I believe Dale Carrico is rather ill-advised to keep using the term “Robot Cultists” to dismissively refer to transhumanists. First of all, the desire for biological enhancement is more common and definitive of transhumanists than is the desire for robots and AI. Second, the cult comparison is not entirely wrong, but mostly. And third, and more to the point, repeatedly talking about “Robot Cultists” just makes him sound as insular as his targets.Those objections aside, this recent rant of Carrico’s is classic and pretty much spot-on:
While transhumanists like to pretend that the real reason we don’t live in the science fiction fantasy land they pine for is because there are sinister forces abroad in the land who worship disease or are terrified of the idea of living for centuries in sexy model bodies wallowing around in piles of treasure, the truth is that almost nobody on earth doesn’t think it would be swell, caeteris paribus, to live in paradise but few people are idiotic enough to pretend that if they only clap louder this paradise will blossom into spontaneous existence, or, I must add, idiotic enough to join a Robot Cult and pretend that indulging in this kind of wish fulfillment fantasizing but then calling it Science! is somehow not idiotic anymore. Robot Cultists like to paint themselves as brave for devoting their adult lives to daydreaming about how awesome it would be if magic were real, then they like to paint themselves as progressive activists for pretending this daydreaming constitutes some kind of efficacious force for making daydreams real, then they like to rail against phantom armies of supremely powerful mortality-loving disease-loving luddites who presumably stand in the way of the spontaneous emergence of all the magic. Not to put too fine [a point] on it, all of this is quite palpably stupid.Of course, there is plenty of greed and intolerance and superstition and fear holding back progress and there is plenty of work to be done solving our shared problems through scientific research and democratic reform, but none of that has anything to do with the magical thinking the Robot Cultists are peddling.
Hear, hear. Read the rest of the post here. The main thing I disagree with is the claim at the beginning about paradise: even if the longing is universal, I think very many people would not actually choose to live in utopia were they really given the chance — because they understand that it is an illusion, and not merely for reasons of technical infeasibility. For more on this, see our colleague Caitrin Nicol’s superb essay on utopias, in which she argues that “Seeking to escape chaos and suffering by idealizing the past or the future is, in the end, a rejection of our responsibility to the short bit of time that is ours.”