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Lonely Robots: Transhumanist Responses to Unfuckability July 4, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Feminism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Soon after I mentioned being genderqueer during a conversation at the Extreme Futurist Festival 2011, the person I was talking to responded, “Wow, it must be hard for you to find sexual partners!”

“Gee, thanks,” I thought. As tactless as that remark may have been, it wasn’t wrong. This piece by Meredith Talusan explores some of the dynamics involved. Unfortunately, complaining about not getting laid immediately calls to mind masculine sexual entitlement to women’s bodies. I’m not sure it can escape that established trope.

The question of who’s considered attractive and who receives affection matters, but it’s unclear what to do. Most successful folks on the left and elsewhere enjoy their social power and/or romantic/sexual attractiveness. Critiques of the status quo as making it difficult for some to realize their desires potentially unsettle the existing elite, so they’ve no interest in pushing such critiques.

It’s telling Talusan’s article centers the achievement of Jacob Tobia and Alok Vaid-Menon, taking for granted the notion that prominent folks should get dates. What about all the humans who conform to neither ideals of attractiveness nor of success?

Well, nobody cares about those losers!

Imagenes Tristes 84

Anybody who values the overall good should care, though, and some do, or at least pretend to. Transhumanism offers various theoretical easy fixes to the problems of loneliness and unfuckability, albeit with severe implementation issues and philosophical implications.

Morphological Freedom

Wait, some people are poor, ugly, crazy, and/or sick? Let’s use technology to get them up to standard. We can all be sexy immortal billionaires!

A lot of transhumanists think this way.

As simplistic as this perspective is seems, the difficulty if not impossibility of conforming to existing norms indeed accounts for much of their oppressive power. Currently, the genetic lottery, money, and time determine who’s beautiful, hot, sexy, stunning, etc. If anybody could make their body match ideals of physical beauty, the advantage the genetic elite have in this regard would evaporate.

On the other hand, the normatively gorgeous don’t necessarily have the kind of sexual and romantic relationships they want, so opening access to beauty hardly seems sufficient. Additionally, what about folks who chose unpopular aesthetics? They might still find themselves undesirable despite full morphological freedom. Additionally, deprived of the genetic hierarchy, attractiveness norms could shift to become akin to fashion: “Girl, that body is so last month!”

The prospect of modifying minds quickly leads to questioning the basis of individual identity. For example, assuming I could make myself think and behave as popular and successful people do, would I want to? What about rewiring my mind to disregard social status and affection entirely? Would I still be me if I did either of those? I don’t know. Many of us stubbornly wish to remain who we imagine ourselves to be.

Matching Algorithms

Given the wide array of different desires folks have, morphological freedom by itself seems inadequate for solving the problem of loneliness and unfuckability. And of course full morphological freedom would require technological innovation and economic transformation; it’s a long way off.

However, there’s potential to make things dramatically better in the nearer term. Matching algorithms, such as featured on dating sites like OkCupid, can facilitate connections and enable romantic/sexual relationships. This ain’t necessarily that great at the moment, but the principle of aligning people’s desires, interests, etc. has promise. As big the world is, there’s probably at least a few folks somewhere whose desires match up with any given person’s at any given time.

For instance, let’s say I want to get tied up right now. I don’t know anyone who I think would be interested, but there’s a decent chance one or more of the planet’s seven and half billion humans is, especially if they had an idea of who I am and a basic level of trust. There might even be somebody my city or neighborhood.

Increasingly sophisticated digital networks can theoretically hook people up for both romantic/sexual relationships and other interactions, decreasing loneliness and improving quality of life. We already try to do this with our social media, though it’s a rather blunt instrument at present.

