Progressive Utopia: Twenty-First Century Inferno

We seldom get the straight scoop from politicians.  Visionaries like Ray Kurzweil, however, will tell us with a mad, gleeful candor about the progressively designed Hell awaiting us.

It is perhaps unfair to level a blanket charge of insanity against all progressives, as I did last week.  Some simply possess below-average intelligence—but that seems to me a bird of a different feather, quite honestly.  The Hollywood celebrity or the child of a political legend who adopts progressive plumage just to fly along with a loud, gaudy flock hasn’t truly earned the designation.  So, too, for the thug, the charlatan, and the fire-breathing rabble-rouser who recognize in progressivism the surest political means to getting rich quick.  The laundered handouts from George Soros, the steady and little-traced flow of union dues, the “stimulus” packages to favorite donors, the government contracts awarded to grateful in-laws, the government sinecures lined up for talentless spouses and children, the tax-paid perks that make daily living a stroll in paradise, and the sycophantic news media that refuse to blow the whistle should any of these practices grow too careless (while volunteering unbidden to defame whistle-blowers)… it’s the best gig going.  Such characters may indeed be styled quite clever, in an animal sort of way.  But they’re not the genuine progressive article.  In a pinch, they would become RINOs (or Republicans, as I prefer to say), with whom they are destined to share the same circle of Hell: the one where Judas hangs.

So I think, if we demand a little rigor of the word, that “progressivism” probably should stand as a species of insanity.  Consider the term in a less political context: consider it simply as an unlimited optimism in humankind’s ability to improve itself and its circumstances.  Understood in this more general fashion, the progressive has invariably yoked his advancing wagon to technology.  (I devoutly wish, by the way, that certain conservatives would ponder this connection more carefully: the production of new technology merely to create or magnify lucrative markets usually resists any restraining effort on the part of traditional values, and in fact usually ends up destroying some of those values.)  No single name on the contemporary scene could be more readily identified with a blind faith—a near-delirious ecstasy—concerning technological advance than Ray Kurzweil.  Let us, then, study the brainchildren of Mr. Kurzweil’s forward-straining imagination.

I first became familiar with Kurzweil’s work several years ago when Bill Joy publicly declared that humans are doomed to be supplanted by robots.  Joy’s prophecy was gloomy and—he insisted—without reprieve.  Kurzweil sprang to the defense of optimism—not in the form of predicting humanity’s continued survival per se, however, but rather in the very odd form of hymning “hybrid man’s” imminent arrival.  Infused with millions of cell-sized nanobots, the man-machine of the future would resist all diseases and all the degenerative processes of aging.  He would be virtually indestructible.  What’s more, his arrival is far closer than we suppose; for Kurzweil stresses in every article or speech of his that I have ever read how dramatically the exponent of high-tech growth ratchets up this universal overhaul.  He sees a new Adam casting his shadow over our old earth as early as midway through this century.

It is immediately evident to me (and to anyone else who’s watching) that Kurzweil’s brilliance dims mine as the Moon’s does Mercury’s.  I hope it will be just as apparent, at least to readers of this site, that the man has lost some vital part of his mind.  A normal adult cannot escape such a conclusion after being apprised of Kurzweil’s favorite scenes in the coming utopia—and, especially, after witnessing what delight he takes in them.  For the death-and-disease resistant superman isn’t primarily visualized as colonizing Mars or embarking on a mission to Barnard’s Star or designing and constructing a new planet near a younger sun… no, nothing so clinical.  Kurzweil speaks and writes of him/her/it as living the life we live right now—but, oh, with so much more gusto!  The miraculous nanobots can be programmed so as to dupe all of our neurons—our sight, our hearing, our smell—into believing that we are scaling Everest or descending into the Mariana Trench or dining at the Eiffel Tower or jockeying Secretariat to a Derby win, all without leaving our easy chair.  We can go where we want when we want, and there we may behave how we want.  What five-year-old dreams of anything else?

