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JASON Proposes a 'Library of Congress' For Pathogens

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-never-liked-that-jason-guy dept.

Biotech 42

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from a blog at the Federation of American Scientists' website: "In order to help determine the origins of microbial threats in terrorist incidents or epidemics, it would be useful to have a deep archive of various strains of lethal bacteria, the JASON defense advisory panel told the National Counterproliferation Center in a newly released 2009 report (PDF). ... 'This library would consist of strains collected worldwide by methods that preserve sample properties, and capture all relevant data (e.g. geolocation, local environmental conditions). It should include laboratory isolates, natural isolates, and DNA sequence data.'"

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First + 1 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103202)


Be careful, please (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103218)

That library should have an awesome security around it. It's one thing to keep data secure, that's difficult enough, keeping a collection of biological weapons secure is an entirely different thing.

Biological weapons have the problem that they are self-reproducing, the release of *one* sample is enough to cause mass destruction.

Re:Be careful, please (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103286)

Yeah! Like a military biotech lab [wikipedia.org] or something.

Re:Be careful, please (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103358)

Let's give it to Wikileaks!

It will just be full of STDs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104326)

After all, it's a library of congress

Oh, Good (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103224)

That's all the world needs, the great expansionistic empire-building nation of the modern world to have a complete palette of nasties.

Re:Oh, Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103366)

While I agree that it's not a great idea, I'm comforted by the fact that since this is being proposed, it's likely that we don't already have one in secret.

Re:Oh, Good (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35108568)

Not really an expert, but biological weapons are like artillery or tanks, it seems strange no development or research would occur in that area for any serious army.
The least optimistic thing is that after development there comes testing.

Re:Oh, Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35106228)

the great expansionistic empire-building nation of the modern world to have a complete palette of nasties

and machetes.

And then... (1)

bobbinspenguin (1988368) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103242)

Bruce Willis visits it in Die Hard 5? From the article I'm assuming there's no actual sample stored though?

Bioterrorism? (4, Funny)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103248)

Epidemics, sure, but maybe I missed the wave of bioterrorism that prompted this orgy of spending. If they can find a way to tie in pedophilia and intellectual property rights, they'll be swimming in cash.

Re:Bioterrorism? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103298)

You're looking at this from the wrong angle. We could really use a database of pathogens for medical purposes!

Just mention "terrorism" and "WMDs", and you'll get all the funding you need.

Re:Bioterrorism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103394)

Terror related deaths in US last 10 years or so 4000
Road related deaths in same period +330,000

Which is greatest priority?

Re:Bioterrorism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103656)

It is the job of this group to advise the government on scientific matters. I'm sorry that they didn't cater to your particular interest today.

Besides. Many road deaths are the fault of the drivers involved. That isn't quite the same as someone who intentionally is out to kill you. Putting up more "Don't drink while driving" signs seems out of their scope.

Re:Bioterrorism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104160)

My point is not directed at this particular scientific group. Just a commentary on the posture of the US to divert massive resources to a relatively minor threat (in comparison to roads). The terror threat is overstated, to justify expenditure in a particular industry segment. Said expenditure aimed at areas where deaths actually occur will save more lives.

It may be worthwhile reading paper without pictures of 'neckid' ladies. You will be surprised with what you will learn.

But then again, some people love to be taken in by nationalist propaganda. Please enjoy your fondling at the airport.

Re:Bioterrorism? (2)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103866)

Terror related deaths in US last 10 years or so 4000
Road related deaths in same period +330,000

Which is greatest priority?

The scary one!

Re:Bioterrorism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35106892)

Maybe... testing bioweapons on pedophiles and RIAA lawyers?

I dunno.

CDC (2)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103292)

I thought we had that already and it's called the CDC.

Re:CDC (1)

LastGunslinger (1976776) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103392)

I assumed the same thing, at least for naturally occurring pathogens.

So that's what JASON suggests... (2, Funny)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103382)

...but what do FREDDY KRUEGER and MICHAEL MYERS think about this matter?

Redundancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103428)

I think a library of congress implies pathogens.

I approve of this! (1)

SethThresher (1958152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103624)

There is obviously no way this could ever possibly end badly. Let's get this ball rolling!

(This post brought to you by Lysol)

Dance! (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103666)

Let's just hope a terrorist never infiltrates this library using our own system to get in. Talk about a hayday!

"In order to determin the origins..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104052)

So we can go and bomb the hell out off some innocent country where the baddies found the stuff.

How about using that data to create vaccine in advance?


drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104140)

I know I'm not the only geek that read "JSON" when first skimming this title.

Nobody knows why they felt the need to capitalize their group name JASON, since according to the WP article, it is a reference to the mythological Greek character Jason.

Library of Congress? It's 2011. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104228)

How about a Facebook For Pathogens? Way better way to get the kids involved in science.

Did you see that Streptococcus poked E. Coli?

Simple solution. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104442)

Why not install jammers in the cellblocks? Seems like an elegant and immediate solution to the problem. It's not like the inmates can legitimately complain about their sudden inability to use contraband devices. :)

Does JASON know mythology? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104450)

The original mythological Jason was undone when he left the alliance that had supported him for another alliance, hoping for a better deal, out of a presumable fear of scarcity in not having enough political power. It is the engineers, scientists, artists, farmers, machinists, and so on who have brought great wealth to our society, while others then have tried to forge that wealth into power, often through creating artificial scarcity through war and commercial competition and passing laws against cooperation (endless copyrights, broad patents, centralizing corporate control, barriers to entry, etc.). The scientists and engineers making up JASON needs to help our society transition to a post-scarcity economic model in order to ensure true security (with mutual security and intrinsic security). But they can only do that by realizing that we need to build a society based on the idea of abundance based on their original alliance to learning and knowledge sharing and not get so caught up in an outdated "war is a racket" kind of economic-driven militarism inappropriate for our exponentially increasing technical powers. In such a society based on the paradigm of abundance, widespread knowledge about pathogens will not be as much of a problem as it might be in today's society that emphasizes competition, unilateral security, and extrinsic soldier-defended security, where such biotech information might be used to build ethically-targeted plagues as opposed to just enabling people change their skin color at will. :-) Social movements towards a basic income, a gift economy, local subsistence, and democratic resource-based planning are all ways to encourage an abundance paradigm. JASON needs to see those sorts of social innovations as part of their mandate to accompany technicla progress.

