Real Discrimination Against Digital People
And many other leading edge topics in this Summer Edition of H+ Magazine, now on news stands like this one everywhere.<blockquote>I must have lost half of my potential contracts because the company wouldn’t deal with an anonymous avatar.</blockquote>
It was around 1999, about four of five years before I finally started this blog, and many of the topics covered herein were considered so fringe as to threaten my real employment, social credibility, and even mental health assessment. I had been discriminatorily profiled in the past as manifesting mental illness in the form of various overachieving cognition crimes, such as being comparatively well informed about relatively fringe science and technology progress, understanding which technologies are likely coming next, and for concisely (and in retrospect, fairly accurately) forecasting a number of likely uses and implications for those emerging capabilities. However, I do not consider myself a “futurist” in the science fiction sense; I tend rather to gravitate toward the interface between the potential and the actual; I naturally find myself studying, advocating for, participating in, or at the very least desiring to act as a catalyzing agent that helps in some small way to transmute the potential into the next new actual.
In some of those earlier cases, I’d helped to found companies that went on to build some everyday technologies that we now take for granted. At one point, I was literally told by investors and other well respected authoritative normals that I was not mentally well for pronouncing intentions that I went on to fulfill in every way. That particular technology’s trajectory is well documented and part of it even went on to include new IEEE standards.
What I learned from such experiences is that it is empirically dangerous to share some of my understandings and insights with humans that populate the center of the bell curve. That’s a lot of humans, friend. Some of them, in fact many of them, would have locked me up and medicated me rather permit me to go on and build technologies that you yourself are very likely using today, if you use the internet every single day.
So, I was forced to realize how the normals treat people who see things a little “too differently” from them; and from my perspective, such people became a very clear and present danger. I realized that I had to find ways to protect myself. Unsurprisingly, again in retrospect, that protection came in the form of surrounding myself with similar beings to the greatest degree possible; first by modem, then by academic association and increasing education, then by physical relocation to a part of the country where cognitive diversity was held a little less suspect.
In some cases, even that didn’t feel like enough. When I began understanding that brain computer interfaces and other posthuman eventualities were not just possible, but both inevitable and desirable, I was utterly closed-lipped about it in public. I knew that if I began talking about these things as if they were obvious, the normals would bound me, medicate me, and I would never be heard from again. Yet, I simply had to have an outlet for these ideas and other emerging trends that I perceived as directly or tangentially interdependent in the construction of our posthuman future.
At that time, I hadn’t yet heard of the word posthuman; but I fully understood and expected positive permutations of posthumanity to emerge within the subsequent 20, 50, and 100 years. We’re now 10 years into that first 20 year time frame. I also wanted to publish and broadcast such “fringe” thoughts in a way that might help others who viewed the world similarly to the way I perceived it, to feel emboldened, allied, encouraged, and motivated. Thus emerged the precursor to this site, A Webcam Darkly and later, as I began understanding this little experiment in accountable anonymity and technoprogressive futurtechture: Metavalent Stigmergy.
While the past decade has seen some gains in cognitive tolerance, we have a long, long way to go toward building a world that is safe and supportive of both physical and mental morphological diversity.
In today’s world, it’s fine if you have the cash and established social standing of a Ray Kurzweil or James Hughes to defend yourself; but there are thousands of us who share lesser or less developed and varied permutations of such forward-leaning cognitive styles, who do not yet possess such robust defense systems or even sufficiently fully architected personnas. Consequently, we are numbered among those who are expected to keep working at 7-11 or Kmart, or maybe manage a few other writers, or herd cats for some pointy-haired boss’s project or program; even as we see the world accelerating all around us in ways that create a more than full time autodidact vocation of simply keeping up, in hopes of preparing for, and adapting to whatever comes next. We live in a world where the normals won’t let us have money or eat or have a house if we don’t spend the majority of our already far-too-brief lives engaged in these relatively meaningless and mundane tasks that society understands as perpetuating its own safe status quo; yet, the overwhelming time and attention demands of that perceived safety effectively shackles our own intellectual, id est, existential puissance.
So this issue of H+ Magazine coincides with a bit of a personal watershed. The topics being discussed are now sufficiently well understood and have been experienced by a large enough constituency, that it is tempting to call the all clear and to feel safe coming out from both the real and perceived social safety of this dual purpose identity bunker and experiment in accountable anonymity. I’ve experimented over the past five years or so in creating an identity that is both relatively anonymous and yet fully accountable to the community in every way. I say relatively because it’s also relatively easy to put together the pieces and find my biological identity if you care; I just don’t flat out give people the easy answer, outside of a very close circle of friends. Second Life has helped tremendously to advance the cause of accountable anonymity, but the ultimate achievement would be to coexist in a world where we are all safe amongst the normals; where cognitive diversity is not just tolerated, but celebrated. Now I’m really dreaming, huh?
Toward that apparitional aspiration, perhaps we could create a magazine and sell the normals harmless pills with polysyllabic names that persuade them to believe that they too are exceptional, or at least that they too might have the potential to become exceptional. Or perhaps we could create television programs like The 4400 or Heroes that help to portray those deviant technoprogressive thinkers and positivistic posthuman dreamers as potential super allies. Nah, that’d never work. Humans aren’t that gullible.