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  •                                  NETFUTURE
    
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    
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    Issue #133                                                   June 25, 2002
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                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
               Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
    
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    
    Can we take responsibility for technology, or must we sleepwalk
    in submission to its inevitabilities?  NetFuture is a voice for
    responsibility.  It depends on the generosity of those who support
    its goals.  To make a contribution, click here.
    
    
    CONTENTS
    ---------
    
    Editor's Note
       On Conversing with Kevin Kelly
    
    Are Machines Living Things? (Kevin Kelly and Stephen L. Talbott)
       Of rats and cyborgs
    
    DEPARTMENTS
    
    Correspondence
       Grief for Mechanized Rats (Michael Knowles)
       There Are Good Uses for the Computer in Education (Roger Palfree)
       Distance Education Is Alive and Well (Jan Whitaker)
    
    About this newsletter
    
    
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                                  EDITOR'S NOTE
    
    
    On Conversing with Kevin Kelly
    ------------------------------
    
    Two people caught up in an argument can find themselves in either of
    two very different situations.  If they share most basic assumptions,
    so that it is easy to arrive at clear-cut, mutually accepted definitions
    of terms, then facts and logic come to the fore.  The argument is mostly
    a matter of filling in missing information and identifying unrecognized
    inconsistencies in one position or the other.
    
    But there is a whole other challenge when the disputants do not share
    assumptions and their meanings are subtly divergent.  Then, before the
    task of engagement can be reduced to a factual and logical exercise, each
    person must find a way to make his terms conceivable to the other.
    This typically requires the use of metaphor; only through a kind of
    cognitive leap can we grasp a new meaning.
    
    Francis Bacon summarized the two cases this way:
    
       Those whose conceits are seated in popular opinions, need only but to
       prove or dispute; but those whose conceits are beyond popular opinions,
       have a double labor:  the one to make themselves conceived, and the
       other to prove and demonstrate.  So that it is of necessity with them
       to have recourse to similitudes and translations [that is, metaphors]
       to express themselves.
    
    I think you will agree, after reading the feature in this issue, that
    Kevin Kelly and I face the problem of making ourselves conceived by each
    other.  What happens in all such cases is that the two sides risk
    continually "talking past each other", because they are employing
    different languages.
    
    But while this may sound like a fruitless exercise, it can be much more
    useful to an active, critical re