this I responded, all too characteristically:
Nobody ever joined a Robot Cult because they advocated or want to contribute to improving healthcare, nobody ever joined a Robot Cult because they advocated or want to contribute to consensus science, nobody ever joined a Robot Cult because they advocated or want to contribute to network security. Hyperbolizing healthcare into the faith-based initiatives of techno-immortalism, hyperbolizing engineering into the faith-based initiatives of nano-abundance and digi-utopianism, hyperbolizing coding into the faith-based initiative of pining over a post-biological sooper-intelligent history-ending Robot God of loving grace, now that is juvenile wish-fulfillment fantasizing.

The transhumanoids and singularitarians have been selling their stale static catechism to the rubes for well over a generation. Sure, a few characteristically narcissistic celebrity-CEOs now throw your pseudo-intellectuals and circus barkers the scratch to cobble together "think-tanks" in which you pretend clapping louder will make The Future real and they get to pretend they are gurus and big-shots rather than frauds who skimmed the collective talent of underlings who would make their code and distribute their ideas for the joy of it for free. But that doesn't put the Keys to History in your hot little hands, boys.

I do not doubt that you people can do a whole of damage -- the damage that True Belief does to the believer who could have made a critical contribution to progress, the damage to sensible public deliberation about technoscience that happens when you churn out deranging frames and dramas for broadcast media to gobble up and disseminate more generally, the damage you do in distracting attention from the solution of real shared problems with real shared effort the better to indulge your daydreams of eternal adolescence and invulnerability and riches without effort and a sex that finally satisfies... but for all the damage you do you never will arrive at The Future you have substituted for the Heaven of the faithful.

Every one of you will age and die. Every one of you will continue to make errors and exhibit the ignorance that suffers and causes humiliations. Every one of you will struggle to be understood, to connect, and succeed only at the cost of opening yourself to betrayal and loss. There is no such thing as The Future -- there are only serial presents, stratified by history and diversity, shared by peers, at best shared by peers collaborating toward the progress of solving shared problems. Nobody joins a Robot Cult to join the work of that progress. You join a Robot Cult because you are lazy, because you are greedy, because you are deluded, because you are afraid.

Deny away, but you are known.
For all the good it'll do.

1 comment:

Black guy from the future past said...

All of us will age and die! Say it aint so Dale! Say it aint so! The cultists must of literally had a fit of rage when you exposed them to this little known fact of reality that all things biological must die.

They even believe in such discarded notions as transmutation and transfiguration as if they will turn this flesh and blood organism into a (living?) metallic (organism?). Akin to the way alchemists thought they could turn lead into gold. Akin to the way Jesus turned from mere fleshly mortal into a divine radiant god in the clouds. Little do they know in chemistry when one material turns into another, the results are always...volatile to say the least. The thing you started out with does not survive or remain. Do they know by advocating for these things they are ironically advocates of death? Not to mention pseudo-science?