You Never Miss an Opportunity do You? (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104686)

I've seen you post this stuff about a post scarcity society on every damn story on Slashdot from ones dealing with space exploration to ones dealing with corporate drama in the computer world. I get that you read a book, or went to a lecture or something that pimped the benefits of, "transitioning our society to one of abundance." I get that, whatever your source for these ideas was, it inspired you to tell anyone who would listen about it. I understand that you are trying to fight a cause for the betterment of our world and such.

But honestly, do you have to post the same 3 - 4 ideas and sentences to every damn story posted to slashdot? We've heard it already. We know there is an alternate society structure out there being thought about. We don't need every single freakin' science story hijacked to become some sociology discussion. This story is about the benefits vs. the risks of documenting, cataloging, and preserving all known microbial agents in the world. Can you please post on-topic for once and add something interesting to the discussion? Or, alternatively, if you don't have anything interesting or insightful to say about the matter at hand, can you please just not click the, "Post Comment," button?

So we are living in a post-scarcity society. Thanks for that. But stop evangelizing your position on how to fix everything at every opportunity. Believe it or not, there is not a single social pill that will fix all the problems that humans face nowadays. Stop pretending your idea is one. This is getting to the point where you sound like one of the wide-eyed religious freaks who answer, "God and Jesus," every time any topic is mentioned around them. Any topic. It's annoying. Please take it down a notch.

Re:You Never Miss an Opportunity do You? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35106558)

"I get that you read a book..."

Wrote a (free, online) book, actually. :-)
        http://www.pdfernhout.net/post-scarcity-princeton.html [pdfernhout.net]
And other stuff, example:
    http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/AchievingAStarTrekSociety.html [kurtz-fernhout.com]

But many others have said similar things before, from Albert Einstein to James P. Hogan. Although Einstein also said nuclear weapons did not create a new problem as much as make an old one much worse.

While I did repeat a general theme, it was JASON specific here. I actually sent a longer essay on this topic of abundance ideology to someone involved with JASON a couple of weeks ago, and developed that mythological issue in some detail. :-) No response to that... So I could not resist a chance to make that point here as summary, too, assuming JASON types or their associates/students might read this.

Are you saying this point on rethinking society so it works better for everyone and avoids self-destructive ironies does not relate to exactly the fundamental problem of technology allowing us to soon create an internet archive where anyone with a grudge can create a designer plague (given the spread of cheap DIY Bio)? The benefits and risks are presumably very different depending on what social structure exists around the archives. See also my suggestion here:
    "Getting to 100 social-technical points"
    http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/msg/a7abadb8867dae79 [google.com]

So, it seems to me you are taking some solutions off the table? Why are we willing to imagine that the advance of technology will soon produce a situation where a teenager can download a file from the internet, mess with it in their computer, print out something with a DNA sequencer, and wipe out the human race with a designer plague (same as teens make compuetr viruses), but then it is sci-fi, off-topic, or out of bounds to think we might actually upgrade our social technology to help teenagers and others not be so alienated or competitive or violence-prone? Many pre-scarcity cultures don't have as many alienated teens and young adults, so alternatives are possible.

Sure, there are a lot of complex things that need to be considered. But, we'll never get to the point of working out the details if we miss the big picture.

I'm not saying you don't have some valid points (and frankly I'd rather someone else put in the time to raise these issues). But as I see it, so much slashdot discussions these days are about adding technological epicycles on epicycles, and I'm trying to get people to consider a different model involving more fundamental conceptual change.

One thing I disagree with though -- we are not living in a post-scarcity society, though. The problem is we are living in a scarcity-paradigm society with post-scarcity capable technology -- sort of like handling blinding-power-level laser pointers to a room full of five year olds wound up on sugar and trained by their teachers to hate each other.

So, what are your alternative solutions?

Re:You Never Miss an Opportunity do You? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35107056)

See my other comment too, but this is from some stuff I sent Freeman Dyson, people won't get some of the references without having read his books, but seem my point on a new defense directorate. :-)

=== Beginning ...

In "The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet", which I'm currently reading aloud to my kid, you talk about how those three tools can bring about a revolution in global abundance, which I have no doubt has truth to it. But, the fact is that we have known for a century how to harness the power of the sun for unlimited energy. Through thousands of years of selective breeding we have created a diversity of abundant agricultural crops like hundreds of flavors of apples including ice cream flavor and loyal dogs to be our playmates and guardians (all currently being lost to monocultures of MacIntosh apples and Golden Retrievers). And we put in place postal services, telegraph lines, printing presses, and rail lines that were in many ways better than the internet because they had less spam and you had to be less of a stegnographic expert to wade through the junk. So, why was the 20th century full of war, whether two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, ethnic wars, and so on? Why did we not use all that potential to create universal abundance? Why did people in Prussia instead invent compulsory schooling to turn humans into factor drones and mindless soldiers, and try twice to take over the world? Why is the USA still obsessed about having an empire? I'd suggest that the missing piece of all that is the idea that we now had the tools of abundance (even bureaucracy that efficiently gassed the Jews while it schooled the Hitler Youth Corps was a potential tool for abundance), but we were using those tools of abundance still from a scarcity perspective. And when misused, such tools of abundance could make terrible weapons, like nuclear bombs instead of nuclear batteries, and weaponized plagues instead of cures for malaria, and killer robots instead of factor robots making food and goods for all.

I guess, if you wanted to be charitable and not consider this complete lunacy, you could see this as some sort of wacky PhD thesis resulting from the times we talked in your office and you gave me a physical design for a sustainable community (Ted Taylor's Micropolis). This is sort of a thesis on the ideological and social design of such a place, or the larger network of such communities and larger entities that it might be part of. Either that or it is a heap of autobiographical creative writing. :-)

Anyway, maybe I should bill it as a sort of Christmas present? :-) At a risk of getting this reply: :-)
    "You Shouldn’t Have. I Mean It. (Worst Gift Ever.)"
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/23/you-shouldnt-have-i-mean-it-worst-gift-ever/?partner=rss&emc=rss [nytimes.com]
"This week, City Room’s James Barron asked readers to recall the worst Christmas gifts they had ever received. Here is a selection, lightly edited. Merry, um, Christmas." ...

=== A post-scarcity "Downfall" parody remix of the bunker scene

Albert Einstein's said: "The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."

When I first heard that (really just the first part, as people rarely quote the last, I thought what he was saying was, essentially, we should learn to be nice to each other and stop being warlike by an act of will. I don't know if that is what he really meant, or not. But, I now have a somewhat different generalization of his suggestion.

My generalization of Einstein's insight is to suggest "the biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those thinking in terms of scarcity".

As a motivating example of that insight in hypothetical action, here is an attempt at some humor about some serious topics and an ugly period of world history...

I originally wrote this dialog here:
http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/msg/32e8fc32c89c96bd [google.com]

Dialog of alternatively a military officer and Hitler in "The Bunker":

Officer: "It looks like there are now local digital fabrication facilities here, here, and here."
Hitler: "But we still have the rockets we need to take them out?"
"The rockets have all been used to launch seed automated machine shops for self-replicating space habitats for more living space in space."
"What about the nuclear bombs?"
"All turned into battery-style nuclear power plants for island cities in the oceans."
"What about the tanks?"
"The diesel engines have been remade to run biodiesel and are powering the internet hubs supplying technical education to the rest of the world."
"I can't believe this incompetence! What about the weaponized plagues?"
"The gene engineers turned them into antidotes for most major diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, cancer, and river blindness."
"Well, send in the Daleks."
"The Daleks have been re-outfitted to terraform Mars. There all gone with the rockets."
"Well, use the 3D printers to print out some more grenades."
"We tried that, but they only are printing toys, food, clothes, shelters, solar panels, and more 3D printers, for some reason."
"But what about the Samsung automated machine guns?"
"They were all reprogrammed into automated bird watching platforms. The guns were taken out and melted down into parts for agricultural robots."
"I just can't believe this. The Third Reich has developed the most amazing technology the world has ever known in order to create artificial scarcity so we could rule the world through managing scarcity. Where is the scarcity?"
"Gone, Mein Fuhrer, all gone. All the technologies we developed for weapons to enforce scarcity have all been used to make abundance."
"How can we rule without scarcity? Where did it all go so wrong? ...
Everyone with an engineering degree leave the room ... now!"
[After almost everyone leaves Hitler's office, he engages in a long emotional tirade on the general incompetence of engineers. :-) Then he goes on in a long tirade on how could engineers seriously wanted to help the German workers to not have to work so hard when the whole Nazi party platform was based on providing full employment using fiat dollars. Then he goes on into a long tirade on how could engineers have taken the "socialism" part seriously and shared the wealth of nature and technology with everyone globally?]
Hitler: "So how are the common people paying for all this?"
Officer: "Much is free, and there is a basic income given to everyone for the rest. There is so much to go around with the robots and 3D printers and solar panels and so on, that most of the old work no longer needs to be done."
"You mean people get money without working at jobs? But nobody would work?"
"Everyone does what they love. And they are producing so much just as gifts."
"Oh, so you mean people are producing so much for free that the economic
system has failed?"
"Yes, the old pyramid scheme one, anyway. There is a new post-scarcity
economy, where between automation and a a gift economy the income-through-jobs link is almost completely broken. Everyone also gets a "basic income" as a right of citizenship as a share of all our resources for the few things that still need to be rationed or they can't easily produce locally through democratic resource based-planning on multiple levels. Even you."
"Really? How much is this basic income?"
"Two thousand a month."
"Two thousand a month? Just for being me?"
"Well, with a basic income like that, maybe I can finally have the time and resources to get back to my painting..." ...

=== The pleasure trap

A book called "The Pleasure Trap" is one that helped me a lot on a path to wellness, and the basic idea is described here:
    http://www.healthpromoting.com/Articles/articles/PleasureTrap.htm [healthpromoting.com]
"Like our other sensory nerves, our taste buds also will “get used to” a given level of stimulation—and this can have horrific consequences. The taste buds of the vast majority of people in industrialized societies are currently neuro-adapted to artificially high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt animal and processed foods. These foods are ultimately no more enjoyable than more healthful fare, but few people will ever see that this is true, because they consistently consume highly stimulating foods, and have “gotten used to” them. If they were to eat a less stimulating, health-promoting diet, they soon would enjoy such fare every bit as much. Unfortunately, very few people will ever realize this critically important fact! ...
  For the past several decades, the modern American diet has been increasing in animal protein, animal and vegetable fats, refined carbohydrates, and added oil, salt, and sugar. In just the past two decades, our caloric intake has slowly escalated by 650 calories per person, per day. Not surprisingly, obesity and other diseases of dietary excess are at all-time highs. But just a few decades ago, our nation’s dietary habits were remarkably different. Meat was an expensive commodity—for some, a “treat.” The same was true for refined flour products, refined sugar, and oils. But times have changed. Today, almost everyone in America can have all they desire of these rich foods—and they do, virtually every day.
    From the perspective of our natural history, a daily life with such dietary choices is extraordinary. For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancient ancestors scratched and scraped, struggling against the harsh forces of nature in order to get enough food to survive. Even today, in undeveloped countries, significant food shortages are still a great concern, with millions dying each year from starvation. Yet, in a mere blink of history’s eye—in just a few decades—industrialized societies have arisen from environments of scarcity and have transformed themselves into societies of unprecedented abundance. The most striking feature of that abundance is a virtually unlimited supply of food."

Maybe this influenced my sig below (I did read the book before I made the sig I think, even though I've been interested in evolutionary psychology since the 1980s). The ideas there certainly relates to an irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those thinking in terms of scarcity. Humanities main physical health problems now, as chronic diseases of kings like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease causing about 80% of all deaths in the industrialized world, stems from having a neurophysiology designed for a scarcity of salt, sugar, and fat, and trying to use it in a world of an abundance of salt, sugar, and fat, where the result is widespread sickness.

It is my suggestion the same issues apply to thinking about nuclear energy, biotechnology, and robotics (and a host of other things).

Another related book:
"Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose"
http://www.amazon.com/Supernormal-Stimuli-Overran-Evolutionary-Purpose/dp/039306848X [amazon.com] ...

