Support the IEET




The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.



Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:


Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view




whats new at ieet

3.8 Billion Years of Wisdom: Intelligence in Nature (1 hr)

Bostrom on Superintelligence (2): The Instrumental Convergence Thesis

Boko Haram and the Threat of Islamic Extremism in Africa

Bostrom on Superintelligence (1): The Orthogonality Thesis

Dazed and Confused — The Case for Comprehensive Sexual Education

Soylent Update Keto Version


ieet books

Virtually Human: The Promise—-and the Peril—-of Digital Immortality
Author
by Martine Rothblatt


comments

David Roden on 'What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?' (Jul 31, 2014)

CygnusX1 on 'Sherlock Holmes as Cyborg and the Future of Retail' (Jul 31, 2014)

Rick Searle on 'The Problem with the Trolley Problem, or why I avoid utilitarians near subways' (Jul 30, 2014)

Rick Searle on 'Sherlock Holmes as Cyborg and the Future of Retail' (Jul 30, 2014)

kevinlagrandeur on 'What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?' (Jul 30, 2014)

kevinlagrandeur on 'What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?' (Jul 30, 2014)

rms on 'Convergent Risk, Social Futurism, and the Wave of Change (Part 2 of 2)' (Jul 30, 2014)







Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List



JET

Transhumanism and Marxism: Philosophical Connections

Sex Work, Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Guarantee

Technological Unemployment but Still a Lot of Work…

Hottest Articles of the Last Month


Nanomedical Cognitive Enhancement
Jul 11, 2014
(6160) Hits
(0) Comments

Interview with Transhumanist Biohacker Rich Lee
Jul 8, 2014
(6060) Hits
(0) Comments

What is the Difference between Posthumanism and Transhumanism?
Jul 28, 2014
(4698) Hits
(5) Comments

Virtually Sacred, by Robert Geraci – religion in World of Warcraft and Second Life
Jul 3, 2014
(4583) Hits
(0) Comments



IEET > Vision > Futurism > Technoprogressivism > Fellows > Jamais Cascio

Print Email permalink (10) Comments (3974) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


The “End of Politics” Delusion


Jamais Cascio
Jamais Cascio
Open the Future

Posted: Aug 6, 2009

You have my express permission to kick the next person—especially someone advocating the embrace of radical forms of technological advancement—who tells you that they wish nothing more than to get rid of, move beyond, or otherwise avoid “politics.” Kick them hard, and repeatedly. They have adopted a profoundly ignorant and self-serving position, one that betrays at best a lack of understanding of human nature and society, and at worst a malicious desire to preemptively shut down any opposition to their goals.

The trigger for this bit of anticipatory violence is the still-smoldering debate over the writing of one Peter Thiel, a poster boy for socialist revolution. Staggeringly rich, he espouses a form of “I got mine, Jack” libertarianism that is openly and gleefully anti-democratic. In a widely-criticized essay for the Cato Institute, Thiel claims that the extension of the vote to women and the poor has undermined capitalism; unsurprisingly, this argument hasn’t gone over well, and even his apologists—happy to continue getting his money for their projects—have distanced themselves.

But my focus here is on another line from his essay:

In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms…

Unless Thiel means that libertarians must live in splendid isolation from society and each other, he’s going to have a problem.

He’s not alone in making this claim, of course. I’ve heard the sentiment that advocates of Revolutionary Technology X “must seek to escape politics” repeated in various forms time and again, even by people and groups I otherwise respect. It’s a fascinating and sad delusion, characteristic of a movement that sees itself as both smarter than everyone else and unbound by the problems of the past.

In the early days of the dot-com era, this attitude resulted in the absence of digital tech industry voices in Washington, DC, allowing the incumbent telecom and entertainment industries free rein to write laws and buy politicians without opposition. Companies and industries that had considered themselves beyond politics found out just how wrong they were. Stung by that experience, today’s advocates of the “escape politics” position usually articulate it as more of a wishful whine, as with Thiel’s line quoted above.

It’s a position I’ve fought hard against for quite awhile. It was the heart of the presentation I gave at the 2007 Singularity Summit (where I heard a lot of people making the “let’s escape politics” cry). More recently, I talked about it in my interview with the Dutch consulting group FreedomLab; here’s a video clip of that part of the conversation.

The core of the argument is straightforward: Politics is part of a healthy society—it’s what happens when you have a group of people with differential goals and a persistent relationship. It’s not about partisanship, it’s about power. And while even small groups have politics (think: supporting or opposing decisions, differing levels of power to achieve goals, deciding how to use limited resources), the more people involved, the more complex the politics. Factions, parties, ideologies and the like are simply ways of organizing politics in a complex social space—they’re symptoms of politics, not causes.

Calls to get rid of politics can therefore mean one of two things: getting rid of persistent relationships with other people; or getting rid of differential goals. Since I don’t see too many of the folks who talk about escaping politics also talking about becoming lone isolationists, the only reasonable presumption is that they’re really talking about eliminating disagreements.

It’s the latest version of the notion that “a perfect world is one where everyone agrees with me.” It rarely gets expressed like that, of course. It’s more like…

After the Singularity, we’ll be too smart to have politics…
[Or] Once we develop strong (and friendly) AI, we’ll let them make decisions for us, as they will be far smarter and wiser…
In a post-scarcity, nanotech world, nobody will have politics because everyone will have what they need and want…
Once we get off-world, politics will go away because you can always move away from someone you disagree with…
After we can reengineer the brain, we can do away with conflict and disagreement…

No. Wrong. Bad technophile, no upload!

This is why I was so frustrated at the deprecation of politics in the Singularity University curriculum—there’s a profound ignorance across the tech advocacy community of the importance of politics to human society. Politics means conflict, debate, and frustration. It also means choice. A world without politics is a world where disagreement is illegitimate. It’s a world where your ability to choose your future—to make your future—has been taken away, whether you like it or not.


Jamais Cascio is a Senior Fellow of the IEET, and a professional futurist. He writes the popular blog Open the Future.
Print Email permalink (10) Comments (3975) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


COMMENTS


bravo





“After the Singularity, we’ll be too smart to have politics’

We’ll just design the robots to handle the politics.





Funny how these allegedly scientifically knowledgeable libertarians want to ignore evolutionary psychology and anthropology.  Human males naturally form dominance hierarchies where the most reproductively fit males (the alphas) wind up with the most mates and resources. And every society we know of with both metallurgy and agriculture manifests this dominance hierarchy in a warrior-based ruling class, a.k.a., “the state.” Political behavior emerges spontaneously from human action, but not through human design.

Because libertarianism tends to attract nerdy beta males who usually can’t compete sexually or economically with the alphas, I have to wonder if they identify alpha-dominated politics as the source of their frustrations in life. Hence they fantasize that if they can abolish politics, they’ll destroy the alphas’ advantages and free up more nubile women and money for themselves.





“Funny how these allegedly scientifically knowledgeable libertarians want to ignore evolutionary psychology and anthropology. “

Perhaps because you probably can’t find one theory in evolutionary psychology that isn’t rebutted (or even mocked) by other evolutionists.





“Thiel claims that the extension of the vote to women and the poor has undermined capitalism”

He makes no such claim.  He merely states that welfare beneficiaries and women are—as groups—historically and presently hostile to libertarian views.

And he didn’t say they undermined capitalism, but ‘capitalist democracy’, which is a political term and specifically, how libertarians define it.

Here’s his quote:

“Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women : two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians : have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron”

Clearly, he doesn’t say women should never have gotten the franchise—just that libertarians can pretty much write them off (as a group) for support for their beliefs.

It would be nice that you actually READ what people write before going on a rant about them.  I would rather assume you didn’t pay attention as opposed to the alternative—that you are deliberately misrepresenting what he wrote and meant.

“getting rid of persistent relationships with other people; or getting rid of differential goals. Since I don’t see too many of the folks who talk about escaping politics also talking about becoming lone isolationists, the only reasonable presumption is that they’re really talking about eliminating disagreements.”

Your ignorance in what is presently being debated within the Libertarian community is why your presumption is incorrect.

Libertarians have logically arrived at the conclusions that (a) they aren’t going to secure more than 10% of the vote and (b) alternative means of seeking freedom is thus necessary.

That means the debate is how they ‘bail’.  Not with regards to becoming isolated individuals but semi-isolated groups of like minded individuals (libertarians).  You know, intentional communities.  It worked for the Puritans, if you study your history.

The question is how. And that is why space and seasteading are heavily looked at.

Personally, I am waiting for mature molecular manufacturing so I can drop a ‘homestead seed’ on a reef out in the middle of the ocean and then flip the bird to the IRS and Obama and the Republicans too.  Does that mean I want to be completely cut off from other people, no.

And libertarians don’t just think this is an ideal solution for themselves, but for other marginalized groups of strong ‘ideological-lifestyle’ ambitions like the Greens.





I agree with Jamais that politics cannot and shoulod not be escaped. Politics is what happens when groups of persons have to make common choices. “No politics” means mafia rule, which is also a form of politics. There is politics in families and groups of friends, and of course there will be politics in seasteading communities and space colonies.

On the other hand I think the option of separation should be available to “semi-isolated groups of like minded individuals… intentional communities”. Let those who want to experiment with different forms of social organization go their own way, something good will probably emerge.





Jamais,

Your critique of libertarianism misses a key distinction between two forms of politics.  Libertarians can indeed embrace politics in its “civil association” form as described in Oakeshott’s work.

>>Oakeshott suggested that there had been two major schools of political thought. In the first, which he called ‘enterprise’ association, the state was understood as imposing some universal purpose (profit, salvation, progress, racial domination) on its subjects in which they were forced to participate. ‘Civil’ association however was primarily a legal relationship, in which laws imposed obligatory conditions of action but did not require choosing one action rather than another.

>>In his posthumously published, The Politics of Faith and the Politics of Scepticism, Oakeshott describes the ‘enterprise’ and the ‘civil’ association in different terms. An ‘enterprise’ association is seen as based in a fundamental faith in the ability of the human to ascertain and grasp some universal “good” (i.e. the Politics of Faith), and the ‘civil’ association is seen as based in a fundamental scepticism about the human ability to either ascertain or achieve this universal “good” (i.e. the Politics of Scepticism).

>>Oakeshott saw power (especially technological power) as a necessary prerequisite for the Politics of Faith, because a) it allowed people to believe that they could achieve something great (e.g. something universally good), and b) it allowed them to implement the policies necessary to achieve this goal. The Politics of Skepticism, on the other hand, rests on the idea that government should concern itself with preventing bad things from happening rather than enabling ambiguously good events.

>>Oakeshott used the analogy of the adverb to describe the kind of restraint law involves. For example, the law against murder is not a law against killing as such, but only a law against killing ‘murderously’. Or, a more trivial example, the law does not dictate that I have a car, but if I do, I have to drive it on the same side of the road as everybody else. This contrasted with the rules of enterprise association in which those actions required by the directing purpose were made compulsory for all.  (source:  Wikipedia article on Michael Oakeshott)

I’d be interested in whether you think, after considering Oakeshott’s insight, that:

- politics of the first kind (i.e. based on an enterprise association role for the state) is necessary and legitimate;

- libertarians who opt for politics of the second kind (based on a civil association role for the state)—deserve to be “kicked.”

Best,

Mark Frazier
Openworld.com
“Awakening assets for good”





>Perhaps because you probably can’t find one theory in evolutionary psychology that isn’t rebutted (or even mocked) by other evolutionists.

If you have a better explanation for why women’s vaginas lubricate when they see men who can dance well, sing well, handle drug intoxication well, endure extensive tattooing or even commit murders (look at all the women who write unsolicited love letters to violent criminals in prison they haven’t personally met), I’d like to hear it.





Woohoo! I have my own “truth squad”!

It would be helpful, though, if someone could point out where in my essay I attack libertarianism as a philosophy, or libertarians as a group. I thought I was criticizing the people—largely technoutopians—who actively express a desire to “escape” politics. That the jumping off point was someone who calls himself a libertarian, writing for a libertarian group, was more circumstantial than intentional.

I have to say, though, that the fury of the libertarians is just *adorable*.





Mark Plus wrote: “look at all the women who write unsolicited love letters to violent criminals in prison they haven’t personally met)”
Why, survival of the fittest, of course. (smirk)





YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Creationism, Birtherism, Singularitarianism, and Other Fantasies

Previous entry: Intellectual Property Overreach

HOME | ABOUT | FELLOWS | STAFF | EVENTS | SUPPORT  | CONTACT US
SECURING THE FUTURE | LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE | RIGHTS OF THE PERSON | ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
CYBORG BUDDHA PROJECT | AFRICAN FUTURES PROJECT | JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY

RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
Williams 119, Trinity College, 300 Summit St., Hartford CT 06106 USA 
Email: director @ ieet.org     phone: 860-297-2376