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Transhumanism’s Dark Side: Tittle’s Regulation, Prisco’s “Progress” and Scaruffi’s Austerity

IEET’s latest offerings highlight the politically pernicious elements of transhumanism and Singularity movement. P. Tittle promotes licensing for parents as a logical expansion of the state’s prerogative to control everything, Giulio Prisco contemplates Terran aggression against Cosmists, and piero scaruffi chides the Greeks for their “lavish lifestyle” and lack of nuclear power.

While I focus on Prisco’s piece here for criticism, that’s not because I find it the most problematic; to the contrary, Prisco’s grand dreams inspire fascination as well as terror.

Ey begins with the prospect of what Hugo de Garis calls the “gigadath,” the mass slaughter in the anticipated war over building vastly superhuman artificial intelligences. Channeling the narrative of progress, Prisco feels confident that Cosmists - those who want to create AI gods - won’t initiate hostilities:

“I think we can safely say that, despite some very sad episodes, the human race is gradually becoming gentler and more compassionate as a result of education and civilization. Our ancestors used to treat animals cruelly, but today we are beginning to be kind and benevolent toward most animals, and we love our pets. I expect that the next generations will extend love and compassion to all the animals that share our planet.”

It’s ironically appropriate that an inhabitant of era of the largest meat industry the Earth has ever seen would displace cruelty back in time to unspecified ancestors. As with violence between humans, any diminution amongst the general population has gone hand in hand with intensification at designated sites. Your average citizens of a so-called developed country might not butcher pigs and chickens today, but that’s just because somebody else - customarily in abyssal working conditions at a slaughterhouse - does it for them.

At best we can describe this as a dubious advance in gentleness. While prehistoric hunter-gatherers may have eaten more meat per capita, the game they subsisted off of lived free rather than in factory-cages. So much transhumanist/Singularitarian thought rests on invocations of progress that become uncertain if not utterly untenable upon reflection.

Next Prisco sketches the cheerful image of accommodation between Terrans and Cosmists. The former migrate to the stars while leaving an embassy to assist Terrans who wish transition. I’ve considered the same arrangement myself as a means of coexistence between revolutionary factions and basis for a science fiction tale or two.  After this comes even wilder speculation about “Future Gods,” spacetime manipulation, and resurrecting the dead.

With folks like Prisco who explicitly embrace Cosmism as a religion - and this includes more IEET notables than I’d realized - Dale Carrico’s term “Robot Cultist” starts to approach the mark though it remains perhaps unduly insulting. In contrast with Dale, I find these transhumanist spiritualities intriguing rather than devoid of aesthetic or intellectual merit. But I sure as hell ain’t a believer. The idea of a bunch of rich people so invested in the progress myth that they literally worship it invites concern.

Prisco concludes by mentioning violence against scientists as the first shots of a Terran resistance ey hopes will wilt in the bud. A linked article has the provocative title “Anarchists attack science” that resonates with traditional media portrayals of anarchism as a savage threat to civilization. Combined with Prisco’s rhetoric about Cosmists as inevitably nice and omission of the horrors of technological modernity, I discern the possibility that Cosmism will bolster the resurgent anti-anarchist crusade.

Without acknowledgement of how state and corporate technoscience harms people daily, the extremists who target scientists and technicians with violence appear simply as irrational reactionaries. Although I share Prisco’s pluralistic ideal, unfortunately the last few centuries suggest that we’ve got plenty to fear from proponents of progress.

Benjamin Abbot is a genderqueer, transgender PhD student in American Studies at the University of New Mexico.



COMMENTS

“The idea of a bunch of rich people so invested in the progress myth that they literally worship it invites concern.”

Would it make any difference if they were poor?

Re “I discern the possibility that Cosmism will bolster the resurgent anti-anarchist crusade.”

I am an anarchist at heart myself. Note that I changed the title of the Nature article from “anarchists” to “luddites” in the text.

Re “It’s ironically appropriate that an inhabitant of era of the largest meat industry the Earth has ever seen would displace cruelty back in time to unspecified ancestors. As with violence between humans, any diminution amongst the general population has gone hand in hand with intensification at designated sites.”

This is a good point. I am referring to the general population: today, many people would never kill a rabbit, but our ancestors did so without thinking twice, to eat it or even just for fun. The intensification of cruelty and violence at designated sites is certainly a problem in need of a solution, but I don’t think it is strongly related to this discussion.

Re “Dale’s term “Robot Cultist” starts to approach the mark”

Dale is, and has always been, right in considering transhumanism as religious aesthetics. Transhumanism is a strong emotional impulse to transcend, inspired by but not derived from modern science and technology. I saw this immediately when I started reading the Extropy list in the 90s. The difference, of course, is that I find transhumanist aesthetics beautiful and Dale finds it ugly.

“P. Tittle promotes licensing for parents as a logical expansion of the state’s prerogative to control everything”


Do you mean to say Peg wants the state to have the prerogative to control everything?

When and where would you rather live/have lived, if not where you are now and why?

Like presumably all transhumanists, I look to the future. I see no ideal past to which to return. I might well be happier were I born a hunter-gatherer some thousands of years ago, but I’d be an entirely different person. My dreams combine freedom and community with material abundance and boundless curiosity.

The intensification of cruelty and violence at designated sites is certainly a problem in need of a solution, but I don’t think it is strongly related to this discussion.

The slaughterhouse and the battlefield disrupt the narrative of declining violence in modernity and so cast doubt on your claim that coming cyborgs and artificial intelligences will necessarily prove nice. Even in the crude measure of killing and torture, progress stands uncertain. Regular interpersonal butchery has decreased dramatically compared with the available historical record in various places - especially Europe - but Ciudad Juárez, for example, has a higher murder rate than most any medieval city. The twentieth century saw vast extermination campaigns and the prospect of nuclear annihilation that still looms over us. Only statistical wizardry turns this period into evidence for an inevitable march toward peace.

Additionally and critically, violence goes beyond killing. Coercion and alienation define twenty-first-century society. There’s nothing so modern as a prison. If you want to talk about upward arrows, look to the U.S. incarceration rate.

“Regular interpersonal butchery has decreased dramatically compared with the available historical record in various places - especially Europe - but Ciudad Juárez, for example, has a higher murder rate than most any medieval city.”

In Europe, in the last few decades most people have had the benefits of a reasonably good standard of public education and quality of life, and the results show. Most European cities were no safer than Ciudad Juarez a century ago. This is the trend that I am referring to.

re “violence goes beyond killing. Coercion and alienation define twenty-first-century society. There’s nothing so modern as a prison”

Ever been at one of those exhibitions of torture instruments used in middle ages prisons, by the Inquisition and nearly all governments, with detailed explanations of how they were used? Believe me, I would prefer ten years in a modern prison than one day in one of those prisons.

“The slaughterhouse and the battlefield disrupt the narrative of declining violence in modernity and so cast doubt on your claim that coming cyborgs and artificial intelligences will necessarily prove nice.”

A half truth. Violence has declined since WWII, but what the future holds we don’t know—a trend is based on extrapolating from the past and present. At any rate, cyborgs and AI are not what (or who) we ought to be be concerned with; they are not the great threats that we know of. What I do not comprehend is:

“P. Tittle promotes licensing for parents as a logical expansion of the state’s prerogative to control everything.”

Naturally, this is in reference to Peg’s piece, not this one.. but Peg never said she thinks parental licensing will ever be instituted; she said to oppose parental licensing is inconsistent.

Most European cities were no safer than Ciudad Juarez a century ago.

The current murder rate in Ciudad Juárez stands around 150 per 100,000. According the historical estimates I’ve seen, no European city had such a rate in 1912 and very few reach it in medieval times.

I would prefer ten years in a modern prison than one day in one of those prisons.

I personally know multiple people who’ve been stereotypically tortured in U.S. jails and prisons, so I’m skeptical of invocations of progress from medieval barbarism. And even without gruesome physical harm, imprisonment constitutes torture from my perspective. I do not share your preferences.

You have fire in the belly, summer.
My preferences for concern are: Mansons and Madoffs; those sort of people; they have existed in the past and exist today.. AI and cyborgs are not what (who) I prefer to be concerned about as they are x—
an unknown at this time.

