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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On the Latest Corporate Sponsored Singularitarian Robot Cult Agitprop at io9 (UPDATED)

(UPDATE: soon after some other folks commented on this, Hill's affiliation has shifted from Subaru to Singularity University, tho' Subaru is still credited with sponsorship at the end of the piece. Not sure what all that was about. Discussion of the article/ad is still closed -- one topic for such discussion might be how this so-called "ad-content" is imagined by Annalee Newitz and other io9ers substantially to differ from "articles/thought-pieces" making much the same assertions in much the same ways by transhumanist George Dvorsky on a regular basis at io9. All this corporate-militarist sponsored futurological agitprop is "less dastardly" than we might "imagine" declares an info link at the bottom of the advertorial. Well, that's a relief!)

David J. Hill, writing on behalf of Subaru (it's right there on the byline), has coughed up a hairball of the usual Robot Cult cliches for io9, this time called How Preparing for the Singularity in the Present Is Shaping the Future. In the face of urgent shared human problems like cancer, overpopulation, unequal access to basic healthcare, insecure networks, Hill proposes that what we really need to do is just trust in the "forward thinking entrepreneurship" of venture capitalists and X-Prize competitors to keep delivering better and better gizmos until we arrive at "the technological abundance of Star Trek [that] may only be a few decades away." "Preparing for the future" is a matter of pretending that celebrity tech CEOs are gods who deserve to be treated as such and that everybody else is a consumer with the responsibility to do nothing but buy buy buy our way to true fulfillment and eventual techno-transcendence.

Of course, libertechbrotarians of the SillyCon Valley are in fact mostly clueless assholes engaging in skim and scam con-artistry... Of course, the landfills our deeply anxious unhappy insecure gizmo-fetishizing consumers are piling up will never reach heaven and will only poison the only world we have to live in... Of course the futurology that fancies itself to be Thinking Big is really just indulging in the non-thought of marketing hype and deception... Of course the ultimate vision of "techno-transcendental" abundance Just! Twenty! Years! Away! being peddled in this piece as The Good News is exactly the same stale alchemical, neoliberal, transhumanoid vision it has always been, for far more than twenty years already, indeed, year after year after year: Never-changing but always accelerating, never-changing but always disrupting, never-changing but always extreme, always bleeding edge, never-changing but always enhancing, never-changing but always progressing...

Here it is again: the promise of eugenic assumptions and informercial aspirations. Here it is again: the infantile wish-fulfillment fantasy of LA, Vegas, Dubai burbclave craptopia. Here it is again: the libertechbrotarian digi-utopian lie of frictionless capital in Cyberspace, Home of Mind, where welfarestate-smashing digi-nets and digi-currencies would spontaneously disorder themselves into surveilled, marketed, targeted, Big Data framed, zero-commented, crypto-fascist, crypto-anarchic digi-democracies. Here it is again: irrational exuberance scooping the loot in tech-bubbles and financial bubbles and global developmental bubbles within that vast precarious petro-chemical bubble pampered parochial preschool white people like to call Modernity. Here it is again: the daydream of effortless techno-abundance on the cheap, rugged individualists on the make, archetypal Gatsby self-creatiors on the take, accentuating the positive for the marks, forgiving and forgetting and finding Jesus at the Megachurch, winning that lottery, local kid making good and making it big in Hollywood or on YouTube, catching the freeway to sprawling irrigated suburban paradises, getting juiced on clean coal and nuclear energy too cheap to meter, surfing the web in paperless offices, wallowing in plastic fantastic lifestyles of the rich and famous or better-than-real virtualities that never materialize, punching the on button of those 3D-printers and surfing that internet of things on the Royal Road to nanomagickal techno-Santas and genies-in-a-bottle, popping multivitamins and injecting botox and getting facelifts and swilling boner pills on the Royal Road to genetic miracles and cryonics and then, finally, ecstatically uploading your "info-soul" into Holodeck Heaven where you will be cared for by a history-ending sooper-intelligent sooper-parent Robot God of loving grace. Sure, it doesn't make sense! Sure, it's stupid! Sure, it's criminally irresponsible! Sure, everybody is miserable! Sure, we're destroying the world! But c'mon! C'mon! C'MON!

(Was all that too ranty and free associational for your tastes? May I recommend the comparatively more careful and patient stylings of this piece?)

Now, I quite agree with David J. Hill and the good people of Subaru and Singularity University and the X-Prize Foundation and the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute that spending your time "preparing" for techno-transcendence, having more faith in corporate-militarist elites and incumbent interests and devoting yourself to more conspicuous consumption instead of, say, educating, agitating, organizing, and participating in progressive legislation and reform toward sustainable equity-in-diversity is one very real way to go about "shaping The Future."

Futurity is always open, the diversity of peers to the present ensures that. But ignorance, complacency, terror, cruelty, greed can work to foreclose futurity. It is always possible to peddle in place of futurity pinched, parochial versions of "The Future" sponsored by elite-incumbent interests. You can always identify with elite-incumbent futurological variations on "The Future" instead of that open futurity of which you are actually a part and to which you are actually responsible. Good luck to you if you do, but I really do think you should know what it is that you are doing when that is what you are doing.

Make no mistake, io9 is publishing agitprop that peddles reaction as progress, consumption as citizenship, wish-fulfillment as consciousness, acquiescence as conscience, pseudo-science as science. I don't doubt that there is money in it for them, but for anybody with actual intellectual standards or real progressive convictions (as many of the contributors to io9 otherwise seem to have or seem to want to seem to have) there shouldn't be enough money in the world to buy their collaboration in such evil idiocy.

Yes, "The Future" would foreclose futurity: You will unsurprised to hear that when it comes to the article in question, "discussion is closed."

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