Feature

Editor's letter: The frontier of technology

Our species has a defining genius for creating new tools, but it races far ahead of our ability to think through the moral and practical consequences of our creations.

If we can, we will—whether or not we should. That’s pretty much the story of human beings and technology. Our species has a defining genius for creating new tools, but it races far ahead of our ability to think through the moral and practical consequences of our creations. This was true when the frontier of technology was the gun, and the automobile, and the atomic bomb. It is even truer today. Computer processing power is still doubling every 18 months, with quantum computers on the way; digital technology is evolving at such breakneck speed that it is quite impossible to foresee what our devices will be able to do—and how they will change our lives—10 years from now, let alone 20. Millions of very smart people are working long hours to create this unimaginable future, but virtually no one is asking: Should we go there? What happens if we do?

To ask such questions, I know, is to be hopelessly naïve. It’s as naïve as being shocked to learn that the government now has the capacity to obtain and analyze virtually all phone and Internet metadata. It could, so it did. And when we can, we will: implant chips in our brains to make us smarter; bioengineer babies to have desirable traits; make robots that replace millions of workers and even do the killing on the battlefield; create data-analysis and biometric identification systems so sophisticated that privacy and anonymity will be utterly moot. Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that by the year 2045, we and our computers will merge, and “there will be no distinction between man and machine.” Should we go there? When we can, we will.

William Falk

Recommended

Paris won't hold big-screen World Cup broadcasts
Stadium in Qatar
Wrong goal

Paris won't hold big-screen World Cup broadcasts

Nord Stream pipelines may have leaked a record-breaking amount of methane
Nord Stream Pipeline Week
Peaked Leaks

Nord Stream pipelines may have leaked a record-breaking amount of methane

The Chinese Communist Party congress that could make Xi president for life, explained
Xi Jinping.
Briefing

The Chinese Communist Party congress that could make Xi president for life, explained

Has Liz Truss already failed?
Liz Truss.
Briefing

Has Liz Truss already failed?

Most Popular

5 toons about Trump's spiraling legal woes
Political Cartoon.
Feature

5 toons about Trump's spiraling legal woes

Ukraine takes full control of Lyman while Russian media points fingers
Ukrainian flag in Donetsk
do svidaniya

Ukraine takes full control of Lyman while Russian media points fingers

Will Smith returns to the Oscar race after Chris Rock slap
Will Smith
where there's a will

Will Smith returns to the Oscar race after Chris Rock slap