Saturday, October 15, 2005

Know your enemy: Green Anarchists vs Rapture Singularitarians!

From Green Anarchy: An anti-civilization journal of theory and action:

Unless you have your own miracle close at hand, you will need to determine your position in this total war on life—started thousands of years ago—as new battlegrounds are defined, weapons selected, and strategies tested. Perhaps a warning issued by one of the neo-priests to the flock also applies to the resistants. “Don’t be a bystander at the Singularity. You can direct your effort at the point of greatest impact - the beginning." The author of The Panopticon Singularity offers additional advice to those who might think of themselves as another ‘chosen people’ waiting for the collapse: “And don’t think you can escape by going and living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. It is in the nature of every police state that the most heinous offense of all is attempting to escape from it."

If it is evolutionary for some humans to use intelligence to design and manufacture ‘superior’ intelligent replacements—sickening and killing humans alongside other species in the process—then perhaps they must do their/God’s work. But, if their evolution concept is correct, than we, the mosh@terran resistants, have evolved—well, quite differently. We find all apocalyptic priests and their followers—bent on destroying us and the rest of the living, breathing ‘natural’ world—abominations. Therefore, it is in our ‘nature’ to do whatever we deem necessary for the survival of our unenhanced selves, our offspring, and our nonhuman relations. We choose life on OUR terms, not on the misanthropic terms of the Masters. A few words from Thoreau have a particular potency in this technophilic society, “for every 100 people chopping at the branches, only one is hacking at the roots”.

And so it is that we find ourselves, quite ‘naturally’—blade in hand.

Jean Paul Baquiast - A propos du transhumanisme

Jean Paul Baquiast, editor of the French web magazine Automates Intelligents, has written a positive and thoughtful review of transhumanist ideas. The article is also available on the WTA website. Definitely worth reading for those who read French.

Jean Paul's main points are:

Transhumanism should distance itself from its early "science fiction cult" image, otherwise it could push naive followers toward pseudo-science: "Le transhumanisme ne mélange-t-il pas de façon hasardeuse la science et la science fiction ? Un tel mélange peut déconsidérer le mouvement, que ce soit auprès des scientifiques eux-mêmes ou d’un public averti. Les naïfs risquent en effet de se précipiter sur les perspectives de transformation à long terme du monde évoquées par certains transhumanistes, en s’imaginant que ces perspectives se réaliseront demain. Cela ne fera que les encourager à se tourner vers les faux prophètes de la science, illusionnistes et spiritistes qui prolifèrent déjà dans la société actuelle."

Transhumanism should open to contemporary social issues: "Aussi faudra-t-il, pour éviter cela, que les promoteurs du mouvement transhumaniste s’intéressent en priorité aux perspectives d’améliorer la société d’aujourd’hui."

The development of future societies and the future evolution of our species should be driven by citizens: "Nul n’étant capable de dire ce qui influence ou pas un développement complexe se déroulant sur le mode chaotique, le fait que les citoyens tentent de s’approprier les perspectives d’un futur transhumain ne peut faire de mal à personne, au contraire. Il ne faut donc pas renoncer à tenter d'orienter l'évolution en fonction des valeurs que l'on se donne."

Transhumanists should learn how to "talk to the people" by opening to humor and play, leaving aside a sort of "protestant rigor" that still pervades transhuamanism: "Nous pensons que le mouvement transhumaniste ne progressera, tout au moins en France, que s’il s’ouvre un peu à l’humour et au ludique, en abandonnant une sorte de rigueur protestante qui l'imprègne encore."

Also in my own opinion, these points should be the main agenda items for transhumanism.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Could Geography affect our Posthuman Future?

From PBS: "Jared Diamond's revolutionary theories about the course of human civilization come to the screen in GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL: A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PRESENTATION, a new three-part television series produced exclusively for PBS. Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning work offers a revealing look at the rise and fall of societies through the lens of geography, technology, biology and economics - forces symbolized by the power of guns, germs and steel. The series aired on PBS Mondays, July 11-25, 2005.

The production spans five continents and uses epic historical re-enactments to illustrate Diamond's theories, explaining why societies developed differently in different parts of the world - why some became conquerors and others the conquered.

