I know there are many legtimate reasons to hate the Bush administration. I have one that doesn't appear on our palm pilots: science policy. I addressed that issue in a recent column that I wrote for Better Humans--my stomping grounds which could be described as what would happen if you could mix the early 90s Wired magazines with the Nation--where I talk about the horrific Bush science agenda and my work with ACT.
I've always taken politics pretty seriously ever since college. It's sort of like what Ralph Nader (please don't vote for him; go here for why) says: If you don't act on politics, then eventually politics will act on you.
For me, in the early 80s, I was always watching to see if the late President Reagan would be successful in "acting" to gut my student loans. He always proposed it, but Congress, controlled by Democrats, always kept my loan burden intact.
It was in those summers—when I started realizing that who was in office could affect my life for the better or worse—that I first started canvassing in support of political issues. Canvassing for money, if you're not familiar with it, isn't the easiest way to make a living or cash for college. Back in the early 80s, the quota was US$80 dollars a night. Now, the quota is about US$130 a night. I've estimated that I've spent about five years of my life canvassing on everything from lower cable bills to abolishing the North American Free Trade Agreement. I even ran a field canvass for three years in Evansville, Indiana. Call me committed.
Today, I'm back at it in Pittsburgh, knocking on doors and asking people if they're registered to vote. You might ask yourself what this has to do with the transhumanist dream, where we live out our lives in fusion-driven Betterhumans space habitats, whiling away our several century lifespan seeking to understand every allusion and reference in the works of Joyce or Alan Moore, or actively partaking in the terraforming of Venus or Titan, or even studying up on that hot new personal genomic cosmetic item, the black rhino horn, grown wherever you like, with accessories.
The answer is that unless transhumanists think seriously about politics and self-promotion, this vision will always remain an interesting dream and not a reality. In fact, not only will you have to work for such a future—a future with real self-determination, no wage slavery and more than a vote every two or four years when all the real issues have already been settled—you will have to fight for it. And most likely, your opposition will be violently stupid people who refuse to give up what Carl Sagan described as the "demon-haunted world" and the obligatory yet soothing bliss stations—an eternity with Jesus and departed loved ones or Allah's 40 virgins—that go along with it.
I understand that there are those in the transhumanist movement who don't want to be involved in politics. Politics is a dangerous, messy game. On the other hand, if you're not involved in politics you're simply not relevant. I mean, what good is it if you can genetically modify yourself to live in space, if both genetic modification and space travel are made illegal?
Here in the US, you'll soon have a chance to get involved. I try not to even think what a George Bush victory means in terms of science policy. But it certainly can't be good, unless the tech emerges under the radar or concern of the government, much as the Internet has arisen. (For more info on the horrible tech record of the Bush administration, go see this Sterling essay, or this Scientific American article—they both mention Lysenko, serendipitously enough—or this Science article, or this Henry Waxmen Website or these Nobel Prize winners.) In a nutshell, a Bush future means a more top-down and regulated science, where the Little People never get an Internet or, if they do, it costs several thousand a month.
I'm not saying that Kerry would bring about tech Nirvana. I don't trust him on trade, or with having the balls to punish American multinationals for profiting from Third World slave labor. And whenever there's talk of him picking a Republican VP (reward the very evil and silly party with the number two position?) I gnash my teeth so loudly that it can be heard from 10 meters away. I'm a former Dean supporter, so I don't worship at the alter of Kerry. But it would be nice to see an American president on an international stage and have absolute confidence that the French or Soviet leader doesn't have a superior grasp of the English language. Call me a wild-eyed utopian.
And I think that any progressive person would find Kerry's science policy favorable. It's full of good ideas such as investing in long-term research and development, and working away from fossil fuels—as opposed to profiting from them and stealing another country's oil. There's even a graph or two about software defined radio and encouraging a world class broadband system in the US. Kerry's also wholeheartedly in favor of stem cell research.
I just think that the equation for any decent future requires Bush to be written out of the calculations. It's beyond my grasp why any sane person who believes in a worthwhile future would fail to understand this. I'm not just a transhumanist who thinks that, I'm willing to work for my dream future, one door at a time.