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

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Why, the tolerance of Christianists for the diversity of America is an Easter Shunday miracle! Christianist asshole lies about deistic atheistic anti-clerical Founders, then reminds heathens that Muscular Baby Jeebus Goon Squad is packing heat.

Tory Lying Liar Lies For Easter

Still putting a bit of stick about, I see.

Posthuman Panel

Last night's APA panel went pretty well. I'll let you know when the YouTube of the event becomes available. The Jasperians were enormously gracious and genial, which should be expected, I suppose, of folks who affiliate over Karl Jaspers. When I discovered that they really meant business confining our contributions to fifteen minutes I did a ruthless last minute edit of my draft, slashing away two more pages by kicking whole paragraphs to the curb, transitions be damned. Since the whole writing process for days had felt like nothing but cutting cutting cutting anyway, I could only sigh. This lead to an unexpected and quite affable exchange with Max More, of all people, before the event was officially underway. I ruefully remarked to a fellow panelist (who turned out to be a Mormon transhumanist) that I had just painfully scalpelled off a whole page, and More, overhearing us, remarked, "Lost a page? Why, that's a whole sentence for you!" to which I replied, "I'm sure it feels like one, when you're reading me." It sounds a little aggro as words on a page, as often happens, but face to face it wasn't at all. It's a truism but also importantly true that the de-contextualization of online discourse exacerbates unpleasantness. Needless to say, I still think More's ideas are foolish and wrong and symptomatic of dangerous prevailing attitudes (some of which I was still able to cover in my talk, even with only fifteen minutes at my disposal). But I suppose what becomes more evident in person is that I'm never exactly unaware as a person of my own foolishness and error-proneness, so all this energetic critique of mine isn't about some facile one-upsmanship over weird strangers so much as simply registering the real seriousness of the subjects at hand by my lights. However ferocious the disagreements, the palpable seriousness of the business forges a fragile, momentary connection. But be assured, I'll be back to the picnicking and nitpicking soon enough.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Transhumanoid Goes Down the White-Racist Rabbit Hole


UPDATE: I do believe that link has been killed, but just click Oracle Anissimov's twitter stream and you won't have to scroll long to find the exchange in question (and, lately I fear, comparable and worse ones).

Friday, March 29, 2013


So, by the end of my writing day I had plumped up the first three of seven distinctions I meant to discuss. I fancied the paper was quick but conversational and accessible and going well. Eric had me read the draft and it took more than twice the time I'm allotted to get halfway through my intended material. Hand meet forehead. Obviously I've been completely spoiled by these three-hour lecture stretches I've become used to stretching out in argumentatively. What the hell can one usefully and compellingly say in fifteen to twenty minutes for crying out loud! Ugh, edit, edit, edit, read it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Writing Day

Tomorrow is another long teaching day, and so I'm giving today over to the writing of my APA paper. I suspect I'll be full of stories and ideas in the aftermath of that event, so please stand by.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Day in the City

No teaching today, but I'm on campus most of the afternoon for meetings. Should be working on the APA paper, but am not. Life is a cabaret, old chum.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why I'm Publicly For Gay Marriage And Privately Against It

This piece from five years ago still more or less sums up my position. Since it is a teaching day I doubt I'll get around to blogging new stuff, so by all means go read some old stuff.

Teaching Day

Screening Carpenter's "They Live" in my critical theory course this morning in the City.

Monday, March 25, 2013

All Moved In!

The last box has been deposited in the recycling bin, the last book shelved, the last shirt hangered. What a relief!

Freepers Freaking Out at the Prospect of an End to the Bigot Carnival

The haters and stoopids of muscular gun-totin' white-racist baby Jeebus are sniffing the tipping point in the wind and the comments section at Free Republic is veritable freeporn for the Army of Lovers:
I am just SO DAMN SICK OF QUEERS!!!! Our great country is going round and round the toilet bowl and all it can think about is these demented degenerates being able to say “meet my wife, his name is Ned”, or “meet my husband, her name is Suzy”.
Why, oh why, do the patridiots hate the pursuit of so slightly different a happiness than theirs, why oh why do they so hate the freedom they love? Ah, how I love to feed, Feed, FEED on their delicious, sweet, sputtering, impotent rage!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

APA Talk Next Week -- Futurological Discourse and Posthuman Terrains

This is just a reminder that I'll be presenting a brief talk and participating in a panel discussion about posthumanism (fellow panelists include Natasha Vita-More, somewhat to my chagrin) at next week's meeting in San Francisco of the American Philosophical Association. I posted a mini-abstract for the talk on the blog quite a while ago when the event was still being organized, but here is a slightly more elaborated sketch of the talk, in which there are unlikely to be many surprises for those who read my work regularly:

I distinguish post-humanist politics of planetarity (environmental crises, global diaspora, panurban convivialities, imbrication in media, financial, surveillance, activist networks) from the futurological politics of post-human advocacy, of either superlative transhumanism's "enhanced" homo superior or supernative bio-conservatism's "posited" homo naturalis. I distinguish in turn post-philosophical discourses of critical theory from futurological discourses (originating in speculative market futures and culminating in science fictional think-tank scenarios authorizing neoliberal developmentalism), promising prophesy rather than understanding, confusing making bets with having thoughts, diverting attention from the open futurity inhering in the diversity of stakeholders in/to the present with "The Future" as a screen on which parochial fears and fantasies are projected, deranging power from the experience of potential, peer-to-peer, into a brute amplification of instrumental capacities, the consummation of what Hannah Arendt described as "earth alienation."

More specifically, my talk is structured by the project to propose and elaborate seven basic distinctions that seem to me key to grasping transhumanism as both a discursive and a subcultural phenomenon but are also helpful to anyone who would facilitate progressive technodevelopmental social struggle.

The seven distinctions are between:
1, technology and technologies -- a distinction between, on the one hand, the actual constellation of artifacts and techniques in the diversity of their stakes and specificities and also actual technoscientific research programs and developmental pathways in the diversity of their vicissitudes and inter-dynamisms and, on the other hand, technology as a de-politicizing myth disavowing these specificities, vicissitudes and stakes but also as a discursive site elaborating fantasies, fears, and possibilities of collective agency, adjudicating the resourceful from the companionate, the familiar from the unfamiliar;

2, progress and destiny -- a distinction between, on the one hand, technodevelopmental social struggles in the service of avowed political ends (equity, diversity, prosperity, reported satisfactions, and so on) in a material historical frame and, on the other hand, a paradoxical naturalization, a variation of Nietzschean ressentiment, usually via a rhetoric of determination, autonomy, convergence, and/or "accelerationalist" momentum, of disavowed, often transcendentalized, technoscientific ends (overcoming error, scarcity, mortality, finitude);

3, mainstream futurism and superlative futurism -- a distinction between, on the one hand, the speculative, reductive, denialist, unsustainable, hyperbolizing norms and forms that suffuse popular marketing, promotional, consumer discourses as well as the terms of authoritative neoliberal administrative, productivist, developmentalist discourses and, on the other hand, the futurological hyper-amplification of this speculativeness, reductiveness, denialism, and hyperbole into faith-based, techno-transcendental, figuratively scientific but in fact pseudo-scientific, quasi-theological assumptions and aspirations toward superintelligence, supercapacitation (often including immortality) and superabundance miming the omni-predication of judeochrislamic divinity;

4, superlativity and supernativity -- a distinction between what might be described as posthuman/transhuman and reactionary/bioconservative futurologies (or more broadly and conventionally, if not precisely correctly, as undercritically technophilic as against undercritically technophobic orientations), the analytic usefulness and force of which is to highlight unexpected continuities and inter-dependencies of the two, as distinguished in turn from legible democratizing technodevelopmental social struggle, progressive education, agitation, organization, policy making and reform, and consensus science and sustainable public investment;

5, posthumanism and transhumanism -- a distinction between, on the one hand, post-humanist discourse as variations of superlative futurology (eugenic transhumanism, apocalyptic singularitarianism, techno-immortalism, nano-cornucopism, digital-utopianism, geo-engineering technofixation) and, on the other hand, post-humanist discourse as variations of humanist criticism, utopian humanism, and the critique of humanism (whether feminist, anti-racist, post-colonial, economic, environmentalist, or what have you);

6, transhuman discourse and transhuman subcultures -- a recognition for scholarship of material differences in the objects and archives and demands of discursive as against subcultural formations, for example, the differences between genealogical relations among figures, problems, tropes, citational relations among published texts and conventions, and organizational relations among members, officers, funders, and so on;

7, futurity and "The Future" -- a distinction between the political openness inhering in the present in the presence of ineradicable stakeholder diversity and an instrumentalizing projection of parochial fears and fantasies and stakes that would disavow and so foreclose futurity -- a distinction between, on the one hand, coming to terms with the present, especially in grasping the meaning of what has taken us by surprise, through which we seek to understand and, better still, become understanding and, on the other hand, predicting the future, especially in proposing coinages that would work as spells to dispel being taken by surprise, through which we become ever more susceptible to fraud and, worse still, become frauds -- a distinction, where thinking is concerned, between investment and speculation, between thinking and betting.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Does Assholery Have Iron Laws?

Although it is not really relevant to the argument I made in the prior post, I have seen several folks make the point that people will not be seduced into the googleplex through its preferred gambit of offering free stuff once enough of the people learn that even the palpably awesome free stuff Google offers won't be supported for long. This adds to the point I made (that everybody should already know), namely, that profitability cannot sustain conspicuously useful or possibly even indispensable public goods for long if at all yet another point I did not make (that everybody should also already know), namely, that the logic of profitability often eventuates even in the inability to sustain private profitability itself. Looting the public for parochial private interests is all too often followed next by looting the quality of private goods for still more parochial gains that render profitability unsustainable as well. Was it Marx who said that assholery is always unsustainable, and that capitalism always enables assholery? Or was that somebody else?

p2p is EITHER Pay-to-Peer OR it is Peers-to-Precarity

Also published at the World Future Society.

Paul Krugman is right to say that the cancellation of Google Reader provides yet another demonstration of the failure of private profitability to provide for the maintenance of public goods, even though I disagree that it seems hard in the least "to envision search and related functions as public utilities," which is indeed "where th[is] logic will eventually take us." Although such conclusions do take us far afield from the assumptions and aspirations that drive the common wisdom of the catastrophically failed generation of neoliberal digital-utopian irrational exuberance, it is just as true that they return us to terms that should be familiar from Econ 101.

I argue that the free creative content provision, collaborative problem-solving and editing, citizen journalism and criticism facilitated by peer-to-peer networks provides public goods the ongoing support of which more than justifies the provision of a universal basic income guarantee (BIG). I argue, further, that a long history of public subsidization of communications infrastructure (the post office, roads, telegraphy, telephony, WWW) and of public education to facilitate continental-scaled good governance among a well-informed citizenry since the founding era offers a congenial context for the comparable case for a public subsidization of "free time" for citizens in the expectation that enough of them would fill it with innovative problem solving and network maintenance that it would more than compensate the public investment. In the past I have called arguments of this kind an advocacy of pay to peer.

I still think this is true, but since a basic income guarantee would also happen to function, as Erik Olin Wright has pointed out, as the public subsidization of a permanent strike fund for all people who work for a living, this means that any such public recognition of the value of peer-to-peer collaboration is more or less tantamount to establishing socialism of a sort. Again, I personally think this consequence is perfectly acceptable, even welcome, but the experience of a lifetime of advocacy for single payer healthcare in the US makes me doubt that this logically inescapable optimally beneficial outcome is politically possible here and now.

It does seem to me that, taken together, a mandated living wage and retirement security and long-term unemployment and disability insurance and paid family leave would be hard to distinguish in substance from a basic income guarantee, which means that what might initially seem novel and radical about basic income proposals is a matter of facile oversimplification and clumsy re-invention of the wheel. Perhaps #BasicIncome is merely a technofix for the technofixated. Maybe the dis-aggregation of a single imagined one-size-fits-all "universal basic income" back into a more familiar democratic-left bundle of social supports and equal opportunities connects us back to a more historical sense of the complexity and dynamism of the problem of unemployment in personal, social and civic life.  

Beyond conventional social democracy or strong liberalism, however, I do think the contours of this kind of argument do provide new justifications for considerably expanded public grants for research in professional, academic, and amateur contexts with the proviso that all the results are placed in the public domain. This is a policy that might yield plenty of wholesome benefits without unleashing a Red Panic. Given the resulting invigoration of public education, funding for the arts, re-stocking of the creative commons, I think virtuous circles arising out of this more modest form of pay-to-peer are more than worth the effort of the fight for it and, hell, might even get us closer to BIG anyway after all (no doubt, as usual, Michele Bachmann will grasp this dire consequence before anybody else does).

I think this rhetoric provides an unexpected added rationale for lowering the retirement age, since publicly valuable p2p-mediated creativity is such a likely recourse for retirees seeking new forms of fulfillment. (By the way, lowering the retirement age and expanding Medicare eligibility by from two to six years is something I think should be done as a straightforward spur to employment in our present flabbergastingly urgent jobs crisis, precisely the opposite of the macroeconomically illiterate and pathologically cruel recommendations of a consensus of well-off experts whose misplaced concern with long-term deficits supplemented by phony futurological handwaving about techno-utopian eternal youth are demanding instead, of course, a raising of the retirement age for chronically underpaid underbenefited folks who actually have to work for a living.)

I would note that in the absence of public subsidization of p2p-mediated creativity and problem solving what has taken place instead is the perfectly predictable intensive corporate capture via crowdsourcing of unpaid disseminated labor. MOOCs, the latest idiotic fad of the ever more corporatized university represents, of course, an effort to apply this kind of wealth capture in the context of the hitherto stubbornly unprofitable ivory tower, transforming vital and unique face-to-face collaborations in classrooms into indefinite distributions of syndicated network television.

As a corollary to my advocacy of pay-to-peer -- that is to say, my advocacy of public investment and subsidization of peer-to-peer creative problem solving, expressivity, criticism, and network maintenance whether in the strong form of the provision of a universal basic income guarantee or in the modest form of massively expanded public grants for actual peer-to-peer efforts the results of which are entered into the public domain -- I have also proposed that all contemporary consumers might well be conceived of as de facto experimental animals in a vast and ongoing experiment concerning the long term health effects of complex combinations of pharmaceutical treatments coupled with exposure to innumerable artificial substances. It seems to me that since we experimental citizen-subjects provide (usually without adequate knowledge or, hence, consent) indispensable data supporting the profitability of pharmaceutical and other manufacturing concerns the reasonable demand for compensation provides yet another justification for a basic income or at any rate for a single-payer healthcare system.

What I would emphasize is just how closely the logic of this second, apparently unrelated, argument tracks the logic of the initial case I made for pay-to-peer, but also that the absence so far of any institutionalized compensation (apart from sporadic payouts from lawsuits when things go terribly wrong) for the indispensable data we are providing corporate-military interests at the literal risk of our lives has not protected our privacy from unprecedented levels of corporate-military surveillance and targeted marketing practices.

From all of these instances an urgent generalization emerges soon enough: In the absence of its public subsidization peer to peer collaboration is always accompanied by increasing precarity. Whenever and wherever peer-to-peer labor formations are celebrated (for their "open access," for their "flexibility," for their "resilience," for their "innovation"), but this celebration is not just as repeatedly and explicitly accompanied by the recognition that this provision of services and maintenance of public goods is almost certainly unpaid labor, then one must read such celebrations for what they are, as celebrations of exploitation.

p2p means EITHER Paid to Peer OR it means Peers to Precarity. The politics are as stark as that, and the evidence of their urgency mounts by the minute.

Also see A Neoliberalization of Basic Income Discourse?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rhetorical Question

Can the zealous champions of "limited government" provide any real-world non-insane examples at all of actual American politicians advocating the infinite government they are presumably battling against?

More Signs of the Singularity! TIME Covers Cancer Edition


What BooMan Said

Among other interesting and useful things:
I think racial resistance to Obama's presidency is masking the true weakness of the Republican Party. And things aren't going to remain static. There will be consequences to the Republicans' lack of unity on immigration and gay rights. With the RNC taking an official position on those issues that is anathema to, respectively, the racist and evangelical bases of the party, we can expect further erosion of the Republicans' hold on the white vote. Some of those voters will be receptive to a Clinton candidacy, but the real problem will be lack of enthusiasm resulting in less volunteerism, fewer donations, and more third-party voting.
Yes, an assertively irrationalist party isn't sustainable, but when all the energy in your party is irrationalist any correction in the service of long-term organizational sustainability will be paid for in a painful, costly drain of energy that will feel even less sustainable for party members who always live very much in the present day. It's damned if they do damned if they don't time for the GOP for a while to come -- though the instituted party duopoly provides them a breathing space of unearned pseudo-legitimacy to recover and re-invent themselves in sooner than they deserve (and probably a good thing, too).

Brain On The Train

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:
Quick question Dale. I was having a discussion in my class yesterday about thought and consciousness (though quite frankly I am doubtful/skeptical of such things), and we all wondered what would happen if you transferred a persons brain into another body? Akin to how a heart transplant is done. The individual has died and has a written will deciding to donate their brain tissue to someone who is need of it. Better yet what if you took the lobes of a persons brain and transplanted it into two distinct living bodies? I have my own speculations on the matter, but I wanted to read your thoughts on the matter. Especially since you correlate the brain to a gland, which I am inclined to agree with. I am well aware that brain transplants are not possible as of today, but seeing as how adaptable the physical body is, and how transplants of every kind and type have been/are being tested, and have been successful, I wonder what will happen when surgeons successfully migrate brain tissue or cells from one patient to another.
Well, I daresay a dead brain will remain dead even after finding its way to another head, but a sybil shouldn't quibble -- to misquote Noel Coward. As to your larger (is it "larger"?) point, though, I do think we are all much better off crossing this bridge only if we come to it -- as I very much doubt anybody living or even thought of ever will, since I share your skepticism about the proximateness and possibly the very possibility of such techniques. Needless to say, the introduction of tissue or cells into a brain from elsewhere in the body or from somebody else's body or from a lab somewhere, for whatever reason, wouldn't be the same thing as a "brain transplant" in the sense I think you are meaning to evoke, and I am not sure the figure I would mobilize to describe such a modest procedure (let alone the more drastic postulated one) is "migration," with all its baggage of citizen-subjects crossing borders and so on. While I think colorful analogies used in theory can sometimes clarify perplexing conceptual or ethical dilemmas, I wonder whether they sometimes introduce perplexity where they there is little use in it. Robot Cultists rely on such befuddlement (and on general technoscientific illiteracy coupled with irrational passions like fear of aging/death and greed for effortless riches) to peddle their faithful wares, for instance. Nota bene, by the way, that in declaring the brain to be more like a gland than a computer I am not identifying it with a gland so much as dis-identifying it with a computer for the benefit of Robot Cultists who rather ridiculously propose the latter identification. I will add, however, more in the spirit of the thought experiment/romp you have generously invited me to indulge in here, that I do not agree with those who would insist that "I" am only my brain, nor do I concede that the brain alone is the site of the phenomena loosely evoked in the folk terminology "mind" "psyche" "affect" and so on when, to point to the obvious, say, the nervous system extends throughout the body or when there is such inter-implication in what we deem perception, interospection, introspection, and so on.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Who Could Have Foreseen It?

TPM: Banner Week for the Filibuster
We’ve been monitoring the collapse of January’s Senate rules reform agreement... mostly through the lens of presidential nominations. But this week brings... exciting new examples of its colossal failure.... [F]or instance... recent... must-pass legislation to avoid a government shutdown.... [S]ome Republicans weren’t allowed votes on their amendments. Then instead of accepting the fact that the bill has supermajority support, they wasted three legislative days [in] protest... [T]he filibuster reform flop is also partially to blame for the early demise of Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban.... One of the putative goals of the new rules was to limit the minority’s ability to filibuster what’s known as the motion to proceed -- to stop the minority from preventing the Senate from simply debating an issue. The compromise essentially gave the majority and minority leaders more control over that choke point, but didn’t eliminate it entirely. Then on Tuesday, Harry Reid said the A[ssault]W[eapons]B[an] couldn’t be included in the underlying bill because if it were it would succumb to a filibuster on the motion to proceed.
Republicans indulging in historically unprecedented abuse of the filibuster to obstruct popular commonsense Democratic policies promise to behave better if reforms to make them behave better are not enacted immediately break their promise and behave just as badly anyway? Who could have foreseen it?

Google Glass Is A Gas Gas Gas

As a side note to the last post, futurologists elsewhere in the article deliver the usual blow jobs to Google Glass, of course. At the risk of sounding futurological in an anti-futurological mode, I personally predict that Google Glass will NOT Change Everything. Anybody but futurologists would have noticed that people wearing Google Glasses look like assholes (even before the predictable genre of YouTube videos of people wearing Google Glasses walking into telephone poles and tripping over perambulators amplifies the asshole associations with idiot associations) and anybody but futurologists would suspect that this might have an impact on the success of a wearable consumer product. It's not that I don't think the things may return a tidy profit, but I do think they make people look ungainly and behave strangely and I expect soon enough the novelty will wear off even for the tragic gizmo-fashionistas and the headaches will wear on for everybody else and then the futurologists will go off to provide free advertising for the next corporate-military fetish, neither the enthusiasm nor the credibility of a single one of them the least diminished by yet another serial falsification of their triumphalist toti-transformational certitudes. Frankly, I suspect that if futurologists were not so pathetically desperate to escape the real world for their fantasy of virtual reality they would scarcely expect much more from Google Glass than they got from the sad Segway, but they'll buy into any old crap that pays another installment toward their deathly indebtedness to their preference for fantasy over real life.

Oxymoronic, and More

Last week I wrote that
the io9 sub-basement of the Gawker empire has rendered itself ridiculous by allowing a futurological fraudster fandom to colonize what was an enjoyably polycultural sf-fandom, whereupon the Gawker parent-site has been posting more critical and intelligent and qualified technoscience/digimedia content that is too serious sensible for what io9 has allowed itself to become. Any tent big enough to hold Robot Cultists is soon enough a tent empty of anybody but Robot Cultists. Annalee Newitz is absolutely smart enough to know better, but she chased Robot Cult eyeballs anyway with Dumb Dvorsky and comparable pseudo-scientific techno-transcendentalist digi-topian crapola -- so, live by the dumb-dumb Robocult, die in the dumb-dumb Robocalypse.
It would appear that, if anything, Newitz is doubling down on the stooped footure. I don't think I've ever encountered a grammatically legible sequence of words that consisted of literally nothing but oxymorons. But Annalee Newitz, slathering her usual love on the pseudo-intellectual pseudo-scientific Robot Cult, has indeed managed this feat, beginning a sentence with the breathtaking phrase: "Transhumanist philosopher Natasha Vita-More thinks..."

Transhumanist philosopher?

Philosopher Natasha Vita-More?

Natasha Vita-More thinks?

(For more Vita-More, do scroll down to her entry in the Superlative Summary. Much hilarity ensues.)

Here is a more extended snip, revealing that when it comes to Natasha Vita-More one can count on plenty of the moronic when the oxymoronic well runs dry:
Transhumanist philosopher Natasha Vita-More thinks these oldagers are going to be even weirder than tomorrow's eyeball-removing teenagers. They'll be backing their brains up onto computers all the time, so they will exist simultaneously in the real world and in digital simulation space. She told io9 that in a century, this kind of backup technology will put us in the strange position of being able to choose to die when we want -- or to die for just a little while, like taking a much-needed vacation: "All indicators are pointing toward people living well past 100 years," [declares Vita-More] "and in good health and vitality. Aging is slowing down and will be reversed to a large degree . . . And during this timeframe, it will be not only customary but highly consequential to back up our brains on a moment-to-moment basis. Further, transferring and/or copying a person’s brain, including consciousness and mind, onto computational systems will become a trend. At this juncture, it will be optimal for a person to co-exist in real time (the physical world) and within simulations (virtual environments, for example)."
It should be needless to say, that there are actually no indicators anywhere at all that people in general are living past 100 years, let alone well past 100 years in any available sense. To say that "aging is slowing down and will be reversed" is a lie, possibly a matter of lying to oneself, but certainly endlessly repeating such statements in public places where one is surely at least occasionally confronted with the overwhelming evidence to the contrary is lying in the conventional sense as well.

Most increases in human longevity are, of course, a statistical artifact of improvements in prenatal care, childbirth, and diminishing infant and childhood mortality. Human longevity at retirement age is scarcely improving (although futurological hype has provided the false rationale used by plenty of pampered the Senators in the US, who live as long and as well as the pampered Senators of Rome, to champion the reactionary evil policy of raising the retirement for everyday people who actually work for a living). While it is true in much of the over-exploiting rather than over-exploited regions of the world the proportion of the population at retirement age is growing somewhat -- plummeting birth rates are as much a part of this story as modest but welcome medical treatments for heart disease and some cancers -- there is no compelling evidence that the number of folks living well past a hundred is rising in any noticeable way (ancient literature records these flukes much the same way the popular press does today) and no evidence at all, compelling or otherwise, that any nutritional, hygienic, or therapeutic development has had ANY impact at all increasing the upper bound of human longevity.

That human beings don't want to get sick, age, or die has not changed from the first syllable of recorded time, but that wish-fulfillment fantasizing has no power to change these facts has not changed either, so sorry about that, folks. And denying such facts isn't "philosophy," it isn't "science," it isn't "policy," it isn't "serious," it isn't "daring," it is hardly even "thinking."

I won't even dwell for long in the usual idiocy of mind-uploading techno-immortalization mumbo-jumbo that follows forth in Vita-More's crayon-scribble techno-transcendentalism: but (once more, with feeling),
ONE, your brain is much more like a gland than a computer;
TWO, materialism about mind actually diminishes the plausibility of any successful "migration" from one material substrate to another since the material instantiating it is non-negligible to the substance of information (or deformation, or disposition, or whatever thinking and memory and character turn out materially to be when we actually know enough about them to really know about them as we definitely do not know now, cocksure declarations of futurologists and AI-deadenders to the contrary notwithstanding -- probably that should be its own bullet point, but whatever);
by the way THREE, that word "migration" up there (like the words "transfer," "translation," "transmission," "uploading" that are also futurologically popular in moments like this) is a metaphor and not a testable scientific hypothesis;
FOUR, you are not a picture of you, and that doesn't change whether the picture is a painting, a photograph, a brain scan, or an aggregated data profile;
and FIVE, even pictures don't last forever, after all, indeed we already routinely outlast them in our poor vulnerable mortal bodies anyway -- and actual computers of all things seem especially buggy, buzzy, brittle sites to look for a nook to reside for eternity in.
Natasha Vita-More is aging -- extreme exercise and pill-popping and cosmic procedures to the contrary notwithstanding -- and like everybody else Natasha Vita-More is going to die. We are all going to die. Denialism about death merely makes us a little bit more dead in our lives before we die is all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


It's spring break this week and I'm in the Mirror Universe, unpacking boxes in every spare minute where for weeks I was packing them. The new place is more snug than the last and with every emptied and collapsed box more space opens up. It's going quickly and well, but it's taking up all my time. In less than two weeks I'm giving my APA talk on "transhumanism" and it is hard to figure out how to confine my comments to the under twenty minutes allotted each panelist. Delivering two solid hours of critique would be incomparably easier, and much more useful even for an unsympathetic audience.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

More on Transhuman Eugenics, Morphological Freedom, and So On

Newcomers to my blog -- and to my critique of futurology, transhumanism, singularitarianism, techno-immortalism, digi-utopianism, nano-cornucopism, and so on -- who are expressing interest in my worries about eugenicism among the transhumanists and how I square these with my pro-choice pro-medical research politics, are encouraged to go to check out the Superlative Summary and scroll down to relevant topics like enhancement and morphological freedom.


The move has been made. Where once I was surrounded by walls of boxes in one location, I am now surrounded by walls of boxes in another location.

