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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

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.

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