Will We Look Like That To The Future

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Tom Pappas

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Concorde had a fatal flaw designed into it, for the sake of expediency. There were dozens of near-catastrophic accidents involving runway litter before the Big One - it was only a matter of time before something really nasty happened, and everyone involved knew it. Expressed as "percentage of fleet lost to faulty design," Concorde has one of the worst records in aviation history.

Nuclear fission is a great way to produce electric power - and tons of radioactive waste that no one has figured out (in fifty years) what to do with. Fission plants are almost one hundred percent safe, too: there is a finite possibility that one will some day irradiate an area the size of Pennsylvania (in the words of China Syndrome). But the power producers have found they can market negligible risk as equaling no risk. If the industry was really concerned for safety, they would have perfected fusion power twenty years ago. But the quick, obscene profits were in fission, so that's where the investment went. Remember, it is an axiom of systems science that beyond a certain scale of complexity, systems manifest behaviors impossible for their designers to predict.

About the war on disease: the overuse of antibiotics has created a biological time bomb, in the form of strains of bacteria immune to everything we can throw at them. It is only a matter of time (hear that phrase again?) before something really dreadful begins killing off huge populations. SARS had to be contained because it couldn't be cured. We may already be there.

It's the unsinkable mentality writ large.
 
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Bob Cruise

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>>Finally, consider that automobile accidents claim more lives each day than anything else.<<

>As opposed to what? Wars, famine, shipwrecks, other types of accidents. <

Well, not to belabor my point, but I think that says it all right there.

In the "good old days", hand-to-hand combat meant that war pretty much wiped out troops in amounts of, at most, tens of thousands.

Now, courtesy of technology, we have since developed the capacity to wipe out millions with one stroke - and render the landscape unusable in the aftermath.

I suppose this all goes back to the ultimate question: "What is the purpose of life?"

I give up - what is it?

Bob Cruise
First (and Foremost) Inductee in the International Curmudgeon Hall of Fame
 
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fred pelka

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Great posts, guys. As always, lot to think about here.

A few more items to throw into the mix.

One of my house-mates is a consultant to the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Working Group of the Human Genome Initiative. The group's agenda makes my head spin. As we learn more about human genetics, it becomes more possible to manipulate our very genetic heritage for purposes both noble and dubious. Program out various diseases? Sure. How about programming in "faster, bigger, smarter?" Hmmm. How about designing humans to be blue-eyed and blonde as opposed to brown-eyed and dark skinned? How about choosing to insure your child is gay, rather than straight, or the other way around? And on and on and on. I suppose it's inevitable that we will someday have the technology to clone a human being. Will we? Should we?

Second item: An archaeologist I know tells me that, though he has tremendous admiration for the (Gilded Age) pioneers who pretty much invented the field, it's also true that these same folks often destroyed (virtually looted) the very human heritage they were seeking to explore and preserve. Sometimes this was entirely inadvertent. The technology and methods available then were simply not up to the task of examining ancient sites without at the same time destroying them. For this reason, he tells me, it is now pretty much standard practice on new digs to always leave a substantial portion of the site entirely unexplored, on the assumption that future archaeologists will have better methods, and it's best to leave them something fresh. I imagine this might be very tough on some folks -- here you might be on the threshold of making some amazing new discovery that might radically change our understanding of the past (and incidentally get you your tenure), but you have to walk away. I can't think of too many other examples where people deliberately choose this sort of restraint.

The idea that technology is neutral is one of those assumptions I think might bear with some serious examination. Personally, I'm not too sure. Technology certainly gives a terrific edge to those who can afford it, whether it be high tech. weapons, the digital gap, or ownership of the mass media. Rather than being neutral, technology might well favor the side of those who have, as opposed to those who have not.

Fred
 
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>>>As opposed to what? Wars, famine, shipwrecks, other types of accidents. <

Well, not to belabor my point, but I think that says it all right there. <<

Actually, it doesn't. Simple numbers don't tell the whole story. Get the fatality rate per thousand then compare it with all other causes and we'll have something to talk about.

>>Now, courtesy of technology, we have since developed the capacity to wipe out millions with one stroke - and render the landscape unusable in the aftermath.<<

And to save it. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are livable, forests have been restored, wetlands have been restored, rivers, and lake cleaned up, species such as the American Eagle and the American alligator brought back from the edge of extinction...need I go on? Humans using technical know-how restored that which they had destroyed.

