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  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #131                                                  April 30, 2002
                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
               Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      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.
    Quotes and Provocations
       Life as an Emergency
       How Doing Faster Means Doing Less
       Is AI Unfairly Maligned?
       Technology Is Not Dematerializing (Dave Crane)
       Moral Responsibility and Inanimate Objects (Gintas Jazbutis)
       Worry, and Rejoice (But Are You Worrying Enough?) (Jeff Falzone)
       Who Would Charlie Chaplin Have Been Before Film? (Hugo M. Castellano)
       Technology Re-defines Our Choices (Richard Anas Coburn)
       Technology Creates Choices (Valdemar M. Setzer)
    About this newsletter
                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    Life as an Emergency
    You might be interested in "The Numbing of the American Mind" in Harper's
    Magazine (April, 2002).  This excerpt will give you a taste of the
    piece, which is written by Thomas de Zengotita:
       Being numb isn't antithetical to being totally stressed, 24-7 —
       and asking for more.  Over-scheduled busyness might seem like the
       opposite of numbness, but it is just the active aspect of living in a
       flood of fabricated surfaces.  Consider the guiding metaphor again.
       The (absence of) sensation that is physical numbness is constituted by
       a multitude of thrills and tingles at a frequency beyond which you feel
       nothing.  The numbness of busyness works on the same principle, but it
       relies upon its agents to abide by an agreement they must keep secret,
       even from themselves.  The agreement is this:  we will so conduct
       ourselves that everything becomes an emergency.
       Under that agreement, stress is how reality feels.  People addicted to
       busyness, people who don't just use their cell phones in public but
       display in every nuance of cell-phone deportment their sense of
       throbbing connectedness to Something Important — these people
       would suffocate like fish on a dock if they were cut off from the Flow
       of Events they have conspired with their fellows to create.  To these
       plugged-in players, the rest of us look like zombies, coasting on
       fumes.  For them, the feeling of being busy is the feeling of being
       Partly, it's a function of speed, like in those stress dramas that
       television provides to keep us virtually busy, even in our downtime.
       The bloody body wheeled into the ER, every personjack on the team
       yelling numbers from monitors, screaming for meds and equipment,
       especially for those heart-shocker pads — that's the paradigm
       scene.  All the others derive from it:  hostage-negotiator scenes,
       staffers pulling all-nighters in the West Wing, detectives sweeping out
       of the precinct, donning jackets, adjusting holsters, snapping
       wisecracks.  Sheer speed and Lives on the Line.  That's the recipe for
       feeling real.
       The irony is that after we have worked really hard on something
       urgent for a long time, we do escape numbness for a while —
       stepping out of the building, noticing the breeze, the cracks in the
       sidewalk, the stillness of things in the shop window.  During those
       accidental and transitional moments, we actually get the feeling of the
       real we were so frantically pursuing when we were busy.  But we soon
       get restless.  We can't take the input reduction.  Our psychic
       metabolism craves more.
    You should also note Michael Pollan's article, "Power Steer", in the
    New York Times Magazine (March 31, 2002).  Both wonderfully
    readable and wonderfully revealing, it tells the (very short) life story
    of a steer raised for beef.  In the Times' words:  "To learn how
    the meat industry works, the author bought himself a calf, then watched
    him become a fat-marbled monster".
    How Doing Faster Means Doing Less
    In re-reading Richard Weaver's The Ethics of Rhetoric recently, I
    came upon this 1859 remark from an oration by U.S. vice-president John C.
       Future generations will not be disturbed with questions concerning the
       center of population or of territory, since the steamboat, the railroad
       and the telegraph have made communication almost instantaneous.
    The steamboat as an almost instantaneous mode of transport?  This got me
    to thinking about our successive celebrations of our victory over time and
    space, and how each achievement raises the bar for the next one.  We have
    had the telephone, automobile, radio, airplane, television.  More recently
    — just several years ago — the Internet provoked a widespread
    sense of near-instantaneity.  But now, of course, the two-minute wait for
    that download from Oslo or Delhi vexes us mightily.  And so our quest for
    the instantaneous continues unabated, whether to download streaming video,
    or conduct remote surgery, or communicate in "real time" across cultures
    through voice recognition, machine translation, and voice synthesis.
    I guess it's part of my nature to ask, "Well, what if we could realize our
    ambitions to the fullest?  What if we were magically given perfect
    instantaneity?  Where would this leave us?"  The answer appears to be:  it
    would leave us in a world without change.  When everything happens all at
    once, there can be no process to observe or participate in, no
    development, no hope, anticipation, or satisfaction of attainment.
