Assignment 5, Phong

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? Bill Joy believes that we have reached a crossroad where further advancement of certain knowledge and technologies may well be the seed of the human specie's own extinction. These technologies – robotics (and associated software), biotechnology, and nanotechnology – concerns Joy because they require few physical support infrastructure to use and yet they can "spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses." The scale of these possible disasters will be amplified by these technologies' power of self-replication; and this power to propagate will bring us to a Matrix-like domination of the human specie by our own creation. Joy is urging us to examine our supportive bias toward these technologies and begin an earnest discussion of whether these technologies are instances of areas where we should stop further research. Joy exhorts us to "do more thinking upfront if we are not to be similarly surprised and shocked by the consequences of our inventions."

2. Who is Bill Joy? Bill Joy was a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and was its chief scientist until 2003. He was the principal author of Berkeley UNIX (also known as BSD) and made significant contribution to the development and propagation of TCP/IP, vi editor, and csh shell. At Sun he was a significant contributor to the development of the SPARC microprocessor and the Java programming language. Source: Wikipedia,

3. what did you find

3.1. interesting about the article? Bill Joy's principal arguments regarding the danger of these particular technologies are certainly relevant. While his message of whether we should open Pandora's box is not new, the way the he tries to cut through information overload with passages from the Unabomber's Manifesto, his own personal biography, and a conversational tone is certainly effective. To me the heart of the matter is that most of us can agree that there have been Pandora's boxes in our history, yet they have not affected our entire specie and most of them (to a certain extent) have been been entirely irreversible. So in this situation we are again arguing about a matter whose outcome we do not know that has potentially much higher stakes. So that takes us away from the realm of using scientific tools to assess risk and into the realm of ethical and moral arguments and the realm of "wisdom".

3.2. not find interesting about the article? nothing.

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

4.1. agree. I agree with his assessment of the potential risks. However, to a large extent the true risk is an evolving, and to a certain degree, at this point, unknown.

4.2. disagree. What I instinctively want to disagree with him is his exhortation to stop research into these technologies. Indeed, if we see possible potential for harm in any technology and we stop research, would it have precluded us from all the advances that we have made to better our lives? Among all of these different technologies how do we choose which are inherently dangerous from the outset?

5. does the article relate to

5.1. other topics / themes you have studied at CU? Definitely ethics: what is the common good? What is a fair and just society?

5.2. to your personal interests and life? It makes me think about the moral and ethical implications of choices that I implicitly make every day. I don't I will the effects that he has had on software development, and our society, but it does make me wonder about the work that I'm about to embark and how I may contribute both the our advancement and possible distinction. And to be honest it is an un-nerving area of thought.

6. how should we react to this article

6.1. on an individual basis? I definitely I'm thinking about the point is Joy is making. But to be honest I'm no where near an answer.

6.2. on a societal basis? We need to have a public and frank discussion about these technology. To a certain extent, at least in the United State, we are having a little of this conversation with the discussion of stem cell availability for research.

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

8. would you consider yourself

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

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

I would consider myself a techno-utopist with a serious bias toward future technology. However I do have serious concerns about not only the destructive power of these technology but also the their lesser consequences. With the penetration of these technologies and the manner in which we as society have choose to deploy them (mainly in the service of the profit motive), I'm not sure if the technology is all good. Take the issue of privacy and information technology: I love the new tools it bring but I'm not sure if the invasion of privacy that it allows.

8.3. or how would you characterize your own position? I would say a very wary and conflicted position toward technology. But I fundamentally believe that, at least to this point, technology itself is not good or evil, but the way that the technology has been deployed may be characterized as good/evil.

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

9.1. paper. I'm not sure about the predictive history in this area.

9.2. books. From the little history I know many futurist were unprepared for the revolutionary spread of books due to the Gutenberg printing press. So I would say the concept of books as perhaps predicted not until the mechanism for its production did prediction really come to pass.

9.3. physical libraries. I'm not sure about the predictive history in this area.

9.4. distances between people. Futurist over-promised the disappearance of the distance in the digital era. Far too often we have had promise of the information super