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

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Among the Sooper Brains (Updated)

Over at the singularitarian robo-cultic brain-trust Less Wrong:
Elon Musk has built real companies which make real stuff... his track record suggests that he has a better informed and organized way of thinking about the potentials of technology than Carrico's.
Making money makes better thinking. I mean, obviously.
It takes years of study to write as poorly as he [me! oh, the posthumanity!] does.
You can tell true intellectuals by the way they disdain humanities scholarship. I mean, obviously. You can tell the ones who would flourish in a wilderness of post-human post-biological super-intelligences by the way they dismiss as worthless or even unintelligible any expression of conventional human intelligence that departs in its concerns, or even in tone or style, the least bit from their parochial prejudices and comfortable terms.

I mean, obviously.

Less Wrong, so wrong.


A singularitarian riposte to the preceding declares: "Of course, Elon Musk's ability to make money from scratch doesn't seem problematic when progressives want to shake him down for some of it at gunpoint." I'm not completely sure if the thrust here is that Democrats (especially, presumably, the neoliberal technocratic corporatists who are the least left of the Democrats) don't mind getting Musk to contribute to their political campaigns... or if the thrust is instead the more fulsome fulminating reactionary market fundamentalist proposal that Musk has to pay taxes on the profits he takes. If the point is the former, it is hard to see how the "gunpoint" metaphor is in point, if the point is the latter presumably the fact that the taxes are progressive actually does indeed register some sense that there is something problematic about Musk's "ability to make money." I am inclined to think our Singularitarian has the latter point in mind. If so, then we find some fairly facile but fundamental false assumptions catastrophically at play in the "commonsense" offered up in this forum dedicated to unbiased clearheaded right thinking: on the one hand we have the hilarious, and very American, narcissistic fantasy that entrepreneurs make their fortunes "from scratch," as if plutocratic profits do not arise in a world of far more stakeholders taking risks, paying costs, sharing knowledges, making efforts, citing norms, depending on maintained infrastructural affordances even if it is the entrepreneur-stakeholder who disproportionately takes the bows and the profits in the end; and on the other hand we have the hilarious, and again very American, paranoid fantasy that taxes constitute a violent act rather than the price paid for the maintenance of a civilization capable of facilitating fortunes or even recognizing and responding to violent acts in the first place. Quite apart from pressuring the self-congratulatory image of Less Wrongites that theirs is a conspicuously superior space for clear thinking, I note that this response adds yet another (among so many!) data point substantiating my oft-repeated, oft-documented observation connecting futurological sub(cult)ures structurally, ideologically, and practically with reactionary politics -- an observation that is usually castigated as name calling or even hate speech by the futurologists themselves in between their "apolitical" celebrations of venture capitalist poster boys and the latest evopsycho douchebaggery. The commenter, "advancedatheist" (I'm guessing my own atheism of over thirty years, because it is not a pretext for scientism, tribalism, racism, or patriarchy, is probably not the "advanced" kind) also declares my thinking to be "ignorant of history" and full of non sequiturs. I daresay my students would be amused to hear these complaints directed at the lecturer who historicizes everything to within an inch of its life and endlessly exposes fallacies formal and informal in their undergraduate rhetoric courses and graduate theory seminars. At any rate, I'm sure there are enough parentheses, commas, and dashes in this paragraph to confirm the Less Wrongites in their sturdy suspicion that I am incapable of writing as writing clearly should be done.


jimf said...

It turns out that none other than Mark Potts (Mark "Plus"),
a.k.a. "advancedatheist", is the LW pot-stirrer who linked
to Amor Mundi. He then went on to say:

28 October 2014

Dale's blog apparently doesn't have many readers, judging by how few
comments his posts have. But I find it interesting because he has
uncritically bought into the Enlightenment's wishful thinking about
democracy, equality, human fungibility and so forth, while he dismisses
"robot cultism" as a competitive utopianism based on other people's
fantasies he doesn't share.

"Plus" did link to a post which, as it happens, has no comments
(not even my usual additions from the peanut gallery), though
other recent posts on Amor Mundi on the same subject have
plenty of comments (at least from me ;-> ).

