Remarks From Remarksman

February 24, 2009

The Unabomber Was Right

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 6:58 pm
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Ted Kaczynski, the convicted bomber who blew up dozens of technophilic professionals, was right about one thing: technology has its own agenda.

Kevin Kelly takes a look at some of the Unabomber’s writings about technology in his article, The Unabomber Was Right.

I too argue that the technium is guided by “technical necessity.” That is, baked into the nature of this vast complex of technological systems are self-serving aspects – technologies that enable more technology, and systems that preserve themselves — and also inherent biases that lead the technium in certain directions, outside of human desire. Kaczynski writes “modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can’t get rid of the ‘bad’ parts of technology and retain only the ‘good’ parts.”

Kelly finds some truths in Kaczynski’s writings, but sees other points to dispute. Many of the comments at the end of the article are also quite interesting. I don’t agree with all of Kelly’s assertions, but the article is thought-provoking.

There are many aspects of technology that are not subjected to real scrutiny in terms of what is given up when adopting the new technology. Cars are an example – it wouldn’t be hard to argue that there are currently more cars in the U.S. than are really needed. But automobiles are a self-reinforcing technology: The more cars there are, the more demand there is for roads and other infrastructure (drive-through windows!) to support them. As more infrastructure is created, more people see the value of owning a car. But what is given up? Local community cohesiveness. Pedestrians and bicyclists become less safe while all the transportation infrastructure spending is spent on roads for cars. Less is spent on mass transportation.

Newspapers may disappear as people get their news from the internet, but we still need quality journalism. What other things are we giving up by adopting various technologies?

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February 1, 2009

Hypocrisy Continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 6:00 am
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To no-one’s surprise, hypocrisy continues even in the new administration of change.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified before Congress this past week. He said, (quoting from Ann Scott Tyson’s article in The Washington Post

U.S. goals in Afghanistan must be “modest” and “realistic”

“This is going to be a long slog, and frankly, my view is that we need to be very careful about the nature of the goals we set for ourselves in Afghanistan,” he said.

Civilian casualties resulting from U.S. combat and airstrikes have been particularly harmful to progress in Afghanistan and must be avoided, Gates stressed. “My worry is that the Afghans come to see us as part of their problem rather than part of their solution, and then we are lost,” he said.

Oopsy, wasn’t it just a few days before this testimony that the Obama administration approved an air strike from an unmanned aerial drone that killed about 20 people, three of them children? Oh, that was in Pakistan, so the Afghans are still happy, right?

Gates also warned of Iranian interference in Afghanistan, pointing to a slightly increased flow of weapons including components of lethal munitions known as “explosively formed projectiles.”

Iranian activities have been troubling in other parts of the world, Gates said, including Latin America, where Iran is setting up “a lot of offices and a lot of fronts.”

This is the part where everyone is supposed to ignore the fact that the U.S. is ‘interfering’ in Afghanistan, Iraq, Columbia, and elsewhere overtly and covertly, The country that has over a hundred military bases outside of its own territory around the world needs to be concerned that Iran is setting up ‘offices and fronts.’

This kind of testimony would be kind of funny if it didn’t involve killing people.

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