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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

No App For You!

An enormously high proportion of "Tech" innovation and progress is just marketing and repackaging, so when you read breathless articles about new activist apps and tech-mediated organizing activity springing up be aware: Wherever there is "Tech" there will be vaporware, skimming and scamming collective efforts, credit-stealing wheel reinventions, wasteful duplications of effort, repackaging of failure and stasis as progress and novelty, manifestos without movements, etc.


jimf said...

> . . .manifestos without movements. . .

Do as I say, not as I do:
(David Gerard)
Feb 22nd, 2017

"Why should I follow your Founder when
he isn’t an Eighth Level anything outside
his own cult?"

-- Eliezer Yudkowsky on how he thinks things should be done

[To Spread Science, Keep It Secret
28 March 2008 ]

(via reddragdiva)

“Keep your eye on the clock, and the very moment it is right it will be eight o’clock.”
– Lewis Carroll

(via aberrant-eyes)

i realise the best of yudkowsky consistently refutes the typical of yudkowsky,
but **my goodness**

"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. . ."

-- John C. Wright,
_The Golden Transcendence_

"In the case of [Ayn] Randism, part of the unofficial doctrine
is that rational people can discern the truth about things at
a glance, by a swift act of 'integration'. (Enemies of Randism
are described as 'unfocussed': correct thinking is characterised
as 'focussing'. The impression conveyed by this questionable metaphor
is that the more rational you are, the more you will focus,
and if you are very rational, you will he able to discern the
truth just by looking because, you see, everything will be
sharply in focus.)"

"Alice in Wonderland"
by David Ramsay Steele

Failure of "integration", or just tone deafness? (Or are they,
in fact, the same thing?)


jimf said...

> "Tech" innovation and progress. . .
Back in the old days, the internet was full of kooks:
there was the timecube guy, and Archimedes Plutonium,
and Robert McElwaine. . ., and the Velikovskiites,
and a host of other strange folk, and that was fine.
The weirdos spiced things up, and besides, their followings
consisted mostly of people laughing at them. The most
troubling thing now is **not** that there are oddballs,
but that there are huge mobs of people **following** and
**agreeing** with them, and amplifying their message to an
absurd degree. Alex Jones would have been a classic Usenet crank,
for instance, ridiculed and mocked, but now? He’s
raking in the dough and is advising the president.

A Buzzfeed article pins much of the blame for that on one outlet, YouTube.

> . . . [T]he conspiracy-news internet’s biggest stars, some of
> whom now enjoy New Yorker profiles and presidential influence,
> largely live on YouTube — some of them on the site’s news channel.
> Infowars — whose founder and host, Alex Jones, claims Sandy Hook
> didn’t happen, Michelle Obama is a man, and 9/11 was an inside job —
> broadcasts to 2 million subscribers on YouTube. So does Michael
> “Gorilla Mindset” Cernovich. So too do a whole genre of lesser-known
> but still wildly popular YouTubers, people like Seaman and
> Stefan Molyneux (an Irishman closely associated with the popular “Truth About”
> format). As do a related breed of prolific political-correctness watchdogs
> like Paul Joseph Watson and Sargon of Akkad (real name: Carl Benjamin),
> whose videos focus on the supposed hypocrisies of modern liberal culture
> and the ways they leave Western democracy open to a hostile Islamic takeover.
> As do a related group of conspiratorial white-identity vloggers like
> Red Ice TV, which regularly hosts neo-Nazis in its videos.

We’ve long known how awful YouTube commenters are — in general, comment
threads there are a nightmare of alt-right freaks, indignant misogynists,
racists, and fanatical consumers of niche media. There is virtually no
accountability in YouTube comments, and it has become another outpost
of the 4chan mentality. And further, as mentioned above, flaming lunatics
thrive as media personalities on it, because they gladly affirm
prejudice and bigotry and often, bizarre Libertarian views. . .

Well, yeah, but the same thing could be said about radios and TVs
and movies and newspapers and the printing press. And teaching the hoi polloi
how to read the National Enquirer. Ya gotta take the bad with the

Bye Bye Birdie - What's the Matter With Kids Today

jimf said...

A+ and h+ on YouTube:

So there's this guy named James Croft who titles himself
"Research and Education Fellow at the Humanist Community at Harvard"
( ) and whom
I stumbled across in a YouTube video:
God is Dead So What James Croft Skepticon 5
Published on Nov 3, 2016

He's a reasonably articulate and entertaining public speaker -- a British
accent always helps ;-> (though he's no Christopher Hitchens,
alas). Gay too, for what it's worth, as he mentions in passing.

The "Humanist Community at Harvard" seems to be a club for
Harvard undergraduates:
The Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics
is an organization for Harvard undergraduates who identify as
humanists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and otherwise non-religious.
We have weekly meetings, a lively email discussion list, and
sponsor speakers.

The club's chief honcho is a guy named Greg Epstein, and their
faculty advisor is none other than Steven Pinker, according
to the same Web page.

Croft's calling himself "Research and Education Fellow at the
Humanist Community at Harvard" **almost** makes it sound -- it's that
word "fellow" I guess -- as though he too is, or was, on the faculty
at Harvard, which he apparently is **not**, though he got his Ed.D.
from Harvard and was a "Teaching Fellow" for some classes at
Harvard's Graduate School of Education, according to his LinkedIn
profile. His main gig seems to be "In-demand public speaker on
many issues, including the aims and ends of education, finding
inspiration and awe in life, the changing religious demographics
in the USA, effective activism, and unlocking human potential."

It seems, though, that there's been some friction between the
"Humanist Community at Harvard" (or at any rate Greg Epstein)
and other public atheists, including P. Z. Myers:
Those sleazy, lying Harvard Humanists

. . .

[From the comment thread:]

First they deride Gnu Atheists as angry, militant, shrill, etc.

Having failed to put a dent in the popularity of the Gnu approach, now they
claim to have partly won the Gnus over. Why, that PZ Myers is “now” saying
it’s good to have multiple approaches! And Dawkins “now” “admits” that he
isn’t certain that a god doesn’t exist! (I think this actually started
with Hitchens, whose death made him a convenient recipient of this
Strange New Respect: “you know, Hitch at least [insert faint praise],
unlike these other Gnu Atheists.”)

[what are "Gnu Atheists"? Oh:
Gnu Atheists is a pun on the label New Atheists that quickly took on a
life of its own. As a pun, it is equivalent in meaning to New Atheists,
and the two can be substituted for each other anywhere they occur.]


Professional accommodationists and **some** of the HH crew have consistently,
unfairly, and outrageously misrepresented outspoken atheists. They’ve
been throwing us under the fucking bus for years now and sucking up to
the Interfaithy and theist friends at our expense. . .

[I]t feels just like when I was bullied in high school for being
gay and even my friends suggested I “tone it down” and
“be more understanding.” . . .

OK, I get the idea.

jimf said...

But anyway, back to James Croft -- it turns out he also has a YouTube
video in which he offers an earnest elevator pitch and apologia for
September 18, 2016 - EHST Meeting - speaker: James Croft
EHST Videos
Published on Sep 22, 2016
A program address on A TRANSHUMANIST MOVEMENT by the
Ethical Humanist Society of St. Louis community leader, James Croft

He cites Eliezer Yudkowsky, Julia Galef, and _Star Trek_ along
the way, and remarks (30:29/59:43):

"It is easy, I think, to dismiss transhumanism as a silly, overoptimistic
vision, a rather cultish movement, a bunch of people who live inside a
science fiction movie. I think that's unfair. I think the broad philosophical
argument transhumanists make, that if we can, we should seek to use new
technologies to improve human life without limit, is mainly convincing.
I think, on the whole, that their critics, concerned with ideas of what is
"natural", on what sort of technology human beings are "supposed" to have,
are too afraid of new technology, and too quick to ascribe value to human
suffering, as if it is a good thing that we can't achieve goals that we
might value, or that people will one day die. I do not believe that there
is much genuine value in suffering, and ultimately -- and this may be just
the view of one thirty-three-year-old -- but ultimately, I am afraid of
the idea of death. . ."

The subsequent Q&A is fun. After describing the hopes of present-day
transhumanists to be resurrected through cryonics (which Croft calls
"cryogenics"), he admits "It is a bit cultish at points."