Bill Joy.  Why the Future doesn’t Need Us.

This work sparked every possible emotional and technical response imaginable in its time. You should read it for yourself. Note I will give you official Bill Joy – published copies with pictures in class!

(reduced) Reading Questions:


1. But while I was aware of the moral dilemmas surrounding technology’s consequences in fields like weapons research, I did not expect that I would confront such issues in my own field, or at least not so soon.

Joy’s statement above suggests a naiveté about the separation of ethics from technological progress and engineering in general. Can any engineering or science field be fully divorced from moral issues, or are moral issues always part and parcel of any field of technical inquiry? Justify your answer to this question in detail.

2. By 2030, we are likely to be able to build machines, in quantity, a million times as powerful as the personal computers of today – sufficient to implement the dreams of Kurzweil and Moravec.

First, do some research to see if this prediction, in terms of forward computational prediction, is still roughly accurate 6 years following Joy’s article publication.  Explain what you find.  

3. The progression of thinking as evolved by Oppenheimer is a fascinating study of a scientist’s response to deeply disruptive scientific discovery.  Joy describes Oppenheimer’s response to the atomic bomb project following V-E day, following the military use of two atomic bombs, and then in the years following the event.  Describe the evolution of Oppenheimer’s attitude over time, couching your description and engaging with the tools you have been learning in our class.


Selmer Bringsjord.  Ethical robotics: the future can heed us.

1. You have now read Bill Joy’s original article first, followed by Bringsjord’s response.  On balance, what do you accept of what Bringsjord says, what do you reject, and where does this leave you with respect to Joy’s original article?