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Dale’s Top Ten Reasons to Take the Singularity Movement Seriously August 25, 2011

Posted by Summerspeaker in Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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This list makes various critical points. I disagree with some, but all are worth reading. I’d add that Singularitarians occupy positions of vast wealth and power. Bill Gates writes glowing forwards to Ray Kurzweil’s books. According to Jaron Lanier, the Singularitarian view stands dominant among the Silicon Valley elite. How such folks plan on shaping the world matters. We radical leftists need to confront and expose the bourgeois ideology and political aims involved.

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1. Dale Carrico - August 25, 2011

An earlier piece Against the Seduction of the Left by Reactionary Futurology elaborates on some of what you say about Ray Kurzweil — or PayPal billionaires Elon Must and Peter Thiel who I regard as roughly the Koch Brothers of reactionary futurology — and others. I am also pleased to see you mention Jeron Lanier positively in this context — I defend him online and teach him in technoscience courses regularly. You say you disagree with some of my Ten reasons to take Robot Cultists seriously (as a heart attack)… care to elaborate?

n8chz - August 28, 2011

One of the most insidious of Peter Thiel’s projects is essentially paying people to drop out of college. To prove a point, of course, but the opportunities to a person of Thiel’s means to rig the odds in favor of success of the experiment should be obvious enough. Bryan Caplan, a member of David H. Koch’s stable of economists, is on a similar campaign against what ey calls “credentialism

2. Summerspeaker - August 25, 2011

Lanier provides a valuable critique of the Singularity movement and juicy details on the inner workings of the Silicon Valley elite but present an even worse alternative. I’d take digital Maoism over eir terrifying dream of capitalist competition within an intellectual property police state. (I’m glad I don’t have to choose.) Please tell me you note the explicitly elitist and reactionary aspects of Lanier’s thought in your teaching.

As you know, I disagree with your assessment of the likelihood of transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence and molecular manufacturing. As such, I believe considering the possible effects of such developments worthwhile. I disagree that this necessarily distracts from a practical engagement with existing technological systems. I can (and do) argue for the urgency of ending carbon emissions despite accepting a nonzero chance of innovation producing a technofix before the ecosystem goes completely to hell. Unfortunately, we might well need both immediate reductions and all the tricks we can imagine.

You view Singularitarians as either con artists or religious zealot and erect a hard wall between them and supposed real scientists. This has dubious empirical merit and also serves to naturalize science more than I’m comfortable with. People like Kurzweil and Martine Rothblatt operate firmly within the established technical and scientific community. They’re not fringe kooks incapable of achieving meaningful results – quite the contrary. They’ve produced extraordinary inventions such as reading machines and satellite radio. As far qualifications go, they’ve got them.

I see Singularitarianism as an extension of a long-establish trend in American thinking about science, technology, and capitalism. The worship of the progress narrative and other such nonsense has a distinguished history amongst the people responsible for things like the computer I’m typing this comment on. Visionaries with weird ideas and scary politics have made all manner of breakthroughs, both positive and negative. The problems of transhumanism and of the technoscientific establishment as a whole strike me as related.

In short, I engage with the Singularity movement as serious political and material threat reflective of mainstream political currents as well an opportunity for revolutionary struggle. You engage with it as a serious political threat and subject of ridicule. Both of our positions contain elements of contradiction.

3. Dale Carrico - August 25, 2011

The Robot Cult is selling pseudo-scientific snake oil and propounding reactionary ideology. I judge you smart enough to see the obvious conceptual and scientific flaws and perceptive enough to realize how reactionary the company you are keeping is. Are you aware of STS (science and technology studies) and EJM (the environmental justice movement)? There are theoretically, historically, politically rich academic and activist literatures and networks that put the Robot Cult archipelago absolutely to shame. You should explore them if you have not fully done so yet.

4. Dale Carrico - August 25, 2011

People like Kurzweil and Martine Rothblatt operate firmly within the established technical and scientific community.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Summerspeaker - August 26, 2011

Laugh all you want, but the Kurzweil reading program one of my parents uses with eir students isn’t snake oil. Satellite radio isn’t snake oil. This doesn’t make Rothblatt and Kurzweil’s predictions true or erase the manifest problems in their thought, but it does place them firmly within technoscience. The folks who actually produce the physical artifacts that shape our world aren’t pure knowledge seekers but people looking to make a buck and/or dominate the planet. They often deceive and distort while simultaneously creating profound material changes.

I think you desire the authority of SCIENCE a bit too much. My struggle exists in the political realm. I don’t assume science or nature to be on my side.

5. Dale Carrico - August 26, 2011

Nobody denies Kurzweil has some useful inventions to his credit. Do you think that makes him a plasma physicist or a heart surgeon or a cosmologist? Do you think it makes him a philosopher, a political theorist, a national historian, a policy wonk? You would be obviously wrong to think any of these things. (And you insinuate **I** am the one befuddled about proper scientific authority? What a laugh!) Qua citizen Kurweil has as much business deliberating about the worth and significance of his inventions as anybody, but no more, nor does he have the right to claim professional expertize in the philosophical, historical, political, social, economic, cultural analysis of such significance without the long work of reading and research and training out of which such professionalism emerges (for those who seek recourse to such expertise in contextualizing their own deliberation, a sensible idea given the level of sophistication and specialization attested to by contemporary technoscientific knowledge regimes). By the way, while I do not begrudge Kurzweil his inventions, that “his” is an abbreviation only useful to a point — his contribution to “his own” invention is the iceberg tip of an archive of knowledge that precedes and exceeds him, and the materialization of his invention is radically dependent on ongoing politically fraught collective practices of publication, funding, education, marketing, distribution, application, re-appropriation. Also, it is worth remembering that there is always that ineradicable gulf between what is and what ought to be — no amount of knowing in well warranted ways what is will tell you what the meaning of what is happens to be, and whether we should do something we can do because we know what is. Even keeping all this in mind, it is also true that we mean by science a constellation of practices and norms and affects distinguishable from other things, science isn’t just anything and it is good to understand what we mean by science and why we distinguish it from others things and why we exclude some results and practices from it while including others. When you say I desire the authority of science too much (I am more used to the opposite accusation, being a fashionably nonsensical postmodern relativist, which is also wrong to say of a pragmatic pluralist trained in STS, EJM, and queer theory.) Honestly, such glib stabs in the dark just make me think you are profoundly out of your depth. Kurzweil and Rothblatt are charlatans when they have their ill-fitting philosopher and historian and policy wonk hats on. I mean, they are both actually laugh out loud funny, they are so bad. Your Robot Cult is an embarrassing fraud full of reactionaries — you should move on or expect to be tarred with the same brush they earn through their facile deceptions and ugly mischief making.

6. Summerspeaker - August 26, 2011

Do you think that makes him a plasma physicist or a heart surgeon or a cosmologist? Do you think it makes him a philosopher, a political theorist, a national historian, a policy wonk? You would be obviously wrong to think any of these things.

I’m accustomed to people putting words in my mouth but this takes things to a fantastic new level. Would you care to explain to me how you’ve transformed my argument that Kurzweil occupies a place firmly within the technoscientific establishment into claims about eir professional qualifications in the humanities and medicine?

And you insinuate **I** am the one befuddled about proper scientific authority?

I’m skeptical of the whole notion of proper scientific authority and professional expertise. They’re rough guides with some practical utility, but too often simply used as bludgeons in status games and political disputes. You excel at employing them as such.

Qua citizen Kurweil has as much business deliberating about the worth and significance of his inventions as anybody, but no more, nor does he have the right to claim professional expertize in the philosophical, historical, political, social, economic, cultural analysis of such significance without the long work of reading and research and training out of which such professionalism emerges (for those who seek recourse to such expertise in contextualizing their own deliberation, a sensible idea given the level of sophistication and specialization attested to by contemporary technoscientific knowledge regimes).

This illustrates a vast gulf between us. The last thing Kurzweil needs is more dudely authority. Would you treat em with respect if ey had a pile of PhDs in the fields you list? If anything, that would increase my fear. The political and intellectual content are what matter to me, not its author’s standing in academic hierarchies. Independent study and self-education produce as impressive results as the Imperial Academy. As an example, consider the brilliance of Chicano political prisoner Alvaro Luna Hernandez. Though ey dropped out of high school, eir critiques of colonialism and knowledge of Southwest history match those trained at the supposed best universities.

Furthermore, as I assume you recognize, no manner of formal education would be sufficient for Kurzweil’s task of predicting the future. Many of us in the humanities have given up the hope of authoritative analysis in favor of insight even in our limited investigations into the past and present. The same applies a thousand times over to looking ahead.

By the way, while I do not begrudge Kurzweil his inventions, that “his” is an abbreviation only useful to a point — his contribution to “his own” invention is the iceberg tip of an archive of knowledge that precedes and exceeds him, and the materialization of his invention is radically dependent on ongoing politically fraught collective practices of publication, funding, education, marketing, distribution, application, re-appropriation.

Absolutely. As we anarchists like to say, all knowledge and all physical capital come from collective effort and are the joint inheritance of the entire species.

Even keeping all this in mind, it is also true that we mean by science a constellation of practices and norms and affects distinguishable from other things, science isn’t just anything and it is good to understand what we mean by science and why we distinguish it from others things and why we exclude some results and practices from it while including others.

Though a worthwhile one, that’s an awfully messy process. It also has damn little to do with philosophy, political theory, and history. Science informs futurism in the terms of technological possibilities, but there’s no way to turn a laboratory experiment on the world in 2050.

7. Dale Carrico - August 26, 2011

I’m accustomed to people putting words in my mouth but this takes things to a fantastic new level. Would you care to explain to me how you’ve transformed my argument that Kurzweil occupies a place firmly within the technoscientific establishment into claims about eir professional qualifications in the humanities and medicine?

You offered your claim in response to my observation that Robot Cultists are marginal pseudo-scientific snake oil salesmen. What else would I think you were claiming? By the way, I still can’t imagine what else you would be claiming. We live in a technoscientific society — if you didn’t mean to claim some special legitimacy for these figures against my charge that they are illegitimate (and they are, to the cost of the seriousness of your position, let us not loose track of the argument) then I fear your location of them in the belly of the technoscience beast is vacuous.We are all in that belly.

I’m skeptical of the whole notion of proper scientific authority and professional expertise. They’re rough guides with some practical utility, but too often simply used as bludgeons in status games and political disputes. You excel at employing them as such.

Yeah, yeah nothing is anything and suggesting otherwise hurts your feelings — don’t worry I remember your “revolutionary program.”

The last thing Kurzweil needs is more dudely authority. Would you treat em with respect if ey had a pile of PhDs in the fields you list?

So, actually having warrants and reasons for one’s claims is all just patriarchy, actually taking responsibility for anything is patriarchy. You certainly sell feminism short. And, no, trying to understand the entailments of your positions, is not just putting words in your mouth and calling you names. It is trying to understand what the hell you are trying to say and translate them into real-world terms. The point isn’t to fetishize PhDs — mine has Schwarzenegger’s signature on it, believe me it is hard not to treat the thing with a grain of salt — but to recognize that actually knowing stuff is valuable, and knowing stuff actually takes effort. Perhaps if you took that more seriously you would grasp that pop-sci pundit and wannabe Robot Cult guru Kurzweil is a complete bullshit artist.

no manner of formal education would be sufficient for Kurzweil’s task of predicting the future

But a proper training in critical theory can indeed clue one into the fact that “The Future” is not a place or time to be “predicted” — that “The Future” is a reactionary rejection of the open futurity inhering in the present in the presence of the ineradicable diversity of stakeholders who share the making and meaning-making of the world, a dis-identification with the contingency, vulnerability, interdependence, error, expressivity, promise of that open futurity, replaced with faith-based initiatives amplifying parochial fears and desires in an authoritarian rage for order, control, reassurance. Your own queer theory should have provided you the good sense to repudiate the assumptions and aspirations of the Robot Cult, and failing that, the commonsense of actual democratic struggles on the ground should have warned you that in the Robot Cult the company you keep is a bunch of reactionaries and dick-heads. That this doesn’t happen makes me wonder if you’re on the level, if you’re just trolling for attention, just engaging in narcissistic armchair contrariness for cheap ugly kicks. Show me I’m wrong, stop the bullshitting already.

