On the Internet in our time, you can almost never criticize an ideology or behaviour as "fascist" or "communist" without someone invoking Godwin's law and/or McArthyism. One of the reasons that totalitarian ideologies run so rampant and so viral on the Internet is that people attempting to make a moral judgement on them are instantly accused of bias or an attempt to suppress free speech, essentially accused of the same thing they've identified.
Of course, such notions are self-discrediting because free speech is free speech -- it's ok to denounce another ideology as violating free speech; criticism itself doesn't mean you are calling for a suppression speech (many forums jackals slathering for a chance to play gotcha are too stupid to realize that basic point). In fact, calling for a boycott of a speech doesn't mean "suppression of free speech," but is a moral protest against an ideology that would suppress everybody's free speech if it could. Ray Kurzweil apparently doesn't think it's so terrible that the human race as we know it will be wiped out, and artificially intelligent beings will take our place. If that isn't fascism, I don't know what you're calling it -- but technocommunism would work fine, too : )
I don't have to look far for this type of behaviour from this gang -- my articles on spimes critical of Joi Ito got suppressed from the site he invests in (technorati) for a time; when I criticized Cory Doctorow, one of the boosters of the "singularity," he urged that I be banned from Twitter and tried to get his tech thug at the socialist Guardian, Charles Arthur, to try to put up a fake case of "stalking" because...I had an old album with a picture of Doctorow speaking at a public meeting in SL. The nastyness and viciousness of the hard tekkie left is never far from us -- look at the lengths to which the haters of conservatives go to hack their email and publicize it, although they're the first to scream bloody murder about the evil U.S. government eavesdropping on their own privacy.
So that brings us to parse what is fascist about the singularity and Ray Kurzweil. When you have a theory of a superior race like Ray Kurzweil does, it doesn't have to be a race with white skin, with the lesser beings having brown skin -- although it will, of course, be fascinating to see how many black people find a way to pay $25,000 to go to Singularity University lol.
No, the new superior race, the Ubermensch, is Ray *already*. Because he's *already*, through pumping himself up with nutritional supplements and who the hell knows what else, reportedly overcame his Type II diabetes and prolonged his life and isn't aging. Sigh.
Kurzweil posits the creation of a new, superior race that will enhance itself with nanobots, tiny, programmed artificially-intelligent robots that will be small enough to get into your bloodstream, where they will prolong, extend, enhance your thought processes and presumbly your organic life. To get a taste of the wild scientific manner in which he talks, see this acceptance letter for Singularity University (if authentic, and since it comes from Twitter, who the hell knows).
Kurzweil loves the idea of Second Life, virtual worlds, social media, Twitter, Youtube, etc. because it gives him a way to extend all these ideas, and his already very hypertrophied and arrogant personality, to all kinds of clueless gits who think first and foremost that this ideology will help *themselves* to be superior and have power over other people (think of those old bubblegum wrappers with the puny guy who gets sand kicked in his face). He doesn't think about what this means when someone gets this power over him (because he wants this power so badly) or other people.
I think C.S. Lewis was very prescient in talking about these issues in Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength, a novel about a brain kept alive by scientists who believed they were going to perfect mankind and take power over others who grew out of the ideology of secular scientific progress and logical positivism but who were ultimately defeated by an unlikely crew of Christians -- and Merlin.
I come back to this book over and over and read it now and then because while written long before the Internet in the 1950s, it did grapple with the hubris and arrogance of scientists bent on taking over mankind for the sake of improving it, a desire that features prominently in fascism as well as communism and finds an echo in many descendents or parallel constructions of these basic evils of the 20th Century, such as extropianism, transhumanism, etc.
It was interesting to find a blogger thinking along these lines examinging C.S. Lewis and finding this useful passage to contemplate vis-a-vis the singularity:
For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please. In all ages, no doubt, nurture and instruction have, in some sense, attempted to exercise this power. But the situation to which we must look forward will be novel in two respects. In the first place, the power will be enormously increased. Hitherto the plans of educationalists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we read them — how Plato would have every infant ‘a bastard nursed in a bureau’, and Elyot would have the boy see no men before the age of seven and, after that, no women, and how Locke wants children to have leaky shoes and no turn for poetry — we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses. But the man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please. (pp. 59-60)
And that's just it. The person who begins by saying "I wish to live forever, be as god, and perfect myself," and says "I'll find likeminded comrades and together we will perfect ourselves and become a superior race" are *already* problems, and *already* proto-fascists because they have already discarded common sense, field data, and criticism, in favour of what some say is an eschatological technology -- a technology that is really more like a religion. Who would be able to talk sense to them once they are ecstatic? It really is rather like the Rapture, in which they imagine that some will be swept up because they are righteous, their brains uploaded handily, and others Left Behind, presumably due to their being covered with FUD.
