A Talk by Joel Garreau

Joel Garreau spoke at our school yesterday morning– he’s the author of Radical Evolution : The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to Be Human. In this book, he reviews the future-thoughts of Ray Kurzweil, Bill Joy and others, breaking their views into Heaven, Hell and Prevail scenarios. Technology may not make us or break us, the the near future impact of genetics, robotics, information and nanotechnology will be siginificant.

I’m beginning to wonder if there aren’t paradoxes in all technological achievements. The same technology that can enable a paralyzed person to compose an email with only his mind (or move a leg though a stimilation device) can and will be used to improve fighter jet technology. The same for exoskelton suits. As we create increasingly complex solutions for problems, they create the opportunity for increasingly complex mis-uses of technology.

At the same time, I’m contempting the need for a computer ethics course for high school students. Strangely, however, I think more than half of the course would need to be programming experience for the students. Without a basis in the algorithmic patterns of programming, and how that relates to creation of technology and software, and even the new thinking in the areas of genetics, robotics and information, students will only be talking about “black boxes.” In order to really make ethical decisions about these issues, our shared understanding needs to be deeper than Newsweek cover stories or 50 minute NOVA episodes.

Going further, opening the black boxes for students can also make them more than just users of technology– to innovate, they need to be creators.

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