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

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Robot Cultists on the Coming Googlemortality

Robot Cultists respond to the Silicon Silly Conman scrum that first profitably appropriated free software and then peddled several generations of vaporware and now claim to be taking on death itself (as the Extropian transhumanoids used to declaim in their slogan/infantile tantrum/philosophy: No death! No taxes!). The responses from comparative muckety mucks in various Robot Cult sects (eugenic transhumanists, singularitarian Robot God-coders, death-denialist techno-immortalists, magick nano-cornucopiasts, and so on) seem to alternate between enthusiasm that their ideology is being amplified and hence mainstreamed in ways from which they imagine might get more rubes to the collection plate, but also worries that hi-profile celebrity-tech CEOs are angling in on their turf and may disdain their tinpot fiefdoms as amateur hour.
In a recent post on G+, Google CEO Larry Page said: “Art and I are excited about tackling aging and illness. These issues affect us all—from the decreased mobility and mental agility that comes with age, to life-threatening diseases that exact a terrible physical and emotional toll on individuals and families...

Google today announced Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases. Arthur D. Levinson, Chairman and former CEO of Genentech and Chairman of Apple, will be Chief Executive Officer and a founding investor.” ... Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple, said: “For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn’t have to be this way. There is no one better suited to lead this mission and I am excited to see the results.”
Let's just focus on that last bit: “For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn’t have to be this way." It's called medicine, Art. And nobody on earth thinks its crazy to invest in medical research and better administration of care on harm reduction models. Nobody on earth.

But to pretend that you are going to live a thousand years in a model hot gengineered or nanoboticized bod or shiny robot body or forever as a cyberangel in Holodeck Heaven is indeed pseudo-scientific craziness peddled by faith-based techno-transcendentalists too scared of death to live life on its actual terms or eager to con the rubes making phony promises. Every dollar of money and every second of attention diverted from real healthcare research and administration into death-denialist techno-transcendentalist nonsense is lost to the collective effort to actually cure real diseases and ease real suffering and provide real health security to everybody. Though nobody is likely to live a single year longer because tech CEOs are promoting futurological rhetoric, I do indeed think the money and intelligence displaced by futurology's inapt figures, frames, and terms could well cost countless lives. I never tire of pointing out that if one really wanted to increase actual years of life of actual people living on the actual earth in the actual present there are few better things you could be doing than getting clean water to precarious people in over-exploited regions of the world. No doubt that isn't as entertaining as pondering centuries in an outer space orgy pit in a sexy robot body.

Of course, I do agree that the Chairman of Apple is indeed altogether more "perfect" than an actual physician or medical researcher or clinic administrator or healthcare policy expert would be at repackaging something that already exists and pretending its something new and then proceeding down a host of random blind alleys in the name of innovation all the while promising insanely hyperbolic fantasies of invulnerable comic-book oiled cyborg bodies in exploding space stations accelerating into eternal sexy slim young sweet sticky hard chrome lollipop zaz! But the quandary is the usual one exhibited by techno-transcendental futurillogicals: EITHER they are making legible consensus science claims in the service of legible mainstream policy outcomes (in which case nobody needs tech-gazillionaires to repackage and neologize "healthcare" toward their usual scam and skim in the first place) OR they are making extreme unsubstantiated claims that cannot pass scientific muster in the service of faith-based wish-fulfillment fantasies that can only muddle the terms of actual policy deliberation in the service of short-term parochial profit-taking. The transhumanoids are right to feel both vindicated and worried by all this: by raising the profile of the distinctive terms of sub(cult)ural futurism in its superlative they are exposing their terms to unprecedented scrutiny. --h/t JimF

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