amor mundi

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Queen of the Libertechbrotarians

From Business Insider, Wall Street's Former Queen of Commodities Just Made Her Pitch for Why Bitcoin Is the Future:
Bitcoin technology could reshape the way financial markets operate. That is according to Blythe Master[s], the chief executive of Digital Asset Holdings, and one of the biggest names in the business... Everything from stock to bonds and derivatives could be exchanged and paid for in the same way the cryptocurrency community is executing bitcoin transactions, Masters said. Still, it is early on. Masters compared where Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are now in terms of their development to early 1990s Internet. "In reality, the world is not there yet," Masters said. She said the industry would have to address regulatory hurdles as it confronts issues like authentication and security in coming years. Masters was one of a group of JPMorgan executives who helped create the market for credit default swaps in the 1990s, and later went to head its global commodities division.
Yes, a "Thought Leader" who helped engineer the global crash just a few years ago by peddling fraudulent financial instruments to circumvent regulations and sound investment norms is at it again.

And why not? This Business Insider piece wasn't written after a visit to Blythe Masters in the prison cell she belongs in, after all, and it's not like she has common sense or conscience to constrain her, that much is clear. Why, she's "one of the biggest names in the business," we are told! What else does anybody need to know?

The plausibility of "Bitcoin" and comparable crypto-currency schemes always derives (surprisingly explicitly surprisingly often) from anarcho-capitalist fantasies of natural market forces (of which there are literally none) generating optimally efficient and just "spontaneous orders" (of which there has never been nor ever will be one). The usual popular postwar Randroidal and Friedmaniacal just-so stories and nonsense rationalizations for plutocracy and white supremacy bubble and boil this discursive cauldron to its froth, of course. Note that regulation is figured here as a "hurdle" for "the industry," for example.

But notice as well that problems are figured as merely technical, and therefore technically solvable: "authentication" and "security" await their programming fixes, no social or ethical questions bedevil the pristine instrumental prospect... let us unleash the bulldozers! What the last thirty years has taught us above all is that it is techno-transcendental rhetoric in particular that transforms these commonplace confusions, deceptions, and self-congratulatory cons into the cadences of progressive and spiritual revelations that drive the popular imagination from solidarity and suicide.

The wistful call back to the glory days of the "early 1990s Internet" is a tip-off: You remember the early 1990s, surely, the beginning of The Long Boom, in which space was abolished, cryptoanarchy smashed all the states, Cyberspace was the Home of Mind, virtuality transformed reality, nanotech delivered superabundance, California Extropians said "No!" to Death and Taxes, and pop futurists were revealing on a daily basis the techs That! Would! Change! Everything!

Oh, for a to return to the days of Irrational Exuberance! The Smartest Guys in the Room could really squeeze a fortune from the rubes back then!

Even in this short, throwaway piece, you should notice that it is a futurological formulation that provides all the juice: "The world is not there yet."

A denial of basic knowledge is articulated in the form of a prophetic utterance, whereupon the brute force of technological determination and superlative destining are called forth to shunt the realities of precarious bodies, historical struggles, lawless violations, and ecosystemic limits out of sight, out of mind to make way for frictionless flows of capital and fountainheads of cyberspatial spirit-stuff.

Of course, state forms are the point of departure for any macroeconomics. So sorry to harsh your bliss, but what passes for "the market" in any historical epoch will be an artifact of laws, norms, pricing conventions, and infrastructural affordances articulated and maintained by states and public investment. Meanwhile, currency itself, not to put too fine a point on it, is what states authorize as instruments for the payment of public debt.

There is of course much more to say on these topics (do read Polanyi), but there is no point in saying anything at all before all the participants in the conversation grasp these fundamental and foundational facts of the matter at hand. To deny such things is not to have revolutionary thoughts but to testify in public either to complete ignorance on the topic at hand or to a willingness to engage in fraud. I don't know whether she is a market fundamentalist zealot, or a full on techno-utopian True Believer, or just a con-artist looking to hack together her next personally profitable bit of financial fraud, indifferent to the lives and hopes ruined by her clever schemes and technical gew-gaws. Blythe Masters is advocating nothing short of looting and warlordism and the neoliberal tech press, settled in the midst of the still smoking ruins and ballooning bodies of a world wrecked by these facile frauds, cheers her stupid destructive pieties as a "Deep Think," natch.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mike Makes Friends

I still wistfully remember the years before MA became an official Reactionary when he would sputter and fume at me for calling him a reactionary.

