Regulation, Progress, Austerity June 18, 2012Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Primitivism, Science Fiction, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
IEET’s latest offerings highlight the politically pernicious elements of transhumanism and Singularity movement. P. Tittle promotes licensing for parents as a logical expansion of the state’s prerogative to control everything, Giulio Prisco contemplates Terran aggression against Cosmists, and piero scaruffi chides the Greeks for their “lavish lifestyle” and lack of nuclear power. While I focus on Prisco’s piece here for criticism, that’s not because I find it the most problematic; to the contrary, Prisco’s grand dreams inspire fascination as well as terror.
Ey begins with the prospect of what Hugo de Garis calls the “gigadath,” the mass slaughter in the anticipated war over building vastly superhuman artificial intelligences. Channeling the narrative of progress, Prisco feels confident that Cosmists – those who want to create AI gods – won’t initiate hostilities:
I think we can safely say that, despite some very sad episodes, the human race is gradually becoming gentler and more compassionate as a result of education and civilization. Our ancestors used to treat animals cruelly, but today we are beginning to be kind and benevolent toward most animals, and we love our pets. I expect that the next generations will extend love and compassion to all the animals that share our planet.
It’s ironically appropriate that an inhabitant of era of the largest meat industry the Earth has ever seen would displace cruelty back in time to unspecified ancestors. As with violence between humans, any diminution amongst the general population has gone hand in hand with intensification at designated sites. Your average citizens of a so-called developed country might not butcher pigs and chickens today, but that’s just because somebody else – customarily in abyssal working conditions at a slaughterhouse – does it for them. At best we can describe this as a dubious advance in gentleness. While prehistoric hunter-gatherers may have eaten more meat per capita, the game they subsisted off of lived free rather than in factory-cages. So much transhumanist/Singularitarian thought rests on invocations of progress that become uncertain if not utterly untenable upon reflection.
Next Prisco sketches the cheerful image of accommodation between Terrans and Cosmists. The former migrate to the stars while leaving an embassy to assist Terrans who wish transition. I’ve considered the same arrangement myself as a means of coexistence between revolutionary factions and basis for a science fiction tale or two. After this comes even wilder speculation about “Future Gods,” spacetime manipulation, and resurrecting the dead. With folks like Prisco who explicitly embrace Cosmism as a religion – and this includes more IEET notables than I’d realized – Dale’s term “Robot Cultist” starts to approach the mark though it remains perhaps unduly insulting. In contrast with Dale, I find these transhumanist spiritualities intriguing rather than devoid of aesthetic or intellectual merit. But I sure as hell ain’t a believer. The idea of a bunch of rich people so invested in the progress myth that they literally worship it invites concern.
Prisco concludes by mentioning violence against scientists as the first shots of a Terran resistance ey hopes will wilt in the bud. A linked article has the provocative title “Anarchists attack science” that resonates with traditional media portrayals of anarchism as a savage threat to civilization. Combined with Prisco’s rhetoric about Cosmists as inevitably nice and omission of the horrors of technological modernity, I discern the possibility that Cosmism will bolster the resurgent anti-anarchist crusade. Without acknowledgement of how state and corporate technoscience harms people daily, the extremists who target scientists and technicians with violence appear simply as irrational reactionaries. Although I share Prisco’s pluralistic ideal, unfortunately the last few centuries suggest that we’ve got plenty to fear from proponents of progress.