amor mundi

Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Saucers Spinning on Poles

Teaching is intensifying as it usually does as the end of term draws near: There are lots of late assignments flooding in, lots of worries about final papers and projects are finding voice, lots of logistics need bulldozing through as the date for the MA symposium at SFAI draws near, and so on, but this year there is the added complexity and anxiety of adjuncts like me organizing to vote for or against representation by the SEIU happening as well. If you are wondering about all this superficial blogging I'm doing -- even more than usual, that is -- there are quite a lot of saucers spinning on poles right about now to account for it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Not Afraid, Actually

It is revealing how often the choice of effective, familiar, appropriate techniques and technologies over untried or unduly complex ones will invite charges of "luddism" or "technophobia."

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Today's Random Wilde

Lots of people act well... but very few people talk well, which shows that talking is much more the difficult thing of the two, and much the finer thing also.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meet the Mess

I agree that the bland consultant NBC hired for David Gregory has helped to make Meet the Press more bland.

GOMe

Lamar Alexander says the GOP wants to be "the iPhone party." Of course, it's already the iMe party.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Brooks Calls President Boy

PoliticalWire:
And let's face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a -- I'll say it crudely -- but a manhood problem in the Middle East. Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad or somebody like Putin?
Not bombing all the furriners everywhere makes Muscular Baby Jesus cry on Easter Sunday.

Dick

Funny how often the self-declared genius
turns out in the end to be merely a penius.

Ode to the Smartest Guys In the Room

Can we never hope to curtail
how the stale, the pale, and the male
seem only upwardly to fail?

A Singular Fail

So, it looks like Transcendence will make back scarcely more than eleven of the over one hundred million bucks it took to make it. And the AI Daddy in Tech Heaven agitprop has indeed come in at fourth place behind the much cheaper Sky Daddy in Cloud Heaven agitprop of Heaven Is For Real. Reviews and word of mouth have pronounced the flick a stinker -- at any rate that's the word outside the hypenotized robocultic techbro circles responsible for making anybody think this techno-transcendental fart would smell like a rose and who still declare the film original and ambitious though it is palpably neither. Of course, I expected this tired-ass ponderous pseudo-intellectual clap-trap to fail as it deserved to do, but did not expect so catastrophic a fail, I must say, as the numbers for the opening weekend are weaker than those managed in years past by epic bombs in the genre like Stealth and The Island. Superlative futurology makes for shitty thought -- do you hear me Stanford and Oxford Universities? Superlative futurology makes for shitty business plans -- do you hear me Google? Superlative futurology makes for shitty entertainments -- do you hear me now, Warner Brothers?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why Does Justice Scalia Hate America?

Hope it was snark, else so much for the law and order party:
"Perhaps you should revolt." -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, quoted by the Knoxville News Sentinel, to a law school student who questioned the constitutionality of the federal income tax.
Yeah, I know they were never really anything but the law means following my orders party.

