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Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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Neo-Malthusians, Luddites, and the rise of the Anti-Science Left

B. J. Murphy

The Proactionary Transhumanist

September 17, 2013

As much as I respect Pres. Obama’s senior advisor on science and technology, John Holdren, on his work in fighting against climate change, I’ve come to find out that his political beliefs are almost interrelated with that of Maoist-Third-Worldism (an extremist Leftist ideology).

“Class-conscious workers will always conduct the most ruthless struggle against attempts to impose that reactionary and cowardly theory on the most progressive and strongest class in modern society, the class that is the best prepared for great changes.” (Lenin, V. I., “The Working Class and NeoMalthusianism”, 1913)

​By this I mean, Mr. Holdren believes that underdeveloped, third world countries will only become developed when developed, first world countries become far less developed, claiming this in being the “Only one rational … approach [to] a decent and ecologically sustainable standard of living for all in between.” (Holdren, J., Ehrlich, P., Global Ecology: Readings Towards a Rational Strategy for Man, 1971.)

To some, like the MTWists, this may seem to be a logical path. It’s actually a common set of beliefs among those being labeled today as the neo-Malthusian camp. In fact, it was Holdren, along with his fellow Malthusian colleagues Paul and Anne Ehrlich, who published in 1978 Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment. The published work was written as a means of stirring a fear-mongering campaign of mass overpopulation – ignoring, of course like so many, the growing decrease in the fertility rate – only to then call for heinous examples of how we could deal with their fictional “population bomb”, from forced abortions to mass sterilization of the “undesirables”.

These examples were seen to Holdren and his neo-Malthusian brethren as being a logical means of addressing the imbalance between underdeveloped and developed countries. These beliefs are hardly new in history, ergo the neo-Malthusian label. In fact, Thomas Malthus’s beliefs were almost an exact replication to his ongoing followers’ beliefs here in the 21st century. For example:

“We are bound in justice and honor to disclaim the right of the poor to support… [We] should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavoring to impede the operations of nature in producing this mortality; and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use. Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate the specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and those benevolent, but mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders.” (Malthus, T. R., An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798.)

In other words, according to Malthus, the only means of decreasing the population is by increasing the death rate.

Like Malthus, the neo-Malthusians of today, like the MTWists and that of John Holdren +colleagues, believe that the human population stands as only consumers of resources, and thus an infection needing to be exterminated – at least to some extent – to ensure the protection of nature’s resources. To some, this seems like an ingenious plan. To most, though, this is nothing short of mass genocide. Not to mention a fairly ironic view for Mr. Holdren to take, considering his position as advisor to Pres. Obama on science and technology. One would think Mr. Holdren would recognize the expansion of newer resources via technological advancement. Instead, Mr. Holdren calls for “lower per-capita energy consumption, fewer gadgets, and the abolition of planned obsolescence.” (Holdren, J., Global Ecology)

Unfortunately, while the MTWists are extremely limited in numbers (mostly trolling the political blogosphere) and John Holdren +colleagues are no longer thriving in youth, they aren’t alone in their neo-Malthusian agenda.

The Growing Luddite Presence (A Future of Conflict?)

“The more we learn about what we are, the more options we will discern about what to try to become. Americans have long honored the “self-made man,” but now that we are actually learning enough to be able to remake ourselves into something new, many flinch. Many would apparently rather bumble around with their eyes closed, trusting in tradition, than look around to see what’s about to happen… (cont.) (Dennett, D. C., Freedom Evolves, 2003)

In what became known as one of the first hate crimes committed against Cyborgs and Transhumanists, Steve Mann – aka “the father of wearable computing” – was attacked at a McDonalds, by its staff, in France just last year. Their reasoning? Because they felt they were in “danger” of the friendly gentleman with his family, whom was wearing a device – the Digital Eye Glass – that was physically attached to his head. Luckily for Mann, as programmed in his device, as soon as the device was alerted due to the attackers’ attempts of removing it from Mann’s head, it took several photo captures of said attackers. Though little has been said since the hate crime was committed over whether or not any charges or actions will be brought against the assailants.

In Mexico we’re noticing an ongoing violent presence of anti-nanotechnology terrorist bombings – starting in 2011-onward. The Luddite terrorists claiming responsibility for the attacks are known as the Individualidades Tendiendo a lo Salvaje (ITS), to which they left behind a Manifesto, making it very clear their intentions: “Did those who modify and destroy the Earth think their actions wouldn’t have repercussions? That they wouldn’t pay a price? If they thought so, they are mistaken.” As a result of this anti-technology ideology – mirroring the very madness and horror Ted Kaczynski (aka “The Unabomber”) waged for 17 years in the United States – these terrorists have targeted nanotechnology laboratories and the scientists working inside, with promise of more to come.

