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

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Surviving "The Future"

Annalee Newitz writes:
There's growing evidence that Earth may be headed for a mass extinction... There's also evidence that humans would survive such an event -- for better or for worse... Quite simply, there's a solid body of evidence that suggests Homo sapiens has the characteristics of a mass extinction survivor species... [T]he animals who make it through planetary disasters tend to be adaptable and live at high population sizes -- just like humans. Whatever our flaws, you can't accuse us of having a small population. Nor can you say that we don't know how to adapt to pretty much any crazy environment on Earth -- as well as environments in space, beneath the ground, and under the water. Indeed, our incredible adaptability puts us in league with some of the planet's greatest survivor species, like cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and sharks. Both species survived more than one mass extinction, and they did it by basically being willing to live anywhere and eat whatever crap they could.
I actually don't think it's politically innocent to propose human "adaptability" will enable the species to survive human caused catastrophes like anthropogenic climate change or wars involving widespread use of weapons of mass destruction -- especially when "adaptability" is a word that resonates with reactionary social Darwinist tropes, rugged individualism, "brite green(wash)" blather about "resilience," entrepreneurial "innovation"-speak and other neoliberal futurological conceits that invigorate and justify corporate-militarism quite directly, and hence are enabling anthropogenic climate change and global militarism in the world, right here, right now. I specifically don't think it's politically innocent -- or the least bit cute -- to refer even in passing to survival in outer space or in undersea bubble cities (you did notice that didn't you?) as though science fictional masturbation could provide techno-transcendental "escape hatches" away from real political problems. In moments like this I worry that futurology isn't just foolish but actively rationalizes and abets acquiescence to a criminally exploitative and literally world destroying extractive-industrial-computational status quo. I daresay that there might also be a connection between the kind of futurological non-thought that leads some people to describe public discourse as analogous to viral "memetic" dynamics, futurological non-thought that leads some people to describe social struggle as the exploration of "logic problem space" analogous to behavior in games, and the conjuration of a brute survivability that could still be described as in any real sense "human" in the aftermath of the unimaginable traumatizing loss of three quarters of one's fellow earthlings not to mention the inevitable loss of all the complex social and cultural and other supportive relationships on which ongoing civilization (such as it is) depends. Frustration over all this lead to the following interesting exchange with Newitz on twitter:

1 comment:

Black guy from the future past said...

Analyzing your piece here about the issue of memes and the rhetoric we use to describe human struggle. I find it illuminating to see you openly disdain the absolute crock of shit that "meme theory" is, and other idiotic rhetoric and scientific bullshit; (shame there are too few like you, so many have gobbled these things up) terms like "logic problem space" and bullshittery posed as math and science like "game theory". Terms and theories akin to the ones you mentioned reduce precarious, and perilous struggles for equality, stability, and peace as mere entertainment. It literally reduces human activity to a fight, an rpg, or first person shooter. We "spread memes" instead of work and contest with opposing ideas and find balance, we engage in "problem logic spaces" (when I hear and see something like this all I can think of is the blue neon pacman grid) instead of live and interact with human beings and the earth". These bastards don't understand that life is not some fucking blue neon grid where if we gobble everything up we win. If we gobble everything up the thoroughly unsimulated earth will literally swallow all of our starving and stinking corpses whole. And actually there are no winners per the way this whole universe is set up to decay. But to create asinine pieces stating even with an extinction event humans can survive; humans are not as hardy as sharks or cyanobacteria, we have survived and more importantly, developed because of cultural and technological artifacts that have sustained human populations. With those gone or drastically reduced and not being maintained, human beings are finished. We will either be physically extinct or practically extinct as we revert back to hairy apes roaming the savanna and jungles. Rape, slavery, torture, religious bullshit, all of the animalistic bullshit that the human entity that has been struggling to come out more or less successfully, has been trying to stifle and eradicate will once again flourish. At that point human beings might as well be extinct, at that point we wont even be human.