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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.

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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.

Anissimov and Company Declare Themselves Reactionary December 1, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Despair, Evo psych, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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so it has come to this

See Klint Finley’s take on this new movement:

So what exactly is the Cathedral stopping neoreactionaries from talking about? Well, the merits of monarchy for starters. But mostly, as far as I can tell, they want to be able to say stuff like “Asians, Jews and whites are smarter than blacks and Hispanics because genetics” without being called racist. Or at least be able to express such views without the negative consequences of being labeled racist.

Speaking of which, neoreactionaries are obsessed with a concept called “human biodiversity” (HBD) – what used to be called “scientific racism.” Specifically, they believe that IQ is one of – if not the – most important personal traits, and that it’s predominately genetic. Neoreactionaries would replace, or supplement, the “divine right” of kings and the aristocracy with the “genetic right” of elites.

To call these claims “controversial” would be putting it lightly, but they underpin much of anti-egalitarian and pro-traditionalist claims neoreactionaries make. Delving into the scientific debate over race, genetics and IQ is beyond the scope of this article, but I’ve included some links on the topic in the reading list.

It’s not hard to see why this ideology would catch-on with white male geeks. It tells them that they are the natural rulers of the world, but that they are simultaneously being oppressed by a secret religious order. And the more media attention is paid to workplace inequality, gentrification and the wealth gap, the more their bias is confirmed. And the more the neoreactionaries and techbros act out, the more the media heat they bring.

I don’t have time to address this in any detail, but it’s worth being aware of. These folks literally want closed hierarchical societies in the mold of nineteenth-century Europe but with super tech. It almost seems like self-parody or trolling.

P.S. Check out Michael Anissimov’s Twitter feed if you really want to be horrified.

P.P.S. Also see Rick Searle’s take.

Strong Marxist Critique of the Singularity Movement over at IEET October 12, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Technology, The Singularity.
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[M]ake no mistake: the singularity paradigm is a Trojan horse that smuggles a desideratum for the singular mastery of space and time by a few under the cover of a techno-utopia for the totality. If indeed the ruling elite is hastening us toward a singularity, as corporate and State projects would seem to suggest, then we must be cognizant of the actuality it signifies, and work to oppose it, not on anti-technology grounds, as the Singulartarians would have it, but from the standpoint of the use of science and technology for the purposes of human emancipation.

Read it here.

Ethical Technology Article Up at IEET July 6, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Environmental justice, Primitivism, Technocracy, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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At present iconic modern technologies – computers, cars, phones, etc. – entail environmental devastation and vast human suffering. The harm caused by actually existing industrial manufacturing and resource extraction constitutes a core dilemma for transhumanist and technoprogressive thought. Assuming that innovation within the capitalist context will resolve the problem strikes me as far too sanguine. I argue for taking the horrors of technological production seriously and for using combined technical and social approaches to create genuinely ethical technology, ever acknowledging the uncertainty and difficulty involved.

Read it here. Also check out this lively comment thread.

New Article Up at IEET May 1, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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Read it here.

Happy May Day!

Dale on Zuckerberg’s Dream April 25, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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This is good stuff. Dale critiques Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s one-identity mantra as simultaneously creepy and confused. Particularly when coming from governments or corporations like Facebook and Google, I find the relentless drive to know everything deeply troubling. As Jaron Lanier writes, attempts to make us comprehensible to search engines and marketers entail an extreme reductionism that potentially negatively affects how we understand ourselves.

“Cautiously Toward Utopia” Up at IEET April 4, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Environmental justice, Technocracy, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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The longstanding and growing concern over structural unemployment caused by automation highlights the absurdity of capitalism. Like homelessness caused by too many houses, poverty from mechanization looks perverse and nonsensical from system-optimization standpoint. This article briefly sketches the history of both fears and hopes surrounding automated labor in order to argue against economic status quo of coercion, inequality, and inefficiency. I recommend distributing and/or socializing the twenty-first-century’s increasingly robotic means of production while simultaneously troubling sanguine post-scarcity dreams through attention to uncertainty, ecology, and pluralism.

Read it here.

The FBI Wants to Watch You Chat March 27, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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In another stunning example of how the gears of progress keep on turning, the FBI apparently thinks they’ll soon be able to monitor online chatting in real time. This is a step toward the glorious posthuman future or ominous yet expected expansion of the disciplinary apparatus? We report, you decide.

gay communism

In other news, remember that queer struggle ain’t about getting hitched. Gay marriage is a conservative cause.

Towards the Radical Redefinition of Transhumanism: Wesley Strong’s Critique March 13, 2013

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Queer politics, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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Read it over at IEET. I agree with Strong’s position as completely as I agree with anything:

Therefore we must redefine what “transhuman” means and what it means to be a Transhumanist. We must seek a transhumanism that directly speaks to the social lives of billions of people, instead of relying on some future technology to fix everything for us. We must seek to transcend human boundaries by transforming repressive the very social structures we created while also developing futuristic technologies to improve our lives and our ability to connect with each other.

The comments on the piece, of course, are terribly predictable, but Strong is taking the time to write in-depth replies.