Alarms about Techno-Utopianism

from the utopian-dystopian-or-atopian? dept.
Senior Associate BryanBruns writes "Reason magazine has a story "Dystopian Fearmongers Strike Again" criticizing the "TechnoUtopian" advertisement recently run in the New York Times. (The ad is available online: technoad.pdf.) The advertisement has three paragraphs on nanotechnology, with reasonably accurate content, using nanotech as another example of technological optimism. The section on nanotech finishes by saying "[Bill] Joy has grave doubts about proceeding, citing dangers from escaping self-replicating nanomachines, and from military applications. (There are also terribly frightening surveillance and privacy concerns.) So far, Joy is one of the few major scientists to be openly critical." Read more for details and analysis. Bryan continues: This is part of a series of ads by the Turning Point Project, a "coalition of more than 50 non-profit organizations that favor democratic, localized, and ecologically sustainable alternatives to current practices and policies." In its conclusion, the ad says that calling for relinquishment is a good start, "But in a democratic society, we must also demand active public participation, full disclosure, debate, and referenda on every technological development beyond a certain scale."

On the face of it, they are asking for public discussion, very much in line with the Foresight Institute's goals, though they show no awareness of Foresight's attempts to promote discussion of the potential benefits and risks of nanotechnology. They claim the process so far has been heavily biased toward pro-technology interests of corporations.

For those who think technological advance has some advantages worth considering in such discussions, The Ultimate Resource II, by the late Julian Simon is available online. Simon's work offers a systematic empirical and conceptual critique of flaws underlying much critical rhetoric about technology, a valuable contribution to more thorough deliberation about technical advance."

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