Hello there, I’m Damien Patrick Williams, or @Wolven, many places on the internet. I’m an Assistant Professor in Philosophy and Data Science with a doctorate in Science, Technology, and Society (or “science and technology studies,” or “science and technology in society,” depending on from whom you ask for a definition of “STS”) from Virginia Tech, and master’s degree in philosophy and comparative religious studies from Georgia State University. My research explores the intersections and implications of philosophy, technology, categories of knowledge, religious traditions, public policy, justice, marginalization, and human social values all overlap and influence each other.
So look, here’s the thing: For the past decade and a half I’ve been making a go at writing, talking, thinking, teaching, and learning about philosophy, comparative religion, magic, “artificial intelligence,” biotechnological intervention into human and nonhuman bodyminds, pop culture, and how all of these things relate to each other. I want to think about, talk about, and work toward, a future worth living in, and I want to do all of that with you.
I’m talking about a future where we have the option but not the expectation to self-cyborg. A future where, when we’re confronted with the new and unprecedentedly strange kinds of minds we’re likely to meet in this century, we can embrace the new and the strange, and use it to make ourselves even more than we already are. A future where everyone has the data, information, knowledge, and ability to conduct their lives in their communities, the best they know how.
There are many, many people working on understanding and building these technologies, right now—people like Jamais Cascio, Dr. Joanna Bryson, Dr. David Gunkel, Emily Dare, Rua Williams, Scott Midson, Tommaso Bertolotti, Colin Schmidt, Ingrid Burrington, Safiya Noble, Virginia Eubanks, Ashley Shew, Shannon Vallor, Timnit Gebru, Chris Gillard, and so many more than I can mention here, but please always check this working bibliography and also the tags on the posts; those will almost always contain names of people to follow.
I’m doing this work in public, as best as I can, at AFutureWorthThinkingAbout.com, Technoccult.net, and the Technoccult News, because it’s my belief that, since we’re all affected by it, we All need to be doing this work. We need to take very seriously the changing pace, content, and tone of these conversation. We need to work toward a future where we’re not just running to catch up to the vastly changing pace of these realities, but are thinking ahead about their possibilities, and addressing their actualities As they arise. Not after.
As I’ve said, before:
There is something like a lag time between being a society presented with something new that shocks and potentially even scares us and that society adapting to that new thing in a (probably, hopefully) nonviolent, non-reductive way. The hope is that this gap between recognition, acceptance, and action might be diminished; because that lag time marks the space in which cultures otherwise do things to that have lasting, deeply harmful consequences. The lag time is the space in which race science was developed to justify the continuation of slavery; in which certain models of human cognitive capacity were developed to justify like forcibly sterilizing different groups of people. The lag time is the space in which women were kept from voting, or forcibly institutionalized, or sterilized against their will because their behavior didn’t match the dominant societal expectation of how they were “supposed” to behave. We need to get better at fluidly, adaptively engaging new scenarios, and not just saying “that’s different: kill it with fire.”…
…We have to be willing and able to recognize other types of minds as different, [without] viewing “different” as a hierarchical, kyriarchal relationships of dominance and threat. Rather, we have to be open to the possibility of being confronted with something different, and then engaging it in its alterity, asking, “What does ‘different’ mean? How do we engage it? What can we learn from it? What do we know about it? What do we have to change that we thought we knew now that we have this thing telling us that we know something different? How do we engage, not get rid of it?”…
…Perhaps once we have a handle on that— on intentionally grappling with the notions of justice, and fairness, and equality, and compassion, and care— then the question of what kinds of tools, systems, or minds we want to create will be a little bit easier to address.
And the process of learning how to do what it takes to anticipate that, is a future worth thinking about.
If you find yourself interested in not just reading but also supporting my work and work like it, you can help by engaging the posts, spreading the word to your friends or newsletter readers or podcast listeners, or even throwing a dollar or two in the bucket, on either a one-time or monthly basis. That last is a pay-by-month campaign, so the amount you pledge will be the exact same, every month, regardless of whether I make 1 post or 16; that said, you can also always adjust or cancel your donation amount, whenever you see fit.
But ultimately, read what’s here, think about it, read the citations, and pass it all along to your colleagues and your friends. Because I believe helping get these ideas around and working together to bring them into the world is most important thing.
Thanks for being here, and thanks for reading.