or hardly thinking?
|Major trains of thought|
|The good, the bad,|
and the brain fart
|Come to think of it|
“”Events, by definition, are occurrences that interrupt routine processes and routine procedures; only in a world in which nothing of importance ever happens could the futurologists’ dream come true.
Futurism, or futurology, is the study, or hypothetical study, of what might become of the humanity and our relationship with technology and our environment. It is quite often difficult to discern between the realistic, the science woo, and the science fictional elements of the works of futurists.
The first use of the term "futurism" appeared during the early 19th century in reference to a specific brand of Christian eschatology that teaches that many parts of the Bible, especially the Book of Revelation, will take place in the future. Obviously, futurism still holds some influence in modern Christianity considering all the cranks still banging on about the end times.
The term "futurist" was not explicitly used in reference to a number of the 19th century science fiction writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, though modern futurists claim to draw inspiration from them.
The original futurist movement was born in early 20th century Italy which was known for exalting art, technology, and violence. One of the key documents of the early futurist movement was The Futurist Manifesto, published in 1909 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. It featured such fun things like:
4. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
7. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.
11. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds.
This positioned Marinetti as the leader of the Italian futurist movement and eventually the head of the Futurist Political Party formed in 1918. Many of the futurists were also Italian nationalists and became fascist ideologues and supporters of Benito Mussolini.
One of the many strains of futurist music (see the next couple sections) came out of the Italian movement. Musician Balilla Pratella (1880–1955) wrote an article "Manifesto of Futurist Musicians". In it, he addresses young musicians (because "only they can understand what I have to say"), encouraging them to ditch commercialism, academia, closed competitions, critics, sacred music, librettist/composer partnerships, vocal centrism, and quite a few other things he believed were holding back musical innovation. Typical of the movement, Pratella adopted a vitriolic tone, never taking a moment's breath to stop painting the "traditionalists" as mortal enemies of music.
Pratella was forgotten over time and 20th-century classical music lived on, although the band Art of Noise and the record label ZTT were named after Futurist concepts.
“”installing a cyborg tube in my tuxedo which frequently sprays my ass with various advanced powders
Modern futurism came to be characterized as being more scientific (or scientistic, as some might say) while still retaining its artistic elements. Ossip K. Flechtheim called for a field of "futurology" beginning in the 1940s, an attempt to "scientifically" predict the future based on history. Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler is known for being one of the most influential popularizations of futurism. Nowadays the field is rife with anyone who can get the media to call them futurists.
Afro-futurism is essentially a reaction to racism and the attempted erasure of Black history. Faced with a past blotted out by white supremacy, a number of African-American artists in the mid-20th century turned to futurist imagery and ideas. This style eventually came to be known as "Afro-futurism." One of the most prominent Afro-futurist musicians is Sun Ra, a jazz pianist and bandleader; his film Space Is the Place is considered a major influence on the genre. A number of other musicians have become associated with Afro-futurism, including Parliament-Funkadelic, Model 500 and DJ Spooky. Afro-futurist writers included Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany.
The current incarnation of futurism is known as transhumanism, a somewhat loosely knit movement that has gained a few wealthy financial benefactors in Silicon Valley. Many transhumanists are "Singularitarians" who posit a coming "technological singularity" in which an artificial intelligence is built that exceeds human intelligence and initiates an explosion of technological advancement. Transhumanists are also proponents of pseudoscientific, dubious, or otherwise problematic technology, such as cryonics and mind uploading. Ray Kurzweil is probably the most famous transhumanist around today.
Cyberfeminism and postgenderism
The movement that came to be known as "cyborg feminism" or "cyberfeminism" takes its inspiration from Donna Haraway's 1985 essay "A Cyborg Manifesto". Haraway rebutted the idea that science and technology are inherently patriarchal or capitalistic. Cyberfeminism tends to concentrate on the intersection of gender roles and technology. Another movement with some overlap with cyberfeminism is postgenderism, which advocates for technological advances in service of erasing gender (and sexual dimorphism, too). Both of these movements also have some overlap with transhumanism.
There was a strain of 1980s electronic synthesizer pop of this name, which they got from the Italian ones. It went "ZOMG MACHINES EXIST" in a New Wave sort of manner with silly haircuts and eyeliner. Examples include Visage and Depeche Mode. In the early 2000s, industrial bands VNV Nation and Apoptygma Berzerk invented the name "futurepop" for their version of this. Even more confusingly is a resurgence in 1980s-sounding synth-music thanks to films like Drive and videogames like Hotline Miami with a number of names, like "Synthwave" or "Retro-Synth."[note 2] So "future" means "retro," except…
It's basically an aesthetic used in art and design built on all those failed futurist predictions leading to styles such as "steam punk" or "diesel punk". The subreddit r/RetroFuturism is dedicated to sharing examples of pretty pictures with this aesthetic.
“”These are technologies [specifically OpenAI and Twitter/X] that are supposed to be so democratized and universal, but they’re so heavily influenced by one person. Everything they do is [framed as] a step toward much larger greatness and the transformation of society. But these are just cults of personality. They sell a product.
|—Noah Giansiracusa, a professor at Bentley University in Massachusetts who researches AI|
Philosopher Émile P. Torres and computer scientist Timnit Gebru coined the acronym TESCREAL to stand for a collection of overlapping futurist concepts: Transhumanism, Extropianism, Singularitarianism, Cosmism, Rationalism, Effective Altruism, and Longtermism.
Cosmism "is a set of ideologies advanced by Russian scientists and philosophers such as" Nikolai Fyodorov (1829–1903), Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935), and Vladimir Vernadsky (1863–1945). The ideologies include maximal space exploration and colonization, and resurrection of the dead. Cosmism is closely associated with Russian nationalism. Cosmist Ben Goertzel first described the concept of artificial general intelligence (AGI) in his book, A Cosmist Manifesto.
Torres has argued that TESCREAL is central to the rationale for OpenAI, and the believed consequent creation of AGI.
People who have embraced TESCREAL as a ideology (essentially by embracing at least two of its sub-ideologies) include:
- Sam Altman of OpenAI: AGI, longtermerism ("galaxies are indeed at risk"), mind uploading
- Marc Andreessen (software engineer/techbro): embracing the full TESCREAL
- Sam Bankman-Fried: effective altruism (EA)
- Nick Bostrom: Alcor (cryonics), EA, extropianism
- Vitalik Buterin, funder of the Future of Life Institute
- William MacAskill: EA, longtermism, transhumanism
- Elon Musk: AGI, cosmism (e.g., wanting to colonize Mars with a million people by 2050), EA, longtermism
- Jaan Tallinn, creator of co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and the Future of Life Institute
- Peter Thiel: cryonics, MIRI/LessWrong
- Eliezer Yudkowsky of LessWrong: AGI, cryonics, transhumanism
The danger then of TESCREAL ideologies is that they are consequentialist, with the ends justifying the means. They prioritize hypothetical distant visions by a few wealthy individuals of a future technological utopia over addressing real-world present, near-term and mid-term human problems.
James J. Hughes of the "technoprogressive" (i.e., technological utopian) think tank Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) elaborated on the Bentham's Newsletter criticisms, IEET was founded by Hughes (a transhumanist) and Nick Bostrom (noted above as being within the TESCREAL constellation). The main criticism against TESCREAL by Hughes is that it is conspiracist thinking, that there is a secret cabal is trying to suppress the truth. The problems with this criticism are threefold:
- Torres and Gebru have not claimed that there is a secret cabal, all the claimed actors in this are making their activities known in public and in think tanks supporting their causes.
- Torres and Gebru were well-acquainted with some of the actors in TESCREAL: Torres participated in the TESCREAL movement for several years (EA, transhumanism, longtermerism), Gebru had high-level positions at Microsoft, Google and Apple (the first two have been funders of OpenAI).
- There are two non-contrived connections between the different ideologies of TESCREAL: futurism and longtermerism.
A second criticism of TESCREAL by Hughes is that Torres and Gebru have inappropriately attributed eugenics, racism and neoreactionary ideology to the ideologies. The problem with the eugenics criticism is that both EA and longtermerism are obsessed with the importance of high IQ, and hence eugenics. Bostrom himself drew the path from IQ to racism and eugenics both in an disgusting email he wrote as a Oxford University student in 1996 (later "apologizing" for using N-word but not retracting his claim that "Blacks are more stupid than whites."[note 3] and by his co-editing a book in support of eugenics, Human Enhancement. Hughes may have been right about the neoreactionary movement not being associated with TESCREAL.
- Association of Professional Futurists
- The Ghost in the Machine: Science, Mysticism, and Italian Futurist Literature, Piers Kelly, Monash University
- Cosma Shalizi's notebooks on futurism and prophecy
- The album satirized futurism (the "Future Fair"), Disneyland/Disneyworld, and computers ("bus" in the title refers to computer bus). The album also foretold the use of a malicious prompt injection into a chatbot.
- The internet seems to have settled on "Synthwave".
- Uh, Mr. genius Oxford student, "stupider" is better grammar that "more stupid".
- On Violence by Hannah Arendt (1970) Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.
- Irving H. Buchen. Messianic Futurism: The Christian Example. Technological Forecasting of Social Change, Volume 10, Issue 2, 1977, Pages 211–221
- All Hail Jules Verne, Patron Saint of Cyberspace, Edward Rothstein, New York Times
- The Futurist Manifesto by F.T. Marinetti from Three Intellectuals in Politics, edited by James Joll
- Politics as Art: Italian Futurism and Fascism by Anne Bowler (1991) Theory and Society 20(6):763-794.
- "Manifesto of Futurist Musicians" by Balilla Pratella (1910)
- ZTT Records
- installing a cyborg tube in my tuxedo which frequently sprays my ass with various advanced powders by wint (2:57 AM - 16 Sep 2017) Twitter (archived from September 22, 2017).
- Futurology — The New Science of Probability? by Ossip K. Flechtheim (1972). In: The Futurists, edited by Alvin Toffler. Random House. ISBN 0394317130. pp. 264-276
- What Is Afrofuturism? by Shantay Robinson (May 11, 2023) Smithsonian Magazine
- How did Sun Ra’s ‘Space is the Place’ influence the Afro-American diaspora and Afrofuturist counterculture? by Aaron Sandhu (2013) University of Sussex.
- A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century In: Manifestly Haraway by Donna Haraway (2019) University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816650489. Pp. 3-90.
- On the Importance of Being a Cyborg Feminist by Kyle Mukittrick ( July 21, 2009 ) H+ Magazine (archived from February 11, 2011).
- Postgenderism: Beyond the Gender Binary, George Dvorsky and James Hughes, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
- Being a little bit productive by Girl the Bourgeois Individualist (c. 2003) Sorted Magazine.
- Synthwave Rate Your Music.
- r/RetroFuturism Reddit.
- OpenAI and X: Promises of populist technology, shaped by a single man by Drew Harwell (November 23, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EST) The Washington Post.
- The Acronym Behind Our Wildest AI Dreams and Nightmares: To understand the deepening divide between AI boosters and doomers, it’s necessary to unpack their common origins in a bundle of ideologies known as TESCREAL. by Émile P. Torres (Jun 15, 2023) Truth Dig.
- The Wide Angle: Understanding TESCREAL — the Weird Ideologies Behind Silicon Valley’s Rightward Turn by Dave Troy (May 1, 2023) The Washington Spectator.
- A Cosmist Manifesto: Practical Philosophy for the Posthuman Age by Ben Goertzel (2010) Humanity+. ISBN 0984609709.
- i think agi safety is a great thing to care an immense about and future galaxies are indeed at risk; what i don’t really get is why a movement that seems to be almost entirely focused on agi risk feels the need to justify it with some other name/make it part of a broader cause by Sam Altman (7:56 PM · Aug 14, 2022) Twitter (23 Nov 2023 02:55:35 UTC).
- Elon Musk says he plans to send 1 million people to Mars by 2050 by launching 3 Starship rockets every day and creating 'a lot of jobs' on the red planet by Morgan McFall-Johnsen & Dave Mosher (Jan 17, 2020, 2:12 PM PST) Business Insider.
- Billionaire Peter Thiel Says He's Freezing His Body After Death Just in Case by Maggie Harrison (May 8, 2023) Futurism.
- Against longtermism: It started as a fringe philosophical theory about humanity’s future. It’s now richly funded and increasingly dangerous by Émile P. Torres (October 19, 2021) Aeon.
- Against TESCREALISM: The term TESCREAL is a cheap smear; also, dissecting a very dumb Washington spectator article (May 11, 2023) 'Bentham's Newsletter.
- About Bentham's Newsletter.
- Conspiracy Theories, Left Futurism, and the Attack on TESCREAL by James J. Hughes (June 12, 2023) Medium.
- Short bio, Dr. Émile P. Torres xriskology.
- Objections to Value-Alignment between Effective Altruists by CarlaZoeC (Jul 15 2020) Effective Altruism Forum.
- Nick Bostrom, Longtermism, and the Eternal Return of Eugenics: The techno-utopian ideology gets its fuel, in part, from scientific racism. by Émile P. Torres (Jan 23, 2023) Truth Dig.
- Human Enhancement, edited by Julian Savulescu & Nick Bostrom (2011) Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199594961.