NETFUTURE Technology and Human Responsibility -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Issue #150 October 7, 2003 -------------------------------------------------------------------------- A Publication of The Nature Institute Editor: Stephen L. Talbott (email@example.com) On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/ You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes. Can we take responsibility for technology, or must we sleepwalk in submission to its inevitabilities? NetFuture is a voice for responsibility. It depends on the generosity of those who support its goals. To make a contribution, click here. CONTENTS --------- Quotes and Provocations Adrift in the Genome Without Instructions DNA and Voting Machines Perfecting the Dance, Forgetting the Dancer The Internet Society: Reflections on Our Present Discontents DEPARTMENTS Announcements and Resources The New Atlantis About this newsletter ========================================================================== QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS Adrift in the Genome Without Instructions ----------------------------------------- Genomic researcher Mark Boguski is participating in a new, $100 million project to bring human genome data to bear upon brain research. This, he tells us, will be difficult. The Human Genome Project was "like opening a box filled with parts to build two tables and there are 30,000 parts [genes] and no instructions". Well, that's the new story, now widely trumpeted. The old story -- the one justifying and glorifying the most expensive scientific venture in history -- was that the 30,000 genes were themselves the instructions. They were the code that directed the manufacturing of the human organism, and we were the decoders. So we've gone from "Finally, the instructions!" to "Sorry, no instructions at all. That'll be three billion dollars please". If a president were to lead us down such a path of duplicity or ignorance, there would be a political uproar and congressional investigation. For scientists, apparently, it's okay. One does nevertheless hope that a few open-minded researchers here and there will be led to ask, "What is it in our scientific view of things that led us to such wildly misjudged expectations?" Error, after all, is eminently forgiveable if one is willing to acknowledge one's mistakes and learn from them. But if a dialogue of acknowledgment and learning is going on, the public has yet to be let in on it. Maybe the scientists are too busy ransacking their box of genomic parts, looking for the instructions. ("Drat it all! They've gotta be in here somewhere!") DNA and Voting Machines ----------------------- You may have heard about the efforts to build a kind of computer out of DNA and various other ingredients. According to one report, Recently the first game-playing biomolecular device was revealed -- an enzyme-powered tic-tac-toe machine, which could not be beaten .... In February of this year the smallest biological computing device was announced -- a microliter of salt solution containing three trillion self-contained DNA computing devices. (CNN.com, September 22, 2003) So now we have "biomolecular devices" and "DNA computing devices". These phrases suggest that DNA and biomolecules can themselves reasonably be thought of as computational devices. But they can't. The computation is achieved at a high level of abstraction through an elaborate arrangement that we, using sophisticated techniques, impose upon the various materials. Only when we ignore everything about these materials except for the role we have assigned them in our carefully designed and controlled arrangement can we speak of a "device" -- and then the term refers to a logic of the artificial arrangement in its entirety, the logic of our own artifice, not to the separate materials we employ. To refer to biomolecules themselves as "devices" is a blatant misuse of language. Here's a close analogy. Every four years we in the U.S. manage to orchestrate an elaborate computational process called a "national election". It more or less succeeds (if we ignore the law of chad indeterminacy) in producing a correct tabulation of votes, thereby indicating who our next president will be. But the success of this intricately designed computational process is no ground for reconceiving the individual human being as an example of such a process. We are not voting devices. Similarly, our ability to employ DNA within a computational process gives us no justification for thinking of DNA as a computing device. But this is exactly what the language we saw will lead to. It is necessary for us, in various limited ways, to impose an artificial calculational logic upon organisms and societies. We do need to cooperate in producing clearly defined, numerically accurate election results. Unfortunately, our ability to do this -- and to analyze the process with great logical and mathematical sophistication -- tempts us to lose sight of the living reality beneath the calculational grid we have laid over it. To see this you need only look at American politics, where the statistical analysts now drive the process and citizens really do become, for the politicians, mere voting devices who, it is hoped, will respond automatically to well-calculated stimuli. This is why conversation -- the genuine speaking of one's thoughts, feelings, questions, and uncertainties to one's fellow citizens -- is no longer a natural part of the process. Politicians do not address citizens; they try to manipulate biological voting devices. There is a lesson in this degeneration of American politics. One should never think that focusing sophisticated computational techniques upon new domains will have no effect upon what those domains become. And this in turn makes one wonder: as the era of DNA "computing devices" gets under way, will DNA-bearing organisms fare any better than voting citizens? For an answer, check the attitude toward the caged animals in your nearest genetic engineering laboratory. Perfecting the Dance, Forgetting the Dancer ------------------------------------------- We use drugs, surgery, mechanical implants, and (experimental) genetic modification techniques to heal the human body. Why should we not use the same techniques to promote human excellence, quite apart from dealing with illness and injury? For example, "drugs to improve memory, alertness, and amiability could greatly relieve the need for exertion to acquire these powers, leaving time and effort for better things". That is one of the questions posed by Leon Kass in "Ageless Bodies, Happy Souls: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Perfection", which appeared in the spring, 2003 issue of The New Atlantis. (For more on that publication, see "Announcements and Resources" below.) Kass, who is chairman of the President's Council on Biotechnology, argues that we cannot reject the new techniques simply because they are artificial or unnatural, since we accept at least some artificial interventions for healing. But he does have a deeper concern: Character is not only the source of our deeds, but also their product. People whose disruptive behavior is "remedied" by pacifying drugs rather than by their own efforts are not learning self-control; if anything, they are learning to think it unnecessary. People who take pills to block out from memory the painful or hateful aspects of a new experience will not learn how to deal with suffering or sorrow. A drug to induce fearlessness does not produce courage. Kass grants that some biotechnical interventions "may assist in the pursuit of excellence without cheapening its attainment", but finds that, in general "'naturalness' of means matters". The danger in drugs and devices is that they may violate or deform the deep structure of human activity: In most of our ordinary efforts at self-improvement, either by practice or training or study, we sense the relation between our doings and the resulting improvement, between the means used and the end sought. There is an experiential and intelligible connection between means and ends; we can see how confronting fearful things might eventually enable us to cope with our fears. We can see how curbing our appetites produces self-command. Human education ordinarily proceeds by speech or symbolic deeds, whose meanings are at least in principle directly accessible to those upon whom they work. By contrast, reliance upon technical means can lead us away from "'genuine', unmediated, and (in principle) self-transparent human activity". I can use a calculator to do arithmetic, but this does not make me a knower of arithmetic; the mathematical know-how my activity taps into is neither transparent nor my own. All this captures, I think, the fundamental truth that we can never adequately understand a human performance as a product independent of the performer. However outwardly focused the performance may be, its essential meaning includes the self's development through its own exertions. We express ourselves not only to achieve something "out there", but also because something "in here" drives us to it, and in the expressing we strengthen and deepen our inner powers of expression. As Kass puts it, "our genuine happiness requires that there be little gap, if any, between the dancer and the dance". And the same principle applies to our assessment of the achievements of others: we rightly value every human expression, from the pianist's recital to the scholar's text to the quarterback's athletic artistry, not merely as an external product, but as part of the unfolding revelation of an expressing self. Therein lies its ultimate significance. Conversely, whatever does not arise from the expressing self is not fundamental. There are, in the end, no worthwhile "things" in the world; there are only worthwhile doings. Kass discusses not only the means by which we achieve things, but also the ends we pursue. He asks whether the goal of a "happy soul", sought by so many through drugs, is a worthy one. His answer is wonderfully clear: There seems to be something misguided about the pursuit of utter psychic tranquility, or the attempt to eliminate all shame, guilt, and painful memories. Traumatic memories, shame, and guilt, are, it is true, psychic pains. In extreme doses, they can be crippling. Yet they are also helpful and fitting. They are appropriate responses to horror, disgraceful conduct, and sin, and, as such, help teach us to avoid them in the future. Witnessing a murder should be remembered as horrible; doing a beastly deed should trouble one's soul. Righteous indignation at injustice depends on being able to feel injustice's sting. An untroubled soul in a troubling world is a shrunken human being. More fundamentally, to deprive oneself of one's memory -- including and especially its truthfulness of feeling -- is to deprive oneself of one's own life and identity. Kass goes on to note that our feeling states do not give us the essence of the achievements we aim at through our goals. "No music lover would be satisfied with getting from a pill the pleasure of listening to Mozart without ever hearing the music. Most people want both to feel good and to feel good about themselves, but only as a result of being good and doing good". Finally, There is a connection between the possibility of feeling deep unhappiness and the prospects for achieving a genuine happiness. If one cannot grieve, one has not loved. To be capable of aspiration, one must know and feel lack .... human fulfillment depends on our being creatures of need and finitude and hence of longings and attachment. The long, concluding paragraph of Kass' article (not quoted here) is transcendent and luminous. I can strongly recommend the entire essay. The Internet: Reflections on Our Present Discontents ---------------------------------------------------- There are not many happy campers on the Internet these days -- or, at least, not many idealistic happy campers. Malicious worms and viruses, a rising tide of spam, commercialism in its crassest forms, lawsuits over Internet filters in libraries, nagging questions about privacy in the face of governmental and corporate surveillance, the apparent success of gambling, pornography, and every scam imaginable, monopolistic software of poor quality, the ubiquitous frustrations of employees dealing with crotchety tools they have no hope of understanding, nasty battles over copyright -- none of this is likely to make one feel warmly about the online experience. I have long tried to avoid carping about the more obvious dysfunctions of the digital society. For one thing, because the dysfunctions are obvious, they draw plenty of attention from others. For another, I have a basic faith that any given dysfunction will sooner or later yield to human ingenuity. Most importantly, as I remarked a few years ago, my real concern in NetFuture is with the effects of technology when it does exactly what we want it to, without seeming to bite back. This apparent harmony conceals the deeper danger, which results from too passive a willingness to adapt ourselves to the machinery around us. There is a fine line between healthy adaptation, on the one hand, whereby a tool is made to serve the highest human purposes, and "going native" -- going machinelike in our own habits -- on the other. In a healthy adaptation we always sense a certain resistance from the tool, however subtle. This is just to say that the boundary between the tool and ourselves remains available to our awareness even as we work continually to transcend the boundary through our own mastery. Without such a resistance and awareness, we cannot summon the work necessary in order to remain masters of the technologies we employ. Putting it paradoxically: we have to be aware of the tool's difference from us, its opposition to us, in order to work effectively at making it "part of us". When we lose the awareness, we have no way to direct this work, and we can't know whether we are using the tool or it is using us. The glitches, vexations, and failures of technology at least have this virtue, that they occasionally jolt us out of our mesmerized, lock-step conformity to the machinery around us and into remembrance of ourselves as distinct from the machinery. But it does seem to me, as I deal with the day's hundred spam messages and read about legislation designed, futilely, to curb Internet gambling or prevent various Net-based abuses of children, that our present discontents reflect far more than inconvenient glitches in the grand march toward an Internet society. We're going to need more than a little technical ingenuity. That's because we're up against some fundamental and recalcitrant problems for which there simply may be no reasonable answers -- at least, no answers consistent with our inflated expectations for a life of technology-assisted ease. There are countless avenues of critical approach to the Internet society. The two issues I would like to comment on at the moment are so evident, so clearly there in front of us, that they can all too easily become invisible. One of them has to do with the Internet as a transactional medium famed for its efficiency. Many of you will recall that the praises for this efficiency were from the beginning so extreme, so exhilarated, so full of revolutionary expectation ("frictionless capitalism"!) -- and, in their own narrow terms, so undeniably justified -- that we should have been alarmed. It is not hard to see that a single-minded drive toward transactional efficiency always puts the meaning and value of the transactions at risk. Not that efficiency and meaning are brutely opposed to each other. Rather, they stand in necessary creative tension with one another. This prevents us from making a goal of efficiency. If we don't have an aim separate from efficiency, we have no way to tell whether we are going in the right or wrong direction, and nothing by which to gauge our efficiency. So considerations of efficiency must always be linked to our goals and values. Anyone who says "efficiency is everything" is saying "there are no goals and values in this enterprise (and therefore no meaningful efficiency either)". And anyone who does have goals and values must recognize that they necessarily lead away from perfect efficiency. Perfect efficiency would reflect the fact that there is no resistance to be overcome, no work to be done -- and therefore no meaningful goal to be attained. In sum: we cannot achieve efficiency by aiming for it, but only by being as clearly focused on our goals as we can possibly be. At the same time, such a focus will always lead us to do things that look inefficient to a more narrowly calculating mentality. So trying to be efficient is rather like trying to be happy. If you aim for happiness, you will be disappointed. But if instead you take on some worthwhile task in the world -- a task that will doubtless require you at times to assume burdens you are not particularly happy about -- you may be surprised to discover in your work and sacrifice and achievement a degree of happiness. In the same way, efficiency is an elusive, indirect, and never absolute consequence of keeping your eyes on an intrinsically meaningful goal that may demand many "inefficiencies" of you. In more concrete terms: any two spouses and any two friends can testify that the drive for mere efficiency is the quickest way to dissolve a worthwhile human bond. If you make a goal of efficiency, people will have the unpleasant habit of distracting you and getting in your way. This is trite. Everyone knows it. Everyone already knew it when the Net was coming along and being celebrated for its efficiency. So why were the praises of efficiency not more effectively counterbalanced by expressions of concern for the "inefficient" goals and values that might be lost sight of? It appears there are some dots we just prefer not to connect. As for the values that are easily lost sight of amid the transactional efficiencies of the Net, let me mention just one: the value of leaving your neighbor in relative peace. The spammer could not so easily ply his trade among the neighbors on his block -- not, at least, without unpleasant consequences and many jarring impacts upon whatever conscience he has. But within the sphere of frictionless capitalism, where neighbors are replaced by transactions, and marginal costs are near zero, it's a different matter altogether. What the psychologist, Adolf Güggenbuhl-Craig, has written of marriage is true of all human relationships. Marriage, he says, is a special path for discovering the soul.... One of the essential features of this soteriological pathway is the absence of avenues for escape. Just as the saintly hermits cannot evade themselves, so the married persons cannot avoid their partners. In this partially uplifting, partially tormenting evasionlessness lies the specific character of this path. (Marriage, Dead or Alive. Zurich: Spring Publications, 1971) More generally, it is in the nature of all of us that we can't avoid or ignore each other. It's impossible. This truth is subtly expressed in all circumstances, but becomes obvious when you pass someone in an otherwise empty place: you can't not respond; ignoring is itself a vivid, if negative, response. There's no escape from having to do with each other, which is our torment and also our only salvation. Nevertheless, the transactional efficiency of the Net can be seen as giving us practice in ignoring. We learn to conduct ourselves as if no one were there on the other end of the transaction -- no one we needed to reckon with. And, in fact, more and more it's a machine on the other end, or might as well be. In numerous formerly human contexts we have no choice but to adapt our responses to the machines we are dealing with; it would be silly if we did otherwise. Digital networks continue and dramatically accentuate a longstanding trend toward depersonalized transactions in modern society. The trend is inescapable in an ever more complexly organized world. But this is not to say we've managed it healthily. Everything depends on our ability to find occasions for more deeply personalized transactions to counter the ever more pervasive mechanized ones, thereby keeping a grip upon our humanity. I can imagine three tracks upon which this effort might run: ** I have pointed out in recent issues of NetFuture that all the machinery of modern life, from printing press and book to a robot such as Kismet, presents us with human expression. To learn to recognize this expression in all its various qualities and through all the intervening layers of mechanism is a superb training for us. Even if what we must recognize is the disturbing effort to recast the human being as a machine, this attempted reduction is itself a profoundly significant human gesture. To apprehend it in all its nuances as an expression of hope, confusion and pain is to deepen ourselves. ** We can respond to all this mechanically impounded human expression by seeking to elevate it. This may at times require us to throw a wrench into the machinery in order to serve the worthy human intentions behind it. Learning when to violate a process, when to step outside it or somehow transform it in order to serve a higher value demands what is highest in us. The machinery around us, with all its limitations, is in this sense a tutor urging our upward reach. ** We can seize every opportunity to deepen our direct engagement with persons wherever such engagement is still an option. This does not necessarily mean investing huge energies in making our online encounters as intense and fully dimensioned as possible (although such an exercise will always bear fruit). It may make at least as much sense to minimize online engagements in the interest of those all too intense (and all too easily neglected) relationships in our immediate environment. In any case, the point is to achieve a meeting of persons, as opposed to a kind of semi-automated engagement with mere words. Strategies such as these, I believe, offer the most straightforward answer one can give to the question, "How can we make the Net a healthy part of society?" All this relates intimately to a second problem: the radically limited ability of the digital "landscape" to ground real communities. As a medium cultivated for its efficiency, the Net lacks most of the qualities that give people a place to dwell. It does not embody the history and tradition, it does not possess the kind of stability and social structure, and it does not present the distinctive cultural and natural contexts within which people can adequately work out their profound destinies among one another. Again, this is trite. No theme has been more thoroughly flogged over the past decade than "place versus cyberspace". We know by now, or should know, that there is nothing in the online world that can stand in for place. That's just not what digital networks are for. When, a few weeks ago, a Florida man was arrested for routing children to porn sites on a large scale, a U.S. attorney said, "Few of us could imagine there was someone out there in cyberspace, essentially reaching out by hand to take children to the seediest corners of the Internet". On the contrary, this is exactly what was imagined by every Net commentator worth his sociology degree in the early 90s -- except that they didn't frame it in terms of children and seedy corners. Rather, they kept it at a clean, safe, abstract level: "the entire world at your and my fingertips". But, of course, that meant children's fingertips, too. How reluctant we were to connect the dots! Yes, the world -- the Internet world, with all its undoubted and now essential marvels -- is at our fingertips. But to be a keystroke away from everywhere amounts to being nowhere in particular, and this means that making the Internet a healthy place for children is not for the time being a realistically achievable goal. There is no "place" to make healthy, no place where the way people relate to each other, where the design of houses with their private and common rooms, the layout of streets, the location of businesses, schools, and parks, the long-evolving structure of family and community relationships, the rhythms of work, study, commerce, dining, recreation, and conversation, the grounding reality of sun, breezes, rain, and mosquitoes -- no place where these and a thousand other factors can come together to say, "Here you are. Your name is written into this place. You belong here, and you are safe". Real places become safe and healthy by virtue of an infinite material complexity of the right sort. On the Internet, by contrast, we are forced to protect children through clever technical devices whereby we may indeed contrive "streets" and "homes" and "parks". But within this technical sphere, every clever device functions primarily to call forth a cleverer device. Whereas real streets, neighbors, and watchful eyes do not disappear when a few bits are twiddled, Internet real estate is all instantly movable facade. Such is the "world" to which so many have been eager to transfer our society's workplaces, town halls, schools, and places of recreation. I have no doubt that some transfer of function is inescapable and proper in our day. But the equivalent of a mad land rush -- in this case, a government-encouraged, tax-assisted, consumer-tolerated rush to landlessness -- will be catastrophic, if only due to the two causes I have cited: the destructive impact upon human affairs of mechanisms whose primary recommendation is their efficiency; and the disorientation resulting from the loss of real place, with its complex grounding and structuring role in our lives. Real places with their social institutions allow the embodiment of endlessly varying values in different contexts -- and do so in a way that encourages people to take up their position along these "value gradients" wherever they feel most comfortable. Yet all these different places can coexist as part of a larger society -- a coexistence that begins with the underlying fact that the land itself is, in the end, one land, and that attempts to compromise this integrity lead to ecological calamity. Issues such as deforestation and global warming unite Amazonian Indian and Arctic Inuit in a single community of interest, even as the different character of the land also calls forth radically different local cultures. (I owe a full appreciation of this fact to conversations with David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous.) In a real landscape, friction must be overcome in getting from here to there. This helps to explain how "here" can preserve its own character, different from "there". Because exchange between the two places requires work and a certain dissipation of energy, the one place cannot so easily overwhelm the other. An historical succession of ever more powerful communication technologies has progressively disturbed this delicate interweaving of local value and global diversity. The Internet promises a nearly perfected culmination of the historical trend. When screens are inserted at countless points within the differentiated cultural pattern, becoming part of the experience of most members of society, and when every one of these screens delivers anything and everything with indifferent efficiency, then the entire ordered, place-based pattern is at risk of chaotic dissolution. When I referred above to the "catastrophic" consequences of one-sided efficiency and landlessness, I did not mean we will necessarily experience events widely recognized as catastrophic. Whatever happens will no doubt be hailed by many as "progress". The catastrophic elements I refer to are already there for those willing to see them: for example, the ongoing scientific reconceptualization of the world and the human being as some sort of computational machinery; and the inability of children, by the time they have grown up, to experience an organic and deeply motivating connection between themselves and the larger society. Let me give one other example of what I mean by "catastrophe". There is a new world of pay-to-play Internet gaming where players can win (or lose) cash. Chris Grove, director of YouPlayGames (www.YouPlayGames.com) claims that the novelty of playing for money is attracting many people who were never interested in video games. "We're taking gaming into adulthood". That quote is from a New York Times story, which describes the games this way: The rules are fairly simple: kill and make money, or be killed and lose it. YouPlayGames awards money (usually less than $1) for each kill and charges a similar [but slightly higher] amount for each "life" a player buys. UltimateArena charges entry fees for games or tournaments, in which first-place fighters win the largest share of money (and prizes like game consoles) from a pool that can be worth as much as $1000. "Playing on the site can definitely be more exciting once you get over the fear of losing a few bucks a match," said Vadim Zingman, 25, of Trumbull, Conn., who said he had won about $1800 at Ultimate Arena by playing about ten matches a week since the site started up last spring. (August 28, 2003) The gaming sites are designed to keep minors out, but everyone acknowledges that the barriers to admission for minors are less than perfect. Now, I have no intention of climbing onto a moral high horse to denounce gambling. I know full well that gaming activity will appear largely innocuous to many and will be debated and defended forever, just as the effects of television upon children are. The more dramatic, potentially catastrophic point, for me, is not the gambling as such, but rather the fact that we will have so easily and casually invited young people around the world into this new activity -- and no actual community will have done anything at all of the sort that was once required to create a place, the conditions, the cultural surroundings, the human context within which the activity occurs. The young people will have been lifted out of their communities and into this new recreation, not because some sort of rooted and coherent evolution of the communities is taking place, but simply because a worldless world is now at our fingertips and someone sitting alone in front of a screen came up with a workable combination of digital bits. The levity of it all -- the ease and thoughtlessness and disconnection and vapidity and grave cultural consequence -- these are what worry me. We have gotten ourselves into a situation where a teenager, with no real sense for what he is doing, can to one degree or another reprogram every community in our society. So what am I suggesting? Only that it is time, finally, to bring certain long-recognized truths into our social and personal decision-making. There are always trade-offs in the pursuit of efficiency, and this implies a tremendous burden of responsibility for those engaged in the pursuit; and, likewise, every time we dissolve a place into placelessness, we also dissolve an incalculable amount of materially incarnated social and cultural capital. When we take these truths seriously, we will no longer so easily conclude that "more efficient" or "cheaper" signifies "better". Nor will we take it for granted that using investment and tax policy to encourage rapid adoption of networking technologies is an obvious and unqualified good for society; we will be more inclined to look for massive hidden costs. And we will not stigmatize as "backward" a school that opts out of computer- based curricula -- especially if this school is focused upon fashioning vibrant places where kids can belong. Most of all, we may rediscover within ourselves a new soil in which the delicate flower of idealism can thrive. The problem with the rank idealism of the Net's early days was that it was vested in the redemptive powers of the technology itself. This was bound to disappoint. A true idealism is voiced in the expression of our own ideals as we find within ourselves the resources to put them into practice. And we can put them into practice, on the Internet as elsewhere. To the degree we do this, we may hope to discover a pathway through our present discontents and make the Internet a worthy, if presumably limited, expression of a healthy society. The alternative is to watch society become an unhealthy expression of the Internet. SLT Goto table of contents ========================================================================== ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESOURCES The New Atlantis ---------------- There is an intriguing new quarterly that bills itself as "a journal of technology and society". Called The New Atlantis, it is a project of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Two issues of The New Atlantis have been published so far (spring and summer, 2003), and judging from the articles in these issues, the journal will be a cover-to-cover read for many in the NetFuture audience. Here are some of the article titles: Of Embryos and Empire The Nanotechnology Revolution Has Technology Changed War? Eugenics -- Sacred and Profane Ageless Bodies, Happy Souls Military Technology and American Culture Liberty, Privacy, and DNA Databases Does Bioethics Have a Future? Artificial Intelligence and Human Nature The Rise and Fall of Sociobiology The Ethics and Public Policy Center is a conservative think tank, which raises a question about the balance of opinion in the journal. But the problems posed by the new technologies -- and especially biotechnology, which is a major focus of The New Atlantis -- tend to split both the conservative and liberal camps down the middle. This leaves the editors relatively free of traditional political agendas. And when they do feature politically linked views, they show evidence of a desire for pluralism. For example, under the topic, "Optimism, Pessimism, and Biotechnology", they ran two articles: "Why Conservatives Worry" and "Why Everyone Should Relax". NetFuture reader Adam Keiper is managing editor of The New Atlantis, working under editor Eric Cohen. Several members and staffers of the President's Council on Bioethics (including the chairman, Leon Kass) are among the contributors to these first two numbers. All in all, a publication worth looking into. Yearly subscriptions are (at the introductory rate) $20, which should be sent to: The New Atlantis, Subscription Services, P.O. Box 3000, Denville, New Jersey 07834-3000. Or order by phone: 866-440-6916. You can check out the publication at http://www.TheNewAtlantis.com. SLT Goto table of contents ========================================================================== ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER Copyright 2003 by The Nature Institute. You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes. You may also redistribute individual articles in their entirety, provided the NetFuture url and this paragraph are attached. NetFuture is supported by freely given reader contributions, and could not survive without them. For details and special offers, see http://netfuture.org/support.html . Current and past issues of NetFuture are available on the Web: http://netfuture.org/ To subscribe or unsubscribe to NetFuture: http://netfuture.org/subscribe.html. Steve Talbott :: NetFuture #150 :: October 7, 2003 Goto table of contents This issue of NetFuture: http://www.netfuture.org/2003/Oct0703_150.html.