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Design Utopia

Date: 3-Oct-2004/14:54+3:00


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Once I awoke from a dream in which I was speaking with Robert Oppenheimer (a key scientist behind the development of the Atomic bomb). He was conveying to me the idea of the expanded responsibility of those who invent new technologies. It may require intelligence to create something of great power, but indiscriminately tossing it out in the world will likely lead to destruction and atrophy. True wisdom involves patiently integrating one’s inventions with a set of policies that quarantine them against misuse.
Look at medications, which can easily poison someone if not taken properly. One improvement is to attend to packaging, and ensure that consumers will always be given the medication in a container with a childproof cap. Yet an even better solution is to formulate the drug so it will be vomited if someone takes too many--a mechanism that protects adults and children alike. (This has been implemented in cases such as over-the-counter sleeping pills, rendering deaths from overdose almost nonexistent.)
There is a general pessimism about the notion of perfect design, reflected in the old saying: "Make it idiot-proof and someone will make a better idiot." Moreover, it would seem that we are helpless to address the initial conditions that permit the development of weapons deliberately designed to harm people. The idea of founding a "design utopia" is dead in the water without an unpopulated alien planet in another dimension--where the laws of physics can be built from scratch.
Computer science seems to offer some exciting opportunities in this regard. By developing operating systems and other virtual environments, software engineers can lay the groundwork and then invite other engineers to build upon their work while adhering to the rules they conceived. Yet to the horror of most design-conscious individuals, the environments with the fewest rules (or the most lax enforcement) tend to be favored by the masses…while more restrictive environments seem too "limiting" or "confusing". It is indeed unfortunate that those lacking the education needed to work within the limitations of such systems also lack the education necessary to realize what the benefits of such restrictions are.
By analogy, we might wonder if our own universe is running in competition with a more foolproof design...one which would safeguard people from harm and resource scarcity. This is the conception that many people have of Heaven--and most religious advocates believe that our "divine minds" can become manifest in alignment with that perfection.
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The accounts written here are as true as I can manage. While the words are my own, they are not independent creative works of fiction —in any intentional way. Thus I do not consider the material to be protected by anything, other than that you'd have to be crazy to want to try and use it for genuine purposes (much less disingenuous ones!) But who's to say?