Inevitable!

No technodevelopmental outcomes are inevitable but that futurologists will declare them so.

"Stand for Reality"

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Better Than Intelligent

Upgraded and Adapted from the Moot to this post, a reader says about the belief in Artificial Intelliegence:
I doubt that anyone is calling current software "intelligent". They call it narrow AI in some cases, but it has nothing to do with intelligence, it's just a term. I do think though that intelligence can arise just from algorithms, but they would have to be far more sophisticated than what we have now and furthermore intelligence, as we have it in humans, relies on numerous kinds of inputs related to biological processes, so I doubt it can be copied 100% in a computer, in a way it's also a result of some "broken" or imperfectly working algorithms, we tend to break down, be overzealous, ignore some facts and put others on pedestal... we are prone to search for patterns everywhere, faces on Mars, aliens who built pyramids etc. So I would agree that it would be very hard task to replicate human consciousness in a computer, because it's inherently flawed and a jumbled mess...
To these familiar but nonetheless rather revealing observation, I reply:
 
I  doubt that anyone is calling current software "intelligent". They call it narrow AI in some cases, but it has nothing to do with intelligence, it's just a term. 
 
The application of the "term" intelligent is what calling it "intelligent" means, surely? But I fancy you have stumbled on some subtlety that eludes me. 
 
I do think though that intelligence can arise just from algorithms 
 
Your belief in that possibility is not yet an argument for it, I fear. Given that you admit that artificial intelligence hasn't happened and could only happen if greater "sophistication" of an unspecified character happened as well, I cannot say things are looking up for your article of faith as yet. But do keep your chin up. Just because generations of cocksure True Believers have been nothing but serially wrong on this score for as long as computer programming has been around is no reason to entertain any doubts about it or suggest any qualifications of it, right? 
 
intelligence, as we have it in humans... [i]s also a result of some "broken" or imperfectly working algorithms, we tend to break down, be overzealous, ignore some facts and put others on pedestal... we are prone to search for patterns everywhere, faces on Mars, aliens who built pyramids etc. So I would agree that it would be very hard task to replicate human consciousness in a computer, because it's inherently flawed and a jumbled mess... 
 
It seems a little bit strange to me to describe as "broken" the only intelligence on offer, as compared to an intelligence which doesn't exist to be broken or otherwise. But I have never been able to follow religious logic particularly well in any of its forms: They tell me god is all good even when He is bad and all-knowing even when She is all-powerful and hence should be able to do anything including that which They don't or can't know? It's a pickle! I am fairly sure mine is an intelligence too "broken" to make sense of such things.
 
Presumptuous though it may seem, I want to say I am sorry that you seem to have such a low opinion of your own intelligence and that of your fellow humans. This insecurity and, sometimes, even self-disgust is commonplace among techno-transcendental futurists, I have found. I do hope that you will come to terms with your fears and hostility to your limits as a living, error-prone, aging, mortal being -- if that is what is happening here -- as you become a more experienced adult sort of person.
 
There is a suggestion in your phrasing that perhaps you actually identify in some way with the non-existing machine intelligence you regard as not only possible but superior despite its non-existence -- hence you seem to describe the errors and passions and ignorance that articulate the play of human thought as rather inferior, as though you observe them from an alien or Olympian height.
 
Of course, the artificial intelligence futurists so dote on in its imaginary perfection often looks to be a projection of their own errors and passions and parochialisms, after all, as the objects of human faiths tend so often to be... Perhaps a futurist scared of aging and disease likes the idea of an intelligent selfhood that is not tied to the frail vulnerable body one cannot command? Perhaps a shy or thoughtful person who has been frustrated or derided in company likes the idea of an intelligent selfhood capable of a compelling super-logical argumentation immune to the humiliations of emotion and error and derision from others one cannot control? 
 
In such a case I daresay we might all of us have a bit of a laugh at these human, all too human, follies as theirs and yours and (however different they may be) mine, together one day over wine.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Read It, Californians:

The 2016 California Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act in Plain Language.

MCLR 2016

Information and Organizing for the 2016 California Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act is available here. Get educated, get involved and, if you want, get high.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Justice Is So Retro

It is hilarious that Yvette Cooper doesn't realize declaring Jeremy Corbyn's politics "retro" is just an argument for Tories and not Labour.

If the choice is GOP vs. DLC GOP-lite people will choose GOP.

If the choice is Tories vs. New Labour Tories-lite people will choose Tories.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Connecting Dots

The proliferation of weapons in guncrazy America exacerbates paranoid-aggressive police violence in racist America.

Freedumb Isn't Free

There are countries without mass shootings every week.

There Is A Difference Between Being Policed and Being Governed

To resist the white racist police state in America is to fight for the democratic government of America.

Always Look Behind the Curtain

Whenever anyone warns of robots of the future calling the shots militarily or economically you must always understand they can only really mean robot OWNERS calling the shots. To the extent that they insinuate otherwise, such utterances can only really function to distract attention from (and so collaborate with) those who are and will remain responsible for unethical and criminal acts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Anti-Futurological Critique in a Nutshell

Futurology -- colloquially, "tech" talk -- is a marketing, not a critical thinking, practice. As a result: At their best, futurisms are consumer fandoms. At their worst, futurisms amplify marketing hyperbole and deception into outright techno-transcendental faith-based initiatives.

Color Line

Double Consciousness as the awareness that some of your fellow citizens are not living in the police state you are, right before their eyes.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Framed

The Big Database is always framing us in advance for eventual prosecution.

All Mixed Up

I've substantially revised a piece of mine from a couple years ago on the metaphor of the "mixed economy" and why I don't really think what passes for "capitalism" and "socialism" are political poles rather than democratiziation and anti-democratization. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Tech's" Assertive Disavowals of History: A Twitter Essaylet














erm, make do




















as they also disable, grr!


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Trump Harrumph

Although there was some half-hearted fluttering about the bald ugliness of what he was up to, GOP functionaries and corporate media outlets in my view still mostly legitimated and even amplified the brief Donald Trump surge of popularity with the bully bloc (aka the Republican Base), for all the world seeming to enjoy the side-show all the while offering up obscene euphemisms for his racism such as that he was "tapping into voter anger." Which voters? Anger about what exactly? With what justification? But never mind all that. Now that Trump has exposed the hypocrisy of the serial warmongering media pet John McCain we find the same talking heads now whomping up an outraged backlash at last. Better late than never, I suppose, but don't pretend that Trump's racism was the spur for this condemnation. It should have been, but was not.

Weekend

I'm finding it very hard to get back into the blogging swing. I've got quite a few futurological pieces in the queue to respond to... but I've been binge-reading Roman historical novels and binge-streaming seasons of sfnal tee vee shows instead.

Question!

Is there an already available and accepted nomenclature distinguishing basic income advocacy which is treated as part of a bundle of democratizing entitlements as against basic income advocacy as part of a libertopian deregulatory/privatizing wrecking ball? As I have written here the difference between the two conceptions is politically crucial.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Oh, "Anger," Is It?

Donald Trump is not tapping into "voter anger." He is tapping into white racism. And he is not cute and saying otherwise is not cute either.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Haters Demand Hate

Those who are defending Major Garrett as "doing his job" seem to think journalism's job is asking Obama why he hates America so much over and over again in every conceivable variation.

Why "Stupid Or Evil?" Is So Often Stupid And Evil

For a conception of good connected to democratic virtues (eg, reliably informed nonduressed people are capable of consenting to the terms on which they freely associate with one another, government is legitimated through the consent of the governed, the scene of consent is secured by the provision of general welfare -- basic income, healthcare, education -- and equal recourse to the law and civil rights, government facilitates the nonviolent adjudication of disputes including disputes over the question of what violence consists of) the evil it opposes is often conjoined to stupidity, to the extent that stupidity is mostly the denial of warrantedly assertible beliefs about matters of fact that otherwise attract the consensus of reasonable people or relevant scientific experts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Derp Bench

