Thinking Safety after the Orlando Massacre June 12, 2016Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Feminism, Queer politics, Technology, Transhumanism.
Tags: anarchism, massacre, Orlando, Pulse, shooting
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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!
Homonationalism Means Bashing Queers June 9, 2016Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Feminism, Queer politics, Transhumanism.
Tags: Albuquerque, Albuquerque Pride, anarchism, homonationalism, LGBT, queer
I just got back from Albuquerque’s Trans March to the Pride Candlelight Vigil. As I yelled “Death to the United States!” and “Death to imperialism!” during the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, two homonationalists put their hands on me, threatened to beat me up, grabbed my sign, and temporarily pulled it off its handle. This neatly illustrates what inclusion entails for normative LGBT subjects: bashing queers.
Earlier, during the Trans March, I engaged violent insurrectionist propaganda of the deed by following the lead of a few other folks and walking into the lane of traffic we were supposed to leave open. Security, safety, or whatever-the-hell people in reflective vests told me to know my place and get back in line. At first I ignored them. At a stop, when I don’t believe I was actually even blocking traffic, my presence out of the assigned area created a scene. One reflective person put their hands on me. Others endeavored to persuade me to conform. They said I was risking arrest. Somebody in the crowd said I needed to be peaceful.
“Death to peace!” I shouted. “There is no peace!”
When the march began moving again, I joined the main flow but on the outer edge, partially in the forbidden zone. When a person who identifies as an anarchist came to whip me into shape, I lost it and rushed through the crowd to the sidewalk. I the left the march at that point, as far I was concerned. I followed along as a bystander or perhaps heckler, not as a participant.
The security folks were doing what they thought was right, I’m sure. While I intentionally pushed the envelope, I suspect I would have gone with crowd after that pause if the peace police had simply let me stand there instead giving me a hard time.
Some attempts at control prove counterproductive.
Taking the whole street would have been safer and more fun. It’s fully appropriate, given the importance of trans lives and trans visibility.
Because of this debacle, I arrived at the vigil already enraged. The event announcer, Tony Carson, told us to get patriotic. “Death to patriotism!” I responded. Carson said something about taking that Saudi Arabia. I continued yelling through the ensuing U.S. nationalist ceremonies. I wasn’t in any mood to hold back.
Carson was the first homonationalist to confront me. Ey demanded that I leave, threatened to hurt me, and got up in my personal space. I alternated between yelling anti-U.S. slogans for everyone to hear and arguing with em. Ey grabbed my sign and we struggled over it. Another homonationalist came up and said ey would knock me out. Ey identified as a veteran. I said was condemning the United States as a political entity, not the individuals in the military. This second homonationalist also grabbed my sign, albeit with less vigor than the first.
A prominent LGBTQ organizer intervened with a liberal narrative of tolerance and free speech. The homonationalists had assaulted me and threatened me with bodily harm, but whatever. We’re all equal; it’s all good. Homonationalists who immediately turn to threats and physical attacks are the same as loud but technically peaceful queer anarchists as far as the big-tent LGBTQ movement is concerned, right? We just need to learn to get along. What’s a little domination, hierarchy, and oppression between family?
Nah, y’all ain’t my family.
Eventually a few folks with (un)Occupy Albuquerque approached and engaged. It felt like they had my back in the moment.
Although the homonationalists didn’t deliver the bashing they talked about, their repeated threats and physical aggression show how homonationalism functions. Becoming a respectable LGBT subject means disavowing radical queers who pose a danger to the nation. It means bashing those radical queers if they criticize the nation and won’t shut up.
After all, violence against the enemy and against the traitor is what nationalism is all about. It’s not surprising that these folks want to hurt me for insulting the United States, but it does tell you everything you need to know about the mainstream LGBT movement.
Homonationalists are another group of queer bashers. Their norms ain’t quite the same as your stereotypical straight homophobic man’s are, but they enforce them in the same fashion.
Albuquerque Pride condones and enables homonationalist queer bashing.
Queer anarchists struggle against all such policing. I wish had a queer transhumanist anarchist crew. (Ideally, each of these identifications implies the other two.) However, this is Albuquerque. Furthermore, queer transhumanist anarchist values hardly lend themselves to community.
While I respect certain oppositional nationalisms under present conditions, I consider U.S. nationalism utterly pernicious. Emma Goldman’s analysis of nationalism from the early twentieth century remains essentially correct. Nationalism and militarism stand in direct conflict with the core principles of freedom and justice, as well as with those of innovation, science, and technology. Sure, nationalism and militarism fuel technoscientific development at times, but much of this is wasted effort. Ultimately, free flow of information and of people does the most to advance science and technology, to make transhumanist dreams reality. Borders, militaries, and governments cause vast human suffering and hinder progress.
Death to the United States!
A New Tendency February 29, 2016Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
Tags: anarchism, transhumanism, William Gillis
Conservative Anarchist Transhumanism (CAT) – At least something still makes sense!
Conservative Anarchist Transhumanism (CAT) – Say no to pleasureshaming!
Conservative Anarchist Transhumanism (CAT) – Preserve your pattern from the hivemind!
Tired of William Gillis lecturing you on the cosmic mission to convert the universe into computronium? Find the conceit of persistent personal identity deeply reassuring? Love technology and rationality but also your own arbitrary desires? Dislike the taste of bullets? Join CAT today!
Public Service Announcement November 15, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Despair, Transhumanism.
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Though a staple of geek culture, using the verb “nuke” to express opposition to something isn’t half as cute as you think it is. “Nuke organic farms.” “Nuke New Zealand.” Etc. Nuclear weapons have a specific history, one that to date has no revolutionary associations whatsoever. Massacres and dynamites have better records. On the whole I’m skeptical of violent and militaristic language, though I remain fond of wishing death to nonliving things: “Death to empire! Death to oppression! Death to domination! Death to hierarchy!” Etc. The verb “nuke” has nothing worthwhile to recommend it. This usage impresses those who appreciate hyperbole and geek culture but otherwise alienates and horrifies.
Why Anarchist Transhumanism? October 29, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
Tags: anarchism, transhumanism, William Gillis
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William Gillis tells you why here. As much as I enjoy the appeal, I don’t completely agree with this piece. It’s not accurate to describe laptops as grenades because they can’t easily be used as such. I likewise suspect design space exists for making technologies less dangerous and intelligent beings more resilient. Simply throwing our hands up and saying it’s cool to have the ability to unleash engineered plagues strikes me as unwise. I don’t necessarily care myself, but that’s a dubious foundation for enduring social and political systems. Of course state control is worse, but individual and community measures to reduce risk seem better. While the history of technological change to date suggest a trend toward increasing risk and ease of attack – guns, explosives, etc. – that trend need not necessarily continue. Intelligent beings can make choices to reduce risk and increase safety. More freedom and intelligence potentially allows more successful striving toward lower-risk systems. At a certain point, weighed alongside potential benefits, doing things that greatly increase risk of harm to other beings is bad and should be avoided. Examples for me include the existence of nuclear weapons – at least under present conditions – and engineered plagues (depending to some extent on the details). I propose persuasion via reason as the primary way to spread this position. In some cases force strikes me as potentially appropriate, such as if somebody said they nuclear weapon or engineered plague on standby and were planning to push the trigger. I plan to write more about this when I make the time.
William Gillis also recently released a piece criticizing primitivism, but I doubt anybody reading this blog really needs that.
William Gillis Finally Finished “Science as Radicalism” August 19, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Epistemology, Technology, Transhumanism.
Tags: anarchism, science, transhumanism, William Gillis
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The March of Automation August 2, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Technology, Transhumanism.
Tags: anarchism, industrialism, revolution, robots, 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.
Update July 26, 2015Posted by Summerspeaker in Despair, Epistemology, Transhumanism.
Tags: epistemology, rationality, relativism, science, skepticism, transhumanism, William Gillis
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I’ve been reclusive lately, focused on academics, an interpersonal relationship or two, and distracting myself. My career in the Imperial Academy goes well enough, I guess, while the human connections have been a disaster. I’ve enjoyed drowning my sorrows in cardstock (MTG, specifically EDH) and will continue to do so, but over the last couple weeks my health has taken a downturn that makes indulging in distraction more difficult. At the moment I can hardly breath because of allergies, so I’m not good for much – even when taking the allergy meds they use to cook meth.
My main engagement with transhumanism this year has been via William Gillis’s thought. Between Gillis and Meera Nanda, I’m reassessing the value of criticizing versus supporting science and rationality. I plan to continue doing both, of course, and in many cases criticizing examples of actually existing science as a social practice supports science as a set of principles and methods. With that said, in retrospect I feel I’ve at times given excessive weight to critiques of science and rationality coming from humanities scholarship, both because I found them more convincing than I should have and because I considered these critiques important for an audience I assumed had an unshakably positive view of science. I still regard critiques of science useful, but Gillis and Nanda make a powerful case for the dangers of any move away from science and rationality.
At base I remain fond of old-school skepticism and of relativism; the former amounts to an intellectual game while the later has more meaningful implications. Regarding skepticism, I see no absolutely stable grounds for knowledge, as our senses could be deceiving us and/or our reasoning may be misguided. The edifice of science rests on foundations that haven’t been and probably can’t be definitely proven. However, these foundations are overwhelmingly plausible. The scientific worldview based on empirical evidence, logic, and modeling strikes me as far more likely and practical than any alternative. Regarding relativism, we have zero evidence by the scientific worldview that the universe gives a shit about anything. Values comes from humans and other sentient beings. As such, no universal guide for what should be exists. Our senses and reasoning presumably give us access, albeit mediated access, to objective reality. but what we make of this access only matters to the minds involved. Apart from us, nobody cares. The scientific worldview by all indications provides a closer model of objective reality and this becomes valuable insofar as sentient beings decide it is. I consider this exceedingly valuable as do many other people, but I shouldn’t beguile myself into believing there’s some higher purpose beyond my interests and those of other humans. By universe’s lights, a mind wrapped up in its own subjective reality is every bit as good as one striving toward objective reality: both simply are.
As such, I support science and rationality because I believe they align with my interests and, at least in the long term, with the interests of the vast majority of other currently existing minds (especially human minds). Objective material reality has quite a hold on most of us. Humans tend to suffer when we can’t manage basics like food, water, shelter, and healthcare. Improving the quantity and quality of these basics benefits lots of folks regardless of their position on science and rationality, regardless of whatever subjective realities they’re pursuing. Excessive criticism of science can prove dangerous if it obscures the profound importance of improving shared material conditions and/or if it presents alternatives to science as credible. Playing with subjective realities comes much recommended, but objective material reality stands out as the primary basis for political struggle.
On Assessing Progress June 1, 2015Posted 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.