John Brockman’s Edge.org Annual Question is ‘What should we be worried about?’ by which I think he means, ignoring the profile different threats get in the media and looking at real evidence, what could cause a real threat to humanity?
There’s some good stuff in there and some very worrying things I hadn’t heard about before. Brian Eno talks about something that chimes with my experience and has worried me for a while:
Most of the smart people I know want nothing to do with politics. We avoid it like the plagueâ€”like Edge avoids it, in fact. Is this because we feel that politics isn’t where anything significant happens? Or because we’re too taken up with what we’re doing, be it Quantum Physics or Statistical Genomics or Generative Music? Or because we’re too polite to get into arguments with people? Or because we just think that things will work out fine if we let them beâ€”that The Invisible Hand or The Technosphere will mysteriously sort them out?
Whatever the reasons for our quiescence, politics is still being doneâ€”just not by us. It’s politics that gave us Iraq and Afghanistan and a few hundred thousand casualties. It’s politics that’s bleeding the poorer nations for the debts of their former dictators. It’s politics that allows special interests to run the country. It’s politics that helped the banks wreck the economy. It’s politics that prohibits gay marriage and stem cell research but nurtures Gaza and Guantanamo.
ButÂ weÂ don’t do politics. We expect other people to do it for us, and grumble when they get it wrong.Â We feel that our responsibility stops at the ballot box, if we even get that far. After that we’re as laissez-faire as we can get away with.
What worries me is that while we’re laissez-ing, someone else is faire-ing.