Living in the sticks, I try to find in visits to the city an opportunity to
browse a bookstore shelf or two. So again the day before yesterday.
To my great surprise I ran into a book by Dertouzos of MIT's Lab for Computer
Science called "The Unfinished Revolution." No mention of Doug in that. Why
someone who does not really need coattails uses them anyway is beyond me. I
find it hard to believe he wasn't aware of the label as associated with Doug's
Also, and far more importantly, I bought a book by Maurice Strong named "Where
on Earth are we going?" Strong became president of Power Corporation at age 29,
Undersecretary of the United Nations at 40. He was Secretary-General of the UN
Rio Conference on Environment and Development and senior advisor to the World
Bank. Recently, he was in charge of Ontario Hydro and, of course, fully
conversant with atomic energy issues. His book makes scary reading about the
NEAR future (20-30-year horizon) of the Earth and its people. First chapter is
about the state of affairs in 30 years if we carry on with business as usual.
He has strong words for/about corporate executives. Quote:
"An enormous factory turning out consumer electronics is accused of poisoning a
nearby river. At a weepy press conference, the chief executive protests. He has
children who love camping, cherish the forests - why would he destroy the
world of his inheritors? He had to protect the company's quarterly earnings,
his employees' jobs. He was just doing his job."
To put that and kindred professions of impotence in context: A "special" in The
Economist ofr March 17 about corporate leadership ("Churning at the top", see
). And further the final chapter of a book, "Remembering," by Eric Kierans
(formerly cabinet minister in Canadian federal and Quebec provincial
governments, professor of economics at McGill U., president of the Canadian
and Montreal Stock Exchanges) also about deterioration of mores in the
executive suite. Writes he that the political power (essentially democratic)
is pushed aside by economic power (essentialy non-democratic) and, hence, that
we are headed for either chaos or fascism.
I wonder to what extent the present economic downturn (and all that illusory
cash floating around) will affect corporate thinking, and, hence, political
thinking. Is this a warning of another form of climate change, inm the
economic/social climate? Might it precipitate a really hard look at leadership
and responsibilty - in all niches, at all levels of society?
Strong, in effect, foresees a mixture of both within a few decades. Trying to
be an optimist, he does provide a list of suggestions, but like any other
environmentalist he has been attacked for being too pessimistic. (Well, he
wouldn't have written the book if he were, now would he?)
People familiar with Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines" might compare
Strong and Kurzweil's expectations for the next couple of decennia. It seems to
me realistic, given their backgrounds, to put much more weight on Strong's
opinions than on Kurzweil's. It also seems to proper that Doug's Unfinished
Revolution - and indeed all forms of computerized enhancement - be examined
for applicability in the Strong scenario. What problems will it address? How
efficiently? In what timeframe?
P.S. The book by Maurice Strong, which I consider "must reading" in the context
of Doug's work, is published by Vintage Canada (a division of Random House).
The price should be about US$16.
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