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Settling the Future: Transhumanism without Indians July 7, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Decolonization, Despair, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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But, again n’ again, it goes back IMO to what Fukuyama (who wants to make amends for his “End of History” folly) writes: if we encourage a motley coalition of culturally conservative oppressed—and they are in fact v. oppressed—we go nowhere fast. You can communicate with them as you please, however for me to be honest with them it would be the proper thing to say to them their culture only interests me i.e. artistically/anthropologically/archaeologically—otherwise such contains little or nothing of a progressive nature. I feel quite strongly that we go nowhere by attempting to be all things to all progressives—assuming they are even progressive as we define progressive in the first place. To put in plain language, what do ‘Indians’ have to do with technoprogressivism or even progressivism as conventions define technoprogressivism? Besides, re Native Americans, it has gone way past colonialism- you are many decades too late; we are not discussing India under the British.
White nationalists are often oppressed poor as well; what would reaching out to them accomplish? they have told me they fear the effects of transhumanism on their families, thus it doesn’t take Cheiro to foresee we would have a similar difficulty with reaching out to other oppressed primitives. Wasted motion. College students, yes, and many others who are receptive; Native Americans?: I see it as simply a waste of time in proving we are caring (or smarmy) towards minorities.
Unless any of you you possess evidence they are willing to listen. – Intomorrow

No words. This penultimate comment on my recent IEET article leaves me sputtering and speechless with indignation. The expressed derision toward the oppressed in general and Native Americans in particular on the basis of technoprogressivism reinforces my abiding suspicion of the the progress narrative. Intomorrow suggests hopping on that spaceship to awesome and ignoring the “oppressed primitives” too “culturally conservative” get on board. I’m not even sure what ey means by progressive – if you’re reading, please clarify – but I assume it approximates IEET’s broad position about ethically employing powerful emerging technologies to improve or transcend the human condition. Intomorrow describes the impoverished and brutalized masses as too poor soil to grow the glorious future. Because of backwards cultural values that incline them to mistrust the technoprogressive agenda,  these people have little or nothing to offer.

While idiosyncratic in its details, I would guess that this position resonates in the transhumanist community. Those in positions of privilege typically take pleasure in describing their others as behind the times if not downright uncivilized. Progressive white folks fixate on communities of color as homophobic and misogynist; owners and coordinators bemoan working-class racism. These tales serve to justify racial and class domination.

I argue that such claims about cultural deficiencies of the oppressed do no useful intellectual work. As an alternative conceptual framework, I recommend the intersectional approach to identity and power. Needless to say, we shouldn’t idealize the oppressed – even the super oppressed! – as sources of absolute truth or unmediated knowledge. Huge cultural barriers indeed hinder radical organizing.  However, Francis Fukuyama’s elitism and its echoes contribute nothing to overcoming these challenges and crafting successful coalitions.

In this context, Intomorrow stands out for how ey unambiguously identifies indigenous people – “Indians” – as irrelevant. As an example the racism, notice how ey juxtaposes “college students” with “Native Americans.” While I’m tempted to stress the value of indigenous culture the project of sustainability and elaborate on the revolutionary credentials of Native peoples, doing so threatens to reiterate the hegemonic dynamic that centers settler desires. Native lands, communities, cultures, and religions have too long been taken as a resource for non-Natives.

Instead, I repeat and expand on my initial claim that contemporary technoscience relies on exploitation and environmental devastation. The record of uranium mining and nuclear weapons production here in New Mexico illustrate how this plays out. Furthermore, I add that technoscience in the Americans rests on the foundation of settler colonialism. Like the Middle Eastern oil that drives the United States economy, close to every acre comes drenched in blood. As Native lands continue to be targeted for resource extraction – especially of energy resources – this dynamic belongs to our own twentieth-first century as much as the nineteenth. Any attempt to make technoscience ethical must directly confront settler colonialism to have any hope of success. As the syndicalists say, an injury to one is an injury to all.

Intomorrow’s style of futurism scares me silly. The unwashed multitudes – including poor white nationalists, as incomparable as they are to Natives – have legitimate reasons for rejecting assertions of cultural superiority from those with material power over them. Death to all domination everywhere, however rationalized. I dream of wide alliances based on egalitarian and anti-authoritarian principles mighty enough to overturn the status quo. Here’s to revolution and relationships – not progress.

