Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Socialism on One Planet? Toward a Solar Social Democracy

Over on TechnoLiberation Dale asked: "How would Democratic Solar Federalism differ from a workable World Federalism?"

This is not a question ignored by all leftists.

For instance Trotskyist Juan Posadas, and his "Posadist" followers were opposed to "socialism on one planet" for the same reason they, and other socialist internationalists, oppose "socialism in one country": so long as market relations have supremacy over democratic decision-making they force states to act in a "state-capitalist" manner. That's why world federalism is an inescapable project for advocates of economic democracy.

In other words, China or Mars can be as egalitarian as they want, but if they want to compete in trade or to attract capital investment, they have to restrict worker rights, taxation, environmental regs, and so on. The only way to ensure there isn't a competitive race to the bottom, on Earth or intra-solar, is to establish a binding and enforced set of agreements about worker rights, taxation, environment and so on that applies to all players, i.e. a global or solar social democratic government.

Does that mean it will be possible or easy to enforce labor practice uniformity, or any other kind, on the Kuiper belt colonies? - no. Although armies of robotic blue helmets might make it easier. But the real leverage will come from members of the solar federation applying trade sanctions on defectors/violators, just as they do now under the WTO and other international agreements.

If, on the other hand, we really do have magical post-scarcity nanotech and energy sources, then military force and trade sanctions will probably be powerless, and it will be impossible to create and enforce political unity.

Of course, the challenges to solar politics may be much more profound than how to enforce the minimum wage on Pluto. We will also be negotiating conflicts between transhuman clades, as vividly depicted in Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix series. Ken MacLeod's Cassini Division depicts a solar democratic socialist republic united and defending itself against an extropian-colonized, computronium-converted Jupiter.

Intra-galactic political unity seems even more unlikely, barring the discovery of FTL travel. At least with quantum entanglement we could imagine instantaneous galaxy-wide communication, allowing some kind of deliberative democratic polity. And withholding information/entertainment on that net - taking away your Net access privileges - might be sufficient carrot and stick to enforce some galactic agreements.

Unitarian Universalism and Transhumanism sermon

On August 14, 2005 I (J. Hughes) gave this sermon to my congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Society East in Manchester Connecticut. It went over very well.
While I think UUs will have more in common with transhumanists, UUs also will bring welcome concerns to biopolitics, concerns about equal access to the benefits of technology, and to their effects on the lives of the people who use them. I expect UUs to be critical transhumanists, pushing technoutopians to remember the current needs of the world’s poor, for clean water, adequate shelter and decent wages.
- Links:
Transhumanist UU Network list - Trans-Spirit list, discussing neurophysiology and spirituality - World Transhumanist Association - Unitarian Universalist Association

Where are UUs in the US? (Click to expand)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Moms battle genetic engineering!

From Wired News (2003): A group of New Zealand mothers led by a former pop star have launched a provocative billboard campaign to protest their government's decision to allow agricultural genetic engineering.

The billboard ads feature a four-breasted woman attached to a milking machine.

Members of Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the Environment, also known as MAdGE, oppose releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment. They want the government to reverse its decision to lift a ban on genetic engineering, a change that goes into effect on Oct. 29.

The group's members say such projects, such as a plan for generating genetically engineered cow milk, will lead to a world in which genetic engineering has gone wild, perhaps not as wild as women with four breasts hooked up to milking machines, but at least as disturbing.

Alannah Currie, the group's founder, said she designed the ads to provoke an ethical debate.

"Just because science can, should science? And how far will they go?" said Currie, who is a former member of pop group the Thompson Twins.

MAdGE has posted five ads in Auckland and two in Wellington. The billboards will stay up until the end of October.

The public response has been mixed. MAdGE has gotten some complaints from people who find the billboards offensive.

"It is definitely degrading to women, but more degrading to women is putting human genes in milk," Currie said. "It's punk art."

One Wellington resident is against the moratorium lift, but believes the billboards are only adding to public confusion about genetic engineering.

"I think people are very concerned here but confused by the scientific opinions, which are usually publicized without any indication of the bias particular scientists have," said Stephanie Sheehan of Wellington in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, the billboard is also confusing and more or less wrong in terms of the immediate risks in the near future."

The biotech industry is predictably unhappy about the billboards.

"MAdGE's latest grasp for public attention denigrates women and illustrates what little grasp this group has of reality," said William Rolleston, chairman of the Life Sciences Network, a biotech industry organization for New Zealand and Australia, in a statement. "New Zealanders will be justified in relegating MAdGE to the pages of bad-taste science fiction."

However, Currie said her organization has gotten more calls supporting the campaign than complaints.

The billboards were created in response to efforts by AgResearch, the country's largest biotech company, to insert human genes into cows to create designer milk. Members of MAdGE suspect Fonterra, the country's largest milk company, of planning similar experiments. However, Fonterra denies the accusations.

Such experiments are ongoing in the United States with relatively little public protest.