=== An alternative way to look at the story of Jason

[Note that Freeman Dyson has been listed a couple of places as part of JASON:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/books/review/16horgan.html [nytimes.com]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeman_Dyson [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JASON_(advisory_group) [wikipedia.org] ]

The story of (mythical) Jason is an interesting one. It's obviously the kind of name someone's spouse might pick for a project to remind him to be faithful. :-) As Wikipedia says, Jason is undone at the end because: "... he broke his vow to love Medea forever, Jason lost his favor with Hera and died lonely and unhappy."
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason [wikipedia.org]

But lest you take that as a swipe at remarriage, let me hasten to add marriage is no doubt a problematical institution for real human beings, given what cultural anthropology tells us, and exists as we know in part as a social construction in relation to authoritarian bureaucracies which are themselves problematical. One can look at, say, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) for a different view of marriage and shared wealth, including kids raised by a matriarchal community of extended relatives who owned the land in common, where divorce has not the impact it does in the USA with its focus on "nuclear" families. Divorce, such as it was, was presumably not such a big thing for the children of Haudenosaunee families. Basically, we've created a society in the USA where the expectation for relationships between men and women is too high because the rest of the society is so messed up, as extended families and villages have been destroyed. James P. Hogan talks about this incidentally in his book "Voyage From Yesteryear".

A little bit of text I'm especially proud of writing, even though it is about a very sad thing:
http://www.pdfernhout.net/towards-a-post-scarcity-new-york-state-of-mind.html [pdfernhout.net]
"See, that is the false choice -- suggesting you either confine a child to [school] prison or they will commit their first violent crime and have to be imprisoned. That is a very dim view of human nature, neighborhoods and families. Yet, it is a self justifying view, in part destroying the very neighborhood fabric it claims to be defending. So, we are left with streets that are safe because there are no people on them. We have successfully destroyed the village in order to save it, using compulsory schooling instead of napalm."

My main point here is that "Jason" is greedy at the end of the tale by seeking to marry Creusa to strengthen his political ties, and greed is a sign of fear about scarcity. Medea had brought Jason endless abundance with all her gifts, but he evidently decided that it was not enough. So, Jason was undone by his continuing fear of scarcity, even with the abundant Medea by his side.

In human affairs, well, that probably happens all the time, with 50% of marriages ending in divorce, sadly.

But on a societal scale, there is a deeper lesson here, such as when we think as a society about the abundance made possible by Medea giving us control over nuclear processes, biological processes, and also computational processes. Even with all his abundant successes through the help of Medea, Jason in the end still remained stuck in a scarity mindset, and suffered for it.

I'd suggest, as in a previous email, that that is the central problem with the defense posture the other JASON has helped create based on a scarcity paradigm, emphasizing extrinsic security and unilateral security, instead of basing national security on an abundance paradigm leading to intrinsic and mutual security. And even if JASON did not set that posture, taking it as a given and not pushing back more on that has contributed to the USA's fundamental insecurity. Granted, anyone who advocated alternatives might have been purged?

Basically, though, I'm speculating that JASON has not understood a deeper meaning in the story it was named after?

http://www.amazon.com/Jasons-Secret-History-Sciences-Postwar/dp/0670034894 [amazon.com]
http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net]

But, alas, like SSI and its continued focus on solar space satellites when ground based solar or nuclear is going to be a better choice for decades to come, I can doubt JASON could easily make the jump to the new security paradigm related to the economics of abundance.

Essentially, the new defense directorate I am part of is more some open but hard-to-describe network across the internet comprising the individual actions of millions of individuals (of which I am one of those millions to some extent). And you join it by just jumping in. :-) And it is a defense directorate that does not operate in secret. One that really has no need for secrets, any more that true humanitarian-oriented science has needs for much secrecy.

What I describe is perhaps a bit like in some of Theodore Sturgeon's stories from the 1950s:
    http://p2pfoundation.net/To_Marry_Medusa [p2pfoundation.net]
"In some of Sturgeon's other writings he also addresses networking issues and social change, but not so simply as the Xanadu short story. For example, in the novel "To Marry Medusa", he puts into conflict a p2p consciousness made of individual people vs. an single amazing unity of most of the rest of the galaxy's organisms."

See also:
    "The Skills of Xanadu" by Theodore Sturgeon in "And Now the News".
    http://books.google.com/books?id=wpuJQrxHZXAC&pg=PA51&lpg=PP1 [google.com]

I can see this new security system through the lens of a new paradigm. So a work like Paul Hawken's "Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement In the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming" means something to me that might not be so obvious to someone in JASON. From:
    http://www.blessedunrest.com/ [blessedunrest.com]
"Blessed Unrest explores the diversity of the movement, its brilliant ideas, innovative strategies, and hidden history, which date back many centuries. A culmination of Hawken's many years of leadership in the environmental and social justice fields, it will inspire and delight any and all who despair of the world's fate, and its conclusions will surprise even those within the movement itself. Fundamentally, it is a description of humanity's collective genius, and the unstoppable movement to reimagine our relationship to the environment and one another."

This blessed unrest is perhaps the answer to the issue you raised in relation to Hardy's statement: "A science is said to be useful if its development tends to accentuate the existing inequalities in the distribution of wealth, or more directly promotes the destruction of human life."

Or Langdon Winner talks about in relation to how we need to be careful about what values and priorities we use to direct us where to innovate and what systems to build. In the end, it has been a lot of individuals who have forged ahead to build a future that makes some sense to them, and they have done it in a variety of ways.

Hardy also said:
        http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/g_h_hardy.html [brainyquote.com]
"There is no scorn more profound, or on the whole more justifiable, than that of the men who make for the men who explain. Exposition, criticism, appreciation, is work for second-rate minds."

No wonder synthesis and education suffer so much in our society. Another way to look at this is that creation is random and happens statistically. You can count on it. But explanation, and the kind of synthesis you have done in your books with great clarity, that takes hard work, if not in the actual writing, in the living that leads up to the writing. (And obviously, this long document shows I'm not quite up to your standards. :-)

I can hope Hardy was wrong about this, as I'm just passing through my 40s and would like to think I might continue to improve: :-)
    http://www.todayinsci.com/H/Hardy_Godfrey/HardyGodfrey-Quotations.htm [todayinsci.com]
"I was at my best at a little past forty, when I was a professor at Oxford."

Maybe he would not say that if he had not suffered from perhaps vegetable deficiency disease and maybe vitamin D deficiency disease?

I guess you could say, I'm asking you to join the emerging defense directorate of a totally new "blessed unrest" sort that is beyond JASON (while at the same time honoring all your old loyalties and commitments). On the other hand, one might say that you have for decades already been part of such a network, one beyond JASON, through your writings and lecturings, as you have lived both in and out of the Golden Ghetto, inspiring people and helping people in multiple circles (including myself, either directly or indirectly, like through Ted Taylor). So, with us both part of that network already, peer to peer so to speak, I'm asking you, towards the end, to think about the idea of irony in relation to the tools of abundance being used from a paradigm of scarcity. :-) I think you could get a great book out of it to add to your already impressive legacy.