Sexbots

Certain transhumanists and others look optimistically to sexbots, predicting physical and mental health benefits. Yet, in addition to raising questions about objectification, sexbots are unlikely be able to convey the social status associated with romantic/sexual desirability. While some may eventually function as romantic partners, this wouldn’t be equivalent to human partnership unless they had human-level or above artificial intelligence and autonomy like a human. Sexbots might well alleviate the pain of unfuckability by human standards, but it’s unlikely they would completely resolve the problem. As Sherry Turkle and company argue, the prospect of sex and love with robots has the potential pitfalls. I find those concerns mostly misguided but relevant here.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality offers a number of benefits for sexual/romantic relations, whether between humans or between humans and AIs. VR makes change ones appearance trivial, eliminating that aspect of the genetic lottery. By transcending geographic limitations, VR in conjunction with matching algorithms could dramatically increase the odds of meaningful connections.

VR sexbots have the same issues as physical ones, albeit with perhaps less stigma. With or without sexual/romantic elements, VR worlds could simulate social status, as games do today. Losing oneself in VR entails similar philosophical challenges to transforming one’s psyche as described above.

Conclusion

None of the above technologies can replace the political and social project of creating a more accessible and fulfilling society, but they can assist in that project and make life more livable in any case.

Pride’s Queer Future June 27, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Feminism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Transhumanism.
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The year is 2020.

Pride events across the United States have banned cops, corporations, Zionism, & U.S. nationalism.

Talking heads rail about intersectionality as masked queers loot banks and big-box stores.

Cishet white men approach with caution, assuming the SJW mob will rip them apart. Instead they find themselves caught up in the revolutionary fervor.

Semi-autonomous remote-controlled drones assault police cars and stations massive numbers.

Law and order breaks down. It’s chaos in the streets.

New worlds are forming.

Youth Liberation and Pedophilia February 20, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Anarchism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism.
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So for some reason, leftists have recently decided to highlight Milo Yiannopoulos’s supposed support of pedophilia as part of the case against em. The key piece of evidence comes from an interview in which Yiannopoulos refused to categorize eir own teenage sexual experiences with older folks as abuse. If we denounce people who define their own experiences against the dominate narrative as evil pedophiles, we’re foreclosing discussion on a complicated topic and engaging in exactly the sort of witch-hunt mentality Yiannopoulos and others right-wing notables (hypocritically) decry.

Under the current ageist regime that treats younger folks as subhuman, young-older sexual encounters involve unequal power dynamics and tend strongly toward abuse that leaves enduring psychic scars. I don’t dispute that. However, at the same time, erasing the agency of folks who’ve experienced young-older sexual encounters supports the dehumanization of younger people. It implies that folks below a certain age don’t know what’s good for them, that we older folks should control them by force.

I hold firm to the notion that younger folks are people, not subhumans. I remember being in that situation. I hated such subordination and will never consider it just. You can fight abusive young-old sexual relationships without supporting ageism. Addressing the matter of pedophilia becomes more challenging when you recognize the humanity of younger folks, but that doesn’t mean we should shy away from this recognition.

Ultimately, it’s possible that smashing ageism and the nuclear family would render young-older sexual relationships unremarkable. That’s the ambitious and disturbing future vision Shulamith Firestone presented in The Dialectic of Sex. I don’t know that that’s correct, but it’s worth contemplating without knee-jerk allegations of pedophilia.

While youth liberation has limited presence at the moment, I suspect technological developments will increasingly prompt challenges to the ageist status quo. For example, what happens when genetic and/or cybernetic enhancement leads to more and more young people (teens, preteens, etc.) demonstrating greater conformity to the norms of maturity and rationality than much older folks? I suspect they’ll demand respect. I hope society gives it to them when the time comes.

(For how this topic relates to queerness and antiqueerness broadly, I recommend Gayle Rubin’s now classic piece. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but the essay remains provocative and insightful.)

Update: And once again I’m banned from /r/Anarchism. Ageism is apparently official sub policy. Argue for youth liberation, get banned.

Second Update: Yiannopoulos is now stressing eir anti-pedophile credentials and taking the stance that humor is the way ey copes with what ey describe as victimization (apparently from the priest). Yiannopoulos at same time speaks positively a ten-year relationship ey began at age seventeen with a twenty-nine-year-old. For a thoughtful treatment of the overall issue, I recommend this exchange between Samuel Delany and Will Shetterly.

Third Update: The moral panic over Yiannopoulos’s supposed support for pedophilia got eir book cancelled. Left and sundry are unsurprisingly celebrating this. It figures that Simon & Schuster have no problem publishing somebody who cheerleads  for Donald Trump and for deporting every last undocumented immigrant, but gay pedophilia allegations force a cancellations. Why is it so often only the sex scandals that matter?

On the Utility of Shooting Informants (Rogue One Spoilers) January 22, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Epistemology, Science Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Che was a devout Marxist-Leninist who believed that capitalism was doomed and that inevitably socialism, then communism, would take its place. He also possessed an unshakable faith that the entire process could be hurried along at the point of a gun. According to Alberto Granado, who as a young medical student had accompanied Che on his motorcycle journey through South America, when Che looked through a sniper scope at a soldier and pulled the trigger, he fully believed that he was helping reduce repression by ‘saving 30,000 future children from lives of hunger.’ When Granado looked through a sniper scope, by contrast, he saw only a man with a wife and children. The difference between them, Granado said, was that Che felt certain he was ushering in a new world order.

In Rogue One, rebel stalwart Cassian shoots a disabled informant in eir first appearance on screen. Cassian does this presumably to facilitate eir own escape and to prevent the informant from talking under interrogation. The film presents this action as unpleasant but morally justified as long as the fight against the Empire succeeds. A prominent anarchist has present Cassian’s act as obviously correct because utilitarianism.

I’m skeptical.

Guerrilla warfare historically involves lots of shooting and/or torturing a variety of types of informants. Guevara, for example, shot supposed enemy informants, most or all of whom were in the class position Guevara nominally fought for. While Cassian shot a friendly informant, the logic of elimination to deny the enemy information is similar. This sordid record ain’t anything to celebrate.

While there may conceivably be situations in which murder to control knowledge flows constitutes the optimal option, I doubt this happens often in our world. (It may not happen at all.) I suspect the trope/model of inflicting physical damage to feeling beings for the greater good causes more harm than it prevents.

Based on my experience and understanding of the world, humans don’t need any prodding from utilitarians to commit horrors in the name of God/nation/liberation/revolution/etc. I want to challenge this pattern of thought, not encourage it.

Sure, social regeneration though violence makes sense within its own terms. If defeating the allegedly evil enemy via pain and terror is the sole path to freedom and prosperity, it’s hard to argue against the approach. The trick is predicting the effect of hurting people with any confidence and of ruling out alternative options.

Humans in the cultures I’m familiar with default to violence as means for making the world a better place. We’re programmed by World War II, the atomic bombings of Japan, popular media, the police, the military, and so on to accept that narrative. Anarchist utilitarians who feed this discourse cheerlead for the status quo.

When you contemplate the revolutionary utility of murdering folks, I recommend reviewing the messy real-world history of insurgency rather than simplified fictional stories. Perhaps this will be your best option at some point in the coming years or decades. If so, weigh the odds and uncertainties carefully beforehand. Afterward, file a mental note to improve yourself and the resistance as a whole so you can do better in the future.

As transhumanists, we have to hold fast to the goal of engineering our way out of these ethical dilemmas. There’s always or almost always a superior course of action. What we can imagine, we’ll make. As Salvor Hardin said, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

Star Trek Support for Clinton Fittingly Reactionary October 7, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Science Fiction, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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About a week ago, numerous Star Trek notable released a statement opposing Donald Trump and encouraging Trekkers to vote for Hillary Clinton. The statement concludes with an appeal to “civil duty” and “our democracy.”

It’s utterly appropriate for Star Trek to take a stand for the neoliberal status quo. Despite the reputation, Star Trek falls far short as a utopian future vision for the following reason: formal hierarchy, bizarre preference for baseline biology, and Rule-of-Cool incoherence.

