1. I will never allow anyone else to make me a cog. I will never do what is stupid or horrible because “that’s what the regulations say” or “that’s what my supervisor said,” and then sleep soundly at night. I’ll never do my part for a project unless I’m satisfied that the project’s broader goals are, at worst, morally neutral. There’s no one on earth who gets to say: “I just solve technical problems. Moral implications are outside my scope.”
(and the referenced article about Hannah Fry’s call)
The Sophisticate: “The world isn’t black and white. No one does pure good or pure bad. It’s all gray. Therefore, no one is better than anyone else.”
The Zetet: “Knowing only gray, you conclude that all grays are the same shade. You mock the simplicity of the two-color view, yet you replace it with a one-color view...”
—Marc Stiegler, David’s Sling (1988)
A guilty system recognizes no innocents. As with any power apparatus which thinks everybody’s either for it or against it, we’re against it. You would be too, if you thought about it. The very way you think places you amongst its enemies. This might not be your fault, because every society imposes some of its values on those raised within it, but the point is that some societies try to maximize that effect, and some try to minimize it. You come from one of the latter and you’re being asked to explain yourself to one of the former. Prevarication will be more difficult than you might imagine; neutrality is probably impossible.
—Iain M. Banks, Player of Games (1988)
citing out of context here, but still worth it
You’ve seen the stories—in the Financial Times, Technology Review, CNET, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, or elsewhere—saying that a group at Google has now achieved quantum computational supremacy with a 53-qubit superconducting device. While these stories are easy to find, I’m not going to link to them here, for the simple reason that none of them were supposed to exist yet.
“There are those who loathe puns, anagrams and wordplay of any description. They regard practitioners as trivial, posey, feeble, nerdy and facetious. As one such practitioner, I do understand the objections. Archness, cuteness, pedantry and showoffiness do constitute dangers. However, as a non-singing, non- games-playing, -dancing, -painting, -diving, -running, -catching, -kicking, - riding, -skating, -skiing, -sailing, -climbing, -caving, -swimming, -free- falling, -cycling, -canoeing, -jumping, -bouncing, -boxing sort of person, words are all I have. As the old cliché has it, they are my friends. I like to say them, weigh them, poke them, tease them, chant their sound, gaze at their shape and savour their juiciness, and, yes, play with them. Some words are made up of the same letters as others, some can fit inside others, some can be said the same backwards as frontwards, some rhyme outrageously, some seem unique and peculiar like yacht and quirk and frump and canoodle. I take pleasure in their oddities and pleasures and contradictions. It amuses me that a cowboy is a boy who rounds up cows, but a carboy is a flagon of acid, that conifer is an anagram of fir cone and esoteric of coteries, that gold has a hundred rhymes but silver has none. It saddens me that the French talk of the jouissance of language, its joyousness, juiciness, ecstasy and bliss, but that we of all peoples, with English as our mother tongue, do not. Such frolicsome larkiness may put you off, but if you wish to make poems it seems to me necessary that some part of your verse, however small, will register the sensuousness, oddity and pleasure of words themselves, as words, regardless of their semantic and communicatory duties. Not all paintings draw attention to their brushwork – art can, of course, as validly make transparent its process as exhibit its presence – but each tradition has value and none represents the only true aesthetic.”
― Stephen Fry, “The Ode Less Travelled” (2005)
As Michael Clarke memorably put it nearly a decade ago: when Tim Berners-Lee created the Web in 1991, it was with the aim of facilitating scientific communication and the dissemination of scientific research. The extent to which the Web hasn’t disrupted the scientific publishing industry (while, at the same time, dramatically reshaping nearly all other retail services) is therefore surprising.
“Rise of the platforms”, Nature Physics 15, 871 (2019)
This year, people over 65 began to outnumber those under 5 for the first time in history.
What are we to conclude? Is ageing a disease that can be eradicated by science, or the natural third act of life, threatened by over-medicalization? Viewpoints will undoubtedly be as variable as experience and temperament. There might be some wisdom in simply following an adage attributed to seventeeth-century philosopher Francis Bacon: “old age is always 15 years older than I am”.
Nature 573, 193-194 (2019)