Thursday, August 05, 2004

Ranting and Raving

I’ve worked myself up into a lather again over liber-techianism over on Amor Mundi, for them as enjoy the spectacle I make of myself in such moments. Here are some of the culminating fulminations:

What is it with the persistent social obliviousness and anti-political antipathy of so many technophiles? It's like the self-appointed “digirati” at the irrationally exuberant height of the dot.Bubble all over again, all blithely imagining themselves to inhabit the Cyberspatial sprawl rather than the territorial nation-states where their desktops happened to reside, all smug and snug in “the new home of Mind,” all contemplating not as citizens or agents but as self-styled futurist gurus these fuzzy game-theoretical tableaux that were "evolving," "emerging," "mobbing," "swarming," "spontaneously ordering" themselves, but heavens forbid never organized politically, never regulated, never voted for, all of them breathlessly awaiting the “inevitable” arrival of crypto-anarchy, or nano-santa, or techno-rapture, or just content to loll forever lackadaisically in their “Long [and now Longed-For] Boom.”

Do these guys not notice that the Net is being domesticated from wilderness frontier into another corporate-sponsored and corporate-censored theme park even as they tap away at their keyboards? Do they not notice that genetically engineered foodstuffs are now wrongly reviled and repudiated by many of the people who urgently need them? Do they not see molecular nanotechnology being defined out of existence and pushed out of sight into the archipelago of secret military labs for who knows who to pursue without regulation or oversight? Do they not worry what it will eventually have to mean that the incredible gains in productivity associated with ever more ubiquitous automation are facilitating an ever more conspicuous concentration of wealth among the few rather than greater prosperity for everybody? Do they not observe that at this very moment cognitive technologies that could re-write the range available to human experience look instead to be enlisted now by Big Pharma in the ongoing racist War on [some] Drugs [by means of other Drugs]? Do they see hopes for the genetic medical address of countless diseases dashed pointlessly against the absurd fear-mongering hyperbole of social conservatives arm-waving about cloned armies of immortal super-babies and who knows what other nonsense?

How many political defeats do the radical technophiles have to suffer before they are willing to grant that politics might matter after all and that possibly they might benefit from getting better at it?

[snip] I don’t subscribe to the cartoon cut-out viewpoint that [American Presidential politics] is a contest between a monster moron and a soldier saint (the rhetoric's fun, but I fear the reality's more depressing than that), but I still know a difference that makes a difference when I see one. A Kerry Administration won’t solve the problems that confront us, but simply will provide the smallest space in which it will be possible again for serious people of good will to work on those problems with some real hope of making a difference.

[snip] “We should shun politics and the parasites who live in that world,” writes Reason,” I think, unreasonably. “We should turn our backs on politicians and rent seeking. We should instead focus on our own lives - building the future we wish to see through our work and ingenuity. It is better that our dollars and time go to our own individual visions than to bolster one or other of the competing gangs in government.” But the truth is that we share the world with more than just our friends and allies, and this will remain true even in a world riven more and more conspicuously by the transformations incubated by radical technological developments. Politics is ineradicable, and so the choices are to get better at it, or to have those who are get the better of you.