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Americans and the 21st Century 212

In the past couple of decades, anti-technology has become something of a trendy national political movement, especially among journalists, politicians, academics and other intellectuals. But a new survey says the vast majority of Americans are profoundly optimistic about the next century, and technology is the reason why.

Technology has become the national conversation since the explosion of networked computing the Net and the Web; a central political and social issue, reality that splits the country into distinct camps: those who look forward to the future, and those who don't.

The subject has become so important that it increasingly plays a dominant role not only in how people feel about machines themselves, but about what lies ahead.

Americans used to be unequivocally upbeat about technology. "If you can dream it, you can do it," was one of Walt Disney's favorite exhortations to his beloved corps of Imagineers.

"When I visited the General Motors Futurama Exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair, I believed that I was truly looking at 'The World Of Tomorrow,'" wrote Samuel Florman, the engineer/author, in "The Existential Pleasures of Engineering."

Florman remembers believing that he was literally looking at the "World of Tomorrow" and that it was a better place. "It would have to be," he recalls, "with its superhighways, its sleek cars, and its sparkling cities."

Americans are vastly more sophisticated about technology now, wary and perhaps chastened by the tidal wave of new technologies and their often unforeseen consequences. Superhighways, sleek cars and sparkling cities all came to pass, but so did pollution, congestion, noise crime and enormous social dislocation.

Although the rise of computing suggests worries about technology is a relatively modern concern, it really isn't. Benjamin Franklin was a geek through and through, and he always understood that technology was a mixed blessing, bringing both triumphs and unpleasant surprises.

In more recent times, amateur technologists like Disney were sometimes drawn into Utopianism, convinced that technology alone held the key to a brighter tomorrow.

Judging by the moral outrage and near hysteria about technics in modern politics and media - cracking, Y2K, pornography, perversion, isolation, addiction - it might seem that Americans had completely abandoned the idea that technology could, in fact, herald a brighter future.

That assumption would be wrong.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center on how Americans feel about the 21st Century shows they are profoundly optimistic about the future, and technology is the primary reason why.

According to Pew's nationwide survey, a staggering 81 per cent of adults are optimistic about what the 21st Century holds for them, and 70 per cent believe the country as a whole will do well. Eight in ten Americans describe themselves as hopeful about the year 2000. A significant majority anticipate that the new millenium will usher in the triumph of science and technology over some of humanity's most enduring plagues and problems, from AIDS and cancer to environmental degradation.

Americans' view of the promise of technology, in fact, is distinctly brighter than their feelings about their fellow human beings. Nearly two-thirds of Americans anticipate a serious terrorist attack on the United States within the next 50 years, and more than half say an epidemic worse than AIDS is likely. Significant numbers expect a major earthquake in California, foresee increased global warming and predict a severe energy crisis by the middle of the 21st century.

What's striking about the survey is that although Americans expect some problems to worsen, their overall outlook about the future remains optimistic. And technology is the reason. Americans believe that science and technology will expand their horizons, create a better future for them, provide longer lives, even allow routine space travel.

Americans, the survey demonstrates, are forming their own views of technology, apart from the moral outrage expressed by so many public figures about a host of techno-driven social plagues, and the cost, inefficiency, intrusiveness of technology in general. Perhaps as a result of their newfound ability to access information and opinions via the Net and Web, Americans are becoming more rational and far-sighted than their elected representatives.

Fewer than half of the respondents now believe a Messiah will return to the Earth in the 21st Century, for instance, but but 81 per cent believe cancer will be cured.

As Florman, a civil engineer, and other writers about technology have pointed out, anti-technology has become something of a national movement among the so-called intelligentsia in American life. Intellectuals often fear that new technologies - from the Internet to cable TV and cell phones - are dumbing down the young, isolating individuals and destroying traditional notions of civilization, literacy and culture.

Some of these attitudes arose during the 60s, when technology got the blame for creating nuclear weapons, napalm and other lethal killing devices, and for de-spoiling the environment. The explosive growth of the Internet - which has freed up so much information and endangers the privileged positions and monopoly over information formerly held by politicians, journalists, stockbrokers and academics - has generated even more unease about technology.

Lawyers worry that the public will access their own legal documents on the Web. Doctors fret about the sudden dissemination of medical information. Journalists worry about who will vouch for the accuracy of information, political scientists fear an anarchic electorate, which votes instantly and without knowledge or deliberation, and academics are traumatized by the notion that slobs in Kansas with computers and modems will get to pass their ideas around, too.

But technology is, in fact, an idea whose time has come. It's no longer the exclusive province of engineers, geeks and nerds either. The Net has brought tens of millions of Americans into very personal contact with technology as a powerful social and economic force and political tool. So far, at least, and despite its many problems and flaws, they like it.

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Americans and the 21st Century

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  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @04:57AM (#1490401)
    Sorry, I disagree 180 degrees with that. The reason people are happy is because they have large disposable incomes, minivans and SUVs and 40" "digital" TVs with surround sound. It's simple but it's true - we are a society of capitalism and materialism. It is how we measure progress on both a macro (national) and micro (personal) level.

    Technology has the lime light, I'll give you that. But it isn't the reason we're doing so well. Unfortunately what most people realize is that their quality of life is about to take another hit. Anyone remember the North American Free Trade Agreement? If so, you'll fully appreciate what the WTO means. The ability to override a member's legislative decisions and impinge on their own sovernety? In the name of WHAT?! Trade!

    Simple truth: People vote with their wallets. What's going in Seattle right now is further proof of that. Thousands die in car crashes every day and not a peep but if we lose a couple dollars extra each year in taxes (or treaties): rioting in the streets! It's a oversimplification, I know.. but I'm running late for work so this will have to do.

  • It's not clear why all the activities are going on surrounding the WTO summit; some of it doubtless relates to more purely political concerns, but I suspect that of those that get arrested/"rubberized," there is likely to be some tendancy towards what this article would consider "Ludditism."
  • Ever think about how fast technology progressed
    after the US became a country?

    Flintlocks to nuclear weapons in 169 years.

    I'm not saying the US did this alone. Our nuclear
    and space programs had some of the best minds
    Europe could offer. Thanks to Hitler.

    If we can keep it together, the next 100 years
    should be just outstanding.
  • I think the optimism reflected in this survey is mostly a result of a booming economy. If we experience any sort of great collapse in the next few years, you can expect public attitudes about many things to change. And come on ... predicting an eventual earthquake in California is like predicting the sun will rise...
  • The scary part of technology is not where it is going or what is to come of it. It's actaully what is already available and developed, just not publicly known and is hidden behind corporations.
  • by Enoch Root ( 57473 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @05:01AM (#1490407)
    You know, I bet the first time that guy (or gal, hey: female geeks exist) walked into a cavern carrying fire, there was a lot of controversy and debate.

    The point is: even though a technology may be beneficial to humanity, there will always be opposition to it at first. It's not a modern phenomenon! The first time the English introduced the longbow during the Hundred Year War, the English knights were outraged that commoners would strike the first blow in battle. Then, as time goes on, they realise it's a really useful technology, and acceptance spreads.

    Ditto with computers and most modern technologies. At first, we're all scared that the future will be ruled by robots or something like that. But now, society accepts and embraces the potential of modern technology.

    It's never gonna change, and in a way it's a blessing. It's that sort of distrust of innovation that prevents us from using technology without thinking on its consequences. In that respect, scifi writers are our watchdogs, warning us long in advance of the risks, but also the rewards, of a possible innovation.

  • The popular media seems to feel that in order for
    a good story to exist, there needs to be something that is more than human, larger than life. This extends to most forms of media, not just the news. Look at the Mitnik situation. does anyone think that Takedown is going to be as good as Sneakers?
    Anyways, Technology is the only answer for the future. Think about it... In the past, high technology applied to steam engines.
    The traditional media is also deathly afraid of becoming obsolete. With the advent of widespread acceptance of the internet and the benefits it provides, the newspapers and magazines, and (to a lesser extent) Television news sources can see their sinking into obscurity.
  • Ick, I hate thinking up Titles.

    Anyway. I think that a good bit of people's fears over the future come from what has been termed, time and again, as a growing awareness of how our technological capabilities have so far outpaced our own understanding and control of ourselves.

    While technology, and our ability to shape, control, destroy, etc. our world has grown drastically in the last century, our own understanding of ourselves, how to predict how people will act, how to get people to actually act responsibly (unlike various flame wars, or efforts which cause the Geek test) haven't actually advanced credibly at all.

    Often the metaphor is given of a child who, rather than holding a club to beat up other children with, now holds a clock filled with hollow point bullets and an infinite supply of clips...

    This is obviously something of an alarmist, anti-tech view, that all tech leads to violence and destruction. But it's also a fairly well known paradigm (sorry) that people remember the bad stuff, no matter how much good stuff outnumbers it.

    However, I believe that something which counters this is the American belief of Manifest Destiny, which, though no longer stated as much as a century ago, or even 30 years ago during the "Democracy will defeat Communism, for we are cooler" days, certainly seems to give most Americans the belief that they're righter, better, and more likely to survive, no matter how brightly they glow in the dark.

    I mean, the fact that we have more porno sites on the net should be an indicator, if nothing else. Those California girls, whew...


    Most of the biggish problems in our culture are tracable not to our technology, but rather the way we deal with it. Our tendecies to lie about ourselves on the net, our proclivity for using tech weapons to vent our anger (or not), our dependencies on tech to make us brighter, happier little smurflings...our belief that science will indeed save us and make us happier, becoming the new god of the times...

    But then, all of this has been said before.
  • by sufi ( 39527 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @05:04AM (#1490410) Homepage
    People love money, and more than loving money they love to spend it on something bigger and better than the things their peers have. Rapidly evolving technology allows them to do this.

    The content of TV doesnt make people happy, but the number of channels they have to choose from and the size of their TV does. Because it's probably more than the other people's.

    Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, but community and society are degenerating at a similar rate. What good is one without the other.

    Most people have no sense of self anymore, they only understand themselves in the context of how 'good' they are compared to the person standing either side of them. There is little value in personal wealth, values, and inherent personality. Only in what you can add to the the 'corporation'

    It's a falacy, and one which too many people fall for.

  • Flintlocks to nuclear weapons in 169 years.


    If we can keep it together, the next 100 years should be just outstanding.

    Yeah, I can just see it. From nuclear weapons to Death Stars!

  • First of all, I find it odd that such a large percentage of people are expecting the return of christ or a messiah of some kind when none of the end time signs in the bible have been fulfilled. Now if/when Russia invades Israel, THEN we can start looking for the apocalypse.

    Second of all, the US economy is being artificially inflated and propped up by government intervention and the actions of a few large corporations and wealthy individuals. Our economy is due for a major downturn to relieve some of the pressure that has been driving it for the last 5 years. The government and the corporations don't understand that this would have been a good thing had it been allowed to happen naturally a few years ago, if it happens now it will be a minor disaster, and if they hold it off another two or three years it will make the Great Depression look like paradise. The federal reserve manipulates the interest rates to force economic growth, the stock market is full of over valued unprofitable stocks, and people are becoming disenchanted with the government. These are all signs of an economic collapse on the verge of occuring. I expect that the panic around Y2K when people start to pull their money from the stock market and the banks will spark this collapse and that the 3 years from 2000 to 2003 will be a lean time for the Tech industry as more people buy less gadgetry and are forced to concetrate more on paying their light bills and buying food. However after that Technology should rebound strongly and once again the economy will begin to rise.

    All of this comes from my own research into the Stock Market and the US economy, I was going to be a business major until I got into tech.

  • Anti-technology sentiments are hardly unique to the United States, or even Canada. The Europeans, for example, have caused quite a bit of trouble for genetically modified foods and plastic softeners. Much of this can be traced to organizations like Greenpeace, which seems to have taken a more extremist approach in recent years.

    I think the average person in Western Culture is probably suspicious of individual technologies these days, and until something has been repeatedly shown to be "safe", it is in jeopardy of being scrutinized by one group or another and used as a scapegoat for one or more societal ills.

    "Geeks" latch on to new technology almost without hesitation. We are attracted to the novel sensations of playing with new gizmos or new algorithms. The rest of the planet prefers to stay with what's comfortable or may even be openly hostile to it...and not always for legitimate reasons.