Here in the United States, again already suffering a past of anti-technology terrorism, a rise in anti-Cyborg/anti-Transhumanist activities are making their presence known, both online and offline, in what is being dubbed as the “Stop the Cyborgs” (SoC) movement. Their first target: Google Glass (which hasn’t even been commercialized yet!). So far…SO FAR!…they’ve been a peaceful activist group, spreading around stickers and apparel, calling anyone who wears Google Glass devices as “glassholes”, but will we soon witness a growing, more violent SoC movement similar to that witnessed in France, or even Mexico? Despite many addressing these activists’ concerns, pointing out the history of similar conflicts and their peaceful alleviation, it doesn’t appear that the SoC movement will alleviate their activities anytime soon.

Time to take a stand!

(cont.) …Yes, it is unnerving; yes, it can be scary. After all, there are entirely new mistakes we are now empowered to make for the first time. But it’s the beginning of a great new adventure for our knowing species. And it’s much more exciting, as well as safer, if we open our eyes.” (Dennett, D. C., Freedom Evolves, 2003)

If we are to keep these extremely beneficial new technologies within our grasp, then we must take a stand against the growing presence of neo-Malthusianism and Luddism. Today these anti-science/technology fanatics are keen on placing as many barriers as possible between our “natural” biological state and our natural urge to travel, wander, and explore the unknown using new technologies. If history can tell us anything, it’s that these situations will never get better until those being attacked fight back.

Despite Malthus’s growing popularity during his time over his fanatic views, others stood in direct opposition. In fact, a young 23-year-old social-scientist and philosopher, in 1843, written what is probably one of the best refutations of the Malthusian theory ​(and I’m not just saying that because of my ideological correlation with him either):

“Malthus … maintains that population is always pressing on the means of subsistence; that as soon as production increases, population increases in the same proportion; and that the inherent tendency of the population to multiply in excess of the available means of subsistence is the root of all misery and all vice… The implications of this line of thought are that since it is precisely the poor who are the surplus, nothing should be done for them except to make their dying of starvation as easy as possible, and to convince them that it cannot be helped and that there is no other salvation for their whole class than keeping propagation down to the absolute minimum. Or if this proves impossible, then it is after all better to establish a state institution for the painless killing of the children of the poor, such as “Marcus” has suggested, whereby each working-class family would be allowed to have two and a half children, any excess being painlessly killed…

“Malthus establishes a formula on which he bases his entire system: population is said to increase in a geometrical progression – 1+2+4+8+16+32, etc.; the productive power of the land in an arithmetical progression – 1+2+3+4+5+6. The difference is obvious, is terrifying; but is it correct? Where has it been proved that the productivity of the land increases in an arithmetical progression? The extent of land is limited. All right! The labour-power to be employed on this land-surface increases with population. Even if we assume that the increase in yield due to increase in labour does not always rise in proportion to the labour, there still remains a third element which, admittedly, never means anything to the economist – science – whose progress is as unlimited and at least as rapid as that of population.” (Engels, F., “Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy”, 1843)

So instead of the human population being mere consumers of resources, as Malthus and his followers assert, we are also creators of resources via new scientific technologies. In other words, that third element “whose progress is as unlimited and at least as rapid as that of population.”

So like the neo-Malthusians and Luddites of today, we too must stand united. Whether you consider yourself as a Transhumanist, a Cyborg, or a revolutionary leftist, we must lead by Comrade Engels’ example and declare science and technology – not as our enemy, as so many Luddite leftists assert, but – as our ally in the fight against poverty and underdevelopment, and the fight to pursue the enhancement and transcending of our biological limitations.

Down with the Luddites!

Down with the Neo-Malthusians!

B.J. Murphy is a Technoprogressive Transhumanist activist within the East Coast region of the U.S. He's worked with the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources as a member of their Planetary Community Vanguard, helping campaign funding for the ARKYD 100 Space Telescope, an open-source means of space exploration. He is a Writer, Editor, and Social Media Manager for and runs his own blog called The Proactionary Transhumanist. He's a co-author of both Longevitize!: Essays on the Science, Philosophy & Politics of Longevity and The Future of Business: Critical Insights On a Rapidly Changing World From 60 Futurists.


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