Dec. 22nd, 2011

andrewducker: (Default)

via Geek Feminism.

I'm going to assume that the opening moments are a reference to this.
andrewducker: (Default)
If I had to use one word to describe what technology does for people it
would be "Leverage".

A person without any tools isn't powerless, but they are pretty severely
outclassed when it comes to dealing with predators that are of even vaguely
the same size.* A person with a pointy stick or a rock is better off, one
with access to sculpted metal (either with a pointy end, or strapped to
themselves) is at a massive advantage. Once you start building even simple
objects you suddenly have the ability to launch big lumps of stuff at

Eventually you reach the point where a single person can press a button and
launch enough nuclear missiles to wipe out all life on the planet*****.
Which is pretty impressive for a pinky.

Now, that last one requires a lot of other people to keep the
infrastructure in working order and make sure that the button****** is
correctly wired up. So the question is, do you eventually reach the point
where the increase in leverage means that a single individual can threaten
all of human life without needing the massive support behind them?

And the answer looks likely to be "yes" pretty soon. The US has asked
for certain details of research into weaponising bird flu to be
Because leading on from there it's only a few steps to
something which would produce a massive epidemic. Right now, that would
require a pretty large lab, but ten years from now it's likely that (a)our
understanding will be much better and (b)the equipment will be a lot

All of which makes me incredibly grateful for the work going on in
. I hope that we never need them to deal with man-made
threats, and that the cure wins the weapons race. I really do.

*Frankly, I wouldn't want to take on a badger with my bare
hands, and they're about 20% of my mass. An adult chimpanzee weighs around
the same as me, and would easily rip me into little meaty chunks. Put me
up against a tiger or a bear and I'm just fucked.**
**I'm not sure if my chances of survival against a chimpanzee are any
higher than against a tiger. I'd assume a tiger would slaughter a
chimpanzee, but I suspect my survival rate against either would be zero.
***Editor-types, should the footnote for trebuchets be above the one for
chances of survival, or beneath it? I swithered a lot, but felt this way
around was clearer. I have a hunch that the correct answer is "Footnotes
on footnotes are an abomination."
****Trebuchets are awesome. Ballistas too. I love the attack on Minas
*****It's not just weapons that we get out of technology, of course. We
also get creativity. A person working with an automated loom can weave
vastly faster than a person without one. Spreadsheets get rid of huge
amounts of manual drudgery for accountants. And with computers we take a
massive leap, to the point where a single person can be a whole orchestra.
******Yes, I know about launch codes and suchlike. It's a metaphorical
button - and it _could_ be a button if we wanted it to be.


Dec. 22nd, 2011 01:13 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
I was looking at this year's best gadgets lists (well, this one and this one)
and feeling bored to tears.

Which isn't to say there aren't all sorts of neat little things out there.
Lots of nice incremental changes as things move forwards. But nothing that
feels massively different to last year - the screens are a bit prettier,
the interfaces nicer, the processors a bit faster, but other than that
there's nothing there that couldn't have been in last year's lists.

Am I horribly jaded? Has this year been a bit rubbish for gadgets? And
does have anyone have any suggestions for what the next awesome thing that
will appear is?

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