  • First off, well done Jon.
    It is true that many of us look optimistically toward the future and what technology may bring us next. At least I do. The question I ask now is "Why?" Our track record has not been stellar with technology. Cell phones are causing brain tumors. The more connected people are, the more the government wants to control it. And all the other technological advents have had negative consequences. Will we learn to look ahead to the next generation before we ship it out the door, or will we always wait for the clean-up crew to fix our mistakes?
  • by dbrutus ( 71639 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @05:10AM (#1490415) Homepage
    Sorry, but not everybody is into the materialistic lifestyle. I believe that capitalism is a great human invention that makes it possible to sidestep the constant neo-malthusian cries of doom, doooooom that that ring throughout western academia and punditry.

    But materialism is not a necessary outflow of capitalism. I want to be able to assure good medical treatment if my family gets sick, I don't ever want to see my children hungry, but the 40" TV can stay in the store, thank you very much. Capitalism gives you the capacity to make the consequences of your moral choices be powerful. Materialism means that you are making stupid moral choices.

    I'm a believer in free trade because I think that people produce more than they consume when they don't have governments stealing most of the product of their labor. In the real world this has been the case (go ahead, post a real world case where I'm wrong, I dare you). Don't you have any compassion for the poor? Don't you want to let them live in dignity by their own labor instead of getting 1st world handouts with condoms a higher priority than antibiotics?

    NAFTA and the WTO have problems because of their slow pace, not because they are going too fast.

  • This may be the way it is in the US (though with so many of you going to church, it's hard to believe it.) In the UK, IMHO, it's very different. Personally, I get more and more pissed off every day with the anti-science techno-phobe hysteria that has infected otherwise intelligent people. People `believe` in the most absurd nonsense (alien abductions, ESP, astrology ... oh & feng shui was the craze last year). Apparently intelligent, well-informed people have recently informed me that (a) AIDS and hepatitus may be warded off by positive thinking (b) most disease is 'all in the mind', anyway (c) electricity cables give you cancer (this was really bothering a friend who smokes 20 a day and lives next to dbusy main road ... sheesh)

    Apart from that, which has always been with us, something new that's happened in the last ten years is that the Mad Scientist cliche has become a firm staple of public villainy. After BSE, mobile phones, thalidomide, PCBS etc etc (name your poison) people now seem to assume /by default/ that anyone involved in science of any sort is a malicious, evil capitalist plotting to enslave humanity & give us all cancer.

    Environmental movements are the worst of the lot. We are about to see the biggest and quickest phase-change in the global climate for millenia, it's human-caused, and we can still stop or mitigate it's worst effects. ANd what do Greenpeace get upset about ? Sinking oilrigs in the Atlantic, event though (a) they are virtually free of pollution and (b) far from disrupting the local ecosystems, they actuall y benefit it enormously.

    The idea of rational debate is a complete non-starter for these people.

    GMO crops is another excellent example. There are legitimate things to debate about them, and further research is needed, but simply connecting the word 'genetic' with food is enough to make most of the drooling middle-classes freak out. And organic farming !! Do any of the morons who happily pay 20% more for their "organic" food in my local supermarket KNOW that it poisons land far faster than normal chemical-enhanced practices ? No of course not. They make me sick.

    Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit smoking ;)


  • In the past couple of decades, anti-technology has become something of a trendy national political movement, especially among journalists, politicians, academics and other intellectuals.

    Huh?? Sez who?

    It would be more accurate to say that sweeping generalizations and fuzzy, unverifiable statments which sound a lot like facts but actually have no verfiable content at all have become something of a trendy journalistic style in recent decades.

    What on *Earth* is Katz talking about here?

    Can somebody say "straw man" ?

    Peole *love* technology and they always have. People have reservations about technology and they have always had reservations. It's quite proper to think carefullly about new inventions. To characterize this as "anti-technology" is stupid.

    To harbor some kind of fantasy that there are people out there who are "anti-technology" is likewise stupid. There are no such people. There is a range of opinion about all kinds of technology, and we should consider people's opinions on their merits, and not brush them all off as either "anti-technology" or "pro-technology". This is dumb.

    Come on, Katz. You can do a lot better than this.

  • In general, I agree with Katz's analysis of why the intelligentzia's anti-technology stance is ultimately doomed. However, to make his point, he may be getting to wrong conclusions from the survey's results. As he says:

    What's striking about the survey is that although Americans expect some problems to worsen, their overall outlook about the future remains optimistic.

    Or maybe they just don't think much about the issue, and just get enthusiastic - rapidly sweeping into near-hysterical herd mentality - when both the good and the bad are brought up.

    Here's how these pollings often go...

    Q: Do you think technology will improve our lives?

    (Subject very cheerful, thinking about all the great advances of the 20th century, presumably desiring to make "a good impression" on the poll)

    A: Yes! The 21st century will be wonderful! With robots and flying cars and all.

    Q: Do you think that {there'll be an epidemic|there'll be a terrorist attack|world hunger will agravate|the environment will go down the drain}?

    (Subject suddenly starts to think about all the crappy things that happened in the past, goes into hysteria mode)

    A: Yeah! I mean, the global warming... and the Muslims with the nukes... and those poor Ethiopians... and AIDS and Ebola... [et cetera, ad nauseam]

    See my point?

    Also, Katz displays an amazing amount of Americanocentrism. It's very strange that, times being what they are, a journalist discussing a theme of universal interest in an electronic medium with worldwide reach, takes as universal data that pertains only to about 4% of the world's population. This is a very strong and noticeable tendency in Katz's writing. So travel a bit, Jon.
  • If most Americans knew when it was. Sadly, we are doomed to a fate worse than death - continuous announcements by politicians and the media, heralding the year 2000 as the dawn of a new century and/or millenium.

    In reality, it's neither. Dates count from 1, not 0.

    Does this matter? Well, yes it does. Think of it this way. If people are willing to skimp on the most trivial, easy research, can you REALLY trust them to get their act together when it comes to something signficant?

    Apparently not. The so-called Y2K "bug" has been known about since the 60's. It's only been in the last 3-4 years that anyone bothered to lift a finger over, and only after having it repeatedly drummed into them.

    I would also question how much Americans (or anyone else) cares about technology. Be honest, here! If someone built a car that could do 200 miles to the gallon, would you buy it? Probably not. Gas is still so cheap in America, that nobody is going to care that such a car would help the environment, as well as posess some of the greatest technology invented.

    Fact is, nobody really cares about technology, per se. It's their bank balance that matters.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Internet is a hive of information and mis-information. People tend to believe things written on the Internet without a scepticism that may occur in other mediums ("Johnny said blah... so it must be true").

    As for Americans and information, the things I hear are either not true, or are worrying for Americans. Examples:

    • In certain states, they are not allowed to teach about evolution, but that the world exists due to God
    • In another state, they have appeased the religious fundamentalists by renaming 'evolution' to 'creationism'
    • I have seen many websites describing the evils of various television programs, e.g., teletubbies, pokemon
    • Apparently in certain states, the popular 'Harry Potter' series has been banned (in schools maybe?)
    I could go on, but you get the point. There is a fear of information, whether it is true or not, and the Internet is therefore a medium for spreading just the kind of information they want to protect their citizens from.

    I don't know about American law, but I believe you supposedly have a right to free speech, and have personal 'rights' (often without responsibility). In other countries, which I won't name, censorship is rife; governments filter out other countries' news sites (e.g., Why? They have a fear of information.

    Another hot issue (as typified here on Slashdot) is privacy and encryption. Firstly, Americans seem totally paranoid that they are constantly being spied upon / monitored by the NSA / Echelon / government. If this is really true, then surely your government won't want you to have access to the information that technology and the so-called information highway brings. Another: the old export laws. You may have many high-tech start-ups at the moment (Silicon Valley springs to mind), but tell me why the rest of the world (who *are* online, believe it or not) will next century want to use crippled encryption products. I believe the export laws have been increased from 40 bits to 56 bits. If this is true, then that only shows what your spies are capable of easily breaking. Security is becoming a major issue these days in e-commerce and Internet transactions, and the consumer needs to be protected. If the encryption the rest of us use can be trivially broken, then why should we have to use it? The fact is ... we won't, for much longer. Already projects like OpenBSD are starting to be developed outside America, due to your governments restrictive laws. I hear that the Scandinavia area in Europe is recently becoming a hot-house for high-tech products, including encryption devices and telephony products. If America wants to retain its status as a forerunner in technology, then it will have to make up its mind whether it wants to isolate itself from the rest of the world, or if it will allow people in other countries the freedom it grants its own citizens.

  • Watching the news coverage of the WTO protests in Seattle last night, I heard someone say that the WTO was letting the goal of maximizing commerce outweigh all other considerations such as environmental protection, child labor, working conditions, etc. It reminded me of something from Bladerunner:

    "Commerce... is our goal. More human than human our motto." -Dr. Eldon Tyrell

  • I'm a believer in free trade because I think that people produce more than they consume when they don't have governments stealing most of the product of their labor.

    If people are "producing more than they consume", then someone is stealing some of the product of their labour.

    As Karl Marx pointed out.

  • Take a look at what you're saying. There is little value in personal wealth, values, and inherent personality. What else is there in the world? Additionally, what do you mean when you say that community and society are degenerating? Technology has improved my communications skills, and opened up new communities for me - both online and IRL.

    Additionally, I'd be perfectly happy if my TV suddenly only had 20 channels instead of 75. It's the shows that make me happy - the one that excite me, entertain me, or inform me. I couldn't care less about the rest of them.

  • Katz refers to the intelligentia as being anti-technology because of its effect of dumbing-down; this is doubtless true.
    But it's also inevitable.
    Literacy and eloquence are prized because, up to relatively recently, they were the only way you could advance yourself. Today, the ability to quote Obi-wan Kenobi is at least as likely to prove beneficial as the ability to quote Shakespeare. This isn't true in all cases of course; but the most popular web site aren't ones that cite the references to Plutarch in Julius Caesar.
    The web is truly the medium of all media, with something for everyone. You may not like it, but it's possible to put together a hugely popular web site about Brad Pitt while being barely literate. It's possible to make a living off that web site if the ads on your site are effective.
    America is dumbed down. The world will soon follow. But I've come to the conclusion that this isn't a bad thing; there are always poeple who will read and who will innovate and who will imagine. Those people will make it possible for the great unwashed to create, but using high-level creation tools (so to speak).

    So why are people optimistic? Because however much people claim to have no interest in science, the rate of advancement is such that scarcely an issue of New Scientist comes out without the word 'breakthrough' in some story.
    Most Americans know or know of someone who has had their life saved by technology. The see no reason that this rate of advance shouldn't go on indefinitely. Just don't mention the phrase 'gray goo' to them.
  • by _J_ ( 30559 ) < minus physicist> on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @05:17AM (#1490425) Journal
    Looking at this essay, Katz seems to divide people into two groups - those who think (Intelligencia) and the rest of the population (Average Joes) while leaving out the techies(technocrats?:). So overall the focus seems to be all the people who have contact with the technology but do not have intimate knowledge of it.

    While I cannot necessarily explain why the Joes think the way they do, the Intelligencia have a perfectly normal reaction. They are used to being on top of their subject matter and believe they possess a clear understanding of how the universe works. Technology is something of a black box to most of them so that when someone uses it for "bad" purposes they blame the technology as much as the person. That is a perfectly normal reaction. I've seen many techies have similar reactions to the actions of politicos (or management for that matter).

    Ultimately, I think that Politicos (and the intelligencia and management types) should learn more about technology, just as techies should learn more about politics and management. Understanding these different processes can only help all of us.

    Ignorance is most dangerous in someone who thinks.

    IMHO, of course
  • > humanity's most enduring plagues and problems, from AIDS ...

    AIDS is hardly an "enduring plauge", it has only become a problem recently.

    Last night I read an article on the next centry in Time Magazine where the author of "The Hot Zone" suggested that increasing population, especially in the tropics, coupled with increasing global mobility of people will bring out new diseases, and make AIDS seem like the opening battle in a viral war.

    Sure Time Mag is dumbed down & the author is biased, but does that mean that they must be wrong? Maybe thay have a point.

  • when technology got the blame for creating nuclear weapons, napalm and other lethal killing devices

    I know I'm a bit off topic here, but napalm has been around for almost a thousand years. Except when it was made it was called "greek fire". A bit different, I know, but the same principle. Burning sticky stuff.

  • Somtimes I think the unibomber was right... Well, accept for all that blowing up people part. This professor I had as a freshman had a paper he wrote on the the unibombers manifesto, though it related more to environmental issues. You could see the current wave of technology similar to the industrial revolution. Instead of threats to physical world, now we are affecting the social world. There will always be nay sayers and monkey wrenchers, but maybe this time we could look at consequence _before_ it happens.

  • by Amphigory ( 2375 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @05:28AM (#1490429) Homepage
    First, technology has never been the "exclusive province of geeks, nerds, and engineers". New technology has tended to congregate around those groups, but only for as long as the groups took to refine it to the point that others can use it.

    Your definition of technology is too narrow. Why are computers technology, but an ox cart isn't? The obvious answer is that both are technology. One is a well understood, well developed, and frankly obsolete technology, and the other is a brand new, still immature technology.

    Also, implied in your article is the expectation that technology will somehow lead to a "brave new world" where we all ain't gonna study war no war.

    Permit me my cynicism.

    The same thing was thought when the horse harness was invented in the first millenia AD: it was much more efficient than the traditional yoke, and I remember reading a quote from an early churchman who thought that this would mean the end of hunger. He went on to pontificate (maybe literally: I think he was a pope at some point) that the increased efficiency of agriculture would lead to a world free of hunger. Since hunger was in his opinion a primary cause of war, this technological advance was expected to lead to the celestial kingdom, where lion would lay with lamb etc.

    I think my point is made: technology is not going to save us from ourselves.

    B.F. Skinner, when he wasn't busy training butterflies to flutter or something, made the observation that any of the great classical philosophers (Plato, Aristotle) were still admitted as current in all our philosophical coursework. That, in 2500 years, the human state had changed so little that Plato could still speak to us, that Socrates was still current for many. Both Plato and Aristotle had been proved wrong (or at least incomplete) in science, but not in the study of humanity.

    Skinner goes on to say that what is needed is a technology of the mind, which will form the nuclues of a new world order based in psychology. I can hardly agree with that: most attempts of this type have led to repression and misery.

    What solution do I offer? None, or at least none you'll accept. But I do think we need to recognize the fruitlessness of all technology based approaches to societal and human problems.

  • After reading the survey report, I find the pessimists are much more interesting...

    More than one-third of Americans say the U.S. will most likely be involved in a nuclear war within the next 50 years.

    Nearly one-third believe an asteroid will hit the Earth within the next 50 years.

    52% expect the average American will be hurt by the global economy.

    53% do not expect the U.S. to remain the world's lone superpower.

    67% believe that China will emerge as our global rival.

    41% forsee a nuclear war. 37% think the U.S. will be involved in it.

    69% say that the gap between rich and poor will widen.

    59% say the crime rate will climb in the next 50 years.

    60% see less affordable health care in the next 50 years.

    52% anticipate less honesty from political leaders.

    The future is so bright...


  • I think many of the anti-technologists are those who have a bit too much time on their hands.

    Think about it: in 1899, women had to bear many more children than now, no thanks to much higher infant mortality rates and the fact the average person in the developed countries (e.g., Europe and the USA) would be lucky to be able to live to 50 years old.

    The advances in medicine in the last 100 years has allowed people in the developed world to live at least 70 years or more. Dieseases that would have struck down people very quickly in the past are now treatable for the most part. Thanks to modern medicine, people with supposedly incurable diseases like cancer and AIDS actually now have a fighting chance to live quite a bit longer than previously thought possible.

    Also, modern technology has drastically reduced the drudgery of housework. Think about it: today, you can keep the inside of your home and your possessions far cleaner than it was possible 100 years ago, thanks to vacuum cleaners, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, air filtration systems, and air conditioners.

    Finally, what would our food supply situation be like without modern food storage technology? The development of modern canning methods, vacuum bottles, vacuum packaging and the use of plastic in storage materials has dramatically reduced food poisoning to the point that if there IS a food poisoning outbreak it's considered a very unusual event.

    In short, too many people just don't understand if we go back 100 years, you'll actually find out that living conditions were appalling poor by our modern standards.
  • I think that technology is OK stuff.

    I think that all that the internet and disintermediating technologies have done is show us a more accurate representation of what kinds of people and what kinds of hatred and disgust exist in the world.

    It's always existed -- hate and perversion and exploitation -- but it wasn't until recently that Technology allowed one to express that and cause change half-way across the world in a matter of moments.

    I think a little Utopianism mindset about technology is OK -- We're looking at nanotechnology in reality these days -- no more poverty, no more homeless, no more starvation, no more squabbling over oil. And I think for very many of us, it will happen in our lifetime.

    Hatred will still exist. Power will still exist. Perversion will still exist.

    But we'll also have the power to affect change. And eventually, I believe, when hatred and perversion are simply not necessary to enjoy ones' life -- altruism will win, if we all want it to.

    I think that enough of us do. Those who support freedom, and free speech, and care less about a paycheck and more about the possibilities of creation do.


  • "Geeks" latch on to new technology almost without hesitation. We are attracted to the novel sensations of playing with new gizmos or new algorithms.

    Well the European geeks I know are more technology-critical than most american geeks. For us is no contradiction to be a technophile and to be critical.
    A typical point are the genetically modified foods you mention. Many geeks here like good (=cooked, not engineered, from fresh ingredients) food. Some of them are quite good cooks - as many creative persons.

  • Hmm - and people insist on taking things absolutely literally too.

    I'm sure you would be perfectly happy, millions wouldn't.

    Technology has improved *your* communications skills, you are one of the blessed few that have access to good education and technology and chooses to use it in a constructive way, millions don't.

    It's all to easy to take your stance on the world, and automatically assume that it is the same for everyone else. It isn't. Just like only the top (misnomer in itself) 3% of the western worlds population have an education past high school available to them, and even then only if you can afford it.

    Step back a second, the world isn't rosy, and to answer your question, if you don't have personal wealth and values all there is is other peoples, and that isn't a very healthy situation to be in.

    We are the lucky ones, and it's an american falacy to suppose it is available to everyone because it simply isn't.
  • I can't help but sigh at Katz going off the deep end again. I do like his stuff, but he has that modern Journalist's disease - that whatever he is writing about is OH MY GOD the most vital, important, incredibly inciteful idea since the invention of fire. Jon, just calm down a little - this is nothing new, nothing glorious, nothing earth-shattering. Haven't you noticed by now that NOTHING turns out to be?

    Anyway, the survey that prompted this sounds like more random crap - totally meaningless.

    People expect a big earthquake in CA? DUH!

    A big terrorist incident in the US sometime in the next ** 50 years **? DUH (Though, in 50 years we could have two more world wars, another regional one or two, and change every friggin' political boundary on the planet. Geez, C'mon - 50 years? Isn't that a little much? Terrorism itself could go the way of the Dodo in 50 years.)

    People are hopeful in the US for 2000? DUH! We have single digit unemployment, the economy is going strong, a world economic meltdown was avoided, crime is down, drug use is down, violence is down. Gee, NO, I guess I'm depressed.

    Katz, you should know better than to listen to the mindless prattle of surveys that ask things so moronic that a four-year old could predict the results.

  • "The first time the English introduced the longbow during the Hundred Year War, the English knights were outraged that commoners would strike the first blow in battle. Then, as time goes on, they realise it's a really useful technology, and acceptance spreads."

    The acceptance was probably made easier because there were now fewer knights, and the armed commoners greatly outnumbered them. Not that anyone would argue with a properly armored knight.

    Incidentally, the new "Timeline" book is a sci fi look at the past which also shows a little of how much we've forgotten. It's just a flying horse...move along, nothing to see here...

  • >Significant numbers expect a major earthquake in >California, foresee increased global warming and >predict a severe energy crisis by the middle of >the 21st century.

    So what are they doing about it?

    There are two issues here; firstly that the US population are living an unsustainable lifestyle that is destroying the planet's ability to support life; and secondly, that what benefits the US may not benefit other countries.

    It is generally agreed that the best way to stop global warming is to lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; unless we do, we could see the end of the rainforests []. Yet the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases is dragging its heels over constructive action because it would damage US industry.

    The overall mean surface temperature is predicted to rise by 3 degrees C over the next century; this would mean an environmental preservation bill totalling trillions of dollars, not to mention the partial destruction of low-lying countries like Egypt and the Netherlands and cities like Manhattan.

    If, as New Scientist [] reports this week, global warming 'turns off' the North Atlantic Drift, the mean temperatures in Europe are going to start resembling those in Siberia; which will mean the productivity and fertility of Europe will be badly hit. As a Briton, I'm not exactly thrilled by this possibility!

    If the economy of a country is ruined by global warming, it seems only reasonable to press for compensation on the world stage; which means that the largest producers of greenhouse gases and consumers of energy will be making the largest payout.

    Compare energy usage among the following five countries;

    Electricity consumption per capita

    US 13477 kWh
    Japan 7523 kWh
    France 6966 kWh
    UK 5525 kWh
    Russia 5397 kWh
    (Source: CIA)

    It should be pretty obvious that the US is producing rather more than its fair share of carbon dioxide. I'm not pretending that the US is the only overconsumer; but the US consumes a *lot* more than it should - and this isn't sustainable in the long term []

    >...their overall outlook about the future
    >remains optimistic. And technology is the reason.

    Technology can be used to provide incalculable benefits; true; the whole of humanity benefits from increased knowledge in fields like medicine and meteorology; but can technology save us from the faulty assumption that we can go on consuming ever-greater amounts of non-renewable natural resources in the hope that we will develop a technofix that will solve the problem.

    Necessity is the mother of invention, but there are limits to what you can do. Our entire world runs on a base of non-renewable resources; and we have no workable plans to provide a substitute as yet. It is Panglossian to insist that there's a bright new future up ahead when we've consumed half of the world's estimated reserves of natural resources since World War I and have no real contingency plans in place.

    I write this on a machine made from processed oil and silicon and metals; it runs using power generated from burning fossil fuels and the metals were dug out of the ground using fossil fuels. I'm one of the privileged few who can do this. But is it really justifiable to produce more and more computers and assorted gadgetry if we are using scarce resources [] but aren't adding to the sum assets of humanity by doing so?

    Is technology only to be used to bolster the lifestyle of the few who are already rich; or should the free exchange of information be made the platform for building a better life for everyone; a democratic, open and sustainable way of life?

    Gideon Hallett

  • Be honest, here! If someone built a car that could do 200 miles to the gallon, would you buy it? Probably not. Gas is still so cheap in America, that nobody is going to care that such a car would help the environment, as well as posess some of the greatest technology invented.

    I find it interesting that gas prices caused a great reduction in the size and weight of cars in the late 70's and 80's. Then as gas prices lowered and the new technology allowed more fuel efficient and powerful engines, the cars have once again grown large.

    Were it not for technology, I don't think we would have this rash of SUVs. Gawd, I hate those things. cheers sand


  • If, as New Scientist reports this week, global warming 'turns off' the North Atlantic Drift

    If it didn't turn off when the Vikings were able to grow crops in Greenland, why would a considerably smaller warming effect turn it off now?

  • Katz does have a tendancy to sometimes gloss over the information he uses. The Internet only makes this worse. However, don't get too worked up about encryption export laws or whether evolution is taught in schools in this country. People here have always been a mixture of paranoid and pious. It comes from a frontier mentality carried on by too many westerns on TV. Americans are good for screaming NIMBY, NINA, God/prayer in classrooms, No New Taxes, "there oughtta be a law", Serperate but Equal, Big Brother, and NRA-- Free Guns! A vocal minority always go extreme on issues and no two activists can agree on the same thing. Both can be tree huggers but one may be anti guns while the other is ProChoice. If things were really as bad it it is made out by the media, someone would have pulled a U-haul full of Kerosene and fertilizer to the capital. The schools are bad here, I do admit. Between fights over protect our children and God in school, 2/5 of all buildings need repair, most classrooms are over crowded, teachers are under trained or under paid. Teaching creationism and putting the 10 commandments isn't going to make little Johnny Rebel ready for Electrical Engineering or CompSci, but it does make him the most pious and the revivalist tractor pull. Here it is the lack of national standards in education that are to blame, but the US constitution left education up to the states. The Internet will not be a cure all for society's woes. Until everyone hads equal access to it and a decent education, things will be bad between rich and poor. Ever notice how some people are using religeon in schools to hide bad parenting, poor discipline, under unfunding and reckless youth? Religeon is the opiate of the masses. It helps the thief for you to cry wolf while he is steraling your sheep. Americans will always be a land of wanting government to fix things without raising their taxes or cutting off Monday Night Football.
  • At least for a while the US will have a huge advantage in the world economy because of technology.