Never Underestimate the Crazy

Upgraded and adapted from a response in the Moot:

The fact that serious figures like Dawkins (not that I'm a fan, but he is definitely a prominent and often quite serious person) can comfortably commingle in the same corral as obviously and assertively Robot Cultish folks like Michael A. should warn you not to fancy that the palpable ridiculousness of Robot Cultists will necessarily undermine, of itself, the spread of their influence.

An example I like to emphasize is that of the Neocons. Their nonsensical, dangerously belligerent views of the world and of defense policy were long ridiculed across the policy terrain: This was true among most elected Republicans as well as more sensible multilateralist diplomacy types, for instance Eisenhower famously dismissed them as among "the crazies." (None of this should be taken to imply that I regard/ed Cold War liberal hawkery as sensible either, obviously not.)

But the Neocons [1] stuck to their guns, [2] endlessly reiterated their compellingly simplistic formulations, [3] continued to appeal forcefully to powerful irrational passions (fear and greed were and remain the key ingredients), [4] undermined, via mass-mediation and the creation of a faux-academy think-tank archipelago, popular discourse on fraught topics in ways that eventually undermined professional and academic and then all public policy discourse as well, and [5] kept saying things rich people liked hearing (things that diverted public resources to Defense projects).

And, soon enough, without ever becoming the least bit less ridiculous, the Neocons found their way into serious power in especially the George W. Bush administration, from which perch they embarked on the catastrophically criminal mass-murderous economy-wrecking wars and occupations they had been dreaming of to the near ruin of the world. The Very Serious White Guys of The Future segment of the Robot Cult indulge [1] through [5] with perfectly -- what else? -- robotic drive and predictability, and it would be wrong to say that they are not achieving results even as they remain patently ridiculous all along.

Never underestimate the world-destroying power of a stubborn minority of privileged unaccomplished boring white guys saying palpably idiotic dangerous things that make them feel special and also make rich people think they will get even richer.

See: Ten Reasons to Take Seriously the Transhumanists, Singularitarians, Techno-Immortalists, Nano-Cornucopiasts and Other Assorted Robot Cultists and White Guys of "The Future" for a fuller but still concise elaboration of the point.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Crapularity Is Nigh

io9 (wearing its fun sf-fandom hat rather than its dumb futurology fandom hat) reports that "Ed Solomon, the screenwriter who co-wrote the Bill & Ted movies… and penned Men in Black, will be rewriting the… script" for a Will Smith vehicle based on one of my favorite films -- also, by the way, one of my favorite films to teach -- Colossus: The Forbin Project. I can hear it now: "The Willennium will be a fact as I get jiggy with more and more machines devoted to the wider fields of truth and knowledge." I have a bad feeling about this.

Uh, Good Luck Pushing THAT Line

Quick, into the time machine for my patient presponse to Michael.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Teaching Day, Leaving Day

Long teaching day in the City for me, in my graduate seminar post-marxist variations on the fetishized commodity in post-WW2 critical theory, then meetings with students in my MA thesis cohort. Meanwhile, back home, we are right on the verge of our leave-taking from our decade-long residence in the bungalow, walls of brown boxes loom everywhere blocking the sun, any minute now we exchange one set of keys for another. Completely skittery and distracted.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gawker Proves io9 Superfluous Yet Again

A Discussion With Evgeny Morozov, Silicon Valley’s Fiercest Critic. Insightful, entertaining, right-on with your right on.

Driverless Car-Culture Apologia Discussion Happening

There is an interesting still-ongoing discussion here about my article Driverless Cars As Dead-Ender Car Culture Apologia. It seems to have been prompted by Paul Raven's initial reaction to the piece over on Futurismic. Not to complain -- I really honestly do appreciate the rare occasion when my anti-futurological writing is engaged with in a serious way outside my humble blog-perch as is definitely happening in this case -- but not every forceful critique, even if it tends to the acerbic in style, is actually a "rant."

For Robot Cultists Heaven Is Being A Cartoon In An Ad for Crap That Never Ends

According to the Robot Cultist David J. Hill over at Singularity Hub, Audrey Hepburn has been "brought back to life through technology," in this ad:

Hill hyperventilates:
Each time another deceased famous person is suddenly appearing in commercials, the digitalization of the self seems to be a big step closer. There is no doubt a long way to go yet before we could have a truly realistic version of a famous person on our computers. But multiple technologies are coming together to deliver all the components necessary to construct a digital person. In fact [!], in time there will likely be services that help capture as many physical nuances about a person before they die so that future generations can see that person as an avatar -- or at least their great children. In it’s [sic] own way, it is a means of cheating death.
As usual, this techno-immortalist conceit seems willing to pretend that successfully fooling an audience as to the reality of an effect ("a truly realistic version") is the same thing as making something really real. On this logic, a murderer who successfully impersonates his victim hasn't done anything wrong, or done anything at all. On this logic, magicians really saw ladies in half and then harmlessly reconnect them. On this logic, futurological fraudsters who manage to convince credulous technoscientific illiterates that they are experts really deserve to be paid attention and sometimes even real money for saying the idiotic things they incessantly say (j'accuse!).

The company that created the ad aggregated material from Hepburn's film catalogue to generate this CG animation. Needless to say, if this thoroughly weird result counts as bringing Audrey Hepburn to life one assumes that a comparable animation generated from a still-living actor's film catalogue would count as giving that person a twin. Needless to say, nobody thinks this is so, and it isn't so.

That this ad does not actually bring Audrey Hepburn back to life at all is one thing, but the suggestion that it -- or some process like it, only, you know, more EXTREME! in THE FUTURE! -- will not only bring folks back to life, but somehow immortalize them ("cheating death"!) is quite another thing. One is tempted to remind Mr. Hill that cyberspace is not a heavenly realm populated by immaterial immortal cyberangels, but a (dirty) fuel-driven, (toxic) materially instantiated, (wage-slave) physically maintained constellation of artifacts and institutions and norms and practices in the real world, playing out in real history. Not only is the cyberspatial not eternal, but it is buggy, brittle, and evanescent. Not only will we not actually be immortalized by our computers, but we mortals already routinely outlive our actual computers (though of course they poisonously live on in our landfills, not that Robot Cultists give two shits about such realities, any more than any of the other common or garden variety gizmo-fetishizing hyper-consuming tragicomic-fashionista types they ultimately amount to being do).

When one declares Audrey Hepburn to have been "immortalized" by her iconic film career, it is understood (one presumes) that the phrase is intended figuratively. Leave it to Robot Cultists to think literal immortality might be accomplished through the re-arrangement of that same film catalogue by untalented coder drones in their corporate veal fattening pens who can't tell the difference between science and science-fiction.

You boys do realize that Audrey Hepburn isn't actually the same as the characters she played in her movies, don't you? You boys do realize that you are not a picture of you, don't you? Don't you?