Trump? Cruz? Carson? Jindal? Perry? Huckster? Frothy? Randroid? All clowns. Killer clowns, sure, but clowns. What is truly terrifying and demoralizing about Trump's antics is the way they spotlight continuities in the present Presidential politics of the GOP: Face it, it's Trumps all the way down this time around in the Republican Party and that is a terrible and dangerous thing. What, I'm supposed to take fired failed Fiorina seriously instead? Or just as dumb but even less affable than W. Jeb! is supposed to be the Very Serious One? I said it back in March, only Kasich worries me even remotely as an opponent to Hillary in 2016. I get it that the Villagers want their horse race narrative for easy drama, but isn't it a pretty dramatic narrative, and certainly just as easy, to observe instead how palpably stoopid batshit crazy the Republican candidates either are or feel they must pretend to be simply to get through their primary right now? 2012 was more than ridiculous enough. Republicans are gonna be selling late-nite juicers and kitchen knives while trading lizard-alien conspiracy newsletters by 2020 at this rate. Given the institutional barriers confining the US to a party duopoly it really represents an ongoing and mounting crisis that one of the two national parties actually on offer is little more than a neo-confederate rump of bigots, lunatics, fools, and con-artists.

Obama Is The Least Terrible American President Since FDR

Still terrible, of course -- especially when it comes to extrajudicial assassination via drones and anti-democratic crackdowns on conscientious whistle-blowers -- but I certainly have no misgivings at all in having voted for him twice. Nor will I have misgivings when I vote next year in the reasonable expectation that Hillary will be only a little more terrible than President Obama has been. Voting for a President is voting for the least bad alternative on offer to occupy the White House, which will have an occupant whether one votes or not. Voting isn't falling in love, picking a religion, or endorsing every idea or act of that President. Least terrible Presidents aren't the worst tools you can have in the toolkit of education, agitation, organization, and legislation through which progress toward sustainable equity-in-diversity is made. Sometimes, they're not even half bad.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Baudrillard As Pundit

The proximity of Trump makes Jeb seem credible rather in the way the proximity of Disneyland makes LA seem real.

The Results Are In

I didn't need a poll to tell me Donald Trump was number two.

Gay Role Models

Actually, Eric and I disapprove of all marriage as a vestige of human trafficking and we have always had an open relationship. It's laziness and misandry that has kept us monogamous for nearly fifteen years.

Remember the Extropians?

Greece Fleeced

Privatization always kicks you in the privates.

More Dispatches from Libertopia here.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Greek Equivocation

The "Greece" that gets bailed out is rich bankers.
The "Greece" that gets austerity is precarious citizens.
This equivocation conceals fraud.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why We See Zombies Everywhere: Fetishized Commodities/Culture Industry/Spectacle/Logo

You gotta laugh at the zombie in the front yard
Take a bath, but nothing gets the funk off
You're on TV, rocking and a rolling
Cause the dead just love to rock and roll
Every event in the world is apprehended and maintained by living beings who share the world and history. And the goods that sustain and beset us mediate historical and ecological relations among earthly beings and historical protagonists: The table I use was made and is used and maintained by people like me, and mediates my relations with countless earthlings (not all of them human, by the way) who are caught up, like me, in struggles for existence and significance in a shared space and time.

For Marx, the fetishized commodity is the good that seems to offer itself for exchange at a price and in a way that foregrounds that price and so distracts us from or even disavows all the historical and ecological relations among people that would otherwise matter to us in telling the story of its significance as it becomes a part of our own story. Who made the table? Under what conditions was it made? How did it arrive here? What is it made of, where did these materials come from, under what conditions were they gathered? What are all these people's lives like? What are the costs and risks that attend their work in bringing this table into this space and time I am living here now?

Reduced to a numerical value, the price-form seems to relate all the events in the world to one another and also to myself as a desiring being. Where otherwise I am another tool in the world historical functional division of labor -- at a loss to grasp the indispensability of my own contributions to the making of the shared world at the loss of my capacity to demand just compensation for that indispensability -- where otherwise I am another fool in the world historical crimes of collective exploitation and pollution undertaken in my name -- at a loss to testify to my protest and distress at the loss of my capacity to agitate and organize to change the world to reflect my values -- the price-form offers me the sense of knowledge at the cost of ignorance, the sense of capacity at the cost of incapacitation, the sense of self-possession at the cost of dispossession.

