[unrev-II] Books

From: Henry van Eyken (vaneyken@sympatico.ca)
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 06:26:51 PDT

  • Next message: Jack Park: "Re: [unrev-II] Books"

    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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