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Towards a Transhumanist Techno-progressive Divorce
Rick Searle   Aug 20, 2013   Utopia or Dystopia  

How is this for a bold statement: the ultimate morality or immorality of transhumanism rests with the position it will take on the question of human rights and more specifically its adoption or denial of the principles of one document little discussed outside of the circle of international lawyers and human rights activists: The Universal Declaration of Right of 1948.

It was by a circuitous route that I came to this conclusion, which at first glance may seem nonsensical, for, after all, isn’t transhumanism precisely about the post- human rather than us current human beings for which the idea of human rights and The Universal Declaration were created?

As briefly mentioned in a prior post, my first indication that human rights and The Universal Declaration might need to be brought into the center of transhumanists’ view was suggested to me by a person who isn’t a transhumanist at all, and indeed is deeply uncomfortable with much of transhumanist rhetoric and underlying assumptions. No one would call the science-fiction author, Kim Stanley Robinson, a neo-luddite. Rather, he sees science, at least in its beneficent manifestations, as the ultimate utopian project. And, as anyone who has ever read one of Robinson’s novels knows, he views utopianism as a very good thing indeed.

It was in a panel discussion  “Utopia- Science Fiction and Fact” that Robinson brought up The Universal Declaration of Rights. As a reminder the Universal Declaration was the first global statement of rights to which, according to the consent of every nation on earth, all human beings are entitled and consists of 30 articles  spelling out these rights. They include not only basic so-called negative rights such as the freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture, but positive rights such as the right to marry and found a family, the right to “social security”, the right to work, the right to rest and leisure, the right to food, shelter, clothing and medical care, the right to “the full development of the human personality”, the right to a stable domestic and international political order, the right to education and to “enjoy the arts and share in scientific achievements and its benefits”.

My interpretation of Robinson bringing up the Universal Declaration in a transhumanist forum was that we already had a utopian project for the future “the project of justice” as he called it; therefore, we should be leery about getting ahead of ourselves. He seemed to be saying that we should focus our scientific and technological efforts on achieving these still far-off 20th century goals before we run full-steam towards the 21st or perhaps 22nd century goals of transhumanism.

It was only when I came across an interview by another future oriented thinker who also brought up the Universal Declaration that I started to think there might be something more to the relationship of transhumanism and the Universal Declaration than my superficial grasp of Robinson’s view had led me to believe.

In an interview with Adam Ford, avowed transhumanist, Steve Fuller, characterized the Universal Declaration as a perfect summation of 20th century progressive politics. This view of what he called “humanity 1.0” found in the Universal Declaration he believes will be likely find itself in conflict with the transhumanism of “humanity 2.0” in the years to come.

Fuller believes that the goals of humanity 1.0, of a progressive, egalitarian society, could only be “paid for” by “holding back” the superior members of society who tried to push the abilities of humanity evolutionarily forward. As time moves onward, more and more of ranks of these visionaries, Fuller thinks, will be filled by transhumanists. Thus his predicted tension between those who hold to the goals humanity 1.0 and those seeking to expand the limits of the possible and achieve the goals of humanity 2.0.

This prediction of probable conflict between the adherents of humanity 1.0 and those seeking to move to a transhumanist notion of humanity 2.0 grows out of Fuller’s libertarian “great man” theory of progress. For him, progress is pushed forward by “superior” individuals who break the bonds of the possible through risk, experimentation, innovation and revolution pulling the rest of society along.

The kind of antagonistic picture of how the world works found in Fuller is on full display in the movie Jobs where innovation and society is pulled forward by visionaries whose disdain for the rest of us non-visionaries types makes them, in common parlance, assholes.

The question that should naturally arise whenever justifications for inequality, such as Fuller’s based upon of the pull of “great men” are made is whether or not such lone visionaries are really acting “alone”? Someone like Steve Jobs was dependent on a society and history around and before him to obtain his visions, and we can never be quite sure if his breakthroughs would have occurred without him. It is just as likely that instead of being driven by “great men” progress in science and technology or human thought in general is really a matter of seizing opportunities that are lying there for anyone to pick up, and which can only be supported if a large enough pool of individuals have come to the point in their own thinking to find the new idea, or invention or whathaveyou compelling.

This libertarian myth that egalitarian policies are the enemy of innovation and upward mobility to which Fuller subscribes and which he conflates with the transhumanist project needs to be vocally challenged, and with hard data. It is, after all, in the Scandinavian countries where egalitarianism runs deepest that rates of innovation are highest and ranked consistently higher than in the in-egalitarian US. Despite libertarian mythology, it is in egalitarian countries where upward mobility is highest as well; suggesting, that egalitarian policies, contra Fuller, are much less about holding the “superior” back as maximize those able to create breakthroughs and in giving everyone a fair shot at success.

There is also the too often unspoken question of power. In another panel discussion, this one for the RSA, only the fiction author and political activist China Mieville had the guts or the comprehension to challenge Fuller’s underlying assumptions regarding power and inequality. If inequality has deep roots in the differential distribution of power and political influence, then Fuller’s version of transhumanism becomes  just one more way in which the already wealthy and powerful will be able to make their advantage permanent.

As another figure worried about exploding levels of inequality, Chrystia Freeland, points out in her book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else this is already happening at an ever increasing rate as the rich use their wealth to gain educational advantages for their children and distort market influence through their leverage over the political process. Of course, the rich have always done this. What is unprecedented today is the scale and extent to which the super-wealthy have been able to rig the game, so to speak, in their and their childrens’ favor.

A transhumanism lacking an egalitarian anchor, of which the Universal Declaration is just one example, threatens to become just one more way in which the already wealthy and powerful (including many of us lucky enough to be born in the developed world) will be able to make their advantage permanent by, for instance, genetically enhancing themselves or their children when this option is not available to all, purchasing the most advanced form of bioelectrical enhancements whose expense prices out the bulk of the middle class and the poor, replacing middle class and working class jobs with AIs and robots- further shifting the balance of economic distribution away from labor and towards capital without at the same time adopting policies to offset this decline of opportunities for human work with policies such as guaranteed basic income.

Yet, if I thought the extent of Fuller’s critique of the progressive worldview that underlie the Universal Declaration was based on a simplistic view of the reality of social equality reminiscent of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged or the Kurt Vonnegut short-story “Harrison Bergeron”, I was in for a rude awakening when I actually read Fuller’s book- Humanity 2.0.  It was in reading this book that I became convinced not just of the need for an egalitarian orientation for transhumanism but for the full embrace and incorporation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights into its project if transhumanism was to free itself from the potential to unleash social evil.

It was in Humanity 2.0  that Fuller showed just how far he was willing to go in his rejection of the Universal Declaration, as far in fact as to call for the rehabilitation of the inhuman Nazi regime that had given rise to the Universal Declaration in the first place. The kinds of ethical obscenities that can be found in Humanity 2.0 are indicative of the dangers inherent when one unmoors the idea of post-humanity, of the transhuman, from the project to obtain the requisites of the human condition- of humanity 1.0- for all, and when one sees progress being driven by “superior” individuals or groups.

Part of the moral dilemma any transhumanists has to face is the sheer, and often unacknowledged gap, between transhumanist goals and the actual conditions of the large numbers of humanity. Transhumanists in large measure have objectives such as the obtainment of biological immortality when the average life expectancy in a country like Sierra Leone is 46. Talk of a technologically supercharged humanity rings hollow when 2.6 billion human beings lack toilets. If these disparities are not addressed and our global environmental, and political problems are not solved, we will likely have more explosions like the recent one in Egypt which is as much a crisis of population density, energy, food and water scarcity as it is a secular vs. religious conflict.

The immoral potential implicit in this gap confronts us directly, even if on simplistic terms, in the film Elysium where in the year 2154 the majority of humanity lives on a planet of want, social breakdown and violence when a minority lives in a transhumanist paradise in space where there is no disease, poverty or war. Here, transhumanism becomes a sort of sinister version of The Rapture of the Nerds that is the dream of singularitarians.  It is a possibility that emerges from the race for the rights of the future when we have yet to secure the rights of the past.

