Prometheus

When I invoke Prometheus, I am deliberately invoking two sets of mythologies. I do this because I think narratives are important qualities to define a philosophy. I tend to consider that philosophy without stories are difficult to relate as we express so much of our thinking through symbolism.

The first mythology is the original Ancient Greek myth of Prometheus, as he is the Titan who stole fire from the gods. Fire in this myth is often thought to serve as an allegory for technology, and its transformative effect on humanity. It is symbolic for human will and reason to triumph over the state of nature. Prometheus becomes an archetypal rebel, whose actions direct the human condition towards a master of its own destiny.

The second mythology is, appropriately, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; few people know that it bears the subtitle of “the Modern Prometheus”. The story of Frankenstein and his monster is also an allegory of humanity’s relationship with technology, and is one of the first novels to challenge us with the question of our responsibility with mastery of technology. This narrative is very much a recasting of the same allegory in an industrial context, with the modern Prometheus beign Victor Frankenstein himself, having used socially illicit ‘fires of alchemy’ to gain mastery over life itself.

Prometheanism

The over-riding perspective of this website is Prometheanism. Prometheanism can be regarded as a form of Bright Green Environmentalism (BGE), in that it aspires towards a vision of human society that is ecologically sustainable and is achieved through transformative technologies and improved design. The vision of Prometheanism that is espoused here is one that embraces a view of techno-progressivism towards an ideal of environmentalism, but does not necessarily assume that technology is deterministic. Instead, I take the view that technology is just as important in shaping human society as it is in shaping the environment around us. This is what I consider differentiates Prometheanism from the broader discourse of BGE, because it permits the reconfiguring of the human condition through transhumanism to achieve sustainability.

I should also add an important caveat. As I read it, the label of Prometheanism is currently contested. One side uses the idea of Prometheanism to use technological determinism to justify a neoliberal approach to the environment of market fundamentalism and unlimited growth. The other side assumes that technology is a systemic social construction, and so the rationalisation of economic paradigm from that position is erroneous. The latter is the position I emphasise.

While Prometheanism is the over-riding perspective of this page, there are a number of other ideologies and perspectives that supplement this perspective.

Post-scarcity

Current economic regimes are necessary as certain types of resources are scarce, meaning that given our current levels of advancement we have insufficient resources to accommodate the desires of everyone within the economy. That scarcity requires some form of commodification of each good or resource, so that they can be exchanged or apportioned through a market or state system.

Post-scarcity imagines an economy where there is a sufficient abundance of goods and energy that the nominal economics of scarcity are no longer needed. For Prometheanism, this is a paramount issue as it challenges the principally economic manner in which we approach environmentalism by moderating and constraining human choices. This vision of Prometheanism hopes to move beyond the dichotomy of capitalism and socialism, which are both depend on a model of scarcity to work. Instead, it seeks to understand what society might be like if it achieved abundance.

Energy Politics

The cornerstone of scarcity is undoubtedly energy. The energy industry is the principle cause of greenhouse emissions. The issues of energy politics look towards new forms of energy production that have a neutral carbon footprint, while also being sufficiently cheap to offset traditional fossil fuels. This is perhaps the most eminent example of Prometheanism as a form of ecological modernisation; that is, embracing technologies that enable the same human capacity, while addressing the deleterious consequences of associated activities. As a philosophy, Prometheanism seeks to challenge the hegemonic manner in which corporations control energy production.

Distributed Manufacture

The other component of scarcity economics is the ability to compile objects and materials in an additive and radically decentralised manner. Most scarcity manufacture depends on huge infrastructure to extract core materials and produce them through a manufacture industry. This method is both incredibly centralised, and depends on well-funded corporations to maintain the necessary infrastructure. Prometheanism seeks to take the means of manufacture out of large-scale industries and return it towards more of a localised cottage industry model.

Transhumanism

Transhumanism is the notion that as technology increasingly dominates our social and physical spaces, they will eventually reconfigure our lives radically, and begin to alter essential qualities of the human condition. Importantly, transhumanism holds that emerging technologies will potentially remove natural limitations of human psychology and physiology.

Many proponents of transhumanism assume a technologically deterministic view of technology, which as stated above I tend to reject. I do however, agree that technology is profoundly impacting the nature and design of humanity and the societies we inhabit. Through transhumanism, I can explore issues around technological determinism against the social construction of technology. I can also ask how a philosophy of environmentalism might allow us to embrace a transformation of humanity to achieve sustainability.

Queer Technologies

Queer Theory critical theory that contests suggestions that sexuality and/or gender is essential. It firstly acknowledges that there may be innate characteristics that are sexual and sexual/romantic desires that are deeply ingrained within our psychology. However, it then contends that the way we express our personality from those experiences is very much subject to social ideas of sexuality, sex, and gender. We, both individually and socially, tend to interpret our desires and acts in the context of those norms, and give them identities.

I consider Queer Technologies to be a range of technologies that allow us to reconfigure traditional ideals of gender, sexuality, and sex. They may be as explicit as hormone therapy and surgery to transform one’s anatomy, to the implementation of the pill, which brought about the sexual revolution.

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