The singularity shtick posits several ideas:
o that technology is accelerating change so fast that we can't keep up and it will surpass our ability to understand it -- it will have "emergent behaviour" beyond our understanding
o this accelerated technological change is "inevitable"
o this transformation, however incremental, will "all of a sudden" or "at once" or "inevitably" cause irreversible reform, that will not be able to be undone
o this irreversible and inevitably change is made up of all sorts of incremental changes that people welcome, like, oh, helping people with cystic fibrosis or making machines for the blind to hear books or palliatives for AIDS or virtual worlds that help people -- so to try to say you are against singularity or its irreversibly and inevitable changes will mean that you inevitably are against all those little tiny incremental changes like the making of Tang that were on the way
o that even though this supposedly fast-paced accelerating change is beyond understanding, some special people already realize *that* -- that it will surpass existing understanding, and that already puts them in a special, more intelligent group
o that the people who make technology and cause it to be so "fast," could presumably stop it, or they will have enough understanding to perhaps curb -- or harvest, or steer, or mitigate -- it's "acceleration".
o that the singularity will be a good thing because it will be "progress" -- and again, those who see that early and "embrace the inevitably" instead of resisting it will be just that more better off than those who try to fight it
Well, you get the idea. Concepts that inevitably create a superior race, that does the following:
o sees around the curve of history, into the future, enough to know that change is coming and it is inevitable
o creates uniform ideologies of change with certain patterns to be observed in change (certain landmarks in history, stages of evolution, key events, etc.)
o embraces said change instead of fighting it, because it is more intelligent
o harnesses changes as they come and uses it to extend intelligence, life, etc.
o adapts quickly to change because it sees it coming and doesn't fight it
So these Enlightened ones, who have a substance a lot like the Vril described in this science fiction story (say, did Vryl Valkerie name herself after these mythological figures related to Nazi cults?!), are a superior race.
Inevitably, such an enlightened race will adopt the following positions:
o those who can't see change is coming -- and INEVITABLE change are stupid, fearful, etc.
o those that can't fathom uniform ideologies and see patterns recognized by smarter people are stupid
o those who don't embrace change and criticize the "change agents" are backward, fearful, stupid
o those that can't adapt and harness change are trampled by it
Critics are quickly put into ths bin of those who "can't see" what is "inevitable" or grasp that they must "adapt". Of course, fascists and communists always talk in the language of inevitability, forces more powerful than man, necessary change, sweeping transformation, etc. and inevitabily characterize those who don't see the patterns marked out for them by their betters as "vestiges" or "revanchists".
But, you say, where does it say in Ray Kurzweil's writings that he will FORCE this on you?
Well, that's just it. He doesn't have to point to a page in Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto and say "I endorse these ideas by these totalitarian authors".
No. All he has to do is adopt an assured, matter-of-fact, arrogant posture that says "The singularity is already coming -- it's here. Change is already happening. This is inevitable. And...when WE get up into the nervous system, why, we'll..."
He doesn't say "I could be wrong, but" or "It seems as if we're seeing this pattern but what do you think" or "getting up into the nervous system might have some real downsides, especially if those bots break and kill you".
No. Instead, with absolute crazy and sinister confidence he says "The Singulary it coming, and pay $25,000 and I will tell you its secrets, and you can join a select and secret society that can see the future, adapt more quickly than the inferior people, and harness these events to your profit."
That's how superior races and their ideologies are born. If you can't see it, perhaps you aspire to be part of this superior race yourself *shrugs*.
Critics of this identification of the contours of fascism say things like "but you think you're right, too, Prokofy" or "But you think something is not true until it is proven as such to you," and so on.
Right. But...here's a pro tip. I don't say anything is inevitable -- except death, and that's not my idea, but the documented fact of the ages.
Here's another marker: I don't charge $25,000 to a seminar where I promise to reveal you certain truths of the universe. My God, this is a lot like Scientology, or the many circles of those old EST-like cults like Mindspring, endlessly sucking money out of people. Pretty bold, eh?
As the blogger "And Still I Persist" notes, with another passage from C.S. Lewis, you don't have to be a self-identified Nazi to think like one at root:
But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rules of Germany. Traditional values are to be ‘debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.
Read your friend Wikipedia to see how these ideas find their way all over, including in Steven Levy's Hackers, where Vril is mentioned, and where his ideas, even aged from the 1980s, might be said to form the core of the Linden ethos:
- Access to computers—and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works—should be unlimited and total.