One of the main ways techno-progressivism- a relatively recent branch of transhumanism- might best distinguish itself, or even if necessary, divorce itself, from both the kinds of anti-progressive transhumanism seen in Fuller, dramatically presented in Elysium and found in the millenarian fantasies of singularitarianism would be to openly embrace as its primary mission the obtainment of the goals set forth in the Universal Declaration. The priority of science as a utopian project would then be aimed at the achievement of a sustainable human condition for all. To these goals could then be added core transhumanists hopes such as the radical extension of the human lifespan (which would fall under the Universal Declaration’s right to life) and the right to explore and build upon the transcendence of current human capabilities, including by the use of technological means (which would fall under the Universal Declaration’s right to the full development of the human personality).

Still, a little historical and philosophical background and context might prove helpful in making the reasons for such a linkage between the projects of humanity 1.0 as represented by the Universal Declaration and  tehno- progressivism a little clearer and might lay bare some of the risks in tying progressivism to science and technology alone without addressing underlying dynamics of wealth and power.

For, it should not be surprising that human rights, singularitarianism and transhumanism emerged almost simultaneously and might someday soon prove real rivals for defining the human future. All three emerged from the loss of faith that utopia could be created through political action and as responses to the recognition of a common human identity and our likely fate. To that I will turn next time…

The above painting of Janus is by South African artist Christo Coetzee (1929-2001), oil on board.   It can be found in the Sanlam Collection. Copyright Christo Coetzee, all rights reserved.
​The use of artistic images above in no way implies endorsement of the ideas contained in this article. Rather, their use is my own endorsement of the quality of their work in artistically conveying complex and contemporary ideas.
Rick Searle, an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, is a writer and educator living the very non-technological Amish country of central Pennsylvania along with his two young daughters. He is an adjunct professor of political science and history for Delaware Valley College and works for the PA Distance Learning Project.



COMMENTS

I could not disagree more with this kind of moralistic approach to the politics of transhumanism, not to mention with the support expressed for a form of ethical universalism which stands against everything collective self-determination and popular sovereignty is about, and for the narratives that keep it in power.

This confirms me in the idea that before even thinking of a posthuman change, we should first concern ourselves with a posthumanist one.

ALL nations have signed on to the Universal Declaration of Rights and subsequent efforts confirming it, and I am not arguing that we FORCE anyone to follow these agreements. Thus the charge that actually adhering to The Universal Declaration is somehow in violation of the principal of self-determination does not make sense. Nations can exit from those agreements if they so choose.

My argument is more about finding a path to the future in which the maximum number of human beings benefit from scientific and technological progress. If that is “moralistic” I fully embrace the charge. 

Hi RIck—I don’t agree with your statement that egalitarian Scandinavian nations produce the most patents per capita. I have put a link below. Japan and Switzerland are usually at the top in polls—Sweden does indeed do very well—Norway isn’t in the top 10.

The Scandinavian nations are also tiny… perhaps too tiny to prove anything… for example - In the USA, Idaho has the most patents per capita, but I don’t think anyone regards it as the center of innovation…

To conclude, I don’t think you’ve proven your point here - I think you need more convincing data to prove egalitarianism correlates with innovation.

I think you’d like to prove that, but so far, the “proof” you’ve offered isn’t there, it looks “imaginary” “desperate” etc.

I am not opposed to you being right, I’d actually like to see your POV as correct, but using present-day Scandinavia as evidence isn’t convincing.

Here’s the Patents-Per-Capita link:  http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/innovation/patents-by-population.aspx

Hi Rick, continued—

Additionally, Sweden - according to links and articles below - is no longer as “egalitarian” as it once was - it has dropped from #1 to #14 recently.

http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/3804661-egalitarianism-isn-t-what-it-used-be

http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/OECD2013-Inequality-and-Poverty-8p.pdf

IMO, “innovation” isn’t highly correlated to egalitarianism, except in its ability to provide quality education to a high percentage of citizenry.

