On Jeffrey Tucker’s Techno-Optimism

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It’s perfectly fine to come to a different conclusion after looking at new evidence and considering other perspectives. Jeffrey Tucker has that same right, and he has exercised it. Starting in 2015, Tucker began warning of the threat of fascism that he felt was growing on the Right. Actually, some of us told him, and political parties aside, the real authoritarians were to be found on the Left. Let us not, we stressed, be fooled of that fact just because Donald Trump happens to like the police and national borders. When it came time, the animal-like spontaneity of the Left would be what was needed in order to enact and maintain authoritarian superstructures.

Our words of warning would be borne out during the lockdowns and mandates, which found their biggest cheerleaders on the Left. Careless acts of door-closing, cage-linking, arm-poking, and struggled breathing would be things championed by those who speak wildly about “civil rights.” (No, that’s not exactly fair, as I estimate some 500 temperature scans for myself over the last few years…hoping of course that everything turns out well for us all!)

“You were right,” Tucker replied to one of my replies on Twitter. More people than myself had pointed this out, to be sure, but finally some vindication afforded by one of the world’s best libertarian activists! That was pleasing.

For Tucker (and as he says again in an essay I’m about to look at), the lockdowns came as a great shock. He didn’t think a modern population would be fertile ground in which to institute such things as lockdowns, let alone to tolerate these cages for as long as we did. There was too much civilization, too many enlightened minds, too much to remind us of what happened nearly a hundred years ago.

One can imagine what went through Jeffrey’s head as he learned about the measures taken by even worst regimes than ours. Maybe Tucker had long ago accepted Fukuyama’s kneejerk impression about humanity finding itself at the end of history. Perhaps he thought that from here on out, the people of the earth would work in total cooperation as we completed the stairway which went up past the clouds. Pray, Jeffrey, you didn’t think it was going to be that good.  

In fact, it might be worse than he’s aware. Yet, to his credit, Jeffrey Tucker shows himself as not only a great activist and thinker for liberty, but also someone willing to admit when he’s wrong. I think that will soon be a cherished quality. Although I’ve only had fleeting conversations with him on social media, and quoted him once in each of my two booklets, this really isn’t surprising. In short, I’ve appreciated Jeffrey’s marketplace activism, whereby he defends the things gifted to us by innovation, hard work, and trade – in short, the fruits of industrialization.

But there is everywhere to be found excess, corruption, and decisions so awful and so catastrophic that they often appear as having sinister intent.

At this moment, I can’t find the speech Tucker gave at the inauguration of the Brownstone Institute, which he founded as a response to the lockdowns. Instead, on YouTube, I find a speech he gave a few months ago, in April of 2022, where Jeffrey is seen having a difficult time with a microphone. While it’s always nice to see someone else beating up on technology, the video I’m really looking for features Mr. Tucker referring to himself as a sort of “optimistic techno-utopian.” (please don’t sue me for libel, Jeffrey). No surprise to be found there either, as one of Tucker’s essay collections is entitled It’s a Jetson’s World.

Tucker also recently penned a truly remarkable column asking: “How Could We Have Been So Naïve About Big Tech?” He first refers to the 1998 thriller Enemy of the State, which sees the NSA hunting down a lawyer using all the interesting real-life gadgets available at the time. In the decade that followed the release of that film, Tucker excoriated those simple-minded Luddites who refused to run down to the nearest Best Buy, so as to meet the newest “smart”-whatever which could help them forget about their teetering stack of bills and dwindling bank accounts.

Then we find ourselves at the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, when Big Tech joined hands with the State, helping it to craft official narratives regarding lockdowns and vaccines, leading to the soft corralling of we livestock with bigger brains. Turn the corner in cyberspace, and we find a dejected Jeffrey smacking himself in the head as he answers his own question: “It’s rather obvious this would happen because it’s happened with every other technology in history, from weaponry to industrial manufacturing.”

Sadly, some of us took the Black Pill a long time ago. We were, unfortunately, given early membership to the misanthrope community. A few of us even remember reading – gasp, it’s true – the manifesto of one Theodore Kaczynski (How right he was about Leftists!) No surprise from us, then, as we admit to our own distrust of both humanity and Big Tech – which is, for at least a few more years, still controlled by humanity. For us, the lockdowns were no kind of shock; they only reinforced our bleak and hopeless worldview. Of course people would gladly turn around when told not to open the door of their business, or do nothing more than clean up the caution tape as it unravels and falls off from the playground equipment.

Why is that? How did it happen? I hope to join Jeffrey in forever asking, and one day answering, that question. No list of reasons would suffice here. History is all around us. Wars, torture, deception – it was all there just yesterday. Most remember the Attacks of September 11th, and then the wars and programs that came in the aftermath of that day. It shouldn’t be that shocking that some of us did not blink when we saw more people acting terribly.

But somehow this time it feels a little different, doesn’t it? Cue the hopeful refrains: “It’s been bad before…Count the number of apocalypses that did not come to pass…We’ll pull out of it.” No matter how many times these have been stated, it truly seems that humanity stands at a crossroads, unlike anything that came before. We’ve never had technology like we do now. There’s a lot more than just the printing press, the musket, and the gallows; more than just the television, the telephone, and the tanks. How ancient those gadgets! Having been outlined in novels and movies, we then move swiftly into a higher-tech dystopia. “As for escaping,” Tucker writes, “any truly private email cannot be domiciled in the US, and our one-time friend the smartphone operates now as the most reliable citizen surveillance tool in history.” And we’re just getting started!

The elites of the world are soiled with giddiness. For them, the prospects look great. Klaus Schwab and “Great Reset” trends several times a day on Twitter, showing that others are aware that he’s aware. Clips of Schwab’s top advisor, Yuval Harari, have also become popular. Harari gets very excited when explaining how we big-brained livestock will soon have devices implanted beneath our skin, which will be able to monitor things like heartrate and temperature. Hollywood never foresaw that one! That’s more reserved for the comic books, with the villains having leapt off the cheap page and landing onto the expensive stage. During those forums and events, they scheme and plot and design their future – which doesn’t include all of us.

For now, that’s the best I can do in defining technocracy.

The People, disparate as that concept can be, will have many different reactions to these developments. For those who lean more towards optimism, they will seek reaffirmation of older ideals.

For instance. Plastic makes up a good deal of the modern world. So much so, that scientists have recently found microplastics in our blood. Dr. Shanna Swan seems to think that the chemicals in plastic have contributed to the drastic plummet of sperm counts and testosterone. Just ask a friend if they know someone who’s had to seek help at one of the numerous infertility clinics. Our predicament is so bad that, according to Swan, the human race should consider placing itself on an endangered species list.

And so I don’t think it’s a coincidence that during a time in which the human race struggles not only to justify its own history, but also to maintain its very existence, that the act of abortion is greeted with the most virulent kind of opposition. Those who couldn’t give a damn about the thousands of children shuffled around the foster care system, nor the shameful number of suicides, will justify the punishment of a teenage rape victim should she regain control of her body and then terminate the life of a month-old fetus. Twisted as that is, it serves as an easy and costless way in which to reaffirm the importance of human life.

These days, we also find hyper religiosity, and with no specific religion in mind. There’s talk of “making us fear God again,” with no mention of any theological doctrine: merely something bigger than ourselves. This is because the Schwab’s of the world position themselves as the overseers of a new epoch. In one way, and as much as loathe to admit it, the U S of A is a religious society. It is home to a lot of devout people, even if they haven’t read the writings of any of the very skeptical Framers. Jeffrey himself is Catholic. And does he not feel the need to apprehend those mere mortals who claim to represent a sort of Data-godhood? Other believers will feel repelled by this too.

Notice that most nationalism – which Jeffrey might have given a thought or two about – comes with a religious tint. Here, I recall a second sentence in Tucker’s reply to me: “I still worry about that backlash.” The Right is speaking more loudly about “civil war,” which, along with “national divorce,” are also both trendy on Twitter.

Which takes us by the midterm season. Elections. Voting. Democracy. The collective effort to grab hold of the reins is the most civilized and sensible of reactions. “There’s nothing we can’t do together,” as it goes. There won’t be a civil war or secession or a technocratic hellscape if we all just vote to “conserve” our wonderful way of life. But, as the Joker says, there’s no going back to the way things were. The changes might be irrevocable.

Then what? The problems, therefore, are insoluble. Good options are rare, but then again, for us misanthropes, none of the options ever look that great. My referencing a mass murderer is not meant to imply that we’re about to go to war against technology. It’s only to highlight some of these extreme reactions: when even political candidates like Blake Masters, who came from Big Tech, cites Kaczynski as one of his heroes. Conservatism to the point of primitivism: so much for the White Man’s building of the modern world! Strange times indeed.

We’re obviously not going to do away with all technology. Who really wants to give up their traveling-machines? I know Jeffrey likes his airports. As for me, the only place I truly feel alive and free is traveling 80-plus on a mostly empty highway. Neither cars, planes, or air-conditioning are going anywhere. And we don’t want to give the impression that a regulatory state would do anything beneficial anyway. (We only wish that the seats on the plane would be spread farther apart! And that the car doors stay open like the DeLorean, never having to worry about your leg being crushed as you attempt to fetch something from the other seat. Only one of these has been provided by the market.)

Well, how about we just do away with evil men (and women!)? If we didn’t want a war against technology, then maybe just a war against the technocrats. This is an even more impossible task. As stated, humanity has a great capacity for evil. So while some want to change who sits in the seats of Power, others like myself want to evolve beyond Power.

How to do this? Certainly, it’s a long-term project. Interestingly, Jeffrey also has another recent column in which he discusses Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He reminds us that Shelley’s parents were two of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment – Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Godwin’s An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, published in 1793, has been a huge influence on my thinking. The perfection of mankind! Such an old fantasy, but when living in a time in which elites talk of such lofty ambitions, like that of merging with machines, the fantasy might be more relevant than ever. The goal, then, would be to outpace these transhumanists.

There are signs that people are evolving, another kind of “Great Awakening.” If we stand any chance against the technocratic elite, we should keep doing that. If not, then our future might be even bleaker, a future in which the next most popular gizmo turns out to be suicide-pods.

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KM Patten

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