Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What Ash Carter Has Not Learned

Former SECDEF Ashton Carter recently published this essay in MIT Technology Review:

When I began my career in elementary particle physics, the great figures who taught and inspired me had been part of the Manhattan Project generation that developed the atomic bomb. They were proud to have created a “disruptive” technology that ended World War II and deterred a third world war through more than 50 years of tense East-West standoff. They were also proud to have made nuclear power possible. But their understanding of the underlying technology also gave them a deep regard for the awesome, unavoidable risks that came with those technologies.

As a consequence, they dedicated themselves to inventing, in parallel, the technologies behind arms control (like reconnaissance satellites to verify agreements) and nuclear reactor safety (like containment vessels for radioactive leakages). By working on both the bright opportunities and the complex dilemmas of nuclear technology, these scientists tried to round out its effect on humanity. They recognized that the advance of knowledge is inevitable, but it needs to be steered in the direction of public good.

You can read the rest @

Here is what he apparently has NOT learned:

  • We can NEVER put the genie back in the bottle. Sometimes it's better to NEVER let it out.
  • Some technologies are inherently more bad than good. Nuclear is one of them.
  • Some technologies CANNOT be steered in the direction of public good. Nuclear is one of them.
  • No one ever seems to weigh all the pros and cons before creating and releasing disruptive technologies. Someone waves money under their nose, and any sense of responsible behavior goes out the window.
  • There always will be evil people, and they always will find ways to use technology to harm us.

If the "advance of knowledge" truly is inevitable, then the demise of humanity also is inevitable.

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