There are many other factors that would contribute more to innovation than egalitarianism - like a friendly business climate, support for start-ups, etc.

“ALL nations have signed on to the Universal Declaration of Rights”

Technically, even *that* is not true. The Universal Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948 by a vote of 48 in favor, 0 against, with eight abstentions: the Soviet Union, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, People’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, People’s Republic of Poland, Union of South Africa, Czechoslovakia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Honduras and Yemen, both members of UN at the time, failed to appear for vote.

Not to mention that (a few) governments hardly mean ALL “nations” - most of which at the time were not even represented in the organisation, whose independence from the structure of western capitalist power system and commitment to diversity remains debatable.

@Hank:

Thanks for your detailed response, Hank.

I was not quite trying to make the point that egalitarianism = innovation, but something else.

Fuller’s thesis seems to be that egalitarianism is paid for by
keeping innovators “down”. There is not evidence for such a libertarian correlation of inequality with innovation otherwise Afghanistan- the country with the highest gini coefficient- would have the greatest amount of innovation- which is absurd.

I agree with you that it’s distorting to argue from small countries to big ones, but perhaps that suggests that the only way to have high levels of innovation and effective social equality is to be at this level of organization.

@ Rick

I see where you are heading with this, I think?

The problems with the pursuit of egalitarianism under the direction of “declaration of Human rights ” is that it fails to “convince” on the grounds of accountability, and of “personal responsibility” of individuals for themselves, and will therefore always fall short of its ideal, (breaches in Human rights needing intervention and contest by international courts to prove failures and uphold the declaration). Declaration also being of less weight and importance than written constitution.

Peoples and individuals that need reliance upon this declaration, (and for those for which it has been specifically constructed), are sure enough in need of protections, yet this does not persuade Oligarchy to subscribe nor even care about the declaration, (save for a few of “good conscience”?)

Why? Because these Oligarchs already exist at levels beyond most basic wants and needs, and therefore the declaration becomes superfluous. This then encourages further separations and rather than increasing egalitarian motivations instead acts against this ideology, ensuring that we drift further and towards greater divides?

In other words, and more simply, “Give a man a fish”, as opposed to “teach a man to fish”? The former implies Socialist ideology “to everyone as to their needs”, and regardless of effort, thus the arguments against meritocracy, encouragement of innovation and industrialism, and paranoia and fall of society into apathy etc.

There is an easy solution to “balance” this confrontation between Human rights and pursuit of egalitarianism through “demands” against its critique, and by empowering “every citizen” with the “ability to fish”. This “declaration of Human responsibilities” aims to “complement” the declaration of Human rights, but more importantly applies directly to “every citizen” including Oligarchy as directive aiming closer to social equality and opportunity, without any concerns of degradation of meritocracy and innovative reward?

Nor is a “declaration of Human responsibilities” adverse to Socialist ideology, but also encourages and strengthens participation in Social Contract?

Have a read of the article and comments below, and see if this aligns with anything you have in mind?

Human rights and a code of responsibility

ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/mcgilvery20111214

 

@CygnusX1:

I do not find the logic of “teach a man to fish, rather than give a man a fish” compelling for at least 2 reasons. 1) It assumes a viewpoint which is a-historical and blind as to conditions of power- past and present. 2) A large part of the world’s poor, malnourished etc are children to expect them to “learn how to fish” is a little disingenuous, and if they don’t learn how to fish as children how can they as adults- an acceptance of a vicious circle.

Trans-humanists can talk about “uplifting”, but what about a generation long project to get the majority of human beings up to a certain minimum level? That would be true “uplifting” and all those now enabled human minds would no doubt help speed forward the very breakthroughs trans-humanists hope for. The objection that “we’ve already tried this” doesn’t cut it. We’ve invested a fraction of a fraction of the amount we’ve spent on armaments on helping the world’s poor and the vast majority of this has found its way to Western contractors not to schools, hospitals, sustainable agriculture and the like.   