 

... the world has become somewhat less violent since WWII, but since the population has grown it doesn’t appear to be the case. In hominid time, it has changed slowly—yet in cosmic time the last hundred years have moved fast.

I’m with summerspeaker. We need Dick Pelletier’s positive visions, but the other side of the story also needs to be told. There are good reasons to be optimistic, but also good reasons to be pessimistic. Nothing is more dangerous people whose faith is untempered by a willingness to doubt, and to consider that they may be wrong. Carrico’s reference to the “fearless credulity of transhumanists” would be poignant if it applied accurately to all transhumanists; this article shows, and also helps to ensure, that it is not the case.

In reference to “The idea of a bunch of rich people so invested in the progress myth that they literally worship it invites concern”, Intomorrow asks “would it make any difference of they were poor?” The answer, of course, is, “Yes.” The poor lack the resources to do as much damage.

@Peter re “the other side of the story also needs to be told”

It is, all the time, by countless sources. I think there are more than enough defeatist opinions and not enough positive visions, and that’s why I prefer to focus on the latter. I think we need a massive overdose of optimism.

Giulio,

See my article “technology and fear: obstacles to progress”. The answer to defeatism is not blind optimism, but clear-eyed communication of both the opportunities and the real, as opposed to purely imaginary, risks. Positive visions, yes. Denial of risk, no.

Peter, there are many persons on this planet. Some of them prefer to focus on risks, and others prefer to focus on opportunities. I feel there are already many Cassandras, and therefore I prefer positive visions. I have nothing against those who focus on risks, but they do their chosen work, and I do mine.

Giulio: in that case,  please come up with a positive, respectful, and non-divisive vision regarding the role of public officials (aka “bureaucrats” and “administrators”), including police officers, secret service agents and soldiers, and also those working in finance (including bankers), and of course politicians and business leaders.

If your long-term vision is that some or all of these roles disappear that’s fine with me, but please do not continue to lazily impute exclusively venal motivations to people whose professional development has happened to lead them to play these roles, and preferably give some idea of how such a society would function, and how we can realistically get there from here.

Note that I make this comment not as a co-moderator but as a strictly personal request; nevertheless one that is sincerely, seriously and, I hope, respectfully made. It’s not that I have any problem with the way you present your positive visions, but I also find summerspeaker’s critique valuable and pertinent, and there are some other aspects of the worldview that you express regularly that I find rather LESS positive and respectful.

@Peter re “please do not continue to lazily impute exclusively venal motivations to people whose professional development has happened to lead them to play these roles [public officials]”

Are you sure that this is the thread in which you intended to post the last comment? I find it difficult to relate it to the arguments made in this thread.

However, I will respond here.

Note that _my_ professional development has led _me_ to play the role of a public official for about 20 years. I don’t think I am a bad person, and I have met some great persons in the public service.

In passing, I think in any large group of persons there are some great persons, some less great persons, and some bad persons.

When I refer to public officials as “control freaks”, “greedy”, “corrupted” and similar, of course I don’t refer to each and every public official. That would be wrong and insulting indeed.

However, I think the public sector is dominated by persons who _do_ belong to the “control freaks”, “greedy”, “corrupted” subgroup. I have formed this impression based on my own experience, and I think this impression is confirmed by the news that I read and watch every day.

I understand that this does not sound respectful, and I apologize if you or others feel personally offended, but this is my current opinion.

See here for the critique of Steven Pinker’s thesis on declining that I wrote in relation to this debate. I don’t mean to bear the torch for pessimism. I seek to shatter the progress myth but not deflate dreams of transformation. I couldn’t survive in this world without keeping utopian visions in mind and striving toward them daily. While sharing Philippe Verdoux’s dreary assessment of the record so far, I remain committed to the possibility of radical change in a positive direction.

My quarrel with invocations of progress come with their political and strategic implications. I fear the acceptance of grand upwards curves and near-term super futures inclines folks to dismiss protests against the horrors of high-tech industrial capitalism. With the exaltation technoscience, people who struggle for environment justice and self-determination in their communities easily turn into ignorant Luddites or eco-terrorists. That’s a story that replayed endless over the last couple centuries. Here in the United States, civilization and progress have signified the dispossession and eliminate of Native peoples, ecological devastation, the brutal suppression of labor radicals, the expansion and centralization of government, and the march of imperialism across the globe. The Enlightenment project casts a nightmarish shadow that threatens to banish all joy and beauty from the Earth.

