Ryan Coyer

Aaron Schram


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

Bill Joy's article is a multi-level cautionary tale; he cautions us about the dangers of advancing technology ("And if our own extinction is a likely, or even possible, outcome of our technological development, shouldn't we proceed with great caution?"); he expresses his fear of mistakes resulting from technological development ("Gray goo would surely be a depressing ending to our human adventure on Earth, far worse than mere fire or ice, and one that could stem from a simple laboratory accident"); and he also argues that the widespread availability of knowledge is dangerous ("if open access to and unlimited development of knowledge henceforth puts us all in clear danger of extinction, then common sense demands that we reexamine even these basic, long-held beliefs [of the sharing of knowledge]"). Joy even goes so far as to side with some theorists with the claim that humans will become extinct at the hands of sentient robots.
The main message of the article is that we should be wary of technology and should completely analyze the risks associated with the development of new technologeis.

2. Who is Bill Joy?

In his own words, "Despite my current job title of Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems, I am more a computer architect than a scientist".

3. what did you find

3.1. interesting about the article?

Joy's synthesis of many viewpoints (from Kaczynski to Aristotle) and his analogs to well-known situations (US/USSR arms race, etc.) provide a vibrant background to his argument. It was easy to read and almost entirely interesting.

3.2. not find interesting about the article?

Joy spends too much time explaining his personal biographical information. The way he spent his childhood is not really pertinent to his argument, nor are his professional achievements (he frequently tries to prove to the reader that he is not a 'Luddite').

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

4.1. agree

That we should fully examine all side-effects of new technologies before we embrace them (for example, the grey-goo extinction as a result of simple research.)

4.2. disagree

That we as humans will passively become extinct at the hands of our creations because of our dependence upon them. There is simply not enough known about sentience, conciousness or rationality to be able to fully emulate them with a computer. That is not to say that humans won't destroy themselves as a species (indeed, it is possible even now), but the argument that humans, as a race, would passively submit to extinction is intractable.

5. does the article relate to

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

Yes, a member of our group has taken many philosophy classes (including ethics), and we have studied computer science throughout our time at CU.

5.2. to your personal interests and life?

A member of our group has read quite a bit about Artificial Intelligence, including "The Age of Spiritual Machines" mentioned in this article. It relates directly to that reading.

6. how should we react to this article

6.1. on an individual basis?

An individual can do no more than stay informed on any technologies that are being developed, and control themselves and their lives in accordance.

6.2. on a societal basis?

As a society, the best we can do is to place an emphasis on safety and a full understanding of consequences; any attempt to slow the development of technology is like shoveling sand against the tide.

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

MAJC and picoJava are foreign names

8. would you consider yourself

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

Ryan feels perhaps. Aaron feels yes based on much of the reading he has done in his lifetime (from sci-fi to artificial and swarm intelligence).

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

Ryan feels maybe. Aaron feels no.

8.3. or how would you characterize your own position?

Ryan feels they aren't mutually exclusive. A techno-pessimist can appreciate the benefits of technology (medical technology in particular), while a techno-utopist can heed the mistakes of the past (antibiotic-resistant bacteria, for example). Perhaps a blend of the two is best. Aaron agrees with Ryan, but feels that allowing technology the ability to evolve at the fastest pace we can handle is extremely important to bettering society (from diseases to a less stressful workload).

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

9.1. paper

Complete failure. Humans will always appreciate tangible objects.

9.2. books

Same argument as above, humans will always appreciate tangible objects.

9.3. physical libraries

There will always be some people whose personal preferences drive them to reading in books (many people find computer screens hard on their eyes). However, the trade off between the time saved by the internet and truly possessing a book (if they contain the same information) is very hard to pass up. For a quick multi-opinionated information source, we think the internet is a clear success.

9.4. distances between people

The futurists clearly succeed in this case. Advances in communications and transportation technology have eliminated the impedence of distance upon productivity. The scalability of collaboration in todays world is easily traceable to the ability to easily communicate ideas quickly to large groups of people.