Empty Days

Saturday, July 10, 2004



Beyond Good and Evil - molecular assemblers.

I must say I was impressed in Bill Joy's article with the mind-boggling description of what nanotechnology can do - turning atoms/molecules into "robots" so they would build things for you (ahem, this is very simplified).

It is unfortunate that most of B.J.'s article is concerned with various possible terrorist and military uses of these technologies (a la nuclear arms race, cold war etc), while most obviously the greatest danger and havoc is already included in the very concept - once you start manipulating atomic and subatomic levels for rather mundane uses (such as building extra-small and extra-powerful microprocessors for example) you have to wonder what will happen to the physical world we know once this whole thing is produced en mass, and then starts to mutate or replicate or do whatever semi-organic things do on their very own. Genetic manipulation is only a partial application of this whole principle - there are scarier things to come.

It is well known that scientists can't help themselves - once they discover unheard-of methods, they can't stop discovering more. It's not because scientists are evil - it's simply because science per se knows no such thing as good and evil. We, who live in the world of triumphant technology, know no such thing as good and evil on an ontological level - that's what makes us different from those who used to be bound by a strictly religious, "authoritarian" world-view. It doesn't occur to a lot of people today that our so-called "enlightened humanism", which is pretty much all we've got left in lieu of morals, is a profoundly hollow view of the world. Nothing is really sacred or untouchable to a humanistic outlook - we can indeed boldly go where no man has gone before and not feel any serious qualms about it. Why would we?

Bill Joy can't answer his own question - "why would we". He is a humanist. His little antiquated qualms about nature going to the dogs due to wholesale manipulation is only based on some dim remembrences of his grandmother telling him that too much technology is bad for you. He doesn't clearly feel why it would be bad. He can't argue his fear - for it is only a primitive fear, contradicting his own dominant world-view. The only argument he finds "convincing" has to do with rogue terrorists and unwarranted uses of powerful technology. How very lame of you, dear Bill. But that's pretty much how we all think - hilariously, we can hardly get worked up about anything scarier than a few terrorists and some spectacular massacres here and there.

Bill's article is full of shit, ladies and gentlemen. He doesn't understand what he's talking about - he doesn't understand his own world-view. And that's all I've got to say about molecular assemblers and engineered humanity - it's neither bad nor good, it just is.


PS. There is no such thing as "we".





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