Deep Thoughts on Democracy from Eliezer Yudkowsky

All-Wrong "Less Wrong" Robot Cult Guru Wannabe Eliezer Yudkowsky:
The transhuman technologies -- molecular nanotechnology, advanced biotech, genetech, Artificial Intelligence, et cetera -- pose tough policy questions. What kind of role, if any, should a government take in supervising a parent's choice of genes for their child? Could parents deliberately choose genes for schizophrenia? If enhancing a child's intelligence is expensive, should governments help ensure access, to prevent the emergence of a cognitive elite? You can propose various institutions to answer these policy questions -- for example, that private charities should provide financial aid for intelligence enhancement -- but the obvious next question is, "Will this institution be effective?" If we rely on product liability lawsuits to prevent corporations from building harmful nanotech, will that really work? I know someone whose answer to every one of these questions is "Liberal democracy!" That's it. That's his answer. If you ask the obvious question of "How well have liberal democracies performed, historically, on problems this tricky?" or "What if liberal democracy does something stupid?" then you're an autocrat, or libertopian, or otherwise a very very bad person. No one is allowed to question democracy.
By way of introduction, let us notice first of all that Yudkowsky's formulation assumes that everybody already knows what "the transhuman technologies" are (that "et cetera" at the end of the laundry list is a dead giveaway), but fails to note that what these "technologies" have in common is that none of them exist to BE anything at all, transhumanoid or otherwise. Of course, biochemistry already operates at the nanoscale, as do some actually-existing materials techniques. After all, making ceramics could be construed as nanotechnology if you squint, but literally nothing new, clarifying, or useful is accomplished by saying so. Whether "advanced" biotech exists or not will depend on the criteria one is using to denote "advanced" (and Yudkowsky doesn't specify his, because of course everybody already knows what criteria drive transhumanoids in these matters). Much the same is true of "genetech," some of which does exist but when it does it is called, not "transhumanism" but, you know, "medicine." And, of course, lots of inept computation, like infuriatingly incorrect autocorrect functions, idiotically inept video game background and companion characters and glorified tape-recorders in cars and hand-held devices get called "Artificial Intelligence," while none of them are the least bit intelligent at all.

Nobody has to join a Robot Cult to understand or deliberate about the developmental stakes associated with actually existing materials or medical techniques, software security or user friendliness issues. And, of course, nobody in a Robot Cult cares in fact about any of them at all except to the extent that these actually-existing artifacts, techniques, and issues are re-imagined as oracles, as portents, as signs, as "burning bushes" pointing the way to a Superlative Future, populated by Superlative Variations of these artifacts and techniques and issues, hyperbolized into a pseudo-scientific quasi-theological techno-transcendental domain in which the faithful can contemplate cyborgic demi-divinity in the form of a super-intelligence beyond error and humiliation, super-powers beyond dis-ease and vulnerability, superabundance beyond struggle and limits.

Given the scale of this error, it may seem mere quibbling to point out as well that, strictly speaking, the non-existing Superlative artifacts and techniques that populate the Superlative imaginary of transhumanoid, singularitarian, and techno-immortalist Robot Cultists do not in fact "pose tough policy questions" to anybody. They do not exist to pose anything, tough or not, anywhere on earth. To the extent that the wish-fulfillment fantasies of Robot Cultists are symptoms of underlying pathologies, irrational fears of aging, mortality, or bodily life, for example, or irrational worries over their lack of total control over the conditions of life, then I suppose one should concede that "the transhuman technologies" pose tough questions for their therapists. And, of course, one might slightly reformulate Yudkowsky's point to ask instead whether there might be worthwhile (if not exactly "tough") questions to ask about the deranging impact of too much public attention and concern devoted to non-existing, irrationally symptomatic "transhuman technologies" on sensible deliberation over budgetary and regulatory priorities, over the quality of public technoscience literacy, and over the reasonable assessment of the stakeholder diversity of real-world developmental costs, benefits, and risks.

Notice that just as Yudkowsky assumes everybody already knows what "the transhuman technologies" ARE (setting aside the issue that non-existing non-things and non-techniques AREn't anything at all), he also assumes that everybody already agrees what would constitute an "enhancement" of intelligence, even though it is quite obvious that enhancement is always enhancement in the service of specific ends, that optimally enabling for some ends inevitably disables for other ends, that there is widespread and passionately contentious disagreement over which ends are indispensable to human flourishing, and so on. He makes similar assumptions about what constitutes "advanced" biotechnology, about what constitutes "effective" institutions. One of the reasons that even those transhumanoid Robot Cultists who disdain association with eugenics (and it should be noted that many transhumanists insist on the association, proudly declaring themselves "liberal eugenicists," while many others espouse bioreductionist evo-devo formulations the relations to eugenic worldviews they fail to grasp or disingenuously deny) might still be assigned the eugenic designation is that in advocating for an "enhancement" treated as a neutral technical term they disavow the substance of disagreement over the terms of human flourishing the better to impose their own parochially preferred views on the matter. Transhumanist and other futurological formulations continually de-politicize the field of actually ongoing technodevelopmental social struggle the better to prevail in their personal political positions under the sign of the a-political, the factual, the hygenic, the optimally efficient, the already universal. That such transhumanists are simply indulging in a reactionary politics of naturalization while at once endlessly declaring themselves the enemy of all things "natural" isn't exactly paradoxical, since I daresay with transhumanists this is really more a matter of stupid people being too stupid to realize they're being stupid. But this customary futurological de-politicization of the politics of technodevelopment does provide a nice connection to the part of Yudkowsky's little number that initially attracted my attention, his also rather typically transhumanoid/singularitarian disdain of democracy.

I leave to the side the question whether we can really trust in the basic truthfulness of Yudkowsky's anecdotal interlocutor who in answer to every policy question presumably responds like a doll whose string has been pulled, "Liberal Democracy!" Given that such a nonresponsive response scarcely seems even grammatical let alone substantive I suspect that what Yudkowsky is accidentally confessing in this supercilious little fable is that when his liberal democratic conversational partner attempts to offer up his best most substantive responses to Yudkowsky's questions (however adequate or not these responses may actually be), Eliezer Yudkowsky -- Soopergenius! -- is incapable of hearing anything but "Liberal Democracy!" over and over again.

If Yudkowsky were to declare to me that "liberal democracies" have done "something stupid" or asked me how "liberal democracies" have "performed historically" in the face of some intractable problem or other, I suspect that I would answer that "liberal democracies" don't DO anything at all, don't PERFORM at all, but that through the forms of liberal democracy (which are, after all, themselves always changing as citizens struggle through them to make them better) citizens, the people themselves, educate, agitate, organize, legislate, reform, deliberate, compromise, content together to solve shared problems, to provide nonviolence alternatives for the adjudication of disputes, and to support and strengthen the scene of consent of everyday people to everyday life.

While nobody denies that citizens can be stupid or ineffective (and much worse), the question is through what collective forms do citizens best recognize and redress such problems? If it is true that majorities of the people can be terribly even dangerously wrong this is because all people can be terribly and even dangerously wrong -- and of course this also includes any minority of people one might care to designate (or who, more likely, would care to designate themselves) a superior elite of aristocrats, plutocrats, technocrats or others who in disdaining liberal democracy express their fancied preference to rule over others.

Needless to say -- because it has been said after all as often as its lesson has been ignored -- there is no argument against government of, by, and for the people that is not a stronger argument against the rule of some few people over the rest of us. What I suspect is that in saying all this, all Eliezer Yudkowsky would hear from me, as he heard in his anecdotal interlocutor, is somebody squawking "Liberal Democracy!" over and over and over again. This insensitivity (I intend the word as a synonym for palpable unintelligence) indicts Yudkowsky even as he imagines himself transfigured into triumph by it.

Perhaps it was Yudkowsky's enjoyment of this false fantastic triumph which distracted his attention from noticing that in whining about not being able to "question democracy" he is ignoring the fact that questioning democracy is the substance of democracy itself, while at once stridently contemplating removing from the majority of people the very right to have a say in the decisions that affect them that he self-righteously demands for himself and pretends to be restrained from even as he effortlessly exercises it in fact. It's almost as if he's "an autocrat, or libertopian, or otherwise a very very bad person" or something.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Teaching Day

It's Situationism and No Logo this morning in the City. Then, back to packing, always, always packing.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dusting Off Old Aphorisms

I'm still sorting through old boxes in my office, scaling down sedimented layers of papers, dissertation drafts, MA exams, seminar papers, undergraduate papers, a play written in high school, and so on. This afternoon I discovered folded inside a paper written in 1983 after my first encounter with The Importance of Being Earnest in a freshman comp lit class at Indiana University some early scribbled aphorisms of my own. I vaguely remember forming the idiotic but comfortingly conventionally undergraduate intention of writing my own Wildean mannered comedy. A century after his death the world was clearly crying out for such a thing -- mind you, I didn't learn about Joe Orton or even Edward Albee until a few years later, I truly was a flabbergasting ignoramus. But anyway, all my aphorisms had quotations around them, and hence were signaling their readiness to be spouted off as superannuated snappy dialogue -- and in some cases at least it seems to me the quotation marks were also providing a little figleaf of the alibi of presumably female characters expressing what now seem to me transparently queer sentiments I was testifying to without quite having a handle on what my closeted predecessor was doing in writing them (and in responding so enthusiastically to Wilde, needless to say). Anyway, here they are, and I'm pleased to say some of them really don't seem to me half bad after all these years.

"You can't be immoral and indecent at the same time, they cancel each other out. You absolutely have to pick one."

"Never compare yourself to other people in public places, it's always impolite and eventually inaccurate."

"I'd marry beneath me to be beneath him."

"Oh, stop saying how talented she is! Talented people are just lucky people who don't want to be reminded that luck never lasts long, or hardworking people who don't want to be reminded that life never lasts long."

"I am planning to die as a last resort."

"Getting out of bed every morning sounds to me like extremism."

"Iconoclasts never smash mirrors." (I didn't consciously remember this, but posted a variation on it -- arguably less good -- as a Futurological Brickbat twenty-five years later. That jolt of recognition was the prompt for taking the time to scribble this little post, actually.)

"Why do you keep calling him a genius? Is he pretentious, or just a plagiarist?"

"I'm struggling to remain symmetrical."

"You despise me because I try to be unprincipled. I despise you because you try to be unprejudiced. That's a prejudice I despise on principle."

"That steady hand of yours is a sure sign of the uninformed."

"You really should stop accusing things that occur in nature of being unnatural. It's unnatural."

"I think I would enjoy this much more if I could find some way to feel sincerely guilty about it."

"The single thing more presumptuous than intolerance is tolerance of it."

"I have heard that birth is always traumatic for the inexperienced."

"Well, none of us can have the impossible, so we all have to make do with the improbable."

"Appearances are never deceiving, but sometimes they are fictional."

"He was ambitious enough and diligent enough, finally, to achieve obscurity. And not only in his writing."

(How's that last one for a portent?)

Friday, March 08, 2013

Ophuls in the Morning

Long teaching day ahead. Screening and discussing Madame De..., one of the most exquisite films of all time, in the City this morning in my Fetish, Figure, Fact seminar, then workshopping thesis drafts for my MA cohort till four.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Move

We're just a week out from the big move and are still completely given over to sorting things, discarding things, packing things like mad. As a student it seemed as though I was moving myself or helping friends move several times a year, and though it was always somewhat traumatic it was the trauma of a few days even when I was the one moving. It's been a decade since my own last move and all the advanced arrangements, the patient ticking off of checklists, devoting time every day for nearly a month still hasn't been enough. I think we've cast off at least a third of our furniture, books, gizmos, clothes, and whatnot -- gifting, yard-selling, having rubble piles of decayed dismaying dismantled crap hauled off -- and still the boxes, of especially books, number in the hundreds. The rooms of our house now echo with eerie emptiness, our cat is like a war refugee, saucer-eyed with permanent shock, the place is coming to feel to us as alien as an unwelcoming motel. Our regular jobs are still here, relentlessly making their demands, but work seems to unfold in some minor key, almost in a dreamworld, and all that is real are these walls of stacked boxes, the shriek of packing tape torn from its spool, and everywhere disturbed continents of gray dust pouring out behind shelves and out from under heavy furniture, swarming up to sting your eyes and nose like nanobotic bees (there, despite everything, a futurological image).

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Teaching Day

Barthes in the City today. And then home and more books in boxes, more books in boxes, more books in boxes.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Lick My Stamp! Or, Possibly More Legal, Certainly More Delusional

"JimF" has directed my attention to a bit of futurological fluff from a few years back I managed to miss.

While it isn't exactly a sophisticated mistake to confuse yourself with a picture of you, few would mistake techno-immortalist Robot Cultists of the cyberangels-in-holodeck-heaven variety with the sophisticated, now, would they? It would seem that his high holy pontifex of the "Cosmic Engineering" sect of the Robot Cult, Giulio Prisco (he's the founder, president, secretary, marketing specialist, chief bottle-washer, and sole member of the Cosmic Engineers as far as I can tell... cosmic!), has provided some pseudo-legalistic futurological boilerplate to facilitate his pseudo-scientific expectation of eventual "resurrection" as an eternal digi-soul by means of aggregations of loving grace of all of his disseminated info-traces in the cyberspatial sprawl to be undertaken by a sooper-intelligent sooper-parental Robot God in The Future. I chuckle as I quote:
To whom it may concern:

I am writing this in 2010. My Gmail account has more than 5GB of data, which contain some information about me and also some information about the persons I have exchanged email with, including some personal and private information.

I am assuming that in 2060 (50 years from now), my Gmail account will have hundreds or thousands of TB of data, which will contain a lot of information about me and the persons I exchanged email with, including a lot of personal and private information. I am also assuming that, in 2060:
1) The data in the accounts of all Gmail users since 2004 is available.
2) AI-based mindware technology able to reconstruct individual mindfiles by analyzing the information in their aggregate Gmail accounts and other available information, with sufficient accuracy for mind uploading via detailed personality reconstruction, is available.
3) The technology to crack Gmail passwords is available, but illegal without the consent of the account owners (or their heirs).
4) Many of today's Gmail users, including myself, are already dead and cannot give permission to use the data in their accounts.
If all assumptions above are correct, I hereby give permission to Google and/or other parties to read all data in my Gmail account and use them together with other available information to reconstruct my mindfile with sufficient accuracy for mind uploading via detailed personality reconstruction, and express my wish that they do so.

