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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Anti-Futurological Critique in a Nutshell

Futurology -- colloquially, "tech" talk -- is a marketing, not a critical thinking, practice. As a result: At their best, futurisms are consumer fandoms. At their worst, futurisms amplify marketing hyperbole and deception into outright techno-transcendental faith-based initiatives.


jimf said...

> Futurology. . . is. . . marketing, not. . . critical thinking. . .

That's certainly true, but it's marketing to people who are
**really really** (really!) hankering to buy the product.
Even if the product doesn't (and may well never) exist.
In that sense it slides over into religion.

(Not that religion has ever been altogether separable from salesmanship.
We've all read [or at least seen] _Elmer Gantry_. In real history,
was Joseph Smith a "prophet" or a flim-flam artist? YMMV. )

jimf said...

And speaking of flim-flam:

This is hardly surprising. One gets the feeling that there
are some dodgy characters among the "futurologists", as well.

jimf said...

> . . . _Elmer Gantry_ . . .

Listen to me, Shara. Big-city people have got a coat of
hard varnish, but underneath, they're just as sick and
scared as anybody else. People everywhere are the same in
one thing -- they're all afraid to die. They hope you can
save them. And you can, Shara. You can. You can, Shara.
You can. . .

Dale Carrico said...

Not that religion has ever been altogether separable from salesmanship.

This observation looms ever larger in my anti-futurological formulations, I will admit.

Justin Waters said...

In a previous post you made a prediction of a future outcome when you said that "[t]he Big Database is always framing us in advance for eventual prosecution." Now you are saying futurology "is a marketing, not a critical thinking, practice." Does your sweeping generalization of futurology not apply to you when you make technology-based future predictions?

Dale Carrico said...

I do not agree that I was making "a prediction" in that aphoristic observation, but characterizing a present state of affairs the implications of which matter to present subjects. Indeed, treating that observation as some kind of prophetic utterance yields a rather corny misreading. In Why We See Zombies Everywhere posted just ten days before I made the same point and provided a context for it:

"Under the regime of mass-mediation (movies, magazines, broadcast, memes) denominated the Culture Industry by Adorno and the Spectacle by Debord, we no longer buy things and dream of buying things for the satisfactions they presumably confer -- since true freedom, true satisfaction is always deferred under the varieties of consumer capitalism, just as the revolutionary arrival at the sustainable equity-in-diversity rendered permanently possible by our achieved level of technoscientific and organizational sophistication is also always deferred so that incumbent-elites can maintain their unjust privileges and accustomed prejudices -- we buy things in order to inhabit archived images and play out available scripts the citation of which promise to confer legibility, to render us apparently reasonable, responsible, rights-bearing, property-inhering citizen-subjects to one another. We re-write ourselves in the image of the film protagonist, our homes in the image of the catalogue cover, our conversation in the image of the televised roundtable, and hence improvise a life within the constraints of scripts the failure of which or the deviation from which threatens to render us illegible, unfit, incapable, ridiculous, pathological, criminal... set[ting] the stage for Naomi Klein's fin-de-siecle reformulation of the Fetishized Commodity/Culture Industry/Spectacle, in which advertizing/promotional practices that began as the deceptive effort to create the impression of differences in mass-produced (and hence largely indistinguishable) commodities are consummated in the regime of the Logo as the deceptive effort to create the impression of individuals in complacent conformist consumers through the subcultural signaling of the brands they buy and bear. That the algorithmic mediation of Big Data is now framing us as targets for marketing/partisan political harassment and experimental subjection now and as targets for potential prosecution or literal targeting by drone... Thus, a sequence of degradations, the fetishized commodity-form degrades being into having, the Spectacle then degrades having into appearing, Big Data then degrades appearing into framing. Each stage re-iterates and intensifies the first Marxian formulation, in which, through our habituation to buying and selling mediated by the assertive price-form we come to confuse historical relations among people as collisions among things, social projects and public goods are drained of their living and historical substance but then invested with a deceptive and deranging significance as well as a false and threatening avidity."

Dale Carrico said...

About my sweeping generalization of futurology (that is, my effort to coherently characterize and come to terms with what futurologists themselves peddle as a unique discipline and useful profession), in section three of my essay Futurological Discourses and Posthuman Terrains, published in the journal Existenz, I propose:

"Whenever I hear the word trend, I reach for my brain. Certainly there is no such thing as an historically agentic or otherwise autonomously forceful trend. Trends, let us say, are retroactive narrative constructions, and usually their retroactivity is falsely projected as if from the vantage of a non-existing superior height (as with fashion trends announced by fashion authorities) or from the future (which does not exist and is inhabited by no one at all) in which case they are always prescriptions masquerading as descriptions. Every legibly constituted discipline produces models of phenomena, and hence every
legibly constituted discipline has a foresight dimension. This is because knowing better how phenomena behave under various conditions facilitates more practically useful interactions with them, and leads us to form expectations and make plans accordingly. But once again trends are narratives more than models, strictly speaking, and it is not scientists but literary scholars and rhetoricians who are probably best situated to explain how they operate: As narratives, mainly they solicit identification; as promotional genres, they do so the better to peddle forms of consumption."

I recommend the entire essay to anyone seriously interested in understanding my critique of futurology since it offers a comparatively concise and yet comprehensive version of it.

Best to you.

jimf said...

> In a previous post you made a prediction of a future outcome. . .
> Now you are saying futurology "is a marketing, not a critical thinking, practice."
> Does your sweeping generalization of futurology not apply to you. . .?

Ha! A contradiction? He's got you! He's got you! He's got you!
NOMAD: Error is inconsistent with my prime functions. Sterilisation is correction.

KIRK: Everything that is in error must be sterilised.

NOMAD: There are no exceptions. . .

KIRK: I am the Kirk, the creator?

NOMAD: You are the Creator.

KIRK: You are wrong! [Y]our creator. . . is dead. You have mistaken me for him.
You are in error. You did not discover your mistake. You have made two errors.
You are flawed and imperfect and you have not corrected by sterilisation. You
have made three errors.

NOMAD: Error. Error. Error. Examine.

KIRK: You are flawed and imperfect! Execute your prime function!

NOMAD: I shall analyse error. Analyse error. . .

SPOCK: Your logic was impeccable, Captain. We are in grave danger.

Clearly, Dale, you would make a poor role model for any future
superintelligence. At least by the lights of, er, John C. Wright.

"The secret of Sophotech thinking-speed was that they
could apprehend an entire body of complex thought,
backward and forward, at once. The cost of that speed
was that if there were an error or ambiguity anywhere
in that body of thought, anywhere from the most definite
particular to the most abstract general concept, the
whole body of thought was stopped, and no conclusions
reached. . .

Sophotechs cannot form self-contradictory concepts, nor
can they tolerate the smallest conceptual flaw anywhere
in their system. Since they are entirely self-aware
they are also entirely self-correcting. . .

They regard their self-concept with the same objective
rigor as all other concepts. The moment we conclude
that our self-concept is irrational, it cannot proceed. . .

Machine intelligences had no survival instinct to override
their judgment, no ability to formulate rationalizations,
or to concoct other mental tricks to obscure the true
causes and conclusions of their cognition from themselves. . .

Sophotech existence (it could be called life only by
analogy) was a continuous, deliberate, willful, and
rational effort. . .

For an unintelligent mind, a childish mind. . . their beliefs
in one field, or on one topic, could change without
affecting other beliefs. But for a mind of high intelligence,
a mind able to integrate vast knowledge into a single
unified system of thought, Phaethon did not see how
one part could be affected without affecting the whole."

-- John C. Wright,
_The Golden Transcendence_, pp. 140 - 146


Dale Carrico said...

Wright's techno-transcendentalization of Ayn Randroidal idiocy is so flabbergastingly stupid while at once so perfectly characteristic of an embarrassingly typical tired mansplaining undergraduate philosophy boy Church Lady smugness dance I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I can just see a squad of Sophotechs "proving" all their pet articles of faith conclusively by saying "A is A" over and over and sweeping their spindly barbeque fork arms around declaring "by existence I mean this"! Of course, no word actually corresponds to the world it presumably describes while at once any apparent contradiction can be relieved by the ad hoc proposal of a well-framed distinction, so signification practices are all bedeviled by at once ubiquitous contradiction as well as ubiquitous rationalization... how about them apples, Nomad, you bubble-headed booby? Analyze! Sterilze! ker-POW, splat! Next?