Food for thought…

The De Landa reading this week reminded me of this.

I think that comparing new media technologies to technologies of nuclear warfare is pretty legitimate.  In the above, it is mentioned that it is feasible to protect our country with a barrier that will prevent nuclear weapons from hitting us.  However, the consequence of creating such technology would also yield technology able to create nuclear weapons more powerful than we could possibly imagine.  When, for the sake of mankind, do we need to stop technological advances… and is it too late to do such?

4 responses to “Food for thought…

  1. Joy talks about if we have intelligent machines that make decisions for us, and soon enough, humans won’t be smart enough to solve the complex problems of society. so they become dependent and cannot turn the machines off because otherwise they would be helpless.

    This made me think of the TI-83 calculator. It’s the same idea, but to a lesser extent. Ever since we started using it in my high school math class, I stopped wanting to do the math manually (ie. not with a calculator). I’m not stupid- I can still solve the equations, but why would I spend the time doing it myself if I can just punch in an equation and get an instantaneous answer?

    So it’s definitely too late. There is no going back now. Who would trade in new-age technology for the olden days?

  2. I recently read this article for another class (New Media Research Studio, look into it its a great class), and I also agree that the dangers of technology pose a legitimate threat to our faculties. However, I viewed this threat more so in the context of social construction, because of the vulnerability of social media to evolving technologies. Here is a brief except from my blog response.

    (Just to place this in context, I am comparing Joy’s technological dangers to the evolution in mass-mediated social technologies like, google analytics, facebook ad personalization, and amazon suggestions)

    Bill Joy’s article illuminates the shadows that the promise of technology casts. Like Roddenbury’s dream of a better future, there exists a dichotomy that counterpoints creation, destruction. Robots, the Borg, The White Plague, and WMDs all represent a very real threat associated with technology. In regards to Notaro and Bernes, this threat is a social one. Yet, the extremes that Joy explores are no less distant than the loss of freedom that is only talked about in html (Notrao 16). To me it is a threat of corporate dogmatism, a capitalistic utopia. It is a technological future spurred by our socially constructed idea of modernity–one that is forced upon us by our own commodification of identity; it can be compared to the atomic era, “The reason that is was dropped was just that nobody had the courage or the foresight to say no” (Dyson).–We must ask if the agencies that are the basis of our social construction allow us to recognize the limitations of those same agencies.

    Here are the links to the clip and article if you want to check them out.

    1. Tim Berners-Lee: The Next Web of Open Linked Data:
    2. Anna Notaro, The Lo(n)g Revolution: The Blogosphere as an Alternative Public Sphere?

    Marco, I think that this technological-nuclear holocaust is already in play at the societal level. However, I don’t think that stopping the technological advances is the answer. I believe that recognition of these threats before the implementation of new technologies is the key to preventing the development of Joy’s (doomsday) counter-technology. To paraphrase Dyson, we must admit that there are consequences to out actions, before we take them.

    I don’t have an answer to the question, is it to late? But I would certainly like to think that with foresight we can adapt to avoid this technological China-syndrome.

  3. Hi Jon,

    first of all, let me say that New Media Research Studio is a great class, indeed. Its teacher, Mushon Zer-Aviv is a good friend of mine and helped me out to design our class blog and the syllabus. (For instance, we are going to read Anna Notaro’s article on the blogosphere later in the semester).

    As for the rest of your comment Jon, I think we should not be mixing too many levels. The limitations embedded in HTML code have little to do with artificial intelligence, robotics, or what you call “the technological-nuclear holocaust.”

    Each of these technologies have limitations and possibilities built into it, so I would try to understand what they are, before deciding whether to embrace them or reject them in their entirety. In other words, I would replace the question on “technological advancement” per se with multiple questions on what technologies may have positive societal effects and which ones are inherently dangerous.

    For instance, I believe that the nuclear bomb is a technology which does not have any positive usage, and humanity should decide to get rid of it once and for all.

    In regard, for instance, to artificial intelligence and game theory I think that in class we have tried to explore two avenues: 1) What kind of artificial intelligence (and game theory); 2) For what kind of social and political uses. Once you have formed an opinion on this you can decide what will be more relevant to your professional development, as well as asking technologists and scientists why they are pursuing a specific kind of research, and to politicians why they are (not) funding it.

  4. Hi Marco,

    First, I hope your conference went well, and I thank you for your response.

    Secondly, I must admit that I am mixing multiple levels of perspective in my response, and I would like to apologize for the dissonance between the context of my comment and yours. I am taking several classes (including Media and Identity, and Advertising and Society) that have been recently focusing upon the societal implications of new media, and I sometimes tend to blur the lines of discourse from one course to the other. I obviously tried to combine too many of these influences in my comment without concisely explaining their relation.

    Let me try once more to address your question.
    I would begin by agreeing with you and Joy, the negative affects of new technologies are often seen in hindsight of their use, especially the nuclear bomb. However, the inception of these technological advancements are, more often than not, are originally designed to advance civilization rather than destroy it. In regards to the Nuclear bomb, Oppenheimer was trying to harness the same power that fueled our sun for humanity, before the Manhattan Project. I also agree with you that the Nuclear bomb has no positive uses for society. However, I believe that the technology that conceived the bomb still stands to have a positive effect for society. Mainly, the promising study of Nuclear Fission.

    Additionally, this can also be related to the development of the ARPANET, a technology that was created in response to the Nuclear bomb. Today, this technology (packet switching) is the backbone for all the digital communications we use now.

    In my original comment I was trying to relay this similar concept–The development of the inherently dangerous technologies does not come without their benefits. Ultimately, we must continue to develop technology upon the basis that it will benefit of society. However, when faced with the development of a technology that is inherently dangerous we must stop to consider how to utilize it, so the benefits may outweigh the costs, before we “shoot first and ask questions later.”

    Marco, I’m really not sure if I am on track with applying our class discourse towards your questions, but I hope that I at least offered another perspective to consider.

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