MAdGE and Greenpeace organized thousands of demonstrators -- police estimate 15,000; MAdGE estimates about 30,000 -- who marched in Auckland and Wellington on Oct. 11 to protest the lift of the genetically modified organisms ban.

The groups would like the government to extend the ban for another five years. But New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said in a New Zealand Herald report there's no chance the government will change its plans to lift the ban.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Technoliberation Update

Reposted from amor mundi where Dale wrote:

Well, it's been a week since I posted here to say that a technopogressive list had been created called "technoliberation."

Since then, the list has attracted more than two dozen new members, and the list has already seen well over a hundred posts. There is a fledgling technoliberation wiki to collaborate in, and there is a wonderfully diverse and provocative resource library of online texts on technoprogressive topics to dive into for inspiration and conversational fodder. Plans for an online bookclub and technoprogressive talking points compendium/frame-shop are afoot as well.

In an early post to the list I offered up this little prayer for the newly-hatched technoliberation list:
Here's how I personally hope the technoliberation list will differ from some others on offer:

[one] technoliberation will be the list where technocentrics are not afraid to say libertarians and retro-futurist conservatives are sociopaths and recommend they move on when they want to start squawking here,

[two] it will be the list where there is no expectation that a technoprogressive will automatically be considered a "transhumanist,"

[three] a list where we will conjoin discussion of the politics of morphological freedom, discussion of copyfight/p2p, discussion of global rights and sustainable development, discussion of antiracist, antisexist, antiheterosexist pro-science politics, rather than focusing on just one of these, and

[four] a list where our commitment to diversity means we will actively outreach to women, people of color, non-Americans, and people of all age-groups until our community actually reflects that commitment.
Well, outreach starts at home, and so, ye manifold Mundyites out there in the cyberspatial sprawl, answer my prayer.... by joining the technoliberation list, joining in on the conversation there and otherwise contributing to the aborning community if this sounds like a congenial concatenation of folks and issues to you! Note the very handy button that takes you there at the top of my blogroll to your left.

Here's some of the text (to which I am happy to say I contributed) on the front page of the wiki, another nice evocation of the whole technoliberationist vibe that's afoot thereabouts I think Mundyites might take a shine to:
Technoliberation is a rainbow coalition that extends beyond the visible spectrum. Our participants belong to different communities, work on different problems, bring different histories, temperaments, and hopes to the work we share, emphasize different pieces of the technoprogressive puzzle. We are gathered together to trade ideas, tell stories, make plans, mobilize efforts, identify threats, facilitate progressive developmental outcomes, and share our differences.

Many of us are post-naturalist Greens and champions of sustainable development. Many of us are secular humanists and post-humanist humanitarians. Many of us are pro-choice feminists and morphological freedom fighters, defending consensual personal genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive practices of self-creation. Many of us are atheists, aesthetes, and nonjudgmental people of many faiths and spiritual practices. Many of us are transgendered, queer theorists, biopunks, democratic transhumanists, and psychedelic experimentalists. Many of us are copyfighters, defenders of the creative and genomic commons, enthusiasts of social software tools, free software, open source, peer-to-peer democracy. Many of us are policy wonks, technocrats, world federalists, human rights activists, election reformers, advocates of basic income guarantees and universal health care, leapfroggers, and space enthusiasts. Many of us are champions of consensus science, of genetic science and evolutionary theory, but none of us are genetic determinists or Social Darwinists. None of us are all of these things, of course, but many of us are many of them, and we are all of us inspired and provoked by the connections we find among these struggles and celebrations.

Bioconservatives, market libertarians, religious fundamentalists, and retro-futurists are not welcome among us. There are plenty of places online and off where we can argue with you, just as there are plenty of occasions to contemplate the real-world consequences of your ideas and values. Technoliberation is not the place for you. Feel free to listen and lurk and learn, but pick your fights with us elsewhere. This is a safe space for technoprogressives of all kinds and commitments.

We are focused here on the extraordinary threats and promises of ongoing and upcoming technological transformations of what has come to be thought of as the human condition. We are all champions of democracy here and we are all progressives. We are technoprogressives and we demand nothing short of Technoliberation!

Critical Bio-Art, Posthuman Class Conflict and the Student Left

For those of you who are not yet subscribed to the podcast feed for my radio show, you can listen to the latest shows here:

2005.8.27 - Critical BioArt - Dr. J. chats with Steve Kurtz, a member of the Critical Art Ensemble, a group focused on "biotechnology, its colonising effects and ideological layering, and the biorevolution in global capitalism." Kurtz and CAE are engaged in a legal battle with the US District Attorney over a politically motivated investigation of alleged bioterrorist activities.

2005.9.3 - Posthuman Conflict and the Student Left - First Dr. J. chats with Alex Alaniz, a nuclear weapons physicist at Los Alamos and author of the novel Beyond Future Shock. They discuss class conflict in the Matrix. Then Dr. J. chats with Lucas Shapiro, national organizer for the Young Democratic Socialists. They discuss the state of the student left, and the priorities for democratic socialist students this fall.