Who would have though someone could pull off recruiting someone, recruiting the watchers of the someone, and infesting an intelligence network they are all part of with the one idea that can save those in it, all at the same time? It would not seem possible. :-)

It is indeed "lunacy" to even think about it. :-)
    "Astrophysics Enabled By the Return to the Moon,"
    http://www.stsci.edu/institute/conference/moon [stsci.edu]

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. Both smiley :-) and frowny :-(
"On dealing with social hurricanes (like the US CIA)"
http://www.pdfernhout.net/on-dealing-with-social-hurricanes.html [pdfernhout.net] ...

=== An alternative view of the Pilgrims from an abundance perspective

Well, OK, I can't resist mentioning this alternative view of the Pilgrims who you mention several times in your books (though it's not a multiverse thing, but a multi-perspective thing).

Some have suggested the Pilgrims were a bunch of nutty people who were persecuted in England for good reason (they were like an incipient "Taliban" of the day). In this view, the Pilgrims moved to the Netherlands where they could worship as they pleased, but they could not stand the fact that other people had the same right, too, and they were losing members to other groups that were more fun to be in than the craziness they lived by. So, the worst of the lot decided to move to North American rather than assimilate, where the fools started dying because their nutty beliefs finally had contact with reality (plus they could not even get along with each other), and nature often isn't kind to fools. Only because of the charity and compassion of the networked Native Americans in sharing the fruits of their advanced biotechnology did some of the Pilgrims survive the first long winter (and they were helped despite the Pilgrims having desecrated Native graves for food and tools). But, despite being helped by the Natives, the scarcity-minded repression-loving Pilgrims could still not accept the bigger picture about abundance and love and cooperation the Native Americans tried to tell them about. The end result was the continuation of the genocide against the natives, kicking them off their land, and, eventually, the transformation of the technologies of abundance into terrible scarcity-creating nuclear and biological and robotic weapons, to make the facts eventually fit the paradigm.

Here is the bigger picture the natives tried to teach the Pilgrims about is described here, by a Native American:
    http://www.marcinequenzer.com/creation.htm#The%20Field%20of%20Plenty [marcinequenzer.com]
"The Field of Plenty is always full of abundance. The gratitude we show as Children of Earth allows the ideas within the Field of Plenty to manifest on the Good Red Road so we may enjoy these fruits in a physical manner. When the cornucopia was brought to the Pilgrims, the Iroquois People sought to assist these Boat People in destroying their fear of scarcity. The Native understanding is that there is always enough for everyone when abundance is shared and when gratitude is given back to the Original Source. The trick was to explain the concept of the Field of Plenty with few mutually understood words or signs. The misunderstanding that sprang from this lack of common language robbed those who came to Turtle Island of a beautiful teaching. Our "land of the free, home of the brave" has fallen into taking much more than is given back in gratitude by its citizens. Turtle Island has provided for the needs of millions who came from lands that were ruled by the greedy. In our present state of abundance, many of our inhabitants have forgotten that Thanksgiving is a daily way of living, not a holiday that comes once a year."

That misunderstanding is the basis of founding of the USA, and there has been a conflict between Pilgramism of Local Artificial Scarcity and a Nativism on Universal Natural Abundance ever since. So, from this point of view, the USA has been founded on a misunderstanding by crazy people who could not accept an eternal message of abundance, compassion, generosity and so on. And that is why nuclear energy and so many other fancy technologies like biotechnology and robotics have been so in danger of being misused, and so often have been misused. Of course, because crazy is now the new sane, those who advocate cooperation, technological optimism, sharing, and so on, are obviously "crazy", even if they can manage to reach that level of understanding after years of indoctrination and filtering. I talk about that issue of what passes as sane and crazy in passing here:
  http://www.pdfernhout.net/on-dealing-with-social-hurricanes.html [pdfernhout.net]

Still, that alternative interpretation of the Pilgrims is not to invalidate your larger messages, which in general I like. But, it is part of trying to get at what is maybe a missing piece of the puzzle of where so much of our society went wrong in relation to technology and how it thinks about it. You, as a compassionate physicist, gave the Pilgrims the new tool of TRIGA, and they could not appreciate it or make good use of it because it did not fit their philosophy. :-) So, this is one more level of complexity to the interactions of tools and philosophies that you talk about in the Sun, the Genome, and the Internet, and Kuhn vs. Galison, as philosophies effect what tools are allowed to be used for, or whether they are rejected altogether.

Obviously, the truth is more complex than all this. This is just an alternative balancing perspective. No doubt there were many noble things about the Pilgrims, same as there were noble things about Columbus despite the genocide of the Arawaks, like Howard Zinn talks about here:
    "Chapter 1: Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress"
    http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinncol1.html [historyisaweapon.com] ...

=== On disappointing history of nuclear power and future hopes

While I have long been a solar fan, in conjunction with reading your books, I've been thinking about what you did positively for the world with the inherently safe (probably :-) TRIGA reactor (and how the world never built much on that). I've been reading more about Hyperion Power Generation (one of the new small rector designs for power generation being developed) that I've thought about for the last couple of years,
    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/ [hyperionpo...ration.com]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperion_Power_Generation [wikipedia.org]
And I've been looking through this 1990 book (now online) about nuclear powers benefits by Bernard L. Cohen.
    http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/ [pitt.edu]

I've said this elsewhere, but, even as a solar fan, to be fair, it seems to me that the same sorts of social and technological changes that are making better and cheaper solar power, like computers for better design and simulation, new and better materials, better scientific models of matter, better networked communications, and so on, are helping improve both solar power and nuclear power. Both really are viable options at this point for powering an advanced society (although both have different implications, nuclear with reprocessing probably being a lot more centralized but also more convenient in some ways by taking less planetary surface area). Note that solar takes much to produce what we use now:
"Surface Area Required to Power the Whole World With Solar and Wind Power"
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/09/surface-area-required-to-power-the-whole-world-with-solar-power-wind.php [treehugger.com]

I guess, I'm trying to understand how it all went so wrong, with the vision of abundance that nuclear promised, with the scientists involved in designing nuclear weapons genuinely trying to use "atoms for peace [and prosperity]". What was the core of that problem? And could whatever trend or misinformation or ideology was involved with limiting nuclear energy in turn also prevent the sun, the genome, and the internet from being used for peace and prosperity? I keep coming back to that idea about what the Native Americans (the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois) tried to teach the Boat People (the Pilgrims). ...