I refuse to sacrifice anyone for a imagined and uncertain future, however appealing. Here I part ways with many other transhumanists. My sympathies lie with rebels rather the system, even the technoscientific system: anti-nuclear activists before nuclear energy executives, workers over digital technology corporations, and autonomists in favor of modernizing states. I take the primitivist condemnation of actually existing civilization seriously but unlike my anti-civ comrades I’m sanguine about the prospect of innovation in the absence of coercion and oppression.

@Summerspeaker re “I fear the acceptance of grand upwards curves and near-term super futures inclines folks to dismiss protests against the horrors of high-tech industrial capitalism.”

Not necessarily. I think the contemplation of near (or long) -term super futures may have the opposite effect to motivate and energize folks to make today’s world a better place.

@Giulio
Thanks for the response. My comment was intended for this thread, because it was relevant to the discussion of positive visions vs scepticism, and how far we should be pursuing exclusively the former on the grounds that there are already enough (too many?) advocating the latter, in view of comments you have repeatedly made in other threads and articles.

I don’t think it’s that I’m taking personal offence, although by definition one can never entirely aware of one’s subconscious motivations. It was more a plea to express your views about bureaucrats, bankers et al in the measured way you have just done rather than with language that indeed seems to imply that public officials and financiers are without exception venal control-freaks.

We can agree to differ on the extent to which public service is indeed dominated by persons with these attributes. I for one am unconvinced that they are any more than any other walks of life, although it is clear that with opportunity comes temptation. If anything, the characteristic I most associate with public service from my own experience, especially at relatively junior level, is risk aversion. Perhaps it is the boredom that comes along with this that gives them the urge to regulate other people’s lives…that and the fact that to is what the politicians and public demand of them.

“We can agree to differ on the extent to which public service is indeed dominated by persons with these attributes. I for one am unconvinced that they are any more than any other walks of life”


Agreed, the private sector contains as many bad apples as the public. But summerspeaker is mistaken to think violence has not diminished, the leveling out, let’s say, of violence is about the only really good news. True, summerspeaker, prisons, jails, and other negative facilities (throw in bad schools for good measure) aren’t any better than in the past considering how much tech has advanced. This is evidence for some of what Giulio writes concerning the public sector: for example in effect the funds to upgrade prisons go to the people at the top of the system, not to upgrade prisons. In fact the greater part of the welfare system—and unlike the private sector it is a system—is basically about poverty-pimping. Say 70- 80 percent of the welfare system concerns the people working for it getting far better medical care (just for starters!) than the system’s clients.
However that is off-topic and IMO it wont change for decades- it took decades to build the poverty-pimp system up, it will take decades to ‘replace’ it.. which is a fact libertopians cannot comprehend. Yet violence has diminished, and summerspeaker ought to admit such since it is the one piece of good news, the one positive we have to offer. We can say: “violence has diminished since WWII, it
has leveled out.”

@Peter re “If anything, the characteristic I most associate with public service from my own experience, especially at relatively junior level, is risk aversion. Perhaps it is the boredom that comes along with this that gives them the urge to regulate other people’s lives…that and the fact that to is what the politicians and public demand of them.”

Not the public.

I understand that there are psychological explanations for the urge to regulate other people’s lives, but this urge is very dangerous when coupled with the power to do so.

Giulio, you are too easy on the private sector, too hard on the public sector. First of all, the population is backward-looking, the majority want modern gadgets and state of the art healthcare but incongruously also want govt. to conserve their old-fashioned ways. In America, if not a majority then say circa 40 percent or so want funds and services from the state so they can live in the ‘80s and ‘50s, or perhaps even earlier for the v. old-fashioned.

And yet they complain about Big government?

Nothing much against left-leaning libertarians such as yourself (not to pigeonhole you)  however rightist libertarians are as dated as ‘conservatives’; and again, they want the state to conserve retro- ways while simultaneously moving into the future and fighting other nations getting in their way—extremely ambitious of them, to say the least.

Giulio,
To say that the public does not demand regulation of people’s actions from bureaucrats and politicians is empirically false. Sure, some of us say we don’t, but as soon as anything bad happens you will immediately get cries - some of them from the very same people that complain about nanny-state bureaucrats - for government action, usually accompanied by allegations and condemnation of government INaction.

The public, being composed of human beings who are (myself included) genetically predisposed to the very “inconsistent thinking” identified by Peg Tittle in relation to parent licensing, tends to want to have its cake AND eat it…and not only in Bible-belt America.

@Intomorrow, I am equally hard on the private sector. Actually I don’t make much of a difference between big governments and big corporations. I think they are part of the problem, cannot be part of the solution, and cooperate behind the scenes to screw us up.

The recent “bank bailout” where we have been screwed up twice and have had to pay twice (and who knows what is to come) is a perfect example of cooperations behind the scenes.

I am for honest individuals and small companies who do honest work to earn a honest living without robbing others, and for small, transparent and efficient government chosen by, controlled by and answerable to the people.

@Peter re “To say that the public does not demand regulation of people’s actions from bureaucrats and politicians is empirically false”

The public does demand regulation of actions that (can) harm other people, but not regulation of personal lives. Some people do, for example homophobes against gay marriage, but I oppose them.

Hopefully, OWS-types will shake things up- otherwise the situation will drag on for centuries.
I have a hunch OWS-types are lying low until the conventions this summer and then they will surface again, or after the election perhaps, however they will eventually resurface; they are at this time working behind the scenes.
Remember, I only know America (as you apparently are only familiar with Europe). Something unfair right now is how the Attorney General is being attacked for a mistake: getting guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartelists so the guns can be traced. It was a mistake, but part of the reasoning is:

“AG Holder is black, so nail his rear end to the wall, then we can elect white-boy Romney to put an end to this progressive uppitiness.”

@Giulio
Let’s back up a bit here. We started out with a piece by summerspeaker presenting a sceptical critique of your Cosmist vision of the future. After some discussion I eventually came in on the side of summerspeaker, noting that while we indeed need positive visions the other side of the story needs to be told. To be honest, I find Dick Pelletier’s visions more appealing, but this isn’t particularly relevant here. My main point was that we need the pessimists as well as the optimists.

You then made the point that the pessimistic side is told “all the time, by countless sources”, and (later) that you prefer to be one of those that presents positive visions. I then took this as an opportunity to take issue with various comments you have made on various other threads, including recently, which seem to me to be anything but positive.

We then started discussing the extent to which the public demands that bureaucrats interfere in the lives of others. You claimed that, while politicians might, the public don’t.

So far you have identified one category of “public” that do, namely “homophobes”. Actually that’s not strictly true, since there are plenty of homophobes that also oppose government interference in this kind of thing, but I certainly agree that some of them don’t. I also have the impression that, even in developed countries, the greater part of the population is to some extent homophobic.

By the way, the assumption has been that marriage has been exclusively between a man and a woman, and this has until recently been reflected in the laws and regulations of basically all countries. This is now changing, something that you and I, and I guess the vast majority of IEET readers, very much welcome. Of course this doesn’t remove the need for marriage and other civil relations between people to be regulated, or the need for public officials to diligently play their traditional roles in doing so. It means that the way they do so needs to change. In particular the laws need to change, and that requires work by public officials, who by doing so are then de facto interfering in other people’s lives, albeit in a way you apparently approve of.

Of course, there are also countless other ways in which the public needs and requires public officials to intervene in their lives.  Of course they sometimes go over the top, but the idea that they are predominantly driven by an unhealthy desire to interfere in other people’s lives is an unhelpful and all to prevalent prejudice.

@Peter re “the need for marriage and other civil relations between people to be regulated”

Why?

In my opinion only uncivil relations between people (e.g. violence, coercion) should be regulated, not civil ones. Always ask yourself “who is the victim?” If there is no victim, there is no crime, and no need of regulation.

Giulio,
When two people (or companies) sign a contract (including, for example, a marriage contract), this contract is regulated and enforceable by law.

Are you saying that contracts should not be regulated and enforceable by law?
Are you saying that civil law in its entirety should be annulled in all countries, leaving only criminal law?
How would that work?

@Peter re “Are you saying that civil law in its entirety should be annulled in all countries, leaving only criminal law?”

Nothing so extreme, not in one step, and not faster than the ability of our society to absorb radical change without breaking down.

But yes, I do think that we should gradually fade out all non-essential regulations, where by non-essential I mean not aimed at protecting real persons from real harm.

Continuing with the example of marriage, if X men and Y women of mixed sexual orientations want to form a group marriage, what do they take away from me? Or from you? If the answer is “nothing” then it is not our business.

re “How would that work?”

No idea, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to find out.

@Giulio
Personally I quite like that idea, and I’m curious to know whether it could indeed be made to work in practice. I think my idea of utopia also involves a minimum of rules and regulations. I also would like money to become obsolete, since I regard money as basically a way of saying, “I won’t do anything for you unless you pay me for it.” I would prefer to live in a more empathy-based society, one where Marx’s dictum - each gives what he can, and takes what he needs - is actually made to work in practice. I would like to see more visionary thinking about how these ideas can indeed be made to work.

HOWEVER, in the mean time we are not there, and consequently the public is indeed demanding, however inconsistently - and moreover is right to demand - that public officials continue to intervene in people’s lives through the continuous enforcement and upgrading of regulation. It is an essential part of the fabric of society that we all take for granted, and mostly benefit from. It is part of the reason why violence is decreasing, as Pinker claims.

I suppose this makes me a patient anarchist. Some may have a much greater sense of urgency about dismantling the mechanisms of state-sponsored oppression and pettifoggery than I do, and I don’t have a problem with that per se, but the urgency needs to be appropriately channelled, otherwise it becomes counter-productive. And it seems to me that demonising an entire category of professionals, most of whom are just going about their jobs like the rest of us, is indeed counter-productive if one indeed wants to do away with regulation without destroying the fabric of society.

@Peter, I am also a patient anarchist, perhaps less patient than you, but more patient than others.

Re “demonising an entire category of professionals, most of whom are just going about their jobs like the rest of us”

I don’t have the power to demonise them.

If I had that power, for example if I were a politician with actual decision making responsibilities, or one of those very well known public figures whose words are always taken as gospel, I would formulate and express my thoughts much, much more carefully.

But I am not a politician or a famous public figure. This means that I have no power, but it also means that I have the freedom to express some of my fears, which I consider very serious, in the clearest and bluntest way, even resorting to caricature and overstatements. _Of course_ my deliberate overstatements need to be criticized and smoothed (we all know our Hegel), but there are others who do it. I will not steal your lines!

Peter, I find your encouragement of state coercion more terrifying than Giulio’s Cosmist visions. It’s telling that you use Pinker’s myth to endorse the horrific violence of the state. I don’t consider this an esoteric philosophical debate but a daily struggle with profound material and psychological consequences. The cogs kidnapped three of my comrades just last night. (As the link shows, not all OWS folks are lying low at the moment.) Our urgency comes out of the regular experience of alienation, marginalization, and want. We fight for our lives and don’t plan on becoming appropriate anytime soon.

Acknowledging my political distance between both of y’all, Giulio’s suspicion of bureaucrats and politicians appeals to me more than your defense of government intervention. How does the regulation of marriage do anything to advance an empathy-based society? Law - staked in blood and issuing from a barrel of gun, to channel Cover and Mao - utterly opposes empathy in my estimation. Regulation and the intensifying organization of everything typify what I and other humanities scholars consider the dark side of the Enlightenment project. I second Giulio’s warning about the danger of the desire to control other people’s lives.

@Summerspeaker

Whether or not Pinker’s claims about decreasing violence are accurate or not, I am certainly not using them to endorce violence, unless you consider all regulation or government intervention to be violent.

I don’t consider this to be an esoteric philosophical debate either. I consider it to be a very practical debate about what kind of future we want, and how to get there. Again, I am not against urgency (wherever it comes from), but I am against both actions and speech that make it more difficult to realise those positive visions. That is why it is important to be cautious in the way we channel our sense of urgency.

