Re: QUOTE: Bey on extropians

Steve Witham (
Tue, 11 Nov 1997 02:17:52 -0400

>Steve Witham:
>>[Bey] is specifically challenging us to come up with a critique of tech.
Kathryn Aegis:
>I see an underlying question:
>Should Extropians devise a critique on tech in response to Bey, or
>should we devise one for our own reasons?...after all the raves I
>hear about Bey, it somewhat disappoints he would appeal to this style.

Whoa. It's me who used the word "challenge." What Bey said was that
we need one and we don't have one. If you agree that we need one, then
that's your own reason. I have my own reasons. Reaction to Bey isn't
the reason--he just happens to be correct.

Dan Clemmensen:
>I have an incredibly simplistic view of the future: we either embrace
>technology, or we die.

So far, that is incredibly simplistic, I must admit.
The AA Prayer is my paradigm for any debate on tech:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

You've summarized the first line of the prayer, which is something,
I'm not joking: these basics need to be said, and sorted out.

> The reason is simple: population. There is no
>known non-technical way to stop the population from growing,

Some recent (& controversial) survey said that around the world, when
*women* are reasonably educated, they decide how many kids to have based
on fairly rational estimates of the economic prospects for the kids.
Btw "we have the technology already", & it doesn't cost $6M.

>IMO anyone who argues against technological advancement...

None of those here, as far as I know. A "critique of tech" would be
an approach to thinking about what kinds (aspects? applications?
directions? etc?) of tech are good, what are bad, and why.
>are now left with arguments about the nature of the technological

Quite so.

>Again, I feel that there is really not much we can do to
>guide the advance. Technological change in this era is driven by
>software, and software development is now very distributed and
>uncontrollable. This means that arguments about the moral and
>ethical aspects of technological change are interesting, but
>have no practical point, since the change is uncontrollable.

I love how this argument zooms around in a loop a couple of times
and then ends up where it started, only with its motor hot and its arms
all twisted around pointing at itself. By the way, the general idea
is called "technological inevitability," and is well known, if not
well respected, in arguments about tech.

My start on an answer is that tech change consists of people making
decisions based on ideas. If you lump people's thinking into "tech
change," then of course we can't change the course because our thoughts
have already been accounted for in your idea of "tech change." We will
think what we will think, do what we will do, and que sera, sera.
But if you unplug the short-circuited argument, tech doesn't change
by itself at all. It *only* does what we want it to. The question is
how wise we can be, and what would wisdom consist of.

>...IMO, the only way an individual can affect the change is
>to try to introduce and advance useful, non-detremental changes
>as fast as possible, while analyzing and warning against possible
>detremental effects.

Sounds good! Now you've got to the second line of the prayer.

>Given the historically accelerating rate of
>change, I feel that any atempt to make non-technical changes to
>society (i.e., a new ethic, a new religion, a new educational system,
>a new form of government) will take too long to have an important
>effect on technological change: by the time such a slow-acting change
>can have an impact (order 25 years) technology will have
>changed society beyond all recognition.

Is it necessary to make massive changes or just introduce good ideas?
Remember, the same process that produces the change--people thinking--
is steering the change. They are identical. It's all just choices.
And people don't make the next change until they've absorbed the
previous one. New things are only produced by people thinking new
thoughts. So it can't be that tech change happens faster than
people's ability to change their thinking, since the latter is what
produces the former, one idea at a time.

And these are only preliminary, preliminary thoughts.

Please don't take my teasing style as unappreciative of the time and
thought you're putting into this. More than I am at the moment--I'm
just regurgitating things I've thought before. Scoping out the
situation--what we can and cannot affect about tech evolution--in a
cold-blooded way is exactly to the point. It's the third line of the

Harry S. Hawk said some wise things summarizing (and echoing the
prayer!) with:

>We can accept tech -- That's the first step!
>The 2nd step is to find the best tech and the best approaches and to
>find out the ideas that seem great (like lead pipes) but aren't once you
>get additional knowledge (e.g., lead is a poison).


--    Steve Witham under deconstruction
"...when activated, it pops a message off the bag
    and recurs with the tail of the bag."
             --Vijay Saraswat and Patrick Lincoln