Library Juice 5:17 - May 2, 2002


This week, Library Juice is a vessel for the latest issue of NETFUTURE,
a great publication offering critical perspectives on technology and
the information age.

Homepage of the week: Steve Talbott
http://www.oreilly.com/~stevet/index.html




                                  NETFUTURE

                    Technology and Human Responsibility

==========================================================================
Issue #131     A Publication of The Nature Institute        April 30, 2002
==========================================================================
             Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@oreilly.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:  http://www.netfuture.org/support.html.


CONTENTS:
---------

Quotes and Provocations
   Life as an Emergency
   How Doing Faster Means Doing Less
   Is AI Unfairly Maligned?

DEPARTMENTS

Correspondence
   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
   alive.

   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.
Breckinridge:

   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
lives.

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
distinctiveness?

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 "unavoidable 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.

SLT

==========================================================================

                              CORRESPONDENCE


Technology Is Not Dematerializing
---------------------------------

Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?"  (NF #130)
From:  Dave Crane 

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
Bristol


Moral Responsibility and Inanimate Objects
------------------------------------------

Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?"  (NF #130)
From:  Gintas Jazbutis 

Steve wrote:

   Value always has to be assessed in terms of *what someone is doing*.

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
425-452-5838


Worry, and Rejoice (But Are You Worrying Enough?)
-------------------------------------------------

Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?"  (NF #130)
From:  Jeff Falzone 

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
terrifying.

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....

warmly,
Jeff


Who Would Charlie Chaplin Have Been Before Film?
------------------------------------------------

Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?"  (NF #130)
From:  Hugo M. Castellano 

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 it.

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
http://contexto-educativo.com.ar


Technology Re-defines Our Choices
---------------------------------

Response to:  "What Are Technology's Gifts?"  (NF #130)
From:  Richard Anas Coburn 

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

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 

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,
Val

==========================================================================

                          ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

NetFuture, a freely distributed newsletter dealing with technology and
human responsibility, is published by The Nature Institute, 169 Route 21C,
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Postings occur roughly every three or four weeks.  The editor is Steve
Talbott, author of *The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the Machines
in Our Midst* (http://www.oreilly.com/~stevet/index.html).

Copyright 2002 by The Nature Institute.

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