Visually compelling, the series uses a widescreen format and features footage from such richly diverse countries as Jordan, Peru, Spain, Zambia, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, the United Kingdom and the United States. GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL explores the central idea of Diamond's thesis: geography as destiny. Why is it that some countries have so much and others have so little, Diamond asks? What led to the development of sophisticated weaponry, and how did that contribute to the downfall of some civilizations? Why are certain groups of people immune to strains of germs while others are not? And finally, how did all of these factors create the inequalities that still exist in the world?

To seek the answers to monumental questions such as these, GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL features insight from some of the world's pre-eminent scholars, historians, archaeologists, biologists and anthropologists. The series also travels back in time to look at the origins of human civilization and traces its progress to the present day.

The first episode, "Out of Eden," proposes that a society's potential for advanced development was not determined by race or creed, or by time and experience, but by access to domesticated animals and cultivated plants. Part two, "Conquest," explores the impact of weapons and disease in shaping the conquest of the New World.

The final episode, "Into the Tropics," examines the development and colonization of Africa by South Africans and Europeans, and explains why geography is still a factor in forming the divide between those with money and resources and those without.

"This series takes Jared Diamond's key insight - geography as destiny - and explores it through science, history and archaeology around the world. It is 13,000 years of history condensed into an extraordinary intellectual journey," said Michael Rosenfeld, executive vice president, programming and production for National Geographic Television & Film. "Of course, Jared Diamond's thinking continued to evolve after the book was published, and the series reflects his recent efforts to apply his ideas to the modern world.""

Against All Big Brothers


The number of states seeking to control the Internet has risen rapidly in the recent years. Mustering powerful and at times compelling arguments -- "securing intellectual property rights," "protecting national security," "preserving cultural norms and religious values," and "shielding children from pornography and exploitation" -- extensive filtering and surveillance practices are being proposed and put in place to curb the perceived lawlessness of the medium. Although these practices occur mostly in non-democratic regimes, many democratic countries, led by the US, are also seeking to police the Internet. Some regulation is to be expected as the medium matures. However, filtering and surveillance can seriously erode civil liberties and privacy and stifle global communications.

The OpenNet Initiative is a collaborative partnership between three leading academic institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge.

Their aim is to excavate, expose and analyze filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan fashion. They intend to uncover the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences of these practices, and thus help to inform better public policy and advocacy work in this area. To achieve these aims, the ONI employs a unique multi-disciplinary approach that includes: Advanced Technical Means -- using a suite of sophisticated network interrogation tools and metrics; and Local Knowledge Expertise -- through a global network of regionally based researchers and experts. OpenNet Initiative research will be published on their website in a series of national and regional case studies, occasional papers, and bulletins.

As part of its work, the OpenNet Initiative also operates a "clearinghouse" for circumvention technologies that assess and evaluate systems intended to let users bypass filtering and surveillance. They also actively develop circumvention technologies in-house as a means to explore the limitations of filtration and counter-filtration practices. As a collaborative effort harnessing the institutional and intellectual capacities of three leading universities, the ONI has five strategic axes of work:

A. Development and deployment of a suite of technical enumeration tools and core methodologies;

B. Major national and regional case studies;

C. Capacity-building among networks of local advocates and researchers;

D. Establishment of a laboratory for the study of circumvention technologies; and,

E. Advanced studies exploring the consequences of current and future trends and trajectories in filtering and surveillance practices, and their consequences/implications for domestic and international law and governance regimes.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Faith-based diplomacy?

"The International Center for Religion and Diplomacy is doing important and worthwhile work." Colin Powell, Then U.S. Secretary of State

The most worrisome threat confronting today's world is the potential marriage of religious extremism with weapons of mass destruction. Considerable sums have already been spent to address this problem, with the bulk of it devoted to countering symptoms and little to addressing underlying cause. The International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD) is about "cause," and has as its highest priority the task of preventing conflict rather than dealing with its consequences after the fact. Capitalizing on the positive role that religious or spiritual factors can play in facilitating trust and overcoming differences is a trademark ingredient of the Center's approach.

The mission of ICRD is to address identity-based conflicts that exceed the reach of traditional diplomacy by incorporating religion as part of the solution.

Regardless of one's spiritual persuasion, there are two compelling reasons why the Center's work is important:

(1) the need for more effective preventive measures to minimize the occasions in which we have to send our sons and daughters in harm's way and;
(2) the need for a stable global environment to support the kind of economic growth that can benefit an expanding percentage of the world's population. By linking religious reconciliation with official or unofficial diplomacy, ICRD has created a new synergy for peacemaking that serves both of these needs. It also provides a more fruitful approach for dealing with ethnic conflict, tribal warfare, and religious hostilities.

The intellectual and spiritual basis for ICRD's unconventional approach to conflict resolution can be found in Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft and its sequel, Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (Oxford University Press, 1994 and 2003). These books explore the positive role that religious or spiritual factors can play in preventing or resolving conflict while advancing social change based on justice and reconciliation. They also make a strong case for incorporating religious considerations into the practice of international politics.

Smoke Pot, Not E-mail!

Smoke Pot, Not E-mail In which it is proven that excessive info lust makes you dumber than a happy pothead. Isn't that great?

- By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, May 13, 2005

Didn't you already just know? Didn't you already sort of see it coming?

That is to say, didn't millions of us already sense, deeper down, despite all this mad orgasm of technology and despite all this incredible ability to stay in constant touch and despite how you can now travel almost nowhere in the world save for remote parts of the Amazon jungle where you cannot be tracked or e-mailed or faxed or called on the cell or FedExed a package from, don't you just know that we are, in fact, lowering our IQs and slaughtering brain cells like Karl Rove murders joy?

It's true. It has now been proven. A new study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard shows we are now being openly pummeled like Arctic baby seals by our own glorious and demonic tech creations, that when we indulge in huge relentless gobs of e-mail use and cell phone use and instant messaging and Blackberries, et al., that we are, in fact, enduring the ongoing death of brain cells, the happy suicide of mental capacity, a very noticeable drop-off of IQ points.

And, according to the study, this drop-off is even more pronounced than the happily incapacitated state we enjoy after smoking a large, happy joint. A spliff. Gangster. Kif. Ganja. Only without the dry mouth and the giddiness and the swoony sparkle and the smooth mellow bliss and the desperate right-now urge to lick a very large salty pizza and then have sex and take a nap.

Infomania makes us dumber. Slower. Dimmer. Make a note of it. Write it on a Post-it and stick it on your monitor right now and stare at it like a mantra and then vow to yank the cables out of your brain and get outside and play with the dog and read more big thick books full of polysyllabic words and complex sentence structures and then, oh yes, be sure to smoke more pot because hey, it sure as hell ain't as bad for you as e-mailing like a maniac all day.

Because this is the funny thing, the ironic thing, the thing that confounds us and makes us go no way that can't be true because just look! I am doing nine things at once! I can drive my bloated SUV and chat online and answer e-mails and type in my bitchin' Blackberry and send instant messages and bang out text messages on my cell with my nose and still have room to think fond thoughts about my penis, all at the same time! I am superhuman! I am the wave of the future!


But this is what we think. We think technology is making us sharper, more efficient, more light and nimble and connected and enlightened and more primed to hotwire our bodies straight into the grand cosmic mainframe so we can finally be forever placed atop God's own personal IM Buddy List.

And much of the sci-fi bookshelf is taken up with visions of people as human/machine hybrids, these glorious yet weirdly damaged beings who have happily sacrificed hunks of their analog, low-tech humanity at the altar of high-tech hardwired info glory and we're like oh my God that is so cool! I can't wait until I can play a video game in my sunglasses and merely think about any person on the planet and have my intracranial implant chip automatically dial their intracranial implant and them I can speak to them through a microphone implanted in my tooth!

But, alas, we are not smarter. We are not deeper. We are not even all that much more profoundly connected to anything larger or more significant. We need to know this.