    The Internet seems to be the focus of the greatest growth in the new worldwide economy. The US has a huge advantage in this new Internet economy.

    First of all, the default language of communication across the world is currently english. The US gets a huge advantage here English is the default American language.

    Secondly, the US was the birthplace of the Internet and still is a dominant force in the control of the Internet. Most registrars are US based, and NSI is still the main control point for registration -- and it's US based. Most task forces seem international, but US dominated.

    Thirdly, the Internet is still very anarchic. The US is still one of the places in the world most free from government interference. The growth of the Internet, like most new technologies (from the printing press to the VCR) will at first be boosted by borderline legal and unwholesome (Porn, MP3...) uses.

    But the US does have reasons to worry. Just as traditional companies have moved some operations overseas for cheaper labour, Internet-only companies might move much of their operations outside the borders. Certain countries have even friendlier laws and fewer taxes.

  • In the past couple of decades, anti-technology has become something of a trendy national political movement, especially among journalists, politicians, academics and other intellectuals.
    That's because it threatens them. "Any technology, no matter how primitive, is magic to those who don't understand it." - Florence Ambrose, Freefall [].

    To a large extent this can be traced to our schools and universities. While it is almost impossible to get a 4-year degree without taking a number of literature classes, there are scores of college graduates who have not had a math class since high-school algebra. Chemistry? Get real. Physics? Forget it. These people have only the sketchiest understanding of how the gadgets that run their world - and on which they depend - actually work. What they do not understand, they are often helpless to affect. And they fear this.

    Technophobic writing and demagoguery is usually full of examples of scientific cluelessness. To the extent that the audience for these things is no better informed, the errors go uncorrected or even multiply. We wind up with a situation of the blind leading the blind.

    I am of the opinion that our schools and universities are largely responsible for this. A person should not be considered worthy of a high-school diploma if they have not mastered algebra and chemistry and biology. Science classwork should be a requirement for all degree programs in universities, including literature and arts. When the future of our society depends on being able to understand and manage these things, there is no excuse for our educational system allowing people to slip through without having a firm grasp of the fundamentals, at the very least.

    This is especially true of the communications specialists, journalists and politicians. No PolySci grad should be able to get into the field without knowing *why* CFC's are bad (chemistry) and the reason we do not want to use antibiotics and antibacterials when not required (evolution). No journalism major should get out without knowing the difference between radioactivity and radiation, or a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour. No person should graduate high school without knowing something about ROI and the unsustainability of Ponzi schemes (which is why we're having such a hard time reforming Social Security).

    In a dumbing-down world, smartening up the populace isn't going to be easy. But we have to, because it's essential to our future.
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  • by Rabbins ( 70965 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @05:56AM (#1490444)
    Well I certainly disagree.

    You are not going to see a huge stock market collapse of any sort. Certainly, there are a few industry's that are way over-valued... and to my dismay, they are still climbing. But we are actually going through right now, what a lot of people call a Stealth Bear Market Sure the S & P 500, the Dow and the Nasdaq are at all time highs right now... but this is only because of a small, eclectic group of stocks have enjoyed an incredible bull market. In the meantime, a majority of the high flying blue chips have really been crashing. Buy breaking it down... leads to a suprising find, which I will illustrate for you:

    For year 1999:

    61% of stocks have declined by 20% or more
    34% have dropped by 30% or more

    83% of stocks have eroded by 20% or more
    63% have declined in excess of 30%

    This would seem to imply something very different from what the surface tells us.

    I agree that there will be a time when many of the bubbles formed (these are bubbles, there is no arguing that) will burst. It happened in 1972... remember the "Nifty 50"? This group of stocks (mainly consisting of tech stocks) lead the market to incredible highs... but in 1972, their incredible valuations were finally realized and the market stagnated for an entire decade. Well, things really were not that bad... because the market is not composed entirely of tech in reality. While tech stocks floundered, other industries flourished and there was still a lot of money to be made. Lesson learned: Do not buy at crazy valuation levels. Lesson for now: Do not buy at crazy valuation levels.

    So the market is not as high as you think it is.

    Some valuations are what I would call artificially high as well. Many of the larger companies out there have gone WAY over-budget in becoming Y2K compliant (this does not merely involve preparing software and the like, but in prepearing people and services for whatever might happen). Well, this is an expense, and that figures into their profits. But, this is a true case of a one-time expense if I have ever seen it, and we will find many valuations come down to a more reasonable level.

    Also, people are not going to stop putting money into company sponsered profit sharing plans, 401k's and 403b's. They might stop their fooling around on E-Trade however.

    We may see a recession soon... I am sure we will see one in the future. But another depression? That is far more unlikely (though certainly possible).

    If anyone wants some help in figuring some of this out... go ahead and email me.

  • I don't agree with you that America is dumed down at all. What are you comparing it to? The Renaissance? Victorian Brittan?

    My take is that as each day more "stuff" (knowledge, news, stats, etc) is released into humanity and that the sheer amount of that "stuff" seems so overwelming that we can't help but think that since there's all this that one doesn't know, how can we be as smart as the Ancients? That's a bit too nostalgic for me. Most people in the renaissance were average Joes that didn't know much more than tiling their farmland or being a seamstress or what have you. Has this changed? I don't think it has.
  • by Enoch Root ( 57473 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @05:59AM (#1490446)
    An interesting addendum to the story of the longbow... After the English beat the French senseless at Poitiers, the French decided to implement the longbow as well. Unfortunately, they didn't consider the impact carefully: the English had founded new orders of chivalry to keep the nobles relatively happy, but the French did not.

    The result was, when the French started using longbowmen, the noble knights got fed up at seeing commoners lead the battle, and cut through their ranks with swords and massacred their own archers. When they finished with the slaughter, they charged the English, only to be decimated in turn by the English arrows.

    If you ever go to England, you'll notice that "The Finger" is given with two fingers, not one. This is attributed to the French archers, whose two fingers the English would cut to prevent them from firing a bow. The French would give the English these two fingers to show they still had them and could fire a bow. And thus the gesture caught on in England.

    History is full of fascinating stuff. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If people are "producing more than they consume", then someone is stealing some of the product of their labour. As Karl Marx pointed out. Wrong. If people are producing more than they consume, then the surplus product of their labor goes somewhere. It could also be invested, with an eye to producing more, and being able to consume more, in the future. If I make $100 mowing lawns by hand (slow), I could spend the $100 on consumption. I can also spend only $90, save $10 a month and one day buy a lawn mower which will let me make $200 a month.
  • I suspect that around 80% of American adults can drive cars. I can't.

    I'd feel a whole lot happier if the *shit* that passes for public transportation in this country had a little more effect on the minds and hearts of Americans, but I ain't holding my breath.

    Then, there's the "real-estate" industry. People don't buy houses in this country for living quarters; they buy them to make a profit. When does that stop, and what happens when it does?

    If some of this changed, maybe I'd feel a little better about the future.
  • 1st: 21 century, i couldn't agree more. Marketing has latched onto the completely wrong assumption that 1999-2000 is the change. Most people are sheep and I think that's a global problem.

    2nd: 200 miles per gallon. It'd sell every last unit. We may pay a lot less for gasoline here than elsewhere in the world, but we don't think it's cheap. Instead of filling up my tank every 2 weeks, I'd only have to fill it up every 4-5 months. Even a 'tard could do the math on that one.

    3rd: Bank balance. It's europe that hoards their money in banks, over here it gets spent and then most people spend some more. The world's economy is propped up on credit card debt. When it runs out, that's the collapse that'll crush us all.
  • The ecological 60s/70s were anti-tech.
    The Reagan 80s/Tech 90s were more pro-tech.
    Probably each generation has to look at both
    sides at least once in its cycle.
  • The US may well have the highest use of energy per capita, but the most crucial fact is that we are the world's most efficient producers of "stuff" per kilowatt hr. Avoiding the entire discussion of whether we need stuff or not, I think it is clear that the global desire for more "stuff" is only going to increase. Thus, such environmental treaties as the Kyoto accord are incredibly harmful, as by limiting first world energy usage, production would be moved to higher polluting third world factories.

  • Since the Internet is inherently global, I think you should assume that anyone visiting your website for example, can be of any nationality. Slashdot doesn't try to cater to everyone who visits, and I think this is good, but even if I'm not interested in some strange niche subject an article is about, it's possible that I would have been, or it's possible that I might become interested, maybe from reading the article. However, nationality is not the same as interest, and even if I wanted to become American, it's possible that I wouldn't be allowed to.

    While I think it's reasonable that an article can be about America, I don't think it's reasonable that an article should be directed towards Americans, this is in a way discrimination. This article tries to answer the question "What will happen in the future, with all these strange technology trends going on?", in a sort of fuzzy, we-are-all-a-big-family way, but the domain of the question is only limited to America! Sure, the information is interesting, but these types of articles always leave me with the feeling that the well-being of Americans is more important to Slashdot than the well-being of other people, which is not a very nice feeling.

    I think a good comparison is if you're having a conversation with a group of people, all normal, except one, who doesn't have any legs. Now, when you pick a topic of conversation, it's not very nice to talk about something which inherently excludes this individual, playing soccer for example. And even if you do talk about soccer, it's common courtesy to try to find some aspect which includes the one with no legs, talking about famous games for example, instead of how good it feels to actually play. While being of a different nationality is in no way a disability, the mechanics work in a similar way.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that it would be nice if Slashdot (and all Americans), would consider that there exists people who are not American, but who are still as important as Americans. Jon Katz may not write this way intentionally, he seems to have worked as a writer concerned with fundamentally American human values, so this may just be his natural way of describing things, but sometimes I still find it slightly offensive. I would have appreciated at least a mention in the article about how technology might affect other countries, especially the very poor ones, and not just the note about American people being afraid of terrorist attacks.
  • IIRC, England stuck with the longbow for too long and eventually lost France. The longbow was a MUCH more accurate/deadly weapon than early gunpowder weapons, but it took a lot of training, plus you had to expose yourself to use it.

    ..yes, "The Finger" in England is normally given with two fingers, but we both understand and use the single digit form. In England, the direction the hand is facing is important when giving the two finger form, if your palm faces the target then you are merely giving the Churchillian victory symbol.

    Who started the practice of cutting off fingers in the Anglo French wars is also open to debate.
  • If people are "producing more than they consume", then someone is stealing some of the product of their labour.
    ... Or they're investing their work-product instead of consuming it.

    Productivity isn't just an individual attribute, it also applies to machines and enterprises. For instance, a worker with a file can shape metal. Slowly. A worker with a lathe can shape metal many times faster. The owner of the lathe, the "capitalist" who invested in it, is responsible for some fraction of the increased production; it is not "stolen", it is rightfully the owner's.

    On the enterprise level, metal precisely shaped to form objects nobody needs is worthless. The collective intelligence of the enterprise which can decide what metal to shape how to make which products determines the value of its output. This value rightfully accrues to the owners of the enterprise; because they made the value.

    Just had to spend a few minutes picking Marx apart (Marx isn't worth any more, too easy a target).
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  • Has anybody noticed that the advancement of technology is accelerating? We invent tools not just toward the improvement of our lives, but toward the creation of more tools. The computer falls under both of these categories. As the computer becomes more powerful, and our research, design, and manufacturing processes evolve and become more potent, technological advancements come in larger leaps and in greater frequency.

    Every year, computers become more embedded into this process, and we rely on them more and more to automate tasks and enhance capabilities. The overall process is essentially self-improving. As it gains power and knowledge, it can improve in greater leaps and bounds. We, along with our computers and our other tools, are driving this advancement.

    Centuries ago, little planning was done on projects, because the technology was not available. A drawing of the final product was created by an artist, and then it was built by a contractor. Getting the item to work was a matter of trial and error and previous experience. Many projects were flawed or failed completely because they just couldn't work. (Programmers - does this sound familiar?)

    We learned a lot from these mistakes, and modern science and design practices were created as a result to avoid the same mistakes in the future. It was a painful process that took centuries to get to its current state.

    This century, a designer would draw up a plan on paper and create models from hand. All calculations behind this design were done with paper and pencil. The designer was fully familiar with the tools of math and physics available. Once the plan was complete, it was a rather simple process to put together the final product without surprises, and it worked. Mass-production of products in factories is a rather recent development.

    Just within ust the past few decades, computers have drastically changed the design process. Corporate designers can now create a design with a CAD tool, send a command, and the machine builds a real, physical, sometimes even working, model. They don't need to know as much about physics, because the computer handles that data. They are free to create more complex and imaginitive designs with little worry about whether the design will work or not, because the computer can test this, too. Once the design is complete and tested, the factory is retooled, and it can be sent to the factory floor for mass production.

    Imagine the day in the not-too-far future when we can ask an even more advanced system to give us something, and it pops out of a slot? We just tell the computer what we want the item to do and what it should look like. The computer would display a simulation of the item that we could test and modify. Once satisfied, it would go ahead and construct it.

    As for the future -- prepare for a bumpy ride. This isn't going to be easy...

  • If people are "producing more than they consume", then someone is stealing some of the product of their labour.

    Bzzzzt. Such things as savings + investment on the one hand, and waste + disasters on the other hand have clearly never entered your mind.

    As Karl Marx pointed out.

    Hasn't Karl Marx been proven wrong so many times it's not even funny?

  • It is never a good day to quit smoking, is it?

    How do you draw the conclusion that we are due a huge, reversable climate change? At the moment, our best brains seem to be saying that the observed warming is due to the fact we're not quite out of the Ice age yet.
  • You are not going to see a huge stock market collapse of any sort. Certainly, there are a few industry's that are way over-valued... and to my dismay, they are still climbing. But we are actually going through right now, what a lot of people call a Stealth Bear Market Sure the S & P 500, the Dow and the Nasdaq are at all time highs right now... but this is only because of a small, eclectic group of stocks have enjoyed an incredible bull market. In the meantime, a majority of the high flying blue chips have really been crashing. Buy breaking it down... leads to a suprising find, which I will illustrate for you:

    Not qoute the entire post, but I am responding to it all, not just the qouted part:

    You are forgetting that one of the most powerful forces driving the economy is public opinion. It doesn't matter what the actual performance of the market is if you have 100 million people that think it's doing great and are dumping tons of money into stocks that are hopelessly over value dand due for a big downturn. When this happens the e-trade jockeys will be slapped with a reality check the likes of which they've never known, this will lead to a massive pull out of the stock market. A huge glut of people trying to sell off stocks with very few people buying them. This leads to those stocks being devalued further, fueling the panic. This will suppress the market and devalue related stocks in all industries across the board.

    You have to realize that there is unprecedented number of clueless idiots investing in the market similar to the 1920s, only on a larger scale, when these people get burned on a massive scale it's going to cause a lot of problems. The paralels between 1929 and 1999 are pointing towards economic problems over the next 5 years. The fact that there hasn't REALLY been a major downturn in the market for almost 30 years is going to make it that much worse.


    PS. Screw E-mail. A good discussion deserves to be seen by all! >:)
  • While I agree insofar as materialism is the result of questionable moral choices, I've never felt that capitolism is an ideal means to manage scarce resources. And medicine is an excellent field in which to discuss this.

    Antibiotics and HMOs. People are dying for the profits of others (kidney patients are more likely to stay on dialasis until they turn yellow and die than get a tranplant under HMOs. 20% more than not.) under a fairly well controlled capitolism.

    Antibiotics are prescribed to patients who won't complete the cycle, breeding hardier germs. Anyone remember the TB upswing? And now, to push their products, dishsoap, "fresh" scent sprays, ever children's toys are being made antibacterial, which has the same effect, only moreso.

    Which is not to mention the (I feel) natural push towards monopoly and the results that has for everyone. If nothing else, capitolism leads naturally to mediocre software. Compare Windows to Linux. One was produced by market pressure and voting with dollars. From the theory, you'd guess it was Linux.

    I don't propone Socialism; people may be dumb, but a single person tends to be evil. I'd rather have herds of blind self-service than centralized enlightened self-service. I stil wonder about whether an alternative economic system would be possible...

  • All I've been hearing throughout the emergence of the so-called "information age" is how much technology will improve the lives of everyone around the world. Whether you worship at the Altar of the Internet or the Temple of the Dow Jones or the Congregation of the Cellular Phone or the Assembly of the Palm V, they're all just setting up another false god (or pantheon of false gods) to which you can pledge your devotion and worship.

    But should these idols be the objects of our devotion as the supreme notion of truth, or should they merely aid us on our quest for Truth?

    Many of those who are anti-technology are really only against the misuse of technology, and are opposed to the artificial exalted state to which technology and science are often lifted.

    In the end, it all boils down to faith. The techno-optimists put their faith in science and technology. Others put their faith in human nature, or government, or socialism, or capitalism, or environmentalism, or any other -ism under the sun. Next time you jump to deride and condemn a Christian for their faith, stop and think about where you place your faith. And then challenge yourself to examine why they put their faith in the Creator instead of the created.
  • Thanks, JonKatz. You've reflected in your article a point of view that I've held for a while, but seems to be in the minority.

    It's long been my firm belief that the world is becoming a better place -- overall. I've never bought into any of the myraid "doom-and-gloom" scenarios presented my many people. Technology is, of course, no magic bullet, but it is an incredibly useful tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or evil, but there are more than enough "good" people around to balance the "evil" being done.

    One of the few things that makes me truly sad is that someday, I will die and no longer be able to witness the incredible progress of Homo sapiens.


  • Technology is really a double-edged sword in that can usually be deployed for both good and bad. Case in point the genetic engineering. On the good side it will probably be used to create new treatments for all sorts of, presently, uncurrable diseases. On the bad side it can be used to create or enhance new forms of viruses and bacteria for use in germ warfare. And of course there is a very large shade of varying grey between the two extremes.

    I think having a healthy fear of technology is actually a positive thing. Because it makes you step back and look at what the technology is being devised for, its applications and the consequences of its use. More or less you have to come to respect it so that when it comes to humans actually using the technology then they are aware of the risks and can take proper steps to lessen them.

    However fear based on ignorance, rumour, speculation or because it is politically correct to be afraid of a technology is definitly not a good thing.

    Another case in point comes from the UK, where I live. A couple of months ago there was a huge knee gerk reaction to genetically modified food. The foundation for this was the confirmation that a professor's results that a particular strain of genetically modified tomato might cause a slight supression in the bodies immune system. (I am sighting this from what I remeber so may not be quite accurate). As this was a great story for the media to pick up on it allowed for the creation of a mass hysteria that all genetically modified food is evil and should be removed from the face of the Earth. Some of the results of this have been a large number of test crops of genetically modified food have been destroyed either from protestors, peer pressure from farmers. A common arguement being used is that the genetically modified substances could cause irreversible damage to the natural enviorment - hmm never mind the that we are constantly using mass tonnes of chemicals to make are food look good. Several large supermarket chains have removed all products with any G.M. ingredients in them. There is a barage of legislation being prepared against G.M. foods. This has not been contained to G.M. foods but really to any application of genetic engineering research within the UK. In short the progress of genetic research and its possible applications has been set back god knows how many years. Also it should be notied that any logically sound arguement for genetic engineering has to be shown as if it were the devils own words.

    So in respect I think a respect for technology is a good thing. But unfounded or over-hyped paranoia against will usually result in a witch-hunt that will only set us back as a species when need to be moving forward.
  • However, don't get too worked up about encryption export laws or whether evolution is taught in schools in this country. People here have always been a mixture of paranoid and pious.

    Don't get worked up? Whyever not? People have a NIMBY attitude, all the while the schools are in disrepair and failing miserably, racism is resurfacing in new guises, Big Brother uses heavy-handed tactics to "protect us from ourselves", and The Almighty Buck reigns supreme. 'Twas ever thus, sure, but that's no reason to be complacent. Hell yes I'll get worked up, because if no one does it'll never change.

    True, things are still better here than in many other places, and it's not so bad yet that people are firebombing the congressional chambers... but that doesn't mean that things are just swell and we should thank our leaders for the fine job they've done. They have not done fine, and they need to be pushed to do better. Or get the hell out of office and turn the job over to someone who can.
  • Productivity isn't just an individual attribute, it also applies to machines and enterprises.

    This is the fundamental problem. If your only concern is productivity, then sure, this is the case. I and I suspect many other people happen to think that the worker is more than a mere creator of value, because they're human.
  • by MagusOceanus ( 61084 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @07:00AM (#1490480)
    Real reason for future-bashing as an artsy intellectual.

    1. We generally grow up alienated from society and peers, they reject us when we have our heads stuffed in books planning our own private idea of utopia at odds with the life everyone else might want..."for their own good".

    2. In college this attitude is rewarded and encouraged.

    3. In the real world the Humanities degree, liberal arts, or philosphy not paired with any technology prowess means underpaid shit jobs in starbucks or art supply retail stores. The humilated indignance of being left behind having the brilliant mind and being left behind as a cheif with no Indians, to serve frappachinos to people that have read only a fraction of what you read but walk about like kings and drive nice sport utilities because they know computers...well, it's a major blow to the ego at every level.

    4. It is only then that out of sheer vanity one considers oneself the champion of the working man left behind in todays world. Those left behind by technology. Forgotten labor and farmers that could care less for the stilted advocacy and would if they could rather give you a wedgie and fart cheese whiz into your face than listen to you; but you are the only one coming to help them and ineffectual help is still something not turned away easily. So as the intellectual you push the anti free-trade, technology, and progress issues that left these blue collar people behind and pat yourself on the back that as the people's poet you are a hero in your "other life" away from foaming milk or scooping fries.

    5. You enter graduate school on a shoestring, write about how it's all still awful making it your doctoral thesis. Photograph some homeless people peeing if you are an art major in a stark industrail setting and work your way from graduate assistant to professorship.

    6. As professor you encourage students just as alienated, arrogant, and theatrical as you are to do the same...thus the cycle continues ad-infinitum.

    Nobody listens to such intellectual until the point to when there is a total breakdown of trust between average people and society that they can exploit to become a new establishment (that is seldom much better than the old one). It is easy to criticise another society, it is hard to engineer a new one that doesn't have just as many gaping holes and cracks to fall through.

    I have abandoned intelligencia, I think the future will be good and bad, it will always be good and bad. People still have to help each other and try to minimize the number of people hurt by transitions in society but progress cannot and should not be curtailed in that endeavor because to do so is to impose on the personal and economic freedom of average people. I now paint like Norman Rockwell, listen to soulful house music, and refuse to read anything depressing.


    PS-flames by intellectuals who have not come around to realizing this I have an answer for now so I won't have to post later...."I feel your pain" 'nuff said.
  • A worker with a lathe can shape metal many times faster. The owner of the lathe, the "capitalist" who invested in it, is responsible for some fraction of the increased production; it is not "stolen", it is rightfully the owner's.

    Capital is productive, but "ownership" is not a productive activity. The owner has not produced anything. "Stolen" is obviously a word which only makes sense in the context of a system of laws, but it seems clear to me that some of the value produced by the interaction of labour and capital has been legally expropriated by someone not involved in the production process.

    It so happens that this is the best and fairest way to get goods produced, but we shouldn't let that trick us into saying things about production that aren't true.

    A lot of people make this same mistake when they claim that the GPL is restrictive because "It restricts what you can do with your code". This only makes sense if you consider "declaring this code to be proprietary" to be "doing something with the code", which it isn't, not if you stop to think about it.

    Marx's politics were full of holes. His economics is susceptible of full axiomatisation, and stands up mathematically. Which is certainly more than you can say for Austrian economics.

  • If people are "producing more than they consume", then someone is stealing some of the product of their labour.
    Huh? It's easy to produce more than you consume under reasonable conditions. For example: beans, rice, and greens have almost all nutrients. In a rice-growing climate one family can grow many acres, much more than they need. So who's stealing?

    They're just creating wealth. This is not a zero-sum game where one person must lose if another gains. You're not sharing your great-grandfather's log cabin with all of his descendants, are you? Wealth can be created.

    Actually, here in Minnesota it's awkward getting enough water to grow rice. But I can grow a larger amount of beans and trade with someone in a rice-growing area who is doing the reverse. Or I can sell the extra beans here in exchange for the value token called "money" and send some an acceptable amount of the value token to the rice farmer in exchange for the rice.

  • Oh brother (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 11:31 AM December 1st, 1999 EST (#96)

    Not even close. The majority of the U.S. economic growth is caused by SMALL businesses, not major corporations.

    Stick to "tech" (let me guess, you're getting a DeVry degree).


    Economic Growth is not the same as stock market growth, nor is it equal to the actual value of the goods and services produced. Just because you are fueling economic growth via small business does not mean that you control any portion of the economy. A staggering number of small businesses FAIL. But you don't see the economy burping on that, but if Proctor and Gambel went under the market would choke and the economy would falter. Growth is caused by a proliferation of small startups, recession is caused by the large 'power players' in the economy. And once the economy falters it is much harder to start a small business, which slows economic growth, which contributes to further recession.

    Oh, and I'm not getting a degree at the moment, I'm working full time supporting 150+ users, so there.

    Hi stupid, pleased to meet you, I'm Kintanon.
  • he'd find that:

    1) Kids think they'll be worse off than their parents (55% vs. 38%)

    2) A majority (42%) thought immigration would prove to be a "major threat" "to our country's future well-being" (38% saw it as a "minor threat")

    3) The crime rate will be higher (68%)

    4) The gap between rich and poor will grow (69%)

    5) The global economy will hurt average americans (52% v. 43%)

    Hmm ... (see the survey results [] for yourself)

  • 1) If you look at the statistics, the big sellofs in the markets tend to be the professional traders. The small investors are much more in a buy and hold mentality, probably because most of their equity wealth is in retirement funds. Small investors hold, realizing that historically over a 5 or 10 year timeline, there is no better investment than equities. 2) Small investors are not borrowing to invest in the stock market in anywhere near the numbers that they were in the 20's. This means that they are not likely to lose more than their initial investment. In the 20's, people were buying items that they didn't understand with 10% down. They were then on the hook for 10 times their initial investment when it failed. 3) The egreigous cases of stock manipulation common in the 20's are not as common due to the regulatory influences of the SEC and the FASB.

    Professional investors understand what they are doing and how the market will react to things. Armchair stock brokers don't. And they will panic for precisely the reason you state, they are relying on the market in some fashion for their retirement. Our culture has ceased to save money and begun to believe that they can't lose because the market will always go up. You can't honestly believe that if 50% of the people who are cluelessly investing sell of their stock all at once it won't make the market sag. The problem is that ANY kind of market sag is going to cause panic because of the market being propped up for so long. There have been checks placed on the market to prevent a crash, but if someone goes to sell their stocks and finds out they can't because the market has gone down too much they are going to panic worse. The same as if you tell them they can't withdraw their money from the bank because too many people have already done so.
    The human element of mob panic is becoming a larger and larger factor in the market. As an example take a look at a stock called VONE over the last 4 days. It went from 2.5 to 13 in 1 day, then back down to 7 the next day. The rise was based on a press release about a product they were actually producing, the drop was based on someones opinion that was posted in an article on the web warning people against giving in to the hype.

    The masses blindly follow places like the Motley fool and Bloombergs. Whatever gets recommended there gets bought up en masse by the armchair e-traders, then dumped when a warning against jumping on the bandwagon comes out. Hence economists are creating self fulfilling prophecies that are fueling mass investing by unqualified individuals and creating unreliable fluctuation in stock prices.

  • Aye. Influenza, dysentery or even cholera would be better choices as pandemic-of-the-week than AIDS. They're both *far* easier to spread, and can punish a densely populated area very quickly...
  • *chuckle*

    Your sig is particularly apt in this case. The single largest polluter in the US... is... the Federal Government. Seriously.

    It's mostly exempt from its own laws, and tends to play with LOTS of strange toxic chemicals for R&D...
  • Sounds Malthusian.

    Note, however, there are limiting factors.

    * There's only so much food a single person can eat. For many, this limit isn't particularly high.

    * In addition, we can only breed so quickly, even w/ fertility drugs, which are unlikely to be distributed on a widespread basis for the purposes of maximizing food consumption...

    The average chap now has more food than the average chap centuries ago -- in quality, volume *and* calories, despite Malthus. In practice, food production -- but NOT distribution, largely due to regional conflicts and corruption -- has more than kept pace with population growth.
  • Actually, ANY day is a good day to quit smoking ... in theory. Which is where I'll retire, I think : the Land of Theory ...

    Why climate change ? Woo, big question; there's lots of evidence, and various contrarian theories (eg: observed temperature change is due to solar oputput variations) have been knocked down one by ne. Latest doom-watch for us Euro-weenies : tghe Gulf Stream (well the upstream end of it, off Greenland) is being severely disrupted. Shut down the gulf stream and suddenly central/southern Europe regains the climate of other areas on our latitude: Siberia, northern Canada ....

    There's too much to give precise URLs, but for starters search these for 'climate change' :

  • Antibiotics are prescribed to patients who won't complete the cycle, breeding hardier germs. Anyone remember the TB upswing? And now, to push their products, dishsoap, "fresh" scent sprays, ever children's toys are being made antibacterial, which has the same effect, only moreso.

    Antibiotics and antibacterials are two separate things. Antibiotics are drugs that specifically target bacteria inside an animal (usually human) body. They have limited strength, because really strong stuff would start killing off to many cells of the host animal. This simply makes more room for the resistant bacteria to flourish over their weaker cousins. Antibiotics are pretty much bacterium snipers: they worry more about avoiding friendly fire (killing host cells) than killing more targets.

    Antibacterials (usually in soaps and cleaning products) don't have this "friendly fire" problem, so they act more like carpet bombing than sniping. Antibacterials are used in environments where everything is supposed to be dead. We can wash our hands in it only because the outer layer of skin is supposed to be dead; we can gargle it in mouthwash only because the limited exposure only kills some of the cells in there (ever notice it hurts after a while?). Antibacterials overkill because they can, and kill bacteria pretty much regardless of their "hardiness". Weak men and strong both fear the bomb; weak germs and strong both fear Lysol. are to antibiotics what carpetfission bombs are to buckshot. These are applied outside the body and overkill bacteria. There is no such thing as an antibacterial-resistant bacterium. The assumption behind using antibacterials is that it can and should kill every living thing it touches. Since the outer layer of our skin is dead cells, we can even wash our hands in this stuff.

  • All right... so the basic premise here is "technology isn't evil." I suppose I can't argue that. Technology is not by any means a "bad" thing, it will not end the world. More importantly, technology will not save it, either.

    As a matter of fact, I'd argue that on the whole, humans have misused technology to the point where we are virtually ensuring global destruction.

    Point one: Humans have isolated themselves from the natural environment. Given a global climatic change, all other species will do one of three things: move, adapt (evolve), or die. Humans will not move. We will attempt to continue to modify the environment we live in to suit our needs. In addition, we will not adapt. We may adapt the environment, but not ourselves.

    Point two: Humans have employed technology not only to isolate themselves from the natural environment, but have declared war on it. As a fundamentally agrarian society, the first thing we do when we move into an area is "tame" it. We destroy anything that may encroach upon "our" fields and "our" crops. Anyone living without doing this (Native Americans) is viewed as inferior and/or dangerous, and is likewise declared an enemy to be destroyed. This is not the fault of the technology but of our culture, and what our culture tells us to do with the technology.

    The point: Optimism about the future due to technology is due to our culture telling us that our developments will allow us to continue to expand without repercussions. We will continue to defy the laws of nature governing population size by conquering the planet. We will use genetically engineered crops to resist disease, to ensure a stable food supply-- without one, people would starve, and our population would decrease to a manageable level. This would mean death, however, an apparently unacceptable consequence of living in something resembling "harmony" with nature. In essence, technology will give us the neccessary tools with which we can bring all sorts of natural phenomena in check, to allow a continuation of the past few thousand years' worth of unacceptable behavior.

    I need not point out that this is not a good thing, however much it may resemble one.

    Read "Ishmael" by David Quinn, and stop visiting "thehungersite". If you continue to send food to starving nations, you perpetuate overpopulation, and in the end, only end up causing more people to suffer. It may sound cruel, but starvation is a natural process, and given a few generations, the population levels in those countries will shrink to a manageable level, ending starvation and the suffering it causes permanantly. It's a long-term solution that is morally and environmentally sound. Don't make people live in pain.

  • Professional investors understand what they are doing and how the market will react to things. Armchair stock brokers don't. And they will panic for precisely the reason you state, they are relying on the market in some fashion for their retirement. Our culture has ceased to save money and begun to believe that they can't lose because the market will always go up. You can't honestly believe that if 50% of the people who are cluelessly investing sell of their stock all at once it won't make the market sag.

    Agreed... however, the Armchair investors (not brokers) do not have as much of an impact as you might think. By this, I think we are agreed upon as your internet investor.

    There are currently approximately 10 million online accounts out there right now. There are a little over 40 million accounts at full service brokerage firms... and where do you think the vast amount of the money is at as well?

    Granted, an army of 5 million investors all wanting to sell their stocks off is a powerful army indeed. Hell, as much as 25 - 50% of the daily volume on a lot of large cap tech companies are from internet investors.

    You are also correct that the self-fulfilling prophesy may force things to happen that would not have happened otherwise (too many people get online to check accounts and sites crash as a result... too many people call their banks or such and the phone lines go done, etc...). However these 5 million souls who may gert scared into selling are most likely going to get cut off. Yes, the SEC has all the blockers that will keep things from falling to fast, but you can't forget the internet brokerage firms themselves. If any of you have an online account, check the small print on the agreement (yes, I know it is about 60 pages... you suckers), somewhere in there is a line that informs you that they have the legal right to completely close off your account for up to 60 days. Welcome to the world of discount investing. :)

    So if what you think might happens, happens... do you think the discount brokerages out there will be forced to shut things down? Hell yes!!! They do not have the support to even handle some of the small sell-offs we have seen in the past 4 years and have had to shut down accounts for up to a week at a time.

    That handles the problem of the internet buffs in a very good way... it will actually be doing a service to them by not allowing them to access their accounts.

    More danger lies with the investors in mutual funds. Perhaps a good amount of them are going to want their money back? Well, to a point, the same thing will happen to them. If you are in one of those no-load funds, there is the same clasuse: they can shut you out for up to 60 days... but they will not do that to the same degree, and will really be forced to sell off a lot of stock to make up for it if a great amount of people are leaving (though the vast majority of them have been saving up a lot of cash in the event of this). But there certainly is the possibility that the people holding on to these funds will be punished by any large amount of people who are leaving because the fund manager will be forced to realize capital gains and this could make a huge tax liablility on holders of the fund... even if the value of the fund goes down that year.. they will still owe a ton of capital gains. Just one reason why you should never invest in mutual funds, but do not get me going on that.

    Anyways... a recession; possible. A depression; very, very very unlikely.

    Other reasons:
    1929---> Absolutely no safety nets in place.... today we have tons. The SEC did not even exist! People were buying so heavily on margin at that time... sometimes as someone else pointed out, with as little as 10% down. Today, that is 50%.

    Today, the governemnt is responsible for over 20% of GDP... it was only a fraction of that in 1929. One benefit (not sure if there are many) of big government is that this keeps away depressions. The government does not lay off workers, or stop spending money in tough times.

    Today, the work force is entirely different. Manufacturing jobs have always been the hardest hit traditionally. In the 1929, over 35% of the economy was employed in manufacturing jobs. Today that percentage is less than 15%. In fact, over the past 10 years, the economy has added over 20 million jobs, while in that same time period, manufacturing actually lost 500,000 jobs.

    The majority of families nowadays have two wage earners... that also makes a huge difference.

    So yes, we could have another depression... but it would have to be pretty incredible. Hell, our economy has been crash-tested by 9 recessions since WW II, and it has prevailed... avoiding a depression every time.

    I am not too worried. We have a good system in place... and no matter how hard these idiot investors try, they are not going to be able to ruin it.
  • Why are the casual investors who read Motley Fool or Bloomberg's the "blind masses"? What special font of knowledge do you drink from, oh wise swami? The stock market isn't going to bite it because investors will decend into some sort of blind panic. We all get our news from the same sources. Although the net is supposed to give us freedom by providing access to information not available normally, all it really does is homogenize rumor and fact faster than news outlets can. All the warnings not too sell, all the arguements for holding onto stock vrs. selling it will hit everybody at once, and many won't dump there stocks. not to mention, the majority of people don't own "stock", they have a portfolio, a 401k, or some other diversified holding. do you honestly think they're gonna say, oh shit, screw my retirement plan, sell sell sell? No, they'll hold on to it and ride it out while fund managers do they're best to get rid of overvalued stocks and reinvest in good bets or blue chips. not to mention, we don't by stock on credit these days, (not the sane among us) so no real comparison can be drawn to the great depression. also, you started off you first post in this thread by saying that our stock market has been riding an unrealistic bubble for the last 3 or 4 years, and if it hadn't been propped up by the goverment and allowed to fail naturally, we would have been better off. 3 or 4 years ago, we had just come out of a recession. does that mean every time the market experiences growth, it's overvalued? or would have a recession for the entire course of the 90's been better in your mind? "dumbass" -anonymous coward

    You are looking at it from the point of view of someone who posesses a modicum of common sense (If not manners). The vast majority of people looking to get rich in the market are starting to do so on their own using things like e-trade. This is BAD, they are uninformed and DON'T KNOW IT. I know that the Motley Fool and/or Bloombergs is not the the be all end all of knowledge and information. The only insight I have that they lack is that I know that I can't accurately predict market forces and I realize that no one is going to be able to garauntee returns. Most people who are investing now are doing so with the expectation that the market will continue to climb past 11000. When something happens and the market drops back to a more realistic 8000 or so they are going to be screwed. 3 or 4 years ago we had just been pulled out of a natrual recession by government action. That was BAD, the recession didn't naturally end, it was curtailed. We should have been in that recession for another 2 years to finish relieving the pressure built up by the early 90's tech rush. The Market is being forced to dance to the tune of the government, and it WILL stumble, fall, and crash sooner or later.

  • Come on... we constantly use technology without thinking of the consequences. Start with the agricultural revolution, the basis of all "modern" societies, and keep going.

    You are right, technologies may very well be beneficial to humanity, but we use them in ways that are harmful to the world we live in. I'm not anti-technology (I'm writing this...), but I am obliged to point out that once we destroy the world around us, we have guaranteed our own destruction. Environmentalism can be a selfish thing.

    Look at any major technological revolution; the agricultural revolution, the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and the post-industrial revolution; and you will see a pattern of expansion, consumption, destruction, as well as cultural ignorance.

    Thankfully, I can't blame the internet for anything, as a matter of fact, I'd say that it is amazing simply because it is one of a select few revolutionary technologies (or collections thereof) that have had little to do with "conquering" the world.

  • by FallLine ( 12211 ) on Wednesday December 01, 1999 @09:32AM (#1490536)
    Capitalism may sound unfair at first inspection. However, long experience has taught us that anything else is simply worse. You can say whatever you wish about Marx; every implimentation of his teachings have failed miserably. Capitalism, for all it's flaws, works.

    It never ceases to amaze me how academics such as yourself, can claim that it's just the many implimentations that are wrong. It never seems occur to you, that, perhaps the blue prints themselves are flawed. Others yet, will say that man is simply too greedy. Yet little attention is paid to the fact that central allocation of resources causes inevitable failure, it always has. Not just in communism, but in all other forms of government.

    You can populate your socialist country with people just as benevolent as Mother Theresa, with just as many resources (e.g., minerals, man power, intelligence, etc.), and it will never be able to compete with capitalism. Let us assume that you have finite resources, 50 projects and only enough for a small percentage of those. Do you expect some stuffed shirt behind a desk to know the value of each project, the technical merits, etc.? Or would you put faith in the academics? Well you simply can't do that. It doesn't work. The free markets have a way of working such problems out. Yes, some fail. But those who have a pattern of success tend to get more resources. In Capitalism, money tends to find its way into the hands of capable individuals. Products that are desired, tend to be brought to market. Socialism? It pretends to know what the people want. Yet it doesn't ask. It is this static state, assuming that everything can be administered from a far that does great damage to the people. How many risk takers do we see in socialist systems?

    Ignoring even the efficiency issues in Socialism/Marxism/Communism, it presumes that the greatest good, is when everything is "equal". That some may have different needs and desires completely escapes them. You might be happy only working 40 hours a week and taking home 50k a year. But to me, I'd rather work 80 hours a week or merely working harder, and take home 200k a year. It shows no understanding of risk aversion. You may call this Cookie cutter society "right", but I call it "wrong". If you ever had the benefit of traveling to a communist country, you might know what i'm talking about. There is a certain grey lifelessness--a simple lack of vitality and all things that bring pleasure. It is not just about the money either. I've travelled through Mexico, and other equally poor areas, and the people, though poor, are atleast VITAL.

    Anyways, regarding "theft" in capitalism. My father emmigrated from Germany after WWII with hardly a penny to his name. Though he enjoyed a partial education at the Gymnasium, his education was not complete. He put himself through engineering school, became the one of the best in his field, if not the best, and eventually made millions. He did not benefit from these arisocrat rents that you liberals love to speak of. He went out on a limb, embraced RISK, and frankly, worked his ass off. Is the hourly employee making 10 dollars an hour, punching the clock at exactly 4:00 necessarily entitled to his "fair" share of the profits he made in his company? No, he did not share in the risk. He demands pay, he would choose to forgo any risk (while my father in much in the same position embraced it). Did my father give stock options and the like to his employees? Yes, they did profit from his sucess. The problem is, that when you use law, an ackward tool by its very nature, to decide how much of that pie should be cut and restributed, you begin to interfere with the process.

    There are so many quantitative and qualitative factors that go into starting up a company and developing a truely innovative product, that I simply can't name them all here. I can assume that you have never witnessed the entreprenurial process like I have, since you seem to have so little appreciation for the things I've described--that which makes our country great. Do a rare few enjoy these 'aristocratic rents'? Perhaps they do. Is this the majority? I think not. Does capitalism necessarily imply it? Certainly not. Is capitalism zero-sum? No, definetly not. I am a firm believer in Pareto optimatlity. That is to say, that when the rich get richer, poor are no poorer, and perhaps ever even richer. This has been shown empirically in capitalism. Whereas with Marxism, no matter how benevolent the intentions (highly debatable), everyone is poorer (well except the few thugs in power).

  • Ok, very long post, #133 chronologically.

    I'd have to agree that in their current numbers and under the current system the armchair investors aren't going to single handedly bring down the economy. What worries me is the armchair investors + Y2K panic + Actual Y2K problems (Few and far between as they may be) + General panic.
    The combination of events and the timing just seem so ripe for a collapse. Not to mention that the unprecedented growth of our economy is almost begging for something to check it. You may be right, I certainly hope you are, but I'm still going to be pessimisitc about the economy for a couple of years. >:)

  • We would starve when we exceeded the ecosystem's capacity, keeping our population in check... I'm sorry, is there something wrong with that? It seems to work pretty well for a few million other species, and worked well for us until the past few thousand years, a tiny fraction of the time our species has been on this planet.

    I don't buy the propaganda of progress.

    Then you must subscribe to the theory that the purpose of a species is to expand as quickly and over as much are as possible so as to maximize survival of the species? If not then you shouldn't care whether we kill ourselves off or not because the earth will recover within a couple thousand years of our demise, if so then you should be happy that we are defeating nature and expanding beyond the surface of the planet.

    Or you can be of the opinion that humanity is 'unnatural' which is silly, since everything that exists is natural, otherwise it wouldn't exist.

  • Umm one problem with your stellar analysis...


    The crash of a stock market can foreshadow a recession, like it did in 1987, but the 1920s were different:

    a) the run on banks caused the near-shutdown of all economic activity. FDIC not only means that the banks are harder to break, but that the public is less worried about insolvency, and is less likely to try.

    b) the commersurate reduction of economic activity was solely due to the decline in consumer confidence (a run on the bank will do that to you)

    THIS is the index to watch, and their confidence is high. Many areas of our economy rely on consensual self-perpetuating illusions, and along with Wall Street this is one of them. So long as customers confidently spend dollars, it does nto matter what is happening on Wall Street, we are set, money is rolling in, paying wages, that are being spent, all is good.

    yes, a crash on Wall Street may lower confidence, hence the possibility of a recession, but w/o banks failing, and an ecological disaster at the same time, and a complete idiot for a president (the 20s were baaaad in terms of our Glorious Leaders) we are not going to suffer your predicted disaster...

    We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars --Oscar Wilde
  • That is almost entirely wrong:

    First, trust assets are required to be seperate from bank assets.

    Second, banks are NOT large investors in the stock market... they are not allowed to be. They are primarily invested in bonds, and a large percentage of that even has to be invested in treasuries.
  • Then you must subscribe to the theory that the purpose of a species is to expand as quickly and over as much are as possible so as to maximize survival of the species? If not then you shouldn't care whether we kill ourselves off or not because the earth will recover within a couple thousand years of our demise, if so then you should be happy that we are defeating nature and expanding beyond the surface of the planet.

    No, actually that would be dead wrong. Take for example every other species on the face of the earth, including our own until the past six thousand years (which sounds like a lot, until you consider that we've been around over a thousand thousand years). None of these species have attempted to expand their populations by declaring war on other species. They may eat one another for food, but you will never observe one animal killing another except to eat it or to defend itself (or its young).

    And as far as taking only a few thousand years to restore the Earth, I'd suggest a biology class. Higher-order species typically have generations spanning twenty years or more. This indicates that one thousand years is about fifty generations. In five thousand generations, or 100,000 years, only relatively minor genetic changes occur. It takes thousands upon thousands of generations to progress from the equivalent of a fish to the equivalent of an amphibian, let alone a lizard... this quickly adds up to millions of years.

    Therefore, by expanding beyond the environment's capacity, we are not acting in accord with our "purpose" as you put it, and furthermore, we are damaging the world to such a great extent that it will not easily recover, and stands the possibility of never recovering.

    Or you can be of the opinion that humanity is 'unnatural' which is silly, since everything that exists is natural, otherwise it wouldn't exist.

    This is the silliest warping of an existentialist arguement that I have ever heard. "I exist, therefore I am natural." Natural does not mean "living in an environment," rather, it is better defined as "living in a manner consistent with one's origins." We exist due to processes that we have attempted to escape, therefore, we are not living in a manner consistent with our origins, therefore, we are not natural. Man became man because he evolved. We have battled our own evolution, which you will never observe another species doing. Why isn't their way good enough for us?
  • In response to post 150 chronologically:

    So is it our fault that the other species aren't as good at surviving as we are? If you decree that the dominant species deserves to be dominant by the very nature of being dominant then we as a species should be able to do anything we want that we think will insure our continued survival.

    How can we be living in a manner inconsistent with our origins? Does it offend you that we are no longer dying at 25 because we spent our entire lives in a mud floored cave, naked and freezing with barely enough food?

    Also, you don't seem to realize that the eart doesn't give a shit one way or another whether we are here, or anything else is on it, it will continue to float around the sun until either the sun explodes, the orbit changes, or some other massive disaster occurs. And even then the earth won't care.

    We are the only entity on earth that can determine what happens on a global scale, and it only concerns us. We are the only thing on earth that CARES what happens to us. Every species on this rock could be annihilated and not an atom in the universe would feel one shred of remorse, regret, or anything else. We exist here to further our own existence.

    As for living in a manner consistent with our origins, that's obsurd, you imply that any form of evolution is unnatural as it would remove the entity from their origins. We are not battling our own evolution, we are cutting evolution off and doing whatever the hell we please. I don't say this is a good thing, but I do say that if we destroy ourselves it's not going to bother anyone, least of all us.

    Note: As far as I'm concerned 90% of what I just said is bullshit, I'm simply arguing the logical opposite of the other poster because I think his stance is equally full of bullshit.
  • Ever think about how fast technology progressed
    after the US became a country?

    The US becoming a country is immaterial. These technologies have appeared in the last 200 years, give or take a few decades. The US became a country about 220 years ago, give or take a few decades. But no cause-and-effect relationship should be concluded. Unless you can provide some evidence that these events are more than coinicidental.

