JXTA (pronounced "juxta", as in "juxtaposition") is Bill Joy's new system
for promoting peer-to-peer application development. It provides a base
for clients to locate other clients who are running the same application,
and some communication facilities. See www.jxta.org.
Bill Joy is of course well known to us here for his criticisms of working
on new technologies like AI and nanotech. These technologies pose many
threats and Joy has proposed that we "relinquish" them, that is, that
we not develop them and meditate to achieve inner peace instead.
Yet when I look at the JXTA proposal I see no facilities to support
relinquishment. The system is presented purely as something which
can *facilitate* research and development. JXTA could even be used
on projects which could promote nanotech and AI!
Joy's positions are ultimately contradictory. You can't consistently
provide tools for general technological development while calling
for society to restrict technological research. If he wanted to be
consistent, he would have put facilities into JXTA to allow society to
limit its use. Maybe there would have to be a majority vote among peers
before allowing a subset of them to run some particular software.
Of course, building these kinds of roadblocks into JXTA would greatly
limit its chances for success. It's hard enough to get people to try a
new technology without intentionally hampering it. No one would want
to work on a project where others could easily pull the plug. So of
course he didn't do it.
Joy has thus put his personal and financial self-interest ahead of
his philosophical beliefs. He has compartmentalized his mind so that
he can be the wise philosopher one day, raising cautionary notes about
technology, while he can be the profitable technologist the next, making
money for himself and his company (he is a major Sun stockholder).
I'd like to see these contradictions made more obvious. Wouldn't it
be great if there were a high-profile project to use Joy-the-engineer's
JXTA for exactly those technologies which give Joy-the-philosopher the
greatest concerns? Let's see him get up and play pundit once he is
exposed as a hypocrite.
Any suggestions for good projects along these lines?
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