>>I suppose this all goes back to the ultimate question: "What is the purpose of life?"

I give up - what is it? <<

And in terms of philosophical points, this is an open question without resolution and assumes that life must have some sort of perpose. There is not one shred of evidence to support this. None against it either. Sorry, but I can't help you with that one.

Nobody can.

>>Expressed as "percentage of fleet lost to faulty design," Concorde has one of the worst records in aviation history.<<

And in terms of passangers carried, millions of miles flown, and years in service, one of the best. 27 years of service befor one fatal crash ain't bad. Few other contenders can boast the same. All this really shows is that anybody can make something look as good or as bad as they want with numbers. Political wags, policy wonks, and media types have been playing this game for a very long time.

>>I suppose it's inevitable that we will someday have the technology to clone a human being. Will we? Should we? <<

Don't know. Don't pretend to either. Seems that those persuing the technology would have to find a way to deal with some nagging problems such as an observed predisposition to aging too quick. I suppose the best use of the technology would not be to "create" a whole new person, but to use the cells to grow replacement organs for those in need of a transplant.

Beyond that, I don't see the point, but that's just me. My inability to see the full potential doesn't mean it's not there.

>>The idea that technology is neutral is one of those assumptions I think might bear with some serious examination. <<

The term I used is morally nuetral and I've seen nothing to change that. Technology is just that; tools we created to serve our needs for better and/or for worse. It has no will of it's own, no life of it's own, no sense of direction of it's own, and no mind of it's own. It is utterly subject to our whims, desires, and goals and that's where the responsibility must lie.

The Titanic didn't cause herself to sink. Her watch team had a nasty accident where they blundered into an iceberg.

The World Trade Center towers didn't cause themselves to fall, and neither did the aircraft that were flown into them. The World Trade Center's demise was an entirely human undertaking. People caused it to happen. The aircraft they used were only tools which they, by councious and deliberate design exploited for the purpose.

Technology doesn't favour or oppose anybody.
 
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>Humans using technical know-how restored that which they had destroyed.

So they can destroy it again...yes, that's so utterly noble...

>Technology is just that; tools we created to serve our needs for better and/or for worse. It has no will of it's own, no life of it's own, no sense of direction of it's own, and no mind of it's own. It is utterly subject to our whims, desires, and goals and that's where the responsibility must lie.

And therein lies the ultimate problem...the ones who created the technology are absolutely incapable of using it for anything other than destructive purposes (even if they go back afterwards and try to clean up the mess...the mess shouldn't have been made at all). And technology has rendered humanity apathetic and unable to truly think for themselves, let alone to even want to.

But, that's what humans always wanted, I suppose...to be able to do whatever they want without having to exert a lot of effort, or to be held accountable for their actions. Less thinking that way...and humans generally hate to think.
 
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>>So they can destroy it again...yes, that's so utterly noble... <<

Or make it right again. There are two sides to the coin.

>>And therein lies the ultimate problem...the ones who created the technology are absolutely incapable of using it for anything other than destructive purposes.<<

Not really. Restored wetlands, rebuilt cities and industry, the advances in the medical sciences, the clean up of rivers and lakes as well as theair put the lie to that one. If people were incapable of using technical know-how for anything but destruction, none of these things would be happening.

>>But, that's what humans always wanted, I suppose...to be able to do whatever they want without having to exert a lot of effort, or to be held accountable for their actions. <<

A very human condition. Kind of like now where people try to blame technology for all of our ills when we need to look in the mirror for the real culprits.

But I suppose it's easier that way. Why accept responsibility for our failings when we can just blame the tools we by deliberate design choose to make??? A nice handy scapegoat with no thinking required. And as you pointed out, human's generally hate to think.

Who's fault is that?
 
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fred pelka

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>>The term I used is morally neutral.

Michael, I don't want to nit pick, and maybe I missed the reference in a different post, but the phrase you used in the post I was responding to above was: "Exactly. Technology is neutral." It's interesting though that you draw a distinction between neutrality, and moral neutrality. I'd very much like to hear you say more about this. Can someone or something be morally neutral, but otherwise take a side? If so, then I think we might be closer to agreement than you think. But I'd definitely like to hear more.

