Friday, July 22, 2005

Bill Joy's Apocalyptic Vision, Determinism, and Commonality with Stephen Hawking

Bill Joy's apocalyptic vision of our future and is in line with the the world's greatest mind and one of the greatest intellects of the modern era, Stephen Hawking. Horribly bleak are such worlds without God.

While attending the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit, one interesting moment was during the "Is Technology Making Us Safter?" session with George Gilder, Bill Joy, and Jaron Lanier yesterday, when a man pretending to be Ray Kurzweil kept posting on the chat board "Bill Joy: What technologies would you end?"

Paul Saffo, the moderator, kept ignoring the question after realizing it was probably not the real Ray Kurzweil, but others on the chat board soon kept posting for "Ray." The audience soon joined in shouts and chats to ask "Ray's" question. Eventually a man in the audience was picked to ask a question and he asked "Ray's" question to the delight and cheers of the audience. Bill Joy went on to give a brief answer and cited aspects of genetic engineering and nanotechnology, which I don't remember in detail but you can find more here.

It was interesting since I didn't know Bill Joy, who has been called the "Edison of the Internet" and designed Berkeley UNIX, Java, and Solaris among many things, had this apocalytic view of man's future and was in essence a determinist. I went home and Googled him and found his Wired article from 2000, "Why the future doesn't need us.", which I surprisingly missed.

From Joy's Wired essay: "I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals."

As I read his article and other references, I found Joy's view of the future to be very similar to Stephen Hawking, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and our modern day Einstein (his assistant once told of a time when he was dictating volumes of notes and on the 46th page he recognized that there was an error 20 pages before and corrected it). While Hawking's raw brain power is greater than Joy's, the only difference I have read is that Joy goes into detail about the hows of this apocalyptic vision and presents a different solution than Hawking. Joy wants to end certain areas of scientific research, such subgroups within as robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology, while Hawking hopes science will take us to the point where we can escape the earth:

"My only fear is this. The terror that stalks my mind is that we have arrived on the scene because of evolution. Because of naturalistic selection, and natural selection assumes natural rejection, which means we have arrived here because of our aggression. And my hope is that somehow we can keep from eating each other up for another 100 years. At that point science would have devised a scheme to take all of us into different planets of the universe and no one atrocity would destroy all of us at the same time."

Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist, commented on Hawking’s lecture, "Hawking was unavoidably caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, if there is no God he could feel the hold of determinism from which evolutionary theory could not escape—out of flux, nothing but flux. What followed from that deduction was even more troubling. For on the other hand, if evolution held true, he could not further ignore the aggression and violence through which man has evolved. Therefore, Hawking offered mankind’s only hope—that the savior of technology would come riding on the wings of science to rescue us from the clasping teeth of determinism."

It's interesting to see how these two great minds have derived at this hopeless conclusion. In a world without God, it is logical to conclude based on humankind's nature, history, and continuing progress that the ending will be horrible for all of us. But this is not my world nor the world of many in this world.

"We have educated ourselves into imbecility." – Malcolm Muggeridge

Zacharias quoted Muggeridge in his seminar and went on to explain how even the greatest of minds in the world today should not ignore the logical and rational existence of God. He was criticizing determinism and how flawed it is and a more logical explanation is having God govern and control the laws and powers of the universe. This notion may be unsettling for Joy, Hawking, and others, but it is the reality and a future to consider. (more of my random thoughts on this subject from an old post)

[tags: , , , , ]

No comments: