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

Friday, December 30, 2016

This Is A Test

Ever notice how Trump keeps failing "test" after "test" the press declares he faces? The election was the test. America, not Trump, failed.

Republicans like to pretend Democrats are cartoon villains

...in order to distract attention from the fact that Republicans have actually become cartoon villains.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Handy Tech-Talk Translator:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Democrats Do Have Something Superior To Sell If Only They Would Sell It

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Citizens and AI (Actual Intelligence) in the Trump Crisis

Monday, December 26, 2016

Lies, Damn Lies, and Futurism

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Effects by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

As every year on this day, a remembrance for a scholar who mattered to me when it mattered quite a lot:

What’s “queer?” Here’s one train of thought about it. The depressing thing about the Christmas season -- isn’t it? -- is that it’s the time when all the institutions are speaking with one voice. The Church says what the Church says. But the State says the same thing: maybe not (in some ways it hardly matters) in the language of theology, but in the language the State talks: legal holidays, long school hiatus, special postage stamps, and all. And the language of commerce more than chimes in, as consumer purchasing is organized ever more narrowly around the final weeks of the calendar year, the Dow Jones aquiver over Americans’ “holiday mood.” The media, in turn, fall in triumphally behind the Christmas phalanx: ad-swollen magazines have oozing turkeys on the cover, while for the news industry every question turns into the Christmas question -- Will hostages be free for Christmas? What did that flash flood or mass murder (umpty-ump people killed and maimed) do to those families’ Christmas? And meanwhile, the pairing “families/Christmas” becomes increasingly tautological, as families more and more constitute themselves according to the schedule, and in the endlessly iterated image, of the holiday itself constituted in the image of "the" family.

The thing hasn’t, finally, so much to do with propaganda for Christianity as with propaganda for Christmas itself. They all -- religion, state, capital, ideology, domesticity, the discourses of power and legitimacy -- line up with each other so neatly once a year, and the monolith so created is a thing one can come to view with unhappy eyes. What if instead there were a practice of valuing the ways in which meanings and institutions can be at loose ends with each other? What if the richest junctures weren’t the ones where everything means the same thing? -- Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Tendencies, Duke University Press, 1993, pp. 5-6

Friday, December 23, 2016

Scolding Hypocrites Is Not Enough

Also, They Make Crappy Art

Nearly half a century of loosely-left fauxvolutionaries levitating the goddamn pentagon and pissing on Democrats has not gotten anybody anywhere. Education, agitation, organization, legislation, and voting is what stakeholder struggle, problem-solving, and progress are made of.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The REAL Real America Is Putting On A Show On Trumpnauguration Day

Trump Resistance Needs To Be More Than "Lulz TrumpVoters Are Such Stoopid Hypocrites" -- For Example:

Of course TrumpVoters are stoopid hypocrites! Also, too, they are racists. But once these rather obvious observations are established what is wanted is to educate, agitate, organize, vote in ways that take that into account to undermine the damage they do, put the blame where it belongs, make them pay, clearly communicate our alternatives, take over and make progress... not just indulge in endless exposures of their stupidity and hypocrisy because that makes us feel special even as the world burns down around our heads. Here is a helpful development of a kind I hope we see much more of in coming days, weeks, months... (As you can see, my inner Mouseketeer is already starting to re-assert herself amidst all the gloom.)

via The Sacramento Bee:
Two state senators are introducing legislation to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the California ballot, a direct response to President-elect Donald Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax documents prior to the November election... The bill, which will be co-introduced by Wiener and Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, in January, is modeled after New York’s TRUMP Act, also known as Senate S8217. Introduced by Sen. Brad Hoylman, the New York bill requires presidential and vice presidential candidates to file five years of tax income returns at least 50 days before the general election.

Tech Destiny!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Grading Is Done. Debate Surges On. Also, Naturally, Xanadu.

My usual celebratory viewing of Xanadu seems inapt here at the turn of the Trumpian tide, so here's the furthest thing from disco day-glo roller skates and glam, a twitter exchange with a Sanders supporter instead. Though we disagreed, and were forthright in that disagreement, I personally don't think the exchange descended into rudeness as these easily do. I can't know if my interlocutor felt the same, but I thought positions and their stakes were spelled out pretty clearly all in all.



Aw, fuck it! I won't be defeated. Here's Xanadu, anayway!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.