But I see your point. Obviously, inanimate objects don't have a will to exert -- by definition. It's the old "Guns don't kill people, people do" line of reasoning, meaning there's no point to controlling the proliferation of weapons because it's the people using the weapons that are the problem. Without opening up a whole can of worms about gun control pro or con, this seems to me somewhat simplistic. Even if we assume that all people are in all cases responsible for all their actions (don't want to get into that one either), it still may be useful to think about ways to limit the potential of some people to do irreparable harm to others, to deny them the use of certain technologies. This is why we have laws that, for instance, prohibit private individuals from stockpiling nerve gas in their basements. (At least, I THINK we have such laws -- I HOPE we have such laws...). It does me no good, having been gassed, to have someone tell me -- "It wasn't the gas that killed you, it was your weird neighbor and his funky hobby." You ask: "Why accept responsibility for our failings when we can just blame the tools we by deliberate design choose to make?" Precisely. We CHOOSE to make these tools. Doesn't this mean we might in some way be responsible for the mayhem they cause? Might there be moral consequences to choosing, for instance, to make weapons of mass destruction, even if you aren't specifically the one to use them? Certainly, Robert Oppenheimer seemed to think so. So did Albert Speer.

All this is way off the topic though. All I meant to say way back when was that I thought Bob raised some interesting points. First -- that technological "progress" in and of itself might not always be a good thing. Second -- that as a culture we really haven't changed much since the Titanic went down, in terms of our techno-centric or techno-triumphalist ideology. Michael, you seem to demonstrate this yourself when you answered my (admittedly wooly) questions about cloning. I asked, will we clone humans, just because we can? Should we? Your answer was less a consideration of the moral or ethical implications, than a cost/potential analysis. "I don't see the point, but that's just me. My inability to see the full potential doesn't mean it's not there."

Maybe it doesn't matter what the full potential is. Maybe some things, some technical "advances" are simply better left unexplored, at least until we're better able to deal with them. I think it might be possible to reach such a conclusion, and also hold to the ultimate responsibility for each of us for his or her own actions.

Getting back to the topic: Will We Look Like That to the Future -- I think Bob is on to something. The technological triumphalism of the Gilded Age was called into question by the Great War and what followed, but right now it does seem that we still are enthralled by all the things we can do, without asking ourselves too deeply why we do them, what is the purpose, what are the possible consequences.

What you seem to be saying is that our technologies are merely extensions of ourselves, for good and ill, and I agree. And in that sense they are morally neutral, or rather, whatever morality or immorality they might have is invested in them by us -- those who conceive, build, and use the stuff. So as we look at the technology all around us, what does it say about us as conceivers, builders, users?

Another very wooly question, I admit. Really,I can't help it. Something about sitting in front of a computer screen...makes me...want to...phil..os..ooooo...phize...can't..stop...typing...ARRRGHAARUUGRRAAARR...this technology has got me in its evil claws!!!...

Seriously, I'm just winging it folks, looking to see what sticks and what doesn't. I mean, what's a brain for, unless it's to frame and ask stupid questions? And to thank you all again for your great patience.

Fred
 
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fred pelka

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"Dazzled by the possibilities of technology, I devoted crucial years of my life to serving it. But in the end my feelings about it are highly skeptical."

Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich
 
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>>Michael, I don't want to nit pick, and maybe I missed the reference in a different post, but the phrase you used in the post I was responding to above was: "Exactly. Technology is neutral."<<

You're right. I did. I stand corrected. Nevertheless, that's what I meant to say and stand by it.

>>It's interesting though that you draw a distinction between neutrality, and moral neutrality. I'd very much like to hear you say more about this.

There's not much to say beyond that. Objects that we create don't have any will, sense of direction or mind of their own. The guns you alluded to cannot persuade somebody to blow their top and blow somebody away any more then can a knife or a nuclear weapon. Unless a human being makes a deliberate choice to use them, at best, they're costly doorstops or paperwights for all the real value they may have.

>>Can someone or something be morally neutral, but otherwise take a side? <<

Things cannot take sides. A gun or a ship can no more take a "side" then can a Craftsman wrench.

>>It's the old "Guns don't kill people, people do" line of reasoning, <<

When was the last time you saw a Smith & Wesson .357 float out of it's box, hunt somebody down and blow them away? To put it on a larger scale, when was the last time an ICBM decided "I'm having a bad hair day so I'll just fly out of my nest and kill 15 million people."???

It's really not simplistic at all. What I'm doing is putting the responsibility where it really belongs in all of this and get away from the blame shifting.