At least I've learned a lot over the past decade or so about technology and society, living mostly in my little remote IAS in the woods (and not some tiny patch of woods in the middle of development, but woods in the middle of wood. :-) I've thought about issues like the singularity. And I've learned a lot more about health and learning and schooling in the context of raising my kid. While I would have loved to do big experiments on recycling, 3D printing, robotics, and so on, like most Russian scientists during the cold war, :-) I've had to focus on intellectual things that are cheap. :-) So, I read on the internet, write, and refine some ideas.

I've progressed (or regressed :-) over the last ten years from, as this sort of progression of ideas:
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/ [kurtz-fernhout.com]
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/AchievingAStarTrekSociety.html [kurtz-fernhout.com]
http://www.pdfernhout.net/reading-between-the-lines.html [pdfernhout.net]
http://knol.google.com/k/paul-d-fernhout/beyond-a-jobless-recovery#Four_long(2D)term_heterodox_alternatives [google.com]
http://www.pdfernhout.net/on-dealing-with-social-hurricanes.html [pdfernhout.net]

I've refined all that all into the idea in my email signature "The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those thinking in terms of scarcity." ...

Granted, that insight about technology and society may be worthless, as I may well have lost perspective on it. I myself think it is very valuable, even if Einstein said it first in a limited form. But, I might just be fooling myself to justify all the hard times. :-)

Or, maybe I had to suffer those times in the past because it was, indeed, the only way to get to a point where consciousness was still viable in the future despite our advanced technologies? :-)

All just speculation to create a model about things which one can not test, and so, most likely, forever beyond the realm of "science".

In any case, I feel that out of all that muck and suffering I've gone through, perhaps even because of it, I have that one pearl I can hand to you (and to anyone who reads any of my emails to the end) as a flicker of enlightenment about irony and the 21st century, to address so many of the issues you have raised.

That irony is a sort of missing piece of the puzzle I see in what you write, from reading your books (though not entirely done yet, so maybe you mention it?). ...

Based on being able to use the tool of Google, I have come to a new paradigm. [Freeman Dyson talks a lot about tools and paradigms.]

Or, really, it may be best seen as just one more pillar for a 21st century enlightenment that has other pillars.
    "RSA Animate - 21st century enlightenment"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC7ANGMy0yo [youtube.com]

So, if I might ask one favor, it is that you take the (hopefully) pearl of an idea in my sig below, which is just a generalization on what Einstein said about atomic energy to considering it terms of the ethics of all technologies, and make it your own somehow, thinking about it in the context of all you know, maybe refining it and improving it, and maybe tell others about it somehow. As part of a bigger process we are all involved in with creating a 21st century enlightenment more in keeping with 21s century technological possibilities than 17th century Enlightenment philosophy.

As you said in Imagined worlds, you can either get credit or make a difference. I'm trying to make a difference by getting more people to think about that idea, from their own perspectives. If you could somehow get a few more people to think about that idea, or to improve on it in some way, I'd appreciate it.

Still, I have to accept it may just be worthless "Dunning–Kruger effect" madness. :-) ...

Again, I hope you can do something with the idea below, even as it comes from this nutty stay-at-home-Dad person. :-) The humorous notion there is, to my mind the only thing I have found that is more powerful than the idea of neutron cascades. :-) Beyond the eternals of love, hope, faith, and charity, of course, with which is syncs. :-)
    http://www.humorproject.com/doses/default.php?number=1 [humorproject.com]
"There are three things which are real:
God, human folly, and laughter.
The first two are beyond our comprehension.
So we must do what we can with the third." (John F. Kennedy)

I will continue to do as much as I can, as long as I can, with that idea, too. But, I can hope you would find your own way to do so, too.

As may many others, like Alfie Kohn who has his own take on things like the value of cooperation:
"No contest: the case against competition"
http://www.share-international.org/archives/cooperation/co_nocontest.htm [share-international.org]

A paradigm shift does not make the nuclear bombs go away as "tools", or any of the other horrors we've made. It is just a paradigm shift in how we look at the toolmaking process or what we might want to do with the tools. And, eventually, that might lead to yet more tools. And yet more paradigm shifts even.

Quick thought exercise: imagine the Vogons told us they were removing the sun to make room for a hyperspace bypass, but they would be able to spare the Earth, which they intended to use as a dumping ground for quadrillions of dial-a-yield nuclear bombs (one kiloton to one gigaton yield) left over from their Poetry Wars. And thanks to all the messages from Al Gore, they were going to help us out by removing all our coal, oil, and natural gas, being a friendly, helpful, likable sort. Using the ideas from Project Orion, could you build a system that would allow us to power our society from all these quadrillions of nuclear bombs?

I'm sure you could -- maybe in some geothermal way or whatever else. You might lead a project to do that all over the place. Humanity would prosper from those quadrillions of nuclear bombs. We would go to the stars on them, like Project Orion. So, the real problem is not the bombs. It is how we look at them. When life hands you lemons or H-bombs... :-) So, our current energy crisis is caused by not having enough nuclear bombs. :-) Of course, we don't need the bombs for energy if we use regular geothermal power, or get laser fusion to work, and so on, so I'm just joking there. I'm not saying they are not dangerous. In any case, we better sort this out before plagues and black holes on demand and whatever else can be made by anyone with access to the internet. ...

We all have our limits; I'm glad you have done so much with what you had, as a sort of beacon of sanity out there. I just think that idea is the missing piece to evaluating the worth of so many human endeavors in our current state of technical development, given technology is an amplifier, so we have to ask, as you do about the interplay of ethics and technology, what are we amplifying with it? Where do we want to go from here, as a society.

Anyway, yours in (distant and fannish) friendship. :-)

All the best to you and your family and your colleagues for a Happy New Year, from this little pretend IAS and imaginary scholar in the Adirondack woods. :-) ...

--Paul Fernhout
http://www.pdfernhout.net/ [pdfernhout.net]
The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those thinking in terms of scarcity.

Re:You Never Miss an Opportunity do You? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35122120)

I for one appreciate the same 3 - 4 ideas and sentences to every damn story posted to slashdot. I for one am capable of seeing it in the context either old or new in which it occurs. If you OTOH have a "better" way to say it in your own posts go for it. It is meaningful for me, each time I see it, for one, re scarcity.

