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Silicon Valley’s Bonfire of the Vainglorious

by W. Patrick McCray

(missing author)

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? (None). Silicon Valley’s Bonfire of the Vainglorious. Los Angeles Review of Books. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/silicon-valleys-bonfire-of-the-vainglorious/

[...] Like economic returns from Bay Area tech companies today, human enhancement technologies of the future will not be evenly distributed. If we’re now exercised over how the rich get privileged access to airline seats, imagine the reaction from le menu peuple when they see the callow Jared Kushners of tomorrow get brain upgrades while being infused with teenaged blood. Perhaps this explains why some of the United States’s wealthiest people are prepping for the day when the pitchforks come out — a veritable bonfire of the vainglorious — and they retreat to their converted ICBM silos and island compounds.

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

[...] Like economic returns from Bay Area tech companies today, human enhancement technologies of the future will not be evenly distributed. If we’re now exercised over how the rich get privileged access to airline seats, imagine the reaction from le menu peuple when they see the callow Jared Kushners of tomorrow get brain upgrades while being infused with teenaged blood. Perhaps this explains why some of the United States’s wealthiest people are prepping for the day when the pitchforks come out — a veritable bonfire of the vainglorious — and they retreat to their converted ICBM silos and island compounds.

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

For example, not far away from where some of the Thiel Fellows lived and coded — is there a difference? — are the 27,000-plus undergraduates of San Jose State University. Many are first-generation college students for whom a college education offers a ladder to the middle class and a decent income. In contrast, Burnham’s parents boast about how a Thiel Fellowship offered their kid a “new kind of status symbol […] it said their son could get into Harvard but turned it down for something better.” It’s one thing to write about a group of young people who, after being accepted to Yale, Princeton, and MIT, decided not to attend. That’s their privilege. But when the message is that higher education is for chumps, worth neither time nor public investment … well, that’s a very different kind of privilege.

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

For example, not far away from where some of the Thiel Fellows lived and coded — is there a difference? — are the 27,000-plus undergraduates of San Jose State University. Many are first-generation college students for whom a college education offers a ladder to the middle class and a decent income. In contrast, Burnham’s parents boast about how a Thiel Fellowship offered their kid a “new kind of status symbol […] it said their son could get into Harvard but turned it down for something better.” It’s one thing to write about a group of young people who, after being accepted to Yale, Princeton, and MIT, decided not to attend. That’s their privilege. But when the message is that higher education is for chumps, worth neither time nor public investment … well, that’s a very different kind of privilege.

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

This near-contempt for our mortal vessels takes us to a second faction — let’s call them the coders — who are selling their own strategy for defeating or deferring death. Instead of augmenting the body with high-tech gadgets or through genetic and medical tweaks, they propose abandoning the Flesh altogether. The body as a machine to be maintained and augmented is old hat; they focus instead on the mind. Drawing on philosophical debates going back to Descartes, they imagine it as software — a program or data file that can be copied indefinitely and remain useful, so long as an operating system exists to run it. Making a copy of a person’s mind is the first step toward uploading it for storage and retrieval.

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

This near-contempt for our mortal vessels takes us to a second faction — let’s call them the coders — who are selling their own strategy for defeating or deferring death. Instead of augmenting the body with high-tech gadgets or through genetic and medical tweaks, they propose abandoning the Flesh altogether. The body as a machine to be maintained and augmented is old hat; they focus instead on the mind. Drawing on philosophical debates going back to Descartes, they imagine it as software — a program or data file that can be copied indefinitely and remain useful, so long as an operating system exists to run it. Making a copy of a person’s mind is the first step toward uploading it for storage and retrieval.

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

[...] Gesturing to his seemingly normal and well-functioning body, one such biohacker tells O’Connell, “I’m trapped here.” Transhumanism, at least in this version, appears less about liberation than self-annihilation. Like the ancient Gnostics, these people believe that our flesh is a prison trapping the soul — “our bodies, our burdens,” as it were. But then, transhumanism has always had more than a whiff of eschatology about it.

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

[...] Gesturing to his seemingly normal and well-functioning body, one such biohacker tells O’Connell, “I’m trapped here.” Transhumanism, at least in this version, appears less about liberation than self-annihilation. Like the ancient Gnostics, these people believe that our flesh is a prison trapping the soul — “our bodies, our burdens,” as it were. But then, transhumanism has always had more than a whiff of eschatology about it.

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

All this would be fine — let the über-rich pursue their batshit crazy schemes — but, as O’Connell suggests, these expensive, research-intensive solutions to “the death problem” may then crowd out other issues and approaches. We can already help people — millions of them — live longer and better lives. It’s here! Hail the future! Ah … forget about it. No one working on Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road seems inclined to get super-stoked about pushing for universal health care, better public schools, sane gun laws, and a decent living wage. Why champion urban sanitation and clean drinking water when Bono and Leonardo DiCaprio are probably already on it? Today’s transhumanism isn’t about helping the masses. It’s all about me — the glorious, death-deferring me. [...]

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago

All this would be fine — let the über-rich pursue their batshit crazy schemes — but, as O’Connell suggests, these expensive, research-intensive solutions to “the death problem” may then crowd out other issues and approaches. We can already help people — millions of them — live longer and better lives. It’s here! Hail the future! Ah … forget about it. No one working on Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road seems inclined to get super-stoked about pushing for universal health care, better public schools, sane gun laws, and a decent living wage. Why champion urban sanitation and clean drinking water when Bono and Leonardo DiCaprio are probably already on it? Today’s transhumanism isn’t about helping the masses. It’s all about me — the glorious, death-deferring me. [...]

missing author 2 years, 11 months ago