Salon Calls Transcendence's Bluff

Andrew O'Hehir's review of Transcendence in Salon is smart and snarky and generally splendid:
“Transcendence” is a moronic stew of competing impulses -- bad science meets bad sociology meets bad theology — in which it’s hard to say who looks worse: The naïve techno-boosters like Depp’s Dr. Will Caster (an Ayn Rand character name if ever there was one), wearing round spectacles and spouting clichés about the coming man-machine “singularity” apparently mined from Wired magazine in 1999 [or just as likely, I'm sorry to say, overheard at Google ten minutes ago --d], or the small-minded Luddite reactionaries of the so-called underground resistance, conducting KGB-style assassination campaigns against their enemies... I’m sorry, but “Let’s use machines to cure cancer, as long as there’s no downside” is barely even a thought or a wish, and it’s certainly not a philosophy. Do Pfister and screenwriter Jack Paglen actually believe that there’s some constituency of DIY cord-cutter radical-skeptic types with funny hair who are dead set against medical technology? I’m pretty sure the answer is no, which brings us back to the parsimonious explanation for “Transcendence”: Pfister, who has finally gotten a turn in the director’s chair after many years as Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer, is one of those movie-industry people who is really good at the technical side of the job but maybe not, you know, all that much of a candidate for the chair in Heidegger studies or whatever. Pfister’s former boss, on the other hand, is a dark genius when it comes to infusing his sensory-overload cinema with complicated subtext, with at least a somewhat convincing simulation of depth and ambiguity. (Nolan would never have touched this screenplay with a 50-foot robotic arm.) Actually, no, wait. That sounds like I’m accusing Pfister of being a dumbass, which is totally not the point. You don’t have to be a book-learnin’ intellectual with an expensive education to be an important filmmaker, far from it... Wally Pfister is smart enough to understand, perhaps not quite consciously, that times have changed and the ideological task is now different. (Spoiler alert, this paragraph!) “Transcendence” is constructed to signal an engagement with supposedly important issues, but under the surface it delivers a familiar narrative of gender norms -- the abusive, controlling husband and the hysterical doormat wife -- mixed with a message of militant conformism: If only those crazy radicals hadn’t shot Will Caster with a radioactive bullet, his magic sentient computer would have scrubbed all the bad chemicals from the air and water, cloned the passenger pigeon and restored sight to the blind. Since it’s evidently a very short step from turning off your smartphone to protesting against animal experimentation to psychotic acts of violence, you’re better off sticking with your defined role of spectatorship and consumption and paying no attention to the men behind the curtain.
There is a lot that speaks to me personally in later paragraphs that take a delightful turn to Adorno and Horkheimer, and I do encourage everybody to follow the link for the whole thing, but I also think the excerpt above has both the funniest and most poignant bits. That Transcendence's totally tired and too-prevailing "tech culture" conceits are actually profoundly anti-intellectual and politically reactionary is something that still isn't said enough or understood enough and it matters enormously.

io9 Has the Transcendence Sadz

Everybody knows now that Transcendence has tanked. Crappy movies flop all the time, but this is hardly a tragedy in the larger scheme of the things, except possibly for investors, any more than the fact that equally crappy movies often make hundreds of millions of dollars. That is why it is so very strange to read in io9 the weepy dashed hope declarations of Charlie Jane Anders about the failure of the film -- "What went wrong" she wails in her opening sentence, "it's really sad." She goes on to insist, "you really have to respect Transcendence's ambition." Must we, despite its triteness, clunkiness, and abject failures? With a stamp of the foot she declares of this obviously terrible turd, "it's not... a terrible film," but rather desperately, "it's just not great, and it's not goofy enough to be just fun." Mm hm, it sucked so much and in such slow-witted slow-motion it cannot even manage to be campy, yes, we get it.

Anders bemoans not only the failure of this dumb b-movie but curiously more than that. Her opening wail "What went wrong?" culminates in the enormously odd further question, "Why did the A.I. revolution fail?" Would the success of the film somehow have contributed to the success of the latter "revolution" in some way? And is it really the failure of the latter "revolution" that makes the failure of just another facile (in)action film so very "really sad"? It is truly strange the lengths to which Anders goes to blame the failure of the film on anything she can think of apart from its dumb dull dishrag of a premise. Of the premise itself she insists instead -- even as she contemplates the spectacle of total shit eventuating from it -- on its "timeliness" and its "ambition."

When Anders declares "timely" the notions of a superintelligent computer and of consciousness uploading at the heart of this stinker can she possibly mean to propose that these ideas are new? They are not. That they are soon to be accomplished in reality? They are not. That they even make sense? They do not.

As a fan of science fiction can she really not effortlessly reel off hundreds upon hundreds of speculative stories and television episodes and movies that took up these conceits? Mind you, some of these are quite classic, indispensable parts of the canon. But it has been a hell of a long time since anybody managed to do anything new along these lines, and only rarely do these conceits yield anything good anymore. Rather desperately, Anders declares: "You could imagine a really fantastic movie around just the question of whether the copy of Will's consciousness in the machine is really Will or a facsimile. In fact, there are all sorts of fantastic questions about identity and personhood raised here and there, that the movie never quite sinks its teeth into."

