William Nelson "Bill" Joy is an American computer scientist. Joy co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982 along with Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy and Andreas von Bechtolsheim, and served as chief scientist at the company until 2003. He played an integral role in the early development of BSD UNIX while a graduate student at Berkeley, and he is the original author of the vi text editor. He also wrote the 2000 essay "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us", in which he expressed deep concerns over the development of modern technologies.
If we could agree …
If we could agree, we might understand.
… In recent times, we have come to revere scientific knowledge.
But despite the strong historical precedents, if open access to and unlimited development of knowledge henceforth puts us all in clear danger of extinction, then common sense demands that we reexamine even these basic, long-held beliefs.
It was Nietzsche who warned us, at the end of the 19th century, not only that God is dead but that "faith in science, which after all exists undeniably, cannot owe its origin to a calculus of utility; it must have originated in spite of the fact that the disutility and dangerousness of the 'will to truth,' of 'truth at any price' is proved to it constantly." It is this further danger that we now fully face - the consequences of our truth-seeking. The truth that science seeks can certainly be considered a dangerous substitute for God if it is likely to lead to our extinction.
If we could agree, as a species, what we wanted, where we were headed, and why, then we would make our future much less dangerous — then we might understand what we can and should relinquish.
It should give us pause …
How soon could such an intelligent robot be built? The coming advances in computing power seem to make it possible by 2030. And once an intelligent robot exists, it is only a small step to a robot species – to an intelligent robot that can make evolved copies of itself.
It is most of all the power of destructive self-replication in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR) that should give us pause. …
In truth, we have had in hand for years clear warnings of the dangers inherent in widespread knowledge of GNR technologies – of the possibility of knowledge alone enabling mass destruction. But these warnings haven’t been widely publicized; the public discussions have been clearly inadequate. There is no profit in publicizing the dangers.
The nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) technologies used in 20th-century weapons of mass destruction were and are largely military, developed in government laboratories. In sharp contrast, the 21st-century GNR technologies have clear commercial uses and are being developed almost exclusively by corporate enterprises. In this age of triumphant commercialism, technology – with science as its handmaiden – is delivering a series of almost magical inventions that are the most phenomenally lucrative ever seen. We are aggressively pursuing the promises of these new technologies within the now-unchallenged system of global capitalism and its manifold financial incentives and competitive pressures.