Re: Islam, theology and politeness

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Mar 18 2001 - 01:31:49 MST

Charlie Stross wrote:
ation 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.)

What you listed are not problems with IT itself but with human nature
and human ethics. I don't believe we can get the real benefits of
technology, current or future, without seriously cleaning up some of our
ethical systems and the legal, political and economic spheres that grow
out of them. Technology won't fix that for us. There I agree. But
without the technology but with wonderful ethics we still wouldn't fare
very well.

> 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 ...

But technology is also a "human solution". The tools are NOT
incidental. Not if they have the power to transform our base
assumptions, like our assumptions of fundamental scarcity.
> > 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.

So scarcity when real scarcity is gone is a function of broken ethics -
of replaying old human (actually old chimp) games long after the context
is there for the to have any meaning or be at all safe to play. Well,
either we will get over that or our tools will hyper-inflate our
nonsense until we either do ourselves in or create a hopefully more
reasonable successor fit for the new context.

- samantha

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