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On Decolonizing the March for Science April 22, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Epistemology, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Today’s March for Science unsurprisingly prompted critiques of science from an antiracist and decolonial perspective. This one, from the Seattle group Women of Color Speak out, came across my social media. The post describes unsuccessful attempts to reach out to the local March for Science and make the event less “less racist/elitist/colonialist/sexist.”  Women of Color Speak Out’s first three points to the “Western White Cis Male Scientific Community” come much recommended:

1. We need a great deal of healing before the scientific community can be credible to the general public in terms of equity and “inclusivity” (inclusivity is a white supremacist term, implies that they are doing minorities a favor instead of simply doing the right thing).

2. In order for the scientific community to begin regaining trust of POC and marginalized people, they need to openly acknowledge how they have failed us for decades with their inaction on climate change. They must openly acknowledge that they have failed the Global South, POC, poor people, Indigenous peoples, and Womxn.

3. The scientific community must acknowledge that by staying silent for decades they have served the White Colonial Empire before the needs of humanity and nature.

Overall, the scientific establishment indeed served, and often continues to serve, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, ableism, heteropatriarchy, and other forms of oppression. Disentangling science a method, as a principle, from these pernicious systems of thought and action will take some doing. Women of Color Speak Out’s first points trace part of this long-term process.

Point four, by contrast, strikes me as misguided:

4. In their values they say ‘Science is the BEST method for understanding the world’. This will greatly offend Indigenous communities, POC, and faith communities. This divisive messaging should be muted to ‘Science is an EXCELLENT method to understand the world’.

While I can see the logic behind lumping Indigenous communities with faith communities here, the addition of POC as well make it curiouser and curiouser. Though not necessarily always accurate or helpful, the narrative of indigeneity as entailing a worldview or worldviews distinct from and presumably at odds with the “Western” scientific one stands firmly established. But why exactly are people of color as a whole prone to taking offense to privileging scientific epistemology? Unlike Indigenous communities and faith communities, there’s nothing definitional to the category “people of color” that implies some epistemology or epistemologies in tension with science.

The fact that science offends faith communities (and other communities) strikes me as one of its beneficial social effects rather than something to avoid or minimize. As argued by Meera Nanda and William Gillis, anything-goes epistemological pluralism and situated knowledges rarely lead toward freedom.

Nanda’s argument from “The Epistemic Charity of the Social Constructivist Critics of Science and Why the Third World Should Refuse the Offer” merits quoting at length:

It is my contention that the epistemic charity of the postmodern and the postcolonial science critics lies in the constitutive role they assign to social relations and cultural narratives in providing the norms of truth. Because they see nothing—not truth, not beauty, not goodness—that is not fully social, they see the free play and autonomy of local webs of meanings as the supreme priority, not to be constrained by any ‘transcendent’ goal. But such a view of knowledge is problematic on at least three counts: (1) It allows social relations and cultural meanings, as they exist today with all their inequities and oppressions, to set limits on what we can know about the world. (2) Simultaneously, it disables any critique of the existing relations and meanings based on knowledge not derived from these same social relations. (3) Last but not the least, it delegitimizes and denigrates intellectuals and movements that bring modern science and scientific temper to bear on local knowledges. As we see in the following scenarios, under the prevailing contexts in most of the Third World, such a logic ends up strengthening those upholding the status quo, be they traditional cultural elites or the modern state. The losers in all these cases are the internal critics—people’s science movements, human rights, and democracy movements—that attempt to challenge the existing cultural mores by using the ‘alien’ worldview of science.

Now, Nanda’s generalization of the Third World (with the valuable qualifier “most of”) obscures important complexities and may not apply to Indigenous peoples in North America and elsewhere. The core logic remains sound nonetheless. Knowledge about our shared material and social world matters. Insulating situated local knowledges from outside engagement, including challenges, facilities abuse.

I hope the growing movement to decolonize science can avoid falling into this trap. I hope transhumanists, especially without a background in antiracism and similar, take seriously critiques of science from Women of Color Speak Out and others.

Youth Liberation and Pedophilia February 20, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Anarchism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism.

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.”

Chelsea Manning’s Sentence Commuted January 17, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Queer politics, Technology.
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This is a victory for freedom, justice, political prisoners queer/trans revolution, etc. The credit goes to all the folks who’ve support Chelsea Manning, not to Barack Obama. Let’s hope Obama does the same for countless other political prisoners in the next couple of days. Let’s hope to soon become so crafty that they can’t catch us and imprison us at all.

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.

Self-Determination in the Cyborg Economy: The Dakota Access Pipeline September 8, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Decolonization, Technology, Uncategorized.
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I just got back from a local solidarity rally for the folks resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The action itself was energetic and utterly familiar, with all the classic rally elements: signs, speeches, chants, intersection blocking, media presence, and so on. For Albuquerque, it was an impressive turnout. I didn’t think to put on sunscreen and ended up sunburned.

To the Red Nation revolutionaries who participated in the event as well as to many other observers, the mobilization against the pipeline stands out as a shining example of Native resistance to colonialism. The pipeline, in this analysis, comes in a long tradition of resource-extraction projects that harm Indigenous peoples for the benefit of corporate elites. Opposing the pipeline then amounts to a struggle for survival, a struggle against bodily and symbolic death.

The pipeline likewise conforms to the pattern of supposed development that contaminates the environment, inflicting health problems on populations located by the development site and to some degree on the public at large. This dynamic disproportionately affects Indigenous peoples but isn’t limited to colonial encounters. Industrialism to date has myriad victims. Technological mass society has produced wonders at great cost, and these costs haven’t been evenly distributed.

While the present economy indeed requires oil to function, as numerous environmentalists argue, focusing on alternatives makes more sense than expanding extraction of fossil fuels. Proponents of the pipeline unsurprisingly emphasize immediate monetary benefits and overall economic efficiency, invoking the free market. Sadly, as sketched above, the energy market has a set record of negative externalities. Business as usual ain’t working.

The DAPL controversy highlights the tensions and contradictions of the United States as a colonial entity and of the broader industrial economy. It raises questions about property and belonging that can’t be coherently addressed without attending to the country’s settler-colonial history and present.

The standard team-sports mentality of social struggle and the complexity of the issues may well give some of y’all pause. To what extent are the protests about the pipeline specifically? To what extent are they about the representational politics of standing against colonialism and capitalism? To what extent are they about global environmental issues such as climate change, and to what extent does this map to pipeline itself?

I don’t have definitive answers to these questions. I advocate support for the folks putting their bodies on the line and for the principle of self-determination as well as for sustained curiosity about the best course forward.

You can donate to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe via their website.

Thinking Safety after the Orlando Massacre June 12, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Feminism, Queer politics, Technology, Transhumanism.
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“Freedom is never very safe.”

Shevek says this toward the end of Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. Tyranny isn’t safe either. In the wake of today’s deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we need to remember these principles.

Reactions to this atrocity follow predictable lines. Many progressives and leftists are warning about Islamophobia. Most liberals, along with some progressives and leftists, are blaming the National Rifle Association and encouraging state gun control. Some radicals are promoting armed self-defense for queers. Most conservatives and some liberals are blaming Muslims and beating the drums of war. Some antiqueer bigots are hailing the attack as God’s work, divine retribution.

Without question, the massacre highlights the horror of antiqueer bigotry. As with any mass killing, it stands out as a human tragedy, a site of spectacularly intense pain and loss. Because of this, the impulse toward mourning feels intuitive.

That’s not the approach I take here. Instead of prayers, I offer analysis.

While recognizing the appropriateness of mourning, I challenge it as an imperative. None of us can meaningfully mourn all of the death and suffering that happens in the world each day. Various valid responses exist, including reflection, looking at the big picture. It doesn’t necessarily make any sense that massacres like this attract more outrage than the structural violence that kills people more slowly, spread out across time and space. It doesn’t necessarily make sense that we mourn the massacres that the media tells us to and not others.

My reaction as a queer transhumanist anarchist adheres to its own predictable line: opposition to authoritarian security measures enforced through violence, whether controls on Muslim immigrants or on firearms. I likewise advocate criticism of Islam and other Abrahamic religions as part of the project of smashing straightness.

As I’ve previously written, state gun control has a racist history and enhances the power of elites. Moreover, as William Gillis argues, state regulation based on safety fundamentally conflicts with technological innovation. I don’t completely agree with Gillis, but find the broad sweep of the argument compelling.

First the state bans assault rifles; next it bans all 3D printers that could conceivably produce assault rifles. (How do they enforce these bans? With assault rifles, of course.) The logic of banning guns, of safety via state violence, tends toward totalitarian dystopia. It’s the logic of the cop wearing a pistol and body armor who’ll shoot you for possessing a knife. Perhaps enlightened progressives could somehow strike the right balance and allow for technological transformation while still reducing the odds of individuals going on murderous rampages.

I doubt it. That’s a risk I’m not willing to take. State gun control is manifestly hypocritical, unethical, and corrosive to freedom. The long-term dangers are overwhelming.