    Everything just is in that single, universal moment.
    This, of course, is a fanciful and impossible thought.  But the effort to
    think it can at least alert us to a risk in the drive to overcome the
    temporal constraints of our lives.  I suspect we must always find
    ourselves working to overcome these constraints in one way or another.
    But it's also true that the content of our lives comes to us by grace of
    our experience in time; remove this experience and you no longer have a
    life.  You no longer have any of the good things you treasure in your
    memory.  So, taken alone without some counterbalancing movement, the
    struggle to surmount the limitations of time is destructive.  We lose our
    Look at the logic of globalization, as it leads to the leveling of
    cultures.  When we can be almost anywhere and almost everywhere, almost
    at once, the process of moving from here to there becomes less and less
    significant.  I am not forced to adapt, which would take time; I needn't
    familiarize myself with another people, another language, another way of
    life, discovering its riches and challenges.  Nor must I suffer any sense
    of change or loss upon leaving the culture.  (What have I gained that I
    could now lose?)  As more and more of us engage in this speeded-up
    lifestyle, little energy or resolve remains for nurturing a culture's
    distinctiveness in its own time and place — or even for noticing its
    At the same time, I may now have vastly more opportunities to encounter
    other cultures, so far as they survive.  You can see here, I think, that
    there is an easy exchange to be made:  much wider experience in place of
    deeper experience.  Many more choices, with the difference between choices
    tending to become vacuous.
    I say "easy exchange" but, crucially, not "unavoidably easy exchange".
    Even in the age of globalization I can attend to another person or
    culture fully as much as I ever could in the past.  And I can work
    to deepen the roots of my own culture, in my own place and time, fully as
    much as in the past.  Granted, the easy exchange is the one that happens
    almost automatically, as I merely coast along, but nothing requires
    me to coast in this way.
    Like all machinery, the machinery that overcomes time and distance
    invites us to coast.  It will move us pain-free from one place or
    culture to another, while mechanizing all the processes of adaptation,
    from currency exchange to verbal communication via machine translation.
    I believe this kind of thing is unavoidable today.  We have no choice
    but to use these capabilities in some situations.  In fact, I think
    we need to embrace them.  But the way to embrace them — the way to make
    them a positive achievement — is (as I am endlessly repeating) to resist
    the coasting.  Refuse the easy exchange.  Draw out of ourselves the
    depth of communication that the machine is continually obscuring — and in
    this sense work against the machine.  And once we muster these resources
    from within ourselves, thereby becoming rather different people, we will
    doubtless find ourselves employing technology very differently from the
    way we do now.
    Coming back, then, to our push toward the instantaneous:  we will always
    know, for example, that a faster ambulance response time might save yet
    another life tomorrow.  The value of this saved life is easy to recognize.
    What's not so easy to recognize is the cost to millions of lives of the
    conviction that every symptom demands instantaneous relief.  The cost is
    great.  We are, very substantially, our symptoms, so the attempt to erase
    every symptom instantaneously, as soon as it arrives, is an attempt to
    erase the experience and the meaning of our lives.  We deny ourselves the
    opportunity to do the work that our own lives present us with, and to gain
    the transforming benefits of this work.  The psychiatric cost alone of
    this self-evasion must be immense.
    How can we help wanting to do things faster and more effectively?  How can
    we help wanting to get through pain as quickly as possible?  But, even as
    we assent to this imperative, as we must, we need to counter it with a
    resolve to sink ourselves more deeply into the meaning of the present
    moment, intensifying its significance rather than obliterating it in a
    frantic resolve to get past it.  From where else but such profoundly
    fathomed moments can we derive any true sense of accomplishment?
    We can legitimately try to hurry some things up, but we will always
    encounter limits.  These limits are the instruments for our interior
    liberation.  Both the acceptance of limits and the continual transcendence
    of limits are human necessities.  The problem occurs when our attempt to
    transcend limits works back into the present moment as a restless,
    unsatisfied state of mind, subverting our ability to embrace this moment
    in a positive, unhurried way.
    So you see the necessary balance.  And if you want to know how well we're
    doing with the technologies for "conquering space and time", just look at
    how well we are holding this balance.
    All questions about our relationship to technology — and, in fact,
    all questions about human life — finally resolve themselves, one way
    or another, into questions of balance.  Technological optimists and
    pessimists are necessarily arguing over whether there is a healthy balance
    or a gross imbalance in our society.
