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  •                                 NETFUTURE
                       Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #70       Copyright 1998 Bridge Communications        April 30, 1998
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Why Is the Moon Getting Farther Away? (Steve Talbott)
    *** Correspondence
          Beyond The Year 2000: Taking the Long View (Jeff Wright)
          Missing the Mark on Asimov (Rob Haas)
    *** Who Said That?
    *** About this newsletter

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    *** Why Is the Moon Getting Farther Away?
    From Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)

    This essay was first presented at "The Computer in Education: Seeking the Human Essentials", a conference held in December, 1997, at Teachers College, Columbia University. The version here is slightly revised from Orion magazine (Spring, 1998) and is reprinted by permission. (You may, as is normally the case, redistribute the piece noncommercially.) For a note on subscribing to Orion -- an eminently worthwhile thing to do -- see below.

    If you've ever looked through the wrong end of a telescope, you know that
    this instrument has opposite effects, depending on how you use it.  What
    may be less obvious is that even normal use of the telescope can be
    rather paradoxical.

    We marvel at the incomprehensibly remote galaxies brought near to us by the modern telescope, and know that our existence on earth would be sadly impoverished without their austere majesty. And yet, by expanding the universe without limit, isolating our vision from our other senses, and encouraging us to view ourselves as chance objects among billions and billions of objects, far from the center of things, this same telescope has whispered to many: "You are an accident, lost in a vast, wind-blown desert where the grains of sand are stars."

    Things, apparently, can be brought closer while at the same time becoming more remote, more disconnected from us. "We had to travel to the moon in 1969," surmises psychologist Robert Romanyshyn in Technology As Symptom and Dream, not because it had come so near to us, but "because it had gone so far away."

    Did we, like the middle-aged man seeking the long-lost love of his youth, travel to the moon in order to see whether, in our stat