*The “better future” thing is jam-tomorrow and jam-yesterday talk, so it tends to become the enemy of jam today. You’re better off reading history, and realizing that public aspirations that do seem great, and that even meet with tremendous innovative success, can change the tenor of society and easily become curses a generation later. Not because they were ever bad ideas or bad things to aspire to or do, but because that’s the nature of historical causality. Tomorrow composts today.
*Also, huge, apparently dispiriting disasters can burn off the ground for profound new growth, so the glum and morbid bad-future notion is just as false and silly as this kind of socially-engineered forced-optimism.
*This is not a counsel of despair. It’s atemporality, it’s like an agnosticism. People don’t really require any “better future” per se. Nobody ever receives such a thing. There’s no possibly utopian arrangement which is better for everybody, since society is composed of radically disparate elements with orthogonal needs. People can’t even permanently content their own personal selves. If a guy longs for an X-Prize and wins it, he doesn’t stay permanently happy. A guy with that personality type is gonna look around in near-desperation for something else to radically over-achieve.
One of the reliable bright lights in the gloom of my January is the annual Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky show, a.k.a. their State of the World conflab at The Well. All sorts of chewy futurism and near-field hindsight going on, as always, but sometimes it’s a minor aside that snags my mind, like this little zap at transhumanism:
“… you’re never going to put some magic cyberdevice inside your human body that has no human political and economic interests within its hardware and software. All human artifacts, below the skin or above them, are frozen social relationships. If you’re somehow burningly keen to consume a thing like that, you’d better, as William Burroughs liked to put it, have a look at the end of the fork.”
The great joy of my first semester of my PhD has been being formally introduced to the basics of sociological theory, and thus discovering that a lot of the woolly notions I’d come to independently have been thought far more thoroughly and comprehensively before, by smart people who gave those ideas proper names. Through this lens it’s even more apparent than before that the echoing lacuna at the heart of Movement Transhumanism — the canonical ‘philosophy’ expounded by Dr Max Biggerbetterfastermore and friends, rather than the more personal morphological meddlings of the grinders and back-alley self-modders — is the notion of any system of social relations beyond the mechanisms of soi-disant anarchocapitalist “free market” economics.
If nothing else, it goes some way to explaining the overlap between MT and the Neoreactionaries: both seem to assume that inconvenient truths might be moved aside by merit of resetting the sociopolitical clock to a time before anyone had formulated them. Not just a river in Egypt, eh?
Donâ€™t become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish. If you want to woo the muse of the odd, donâ€™t read Shakespeare. Read Websterâ€™s revenge plays. Donâ€™t read Homer and Aristotle. Read Herodotus where heâ€™s off talking about Egyptian women having public sex with goats. If you want to read about myth donâ€™t read Joseph Campbell, read about convulsive religion, read about voodoo and the Millerites and the Munster Anabaptists. There are hundreds of years of extremities, there are vast legacies of mutants. There have always been geeks. There will always be geeks. Become the apotheosis of geek. Learn who your spiritual ancestors were. You didnâ€™t come here from nowhere. There are reasons why youâ€™re here. Learn those reasons. Learn about the stuff that was buried because it was too experimental or embarrassing or inexplicable or uncomfortable or dangerous.
– Bruce Sterling
[ 1 – Fanboy is as fanboy does. ]
[ 2 – As well as what Justin’s doing with his, I suspect. He’ll go far, that one. ]
Hey, Bruce Sterling, what should print newspapers do?
Yeah, I know, I’m a fanboy. When he gets it wrong, I’ll start being even more critical.
Commandante Sterling, commenting on the launch of new R U Sirius-edited pop-transhumanism magazine h+:
(((I’ve never been a big hippiefied ’60s nostalgist, but after all we’ve been through lately, to have the *1990s* back… would that rock, or what?)))
OMG, yes it would.
Anyone who knows me offline will confirm that I’ve been longing for it for about the last seven years – musically, politically and culturally, we need to drag ourselves out of this cocaine-crazed blind-rat rerun of the eighties before it chokes us all with faux-ironic polkadot day-glo and its utter lack of introspection, morals and restraint.
Plus, my haircut will briefly be fashionable again. w00t!
[ 1 – Or, more accurately, lack thereof. ]