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"The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations"

loomer.jpg

Figure 1: OK Loomer

The Techno-Optimist is quite the conflicted character, somehow being a superposition of enlighted philanthropists, venture capital golddiggers, self-aggrandizing memers, Ada Lovelace and Bertrand Russell. Simultaneously a champion for progress, not in the here and now, but also not one of those thousand yard stare Effective Altruists you keep hearing about. Here in the land of optimistic outlook, the techno-capital machine creates no pollution, lets the market be free, and manifests post-scarcity levels of abundance. Also, criticism is for losers, smoke some crack or something.

However, as Hegel's dialectic informs us, forms exist through their inherent contradictions. Stronger forms descend of their ancestors, rid of any flimsy thesis. Techno optimism and effective altruism both supersede capitalism explicitly, as their proponents would like you to believe, that these pop philosophies are capitalism's refined dialectic. A refined capitalism in this vision, is merely faster. Do not impede the machine, do not tread the hallowed grounds of technological advancement, bow before the dregs of dead labor, and our lives get better.

Does faster capitalism beat capitalism? In the real world, no.

There's plenty of other horrors you can put on that list, but here's a few that should be familiar to the American backers of the new enlightenment. Plenty more should be familiar to anyone in the world today.

Given that we don't have a form distinct from capitalism, would it be a good idea to merely let this machine run faster than it does already? Who exactly would that benefit?

One might say that data mining is somehow more "environmentally friendly" than other resource extraction. Maybe that can be true, but in the current landscape of brute-force compute burning a small nation's worth of energy, consumer information products killing us, and consumer e-waste killing us, why should these dynamics change when autonomous agents are thrown in the mix? 1 Why do we so desperately want to make WALL-E real?

Bertrand Russel was mentioned at the top for a reason, he's listed by Marc Andreesson among the "Techno Optimists" of history. That's a strange title to bestow on the guy who explicitly did not believe in an inherent value to labor, for a collective that wants to maximize on capitalism's productive capacity. If anything, it would be more appropriate to place him among the non-believer strawman section of the manifesto.

In today's world, why is the focus still on producing more? Why can't we have the nice future now? Why can't we work less, today?

Footnotes:

1

More than there is already, anyway

Date: 2024-01-18 Thu 00:00

Created: 2024-01-18 Thu 22:06

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