All we are now is more adept at allusion, at skimming like lightning over the surface of things, at referencing the world more deftly, while comprehending it less. We can quick-link and cross-text and multi-chat while at the same time remaining blissfully ignorant of how these very info tools are quietly destroying that all-important human skill, that slower, longer, often far more subtle and difficult art called deeper understanding, and if you've lately been anywhere near a roomful of teenagers, you understand this phenom perfectly.

On first blush, the next generation, they appear to get it. They are wired like a telephone pole. They speak the lingo and are fluent in ring-tone programming and iPod bells and HTML whistles and nothing but nothing in the tech sphere gets by them and you'd think, wow, these kids, they must be info supergenuises by now, so aswim are they in giant pools of gizmos and information and communication ease.

But then you hear them speak. They you hear them try to form a complete sentence about an actual subject of interest and struggle to form a single nuanced and careful thought that has nothing to do with what was on the WB or what video they just watched on their PSP or what their friend just text-messaged them on their Nokia, and you hear them fumble and slur and fall into huge pits of painful, tortured Bush-like grammar and you go, oh my freaking god we are in deep, deep trouble.

And of course, it's not just teens. It is the way of America. We have embraced infomania like a Republican embraces dead trees. We think, because we see it on the Net or because Bush mumbles it into the TelePrompTer or because someone sent it to us via e-mail that it must be true, while at the same time the sheer speed and ferocity of the delivery technology denies us the right to sit back and think more deeply about it all. Faster info, slower absorption. America, thou art one giant episode of "Short Attention Span Theater."

But oh, we don't seem to care. Maybe the trade-off is worth it? Maybe it really doesn't matter if we're just a little dumber and a little less coherent and a little less able to process complex thoughts, so long as we can e-mail 27 people while simultaneously talking into the speaker phone while downloading "Weapons of Ass Destruction III" as the iPod resyncs with the new NIN album. Or maybe that's just me.

Or how about this: Maybe we need to start looking at our info lust as merely yet another addiction, a narcotic, a happy necessary globally hailed universally embraced drug. E-mail as mental tranquilizer, intellectual emetic, Zoloft for the wired masses.

Maybe, after all, it's time we bring e-mail and IM and the like more in line with our other delicious vices and necessary enhancements, and just say, screw that deep brain stuff, it's time to kick back, light a spliff, pour some scotch, fire up the e-mail. Hell, it sure beats thinkin'.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Vatican, post-fascists organize anti-transhumanist meeting in Rome with Fukuyama

Pope Benedict and Italian post-Fascist leader Gaetano Rebecchini

The unfolding of Pope Benedict's war on transhumanism enters a new phase today, following on the Vatican and Italian Right's success in defeating the referendum liberalizing the use of reproductive technologies. Today, the 10th of October 2005, in Rome, the Italian National Alliance Party (former Italian Fascist Party) has organized an anti-transhumanist meeting on "The Anthropological Issue: Human Nature and Biotechnologies" together with Pontificia Università Lateranense (the Vatican University):

Francis Fukuyama (political scientist, bioethicist)
Giuliano Ferrara (journalist, right-wing politician)
Rino Fisichella (Catholic priest, rector of the Vatican University)

Rough translation of the newspaper piece announcing the conference:

"The 'anthropological issue' is at the center of the debate. An American expert against the risks of "the genetic bulldozer" and psychotropic drugs. Biotechnologies, freedom and control of science, human nature, moral ethics and the role of politics and "the average": these the topics of the 'anthropological issue' at the center of the debate in Rome, 10 mondays October near Palace Column. The convention titled "Human Nature and Biotechnologies" organized by the Center of Political Guideline Gaetano Rebecchini, means to make the point on the perspectives tied to the development of the technologies of the life and on the consequences on the ethical plan of applied science....

Fukuyama wrote in an issue of Foreign Policy: 'The environmental movement has taught us humility and respect for the integrity of nonhuman nature. We need a similar humility concerning our human nature. If we do not develop it soon, we may unwittingly invite the transhumanists to deface humanity with their genetic bulldozers and psychotropic shopping malls.'"

The leader of the Italian Catholic Church, Cardinal Camillo Ruini (#2 in Vatican after the Pope) has recently declared that their priority is now the "war against the anthropological revolution of the Posthumans".