Thursday, May 19, 2005


On May 18th, 2005, I was asked to participate as a surprise "debate critic" planted in the public audience of Doublethink, a feature-lenght National Film Board of Canada documentary looking at today's world through the double prism of novels Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

"First of all, if you are going to build your case that we are living more and more in an Huxleyan world because of the emergence of genetically modified organisms, you might want to re-read Brave New World because the biotechnologies used to control the masses in the book do not include genetic engineering.

That being said, although a literary masterpiece, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is an hysterical critique of the totalitarian and dehumanizing possibilities of new technologies such anti-depressants, cloning, and artificial wombs. The lasting legacy of this book, which was written in 1932, is that whenever someone suggests using technology to improve the human condition, one is automatically accused of wanting to usher in a brave new world. So I think what might be important for us in this debate is to begin the process of moving beyond Brave New World's disturbing vision of the future by starting to see how the new technologies depicted in the book can and should be seen as potential tools of liberation rather than tools of oppression!

Let's take cloning for example: When Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996, it created an international hysteria over the possibility that a human being could one day be cloned. Rather than educating the public about the real dangers and potential benefits - because there are benefits to reproductive cloning, intellectuals and politicians intensified public anxieties by indulging in fear-mongering rhetoric: 'A Brave New World is here! Cloning is a crime against humanity! Clone Wars are coming!' etc. But what continues to be lost in that debate is the importance of procreative liberty. What I mean by that is that parents should have the right to choose if, when and how they reproduce. When reproductive cloning is shown to be a safe option, infertile heterosexual couples should be able to use this technology to allow them to have a child related to only one parent. Cloning would also allow a lesbian couple to have a child related to only one parent. So the right to clone should be seen as a fundamental reproductive rights issue and gay rights issue since cloning renders heterosexuality's historic monopoly on reproduction obsolete!"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The bleak future of transhumanism?

According to Klaus-Gerd Giesen, a professor of political sciences at the University of Leipzig in Germany, who is especially interested in the philosophies and ideologies of technology, "the underpinnings of the transhumanist ideology mesh perfectly with the mindset of some in Big Business who demand a constant increase in personal productivity. Since it is possible to intergrate technology more and more in the production process, in order to obtain continual progress in the performance and profitability of a worker, they could convince the worker to intergrate himself in the technosphere, thereby acheiving a truly giant leap in matters of both exploitation and alienation..."

Would you violate Code 46?

Code 46 is a love story set in an eerily possible near-future where cities are heavily controlled and only accessible through checkpoints. People cannot travel unless they have “papelles,” a special travel insurance. Outside cities, the desert has taken over and shanty towns are jammed with non-citizens – people without papelles whose lives are severely restricted. William (Robbins) is a family man who works as an insurance investigator. When his company sends him to another city to solve a case of fake papelles, he meets a woman named Maria (Morton). Although he knows she’s been creating the forgeries, he falls completely in love with her. He hides her crime and they have a wild, passionate affair that can only last as long as his papelles: 24 hours. Back home, William is obsessed with the memory of Maria. He tries to see her but is refused the necessary papers to travel. Desperate, he uses one of the fake papelles he kept from his investigation. He eventually tracks her down, only to discover she has been accused of a Code 46 violation.

Looking for the Upwingers Beyond Pew's Red vs. Blue

The principal message of the 2005 Report "Red vs. Blue" from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press is that the Democratic and Republican party blocs are riven internally by significant ideological divisions. The Republicans are divided over the role of government, with hard-right "Enterprisers" and "Social Conservatives" united in opposition to the welfare state, taxation and environmental regulation, but alienated from the working class social conservatives, especially women, who are more positive about government. The Democratic bloc includes the relatively socially conservative "Disadvantaged" and "Conservative" Democrats, who are uneasy with the secularism of the "Liberals."

The biggest change since 2000, however, is that "Liberals" have doubled from 10% to 19% of the electorate, in abreaction to the Christian Right and the Iraq war. Nationalism and militarism, says Pew, is currently the strongest determinant of partisan identification, with the Democrats more likely to favor multilateral solutions to world problems and the Republicans backing Bush's Pax Americana. But support for nationalist militarism is tightly coupled with other socially conservative views.

Proportion in the 2004/2005 Electorate

11% Enterprisers - hard right pro-business social conservatives
13% Social Conservatives - Christian evangelicals
10% Pro-government Conservatives - economically struggling social conservatives

13% Upbeats - economically comfortable, optimistic
10% Disaffecteds - discouraged, alienated working class

19% Liberals - secular, anti-war, economic and social liberals
15% Conservative Democrats - economically populist, socially conservative
10% Disadvantaged Democrats - poor economic liberals

In Citizen Cyborg I make the argument that the 20th century political terrain was structured by an economic axis and a cultural axis. I show below how the Pew categories are situated on that two-dimensional terrain.

In Citizen Cyborg, I also suggest that a new "biopolitical" axis of transhumanism vs. bioLuddism is emerging. There aren't many biopolitical questions in the Pew report, but there were questions about embryonic stem cell research, abortion rights and gay marriage. Support for all three pretty much track directly from opposition in the lower left "New Right" corner to support in the upper right "Social Democratic" corner. Although the secular Liberals stand out in their support for all three, the Democratic base is more united by support for stem cells and abortion, but divided by gay marriage. The Republican hard right and center-right groups are divided about stem cells and abortion rights, while united against gay marriage.

The most appalling fact in the report I think is that a majority of Americans, and even half of the Liberals, want Creationism taught alongside Evolution. But there are also some surprisingly positive results. A majority of Americans have a positive impression of the United Nations for instance, including a majority of the pro-government, pro-Iraq War conservatives (in other words they like the UN, also they also like aggressive global interventionism). And two thirds of the electorate supports "Government health insurance for all even if taxes increase," with only the hard right Enterprisers opposed.

So a politics based on
- an aggressive pursuit of medical progress
- personhood ethics instead of Christian "ensoulment" ethics
- defense of bodily autonomy and reproductive rights
- universal health care
- political globalization

in other words cyborg democrat politics could unite the American electorate.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Are they really serious?

VHEMT (pronounced vehement) is "a movement not an organization. It's a movement advanced by people who care about life on planet Earth. We're not just a bunch of misanthropes and anti-social, Malthusian misfits, taking morbid delight whenever disaster strikes humans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.

We don't carry on about how the human race has shown itself to be a greedy, amoral parasite on the once-healthy face of this planet. That type of negativity offers no solution to the inexorable horrors which human activity is causing.

Rather, The Movement presents an encouraging alternative to the callous exploitation and wholesale destruction of the Earth's ecology.

As VHEMT Volunteers know, the hopeful alternative to the extinction of millions of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo sapiens... us.

Each time another one of us decides to not add another one of us to the burgeoning billions already squatting on this ravaged planet, another ray of hope shines through the gloom.

When every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth's biosphere will be allowed to return to its former glory, and all remaining creatures will be free to live, die, evolve (if they believe in evolution), and will perhaps pass away, as so many of Mother Nature's "experiments" have done throughout the eons. Good health will be restored to the Earth's ecology... to the "life form" known by many as Gaia.

It's going to take all of us going."

Know your enemy...

Primitivism is the pursuit of ways of life running counter to the development of technology, its alienating antecedents, and the ensemble of changes wrought by both. This site is an exploration into primitivist theory, as well as various works that contribute to an understanding of the tendency.