Dovetailing rather neatly with Kevin Kelly’s piece on technological literacy last week, Wired has an oddly-formatted but provocative piece that they’ve entitled “7 Essential Skills That You Didn’t Learn In College“. Those seven skills are:
All fairly pertinent, and very Futurismic as well… though I’m not sure how “essential” the remix culture aspect is. I’m inclined to think – perhaps uncharitably – that anyone aspiring to be an artist or creator who hasn’t already grasped those basic truths by observing the world around them is never going to get it, no matter how clearly you spell it out for them. Am I being unfair?
It’s a decent enough list, but not exhaustive by any means – what would you add to it? Or, equally, what would you remove?
Charlie Stross has written an interesting and engaging blog post on the future of politics in the 21st century, specifically he identifies the emergence of a new form of fascism that draws on transhumanism, the overhumanists:
To get to the money shot: transhumanism is going to influence the next century because, unless we are very unlucky indeed, the biotechnology, nanotechnology, and telecommunications industries are going to deliver goods that combine to fundamentally change the human condition. We’ve seen the tip of the iceberg so far
And what particularly exercises me is the possibility that if we can alter the parameters of the human condition, we can arbitrarily define some people as being better than others — and can make them so.
Not all transhumanists have good intentions. Earlier I went on for a while about Italy, home of the Modernist movement in art and birthplace of Fascism. Italy’s currently in the grip of a wave of racism and neofascist vigilantism, presided over by an allegedly racist media mogul with a near-monopoly on broadcast media in that country.
So it’s probably not surprising that Italy is the source of a new political meme that I hadn’t heard of before this week: overhumanism
It had to happen eventually. It is sad to see the largely noble ideals of transhumanism (particularly my personal favourite strand of democratic transhumanism) subverted in this way.
Is the spread of fascistic transhumanism as likely as Stross fears? If so, what can be done to prevent it?
[from Charlie’s Place][image from cosmo flash on flickr]
If you’ve not caught it already, you should get over to Charlie Stross’s blog and check out his 21st Century FAQ; it’s your source of rant fodder for the coming week.
For example, in answer to the question “[w]hich of (Socialism | Capitalism | Libertarianism | Fascism | Democracy) is going to save us?”:
We’re still waiting for the definitive ideological polarity of the internet era to emerge, although Bruce Schneier has opined that the key political hot potato of the 21st century will be the question, “how do we maintain the concept of privacy in an age of ubiquitous communications and surveillance”, and some believe that privacy is already dead. Given the way Moore’s Law is taking us towards an essentially unlimited ability to record everything, I’m not able to argue with the inevitability of surveillance: what I’d dispute is the morality of it.
Responses and counter-arguments are cropping up already, naturally enough; for example, here’s Brian Wang refuting Stross’s claim that space colonisation and the Singularity are non-starters:
We know we can send people into interplanetary space for several days (Apollo). We could easily make the trip to Mars in days [using the Orion nuclear rocket configuration] and then onto to Jupiter in days. We could bring supplies, radiation protection in cargo that is equivalent to several great pyramids or how many loaded aircraft carriers equivalents.
Plenty of material for discussion for the more geeky water-cooler meet-ups. [image by Patrick Nielsen-Hayden]
So, do we reckon Charlie Stross is a fox or a hedgehog?