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The Future Doesn't Need Us

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Submitted By dougpettit
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The article “Why the Future Doesn’t need Us” was written by Bill Joy, a well known inventor and computer scientist who feels new technology could be a threat to our planet and the human race. He feels that the technology that is being built today could endanger the human race. Joy encourages other scientist to always consider the unintended secondary effects or consequences of their inventions or technology.
Joy compares twenty first century technology genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) to older nuclear, biological and chemical technology (NBC). He discussed the potential dangers of NBC that the world has dealt with for many years and explained how much more dangerous GNR is. In his comparison he explained how close the world came to being destroyed with nuclear technology in the past and how GNR is even more dangerous. According to Joy GNR technology could give humans the power to control creations and possibly the most dangerous factor is that GNR is capable of replicating itself. This technology could definitely be used by the military, but also has the potential to be used outside the military. If used outside of the military there would be no way to stop it. He fears that this technology could fall into the hands of terrorist or those wanting to harm others. Joy feels that the only way to stop catastrophic devastation from GNR is for the world to abandon the pursuit of certain areas of this technology and set up a type of control measure similar to what was used with biological weapons to insure that it never gets into the wrong hands.
Genetic engineering has been real helpful in farming and has revolutionized agriculture by increasing crop yield while reducing the need for herbicides or pesticides. It will also create cures for many diseases increasing the human life span and way of life. Joy expressed his concerns with genetic engineering and how humans could inadvertently or maybe as an act of terrorism create a “White Plague”, a disaster where a certain group of people are eradicated through genetic manipulation. He also feels that humans could reengineer themselves with different species.
Nanotechnology was first discussed by Nobel-laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a speech in 1959. Joy says that Eric Drexler’s book Engines of Creation from the mid 1980s made an impression on him. The book described how manipulation of matter at the atomic level could create a utopian future of abundance, where just about everything could be made cheaply. It also told that any physical problem or disease could be solved using nanotechnology. Although there are some positive medical elements that will come from nanotechnology Joy has a fear that the use of nanotechnology could be used to eradicate certain groups of people. Joy felt that this technology was several decades away until he recently discovered that nanoscale electronics are practical today.
Joy discussed robotics and artificial intelligence and some concerns in these areas also. In his opinion, enabling computers or robots to think or make decisions for them would allow them to eventually begin to self-replicate. He thinks that if this were to happen the human race could become extinct or become slaves to these machines. The human race might not every intentially hand overall power to machines, but they might permit themselves to be in this position through their dependence on the machines. Joy explains that as society and the problems that face it become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them because machines will make decisions that bring better results than the man made decisions. This could lead to a stage where decisions are so complex that humans are not capable of making them and it will have to be made by the machine. At this point the machine will have gained control.
Joy encourages scientist and society as a whole to take responsibility for their technology and thinks that secondary effects should be considered and mitigated to prevent possible disasters. He feels that people have become more concentrated with the technology and its new benefits and less concerned with possible consequences. Joy tells that humans only have one chance at doing things right with new technology.
I feel that Joy’s article took a worst case scenario approach to discussing the dangerous of this new technology. I was not really convinced by this article that the human race will be doomed by the coming advances in technology. Joy did raise some concerns about new technology and as with everything there will always be unintended effects that must be considered.

References
Winston, M., & Edelbach, R. (2009). Society, Ethics, and Technology. (4th ed., pp. 285-301). Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning…...

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