29 June 2008

Quote for the day

"Greenfield also badly needs to read Ray Kurzweil’s The Singula-rity is Near. Barring a global catastrophe, most of the changes to our brains she laments will certainly happen–and then some, and I would argue that’s a good thing. We need to dump the sentimental notion that somehow our unaltered humanity is something worth preserving. Technological development is on an irreversible course toward physical and mental enhancement and an inter-connectedness we can’t even fathom. It represents the next step in human evolution, except this time we will boldly decide our own directions based on our individual priorities.

"I’m continually amazed at how Luddites cling to ignorance and tradition. While technological progress certainly has its pitfalls, these must be weighed against the risk of failing to act. Our planet is beset with both severe structural problems and a burgeoning population. The same technology enabling changes to our brains also promises to revolutionize food and energy production as well as stabilizing greenhouse gases. Inaction or technological relin-quishment will guarantee ever-worsening humanitarian crises, and could never be enforced in any case. Whatever can be done in terms of human enhancement will be done. And there will be accidents and mistakes–as with any new endeavor. We cannot eliminate risk. But we need to press on bravely into the terra incognita.

"Sadly, technophobes spin every foray into these areas as some sort of existential threat. We should ignore them. The first salvo in this neo-Luddite rebellion was fired by Bill Joy in his infamous 2000 article 'Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us'. Greenfield mines the same rich vein of technophobia plundered by Joy. From the excerpt at least, she makes no new arguments, and shows no evidence of understanding even the concept of the Singularity. She seems to have a puritanical streak, fretting that we might be getting addicted to our machines or that (horrors) we might learn to derive direct pleasure from them and spiral down into a hedo-nistic cultural collapse. Sounds to me like an electronic version of the 'Reefer Madness' hysteria."

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