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Ethical Technology - Is That Even Possible?
Benjamin Abbott   Jul 6, 2013   Ethical Technology  

At present iconic modern technologies – computers, cars, phones, etc. – entail environmental devastation and vast human suffering. The harm caused by actually existing industrial manufacturing and resource extraction constitutes a core dilemma for transhumanist and technoprogressive thought. Assuming that innovation within the capitalist context will resolve the problem strikes me as far too sanguine. I argue for taking the horrors of technological production seriously and for using combined technical and social approaches to create genuinely ethical technology, ever acknowledging the uncertainty and difficulty involved.

First it’s crucial to establish that everything is not okay. Laptops, smartphones, and sundry look cute and do charming things, but ugliness lurks behind the pristine oleophobic screens. These and numerous other high-tech devices issue out of a matrix of noxious mines, contested terrain, petroleum refineries, coal boilers, and dismal sweatshops. The many rare minerals used in electronics as well as the coal that generates so much electricity come from the inherently unsustainable, typically toxic, and famously exploitative practice of mining. The negative health effects involved are staggering. Perhaps most dramatically, the air pollution from burning coal leads to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year worldwide while simultaneously accelerating global warming. Most of the most contaminated places on Earth are communities affected by mining and mineral processing. These to two integral elements of the industrial economy – mining and fossil fuels – serve as the backbone for everything on the grid. Surfing the internet and enjoying an air-conditioned room go hand in hand with people dying from asthma, heart disease, and cancer.

This pattern hasn't changed so terribly much since the fabled dawn of industrialization in England. Back then coal smog blackened the land so completely and for so long that a species of moth changed from white to black to adapt. Factory labors lived short and arduous lives, beset by environmental hazards, poor sanitation, and poor diets. Industrialism continues to dig up fossil fuels and burn them for energy, to unearth minerals and process them into marketable products, damaging human bodies and psyches each step of the way. As with most nastiness, those the bottom of the social hierarchy experience the lion's share of the suffering involved in the modern technological economy: workers, people of color, colonized Indigenous peoples, etc.

The crude lethality of industrialism has diminished overall but the pain, tedium, and toil remain. As Alejandro Lugo writes in eir study of Ciudad Juárez, "working-class life, particularly as it was constituted in its everydayness during England's nineteenth century, has not improved for many of the rank and file carrying out the working day around the world, even at the turn of the twenty-first century" (5). Ey goes on to argue that "life and death have gotten worse" for many. I hesitate to claim deterioration, but living and working conditions are outrageous and unacceptable in ways that resemble the past. You might even get a letter inside something you buy telling you how bad the folks who made it have it. That's how the industrial economy works.

Transhumanists and technoprogressives need to keep this profoundly unpleasant and unsettling connection between comforts and misery in mind. It undermines narratives of progress and poses a foundational challenge to the dream of creating a radically better world through technology. The stubborn persistence of severe environmental contamination and dehumanizing labor exploitation alongside the catastrophic risk industrialism has spawned calls into question both utopian visions and strategies of incremental improvement through reform within the established system.

As Philippe Verdoux observes, primitivists make a compelling case that civilization - beginning with agriculture - has done more harm than good for the human species and the planet. If climate change, nuclear war, or one of the countless hypothetical disaster scenarios ends up wrecking the planet's ecosystem - which is plausible though not necessarily probable - technological civilization will seem colossal blunder in retrospect. Regardless of where it all leads - we don't know, as I discuss below - the fact that the civilized lifestyle historically and current requires oppression, pollution, and unsustainable extraction should inspire concern and careful contemplation.

Insisting that everything will be fine, as Ray Kurzweil does, ain't going to cut it. As Verdoux, James Hughes, and others convincingly argue, teleological narratives of progress and assertions of inevitability have no rational basis. The future stands radically open and uncertain. Triumphalist futurism - exemplified by Dick Pelletier - teeters atop a heap of speculation and social as well as technical assumptions. I regard such visions as within the reaches of possibility but politically dubious and nothing to plan on. The rhetoric of technological progress and development has long served as a means to deflect class animosities and encourage cooperation between workers and bosses, especially in the United States.

While we today - especially rich folks - hear whispers of the abundance and luxury promised by hypothetical developments like artificial intelligence and nanotech, the post-scarcity society of immortals beloved by transhumanists is so radically from what most of us experience daily as to appear alien and absurd. Transformational social impact at the foundational level constitutes insufficient cause to dismiss hypothetical innovations but it reasonably evokes skepticism. Unfortunately, we lack any guarantee we'll have dramatically more and superior tools to get out of this mess than we have now.

Moreover, the keep-working-you'll-go-to-heaven line advanced by Kurzweil and eir ilk resolves nothing. Even assuming techno-utopia within a few decades for every human being, cat, and nematode, the question of equity looms. Only people presently sitting pretty can blithely accept the perpetuation of status-quo suffering for future prosperity. Sacrificing today for tomorrow is great as long as somebody else is doing it for you! The relative comfort and ease some of the species enjoys in the twenty-first century comes directly from millions of past workers - both formally enslaved and nominally free but coerced - who personally gained little or nothing from their toil. The race to digital grace repeats this pattern. Few of us would volunteer to be consumed for the future and when pressed most would admit devouring lives to grow stronger conflicts with every popular ethical system. It's the behavior of vampires. Given the manifest harms surveyed above, staying the course of industrial capitalism is yet a moral crisis under the rosiest of scenarios.

So how do we overcome this quandary? I don't have any magical answers. My aim first and foremost is to encourage transhumanists and technoprogressives to think deeply and critically about the problem. Too often futurists ignore or gloss over the horrors that to date form essential elements of technological production. I want to see less of that. Whatever your political angle, if you value pleasure, freedom, dignity, and equality - as the majority of us claim to - changing the conditions of industrial economy must be a central part of your analysis and efforts. If you favor gradual reform, consider how that's going to prevent global warming from spiraling out of control, make life more liveable for workers on the bottom of the social hierarchy, and ever lead to anything like the ideal. If you're fond of markets and property rights, investigate whether and how companies can actually create egalitarian outcomes - and be sure to follow supply train back to extraction. Etc.

The grand scale of the world economy as well as the distributed and diffuse web of exploitation makes the dilemma tricky if not intractable. Most of us alternate between being oppressors and oppressed depending on the situation. Furthermore, the same factories that poison the land and brutalize workers produce the nice things that we rely on for convenience or survival. Life expectancy, for example, has increased notably in the era of automation. This matters too! Despite my sympathy for primitivism's critique, I'm no primitivist. I view Derrick Jensen's primitivism and Kurzweil's Singularitarianism as united in their demand for blood and pain based on a certain future.

Taking the opposite path, I privilege minimizing suffering in the here and now. The following lines from Argentine singer Atahualpa Yupanqui, also quoted by the aforementioned Lugo, poetically encapsulate my no-victims approach:

If there's one thing on earth

More important than God;

It's that nobody should cough up blood

So that somebody else can live better

I don't know whether it's possible to have technological mass society without human sacrifice but I want to give it an honest try. Although no such society has ever existed, certain evidence tentatively suggests this dream could materialize. Anticapitalist radicals of various stripes have wanted to wield machines for the common good since the nineteenth century. Practices of worker control and direct democracy, seen sporadically across the world in contexts such as the Spanish Revolution or early Russian Revolution, provide a hint of what ethical technology might look like. (The nightmare the Russian Revolution became under Joseph Stalin, on the other hand, warns us about the grave dangers of authoritarianism and industrial development at any cost.)

At the technical level, though pollution control and sustainability pose a significant challenge, the present degree of human suffering seems wildly gratuitous. As I've written for IEET in the past, actually existing technologies theoretically should enable us to craft a society of ease, pleasure, and plenty. The reductive materialist analysis of energy flows, resources, and consumption misses much but offers a handy counter to assertions of capitalism's efficiency. What gives me perhaps the greatest hope for the future is the prospect of autonomist, egalitarian political projects converging with smaller-scale production technologies like 3D printers and earth compressors. Open Source Ecology has the right idea: freely distribute the tools for a comfortable, sustainable life.

Moderate-sized autonomous regions strike me as plausible within a decade with enough struggle. Hypothetical developments such as nanofactories would exponentially decrease the community size needed for sufficiency at a decent standard of living, eventually down to the individual - but I ain't banking on genies and wishing for more wishes. Various supposedly self-sufficient communities already function across the planet - the Earthships here in New Mexico are one example - but they're limited to folks with the cash to buy in. Unless workers seize the means of production and fan their fires to forge new worlds, I suspect self-sufficiency will remain out of reach for the vast majority of the population. I say we organize, expropriate, and build for autonomy.

However, self-determination comes first. Because I don't want it done to me, I refuse to feed any more bodies to the pile of bones that holds up the limited comforts available to me. If the miners choose not to return to work come revolution, for instance, then anybody who desires minerals will either learn the trade or do without. If communities decide against some or all resource extraction, so be it. The cause of dignity, equality, and liberty may well slow or stop the technological innovation transhumanists adore via disruption of established flows of energy, resources, and labor. That's okay. In such scenario we'll figure out ways realize our dreams without victims or we'll just keep on dreaming them. I predict a flowering of diversity in the move toward self-determination that at least allows room for humbler transhumanist projects, but the future remains marvelously uncertain.

Love and blessings to everyone striving to live radically better!

Recommend Reading

"Condensed Critique of Transhumanism" by Dale Carrico

Health and the Rise of Civilization by Mark Nathan Cohen

Rethinking Environmental History edited by Alf Hornborg, J. R. McNeill, and Joan Martinez-Alier

Sweatshop Warriors by Miriam Ching Yoon Louie

Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts by Alejandro Lugo

“Transhumanism, Progress and the Future” by Philippe Verdoux

The Whale and the Reactor by Langdon Winner

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



COMMENTS

No ethical technologies exist, only some ethical people. For brevity’s sake, what I’m optimistic about is first of all, violence can be radically diminished; any genuine progressive ought to be encouraged violence has abated since 1945. Progressing beyond lowering levels of violence is the difficulty: putting down a sword is the easy part, fashioning a plowshare is when things get tough-like. Am not sure social progress exists, only damage control.

“Love and blessings to everyone striving to live radically better!”

People love their families and want blessings for them.. everyone else can pretty much drop dead as far as they care. They want smaller government albeit they want the State to give their people funds?? Worst of all, men want power more than anything; even libertarians covertly want power more than liberty—or perhaps one could write power and liberty are so closely associated in men’s minds, power and liberty are thus indistiguishable.
Optimistic ideology ignores how potent alienation and criminality (in Sakharov’s convenient dichotomy) are. What would expropriating the means of production and distribution be if alienation and criminality remain?: dystopia. Not that you shouldn’t attempt the positive goals you go into above, however don’t necessarily think your goals are more than academic. Optimism means optimising, not being chirpily unrealistic. For instance a smart, well-balanced religious person pursues virtue yet doesn’t escape too often in a quixotic hankering for an afterlife. Same holds true re a progressivist pursuit of justice: as one wouldn’t hold excessive store in Paradise, one wouldn’t want to dwell excessively on revolution. Were you around when the clever truism,

‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’

was in vogue? Why is it the revolution will not be televised? Could it be what we think of as ‘revolution’ is outmoded? that we futilely, pathetically, project our notions of today on tomorrow?

Re “What gives me perhaps the greatest hope for the future is the prospect of autonomist, egalitarian political projects converging with smaller-scale production technologies.”

Agree. For a longer-term view see my old article
Globalization and Open Source Nano Economy
http://www.kurzweilai.net/globalization-and-open-source-nano-economy

I wrote the essay in 2006 but I wouldn’t change much if I were to write it today.

I think you’ll find at the root of every misery is lack of cheap abundant available energy.  Air pollution, water pollution, food scarcity, pure drinkable water scarcity, housing shortage, transportation costs and shortage, overpopulation…I could go on and on.  I forward this concept: once clean energy “too cheap to meter” (according to Forbes.com) emerges onto the market this year, most of mankind’s ills will be within reach to solve (aside from the fundamental dual-use paradox of almost all advanced technologies).  Here is a primer:

Check out this third-party verification of a LENR reactor that will soon hit the market: http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3913
“Given the deliberately conservative choices made in performing the measurement, we can reasonabley state that the E-Cat HT is a non-conventional source of energy which lies between conventional chemical sources of energy and nuclear ones.” (i.e. about five orders of magnitude more energy dense than gasoline, and a COP of almost 6).

This phenomenon (LENR) has been confirmed in hundreds of published scientific papers: http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJtallyofcol.pdf

“Over 2 decades with over 100 experiments worldwide indicate LENR is real, much greater than chemical…”—Dennis M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA Langley Research Center

“Total replacement of fossil fuels for everything but synthetic organic chemistry.”—Dr. Joseph M. Zawodny, NASA

By the way, here is a survey of some of the companies that are bringing LENR to commercialization: http://www.cleantechblog.com/2011/08/the-new-breed-of-energy-catalyzers-ready-for-commercialization.html

For those who still aren’t convinced, here is a paper I wrote that contains some pretty convincing evidence: http://coldfusionnow.org/the-evidence-for-lenr/

I guess whether ethical technology is possible depends in part on what one means by ‘ethical’. Summerspeaker says ey wants to give “technological mass society without human sacrifice” a try, and claims that there is “certain evidence [that] tentatively suggests this dream could materialize”. Fair enough, but what if our efforts to abolish such sacrifice end up making things worse?

I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t even have to be technoprogressive, let alone one of the more gung-ho ones, to feel instinctively (even if many are reluctant to say so to loud) that some human sacrifice in the short term is essential to secure the longer-term welfare of humanity as a whole. And the fact that such an idea can be used, and has been used - perhaps even is being used - to do awful things does not make it any less cogent or evidence-based. It just means it needs to be handled with care.

And I do have difficulties with the idea of self-determination coming first (as Giulio also knows well from our various discussions). It’s a nice, feel-good idea, but ultimately it is only one of the virtues that contribute to welfare, and like all the others it becomes a vice when taken too far. I don’t want it done to me either, but what I want and what is most likely to contribute to the common good are two different things. I would rather read and respond to calls to voluntarily relinquish some of my own privileges, in the service of the greater good, than buy into an ideology that sounds worthy, but ultimately seems more likely to make things worse than better overall.

human sacrifice in the short term is essential to secure the longer-term welfare of humanity as a whole.
Good, then you and your family should be the first to sacrifice! All the people who want population reduction are never the first in line to sacrifice themselves..it’s always “those other people”, usually 3rd world indigenous poor folks..Indeed, poverty and homelessness is now a CRIME in Amerika under the 4th Reich..don’t forget, the Nazis started with the disenfranchised, the poor, mentally disabled, homeless…Mussolini said fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism…a la Amerika today…Most in academia are beholden to grants and tenure..thus under the control of the corporatocracy..and ultimately the Military Industrial Complex…and are afraid to speak out..exactyl what the 4th Reich desires!

P.S. The “Condensed Critique of Transhumanism” by Dale Carrico is the best i have seen so far on the false promises of transhumanism as it exists now, in the hands of a military-corporate black ops elitists. MUST READING!

“that some human sacrifice in the short term is essential to secure the longer-term welfare of humanity as a whole.”

Aye. Not that anyone at IEET wants such, but though IMO violence can be diminished further than it has been in the last 68 yrs (a real progressive or merely an ecumenist ought to be pleased violence has lessened since ‘45) economic violence appears to have a great deal of punch left in its mailed fist. It is more visible now perhaps simply because the population is larger: more people = more economic violence.
Glancing at Summerspeaker’s critique of Pinker, it looked quite interesting; unintelligibly rich with postmodernist terminology. However I could only skim through it. At any rate given the prevalence of economic violence it is true violence has not lessened but rather, been transmogrified. For an obvious example Russians can’t invade Afghanistan to kill and rape, they can have the Mafiya do it in a random way inside Russia. And not to pick on Russia—now America is in Afghanistan.. we knocked off one imperialist superpower so as to take its place almost entirely.
That is transmogrification.
In short violence is more internalised- less external.

Remember, humans soon to be obsolete! Only EUGENICS DIRECTIVES Human 2.0 (a la the blond hair, blue eyed Aryan Ubermensch!) and a world of autonomous AI droids, bots, clones,...the extermination programs (POGROMS) have started (GMO, fluoride, vaccines, chemical assault, electromagnetic re-arrangement of neurons, DNA genetic resequencing, nano fibres in your brain)....

Anarchism and libertarianism more broadly are profoundly relevant in a world of colossal institutions—states, superstates and multinational corporations.

Worker cooperatives, open source, filesharing, distributed manufacturing and agriculture, cryptocurrencies, hacktivism and direct democracy are the potential solutions to the exploitation inherent to authoritarian, monopoly economics.

I highly recommend the following books (PDFs free for download)

Markets Not Capitalism

http://radgeek.com/gt/2011/10/Markets-Not-Capitalism-2011-Chartier-and-Johnson.pdf

The Homebrew Industrial Revolution

http://c4ss.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/C4SS-Desktop-Manufacturing.pdf

Unless we address serious social ills, we will be branded as techno-utopianists and our message will have diminished impact. Although they deal with issues like “grey goo” nanodestruction and such, I agree that Kurzweil et al. tend to pander to elites and gloss over massive poverty and deprivation.

That is mostly a problem with the overarching economic and social structure (states and corporations) rather than technology—there are plenty of resources but elites get Ferraris and mansions while the poor get malaria and putrid water.

“fluoride”

Jack D. Ripper: Fluoridation began in 1946, how’s that for a postwar Communist conspiracy? POE: Purity Of Essence. Renegade, you are even more paranoid than me.

“The science behind fluoride destroying brain function is well founded…but maybe not so obvious to those still inside the Matrix Control Grid! Fluoride heads part of the zombification process of amerikans into mindless drones…
http://www.fluoridealert.org/
Amerika is doomed….a prison nation….home of the Imperial Empire,,,”

Don’t want to waste another comment replying to the above. Remind us all not to live in Boise Idaho unless we bring tinhats to keep the CIA’s transmissions out of our brains. Also, encasements to cover our teeth so the transmissions can’t be sent through our dental fillings. Of course all the technologies are risky. But there are no central authorities monitoring what is going on: you are granting too much to the intelligence and capabilities of authorities. We live in a state of controlled barbarism wherein the barbarism is as potent as the control. However you are young so perhaps it is well you dally with grassy knoll garbage.  Call it SF.
Don’t really mean to single you out; in the ‘70s I was a space cowboy to make you appear as Mental Health Model of the Month.
Also, Wesley Strong and Summerspeaker are pretty out there, although Summerspeaker is a special case- he is far too smart and educated to believe everything he writes. Took a gander at some of his linked articles: Ben does so well it gives you a headache similar to reading Satre. You know a guy is doctorate-cum-professor material when what he writes is so densely packed you need advil/motrin. The medium is the message: Ben Abbot will go far in life, perhaps be another Foucault. Please, though; for accuracy’s sake substitute contrarian for baleful.
What would be positive is artificial brains. Intomorrow and Renegade should be the first to sign up for them.

The science behind fluoride destroying brain function is well founded…but maybe not so obvious to those still inside the Matrix Control Grid! Fluoride heads part of the zombification process of amerikans into mindless drones…
http://www.fluoridealert.org/
Amerika is doomed….a prison nation….home of the Imperial Empire,,,

I agree with the following from Sebastian23, “Unless we address serious social ills, we will be branded as techno-utopianists and our message will have diminished impact,” and there may also be truth in his assertion, “Although they deal with issues like “grey goo” nanodestruction and such…Kurzweil et al. tend to pander to elites and gloss over massive poverty and deprivation.” To the extent that this is the main message of Summerspeaker’s article, I don’t really have an issue with it.

What I have an issue with is this idea that self-determination must come first. If Summerspeaker wants to be the next Foucault, then frankly that’s fine with me (except that I think there must be better things to do with one’s life), since I doubt his ideas will have much impact that way. But the idea that self-determination must come first is a popular one, so it deserves scrutiny.

Sebastian23 also commented that “anarchism and libertarianism more broadly are profoundly relevant in a world of colossal institutions—states, superstates and multinational corporations.” Relevant, yes, but helpfully so, or unhelpfully so? To me they are traps, leading to Renegade-style paranoia and a general failure on the part of the public, even in democratic countries, to bother getting their heads around government, what it does, what it is for, and how it can be made to work better. Libertarians cry, “Less government!” and the main thing it does is to play into the hands of those parts of the ‘elite’ that are genuinely wicked, selfish or uncaring. In this distorted narrative, climate change becomes a hoax perpetrated to oppress the masses, when in fact the opposite is the case, and public campaigns to promote safe sex become conspiracies to stop Africans having babies (that last one being sold to Mbeki by an alternative medicine charlatan, according to Ben Goldacre’s excellent Bad Science).

Of course, to a large extent the problem is our stone-age brains, which are more prone to picking things up from news and popular culture and mixing them altogether (e.g. to produce “fluoride heads part of thebzombification process of Americans into mindless drones”), than to processing information efficiently to produce accurate worldviews that we then use to serve the greater good. Which, of course, is another reason we need to be enhanced (but IEET readers know that very well by now).

@Sebastian23
Great points! We’ve all heard the phrase, “...the more things change, the more they stay the same”...Nothing much has really changed since the days of the Pharoahs of Ancient Egypt: Every organization and institution in our society is still modeled on the PYRAMID COMMAND-CONTROL MODEL…A hierarchy of control..and it doesn’t matter if it is SCIENCE, ACADEMIA, EDUCATION, FINANCE, MEDIA, MILITARY, etc,...they are all pyramid structured control hierarchies…It is said by the experts that some 6% of the population are BORN psychopaths..i.e., they cannot change, they cannot be “rehabilitated”...and all these pyramid hierarchies become top-heavy with psychopaths…We have the tools to detect and filter psychopaths, but until they are removed from control hierarchy, nothing will change (for the betterment of ALL humanity, not just the UBermensch super-humans!)
The technology ALREADY EXISTS to turn this planet into a Paradise Utopia! No need to wait 20,30,50,100 years! Remove the psychopaths, change your pyramid command control grids, and we may stand a chance!

As a SPIRITUAL SPECIAL FORCES OFFICER . it is my solemn duty to wage spiritual/information warfare with the:
IMMORTAL CYBERANGELS
TECHNO-TRANSCENDENTALISTS
TECHNO-IMMORTALISTS
DIGITAL UTOPIANS
EXTROPIANS
NAN0-CORNUCOPIASTS
CYBERNETIC TOTALISTS
ROBOT CULTISTS ARCHIPELAGO
‘Nuff said.

“The technology ALREADY EXISTS to turn this planet into a Paradise Utopia!”

Unless your Paradise Utopia includes ageing, and its friends cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, decrepitude and death, not to mention infectious diseases, no the technology doesn’t already exist.

“Remove the psychopaths, change your pyramid command control grids, and we may stand a chance!”

The problem with “removing the psychopaths” is that it tends to take psychopaths to do the job, and the result is just new pyramid structures headed up by replacement psychopaths. So quit ranting and fantasising about spiritual warfare, and start thinking constructively about how we can actually make the world a better place.

I guess the problem is that too many are still thinking INSIDE the Matrix Control Grid…When you think OUTSIDE the control grid, it naturally evokes hostility..
Knowledge is power, and much of the REAL technology and science on this planet remains hidden from public view.
Eg.,At the highest levels of truth, there is no difference between technology, occultism, and metaphysics.What we know of science is incomplete; how about parallel dimensions, etheric fields, astral planes,synchronicities, consciousness, hyperdimensional existence, timeloops,psychotronics, antigravity,time travel, free energy,reality engineering, teleportation.
It’s Einstein arguing with Tesla, “MY view of the Universe is the correct one.” ..and SUPPRESSION of dissent as evidenced by Wicks, “...so quit fantasizing and ranting about spiritual warfare”...a living example of the Corporate Elitist attitude, trying to limit Free Speech, or controlling the narrative, a typical fascist approach! :0)

Actually it was a suggestion. Of course it’s up to you what to write.

Renegade, it’s easy to jumble together some concepts you’ve picked up from wherever and build a conspiracy narrative out of it. Just not very useful in my view, except as entertainment. That was my point. And even if you’re right…what, practically, are you suggesting we do? (And what is Summerspeaker suggesting, for that matter? That’s also not very clear to me.)

Our entire history on this planet is a conspiracy! “Your view” is no more valid than anyone else expressing their thoughts..and to denigrate another person’s views, just because they are OUTSIDE your reality paradigm, is very elitist. The paradigms are changing, and MANY will be caught unawares.
It’s typical when a poor debater cannot deal with the MESSAGE or argument to resort to AD HOMINEM’s, attacking the person and not the issue. You can believe as you want, but i’m not going “talk down” to you, all supercilious and arrogant.
‘Nuff said…
Practically speaking? ‘YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YE FREE”...FREE WILL AND CONSCIOUSNESS ARE THE SINE QUA NON OF MENTAL AND PHYSICAL LIBERATION>

Depends what you mean by “valid”, I guess. I write what I believe to be true and it did seem to me you were jumbling together concepts and making a conspiracy narrative out of it. And I still don’t find that very useful. You can disagree of course.

Regarding practical action: OK, so the truth sets us free (sort of), but then what? Truth, free will and consciousness might be sine qua non, but they can’t be enough on their own. What practical steps are you taking to liberate yourself? Or don’t you want to tell me because you think I am part of the conspiracy?

“Our entire history on this planet is a conspiracy!”

Renegade did not mention the most important fact of all:
the Queen of England is stockpiling cocaine at the Vatican. And why pray tell did Renegade neglect the Queen Catholic Coke Conspiracy? Did he forget? Noooooo; there are no accidents… it was a deliberate calculated omission of Biblical proportions. Renegade is one of them, the plotters. His grandfather was at Dealey Plaza on the Grassy Knoll. His dad filled the buildings around the WTC with inflammables on 9-10-‘01.
Is it all coming into focus now? The evil chicken has come home to roost. He is out to get me; you are all out to get me. Sniff. They said I was crazy- but they would, wouldn’t they. Well, we’ll see who is crazy. We’ll see. They’re comink to take me avay, Ha Ha!

Ren,
if ridicule doesn’t work, then will try reason: why would you want to waste a second with conspiracy theories? There are conspiracies however the majority are quickly discovered. All that garbage about the Bilderbergers—you can call any meeting a conspiracy. As you might know, Adam Smith wrote when members of the same profession congregate, they seldom pass up an opportunity to conspire against the public. So you can make up a conspiracy out of any bad intention on the part of two or more actors.
But, again, conspiracies do exist; if you want to back up your techno-conspiracy theory with substantiation, it makes sense to air your theory. Do you have real, solid, evidence?

Don’t want to come down hard on you personally.. plus conspiracy theorising does have a purpose; to entertain- infotain. Much as gossip entertains and informs (to a v. limited degree) so does conspiracy theorising. One could publish a whole magazine devoted to Elvis being alive; the Teletubbie Tinkie Winkie; the Loch Ness Monster; Bermuda Triangle. Low on information yet moderately entertaining.

@Peter, but with broad relevance:

I’m thoroughly pleased with your assessment of popularity of self-determination. Unfortunately, coercion and domination remain the norm regardless. I’d say I am calling for folks to give up some of their privileges for the greater good. Arguing for self-determination and against cannibalism doesn’t mean I want everyone to just sit around smoking weed and watching TV all day! I agree sacrifice in the sense of investment has considerable utility and desirability.

Currently sacrifice for the future is distributed profoundly violently and unevenly. I find that outrageous and unacceptable. But I’d guess that the majority of industrial horrors right now aren’t even sacrifices for the future! To the contrary they’re blood on the altars of stupidity, hierarchy, and short-term comfort. Rather limited energy goes into infrastructure and beneficial science.

P.S. If I were trying to be the next Foucault, I can’t fathom why I’d be here. I furthermore suspect that most decided academic poststructuralists would find this essay thoroughly dull.

“Currently sacrifice for the future is distributed profoundly violently and unevenly”

Of course, Ben: such is the natural state of life- transhumanism is
in rebellion against the natural, hominid order of dog eat dog, ape eat ape.  IMO violence can be reduced, lifespans can be lengthened—however I do not think for a nanosecond that we can live in a
world of justice any more than in the virtuous world religious want.
As comprehensive virtue ended after medieval religiosity finished, IMO equality finished when Comminism died two decades ago. But we go through the motions of justice albeit all the while knowing
anarchism, socialism, libertarianism- all isms are from the political mausoleum.
Unions, activists speak the lingua franca of socialism/social democracy, and in some cases anarchism. But only because the workers and their reperesentatives comprehend the basic ideas of the isms—not because the isms are not outmoded. And one might add—without feeling impertinent—unions are quite hierarchical—not a generalisation, as I’ve been in contact with them since 1974 and have seen the stratification. But you may be correct “the majority of industrial horrors right now aren’t even sacrifices for the future! To the contrary they’re blood on the altars of stupidity, hierarchy, and short-term comfort”
Life can only be so in a primitively darwinistic (small case ‘d’) world.
What the workers want to do is what most of “us” want to do: keep the old ways to some degree yet modernise in some manner—an analog to attempting to retain medieval norms and standards in the Enlightenment era. I do not blame workers for wishing to retain something of the past; I’m nostalgic as well, or at least am hankering for the ambiance of the 20th century. Doesn’t work that way.

To be clear, I’m not arguing against self-determination as a concept of fundamental importance for our political and ethical thinking, only against the idea of putting it on a pedestal, above other (more collective) virtues. I certainly agree that the majority of industrial (and other) horrors are “blood on the altars of supidity, hierarchy, and short-term comfort. No quibbles there. I will even agree, to a large extent, that coercion and domination remain the norm. But here we are a long way from any kind of valid critique of transhumanism. To deplore, and seek to reduce, non-constructive coercion and domination on a massive scale is one thing, and certainly valuable, but to imagine that we can have “technological mass society with [any]‘human sacrifice” still strikes me as a step too far.

If only. It would be the best news since penicillin if change were without the greatest sacrifice at the bottom. But we take into account idealism, we don’t reject idealism, we temper it. We listen to and need the idealistic without accepting everything they say and do.
We are not yes-men for Wesley and Summer, nor Pastor Alex. They have their niches; we have ours’.
Wesley Strong is right to champion workers (and don’t forget peasants, they toil as well) but not in the old-time, clenched fist manner. You notice we haven’t heard from Wesley in a week or so: he is deleting and doing over his articles, attempting to fit the square old ways in round new holes. Don’t we all… at least some of us know it.
Just wrote at ‘‘Ethical Technology - Is That Even Possible?’, the lingua franca is social democracy/anarchism/militancy, etc. albeit tried-and-true such isn’t the only way to communicate with workers/representatives, however convenient.
It’s safe to say though the operative word is decentralisation, democracy. And perhaps the only way to communicate with those at the bottom is through old language. At any rate I had enough of that in the ‘70s, let the younger guys (and women) deal with clenched-fist politics. It takes fire in the belly, not metamucil.

Something am really tired of is conspiracy theory not backed up by evidence: the Midwest is awash with theory about the Masons, Satanism, etc etc. Exaggerated, excitable theories.

To clarify, when I write “human sacrifice” in the article it alludes to the Atahualpa Yupanqui lyrics above. I mean intense suffering like getting sick from working a mining job or burning to death inside a sweatshop. I seek to conjure up images of gory altars. I don’t mean sacrificing a perfectly good day/month/year/life of loafing around in order to get something done.

My version of negative-utilitarian ethics privileges preventing misery over comforts and luxuries. If we can’t have mass technological society without making people grist for the mill as they are now and have been historically, then I’ll join my primitivist comrades in smashing it all with rocks. Thankfully the matter remains unresolved.

As for what I’m suggesting, the answer is anticapitalist, antiauthoritarian revolution. But my main purpose here is to get transhumanists and company to think deeply and critically about the suffering directly involved in technological production and not employ appeals to the future to displace the problem from its reality here in the durative present.

“I mean intense suffering like getting sick from working a mining job or burning to death inside a sweatshop.”

Or even ‘merely’ becoming slightly ill from eating the food in a McRestaurant they work at, getting said food for free or discounted.
You are (IMO, we don’t have to write IMO every comment) mistaken IEET needs to be reminded of the suffering of those at the bottom—they/we do not know what to do about it, but they/we are aware of the suffering.

“My version of negative-utilitarian ethics privileges preventing misery over comforts and luxuries.”

I never really did quite get negative utilitarianism. At the individual level, it clearly points to suicide (death being an entirely, and indeed the only, sure way to prevent one’s own suffering), and while this might be more complicated to arrange at the cosmic level, it seems to me inconsistent on the one hand to want to stay alive, and on the other hand to regard preventing misery as fundamentally more important than causing pleasure.

“then I’ll join my primitivist comrades in smashing it all with rocks.”

It is of course possible that the nihilists (and this is essentially nihilism, isn’t it?) will succeed in bringing down civilisation and returning us to a more ‘primitive’ state. I would even say it is quite likely. Will it reduce the amount of suffering in the world? Well perhaps, if it also massively reduces the world’s population. But see above.

“As for what I’m suggesting, the answer is anticapitalist, antiauthoritarian revolution.”

I think history as shown rather convincingly that rebelling against ‘capitalism’ makes about as much sense (and probably less so) than declaring war on ‘terror’ or ‘drugs’. Capitalism is essentially the tendency of people to want to use commerce to improve their lot, and that of those they love. All successful societies have harnessed that essential life force, and socialism, when it works properly, constraints it, rather than seeking to destory it.

As for authority, I recommend you read Rick Searle’s recent article “Why the Global Brain Needs a Therapist”, and the discussion we’ve been having there. To the extent that we have moved from authoritarian and coercive systems to more democratic, participatory systems it is precisely because we have been able to evolve a more complex, sophisticated civilisation. If we are going to rebel, let’s at least first develop some kind of positive vision of where we would like the revolution to lead, and then critically assess how realistic it is.

“But my main purpose here is to get transhumanists and company to think deeply and critically about the suffering directly involved in technological production and not employ appeals to the future to displace the problem from its reality here in the durative present.”

That kind of assumes that we ARE employing appeals to the future to displace the problem, and perhaps you are right. Perhaps we are doing that, to some degree. But Intomorrow’s comment is pertinent. There is limited value in deploring and hand-wringing, if the best we can come up with by way of solution is ‘anticapitalist, antiauthoritarian revolution’. Once again, we risk (you risk) making things worse rather than better. So by all means keep reminding us of the problem - I do see value in that - but at some point we need to move, cautiously, from analysis to action.

“then I’ll join my primitivist comrades in smashing it all with rocks”

Or perhaps you’ll hedge your bets by joining your sophisticated academic peers in getting tenured at universities? You have what it takes to be a good professor- but you’d make a lousy activist. All too common. The radicals I remember as far back as 45 yrs ago lacked vision and a sense of humor (the best they could do was soundbites such as
“the only greening of Amerikkka we are interested in is the grass that will grow over its grave”)
Marx has had excessive influence; he was brilliant however surely more comprehensive worldviews have been thought out since 1848.

“I mean intense suffering like getting sick from working a mining job or burning to death inside a sweatshop.”

You are correct, very bad jobs. But a restaurant worker eating mercury-trace fish—or something—is being sacrificed as well.

@Peter: As far as negative-utilitarian ethics go, I’m only a dabbler but the fact that this logic tends to encourages suicide if anything increases my fondness for the approach. Within current circumstances, however, note that killing oneself typically involves intense and often extended suffering. As with most ideas, I wouldn’t want to take negative utilitarianism too far; I’m fond of both experiencing pleasure and not feeling pain.

We of course disagree completely on the merits of revolution. I consider the struggle for freedom and equality an inspiring solution to the problems outlined in my article. As by most definitions capitalism has come into existence but recently, I find your assertion that history has conclusively shown anything regarding the system preposterous. Nor do I define capitalism as some transhistorical spirit of self-improvement through exchange. Instead, Capitalism comes out of accumulation by dispossession and revolves around control over the means of production by a tiny minority of individuals. This control requires enforcement in the form of coercion.

“Capitalism comes out of accumulation by dispossession and revolves around control over the means of production by a tiny minority of individuals. This control requires enforcement in the form of coercion.”

Yes, but the difficulty has always been (since 1848 at least) the details of how to go about enforcement in the form of coercion.

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