Re: Notes from the Bill Joy radio talk

From: John Marlow (
Date: Thu Apr 05 2001 - 21:09:17 MDT

I thought he had a frighteningly valid argument for the curtailment
of First Amendment rights. When I'd heard before that he was in favor
of restricting free speech, I thought the guy had gone over the edge,
become fringe, was marginalizing himself, etc.--but when I heard it
in his own words...scary stuff.

Thanks to Russell for the heads-up on the broadcast.


On 5 Apr 2001, at 21:48, Brian Atkins wrote:

> Nothing much new here... he is working on a book apparently... he thinks
> we should get a vote before allowing new species creation :-) He still
> comes across as awfully clueless when it comes to having real answers to
> the tough questions.
> Bill Joy's talk with Katrina of Wired on April 5 2001 on CNET Radio:
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> To talk about/criticize this subject you have to accept the underlying
> assumptions.
> It is not an all or not type issue.
> Most people responding fall into two groups: either they deny it will happen, or
> are fatalistic and say there is nothing you can do about it (Newt says we have
> to
> go faster than our enemies).
> He wants a hypocratic oath from scientists in these areas.
> He thinks since there is a chance of total destruction/suffering, that is enough
> to relinquish pursuits of these areas.
> He felt like he got a low response to his article from the technology community.
> He feels due to pace of modern companies, there is not time to discuss these
> issues.
> He fears the schizos doing something irreversible.
> far all the talk has been about biological threats (30 minutes into it)...
> He thinks the odds are better than 50/50 that we survive.
> He's surprised people are still reading the Wired article.
> He isn't worried about human-sized robots, but more nanotech or other "foraging"
> robots.
> Stressing again that you have to balance expected future tech pluses versus
> potential
> suffering caused by misuse.
> Evolution has not prepared us for the scenario we are facing.
> Questions from the audience:
> ---------------------------
> How do you reconcile relinquishment with civic rights to innovation? He says 1st
> amendment isn't important since many countries function ok without it. He really
> doesn't have an answer to this...
> How is the realm of forbidden knowledge going to be defined? He thinks we should
> talk to the humanities folks (joking?). What he really fears is democratized
> access
> to advanced tech. No real answer here.
> Turning over control to AI because of complexity... this is not Bill Joy's
> concern,
> it is Kaczynski's.
> Example of technology that was relinquished or regulated? People argued against
> doing
> the H-bomb... we decided not to do bioweapons, but Russians cheated. Besides
> that he
> has no answers.
> What's your strategy to affect behavior of government/business? He is writing a
> book
> to explain it to laymen, and present examples of potential problems. He doesn't
> like
> that it gets politicized.
> How will information get into the real world? People will have advanced
> "printing"
> devices that will be able to produce things... biotech labs-at-home-on-a-chip.
> Does he worry about this stuff in his real world job? He works on reliable
> software,
> and thinks reliable software is mainly needed by the "good guys".
> If we are not the end of evolution, shouldn't we hope that the next species will
> be
> nice to us? He thinks we evolve so slowly (genetically) that the only way this
> will
> happen is to explicity try to create a new species. He thinks we all should get
> a
> vote before allowing this.
> --
> Brian Atkins
> Director, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

John Marlow

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