Saturday, August 20, 2011

Socrates Had Haemorrhoids and Diarrhea

Initially published as a comment to Mike Treder's excellent article Will you die? @ IEET.

I just found this gem of our old friend Carrico. He criticises this article because "That you are going to die is part of what it has always meant to be human..."

Inspired by previous debates (see below) I have taken the liberty to re-write his apology of death, changing a couple of words:

Everybody who has ever lived has suffered from haemorrhoids and diarrhea. Everybody has haemorrhoids and diarrhea. You have haemorrhoids and diarrhea. That you have haemorrhoids and diarrhea is part of what it has always meant to be human. If you didn't have haemorrhoids and diarrhea, you wouldn't be living a legibly human life. But of course you have haemorrhoids and diarrhea so there is no reason to belabor the point, and to do so is probably just to indulge in pathetic panic-stricken distraction or denialism about it anyway.

Mike Treder, Managing Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (long-time readers may recall that I tend to call it "stealth Robot Cult outfit, IEET" and tend to call its high level muckety mucks as "Very Serious Futurologists" or, alternatively, "White Guys of 'The Future'"), asked the question in a post yesterday, Will You Continue to Have Haemorrhoids and Diarrhea? (The answer, for you kids keeping score at home, is: "Yes, Mike, yes, you will continue to have haemorrhoids and diarrhea, as will every single person who reads these words.")

It doesn't seem right to make fun of people this desperate and deluded and dumb, but, well, I say, go ahead. Especially rich for regular readers will be the robotic predictability with which the Robot Cultists and the industrial-militarist complex continue to announce the arrival of a Cure For Haemorrhoids and Diarrhea, Artificial Intelligence, Drexlerian Nanotech, Designer Babies, Clone Armies, Immersive VR, the Paperless Office, Energy Too Cheap to Meter, Orbital Space Hotels, the Cure for [insert disease], and the history-shattering Singularity when the Robot God inaugurates Tech-Heaven or eats the world for lunch (you decide). No less enjoyable is the accompanying illustration for the piece of drawing-board nanobots on graph paper backgrounds just like real engineers use and with orange arrows indicating the immortalization action, and also, too, the reference to cyber-immortalization via "uploading" presumably involving something called your "essence." Science!

It is interesting to note that in previous debates Carrico has, instead, considered haemorrhoids, diarrhea and similar things related to what he considers as the noblest parts of the sacred human anatomy and the holy human biology as better examples of your "essence." See for example:
Cyborg Angels Live Forever and Never Ever Have to Poop
The Power of Poop; or, Prisco Responds

Dale, my boy, please feel free to live a legibly human life and to pursue happiness and meaning your own way. If this means continuing to suffer from haemorrhoids, diarrhea and death, so be it. I would not wish these things upon my worse enemy, but you are the best judge of what is good for you and makes you happy.

But I hope you will forgive me for choosing to do my best to avoid haemorrhoids and diarrhea. And death. If these things must remain part of legibly human lives, then fuck legibly human lives.


  1. Actually, some humans have lived lives without hemorrhoids or diarrhea, but every human has died. I have never had hemorrhoids, but they do sound unpleasant and certainly should I ever get them I will apply some therapy to ameliorate them. Diarrhea is a treatable condition from which countless people die unnecessarily in overexploited regions of the world that lack access to clean water -- a condition to which I have devoted considerable energies via support of Doctors Without Borders and in my teaching. You declare "in previous debates Carrico has, instead, considered hemorrhoids, diarrhea and similar things related to what he considers as the noblest parts of the sacred human anatomy and the holy human biology as better examples of your 'essence.'" I hope your readers will follow the links you provide and judge for themselves if what you say is a fair characterization of my viewpoint. I assume this absurd distortion turns on a highly imaginative interpretation on your part of the phrase "and similar things." It is interesting that you regard facing facts, including unpleasant ones, concerning biology the same as declaring them "holy." Such religious turns of mind are alien to me, as they are not for you -- hence your mutation of pro-science attitudes into a hyperbolic transcendentalist Order of Cosmic Engineers and the whole rest of the Robot Cult nonsense you go in for. Different strokes for different folks, dude. As it happens, I am a staunch defender of universal single-payer healthcare and more money devoted to medical research. You seem to think your indulgence in wish-fulfillment fantasizing is indispensable to grasping why medicine is desirable. In this you are wrong and even silly. You are going to die. Your mortality and the condition of human finitude with which your mortality is of a piece is indeed part of what human beings have to come to terms with to become healthy responsible adults. Vanishingly few of the people working on better treatments for hemorrhoids and diarrhea sign on to your techno-immortalization project, so your pretense at being their spokesman and me somehow being their enemy because I don't sign on to your absurd Robot Cult is fantastically idiotic as usual. Saying "fuck death" does not render you immortal. It just causes you to waste your time on snake oil salesmen. At its extreme end death-denialism yields a death in life, a debauchery of critical standards and distraction with irrelevant concerns and a marginalization into a sub(cult)ure of cranks. You don't have to ask me to forgive you for your foolish choices. They're yours to make, yours to pay for.

  2. Good to hear from you Dale. Long time.

    I also hope my readers will follow the links I provide and judge for themselves if what I say is a fair characterization of your viewpoint.

    I guess it is not, but I am not a mind reader (yet ;-) and it seems to me a good characterization of your viewpoint as you have stated it in writing many times.

    You seem to consider mortality and other aspects of "human finitude" as beautiful things to revere (hence "holy"), whereas I consider them as ugly things to eliminate like haemorrhoids and diarrhea.

    Of course I know that I will die. I am 53, and I have never bothered to adopt a "healthy lifestyle." I may be able to escape death via cryonics or chemical brain preservation, but more probably not because there are so many things that can go wrong. I will give it a try though, and it is my own fucking body to try with.

    I will probably go into that good night, but be assured that I will not go gentle. I will rage against the dying of the light and say "FUCK DEATH". Not because saying so renders me immortal, but because it is the right attitude.

    I hope future generations will be able to escape death, and I feel happy for them. On the basis of my understanding of the related science facts, I am optimist.

    Don't worry for your precious "human finitude." Even if we as a species leave mortality and biology behind there will still be obstacles to overcome (or, of you prefer, holy limitations to revere), and then others, and so forth. Any finite quantity is infinitely small compared to infinity.

    On the IEET blog you say "Your faith in hyperbolic projections beyond technodevelopmental proximities may provide you with feelings of transcendence that you value (which is fine with me, let a bazillion flowers bloom), but that has nothing to do with serious scientific practice, serious policy analysis, or serious political organization."

    We certainly agree on your first point. Let a bazillion flowers bloom indeed.

    I don't disagree on the second point either, and I have stated so recently on a blog that we both read. When I am in my highly imaginative (or if you prefer "superlative robot cultist") mode, I see myself as just one more science fiction geek in a great science fiction fan club with lots of good friends. At the same time, when I express opinions on "serious scientific practice, serious policy analysis, or serious political organization", they are often similar to yours.

    But my science fiction fan club membership and my "superlative aspirations" give me a lot of fun, interesting things to read, a pleasant feeling of transcendence, happiness and the drive to get out of bed in the morning. Different strokes for different folks, dude.

    Best - G.

  3. Yo, G. You may retreat into "tolerate my culture" when exposed as a crank -- but when the pressure is off you guys go right back to peddling pseudo-science and pretending to be policy wonks. I'm a pluralist, but I also have standards. Facing facts isn't the declaration that all facts are beautiful, let alone "holy." Death denialism may get you through the night, and I am quite content to leave you to it, it's no business of mine, but I do have an opinion about that strategy and about advocacy of that strategy, and offering my judgment to the hearing of a judging public is also part of "letting a bazillion flowers bloom." Denialism is not healthy for the denialist, and it enables authoritarian and reactionary sociocultural formations. In my view futurology is pseudo-science usually masquerading championing science, and it is reactionary politics and policy often masquerading as progressivism -- and, by the way, as a creative sub(cult)ural "movement," transhumanism yields work that in my judgment so far has been almost uniformly third-rate, derivative, and self-indulgent, little better than pedestrian soft-porn commercialism. I also know a lot of science fiction fans, I'm one myself, and I gotta say you guys scrape the bottom of the barrel, you don't hold a candle to the io9 or boing boing crowds let alone the really subversive salons out there. I daresay many of you could do much more interesting work, artistically, politically, personally if you got out of the futurological gravity well you're stuck in, but I know I'm talking to a brick wall on that score. Good luck to you, d

  4. Dale, what does "I'm a pluralist, but I also have standards" mean? Does it mean "I tolerate the opinions of others provided their opinions are identical to mine"?

    FUCK DEATH is not death denialism (remember, I plan to say it on my own deathbed, see above). It means recognizing mortality as a problem to solve.

    Off to the lake for a nice day in meatspace, more later.

  5. "The Future," Robot Cult Muckety-Muck (he has been a director of the World Transhumanist Association and of the stealth Robot Cult outfit of Very Serious Futurologists, green diarrhea in adults causes