Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

MaryMaryQuiteContrary just posted a comment
about Bill Joy’s wired
article. She thinks that, on the whole, we are not smart enough to develop
the technologies that he is afraid of, since we are not smart enough to do
such things as make synchronized traffic lights and teaching our children
to read.

I have to disagree on a couple of fronts. The first is on the side of
the examples. The problems that Mary mentions are ones of scale and
deployment, not intrinsic difficulty. We know how to synchronize lights
and how to teach a child to read. The problem is how to synchronize
the lights, and how to teach all our children to

The other problem with the argument is that Bill Joy’s fear is exactly
Mary’s point, namely that we are not smart enough. If we were smart
enough, then we could foresee and safely solve the problems of these
technlogies. The problem is that we might foresee how to implement the
specific technologies without predicting and solving the actual problems
associated with the technologies, both when the technology is
successfully implemented, as well as the unsucessful intermediate steps.

The technologies that Bill is concerned about are all potentially
self-replicating. Small errors can be multiplied dramatically. We are
deploying all kinds of systems in which a very small error could turn
out to be disasterous on a global scale. We are deploying those systems
now. The question is, are we smart enough to make those systems
fail-safe and are we smart enough to avoid making even one of those tiny



One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on June 16, 2004 at 10:29 am

    Be nice now. Mary is only a marketeer after all……. 😉


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