    Is AI Unfairly Maligned?
    The longstanding cliche about artificial intelligence is that the
    discipline suffers an unfair disregard of its many achievements, such as
    machine speech recognition, language translation, and decision-support
    software.  A recent repetition of the cliche comes from the Economist:
       Ironically, in some ways, AI was a victim of its own success.  Whenever
       an apparently mundane problem was solved, such as building a system
       that could land an aircraft unattended, or read handwritten postcodes
       to speed mail sorting, the problem was deemed not to have been AI in
       the first place.  "If it works, it can't be AI," as Dr. [David] Leake
       characterises it.  The effect of repeatedly moving the goal posts in
       this way was that AI came to refer to blue-sky research that was still
       years away from commercialization.  (March 16, 2002)
    But the insult has been self-inflicted.  From the beginning it was AI
    researchers themselves who saddled the field with blue-sky ambitions,
    starting with the most revered pioneers such as Alan Turing and Herbert
    Simon.  Simon famously predicted in 1965 that "machines will be capable,
    within twenty years, of doing any work that a man can do".  And already in
    1958 he had said, "there are now in the world machines that think, that
    learn and that create".
    The failure here is not one of degree.  It's a fundamental category
    mistake that has yet to be fully owned up to, and the disrespect that AI
    researchers complain of is simply the public's refusal, at some intuitive
    level, to share in the mistake.  When aircraft landing software is spun
    out of the laboratories and into commercial aircraft, or when mail sorting
    software is brought into post offices, it quickly becomes evident to those
    who employ this software that it has little if anything to do with the
    misconceived goal still enunciated all too clearly in the phrase,
    "artificial intelligence".  The users are exactly right when they say,
    "This is wonderful programming, but it's not AI".
    I have pointed out before that computers do not even add 2 plus 2, if by
    this is meant anything remotely like what a living intelligence does.  The
    computer neither intends to add the numbers nor attends to the process of
    doing so.  It derives no satisfaction from success, strengthens no
    conscious capacities through their exercise, and, more generally, has no
    experience of what it is doing.  The only intelligence we know of is
    inseparable from such multi-faceted conscious performance.
    If AI researchers want more respect, they should formulate an accurate
    description of their own work.  For example, in one part of the discipline
    the formulation might run something like this:  "We create prosthetic
    devices to aid thinking — especially the mechanical aspects of
    thinking".  This would situate AI within a long and respectable tradition
    that leads from the abacus and alphabet to the printing press, slide rule,
    and digital calculator.
    The dangers in technology today often arise when we mistakenly take our
    devices to be doing what we do.  It is then natural to let them substitute
    for our doing, at which point we lose all those vital aspects of the
    activity that are absent from the machine.  When spreadsheet software has
    calculated all the current financial parameters of a successful firm, will
    the directors, managers, and employees remember that they are still
    responsible to determine what purposes all these economic resources are
    harnessed to?  Or will the calculations leading to the bottom line, now so
    easy and automatic, become ends in themselves?
    Instead of taking our devices to be doing what we do, we should take them
    as one expression — a very limited expression — of our own
    doing.  How we compensate for these limitations by bringing our own being
    fully to bear upon the programmed activity is always decisive.  When AI
    researchers get this right, there will be no end of respect for their
    truly marvelous achievements.
    Goto table of contents
    Technology Is Not Dematerializing
    Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?" (NF #130)
    From:  Dave Crane (ulunum@linuxmail.org)
    Dear Steve,
    Thanks for another very good edition of NetFuture.
    One of Kevin Kelly's remarks struck me as interesting — perhaps not
    central to your debate, but a point worth raising nonetheless.
       Today technology suggests software, genetic engineering, virtual
       realities, bandwidth, surveillance agents, and artificial intelligence.
       You wouldn't hurt your toe if you dropped any of this.
    If we stand in the middle of a park, holding a wireless-connected PDA
    device and read our emails, we might assume that technology is
    dematerialising.  What used to take up a large part of the desk now fits
    into our pockets.  We can conveniently ignore the network of masts, the
    shed full of server machines etc. that are also a vital part of our
    action, because we can't see them.  Dropping the server on your toe, or
    the signaling hardware mounted on the network infrastructure, would damn
    well hurt!
    I illustrated this with wireless technologies, but the phenomenon isn't
    new.  We discount what we don't see.  Our society can therefore tolerate
    many activities that we as individuals might not — sweatshops, child
    labour, gaping divides in wealth distribution, etc. etc. — but that's
    another issue, I guess.
