jump to navigation

You really don’t know the future, Dale August 24, 2011

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Queer politics, Technology, Transhumanism.
trackback

For amusement and show the pernicious elements of eir thought, I’m going to engage with Dale Carrico’s response to my recent defense of the revolutionary spirit embodied within transhumanist position against aging. I can’t respond on eir blog because Dale has vowed to delete further comment of mine, so I’ll do so here.

The fundamental point I wish to make is that none of us knows the future and that we should take this proposition seriously. Think about it for a moment. We hardly know the present or the past, but the future remains an enigma even within the grounding assumptions of the empirical and materialist worldview. Any claims of certainty about where we’re headed merit extreme skepticism, whether they come from Ray Kurzweil or Derrick Jensen. As I’ve argued previously, Singularitarianism and primitivism commit the same error by asserting people have to suffer because of what the future holds.

The same applies to conservative predictions that insist on the immutability of the existing status quo. These too often get accepted as the default and thus exempted from criticism. I obviously consider Dale’s exaltation of degeneration and death as in this category. Ey provides no evidence for eir dismissal of the prospect of indefinite lifespans beyond the historical hundred-percent mortality rate. It has never been done, therefore it will never be done. Like visions of transformation or cataclysm, this argument that present condition will continue on forever deserves heavy criticism.

The political implications of enshrining the status quo particularly interest me. Dale writes that I “have confused an essentially aesthetic attitude with a political one,” but to the contrary ey remains willfully ignorant of how eir crusade against transhumanism resonates with the long-established counterrevolutionary tradition of crushing dreams.

Denying the possibility of radical change and limiting future possibilities to the bleakness of the present are the classic tactics of bosses and patriarchs. As Shulamith Firestone writes, revolutionaries inevitability encounter the following response: “‘That? Why you can’t change that! You must be out of your mind!'” Family and educational authorities beat radicalism out of us at early age through the mockery of the desire to remake the world and the invocation to be realistic.

Stop dreaming, you goddamn kids. You’ll work and you’ll suffer just like I did. There’s no way out.

Liberals adopt the same condescending parental position in relation to anarchists. They appeal to the established structures of privilege and authority to stifle the revolutionary spirit. Trying for beneficial transform gets coded as juvenile, silly, irresponsible, and implicitly queer. Play it straight and work with what life has given you instead of that nosense in your head. As in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, we’re forced to give up the quest for freedom and settle for the little that the existing system can offer us.

Like Dale, the bosses want dreams strictly confined to the impotent aesthetic ghetto. Firestone explores this in the distinction ey sees between the masculine scientific mode and feminine aesthetic mode. The former acts in the material world but without moral considerations while the later passively looks to the ideal. In this fashion we have scientists blithely inventing weapons of mass destruction and artists who remain adamantly apolitical. Firestone argues for the necessity of synthesizing the two modes so that we construct the ideal here on this planet. That’s the essence of the revolutionary spirit. We’re not willing to wait for heaven or find our liberation only in fantasy. We demand it yesterday if not sooner.

Dale uses the tired patriarchal narrative discussed above in an attempt to discredit me:

What other expressions of human finitude does baby want to deny before it’s time for his bottle?

Rebel Rebel, your pose is a joke,
Rebel Rebel, you’re stuck in a cult,
Rebel Rebel, how come you don’t know?
Hot mess, take your tired ass home.

I’m not sure what’s going on with the masculine pronoun up there, though I can make a few guesses. Note the invocation of the infant as a symbol of derision. Almost like a father and with an implied head pat, Dale suggests I straighten up and “come round to a more congenially radical-left outlook.” By this ey means abandon transformation, assimilate toward respectability, and adopt eir liberal-reformist politics centered on the electoral system. (I can grant that Dale occupies that radical end of the liberal spectrum.) It’s a well-worn dynamic.

Dale combines the paternalism and counterrevolutionary ridicule of dreams with a stock rant against the transhumanist movement as a military-corporate scam. Eir political criticism here largely mirrors my own, but ey needlessly conflates supporting rejuvenation therapy as a long-term goal with buying ineffective anti-aging creams and the like. On the technical level, we disagree about the plausibility of achieving indefinite lifespans.

Yes, you would indeed have to set those pesky details aside, wouldn’t you? Especially, given your description of this Robot Cult techno-immortalist project as “cultural…” with my emphasis on the cult. (By the way, I wouldn’t tell too many of your Robot Cult friends that you think they are artistes and not hard-core scientists, they might not take too kindly to the implications.)

