July 8, 2008
….elections serve two purposes. One is to settle disputes between different sections of the ruling class, without bloodshed. The other is to give the people the impression that they rule the government.
The above is from an excellent and articulate piece by Wayne Price, called “None of the Above: The Anarchist Case Against Electoralism”, which was published in NEFAC’s Northeastern Anarchist in 2004. A local anarchist group I’m working with is doing some readings on democracy, including this one. The piece is still quite relevant, of course, and incorporates the anarchist critique of voting with some good analysis of why both reformist political measures and independent party politics are useless as end goals.
These arguments also relate to (anarcho-)transhumanism, of course, especially if you consider that the accelerating technologies transhumanists predict (and often advocate) are likely to create upheavals and massive changes in society and capitalism itself. The social-democratic transhumanists could, for example, see these transformations as an opportunity to create a more tech-friendly third party with a technoprogressive agenda. As Wayne argues, however, such a party is likely to still be an instrument of, and for, capitalism.
Suppose a major crisis were to shake the U.S., such as a collapse of the economy. There would be mass discontent. In that case, a new party might form, precisely to get in front of the mass rebelliousness and to lead it back into the established order. That is, the new party would be an obstacle to change, not a means of achieving it. The party would be based on the Left of the Democrats (such as it is) tearing itself away from the Democrats in order to maintain its base. It would include the union bureaucrats, more-or-less liberal party hacks, popular preachers, and various demagogues. It might call itself a Labor party, due to the participation of the union officials, or it might not, but the middle-class composition of the organizers would be the same. It might use democratic socialist rhetoric, but its program would really be the stabilization of capitalism. In fact it would be a new capitalist party and not a challenge to the system. Due to the very capitalist crisis that created it, it would be unable to make real improvements; but it might be able to derail a popular rebellion. Such a formation should not be welcomed but opposed.
The social democrat transhumanists argue that many of the approaching technologies will help to democratize government in positive ways — such as how citizen journalism and the internet are making government processes and actions more transparent and accountable now — and this may be true to an extent. What they are overlooking, however, is how many of these technologies lend themselves to more efficient methods of authoritarian social control (the burgeoning trend of ubiquitous urban surveillance for example, or mass data-mining in the name of fighting terrorism) and — even more importantly — how some of these technologies threaten the control of capitalism by their very nature (such as longevity or nanofabrication). It is far more likely that the political arm of capitalism will steer towards authoritarian measures and right-wing attitudes in response to these developments; at best, the social democratic transhumanists might soften the blow. It is worth noting that these same transhumanists also favor strong government regulation of potentially dangerous technologies.
Rather than playing electoral political games, anarcho-transhumanists should be pushing for extra-electoral mass movements, direct action, and counter-institutions to promote real transformative social change.
Also relevant: Voting Only Makes Things Worse
June 26, 2008
Once again, we’ve fallen behind in the blogging, though not from lack of interest. Here are some random tidbits to keep you occupied until we get back on track:
* Worth reading: Towards a Democratic Conception of Science and Technology
May 4, 2008
NEFAC recently (re)published a refreshing look at the ecological problem from a libertarian communist perspective. Though this is only a framework, and doesn’t take into account the accelerating pace of technological change, it does correctly pinpoint the solution as dismantling capitalism and establishing new models of production, distribution, and energy rather than opposing (the misuse of) technology.
April 16, 2008
FYI to folks in the Midwest, the annual Finding Our Roots anarchist conference is going on in Chicago this weekend. This year’s focus is on anarchist organizing. The list of workshops can be found here.
Antisocialite and I may throw together an impromptu guerrilla workshop on Sunday to talk about issues relating to @ organizing and technology — stuff like:
– technology and security culture (surveillance, sousveillance, crypto, etc)
– internet organizing, open source models, new media, hacktivism
– organizing around tech issues, universal access to tech, subverting authoritarian tech for libertarian purposes
March 19, 2008
As a quick follow-up to Antisocialite’s post about Anonymous vs. Scientology (he tells me part 2 is coming soon), this brief over at Global Guerrillas summarizes Project Chanology in the context of an open source insurgency. Even more interesting, however, is this reply from a member of Anonymous:
Firstly, Anonymous is an example of viral organisation – there is no centralised leadership, and although there are nodes of organisation, these are dynamic – if one goes down or is taken down, others compensate with little damage done to the utility of the network as a whole. Organisation and decisions are made through what I would term “viral consensus” – the facts, questions and opinions are disseminated throughout the network by it’s users, the most successful or popular of these possible courses of action are therefore repeated more often and gain traction – mutations to the idea occur and those that are popular flourish. As such, there are no leaders to attack – whilst there may be some individuals who are more visible (such as Mark Bunker) they are not essential-, no easily-accisble points of failure. Indeed, the only thing that would severely disrupt the insurgency as a whole is internal factional problems – which are near-impossible for an outsider to predict or cause due to the shibboleths John mentions; or a total disruption of the internet as a whole.
Secondly, the initial campaign of DDOS and internet insurgency can be seen as an example of the internet as an enabling force – most members of anonymous are not hackers or computer security experts, but the information available on how to conduct operations such as DDOS attacks etc is readily available on the internet, and can be spread concisely and practically throughout the group itself through other networking tools (IRC, message boards, forums, p2p). However, the interesting thing in particular about the methodology of anonymous is that it is intensely adaptable – when the opinions of Mark Bunker that the illegal aspects of anonymous actions (DDOS etc) were tactically efficient but strategically detrimental entered the viral consciousness, the methodology drastically changed – to real life protests organised over a number of countries, and to information dissemination tactics aimed at the public.
February 15, 2008
I’ve been telling Infomorph that I was going to write something about the planned 2/10 protests for something like three weeks now to the point where the protests have come and gone and I’m only now sitting down to hammer this out. At this point I think my thoughts fall into two separate entries so this is the first focusing on how what Anon has done and how it gives hope to radicals and anarchists of all types, but particularly those of us of a more pro-tech orientation. Read the rest of this entry »
February 14, 2008
There’s been a lot of back-and-forth discussion on the anarchists LJ community lately concerning technology and urbanization. I don’t loiter on LJ enough to get involved in these threads (they seem to explode very rapidly into 100+ posts), but it’s nice to see the level of debate taking a step up. Of particular interest is this post on Land Mass, Crop Production, and Urbanization with some math worth thinking about.
February 13, 2008
Over at Open the Future, Jamais Cascio was recently talking about inevitable near-future events that have the capacity to radically transform our society:
You don’t have to believe in incipient singularities to recognize that 2028 — just twenty years from now — will bear very little resemblance to 2008.
A small cluster of rapidly-accelerating drivers promises to dominate the first quarter of this century. Each of these drivers, alone, has the potential to remake how we live; together, the likelihood of a fundamental transformation of our lives, our politics, our world, becomes over-determined. Moreover, these drivers are distinct but interdependent: each one exists and would be transformative on its own, but how it plays out — and the choices we’ll face when confronting it — will be contingent upon how the other drivers unfold. Twenty years isn’t a long time to make the needed changes to turn potential disaster into a new world; we have all of five US presidential terms — maximum — to completely transform, globally, every significant aspect of our material civilization.
The specific drivers he notes are:
- Climate Chaos
- Resource Collapse
- Catalytic Innovation (transformative technologies)
- Ubiquitous Transparency (surveillance state vs. sousveillance)
- New Models of Global Development
- The Rise of the Post-Hegemonic World (the weakening of American power)
As I’ve discussed in previous posts (see Will Robots Spark the Revolution?), the point behind anarcho-transhumanist projects shouldn’t be just to advocate and fight for open access to and liberatory uses of technology. One of our main priorities should be to evaluate futurist scenarios for transformative drivers like those mentioned above that have the capacity to not only shake up the world, but to create crisis points within capitalism — stages where capitalist hegemony is weakened and possibilities for revolutionary alternatives are increased. There is far too little discussion in anarchist scenarios about the future — and what is out there tends to be formulated as dire warnings of impending apocalypse or Big Brother scenarios. The primitivists, perhaps, discuss these matters, but only with a callous eye towards how they can exploit tragedy to achieve their fantasy tribal lifestyles.
What revolutionary-minded anarchists should be doing is evaluating these drivers noted above and creating a game plan. What outcomes are likely? How can we position ourselves to affect them, to strive towards outcomes we’d prefer? How can we take advantage of the weaknesses these changes will bring to the status quo? What political stances should we be making and clarifying now, in preparation for future ideological battles? What sort of movement infrastructure should we be seeking to establish, in order to create a counterpower best prepared to deal with these future scenarios? Where should we focus our organizing efforts? Our direct action?
Our movements spend far too much time trying to fight a monolithic capitalism system head-on right now, while glorifying the past, without realizing that both are going to have very little relevance on how the next 20-50 years play out. The world is going to be changing quite rapidly, and if we’re not prepared to deal with it, we’re going to have no chance in fighting for a better future. It’s adapt or die time. So let’s get to it.
January 25, 2008
So the previous owner of the anarcho-transhumanism.com site (not to be confused with this blog, anarchotranshumanism.com, no hyphen) has passed it over to us. We’re contemplating transforming it into a general resource site, focusing on both anarchist and H+ interests, and of course pushing a specific @H+ perspective. We’re also considering adding forums to the site (a free feature, unless we start exceeding bandwidth limits) to open up the discussion of @H+ and get more people involved. We’ve also discussed having an email list for that in the past, but forums may be better.
We’d like to hear what you, our relatively small audience (so far!) has to say. Would you be interested in a general resource site? Would you help build it? Are you interested in forums or an email list? Have any other ideas? Our ears are open. Please leave a comment.
November 2, 2007
So it appears that Case Western has created ‘super mice’ by way of a genetweak. Full article here.
The article itself makes for some interesting reading. The mouse is stronger, faster, more durable, lives longer, eats more but is less fat and, as the talking bobbleheads on CNN pointed out, it is sexually active longer into its lifespan. And best of all, the gene that was tweaked is one that is also present in humans.
But not to worry, say the researchers, this would never be done on humans! Bullshit. It’s fucking intellectually dishonest to present this as something that these scientists did “just for funsies and only for mice.” What kind of fucking moron actually buys that? You don’t do biomedical research on mice because you’re interested in making mice live longer, eat better, and have great sex in their old age. You just don’t. You do it because you want to improve humans. Improve them in the way you improved the mice.
By avoiding the question of whether these techniques can be developed for humans, or worse still claiming that they would never do that is utter bullshit. It’s dishonest and tries to preempt a legitimate discussion on this technique. Claiming that something is unethical and shouldn’t be used to enhance people merely ensures that discussions about the technique don’t take place in the public. And this is a discussion that should very much take place in public. Are you honestly telling me that everyone in the world is bound by the same morals as the CWRU scientists? That China, or Russia, or even DARPA isn’t creaming themselves over the idea of soldiers or workers who can work longer, live longer, are more durable? Considering all the crazy shit that DARPA has done in the past (for example check out Sharon Weinberger’s stuff or the Danger Room blog) this is basically a slam dunk homerun touchdown.
Not talking about techniques like this openly and publicly only feeds the conspiracy theory trolls of the bioconservative movement. Pretending we would never-ever seek to do something like this to humans just reinforces the paranoia that scientists are lying to us and are making a seekrit army of clones in underground bunkers somewhere. Sure, a public debate is gonna bring out the crazy, but last I checked crazy still got to participate in public debate (see: Presidential Election). Crazy is gonna sound off anyway, we may as well have a more open and honest discourse.