Rethinking Transhumanist Politics 4 – Working for Transhumanism

(This is the last in a series of four related essays; they’re all here.)

Britain stands tall among the world’s nations for many reasons. Think of British generals and heroes, of British scientists, of British artists. But it should be world famous for one other reason: the U.K. is the only country in history to develop a space program with orbital-class launch capability and then abandon it.

The details about this sordid tale are too sad to dwell on them. I personally feel physically sick when I read that a country then in steady decline, with ever-shrinking budgets and about to beg the International Monetary Fund for aid money, had the talent and gumption and grit to build a cheap, successful rocket and develop a series of highly promising prototypes and plans; and then let itself be tricked by its supposed ally, the U.S., into abandoning the plan in exchange for vague promises of collaboration — and even a fake NASA offer, later rescinded, to put British payloads on orbit for free — that were the thinnest of excuses to put down a potential rival.

The takeaway from that sorry occasion in history is that no matter how much effort and skill you put into a space program, political decisions can very easily kill it. The U.K. at the time (the program was launched in 1964, and conducted four launches between 1969 and 1971) saw the retirement of the political generation that fought World War II and fell under the control of a succession of spineless men who just didn’t have it in them to argue for an expensive space program while driving their country’s economy into the ground.

In 2020, we all have heard about economies being driven into the ground, haven’t we? What makes us think the current crop of politicians is any more principled or pro-space exploration than British elites circa 1970?

Titan,” a 1997 novel by the brilliant Stephen Baxter, is perhaps the most realistic depiction of the current state of space exploration (23 years later!) and the politics around it. In the novel, a Trump-like American idiot becomes president and shuts down the wasteful space program. A small group of smart liberals find a way to make one final launch, of a Space Shuttle, all the way to Titan, a one-way trip that goes… well, read the novel. It’s excellent.

Just remember that Stephen Baxter is British.

In part two of this essay, I wrote about how asteroid mining, long seen as a serious possibility to incentivize space exploration, is still an expensive fantasy that is probably not going to happen any time soon. There’s a novel for that, too: “Delta-V,” in which Daniel Suarez depicts a pretty realistic plan to mine asteroid Ryugu — which hinges on a “space baron” committing gigantic fraud, lying and cheating everyone because his own investors think that asteroid mining is just an insane waste of money, and then on a brave crew surviving all sorts of dangers.

That a massive, lucky conspiracy is the only way to push space exploration forward gives you an accurate gauge of our current predicament. Radical thinking is required.

Over the thousands of words I have so far written in this series, I hope I have convinced you that the situation is very, very dire. Much worse than people believe. If I have failed to give you a sense of urgency, that’s my bad. So I will pass on the baton to Robert Zubrin. He’s much more famous than me: he founded the Mars Society in 1998, and has been an advocate of space exploration for decades.

A man like Zubrin is very worried. He’s worried that manned space exploration is at risk of being completely defunded.

(Read the rest here)

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Agustín de Foxá sobre el Paraíso

Acá nos cuentan anécdota interesante del gran Agustín de Foxá, el famoso escritor facha, una de las plumas más brillantes e incisivas del siglo XX español.

Foxá narró una vez la historia de cómo el padre Guepin, abad mitrado de Silos, estaba paseando por sus soleados claustros románicos con unos amigos; surgió la conversación de cómo imaginaba cada uno al cielo. Todos expusieron sus visiones: conciertos sacros, espectáculos sin tedio, goces sin pecado…


    –Yo –dijo el padre Guepin– me lo figuro como un eterno paseo, por los jardines del Paraíso, haciendo “respetuosas objeciones” al Ser Supremo: Señor, ¿por qué hubo enfermedades? ¿Para qué hicisteis a los microbios? ¿Qué objeto tenía el planeta Júpiter?

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Rethinking Transhumanist Politics 3 – Finding Political Causes to Support

(This is the third in a series of four related essays; you can read the first one here, and the second here.)

One of my favorite quotes comes from a Colombian philosopher (they do exist; and I told you I’m Hispanic, so I would know), Nicolás Gómez Dávila: “You never know what you stand for, until your enemy tells you.”

Let’s listen to the enemy: they’re worried about social, racial and environmental issues, as I discussed in part two of this essay; they were never enthusiastic about space exploration to start with; and they want the money we now spend on rockets and probes to finance their pet projects and their own client networks.

Who are these people?

They say they’re progressive, so we’ll go with their own definition of themselves. Personally, I (a person raised in an Atheist, Marxist household and tradition, like I said earlier) don’t think they’re very much in favor of progress, so I would object to the label. But this would only complicate the discussion, and wouldn’t help us clarify the issues.

In the West, we have Progressives who are in favor of segregation (in censuses, schools, college dormitories) and against basic Marxist notions of class solidarity and protection of the lower classes (whom they want to overwhelm by importing cheaper maids, gardeners and laborers from third-world countries, the world’s most anti-Marxist notion). In the 2020 election, they were all supportive of Joe Biden, the most rightist Democratic candidate since at least Kennedy, a man in favor of expanding the American empire and fully in bed with Wall Street and ALL of the country’s largest corporations, which were hugely supportive of him in turn.

This is “the Left,” hijacked by Silicon Valley, Davos and the billionaire class. The people who change dictionaries to redefine the meaning of everyday expressions in real time, only to smear their enemies, and the very next day set up a social media blockade of news that are just not convenient for their candidate. It’s what what we have, and we must play with.

Among “the Left’s” pet concerns, the most worrisome for “space expansionists” like ourselves is the environmental issue. Green worries are highly respectable when they make sense, and the protection of the Earth’s environment is a benefit to us all, as it’s been made clear in recent centuries. But there’s such a thing as too much when it comes to environmentalism, same as in everything (I love water; it doesn’t mean I drink two tons of it per day).

Outer-space environmentalism is still pretty fringe, and I may sound a bit over the top when I say this is a danger, but you should be very worried. This summer, the highly prestigious The Economist magazine, the jet-set’s preferred weekly and pretty much the official Davos publication, published a long story about the need to protect Mars’ environment from dirty humans.

Same as the book I discussed in part two, this is yet another warning shot, but it may be even more dangerous. I know what I’m talking about: I spent 15 years working for prestige media (The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News) meeting presidents, CEOs and ministers. If they and their aides read anything, it’s The Economist.

(Read the rest here.)

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Renuncia a la poesía

RENUNCIA A LA POESÍA

 Ahora todos producen poesía,

 así que no es necesario que me siga esforzando 

 en favor de los espacios en blanco para que se note lo importante

 que es esto. Todo lo que tengo que hacer es estirar un poco la cosa, hasta el borde.

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Rethinking Transhumanist Politics 2 – Political Neutrality is Death

(This is the second in a series of four related essays; you can read the first one here.)

Space exploration is easily the most symbolic, strongest political cause that transhumanism can take up, because a stance in favor is one of the few things that brings all transhumanists together: space flight requires massive resources and strong tech development with, on the other side of the equation, the promise of even more resources and development; indeed, mastery of the universe. Space exploration is, or should be, the main transhumanist rallying cry.

The assumption that space exploration is a given, that is an unstoppable part of tech development that will continue to evolve and improve until humans are masters of the Solar System and beyond is laughably wrong. Yes, Elon Musk is building a massive Spaceship, and I wish him all the best in his endeavor. But what if he fails? He’s only human, and leads a company that must keep investors happy while servicing hard-to-please clients on which it completely depends… like NASA.

If SpaceX were to fail, for whatever reason, there just isn’t any alternative out there, and there has been no single plan for even modest manned exploration that has gone beyond the blueprint stage for decades — the likes of Blue Origin are well behind SpaceX in terms of tech, and even more in terms of ambition. The Asteroid Mining Craze? Wake up: that went away a long time ago. Unless Musk’s Spaceship provides a low-cost, reusable transportation method, there will be no asteroid mining in our lifetimes.

One should also discount NASA’s on-and-off plans to build a Lunar outpost, last re-launched under the previous U.S. administration following, again, decades of discussions. That can go down the drain with a flick of President Biden’s pen, and very likely will, unless his handlers feel that China or Russia can build an outpost before.

The U.S. Senate just drastically cut funding for the program so that nobody thinks it will be make its “ambitious” target of returning humans to the Moon by 2024, that is, during Biden’s administration. Did you know that NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine was perhaps the staunchiest supporter of human flight within the agency? He’s out. Because of his opposition to same-sex marriage.

This decade in particular is critical. Right now, there still is some measure of popular, wide-eyed support for launching astronauts on a wild ride, or at least limited outright opposition; in ten years, that may be gone, perhaps for generations. The writing is on the wall.

Take a recent, much-reviewed book that is making an impact with its arguments against space exploration. Yes, it’s 2020 and the most popular book on space exploration… is strongly against.

“Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity,” written by Daniel Deudney and published by the prestigious Oxford University Press, makes the straightforward argument that space exploration is mad, bad and dangerous, and should be stopped at all costs…

(You can read the rest here.)

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