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

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Tue Oct 18 04:28:57 UTC 2005

On Oct 17, 2005, at 5:28 PM, Russell Wallace wrote:

> 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.

Not really.  With advancing tech the genome of all kinds of nasty  
things will be pretty easy to get.  For potentially deadly bugs it  
could be argued that publishing the genome potentially increases the  
speed of anti-viral work.   Having the genome of a  cousin of the  
current scary bird flu plus some folks around who have antibodies to  
it is potentially useful.  The published genome also makes it less  
likely that any government or terrorist group would attempt to sneak  
a weapon based on it into the field in the midst of the avian flu scare.

> (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.

There is no way in general to prove any such thing to every paranoia  
level.   Decide if you want an open society or not and engineer to  
make that work the best you can.

- samantha

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