Re: Islam, theology and politeness

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Fri Mar 16 2001 - 12:35:39 MST

On Wed, Mar 07, 2001 at 02:56:02AM +0100, Anders Sandberg wrote:
> Nanotech in late industrialisation: likely less disruptive, just
> helping to speed along an already quickly expanding economy. Expect
> the general optimism of the society to explode outwards.
> Information technology introduction might give us some hints.
Or not. Despite living off the IT industry -- working as a programmer
and freelance IT journalist-- I'm not entirely sanguine about its
overall benefits for the human condition. (Sometimes it all looks like
a horrible distraction ... lots of wheel-spinning which is essentially
marketing bullshit rather than the engine of progress in motion.) We're
learning the wrong lessons from it: that we can make progress by
Powerpoint presentation, that companies can win in the marketplace by
attacking their competitors with spurious patent-infringement lawsuits,
and so on. (Read up on NCR sueing Palm this week for violating a 1987
patent on a handheld data terminal that NCR never built. Or Rambus up
in court and being sandbagged with RICO.)

> > Now, given that a lot of the political conflicts, famines, and other
> > unpleasantnesses we live with today are scarcity-related, doesn't it
> > make sense to try to understand how two thirds of the human species
> > will respond to technologies that promise to make most of the roots of
> > conflict magically go away?
> I agree with your view about the need for understanding new
> technologies in different cultural contexts, but I would say the the
> problems above are not magically solved by even strong
> nanotech.

Nope. Human problems usually turn out to have human solutions: the tools
we use in reaching those solutions are incidental, although they often
make life a lot easier. But ...

> Scarcity is not just an issue of lack of resources or
> production capacity, it is also an issue of distribution and economic
> system. Under a Rob Mugabe even a nanotech society might starve.

Yes, but you missed another thing: in a nanotech society, scarcity may be
a function of broken intellectual property laws, inadequate education,
a government that can't attract capital investment inflow, and probably
half a dozen other factors we don't know about yet. Distribution and
economic problems are a hallmark of the industrial and mass production
era. We're going somewhere else ... talk about "mass customization" is
only the tip of the iceberg.

-- Charlie

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