January 30, 2014

Three things that help explain my thoughts on technology

The Emperor's New Clothes

"When you think of the world, give it one lash the more at my request. The chief end I propose in all my labors is to vex the world rather than divert it."
         Jonathan Swift   

 “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”

Albert Camus 

January 28, 2014

Technological Unemployment, circa 1775

Battle of Bunker Hill
Who were the British soldiers who sailed the Atlantic to put down the colonists fighting for their independence during America's Revolutionary War? This is how the historian Joseph Ellis describes them in his book, Revolutionary Summer:
Contrary to a negative stereotype that developed in the next century, during the emergence of the British empire at the height of its power, the British army was not a collection of outcasts, criminals and psychopaths, swept into service from the jails and bars of London, or dragooned from English towns and villages. They were, instead, working class Britains, former day laborers, farmers, carpenters and shoemakers who had the misfortune to become victims of the Industrial Revolution, their jobs displaced by machines, thereby making the army the employer of last resort.

January 26, 2014

Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour

Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric.
–Edna St. Vincent Millay, from
“Upon This Age That Never Speaks Its Mind," 1939 

January 25, 2014

An Upbeat Future for Bioterrorists

“Maybe not enough of today's terrorists took high school biology. Tomorrow's will – and their high school biology classes will be much more potent than today’s. We cannot bet our country that whatever restraints have kept terrorists from pursuing this path will persist indefinitely.” 

– Gerald L. Epstein, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies, testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, July 2005

The Galloping Technical Revolution, circa 1963

Emilio Daddario
"Congress has long promoted science [but]...inevitably serious problems have accompanied progress...Indeed there are those who contend that the galloping technical revolution is threatening to outrun the number of talented people necessary to nourish it, as well as the time needed to plan and direct its course with some degree of wisdom."
Emilio Daddario, "A Statement of Purpose: The First Progress Report of the Subcommittee on Science, Research and Development," U.S. Congress, 1963