Sorry for the bad news Giulio

Yesterday (very early friday 15 september) my ‘boss’, Giulio (and I use “boss” as an affectionate title) was able to hold a presentation at the Terasem “sim” in Second Life, on behalf of a gathering for the organization of Humanity Plus. There Giulio lamented the divisive, lackluster and fragmented moral character infusing transhumanism in 2011, and the general lack of idealism permeating the same. Giulio insistingly lambasted what I interpret to be a general atmosphere of ‘contrary bitterness’. Like always I paraphrase and simplify what The Boss said, what I think he said, with the disclaimer I have selective amnesia.

{Red : Natasha made this Slideshare of her contributions at the meeting.}

It was altogether an admirable conclave and quite crowded too! With 81 people there, in Second Life (!). It was a crowded standing around the chairs, and the sim was at full capacity. I was very happy with that meeting because it exemplified and demonstrated two things;

1. it proved to me, and to everyone who was paying attention, that the specific medium of Second Life, and virtual reality in general is ‘winning’ (and will continue to win as growth in computing technology will actually brute force to make the experience actually enjoyable for most people, ‘eventually‘) as the medium of choice for future interaction between people around the world. And that just simple conclusion puts a smile on my face.

2. the event really loudly asked this poignant question inside the transhuman community “why can’t the fuck can’t we get our act together?”. Yes I dropped an F-bomb here. I can, because I am Dutch and I don’t go to moralist prison when I do.

When writing this it is now one day later (Saturday morning) i.e. 5:30 AM (and I am editing this diatribe for several days afterwards). When I started writing this I jumped out of bed. Sometimes at night you get this creepy sense of clarity and you just have to.

My last year hasn’t been all this easy. I now realize what has been eating me. I have been spectacularly depressed for months, and there has been a complex web of reasons, all stemming back since last year – I was becoming aware just how dirt poor I was, especially when witnessing how rich some people in the US are. Also – I was feeing the sting of my own mortality after having some surgery. And I was feeling lonely and abandoned (many people do these days). I was sad about the imperfection of my own sexual being, squared versus my ageing (ditto).

But most of all, now I realize, I am feeling the onset of an irreversible societal collapse all around me. That is a thing that is sure to depress anyone, so I gather most people choose not to think about it. I do.

A few days back a dear friend pushed me over the edge in this regard. Let me emphasize: Eugen Leitl is a sadist. Seriously, this man has a perverse sadistic disorder and He takes pleasure out of hurting me. Thank you Master Leitl! Other than Him being very generous and hosting my website here, he forwarded me this comic, which pretty much spells it out verbatim. Read it. It’s truly a cruel thing to send to me. Thanks, really.

/me snortles.

But seriously, how many people feel like that guy in the Cartoon?

Sometimes people ask me “why can’t you say things simpler?”. I know that kid Michael Anissimov does. Well, for you who think I am “Orutund”, let me spell it out for you in even more lucid detail.

We all know, at an unconscious level, that we live in a deeply unsustainable world. Most people are all not so stupid as not to smell our extinction by now. Our genetic urges are not stupid, and they know – but mostly we do our best to live in denial and a few people actually are stupid, and will never get it.

So what is there “To Get” it?

Well plain and simple: our politicians and managers have given up. Society is stuck in a directionless holding pattern. There seems to be no cause for global ambition any more. We made unimaginable strides forward and now we have democracy and now 95% of the ills of human history have been addressed and now the hell what? Most people end up disillusioned and joining Greenpeace and angry about that darn ozone layer. Humanity is at a loss, and humanity has found that a fat bloated belly does not necessarily imply happiness. Neither does freedom. Being ‘free’ (insofar we are, actually) seems to be a load of stress. We have ‘Democracy’ now (or so we think, I am rather dubious), and look what it got us – spoiled rotten kids, an obscenely rich upper crust and a world that is dying around us faster than paper print.

