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Financial lending institutions were hit hard as their floor-plan financing of used equipment inventory when the dealer closed it’s doors and gave the keys to the banker, only to find out that the $250,000 machine was worth $5,000 as scrap. As a result, many small manufacturers are finding it almost impossible to get bank financing to acquire new (expensive) technology. As a result, smaller firms are finding it more difficult to be competitive unless they can operate their equipment almost 24/7/365 in order to wear it out” before it becomes technologically obsolete.
This is a major concern because self-replicating nanotechnology could essentially destroy everything. Nano-engineered plants that grow faster and more efficiently could out-compete real plants, crowding the biosphere with inedible foliage” (Joy). Tough omnivorous ‘bacteria’ could out-compete real bacteria: They could spread like blowing pollen, replicate swiftly, and reduce the biosphere to dust in a matter of days,” leaving humans without much defense against the bacteria because of the nature of nanotechnology (Joy). The self-replicating bacteria might be too tough, small, and rapidly spreading to stop” (Joy).
Technology’s number one priority should be serving life and society. Technology must function, so to speak, as prosthesis, 3 both individually and collectively. Then people will (continue to) have a say in the matter. Nor is small-scale technology the only option. For example, when it comes to transporting goods, building underground is the way to go wherever possible, especially if doing so will preserve the environment and cause less disruption to society. Just one example of thinking outside the box and doing the right thing with respect to safety, the environment, and nature, would be the causeway built across the East Scheldt (an estuary in the Dutch province of Zeeland). This half-open, always closable dam is designed to protect the coastline during storms, but in the meantime, it allows tidal sea life to flourish.
This disparity in outlook comes up frequently in a variety of contexts, for example, the discussion of the ethical issues that Bill Joy raised in his controversial WIRED cover story, Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us Bill and I have been frequently paired in a variety of venues as pessimist and optimist respectively. Although I’m expected to criticize Bill’s position, and indeed I do take issue with his prescription of relinquishment, I nonetheless usually end up defending Joy on the key issue of feasibility. Recently a Noble Prize winning panelist dismissed Bill’s concerns, exclaiming that, we’re not going to see self-replicating nanoengineered entities for a hundred years.” I pointed out that 100 years was indeed a reasonable estimate of the amount of technical progress required to achieve this particular milestone at today’s rate of progress. But because we’re doubling the rate of progress every decade, we’ll see a century of progress-at today’s rate-in only 25 calendar years.