    Technology is not becoming less material.  World consumption of resources
    and energy is going up, not down.  Rather, technology is becoming more
    distributed, so that it appears to be smaller if we forget that the world
    stretches beyond what we can directly see.
    Dave Crane
    Moral Responsibility and Inanimate Objects
    Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?" (NF #130)
    From:  Gintas Jazbutis (gintas.jazbutis@sdrc.com)
    Steve wrote:
       Value always has to be assessed in terms of what someone is
    I've been reading Nation of Cowards, which is about gun control and
    liberty.  Interestingly, he makes similar points as you are making:  the
    gun controllers  assign some ability to guns to make us do evil, and the
    2nd Amendment defenders assign some ability to guns to do good ("saving
    lives").   One of the author's major points is that guns are neither good
    nor evil; it is the people wielding the tools who are good/evil, and use
    the tools accordingly.  But he points out also that both sides who
    are arguing are making the same mistake.  Neither side assigns moral
    responsibility to humans, focusing instead on inanimate objects.  None of
    this would surprise you in the least, I am sure.  But it's another view of
    where we're at.
    Gintas Jazbutis
    Enterprise Solution Center
    Bellevue, WA
    Worry, and Rejoice (But Are You Worrying Enough?)
    Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?" (NF #130)
    From:  Jeff Falzone (jsfalzone@yahoo.com)
    Hi there Steve,
    What a wonderful issue of NetFuture.  I hope you continue to post your
    ongoing discussion with Kevin.
    Because I'm not able, at this time, to keep up with the rush of content
    which your conversation is producing (the arguments, examples,
    counterexamples, etc.,) I am trying to focus more on the qualitative
    environment from which each of you is speaking and in which this
    conversation is developing.
    Kevin thinks you worry too much.  He keeps wanting/trying to distinguish
    himself from you by pointing out the fact that he spends more time
    celebrating the choices that technology offers while you spend more time
    fretting about the disintegration of our souls.  Perhaps this is true to
    some extent, but it seems obvious to me that you each are simply attending
    to different aspects of the technology question; you are looking at
    different things and describing what you see.  It just so happens that
    what he is looking at is awe-inspiring and what you are looking at is
    Before I continue it would probably be wise for me to make clear right now
    — I am extremely impressed by the depth and breadth of Kevin's
    observations, and I'd want him on any cultural research committee that
    exists; in his writing he comes across as compassionate, intelligent and
    extremely enthusiastic about participating in our beautiful world.  I say
    all this because I feel that most of my email will come across sickeningly
    one-sided and maybe even condescending.  No way, Kevin is the man.
    But I feel like Kevin is not seeing what you are seeing (if I'm seeing
    what you are seeing correctly) and therefore he gets kind of perplexed and
    even, perhaps, annoyed at what "seems" like worrying on your part.  It's
    almost as if you both are watching a child watch TV; you, Steve, are
    paying attention to the way the child's eyes are dilated, the trance-like
    slack of his face, the lack of movement in his limbs, the fact that for
    the last hour his eyes have been interacting with a hostile environment,
    they haven't shifted focus (except during commercials), he seems to be
    getting tired and a bit anxious, and you are thinking about what you know
    of brain development, tv's effect on our will, you begin to wonder how
    often he watches tv, the facts of climbing national averages pop into your
    mind and you worry about how this might be a picture of unrecognized
    challenges that this child is dealing with, and you wonder if this is an
    accurate example of humanity's fixation with all those things which offer
    us so many choices.  You worry about this because you see it becoming more
    and more the norm with no sign of lessening.
    Kevin walks in the room, takes the remote control and turns to the
    Discovery Channel.  Just kidding.  From the tenor of Kevin's dialog with
    you he would, no doubt, hope that the child is not watching too much TV
    just like you.  But I imagine he would also be inspired by all the choices
    that the child has, he would enjoy hearing the child talk about what
    excites him about tv and what kinds of things he learns from tv.  It's not
    that Kevin would desire that the child watches tv, but it seems that he
    would be less sensitive to what that watching is actually doing and to how
    that watching is actually a picture of a more subtle and insidious
    "watching" that we are doing culturally, thanks to a science which so far
    is not making the clean distinction you strive for in this conversation.
    This is not a very strong example because it is easy to imagine that Kevin
    is not a TV guy at all, but I hope my point squeaks through:  while Kevin
    marvels at the increasing number of choices technology offers us, Steve
    observes a transformation taking place on all levels as we are engaged BY
    our technology.
