[extropy-chat] Recipe for Destruction - Joy/Kurzweil NYTimes Op-Ed

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 17 22:40:56 UTC 2005

Excerpt from Kurzweil article:

AFTER a decade of painstaking research, federal and
university scientists have reconstructed the 1918
influenza virus that killed 50 million people
worldwide. Like the flu viruses now raising alarm
bells in Asia, the 1918 virus was a bird flu that
jumped directly to humans, the scientists reported. To
shed light on how the virus evolved, the United States
Department of Health and Human Services published the
full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the
Internet in the GenBank database.

This is extremely foolish. The genome is essentially
the design of a weapon of mass destruction. No
responsible scientist would advocate publishing
precise designs for an atomic bomb, and in two ways
revealing the sequence for the flu virus is even more

Sigh. Of all people to scare-monger, I would have
thought Kurzweil would know better. I guess times,
they are a changin'. His article is to some degree
ridiculous. There is a flu epidemic every year. It
would be far easier and cheaper for some terrorist to
simply get a sample of one of sick friends snot and
culture the virus, make a few simple modifications
that I will not discuss on a public list (there might
be terrorists reading this), and amplify it up then it
would be to build a flu virus from scratch. 

Why would anybody reinvent the wheel when there are
tons of wheels available every cold and flu season?
Any chicken farm or bachelor's refrigerator is a
veritable cornucopeia of biological agents. Small
modifications (that I won't discuss) can be made to
the ubiquitous E. coli to turn it into a perfect
biological weapon. The same with streptococcus,
salmonella, and tons of other common enviromental

I look back on my happy youth where the only fear
mongering done was the implication that Soviet ICBMs
would be headed our way at any second. Back then
knowledge was free and there was no such thing as
"bad" knowledge or knowledge that get you stripped of
your civil rights. As a sophomore in high school, I
gave a presentation at a science fair on "how to build
a nuclear weapon" based on publically accessable books
that I borrowed from a public library. Everybody
thought my presentation was cute and I got an A. Today
if I were to do something like that, I would probably
end up at Gitmo like Pedillo.

Quite frankly, I don't like it. When the government
stops trusting it's citizens, it stops being
trustworthy.  Those that do the scaremongering are
essentially giving the government an excuse strip us
of yet more freedoms. Thus they are the propagandists
and apologists for a government that has lost sight of
its part in the social contract. Banning certain forms
of knowledge is a slippery slope toward

Now that the juggernaut is rolling, I fear it will not
stop until the rank and file citizenry have been
completely pacified like the Eloi in Wells' "The Time
Machine". Reduced to mere livestock in the "consumer
farm" that is the modern economy, where corporations
wake up at the crack of dawn to milk us of our hard
earned cash.

Whilst those privelaged murderers and thugs that run
the government will remain their old ruthless
warmongering selves, performing unspeakable evil in
the guise of protecting us. I for one don't see it as
a fair trade. I for one would take my chances against
some islamic nut job on an airplane armed with pepper
spray and a pair of scissors any day over having the
government spy on me, tell me that there are some
things that I am not allowed to know, and practically
undressing me everytime I want to catch a flight. 

Very little of what the government has done since 9-11
has made me feel safer. Instead, almost everything it
has done has made me more afraid of IT than I ever was
of terrorists. And I can't help but remembering a
quote from Laberius regarding Caesar, "Necesse est
multos timeat quem multi timent" - "He need fear many,
whom many fear".

The Avantguardian 
Stuart LaForge
alt email: stuart"AT"ucla.edu

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying." - Woody Allen

"Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope" - Robert G. Ingersoll

Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005 

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