Signed by Giulio Prisco on September 28, 2010, and witnessed by readers.

NOTE: The accuracy of the process outlined above increases with the number of persons who give their permission to do the same. You can give your permission in comments, Twitter or other public spaces.
It's the open source that makes it more sciency and progressy and groovy for the kids! I must say, proviso two, the whole "assuming magic becomes real" part, is definitely my personal fave.

Another notable (as it were) Robot Cultist, Ben Goertzel, apparently repeated Prisco's gesture (I've anthologized some of my more enjoyable tangles with both Prisco and Goertzel under their names in my Superlative Summary for you to do enjoy), and so I am assuming several transhumanoid and singularitarian sub-muckety-mucks followed or will follow suit as well.

Like their participation in futurological discussion groups and their signing on to futurological manifestos and so on, I daresay the copying and then pasting and then signing of this little magic spell should be seen less as a serious deliberative act or the taking of a sensible precaution but as a ritual performance the collective participation in which and witnessing of which functions to substantiate, at least for a moment, the material "plausibility" of a future that never actually materially arrives and the "promise" of a denial of vulnerability, contingency, error, frustration, mortality that never actually materially departs.

Just so's y'all know, I, Dale Carrico, mere human, hereby give my permission to the representatives or functionaries of any future governmental entity who want to reproduce my likeness on a postage stamp -- should snail mail among mere humans survive the robo-godly techno-transcendence of all such things, as well as the randroidal libertopian looting of all such things (profitability and innovationability and accelerating acceleration of acceleration accelerationability being, you know, what it is and stuff) -- so that in The Future, even after I am long dead, hot guys will occasionally lick my stamp and I, even being long dead, somehow, nonetheless, will surely come.

Sunday, March 03, 2013


Yet another edition of What BooMan Said:
Articles in the Washington Post and Roll Call report on the president's focus on winning back control of the House of Representatives. Both articles treat this as a highly risky strategy… They act like this is some kind of unprecedented thing, the president wanting his party to control Congress… Another thing I see in print a lot is the idea that second-term presidents only have a brief period to do anything before they become lame-ducks. Again, the sample size is so small that this is meaningless. Insofar as we can talk about LBJ as a two-term president, his second term was ruined by Vietnam. Nixon's by Watergate. Reagan's by Iran-Contra. Clinton's by Linda Tripp. Bush Jr.'s by the war in Iraq. If you want to predict that Obama will make a similar blunder, you're welcome to play Nostradamus, but it doesn't look likely right now. What's unprecedented is the situation… where a minority party simply insists on its agenda with no compromises or concessions. In this situation, it's either civil war or the midterms start early.


The concept of "the commons" is indispensable to both environmental and peer-to-peer democratization politics, while the narrative of an "enclosure of the commons," whether of the land or of the archive, provides a key context for the critique, resistance, and aspirational ethos of both environmental and peer-to-peer politics as well.

More than simply clarifying the political terrain, another crucial reason to stress the commons commonality for these politics for me is that it helps resist especially the American tendency to anti-governmental framings of either environmentalist or p2p/a2k politics -- framings which inevitably facilitate self-defeating anti-politics in the name of politics: For example, as when environmentalist politics are peddled as corporate-militarist greenwashing either via techno-fixated geo-engineering or lifestyling consumption. For example, as when p2p/a2k politics are peddled as corporate-militarist surveillance, marketing, crowdsourcing, financialization, and zero comments via "social network" consumption-surfing-messaging, all without actually substantial collective testimony, problem-solving, criticism, organization, or resistance.

It is crucial to grasp about a2k formations that access to knowledge implies that there is such a thing as reliable knowledge to access in the first place, just as the peers in p2p formations must actually exhibit the equity-in-diversity of peers, which implies in turn the maintenance of a legible scene of informed, non-duressed consent. Both reliable knowledge as well as a legible scene of consent can be provided by legitimate political processes: And for those of us who demand as the sign of legitimacy that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed this means accountable democratic governance devoted to the provision of nonviolent alternatives to the adjudication of disputes: This obviously includes disputes over facts (concerning, for example, the status of ecosystems, the causes of damage, the determination of the most promising actually available remedies), disputes over outcomes, even disputes over what constitutes dispute, violence, consent as such.

But it is just as important to grasp that through its definitive commitment to the provision of a legible scene of consent the anti-violence politics of democratization offers an indispensable connection between environmentalism both as a fact-based and norm-based ethos: it is the insistence that the scene of consent be informed that properly demands the public provision on reliable, testable, accountable accessibly published, evidenciary knowledge, it is the insistence that the scene of consent be non-duressed that properly demands the public provision of equal recourse to law, general welfare (health, education, sustenance, shelter, support), and -- crucially -- the protection against and amelioration of the legacy of parochial exploitation and violation of common and public goods.

Flim-Flam Futurology Feeds on Credulity

"JimF" also notes in the Moot that Mormon-Transhumanoid eminence Lincoln Cannon declares Transhumanism useful because it "softens skepticism."

Robot Cults and Their Worrisome Involvements

"JimF" refers in the Moot to the concerns of a transhumanoid muckety-muck, Peter Rothman is afraid (quite sensibly, I think) of any H+ "involvement with unusual religious movements, radical politics, etc.," about which I have to say (and I daresay Jim would agree with me) this:

Needless to say, Rothman would be more sensible still were he to ponder whether there is something about the adulation of skim-scam celebrity tech CEOs and guru-wannabes in a defensive marginal fandom sub(cult)ure forever congratulating itself on its superior rationality, coupled with techno-transcendental wish-fulfillment fantasizing about immortality, sooper powers and unimaginable treasure, all wedded to hyperbolic pseudo-scientific beliefs about coding perfectly efficacious sooper-intelligent software, programming and controlling swarms of billions of robust reliable self-replicating room-temperature nanoscale robots, "digitizing" and "uploading" info-souls from biologically incarnated socially embedded selves, and so on, might indeed be uniquely and interminably susceptible to affinity with "unusual religious movements."

And again, needless to say, Rothman would be more sensible still were he to ponder whether there is something about evo-devo reductionism and eugenic "enhancement" discourse, coupled with both real and imaginary hyper-consumer gizmo-fetishism and techno-deterministic techno-fixation, all wedded to hyperbolic near-paranoid War on Terror "existential risk" discourse involving naughty and nice history-shattering Robot Gods, engineered pandemics, planet-swallowing runaway goo, asteroid storms, mega-industrial "geo-engineering" climate warfare, and so on, might indeed be uniquely and interminably susceptible to affinity with "radical politics," especially of the racist/white supremacist, authoritarian corporate-militarist kinds in question here.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

robocult wikileaks

"JimF" comments on the Moot to the prior post: "H+ has its own Wikileaks!"

A tee.

And then a hee.

Realtime Robocult Id and Ick

"Raymond Johnson" links in the Moot to a huge archive of not very nice not very grammatical not very sensible not very impressive virtual smoke-filled backroom cultic caterwauling.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Long Teaching Day Ahead

More Marx in the Morning, then my MA Thesis cohort workshop till four. Then it's back to filling boxes with book. So many boxes, so many books!