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Comments»

1. Dale Carrico - July 8, 2012

From the Preface to my Condensed Critique of Transhumanism:

“I regard mainstream futurology as the quintessential discourse of neoliberal global developmentalism, market-mediation, and fraudulent financialization. There is a certain strain of delusive utopianism that drives neoliberalism’s callous immaterialism and hyperbolic salesmanship through and through, but what I describe as superlative futurological discourses represent a kind of clarifying — and also rather bonkers — extremity of this pseudo-utopianism. While there is obviously plenty that is deranging and dangerous about such techno-transcendental or superlative futurological discourses and the rather odd organizations and public figures devoted to them, what seems to me most useful about paying attention to these extreme and marginal formations is the way they illuminate underlying pathologies of the more prevailing mainstream futurological discourses we have come to take for granted in so much public policy discussion concerning science, technology, and global development.

“Among these parallel pathologies, it seems to me, are shared appeals to irrational passions — fears of impotence and fantasies of omnipotence — shared tendencies to genetic reductionism, technological determinism, and a certain triumphalism about techno-scientific progress. I also discern in both mainstream and superlative futurology a paradoxical “retro-futurist” kind of reassurance being offered to incumbent and elite interests that “progress” or “accelerating change” will ultimately amount to a dreary amplification of the familiar furniture of the present world or of parochially preferred present values. Also, far too often, one finds in both mainstream and superlative futurology disturbing exhibitions of indifference or even hostility to the real material bodies and real material struggles in which lives, intelligences, lifeways, and human histories are actually incarnated in their actual flourishing diversity.”

2. Summerspeaker - July 9, 2012

Intomorrow expands on eir position here. For example:

European settler colonization of what is now the US is a done deal.. done generations ago; it wound down a dozen decades ago. If your progressivism, your anti-colonialism, is synonymous with PC, I want nothing to do with it and will attempt to subvert it. You must be aware the colonization of what is now the US though at one time genocidal is not comparable to Africa, for instance.
The staff of IEET wants Right Speech, and RS has been a success here, but I want to be a bit contentious on this if you are asking me to deny everything I’ve seen of Native Americans/ Indians (many of them call themselves Indians because it is one word not two), after nearly half a century of visiting their reservations and talking to them. You know very well the percentage of progressive and technoprogressive indigenous is quite small and the hypothesis for why that is is more than merely a guess: natives had their past ripped out from under them and want it back. They did, and they do, and I am sure you know it.

3. John Howard - July 9, 2012

Hilariously impossible to figure out what the heck you are talking about, and then Dale shows up to add his whipped cream topping.

Are you comparing technoprogressivism to colonialism? Spreading the irrational utopian ideal of postgenderism, to the point where people don’t have sexes anymore? I would say that calling people eir an ey is similar to colonialists telling people to fuck missionary style because it’s more PC. (Btw, remember that Dale believes in the superlative techno fantasy of overcoming the human limitation of needing to reproduce with someone of the other sex – classic nerdy Transhumanism.)

Summerspeaker - July 9, 2012

Yes, clearly my use of gender-neutral pronouns approximates the vast colonial violence of heteropatriarchal normativity. My apologies for being incomprehensible. I must be sinking deeper into the clutches of the Imperial Academy.

If you’re trying to discredit Dale in my eyes, you’ve chosen a counterproductive strategy. I find class nerdy transhumanism thoroughly endearing.

John Howard - July 11, 2012

Postgenderism is still patriarchal, and it is certainly imperialistic. I believe we are fighting our wars against natural sexual reproduction right now, apparently to bring transgenderism to Afghan villages.

And while it’s true I’ve failed to comprehend anything you’ve written, I assumed from the name of this blog that you were some kind of queer transhumanist. I also couldn’t tell if you and Dale were agreeing or disagreeing about anything, but usually he’s disagreeing with everyone, so I assumed that was the case again here. I wasn’t trying to discredit him in your eyes, I was trying to make sure everyone knew he was in fact in favor and supportive of every single thing that postgenderists and transhumanists want to be able to do, so any argument he seems to be having with anyone is just about semantics and style, not substance.

Summerspeaker - July 12, 2012

I’m quite certain the war in Afghanistan isn’t for transgenderism. Trans, queer, and feminist groups – but mainly the latter two – have indeed been conscripted into the imperial project lately, but that’s a far cry from your claim. On the other hand, I find your analysis of Dale both amusing and insightful.

4. Dale Carrico - July 9, 2012

Of course, legacies of patriarchy, racism, slavery, colonialism, segregation, exploitation, heteronormativity, and naturalized violence continue to stratify the distribution of resources, capacities, recourse to law, access to opportunity here and now. This is not a “done deal” but, rather, very much still being dealt and being done.