- Always yield to the Hands-on Imperative!
- All information should be free.
- Mistrust authority—promote decentralization.
- Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race or position.
- You can create art and beauty on a computer.
- Computers can change your life for the better.
I'm hoping to get Thomas Malaby's book soon on the ethnography of Linden Lab, where among his central theses are the idea that these Lindens didn't think they were in a hierarchy, thought they were fighting the power, thought they were resisting authority -- but in fact, were themselves creating and participating in a rigid hierarchy of their own (as all cults do).
I've noted in the past in discussing the spimes and transhumanism just how fascistic the ideas are and just how much they really do involve controlling people.
Remember this piece I did on Philips Electronics (are they going to be the makers of nanobots?) in which people genuinely discussed, as the transcript shows, with the reprehensible Csven Concord, a concept whereby people's nervous systems would be wired up to the Internet so that you could tell if they were telling the truth by seeing if certain changes happened -- but even worse -- as we are all to be collectivized in the singularity, naturally -- people could rate you, and you would show a colour depending on how people rated you -- on your RL skin.
Look, this was very weird fascistic nutty stuff 2 years ago. And today, it's a wee bit closer to its goal by having Kurzweil speak as the keynoter. And 2 years after that, it will be closer still. And that's how fascism succeeds, by desensitizing, legitimizing, insinuating itself, making it seem "inevitable" and making it seem that people who criticize it -- hijacking temporarily their liberal values to use against them, only to drop them in a minute again -- are somehow "suppressing dissent".
BTW, does anyone know the story of why Sophrysyne Sventaag, who exists only as a digital persona, like the late lamented Rheta Sham, decided to leave SL? Too much drama on Extropia? Well, at least she didn't get pregnant and then hit by a van.
For extra credit note that Shirley Marquez, the same person talking in the salon chat I exposed as fascistic later appeared on Metanomics to trash me by implying that I was one of these people who used an avatar to do bad things that they would never do as their real selves -- one of those persistent memes about me that has no basis in reality, as I'm exactly the same in RL or SL - I simply wish to have an avatar, a channel, and a pen name, which is my right. Shirley Marquez seems to be on a bit of a jihad on this subject, I'm not sure why, perhaps from a guilty conscience? I had quite the fandango, bTW, over this private Metanomics chat on the subject of Avatar Psychology which led to yet another skirmish with Joel Savard, whom I originally pegged upon meeting him in RL was abrupt and irritable and worth giving a wide berth to, who I came to find more interactive and tolerant in SL, but about whom I had to change my opinion again recently.
Two people IM'd me seeming as if there was a drama emergency lol. One I didn't recognize and couldn't find again. the other is someone who comes to the Sutherland dam. "They're obsessing about you again," she said. Why do they do that? I asked to see the transcript -- but it didn't exist. It was never posted. They never are on these sort of smaller, private, although group meetings of Metanomics (not the events with speakers). So it creates a sort of little superior set that has knowing little convos that no one dare post because that would be a violation of the TOS. Sigh. Another participant in this talk then said it didn't seem to be that much of a big deal, but I couldn't tell. I couldn't tell what caused this one person to feel so sure that it was a dis that she contacted me. I don't care if I'm dissed -- my God, that happens 10 times a day. But I do like to fight back -- and when there's no transcript, I can't. Basically, finally extracting the names of these invokers of the Prokofy Phenom, I could see one was a hater, with a track record and obsession on the topic, and the other was even a friend, or at least a positive correspondent who comes to the dam. So it seemed like a minor tempest in a teapot, but here's the thing: I couldn't get Joel, a great believer in server truths and transcripts, to accept that community *perception* even in the face of server records (chat transcript that seems, upon analysis of its flat face, to be "about nothing") is valid, and while subjective, worth dealing with.
I wonder whether Extropia, like all utopias, failed. Anyone?
Meanwhile, there's the real Ray Kurzweil, with all his "credentials" to comfort the disappointed masses, and the forlorn Extropia renters and attenders of Extropia's salon...
The awful thing about Kurzweil is that a seemingly intelligent and humane person like Raph Koster could fall for him to the point of legitimizing him on his blog. Very disturbing.
And obviously Philip, with his interest in neural networks, loves this stuff. It's good to read other smart people who show up on places like amazon with the obvious critique of this physicalism, this reduction of all aspects of the human being to a series of chemical/physical processes that supposedly you can mimic and master using machines.
Er -- the obvious critique is that it has limitations, things break down, and there is more to the human being than his neural networks!