If only we were dealing with toddlers here!  Then the only excesses to fear would involve candy, ice cream, and playground time.  That the Maestro’s vision is profoundly “adult” in its hedonism leaps out at you feet-first when Kurzweil begins to write of sex.  Stimulated neurons can give “peak” sexual experiences on demand without the real presence of another human being; and, eventually, it seems that properly conditioned minds will be able to enjoy sex in a massively promiscuous and ongoing fashion, since the encumbrances of time and space will have been removed.  Solipsistic autonomy will paradoxically produce a fusion of identities in “singularity” (though apparently Kurzweil resists this conclusion—with a strange hostility—whenever it is posed to him as the obvious summary of his dark dream).  Paul Joseph Watson has with good cause observed that sex with computers appears to be a downright fetish of Kurzweil’s.

Now, there are numerous consequences of this transformation, ranging from the likely to the inevitable, that even a plodding intelligence like my own can foresee.  I submit that Kurzweil’s impervious indifference to them suggests a kind of psychosis.  I’m reminded of a kid I went to school with who liked to throw lit matches on things.  He knew that matches start fires: he just didn’t seem to care.

For one thing, a person (or personbot) who grows accustomed to doing what he wants must clearly become a sociopath.  Are we to suppose that she/he/it (just squeeze a little more for a handy contraction for the new gender) will distinguish between imaginary expeditions and real crimes?  How, and why?  Isn’t the essential miracle of the nanobot debauch that the senses are rendered incapable of sorting the virtual from the real?  And why should our superman care about raping or gutting or incinerating another being in reality?  The other can simply be repaired or rebooted.  The only surefire way to avoid behavioral chaos on this planet of high-tech apes would be the formation of a central ganglion—a matrix—of the sort that Kurzweil downplays or dismisses.  He certainly cannot fail to see, however, that a great mega-brain is the ineluctable destination of his utopia.  Must the explanation of his contradictory position not be that he secretly considers (secretly for the sake of “decency”) this Oneness to be Himself—Kurzweil, the new Gilgamesh sleeping with all the virgins on their marriage night?  Kurzweil, the new Manson and Koresh, fusing all wills to his will until he dominates the universe newly created in his image?

And is this not the sort of sick insanity that lures every progressive politician to usurp more and ever more power?  Wherein is it any different?

There is another solution to the conundrum, to be sure, though only a fragmentary and temporary one.  It is this: Hybrid Man’s collateral damage will not be a concern because his victims will consist only of “unimproved” men, incapable of complete regeneration.  Sociopathic Adam will indeed leave a wake of eviscerated paleo-primates—but they won’t matter, any more than the unseen ants that we crush along the sidewalk.  Of course, this isn’t really a solution distinct from The Hive; or, at any rate, both end up at the same place, the one simply being a little more realistic than the other about the “details” of hive-engineering. 

Kurzweil knows this.  When pressed on the issue of how many human beings can actually be “upgraded” as he describes, he will admit that humanity in its present form contains a lot of cannon fodder.  The sacrifice of these cavemen to Techno-Ape the Ubermensch is to be downplayed and soft-pedaled as long as possible, since cavemen currently abound in the hundreds of millions… but their ultimate elimination is not only a foregone conclusion: it is an objective.  It is part of the Great Advance.  So many problems of the modern world—logistical, political, ecological, sociological—are the simple result of too many bodies, as our friends at the helm of the PRC long ago realized.  All those human swarms and droves for which the progressive heart bleeds in print and at the podium will eventually be fed and coaxed right into the abyss, like lab rats following cheese crumbs.  Techno-Ape will probably mop up in less subtle fashion… but still, extermination is really the best thing for them.  It’s the only true act of compassion, in their case.

Just as individuality seems to matter to the progressive only insofar as it provides receiving neurons for his carnal pleasures, so multiplicity matters to him only insofar as it replicates himself.  Masses are desired as long as their united throats parrot the pronouncements of The Leader—that’s what democracy looks like; but in the end, once The Leader’s will is no more opposed on any front, all those hoarse throats (and the gluttonous bellies that fuel them) are bothersome clutter.  The Leader, who has provided them with a mind and whose mind they were ever and always only intended to blare above competing protests, will incorporate every higher thought they could ever have—and a lot more, besides.  Through him, therefore, they will live forever… and the huge, cumbersome, ecologically toxic part of them that is not in him will be swept into the dust bin.  What’s to lament about that?  They’ve lost nothing, those stupid, filthy masses: on the contrary, they have been enlisted into the sinew of a higher being as manure is absorbed by the roots of a rose.

Through him, with him, and in him.  This perfect inversion of Christian salvation (humanity dying so that a god may be born rather than God suffering death that humanity may live) has a huis clos quality about it.  Anyone who is once sucked into the mad labyrinth can only draw closer to the dead-end center as he wanders and rambles—there’s no turning back.  One coup of automation over free will calls for another.  Any resistance by mass referendum proves how richly the masses deserve to be incinerated.  Any glimmer of guilt along the way would ignite a thunderous awakening to previous atrocities—and a supreme egotist will see us all die before he explodes his ego.  A merely sinful soul (such as we all possess) turns evil down these corridors.  It becomes the permanent prisoner of its own advance.  To expect this Man-Robot (the Man-Bull of the labyrinth-myth’s earliest version) to recover suddenly from his diet of memory chips is like expecting an alcoholic to grow sober as he downs one more bottle.

Psychologists say that rape is primarily a crime of violence, not of libido.  Quite so: there’s very much of the “joy of rape” in progressivism–and it is a spiritual joy, in a psychotic way, rather than a carnal one.  I don’t think it’s accidental that so many progressives of my generation shared (as I navigated graduate school through their electrified daydreams) Kurzweil’s vision of a supreme and eternal sexual orgasm.  No wonder they find the faith that promises seventy-two eternally renewed and willing virgins to deserve a special dispensation under their self-idolatry!  In sexual consummation is a thrilling triumph of brute neurons over rationality and its host of miseries (conscience, memory, regret): the highest moment of the greatest conceivable achievement of science is the obliteration of nagging thoughts in a fireworks-display of ecstasy.  Orgasm, then, is really little—if anything—more than a metaphor for a rarified state of mindlessness wherein egotism’s victory is so complete that the self utterly forgets itself in an unlimited rapture of self-indulgence.

That a mentality embarked upon such a quest would leave millions of innocent dead behind it is scarcely surprising, such is the depth of this madness.  The pity is that ordinary, plodding, healthy minds cannot imagine what extreme danger they incur when they elect progressive lunacy to pilot their ship of state.  While men and women on street corners debate whether or not The Leader is playing politics or just needs more time or has bad advisors, the cattle cars are being coupled up right behind their backs.  Nobody fattens cattle for anything but the slaughterhouse.  Fodder is neither cheap nor infinite—but it makes sense as a short-term investment.  In this regard, you might say that insanity is superior to stupidity.  From a pragmatic perspective, history has often favored that conclusion.

But if “real reality” is broader than this world and all its history, then the insane Pied Pipers are still worse off than their blind mice.  If there is ultimate justice for crimes against humanity—not exile to Elba or a firing squad, but a reckoning paid by the soul—then a truly evil man can find no escape; and to my mind, a man who freely chooses insanity (as opposed to being driven to it by Mother Nature’s dirty tricks) is evil.  A man who puts himself and his whimsy before others so often that he can no longer do otherwise is evil.  A man who, reveling in his freedom, gives free rein to his impulses for so long that he fears to strain upon the curb is evil.  Free choice surrendered to blind fantasy until fantasy enslaves the will is none other than that fateful descent into the labyrinth’s center, where all at last comes to a standstill.  For that place where the self-willed, self-anointed, self-destructive trespasser of all boundaries finally rapes and romances his empty images of others—his empty alternatives to his empty self—is Hell. 

Ray Kurzweil is right about one thing: the self-created man who makes his way there will exist in that state forever.

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