PBS NewsHour Highlights Clash of Techno-Utopians, Techno-Pessimists

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 27 2012 3:14 PM

PBS NewsHour Highlights Clash of Techno-Utopians, Techno-Pessimists

As part of the series “Making Sense,” a guide to financial news, PBS NewsHour’s Paul Solman has recently filed two reports from Singularity University, the playground for extreme futurism founded by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil. The two segments—one aired April 20, the other April 26—highlight the divide between the techno-utopians and the techno-pessimists.

In the April 20 segment, Diamandis enthuses, “We have the potential during our lifetime, in the next 10 to 30 years, to slay water, energy shortage, hunger, health care, educational issues, where we can create a world of abundance, where we can meet the basic needs of every man, woman and child on this planet.” The report highlights germinating technologies that could change the world for the better, like artificial meat that both tastes good and provides superior nutrition, filtering technology to make toxic water potable, “printed” human organs for transplant—even sex robots to provide companionship to widowers.

Advertisement

But in the April 26 segment, Solman focuses on the dark side of innovation. What if teenage hackers break into personal medical devices like insulin pumps? Could 3-D printers create deadly weapons on demand?

In discussing any new technology, it’s important to weigh pros and cons, to consider the ethical and societal implications. But as important as it is to have serious discussions about game-changing research, focusing just on the best- and worst-case scenarios can give the public the wrong impression before the technology even becomes viable.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 1 2014 10:49 AM James Meredith, Determined to Enroll at Ole Miss, Declares His Purpose in a 1961 Letter
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 10:44 AM Everyone’s Favorite Bob’s Burgers Character Gets a Remix You Can Dance to
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 10:27 AM 3,000 French Scientists Are Marching to Demand More Research Funding
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.