What follows is a fragment from James J. Hughes' Citizen Cyborg, pp. 169-171
The extropians have also cultivated important allies in libertarian
politics such as Virginia Postrel and Ron Bailey, sympathizers with
their militant defense of personal liberty and hostility to regulation
and environmentalism. In 1999, Postrel, author of the
technolibertarian manifesto The Future and Its Enemies and the editor
of the libertarian magazine Reason, assigned Reason's science
correspondent Ron bailey to focus on the defense of genetics against
the Luddites. Bailey had written ECOSCAM: The False Prophets of
Ecological Apocalypse in 1993, which argued that whatever ecological
problems might have existed in the past were all being repaired now.
Since focusing on biopolitics Bailey's weekly columns for Reason have
been some of the best and most insightful critiques of the emerging
Kass-Rifkin bioLuddite axis. Bailey is publishing his own
technolibertarian manifesto this year, Liberation Biology. Postrel has
now organized Bailey and other technolibertarians, such as Tech
Central Station's editor James Glassman and prolific InstaPundit.com
writer Glenn Reynolds, into The Franklin Society. The first project
of the Society has been to campaign against attempts to ban embryonic
stem cell research.
Universal Immiseration Extropian-Style
In 2003 one member of the new Franklin Society, extropian economist
Robin Hanson, a professor at George Mason University, achieved his full
fifteen minutes of fame. Hanson was the author of the abortive
experiment by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in
aggregating intelligence information in a Middle East futures trading
market, the so-called "TerrorDAQ." The political brouhaha around
TerrorDAQ led to the cancellation of the program and the resignation of
DARPA director John Poindexter.
Reporters were incredulous at Hanson and his colleagues' inability to
predict how their experiment would be perceived and demagogued. While I
think the experiment had merit and would not have encouraged terrorism,
the episode does illustrate some of the moral and political blindness
that the unreformed extropian anarcho-capitalist perspective lends
Ten years before the media lambasted Hanson for TerrorDAQ he published a
now often cited essay "If uploads come first - The crack of a future
dawn" in Extropy magazine. The article attempts to extrapolate the
economic consequences of a breakthrough in the technology of copying
human personalities into machines. He argues that the capabilities of
machine-based persons would be so much greater than organic humans that
most non-uploaded people would become unemployed. Among the uploads
there would be rapid population growth, and severe job competition.
Eventually the enormous population of uploads would be forced to work at
very low subsistence wages - the cost of their electricity and disk
space - ruled over by a very few of the most successful of the uploads.
Hanson basically recapitulates Marx's vision of universal immiseration,
but this time in the Matrix. In the section of the essay titled "upload
politics" Hanson dismisses the idea that governments could impose
redistribution on uploads since there would be large economic benefits
of an unfettered transition to Matrix life. The average quality of life
of the subsistence upload and the unemployed human would allegedly be
higher than before. So the best we future residents of an uploaded
society can do is become as versatile as possible to maximize our
chances of ending up as one of the lucky ruling or employed classes.
Hanson dismisses the idea that people will fight the division of society
into a mass of well-fed plebes and a super-powerful elite since the
growth the GDP is the sole measure of his utopia, and the elimination of
the weak will select for "capable people willing to work for low wages,
who value life even when life is hard."
With a dismal, elitist utopia like this who needs a Luddite's dystopia?
Russell Jacoby says of Hanson-style libertopianism "The most imaginative
futurists foresee a utopia with war, money, violence and inequality.
Their future looks very much like the affluent enclaves of today, only
more pleasant and commodious. They paint a picture not very different
from contemporary luxury suburbs, grassy subdivisions with homes and
computer and work stations set off from a larger terrain of violence and
injustice. The futurists are utopians in an anti-utopian age."