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Transformational Technologies Questions

from the chin-strap-for-your-thinking-cap dept.
PatGratton writes "As Chris Phoenix previously described, four Senior Associates got together and began to outline an approach that would take us to the next level of work in resolving the issues raised by transformational technologies.

As one of our first steps, we sat down and tried to list all of the major questions facing us. The result is two sets of questions: one addressing technology, politics and ultimate goals, and the other addressing Foresight Goals. "

(Click Read More… to continue.)

These lists are basically FAQ's without the answers, and can be used to:
- Evaluate books and papers for completeness.
- Evaluate action plans for completeness and proper order.
- Frame discussions/debates.
- Identify hidden assumptions.

The two lists have been through several revisions already, but no doubt have plenty of room for expansion and clarification. Please review both lists and make suggestions for changes either here or to Pat Gratton. Note that we will soon be posting the non-Foresight questions to several mailing lists for comments.

Also, note that questions have been arranged and phrased to be as position neutral as possible. This should make the questions useful to a greater number of people. There will be many sides to the debates that will rage over these technologies – hopefully we can at least avoid division over the questions being argued!

- Richard Fannon
- Pat Gratton
- Chris Phoenix

5 Responses to “Transformational Technologies Questions”

  1. pshropshire Says:

    It's the Stupid Political System, Stupid

    Name: Philip Shropshire

    sites: and

    I donít think that Iím qualified to comment on some of the tech questions, but I actually do have some thoughts on what the future of politics should look like. It seems to me, as an observer of the tech scene, that tech types donít really take a very deep look at the political world. My own personal take on this is that tech people should hack into political structures with the same fervor that they attack code.

    My initial reaction to all of these questions, in fact, is that things will generally go very badly under our current system of political discourse..

    For argumentís sake, letís just assume that the United States is the government in place over the people who first create the first great tech singularityówhether thatís a working assembler created from the Pentagon Black Budget or someone who evolves genetic computing into something that can pass a Turing test. I know Japan has a couple of Manhattan Style projects in the works and there is the question of whether certain multinationals like IBM or Xerox constitute their own international nation states, but Iím trying to keep this simple (for myself mostly.)

    First, the United States Political System is hopelessly and perhaps fatally corrupt. Itís run by two factions of the Big Business Party which differs only slightly on the bigger issues of the day. People donít vote because theyíre stupid, they donít vote because they see very little substantive difference between the candidates and they also know their vote every couple of years means nothing against the daily favors provided by big lobbyists and campaign contributors. Its kind of a top down system geared for the benefits of elites and to the detriment of the masses. The kind of centrist, say nothing candidates is a direct result of a system that tends to favor those kinds of results. To paraphrase a popular catchphrase: Itís the stupid political system, stupid. At the time of its founding more than 200 years ago, our system was probably cutting edge. Now, thanks to the work of Lani Guinier, it can be stated that we could and should do a whole lot better. In fact, when she was in effect censored from defending herself those many years ago, I had to find out more about her "dangerous" and "seditious" ideas. What I found out made me realize why power brokers didnít want her to have her say. But more on Guinierís ideas later.

    The other problem with the government is that its just too damn slow to deal with tech issues and is way too vulnerable to being bribed by the offending parties. Just look at whatís happening to Microsoft. By the time the Supreme Court gets around to making a call on whether Microsoft is a monopoly or not, weíll probably all have switched to computer pda devices where we use our sunglasses for display screens. All powered by Palm or Linux software by the way. Or Microsoft. Who knows. The government certainly isnít going to stop them. Bush pretty much said heíd lay the heat off Microsoft if he wins, but now that the Software Kings are players now in money giving, it probably doesnít matter who wins.

    Imagine, if you will, the governmentís equally slow response to assembler tech if itís ever perfected. We would all be assimilated before a single court could even look at the case. Now, like most readers of this site Iím not a huge fan of the writings of Bill Joy, but the kind of slow government we have is completely unable to deal with these kinds of vast changes. Joyís warnings make sense in that kind of context.

    So what do you if you have a corrupt government that thrives on what Lani Guinier calls the "Tyranny of the Majorities"? Well, on the one hand you have to work within. You have to do public relations. You have to counter those Turning Point ads, which are the ideological underpinnings of the folks who eventually would like to tell you to just stop what youíre doing. You have to pick between two candidates, who regardless of what you actually think of them, are driven by corrupted parties.. And you have to live by a higher ethical code. For example, maybe itís not a good idea to do research on selective and deadly nan no matter how much naval intelligence or the military gives you in grant money.

    On the other hand, in a strictly thinking outside of the box kind of mode, why not create new societies with better democratic systems? I think Sealand is the first real hint of this. If you can create a nation that is composed of an old oil platform, why not one composed of a moving fleet of luxury ocean liners? Or why not pull out those old Marshall Savage ideas and see if you can actually build ocean habitats. But most importantly you could create societies that arenít built on old, military command style hierarchies, but democratic networks. How about a society that allows national referendums on important issues? How about allowing computerized voting on important issues like RU 486 or where the first assembler experiments will be held? How about letting citizens vote on all national issues that they find important?

    The answers to most of these questions will end very badly in our current system. The only solution is to create new and better political systems for smarter societiesÖ

    Of course offworld is the ideal. And who knows maybe NASAís gravity shielding will work and if space becomes affordable then I say letís leave. And letís not emulate the dumb old politics of old earth. Letís study the Friere, the Guinier, and the idea of networked democracy and letís create better institutions for the stars.

  2. JohnAMontgomery Says:

    Re:It's the Stupid Political System, Stupid

    I also find it troubling the lack of any organized political movement with those of the pro technologies wing. I understand that small political groups tend to be quite ineffectual in the American political system. But we should create a political face if for any reason to counter balance views of such politically motivated organizations such as Turning Point. I feel in a certain way we have been politically riding the coattails of politically empowered groups such as big tech companies and the lobbyists of the aging baby boomers. But the interests of these groups will not and do not always agree with the rest of us. We should create a political face. One that should look for allies in the political arena to further the responsible development of technologies in order to have a positive future. Also such a political body could explore the possibilities of founding a new society based upon the foundation of being highly technologically enabled. And being capable of exploiting the advantages of new technologies as they emerge much quicker than large nations with obsolete government systems. Also in a nanotech mature world all nation states regardless of size will be equally powerful and not dependent on any others in order to survive. So it would be wise to consider what type of society we would like to live in and is the United State able to provide a home for that society in the future. I feel such considerations go hand in hand with positive development of nanotechnology.

  3. samantha Says:


    Can we please switch this catchy but quite derogatory name to something else like "group minds", "hives" or some such? We want to avoid prejudicing the discussion of possible future developments. The Borg are a pretty poor and deliberate scary variant.

  4. PatGratton Says:


    Agreed. I'll change this to "Group Minds" in the next version.

  5. PatGratton Says:

    Upgrade to v0.2

    New versions of Transtech Map and Transtech Questions are available:

    Transtech Questions changes

    • Borganism -> Group Minds

    Transtech Map and Details changes

    • Add "Sovereign AI"
    • Add "Service Abundance"
    • Shrink entire map for printing and viewing convenience.

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