There is not much of a meal there to "sink [your] teeth into" as far as I can see. I mean, truly? honestly? What would be destined to be so flipping fantastic about such a movie premise? I mean, you can spin a fine film around any hoary old conceit you like if your characters and your language are sufficiently evocative, but Anders actually doesn't seem to grasp what a whiskered vaudevillian bit the whole premise of the software copy versus the real self really is. And to propose that there is deeper thinking about "personhood" raised in this tired cliche is so wrongheaded that it actually frightens me a little. I know quite well the skewed priorities and credulous vacuity of full-on fulminating members of the various techno-transcendental Robot Cults who fall for eugenic transhumanoid and digi-utopian singularitarian flim-flammery, but if otherwise sensitive and imaginative people who are fed too steady a diet of tech-CEO press releases and pop-tech informercial techno-booster "journalism" find themselves mouthing much the same platitudes and aspirations this is a truly dangerous phenomenon we are observing. I mean, are you serious: What if we're all in a simulation, man, what is real, WHAT IS REAL? What if people can't tell the difference between you and something impersonating or representing you, man, who are you, WHO ARE YOU? Dude, deep! I'm so high right now.

You will forgive me if once again I refuse to pretend there is anything particularly profound in mistaking a picture of someone for that someone. You will forgive me if once again I refuse to pretend there is anything particularly profound in attributing what has always been the materially instantiated, biologically incarnated, multi-dimensional phenomenon of "intelligence" to artifacts exhibiting little to none of this reality and richness? You will forgive me if again I refuse to pretend there is anything particularly profound in repudiating a progressive understanding of present stakeholder struggle among a diversity of finite peers for an at once reductive and triumphalist futurological theology of destiny as an acquiescence to sooper-machines flexing their ever-amplifying muscles. These are not new ideas, these are not clever ideas, these are not inspiring ideas, these are not progressive ideas, these are tired, dumb, embarrassing, reactionary ideas... and that they are the leading ideas of so many of the self-declared "thought leaders" of the neoliberals of the corporate-military think-tanks or the libertechbrotarians of the SillyCon Valley is something not to be celebrated, but exposed, critiqued, and marginalized into comparative harmlessness.

So disconsolate is Anders in the face of the obvious intellectual, artistic, commercial, and popular failure of the Transcendence bomb that she loses herself for much of her review in an alternate reality in which the once-bandied-about now-mercifully-tabled notion of a Roland Emmerich summer spectacle called The Singularity, written with an intellectual assist from the Robocultic Pope Ray Kurzweil himself, would be the "pro-AI" film "we would be getting" instead of Transcendence. Of course, Emmerich's blockbuster would almost certainly have been a box-office dog as well, these dumb deluded notions do lend themselves to the special off-putting ponderousness and assholery of the Very Small swollen into Bloated Bigness -- a recognition that possibly saved Emmerich from wasting the time and money making it in the first place. Setting that aside, however, mark well the unabashed endorsement of techno-transcendental agitprop implied in Anders' politically portentious "pro-AI" formulation -- did Transcendence fail truly because it wasn't "pro-AI" enough? Can the faith ever fail or only be failed, after all? But think as well about that "we" who could, in a better world, be "getting" this "pro-AI" blockbuster instead of the turkey Transcendence. I will be generous and presume that Anders' "we" consists of the sf-fans who enjoy a good science fiction flick even if its premises are facile or fantastic, I will not dwell too long on the possibly present "we" of presumably fellow-faithful who, in the better world of The Future, pine to be uploaded as deathless, gorgeous, blissed-out angel avatars in Holodeck Heaven under the ministrations of a history-ending post-parental sooper-intelligent Robot God of loving grace and who are consoled in the present world of ignorance, error, frailty, and frustration by the deranging distractions of pseudo-scientific con-artistry and crass consumer acquiescence and infantile wish-fulfilment fantasies they rationalize as "Big Ideas" and "Serious Science."

