When I first started investigating nanotechnology about four years ago, Bill Joy and his essay for Wired magazine, Why the future doesn’t need us, was suggested as a good place to start. As it turns out, I’ve waited until now to read that piece and only did so in the wake of Christine Peterson’s Foresight Institute August 11, 2010 posting about Joy and a TED talk that he gave in 2006.
It’s all old news but compelling nonetheless given the status that Joy’s 2000 essay still has. As for Joy’s TED Talk, it’s odd in the same way that his essay is odd, i.e., scrambled and all over the place. As I’ve often been accused of writing that way myself, I can’t be too critical of it.
His interest is much broader than nanotechnology although it is mentioned in the essay, if not the talk. The one element of his talk that has stayed with me is his focus on asymmetry and the danger posed by the ‘one to the many’. As he sees it, these new technologies which are becoming more and more easily accessible by anyone put a great deal of destructive power into one any one person’s hands. He also proposes more control as a remedy for this asymmetry.
Joy’s TED TAlk is here. While it was given in February 2006, it wasn’t posted online until November 2008. Since then it has generated continuous comment, the most recent being an August 8, 2010 comment.