Re: How can we deal with risks?

Frank Prengel (
Thu, 30 Oct 1997 10:52:40 +0100 (MET)

On Thu, 30 Oct 1997, Holger Wagner wrote:

> 1) Today, humans are by no means perfect. They have a certain idea of
> what they do and what the consequences are, but it happens quite often
> that something "impredictable" happens. If you apply changes to the
> ecologic system, can you really predict what consequences this will have
> in the long run - and would you take the responsibility?

Nobody can do that. Technologies, the ecological system etc. are highly
nonlinear, and is is usually impossible to make accurate predictions over
a long period ("sensitive dependence on initial conditions ..."). Kelly
in "Out Of Control" suggests that the only way to learn something about
such systems is to let them evolve, i.e., TIME is an important parameter,
and there may be no shortcuts to a later state of the system. As for the
consequences, Lem says in SUMMA TECHNOLOGIAE: "The only way to deal with
a technology is another technology." (I'm currently re-reading it since
it seems to contain some ideas which are valuable to extropianism; I've
tried my best to translate the first chapter into English, since there
doesn't seem to be an English edition, see

> Possible solution: I assume that most scientists are very intelligent,

Ha! ;^)

> so they should understand stuff like pancritical rationalism and should
> be able to apply this to their work. By doing that, they at least
> improve the chance of not doing anything that has extremely bad results
> in the long run. Usually, it's the innovator who decides whether
> something should be invented or not, right?

Come on. Do you really believe that nuclear technology (and weapons)
wouldn't exist today if Einstein had decided not to publish "his"
famous "E=mc^2"? At a certain point, discoveries simply are on the
agenda, and it's a matter of chance WHO will be the lucky(?) one to
make them, but they will be made sooner or later.



--------------------------------------------- ________ __ -
Frank Prengel,TU Berlin,Inst.f.Theor.Physik {______ | B|
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