Finding our Roots wrap from Antisocialite

May 2, 2007

Figured it was about time I piped up around here. I wanted to offer a recap of our presentation this past weekend at the Finding Our Roots conference in Chicago. Our session was very well attended (I’ve already apologized to Infomorph for pessimistically suggesting we only make 20 handouts) but I think we spent too long explaining concepts and not enough time talking about how these concepts relate to an activist agenda.

Fortunately we were able to hold a guerilla workshop a few hours later. While this was more sparsely attended (maybe 20 people total) it did result in more of a discussion and sharing of ideas and resources. Hopefully most of the attendees will find their way over here sooner of later. There was some talk of trying to get a more organized community started out of this, so if you’re interested leave us a comment and we’ll get that ball rolling.

I know Ben, Infomorph and I all have slightly different views regarding @h+ but I thought I’d take this chance to lay out my take on it in the wake of this past weekend.

I guess if I had to sum up the point we wanted to make it would be to stress that technology has taken an undeserved beating in many anarchist circles in the past few years. I’ve heard more than one activist posit that technology is a creature of the capitalist state. Bullshit. That’s like saying reading, writing and basic mathematics are tools of the state and we should reject them.

Technology is a tool. But it’s a tool we risk marginalizing ourselves from if we continue to take a rejectionist stance towards new and emerging technologies. Many of the technologies that loom on the horizon carry with them the possibility for radical social change and the ushering in of entirely new systems of social organizations. But it will be the hands that control them that decide the directions of these changes. And it seems to me that current stances among a variety of leftists advocate not just for a hands off policy but for the total amputation of the hands entirely.

The answer is not to go back, as some have suggested, to a more ‘ideal’ time. It was particularly disheartening to hear one of the keynote speakers advocate for just this sort of solution. It seems to me that this sort of sentiment is not just reactionary but puts us in dangerous territory. As was demonstrated by the discussion spawned by this keynote, issues such as population control (such a cute euphemism) and ‘migration’ rear their ugly heads and leave us having to take, at the very least, distasteful stances that compromise our ideals and undermine our overall project.

Instead it is far more preferable to forge forward and establish ourselves on the cutting edge as having a voice in the direction the future must go. To position ourselves in such debates as the responsible use of artificial intelligences, open and free access to biotech advances, and the freedom of information and creation of a more open society. These are issues that will face not just activists but entire populations in the coming decades, and having already developed a well thought out and reasoned approach to these issues will position us more centrally in the debates that are sure to rage around them.

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