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  •                                 NETFUTURE
    
                Technology and Human Responsibility for the Future
    
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    Issue #12      Copyright 1996 O'Reilly & Associates         March 26, 1996
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                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
    
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    
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    ####  Don't forget the $5000 SPIDER OR FLY? deadline: April 30, 1996  ####
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    CONTENTS:
    *** Editor's note
          NETFUTURE now has two indexes
    *** The tool's threat lies in our unawareness (Stephen L. Talbott)
          Give ambiguity and complexity their due
    *** Every tool is an obstacle (Stephen L. Talbott)
          Computer critics need not worship books
    *** About this newsletter
    

    *** Editor's note

    If you've been to the NETFUTURE Web site in the past week or so, you've discovered that we now have an up-to-date index of all our issues. Actually, two indexes, one by issue number, and one by author.

    The last issue was mostly given over to critics of certain remarks of mine; I have impounded the current issue in order to offer some response. I hope that the outcome will be constructive.

    My general sense, however, is that back-and-forth argument between people who have few assumptions in common is only rarely constructive--and almost never when conducted over the Net. Every publication of note--electronic or otherwise--fosters vigorous discussion upon some sort of common ground, so that the participants can talk to each other. This ground is what lends the publication its distinctive character. I'm not yet quite prepared to suggest how the "givens" of NETFUTURE might be framed--apart from the general concern with "computerized technology and human responsibility for the future." But I will certainly try to steer the newsletter away from unproductive sorts of debate in the future.

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    *** The tool's threat lies in our unawareness
    Follow-up to "A (partial) defense of Peter Quince" (NF-9)

    From Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)

    The Risk Inherent in Tools

    In NF-11 Alain Henon, Peter Faller, Mike Fischbein, and David Petraitis all seemed to choke on my remark that "every tool is a threat." Henon wondered whether "this is not one long awful joke at the end of which you will tell us you were really kidding."

    It seems to me remarkable that in our sophisticated, tool-dominated age the point at issue should even be debated. Remarkable, and also threatening, since the one and only thing that makes the tool a threat is our blithe unawareness of the threat--our willingness to take the threat for a joke.

    Rather than say more, I include in this issue the essay ("Every Tool Is an Obstacle") that I referred to in my correspondence with Peter Quince. I forwarded the essay to Quince in order to convince him that no tool can be viewed as inherent