And democracy itself has not proven an unmixed blessing – by and large people are left voting for stupid things voting for intensely deceptive politicians, and we will not ever (get the opportunity) vote for the best option by being offered just a single checkbox on the ballot. This is because we vote for career politicians (who more or less game their electorate), and those come in either of four categories –

(a) The percentage of politicians who completely don’t understand what the fuck is happening, and as a consequence live in some kind of complex delusion devoid of reality. In the US that unmitigated retard Sarah Palin is arguably someone like this. And these are in turn also ‘gamed’ by corporate interests rather easily.

(b) The percentage of politicians who understand but don’t fully appreciate, or want to appreciate, (or are too rich or recalcitrant or partisan to give a damn about) the facts in the world. They hope “the party will last last my days in office” and “I’ll retire with a few million of corporate or Israeli or lobbyist bribes”.

A nice example of a politician in the US who acts like he knows but is fully corrupt is Boehner – that man is a moral hyena. In my country Wilders would fit in this bracket: not a moral hyena as such, but most certainly a vile populist. Another nice example of mercenary politics is that US prostitician Lieberman. who is a more despicable human being than either.

(c) The third category of politician is the type who has come to loathe or be disillusioned about democracy itself, and though this person wants some kind if societal good that same person works to circumvent or downright corrupt the democratic system. This is the kind of politician Dante reserved the lowest layer in Hell for – that of traitors to the trust bestowed in them. These people rationalize acts of conniving fascism and deceit and cynicism. I think right now most of the political establishment fits in this category, including (in the US) Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

I am sorry Martine, but Obama is not what he claims to be. His actions speak louder than his words. He is in effect a traitor. (Or he so incompetent he shouldn’t be managing a neighbourhood catering).

(d) There are still few percent of philosophical thinkers and politicians who know but do not compromize, or at least retain integrity. These ones give it to their voters “straight” and more or less defend democracy and a consistent package of values. I think Kucinic and Ron Paul in the US fall in to this category. I think these two are somewhat honest. Sadly that makes them unelectable, and they hope against better judgement voters are smarter than they really are.

You still don’t understand?

Let me reduce the overwhelming complexity of the problem we face down to a metaphor about Rats and Cake.

…A long time ago there was a small valley on a shore where lived Rats. The rats were few and they lived in great solemn balance with nature and their lives where a short three years and they often fought. Their life was sad and spartan. Then one day on the shore of the valley crashed a ship filled with an assortment of Cake, Pie, Bread and other delicacies. The rats explored the ship and found an endless teeming amount of extremely sweet nourishing food. Beter even, the cake did not perish as it was wrapped in cellophane, and from the perspective of the rats the boatfull represented a sheer infinite amount and the bounty came in endless variations stowed all throughout the ship. Each exploration in the stranded vessel yielded a new amount of cake, and this new diet was a lot more nourishing than the customary food constraints of the rats. No surprise these Rats were dumbstruck. Many took this not as merely good luck, but they believed a higher power to be behind the fortune, and they regarded themselves as a blessed species of rodents.

It took them a while to get used to eating the novel and sugary Cake but very shortly after they swarmed into the boat to start gluttonously devouring the readily accessible goodness. Many rats died of overindulgence, but even this was good compared to all that was before. There would from now on always be Cake. This was the era of Cake Abundance and Cake was now the manifest destiny of the Rat species. The other rodents of the valley did not benefit, or were left only crumbs of the plenty of Cake. The squirrels got some bread and the pigeons and gulls made do with crumbs that were lost in the endless rat cake caravans between the soon teeming rat metropolitans along the valley and the ship.

So as the Rats feasted, they grew enormous, huge and plump. In the old days Rat had known only war and misery and the new state was refreshingly comfortable. The era of mean was over, and Rats now envisioned the era of nice, and formalized this by enacting Nice-O-Cracy. This implied rats being nice to one another, and occasionally throwing an extra crumb to an especially respectful pigeon, gull or squirrel nearby. The rats thought, hey let’s be nice, and they thought they had come up with this all by themselves, and the Cake had nothing to do with this. All rats now avowed to Nice-o-Cracy, even though briefly some rats flirted with a quaint and repugnant idea called Share-O-Cracy, but this scum was quickly dealt with.

