Tech, Linked

We’re reading up on TRANSHUMANISM (Paul Graham Raven/Arc)

A recent Wired article led me to this piece by Paul Graham Raven reviewing a pair of books on transhumanism. The whole piece is worth reading for his incisive commentary on the books' contents, as well as his thoughts on transhumanism as a whole.

Here's an excerpt I found particularly interesting (italics his, bolding mine):

What is absent from this book, and from the transhumanism it defines, is community, society. Oh, there’s talk of the transhuman community, of course (when a transhumanist says “we", they don’t mean you unless you’re also a card-carrier), and society gets a few passing mentions, albeit usually as the source of restrictive regulatory practices and unjust laws impinging on the sovereignty of the individual. But transhumanist doctrine itself does not necessarily extend beyond the body of the transhumanist; so long as the transhumanist is permitted their transhumanity, then the rest of the world can go whistle. This is the shell-game of morphological freedom, wherein the transhumanist graciously concedes that they have no right to tell you what to do with your physicality or mind, just so long as you can’t stop them doing what they want to themselves. You look after yourself, I’ll look after me; what could be fairer than that?

In a world less structurally unfair than the one I currently find myself inhabiting, that principle might do just fine. But what it lacks, what transhumanism lacks, and what the Californian ideology which underpins transhumanism lacks, is any sense of responsibility for the consequences of your actions upon others. It’s not even that the questions are so new or hard to formulate; the social sciences are grappling hard with them as we speak, in an attempt to resolve the paradox of a world where transhumanists can talk blithely about “improving" and “extending" human capacities without addressing the questions of where the implied baseline is and who gets to police it, and where politicians can talk about market-enabled choice and “diverse healthcare outcomes" while framing disability or long-term illness as one of many ways that the feckless supposedly sponge off of the state. It’s as a part of this globally diffuse paradigm of me-first-why-not privilege that transhumanism starts to look less like an oddball cybercultural anomaly and more like yet another proxy front for oligarchy-as-usual. As James Bridle says, “technology is the reification and instrumentalisation of human desires"; nowhere is that more plain to see than transhumanism.

And the kicker, when it comes to the transhumanist imperative of expanding technologies to improve human life:

Well, I have good news: it turns out that technologies which extend, augment or otherwise improve human life are already here! You may have heard of some of them: clean water; urban sanitation; smokeless cooking facilities; free access to healthcare; a guaranteed minimum income; a good, free education.

Linked, Writing

Haruki Murakami answers: Is the pen mightier than the sword?

I’m taken aback by how straightforward this question is. Is the pen mightier than the sword? I want to say of course it is, but nowadays it’s hard to say. Aside from terrorist attacks, you get backlash from the internet as well. You have to be mindful when you’re writing something.

I keep in mind to “not have the pen get too mighty” when I write. I choose my words so the least amount of people get hurt, but that’s also hard to achieve. No matter what is written, there is a chance of someone getting hurt or offending someone. Keeping all that in mind, I try as much as I can to write something that will not hurt anyone. This is a moral every writer should follow.

But at the same time, when you need to fight a battle, you also need to reserve energy to be able to fight. Something like what you use to tighten your stomach. But that’s only when you really need to. If you recklessly make the pen mightier than the sword, you’re putting yourself in danger. That’s my personal opinion. Some may think otherwise.

–Haruki Murakami, from "The Best of Haruki Murakami's Advice Column" on Vulture.

Words to write by. I didn't think I could be more of a fan of Murakami, and yet here I am.

One of the things that has always bugged me about people who rage against "political correctness" is that it smacks of callousness. Arguments over language choice, especially as it relates to marginalized groups, often have two sides: one arguing for the reduction of harm, and the other arguing for the ability to say whatever they want without consequence.

I just can't see the latter as anything other than an unwillingness to be good to other people because it's inconvenient. And that doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever.