And sometimes it’s both. Rather than bore you with the whole ‘where have you been, why don’t you write me anymore’ I’m just gonna jump in with the word-ifying.

There’s a new article in the American Journal of Bioethics by Moreno and Berger on the roots of the neocon opposition to biotech (tip of the hat to Kelly over at IMAARS for bringing the article to my attention). Basically the article is about what intellectual frauds most neocons are in their inability to own up the inherent problems in capitalism and the fact that they basically act like frightened children at the prospect of scientific progress, particularly in the area of biotechnology.

The article itself is excellent and does a good job calling out neocon bioconservatives for both ignoring their own intellectual roots in Marxism and for playing fast and loose with philosophy. All that is fine and good but what struck me was something else entirely.

What really jumped out to me was that the philosophical argument being presented by both the bioconservative right and the bioconservative left is that there is something inherently human in being human and that any sort of modification is a discarding or at the very least a modification of this humanity into something else, something less than human in the minds of the bioconservatives. This is truly frightening since it opens up all sorts of possible nastiness. If I get a genetweak and I’m no longer human in the way that the scared masses whipped into a fervor by the bioconservative crowd define ‘human,’ then I automatically become a target for persecution. This can be ‘mild’ in nature — I don’t get full legal rights, I have to register myself with local gov’t agencies, I have special sections reserved for where I can sit/eat/excrete/etc (because it could be contagious you know) — or it could be more repressive. Pogroms, deportations, killings, etc. The first step to creating a despised minority has always been to make them less than human. It seems to me that’s exactly what the bioconservatives are attempting to do, preemptively, to those that seek positive self-enhancement or to use genetic means to address human frailties.

Please note that this entry originally appeared about two weeks ago but due to technical errors got deleted and it took me a bit to get back around to it.

Gaining control

May 29, 2007

From the better-late-than-never file, I’m finally writing the post I’ve been wanting to on the FDA approving the new birth control pill Lybrel.

As Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon points out, this has all kinds of people up in arms — though “all kinds of people” in this case is the predictable list of pro-lifers, religious nuts, and women who’s idea of feminism is being properly submissive to men.

Why does this matter to us? Well part of the transhuman agenda is gaining greater control over our bodies. Anything that helps us do this is good. Looking at the types of resistance to new drugs like Lybrel can also give us an idea about how other therapies are likely to be viewed in the future.

As we move forward and start to see new gene therapies, procedures derived from stem cells, and increasing use of pharma for control of our bodies and biological futures, expect to see a corresponding ratcheting up of the shrill protests. These will probably come from both the religious nuts out there who see these techniques and technologies as interfering with “god’s plan” and primitivists who see this as tampering with our “natural selves”–which is like “god’s plan” but for the faithless.

This has the potential to turn into an uphill struggle and poses a danger of slowing progress. While I’m skeptical of unrestrained progress, this is not a good reason for it to slow down. Slowing progress for safety concerns is one thing. Slowing it because your magical imaginary sky god told you to or because you believe in some fairy-tale magical world where we live in harmony with nature is fucking stupid and should be resisted.

Among the many books I have piled up awaiting read is Naseem Taleb’s The Black Swan but I thought I’d offer a quick note after hearing him speak on a radio talk show yesterday. The main point of the book seems to be that we don’t take into account anomalous events enough when making plans for the future. Taleb seems to mostly be talking about the predictive modeling that is used for the making of public and economic policy but his point is one that’s been stressed by social psychologists in the past: namely that we have a tendency to assume a base continuity to our lives, that things will continue to be much as they have been in the past.

Why does this matter for us? Well I’ve already talked to one friend who opined that since black swans are going to happen it’s pointless to try and learn anything from past events and we should embrace a sort of fatalistic nihilism. I find this sort of sentiment to be rather stupid and I’m fairly certain it’s not the point Taleb is trying to make.

While there will undoubtedly be more black swans to come, the important thing isn’t necessarily trying to predict them but, rather, to be in place to influence the response to them. Look at the American Neo-Conservative movement as an example. Without a doubt September 11th was a black swan event. While it was something a small group had warned about, it wasn’t considered a terribly likely event so it caught us unawares. That small group that had warned about it was instantly awarded credibility and given prime spots shouting nonsense on teevee and within the administration.

So what you ask?

Read the rest of this entry »

This story, about a double amputee looking to participate in the Olympics, has been getting some press as a human interest story of late. It raises an interesting question on the transhuman front.

Realistically most people are going to be reluctant to make extreme changes to their bodies, especially if the benefits of doing so are not immediately obvious. There are, of course, exceptions such as the BMEzine community or eccentrics like Kevin Warwick, but these people are not likely to appeal to the mainstream, nor do they fit into the realm of immediately useful modifications and are more likely to be seen as gimmicky (unless you really feel saline injections in your cock are something that allows you to be a more efficient and better human.)

So the question is: where are modifications that will be publicly appealing and useful likely to come from? I see three realistic and currently developing possibilities: our aging population, military advances, and athletes. Yes. Athletes.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Things to Know

January 5, 2007

Jamais Cascio had an interesting post on “Must-Know Concepts for the 21st Century,” building on another list posted by George Dvorsky.

We could use a similar list for anarcho-transhumanists…

[EDIT: George Dvorsky updated his list with links and explanations.]

@H+ vs. H+, Round 1

December 29, 2006

Ok, time I actually started to post to this thing.

Let’s start off with defining some of the ways I see anarcho-transhumanism (@H+) diverging from regular ol’ transhumanism (H+, as defined in generic WTA terms):

– @H+ is explicitly anti-capitalist. You cannot have capitalism without some form of coercion and exploitation. A truly egalitarian society needs to be anti-capitalist.

– The elites will view accelerating technologies — longevity, AI, nanotech — as a threat to their power. This means they are likely to restrict it and retain as much of it as they can for their own authoritarian purposes rather than encouraging it to be disseminated. If we wish to avoid domination by factions of near-immortal oligarchs, we need to find our own ways to seize, access, and democratize those technologies.

– Those in power will never surrender that power willingly. Technology will give them the tools to supress and co-opt dissent. To establish a free society, we first need to create an insurgency to undermine and overthrow the systems that exist.

– Corporations are not to be trusted.

– Transhumanists seem to view bioconservatives, both of the religious and left-wing variety, as the largest impediment to establishing a more egalitarian society where technology enhances and improves view the human condition. Governments and corporations are not an opposition force themselves, but they may be influenced by bioconservatives and need to be watched for abusing technolgy in irresponsible ways.
Anarchists, however, tend to view the struggle for a free society as being opposed by both the state and fascists (counting the authoritarian right, religious fundamentalists, and certain criminal networks in this category). Revolutionary forces expousing radical authoritarian and/or fundamentalist views are predominant across the globe, and have a real chance of seizing power in certain scenarios — usually more so than any left alternative (at least according to Three Way Fight politics).

More to come.


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