That's because we're stupid and they're evil.

What Are Democrats To Do? Advice from a Rhetorician

Monday, December 19, 2016

DIFFICILE EST SATURAM NON SCRIBERE

So, after all that sound and fury, it was Democrats and not Republicans who were the faithless electors, ensuring nothing but that the supremely qualified winner of the popular vote by millions, Hillary Clinton, lost even more electoral votes than she had earned to the stupid, rancid, already corrupt, dangerously unqualified, manifestly unfit Donald Trump?

More Rev. Barber

History, fusion, future.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

If You Were Wondering...

...stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiill grading...

Time To Read Arendt

I do hope people now reading (or claiming to read) Hannah Arendt's The Origins Of Totalitarianism also read her Crises of the Republic, which is actually already explicitly about the USA, about civil disobedience and resistance, the think-tank-ification of public life, ubiquitous political deception, and quite a lot else that is easily as applicable to the troubles of Trumpism as you'll find in the earlier book.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Same

It's bad enough Democrats have to campaign in poetry and govern in prose, but Republicans campaign with feces and govern as fascists.

Obama's De-Presser

A lot of folks who piss on the Dem Party and jerked off to Bernie's birdie are apparently angry Obama didn't just challenge Trump to a duel.

Abnormality Isn't Exactly The Issue With Trump

I realize the gesture emerged in resistance to immediate media normalization of Trumpian violations, but when it comes to it I'm not normal and I happen to find Trump a pretty normal mediocre straight rich white asshole so #ThisIsNotAcceptable works better than #ThisIsNotNormal for me personally as an SOS hashtag.

My Day (Also, My Night)

Grading final papers, grading grading grading, turning occasionally to twitter for the brief relief of a few jokes and cat pics, seeing Trump and North Carolina news, returning quickly and almost gratefully to grading...

I give grading an F.

No E for my efforts, doncha know...

Pluralism Against Mischief

The confusion of political beliefs with instrumental, moral, and aesthetic beliefs is a source of endless mischief.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

On The DNC Leadershp Contest...

Shorten Silly Season... Save Democracy

Deep In Final Grading

Been grading papers for hours and listening to Sibelius symphonies (especially the Third and Seventh), which for some reason I find delightfully conducive to grading and so return to them again and again. Of course, I can't listen to Sibelius at all when I'm not grading -- I start to get a knot in my stomach, presumably because I associate them with grading. A few days of this still left to go I think. But enough for tonight!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Governor Brown: "California Will Launch Our Own Damn Satellite! We've Got More Sun Than You Have Oil!"

This is how it's done. Christopher Cadelago, writing in The Sacramento Bee:
Gov. Jerry Brown, rallying a room of scientists Wednesday with his most heated rhetoric yet on the topic, suggested California would defy the federal government should President-elect Donald Trump impede the state’s efforts to thwart climate change. “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers and we’re ready to fight. We’re ready to defend,” he said to boisterous applause at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. Brown struck a more forceful tone than he has since the election, suggesting the energy and enthusiasm in the room for him would be needed in the “battles ahead.” “Keep it up,” Brown implored the gathering. “Don’t flag. We got a lot of work to do.” At one point, Brown warned against proposed budget cuts under the new presidential administration that could effectively eliminate earth-observing satellite programs... “And, if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch it’s own damn satellite,” he added. “We’re going to collect that data.” He said if the federal government “starts messing with” the state’s renowned science facilities, such as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “I am the president of the Board of Regents. I am going to say, ‘Keep your hands off. That laboratory is going to pursue good science.” Later, he jabbed at former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who before becoming Trump’s pick for Energy Secretary tried to poach jobs from California. “Rick, I got some news for you,” Brown said. “California is growing a hell of a lot faster than Texas. And we got more sun than you have oil.”
California: Alternative, Resistance, Future. Proud of my State! There's nowhere I'd rather be.

Trump Tech Culturefit

Marketing hype ("innovation"), parochially profitable fraud ("meritocracy"), deregulatory privatization and looting ("disruption"), digi-utopianism ("financialization"), majority precarization ("acceleration"), singularity (New Economy, Long Boom, End of History, Make America Great Again, We're Gonna Win So Much You'll Get Tired of Winning)...

Tho' Silicon Valley has a notional affiliation with the Democratic left (based mostly, I daresay, in an utterly unreliable, sentimental, subcultural attachment arising out of proximity to the vestigially-liberal Bay Area, and in a rejection of Republican anti-science and Christianist evangelism that benefits Democrats who declare themselves "fact-based" in response, but who too often take that to endorse reductionist, quantificationist, eugenic, unaccountably technocratic, bourgeois-consumerist, corporate-militarist, and techno-triumphalist "Thought Leadership" qua "fact"), the truth is that Trump & "Tech" are a match made in Hell.

I expect full co-operation in no time at all -- Peter Thiel is not a counter-example but a reductio ad absurdum. Futurology has always been a genre of marketing deception and hyperbole amplified into techno-transcendental religiosity, what better ideological framework to rationalize Trump's otherwise unmoored authoritarian greedhead aggrieved-aggressive masculine impulses?

Nothing will save us.

We don't need saving. 
 
Educate, agitate, organize, march, struggle, vote.

Please Make A Note of It

Nobody loses jobs to robots. People lose jobs to the owners of robots.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Grading

Deep in grading finals. Started over a week ago for my courses in the City, now turning to Berkeley papers. Expect I'll be given over to this for a few days at least. My insomnia is also back in full force. Grumpy, bleary, buried.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The greatest enemy is the GOP. Act like it.

Republicans are the enemy. Never forget it. Fight them like you know it or they win in the short term and may win long enough to destroy the world. (Because climate change and nuclear weapons are real.)

Yes, Republicans are the enemy -- No, not the imperfections of Democrats as measured against your philosophical ideals, nor the compromises Democrats bang out among diverse stakeholders that fail to measure up to best policies they actually probably mostly agree with you would be the best policies too if politics weren't about solving shared problems in a world of diverse stakeholders whose interests and perspectives differ from your own...

Republicans are the enemy. Not bankers, the police, hackers, evangelical pastors, or (that's right, even my own personal bugbear) futurological Thought Leaders and VC marketeers -- all of these social and cultural formations are facilitated or frustrated in their worst conduct according to the policies and norms and reform struggles shaped by the Party in power, Democratic or Republican. The worst will do their worst when Republicans encourage them and will be checked when Democrats at their best do their best to reform them.

Republicans, Republicans, Republicans are the enemy. The racist, patriarchal, gun loving, cheating, bullying, privatizing, greedhead, anti-intellectual Republicans of our lifetimes are the enemy. They must be defeated, then marginalized, and then made to change.

The Republican Party is the most dangerous and evil organized force in the world. This is not because Republicans are more evil than other evil people the world over -- but because the Republicans are one of two nationally viable parties in the most resource-rich and militarily powerful nation on earth.

Let me repeat: Republicans are the enemy.

The Democratic Party, to the contrary, is an indispensable tool, perhaps the indispensable tool, Americans have to progress toward sustainable equity-in-diversity. While there are educational, agitational, organizational efforts that contribute to progress apart from the work of reform and governance undertaken by and through the Democratic party, even that work is most effective when it complements and strengthens the work of the Democratic Party. Democracy, equity, diversity, sustainability, civil rights, social justice, progress -- none are ever served by weakening or undermining the Democratic Party tool.

And so, always vote and always vote for Democrats, even imperfect ones. Always support more, and better, Democrats. There are bad Democrats, to be sure, but voting for them when they cannot be supplanted by better Democrats empowers better Democrats in the coalition, while not voting for them empowers a Republican instead: and there are no good Republicans. Always pressure Democrats to reflect the most progressive priorities their constituencies will tolerate. Reward loyalty, competence, and effective communication even from Democratic candidates who do not agree with you in every particular. Never criticize Democrats in ways that undermine our coalition, only do so in ways that strengthen it. Always ask yourself: is my criticism one that will actually give Democrats ammunition to win election and policy campaigns or am I indulging in useless scolding that troubles the Democratic voting coalition to no real purpose? Ask yourself: Am I supporting progress by strengthening Democrats or am indulging in purity cabaret because it feels good to me and makes me feel superior, whatever the consequences? Never criticize Democrats in ways that pander to or suggest false equivalence with Republicans. Never do so because: that. is. a. lie.

Never count on or hire or support or appeal to the decency or patriotism of Republicans. They have none. They will betray you and cheat you if they can (holding out for bipartisan support that never arrived delayed and diminished the ACA and stimulus in ways used by the GOP to undermine Obama from the beginning of his Presidency, James Comey, whose unprecedented deceptive intervention late in the election was a factor delivering the White House to an unfit unqualified infantile imbecilic bigot, was a virtue-signaling bipartisanship hire, the examples can be multiplied endlessly and the next four years will so multiply them). That Republicans are the primary enemy was not always true and it may not be true again some day, but it is true now. Multicultural Democrats won the culture wars and Republicans feel like strangers in a strange land: they experience tolerance and equity as existential threats (that they are deluded in this as in so much else is quite beside the point) and they no longer think that fair play and civil liberties and public investments benefit their cause and constituency. Make no mistake, they are fighting a Civil War to preserve white supremacy and patriarchy and Christianist hegemony by any means necessary.

America is a diversifying, secularizing, planetizing nation. Our diversity in the context of our never-yet-realized always-aspirational equitable laws and norms is an endless resource for pleasure, education, discovery, invention, problem-solving, practical strategies of conviviality. The Democratic Party is the imperfect but best-available and actually-available vehicle through which to support and implement the multicultural mission of this nation and its role in building a sustainable equitable consensual world. The Republican Party is deceived and deceiving, dying off and dealing in death. Republicans are the enemy. Know this, and then act like someone who knows it.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Latest Potential Trump Nightmare Cabinet Pick Rex Tillerson, Geo-Engineer


For example, if you were wondering:

Friday, December 09, 2016

Are You Not Entertained?

Every time someone replies to the exposure of a GOP con, cruelty, corruption, deception, outrage, or hypocrisy with "no surprise!" or "you surprised?" hope dies a little more and more.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

...

Last teaching day of the year... appropriately enough, my constant companion this term, insomnia, has stolen my sleep once more... an icy rain is coming down to ensure my walk to the train station will be the purest of pleasures... physical final papers are accumulating in paper bags at the foot of the bed while digital versions accumulate in my inbox... tho' my Berkeley course on classical rhetoric this fall was a gift and a treat, how I yearn for this utterly appalling year of injury and atrocity to be at an end... I cannot say I expect any improvement from the bloody circus coming to town next year...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Futurological Brickbat

Algorithms are no more artificially intelligent than heavy machinery is artificially muscular.

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Republicans need Democrats to win occasionally to clean up their messes for them and build new stuff for them to steal.

Perfect


Thought leaders pining for the Schlongularity, a Trump meeting with Elon Musk "to save the economy" is just fucking perfection.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Satire is a thing.

Don't call fake news sites "satire" unless they actually are. Satire is a thing. Lying is not what that thing is.

The Robocultic Marriage of Eugenic-Eliminationism and Digi-Dematerialism

Another teaching day, and so an exchange posted from the Moot will suffice for today's contribution. Longtime Friend-of-Blog "BizarroFreedom" observed:
I feel more and more that transhumanism wrecks genuine research into human health and life span because of their insistance on immortality and a variety of other body hating schemes but then again that is why i read this blog so i can see you expose them for the cult they are.
I think you make a good point -- people may lose the capacity to assess the costs, risks, benefits of legitimate medical research and qualified results intelligently when all of this gets hyperbolized through techno-transcendental marketing/TrueBeliever narratives of sooper-capacitation, immortalization, hyper-individualization, etc. Mostly, I tend to think this stuff lends itself to gross scams and frauds that reward privileged upward failures and sociopathic CEOs at the expense of the vulnerable. 

Lately though -- maybe because I am re-reading Frank Pasquale and David Golumbia in preparation for an upcoming course -- I find myself wondering more and more about how the fetish for quantification in the epoch of ubiquitous but secretive algorithmic mediation may be even more dangerous than the cyborg ruggedization fantasies of transhumanoid gun-nuttery, encryption-fanaticism, sooper-humanization, and techno-immortality I usually go on about here (though uploading discourse is a key hinge connecting these branches of techno-unhingement): the idea that well-being, longevity, social order, the mysteries of the universe are all matters of cranking the calliope and running the numbers.

A whole lot of rather insensitive dullards are being celebrated as geniuses at the moment (especially the ones rolling in dough) who seem to believe every person and even the whole universe is, at its heartless heart, an algorithm -- which is, in my view, at best to say the least, an only very occasionally and very incidentally useful but all in all flabbergastingly inapt and inept metaphor.