In fact, discussion of the technical details intrigues me. At base level, I see no reason why human bodies couldn’t remain healthy indefinitely with sufficient maintenance. Aubrey de Grey makes a compelling case for the value of anti-aging research. If the project fails for this century, as it well may, I imagine we’ll still have learned a great deal from the experience. Extending the benefits of decent nutrition, sanitation, and so on to everyone takes priority, but investigating rejuvenation therapy strikes me as a damn sight better than a lot of current scientific projects.

As I mention earlier, however, the political and philosophical advantages of the anti-aging position interest me as much as the hypothetical technology. Denying the inevitability of death directly connects to the rejection of other supposed givens like the gender distinction and capitalism. The revolutionary project cannot succeed without ambitious and iconoclastic dreams of freedom.

Dale’s paternalistic dismissal of me neatly illustrates a common dynamic within the left between liberals and radicals, particularly in the context of power differentials. Dale cultivates an academic machismo that signals eir privileged status as a respectable and mature political thinker by denigrating opponents as juvenile and delusional. PZ Myers would be another example of this. Both cling possessively to their educated dudely authority. Dale, I encourage you to critically examine how your debating style and self-positioning reinforce systems of oppression. Finally, as scary as it can be, remember that you don’t know the future.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. Dale Carrico - August 24, 2011

“The Future” doesn’t exist, so nobody knows “it.” Futurity refers in my view to the openness inhering in the present in consequence of the ineradicable diversity of stakeholders collaborating in it and contesting for it. “The Future” of futurologists tends in my view to disavow that open futurity in the present in exchange for a greedy-fearful projection onto “tomorrow” of fetishized and amplified fears and wish-fulfillment fantasies. You feel differently, but I provide ample reasons for my views in my writing for those who want to investigate the critique.

What you champion as radical and imaginative I decry as reactionary and parochial. In practical terms, your futurological utopia amounts in my view to fraudulent evangelism peddling transcendence via consumer hyper-capitalism, and yes I do want to crush that ugly evil dream.

Recognizing mortality is not “exalting it” and denying mortality doesn’t make you a “revolutionary,” no matter how many times you rephrase the nonsense.

You declare me paternalistic for standing by my beliefs and offering reasons for my disagreements and then you declare anybody who doesn’t sign onto your patently ridiculous Robot Cult program not to pass muster as a “true revolutionary” — even a democratic socialist queer activist who is teaching peace and environmental justice to university students as I do. Patriarch, heal thyself! You are a fraud in my view and both the world, and probably you yourself, benefit from your exposure as such.

(I am broadly sympathetic to the political gesture of your pronoun choice but I do not adopt that intervention myself, since the likely benefit — which I judge to be comparable to that of exponents of world peace via Esperanto — I judge to be outweighed by the limited legibility of my arguments to general audiences. I don’t say this because I am the killer of dreams, but because I think social struggle is about judging how best to translate available means into best, most sustainable, most equitable, most diverse results in the actual world. That you don’t seem to care much about this sort of judgment is what makes you think you are a revolutionary and is what makes me think you are a reactionary.)

2. What dale is actualy saying - August 24, 2011

I don’t care about your preferred gender pronoun. My audience is cisgendered men, because cisgendered men are the only people who matter, and they don’t care about your preferred gender pronoun. My informed decision to support the existing (and admittedly oppressive) system of patriarchy has come after a life-long internal debate about whether men were _really_ the most important people to be speaking to. I eventually concluded that yes, men were the only audience worth addressing, and that anything I could do to make myself more of an ally to non-men would be too “alienating.”

What you haven’t yet understood, because you are a baby cultist who deserves only my derision, is that pragmatism means capitulation. This allows me, a man, to pretend that I am on your side while in actuality continuing to support patriarchy by yielding ground to it at every possible moment via the wonders of “pragmatism”.

(Author’s note: see also https://anarchofeministcrafts.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/people-white-men/)

Summerspeaker - August 24, 2011

A biting piece that raises key points about patriarchal oppression within the leftist community. Thanks for this and the blog link.

For my part, I should note that I’m criticizing Dale in the hope shifting the established forms of academic debate and thus create environments less hostile to marginal folks like myself. I wouldn’t describe Dale as an irredeemable sellout. We’re all enmeshed in elaborate webs of domination and privilege. Confronting these dynamics always hurts. A present, I don’t know any other way.

3. Summerspeaker - August 24, 2011

In practical terms, your futurological utopia amounts in my view to fraudulent evangelism peddling transcendence via consumer hyper-capitalism, and yes I do want to crush that ugly evil dream.

You’re confusing me with the folks I criticize. As far as crushing dreams go, you’ve had limited success so far. Your vicious use of oppressive cultural narratives against me stings – I’m every bit the juvenile/vulnerable/feminine/queer creature you accuse me of being – but I remain inspired by visionaries like Shulamith Firestone and Ricardo Flores Magón. Everything in this world hurts.

Recognizing mortality is not “exalting it” and denying mortality doesn’t make you a “revolutionary,” no matter how many times you rephrase the nonsense.

Denying the inevitability of death and recognizing the historical hundred-percent mortality rate don’t stand in opposition. In insisting everybody’s gonna die you claim absolute knowledge about the future.

You declare me paternalistic for standing by my beliefs and offering reasons for my disagreements

No, I show how you employ paternalistic arguments and an aggressive debating style in an established academic tradition. You’re far from alone in this.

and then you declare anybody who doesn’t sign onto your patently ridiculous Robot Cult program not to pass muster as a “true revolutionary” — even a democratic socialist queer activist who is teaching peace and environmental justice to university students as I do.

While we should function as allies more often than not, it’s important to remember distinctions between the radical and liberal positions. However, the matter of scholarly machismo goes well beyond this divide. Plenty of anarchists channel the same dudely authority as you do. It’s a nasty dynamic I encounter on a regular basis.

I am broadly sympathetic to the political gesture of your pronoun choice but I do not adopt that intervention myself, since the likely benefit — which I judge to be comparable to that of exponents of world peace via Esperanto — I judge to be outweighed by the limited legibility of my arguments to general audiences.

To whom do you refer with that masculine pronoun? The generic baby isn’t a dude, and I don’t take masculine pronouns myself. Something went wrong (beyond the egregious ageism, of course).

4. Dale Carrico - August 24, 2011

I’m a queer teaching environmental justice and critical theory at an art school in San Francisco — I went to jail fighting for Queer Nation — so honey please you can just fuck right off with your vapid radical holier-than-thou peanut gallery sanctimony. You’re going to die — deny it all you want, you still are going to die. Who cares if you want to believe you won’t? I don’t deny anybody their fantasies — but I do deny aesthetics is the same thing as politics or wish-fulfillment fantasizing is the same thing as science. They aren’t.To point this out isn’t even to denigrate aesthetics or wish-fulfillment fantasizing in their proper precincts, to both of which I daresay I’ve easily devoted more time and energy than you ever have managed on top of all the other bullshit you’re indulging in here — but it is indeed to deny the mischief making and fraudulent flock-fleecing that arises from futurological confusions and deceptions about these differences. The narcissism of your vacuous “revolutionary” politics is truly appalling to somebody who has actually devoted his life to struggle for the values you glibly fling around. You need to take a good hard look at your allies in the Robot Cult — those complacent consumers, market apologists, scientistic reductionists and eugenicsts hardly square with your professed values. I’m not the least bit sorry you find it so hurtful and aggressive of me to require the minutest modicum of sense from you. I hope this well-earned ridicule hurts enough to nudge you slightly in the direction of sense, but I am certainly not holding my breath waiting for that.

5. Summerspeaker - August 24, 2011

I’m a queer teaching environmental justice and critical theory at an art school in San Francisco — I went to jail fighting for Queer Nation — so honey please you can just fuck right off with your vapid radical holier-than-thou peanut gallery sanctimony.

Pointing out your use of oppressive narratives and their effect on me isn’t sanctimony. Your record of positive political engagement doesn’t exempt you from participation in webs of domination or place you in a privileged position beyond criticism. Consider carefully how your status claim hinges upon incorporation into the Imperial Academy and thus the associated patriarchal notions of authority.

You’re going to die — deny it all you want, you still are going to die.

What basis do you have for this claim to certain knowledge?

I don’t deny anybody their fantasies — but I do deny aesthetics is the same thing as politics or wish-fulfillment fantasizing is the same thing as science.

Drawing from Firestone, I argue against this rigid separation of the ideal and the practical.

You need to take a good hard look at your allies in the Robot Cult — those complacent consumers, market apologists, scientistic reductionists and eugenicsts hardly square with your professed values.

Do I actually have allies in the Robot Cult? (I hope so; I always like allies.) I guess James Hughes typed something nice about me once, but ey’s a democratic socialist like you and no cultist. I criticize the transhumanist movement on those points regularly. That’s the purpose of this blog. (Incidentally, David Correia told me I couldn’t reasonably be described as a Robot Cultist the other day.)

I hope this well-earned ridicule hurts enough to nudge you slightly in the direction of sense, but I am certainly not holding my breath waiting for that.

I’ve benefited from reading your critiques of the transhumanist movement. I don’t believe any of our personal exchanges have ever been productive. As a fan of Firestone, your invocation of the juvenile as a pejorative makes reaching me unlikely. I take age-based hierarchies seriously and consider them foundational to this nightmarish system we walk through daily. Oppression begins in the family.

6. Dale Carrico - August 24, 2011

Me: You’re going to die — deny it all you want, you still are going to die.

You: What basis do you have for this claim to certain knowledge?

Me: If you deny something this universal what basis do I have to think the marks “basis” “claim” “knowledge” have any connection for you to anything I think at all? Why offer up arguments to public scrutiny in the first place?

You: Do I actually have allies in the Robot Cult?

Me: Do your public associations matter at all? Do your affiliations indicate anything about you or yield any responsibilities? When you post at IEET and welcome others there to participate in the continuation of one of their debates here on your blog are we not to assume anything from that gesture?

I must say I wonder how thrilled Firestone would be to see your incessant use of that book as an alibi for your utterly vacuous utterly irresponsible faux-radical politics. It’s all very well to refuse to draw a rigid separation between the ideal and the practical, I mean, honestly, no shit Sherlock… but to refuse even provisional drawing of such lines will impel you to the evacuation of practical politics or complete uncritical reductionisms, willy-nilly. The uncritical overapplication of vapid chestnuts doesn’t enable you to evade real work in the real world.

You declare that I am not beyond criticism — again, no shit Sherlock, who ever said I was or wanted to be? But substantial criticism involves reasons offered up to scrutiny, again real work for those who are up to it. I am the first to agree that my work for social justice and diversity doesn’t exempt me power dynamics — but it does earn me a measure of respect from pseudonymous pseudoradicals who roll their eyes at my politics from their armchairs, at least I think it should.

You may indeed have been brought to greater care in your formulations in Correia’s class, but you’re a straight up Robot Cultist as far as I can see from your published performances. Here’s hoping you change for the better as soon as may be.

Again, I can’t say I feel particularly sorry you feel “oppressed” by my offering up replies and reasons in forceful disagreement with your published assertions. Here’s hoping you never have to deal with oppression worse than that. I’ve devoted my life to education and activism against such oppression, in case that matters to you at all… it’s a pity you show little sign of being a reliable ally in actually substantive struggles where they count as far as I can tell.

Summerspeaker - August 25, 2011

If you deny something this universal what basis do I have to think the marks “basis” “claim” “knowledge” have any connection for you to anything I think at all?

As best I can tell, your argument is simply that people have always died, therefore people will always die. The first part reflects my materialist/empiricist/scientific understanding of the world. Though I operate firmly within this epistemology, I find worthwhile to note its uncertain foundations and historical construction. The second part of your argument – again – claims absolute knowledge about an unknown. Particularly in the context of folks actively attempting to counter aging (Aubrey de Grey) and build genies (Goertzel, Yudkowsky, etc), the future may come as a surprise. If a person is trying do something within our grasp on the laws of nature and through technological means, I suspect as a general rule that they’ve got a nonzero chance.

When you post at IEET and welcome others there to participate in the continuation of one of their debates here on your blog are we not to assume anything from that gesture?

Oh, I’m certainly recruiting allies from IEET and similar communities. There are a few transhumanists like Kris Notaro, Rachel Haywire (to an extent), and a few commenters here who give me hope.

I must say I wonder how thrilled Firestone would be to see your incessant use of that book as an alibi for your utterly vacuous utterly irresponsible faux-radical politics.

You could ask Firestone, but ey has withdrawn from public life as far as I know. But let’s be clear about this. I invoked The Dialectic of Sex not only about the aesthetic/scientific separation, but as the basis for my commitment to overturning age-based oppression. You gleefully employ the narrative of the child as inferior. I don’t think that’s okay.

I’ve devoted my life to education and activism against such oppression, in case that matters to you at all… it’s a pity you show little sign of being a reliable ally in actually substantive struggles where they count as far as I can tell.

It does matter, as you should realize from this exchange and our previous ones. I engage with you because your politics and anti-oppression stance hint at the possibility (so far unfulfilled) of a productive exchange.

Unlike you, I have not indulged in simplistic name-calling. (How many exaggerated accusations have you thrown at me now? I’ve lost track.) I criticize your communication style, use of pernicious cultural narratives, and liberalism. I do not try to claim this invalidates all your accomplishments. I’ve featured and will continue to feature your critique of transhumanism here on my blog.

Dale Carrico - August 25, 2011

Let me recommend Becker’s book The Denial of Death to you. Now, about my acerbic tone. We have been communicating occasionally for quite a long time, and my tone reflects losing patience with you to the point that I am not altogether sure I think you are even communicating in basic good faith. Our initial exchanges — quite a long time ago — were cordial, and the fact that I am still willing to take the chance at engaging with you at all despite my suspicion that you are a lost cause and also possibly quite frivolous (about topics of great urgency to me) reflects a level of generosity you haven’t entirely deserved by my standards — and since I’m the one choosing to devote my time to the exchange, those standards are indeed relevant ones. In any case, since you want me to prove you are not immortal (perhaps prefatory to demands for proof that night follows day and eating rocks is unwholesome) I think we might be said to have arrived at diminishing returns and I’ll wish you a good day. Thanks for the exchange, good luck to you.

7. PixieDust - August 24, 2011

What do you mean Summerspeaker is a fake radical?

Summerspeaker - August 25, 2011

Dale makes that assertion because I’ve got the temerity to criticize em. Like most of us, ey’s not a fan being on the receiving end. Leftists have a long history of bitter personal and political disputes in which we inevitably accuse each other of betraying the cause.

Dale Carrico - August 25, 2011

Nonsense. I welcome criticism, but I have both standards and a memory and my conduct reflects this. I am also happy to change my assessment of your radicalism if you give me some sense of what you actually work on or contribute to in struggles for social justice you claim to care about. I have provided ample sense of the life experience (from both my activism and teaching and research) that contextualizes my theoretical claims, but in my experience you just run your mouth about how nobody who does anything is radical enough and how transgressive you are because you are willing to pretend that nothing is anything and then declare that this is some awesome efficacious and revolutionary stand. Far from a betrayal of a cause, I just wonder if I’m wasting my time trying even in the least to reach somebody who gets their kicks throwing darts from an armchair. But whatever. Best to you in whatever it is you do do.

8. Dale Carrico - August 24, 2011

Revolution is more than running your mouth in front of a mirror.

9. PixieDust - August 24, 2011

Aren’t you making unsubstantiated assumptions?

10. Dale Carrico - August 24, 2011

I have testified to my record, I publish my statements under my own name, my exchanges with “summerspeaker” go back quite a while, my critique of futurologists go back over two decades. You tell me. This queer’s all ears.

Summerspeaker - August 25, 2011

Anyone interested can find my legal name here without much trouble. I go by Summer in person, so this name is a real as any.

11. n8chz - August 26, 2011

Oy. I’m a fan of both you two, or at least I think so. I hope I don’t have to be forced to take sides. My critique of the futurologists is admittedly of a tribal nature. They have a cultural tendency toward the logic of the market, social darwinist science fiction, and all that stuff which I’m not into, so I don’t identify with them. My belief concerning the future is that it is utterly unknowable, at least until we get there, something I suppose it has in common with death. On a personal note, I tend to be turned off by salescrittership in general, and like many, have learned by hard experience the old saw about “if it sounds too good to be true…” Propositions having to do with rejuvenation and/or anti-aging creams (in the same broad category, as I see it) definitely fall under the “infomercial-type merchandise” pigeonhole in my brain, along with “positive thinking,” get-rich-quick gimmicks, gimmicky products in general, ad nauseam. Admittedly, it is one of my personal biases. As far as a left-of-center or non-Heinleinian gate-crashing of the futurological community, I dunno, I don’t feel motivated to be the pioneer, or the tip of the spear or whatever. It would be helpful to me for there to be a bandwagon to jump onto. If that makes me a sheep or a collectivist or whatever, so be it.

Summerspeaker - August 27, 2011

Oh, there’s certainly no need to choose.

I’m attempting a radical gate-crashing of the futurological community, but it hasn’t reached bandwagon status yet.

12. Dale Carrico - September 5, 2011

That’s like expressing the desire to gate-crash the Amway community and expecting people to think something revolutionary will result. James Hughes has already made an effort to formulate a left futurology — the conceptual bankruptcy of the resulting discourse and ugly, embarrassing collaborationism of the resulting conduct is an object lesson from which you can choose to learn or not.

n8chz - September 5, 2011

Hahahahahaha! Amway might be an apropos training ground for transhumynism! Except now they call it Quickstar. Or is it Alticor?

Summerspeaker - September 5, 2011

I feel rather positively about James Hughes, though I certainly criticize eir embrace of liberalism and exaggerated claims about sex difference (judging from that 2008 paper, anyways – I hope to publish an in-depth critique of that soon). I remain perplexed by your insistence that IEET serves as a front for the Robot Cult, but we’ve already gone over this many times before.

Dale Carrico - September 5, 2011

You’re still wrong and I still care enough to point it out. You can thank me later.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: