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Nathan Balasubramanian's Response to Assignment 5

Read the 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?

Scientists and politicians need to take personal responsibility for all their actions and have a greater transparency while allowing commercial technologies - particularly genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics to proliferate.

2. Who is Bill Joy?

Bill Joy is cofounder and former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, and a brilliant software developer/engineer – creator of the Unix OS, and pioneer of Java. After quitting Sun ~ a year and a half ago, he has settled in Aspen and continues to work on writing newer software to help human kind.

3.1 What did you find interesting about the article?

His plea that the powerful 21st-century technologies – genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR), if developed and used unchecked, could be catastrophic. The narrative about his personal development from childhood too was interesting – driven by a need to ask questions and find answers.

3.2. What did you not find interesting about the article? ?

His whistle-blowing doomsday presentation that by 2030, the advent of “intelligent robots” will be the beginning of humans becoming an endangered species because of the intelligent robots’ self-duplicating abilities. Besides, his mixing up a scientific writing with philosophy and metaphysics was uninteresting.

4.1. With which arguments (focused on predicting future developments) do you agree?

· Groundbreaking ideas always are typically simple and start small – e.g. Java.

· Our problems are not really getting things done faster but coping with human limitations – thoughts and emotions.

· Scientific and educational communities need to police themselves and feel ethically and morally responsible because their actions - intended and unintended, can impact future generations beyond their imagination.

4.2. With which arguments (focused on predicting future developments) do you disagree?

Our dependence on machines might become overbearing and eventually lead to the extincition of humankind

5.1 Does the article relate to other topics / themes you have studied at CU?


5.2. Does the article relate to your personal interests and life? ?

Yes, to continue my thoughts on Q 4.1 above, our current K-12 educational policies impact the current generation of students (NCLB focused on reading and math, rather than science) by not helping them become informed problems-solvers or analytical thinkers. The focus on “basics,” that Bransford et al. (2000) alluded to as a twentieth century model of education, effectively lowers expectations of what students can learn and do, stifles their curiosity, and prepares them inadequately for negotiating the complexities of twenty-first century life (Bransford et al., 2000; Rogers & Freiberg, 1994).

6.1 How should we react to this article on an individual basis?

Be more aware of our thoughts, actions, and human frailties.

6.2. How should we react to this article on on a societal basis?

Be more skeptical about promises made by individuals – specifically scientists and politicians.

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


8.1 Would you consider yourself a techno-utopist (“glorifying the future”)


8.2 Would you consider yourself a techno-pessimist (“glorifying the past”)


8.3 How would you characterize your own position?

An eclectic mix of the two – techno-utopist and techno-pessimist positions - there are merits and limitations in both

9.1 How well have futurists succeeded or failed to predict the disappearance in the digital age of paper?

Despite all my reliance on technology, I personally do not believe that paper/books/physical libraries/social interactions would disappear. Technological tools, by their very nature have value and limitations. As the users, one needs to use them with reason, and savor the merits while recognizing the limitations of the old and the new.

9.2 How well have futurists succeeded or failed to predict the disappearance in the digital age of books?

Same as 9.1

9.3 How well have futurists succeeded or failed to predict the disappearance in the digital age of physical libraries?

Same as 9.1

9.4 How well have futurists succeeded or failed to predict the disappearance in the digital age of distances between people?

Same as 9.1

Nathan Balasubramanian

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