This is the second in a series of projected posts that try to look at the Trump administration and right wing populism through the lens of different books (the first – on civil society – is here). The last post was mostly riffing on Ernest Gellner. Today, it’s another middle-European exile intellectual – Karl Polanyi. [click to continue…]

The Rapture of The Pretty Hip People, Actually

by Belle Waring on May 1, 2017

No spoilers because I’m just talking in generalities. Read away.

Walkaway is a book in which important issues about how we should live, and how we can live, are discussed and hashed out very thoroughly. Not anywhere near the level of Kim Stanley Robinson, when in the course of reading you are inclined to ask, “did I just read 160 pages of minutes from an anarcho-syndicalist collective meeting? Yes, yes I did. Huh. Why I am I finishing this trilogy? Oh right, I have a compulsive need to finish any book.” Nonetheless, the discussions are full and mostly quite satisfying even as they treat difficult issues. What do we owe one another in society? How should we distribute resources? (I will note in passing that there is a certain tension between the post-scarcity economy that seems to be available and the widespread poverty of the “default” world, but we can hardly expect a smooth transition from the one to the other; perhaps this is realism rather than inconsistency.)

However there is one topic which does not get as much of this treatment, in my opinion, even as it is a very live issue in the plot, namely, is a copy of you really you? If your consciousness could be uploaded to a computer and successfully simulated, would this represent a continuation of your actual self, or merely the creation of a copy of you, like an animated xerox? Would you “go on living” in some meaningful sense? What if these new copies of you were drafted as servants, to use the way we use machines now, but a thousand times more useful? [click to continue…]