More and more, serious people are grappling with the ethical and consequential effects of technology in ways that do not tumble into technophobic luddism. We need an attitide of vigorous inquiry and discussion and CITOKATE, not in order to cower in gloom, but in order to speedily traverse the tightrope of the next fifty years... hurrying ahead with problem-solving technologies while seeking every error! Attempting to do the near-impossible, solving them well in advance. Living up to that recent aphorism offered by Joe Miller:
Those who ignore the mistakes of the future are bound to make them.
I am asked to partake in these discussions pretty often. For example:
The Caltech Sustainability Hyperforum
The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology -
Worldchanging - (Buy the book & save the world!)
The Lifeboat Foundation -
...and dozens of official andn semi-official government agencies and working groups.
Another group attempting to discuss looming issues is the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. While I am not involved so far, I figure you might be interested in one rumination about uplifting higher animals. Interesting... and of course very short/incomplete. This is a topic with countless ramifications. Of course, for starters... shouldn’t attribution of concepts go where they are due? ;-)
Looking for a cogent and well-researched expression of the standard liberal viewpoint on the Energy/Climate debate? See a new book my my friend Mike Byron: Infinity’s Rainbow: The Politics of Energy, Climate and Globalization.
Mike does a good job of laying down the indictment - that shortsighted corporate and aristocratic greed are doing to the globalized world what Soviet shortsightedness did to the old USSR, ignoring looming calamities in favor of short term self-interest and turning nature into a raped realm, a festering wasteland of toxic mismanagement and lost opportunities. There is no doubt that the villains are also fools, fiddling away while our future goes up in a smoke of excess dependence on fossil fuels.
Alas, like many of the New Puritans, Mike also displays a little of the same sourpuss grimness - channeling Cotton Mather - that we got from Paul Ehrlich & co. A chiding refusal to perceive good news - e.g. the ways that technology and (yes!) globalization can be turned to assertive problem solving.
We should take the New Puritans for what they do well - finger-pointing at lying wastrels. They are far preferable over the New Lords. They indict well. Still, they are part of the foolish “GAR vs FIBM dichotomy” buying into a dismal tradeoff. For, like Cotton Mather, they would have us sit and shiver in the dark. And that’s no solution at all.
So it will be up to us progressive modernists to find actual solutions. Still, all told, a very good book and an important one.
And now a few items from the Arlington Institute. (When did THEY get so militant?)
Pull the Plug on E-Voting -- (Opednews -- October 25, 2006) All computer systems which process high-value transactions include audit mechanisms that monitor the advertised features of the system to enable an independent means of detecting flawed or fraudulent program logic - everywhere that is except for voting systems, which arguably process the most important transactions of all.
Bush and Martial Law -- (Uruknet -- October 26, 2006) All too often, we fail to remember that America's actions and progress are viewed from myriad perspectives around the globe. This opinion article comes from a particularly notable, and perhaps increasingly prevalent, foreign viewpoint. Its focus is on recent legislation further empowering the office of the President of the U.S.
Pentagon Gears Up for New Media War -- (BBC -- October 31, 2006) The Pentagon's new effort to influence media coverage of the war in Iraq is an example of how governments react when a war is not going too well. They begin to think it is not the war that is the problem, but the presentation of it. The media, being the messengers, get the blame, not the message itself.
And now the weird...
Alloy of Hydrogen and Oxygen Made From Water -- (Physorg-- October 26, 2006) Water, the only indispensable ingredient of life, is just about the most versatile stuff on Earth - and has revealed yet another trick up its sleeve. Researchers have now used x-rays to dissociate water at high pressure to form a solid mixture--an alloy--of molecular oxygen and molecular hydrogen. As long as the sample remained under pressure equivalent to about 10,000 times atmospheric pressure at sea level, it stood up to intense punishment.
Polar Rose to Launch Picture Search Engine -- (Smart Economy -- October 9, 2006)
A new, web-based search engine has been created that can find photographs of people by analyzing pictures and identifying faces. The search engine will be the first of its kind in the world.
Sea Change: Global Warming Could Leave Britain Feeling the Cold -- (Guardian -- October 27, 2006) Scientists have uncovered more evidence for a dramatic weakening in the vast ocean current that gives Britain its relatively balmy climate by dragging warm water northwards from the tropics. Most alarmingly, the data reveal that a part of the current, which is usually 60 times more powerful than the Amazon River, came to a temporary halt during November 2004.