Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 28 Oct 07 21:24
To what extent is the policy reality you're describing a factor of the current political environment. I.e. how much does this have to do with the current administration's and legislature's strong corporate bias? Could a significant change of leadership after the next election mean a different approach than you've described?
Denise Caruso (denisecaruso) Mon 29 Oct 07 10:51
It's not by any means confined to this administration, although they've raised the abuse of cost benefit to a fine art. There's been a strong corporate bias in the White House for a long time. The emphasis has been on different industries -- i.e., Bush/Cheney love oil and all the big polluting industries, Clinton/Gore loved telecoms and entertainment/the "copyright industries." A lot of heinous copyright legislation was passed on their watch. I don't know if a change of leadership will matter. It certainly could matter -- cost benefit can be very useful when used appropriately and not as a weapon to keep change at bay, as I went on about earlier. But it *won't* matter if the incoming administration doesn't open its mind about the realities of how it is being abused. Hillary is making noise about OTA but frankly, I don't know what she means by it. Maybe I should ask her.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 29 Oct 07 11:11
Good idea; ask her to join us here on the WELL. *8^) I like your question, in the book, about whether we're dreaming up solutions in search of problems. I was guilty of blind technophilia (and neophilia), myself, for quite a while, and I suppose I'm not completely over it. How do we get technologists to think more critically about technology, when they're in a persistent state of excitement about some vision of a tech-mediated future? (This made me think of Dr. Carrington in the 1951 film "The Thing from Another World" - he was so psyched to meet a man from outer space that he ignored the creature's appetite for human blood... and btw, the creature was actually a vegetable, probably transgenic!)
Denise Caruso (denisecaruso) Mon 29 Oct 07 12:10
I don't think you can expect technologists to think more critically about technology in the way that we're talking about here. They are happy to think critically about how to make it work better -- but they aren't so happy to think about how it might break. Nice work if you can get it; square peg, round hole -- the exception being the terrific group of contributors that Peter Neumann has gathered over the past couple of decades for his wonderful RISKS Digest. (Full name: ACM FORUM ON RISKS TO THE PUBLIC IN COMPUTERS AND RELATED SYSTEMS. You can subscribe here if you want: http://lists.csl.sri.com/mailman/listinfo/risks.) But they are a tiny fraction of the larger high tech community. Everybody loves the new geegaw that's gonna make somebody (maybe you!) billions. Nobody loves the party pooper who points out how it can/will/does go kerflooey. But I think you have to somehow convince them that it's important for SOMEBODY to think critically about it, and to have a system that imposes upon them to heed/respond to what those people have to say. Especially with technologies like bio and nano that have the potential to alter natural systems permanently.
Cogito, Ergo Spero (robertflink) Mon 29 Oct 07 18:38
>But I think you have to somehow convince them that it's important for SOMEBODY to think critically about it, and to have a system that imposes upon them to heed/respond to what those people have to say.< Some time back, a number of people did think critically about related matters. It is interesting that the emphasis was on checking the human disposition to abuse positions of power. I refer in these vague, general terms to the writers of the Federalist Papers and the Constitution that resulted. I like the process orientation and lack of idealistic rhetoric. Is there anything in the deliberations that set up the republic that is applicable to the current discussion?
Denise Caruso (denisecaruso) Tue 30 Oct 07 09:38
I don't understand the question.
Cogito, Ergo Spero (robertflink) Tue 30 Oct 07 16:09
I was casting about for some precedent that may show some of the opportunities and pitfalls. There is some indication that the framers of the constitution were trying to improve governance by having better processes rather than by seeking a savior.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 30 Oct 07 18:01
Denise, are the issues in handling transgenic risk that we've been discussing specific to the U.S.? What are other countries doing?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 31 Oct 07 12:58
I'm sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to note that over the past two weeks you've covered a lot of rich ground. I'm sure there's a lot more to say, and even though we've begun a new interview in Inkwell, this one doesn't have to stop. If you're able to stick around, Denise and Jon, please know that we'd be honored to have the discussion continue. This topic will remain open and ready for more conversation indefinitely. If you have other things demanding your attention, please let me use this opportunity to thank you for joining us and to wish you the best going forward.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 31 Oct 07 22:34
Thanks, Cynthia! We were having such a great talk it didn't really dawn on me that our two weeks were done.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 1 Nov 07 15:44
This has been great fun. Thanks Jon & Denise!
Denise Caruso (denisecaruso) Fri 2 Nov 07 11:56
Thanks to all of you as well -- I am always gratified to talk with people who really care about these issues. Many other countries are doing more than we are in the U.S. As a result of the kinds of public conversations on biotech that do NOT take place here, regions and sometimes even countries have banned field trials or are withholding approvals until they have more satisfactory data on risk and benefit. In INTERVENTION (my final plug! ;) I note that as of August 2006, in the European Union alone, more than 3,400 local governments in more than a dozen countries had declared themselves GM-free zones. Unlike the U.S., many countries require products containing transgenics to be labeled, and they are monitored in transit and the field. En fin, thanks to Cynthia for asking me to do this and persisting, and to Jon and all of you for asking such good and thoughtful questions. Please keep talking about these issues with your friends and colleagues. Let me know if I can do anything in your communities to help start more of these kinds of conversations. They're so important. Take care, and as Philo of Alexandria said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."
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