It also has damn little to do with philosophy, political theory, and history.

I guess the philosophy of science, the social study of scientific practice, the history of technology, and technocultural theory don’t exist. Oh, wait: They all do. Go read more, now. You’re in grad school, right? Keep up your efforts. Please, don’t apologize when you realize I’m right, just be more useful in the world. By the way, I see that you are a storyteller and that you offer up your creations to the hearing of the world — and I do admire and cherish that.

8. Summerspeaker - August 26, 2011

By the way, I still can’t imagine what else you would be claiming.

I am claiming they have practical and professional qualifications in high technology. Your bizarre extension of this to heart surgery and the humanities is your own. As I noted before, being successful inventors doesn’t make their predictions true, but it does make them technoscientific insiders rather than outsiders. As someone with limited training in zoology and the college basics, I am an example of the latter. Do you grasp the distinction? They can still be snake oil salespeople in their futurism, but not in the simplistic terms you employ to divide them from supposed real scientists.

Your own queer theory should have provided you the good sense to repudiate the assumptions and aspirations of the Robot Cult

It does, just not in the fashion you like. I utterly reject Kurzweil’s embrace of the progress narrative, the certainty of eir claims, and eir reactionary politics based to staying the course with capitalism while dreaming of technofixes. What apparently upsets you is that I consider hypothetical technologies like artificial general intelligence, rejuvenation therapy, and molecular manufacturing plausible, worth thinking about, and worth striving for. I admit this is a treacherous path to walk because the problematic narratives that inhabit futurism, but I’m determined to finding my way.

I guess the philosophy of science, the social study of scientific practice, the history of technology, and technocultural theory don’t exist.

Such fields stand outside of science, or at least outside of the type that can make any sort of authoritative claim. You can’t run replicable, falsifiable experiments about the history of technology. I’m fascinated by these studies, but invoking them against Kurzweil means little. Ey’d certainly benefit from their insights, but again we’re in the realm of open-ended discourse rather than binary oppositions between truth and error.

Please, don’t apologize when you realize I’m right, just be more useful in the world.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for me to assimilate into the system of hierarchy you benefit from.

By the way, I see that you are a storyteller and that you offer up your creations to the hearing of the world — and I do admire and cherish that.

If I could figure out a way to finance it, I would focus more on fiction and get out of the Imperial Academy. But that’s a tough trick to pull.

9. Dale Carrico - August 26, 2011

Your bizarre extension of this to heart surgery and the humanities is your own. As I noted before, being successful inventors doesn’t make their predictions true, but it does make them technoscientific insiders rather than outsiders.

They are pretending to be policy wonks and philosophers, and the fact that they have invented things doesn’t make them make their flabbergasting nonsense serious. What you call my “bizarre extension” of the discussion is infact the extension you are making for them in claiming them to have some special status as “technoscientific insiders.” We are all inside if that metaphor makes any sense at all. Either Kurzweil and Rothblatt have special credentials to bloviate about history and culture because they invented something or not. I say they don’t — in fact they are both complete clowns when they are handwaving about historical forces and the metaphysics of machine intelligence. They are jokes. If you can’t tell that, you are too (in this domain).

