Wired And Worried?

from the we-are? dept

I was lucky enough to see Thomas Friedman on his “recent trip to… Silicon Valley” that he talks about in his latest column. He’s a very impressive thinker who has a ton of very smart things to say on the Middle East and globalization – areas in which he’s specialized. However, he might not want to go too far beyond what he knows, because he begins to get careless in his thinking. His latest NY Times Op-Ed piece talks about how Silicon Valley regrets the role we’ve played in building technology that can be used by terrorists. While he comes up with some anecdotal evidence, and names a few “big” names to support his argument that we never should have stopped the Clipper Chip, he seems to miss the point. The fact is that the technology is out there, and people are going to continue to create new technologies all the time. It is simply a tool – and that tool can be (and always has had the ability to be) used for both good and bad purposes. Anyone looking to blame (or hold back) the technology is going to find that not only can it not be done – it probably causes more problems in the long run. Technology is just a tool.

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Comments on “Wired And Worried?”

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troy says:

Technology has an inherent value.

After becoming acquainted with authors such as Jerry Mander and Marshall McLuhan, it’s hard for me to swallow the notion that “technology is only a tool, it’s up to humans and society as to how it’s used.” In In The Absence of the Sacred, Mander gives an eloquent argument that all technology has an inherent bias and should be very carefully considered before being deployed on a large scale.

Without going on, a couple examples of this: Nuclear Technology. Nuclear technology may inherently steer us from a democratic society towards an autocratic society. That Nuclear technology, eg. nuclear power, is so complex, expensive, dangerous, and requires strict control of all operations, it is necessary that governments must control it. There are no small-scale community based reactors, and there won’t ever be. Furthermore, the waste created by nuclear technology remains in place for hundreds of years (at least), meaning that a government or other sort of “technical elite” will need to remain in control of it, if only to maintain the after-effects.

These aren’t my ideas, but as a tech enthusiast, I found the ideas in Mander’s book to be very powerful. It’s a few years old, but still very relevant, and I would highly recommend it.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Technology has an inherent value.

Interesting. I’ve now ordered In the Absence of Sacred, but from the brief reviews I’ve read of it, I doubt I’ll agree with much of it. I’ll still read it, though. While I do believe that we live in a society that is dominated by dangerous short-term thinking, I don’t blame the technology for that.

I even have problems with the nuclear power example, as I don’t see the logical progression from government control of nuclear reactors leading to an autocratic state.

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