Re: Modern Technology: Out of Control?

Dan Clemmensen (
Tue, 20 Jan 1998 23:08:36 -0500

Weslake, Brad BG wrote:
> First of all, thanks to all those who have provided input. I especially
> like David Musick's view of technology as being under distributed
> control - there are some good analogies which can be drawn with this and
> technology itself, such as robotics. I intend a major part of my
> response to be that technology is self-guided and therefore centralised
> control (ie. governmental intervention) is unnecessary.
There is a fatal problem with this analogy. The homeostasis (i.e.,
corrective feedback) of the neural system is not spontaneous, but is
the result of evolution by mutation and natural selection.
Robotics fails as an analogy because the design of a robot is
under control, and the functions of the robot are typically adjusted
during the design phase to produce a desired range of results.
IMO, there is no equivalent selective force in society as a
whole that will cause the techno-societal system to tend toward
homeostasis. "Spontaneous order" does occur in many arbitray
complex systems, but other arbitrary complex systems exhibit
self-destructive behaviour. You cannot simply chant "spontaneous
order" as a mantra. You must attempt to identify the corective
> Also, I am looking for a technology which does not seem to be
> acknowledged by government in policy (yet...) but which may provide
> dilemma in the future. Would Artificial Intelligence be appropriate? As
> a computer science undergrad this would be my preference, but if anyone
> has any better suggestions I would gratefully receive them.

Try software design productivity improvement in general, and
software tools for the development of distributed algorithms in
particular. These technologies are uncontrolled, but result in
supercomputing for everyman. The "great Mersienne prime search"
and other recent distributed computing challenges are a crude
first step. The distinguishing attribute of technology, as
opposed to other human endeavors such as art sports, etc., is that
technological advancement contributes strongly and measurably
to further technological advance. This is almost a definition
of positive feedback, which is exactly the wrong kind of feedback
for a stable system.

This says to me that society as we know it is doomed, but I'm
optimistic that successor to our society will be an unimaginable

We are building our successor, and we're almost finished.