Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 21 Sep 12 09:59
Cory and Charlie, you're both active in writing and speaking about political, economic and social issues from a geek perspective. Do you think of yourselves has having a defined or categorizable political framework?
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Fri 21 Sep 12 11:06
I'm *not* very active in the political/economic fields -- certainly not compared to Cory! (On the other hand, who is?) Political framework: I'm British. I am a bit older than Cory, and am of the generation from the North of England who matured under Margaret Thatcher's incredibly destructive decade of misrule -- consequently I harbour a visceral loathing for that particular form of devil-take-the-hindmost conservativism. By US political standards that makes me a socialist, and I choose to live in Scotland, a country where there are three left-wing political parties and barely a rump of conservative voters -- we have more pandas than conservative members of parliament! Having said that, I'm also an anti-authoritarian; I distrust paternalism and traditionalism alike.
Via E-Mail From Martin (captward) Sat 22 Sep 12 02:17
Someone smart (I don't remember her name) once said "science fiction is about testing ideas to destruction." Do you see TROTN in this way? Do you think you have destruction-tested the singularity enough for now? What's left to take apart? To me, stories dealing with the singularity always seemed like fun romps, maybe Lem's Cyberiad fused with 90ties dotcom enthusiasm - but also more like interesting fables than ernest extrapolation. (It would make more sense to ask this *after* reading the book, but by then this conversation might be over ...)
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 22 Sep 12 03:17
Martin: Yes, from my PoV (Cory may differ) RoTN was very much about testing to destruction a bunch of ideas I wrote about rather less critically in "Accelerando". In fact, if you read those books in the order written ("Accelerando" from 1998-2004, "Rapture of the Nerds" from 2003 to 2011) you'll get a fairly good handle on how my attitude to the singularity evolved over time.
Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Mon 24 Sep 12 02:48
I think a taxonomy of political ideology should have several axes: * Authoritarian - anti-authoritarian * Centralist - de-centralist * Spirtual - material * Redistributive - anti-redistributive On that chart, my sliders would all be at max for anti-authoritarian/de- centralist/material/redistributive I think the network changes ideology - not because it bends its participants to liberarianism (though there's an argument that it bends its strongest adherents to de-centralism). Rather, it's the ease of group-forming. I grew up in a left wing context deeply riven by sectarian divisions. From the outside, this looks stupid ("Judean People's Front"), but I think I understand why politics -- especially anti-status-quo politics -- have been so internally divided. I think it's down to the cost of group-forming. When it costs a lot of time and energy to constitute a group -- to form/norm it, to constitutonalize it, to set in place its administrative procedures for calling meetings and actions, etc -- then group-forming is something you want to do with caution. What's the point of spending a couple years getting your group up to the point where it can really DO something if it immediately splits when it gets there because of some deep, lurking division? Today, group-forming is nearly free. As we saw with OWS, Tea Party, Anon and even Arab Spring groups (though I know less about the internals of the last one), it's now possible to gather under a banner lavelled "Unhappy with how things are, not committed to a unified vision of how they should be" and do your activist tasks for some time and see what agendas emerge organically from the group. You can be fluid, forming and dissolving, making coalition where the cause is a common cause, splitting it up where you disagree. Having participated in consensus-driven governance of several institutions of different sizes, from four people to 1,000, this is familiar to me. It's a process by which a group of people with a shared task carefully and over time work out the extent to which their vision is also shared, map out its boundaries, and declare the commonality to be the task of the group and the remainder to be the province of its individual members. I think it's a wholly positive thing. It's very network shaped. It's a minimum viable ideology. It's TCP: the least network stack that'll serve the most purposes without being optimized or any one task. It's late binding of the program to the movement.
Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Mon 24 Sep 12 02:54
Regarding testing to destruction: I think there's an element of that in RotN, for sure. It also does reflect my changing views towards Singularlitarianism, as with Charlie. It also reflects a changing self- awareness about those views -- IOW, I recognize that my (ongoing!) enthusiasm for the project of transcendance though technology has a transcendental dimension, something that should have been obvious all along (but that's the nature of self-awareness -- its realizations are often accompanied by a how-did-I-miss-that facepalm). It's also about being funny about something I take serious. It's a reminder to myself -- and to my fellow travellers -- that there's something hilarious about our po-faced Soviet Realist fist-raised March To The Future, and sometimes it makes sense to stop chanting serious slogans and to start dancing and laughing. It's a reminder that the chemists who sythesized the 200 supplements you're supposed to take every day if you want to live long enough to have your head frozen have also created any number of high-grade psychedelics you can add to the mix if you want to experience transreal transhuman transcendance today. Someone should rewrite Joe Hill's "Preacher and the Slave" for the Singularity.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 24 Sep 12 05:32
In the "spiritual" world, when people talk about something like transcendance (as in "transreal transhuman transcendance" via psychedelics), I wonder whether the experience considered is truly transcendant, or merely delusional. I'm thinking about your protagonist's experience, when the "god botherers" give him a dose of transcendotropics, and he has a vision of the transcendant absolute - is that union with something we could call "god," or just a biochemical resonance that's ultimately unreal?
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Mon 24 Sep 12 06:16
Cory wrote, "It's a reminder to myself -- and to my fellow travellers -- that there's something hilarious about our po-faced Soviet Realist fist-raised March To The Future, and sometimes it makes sense to stop chanting serious slogans and to start dancing and laughing." I couldn't agree more! Humor is a vitally important antidote to errors of thought encoded in ideology -- it forces the double-take, the re-assessment, the cognitive dissonance that makes us re-evaluate our beliefs. If you aren't allowed to laugh at an ideological position, then there's probably something badly wrong with it, some nagging internal inconsistency that the authoritarian followers don't want to see attention drawn to. Jon #57: I'm a materialist and an atheist and I hold that religious experiences, transcendental visions, and the like all happen within our own skulls. (Yes, I've had 'em. I know the circumstances that gave rise to them. In every case, they happened in the absence of the "sacred".) This is not to say that there's anything wrong with such delusions, or that we shouldn't treasure them like the memories of great acid trips ... but we shouldn't set our compass by them. (And neither should Huw.)
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 24 Sep 12 10:31
Charlie, I guess that would also mean the same for any collectively transcendent or hive mind - that possibility would not necessitate a 'sacred other'? (In your opinion :))
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Mon 24 Sep 12 11:01
Ted, I am an atheist. Subtype: Dawkinsite. (I hold that religious beliefs are errors arising from cognitive biases and theory of mind, rather than anything useful that tells us about the world around us.)
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 24 Sep 12 13:25
Just wanted to block that punt. Some folks might want to be spiritually hopeful along the transcendent consciousness lines of an "overmind". That seems to be a theme paralleling the singularity these days -- a hopeful raising of the planetary consciousness. Not sure I buy either actually - seems more like wishful thinking to me. In any case, what is clear is how deeply you both think about a wide range of subjects. I'm still setting and re-setting Cory's political sliders within my own views -- a whole new set of lenses for me. And that makes me wonder, what particular ideas have stopped either or both of you in your tracks and made you rethink your presuppositions?
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Mon 24 Sep 12 14:23
Ted: "And that makes me wonder, what particular ideas have stopped either or both of you in your tracks and made you rethink your presuppositions?" It happens periodically. Sometimes it takes years: as when the uneasy realization crept up on me that the extropian/transhumanist diamond-hard rationalist outview and the singularitarian thing was *structurally* isomorphic with millenarian christianity (minus the personality cult of Jesus). At which point I went digging and stumbled onto the *actual* Christian roots of the creed (some of which get discussed late in "The Rapture of the Nerds"). And sometimes it happens fast. Confession: I voted for the Liberal Democrats in 2010's general election. Thinking that a liberal centre-left party would probably end up in coalition with Labour, taking the edge off their more authoritarian initiatives. Won't make THAT mistake again, dammit! (The LibDems jumped straight into bed with the Conservatives, who ... ack, spit.) As a long-term core LibDem voter going back a couple of decades, that hurt. But that's a concrete event; I'm trying to think of an equivalent sudden abstract realization I might have had. And I'm not sure I can offer one. My beliefs change, but they don't tend to turn on a dime.