IF _your_ mileage varies so be it :)

Re:You Never Miss an Opportunity do You? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35127748)

I for one appreciate the same 3 - 4 ideas and sentences to every damn story posted to slashdot. I for one am capable of seeing it in the context either old or new in which it occurs. If you OTOH have a "better" way to say it in your own posts go for it. It is meaningful for me, each time I see it, for one, re scarcity.

IF _your_ mileage varies so be it :)

Thanks, AC. :-)

Re:Does JASON know mythology? (1)

ediron2 (246908) | more than 3 years ago | (#35108590)

Are we reading the same Jason? [wikipedia.org] I mean, fear of scarcity vs. empire building are hardly 'same thing by degrees', and what Medea did was... er... not the sort of thing that leads to a monty python sketch ("Help, help, I'm being repressed!").

Re:Does JASON know mythology? (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35111490)

Sure, I know I'm interpreting the myth towards a point I want to make. :-) But that is the value of broad myths about eternal issues. In this case though, it seems suprisingly apt though in at least some ways. And why do people try to build empires instead of just having a nice life on a farm or in a city somewhere, raising a handful of kids? Is not part of it some sort of inner psychological fear about inadequacy?

Or as Alfie Kohn suggests:
        "No Contest: The Case Against Competition" By Alfie Kohn
        http://books.google.com/books?id=bLudHIk3gsMC [google.com]
"If competitiveness is inherently compensatory, if it is an effort to prove oneself and stave off feelings of worthlessness, it follows that the healthier the individual (in the sense of having a more solid, unconditional sense of self-esteem), the less need there is to compete. The implication, we might say, is that the real alternative to being number one is not being number two but being psychologically free enough to dispense with rankings altogether. Interestingly, two sports psychologists have found a number of excellent athletes with "immense character strengths who don't make it in sports. They seem to be so well put together emotionally that there is no neurotic tie to sport." Since recreation almost always involves competition in our culture, those who are healthy enough not to need to compete may simply end up turning down those activities. ... Each culture provides its own mechanisms for dealing with self-doubt. ... Low self-esteem, then, is a necessary but not sufficient cause of competition. The ingredients include an aching need to prove oneself and the approved mechanism for doing so at other people's expense. ... I do not want to shy away from the incendiary implications of all of this. To suggest in effect that many of our heroes (entrepreneurs and athletes, movie stars and politicians) may be motivated by low self-esteem, to argue that our "state religion" is a sign of psychological ill-health -- this will not sit well with many people.(Page 103)"

Consider, from the Wikipedia link you supplied, where the very first thing Medea supplies is medical biotechnology: "Presented with the tasks, Jason became discouraged and fell into depression. However, Hera had persuaded Aphrodite to convince her son Eros to make Aeetes's daughter, Medea, fall in love with Jason. As a result, Medea aided Jason in his tasks. First, Jason had to plow a field with fire-breathing oxen, the Khalkotauroi, that he had to yoke himself. Medea provided an ointment that protected him from the oxen's flames. Then, Jason sowed the teeth of a dragon into a field. The teeth sprouted into an army of warriors. Medea had previously warned Jason of this and told him how to defeat this foe. ... In Corinth, Jason became engaged to marry Creusa (sometimes referred to as Glauce), a daughter of the King of Corinth, to strengthen his political ties. When Medea confronted Jason about the engagement and cited all the help she had given him, he retorted that it was not she that he should thank, but Aphrodite who made Medea fall in love with him. ... Because he broke his vow to love Medea forever, Jason lost his favor with Hera and died lonely and unhappy. He was asleep under the stern of the rotting Argo when it fell on him, killing him instantly. The manner of his death was due to the deities cursing him for breaking his promise to Medea."

Sure, Medea was vindictive in awful ways, but what if we see Medea not as a person but as a representation of all of technology used for social ends (so, say, biotech, useful to cure disease)? In the myth, Jason abandons Medea who had brought him success in life with her technical powers, to ally himself with someone just for political gain. Why should he abandon Medea, if not out of some inner fear of her powers not being enough? Then, yes, Medea is vindictive in awful ways, like biotech falling into the hands of disgruntled teens and young adults who, instead of flying airplanes into buildings, perhaps make a ethnically targeted or personalized plague and disperse it inside the USA.

What implicit promises about participating in a shared intellectual enterprise for the betterment of humanity and the biosphere do engineers, scientists, artists, writers, biotechnologists, farmers, and so on implicitly make with our culture and with nature to gain access to great powers? Then what happens when such people (or others around them who they feel compelled to listen too) don't think those abundant technical powers are enough to bring abundance to everyone through creating cheap energy, cheap food, cheap land in space, cheap materials, cheap health care, and so on (see Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource), and instead they forge short-term political alliances where they use all their skills to make weapons of war? Disaster may follow, especially as when, in the case for the article, we are talking about an electronic archive of every known pathogen which we can pretty much guarantee will be available to every alienated teenager in twenty to thirty years for one reason or another (see WIkileaks, for one example). That is what I explain here:
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net]

The bottom line problem is that JASON (the group) may not be thinking through the implications of all this technology and how we need to change our society (and politics) to deal with the issue tools of abundance raise before the old way of scarcity thinking leads to (ironic) disaster for us all. The problem is not so much the digital archive as the fact that our society needs to change in ways so that such archives, when built, and they will be, are overall more a boon than a bane.

For example, a world with a basic income, and adequate scientific/technical infrastructure, where everyone who wants can gain a graduate education in biotechnology, may have the reserve capacity to deal with any biotech threats while also having a lot less alienated young adults. This related to my suggestion here:
    http://opengov.ideascale.com/a/dtd/21-000-Flexible-Public-Fabrication-Facilities-across-the-USA/8412-4049 [ideascale.com]

See also my other comment in this thread for stuff I sent to someone who had been involved with JASON in the past: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1980660&cid=35107056 [slashdot.org]

Or, for the problem engineers and scientists can cause when they have no grounding in the broad humanities, the stories that relate to socialization and character and conflict-resolution and deep values:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/magazine/12FOB-IdeaLab-t.html [nytimes.com]
"They say they believe in freedom and share our values. They say a few bad apples shouldn’t bring down judgment on their entire kind. Don’t be fooled. Though they walk among us with impunity, they are, in the words of Henry Farrell, a political scientist at George Washington University, “a group that is notoriously associated with terrorist violence and fundamentalist political beliefs.” They are engineers. ... The engineer mind-set, Gambetta and Hertog suggest, might be a mix of emotional conservatism and intellectual habits that prefers clear answers to ambiguous questions — “the combination of a sharp mind with a loyal acceptance of authority.” Do people become engineers because they are this way? Or does engineering work shape them? It’s probably a feedback loop of both, Gambetta says. ..."

