Saturday, September 17, 2011
Essay on “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” by Billy Joy
In August 1945, human race was appalled by the destructive power of nuclear weapons after it was used against Japan. There were thoughts that nothing could be worse than these weapons. At present, people fear of world-wide catastrophe that biological and chemical weapons can bring to the human race. Billy Joy thinks otherwise. He thinks there are things far worse than the threats of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Without a decisive and conscious action on our part, it is possible for human race to cause its extinction, or at least diminish its importance, by the creation of new technologies called genetic engineering, robotics and nanotechnology.
Robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology pose a significant and more dangerous threat to the human race compared to the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The latter, once they are detonated, are capable of causing damage only once. Though they may have long-term effects on the physical and psychological health, the fact remains that they will only blow up once. On the other hand, the former are capable of self-replication. They can, with or without our knowledge, multiply and easily get out of control, hurt the human race more than once and even cause its extinction.
Another difference is that nuclear, biological and chemical weapons require conscious and deliberate acts for them to be created, detonated and exploded. They have to be purposely built. Building and creating them, however require not only talent of one person but also access to raw materials and classified information which is not available to everyone. On the other hand, the dangers that may be caused by robotics, genetics and nanotechnology, may be trigged on purpose or even by accident. What makes them more dangerous is that robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology do not require any raw materials or elaborate facilities. Knowledge alone is enough.
In the area of robotics, it is not far-fetched now to consider the possibility that in the future, scientists and technologists may be able to create robots with intelligence far exceeding human capability. If this happens, the possibility that intelligent robot species may eventually roam the streets is not far away. Billy Joy expressed his concern about human’s insatiable thirst for knowledge that has driven them to discovery new things. Though this may be beneficial to the public in the short-term, scientists should as early as now start to look at the direction the human race is going. Serious attention should be given to the possibility that these inventions may in the future be able to have a life of its own. These robots may eventually replace the human race and be able to someday have consciousness – something that we now think is possible.
The field of genetic engineering has helped the human race by revolutionizing agriculture, increasing crop production and reducing use of pesticide. It promised to help humanity find cure to certain diseases which have eluded many physicians. However, genetic engineering has reached the critical level where it is possible for any person with sufficient knowledge and evil mind to create a plague that is so contagious that it may be transferred from one person to another causing death to thousands if not millions of people. The troubling part is that this may happen either by means of a deliberate terrorist action or simply by accident.
Nanotechnology is a field that promises to provide low-cost solar power, causes for cancer and other illnesses and complete cleanup of the environment by means of rearrangement of atoms. However, this field also has military and terrorist potentials as in the future a massively destructive device may be released to the destruction of the human race.
The human race has reached a critical level in its search for knowledge. According to Billy Joy, we, as a race, have become a danger to ourselves, to the people around us and to the world. Scientists should learn from their mistakes in the past. The creation of the atomic bombs has paved the way for its use against another country. Until now, we fear that other countries may without the world’s knowledge be creating weapons to be used against each other in case of war. Billy Joy proposes as the only solution to avoid this possibility of destruction of the human race is to abandon and to relinquish the development of these new technologies. Search for knowledge may be good and is a worthy endeavor. The safety of the human race, however, demands that pursuit for more knowledge should be stopped before we all become endangered species.
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