Jef Poskanzer (jef) Mon 24 Sep 12 15:37
Do you ever discuss UK politics with Ken MacLeod? I assume you know him.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 24 Sep 12 20:47
That "remote" that Huw was using in the cloud, with the slider to manage emotional and intellectual modes and processes, was an interesting device. There are (arguably) non-spiritual schools of thought (Buddhism, 4th Way) that seem to address similar kinds of control through modes of practice. I wonder if either of you has delved into a meditation practice of any kind?
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 25 Sep 12 03:08
Jef: actually, Ken and I are founder members of the Scottish Socialist Science Fiction Writers' Vanguard Party and Drinking Society, which meets on the second Thursday of every month in -- Actually, no, it's not that formal. But we *do* end up in pubs together on a fairly regular basis, along with a guy who I believe is the only native-born Libertarian in Scotland (if he was Texan he'd be a Maoist) and a few other peeps. Edinburgh has a small-town vibe, such that most people here who work in the SF/F field know each other.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 25 Sep 12 03:24
Jon: not me, I'm not the meditative type.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 25 Sep 12 04:58
Writing so well about the range and inventory of internal process and experience suggested a deeper understanding of the human "operating system." In creating a character and writing about that character's internals, how much do you draw on the way your own mind and emotions work? How well do you have to know yourself to create three dimensional other characters? How do you gain insights into different individual personalities and how they would "play" in the world, and how they would think as well as act?
Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Tue 25 Sep 12 05:04
Jef: I know Ken, but our political discussions regarding the Uk have been more on the lines of "Holy crap, did you hear about ____" than any specific critique. Jonl: I've done a little meditation and a fair bit of clinical hypnosis and self-hypnosis, so that stuff definitely came from some of those experiences.
Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Tue 25 Sep 12 05:05
I should also mention my experiences with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as inspiration for those sequences.
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Wed 26 Sep 12 00:12
>>> Someone should rewrite Joe Hill's "Preacher and the Slave" for the Singularity. >>> There'll be pie in the sky when you don't die. There's a start. I've actually used that line several times before in arguments about transhuman politics.
Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Wed 26 Sep 12 03:55
I'm thinking of some villainous doggerel about the "long-haired extropians" myself!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Sep 12 04:50
Extropian founder Max More is CEO of Alcor Life Extension Foundation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcor_Life_Extension_Foundation), a nonprofit cryonics organization. When you die, they'll freeze your body for possible recovery with better technology that will hopefully be available in the future. I'm skeptical that puny humans will transcend physical death, but I know Max, and he's a rational optimist.
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Wed 26 Sep 12 14:55
>> I'm thinking of some villainous doggerel about the "long-haired extropians" myself! >>> I'd collaborate on that. Or corroborate. Or both. Seriously, the transhumanist rock opera satire is waiting to be written...
R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Wed 26 Sep 12 18:13
I hope I'm not derailing the conversation. Back to the book, I found it hugely entertaining but I thought it would be a bit more savage. Or is it just my faulty perception and it actually is really biting? I mostly found it to be playful, albeit of course containing postsingularity creatures deciding to toss the earth bound humans into the trash icon.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Thu 27 Sep 12 02:44
R. U. Sirius: it started out as a playful exercise in exploring a new world -- the original novella, "Jury Service", wasn't envisaged as part of a novel, or a critique of the singularitarian movement. Also, it's set in a post-singularity "now". It's kind of difficult to savagely critique today's dreamers from a setting where their dreams have already come true! So by the time we were thinking along those lines we were constrained by what we'd already written. (Not to say that there isn't scope for a serious novel critiquing transhumanism, but it wouldn't look much like Nerds.)
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