However it is made, whatever it is made of, whoever makes it however they do, the price of the candy bar is a fraction of the price of the sandwich is a fraction of the price of the textbook is a fraction of the price of the month's rent is a fraction of the price of the doctor's bill is a fraction of the price of the tuition is a fraction of the price of the mortgage... Through the price form I relate every event to every other event, as well as to the event of my contemplation of events, as if they were all items arrayed in the constellation of a storefront window. And reflected in the glass I see my own face looking upon these commodities: No matter how inchoate my passions, how uncertain my fortunes, how confused my complicities, I can exchange my labor for a wage I can exchange for goods that promise me satisfactions, I can narrate my time on earth as a plan to render my labor more valuable for a higher wage to exchange for goods that promise me the satisfactions I dream about when I dream about the story I will tell as the story of myself. My life is no longer who I am but another commodity available for exchange at a price, one more thing I have to have other things with.

Under the regime of mass-mediation (movies, magazines, broadcast, memes) denominated the Culture Industry by Adorno and the Spectacle by Debord, we no longer buy things and dream of buying things for the satisfactions they presumably confer -- since true freedom, true satisfaction is always deferred under the varieties of consumer capitalism, just as the revolutionary arrival at the sustainable equity-in-diversity rendered permanently possible by our achieved level of technoscientific and organizational sophistication is also always deferred so that incumbent-elites can maintain their unjust privileges and accustomed prejudices -- we buy things in order to inhabit archived images and play out available scripts the citation of which promise to confer legibility, to render us apparently reasonable, responsible, rights-bearing, property-inhering citizen-subjects to one another. We re-write ourselves in the image of the film protagonist, our homes in the image of the catalogue cover, our conversation in the image of the televised roundtable, and hence improvise a life within the constraints of scripts the failure of which or the deviation from which threatens to render us illegible, unfit, incapable, ridiculous, pathological, criminal. Leszek Kolakowski's critique that Marx as an icon and certain orthodox construals of Marxism as a system of signification have taken on the coloration of fetishized commodities themselves sets the stage for Naomi Klein's fin-de-siecle reformulation of the Fetishized Commodity/Culture Industry/Spectacle, in which advertizing/promotional practices that began as the deceptive effort to create the impression of differences in mass-produced (and hence largely indistinguishable) commodities are consummated in the regime of the Logo as the deceptive effort to create the impression of individuals in complacent conformist consumers through the subcultural signaling of the brands they buy and bear. That the algorithmic mediation of Big Data is now framing us as targets for marketing/partisan political harassment and experimental subjection now and as targets for potential prosecution or literal targeting by drone later offers up yet another iteration of this trajectory is my own, rather depressed, belief.

Thus, a sequence of degradations, the fetishized commodity-form degrades being into having, the Spectacle then degrades having into appearing, Big Data then degrades appearing into framing. Each stage re-iterates and intensifies the first Marxian formulation, in which, through our habituation to buying and selling mediated by the assertive price-form we come to confuse historical relations among people as collisions among things, social projects and public goods are drained of their living and historical substance but then invested with a deceptive and deranging significance as well as a false and threatening avidity.

Marx's accounting of this false reading of history is famous in the way it begins with the quotidian furniture of everyday life and soon finds itself telling ghost stories, in which fetishized commodities become monsters, economy becomes a witch's sabbath, goods give false testimony like specters in a seance, tables caper grotesquely like agents. But we all know what monster is drained of life only to live-in-death to menace the living: It is not the glamourous vampire who dupes the young and stupid with false promises of prevalence in parasitism. We don't even have to witness them canonically crowd the malls and food courts and crumbling McMansions of Dawn of the Dead and The Walking Dead and Janelle Monae tracks (for instance, one among many, "Dance Apocalyptic," from which I culled this post's epigraph) to know that the monster who tells us who we are now -- from monstrare, to show, to teach, to denounce -- the way we "live" now, is none other than the zombie. Marx's Capital is the first, and the foundational, zombie movie, and we have climbed the dreadful fatiguing steep pathways since to the luminous summit only to discover we are all undead.