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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Only Cyborgs Live Forever"

UPDATE: Upgraded and adapted from an Exchange in the Moot:

Athena Andreadis said...
Not surprisingly, he's wrong again (still). Depending on the definition of cyborg, we may already be such hybrids. Secondly, even cyborgs by the TH definition won't live forever if/when they appear.

Dale Carrico said...
Indeed, a major point of departure for Weiner's cybernetics (or at any rate something figuring in his early and continuing efforts to elaborate it) was the **ancient** sophistical puzzle asking if a blind man's cane is part of who the man is. Clearly, the facile futurists just mean by "technology" those techniques/ artifacts they happen to have invested with their hyperbolic fears/ fantasies. As usual, the whole discourse unfolds at a completely uncritical and frankly mostly symptomatic level that whatever else it is manages mostly to be just dumb.


jollyspaniard said...

Ouch, he didn't come off well in that exchange. He was playing a bad hand but he played it poorly to boot. I don't think he's accustomed to arguing with people who disagree with him. Or if he is, he hasn't learned.

Anonymous said...

Rachel ‘Haywire’ Mendelson is now writing “essays” for Neo Nazi website that also spews hate at LGBT.She says “It’s not hate, just anti-PC”.

Keith Preston is the Neo Nazi homophobe who runs the hate site Rachel “Haywire” Mendelson now exuberantly blogs for.

Anonymous said...

"A Nasty Mob" as I call him also likes to publish libel on anyone who has a problem with his association with strident occultists and actual neo nazis!

jimf said...

> Secondly, even cyborgs by the TH definition won't live forever
> if/when they appear.

Oh, what's plus or minus a few millennia, among friends?

The Star Trek Transcripts
"I, Mudd"
Original Airdate: Nov 3, 1967
ALICE 263: These are our Barbara series. The body is covered
with a self-renewing plastic over a skeleton of beryllium-titanium

KIRK: Very impressive.

UHURA: I should say so. . .

MUDD: They were, of course, made to my personal specifications. . .

UHURA: How long does a body like that last?

ALICE 19: None of our android bodies has ever worn out. However,
the estimated duration of this model is five hundred thousand years.

UHURA: Five hundred thousand. . . **years**?

ALICE 263: Our medi-robots are able to place a human brain within a
structurally compatible android body.

MUDD: Immortality. . . **and** eternal beauty.

Dale Carrico said...

I don't go down rabbit holes with Anonymous guides caught up in the internecine squabbles of Robot Cultists, sorry.

Dale Carrico said...

Over the holidays Eric and I have been watching some sfnal series we remember from younger days -- Blakes 7 (his) and The Starlost (mine). One is struck, among many many things one could mention, what hoary cliches literally every stunning! disruptive! radical! accelerating! Robot Cult conceit really ends up being. They really are just cranking the jangly tune over and over from the old futurological calliope.

Black guy from the future past said...

Hello Dale. Is transhumanism racist? I've been reading your blog and you continually make reference to how most futurists tend to be white. Also, many scientific fields are dominated by white people , more specifically white males. How does this skew ideas about the "future". I await your response. Thank you.

(BTW I am that rare black guy who has encountered transhumanist ideas on the net and have noticed the alarming lack of representation of other races, cultures and their ideas)

jimf said...

> Over the holidays Eric and I have been watching some sfnal
> series we remember from younger days. . . One is struck,
> among many many things one could mention, what hoary cliches
> literally every stunning! disruptive! radical! accelerating!
> Robot Cult conceit really ends up being. They really are just
> cranking the jangly tune over and over from the old futurological
> calliope.

Even the notion of "The Singularity" -- a "Great Leap Forward",
a sharp break in history -- isn't as new as some of the fanboys
think it is. (Wedding the idea to progress in semiconductor electronics
and computers is the "value added" contributed by Vernor Vinge et al.)

My formative SF TV show was the original _The Outer Limits_ (1963),
and my favorite episode was (and still is) "The Sixth Finger"

"May we not still hope to discover a method by which within
one generation the whole human race could be rendered intelligent,
beyond hatred or revenge, or the desire for power?
Is that not — after all — the ultimate goal of evolution?"

Dale Carrico said...

Is transhumanism racist? Since there are unquestionably transhumanist-identified people who are conscientiously anti-racist anything like an affirmative answer by me will provoke the usual howls about my hostile unfair ad hominem attacks. But, here goes.

As a subculture, the transhumanoids are relentlessly white male and privileged, and I think their assumptions, aspirations, and discourse reflect that demographic reality.

For as long as I've been studying them, this non-representativeness has occasionally provoked nervous efforts at "outreach" which inevitably produce little change, and to the extent that "outreach" as an organizational operation aimed at diversity is always a matter of "us" (North Atlantic upperclass-identified white males) "reaching out" from where "we" are to "them" (the ladies, the Blacks, the poors, etc), of course it structurally replicates the terms of exclusion in the very gesture of welcoming, so I am not surprised that these inept efforts tend to go unrewarded.

Transhumanoids will probably point to their latest efforts to build missionary "chapters" in the "third world" or "developing countries" (I probably don't need to tell you that describing the overexploited regions of the world as an alien "third" world or a part of the world that has not yet "attained" western develepmental standards as "underdeveloped" in the first place are inherently colonialist/ racist) as evidence belying their endless futurological white penis parade, but I daresay the historical precedents/ analogies of racist "civilizing missions" are too obvious to require spelling out.