The new order among rats was now the ability to quickly ferry the teeming abundance of delicious Cake into the Rat countries. So some Rats became special Rats, in charge of distributing Cake, and the system for distribution was now called The Supply and Demand of Cake. This by any measure was a system of considerable hubris – but the Rats did not realize this. They thought that Supply and Demand of Cake had been the norm even before the era of Free Cake. Clearly the perverse system of Share-O-Cracy had been an aberration on the way towards Nice-O-Cracy, and they asserted clearly all sane Rats should know better.

Sure … ‘commoner’ rats benefited of the richess. All had vastly increased mating rights, and all enjoyed derivative benefits, such as far better nests made of plastic cake wrapping. A whole Ratconomy of derivatives of cake products sprang up and enriched the valley. Even better, the valley did benefit in some tangible ways – it teemed with life as a result of the bounty of Cake – everything was literally covered in Rat Shit. The Rats defecated all over the place and this in turn fertilized the valley, and plant life sprang up in an orgy of rodent manure.

This abundant era was a curious sight – rats easily weighed over a pound and wiggled like little piglets back and forth, wearing colourful and garish ‘garments’ of Cake wrapping against the elements. In earlier days all rats had been scrawny and skinny. It was the dawn of The New Rat (and they called it the Rattocene) and the new rat was already proclaiming ‘the end of history’. This was a wonderful new era of unbridled opportunity and growth and dignity and freedom. The Rat was the new pinnacle of existence.

Some rats even had some new found powers of imagination. A few “superlative” Rats speculated on ‘what next’, as if all that Cake was not enough. They speculated on sinking other boats on the shore, also laden with Cake. Or they speculated of an era with machines that could make endless Cake. And there was even talk of far away places where Cake might be common. Maybe Rats could go there. But commoner Rats rarely listened to such outrattish notions as Cake was plenty.

Shortly after the Era of plenty Cake, one Rat figured out that Cake would run out. Hubby the Rat figured out when the easy Cake would Run out, and when the disgusting cake would ruin out, and when the salty cake all the way down in the ship would run out. And it would run out fast, as the amount of rats in the valley had exploded tenfold in a short period and was still increasing. Worse, Rats were tending towards giganticism, and devouring more, and others had started not just using Rat droppings as fertillizer, but had started using Cake in all these amazing ways – they fertilized their land with ground down cake, or they used empty cake as dwellings. It didn’t matter since there was so much Cake. Some even fornicated wildly in beds of cake. It was a golden era. Who wouldn’t?

slice, slice slice!

But Rats are a species with deeply ingrained instincts. The Rat species are a tough lot and in their bloodi is the sting of winter and the haunting memory of famine and disease and dying young. Rats know in their gut that life can be cruel, despite the promise of Cake. Some rats completely denied the warning signs.

Of the rats in charge these were category (a) rats and they knew almost nothing, and what they knew was mostly superstitious nonsense. They believed in The Big Rat In The Mountain, and The Scary Rat In The Sea (who was out to get you).

Other Rats had some kind of inkling Cake is running out but didn’t think it makes much difference whatever you say – nobody wants to hear about it, or the topic of ‘rat made infectious disease’ (caused by all the highly fertile rat dropings – hey plants crave it!). This was clearly category (b) Rats.

And then there are well meaning rats with a Fascist Tough-o-Cracy tendency, and those rats thought most other rats were stupid idiots who needed to be led and not smart enough to decide for themselves, and the idiots will all die when Cake runs out, ha ha. And these are the (c) Rats.

And finally the most moral and sensible (d) Rats try giving the other Rats the true gist of it (d) but get mostly ignored or screeched at.


Dear Simplicius Giulio, Godwin be damned. Sometimes when it sqeaks like a rat, walks like a rat and breeds and eats like a rat, it is a rat.

Science Fiction Transhumanism is the ideology that emerged with the goal to think about a world beyond the boat full of Cake – i.e. ‘Cake dependency’. It is an ideology where we look beyond the dehumanizing, unpleasant reality of a world constrained by natural resources, a world of short lives, a world of conflict and disease, and a word of small living spaces and unsanitary competition.

Transhumanism, and its bastard share-o-cratic leftist stepchild, ‘the technoprgressive movement’ (Hi James!) are all idealist movements stemming from geek, futurist world-views that ask “what if” in a disciplined manner. This is a blend of realism, science, futology, extropolation, utopianism, geekdom, philosophy, parody, play, political incorrectness, perversion and dystopianism.

I think this is what more people should do at this stage, and I personally hold people who dismiss utopian thinking, speculative endeavor and futurological exploration in utter contempt.

We are so much in trouble as a species that we must think the unthinkable. We must think outside the box. (We must think outside the cradle!)

‘At some level’ many of us sense this simple truth. It is this uncomfortable gnawing we all feel things are going wrong. I think the Neocons got it pretty well, in a psychopathic way. What did the Neocons like Cheney and Bush conclude? Well, these bastards concluded “the US standard of living is not negotiable”, which is basically saying “many people in the US are over 30, they are white and they are male, and they will live another 30 or so years in relative obscene affluence, and then the party may crash to pieces when oil and natural resources and animal diversity run out and climate change destroys what i left of our world and pax americana ends”.

These horrible men do not care about what comes after. They care about consumption patterns now. They do not care about immortality, because they are cynical assholes and they want their Cake now. Hell Fuckuyama even goes as far as declared Transhumanism unwanted – he more or less wants to die. Living a few decades longer might force him and his Neocon ilk to contend with the consequences of the mess they are going to leave behind. They want their cake, and the rest of the world can have the rat shit.

To an ideology such as Neoconservatism, consumption, consolidation, power, are all paramount. It is all about the here and now. It is all about making sure the other guy doesn’t get his. (Or hers) There is a pervasive climate of hostility towards enlightenment values in the world, towards democracy, and this hostility is seeping up into the noble realms of the transhumanist movement. It is a zero sum poison that infects everything and this is the death of hope and dreams.

Giulio, my friend, this is a growing contaminant within the ranks of Transhumanism and this is the essence of the bad news I think I should give you.

We live in an era blessed with a brief gluttonous party of natural resources, which in turn spurred on a foolhardy yet otherwise delightful rate of population growth and personal consumption. As you know I am a big rat – at well over six feet I would be the biggest bitch of the medieval Netherlands. Mo extra foot of body length is petrochemical sponsorship, indirectly.

It’s an extra head-start of Cake I got from the Red Queen, but sadly this Rat Race has become an end game..

Problem is that as a Transhuman or Futurist, or Technoprogressive (or Superlative, whatever) we at least should know better. Generally we do but we don’t act like it, because of ideological reasons. This has all the hallmarkings of trench warfare. As an example: look at all these misguided rants about ‘socialism’ for starters. Like WTF. The problem is that many transhumanist are post-democratic and anti-everything. Tribal, and Feudal. And you now know that I call these people traitors. They betray enlightenment values and solidarity and respect for their fellow human beings and freedom and human rights and democracy. And for what? 30 silver coins?

I know Giulio, that in the past you have called Democracy “Two wolves and a sheep voting what to have for lunch” and I let you know I take offense at this representation. It was a great quote from Churchill, that made sense at the time, and yes, Democracy is still the best system we have and yes it is woefully inadequate.

And no – Democracy has been more like some wolves and a lot of sheep letting the wolves know by popular election that “the eating sheep was fucking done with“, and the wolves had for the time being shifted their appetites abroad – in effect predating on third world countries. Democracy has so far been an inkling of civilization, a small spark of light in a very very dark world. I say we need more, much more. We need to dispel the darkness of power and we need to spread power around as much as possible.

‘The wolf’ is still there Giulio. He never went away, and now he’s back and as you grow older, you are becoming more a sheep than ever, and it’s DINNER. You don’t feel vulnerable? You should. Triage is just around the corner.

You called for a new elan, a new idealism in Transhumanism and I agree, but you have to realize and confront the demons in Transhumanism and come to grips with them. You called me “the gad fly, the contrary rebel of transhumanism, the Noam Chomsky of transhumanism“, yes? Then let me say this out loud….

There are wolves here. There are Neocons and Fascists and Zero-Sumists with us. Category B Rats.

“In this possible terminal phase of human existence Democracy and Freedom are more than ‘values to be treasured’ – they may well be essential to survival.”

– Noam Chomsky.

{Red: With regards to this and earlier discissions my good friend Arjen had this to share. I felt uhm validated. Reprinted with permission.

Dear all,

While I generally agree with Giulio on these issues it would seem debating them fact-based is very hard. Determining workable methods for organising societies to achieve basic goals such as low crime, long healthy life-spans, low child mortality and a high and sustainable rate of scientific and technological innovation should be a fact-based activity but no-one has discovered how to do it successfully (including me).

We are currently running a series of experiments globally that will answer these questions for us within the next decade or so. On the one hand we have the US way of doing things resulting in very high wealth for the top 0.1% of its population while being unable to provide proper medical coverage for 40% of its people and jobs for 22% of its workforce (as measured by EU-type methods). While the current US government is often accused of ‘socialism’ by some it would seem that
most of the wealth it actually redistributes benefits Wall Street and weapons manufacturers (part of the aforementioned 0.1%). The often touted ‘freedom’ in the US may extend to owning a machine-gun but does not include the use of safe recreational drugs or ending your own life with some medical assistance.

On the other hand we have a range of Northern European countries with a range of serious problems but with low unemployment, low crime, almost non-existent child mortality and longer life expectancy at less than half the medical cost. These countries have economies that still actually make stuff despite having the highest labour costs in the world (Germany is the second largest exporter after China – with a fraction of its population). Yes we have a lot of rules and regulations (can’t own machine-guns!) but we also have dependable electricity, high-speed rail all over the continent and some of the highest levels of education on the planet. European countries are slowly moving to a de-facto basic income for all, combined with universal healthcare and free education up to whatever level one is able to.

Giulio and I are, obviously, Europeans and therefore biased. But I would suggest that our friends across the pond have a really hard look at what their country has become over the last decade and ask themselves if they feel this is a stable foundation for achieving transhumanist goals.

We Europeans have tried every possible flavour of society building from feudalism and communism to fascism (the merging of corporate and state power) and they have all been found wanting. A government-moderated free market with a strong collective safety seems to work. Providing all brains with proper education and a healthy body to support it would seem
more usefull than making a few very wealthy persons even more ridiculously wealthy.

US income disparity is currently at the level of pre-revolutionary France. Do not be surprised of at some point the poorest 150-200 million decide they have noting left to lose and start chopping off heads of those they perceive as being responsible for their lot in life (quite probably also the wrong people). One can only blame dirt-poor, illiterate, Afghanis for so long. Such conditions are not conducive to developing the kind of techno-social innovations that we strive for.

But as I wrote at the top of this email. Pretty soon we won’t have to have politically and emotionally charged debates about ‘socialism’ when the US model of laissez-faire capitalism joins the Sovjet Union in the graveyard of history after a financial and economic collapse. The active de-industrialisation of the US by its corporations combined with a $4+
billion per day trade-deficit and ridiculous military overstretch are making this collapse merely a matter of time. It will be much easier to have a fact-based discussion when the experiment is concluded.

(If the above sounds cruel to you consider the cruelty of killing 1.5 million innocent Iraqis and then complaining loudly about the cost of such a ‘war’. A society that is more indignant about the taxation and cost of bullets than the question what it is used for cannot expect much sympathy from the very world it’s been stomping on. So it’s nothing personal to anyone here).

Arjen Kamphuis

* “Democracy”, the new socialism

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