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Neuroprosthetics and the Future of Cinderella's Slipper.
June 17, 2011 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Memory Implants Have Now Been Successfully Applied to Rats: Is an artificial enhancement arms race among humans visible on the horizon? Culturally-favored appearance and intelligence have often been associated with social mobility; a future in which the rich can readily purchase dramatic enhancements to both sex appeal and cognitive ability at least raises the possibility of deeper and more permanent social stratification.
posted by darth_tedious (86 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well that's a pretty pessimistic take on things.
posted by The Lamplighter at 6:36 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's quite a leap to jump from a technique that appears to program memory in rats to appearance and intelligence modifications in humans. If a pharmaceutical company comes out with another chemotherapy drug, will we have a breathless post about how that, too, will lead to a eugenics program?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 6:46 PM on June 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Um... okay, now wait.

We're talking memory implants, right? So... how does this translate into better cognitive ability for the wealthy? They'd be able to remember things better? Or to have memories of things they never experienced?

Yeah, this is pretty much science fiction at this point... And why should there be any belief that someone with this kind of brain augmentation would be culturally favored? It may just make someone freakish and difficult to be around.
posted by hippybear at 6:47 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]



MetaFilter: freakish and difficult to be around.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:49 PM on June 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm already freakishly difficult to be around and I'd kill for a 3G Wikipedia implant...
posted by Ryvar at 6:49 PM on June 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, the wealthy already overpurchase beauty. And have for wins.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:50 PM on June 17, 2011


Fail.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:51 PM on June 17, 2011


Sounds like it'd be more confusing than anything.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:55 PM on June 17, 2011


Well they did do it for wins.
posted by bleep at 6:58 PM on June 17, 2011


“Turn the switch on, the animal has the memory; turn it off and they don’t: that’s exactly how it worked."

Living in the future is to be simultaneously giddy with amazement and recoiling in horror.
posted by logicpunk at 6:59 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


But the rich don't need cognitive ability.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:02 PM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


(Jacks in to test system...)

"I know... kung-pao!"

Yeah, definitely not ready for prime time just yet.
posted by rokusan at 7:03 PM on June 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's no point in being concerned about this. By the time legitimate complaints can be made, it'll be too late.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:12 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the time legitimate complaints can be made, it'll be too late.

Very true. Like GMO, for example.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:16 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hell, at least it'd be a meritocracy.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:19 PM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Bio hacks? As in self-replicating genes? Pirated within 5 years, maybe less. Dude, knock on the right door in Shanghai, and they got fake iPhones that are faster than Apple's, and run unlocked iOS. You can get a better Armani suit in Hoi An than Armani actually makes.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:22 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Memories. You're talking about memories!"
posted by Strizh at 7:33 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw Memory Implants and the Culture and I got all tingly for a moment. Then I read the actual post. Not so much.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:36 PM on June 17, 2011


"Memories. You're talking about memories!"

Midnight!

Not a sound from the pavement!

Has the moon lost her memory?

We can electronically fix that....
posted by hippybear at 7:37 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, what ya'll are saying is that I can't have moddies and daddies yet? Phooey.
posted by brundlefly at 8:03 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Memory Implants Have Now Been Successfully Applied to Rats

Tell it to Henry Hill. He don't know nuthin' 'bout bein' a rat.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:10 PM on June 17, 2011


I saw Memory Implants and the Culture and I got all tingly for a moment. Then I read the actual post. Not so much.

Yeah, the Culture sounds nice and all, but you might want to read Altered Carbon to get an idea of what the world between here and there might look like.
posted by mhoye at 8:13 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, the only saving grace of all this technology we have is how quickly it gets really, really cheap.
posted by mhoye at 8:14 PM on June 17, 2011


Tell it to Henry Hill. He don't know nuthin' 'bout bein' a rat.

Dammit, now you've made me think of Rat Korga, and I may have to read that book again.
posted by hippybear at 8:14 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Culture isn't canonically (is that a word?) the product of humanity on Earth, so Altered Carbon couldn't be incorporated into that timeline. But if there had to be a few despotic dystopias in order to ultimately arrive at such a society, I'd, for one, welcome them. You have to break a few eggs in order to make an omelette, after all, and the end result would be far better than what I predict will be our species' ultimate fate.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:23 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
posted by radiosilents at 8:23 PM on June 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Well that's a pretty pessimistic take on things.

No, a pessimistic take would be the rich buying youthful bodies to have their memories overwritten with those of the new owner, as a means to add a touch more immortality to the business of an heir.

