Assignment 5 — Bill Joy Article - Jodi Kiefer

Read the following article:

Bill Joy: “Why the future doesn't need us”
available at:

Discuss the following issues:

1. write a one paragraph summary statement about the article characterizing the main message of the article?

This article addresses the issue of creating advanced technology, such as robotics, that may one lead to our destruction. The fear lies with self-replication within the fields of robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology. If a robot is able to self-replicate, improving itself each time, would humans become obsolete and unable to defend themselves? As technology expands and develops, the potential for mass destruction and harm also increases.

2. Who is Bill Joy?

He is currently the Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems. He was a main contributor in designing/maintaining the Berkeley version of the Unix operating system. His creation of the text editor vi is still widely used today. At Sun Microsystems Bill Joy has contributed to the development of advanced microprocessor technologies and Internet technologies such as Java and Jini.

3. what did you find

3.1. interesting about the article?

I liked and learned a lot from the history inserts about the development about the atomic bombs.

3.2. not find interesting about the article?

There was a lot of name dropping and quoting from various books that made the article very difficult to follow. Overall, the article seemed very choppy and repetitive to me.

4. with which arguments (focused on predicting future developments) do you

4.1. agree

I do agree that a set of ethics needs to be created and determined to insure that the technology advances in robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology is used for the betterment of society. I agree with the fear of these technologies falling into the ‘wrong’ hands which could lead to be very destructive.

4.2. disagree

I do not think that the development of robots will ever reach the stage of our extinction. It is the theme of many movies today where robots take over the world. I believe (or hope) that our development of robots will aid society for the betterment of all but will be kept in check to prevent them leading us to extinction.

5. does the article relate to

5.1. other topics / themes you have studied at CU?

I have taken a class in A.I. from the Colorado School of Mines that touched some on the ‘ethics’ of robots.

5.2. to your personal interests and life?

I can not say that this article touched on my personal interests at all. I could associate with the desire to develop robust software systems. However, this is one area that the article suggests may be a contributor to our downfall.

6. how should we react to this article

6.1. on an individual basis?

Similar to how society should react, I believe that individually we should evaluate our material desires and needs with regard to the interaction of others, both near and far. I fear that as technology progresses, the distinction between rich and poor will continue to expand, leaving the rich richer and the poor poorer.

6.2. on a societal basis?

I think this article points out a strong need for a set of ethics dealing with advancing technologies to insure the betterment of human living and society in general. As technology progresses, the destructive capability also expands and this must be harnessed.

7. which concepts /names mentioned in the article did you not understand?

I was unclear as to who Finagle is and what his laws were. I am also unfamiliar with Watson-Crick base-pairing and a little unclear with everything that nanotechnology consists of.

8. would you consider yourself

8.1. a techno-utopist (“glorifying the future”)

8.2. a techno-pessimist (“glorifying the past”)

8.3. or how would you characterize your own position?

I would say that I am an optimist for improvement and betterment for all in society in the future. My hope is that future enhancements and developments in technology will greatly aid society and improve living conditions for all, not just the limited elite.

9. how well have futurists succeeded or failed to predict the disappearance in the digital age of

9.1. paper

I think paper is taking a longer time to ‘disappear’ than futurists have predicted. Although our reliance on paper is lessoning with the use of the internet, it is still highly used – particularly in schools.

9.2. books

Like paper, I think books have not had the disappearance that was predicted for them. While most research is now conducted via the internet, pleasure reading books are still popular. While accessible, I personally prefer reading from a book rather than a computer screen.

9.3. physical libraries

From my own personal experience, my interaction with a physical library has been reduced ten-fold with the use of the internet. However, I do not believe that physical libraries will ever become ‘extinct’. Their traffic may be reduced significantly but I believe the library still offers services that can not be replaced by the internet. For example, credibility of resources can be verified via a physical library but may not be via the internet.

9.4. distances between people

I would have to say that upon entering the digital age, communication between people has improved. One technology that I think has aided this improvement is email. Although it does take the interpersonal side out of the communication, it does provide an easy and efficient way to communicate with others, whether far or near.