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  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #115     A Publication of The Nature Institute     December 21, 2000
              Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    NetFuture is a reader-supported publication.
    Editor's Note
    Quotes and Provocations
       Technology and Human Responsibility
       Bill Gates' New Concerns
    Tech Knowledge Revue (Langdon Winner)
       Confronting the Culture of Disrespect
       Where's Your Action Plan? (William Bostock Hackett III)
    Announcements and Resources
       Computers and Children: Request for Grant Proposals
    About this newsletter
                                  EDITOR'S NOTE
    Last autumn I mentioned that NetFuture would be carrying a response by
    Mark Pesce to my criticism of his "earth toy" proposal ("Mark Pesce's
    Earth Toy" in NF #107).  I am disappointed to report that some time ago,
    after drafting part of his response, Mark decided not to proceed.  It was
    not because of any restrictions on NetFuture's side (there were none); he
    simply indicated that he felt it was better "to let matters rest where
    they are".  He also mentioned that his book, The Playful World: How
    Technology is Transforming Our Imagination, is now available and
    speaks for itself.
    It is not my first abortive effort to enlist a technology-savvy critic to
    respond to points of view presented in NetFuture.  I'm not sure what the
    problem is, but I'll be looking for further opportunities.
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                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    Technology and Human Responsibility
    Thanks to science and technology, many in the West today are gripped by a
    sense of unlimited potential, as if nothing lay altogether beyond the
    reach of mankind.  I think there's truth in this.  In principle, and over
    the long term, we can -- and will -- achieve whatever we aim at with
    heart, mind, and will.
    Leave aside for the moment the fact that some of the things we strive for,
    such as machine-enhanced, superhuman intelligence, will present us with a
    horribly contracted, if still powerfully coercive, reality due to our
    flawed understanding of what we are aiming at.  What puzzles me is that
    the sense of wide-open possibility leads many -- and especially, if I'm
    not mistaken, those who work with computers -- to feel only a boundless
    hope and exhilaration, untethered by any weight of responsibility.  Yet
    the truth remains:  our moral responsibility is coextensive with the
    effective reach of our understanding.  When