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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Monday, April 07, 2008

I am not one of Australia's best and brightest - apparently

It's gradually becoming known who did and who did not get an invitation to the Australia 2020 seminar later this month, in which Australia's 1000 supposedly best and brightest thinkers will spend a weekend in Canberra solving the nation's problems and working out its future trajectory.

I can report that I didn't get an invitation, and I'm not going to pretend I don't care. I am, in fact, mildly pissed off about it. Those lead articles in Quadrant don't count, I guess, and nor does the fact that, in Damien Broderick's absence, self-exiled in the US, I must surely rank as Australia's best-known thinker on issues relating to the human/post-human future (hey, guys, you now have a goddamn Australian as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the leading intellectual flagship of the transhumanist movement; just thought I'd let you know). You'd think there'd be some room for my viewpoint at a conference of Australia's ... ahem ... top thousand thinkers about the future of the country.

Okay, who am I kidding? My application was always a long-shot, since my interests in science fiction, transhumanism, scientifically-informed rationalism, and a genuinely liberal approach to public policy were always going to be seen as kind of out there by the folks running this talk fest. It doesn't matter how much prominence I build up nationally and internationally, those fields of expertise aren't going to endear me to the solid burghers in the political mainstream.

Still, I thought there was some outside chance, if someone just used a bit of imagination and thought beyond the usual suspects, so I won't pretend otherwise. Yes, I am (however mildly) pissed off by it, much as I didn't expect to get the nod from on high, much as I'm more amused than anything else, and much as there are plenty of other people, er things, I'd like to do that weekend. For all that, those grapes would have been sweet, and I did have something to say.

Anyhow, what the heck, I'm sure I have plenty of company.

9 comments:

ronny said...

I havn't seen terribly much attention being payed to transhumanist issues coming from either the Australian Media, Policy Makers, or even Academia in Australia for that matter. I guess these are issues that are still seen as either 'science fiction' or a long, long way off by most people.

Give it another few years before academia takes notice of the importance of the issues.
Give it another decade before lay people and the media take any notice,.. and wait an extra decade beyond this before policy makers take any notice.

Your time to shine will come Russell, i guess you just need to wait for others to catch up. In the mean time, keep up the great work you've been doing as it has been a great inspiration for me and presumably many others who take transhumanist issues seriously.

Blake Stacey said...

In ten years, there'll be a technological gimcrack which makes use of what would today be cutting-edge neuroscience and which makes people wonder where the "soul" could be hiding, and there'll be proposals to teach more about the brain in the public schools. Neuro-mysticism will become what creationism is now, and it will be impossible to hide from the issues any longer.

Brian said...

You should've been a sports star or celebrity.

windy said...

"Fine, I'll organize my own seminar... with blackjack! And hookers! In fact, forget the seminar!"

Athena Andreadis said...

As someone who expects not to get tenure partly because I'm a maverick (ever so mildly, but a touch of the disease suffices), I've grown used to such treatment. I'd say go with windy's implicit suggestion and organize your own get-together. If you have time and energy, that is...

Russell Blackford said...

I've been looking at the list. An awful lot of names are missing of people whom I'd have picked, but then again maybe they didn't want to go. It's actually a rather bizarre list.

The grapes look slightly less sweet to the extent that there are not that many people with whom I'd have wanted to network, or with whom I could have done useful work.

Blake Stacey said...

OK, I think windy wins the Internet tonight.

Thomas Hendrey said...

Hey Russell,

do you know if any philosophers were chosen for the summit. More generally is it feasible that philosophers will be consulted on public policy to any any significant extent in the context of a democracy based on party politics?

Russell Blackford said...

It's a very good question, TH, and I was wondering the same thing. No names leapt out at me, though perhaps I should read the list more slowly (and of course I don't know all the philosophers around the place). I do personally know some of these people on the list but they are from the literary side of things or the law.

It looks like a much more technically-oriented group than might have been expected from tje description, though a lot of the usual suspects are there of course (Robert Manne and so on).

Here's the full list: http://www.australia2020.gov.au:80/participants/index.cfm