I do support nonstate efforts to reduce risks that come from the means of destruction, including firearms. Safety stands out as a hard problem for transhumanism. I plan to cover this in more detail in the future. For now, suffice it to say that I don’t want a nuclear bomb in every pot.

Banning guns is misguided. Further restricting Muslim immigration and targeting Muslims with increased security-based harassment stand out as far worse, nightmarishly oppressive prospects. Such prejudice and control run wholly counter to the principle of freedom.

With that said, despite how homonationalists tell me to join ISIS when I denounce the United States, I don’t buy into the mainstream narrative around Islamophobia. Islam, like other Abrahamic religions, contains endless oppressive elements. I don’t think there’s enough positive there to be worth salvaging, although I hold limited sympathy for Muslims/Christians/Jews/etc. who cultivate the best aspects of their religions.

I oppose prejudice against Muslims because region and culture determine religious identity more than adherence to dogma, and because anti-Muslim sentiment in the West primarily comes from imperialists, racists, and xenophobes. We should criticize and fight back those who preach oppression based on any religion or any other basis. This includes Islam.

Ultimately, I’m on the side of the apostates and blasphemers. Death to all domination!

William Gillis Finally Finished “Science as Radicalism” August 19, 2015

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Epistemology, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Science graphic.

You can read it here. The piece provides a useful intervention. I’ll provide further commentary when I get the chance. Check out the anarchistnews.org version if you’re brave.

The March of Automation August 2, 2015

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Technology, Transhumanism.
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It’s an old story, going back to the start of the so-called industrial revolution. However, now the prospect of near-complete automation is beginning to seem more credible. This piece recounts how a factory in Dongguan City in China has recently replaced 90% of its workers with robots and seen 162.5% increase in production with a considerably lower defect rate. Various other Chinese factories plan to follow suit.

In an economy that ran for the common good – and perhaps in a genuinely free market – this sort of thing would be awesome. More efficient production could in theory make us all better off. In actually existing practice it’s more complicated. Workers lose jobs and primarily the bosses on the top benefit. As the linked article mentions, the increasing automation of Chinese factories comes at the same time as the Made in China 2025 initiative, which delightfully includes a focus on strengthening intellectual property rights.

Vastly complex technological systems of production and distribution sustain the current world economy. This article provides a fascinating look at the shipping industry. Here as with Chinese factories we see movement toward replace human labor with its robotic equivalent. Author Tim Maughan notes that “ports like Rotterdam in the Netherlands have already moved to fully automated systems, with driverless trucks and robotic cranes.”

Chinese factories, Danish-run shipping lines, and so on supply the basic necessities/luxuries that so many of us rely on on a daily basis for our comfort and survival. At the same time, these systems involve incredible exploitation and suffering. Automation seems like an ideal solution to drudgery but I doubt it will such as such by itself. It’s no answer to the questions of contamination, displacement, and distribution that continually haunt the modern economy.

The solution, of course, is revolution, but not a revolution simply destroys the industrial economy – at least not without putting up something superior in its place. When reading Maughan’s piece, disrupting supply lines seems awfully easy. It’s almost amazing the folks who want to accelerate the supposedly inevitable collapse of civilization haven’t had more successful.

Zoltan-vs.-Zerzan Shows What’s Wrong with Transhumanism November 27, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Primitivism, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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Aspiring transhumanist politician Zoltan Istvan recently debated John Zerzan at Standford. Istvan concluded with the following:

Transhumanists want to survive and thrive. We want to conquer nature. For a lot of humans that want to become more than they are–being an astronaut, being a scientist, being an explorer…conquering disease, conquering death, conquering the things that plague humanity–these are some of the coolest, most beautiful, most meaningful experiences that humans have ever had.

While I of course share some of this sentiment, the language of conquest and exploration stands out as especially chilling given that the debate took place a couple weeks before the official celebration of U.S. settler colonialism. Zerzan’s biting criticisms of industrial civilization – such as “You have to basically enslave millions of people to have your toys” – go answered in the excerpts of the debate Istvan chose to share.

Also consider Istvan’s description of the debate:

Additionally, the footage misses the most exciting parts of the event, such as loud anti-civilization hecklers or the anarchist-dominated 140-person audience. The vibe in the auditorium was quite tense, and some transhumanists were worried about safety issues because no university security was present. In the very back stood people who some suggested were black bloc participants: individuals who dress in black, wear face-concealing masks and gear, and cause civil unrest. Many of them came to meet John Zerzan, who is well known as a past confidant of the Unabomber and has also had associations with many anarchist-type groups.

This transhumanist desire for university security speaks volumes.