A positive take would be that this spells the end of the brain-transplant-for-immortality industry. A nasty business. Good riddance.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:30 PM on June 17, 2011


I would absolutely go to China or India for a black market BrainPal.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:31 PM on June 17, 2011


Well that's a pretty pessimistic take on things.

Welcome to Metafilter!
posted by happyroach at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is by will alone I set my mind in motion
It is by the juice of sapho that the thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning
It is by will alone I set my mind in motion
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:11 PM on June 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Fuck wholesale, we'll remember it for you for a recurring monthly subscription of just $79.95!
posted by chambers at 9:12 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Screw implants. They got anything over there for wiping out memories? That's gotta be worth $20 or something.
posted by CarlRossi at 9:15 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My goal of being a data trafficker and neural courier for the Yakuza is edging closer to a possibility. Really, I don't mind overwriting 3rd grade.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:20 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a neuroscientist of a different flavor than the people who did the rat hippocampal implant, but I take offense at the tone of this post on behalf of fellow scientists doing awesome work.

You glossed over two critical points: 1)This has theraputic implications first and foremost, and 2) true cognitive enhancement in the healthy would lag behind that at least a little. It's one thing to help someone suffering dementia remember something simple like a phone number, it's another to allow a Harvard med student to cram the complexity of an entire anatomy textbook into a single study session. I do memory research and I don't think we know remotely enough about memory and its biological substrates to even think about how to accomplish either of those things, let alone the more difficult one. Reinforcement learning in a rat is not a phone number is not a textbook.

This is really cool research and it may actually lead to a better general understanding of memory which would ultimately be of great use to everyone.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:31 PM on June 17, 2011 [17 favorites]


From the NYT story this sounds more like they're controlling the recallability of a memory laid down in the normal way, not actually implanting memories.

Previously in memory-implant news though we have people implanting, if not truly synthetic memories, then at least positive/negative associations with certain stimuli.
posted by hattifattener at 9:42 PM on June 17, 2011


I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be available for $5.99, like tears in town. Time to reboot.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:48 PM on June 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Chinese bloody invented nerve-splicing. Give me the mainland for a nerve job any day. Fix you right, mate."

"Now that, (...) that is so much bullshit."
posted by porpoise at 9:48 PM on June 17, 2011


I'm a memory researcher as well. My lab runs an experiment where intracranial EEG is monitored in real-time and words are presented when the power of certain neural oscillations are at a specific ratio. Using two conditions, we can present words that we know are statistically significantly more likely to be remembered. That's about as close as anyone has gotten to artificial memory improvement.

And remember this when trying to interpret any bit of new research: statistically significant isn't all that significant to real life.

This is very cool work, but we know so little about memory formation and storage in the incredibly complex human brain (SO much more so than the rat); it's so far from your cyberpunk dystopian visions that, well.. It's not "on the horizon". It's practically on a different planet altogether.
posted by supercres at 9:54 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


>This is really cool research

I agree.

>which would ultimately be of great use

I agree.

>to everyone

If, as seems logical, distribution would be at a price, and therefore, according to a hierarchy-- this last seems, at least to me, open to question.

This research is a great thing and an inspiring achievement; but it is in the nature of great things to cast long shadows and drive sudden tides. To some extent, the measure of a thing's greatness is its parade of second-order effects, and I think it's perfectly okay to say, Yes, this is impressive and will be very helpful for some people in some positions... but not necessarily have only positive effects.

>It's not "on the horizon". It's practically on a different planet altogether.

Fair enough-- though I think the pattern matters more than the point. Which is to say that whether neural enhancement, in conjunction with the already-here cosmetic enhancement, arrives in two decades or seven, it will probably have significant class implications.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:00 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


On second thought, I don't want to get smarter. Knowing what the fuck you're talking about is a real downer.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:01 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


/kidding
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:01 PM on June 17, 2011


Is the best I can hope for really being that old hippy in Children of Men? No, wait, that actually wouldn't be that terrible if I had that house, that land.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:02 PM on June 17, 2011


That... "medicine."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:05 PM on June 17, 2011


The rich have been getting mammary implants for years, why is this news?

Oh...never mind.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:12 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


To all the scientists out there -- you're giving us bullshit excuses and most scientists are terrible ethicists. We all can give plenty of examples, but atomic energy is an easy one. It isn't your job to consider consequences and frankly you (as a group) as terrible at it.

Also you are underselling how quickly breakthroughs have and do occur -- every year we better understanding the connection between short term memory and long term memory down to the protein synthesis which occurs.

For sci-fi treatment of the subject check out Beggars in Spain

Finally, this is already happening, I meet kids abusing 'memory aid' pharmaceuticals or helping out their all-nighters or test cram with adderall. Not to mention cosmetic surgery. Of course technology will only make these disparities greater.

I find it incredible naive and insulting that the so called scientists won't even begin the conversation of the social consequences this research can create -- no no no, it is "too far" off, on "another" planet. blah -- what idiot savants.
posted by Shit Parade at 11:18 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


These evil scientists are working to provide relief from sufferers of stroke, dementia and (I'm assuming) Alzheimer's.

That these advances may be later abused by unscrupulous people should not be a deterrent to their being discovered in the first place.

I'm not suggesting that "the end justifies all possible ends" but sheesh, pretty much ANY scientific advance can be extrapolated to horrifying conclusions in some way or another.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:36 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Memory Implants Have Now Been Successfully Applied to Rats

god damn rats. They always get the best cheeses, the best drugs...and now they are the first to get memory implants.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:41 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shit Parade: "I meet kids abusing 'memory aid' pharmaceuticals"

Do they work? What exact drugs? I live in Mexico, pharmacies are, shall we say... liberal.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:58 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is by will alone I set my mind in motion

I'm not sure if you made this comment knowing the backstory of the Bulterian Jihad or not.

(Not that I ever made it that far in the Dune books. I read Dune when I was seven and the sequels just bored me.)
posted by orthogonality at 12:02 AM on June 18, 2011


I take offense at the tone of this post on behalf of fellow scientists doing awesome work.

Welcome to the Internets! We snark what we do not understand! Yaaaaaaaaarrgh!
posted by orthogonality at 12:04 AM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


way to misalign my point with "evil scientists" nonsense. The basic point is too often do scientists stay away from the politics and actual use of their research hiding behind the best notions of its use.

I wouldn't have such contempt if more scientists routinely and loudly stated their moral principles of what would constitute appropriate and inappropriate uses of their research.

Is it really that outlandish to ask for those responsible for technological breakthroughs to also publicly consider its inherit dangers and advantages?
posted by Shit Parade at 12:16 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait. We're helping Rats think better. I know most of you are familiar with The Rats of NIHM but a few of us are knowledgeable of Skaven.

I think we need to just stop testing these things on rats.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:24 AM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't have such contempt if more scientists routinely and loudly stated their moral principles of what would constitute appropriate and inappropriate uses of their research.

Scientific research is by and large publicly funded. If you want to continue receiving $$, it's probably best to shut up and take what cash you can. If you want a famous example, please read a bit about Oppenheimer for example. Scientists are not politicians or celebrities for the most part. Moralizing is a distraction from their professional duties.

I think you need to talk to the politicians who write laws and decide policy if you want to blame someone for the misuse of science.
posted by dibblda at 12:36 AM on June 18, 2011


I had me one of those new-dangled implants and now I can run mazes like nobody's business

Everybody should do it.

The only downside is that the food pellets aren't very good. And such small portions!
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:45 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't have such contempt if more scientists routinely and loudly stated their moral principles of what would constitute appropriate and inappropriate uses of their research.


Moral principles according to whom? Kass, the virtual priest without a frock? The utilitarians who sound like eugenicists? The watchmen scare me more than the watched, here.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:52 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I was thinking of Peter Singer, specifically.)
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:05 AM on June 18, 2011


way to misalign my point with "evil scientists" nonsense.

You used the terms "terrible ethicists", "so-called scientists", and "idiot savants." Was it so much of a stretch for me to sarcastically attach the term "evil" to your argument? If so, then I'll gladly retract it.

It's not as if they're cloning dinosaurs for monetary gain here. They're just trying to help memory-deprived people improve their lives.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:07 AM on June 18, 2011


The rats, with their improved brains, will take over the world and eat the rich first because they are tastier. Then they will take all their stuff, and get elected to high office. Not much will change, except some really tasty cheese will get you far with the New Ratgime.
posted by mermayd at 4:15 AM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Screw implants. They got anything over there for wiping out memories? That's gotta be worth $20 or something.

Yeah, they got that.
posted by foursentences at 4:58 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


As long as I can get neural nanonics a la Night's Dawn before I die.
posted by schyler523 at 5:45 AM on June 18, 2011


*rollseyes*

Right. So you know what I do all day? I spend your hard earned tax dollars trying to resolve a theoretical debate that's been going on for a while about the structure of memory processing, namely do we just need a "feeling" of familiarity to remember something or do you just need to retrieve actual episodic details of the last time you saw something, or both, or neither?

Remember I'm not implanting anything in brains or giving people drugs, I'm just trying to prove what the structure of memory must be like in healthy normal people. Try to think of an evil purpose for that. I'll wait.

Can't do it? Great! You may now go back to complaining about how all science is a bullshit waste of taxpayer dollars.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:47 AM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


We already have rats with memory. They're called managers.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:49 AM on June 18, 2011


One thing I'm not seeing discussed -- if this implant mimics brain functioning, isn't it a small but crucial step towards artificial brains? Is the Singularity near?
posted by Pants McCracky at 6:18 AM on June 18, 2011


Hi, memory researchers in-thread: I just wanted to be part of the group taking a different tone than that guy upthread.

Thank you. I appreciate your work.

I have left-sided MTLE. I do not have evidence of hippocampal sclerosis on MRI. I do have a (comparative) memory deficit on a neuropsych battery that I didn't in my teens--one correlated with left-sided TLE. I was not ecstatic to hear that, except for the part where it meant I was a decent self-reporter.

Point being, it's all very well and good for people to play Jeff Goldblum-in-Jurassic-Park on the internet. That's nice. But I just thought you should also hear first-hand from someone who personally values your work on human memory. My grandmother with dementia can't say so, and my grandmother who died from the unsparing effects of radiation treatment on the geriatric brain can't either.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 6:20 AM on June 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't suppose these will be provided to all of us, meaning the entry level capital required to operate in this society is about to get even bigger.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 6:37 AM on June 18, 2011


This, of course, ups the ante in quizbowl tournaments. Ha, it will justify even harder ACF style questions such as, naming 15th tier Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century.
posted by jadepearl at 6:54 AM on June 18, 2011


"I find it incredible naive and insulting that the so called scientists won't even begin the conversation of the social consequences this research can create -- no no no, it is "too far" off, on "another" planet. blah -- what idiot savants."

Well, I LOL'd.
posted by sneebler at 7:09 AM on June 18, 2011


We all can give plenty of examples, but atomic energy is an easy one.
You picked an example where the decision leading to development of the first atomic weapons was first proposed by a scientist who was a life-long pacifist, for ethical reasons. The whole history is a bit more complicated than that, but even still this is perhaps not the easy ethical dilemma you were looking for.

Even (or especially!) for scientific and technological advances with dangerous implications, "ethical people and societies should avoid the advances that unethical ones will achieve" is not obviously a good moral code.
posted by roystgnr at 7:31 AM on June 18, 2011


As Frank Zappa so aptly put it: The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.

Knowledge is really all we have. It's a basic human drive to increase our knowledge, and, overall, it's a good thing. Lots and lots of things we know can be used for good and for bad. And knowledge can't be unlearned. Does that mean we should just quit digging? Absolutely not.

Ethical discussions must be had, of course. But "potential for abuse" is usually pretty weak if it's the main argument against something. Science digs and society questions. Sounds workable to me.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:58 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


About the freakishness: I remember lots of things because I read too much. I hide this sometimes because years ago I got tired of getting the question "how do you know that"?
posted by madcaptenor at 8:25 AM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a transhumanist, this is just another data point to get me excited for the day I can upload and join the "borg," leaving this goopy mess of un-ordered fractured data (albeit the best one we know so far) that we call a body and mind, and all of the frenetic inefficient interactions with other goo bits, behind for the supernova sun to destroy in a few eons.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 8:38 AM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


By the way, this post has the best 'related posts' (bottom of this page) EVER.
posted by rokusan at 8:45 AM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a transhumanist,

As an anti-transhumanist, I can't wait to record my grandchildren dancing on your grave.
posted by Sphinx at 9:40 AM on June 18, 2011


As a mist, I am light and moist.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:26 AM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a neuroscientist of a different flavor than the people who did the rat hippocampal implant, but I take offense at the tone of this post on behalf of fellow scientists doing awesome work.

The "evils" are of capitalism, not science. How is any other interpretation possible? The post is about how the benefits of these innovations will go to the wealthy. This would only be a concern if you thought they were good things that ought to be shared by all. Unequal distribution of resources like technology reinforces inequality.

Maybe you are offended on behalf of fellow capitalists?
posted by AlsoMike at 10:31 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it incredible naive and insulting that the so called scientists won't even begin the conversation of the social consequences this research can create -- no no no, it is "too far" off, on "another" planet. blah -- what idiot savants.