Giulio’s claim that he has no power because he is not politician or well-known public figure is false. Every time you open your mouth or write an e-mail, let alone post a comment or write an article on a public website, your exert influence on the world, and on particular on the way others think. You propagate certain ideas, while discouraging others. You thus exercise power.

Your claim that law and empathy are opposed is interesting, but unproven. To prove it you would need to cite examples of societies that have achieved levels of empathy that do not exist in our culture, and which do not feature a similar level of law and regulation. Such societies do not exist at a scale significantly greater than the stone age communities in which we evolved.

You say you find my encouragement of state coercion “terrifying”. Like Giulio, I am not a politician or a well-known public figure, so my power is as limited as his (probably more so). Yet you are right to perceive that the positions I take on such matters are potentially influential. And of course you might also be right to perceive them as threats. I just don’t see it. I fear the collapse of democratic governance much more than I fear coercion by such governments. This, I guess, is where we differ.

Violence defines enforcement. Countless legal scholars and political scientists recognize this; it’s an axiom in the field. I’ve never encountered anyone who argued otherwise; it’d be interesting to see. Awesome and totally justified violence, according to most, but still violence. While government officials do plenty of nonviolent things, the shadow of the police and the prison cell ever looms in the background.

@summerspeaker
I agree that violence, and especially the threat of violence, remains one of the essential underpinnings of governmental control, even in democratic countries. However it is not the only one. In fact, I would say it is equally “axiomatic” that no régime, not even the most autocratic one, can survive if it totally loses trust or legitimacy in the eyes of the people. And this legitimacy is never based entirely on the threat of violence. Often it is based on the prevailing belief system, religious or otherwise, and of course this in turn tends to be reinforced and manipulated by the élite, but I think it can still best be regarded as an independent source of authority. Another essential factor of course is economic prosperity and security, the lack of which are always destabilising elements for any kind of régime.

For me the intriguing question is to what extent, how, and how quickly, we can render even the threat of violence unnecessary and obsolete as a means for maintaining social peace. In the mean time, however, it remains my view that we are not there yet, and that we need public officials - including those whose mandate requires them to use violence - to continue doing more or less what they do (though preferably without the abuses).

I don’t understand how you reconcile such support for the status quo with empathy, much less the communist ideal. At present, public officials with that mandate for violence spend much of their time enforcing bourgeois property by tormenting houseless folks and revolutionaries. If cops literally only functioned as counterviolence to prevent the mythical Hobbesian scenario, I could imagine accepting their presence. They do not and never have.

In fact I would say that my stance is quite typical of the mainstream public. Most people would not like to see the police, armies or secret services disappear any time soon, because they would fear the consequences of that happening. And history hardly proves them wrong. Were the inhabitants of the Soviet bloc better off because the bourgeois élites were overthrown? Not really: they were just replaced with worse ones.

I’m certainly NOT saying that we should just sit back and watch while corrupt states protect the interests of élites at the expense of the masses. Nor am I saying that this is not happening. But before we set about disrupting the status quo we should have some idea of what we want to replace it with, and some reason to believe that our actions have a reasonable chance of leading to that goal. What we need is to get away from the sterile debate between those using fear to support the status quo and those who support change but have yet to come up with realistic and workable ideas about what kind of change we should be aiming for and how to get it. Sadly this is essentially the choice that voters tend to have today: in particular it was the choice that Greek voters had last Sunday, and it was an unpalatable choice.

My point is that just bashing bureaucrats and bankers will not help us to build a better future. If we want to disrupt the status quo then we need to come up with workable ideas about what we want to replace it with. From this point of view Giulio’s Cosmist visions are welcome in my book; it’s just that his portrayal of a Manichean struggle between Cosmists and Terrans, with Cosmists being the incorruptible good guys, needs to be nuanced. This, at least, was the basic message I took (but which Giulio seems to resist) from your article.

“Were the inhabitants of the Soviet bloc better off because the bourgeois élites were overthrown? Not really: they were just replaced with worse ones.”


Russia traded despots who invaded Afghanistan for Mafiya who demand tribute. But it’s usually six of one half a dozen of another: in America youth banded together to some degree during the Vietnam era, and when the war ended they drifted apart to become the ‘Me Generation’—which gave them more individual freedoms. Six of one, half a dozen of..
It isn’t that Giulio is mistaken concerning bureaucrats, he doesn’t realize how bad businessmen are.. a nonviolent criminal is a businessman outside the Law. A businessman who sells alcohol or tobacco is a respected guy; a marijuana dealer is considered by straights—who dominate—to be a lowlife criminal. Go figure.
There’s no real rhyme or reason to it.
At any rate, though OWS may consist largely of uneducated youth, what are they supposed to do?: wait for Romney to become president so he can send the youth to Afghanistan to patrol the countryside?

I am dumbfounded when I see seemingly-rational transhumanists/technoprogressives espouse belief in anarchism. How on earth is this a realistically viable path towards achieving the singularity? Do I even have to mention the staggering amount of complexity such a scenario entails, requiring cooperation amongst a substantial portion of humanity with highly interconnected complex economies, distribution chains and institutions? I know it’s fun to point out the abominable iniquities in our current world, but to think that a dissolution of organized government would somehow benefit the situation strikes me as staggeringly disconnected from reality. What do you think would happen in a world with such lovely creatures as the Koch brothers, who are already pushing for an ever-weakening of the public sector and public scrutiny? How is pushing for something along the lines of the Nordic model not an obviously superior route to achieving our objectives?

Yes, though Scandinavia is relatively homogenous.
There’s a practical flaw examined here,

“...It is impossible to generate a mass progressive movement on the basis of… motley coalition: most of the working-class citizens victimized by the system are cultural conservative…”
—Francis Fukuyama, Current Events magazine, Feb. 2012.

Sure, it’s homogeneous, but I was just using Scandinavia as an example of social democracy in general. The US was much more prosperous when their policies resembled those, as is pretty much every other example I can think of.

Anyways, my point is that anarchy is a bafflingly improbable means of achieving our objectives. Hell, even the state capitalistic Chinese model is a far likelier means of achieving them; at least their GDP per capita and economy in general are growing, along with technological development, as opposed to anarchic bastions of liberty such as Somalia.

Exactly, Somalia; plus many locations in sub-Saharan Africa. If anarchists wanted to, they could move to offshore islands—such as the Caymans—and live w/ out the state. Naturally, they do not want to do so.
Genuine anarchism is red in tooth and claw.. for some, yes, but only the v. toughest.

I’m betting on OWS. Biggest political revelation to me has been realizing how the Right (at least in the country I’m familiar with) respects those who fight them more than they respect those who withdraw from the fray—they prefer fight to flight. So the Right, excluding sincere religious Rightists, has to be fought at every turn. They expect no less!
And OWS fits the bill.

Invoking Somalia against anarchism displays either confusion about the ideology or intellectual dishonesty. At least take the time to cite the conflict of numerous wanna-be states in that region as example why anarchism won’t work because of the problem of defending against domineering bosses.

The Cayman Islands stand under the control of British government. I imagine the financial elite would sic the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service on us rather quickly if we tried to established a commune out there.

Finally, anarchism permeates the Occupy movement.

Doesn’t mean anything. Many youths in OWS don’t know much about anarchism, but they know there isn’t much future in the old-fashioned life their elders want.
IMO Somalia demonstrates the futility, the outmodedness of anarchism.

Why do you waste your time with anarchism and communism, summerspeaker? they are rancid 19th century ideologies; hitting a corpse wont make it change color.

btw, what makes you think the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is going to possess the funds in the future to be nanny-cops? Far more likely they will become insolvent.

Your political comprehension is quite outdated.

@Summerspeaker: The problem of domineering bosses was the point I was making with my mentioning of the Kochs. A further weakening of the state, anarchism, is precisely what lays in their likes’ interest, and is a major reason why I find your brand of quixoticism particularly noxious. The dissolution of a public authority won’t just magically eliminate centuries’ worth of accumulated power and capital in the private sphere.

As for anarchism permeating Occupy: lots of things permeate it. The cacophonous mishmash of ideologies permeating this movement and rendering it largely incapable of forming a coherent way to actually enact real change in the real world is increasingly looking like it will facilitate the movement’s slide into irrelevance.

Then some other movement will come along.
What does youth have to look forward to?
Jesus Returning? we’ll see.

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