[unrev-II] Reception at SRI Honoring Doug's Award

From: Rod Welch (rowelch@attglobal.net)
Date: Thu Dec 21 2000 - 19:27:04 PST

  • Next message: John J. Deneen: "Re: [unrev-II] Reception at SRI Honoring Doug's Award"


    Eric's ear for detail on our discussion yesterday about Paul's ideas on
    fostering a climate of values to guide project objectives, is unmatched, per
    below. Will work it into the record shortly.

    In the meantime, here is a scant flavor of the proceedings for those near and
    far, who could not attend the reception honoring Doug's award for the National
    Medal of Technology....



    Eric Armstrong wrote:
    > First
    > -----
    > I'm glad to see a discussion centered around values,
    > because I suspect that a statement of values has
    > important implications for selecting a direction.
    > At yesterday's well-attended reception for Doug's
    > National Medal of Technology, this thread came up
    > over and over again. In discussing it with Rod
    > Welch and one other fellow, we identified several
    > salient points:
    > a) Given a wide range of options from which
    > to choose, a statement of values may well
    > narrow the selection.
    > b) It would be good to know for sure that the
    > direction we are choosing is within the
    > set of "desirable" directions, according
    > to those values.
    > c) On the other hand, even a tool as simple
    > as an ax can be used for good or for bad.
    > So its not totally clear that a statement
    > of values is much help when it comes to
    > making tools.
    > d) On the other other hand, there may well be
    > tools which are hard to use for bad ends,
    > and others which are hard to use for good
    > ends.
    > Second
    > ------
    > I was recently reminded of the dictum of unintended
    > consequences. Basically, a drought-likely environment
    > will only support so many people, and every time a
    > drought occurs, some percentage dies off. This keeps
    > the herd small that attempts to live there.
    > When well-meaning attempts to avoid that consequence
    > prevent the natural thinning, the herd grows large.
    > At the next drought, the number of potential deaths
    > is many times greater than it was, raising the sense
    > of urgency and the importance of "doing the right
    > thing" to prevent the consequences, because now,
    > thousands are affected, rather than hundreds.
    > As a result, the herd grows dramatically. The land
    > now holds many times more people than it can
    > comfortably support. Come the next drought, millions
    > will die. Now the situation is truly desparate, and
    > something simply has to be done.
    > But during the NEXT drought...
    > You see where this is heading. We're caught between
    > our natural impulse to help individuals, and the
    > counter-intutitive affects of our intervention.
    > We reach a point where only by keeping up a
    > constant stream of aid can the population continue
    > to be supported. And sooner or later, we reach a
    > point where we can't continue that level of
    > assistance. What happens then?
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