Dystopian technoelitism and other thoughts...

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by DaveW, Mar 20, 2000.

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  1. DaveW Registered Senior Member

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    Everyone should read this essay by Bill Joy (of Sun Microsystems).
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html

    A very interesting read...


    [This message has been edited by DaveW (edited March 19, 2000).]
     
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  3. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    <img src = "http://users.esc.net.au/~nitro/BBoard_member_gifs/bowser_anim.gif">That was a very interesting read. Thanx for sharing the link.

    I agree that we are at a critical point in our evolution; however, I feel that the most threatening advance in our new knowledge is genetic engineering. This technology <blink>WILL BE ABUSED</blink> in the near future.

    I thought the below paragraph was an interesting thought. It opens a lot of ideas about alien invaders and how we might play that role:

    <hr>
    "Faced with such assessments, some serious people are already suggesting that we simply move beyond Earth as quickly as possible. We would colonize the galaxy using von Neumann probes, which hop from star system to star system, replicating as they go."
    <hr>

    This will never be. We are too curious and our curiosity often overcomes our common sense:

    <hr>
    "The only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment: to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge."

    "But despite the strong historical precedents, if open access to and unlimited development of knowledge henceforth puts us all in clear danger of extinction, then common sense demands that we reexamine even these basic, long-held beliefs."
    <hr>

    That says it all. What are we to do?

    <hr>
    "The new Pandora's boxes of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics are almost open, yet we seem hardly to have noticed. Ideas can't be put back in a box; unlike uranium or plutonium, they don't need to be mined and refined, and they can be freely copied. Once they are out, they are out.
    <hr>

    This wasn't very clear. I thought he was suggesting that science and technology were inseparable from their accompanying dangers:
    <hr>
    "But I believe we must find alternative outlets for our creative forces, beyond the culture of perpetual economic growth; this growth has largely been a blessing for several hundred years, but it has not brought us unalloyed happiness, and we must now choose between the pursuit of unrestricted and undirected growth through science and technology and the clear accompanying dangers.
    <hr>

    It seems to me that we, as a society, need to address these dangers and better manage the new technology as a whole. I do agree that we need to define our direction and how it will serve all of us. It's a big problem, but not many of us have taken notice. Well..."future shock."
     
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  5. Rambler Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    Thanks for the link. I enjoyed it. Personaly I think genetic engineering is going to be the source of technologies which this guy attributes to robotics....but that's irrelavant. IMHO for people to accept a 'cyborg' existance for themslves it will take a long long and slow assimulation. I personaly find it pervers to want to live as a robot with a human conscience -- just to live. Hell if that was the alternative to dieing then let me die. From what I have heard on these things nano tech, and genetics are going to extend human life span (by 5000 years). The analogy I make with todays genetics and other cutting edge science' is that of letting an infant play with a loaded gun.......sure its interesting, mysterious whatever, but it can kill us and if we don't know how to handle it, it probably will. The dangers we face aren't a result of the technology we invent and implement, its a consequence of technology evolving faster then our morality, and social behaviour. With a few very small exceptions I think its safe to say that the motivation behind human progress is greed pure and simple. Its not evil, its not a human gene fault or anything else we chose to hide behind. Its greed, however can you imagine what would happen to global politics and resource management if all of a sudden the decision makers were able to be held accountable for them, if human life expectancy saw to it that todays politicians had to worry about what THEY are going to drink in 50 years.......
     
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  7. DaveW Registered Senior Member

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    I'm not sure where I heard this, but someone said that the current generation of humans alive will either be the last to die or the first to live forever.

    Genetic engineering is interesting, but it's still very crude. The problem is that biological systems are highly complex, and exceedingly hard to understand, since clearly there is no design involved. While gene therapies etc. will certainly extend the human lifespan (just as antibiotics did), new emerging diseases afflicting the old will still put a cap on age. Case in point is cancer. When the human life expectancy was ~30-40 years old (not that long ago), cancer was rarely a cause of death. Now that people life to ~80 or so, cancer has emerged to be a major cause of death.

    There's also a quality of life question. By extending lifespans, we've seen the emergence of widespread mental illness and mental atrophy as people age. This one frontier of medical science has progressed much slower than any others. Our ability to extend lives has outpaced our ability to improve lives. What new mental diseases will we see if people start living to 150?

    I mentioned something similar in another thread. Understanding biology is a deconstructionist method. We cannot (yet) program biological life, so to understand it we must take existing life and play around with it. Poke it in the belly a few times and see what it spits out. While this method has worked for the last few hundred years, we are reaching a point where the sheer volume of information we are dealing with (the Human genome project, for example) will overwhelm even the best minds. Indeed, all advances in biological science these days are direct results of computer science.

    Computer science, leading ultimately to machine intelligence, takes a constructionist approach. By laying a foundation in logic, we can begin constructing and abstracting functions and procedures to any level of complexity. By pursuing this route to eternal life, we avoid all the irritating details of our biological history which aren't really relevant to our consciousness (ie. all those irritating internal organs that don't do much but provide an environment in which our consciousness can exist).

    Apologies if I am rambling. I recently made the decision to stop my studies in genetics/microbiology and move to computer science, so I'm really just trying to rationalize the decision to myself!

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  8. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    <img src = "http://users.esc.net.au/~nitro/BBoard_member_gifs/bowser_anim.gif">I fear that GE will prove disastrous because its elements are easily attainable for anyone who has the intelligence and information to abuse them. I speculate that Bio terrorist will be the greatest threat.
     
  9. Rambler Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    DaveW,
    The line you quoted about first generation to live forever or last to die, I put that in here it came from a 60 minutes program here in Australia regarding future techs etc. The statement was made by a fellow called Dr Karl Kruszenwski... or something close to that. This guy has degrees in Astrophysics, MD Pathology/podiatry and a few more medical qualifications I'm pretty sure he has some genetics study up his sleave, also more tech based degrees....very smart. Anyway the concept he describes was of a treatment that you take every so often and it rejuvinates your body to a biological age of 20. You will need to take this treatment regularly or you just age again, apparently this will extend human life to (theoreticaly) 5000 years. Therefore when it comes to quality of life your body will handle it.


    The stuff you mentioned about life getting longer and mental illness...I personaly think that mental illness in todays day and age is more due to the westernised global economy that we live in. What I mean by that is we need to work longer and harder be more efficient then ever before it all takes a toll (speaking from personal experience and close observation of workmates). I'm sure that as we extend our life span these issues will definetly become more relevant and probably a serious concern. I don't believe that a human mind could take the stress of living for 5000 years, and for those who try....well I hope they find nice remote planets for the purely insane. Speaking of which, if this technology became available and got leaked i.e. free for anyone that wanted it. Population and resource management on earth would become unsustainable.....you know all the stuff we hear about planets are hard to find etc etc...I bet that planet would (mysteriously) be found in no time at all, and the energy concern of interstellar travel well I bet that would no longer be an issue either.
     
  10. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    DaveW,

    No!!! Not another poor soul lost to computer science! What's the world coming to?

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    But actually, you may find it wise to educate yourself in both genetics and computers; by itself, computer science is much too abstract and tends to live in a sort of cocoon. I, for example, started with computer science, and only later added on cognitive science (precisely because it was much more applied and concrete.) My goal is to apply computer science to the study of the brain -- but in order to do so, I must also be knowledgeable when it comes to the brain. Similarly, if your goal is to apply computer science to a study of biology, it might be wise to educate yourself in biology anyway (especially since you already have a head start!)



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    I am; therefore I think.
     
  11. DaveW Registered Senior Member

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    Boris,

    Well, in actuality, I'm about half a year away from a degree in microbiology, so I'm not totally clueless

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    . I had to get out because the type of work we were doing (and the type of work I would be doing as a microbiologist/geneticist) is the most mindless unenjoyable busywork I've ever encountered. The research lifestyle destroys people.

    But hey, there's nothing wrong with a cocoon!

    I am planning to take some neuropsychology courses next year, since that sort of topic is very useful for building AI systems. (since AI is the most interesting aspect of computer science)
     
  12. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    Ahh, an AI man, eh? Well well, perhaps our paths could cross again, even beyond this board

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    So what are you planning -- academia or industry?

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  13. Rambler Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    Its all interesting until you study it. I did Aerospace Engineering. Loved Aircraft (even got into fighter pilot training -- I thought better of it), loved space technology......then I studied it, hate it all....if you look at anything in that much detail it looses its appeal. Just my spin on study.


    And guess what career I ended up in.....ready, IT Management for a national Finacial/Accounting Firm. It seems all roads lead to IT

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    [This message has been edited by Rambler (edited March 28, 2000).]
     
  14. DaveW Registered Senior Member

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    Academia certainly has its charms. But then, the nobility of the starving academic is probably overrated. I have no problem with selling my soul to a corporation if it means a comfortable lifestyle.

    Ideally, I'll make a reasonable fortune doing something early on, letting me retire at 25 to some ranch in Northern Alberta with a high speed net connection and a few cats where I can raise pigs and potatoes while dabbling in AI.

    What about you, Boris??
     
  15. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    <img src = "http://users.esc.net.au/~nitro/BBoard_member_gifs/bowser_anim.gif">With all of this education on the boardwalk, I imagine you bumped heads today? <img src = "http://www.exosci.com/ubb/icons/icon7.gif">
     
  16. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    DaveW,

    Well, I guess I'm the starving noble academic type

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    I don't see myself wasting any amount of my life whatsoever on accumulation of wealth; I just need enough to get by. I also don't like being anybody's puppet (which is what you essentially are when you sell your soul to the industry.) I like setting my own goals, and writing my own schedule. I also don't want to dabble in anything; I really do want to do cognitive research in earnest. The academia is the best place for it, because you are always beset with intellectual competition, and swimming in ideas, and it keeps you honest, and focused, and making progress. Eventually, I don't rule out professorship and tenure (if I turn out to be good enough, that is...) And if I just suck as a researcher, then I always have the ability to fall back into industry and earn a living as a programmer (and I'm pretty damn good at programming.) I just thought I'd give my biggest dreams a shot first, and see where it gets me. After all, I won't have another life to live after this one -- so might as well go all out!

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  17. DaveW Registered Senior Member

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    I've been surrounded by academia my whole life, since my father was a dean and professor at the local university. My main gripe is that academia is just as beset with idiotic politics and childish infighting as a corporation. These days, everyone is fighting for tenure or they are fighting for research dollars. Even more so, they are fighting for peer respect, and they will do so in the most immature ways. In any competitive environment (capitalism and academia both) you're going to have compromise your ideals somewhere along the way if you want to survive (unless you've been perfectly socialized). I figure, that since the ultimate outcome is the same, you might as well take the money and live a more comfortable life.

    The true academics are those who push the envelope without any thought of recompense, social or financial. The only way for this to be acheived is by existing outside of the system. Its somewhat paradoxical that the richest men alive (eg. many of the tech-billionares like Gates, Ellison, and Jobs) embody the academic spirit in its purest form.

    But, those are just my opinions

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  18. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

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    Hi Dave and Boris,

    Sorry but I just had to add this – thought you might find it amusing.

    I never experienced much of an academic life, never found it attractive, pretty much messed up my school life, and I never tried for college. But I did start dabbling in electronics at the age of 11 and built my first computer (well a 10 bit binary adder/subtracter) at the age of 13 (only discrete components available to me in the 60s). That was 34 years ago.

    I’m now a senior designer with a major computer manufacturer with a salary somewhere in the top 20% for the US, and living in the beautiful weather of Silicon Valley. Don’t quite know how all that happened, I didn’t plan for it or try very hard, I simply enjoy playing with computers. Many of my juniors have a PhD, and I kinda like that as well. I never plan to retire and I do expect to live to beyond 5000 years – yes I am an eternal optimist.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever you choose to do in life it should be something you thoroughly enjoy. Evidence so far suggests that life is relatively short and to waste years doing something that makes you miserable for the sake of money seems quite irrational. Maybe you will be lucky and find happiness in what you choose, and have the money.

    If I was to change then I would also like to research AI. Perhaps a foolish dream but I was inspired by the robot stories of Isaac Asimov in the 60s, and I sense that it will not be too long before we can build intelligent domestic robots. At the start of the 20th century the automobile was rare, now of course pretty much everyone expects to have access to one. I suspect that domestic robots will have a similar history that will result in a significant economic change. I’d like to be part of that revolution.

    I think genetic engineering represents a major turning point in our evolution. Until now evolution has been a relatively slow and random process. From very soon we will have the ability to direct and choose how we evolve into the future. Doubtless we will make many errors, but the process will no longer be as random as our past.

    I look forward to hearing more of your intellectual and academic wisdom, something I guess I envy but never expect to achieve.

    Have fun whatever
    Cris
     
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