On Human Nature September 19, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Epistemology, Evo psych.
Tags: biological determinism, human nature
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Humans are biologically hardwired to breathe, drink, eat, piss, and shit. With absolutely no exception as far as I know, members of the species Homo sapiens have to take in nutrients and excrete waste. Beyond those universals human nature gets tricky. Surely human nature exists to some extent or another – humans have profound and fundamental differences from cats, etc. – but its contours and limits remain unclear. I’m always wary when I encounter anybody who invokes human nature, especially without citing unambiguous studies. Assuming exponentially increasing intelligence and all that, I imagine beings of some sort will eventually solve the question of human nature and really know what it means.
Until then, I advise caution.
William Gillis Finally Finished “Science as Radicalism” August 19, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Epistemology, Technology, Transhumanism.
Tags: anarchism, science, transhumanism, William Gillis
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The March of Automation August 2, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Technology, Transhumanism.
Tags: anarchism, industrialism, revolution, robots, transhumanism
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It’s an old story, going back to the start of the so-called industrial revolution. However, now the prospect of near-complete automation is beginning to seem more credible. This piece recounts how a factory in Dongguan City in China has recently replaced 90% of its workers with robots and seen 162.5% increase in production with a considerably lower defect rate. Various other Chinese factories plan to follow suit.
In an economy that ran for the common good – and perhaps in a genuinely free market – this sort of thing would be awesome. More efficient production could in theory make us all better off. In actually existing practice it’s more complicated. Workers lose jobs and primarily the bosses on the top benefit. As the linked article mentions, the increasing automation of Chinese factories comes at the same time as the Made in China 2025 initiative, which delightfully includes a focus on strengthening intellectual property rights.
Vastly complex technological systems of production and distribution sustain the current world economy. This article provides a fascinating look at the shipping industry. Here as with Chinese factories we see movement toward replace human labor with its robotic equivalent. Author Tim Maughan notes that “ports like Rotterdam in the Netherlands have already moved to fully automated systems, with driverless trucks and robotic cranes.”
Chinese factories, Danish-run shipping lines, and so on supply the basic necessities/luxuries that so many of us rely on on a daily basis for our comfort and survival. At the same time, these systems involve incredible exploitation and suffering. Automation seems like an ideal solution to drudgery but I doubt it will such as such by itself. It’s no answer to the questions of contamination, displacement, and distribution that continually haunt the modern economy.
The solution, of course, is revolution, but not a revolution simply destroys the industrial economy – at least not without putting up something superior in its place. When reading Maughan’s piece, disrupting supply lines seems awfully easy. It’s almost amazing the folks who want to accelerate the supposedly inevitable collapse of civilization haven’t had more successful.
Update July 26, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Despair, Epistemology, Transhumanism.
Tags: epistemology, rationality, relativism, science, skepticism, transhumanism, William Gillis
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I’ve been reclusive lately, focused on academics, an interpersonal relationship or two, and distracting myself. My career in the Imperial Academy goes well enough, I guess, while the human connections have been a disaster. I’ve enjoyed drowning my sorrows in cardstock (MTG, specifically EDH) and will continue to do so, but over the last couple weeks my health has taken a downturn that makes indulging in distraction more difficult. At the moment I can hardly breath because of allergies, so I’m not good for much – even when taking the allergy meds they use to cook meth.
My main engagement with transhumanism this year has been via William Gillis’s thought. Between Gillis and Meera Nanda, I’m reassessing the value of criticizing versus supporting science and rationality. I plan to continue doing both, of course, and in many cases criticizing examples of actually existing science as a social practice supports science as a set of principles and methods. With that said, in retrospect I feel I’ve at times given excessive weight to critiques of science and rationality coming from humanities scholarship, both because I found them more convincing than I should have and because I considered these critiques important for an audience I assumed had an unshakably positive view of science. I still regard critiques of science useful, but Gillis and Nanda make a powerful case for the dangers of any move away from science and rationality.
At base I remain fond of old-school skepticism and of relativism; the former amounts to an intellectual game while the later has more meaningful implications. Regarding skepticism, I see no absolutely stable grounds for knowledge, as our senses could be deceiving us and/or our reasoning may be misguided. The edifice of science rests on foundations that haven’t been and probably can’t be definitely proven. However, these foundations are overwhelmingly plausible. The scientific worldview based on empirical evidence, logic, and modeling strikes me as far more likely and practical than any alternative. Regarding relativism, we have zero evidence by the scientific worldview that the universe gives a shit about anything. Values comes from humans and other sentient beings. As such, no universal guide for what should be exists. Our senses and reasoning presumably give us access, albeit mediated access, to objective reality. but what we make of this access only matters to the minds involved. Apart from us, nobody cares. The scientific worldview by all indications provides a closer model of objective reality and this becomes valuable insofar as sentient beings decide it is. I consider this exceedingly valuable as do many other people, but I shouldn’t beguile myself into believing there’s some higher purpose beyond my interests and those of other humans. By universe’s lights, a mind wrapped up in its own subjective reality is every bit as good as one striving toward objective reality: both simply are.
As such, I support science and rationality because I believe they align with my interests and, at least in the long term, with the interests of the vast majority of other currently existing minds (especially human minds). Objective material reality has quite a hold on most of us. Humans tend to suffer when we can’t manage basics like food, water, shelter, and healthcare. Improving the quantity and quality of these basics benefits lots of folks regardless of their position on science and rationality, regardless of whatever subjective realities they’re pursuing. Excessive criticism of science can prove dangerous if it obscures the profound importance of improving shared material conditions and/or if it presents alternatives to science as credible. Playing with subjective realities comes much recommended, but objective material reality stands out as the primary basis for political struggle.
Obligatory Independence Day Post July 4, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization.
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On Assessing Progress June 1, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Epistemology, Primitivism, Transhumanism.
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Reluctance or refusal to rank different times, places, and experiences in no way goes against or implies at rejection of rationality, empiricism, or science. To the contrary, it’s commonly a rational move informed by an understanding of the power of knowledge production and the danger of spurious claims. It’s entirely legitimate to admit ignorance and to question the desire for assessment. Why assert progress? What does this assertion do? Whom does it serve?
While certain types of progress are almost undeniable empirically – the overall worldwide increase in life expectancy at birth over the last couple centuries comes immediately to mind – any attempt a grand evaluation runs into a whole host of problems. As the word itself suggests, evaluation is a matter of values. The lack of data compounds this arbitrariness. How do you figure out, for example, what medieval English laborers thought of their lives? The documentary record is spotty at best and tends to get worse the farther back you go. Both studies and my personal experience suggest that happiness is a tricky thing. One theory is that it’s significantly genetic or otherwise set early on. Wherever you go, there you are. While I might think myself privileged over the medieval serf with laptop and internet connection, it’s not certain that I’m enjoying life more.
I still find Philippe Verdoux’s sweeping analysis of the historical record compelling. However, regardless of whether there’s progress in the human condition since prehistory or medieval times or 1965, we can and should do so much better than all that’s come before.
Context: This post comes as immediate to a Facebook argument with William Gillis but relates to key themes in futurism and transhumanism.
Happy May Day Everybody! May 1, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.
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It was a low-key celebration here in Albuquerque. Much love to the folks struggling in the streets of Baltimore.
I hope to get back to blogging more frequently soon. I’ve been thinking lots about anarchism and transhumanism. Stay tuned!
Happy Presidents Day February 16, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization.
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“The Case for Anarchist Transhumanism?” on Transpolitica February 1, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
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