People become engineers and scientists (and farmers and so on) in part because of a faith that rational solutions (and some hard work) can produce abundance. But, our current politics is all based on scarcity paradigms. When engineers and scientists ally themselves with scarcity politics, they risk this irony of the tools of abundance they know how to make being warped into disasterous ways -- ways that might end all human life, whether nuclear war (instead of nuclear power), designer plagues (instead of personalized cures), killer robots (instead of factory and agricultural and household robots and 3D printers), systematized bureaucratically organized death camps with on-time railroads leading to them (instead of funky artistic monorails going to vibrant ecocities), the concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands while everyone else starves (instead of a basic income, a gift economy, democratic resource-based planning and/or local subsistence), or whatever.

Another related item I wrote, on how these issues may apply to the creation of cheap energy, such as if cold fusion turns out to be possible:
    http://www.journal-of-nuclear-physics.com/?p=360&cpage=6#comment-20270 [journal-of...hysics.com]

Anyway, I've obviously angered another engineer in this thread by repeatedly bringing this stuff up (and that's about the third time in the past month that an engineering-type person has complained about my raising social issues on slashdot about technology).

Still, that makes me wonder if maybe it is indeed too late? Maybe the memes about technology as progress (without asking, progress in what direction or progress for whom) are just too strong? Still, I can hope there is still time to make this global mindshift:
    http://www.globalcommunity.org/flash/wombat.shtml [globalcommunity.org]
I can hope it is just my clumsiness that is more to blame. :-)

Another item:
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/burdened-by-bags-of-sand.html [pdfernhout.net]
"This ironic story is about trying to talk the USA out of collective suicide stemming from scarcity fears and misunderstandings when the USA and the world otherwise has so much potential for abundance. Of course, there is also always cause for optimism in any case. ..."

BJ_Covert_Action was very perceptive in saying this is in some sense a "religious" issue.

Albert Einstein said similar things:
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/einstein/einsci.htm [sacred-texts.com]
"For the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capabIe, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations. Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source. And it is hardly necessary to argue for the view that our existence and our activity acquire meaning only by the setting up of such a goal and of corresponding values. The knowledge of truth as such is wonderful, but it is so little capable of acting as a guide that it cannot prove even the justification and the value of the aspiration toward that very knowledge of truth. Here we face, therefore, the limits of the purely rational conception of our existence.
    But it must not be assumed that intelligent thinking can play no part in the formation of the goal and of ethical judgments. When someone realizes that for the achievement of an end certain means would be useful, the means itself becomes thereby an end. Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelation of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man. And if one asks whence derives the authority of such fundamental ends, since they cannot be stated and justified merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgments of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them, but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly. "

Biotech, like nuclear energy before it, and like so many other technologies in the past, or yet to come, challenges us to think more deeply about our values and who we are and who we want to be. That has always been an issue, but it becomes ever more urgent as our technological capacities continue to grow exponentially.

It's hard to talk about religion because it relates to identity, and people are often ready to resort to violence when their identity or world view is questioned. As I quoted here:
http://www.pdfernhout.net/to-james-randi-on-skepticism-about-mainstream-science.html [pdfernhout.net]
"DiCarlo: You have paraphrased the physicist Neils Bohr by stating that "science progresses one death at a time." What is the real reason behind all the resistance to new ideas and to the new models of the way the world is? Green: That's simply fear. If you have an idea of how the world functions, and somebody comes along and they can show you it isn't exactly that way, then you start trembling inside. Everything that you have come to believe has been called into question. It's like the platform of your world has been shaken. Unfortunately, people make the mistake of having their identity linked to their world view. Isn't that amazing? People's identities are linked to their views of the world, so they feel like their identity is threatened. Scientists are no better than anyone else in that way. They are not any better than religious fundamentalists. They are just as nervous about having their world view shaken as anyone else."

Anyway, maybe I have done as much here as I can. The new slashdot UI makes it hard to reference individual posts (making it less valuable to me as a publishing platform). The number of people posting stuff here seems to be falling off (otherwise why would my relatively few posts stand out?). I've been reading and posting to slashdot for about a decade. Maybe indeed it is indeed time to focus on other things? Ideally, things that pay better, :-) as we all need to work out our own survival paths between the falling-apart econonomy we have now and a post-scarcity one mostly beyond money that might come.

This is a BAD idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104672)

Let's not forget that the 2001 anthrax attacks were actually caused by a strain the came from US labs, it has been widely speculated that this was done by the CIA. They couldn't pin it on anyone except a researcher who was actually working a cure Dr. Steven Jay Hatfill. There was no proof that he was behind the attacks, only that he had been working on the strand. As we all know American investigations often make someone guilty until proven innocent, this caused his friends and family to alienate him which eventually lead him to commit suicide. Having a lab like this will just make it easy for the CIA to start any plague of its choosing when they need support to start a war with any entity.

Why of course we should do this! (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104852)

Certainly! What could possibly go wrong?

Data only? (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104854)

If you can sequence the pathogen, maybe you can avoid storing a living or livable (spore, etc.) copy of it and minimize the risk of escape.

Re:Data only? (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35108614)

If you can sequence the pathogen, maybe you can avoid storing a living or livable (spore, etc.) copy of it and minimize the risk of escape.

And if you sequence it and the sequence is published, anybody with the right lab equipment can manufacture it with no physical connection to the "library".

(Yes they have successfully constructed a bacterium from data already.)

Say... (1)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105054)

Isn't there a movie plot that started like this? I can't remember what it is, but I do remember that it didn't end well.

Let's let the CDC do its thing, we don't need more repositories of invisible Armageddon bringers, then again, 2012 is around the corner and we're all supposed to die anyways... oooh... perhaps because of this?

hollywood vs japan (1)

crrwx (1990008) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105834)

isn't this the premise of a michael crichton book? or did they stop watching movies in japan after godzilla?

Already Exists (1)

tobiah (308208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35106188)

There has been a lot of pathogen-specific research in the last decade, most of that data is public and is available in GenBank [nih.gov] , which also happens to be where all the other genetic data resides. There's a European one and a Japanese one too, as well as various topic-specific and private ones, but the GenBank is the biggest. It's a whole lot to sift through, a previous employer has a great graphic [microbialr...astone.com] for making sense of it all.

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