And make no mistake, that's exactly what's happening. The Titanic didn't screw up. Her operators did. The gun didn't screw up, the bloke who pulled the trigger did. The World Trade Center and four Boeing aircraft didn't screw up, the nutjobs from the "Die Dog For Allah" crowd did that. The shuttle's Challanger and Columbia didn't screw up, the people running the show at NASA did that.

>>We CHOOSE to make these tools. Doesn't this mean we might in some way be responsible for the mayhem they cause? <<

We are responsible for the mayhem we cause with them. The tools don't cause anything. They can't.

>>First -- that technological "progress" in and of itself might not always be a good thing. <<

For the reasons I long ago expressed, I can't agree with this.

>>Second -- that as a culture we really haven't changed much since the Titanic went down, in terms of our techno-centric or techno-triumphalist ideology.<<

A very human condition. Our responsibility...not the tools. Conterary to what Albert Speer thought, we cannot be the servents of that which we create to serve us.

>>Michael, you seem to demonstrate this yourself when you answered my (admittedly wooly) questions about cloning. I asked, will we clone humans, just because we can? Should we? Your answer was less a consideration of the moral or ethical implications, than a cost/potential analysis. "I don't see the point, but that's just me. My inability to see the full potential doesn't mean it's not there." <<

I wasn't attempting to evaluate it's the moral implications of what's been discovered. That much has been done to death. It can become a tool for incrdible evil or equally awesome good, but it's a decision we have to make. The technology can't do it for us.

Well, I have to run off to work now. Gotta eat and all that.
 
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Tom Pappas

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Thank goodness the Titanic disaster put an end for all time to the subordination of the safety and well-being of an international conglomerate's customers to its corporate profits!

And thank goodness that the primary goal of capitalism is, and forever will be, the conservation of the only planet of its kind in this end of the galaxy.

And how inspiring it is to know that an informed electorate will continue to control the selfish desires of those who produce and market biomedical technology such as cloning.

Nothing has changed, folks. Nor is it likely to, no matter how many platitudes about "a decision we have to make" are uttered here.
 
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fred pelka

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Well, we seem to be going around and around here, but that's okay. I was hoping to find perhaps a reasonable medium between technology as an evil monster devouring its children, and technology as unalloyed good to be pursued no matter what the cost. Probably I just screwed up with my choice of words. For instance, technology "taking sides." Michael is right, in that inanimate objects can't act of their own volition. Even so, inanimate objects can, I think, influence the way people think and act, and can also influence and even determine the outcome of conflicts, situations. So while a gun might not "float out of its box, hunt somebody down, and kill them," a gun in someone's hands might give that person a feeling of invulnerability, of power, of control, making them capable of doing things they wouldn't consider without it. A disgruntled employee without a gun might, in a fit of rage, return to work and heave a chair at his boss. A disgruntled employee with a gun might result in a headline that reads, "Four people dead as angry employee kills co-workers, self." Clearly, the firearm had an impact in how the situation played itself out, even if it is only an inanimate object.

I also think that it's possible to assign degrees of responsibility, without "shifting blame" or letting direct perpetrators off the hook. Yes, it was Saddam Hussein et. al who dropped those chemical weapons on the Kurds. They are ultimately responsible. This doesn't have to mean, however, that the folks who provided them with the means to produce those weapons ought to be held blameless. Similarly, those in control of the Titanic that terrible night obviously bear ultimate responsibility for their decisions. On the other hand, I don't think this absolves the folks who decided somewhere down the line that more lifeboats weren't needed. And certainly, the size of the ship, the fact that it could go as fast as it did, the feeling of invulnerability its sheer size apparently conveyed to everyone connected with it, must have counted for something as the various decisions were made that night. So it isn't an all or nothing kind of thing.

I think Tom, in his ironic post above, is on to something. I think technology serves those who can afford it, who own it, and the creators and purveyors of technology do have some responsibility in that regard, for the consequences of what they create. Anybody know the Tom Lehrer song on Werner von Braun?

...the rocket goes up
where does it come down?
"That's not my problem,"
says Werner von Braun.

This is all very far removed from the original question raised by this thread. But then again it's the distractions and diversions that make this all so interesting.

Best wishes to all,

Fred
 
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Thank goodness the Titanic disaster put an end for all time to the subordination of the safety and well-being of an international conglomerate's customers to its corporate profits!

And thank goodness that the primary goal of capitalism is, and forever will be, the conservation of the only planet of its kind in this end of the galaxy.

And how inspiring it is to know that an informed electorate will continue to control the selfish desires of those who produce and market biomedical technology such as cloning.

Nothing has changed, folks. Nor is it likely to, no matter how many platitudes about "a decision we have to make" are uttered here.
Nice strawman arguement you made there, Tom.

Now if you wish to address the arguements and concerns that I actually made, I might consider whether it's worth my while to take any further interest in this thread.
 
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Tom Pappas

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...I might consider whether it's worth my while to take any further interest in this thread.
I've already reached that decision.
 
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"I am confused, what is this thread about???"

It was supposed to be about how this present society would be viewed by the future...but that's a bit of a problem, since no one in the present can decide how to view it (or so it would seem from these posts, including one from myself, admittedly). :D

It'll be grand when the present is past, and there's no more human controversy...less squabbling about petty stuff, among other things.
 
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fred pelka

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"I am confused, what is this thread about???"

The thread is about "Will We Look Like That to the Future?"

I think it started with folks wondering if we'll look as quaint and humorous to people in a hundred years, as the Gilded Age with its fashions and fads looks to us now. I think it then started careening from one topic to the next, eventually morphing into a debate on technology, arrogance, and such. Personally I have no problem with mental pinball, but I suppose it can get confusing at times.

Judging from the last few posts, I think the future may well see this as a contentious era when many people held opposing viewpoints, and were willing to passionately state them in a variety of public forums. What I'm hoping is they will also see this as a time when we were able to resolve these differences without resorting to name-calling, vilification, and violence. History at this point seems to be arguing against me, and often seems, as one Gilded Age writer put it, "a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." Me, I'm just stupid, weird, naive enough to keep hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, history is wrong.

Everybody, let's lighten up a bit. "Less squabbling about petty stuff" is absolutely right.

Best wishes to all.

Fred
 
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>>It'll be grand when the present is past, and there's no more human controversy...less squabbling about petty stuff, among other things.<<

Never happen. Sorry. Humans have always been a pretty contentious and arguementative lot and I've seen no evidence of any kind that this will ever change. We may find less destructive ways of channeling all that, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. It's just the nature of the beast. It was a surprisingly smart scriptwriter who had a character on Babylon 5 say "You cannot make history. You can only hope to survive it."

Whoever this was, he knew what he was talking about.

>>Me, I'm just stupid, weird, naive enough to keep hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, history is wrong. <<

Mmmmmmmm...Fred, it's not the history that's wrong, although our take on it may well be at times. It is what it is. The question is, can we learn from it?

We have the capacity to do so, but all too often, few people are willing to make the effort. That's why you often see the same old issues, controversies, and schisms of ages past being hashed over and over, and over again.
 
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Bob Cruise

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>Hiroshima and Nagasaki are livable, forests have been restored, wetlands have been restored, rivers, and lake cleaned up, species such as the American Eagle and the American alligator brought back from the edge of extinction...need I go on? <

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by single bombs. The incidents stopped WWII, but only because one nation possessed the knowledge for making the bomb. These days, however, nobody drops bombs on each other due to the threat of nuclear retaliation, thereby underscoring the unpleasant fact that too many nations now have "the bomb" (including versions more lethal than the 1945 models). Unfortunately, even that may change now that the Islamic world has been brought kicking and screaming into the Age of Technology. In the Western world, wars were fought for conquest and some sort of net gain ("the spoils of war"). All nuclear-stopgaps go out the window, however, when you've got state-backed religious fundamentalists who seek to destroy for the sake of destruction.

As for eagles and alligators, guess again. A new book - "Monster of God" - explains how virtually all the "alpha" predators like crocodiles, bears, tigers, etc. will be gone from the wild by the year 2050 unless humanity steps in to protect these creatures. Yeah - we can reverse the process, but will we if there's no financial gain? Why did it have to come to this in the first place?

>The Titanic didn't cause herself to sink. Her watch team had a nasty accident where they blundered into an iceberg.<

>The World Trade Center towers didn't cause themselves to fall, and neither did the aircraft that were flown into them.<

True. And this is where the folly of human nature comes into play when new technologies are "thunk" up.

The dummies behind the TITANIC built a ship with bulkheads which only went up to E deck. How smart was that? As many have claimed, if those bulkheads had gone all the way up, the ship - at the very least - would have taken much longer to go completely under, thereby allowing nearby ships to come and rescue the passengers.