The title of Anders' review is Transcendence Has Some Of The Dumbest Smart People We've Ever Seen. Given the review that follows, a more self-oblivious declaration can scarcely be imagined. After making lots of noise from the margins for decades, the Robot Cultists have been insinuating themselves into the boardrooms of big corporations like Google, established academic institutions like Oxford, and serious big-bucks entertainments like Warner Brothers lately. The transhumanists and singularitarians and techno-immortalists have long been a revealing symptom in an extreme (and extremely ridiculous) form of more prevailing elite technocratic and technno-utopian assumptions and aspirations, but the libertechbrotarians of corporate "tech culture" who have soaked this nonsense up and taken it literally are now putting real money and muscle into these idiotic visions. The failures we are about to witness -- but, worse, to which we will be subjected and then made to pay for and clean up after -- will be, I fully expect, quite something. From the Bomb to the dot.bomb to this big budget b-movie bomb there are many bombs to come. Grab your popcorn, the show won't be in the theater.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Teaching Day

It's Green Eats day in my Planetary Thinking and Environmental Justice course. Discussions of eating practices can turn out to be quite tense, even at nine in the morning, I find. Although I've been an ethical vegetarian for longer than some of my students have been alive by now, my own environmental politics and teaching tends to stress structural and regulatory interventions rather than individualized lifestyle choices like boutique eco-consumerism and the various vegetarian tribalisms, and yet these food questions turn out to be the obverse face of permaculture practices that have long seemed to me the best face of sustainable planetary civilization. Food justice politics takes us right back into the heart of environmental justice politics, food deserts right back into the crisis of unsustainable neoliberal/neoconservative over-urbanization, anti-vegetarian agitprop right back into eco-feminism, and so on. My graduate seminar is cancelled since this whole week has been given over to critiques of student studio work. And so I will be home a bit earlier than is usual for a Friday and may even have time to be annoyed by the world enough to blog something -- we'll see.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Millions Insured in Republican Heritage Foundation Romneycare Triumph!

As ACA enrollments swell past eight million -- not even counting, mind you, the millions and millions insured through the Medicaid expansion and young people staying on a parent's plan -- we approach that highly entertaining upcoming episode in which Republicans go from years of lying about, actively sabotaging, and voting over and over and over again for the full repeal of dreaded Obamacare to taking credit for the ACA, made all the more entertaining, no doubt, by the spectacle of pundits and Democrats enabling this utterly nonsensical contortion.

The World Future Society's Unfuturist (Me!) Is Back

I have republished and amplified a couple of snarky old posts about the flick Transcendence here for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Oakland Is Not Fooled

Tweet the Heap: Of Sorites

On Twitteressays

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Queered Science

TEAM BIANCA!

Cynthia Diaz Is Hunger Striking in the White House Front Yard Because ICE Attacked Her Mom in Her Front Yard

A young, courageous American citizen named Cynthia Diaz has been on a hunger strike in front of the White House to protest the ongoing detention -- in an awful under-regulated private-run prison, as Raul Reyes insists, let us be clear what "detention" is -- of her Mom as undocumented. She tells the traumatic story of the attack on her home by a gang of armed ICE agents and then talks about what she is doing now and how she is feeling. I suspect that most of the people who read this blog will already be well-informed and therefore unsatisfied about America's outrageous immigration politics, but it is going the take the organized anger of those who clearly see the faces and hear the voices of people like Cynthia Diaz who are going to force President Obama to change course via Executive Actions as all else fails, and stop the imprisonment and deportation of undocumented folks in mixed-status families or who have long histories in this country or who have been confined only through the commission of minor offenses, even as we remember that the largest and most stubborn obstacle to comprehensive immigration reform and a permanent end to this ongoing injustice and violence is the racism and cruelty of almost every elected Republican.

American Optimism

Whenever I get accused of pessimism I always take care to look where the guns are pointed.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Long Teaching Day

This morning, from nine to noon, back in the City, in my undergraduate Planetary Thinking and Environmental Justice course we are taking up digi-utopians, geo-engineers, and Viridians -- something of a pet topic with me, as you know, more or less my Futurology Against Ecology schtick -- and then later in the afternoon, from one to four, in my graduate survey of Critical Theory lecture we have arrived at Foucault, which means the carceral archipelago, docile bodies imprisoned by souls, incited to circumscribing self-creations via sexuality, addiction, vocation, and genocidal governmentality. Oh, what fun it is to ride!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

War Criminal Cute

I consider George W. Bush's now-famous, presumably "humanizing," painting practice perfectly continuous with his long-notorious, obviously cruel, incurious, dehumanizing nick-naming practice. Heh-heh-heh.

Afterlife Grudge Match

It's amusing that the saccharine "Heaven Is For Real" and techno-facile "Transcendence" are opening at the same time in movie theaters across America: the two films assume a number of shared essential assumptions and aspirations and enact a number of shared narrative tropes, and yet the faithful and the hopeful to whom these films are being pitched would little likely concede or be capable of conceiving these films as essentially similar at all. On a side note, I personally hope -- and somewhat expect -- both films to die speedily and soon and without much of an afterlife in the consumer hell of blu-ray bargain bins to console them, and for similar reasons.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Euphemism

Dwarves killed in Lothlorien were listed in official documents under the heading Galadriel Damage.

Oculus Grift

Turn the lights out, sit closer to your tee vee, and save your money.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Future Is A Hell Of A Drug: io9 Has A New Manifesto

Annalee Newitz titled the original "Manifesto" defining the Mission of the io9 website Addicted to the Future. It is a curiously apt phrase. There is a very obvious and flatfooted way in which there is no such thing, here in the present, after all, as The Future. And as such one never arrives at The Future, but always only another present. But I have always taken pains to pressure this point further still, insisting that "futurity" is a characteristic of that always aborning present. I use the term futurity to describe the openness of the present onto the next present that arises out of the ineradicable diversity of stakeholders -- and the ineradicable diversity of their histories, hopes, ends, capacities, vantages -- sharing and making the present world. From such a perspective, "The Future" doesn't only not exist, but is a parochialism projected from within a present perspective that forecloses or seeks to foreclose that futurity, substituting for it a linear extrapolation or amplified incumbency. To be "addicted to the future" is to be addicted to the denial of the futurity in the present, it is to disavow the contingency of the present, to retreat into a presence that would abide and in so abiding deny the presence that is opening. I daresay such disavowals and retreats are sufficiently characteristic of addictions that one might declare an "addiction to the Future" a redundancy. Somewhat paradoxically, its parochialism, its reaction, its incumbency renders every futurism a retro-futurism (and not only in the sense Newitz admits, an appreciation of superannuated science fiction visions in the Gernsback Continuum).

"Good science fiction begins with the present," wrote Newitz, and she would have done well to dwell there. All great literature, and that includes the literature that is science fiction literature, is a comment on the quandaries and promises of the present and an effort to expand the diversity in presence we are capable of grasping as part of the present of which we are a part. When Newitz declares that "science fiction... [i]s the storytelling branch of prophesy" I would quibble with that "the" but I consider her larger point that poiesis is prophetic more important. But when Newitz opened up her manifesto warning that the world is "full of people who want to sell you cheap ways of seeing the future," she didn't make explicit the extent to which what tends to cheapen ways of taking up and taking on futurity is to misunderstand or, worse, deliberately misconstrue prophesy as a predictive rather than diagnostic genre -- a misunderstanding and misconstrual that has as one of its most conspicuous symptoms fetishistic references to "The Future."

The profete is in the original Greek an advocate, speaking as an intermediary from an absolutely idiosyncratic presence into the reception of the wider world, a fraught and fragile transaction every artist knows all too well. How very different the futurological pseudo-expert, circumscribing open futurity in the pretense of "trend-spotting," when
[c]ertainly there is no such thing as an historically agentic or otherwise autonomously forceful trend. Trends, let us say, are retroactive narrative constructions, and usually their retroactivity is falsely projected as if from the vantage of a non-existing superior height (as with fashion trends announced by fashion authorities) or from the future (which does not exist and is inhabited by no one at all)...
Is it any wonder that io9 has chosen as it tagline "We Come From the Future" as if "The Future" singularly and monolithically existed as a vantage from which to intimate "its" imminence in the present and bag the rest in advance for disposal?

In that original "Manifesto" Newitz promised "io9 [would be] the visionary watchdog who calls... charlatans on their shit." As attested to by their endless promotion of the work of transhumanoid, singularitarian, techno-immortalist, nano-cornucopiast, digi-utopian Robot Cultists indulging in techno-transcendental wish-fulfillment fantasies and celebratory fantasias about corporate-military elite-incumbents delivering happy gizmo-fetishizing consumers into Holodeck-Heaven or Techno-Treasure Caves or Sexy Hetbot Orgy Pits (and occasionally indulging in robocalyptic disasterbation fantasies for a bit of spice to the otherwise blandly bourgeois and infantile goldgunsgirls libertechbrotarian fare), io9 is a place where one comes to find charlatans peddling futurological shit more than getting called on it.

That io9 has found itself trapped in the gravity well of retro-futurism despite its awareness from the get-go that the futuristic is a graveyard of plutocratic patriarchal colonial cliches derives from its ambivalent embrace of the prophetic as the predictive, the speculative as financial speculation, futurity with "The Future" that is always given over to the marketing and promotional pseudo-science and outright fraud of market futures. It is easy to joke about "rapture fuckers" but The Future is a hell of a drug, and the marvelous raptures of sf fandoms are all too ready to rapture fuck you up if you fail to engage them critically.

I say all this as preface to talking about an updated "Manifesto" Newitz has posted today at io9, called -- promisingly, I would say -- Science Is Political. Such an assertion is absolutely indispensable, now as always, since the defense of science so often takes the form of demands that science "not be politicized" when in fact scientific practices of funding, publication, testing, application, education are thoroughly political, and hence what is needed is their progressive politicization not a fanciful de-politicization which amounts in practice either to a denialism about its political needs that cuts science off from necessary supporters or to an outright anti-politicization that enables elite incumbent norms and forms to stealthily define those politics clothed as neutralities immune from criticism. Or more specifically, as Newitz points out in the piece, "when science is under attack from many political and religious institutions, we can no longer afford to report on the latest research and call it a job well done. To advocate for science is to advocate for a political position, whether we like it or not." I would have to insist once again that techno-transcendental futurisms proliferate faith-based pseudo-scientific sub(cult)ures that are hard to square with "the defense of science" and that nobody who really claims to be defending the ideal of science as rational inquiry can afford to be indifferent to the forms of deception, hyperbole, scientism and pseudo-science, reductionism, triumphalism, reaction, obfuscation, oversimplification, eugenicism, fetishism, narcissism and (self-)promotion that suffuse corporate-military developmental policy discourses, tech company press releases, and pop-tech infomercial spectacles pretending to be journalism. Although I usually enjoy the multicultural literary and cultural criticism and ethnography in io9, otherwise the site endlessly exhibits the political pathologies of tech-talk rather than critically intervening in them.

It is worse than demoralizing that after insisting that science is political Newitz immediately evacuates her discourse of a political perspective, indulging in the usual "false equivalency" and "Middle Way" bullshit apologiae of hacks pretending they are not mouthpieces for the status quo: "Pro-science politics don't divide easily into conservative and liberal. Imagine, if you will, that people from all positions on the political spectrum came together to advocate for scientific research and education. Conservatives advocating for defense and agricultural innovations would rub shoulders with liberals pursuing sustainable energy and environmental reforms." A more cliched bit of genre fantasy could scarcely be imagined. It is true that, say, civic-minded progressives investing in medical treatments to relieve human suffering and militarist fascists dreaming of better bombs to obliterate their foes with will both have their reasons to keep certain laboratories well funded. To pretend that this provides a Royal Road to a science politics "beyond left and right" is the worst kind of nonsense, indeed it is a viewpoint that will almost always conduce to the reactionary politics of incumbent elites.

Newitz may think in pretending otherwise that she is taking a cue from the Donna Haraway who wrote (wisely and beautifully):
I am conscious of the odd perspective provided by my historical position — a PhD in biology for an Irish Catholic girl was made possible by Sputnik's impact on US national science-education policy. I have a body and mind as much constructed by the post-Second World War arms race and cold war as by the women's movements. There are more grounds for hope in focusing on the contradictory effects of politics designed to produce loyal American technocrats, which also produced large numbers of dissidents, than in focusing on the present defeats.
Of course, Haraway's point returns us to the open futurity of the present, but in so doing it does not pretend not to know who the dissidents are. She may be blaspheming, but the Manifesto (which Haraway has moved on from, by the way, in part because of facile blissed-out reactionary technophiliac appropriations of its formulations) remained "faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism," that is to say, retained a critical vantage informed by real commitments. I daresay Newitz would like to say the same -- her readings of sf multiculture are invigorated by these values -- but it is hard to find those values in her rationalizations for transhumanoid eugenicists, DARPA militarists, and singularitarian financiers. You can't engage in a "quest to build a better tomorrow" without making choices about what is better -- equity or not, sustainability or not, diversity or not, violence or not. And you can't make and live with those choices without making enemies of many Newitz clearly wants to make nice with. By the way, Newitz didn't speak of A quest to build a better tomorrow, but of OUR quest to build a better tomorrow. Who is we, Annalee? I have a sinking suspicion it is the same "We" who want to pretend "We Come From The Future."

"Science" is not a monolith any more than "technology" is such a monolith: that both are practiced by a diversity of stakeholders in the ongoing scrum of historical struggle in ways that reflect the diversity of the situations and aspirations of those stakeholders means that there can be no such thing as a "pro-science" or "pro-technology" politics in general -- and that the designation of an "anti-science" or "anti-technology" politics always demands a greater specificity to become actually useful, too. It is commonplace for especially right-wing politics to clothe itself in presumably a-political or non-political or non-partisan neutralities and generalities. Market libertopians who advocate among the most conspicuously plutocratic authoritarian political philosophies imaginable love to declare themselves "beyond left and right" -- and it is not an accident that the corporate-military interests that identify most conspicuously with technodevelopmental dollars are suffused with presumably a-political daydreams of anti-democratizing elite technocratic decision making and "evolutionary" rationalizations for racist and sexist prejudices. Political progress is progress toward sustainable equity-in-diversity and technodevelopmental vicissitudes are rendered progressive only to the extent that their costs, risks, and benefits are equitably distributed to the diversity of their stakeholders in social struggle that rarely if ever has anything to do with the championing of Science or Technology in the abstract.

I come from -- and I come in -- the present. And what is wanted -- it seems to me -- is not to be "addicted to The Future" but to be engaged in the present. To engage in the interminable struggle to reconcile the ineradicably different aspirations of the diversity of stakeholders who share the present is to do politics, whether technoscientific or otherwise. And when we are dedicated and we are lucky in that struggle, to ensure that the costs, risks, and benefits of prosthetic/cultural change are sustainably and equitably distributed to the diversity of its stakeholders is to do the political work of building a better, more progressive world in the present opening onto the next present. I would like the think Newitz agrees with that -- and she may very well -- but if she does, she hasn't said it yet and io9 isn't demonstrating it otherwise.

"Republican-Extremism Denialism"

Joan Walsh has been really fun to read lately:
You’ve heard of climate denialism and science denialism on the right? Some liberals seem to suffer from Republican-extremism denialism. They can’t take in the extent of the GOP’s reliance on racial politics. And if they blame other liberals for their sins, for making things worse, it gives them a sense of control over their lives. If only MSNBC would stop crying racism, then… Then what? What would change? Would the Republican Party drop its opposition to anything President Obama supports? Would it stop pandering to a base that’s more than 90 percent white? Would it stop lying about Obama wanting to cut Medicare to fund Obamacare?