87 episodes

Darts and Letters is about ‘arts and letters,’ but for the kind of people who might hack a dart. We cover public intellectualism and the politics of academia from a left populist perspective. Put simply: we love ideas, but hate snob culture. Each week, we interview thinkers about key debates that are relevant to the left. We discuss politics, arts, culture, and ideas. But the show is for everyone. That means sometimes you'll hear from the usual suspects, like that authoritative old professor; but just as often, you'll hear from the young iconoclastic scholar, the crass podcaster, the journalist, the activist--even so-called 'ordinary working people.' We're here to discover exciting intellectual life, wherever that might be.

Darts and Letters Cited Media

    • News
    • 5.0 • 15 Ratings

Darts and Letters is about ‘arts and letters,’ but for the kind of people who might hack a dart. We cover public intellectualism and the politics of academia from a left populist perspective. Put simply: we love ideas, but hate snob culture. Each week, we interview thinkers about key debates that are relevant to the left. We discuss politics, arts, culture, and ideas. But the show is for everyone. That means sometimes you'll hear from the usual suspects, like that authoritative old professor; but just as often, you'll hear from the young iconoclastic scholar, the crass podcaster, the journalist, the activist--even so-called 'ordinary working people.' We're here to discover exciting intellectual life, wherever that might be.

    EP69: Mathematical Morality (ft. Émile P. Torres)

    EP69: Mathematical Morality (ft. Émile P. Torres)

    The collapse of the crypotcurrency exchange FTX has caused major shockwaves throughout the financial world.  This has brought new attention to the ongoing reckoning around crypto, and urgency to the calls to reign in and regulate these emerging technologies.

    FTX’s collapse has also sparked a philosophical reckoning about the ideas that inspired their CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried. Bankman-Fried is a major proponent and funder of Effective Altruism, a philosophical and political movement that demands we give to the most effective charities. Effective Altruism started out concerning itself primarily with global poverty, inspired by the work of do-good utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer. Today, it has become something a little different.

    Now, the movement tells entrepreneurs like Bankman-Fried that they should ‘earn-to-give.’ Most recently, effective altruists have become increasingly focussed on longtermism, a strand of extreme utilitarian thinking advanced by Oxford-based intellectuals Nick Bostrom, Toby Ord, Will MacAskill, and others (and generously funded by Bankman-Fried). Longtermism tells us we should worry about the interests of future people — trillions of future people, 1000s of years into the future, and in planets far away.

    On this episode of Darts and Letters, we examine the complicated moral math of longtermism, and ask whether the utilitarian logic of Effective Altruism leads inevitably to this kind of thinking. Our guide is Émile P. Torres, a former longtermist who is now one of the movement’s sharpest apostates. Torres calls longtermism a ‘secular religion,’ and one with apocalyptical, eugenic, and potentially genocidal implications.

    For a full list of credits, contact information, and more, visit our about page

    • 45 min
    EP68: Science Against the People (ft. Charles Schwartz & Sigrid Schmalzer)

    EP68: Science Against the People (ft. Charles Schwartz & Sigrid Schmalzer)

    Today, right-wingers attack science and liberals defend it. Science good, anti-science Republicans bad–that’s the prevailing narrative, especially so during the March for Science in 2017. However, it’s not so simple. Perhaps science should be defended from reactionary attacks, but not uncritically defended as inherently good. That’s the message of Science for the People, a radical movement of scientists and educators who argue that science has always served capitalism, patriarchy, and empire. So, science doesn’t need to be simply defended–it needs to change.

    We examine the group’s Vietnam-era origins, with the story of one of its founders, physicist Charles Schwartz.  Schwartz’ work initially supported the US war effort, but he became a thorn in the side of the military and scientific establishment for over two decades. However,  in the 1980s Science for the People went dormant.

    Since the mid-2010s, it’s back. We then speak to a current member, and also the historian who brought them back together. Sigrid Schmalzer is co-editor of a collection of the group’s writing, entitled Science for the People: Documents from America’s Movement of Radical Scientists, 1969-1989. We cover how the group came back together, how this incarnation is different, and how they traverse the complicated politics between pro-science liberals and anti-science reactionaries.

    —————————-CREDITS—————————-

    This is a production of Cited Media. This episode received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It is part of a series of episodes on the relationship between activism and academia. Our scholarly advisors on this series are Professors Lesley Wood at York University, Sigrid Schmalzer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as Sharmeen Khan, Sami McBryer, and Susannah Mulvale.

     

    For a full list of credits, contact information, and more, visit our about page.

    • 59 min
    EP67: Darts Transit Commission (ft. Paris Marx)

    EP67: Darts Transit Commission (ft. Paris Marx)

    We have been talking a lot lately about the idea of techno-utopian thinking, but we’re coming to a somewhat surprising conclusion: there isn’t as much of it as there used to be. Our Silicon Valley tech bros have quite a curtailed vision. If they do have a utopia, it is a utopia of sustaining the unsustainable.

    We speak to Paris Marx of Tech Won’t Save Us on the shifting politics of Silicon Valley. We’ll traverse the intellectual history of hippies-turned-arch-capitalists, and focus especially on their ideas for transportation policy. Do they have a radical vision for a different transportation future, or is it a vision of maintain the status quo? Marx is author of the book Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation, out now from Verso Books.

    This is part of a wider series on techno-utopian thinking, produced with professors Tanner Mirrlees and Imre Szemen. For a full list of credits, contact information, and more, visit our about page.

    • 42 min
    EP66: Technocracy Now!, pt. 3 (ft. Sam Adler-Bell & Alessandro Delfanti)

    EP66: Technocracy Now!, pt. 3 (ft. Sam Adler-Bell & Alessandro Delfanti)

    The first two episodes of this series told stories of technocrats who tied themselves to a muscular state. They believed the state could remake society, if it had the right expertise.

    However, the state under neoliberalism doesn’t have the technocratic ambition it used to. This just isn’t a period of grand New Deal-style programming. There is still a state, but it increasingly outsources its functions. Is technocracy dead, then? No, technocracy is just moving into the private sector. More and more of our lives are governed by unaccountable private tyrannies—tyrannies that employ ruthlessly efficient technocratic systems, with even less democratic input than the technocracies of old.

    For instance, many modern workplaces function like technocracies. The Amazon warehouse is the most technologically-sophisticated and totalizing manifestation of this. Their algorithmically-managed systems micro-manage workers’ every step, turning their bodies into machines. Alessandro Delfanti, author of The Warehouse: Workers and Robots at Amazon, takes us inside the new frontiers of digital Taylorism.

    Plus, what is the future of technocracy? An emerging slew of Peter Thiel-funded neo-reactionaries want to install a Silicon Valley CEO as our new techno-monarch. Sam Adler-Bell of Know Your Enemy argues that this marks a shift in the right-wing of Silicon Valley. They were once crudely escapist libertarians, but now they want to run our governments like their technocratic workplaces. We discuss Bell’s latest New York Times essay on Peter Thiel and Blake Masters, their broader intellectual trajectory from seasteaders to techno-populists, as well as Bell’s New York Magazine article on the liberal technocrats who want to defeat the neo-reactionaries with policies addressing disinformation.

    This is part of a wider series on techno-utopian thinking, produced with professors Tanner Mirrlees and Imre Szemen. For a full list of credits, contact information, and more, visit our about page.

     

    • 1 hr 1 min
    EP65: Technocracy Now!, pt. 2 (ft. Joy Rohde & Eden Medina)

    EP65: Technocracy Now!, pt. 2 (ft. Joy Rohde & Eden Medina)

    Last episode, we looked at the technocrats of the industrial age: Thorstein Veblen, Howard Scott, and the “industrial tinkerers,” as Daniel Bell put it. But Daniel Bell went on to say we were entered a new age — a “post-industrial age” — where a new kind of technocrat would vie for power. They would develop new intellectual technologies that could be codified into complex ways of understanding, predicting, and maybe even controlling global systems.

    One such intellectual technology was cybernetics, the darling of mid-century technocrats. It was a theory that proposed you could understand human affairs by understanding certain mathematical relationships in a system, and the nature of how feedbacks circulated in that system. On part #2 of Technocracy Now, we tell stories of cybernetic technocracies.

    First, Joy Rohde tells us the story of Charles A. McClelland, a liberal political scientists who proposed a cybernetic computer system that claimed to predict conflicts before they happened. With this information, US policy makers could usher in a new age of peace and stability (and forever ensure a US-dominated global order). The project never accomplished everything it set out to do, but it is now being resurrected behind closed doors by Lockheed Martin. It’s a techno-utopian dream of mathematical certainty in an uncertain world.

    Then, why not cybersocialism? In Salvador Allende’s Chile, they were building a cybernetic computer network that connected factories to state planners. It seems technocratic, but Eden Medina says that these these cyber-revolutionaries saw it as anything but. Medina is author of Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile. The book recounts the short-lived Cybersyn Project. It promised using science to develop a more rationally-ordered economy. However, it also promised to guarantee the freedom and autonomy of workers. The project was destroyed in the brutal coup of 1973. However, did it work, and is it a dream worth resurrecting?

    This is part of a wider series on techno-utopian thinking, produced with professors Tanner Mirrlees and Imre Szemen. For a full list of credits, contact information, and more, visit our about page.

    • 1 hr 3 min
    EP64: Technocracy Now!, part 1 (ft. Noam Chomsky)

    EP64: Technocracy Now!, part 1 (ft. Noam Chomsky)

    Technocracy is the idea that experts should govern. For the common good, presumably. It makes a certain amount of sense, given how irrational our politics seem to be right now. So, technocracy is seductive.

    In fact, it’s an idea as old as politics itself. We begin the first of a three-part series telling stories of technocracies past, present, and future.

    In this first part, Ira Basen tells us the story of Technocracy, Inc. This 1930s movement aimed to install non-democratic North American “technate” where we only work from the ages of 25 to 45, for 16 hours a week. It might surprise you to learn that Elon Musk’s grandfather was one of its leaders. Basen produced an extended CBC: Ideas documentary on the movement, and it’s worth checking out.

    Then, perhaps the most influential intellectual today: Noam Chomsky. What is the place of technical expertise in a radical left project?  Chomsky’s famous “Responsibility of Intellectuals” is one of the best critiques of the liberal technocratic intelligentsia. However, his lesser-known writing on Mikhail Bakunin’s predictions about how the Marxist intellectual vanguard would “beat the people with the people’s stick” offers a warning to left technocrats.  We have a wide-ranging conversation with Professor Chomsky on his critique of intellectuals, the place of technical expertise in a radical left project, his anarchist theory of expertise, and his thoughts on popular reason and popular intelligence.

    This is part of a wider series on techno-utopian thinking, produced with professors Tanner Mirrlees and Imre Szemen. For a full list of credits, contact information, and more, visit our about page.

    • 1 hr 3 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
15 Ratings

15 Ratings

listener_kc ,

Excellent

I’m already missing Cited, but this podcast is also excellent. Great interviews and interesting topics. Always logical with a healthy dose of reality that can often be missing in the idealism of the progressive wing. If you’re looking for a podcast to make you think, this is it.

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