Friday, January 2, 2009

The Edge Annual Question — 2009

The Edge Annual Question for 2009 is up, and here is the explanation:
New tools equal new perceptions.

Through science we create technology and in using our new tools we recreate ourselves. But until very recently in our history, no democratic populace, no legislative body, ever indicated by choice, by vote, how this process should play out.

Nobody ever voted for printing. Nobody ever voted for electricity. Nobody ever voted for radio, the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, television. Nobody ever voted for penicillin, antibiotics, the pill. Nobody ever voted for space travel, massively parallel computing, nuclear power, the personal computer, the Internet, email, cell phones, the Web, Google, cloning, sequencing the entire human genome. We are moving towards the redefinition of life, to the edge of creating life itself. While science may or may not be the only news, it is the news that stays news.

And our politicians, our governments? Always years behind, the best they can do is play catch up.

Nobel laureate James Watson, who discovered the DNA double helix, and genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter, recently were awarded Double Helix Awards from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for being the founding fathers of human genome sequencing. They are the first two human beings to have their complete genetic information decoded.

Watson noted during his acceptance speech that he doesn't want government involved in decisions concerning how people choose to handle information about their personal genomes.

Venter is on the brink of creating the first artificial life form on Earth. He has already announced transplanting the information from one genome into another. In other words, your dog becomes your cat. He has privately alluded to important scientific progress in his lab, the result of which, if and when realized, will change everything.


"What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?"

— John Brockman
Editor and Publisher

One of the answers applied specifically to men, which I thought was interesting.
Artist, Berlin; Marion Goodman Gallery


I think what I will live to see is a quite different kind of male subjectivity. As we increasingly exit the cultural and behavioural reflexes of industrial society with its distinctive separation of labour between men and women, the base for our still pervasive idea of what constitutes 'masculinity' is equally eroded. Eventually this will trickle down to the conception of male subjectivity, with each new generation doing their little step.

I really hope I will live to see this, as (although our epoch is of course a very challenging and thereby interesting one with the whole sustainability issue) the codes and modes of behaviour and expression available to men are extremely limited and simplistic, which make our times slightly dull. I am looking forward to seeing my own child grow up and what his generation's contribution will be, but even more so I sometimes have a sense of impatience to see how young men will be when I am very old.

I think this is already happening.

No comments: