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

Russell Wallace russell.wallace at gmail.com
Tue Oct 18 00:28:21 UTC 2005

On 10/17/05, The Avantguardian <avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> 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
> totalitarianism.

There's truth in that. Now how do we avoid encouraging governments to ban
certain forms of knowledge? One way is to discourage the sort of
irresponsible behavior that makes people start thinking a ban is needed;
publishing the 1918 flu genome would qualify as grossly irresponsible on
that basis alone, quite apart from its potential use as a weapon. (Yes there
is some value there in not making such things public: remember the principle
of defense in depth.) I think the best way to handle this would be for the
scientific community to start proving they can be trusted with this sort of
information, that we don't need a legally imposed ban.

But the call for a Manhattan Project to create defenses against viral
diseases is a damn good idea. Unlike its namesake, it would save lives every
year even in the complete absence of any human enemies.

- Russell
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