Techno-Progressivism

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Techno-progressivism or tech-progressivism is a stance of active support for the convergence of technological change and social change. Techno-progressives argue that technological developments can be profoundly empowering and emancipatory when they are regulated by legitimate democratic and accountable authorities to ensure that their costs, risks and benefits are all fairly shared by the actual stakeholders to those developments.

This organized collection of ideas is best expressed by rhetorician Dale Carrico in his Amor Mundi blog at https://amormundi.blogspot.com

A Word of Warning

Dale Carrico reminds us to beware of the "ism": ""Technoprogressive Principles" (so-called) are nothing more nor less than progressive principles focused on technodevelopmental social struggle. As there are of course many, conflicting, open-ended examples of progressive principles, so too there are and will be many, conflicting, and open-ended examples of technoprogressive principles. Technoprogressive = progressive first + technodevelopmentally focused in particular." [1]

Introduction

According to Dale Carrico, there are 3 basic political and human attitudes vs. technology: Technophilia is the unlimited belief in the goodness of technological progress as such, which must be totally free and not limited by political and social considerations. The Extropians are a good example of such an attitude. Technophobia takes the opposite view, seeing science and technology as problematic in themselves, and advocating a defense of 'life as we know it', today (or even yesterday). These are the bioconservatives who do not want to alter human nature. Finally, a Third Way is emerging, for which political and social progress is primary, but for whom technology is a necessary ingredient to deepen these trends.

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia but I recommend Carrico's two essays listed below in the references section. He specifically links his views on a technology-supported social democracy to peer to peer, and I will try to investigate this linkage further.

Techno-progressivism

"Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All" is the first techno-progressive political slogan, which was coined by Dale Carrico.

According to Wikipedia, "For most techno-progressive perspectives, then, the growth of scientific knowledge or the accumulation of technological powers will not represent the achievement of proper progress unless and until it is accompanied by a just distribution of the costs, risks, and benefits of these new knowledges and capacities. At the same time, for most techno-progressive critics and advocates, the achievement of better democracy, greater fairness, less violence, and a wider rights culture are all desirable, but inadequate in themselves to confront the quandaries of contemporary technological societies unless and until they are accompanied by progress in science and technology to support and implement these values."

Wikipedia also lists some notable techno-progressive advocates and cultural critics:

  • Philosopher Donna Haraway
  • Bioethicist James Hughes
  • Cultural critic Mark Dery
  • Science journalist Chris Mooney
  • Science journalist Annalee Newitz
  • Futurist Bruce Sterling

Additional concepts

Carrico on some interesting concepts:

  • "Beyond this, many technoprogressives are also morphological freedom fighters at heart. Morphological freedom celebrates consensual practices of genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive modification as practices of self-creation rather than as the technological imposition of social conformity figured questionably as "health.""
  1. We should always be cautious in the face of possible harm;
  2. As assessments of risk and harm grow more severe according to the consensus of relevant science, the burden of their justification rightly falls ever more conspicuously onto those who propose either to impose them or to refrain from ameliorating them; and
  3. The processes through which these justifications and their assessments properly take place must be open, evidence-based, and involve all the actual stakeholders to the question at issue."

Citations

Dale Carrico on Techno-progressivism and Bio-conservatism

Carrico wrote:

"I've been using a broader distinction of "bioconservative" and "tech-progressive" sensibilities to name such shifting general tendencies, but I would be pleased to see a lot more language available to get at these differences and connections. Here are some provisional definitions:

Bioconservatism: A stance of hesitancy about technological development in general and strong opposition to the genetic, prosthetic or cognitive modification of human beings in particular. Whether arising from a conventionally right-leaning politics of religious/cultural conservatism or from a conventionally left-leaning politics of environmentalism, bioconservative positions oppose medical and other technological interventions into what are broadly perceived as current human and cultural limits in the name of a defense of "the natural" deployed as a moral category.

Tech-progressivism: A stance of active support for technological development in general and for human practices of genetic, prosthetic and cognitive modification in particular. Tech-progressives believe that technological developments can be profoundly empowering and emancipatory when they are regulated by legitimate democratic and accountable authorities to ensure that their costs, risks and benefits are all fairly shared by the actual stakeholders to those developments.

It is important to note that both bioconservatism and tech-progressivism, in their more reasonable expressions, share an opposition to unsafe, unfair, undemocratic, undeliberative forms of technological development, and both recognize that such developmental modes can facilitate unacceptable recklessness and exploitation, exacerbate injustice and incubate dangerous social discontent.

I would also emphasize that it is not right to imagine that these sensibilities cleave off into two perfectly separate tribes, squaring off as if on a vast historical playing field for some cosmic-scaled battle. Many individuals will support both bioconservative and tech-progressive positions on particular issues in the politics of technological development. And most people will sense the tug of reasonableness in particular formulations arising from either broader sensibility from time to time, according to the vicissitudes in their own personal experiences. These two sensibilities, often deeply at odds in particular campaigns of advocacy, activism, policymaking, meaning-making and education, will nevertheless usually share at least enough common ground for productive dialogue to be possible among their adherents.

After nature

I think it is also important to recognize that both bioconservative and tech-progressive sensibilities, positions and politics have arisen and exert their force uniquely in consequence of what I describe as the ongoing denaturalization of human life in this historical moment.

This denaturalization is a broad social and cultural tendency, roughly analogous to and even structurally related to other broad tendencies such as, say, secularization and industrialization.

It consists essentially of two trends: First, it names a growing suspicion (one that can provoke either fear or hopefulness, sometimes in hyperbolic forms) of the normative and ideological force of claims made in the name of "nature" and especially "human nature," inspired by a recognition of the destabilizing impact of technological developments on given capacities and social norms. Second, it consists of an awareness of the extent to which the terms and pace of technological development, and the distribution of its costs, risks and benefits, is emerging ever more conspicuously as the primary space of social struggle around the globe.

It is a truism that the technical means to eliminate poverty and illiteracy for every human being on Earth have existed since the 18th century, but that social forms and political will have consistently frustrated these ends. The focus for most tech-progressives remains to use emerging technologies to transform the administration of social needs, to provide shelter, nutrition, health care and education for all, as well as to remedy the damaging and destabilizing impact of technology itself on complex, imperfectly understood environmental and social orders on which we depend for survival. To these ends, a deepening and widening of democratic participation in development and accountability of governance through emerging networked information and communication technologies is also crucial. Beyond this, many tech-progressives also champion the idea of morphological freedom, or consensual practices of genetic, prosthetic and cognitive modification considered as personal practices of self-creation rather than as the technological imposition of social conformity figured questionably as "health." [2]

References

Recommended books

External links

  • Amor Mundi, Dale Carrico's blog for the evolution of his thought on techno-progressivism