    I believe that Kevin would "worry" just as much as you if he forced his
    attention to dwell and remain steadily fixed on this shift that is
    happening.  Perhaps Kevin would argue that he sees this shift and doesn't
    think it's that big a deal, or that he doesn't see it at all, or that he
    isn't worried because technology will help us get through it .... But I
    have a feeling that he does not spend time looking at the same things you
    do.  Not that I think that makes you a better or smarter person.  I just
    think that there are very few thinkers who are grappling with our cultural
    dilemmas who, like you, keep their attention submerged in the
    subtle/insidious undercurrents of technology's other side while striving
    to not avoid or deny technology's significance.  Most of my friends, who,
    by the way, are huge social activists, take on Kevin's tone with me the
    moment I begin trying to express my concerns with technology.  They are
    brilliant people with huge hearts and they continually try to point out to
    me the choices that Technology brings and how it is our job to be
    responsible with these choices.  All things I agree with wholeheartedly.
    Just as I feel you agree with each general point that Kevin makes.
    But Kevin and my friends don't seem to watch and examine the details which
    have your attention.  He might see them, the details, and respect their
    significance, but he thinks that you are taking the a part for the whole.
    I don't think you are.
    In one of his responses to you Kevin spoke of the future, saying that we
    would eventually see the errors of our one-sidedness and then make the
    necessary corrections. This mind-set is an example, to me, of the subtle
    influence of technological thinking.  As I see it, the more we are seduced
    or at least "unworried", the less and less capable we become of seeing the
    errors of our ways and making the necessary connections.
    I look forward to reading your continued conversation with Kevin, and I
    hope that perhaps you two can establish just what it is that is the object
    of your attentions....
    Who Would Charlie Chaplin Have Been Before Film?
    Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?" (NF #130)
    From:  Hugo M. Castellano (webmaster@nalejandria.com)
    Dear Steve,
    I would like to comment on Kevin Kelly's reflection about the geniuses
    lost to mankind if born outside the "technological possibilities that they
    would have excelled in".  Well, I can imagine Charlie Chaplin 500 years
    ago:  in all probability he was an actor at The Globe, or perhaps
    Shakespeare himself.  Having no film at hand, feather and ink would have
    proved an efficient technology to transmit his feelings and ideas to the
    world.  Similarly, you could say that Bach was Mozart without the piano,
    and that Ravel was Boulez without the synthesizer.  And certainly the lack
    of modern "cheap oil-paint technology" never prevented Caravaggio —
    who was as rebellious as Van Gogh, maybe more — and a myriad of poor
    or rejected painters from becoming true geniuses.
    Every epoch has its own technology, and people are as constrained today by
    what they don't have as they were 2500 years ago.  We might as well regret
    the brilliant works of art our contemporaries will never give birth to for
    not having the technology of the 22nd century, just as we feel sorry for
    what the Greeks did not do for not having the cinema, or the computer, or
    even something as simple as plain paper.  There will always be people
    capable of excelling in the arts or the sciences regardless of the
    particular technology of their time, or, more precisely, in spite
    of the past and future technologies they will never come to use; what I
    doubt is that humans are born with an ingrained definition of what
    technology is best suited for their genius.
    I feel Kevin's argument is so typical of the technocratic mind, a sort of
    "you ain't seen nothing yet!" which in my profession — teaching
    — has had terrible effects, insofar as we are constantly pursuing
    "the future" ("the school of the future, the future labor-market, the
    citizens of tomorrow...") and never come to grips with the only time that
    matters:  today. But after all, today, for the technocrats, is only the
    time when you think of what's to come.
    Finally, I would like to point out a curious fact in Kevin's contribution.
    When he says
       How can technology make a person better?  Only in this way: by
       providing them with chances.  A chance to excel at the unique mixture
       of talents they were born with, a chance to encounter new ideas and new
       minds, a chance to be different than their parents, a chance to create
       something their own....
    I found the paragraph has an altogether different meaning if you use the
    word "education" in place of "technology".
    Of course, I can imagine Kevin's explanation:  "education is a
    technology", but wouldn't that be a form of "simplistic reductionism"?
    Technology is a part of Education but by no means the whole of it, and if
    we frame it in Kevin's own line of thinking the purpose of Education is
    not to write or dance about a reality, not to experiment with it or prove
    a scientific point, and quite certainly not to create new "virtual and
    synthetic realities", but to better what exists now, i.e. to help develop
    a continuing, true reality.  Even if we stick to Kevin's own
    definition — as exposed in his last paragraph — that is not a
    job for technologists.  Admitting that there are things beyond the scope
    of technology can be difficult for people like Kevin, I guess; no wonder
    he doesn't use the word "education" in a phrase that so openly begs for
    As an educator I have nothing to celebrate when technocrats so openly
    presume of being the saviours of mankind and keepers of the truth.  What
    Kevin says is true:  when he rejoices over his "divine work", we worry.
    Warm regards from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and keep up the good work!
    Hugo M. Castellano (Webmaster)
    Nueva Alejandria (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
    El Portal de los Educadores (http://www.nalejandria.com/)
    Director de Contexto Educativo
    Revista Digital de Educación y Nuevas Tecnologías
    Technology Re-defines Our Choices
    Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?" (NF #130)
    From:  Richard Anas Coburn (rcoburn@igc.org)
    Steve contends the technological mind substitutes making for
    understanding.  Kevin responds that technologists seek truth by making
    new tools.  To me the issue is the way in which the technological society
    shapes our notion of what understanding or truth is, and the danger is
    that all means of evaluation become technical.
    When Walmart moves to town, the mom and pop stores go under.  Period.
    It's the efficiency that Walmart delivers in terms of price that the
    people value.  The market has spoken.  But that's the point; it was the
    market that spoke, not human beings in their fullness.  Its not nice to
    say, perhaps, but I'd suggest that the human values of the people have
    already been corroded enough that they don't even see what they're giving
    up.  And the corrosion itself is a technical artifact.  As Ellul points
    out, in the technological society, man himself is reduced to the sum of
    his technical functions.  Anything else doesn't "matter".
    Kevin isn't worried about bit-mindedness because people can flip from that
    point of view to another with ease.  But the universe of points-of-view
    has itself been shaped technically.  I wonder if Kevin's example of his
    ability to see the chicken as Trickster is a case-in-point.  To what
    degree does Kevin's seeing of chicken as Trickster shape his life compared
    with the vision of chicken as Trickster in the life of a Native American?
    I submit that reading about it in a book, or even taking a workshop
    conducted by an authentic shaman just doesn't yield the same vision of
    chicken.  It is not that we are giving up all the other views of the world
    for technology's; our understanding of what these other views are has been
    transformed by the technical.
    Steve calls for continually bringing reality to bear upon the technical
    simplifications as a corrective.  There is the question of whose reality,
    even before we get to the really immense technical issue which is, given a
    reality, how do we bring it to bear without reducing it to technical
    inputs accepted by the technological system.  Lately, while the
    technologists in the applied sciences have been busy coming up with new
    wonders, our Postmodern brethren in the "humanities" have been using
    various philosophical and anthropological techniques to deconstruct our
    notions of quality and meaning ... that is, demonstrating the extent to
    which our very notion of reality is a socially constructed artifact.
    While I am certainly uneasy at the number of and influence wielded by what
    I'd call fanatical technicians, I too am amazed and thrilled by technical
    accomplishment.  In my own tradition, we say the road must be traveled
    with two sandals:  one of fear, one of hope.  To me Steve represents one,
    Kevin the other.  Both are necessary .... But it kinda seems like our
    society in general isn't sufficiently cautious, doesn't make enough use of
    the fear.  And when that gets sufficiently out of balance, why then
    someone from another culture takes a big piece of flying technology and
    runs it into a big piece of architectural technique.  Too bad what
    happened next was not a deep soul-searching meditation on the danger of
    technical hubris, but a further demonstration of it.
    Anas Coburn, Executive Director  (703) 385-9383
    Dar al Islam --- Education for Muslims and non-Muslims
    to improve the social fabric of America
    www.daralislam.org     www.islamamerica.org
    Technology Creates Choices
    Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?" (NF #130)
    From:  Valdemar M. Setzer (vwsetzer@ime.usp.br)
    Dear Steve,
    Regarding your interesting discussion with Kevin Kelly, I would like to
    call your attention to my essay "The mission of technology", available at
    my web site (http://www.ime.usp.br/~vwsetzer).  There, I don't define
    "technology", but establish what I think is its most important "raison
    d'être":  to free humans from natural forces, both external and internal.
    In this sense, it is close to Kevin's characterization for the existence
    of technology: to give humans the possibility of making choices.
    All the best,
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    Steve Talbott :: NetFuture #131 :: April 30, 2002
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