The robocultic sects were indeed early adopters of this fatal metaphor -- what Lanier warned people about as the ideology of "cybernetic totalism" and what Hayles explicated in her readings of formative documents of information science -- with their Bayesian envangelism and information-theoretic death and crypto-anarchic fever dreams in the heady days of fin-de-siecle irrational exuberance before the dot.bomb, the illegal lying war, the crash, and the GOP embrace of its authoritarian tendency delivered us into the maw of The Future.

That robocultic discourses are a white-hot collision point for techno-utopian/dystopian eugenic-eliminationism AND digi-dematerialism makes them, as always, a fascinating and symptomatic iceberg tip of the suicidal-genocidal extractive-industrial-consumer-financial corporate-militarist monster of neoliberal/neoconservative planetarity. But, as always, if you really want to see where the action is, it is better still to read the white papers and watch the conference talks of dot-eyed corporate-militarists from the think tanks or watch the desperate peddlars of cremes and chrome on late-nite infomercials... there you find the throbbing catastrophic death-dealing life robocultic futurologal rhetoric condenses and clarifies and reduces to absurdity.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A Deep-Pocketed Outfit Calling Itself "The Immortality Project" Is Feeling A Wee Bit Sensitive

So, this is an exchange that has happened (and for all I know will continue) recently:
Quite apart from the fact that nobody seems particularly agitated up to this point, and hence the exhortation to "Calm down" seems a bit odd, do take note of the date of this tweet and compare it to the dates of the tweets to which it is responding. Over six months had elapsed, and the tweets were the occasion for a few "likes" and then vanished into the scroll. I take it back, maybe somebody does indeed seem unduly agitated after all. To this unexpectedly latecoming bit of defensiveness I offered up the usual anti-futurological snark:
Who ever said robot cultists don't know how to party?
You gotta love that, "frankly."
Given the, er, hip Swiftism earlier on, I do think that last "Oh well" was a missed opportunity for a more on-trend Trumpian, "Sad!"

Longstanding readers of this blog know that it is never really a sound idea for futurologists to assume the reason I am not in the pews with them in their particular sect of robotcultism is because I just haven't familiarized myself yet with their stunning glossy promotional materials. A click on the Superlative Summary will reveal over a decade of close readings of futurological rhetoric on pretty much every topic that preoccupies the attention of our techno-transcendental "Thought Leaders."

In this instance, our intrepid Immortality Project twitterer has categorically denied the truth of my assessment of their little racket. Given that this exchange begins with their link to a self-described primer on transhumanism and then consists of their belated taking of offense that I would declare the piece a stale and unremarkable summary you will forgive me for saying their denial of a connection or interest in transhumanism (the first of my charges, all of which they declare be untrue, recall) is absurd.

Reading their own linked report of "Science Projects" they funded you will immediately encounter a study of reported well-being by Buddhists from a couple of American philosophers, a project in which people who spend time in a virtual reality (presumably loosely defined) including simulated post-death experience report satisfactions comparable to those who report having had near death experiences, another report on near death experiences, a project to find "immortality genes" possibly to prolong human lifespans in Hydra oligactis, and on and on. While your assessment of the worth of such studies may vary from my own, I daresay it is not so very hard to imagine why one might be inclined to describe these projects as a bit robocultic (VR and immortal jellyfish), pseudo-scientific (near death experience testimonials) or "New Age"-tinged (west coast boutique Buddhism).

As for my observation that the Project seems like "a transhumanoid normalization/academic infiltration effort" I will simply draw your attention to the Project's self-description on its own website's splash page: "[Our] questions include: whether and in what form(s) persons survive or could survive bodily death... the present time as an auspicious one to launch a unified, organized, and open-minded project that will (1) stimulate research from across the disciplines in attempt to make progress on these themes (2) disseminate this research to an especially receptive public..."
The reason that phrase is in quotes, by the way, is because it comes yet again from the Project's self-description of its research aims on its splash page. You may recall that these ambitions, like the Project's aforementioned proposals to fund techno-immortalization progress and proselytize the reasonableness and desirability of such priorities to a wider public, were the aims declared "modest" earlier in this exchange. So modest, indeed! And so very scientific!