June 14, 2006

Existential Choices

A thoughtful essay titled "Dark Material" by Martin Reese, the renowned British cosmologist, leads the latest on line issue of Edge. The essay explores the important question of what scientists and technologists can do to safeguard against biological, environmental, and nuclear threats to civilization, "without humanity having to sacrifice its diversity and individualism". This excerpt sums up Reese's views:

...The future will best be safeguarded —— and science has the best chance of being applied optimally —— through the efforts of people who are less fatalistic. And here I am optimistic. The burgeoning technologies of IT, miniaturization and biotech are environmentally and socially benign. The challenge of global warming should stimulate a whole raft of manifestly benign innovations —— for conserving energy, and generating it by novel 'clean' means (biofuels, innovative renewables, carbon sequestration, and nuclear fusion). Other global challenges include controlling infectious diseases; and preserving biodiversity.

These challenging scientific goals should appeal to the idealistic young. They deserve a priority and commitment from governments, akin to that accorded to the Manhattan project or the Apollo moon landing...

...Wise choices will require idealistic and effective campaigners —— not just physicists, but biologists, computer experts, and environmentalists as well...

The issues raised by Reese are serious and reflect my own concerns, and I am sure, those of many among my fellow bloggers. Specifically, I welcome Reese's advocacy of effective campaigns to promote "wise choices". I believe that sustained on line campaigns to promote general awareness of the issues confronting humanity today, exchange of our individual thoughts on what can be done, and building consensus, are the best use of our time and brainwidth.

And then, the reality check! Browsing down my feeds for today, I came across this - Labs Compete to Make New Nuclear Bomb! Which labs? Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos, of course. Oh, well... You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one (from Imagine by John Lennon).


  1. I wish you had elaborated further on how ordinary mortals can promote "wise choices" while corporates sitting on huge funds to aid research will stop at nothing to promote vested interests. They are the ones who can fund research, who can lobby with politicians and woo the public with glittery advertisements and pay up for the odd law suit for damages caused. They have got the whole ground covered - so how do we make a difference?

  2. Usha,
    I have just one word elaboration - THINK.
    I used to begin every course on strategy that I have taught for twenty five odd years with that word in big bold letters.

  3. I'm afraid Martin Reese is as deluded as most people. As I understand it, he claims that technology can better the life of mankind. In other words: One of the major factors that have ruined our lives, that has taken us away from nature, from life, can yet improve our lives. Can the very thing destroying us ever be used to save us? I certaily don't think so.


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