Friday, April 30, 2004

The Zenith Angle

Just finished Bruce Sterling's latest novel, and I recommend it highly, as I do all of his novels. I found the book more upsetting and less elating than others he has written, and far from my favorite (Holy Fire remains for me the one without compare), but still wonderful. Many have commented that Sterling's books have grown more proximate in recent years, from Holy Fire, to Distraction, to Zeitgeist, and now this one -- rrrripped from the headlines! -- and liken this to a comparable retrospectivity in others of a sudden, in Gibson, in Stephenson (who has vaulted back to the Restoration, for heaven's sake) -- but I dunno. There is this weird way that in his last novel Zeitgeist Sterling's story seemed to sidle up in a more or less narratively conventional way toward the Millenium moment but then just dilated there for the longest time, not quite hitting the New Year, resisting the plunge into the future sf sold the long century through, and just exhaled loony amounts of plot in this weird interminable priorness to the Turn... Although The Zenith Angle is written about the very recent past it feels more like reading an alternate history, like a version of events the mordant author of Distraction might have written from a vantage like that surreally lingering jittery before 2001-time where Zeitgeist got stuck like a gnat in amber, a dystopian near-term version of the future -- only, you know, it's not really an alternate history we're getting in Zenith, it's how we live now. It's the shitty 2001 futurity we got instead of Gernsback's and Kubrick's. We got the version of 2001 where, you know, the impossibly dense monolith actually occupies the White House. But anyway, there are many good reviews of Sterling's book, and I won't add to them. But in lieu of a proper review I will say that there is a line near the end of the book in which he writes: "Now that Van [the protagonist] had learned, by startling counterexamples, something about sound and competent governance, he was very aware that the Terror was just the Bubble by another name." The reason the sentence isn't at all glib in the novel (the way it might seem, say, in one of the inspired rants Sterling occasionally tosses off into a Viridian note or in one of his far-flung speaking engagements) is because he has really earned that line by the time you get to it. Reason enough, it seems to me, to give the book the time it asks from you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Children of divorce no worse off...in Sweden

Yahoo! News - Children of divorce no worse off: Swedish study
Children who live with a single parent or a step-parent are no worse off emotionally or psychologically than children whose parents are not divorced.

Finally full circle: Anarcho-Transhumanism

Anarcho-Transhumanism:
"Anarcho-Transhumanism stands for:
Political Freedom: Against the tyranny of government.
Economic Freedom: Against the tyranny of capitalism.
Biological Freedom: Against the tyranny of genes.

Anarcho-Transhumanism is not:
Libertarian: It does not believe in free-market fantasies.
Extropian: It does not believe in optimistic futurism.
Reading list: Anarchism

Enquiry Concerning Political Justice By William Godwin

What is Property? By Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

The Paris Commune
By Mikhail Bakunin

Memoirs of a Revolutionist By Peter Kropotkin

Notes on Anarchism By Noam Chomsky

Anarchist FAQ

Transhumanism

Clones, Genes, and Immortality By John Harris

Redesigning Humans By Gregory Stock

The Hedonistic Imperative By David Pearce

Democratic Transhumanism By James Hughes

Transhumanist Values By Nick Bostrom

Transhumanist FAQ

Anarcho-Transhumanism

Transhumanist Socialism By Robin Green

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

World Transhumanist Association's Six Programs of Activity

After a very productive weekend of brainstorming in Oxford England, April 16-18, the Board of the World Transhumanist Association chose J. Hughes as their Executive Director, and consensed on six new programs of activity:

Global Health



Since 1946 the World Health Organization has defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." We agree with this goal. The most urgent methods for improving the health, longevity and well-being of people in the developing world are through improved access to the simplest of technologies, from clean water to improved education. But we believe that emerging technologies, such as genetic engineering and nanotechnology, will also have a powerful role to play in improving the quality of life throughout the world, if they are safe, accessible, and sustainable. Through our Global Health research program we intend to link with like-minded organizations working in global health and development policy to encourage the diffusion of emerging technologies in developing countries, and to systematically examine the problems of global equity and access to new technologies. Learn more...


Relationships, Community and Technology



Many people are concerned about the effects of technology on the quality of human relationships, from the alienation that people experience in electronically-mediated communication to the changes in relationships under the impacts of reproductive technologies. Through the Relationships, Community and Technology Program the WTA seeks to examine how technologies can support and improve the quality of relationships, families and communities. How can emerging technologies allow people to control their experience of trust, love, lust, jealousy, loyalty, fear, aggression and hatred, and to what effect? How can we preserve human choice and freedom in a world where people can change their own desires and motivations? Learn more...


Consequences and Ethics of Emerging Technologies



Futurists have been examining the potential impacts of emerging technologies for decades, creating scenarios that inform anticipatory democratic debate and prospective social policy-making. In the program on the Consequences and Ethics of Emerging Technologies the WTA seeks to catalog the emerging technologies we believe will extend human capacities and create a database of their projected consequences. This database will then be the basis for proposed policies to ensure the fullest realization of human potential. Learn more...


Self-Determination and Human Rights



Transhumanism is, in part, a civil liberties movement with roots in the most fundamental demand of liberal democracy: sane, adult citizens have a right to control their own bodies and minds. Through the Self-Determination and Human Rights Program we seek to engage the human rights community, legal scholars, reproductive rights activists, the transgendered community and advocates of public health approaches to illict drugs in a campaign to deepen and radicalize the concept of human rights. In particular we believe that the right to technological self-determination should be protected by laws and treaties. We are working with the Transhumanist Law Network to devise the legal frameworks for this campaign. Learn more...



Longer, Better Lives



The transhumanist movement believes that twenty extra years of healthy life are just as valuable in someone’s second century of life as in their first. Through the Longer, Better Lives Program we seek to make the case for longer healthier lives, addressing objections to life extension, from the alleged problem of overpopulation to the threat of ennui. We will be coordinating and seeking consultation with senior citizens groups and organizations of the disabled to help them challenge ageist and ableist attitudes that discourage the full utilization of health technology. Learn more...


Visions of Utopia and Dystopia



The most common objections to a transhuman future come from science fiction, from Frankenstein to Brave New World. Through the Visions of Utopia and Dystopia program we seek to collect images of posthumanity and non-human intelligence, positive, negative and neutral, and engage culture critics, artists, writers, and filmmakers in exploring the lessons to be derived from these cultural expressions. Learn more...

Bisson in SF Weekly Interview on his Socialist SF

In the Science Fiction Weekly Interview with Terry Bisson they ask him about his wonderful novel Fire on the Mountain which projects an alternative history in which John Brown and Harriet Tubman were subccess in leading a slave revolt in the South
"Talking Man and Fire on the Mountain, impart a distinct utopian vision: an alternate America, socially and racially harmonious, just, at peace with itself. Is this your consistent political ideal? Is such a U.S.A. in some practical sense feasible, or must it always remain counterfactual, as in Fire on the Mountain?

Bisson: I do like happy endings. And I am a socialist, which is utopian these days. Fire came out of my involvement with the 'New Africa' wing of the Black movement. I was part of a white anti-KKK group called the John Brown Committee. The New Africans' idea of a Black republic in the South had great appeal, so I used it in the book. What if. The other source for that novel (my shortest, and most complicated, with three narrators) was John Brown himself. He is considered a nut in American history, but if his raid on Harper's Ferry had succeeded, it would have shortened the Civil War. It was far from a mad idea; he was the only sane man of his time. I recently wrote a screenplay based on his life. Not SF at all. ...