What apparently upsets you

You don’t upset me — I think you are wrong about important things, and I am taking the risk that you are teachable in spite of being so wrong. Simple as that. What is the difference between “hypothetical technologies” and magic wands? I have said over and over and over again that I have no problem with Robot Cultists being a rather bland literary salon consisting of hard-sf and pop-futurology fanboys. Let a bazillion flowers bloom. I disapprove of Robot Cultists who want to peddle their enthusiasms as actual science, actual policy-making, or actual philosophy, and I disapprove of futurological discourse more generally as of a piece with the catastrophic suffusion of public life with marketing and promotional norms and forms that are deceptive, distracting, deranging, and sensationalizing about technodevelopmental quandaries at the heart of the struggle for equity-in-diversity in the world.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for me to assimilate into the system of hierarchy you benefit from.

Whatever your denialism, you’re in the belly of the beast, and believe me resistance takes a lot more substantive work than shooting your mouth off in front of a mirror and accusing everybody else of being a sellout. You can declare a lifelong queer activist vegetarian peaceworker and democratic socialist who teaches critical theory and environmental justice as a nontenured lecturer in an art school like me the enemy and a big assimilationist all you want. It’s pretty stupid, but whatever. If you can do more, you go girl.

the Imperial Academy

I’m far from declaring it utopia, but it is hard for me to see how America would be a better place with nothing but anti-intellectual entirely for-profit institutions articulating the horizon of possibility as would prevail if “the Imperial Academy”.you condemn so glibly (while sucking at its teat) were to vanish or be utterly privatized and corporatized as many are fighting to do right now (how about fighting that instead you big bad revolutionary — afraid you might get your hands dirty?)

Summerspeaker - August 30, 2011

Either Kurzweil and Rothblatt have special credentials to bloviate about history and culture because they invented something or not.

I suggest their technical experience and (particularly in Kurzweil’s case) devoted individual study makes their prognostications worth considering. When it comes to guessing the direction of digital technology, I’m interested in what folks in the field have to say. They’ve got access to knowledge I don’t. They are and know the people who control the resources that determines what gets researched and what doesn’t. It’s nothing remotely certain, of course, but fascinating nonetheless.

What is the difference between “hypothetical technologies” and magic wands?

The laws of physics as we understand them and the current state of research in relevant areas. I’m curious to see how unwilling you are to make distinctions in this regard. Is the prospect of widespread functional machine translation essentially magical and thus unsuitable for political contemplation? What about automation? Autonomous robots on the battlefield? How similar to existing material reality does a hypothetical technological scenario have to be for you to take it seriously?

You can declare a lifelong queer activist vegetarian peaceworker and democratic socialist who teaches critical theory and environmental justice as a nontenured lecturer in an art school like me the enemy and a big assimilationist all you want.

The simple enemy/ally binary does not suffice here. Again, we’re all caught in elaborate webs of privilege and oppression.

I’m far from declaring it utopia, but it is hard for me to see how America would be a better place with nothing but anti-intellectual entirely for-profit institutions articulating the horizon of possibility as would prevail if “the Imperial Academy”.you condemn so glibly (while sucking at its teat) were to vanish or be utterly privatized and corporatized as many are fighting to do right now (how about fighting that instead you big bad revolutionary — afraid you might get your hands dirty?)

I’m actually actively engaged in the struggle against the privatization of higher education. Yes, the contradictions and complexities abound.

10. n8chz - August 28, 2011

Dale’s brand of resistance to Singularitarianism seems to put all eir eggs in the “they can’t make it actually work” basket. I’m more agnostic on the question of whether the Singularity is possible since, after all, there is no “knowing The Future” that can yield useful knowledges otherwise. I would add an eleventh reason to take the Singularity Movement seriously, to wit: What if they’re not bluffing? The political conduct of the current generation of ultra rich suggests that they are entirely at peace with the prospect of a future that doesn’t need most of our services, and whose economy doesn’t “work” for very large numbers of people. This suggests to me that they must know something that isn’t publicly known about the feasibility of total social exclusion; basically gated communities on steroids. Either that, or I’ve seriously been overestimating the intelligence of the Power Elite themselves—and not just their sometimes self-appointed and sometimes hired spokescritters in the “Robot Cult”. When I say gated community, I don’t mean just housing arrangements. One of David Brin’s most repeated talking points lately has been about the disappearance of first-class airline travel; suggesting that the infrastructure for accommodating private jets is well developed enough that the elites are confident in taking it for granted. Executives have always used receptionists and security guards to isolate themselves from their employees, customers, the press, the public, etc., as dramatized by Michael Moore’s repeated frustrated attempts to get an audience with Roger Smith in Roger and Me. Nowadays one occasionally sees humyn interest items about executive protection service firms described as “beyond military spec.” Any university graduate in our generation ( Dale’s and my generation anyway 😉 ) understands the university administration building to be built like a fortress, in apparent backlash against “the Sixties.” Meanwhile the news today is of scary-smart technologies at the intersection of the architecture and security disciplines, with corporate main offices of course among the first clients in line.

