Technology is Information

The most revolutionary aspect of technology is its mobility. Anybody can learn it. It jumps easily over barriers of race and language. And its mobility is still increasing. The new technology of microchips and computer software is learned much faster than the old technology of coal and iron. It took three generations of misery for the older industrial countries to master the technology of coal and iron. The new industrial countries of East Asia, South Korea and Singapore and Taiwan, mastered the new technology and made the jump from poverty to wealth in a single generation. That is the reason why I call the new technology a technology of hope. It offers to the poor of the Earth a short-cut to wealth, a way of getting {271} rich by cleverness rather than by back-breaking labor. The essential component of the new technology is information. Information travels light. Unlike coal and iron, it is available wherever there are people with brains to make use of it. Not only in East Asia but all over the planet, technology and the information on which it depends can be effective instruments for achieving a more just distribution of wealth among the nations of mankind. Without the hope of economic justice, mankind cannot realistically hope for lasting peace. If we view the world with a certain largeness of view, we see technology as the gift of God which may make it possible for us to live at peace with our neighbors on this crowded planet.

Such a largeness of view is conspicuous by its absence in the thinking of the Reagan administration. I dislike many things which this administration has done and said, but I dislike most of all the mean-spirited attempts to stop the export of technology and hamper the spread of information. These attempts reveal a mentality which is incompatible with any decent respect for the opinions of mankind. The idea that the United States should try to keep the Soviet Union in a state of technological backwardness excludes the possibility of comprehensive arms-control agreements; the Soviet Union will not negotiate upon any terms other than equality. The idea that the United States can play Nanny to the rest of the world and constrain the flow of technological goodies to reward our friends and punish our enemies is a puerile delusion. Technology is God's gift to all nations alike. The rest of the world will quickly learn whatever we attempt to keep hidden. And we will quickly lose the international goodwill which a more generous attitude has earned us in the past. If we are to lead the world toward a hopeful future, we must understand that technology is a part of the planetary environment, to be shared like air and water with the rest of mankind. To try to monopolize technology is as stupid as trying to monopolize air.

Technology as a liberating force in human affairs is more important than weapons. And that is why scientists speak about international political problems with an authority which {272} goes far beyond their competence as bomb-builders. Forty years ago, scientists became suddenly influential in political life because they were the only people who knew how to make bombs. Today we can claim political influence for a better reason. We claim influence because we have practical experience in operating a genuinely international enterprise. We have friends and colleagues, people we know how to deal with, in the Soviet Union and in the People's Republic of China. We know what it takes to collaborate on a practical level with Soviet scientists, the bureaucratic obstacles that have to be overcome, the possibilities and limitations of personal contact. We know what it takes to operate an astronomical observatory in Chile, to launch an X-ray satellite from Tanzania, and to organize the eradication of the smallpox virus from its last stronghold in Ethiopia. Unlike our political leaders, we have first-hand knowledge of a business which is not merely multinational but in its nature international. We know how difficult it is to get a piece of apparatus to work in the Soviet Union or in China, but we also know how with patience it can be done. As scientists we work every day in an international community. That is why we are not afraid of the technical difficulties of arms control. That is why we are appalled by the narrow-mindedness and ignorance of our political leaders. And that is why we are not shy to raise our voices, to teach mankind the hopeful lessons that we have learned from the practice of our trade.


Folksonomies: politics technology information peace

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Soviet Union (0.944678): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Asia (0.900469): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Cold War (0.864025): dbpedia | freebase
Mikhail Gorbachev (0.817076): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
People\'s Republic (0.795907): dbpedia | freebase | yago
World War II (0.767109): dbpedia | freebase | yago
The Internationale (0.751408): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Jews (0.748390): dbpedia | freebase

 Infinite in All Directions
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dyson , Freeman J. (2004-07-22), Infinite in All Directions, Harper Perennial, Retrieved on 2012-04-25
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  • Folksonomies: religion