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  •                                 NETFUTURE
                       Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #52       Copyright 1997 Bridge Communications          July 2, 1997
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Editor's Note
    *** Quotes and Provocations
          Laws That Are Made To Be Broken
          Wiring Our Schools: Here Comes the Backlash
          Toward the Great Singularity (Part 2)
          We Are Not Becoming a More Image-based Society
    *** Alice Outwater on Engineering Our Water Resources (Stephen L. Talbott)
          Should we leave it to beavers?
    *** About this newsletter

    *** Editor's Note

    I'll be mostly unavailable by email from now until after Labor Day, although I will eventually read all mail. I also expect to continue publishing NETFUTURE during the remainder of the summer -- perhaps at somewhat wider intervals.


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    *** Quotes and Provocations

    Laws That Are Made To Be Broken

    Referring to Moore's Law -- which says that computer chip density, and therefore processing power, will double every eighteen months -- Gary Chapman (L.A. Times Syndicate, June 24) wisely points out that
    This `law' ... is less a law than an expression of how chip manufacturers invest their money.
    And also, of course, how the rest of us spend our money. So we might better have called it "Moore's Resolve," which is at the same time an American Resolve. But it's always nice to believe that our resolves have the objective necessity of natural laws.

    Of course, even after careful reflection and weighing of societal priorities, we might still want to keep to this particular resolve. But the important thing is to grasp willingly and with both hands the implications of the fact that it is indeed our resolve rather than a dictate of physics or fate or economic necessity. Only in making our resolves fully conscious and in accepting responsibility for their many implications can we escape mastery by our multiplying technological servants.

    Wiring Our Schools: Here Comes the Backlash

    I suggested several months back that "1997 is very likely to see the first high-profile, tempest-causing note of sanity sounded against the cooption of primary and secondary education by the costs, the time drain, and the general irrelevance of computerized technology. Before long someone is going to step forward with an unexpected word of common sense."

    In fact, many will do so, it's begun, and the storm's preliminary breezes are already kicking up dust.

    You may have seen the cover article in the July Atlantic Monthly. Written by Todd Oppenheimer, it's called "The Computer Delusion," and is prefaced with these words:

    There is no good evidence that most uses of computers significantly improve teaching and learning, yet