This is where I am going- trying to define and morally anchor the techno-progressive project in a way that takes humanity as a whole into account. I think the Universal Declaration would make a good definition of a techno-progressive project- with a few additions- because it gives a good summation for what are the requisites of a minimally human life. Getting the vast majority there is more important, at the moment, than reaching the next level not only because it is more moral, but because our survival probably depends upon it.

The Universal Declaration also serves as a good moral anchor. That is, with it might be a way to distinguish techno-progressivism
from a trans-humanism that is too often insensitive to the issue of inequality, or indeed to any notion of responsibility for humanity as such.

What is that term again, of stuff falling in to a Singularity and being ripped asunder by a massive tide of forward progression?

Spaghettification. Right. “None shall pass” and “abandon all hope ye who enter here”.

Maybe humanity deserves everything it will get. When we are done here, not even the meekest insects will be left alive.

Too bad.

Well, by using the metaphor “teach a man to fish”, I am implying empowerment yes, and through a declaration of Human “responsibilities” towards ourselves, believe in granting and affording these same opportunities and understanding towards others, (of which we expect for ourselves).

There is a nuanced difference between declarations “right to work” aimed towards being productive, (encouraging Self worth and Actualization), and “right to find work” - the former is a demand against society, (which is reliant upon creation of jobs by? and which is now decreasing with increasing automation - unless governments themselves decide to take on increasing roles as employers - which is not impossible?), and the latter is encouraging and empowering the individual in their rights AND responsibilities to pursue work, and therefore encouraging respect by others/employers in providing opportunities? In other words the latter is not a “demand” but “cooperative mutual understanding” building on social ethics?

Maybe this difference is too subtle? Yet how else do we align Oligarchy and proletariat and poverty stricken alike as unified, with common Universal values and in encouraging equality? Even the proletariat are displaced and themselves disingenuous towards abject poverty and individual suffering of those below them? They do not stand for the starving in the third world do they?

But yes, I understand and would agree that there are peoples, especially children that we need offer a hand up, and not merely a fishing lesson, (although by removing trade embargo on Africa, this would aid immensely?)

Trans-humanists may be less insular than Transhuman-ists, and so align more readily with Techno-progressives, yet I don’t really see this as problematic? Yes, some Transhuman-ists may appear as embracing Self-centred world views of transformation, individualism and autonomy, and at the expense of the world, yet this is not so different from a physicist working at CERN for the betterment of Humanity?

Looking forward to seeing the movie Elysium, the theme of which is very pertinent both for today and for tomorrow.

It seems that elites argue with elites as to what to do but leave it to everyone else to do whats needed. Without Mass indoctrination either Authoritarian or Libertarian nothing will change except by the shear force of collective action of The Market.  The Market encompasses every human being on the planet. So who exactly is it that must change. What is it that the minority “transhumanists” must do to enjoins “Universal Human Rights”? Become the leaders or develop the technology? Or just act as individuals.  Just give an example of what people like me who have no power other than being part of “The Mass” must do. If it is not individuals that progress society forward then you are just advocating herding cats. There is an exponential explosion of tech coming. Everyone will have BCI-VR by 2025 just by letting innovation happen. This will be an Intelligence Amplification and Education cheaper and used by 8-9 Billion than cellphones. Who will direct them? I see collectives much bigger than the USA forming based on Personality Type. Opensource 3D printing happens that by 2022 everyone will have a toilet and everyone will have a robot 2027. The Market will have created wealth with or without your contribution but again its about allowing it to happen decentralized on mass. Oil is the biggest threat as it is scarce and without free energy No Functioning Markets.

“AnimeKitty” is a nice handle, and this is encouraging:

“Everyone will have BCI-VR by 2025 just by letting innovation happen. This will be an Intelligence Amplification and Education cheaper and used by 8-9 Billion than cellphones. Who will direct them? I see collectives much bigger than the USA forming based on Personality Type. Opensource 3D printing happens that by 2022 everyone will have a toilet and everyone will have a robot 2027.”