11. Dale Carrico - August 28, 2011

I rather wish this exchange were happening at the site of the actual text of mine, so that others could read it there, too. Anyway, I’ll admit “n8chz’s” comments are pretty demoralizing to me. Why write carefully if one is not read at all? “n8chz” declares:

Dale’s brand of resistance to Singularitarianism seems to put all eir eggs in the ‘they can’t make it actually work’ basket.

This is a pretty flabbergasting claim, isn’t it? It’s true that one of my persistent claims is that futurologists of the various Robot Cult sects are all, without except, at the margins of scientific consensus, often marginal on issue after issue after issue, all the while declaring themselves “champions of science.” I think this is a good point to make often because it is one of the greater weaknesses of futurological discourses and subcultural organizations, given the sorts of people who tend to be drawn into these discourses and subcultures and what they tend to value or claim to value. But this isn’t my own primary reason for discounting Robot Cultists. For one thing I’m well aware that sometimes it is precisely those who initially seem like cranks who foster profound scientific and technological revolutions. That is not always true by any means (routine scientific research and practice is often unduly denigrated by romantics), and, even more important, it is far f a r FAR more likely that cranks are exactly what they seem to be — cranks! — than revolutionaries (so Robot Cultists peddling wish-fulfillment fantasies at the margins of discipline after discipline will please spare me their triumphant declarations to be the reincarnation of Tesla or the Wright Brothers).

However, let us return to the piece you are presumably responding to, in which you declare me to be putting all my eggs in the basket of implausibility. Can it be that you didn’t notice that my resistance (I neither have nor want a “brand”) to superlative futurology also includes the charge that these discourses and subcultures are [2] conceptually incoherent, [3] rely for their force on metaphors rather than evidence (contrary to their self-congratulation), [4] derive their legibility on the citation of onto-theological narratives, frames, figures, conceits, values with little sensitivity or awareness of the work of this archive in their rhetoric or little sense of the ways in which these elements are in tension with one another or in tension with their own explicit claims, [5] activate irrational passions born of fear of death, fear of the contingency and vulnerability of human life, greed for easy money and unearned reputation, hunger for obliterative sensations (this activation of irrational passions seems to me a worry in itself up to a point — tho’ I allow there is a place for drunkenness in human life — but [6] is especially worrisome if we agree that technodevelopmental quandaries demand sensible deliberation), [7] conduce to authoritarian and anti-democratic politics, through their activation of corporate-military organizations and elite-incumbent institutions, through an entrepreneurialization of culture, through their valorization of technocratic elites over democratic contestation, through their false reduction of normative issues to questions of engineering or hygiene, through their instrumentalizations of problems that are susceptible only to stakeholder reconciliation, (and there are also some theoretical issues that matter to me personally which I do not expect others to care about quite so much but which I do base my resistance to futurology on:) [8] the futurological misconstrual of freedom as an amplification of given capacities and physical forces when freedom is to me better understood instead as the fragile pleasure and legibility that arises in peer-to-peer dynamics of collaboration and contestation and [9] the futurological disavowal of the open futurity inhering in the sharing/making of the present world by a diversity of stakeholders for “The Future,” a non-existing destination consisting of little more than a funhouse mirror amplifying parochial fears and values and drives foreclosing openness in a destructive reactionary quixotic bid for control insultingly described by futurology as “change.”

Eggs in one basket indeed!

I would add an eleventh reason to take the Singularity Movement seriously, to wit: What if they’re not bluffing? The political conduct of the current generation of ultra rich suggests that they are entirely at peace with the prospect of a future that doesn’t need most of our services, and whose economy doesn’t “work” for very large numbers of people.

Presumably you didn’t read or already forgot Reason Six in the post to which you are presumably responding. Here it is:

“SIX — As Margaret Mead famously insisted, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.” The example of the neoliberals of the Mont Pelerin Society reminds us that a small band of ideologues committed to discredited notions that happen to benefit and compliment the rich can sweep the world to the brink of ruin and the example of the neoconservatives reminds us that a small band of even ridiculous committed people can prevail even when they are peddling not only discredited but frankly ridiculous and ugly notions. Futurologists pretend that hypberbolic marketing projections are the same thing as serious technoscience policy deliberation, which is a gesture enormously familiar to the investor class and the technology sector’s customary membership, and the futurologists inevitably cast rich entrepreneurs as the protagonists of history, which is a gesture enormously attractive to the skimmers and scammers and celebrity CEOs of the technology sector’s essentially narcissistic culture. Although their various predictions are rarely more accurate than those of chimpanzees at typewriters, although their various transcendental glossy-mag editorials and tee-vee ready techno-rapture narratives are rarely more scientific in their actual substance than those of evangelical preachers, although their dog and pony show sounds almost exactly the same now as it did five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, twenty-five years ago as they still drag out the same old tired litany (super-parental robot gods! genetic fountains of youth! cheap nanobotic superabundance! better than real immersive VR treasure caves! soul-uploading into shiny robot bodies!), and all with the same fervent True Belief, the same breathless insistence that this is all New! the same static repetition that change is accelerating up! up! up! it is not really surprising to discover that the various organizations associated with superlative futurology are attracting more and more money and support and attention from the rich narcissistic CEOs of the technology sector whose language they have been speaking and whose egos they have been stroking so assiduously for years and for whom they provide such convenient rationalizations for elite-incumbent rule. You better believe that, ridiculous and crazy though they may be, the Robot Cultists with well funded organizations (like the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, Global Business Network, Long Now Foundation, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, Singularity Summit to name a few) to disseminate their pet wish-fulfillment fantasies and authoritarian rationalizations can do incredible damage in the real world.”

It would seem your Eleven is already there, in spades!

they must know something that isn’t publicly known about the feasibility of total social exclusion; basically gated communities on steroids. Either that, or I’ve seriously been overestimating the intelligence of the Power Elite themselves—and not just their sometimes self-appointed and sometimes hired spokescritters in the “Robot Cult”.

Heck, are you kidding? Aristos are always completely convinced of their superiority and indispensability. Believe me, they don’t have a secret robot army or enslavement aerosol spray. They’re completely full of shit. Dubai isn’t immune to the environmental devastation its cocksure entrepreneurs are exacerbating and handwaving away. No gated suburban Los Angeles wall will protect its Republican gangsters and Limousine Liberals from the pandemics unleashed by ghetto-globalization. If people who work for a living actually both vote in their actual interests for a change as well as taking to the streets to protest elite-incumbents you better believe these consummately overconfident jackholes will go to jail and get taxed to within an inch of their lives. I am far from denying the conjunction of architecture and surveillance stratifying and hierarchizing space and time in the service of exploitations and precarization (I have learned and taken to heart more than I can bear on these realities from both Fanon and Harvey!), but remember, we never know enough to justify despair. These architectures and media are rife with opportunities for subversive redeployment — look at ATTAC, Alter-EU, Democracy Real Now, Anonymous, Take the Square, GAIA, and so on. Just because I give actually earned credentials their due by my lights doesn’t mean I think a credential makes one an unanswerable aristocrat, just because I push for reform where alternatives or scarce doesn’t mean I think the status quo is acceptable, you know?

12. Giulio Prisco - August 30, 2011

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