The Einsteins who built the Trade Center allowed for an impact from the largest plane then-known - yet completely overlooked the fire what would have resulted from jet fuel (not to mention that it is conventional firefighter knowledge that ANY fire above the 8th or so floor is difficult to control - so why place people in jeopardy in the first place?).

Now - does that mean that buildings could have been built which would have survived the terrorist attacks?

No, because, from the start, jets were - and will always be - essentially jumbo-sized, airborne molotov cocktails. Amazing that it took a Third World mind to notice that.

It seems, then, that - for all the intense thinking and evaluation done by the "great" minds who invent these new technologies - there's always a sucker punch delivered at the most tranquil of moments (a moonless night, a beautiful day).


>inanimate objects can't act of their own volition.<
>The term I used is morally neutral.<

Interesting that the question of morality is brought up here, insinuating that technology kills only when people use it for "bad" purposes.

But what about those times when technology malfunctions?

"Guns don't kill people, people do" overlooks the numerous deaths each year from kids who find guns in the house. Yes - the person owning the gun is responsible; however, just a much to blame is the design of the gun: it allows for the snuffing out of a life in a fraction of a second. Granted, this design is the result of the human mind - nevertheless, it's the momentary absence of a (knowledgeable) human mind which ends up being killing those kids.

Or what about when technology is put in charge of people?

The tag line for Micheal Crichton's first foray into the amusement park drama says it all: "Westworld - where nothing can go wrong... go wrong... go wrong..."

Technology was not the cause of The Titanic and the WTC disasters - but it was directly responsible for the grand SCALE of these events.

Same with the Lusitania (which, btw, is what I consider the true historical equivalent of the WTC - not the attack on Pearl Harbor as so many are quick to identify).

Sure - accidents will always happen and aggressors/terrorists will always strike. But putting thousands of lives in one mega-structure only means that when something fails, the resulting loss of human life will be catastrophic.

For that matter, look at how x-rays were treated upon their discovery: "Healthful", "Rejuvenating".

As the line from "Jurassic Park" goes: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think whether they should".

Or what about those instances when technology gives one a false sense of security?

Sure - Captain Smith was going too fast. But was he operating under the assumption that any collision would not result in the ship's sinking.

Sadly, such erroneous reasoning continues to happen.

Here where I live (NYC), recently, three teenagers took a rowboat out on a lake - in an area which was off-limits because of its known dangers - and ended up drowning. They had a cellphone and called 911, but all the 911 operator heard was "Help - we're out here and we're going down-". 911 didn't respond to the call because it subsequently knew nothing. Later, it was revealed that software which could reveal the location of a phone call was due to be installed in the 911 system but had been delayed for whatever reason. The parents of the victims, naturally, were outraged, saying that if said software had been installed their children would still be alive. My reaction, however, was "who put it into those kids' minds that a cellphone would keep them out of trouble out on open water?"

I am reminded of an exchange between the paleobotanist and the creator of Jurassic Park: "'It's still an illusion!' 'When we have control again-' 'You NEVER have control, John! That's the illusion!'"

>All this is way off the topic though. <

Believe it or not:

"Morally, of course, the owners and builders are responsible, but at present moral responsibility is too weak an incentive in human affairs - that is the miserable part of the whole wretched business - to induce owners generally to make every possible provision for the lives of those in their charge; to place human safety so far above every other consideration that no plan shall be left unconconsidered, no device left untested, by which passengers can escape from a sinking ship. But it is not correct to say, as has been said frequently, tht it is greed and dividend-hunting that have characterized the policy of the steamship companies in their failure to prvide safety appliances: these things in themselves are not expensive. They have vied with each other in making their lines attractive in point of speed, size and comfort, and they have been quite justified in doing so: such things are the product of ordinary competition between commercial housees.

Where they have all failed morally is to extend to their passengers the consideration that places their lives as of more interest to them than any other conceivable thing. They are not alone in this: thousands of other people have done the same thing and would do it to-day - in factories, in workshops, in mines, did not the government intervene and insist on safety precautions. The thing is a defect in human life of to-day - thoughtlessness for the well-being of our fellow-men; and we are all guilty of it in some degree. It is folly for the public to rise up now and condemn the steamship companies: their failing is the common failing of the immorality of indifference."

- From "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley

>Getting back to the topic: Will We Look Like That to the Future -- I think Bob is on to something. ...we still are enthralled by all the things we can do, without asking ourselves too deeply why we do them, what is the purpose, what are the possible consequences. <

Bob is always on to something.

Here's the bad news:

Our current society - everywhere, from West to East, North to South - and in fact the entire Age of Technology - are all based on a simple but critical premise: gas and oil are cheap and easily obtainable fuel sources. Take a look around you: nearly everything you see - buildings, furnishings, food, etc. - was either manufactured or transported - or even both - courtesy of hydrocarbons.

Now then, in about 100 years (as the title of this thread ponders), all oil and gas reserves will have been depleted. That's when the real fun begins. Yes, there are alternative energy sources (solar energy, gasohol, coal, etc.), but all of them are substantially more expensive than oil and gas.

What will the economics of the future be? How cheap and easy will it be to ship food and consumer goods to city stores? Will gasohol be a viable fuel for jets? What will be able to deliver the power needed to make possible mass public transportation?

I shudder to think how a society grounded in the idea that energy is cheap will make out in the future.

Thanks to technology and innovation, we have become incredibly spoiled (not to mention obese in many cases).

Prior to 8/14/03, the cry around NYC was "Close the Long Island Nuclear Power Plant! It's a potential terrorist target!". After 14 inconveniencing, powerless hours in the dark, however, the same voices changed their tune: "Maybe that power plant should stay?"

So then - what will we look like to those 100 years in the future? Taking all of this into account, we'll probably be viewed as having been extravagant with regard to energy, in much the same fashion as the Edwardians were extravagant when it came to making their own lifestyle possible (e.g., they had cheap labor, we have cheap energy).

>Unless one thinks that it might be better to go back to the trees and take our chances with plagues, drought, famine, and Leo the hungry lion. If that's your idea of paradise, you're welcome to it.<

Oh - have I confessed to everyone that I live in a nudist camp? (Right now - the only thing I have one is the computer.)
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by single bombs. <<

Which invalidates the overall point I made...How?

>>As for eagles and alligators, guess again.<<

Guess on what? What I pointed out happened.

>>True. And this is where the folly of human nature comes into play when new technologies are "thunk" up.<<

The key word is human nature.

>>The dummies behind the TITANIC built a ship with bulkheads which only went up to E deck. How smart was that?<<

Very smart and based on some very reasonable assumptions about the sort of accidents that had been happening. In many respects, the design is actually superior to what's out there today.

>>"Guns don't kill people, people do" overlooks the numerous deaths each year from kids who find guns in the house. Yes - the person owning the gun is responsible; however, just a much to blame is the design of the gun: <<

Absolutely wrong on all counts. Statistically, as well as in any practical sense. I don't have time to go over all the misconceptions and false assumptions wrapped up into this one. Suffice to say that the design is in no way faulty because a gun is a weapon, as is an archery set, as is...beleive it or not...a boomerang, as is any sort of knife. It's designed as a killing instrument. You can't scream faulty design at something that works exactly as it was designed to do.

Bob, I don't have time this morning to go over all of this. I have to get to work early and perhaps should have gotten up earlier. (Should I blame my alarm clock for my getting up a tad too late? I think not as it did exactly as I bid it.) Suffice to say that what you've persisted in doing is blaming the tools, not one of which had and any voice or choice in determining how they were used, and wouldn't have spoken up if offered any because they don't have a voice or any way of making a choice.

It's blame shifting of the same sort as when people tried to lay the Titanic fiasco at God's feet and assert that He was trying to teach us some sort of "lesson."

Just more of "It's not my faaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwllllltttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Well it is our fault. No matter how you slice it, dice it or argue it on any matter whether it's local building codes, aircraft operations, ship design or the ever increasingly dull gun debate, WE are the ones who make the choices. If/when we screw it up, we have none to blame except ourselves.

It's just that simple.
 
Jun 18, 2007
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>>It'll be grand when the present is past, and there's no more human controversy...less squabbling about petty stuff, among other things.<<

>Never happen. Sorry. Humans have always been a pretty contentious and arguementative lot and I've seen no evidence of any kind that this will ever change.<

If I was able to say what I wanted to say originally, I would have been able to say that what I consider to be the only way to end human controversy is something akin to the apocalypse. In other words, when humans don't exist anymore as humans!!!!!

But I would be slapped down for saying such a thing...because that's such a horrible thing to say...but I never said I wasn't horrible. ;)