Joy- Why The Future
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Joy- Why The Future

Course Number: INFORMATIO 101, Fall 2013

College/University: Rutgers

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from work creating, developing, improving, and manufacturing nuclear weapons and other weapons of potential mass destruction."14 In the 21st century, this requires vigilance and personal responsibility by those who would work on both NBC and GNR technologies to avoid implementing weapons of mass 13 of 17 7/10/06 3:21 PM Wired 8.04: Why the future doesn't need us....

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work from creating, developing, improving, and manufacturing nuclear weapons and other weapons of potential mass destruction."14 In the 21st century, this requires vigilance and personal responsibility by those who would work on both NBC and GNR technologies to avoid implementing weapons of mass 13 of 17 7/10/06 3:21 PM Wired 8.04: Why the future doesn't need us. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html destruction and knowledge-enabled mass destruction. Thoreau also said that we will be "rich in proportion to the number of things which we can afford to let alone." We each seek to be happy, but it would seem worthwhile to question whether we need to take such a high risk of total destruction to gain yet more knowledge and yet more things; common sense says that there is a limit to our material needs - and that certain knowledge is too dangerous and is best forgone. Neither should we pursue near immortality without considering the costs, without considering the commensurate increase in the risk of extinction. Immortality, while perhaps the original, is certainly not the only possible utopian dream. I recently had the good fortune to meet the distinguished author and scholar Jacques Attali, whose bookLignes d'horizons (Millennium, in the English translation) helped inspire the Java and Jini approach to the coming age of pervasive computing, as previously described in this magazine. In his new bookFraternits, Attali describes how our dreams of utopia have changed over time: "At the dawn of societies, men saw their passage on Earth as nothing more than a labyrinth of pain, at the end of which stood a door leading, via their death, to the company of gods and toEternity. With the Hebrews and then the Greeks, some men dared free themselves from theological demands and dream of an ideal City whereLiberty would flourish. Others, noting the evolution of the market society, understood that the liberty of some would entail the alienation of others, and they soughtEquality." Jacques helped me understand how these three different utopian goals exist in tension in our society today. He goes on to describe a fourth utopia,Fraternity, whose foundation is altruism. Fraternity alone associates individual happiness with the happiness of others, affording the promise of self-sustainment. This crystallized for me my problem with Kurzweil's dream. A technological approach to Eternity - near immortality through robotics - may not be the most desirable utopia, its and pursuit brings clear dangers. Maybe we should rethink our utopian choices. Where can we look for a new ethical basis to set our course? I have found the ideas in the book Ethics for the New Millennium, by the Dalai Lama, to be very helpful. As is perhaps well known but little heeded, the Dalai Lama argues that the most important thing is for us to conduct our lives with love and compassion for others, and that our societies need to develop a stronger notion of universal responsibility and of our interdependency; he proposes a standard of positive ethical conduct for individuals and societies that seems consonant with Attali's Fraternity utopia. The Dalai Lama further argues that we must understand what it is that makes people happy, and acknowledge the strong evidence that neither material progress nor the pursuit of the power of knowledge is the key - that there are limits to what science and the scientific pursuit alone can do. Our Western notion of happiness seems to come from the Greeks, who defined it as "the exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope." 15 Clearly, we need to find meaningful challenges and sufficient scope in our lives if we are to be happy in whatever is to come. But I believe we must find alternative outlets for our creative forces, beyond the culture of perpetual economic growth; this growth has largely been a blessing for several hundred years, but it has not brought us unalloyed happiness, and we must now choose between the pursuit of unrestricted and undirected growth through science and technology and the clear accompanying dangers. It is now more than a year since my first encounter with Ray Kurzweil and John Searle. I see around me cause for hope in the voices for caution and relinquishment and in those people I have discovered who are as concerned as I am about our current predicament. I feel, too, a deepened sense of personal responsibility not for the work I have already done, but for the work that I might yet do, at the confluence of the sciences. But many other people who know about the dangers still seem strangely silent. When pressed, they trot out 14 of 17 7/10/06 3:21 PM Wired 8.04: Why the future doesn't need us. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html the "this is nothing new" riposte - as if awareness of what could happen is response enough. They tell me, There are universities filled with bioethicists who study this stuff all day long. They say,

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QuarterStartsJan 1 year1April 1year 1July 1year 1Oct 1 year1Jan 1 year2April 1year 2July 1year 2Oct 1 year2QuarterEndsMar 31year 1June 30year 1Sept 30year 1Dec 31year 1Mar 31year 2June 30year 2Sept 30year 2Dec 31year 2D
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