Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Drip, Drip

I find it truly surreal when political pundits "report" on the damaging drip, drip of the Clinton e-mail nontroversy... as if their reports themselves are not all the faucet there is.

Long Teaching Day

Later this morning I'm on my way to the City, where in Homo Economicus first off we're reading Aphra Behn's The Rover (a rather different take on the Restoration rake) and also taking up Carole Pateman's "The Sexual Contract." Later in the afternoon in my critical theory survey we are talking about Benjamin's "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility" and the Culture Industry chapter from Horkheimer's and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment.  These two canonical numbers are treated as conversational, and little supplements like A Short History of Photography and the Culture Industry Reconsidered are allowed into the mix at opportune moments. As usual, night will have long fallen by the time I'm home, so blogging will be low to no.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Let Them Eat Ads!"

Mark Zuckerberg addresses the UN, and declares universal targeted advertising harassment of the poor a global priority:
By giving people access to the tools, knowledge and opportunities of the internet, we can give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. We also know that the internet is a vital enabler of jobs, growth and opportunity. And research tells us that for every 10 people connected to the internet, about 1 is lifted out of poverty.
Mobilizing the world to get everybody on Facebook would bestow the blessings of fine-grained surveillance, digtal-sharecropping, and zero-comment participatory digirocracy to all the people of earth. And "we know" how awesome that is because "research tells us" so. You know, for the poor! Incidentally, Mark Zuckerberg wouldn't do too shabbily either with a few billion more subscribers to his crappy network, yaknow what I mean?

(Hey, guess what, for every ten people who live in societies with a living wage, universal public education and healthcare, and long-term unemployment benefits and social security ALL TEN are lifted out of poverty. But, what the fuck, let's just get Mark Zuckerberg a billion more customers for his shitty software app instead.)

Friday, September 25, 2015

The New and Emerging Legal Framework for the Regulation of Medical and Recreational Marijuana in the State of California

At the end of the 2015 session, in fact in its final hours, California legislators passed a number of bills to clarify the terms of the nearly twenty year old Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215, and regulate medical marijuana in the State. AB 266, AB 243, and SB 643 are on their way to Governor Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign them. The new regulatory framework has real problems and reasonable critics, but it represents an advance -- and is all the more significant in light of the proposed ballot initiatives to legalize, regulate, and tax recreational marijuana use by adults, more or less like alcohol has been since the end of its Prohibition, as well as to provide protections against discrimination for those who enjoy the therapeutic and recreational uses of marijuana.

Coinciding with the passage of the new regulatory framework, California's Attorney General Kamala Harris has prepared the following title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure, Initiative 15-0039
The clarity and forcefulness of the wording seem to me strongly to suggest support of such an initiative at this time. The language -- and some further analysis -- is available at the California MCLR (The Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act) 2016 website:

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Legalizes marijuana under state law. Creates commission to regulate and license marijuana industry. Applies general retail sales taxes to marijuana, unless medical or dietary exemptions apply. Permits excise taxes on certain marijuana sales, up to 15% of retail price, and storage, up to 10% of wholesale price. Prohibits discrimination based on marijuana use. Bars marijuana testing for job applicants and employees, or penalizing employees for off-duty use, unless they are in safety-sensitive occupations. Permits local regulation of marijuana businesses, including ban or cap with voter approval. Exempts medical marijuana collectives from licensing and local zoning. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Net reduced costs ranging from tens of millions of dollars to potentially exceeding $100 million annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Net additional state and local tax revenues of potentially up to several hundred million dollars annually related to the production and sale of marijuana, most of which would be required to be spent for specific purposes such as education, public safety, and drug abuse education and treatment.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tech Progressive, So Regressive.


treatING!


I am embarrassed to admit my own complicity in the emergence of the technoprogressive term now current in some circles of neoliberal tech talkers and "Thought Leaders." Interested readers will note the appropriated arguments and even phrases in the wikipedia entry for technoprogressivism, alluded to in the 2014 robocultic transhumanist Technoprogressive Declaration, all from my own Technoprogressivism: Beyond Technophilia and Technophobia, published nearly a decade before that Declaration. I realized quite soon after writing that rather programmatic piece that its formulations were being taken up in stealth-reactionary futurological "tech" circles seeking to sanewash eugenic, libertarian, neoliberal, digi-utopian, greenwashing, facile reductionist and determinist views about technodevelopmental politics. I soon came to believe that the susceptibility of my formulations to these deceptive and tech-propagandistic appropriations was a product of my own under-interrogated use of the term "technology" in the piece as monolithic and extricable from and hence apparently substitutable for politics in ways that facilitated what I now recognize as a host of familiar reactionary futurological gestures -- the naturalization of elite incumbent interests as a-political, the substitution of marketing norms and forms for modes of reflection and analysis, the treatment of wish-fulfillment fantasies as scientific predictions, the investment of such speculation with transcendental significance, and the transformation of these discourses into subcultural formations, identity movements and consumer fandoms. For a recent and concise elaboration of the critique eventuating in part from experience of the techno-transcendental appropriation of my early efforts I recommend Futurological Discourses and Posthuman Terrains.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Long Teaching Day

Spending the day in the City, mostly cooped up in trains and classrooms. Afternoon, Etherege's The Man of Mode and a little Raymond Williams. Later on, an introduction to Marx.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Clinton Collapse Collapsing

My Queer ProseTheses

Somebody stumbled upon and recommended quite an old post of mine, Technology Is Making Queers Of Us All, and it has gotten more readers over the past day than it has had over several years preceding. I want to point out that the blog-post was a re-post of an earlier publication which in turn was the summary of my MA Thesis from earlier still, that is to say, folks reading that post are reading something written by me when I was scarcely half my present age. I don't disavow the piece, but I wouldn't write it again... it testifies to the irrational exuberance of an earlier time, the nineties, and of an earlier me in the time of my adventuring. I have written many pieces since on queerness: That should come as no surprise since I came to California to study with one of my great heroes Judith Butler in the years between then and now and learned a thing or two in the process, and as my queer politics have changed since I was a Queer National then and have moved on to focus on environmental justice and democratic socialism since, all the while offering up avid witness and teaching to the gendered political vicissitudes of these last two decades. Some of my later writings on these are archived here: Queer Manifestations. Especially relevant to those who appreciate that early Queer-Tech piece might be: "Post-Gender" or Gender Poets? and Don't Be Too Quick to Identify Transhumanist Politics With Transsexual Politics and The Parade Passes By.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Indistinguishable From Tragic

The Valley of the Silly Con is a magical place where zeros get marketed as ones.

Everybody's Fed Up!

Evil Is Dumb

Now we see, for conservatives prove it time after time, that Dark Helmet was deluded: Evil will never triumph, because evil is also dumb.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Nature's Artiface: Negative Liberty, Spontaneous Order, and Reactionary Tech

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Long Teaching Day

Early this afternoon in the City in "Homo Economicus" we are reading Fontenelle, Hobbes, and some poetry by Rochester. Later in the day, in my undergraduate survey of critical theory, we are taking up Nietzsche, On Truth and the Lie, a little Gay Science, and then digging deep into Ecce Homo. If past is prologue I won't be home till nine tonight or so. Tuesdays tire me out.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Power to Persuade Posts BIG Piece

Australia's "Power to Persuade: Creating and Implementing Public Policy Cross-Sectoral Debates" has republished a piece from a few months ago, A Neoliberalization of Basic Income Discourse?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Assholes for the Asshole God!

It's, like, neverending.

Scattered Speculations on Vulgar Science Fiction Through the Futurological Looking Glass

Although I am a passionate fan of science/speculative fiction literature, film, fandom, I realize that I rarely write about sf here and that I probably should. The exception that proves the rule happens to be one of my favorite essays here at Amor Mundi, by the way: Raised Vulcan Eyebrows and Hopeless Human Hopes. I do take sf seriously, and I make very regular recourse to it in my science-technonlogy-studies (STS) and environmental-justice-movement (EJM) teaching at Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute. If you scroll down to the "Science Fiction" heading in The Superlative Summary you will find seven other pieces on sf there, tho' I'd say the quality is mixed at best.

The focus of my work and my writing here and elsewhere has, for whatever reasons out of the strange vicissitudes of personal and professional biography, turned out instead to be mostly the critique of futurological discourses and futurist sub(cult)ural formations. I happen to think that futurology is the quintessential discourse of neoliberal corporate-militarism, and that the strange exhibitions made by robocultic futurisms are a kind of reductio ad absurdum or iceberg tip symptomizing prevailing pathologies of postwar-to-ecocatastrophist capitalism. As a democratic socialist (or social democrat, if you like) Green, all this matters to me enormously, of course.

I do often make the point that futurological "scenarios" are in my view the definitive literary genre of the neoliberal epoch -- which really amounts to the truism that marketing norms and forms disastrously suffuse postwar public discourses -- and this observation also often leads me to joke that these futurological "scenarios" are actually just impoverished forms of science fiction, but, you know, entirely bereft of clever plots, interesting characters, or sustained themes. Indeed, most futurological “scenarios” amount to little more than stipulated settings of a scene (hence their name) and then filled with dystopian/utopian wish-fulfillment fantasizing. Again, I daresay the connections to advertising are obvious. Hilariously, these settings are themselves inevitably borrowed from actual science fiction writers, and given the plausibility that attaches to the familiar, futurologists tend to recycle those conceits real writers would disdain as cliches.

I will also say that I regard the familiar pretense that science/speculative fiction is an essentially or even primarily "predictive" genre to be a vulgar futurological fallacy. Works in any literary genre can be accidentally or incidentally predictive -- but sf, like all great literature, is constitutive of and responsive to living, earthly polyculture. It is the open futurity inhering in the diversity of stakeholders contending and collaborating in the present, in their presence, that provokes the allegories, commentaries, myths, testimonies of science/speculative fictional futures. It will perhaps seem paradoxical from the vulgar futurological vantage that has come so much to define the sfnal in the neoliberal epoch, but for me it is because it is so exquisitely the genre not of the future but the future anterior tense that sf is indeed a prophetic literary form.

Leave it to capitalists idiotically to mis-identify sales pitches for prophesies. You can be sure that the same futurological impulse that would loot and dismantle the (to be sure, deeply flawed) Academy and substitute for it a promotional for-profit archipelago of corporate-military think-tanks and universities re-made by financial managers and techno-fixers in the image of the same think-tanks, and who extol venture-capitalist skim-and-scam artists and self-promoting celebrity CEOs and guru-wannabes as "Thought Leaders," would also insist we celebrate as "The Literature of Ideas" sf as an exhortation to mass acquiescence to status-quo amplification marketed as progress, disruption, accelerating change, and transcendence!

Another vulgar futurological gesture is embodied in the periodic policing of science/speculative fiction for "positivity" -- and this impulse seems to me equally in evidence in the recent facile Stephensonian call for cruelly optimistic can-do science fiction as well as in the ugly racism and sexism of the Sad Puppies who also fancy themselves to be defending the civilizational citadel. To clarify, in each of these cases a gesture that would reduce sf literature to consumer-capitalist or white-supremacist or patriarchal (that is, sexist/heterosexist/cissexist) agitprop -- which would be bad enough -- but actually amounts to the even worse, but by now completely conventional, subsumption of sf literature into the prevailing deceptive, hyperbolic, triumphalist, apocalyptic, eugenic, techno-fetishistic faith-based norms and forms of neoliberal corporate-militarist marketing, promotion, self-promotion, advertising as public discourse.

