NETFUTURE

                    Technology and Human Responsibility

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Issue #149                                                 August 28, 2003
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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
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CONTENTS
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Quotes and Provocations
   Who Needs Media Regulation?
   Commerce as Storytelling

From HAL to Kismet: Your Evolution Dollars at Work
   Further commentary on Rodney Brooks' Flesh and Machines

The Surprising New Language of Mechanism
   Are mainstream scientists getting religion?

DEPARTMENTS

About this newsletter


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                         QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS


Who Needs Media Regulation?
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The current proposals for media deregulation are provoking widespread
criticism to the effect that we already have too much concentration in the
media industry, and deregulation will only make it worse.  As I heard
someone say on public radio a half hour ago, "We need more voices out
there, not fewer".

Perhaps so.  And perhaps deregulation will lead to greater concentration.
But even if this is true, the objection is hopelessly one-sided.

We do not lack voices in the world.  There are billions of them.
What many of them lack is someone listening.  A voice failing to
attract listeners cannot be much of a public voice.  If in fact there
are few prominent voices in a largely open society such as ours, it is
substantially because most of us are willing to listen to few voices, or
to few different kinds of voices.  We prefer People magazine to Time, and
Time to the Economist -- and all of these to, say, NetFuture.  (Just
kidding.  In any case, you are the one audience for which that statement
is certainly false.)  No re-jiggering of regulations will suddenly alter
these preferences.

I won't deny that there's an unhealthy concentration of interests in the
media business.  But this fact is inseparable from another one:  there is
an unhealthy concentration of shallow interests in the general public.  I
don't see how we can begin to make progress against the social problems we
face without first accepting the kind of double-sidedness evident in this
particular issue.  It is intrinsic to the organic character of modern
society that virtually every problem needs to be recognized not only at
some focus we can point to "out there", but also at a focus "in here", i