Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A very informal blog...

I have just finished reading the article, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” and I have to say that I was struck by many of Joy’s arguments for caution and public awareness in the expansion and application of the technologies (robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology) that are evolving in our universities, laboratories and corporate research facilities throughout the world. I found his insights fascinating and a bit frightening.

But what I kept thinking about as I read his article was that while we have feared nuclear attack, when the attacks came - it was stateless terrorists in airplanes. Even in Iraq – one of the most lethal weapons that soldiers face are improvised explosive devices (pipe bombs and similar devices). While we fear bio-attacks - it is drug-resistant tuberculosis, MRSA (staph infections), AIDS, and rapidly rising rates of diabetes that are taking marked tolls on our population, both young and old. We fear cloned meat and genetically modified foods because of what they might do to us personally– when in reality we are radically eliminating bio-diversity - making it more likely that a simple parasite or bacteria could wipe out an entire homogenized breed of cattle or field of genetically-identical corn.

Technology can be viewed as both a boon and a potential threat to society/humanity as Joy explores throughout his article. But the reality still remains that we haven’t even mastered the threats which are decidedly low-tech; bugs (viruses) and weapons that have been around for generations. I’d hate to think that we (as a society) would fear and/or legislate against these radically new technological advances and be wiped out by a simple flu-bug or a horrible staph infection.

Some links of interest:

Regarding MRSA infections:


Regarding biodiversity in our food:


A little of both:


*As a side-note, I loved that Joy referred to the “prime directive” from the Star Trek series – as I’ve been reading Twain, I have found that I keep thinking the worst of Hank in part because he has been meddling and directly affecting and changing this society (Arthur’s court) which is so directly against the “prime directive.”

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

In his great short history of medicine Blood and Guts Roy Porter provides a hilarious quote from a surgeon general of the U.S. some time in the 1960s, claiming that the book of infectious disease was closed, and that we had won. Which doesn't mean that we don't simultaneously face more exotic medical threats - but it may well be antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis which ultimately does us all in.

Anyway, I think that at least relates to what you were saying...