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On Assessing Progress June 1, 2015

Posted by Summerspeaker in Epistemology, Primitivism, Transhumanism.
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Reluctance or refusal to rank different times, places, and experiences in no way goes against or implies at rejection of rationality, empiricism, or science. To the contrary, it’s commonly a rational move informed by an understanding of the power of knowledge production and the danger of spurious claims. It’s entirely legitimate to admit ignorance and to question the desire for assessment. Why assert progress? What does this assertion do? Whom does it serve?

While certain types of progress are almost undeniable empirically – the overall worldwide increase in life expectancy at birth over the last couple centuries comes immediately to mind – any attempt a grand evaluation runs into a whole host of problems. As the word itself suggests, evaluation is a matter of values. The lack of data compounds this arbitrariness. How do you figure out, for example, what medieval English laborers thought of their lives? The documentary record is spotty at best and tends to get worse the farther back you go. Both studies and my personal experience suggest that happiness is a tricky thing. One theory is that it’s significantly genetic or otherwise set early on. Wherever you go, there you are. While I might think myself privileged over the medieval serf with laptop and internet connection, it’s not certain that I’m enjoying life more.

I still find Philippe Verdoux’s sweeping analysis of the historical record compelling. However, regardless of whether there’s progress in the human condition since prehistory or medieval times or 1965, we can and should do so much better than all that’s come before.

 

Context: This post comes as immediate to a Facebook argument with William Gillis but relates to key themes in futurism and transhumanism.

“The Case for Anarchist Transhumanism?” on Transpolitica February 1, 2015

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
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I just participated in this video conference hosted by David Wood. You can view it here and here.

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.

My University Celebrates Colonialism September 30, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Transhumanism.
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Courtesy of Nick Estes:

UNM Seal

The University of New Mexico – where I study – isn’t just a colonial institution, it’s blatantly and unapologetically so. The official seal celebrates two iconic Indian killers: the Anglo frontiersman and Spanish conquistador.

See the seal without Nick’s caption here. It’s the “most formal symbol of the University” and “is reserved for use on documents or forms of the highest official rank from the University President, the University Secretary, and the University Board of Regents such as diplomas, certificates, certain invitations, legal documents, and other printed materials.” Furthermore, according UNM policy, the “seal may never be distorted.”

This is what living inside a settler-colonial society looks like. Everything that comes out of the United States – specifically the technoscience we transhumanist so adore – relies on stolen land and the structural genocide of Native peoples. Colonialism isn’t incidental or unrelated to the transhumanist project, but foundational to it. Transhumanism needs to work toward decolonization to have any hope of being a positive force in the world.

Transhumanist Colonialism from the Horse’s Mouth August 9, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Technology, Transhumanism.
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My recent piece on IEET has provoked Hank Pellissier to launch into a defense of colonialism:

“Colonialism”… I do not believe it is always 100% destructive

Neither do the colonized… the link below for example – its a popular chat site for Nigerians, read it and you discover that many/most of the posters think colonization provided some benefits…

http://www.nairaland.com/12021/colonialism-good-africa

also…

Untouchability in Hindu India… a long, wretched tradition that was partially alleviated by the British colonialists…

Sati – or Suttee – the burning of widows in India, also abolished by British colonialists…

or…

Albinos are occasionally killed for body parts in Tanzania – the Canadian NGO “Under the Sun” is trying to criminalize the profession of “witch doctor” there… Are they being “colonialist” in their attitude, imposing their values?

I wrote an article opposing Female Genital Mutilation – a commenter told me that I was displaying a “white, imperialist, colonialist” attitude because I was suggesting my cultural values were superior –

who is right or wrong?

is colonialism acceptable if it provides…. education, medicine, infrastructure, democracy, improvement in human rights… ?

Ey goes on describe U.S. military aid as a good investment:

Hi Kris – my essay, “Israel’s Value to Transhumanism” lists numerous ways Israeli innovation contributes to the creation of a better technoprogressive future. It was written four years ago, and Israel’s value has increased significantly since then. For example, Israelis have gotten 6 Nobel Peace prizes in Chemistry in the last decade… plus Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel Prize in Economics, for his work in Game Theory, highly valued by AI researchers.