    Flintlocks to nuclear weapons in 169 years.

    Nuclear weapons? There's other examples that might have illustrated the point better.

    Horse and buggy transportation to automobiles and airplanes.

    Hermetic medicine to antibiotics to protease inhibitors.

    Smoke signals to the internet.

    Hole-in-the-ground sanitation to high tech toilets [] that monitor body wastes for chemical imbalances.
  • According to the US Centers for Disease Control, people who eat this stuff are eight times more likely to contract E-Coli 0157 food poisoning
    800% of a small number is still a small number, so I'm not panicing yet. And I would bet you a nickel that those who contract food poisoning from organic fruits and vegetables didn't wash, scrub, or peel them first. (You should do this with non-organic veggies too, to remove waxes and pesticide residues. Unless you like that sort of thing, of course.)
  • When people start protesting "processed american cheese food", I'll start worrying about gmo ingredients in soya and corn syrup.
    I don't have to protest Cheeze Whiz, it's clearly labeled what what is so I can avoid it. Not so with GM and irradiated foods.
  • In response to post #155 chronologically:

    "As good at surviving"??? No, they were all doing just fine until we started actively killing them. And I suppose you aren't looking at it biologically... there is no such thing as a dominant species. Or at least, without humans, there was no such thing. Why do humans, above all other creatures, deserve to live? Again, humans managed to co-exist with the other species for over a million years before we started being "dominant" (read: killing anything that retarded our expansion). Our continued existence is not reliant on our attempting to "dominate" the world, rather, in the long run it will be threatened by it.

    We are living in a manner inconsistent with our origins because we have attempted to remove ourselves from evolutionary cycles. Australopithecus became Homo habilis became Homo erectus became Homo sapiens became Homo sapiens sapiens by evolving, and now we've decided that that's enough, we'll just change the rest of the world instead. That's how. Does the concept of dying offend you? Does it scare you? That's what it would seem. Have you studied any anthropology? You may find it interesting that primitive man and his ancestors actually had more free time than modern man does, and fewer social problems. It wasn't a time of suffering, as culture would have you believe. Furthermore, food was plentiful, and far fewer people starved (proportionally as well as numerically) than today. Check it out sometime, you may find it enlightening. And at no point did I claim that we should go sit in mud-floored caves. We can still have our central air and nice houses without attempting to dominate the world. The two are not mutually dependent.

    And no, the Earth doesn't give a damn. I do, however, because it'll eventually mean the end of the human race and any possible species evolving from that, which doesn't paint a pretty picture. We're screwing ourselves. Also, the other inhabitants (the trillion or so of them) kindly ask you not to destroy all life in the process of destroying yourself.

    And again, more existentialist crap. "We exist to perpetuate our own existence." If that isn't the weakest assignment of meaning I've ever encountered...

    No, actually I explicitly stated that we are not living in a manner consistent with our origins because we fight evolution. If we would continue along that path, and continue evolving, we would be living just as we should. I think you Missed the Point (tm). I have to question the difference between battling and cutting off, but that's irrelevant... And I think you might find that a lot of people are bothered by the idea of destroying ourselves. Also, the other species killed in the process probably don't like it, either. I'm glad to see that you don't think it's a good thing, though. In that case, let's try something else, sound good?

    Note: I'd say if you believe that someone's stance is bullshit, a good approach might be showing why it's bullshit, rather than just throwing out arguments you don't believe in. Doing that would qualify as "flamebait".
  • Somtimes I think the unibomber was right... Well, accept for all that blowing up people part.
    Ya know, when I read the Unibomber manifesto I had the same sort of reaction as when I read the Communist one: "Yes, you have identified some very real problems here, and have some interesting ideas about the root causes. But your proposed solution SUCKS!"
  • Not directed at me, but:

    Then you must subscribe to the theory that the purpose of a species is to expand as quickly and over as much are as possible so as to maximize survival of the species?

    Why would one subscribe to the idea that a species has a purpose? Species have no more "purpose" than do rocks, stars, or photons.

    If not then you shouldn't care whether we kill ourselves off or not because the earth will recover within a couple thousand years of our demise

    Well, I do have a certain sentimental attachment to humans, and would like to see them do well. I'd be pretty sad if the works of Bach, Hendrix, Shakespeare, Ginsberg, Da Vinci, and so on, were lost.

    And also being a fan of Earth's ecosystem, I'd like to see humans (or the species they develop into, since I doubt Homo sap sap will still be around around outside of reservations a thousand years from now) straighten up and start acting as its guardians - and, eventually, perhaps as its vehicle of reproduction, as we terraform dead worlds.

  • Actually, there was a very interesting article [] in Wired [] a while back about the Amish and technology. Very interesting - they're not completely anti-tech, but they very carefully, as a community, debate and analyze the effects of technologies before deciding whether to accept and apply them, and how.

    For example, they might have phones, for emergency use - but install them in sheds or outhouses. Takes care of those telemarketer calls.

    It's a very different notion of what's a "proper" use of technology from mine, but it is a very studied and considered one.

  • Of course, you're assuming that everybody uses the antibacterial soap properly - they wash long enough for it to have the desired effect. If some people don't wash long enough, then you are creating the perfect environment for the evolution of an antibacterial-resistant bacteria strain, which they will then pass along by means of skin-to-skin contact.

  • Hell, even the local weatherman last night (Toledo, OH) pointed out that over the past 30 years, the average amount of snow Toledo has seen in the month of November has been cut in half. (1970s average: 3.9 inches, 1990s average: 1.5 inches.) I thought "Global warming?" instantly, but he didn't follow up.

    Just another data point.


  • Oh, please.

    Yes, you're right. There wasn't a year zero.

    But, there wasn't really a year ONE either.

    In what we now call the year 525AD, Dennis the Short, a priest who studied chronology, was asked by Pope John 1 to come up with a new counting of the years, starting with the birth of Christ. (Previously, the most common counting of years had been based on the founding of Rome. Dennis did his work in the year 1280 of the city's founding, usually abbreviated AUC.) By comparing historical events, Dennis calculated that Christ had been born in the year 754 AUC, which he then called the year 1 Anno Domini. Dennis didn't worry about what happened prior.

    Of course, current historical scholars now have determined that Dennis made a mistake or two, with the result that he was probably 4 years off. Thus, the millennium actually turned 4 years ago. I had a party. Did you?

    In around 731AD, the Venerable Bede (a Northumbrian monk) came up with the idea of the counting of years before 1AD, but he didn't put in a year zero. That's probably because he didn't *know* about zero yet, since that was an Arabic invention that was just starting to circulate. So, by that counting, the year 1BC was followed immediately by the year 1AD.

    That's why the counting of years has no year zero.


  • Hunger exists nowadays primarily due to government mishandling of farm policy. Just read what happens in the field when price controls are imposed, or when food aid is handled by governments, and you'll get the idea.

    War is created by an urge to obtain power. We're much more sophisticated in trying to obtain power nowadays; only poor desperate countries are directly involved in wars. It used to be that industrial powers like Germany got in wars; now they send us high-quality luxury cars, we send them dollars and everyone's happy.

    Now, true, the industrialized nations sometimes get involved in scrapes such as Iraq/Kuwait, but we don't cause them. Saddam of Iraq was desperate for something to make his country sound puffed-up and powerful; as a result, he went to war.

    The trend definitely seems like it's towards countries overall getting richer from international trade, and the more this happens, the less important war seems to be.

    So I'm guardedly optimistic. I'm not saying we've eliminated war, but we've certainly reduced a lot of the factors that promote it over the years. Hopefully this trend will continue.


  • RaveX wrote:

    >> Finally, what would our food supply situation be like without modern food storage technology? (My original comment)

    We would starve when we exceeded the ecosystem's capacity, keeping our population in check... I'm sorry, is there something wrong with that? It seems to work pretty well for a few million other species, and worked well for us until the past few thousand years, a tiny fraction of the time our species has been on this planet.

    My response:

    (shaking head) You need to get a dose of reality. You obvious haven't read about great plagues that decimated the human population over the years. Ever heard of the bubonic plague--the disease that is supposed to have wiped out nearly 40% of the population of humans everywhere the disease spread in the 1300's? Today, the bubonic plague is easily controlled by modern medicine and modern pest eradication methods.

    Being sentient ourselves, do we REALLY need to have nature take its course and having a natural calamity weed out the human population? In my opinion, we have the technology AND the scientific know-how to avoid that end. You must be a Malthusian--and unfortunately, modern technology has proven Malthus wrong. :-p

    I mean, look at our food supply. Technological developments of the last 200 years--from higher yields per acre, better control of pests that destroy grains, fruits and vegetables while on the farm, better transportation of foodstuffs, and rapid advances in the development of long-term food storage--has made it possible to get a steady supply of food year-round in most of the world.

    What famine that is left is caused more by political decisions more than problems in the food supply. The tragedies of the famines in northeastern Africa since the 1970's are a result of various civil wars that have wracked that region of the world.

    So stop being a Luddite; the world has left you FAR behind.
  • Why would you want to avoid irradiated foods? It is far healthier than foods that are infested with all sorts of bacteria.
    Irradition destroys some of the vitamins in food, as well as affecting taste. Trading long shelf life for decreased nutrition makes sense if you're packing emergency rations in your bomb shelter, but I'd prefer not to do so for my everyday diet.

    Now, if you prefer all your foods irradited, great. Labeling benefits us both - you get to seek them out, I get to avoid them. Markets work wonderfully when buyers and sellers meet in the marketplace with full knowledge, equal power, and all costs accounted for.

  • In reply to #170 chronologically

    I suggest to you that a 25 year life span would correlate with a large amount of suffering in a species which is easily capable of living 100+ years.

    Any development of tools is battling evolution. If you build a spear instead of growing claws you are battling evolution. We are no longer battling evolution, we've won.

    None of those trillion or so inhabitants are even aware that they exist on more than a very base level of 'Hunger, Hurt, Breed'.

    If you can put forth a more significant meaning to existance I'd love to hear it.

    Our origins according to you are tree dwelling furry, hunter gatherer types. What do you suggest is the way we should be living? Fire is a circumvention of Evolution, as we used fire instead of growing more fur. Clothing is a circumvention, farming is a circumvention, ALL technology takes the place of an evolutionary advancement. Instead of developing more muscular legs or more efficient ways to run, we enslaved the horse. Then we decided they were too slow, and built a the car. According to your theory we would either be organically capable of all that we are now, or still living in mud huts freezing and starving because the best we can do is sneak up on sleeping insects because EVERY OTHER ANIMAL ON EARTH can run faster, jump higher, or just plain kick our asses.

    Oh, and I don't fear death, but that doesn't mean I want to die. It doesn't make any difference to me whether I die today or tommorow except for one thing, I would miss my fiance.

    Now, if you can't tell your stance is bullshit I'll continue trying to provoke discussion.

  • The apocalypse is not going to come when people expect it to come, even Jesus can't tell the moment when its gonna happen. And even God himself warn us in the Bible: everyone to be prepared because everything can happen anytime. God is alive wich means he can THINK / LOVE / ... and is not a seqvencial machine and expect it to do: if (Russia->Attack(Israel)) Apocalipse();>

    flip throug the bakc of the bible, you know, that part where it says 'Revelations', you'll notice a few things that talk about little end time events and precursers to the apocalypse. Russia invading Israel (I think it's specifically stated as the Holy City being invaded from the north) is one of the major events that is supposed to mean the apocalypse will begin in the next 10 years. Which is why I say that until that happens I'm not worried about the actual apocalypse.

  • I was not pushing for complacency. I was only trying to warn people about picking their fights. Again, most ills around us begin from a moral or character defect rahter than some sort of conspiracy. That coporations and goverments are extensions of groups of people, only makes things worse. I am advocating individual responsibilty. Go run for office, vote, petition the goverment, boycott a company, save an alcoholic, raise your children in a loving enviroment to be decent people. DO SOMETHING! The worst thing that can be done is nothing, even worse is violence towards innocents. The way to fight evolution in schools or encryption laws is not to fire bomb building or crack the FBI database. The way is to change peoples hearts as well as their minds. We have no heart left that is what is wrong. Oh yes, in case you ask me what I do to help others. I visit the sick, the old, the alcoholic, and the jailed. I work with others even if it is just a couple of hours a week. You I am/was one of them.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban