Printed: 2019-09-21

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies





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Rockin the Boskone




February 18, 2006

Having a great time this weekend at Boskone, the annual Boston science fiction convention. I’ve brought my son, Tristan, along, who is reading a lot of science fiction, and is reading Newton’s Wake right now, a novel written by this one of this year’s Boskone’s guests of honor, Ken MacLeod. Ken is a left-libertarian Scot who has infused his ten novels with a profound engagement with political history, humor and philosophy. Ken serves as an Honorary Vice Chair of the World Transhumanist Association.

The other guest of honor is Cory Doctorow, also a left-libertarian who is close to the transhumanist movement, although his political engagement focuses on the fight against “digital rights management” or the overreach of the entertainment and information industries in kneecapping our ability to copy, edit, or share their products. Tristan and I listened to the podcasts of several of Cory’s stories on the drive to Boston, so he was prepared to make some intelligent comments about them.

At the opening panel, on “Utopias in Science Fiction”, there was a classic libertarian v. Marxist discussion with Ken MacLeod biting his lip not to respond to every paean to Thomas Jefferson and the perfection of the American utopia. MacLeod argued that every utopian vision since More’s Utopia had eliminated private property, and the conversation turned to whether super-abundance, eliminating the need for conflict and a state, is a necessary feature of utopia. The moderator suggested that the other way to create utopia is to change human nature, but immediately dismissed that as unattractive. Tristan was undeterred however, and suggested that if we wired everyone’s brains together so that they felt one another’s pain, that that would create utopia. This brought a small gasp from the 40-ish male libertarians in the crowd, as I glowed.

Another glow-worthy moment was being invited by Cory Doctorow to speak on the Cyborgs panel on Sunday, noting that he was just going to recap Citizen Cyborg. (Given Cory’s 500 mph brilliance I suspect he has rather more to say, but thanks for the shout out.)

Also met up with Boston transhumanist Marlin May, and having dinner with him tonight.


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