Ronald Bailey's latest dispatch on the anti-extropians.
BTW, I have talked to Ronald about speaking at Extro-5, but as an
East-coaster, funding his travel could be a problem if we don't get
The material below just reinforces what I recently wrote in my intro for
>Rebels Against the Future
>Witnessing the birth of the global anti-technology movement
>By Ronald Bailey, Reason Science Correspondent
>Two weeks ago at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences,
>Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, made a disturbing claim
>about the future. "Major anti-technology movements will be active in the
>U.S. and elsewhere by 2030," he predicted Unfortunately, Collins is off by 3
>Indeed, I may have witnessed the birth of the global anti-technology
>movement at this past weekend's International Forum on Globalization's
>Teach-In on Technology and Globalization in New York City. Held at Hunter
>College on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the organizers said some 1,400
>registrants attended the two-day meeting. The speakers included an all-star
>cast of technophobes and other rebels against the future, featuring proud
>self-declared luddites such as Kirkpatrick Sale, Jeremy Rifkin, Jerry
>Mander, Andrew Kimbrell, Paul Hawken, Pat Roy Mooney, Mae-Wan Ho, and
>If it's new, they hate it. What they fear and loathe most is biotechnology,
>but now some are beginning to train their sights on nanotechnology as well.
>The audience consisted mostly of grizzled veterans of the civil rights,
>peace, and environmental movements from the 1960s and 1970s with a
>smattering of earnest youngsters hailing from too-cool college campuses
>located in places like Vermont, Massachusetts, and Oregon. Whenever one of
>speakers revealed shocking truths about corporations (always invoked simply
>as they), the audience would murmur in horrified dismay: "They can move
>genes between species!" or "They are patenting genes!" or "They have 1,200
>nanotech patents!" It seems that few of the attendees had bothered to read a
>paper for the past few years, so all this was news to them. "Progressives"
>they may call themselves, but they certainly haven't been keeping up with
>The goal of the Teach-In, according to conference organizer and IFG head
>Jerry Mander (best known for his book Four Arguments for the Elimination of
>Television), is to "bring together the protest movement born in Seattle with
>the leading critics of technologies, luddites if you will." In this, Mander
>So what are they afraid of? They generally fear "technology's symbiotic
>relationship with corporate power," according to Mander. He doesn't much
>care for the Internet because he thinks "it's facilitating the greatest
>centralization of unregulated corporate power in history." Besides the
>Internet, "now we have biotechnology and its younger sibling nanotechnology,
>which can potentially redesign nature from the atomic level up," declared
>Mander. "With these technologies, nothing will be outside of corporate
>control. They will achieve the full realization of a bionic society."
>Neo-luddite and bioregionalist Kirkpatrick Sale warned that "electronic and
>genetic technologies are bound to have earth-shaking, even earth-shattering
>effects." He continued, "All you have to lose are your boxes -- the boxes in
>your homes, on your desks, on your laps. We now know that they are all
>Randy Hayes, head of the Rainforest Action Network, decried biotech as the
>"most uncontrollable mass experiment the planet as ever seen." Rich Hayes,
>director of the Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic
>Technologies, fears that "the development and use of genetic technologies
>will irrevocably change human life and destabilize human identity and
>function." If that weren't bad enough, "most chillingly, as these
>technologies are being developed, a political and ideological movement is
>rising that celebrates the techno-eugenic posthuman future," warned Hayes.
>He specifically cited REASON magazine as being at the forefront of this
>"Computers are a colonizing technology," pronounced Chet Bowers, an adjunct
>professor in the Environmental Studies Department at the University of
>Oregon. He further warned that "computers profoundly alter how we think and
>inevitably reduce our ability to understand nature and cultures other than
>our own." Bowers decried Hans Moravec's vision of the future in which people
>could download their consciousnesses into computers.
>Pat Mooney, head of the Canadian Rural Advancement Foundation International
>(RAFI) wowed a workshop of earnest "progressives" by painting a vision of
>the nanotechnological future that would make Eric Drexler, the godfather of
>nanotech and author The Engines of Creation proud. "Although it's a long way
>off, they are moving toward creating nano-assemblers that could manufacture
>anything," explained Mooney. "You could take materials from sewage, air,
>water, anything to build what you want."
>He added, "Just read the White House press release from January 23 last
>year. It promises that nanotechnology could clean up the environment, end
>hunger, cure disease, and extend life. It's scary." Scary?
>So what do they want to do? First and foremost, they want to organize.
>Nearly every speaker mentioned how important it was for so-called civil
>justice, environmental justice, green, peace, and other civil society groups
>to join together on an action program to control or halt progress in the
>development of all the derided technologies.
>Specifically, Rich Hayes demanded "an immediate global ban on human
>reproductive cloning, an immediate global ban on manipulating genes that we
>pass on to our children, and accountable and effective regulation of all
>other human genetic technologies."
>Jeremy Rifkin called for "a strict global moratorium, no release of GMOs
>(genetically modified organisms) into the environment." Rifkin argued that
>"the gene pool is a shared commons which should be administered as a trust
>for all humanity." He would "prohibit any patents on genes, tissues, cells,
>organs, organisms," and advocates a global tax on human gene therapies and
>biotech drugs, the proceeds of which would be distributed to the developing
>Activist Stephanie Mills, who became famous when she announced as
>valedictorian of her class at Mills College in 1969 that the world was in
>such bad shape that she would not have children, demanded that society
>broadly adopt the "precautionary principle," the notion that before any new
>development in science and technology can be used, it must be shown to have
>no negative impact. Technology proponents "are still arguing against the
>sensible idea that new chemicals and new technologies should be presumed
>guilty until proven innocent," declared Mills. "No wonder there are luddites
>still among us," she added.
>Martin Teitel, a philosopher who directs the anti-biotech activist group the
>Council for Responsible Genetics, was quite explicit about what the
>precautionary principle could do to stop technological progress. "How could
>any scientist prove that a biotech crop was completely safe without field
>trials which is what the precautionary principle would require?" he was
>asked. That's just fine, Teitel admitted, because "politically it's
>difficult for me to go around saying that I want to shut this science down,
>so it's safer for me to say something like 'it needs to be done safely
>before releasing it.'" Requiring biotechnologists to prove a negative under
>the guise of implementing the precautionary principle means that "they don't
>get to do it period," Teitel explained. In other words, Lie to the public
>about what your real intentions are. Is that what he's teaching his
>To stop the technological juggernaut they fear, the luddites at the Teach-In
>know that they must stop the global process of economic integration and the
>technological progress it encourages. Free trade is, of course, anathema.
>John Cavanagh, director of the far-left think tank the Institute for Policy
>Studies, says that economic policies and regulations should favor "small
>activities, local markets, local communities with livelihoods connected to
>local economic production." Sarah Anderson, also from IPS, warned that
>"online shopping is too easy and encourages overconsumption." Anderson
>worries that "the United States is using the allure of e-commerce to push
>developing countries into accepting the same old free market ideas." Jerry
>Mander actually recommended that countries return to the old import
>substitution model of economic development which bankrupted most of Africa
>and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s.
>"This is the big wrestling match of the 21st century," declared Rifkin.
>For once, he's right. Whether wilfully or out of sheer ignorance, the
>congregants in Manhattan this past weekend dismiss any and all evidence that
>the human race has progressed over the past 100 years, much less the past
>1,000; the longer life expectancies, higher standards of living, and cleaner
>environments that are everywhere becoming the rule and not the exception for
>the masses have seemingly made no impression (nor have the economic forces
>that make such things possible). The hopeful future of humanity freed from
>disease, disability, hunger, ignorance, poverty, and inequity depends on
>beating back the forces of know-nothing reaction such as those assembled at
>this weekend's Teach-In. The struggle for the future begins now."
>Ronald Bailey (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Reason Magazine's science
Max More, Ph.D.
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