But all is not lost! It turns out that one LWer (though for
how much longer, I wouldn't want to bet on) is a fan of this
blog (or at least of the posts containing "robot cult" criticism):

28 October 2014

I, for one, love that guy's blog.


29 October 2014

Because you're a connoisseur of insipid name-calling and delirious
political grandstanding on non-political issues?


30 October 2014

More because I think his assessment of the effects and motivations
of libertarianism-in-practice and the ideological and mythological
underpinnings of singulatarianism are more often than not spot on,
and the name calling based on that is just funny. Other posts on the
blog I tend not to notice.

Another commenter points out that Amor Mundi robot cult criticism contains
little "factual" content but is useful in reminding LWers
that not everyone in the world shares their "emotional" biases,
and is also an indicator of how much (PR?) work there is left to do:

28 October 2014

I find it very useful to have posts like these as an emotional
counter to the echo chamber effect. Obviously this has little or
no effect on the average LW reader's factual standpoint, but reminds
us both of the heuristical absurdity of our ideas, and how much
we have left to accomplish.

And "XiXiDu" (Alexander Kruel), one of LW's own resident gadflies
(he must have some kind of protected status as token contrarian,
because he's gotten pretty close to the bone with criticism
on his own Web site) chimes in:

28 October 2014

Would I, epistemically speaking, be better off adopting the beliefs
held by all those who have recently voiced their worries about AI risks?
If I did that then I would end up believing that I was living in a simulation,
in a mathematical universe, and that within my lifetime, thanks to
radical life extension, I could hope to rent an apartment on a seastead
on the high seas of a terraformed Mars. Or something along these lines...

The common ground between those people seems to be that they all hold
weird beliefs, beliefs that someone who has not been
indoctrinated...cough...educated by the sequences [i.e., Eliezer Yudkowsky's
tutorial for the non-soopergenius on how to think] has a hard time
to take seriously.

So it goes.

Dale Carrico said...

So, "advancedathiest" is Mark "Plus" is Mark Potts... Makes me wonder how much the Moot amounts to an echo chamber for real. It's as if Bertrand Russell sent himself the famous fan letter from the solipsist.

To turn to substance, such as it is, once again you find Robot Cultists misrecognizing critique for hate speech. I highlight the misconstrual of wishful/faithful assertions as warranted fact as well as the citation of religious/ mythological tropes in techno-transcendental discourse because they can be shown to be happening, not because I think it allows for juicy name-calling as a partisan of a different tribe (presumably Mr. Plus thinks I'm in the pinko commie tribe) than theirs. Quite apart from the fact that the incessant declaration that my critiques lack all content provides a pretty damning record of what bad readers they are and threatens to expose them as kinda sorta more dumb than sooper-brained -- since the arguments and citations are palpably there even if they dislike them -- it is also curious how close they skirt to admitting their views merely to be subcultural signalling rather than pristine logic or warranted science in such responses.

I notice that even the contrarians who admit me to be at any rate a useful idiot seem to insist on my value getting at an "emotional" and "motivational" level, no doubt subordinate to the hard steel peen of less wrong logical method. Sometimes I can't help but wonder -- can they all really deny the legitimate, substantial rhetorical force of Cicero and Twain, Wilde and Dorothy Parker, Mencken and Hunter Thompson, just because their discourse was "negative" rather than "positive" -- whatever finally that is supposed to mean -- and was playful with language rather than fetishistically plainspoken?

Obviously, I am not a member of that august company, but it isn't exactly hard to grasp the generic kinship of my caustic and aphoristic critical mode to their school.

As you say, for the moment at least, one of them thinks I'm funny. If the Robot God punishes me for my blasphemies by uploading me to the Less Wrong deck in Holodeck Hell I guess I'll look for that dude at the restaurant at the end of the universe.

What dull boys so many of the singularitarians are revealed to be (yet again) in dismissing the whole body of undeniably significant satiric and jeremiac wit and rhetoric. To return to the title of the post, Some Sooper Brains, eh?