I find it incredible that an article about improving memory in rats is inexplicably being used to grind an axe against scientists. The linked article doesn't mention that the research might benefit the wealthy more than the poor as far as I can tell. It's just some weird leap in logic the poster made. Almost as weird as comparing atomic weapons to memory research.

But of course scientists consider the ethical implications of their work. There are even professional bioethicists. Would you have us abandon our research until there is no social inequality? Would you have us demand that the media report on our ethical musings as much as they do on our findings? Maybe we can just write more blogs? What, exactly, would you like us to do?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:57 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell the rich have never minded being stupid, so I doubt they'll care about memory implants - after all, why bother when you rule the world?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2011


Bruce Sterling once wrote that anything you can do to a rat you can do to a person.
posted by mecran01 at 2:39 PM on June 18, 2011


I spend your hard earned tax dollars trying to resolve a theoretical debate that's been going on for a while about the structure of memory processing, namely do we just need a "feeling" of familiarity to remember something or do you just need to retrieve actual episodic details of the last time you saw something, or both, or neither?

Try to think of an evil purpose for that. I'll wait.


Oh, that's easy. Research into this would be a perfect fit for people looking to increase the effectiveness of propaganda and advertising. As a culture, most of us have shared memories of some type or other, and effectively recalling those memories can be used to sell things, not necessarily good things.

Not that I don't think you shouldn't be funded. Before the talk of "idiot savants", the discussion about implications of memory enhancements was an honest look at what would happen if we could enhance our bodies, but to do so would cost money. It's good to talk about the social implications of technology, that's what great sci-fi is all about really.

Can't do it? Great! You may now go back to complaining about how all science is a bullshit waste of taxpayer dollars.

Just because some people are expressing concerns, doesn't mean they're anti-science. I've got a degree in cognitive science, but I think it's important to understand the future we're building together. Science doesn't exist in vacuum.

Now, to switch sides for a moment:

Is it really that outlandish to ask for those responsible for technological breakthroughs to also publicly consider its inherit dangers and advantages?

I don't know if you've ever been around scientists, but the prominent ones are some of the most socially conscious people I've met. Working with computational biologists, evolutionary biologists, cognitive scientists, information scientists, etc. discussions almost invariably turned to social impacts of their research. Example: I was introduced to the wonderful movie Gattaca through a group of evolutionary computation researchers.
posted by formless at 2:45 PM on June 18, 2011


As an anti-transhumanist, I can't wait to record my grandchildren dancing on your grave.

Why would you do that? Doesn't seem very cordial.

Are you pro-death?
posted by AndrewKemendo at 6:55 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, what ya'll are saying is that I can't have moddies and daddies yet? Phooey.

Thanks for recommending this book. Intriguing plot, off to get a copy now! :)
posted by the cydonian at 7:32 PM on June 18, 2011


It's one of my favorite books. I hope you enjoy it.
posted by brundlefly at 8:26 PM on June 18, 2011


I'm in favor of any enhancements to baseline humanity. As a kid I planned to amputate my limbs and get them replaced with bionic ones.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:33 AM on June 19, 2011


Are you pro-death?

I am absolutely pro-death. Nothing would hasten our extinction faster than if we suddenly all stopped dying.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:59 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're talking memory implants, right? So... how does this translate into better cognitive ability for the wealthy? They'd be able to remember things better? Or to have memories of things they never experienced?

One thing is clear. They will need tech support.

The stories from the trenches of IT will become even more entertaining.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:40 AM on June 19, 2011


I guess I failed IRT clarity.

All to often scientists stick to the facts and avoid the politics of their research. Look, besides a few prominent examples this happens with some regularity and many scientists are (justified or not) argue with the hidden fear that their research and theirselves will be demonized, it isn't a particularly nuanced view or grown up attitude to take to important issues. Perhaps scientists avoid publicly airing their political views for good reason -- grant competition can be fierce and partial -- there are plenty of examples of seeing ideology drive 'scientific' conclusion and research.

Also, never have I argued to attempt an artificial stop or end to research (what a foolish errand that would be).

What I am tired of hearing are scientists unwilling to extrapolate (sometimes obvious) directions and effects their research can have and instead focus on minor details and hiding behind the 'benefits' and their intention. It an extremely one-sided, rosy-colored lens to look through and scientists as observers should be more appalled at this tendency.

Finally, for what it's worth, I choose atomic energy knowing the history in some detail -- if more scientists had the gumption and political courage of characters like Einstein, Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner, we'd live in a better world.

Unfortunately Metafilter is filled with techno-apologists.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:38 PM on June 19, 2011


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