Summary of Bill Joy’s “Why the future doesn’t need us”

This article is my first assignment of “Computer Ethics”. The assignment asked us to read Bill Joy’s article “Why the future doesn’t need us” and write a summary. Also, our opinion of this article is also required. The following word is my work.

In this article, Bill Joy discussed the negative possibilities of the improvement of the genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) technologies.

The speed of computer processor has growth exponentially in a few last years, and the developing new technologies will keep the growth speed or even exceed it. The enormous computing power may make the intelligent robot in scientific fiction possible. And it may eventually cause the mergence of human being and robots or even the replacement for human being.

The same dangerous also exists in genetics and nanotechnology areas. With the development of nanotechnology already made nanoscale molecular electronics possible. And nanotechnology will be greatly growth in the next 20 years. But as Bill Joy said, “it is far easier to create destructive uses for nanotechnology than constructive ones”. And the result if we don’t consider about the ethics issue of nanotechnology, is “the risk that we might destroy the biosphere on which all life depends”.

The improvement of genetic technology had already bring us some ethics issue. As Bill Joy said, “the general public is aware of, and uneasy about, genetically modified foods, and seems to be rejecting the notion that such foods should be permitted to be unlabeled”. Bill Joy’s concern was genetic technology may give the power to bad person and help them to do some really destructive act, such as creating a “White Plague”.

What makes Bill Joy even worrier is the price of using GNR technologies to do bad things is much cheaper than in the NBC era. While building mass destruction weapon with NBC technology need rare raw materials and highly protected information with large-scale activities, the abuse of GNR technologies is way easy. According to Bill Joy, “They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them”.

Bill Joy’s article is really thought-provoking. Undoubtedly, I think, the improvement of GNR technologies will change our life hugely. Genetic technology will cure disease which are not able to cure today. Nanotechnology will give us some industrial materials. Robotics technology will greatly free human being from work. The negative effect is also remarkable. Each of these is able to bring human being to extinction. Bill Joy was right on this part.

But some of Bill Joy’s grounds of argument is not very adequate. Also, I doubt whether the future is that pessimistic if we don’t control the growth of GNR technologies. Firstly, I don’t think the GNR technologies abuse can be made by only knowledge. Just like we need tools to build mass destructive weapon with NBC technology, we also need corresponding tools for applying GNR knowledge. Especially in genetic and nano-tech area, high-preciseness tools are required.

Second, I’m not sure if the future will be so pessimistic if we care less about the ethics in such area. Bill Joy said that people may merge with robots and become Borg-like new species. The question is, who knows if that’s human’s destiny of evolution?

1 comment


    What is the claim of this article?


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