IEET > GlobalDemocracySecurity > Vision > Former > Technoprogressivism
Technology Needs Democracy, Democracy Needs Technology
Dale Carrico   Feb 20, 2006   Amor Mundi  

Over the years of my lifetime, conservative ideologues have seemed to frame their usual corporatist, militarist, deregulatory schemes more and more in apparently revolutionary terms.  They seem to hyperventilate ever more conspicuously and insistently about their customary money-grabs and power-grabs in the faux-revolutionary cadences of “freedom on the march” and with faux-revolutionary visions of “free markets” surging, swarming, crystallizing, and well-nigh ejaculating the whole world over.  And over these same years of my lifetime, the democratic left—already demoralized, perhaps, by the failures of long-privileged revolutionary vocabularies—seemed almost to sleepwalk into the rather uninspiring position of defending the fragile institutional attainments of imperfectly representative, imperfectly functional welfare states in apparently conservative terms.  They have struggled reasonably but too-often ineffectually, spellbound with worry over the real harms to real people that have accompanied the long but apparently irresistable dismantlement of the social democratic status quo, such as it was.

This was and somewhat remains a problem for the radical democratic left.  On the one hand, there appears to be an ongoing failure to take seriously the vast resources and breathtaking organizational discipline that can be mobilized by the real desperation of religious and market fundamentalist elites panic-stricken by global secularization and its threats to the traditional, parochial, and “natural” vocabularies that have legitimized hitherto their otherwise unearned privileges and authority.  And on the other hand, there has simply been a failure of nerve and, worse, imagination in the fraught efforts to formulate an appealing post-marxist revolutionary democratic vocabulary that could inspire people to struggle for long-term general emancipation rather than short-term personal gain.

For me, of course, such a new revolutionary vocabulary would need to be a palpably technoprogressive one.  It would consist of the faith and demand that global technological development be beholden to the interests of all its stakeholders as they themselves express these interests, that existing technological powers be deployed to redress injustice, ameliorate suffering, diminish danger, remediate the damage of prior and ongoing technological development (especially the legacies of unsustainable extractive and petrochemical industrialization), and finally that new technologies be developed to incomparably emancipate, empower, and democratize the world. 

Conservatism cannot appropriate a technoprogressive vision, since any conception of progress that insists on both its technical and social dimensions will indisputably threaten established powers.  But there is no question that conservatives will take up technodevelopmental politics for their own ends.  Indeed, conservative military-industrial technophiles, neoliberal technocrats, and global corporate futurists already largely define the terms in which technodevelopmental politics are playing out in the contemporary world.  Conservative technodevelopmental politics in its corporate-conservative mode will continue to insist that “progress” is a matter of the socially-indifferent accumulation of useful inventions to be enjoyed first and most by the elites with whom particular conservatives identify.  And in its bioconservative modes conservative technodevelopmental politics will continue to indulge in daydreams of unenforceable bans on scientific research and of blanket disinventions of late modernity (trying all the while not to think too much about the genocidal die-offs entailed in such pastoral fantasies) on the part of deep ecologists and anti-choice activists. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, I believe that without democracy technology will likely destroy the living world, and that without technology democracy will likely wither into irrevelance and so destroy the human world.  But I believe no less that a radical democratic politics of global technological development will likely emancipate humanity at last.  Radical democracy needs to take up its revolutionary stance again, to gain and remake the world for us all before the world is utterly lost to us all.

Dale Carrico Ph.D. was a fellow of the IEET from 2004 to 2008 and is a lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley.



COMMENTS

What does anything in this article even mean? This is the most complex and confusing article I have ever forced myself to read. I’m not saying that intelligent writing is a bad thing, but you went way overboard here. It almost looks like you typed normal sentences and then “thesaurused” the shit out of it to make yourself look impressive.

Wow…. I’m really impressed.  But probably not as much as Dale himself, I’m sure.

Klompus,

The man has a Ph.D..  He’s not going to write in the People Magazine rhetoric that’s geared to a 5th grade level.

Technology has gamed democracy and we are fucked.
Our fucked up world that got way through lies. Truth would unfuck it but lies seem to win because they have money and organization
and whores orgs.  As society gets more complicated the truth gets more complicated and you have to be an educated and disciplined thinker to understand it.  The liars can keep us dumb in the first place and then the lies are easier to win with.  Specialization and division of labor help the liars too
because the truth about society means the truth about so many different areas and specialties and nobody or very few can understand all the different aspects enought to get the big picture.  In the simple life a guy had confidence in this own ability to understand the world around him and the big issues.  So indirectly technological advance is an evil.  Just like it leads to the atom bomb it also leads to mass stupidity on the most vital issues of the day.
The most important truths can’t be understood by specialization and division of labor even tho those things advance technological knowledge.
OTOH lying greatly benefits from division of labor.  Look at a movie which is a huge deception resulting from the work of many technicians.  The news media and think tanks also.  Not only technically but morally it is easier with division of labor.  If your job in the evil machine is just a small part it is easy to rationalize what you do as just making a living and easier to not know what the corporation that employs you is really doing to the world and to people in the community.  The same with being a shareholder in a corp.  If you don’t want to know how they make profits it’s easy not to know.  Which is the same as easy to believe a lie because of specialization.  Democracy is another way to avoid knowing so you can believe that your small part doesn’t make you guilty of the large crimes of the whole.  So different from the primitive villiage life where what you do is right there; where your word is important; where you must face fear and be brave for the whole community every day; where the coward, liar or thief is immediately found out. Not so in the modern world where greed is lauded as a virtue and private property becomes a religion. MINE MINE MINE. You hear it all day long. This cowardice is easy not to know.  So here we are.  Perhaps the only thing that can bring back the truth is the collapse of technology and a return to primitive life. It seems that truth can’t compete with lies in the technologically advanced society.

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