Hierarchy: Although they seem to have close to a post-scarcity economy, folks in the Federation make military-style hierarchy (Starfleet) their highest ideal. This entails all the bullshit you’d expect. Poor redshirts die in droves for the glory of Starfleet and their character-shielded superiors. Officers struggle for power and pursue romantic/sexual relationships along traditional heteronormative lines. Etc.

Baseline Preference: The Federation generally prohibits augmentation of biological beings and carefully controls the creation artificial intelligences. Star Trek presents the drive for genetic improvement as essentially fascist (Khan) and cyborg enhancement as essentially state communist (the Borg). Thus people still die of old age in the Federation. This all stands out as antithetical to liberty.

Incoherence: Like most fictional universes, Star Trek makes precious little sense when you take a moment to think about it. As perhaps the most glaring example, punches, kicks, and blades take a extensive screen time in setting that powerful energy weapons and guns that shoot through walls. There’s no plausible explanation for any of this. At least the Dune universe has contrived force fields to make knife fights sort of reasonable. At least in the Hyperion Cantos has an in-universe logic for plot armor and time-warping tech that facilitates the apparently obligatory hand-to-hand combat. In Trek, it just happens because it’s awesome. While the Trek Against Trump statement trumpets science, logic, and rationality, the classic technobabble solution employed across the franchise makes a mockery of these things. Genre conventions almost always trump coherence in Star Trek shows and movies. A Star Trek that seriously explored the implications of demonstrated technologies would diverge wildly from what we’ve got now.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d happily exchange my lot here on 21st-century Earth for a place in the Federation. (Please give me generous holodeck privileges!) But there too I’d rail against hierarchy and unfreedom. Given what Star Trek represents, it’s no surprise Star Trek wants you to vote for Clinton.

We can do much better, both in politics and in science fiction.

DARPA’s Evil Geniuses Keep Doing Their Thing April 2, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Science Fiction, Technocracy, Transhumanism.
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DARPA and Google should join forces and conquer the world.

This comment on George Dvorsky’s lasted io9 piece epitomizes corporate-militarist side of transhumanism that Dale Carrico ably critiques. I’d do my own critique if I had the time, but Dale’s should suffice. I’ll just point out the grim hilarity of Dvorsky’s two closing sentences:

With its launch of BTO, DARPA says it also wants to consider the implications of what it’s doing. To that end, DARPA will periodically converse with experts in these issues to discuss relevant ethical, legal, and social issues.

If there’s one thing the U.S. military has a flawless track record on, it’s ethics! They’re going to make sure they continue the program of world domination in an ethical fashion.

Musings on Morphological Freedom and Feminist Revolution September 12, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Feminism, Science Fiction, Transhumanism.
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Read it over at IEET.

Superhero Comics Are Reactionary Bullshit October 4, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Science Fiction, Transhumanism.
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I were it were otherwise. I type this with The Amazing Spider-Man yet lingering in my mind, but the claim applies to most if not all of the genre. I wouldn’t have thought Hollywood could surpass sixties comics in this department, but they managed to make the Spider-Man story even more politically pernicious than in its origins. That’s an impressive feat. So much for the progress narrative! While some folks who steal from convenience stores might indeed murder your uncle if ey gets in the way, many/most wouldn’t. By conditioning fear of criminals alongside respect for bourgeois property and the police, the film supports the worst horrors of modernity. It additionally portrays transhumanist goals within the well-worn trope of the mad scientist. I won’t even go into the heteronormativity. Yuck. These folks and people like Alvaro are the real superheroes. Do any comics have trans/queer leads who fight cops/straights instead of criminals?

Regulation, Progress, Austerity June 18, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Primitivism, Science Fiction, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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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.

The Next Thing: Art in the 21st Century May 10, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Science Fiction, Transhumanism.
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I was supposed to share info about this fascinating project like a million years ago in the aftermath of XFF 2011 – where I met Pablo Baler – but I figure better late than never. It’s worth a look for anyone interested in the aesthetic side of transhumanism.