Inverting a Techno-Political Trope: On The Hubris of Neo-Luddis
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1118334310″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41XPWt-Jr0L._SL160_.jpg” width=”110″]One of the most common tropes one finds recurring throughout rhetoric that is critical of Transhumanism (the belief that it is possible and desirable to improve the human condition via science and technology) and Technoprogressivism (the belief that it is possible and desirable to improve upon the conditions of society and the world via science and technology) is hubris. Hubris is an ancient Greek concept meaning excess of pride that carries connotations of reckless vanity and heedless self-absorbment, often to the point of carelessly endangering the welfare of others in the process. It paints us in a selfish and dangerous light, as though we were striving for the technological betterment of ourselves alone and the improvement of the human condition solely as it pertains to ourselves, so as to be enhanced relative to the majority of humanity. It also has connotations of foolish certainty and self-perceived infallibility that makes it seem as though we were striving for something that could only be our own downfall.
In no way is the too-common, clichéd criticism of hubris correct or even salient in the context of Transhumanism and Technoprogressivism. I think that the majority of Transhumanists, Techno-Progressives and emerging-tech-enthusiasts work toward promoting beneficial outcomes and deliberating the repercussions and most desirable embodiments of radically-transformative technologies for the betterment of all mankind first and foremost, and only secondly for themselves if at all.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0415978688″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/611FzY00SCL._SL160_.jpg” width=”107″]The ired irony of this situation is that the very group who most often hails the charge of Hubris against the Transhumanist community is, according to the logic of hubris, more hubristic than those they rail their charge against. Bio-Luddites, and more generally Neo-Luddites, can be clearly seen to be more self-absorbed and recklessly-selfish than the Transhumanists they are so quick to raise qualms against. Note that for the purposes of this essay, Neo-Luddites will denote those who favor outright relinquishment of certain emerging (e.g. Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno) technologies rather than differential technological development of such emerging technologies,
The logic of this conclusion is simple: Transhumanists seek merely to better determine the controlling circumstances and determining conditions of our own selves, whereas Neo-Luddites seek to determine such circumstances and conditions (even if using a negative definition, i.e. the absence of something) not only for everyone besides themselves alive at the moment, but even for the unquantable multitudes of minds and lives still fetal in the future.
We do not seek to radically transform Humanity against their will; indeed, this is so off the mark as to be antithetical to the true Transhumanist impetus – for we seek to liberate their wills, not leash or lash them. We seek to offer every human alive the possibility of transforming themselves more effectively according to their own subjective projected objectives; of actualizing and realizing themselves; ultimately of determining themselves for themselves. We seek to offer every member of Humanity the choice to better choose and the option for more optimal options: the self not as final-subject but as project-at-last.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B00A17IAO0″ locale=”us” height=”115″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/417mxjzpiNL._SL160_.jpg” width=”160″]Neo-Luddites, on the other hand, wish to deny the whole of humanity that choice. They actively seek the determent, relinquishment or prohibition of technological self-transformation, and believe in the heat of their idiot-certainty that they have either the intelligence or the right to force their own preference upon everyone else, present and future. Such lumbering, oafish paternalism patronizes the very essence of Man, whose only right is to write his own and whose only will is to will his own – or at least to vow that he will will his own one fateful yet fate-free day.
This article is Part 1 of a three part series. Part 2 will be published on 09/20/13.
Image Source: Flickr
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