Bill Joy interviewed in Salon

Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 03:47:21 MDT

Salon magazine recently interviewed Bill Joy, he of recent "Why the future
doesn't need us" fame. Perhaps the format does not do justice to Joy's
thinking; interviews often inhibit long and careful explanations. Still, to
judge from the quote below, I'd say that Joy sadly misapprehends the way that
spontaneous orders work. Invited to critique Hans Moravecs' pro-evolution
views, Joy said,

"We didn't set up our present system without thinking. The Constitution, the
whole economic system we have was designed. So I'm hopeful if only because I
believe we can choose what's in our interest independent of whether it
maximizes someone's notion of profit or destiny. We can choose to have a
social safety net, when in fact business would be more efficient if it didn't
have to pay those costs, and people had to starve in the streets. We can
decide that's not acceptable and we have in most Western societies. That's
not a totally Darwinian choice. The total Darwinian choice would just be to
let it go. But we've decided that's not the kind of society we want to live

>From <>.

Set aside Joy's disappointingly juvenile views on political economy (lifted
straight out of Dickinson) and his muddled thinking about how some collective
"we" chooses the shape of the world (ignoring Arrow's Theorem). Does he
really think that "the whole economic system we have was designed"? It would
be another--and accurate--thing to say that "the economic system arose from
human action." But to call it "designed" suggests that Joy fails to
appreciate how spontaneous orders result from human action but not human
*design.* His oversight leaves me wondering if he really understands
evolution at all.

Can well-meaning gadflies do no better than Joy? What a shame; we would all
benefit from better informed--or at least better articulated--criticisms of
unbounded technological progress.

T.0. Morrow

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