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Bill Joy At TED: We Can’t Pick The Future But We Can Steer It

After establishing his reputation as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, in 2000 Bill Joy published a landmark cover story for Wired Magazine called Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us. In it he raises a number of questions about the ethical dimensions and unintended consequences of technology and his concern that, along the accelerating path of technological progress, people such as Ray Kurzweil are underestimating enormously the probability of disaster for humanity. Joy’s conclusion at the time was:

“The only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment: to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge.”

Following his article there was a huge outcry against Joy alleging that he was a Luddite, ideologically connected to Samuel Butler and even Ted Kaczynski.

In this TED video, shot a number of years after his Wired article, Bill Joy puts forward a more even-handed point of view by discussing both what technologies worry and inspire him. His current message: Proceed with caution. We can’t pick the future but we can steer it.

It is very interesting to see how Joy evolved from a technology pioneer in the 80s and the 90s, through what looked like a technology pessimist in 2000, to something of a cautiously optimistic agnostic after 2006. This is only one of the reasons because of which I’ve been trying to get in touch with him for a Singularity Podcast interview but, unfortunately, so far have had no success… He is such an amazing individual, however, that I will certainly persist in my attempts…

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