As I always insist, every futurism is a retro-futurism, inasmuch as "The Future" is always a parochialism rationalizing and reassuring elite-incumbents of forever ongoing status-quo amplification. "Disruption" usually amounts the deregulatory dismantlement of democracy in the service of plutocracy, "innovation" usually amounts to the promotional re-packaging of stale and discarded commodities as novelties, "resilience" usually amounts to exploiters congratulating those who manage to survive their exploitation to be exploited still more, "accelerating change" usually amounts to the increasing precarity of majorities as experienced by minorities who either benefit from that precarity or foolishly identify with those who do. Again, the only thing more typical of postwar capitalism than compulsory "positivity" about our soul-wrecking planet-wrecking extractive-industrial-consumerist corporate-militarism is to add the insult to these injuries that we testify endlessly to the progressive productivity of this wreckage.

Benjaminian angel of history, smh.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tech's Odd Conventional Wisdom

It is odd that the proposal technodevelopment could be driven by sustainability concerns is regarded as fanciful when our survival actually depends on it. It is also odd that the assumption technodevelopment will always be driven by military concerns is regarded as realistic when it actually threatens our annihilation. With such conventional wisdom, I don't like our odds.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Trade-Off

I think that micro-blogging (@dalecarrico) has been an effective way to disseminate my anti-futurological critique, but I also think it has distracted me from longform blogging (Amor Mundi) my anti-futurological critiques.

Why Every Futurism Is A Retro-Futurism: A Twitter Conversation With Lance Robotson (And Others)

Futurologists, Who Needs 'Em? A Twitterrant On Familiar Themes

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Long Teaching Day

Tuesdays are my long teaching day this fall. In Homo Economicus I'm throwing the kids into the deep end of the pool, right into the 1660s, with Dunmore's film "The Libertine" about Rochester on whom so many of the wit protagonists of Restoration mannered comedy are modeled. I actually am a bit meh about the film's dramatic structure and think Depp's performance is off, but the flavor of period London playhouses comes through and that's the crucial thing. Later in the day, in my critical theory survey we are taking up the paradoxes of "The Soul of Man Under Socialism." Paradox is both the method and the symptom of the piece -- rather than offer a program in the piece Wilde creates an occasion for the reader to enjoy the freedom of pleasurable engagements with paradox while at once deconstructing through paradox most of the sites of authority in his society -- ultimately, however, Wilde is trapped in the society of his day and must live its contradictions, so the chief paradoxical insight of his piece (that we are dispossessed by our possessiveness) is affirmed and then denied as he re-erects property at the site of artistic creation to elude the threat of Victorian homophobia. The first chapter of W.E.B. DuBois' Souls of Black Folk is the companion piece -- the lethality of lived contradictions, the marginalization which yields both critical insight and disabling blindness, the paradox of exclusion and indispensability all recur here. In a course in which so many theorists seek mastery of the scrum of historical struggle through an alienated reflective distance, our readings begin with the subversive alienation that yields a criticality without much hope of mastery. We'll be spending a lot of time with Marx, Nietzsche, Freud and their aftermath in the weeks to come, but Wilde and DuBois return (not least in Debord and Fanon) as we move toward the course's conclusion. I won't return home till late tonight, so today and most Tuesdays blogging will be low to no.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Their Loss Our Gain

Incumbent elites always contemplate the prospect of equality with others as annihilation rather than amelioration.

Bet Your Bottom Dollar

The Future!
The Future!
The Futurist Future,
You're Always Twenty Years Away...

Saturday, September 05, 2015

How To

"How To Build A Brain" has been the title of a surprising number of "tech" articles and talks in not one of which has a brain been built.

Always Twenty Years Away...

Especially forceful are arguments predicting an arrival of the Singularity in 2040 by those who used to predict it would arrive in 2020.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Sweet Secess

Republicans never die, they finally manage successfully to secede from the Union.

Start Spreading the News

I agree with Seth Rudetsky that Sondheim's "Another Hundred People" is the apt but unacknowledged anthem of New York City.



On a side note, was listening to Company the other night (obvious reasons) then on a hunch pulled out Hissing of Summer Lawns... and found the combination quite devastating.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Trendspotting

The "trend" is a prevailing neoliberal narrative genre which attempts to sell us something by purporting to tell us something.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Police Politics: Let's Get One Thing Straight Now

Advocating for accountable non-escalative community-based policing isn't "anti-police."

Advocating for a police state isn't "pro police."