@Rick, re Steve Jobs:
Newton (if memory serves) said he “stood on the shoulders of giants”, the inference being he was bequeathed a legacy stretching back to Archimedes.
Now, will listen to libertarians if they have something unusual to say; plus it naturally depends on who exactly is doing the saying. There’s a difference between the late WFB—who considered himself a libertarian—and Joe Blow the libertarian from Bugtussle who calls up the Rush Limbaugh program half-drunk.

Re: “Innovation”

Unfortunately, first thing that comes to most people’s minds when hearing this word, is (patented) “product”, e.g. computer. Next they may think of the internet, Facebook, etc.
That’s fair enough, and very human.., but, - and why not call this a post-human definition.., - I kinda like this broader definition:

“Overall contributions to the general advancement of mankind’s wellbeing.”,

e.g. material, economic, social, educational, psychological, etc., etc.

Measured this way, and based on no less than 89 variables, Denmark (2010) was the World’s most innovative nation, ahead of Sweden and.. the U.S., - and the Legatum Institute’s 2012 prosperity index top three were 1. Norway 2. Denmark 3. Sweden - (U.S. no 12)

Before anyone tells me: I am Danish, and yes, I’ve picked indexes most favourable to Scandinavia, but still.. 😊 - And I do like that broader definition. - You can’t measure innovation in terms of patents only, - just like a (wo)man is not defined by the size of her bank-account only..

Ref:
http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/smart-takes/top-10-innovative-countries-denmark-leads-world-in-2010-sweden-us-follow/13487

http://www.prosperity.com/#/ten_most_innovative_countries_in_the_world_114/

http://www.forbes.com/2011/01/19/norway-denmark-finland-business-washington-world-happiest-countries.html

@Khannea Suntzu:

If I was as pessimistic as you I would not write at all. Nothing is predetermined. Thank God!

@Animekitty: I am about the farthest thing you could find from a member of the “elite”- just an educated working class person who probably makes less than you.

“The Market” is just an abstraction that’s all in our heads- the sum of all the world’s transactions ALL of them distorted by non-economic factors. It doesn’t naturally lead anywhere- it just is, so putting our faith in it is little better than putting our faith in the imaginary gods. We’ve had efficient ways to create toilets and much else since the 19th century- but efficiency does not naturally lead to universal access.

“Just give an example of what people like me who have no power other than being part of “The Mass” must do.”

There’s actually quite a lot an individual can do. Step 1 is to just be informed- and inform others. Example: the majority of Americans think the US spends 25% of its budget on foreign aid- the answer is less than 1%.

http://www.good.is/posts/americans-are-horribly-misinformed-about-how-much-we-spend-on-foreign-aid

That’s HALF of what the US military spends ON DRONES ALONE.

Rectifying such short shortsightedness- at the ballot box, in support of candidates etc isn’t outside the realm of possibility for anyone.

On the less political side, there are many things you can do as well. Reducing your carbon footprint, for instance, is relatively painless:

http://www.carbonfund.org/reduce

As is down sizing your lifestyle.

As far as the technical breakthroughs you’re talking about- according to Popular Mechanics in the 1980s I was supposed to be living in space with my robot 10 years ago! I’ll cross my fingers, but we don’t even know what the implications of a new technology are until it is truly mainstream. And as I suggested, we’ve had the technology to provide everyone on earth with all the necessities of life for many decades- but have not, so it’s not the technology that’s the problem- IT’S US. 

@CygnusX1: I have a problem with tying rights to responsibilities
because I think it’s too often a troupe to blame the victim. A person without clean water in a village without clean water to start with isn’t “responsible” for this fact. He’s just unlucky enough to be born in a country too poor for the infrastructure or suffering water scarcity or whathaveyou. 

@Intomorrow: Perhaps if Joe Blow from Bugtussle had a fake British accent and used bigger words we’d think he was William F. Buckley.

@Joren: Get me to Denmark! And, thank you. 

@Stefano Vaj:

Yes, the defunct Soviet Union did not sign unto the UD. They did, however, sign onto the later Helsinki Accords which built on the UD and proved part of the Soviet system’s undoing.

And yes, the Muslim world has been an outlier as to these accords- mainly on the question of religious freedom, but even it has the Cairo Declaration which again seconds the UD.

The belief in the “rightness” of human rights is much more widespread and universal than you think:

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/btjusticehuman_rightsra/701.php?lb=bthr&pnt=701&nid;=&id;=

“@Intomorrow: Perhaps if Joe Blow from Bugtussle had a fake British accent and used bigger words we’d think he was William F. Buckley.”

Didn’t think of that. But WFB’s religious visions and aesthetic interests might be more compelling to both of us than Joe Blow’s sensations being inebriated. We don’t want to be snobs… we want to be sympathetic. However we can’t be all things to everyone; we can’t be highbrows and be lowbrows at one and the same time.
It would probably be more constructive in the long run to tell Jow Blow he is a dumb hillbilly than be sychophants- he’d see right through that.

“@Joren: Get me to Denmark! And, thank you.”

Let’s all pack our bags!

Before you all pack your bags.. , here’s my answer to Hank Pellissier, when he asked me:

“Do you see Denmark as a role model, a desired society for technoprogressives”?

This may disappoint you, but I’m not convinced that egalitarianism is a prerequisite for technoprogressiveness. Judging from a list of the top 50 universities for engineering and technology, technoprogressiveness appears to have little to do with equality. The top five universities are all American, and three of them Californian, epicenter of transhumanism! - It is the size and strength of a country’s elite, in terms of science, that is the determining factor for techno-progressiveness.

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/pellissier2011326

As a Social-Liberal / Libertarian, my personal focus is on striking the right balance between techno-progressiveness and egalitarianism, without, mind you, ever violating the Universal Declaration of Rights.

California is an interesting case in that much of its early economic growth was driven by government funding in the form of the defense industry. As we in know, California has fallen on rough times over the past generation.

In fact, if we think about how university communities work they are always a combination of private funding and often very large government investment- in the form of financial aid, research grants and the like.

Gathering a lot of smart people together often has great secondary effects as some of them create innovative industries in the surrounding area.

Innovation seems less a matter of free market vs social democracy as the right mix of both (as Joren suggests) with much of the heavy lifting done by social democracy or at the very least government funding.

Thanks for joining the conversation, Joern.  This is what I like - battling by tossing various surveys at each other. It is good to look at all surveys, thanks for bringing those into the discussion.

Regarding Silicon Valley in California—an interesting feature of it for me is that is it is Not composed of only American engineers. A huge proportion are from CHina, and India, and even Israel. It is a large gathering of international entrepreneur-engineers.

Hank, - without your introduction / interview, IEET-readers would have never known this rude, bragging Dane.. : )  - I am eternally (...) grateful for giving me the opportunity to join the conversation in the first place.

And yet more of these dueling “studies”. This from an opinion piece today in the Financial Times:

“The IT revolution did not happen with the federal government on the sidelines. The US backed the microchip, as it did the internet and, more recently, nanotechnology and biotechnology. Each was funded through public agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.”

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/738da524-08f2-11e3-8b32-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz2cdFdJnMh

And I do agree with Hank that one of the interesting features of Silicon Valley (or almost any American university) is its global talent. Such multi-ethic environments no doubt provide a lot of cross fertilization of ideas.

Though again, my point is not that egalitarianism (and government support) will lead you naturally to innovation but that it certainly doesn’t hurt and almost unquestionably helps.

Rick, this may be protesting too much, yet it does
relate to egalitarianism:
though lowbrow culture is not acceptable to
me, it isn’t snobbishness; don’t dislike drunkards,
only despise their brawling, bad music and their saying
f*ck sh*t virtually every minute. Don’t dislike drunken
college kids vandalising property either- just don’t want
to be near them.. esp when they want to break people
and not things.

 

 

What Steve Jobs did was innovation, but not progress.
He figured out how to design a computer as jail for its user
and convince people to find it so “cool” that they clamor to
be jailed in them.  They would rather be “cool” than be free.

In the plutocracy, innovation is generally good for the plutocrats but
not necessarily for anyone else.

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