Dale Carrico said...

Usually, the better more anxious transhumanoids will trot out photogenic links to afro-futurist aesthetics -- Sun Ra and come up a lot, and after all, they ARE fabulous -- but the exceptions scream out the rule, especially when they remain so few, so static, so defensive.

I mean, there are some elephants in this room, aren't there? Like the fact that transhumanism in its sanewashing efforts at academic and media respectability has had a wee bit of trouble with links cropping up to straight-up white-racist white-power sites online, with a distressing tendency to be a place where explicitly racist Bell Curve nonsense is defended, with a fatal susceptibility to evopsycho bio-reductionist nonsense more generally -- again, much of that being an endless occasion for sexists and racists to air their sexism and racism with a pseudo-scientific patina. This susceptibility to evopsycho is a problem shared across digital-fixated subcultures and discourses as an effect of their aversion to materiality and coping with that aversion through a (false) equation of the digital with the spiritual and a (false) refiguration of evolutionary biology as an algorithmic optimization randomly exploring an abstract problem non-space space. Is this racist? Well, not on its face certainly, but given the whiteness of these subcultures and of the "reason" qua rage for order with which they so often identify, and the distressing tendency of race to function precisely as a discourse producing bodied raced AS the bodily as such, as the epidermalized body, the muscularized body, the body as seat of irrational and threatening passions, one doesn't have to look very hard to find all sorts of racist symptoms cropping up in these precincts, even among the, er, nicest people.

And, oh year, many transhumanists explicitly champion eugenics (no racism to see here, folks!), and pretty much ALL of them as a matter of their definition qua transhumanists, defend an "enhancement" discourse that stealths its eugenicism by pretending to advocate an "inclusive" "access" to parochial norms pretended in term to name "neutral" markers of "capacity" or "optimality," blissfully unaware of all the racism and sexism and imperialism so many of them are letting in through the back door.

To the extent that transhumanism styles itself a humanism at all, of course, one would hope it tries to be vigilant in the aftermath of a long humanist history in which a presumably universal humanity named only a minority of actually living humans and universal human rights were enjoyed by that minority usually at the expense of other actually living humans, a project organized around the figure of a "human race" often deeply indebted to racist legacies for its categories and institutions. At least some academic variations of the "post-human" -- with which the transhuman is sometimes identified by observers, possibly too glibly -- are indebted to Fanonian ambivalence about the humanist project, at once recognizing its racist legacy but also demanding it live up to its universalism in a way that facilitates ant-racism.

I would like to say that the transhumanoids partake in that tradition -- but I can't say I have seen much inclination in any of them even to read Fanon, let alone take up such a nuanced discourse on humanism. More usual are the most facile imaginable re-enactments of racist imperialism, as when non-human animals are refigured in their exclusion from humanity as always only suffering, in ways that demand the ethical response of re-writing them in the image of human conformity and declaring this flabbergasting chauvinist aspiration uplift.

jimf said...

BTW, David McCallum has a memorable final speech as the
giant-brained Gwylim Griffiths in "The Sixth Finger"
which was lifted by screenplay author Ellis St. Joseph
almost verbatim from George Bernard Shaw.

GWYLIM (appearing in Mathers' lab, to Cathy):
Don't be afraid!

CATHY: What have you done?

GWYLIM: I was going to destroy everyone. But suddenly...

(cue Dominic Frontiere's gentle theme with
harp and vibraphone ;->)

. . .it no longer mattered. I evolved beyond hatred or revenge
or even the desire for power. I could feel myself reaching
that stage in the dim future of mankind when the mind will
cast off the hamperings of the flesh and become all thought
and no matter. A vortex of pure intelligence in space.
It is the goal of evolution: Man's final destiny is to
become what he imagined in the beginning, when he first
learned the idea of the angels.

(and a moment later, when he's seated in the target
chamber of Mathers' machine:)

GWYLIM: Now must I break the last barrier between
the flesh and the spirit!

Lilith's final speech in _Back To Methuselah_:

"[A]fter passing a million goals they press on to the goal
of redemption from the flesh, to the vortex freed from matter,
to the whirlpool in pure intelligence that, when the world
began, was a whirlpool in pure force. And though all that
they have done seems but the first hour of the infinite
work of creation, yet I will not supersede them until they
have forded this last stream that lies between flesh and spirit,
and disentangled their life from the matter that has always
mocked it. . .

I am Lilith: I brought life into the whirlpool of force,
and compelled my enemy, Matter, to obey a living soul. But
in enslaving Life's enemy I made him Life's master; for that
is the end of all slavery; and now I shall see the slave set
free and the enemy reconciled, the whirlpool become all life
and no matter. And because these infants that call themselves
ancients are reaching out towards that, I will have
patience with them still; though I know well that when they
attain it they shall become one with me and supersede me,
and Lilith will be only a legend and a lay that has lost
its meaning. Of Life only is there no end; and though of its
million starry mansions many are empty and many still unbuilt,
and though its vast domain is as yet unbearably desert, my
seed shall one day fill it and master its matter to its
uttermost confines. And for what may be beyond, the eyesight
of Lilith is too short. It is enough that there is a beyond."

Robert Gross said...

[i]"Only cyborgs live forever." Name one.[/i]

Why, Vic Stone, of course. Don't you read comic books?