What the Accelerationist’s Political Compass says about us

Every now and then, this “political compass” of acceleration vs. deceleration, hyperhuman vs. unhuman pops up. It’s a pretty interesting breakdown so I wanted to jot down a couple thoughts.

Hyperhuman tendencies

One thing that immediately stands out to me is that the most aesthetically pleasing hypothetical futures form a 2×2 grid in the upper middle, i.e., hyperhuman futures with no acceleration:

These squares are colorful and fun; one can imagine any of them being reasonably enjoyable ‘upgrades’ to our current ways of life, different enough to be interesting but not so different as to be disturbingly foreign. Indeed it is this exact quadrant that forms the basis of a great deal of science fiction and fantasy:

  • Hyper-Commodified Cocaine Capitalism: Games like Deus Ex or Cyberpunk 2077, which derive inspiration from Blade Runner
  • Cybernetic Sex Slime Transcendence: Iain Banks’ Culture series
  • Archeofuturist Miyazaki Patchwork: Obviously Miyasaki films like Laputa: Castle in the Sky or Nausicaรค of the Valley of the Wind, but even, arguably, some of Disney’s appeal derives from the same aesthetic; also, Genshin Impact
  • Interplanetary Technofascist Manifest Galaxy: Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Gundam, etc. Too many examples to name, really; think anything with “big spaceship shoots other spaceships”

I am not saying that there is nothing written about, e.g., a future where we end up in an Ex-Human Pangalactic Strip Mining Singularity, but predominantly it seems that the human imagination focuses on this 2×2 quadrant of ‘relatively enjoyable to imagine’ futures.

Why is this the case? I don’t know that there is any truly deep reason here. Overly rapid acceleration and deceleration are in general frightening, even if they end up in good outcomes, and arguably it is challenging to actually come up with a coherent theory for what a hyperaccelerated future looks like in the medium to long term, meaning that writing fiction about such a future is inherently challenging. (Returning to a state of primitive life is of course much easier to imagine.) Naturally, too, we don’t want to devolve from our current states into something baser, but to transcend above current human experience. Hence we end up in the hyperhuman, neutral-acceleration quadrant (“reasonable levels of predictable growth into pleasant end states”).

The human essence

Notice also that there is an embedded assumption here of what it means to be more or less human. Generally, the hyperhuman futures place a strong emphasis on differentiation and intensification of individual experience, while preserving the ability for communal interactions:

In contrast, the unhuman futures basically end up with everyone playing identical, fungible roles (Globohomo Vampire-Elite Enslavement) or even with the total ablation of human experience itself (Ex-Human Pangalactic Strip Mining Singularity):

I will say that here, in both rows, the squares on the left seem to be a little misplaced. I am not sure what is so hyperhuman about a Total Nihilistic Un-Singularity or, in contrast, what is so horribly unhuman about an Eco-Fascist Global Genocide Anti-Singularity. I suspect there is an inherent challenge here: as the rate of acceleration increases, it is easy to imagine how the future might diverge and end up any one of a great number of differentiated equilibria, but if we assume that technological development grinds to a halt or even reverses, we really just converge back onto the same scenario over and over again. (The outlier in the leftmost column is Eternal Y2K Cultural Time-Trap Forever, which is really more of a Groundhog Day-style riff than a serious entry in the compass.)

Setting that aside, I do think this is basically a very reasonable take on what ‘humanness’ is, and in general I would say I strongly identify with hyperhuman tendencies a lot moreso than with accelerationist tendencies (in either direction). This is not so surprising really; unless acceleration allows us to actually escape the constraint of physical mortality, it does not matter so much to me what specific technological level I inhabit if I can experience some semblance of a classically “good life.”

Likely futures

Now, finally, what future do I think will actually prevail in our lives? Here, I think it is instructive to simply stare at the chart and see what seems the most “imaginable” or “conceivable” relative to the modern world.

For me, when I go through this exercise, I find myself staring at the Archeofuturist Miyazaki Patchwork and the Autonomous Pajeet Technocracy:

In my judgment, it is no coincidence that these two futures are diagonally opposed to each other, representing an inherent tradeoff: we can accelerate further, but at the cost of some humanity (“live in the pod as bugmen”), or we can choose to slow down acceleration and, as they say, “RETVRN” to a somewhat more elevated and individuated way of life. (In fact the Autonomous Pajeet Technocracy seems far more plausible to me, although one could probably carve out bits and pieces of the world to live a Miyazaki Patchwork-like life in.) Note that the Archeofuturist Miyazaki Patchwork does not imply a reversal, or even a cessation, of technological development; instead it represents a sort of “responsibly managed” type of modernity, the sort of end state that Curtis Yarvin might smile upon approvingly and say, “yes, in this moment, the health and vitality of the people are being protected.”

Here, I do not mean to say that these are my preferred futures, but instead that they are simply what seem to be the most plausible next steps from our current world, i.e., inherently limited by the flaws of man itself. That is to say, our subconscious judgment of what futures seem the most likely reflect our judgments about the intrinsic capabilities of man, assuming that we continue onward at our current trajectory. For example, I do not in fact believe that mankind is actually competent enough to run anything approaching an Interplanetary Technofascist Manifest Galaxy or even begin to approach Cybernetic Sex Slime Transcendence without destroying ourselves multiple times along the way.

Closing thoughts

What hope do we have to achieve the “better” futures? Certainly I do not want to be stuck in an Autonomous Pajeet Technocracy for the rest of my life! (Does that mean we are already in one? Well, depending on who you ask…)

To be honest, I am not sure. I have a somewhat dismal view on the innate trajectory of man. I think we only really have two ways out of the Pajeet equilibrium, namely, development of AGI or transcendence of our biological nature through genetic engineering (imagine a world of 250+ IQ humans!). Whether I will live to see such things happen, if they should happen at all, remains unclear!

January 27th, 2023 | Posted in Society

4 Responses to “What the Accelerationist’s Political Compass says about us”

  1. Jackson Jules Says:

    This blog is amazing.

  2. milkyeggs Says:

    @Jackson Jules: Thank you!

  3. Sown of the Pensive Says:

    I think the most likely future given our current trajectory is quite obviously Globohomo Vampire-Elite Enslavement.

  4. Fernand Says:

    Archeofuturism is such an interesting concept I would love to dig into.