Israel’s “Value” is deeply unappreciated by its hostile neighbors.

To guarantee Israel’s survival, the DOD provides about $3 billion in weaponry to Israel annually.

I don’t think this is a terrible investment.  Here is a list for you of
“57 Contributions Israel Has Made to the World”

http://www.levitt.com/news/2005/08/04/57-contributions-israel-has-made-to-the-world/

IMO, people who want the elimination of Israel are desiring a future scenario that delays and destroys techno-progress

Peter Wicks concurs:

Honestly, I don’t have the slightest quibble with Hank’s reflections regarding colonialism. It indeed brought benefits as well as destruction and misery. And it was entirely relevant to the discussion (including the African example) given that we are responding to an article that essentially condemns Israel for being a settler-colonialist state.

While I wouldn’t argue that literally nothing positive has come out of colonial projects, presenting colonialism as beneficial to the colonized under current political circumstances strikes me as overwhelmingly pernicious. In Pellissier’s case, it goes hand in hand with support for U.S. military aid to Israel, support for supplying Israel with the explosives that have just killed hundreds of noncombatants in Gaza. Pellissier advocates exactly what I oppose: building the fabulous future atop a heap of bones.

As I’ve argued previously, programs that demand suffering today on the basis of knowing the future assume far too much certainty. If folks like Pellissier have their way, forty years from now we may well end up with compounding misery and no magical tech to save us.

Gaza Is a Transhumanist Issue! August 4, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Transhumanists as a rule may prefer to contemplate implants and genetic engineering, but few if any violations of morphological freedom exceed being torn to pieces by shrapnel or dashed against concrete by an overpressure wave. In this piece I argue that the settler-colonial violence in occupied Palestine relates to core aspects of modernity and demands futurist attention both emotionally and intellectually.

Read it all over at IEET.

4th of July July 4, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Technology, Transhumanism.
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AmericaMamdani

In relation to transhumanism, it’s important to remember the above constitutes the context for much of the technological change over the last couple centuries.  As such, colonialism and white supremacy stand always already implicated in the transhumanist project. How does keeping this history and present in mind influence how we dream of better worlds?

Marina Strinkovsky on Shulamith Firestone May 13, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Environmental justice, Feminism, Technology, Transhumanism.
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I think we can, and must, learn from our radical predecessor the lessons of passion and vision without falling into the (sometimes real, often imagined) mistakes of modernist thinkers who were not embarrassed to commit to an absolute notion of a better world, and not ashamed to apply its optimism to the entire human race. Not just our flourishing and wellbeing, but our survival might depend on it.

Read it here.

Transhumanism and Anarchism Incompatible? May 4, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
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IEET just published a piece by John Danaher that assesses Elizabeth Kolovou and Stavros Karageorgakis’s anarchist argument against transhumanism. Sadly I’ve not by for anything more than passing remarks. Kolovou and Karageorgakis’s paper gets off to a inauspicious start by writing that “[t]ranshumanism does not express the visions of some insane techno freaks influenced by science fiction, but  ideas of well acknowledges philosophers and scientists of the West.” I’d say the movement contains both, and I’m more encouraged by the former than the latter. (There is of course some overlap.) The two authors provide a solid critique of transhumanism – in particular I echo their opinion of Nick Bostrom’s singleton – but I ultimately agree with Danaher conclusion if not necessarily with the logic that ey uses to reach it.

I think it’s more useful to identify various strands of anarchism as incompatible. As most folks in the anarchist scene know all too well, anarchists differ dramatically. So yeah, anarcho-primitivism and anarcho-transhumanism clash fundamentally at the theoretical level. Some anarchists promote nanotechnology, others send bombs to nanotechnology researchers. So it goes.

Flying Blue and Black for May Day May 1, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
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anarcho-transhumanism

Why not?

IEET put up “What is Anarcho-Transhumanism?” by William Gillis today. It’s not a new piece, but it remains a charming read.

It is the knowledge that victory for the working class will only truly arrive when every worker individually owns the means of production—capable of fabricating anything and everything for themselves.

I suspect Oscar Wilde would second this vision.

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