Either one attributes these stratifications to innate differences — which is always bigotry, plain and simple — or one attributes them to ongoing injustices — which in turn either compels one to organize to redress them or one is indifferent to — which is always bigotry again, again plain and simple. Presumably, recognizing such facts is “PC” now?

It’s funny. I remember so vividly intense discussions among academics and activists in the 80s and early 90s about canons and interlocking oppressions, in which the term “PC” was used to describe a form of attention to the actual impossibility of any clean escape from the complex con-fusing co-constructing co-facilitating legacies of past violations that meant good faith political discussions in the service of equity-in-diversity had to be especially sensitive and especially imaginative. I remember these discussions so vividly, I suppose, because these were the discussion in which I came into political consciousness as an earnest ignoramus in Atlanta in my early twenties, and which continue to shape me to this day, probably more than anything else.

It is weird to me how this kind of fraught sensitivity to difficulty was transformed in the popular imagination to the unilateral imposition of some censorious code from a position of supposed know-it-alls. That a “PC”-sensitivity originated from a recognition of inevitably inadequate knowledge and the demand for compensatory sensitivity makes the popular understanding of “PC” that much more ironic.

Of course, I assume this is what any request for any kind of effort at all looks like to privileged assholes who take their authority as a natural given beyond question and thinks even the old-fashioned common sense idea of taking pains to be polite when one is in unfamiliar company is some kind of fascist conspiracy.

Summerspeaker - July 9, 2012

While I’ve rather more respect for the suspicion of academics and intellectuals, I’m of course with you on this one. I see colonialism as alive and well on the streets of Albuquerque. The claim that it’s over feels downright absurd based on personal experience as much as theory.

Only time will tell if transhumanists continue to regard my call to center environmental justice and decolonization with blank stares and outright hostility. I’m guessing yes.

5. Dale Carrico - July 9, 2012

“Dale believes in the superlative techno fantasy of overcoming the human limitation of needing to reproduce with someone of the other sex”

What is this belief of mine supposed to be? Are you saying I believe this will happen? I don’t have an informed opinion on that question. I don’t see the point in making such predictions. I do think that actually existing medical procedures or cultural practices, whether normalizing or not, once they have been demonstrated to be safe and are made accessible to all, should be legal when they are actually wanted by reasonably informed, non-duressed, sane, consenting adults. That I don’t pre-emptively deny the applicability of this general principal to imaginary procedures that freak you out personally in your surreally obsessive concern with a somehow threatened heterosexual reproduction says a whole lot about you, John Howard, as you restlessly traverse cyberspace from site to site to fling these weird accusations at me, but I can’t see how it has much to do with anything I actually believe or advocate.

John Howard - July 11, 2012

I’m not asking you to predict the future. Not even the most informed genetic scientists can predict if same-sex procreation will happen, so obviously an English professor isn’t going to know any better. What I mean by “believes in” is that you believe it should be legal, you believe it is something to be pursued, you believe it would be a good thing, you believe in it the same way Transhumanists believe everything they believe. You just don’t make a fool of yourself saying that it is inevitable like Transhumanists do. That’s your only difference with them, and that’s why I try to correct the record, because people easily misread your dense verbiage as being critical of Transhumanism. You are not a critic of Transhumanism, only a critic of Transhumanists, people who make grandiose claims of inevitibility that you are afraid will alert the public to the craziness of same-sex procreation before it has a chance to become real. I think not many people know that and that it’s important that people know that. You never admit it on your own, I had to discover it by accident.

I am trying to raise awareness of the loss of procreation rights and marriage, and of the goals of Postgenderism and Transhumanism, and get people to see that these seeming freedoms will result in loss of liberty and equality and cost enormous amounts of money and resources. I thought you wanted an informed public, but you seem to be more concerned with confusing the public.

Stop calling same-sex procreation a medical procedure, there is nothing unhealthy about needing to reproduce with someone of the other sex, it is perfectly healthy. Not everything wanted should be legal, especially experimental creation of people from modified genomes. It would be much better if there was certainty that same-sex procreation and genetic engineering and postgenderism will never happen, then we could recognize everyone’s dignity and equality and necessity and get to work on actual problems that affect real people, all the things that you recognize the robot cult stops us from doing.

Summerspeaker - July 11, 2012

Just so you know, I am postgenderism and transhumanism incarnate. I am the insidious terror that keeps breeders awake at night. Your description of Dale’s position, which I suspect is somewhat inaccurate, approximates my own.


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