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Rather, the way to assure that the best practical innovations ultimately triumph is to assure that new ideas are put to the test of real-world use, so that only those that turn out to be good for us are kept.Those individuals most directly affected by some new innovation will be best able to judge its value, and if they find it is harmful or not worthwhile, they will reject it.o think about technology is to think about the future.
At issue are not exactly different sets of predictions.
At its extremes, each side in the biotechnology debates may indeed have some specific image of the future in mind, whether of a post-human techno-utopia or of some static nostalgic ideal. Such questions are rarely taken up so explicitly, of course, but behind the arguments of different partisans in the biotechnology debates there clearly lurk a set of rudimentary assumptions about these very subjects.
But for the most part neither side pretends to know exactly what is coming, and both recognize that the future will not yield any one permanent or stable state but a dynamic and constantly evolving experiment in human living — just like the past and the present. These assumptions tend to coalesce into two broad schools of futurism: one thinks about the future in terms of future .
Rather than specific competing predictions of the future, at issue in these controversies are different ways of imagining the future in general, and different ways of thinking about some large and basic questions: What is the future? The differences between them explain a lot about our contemporary technology debates.
“Humiliating to human pride as it may be,” wrote Friedrich Hayek, “we must recognize that the advance and even the preservation of civilization are dependent upon a maximum of opportunity for accidents to happen.” This general vision offers an account of the human condition that we can readily recognize.
It is the logic behind much of our liberal democracy, our free market economy, and our culture of individualism, and so has probably been responsible for more liberty, prosperity, and plain human happiness than almost any other set of ideas in the history of the human race.This is not because they share some simple-minded optimism about biotechnology, but because they share a faith in the processes that drive innovation and progress in a free society, and believe that impeding these processes, or even trying to control them in advance, will only make things worse.They do not deny that serious difficulties may arise as the result of new innovations and technologies, but on the whole they argue that these difficulties can be overcome by the very same method that best serves innovation: trial and error governed largely by individual choice.Indeed, if we think of the future primarily in terms of human innovation, then this dynamic and unmanaged trial and error process turns out to be the all-important filter that determines what tomorrow will bring.After all, it is usually foolish to try to control or even to predict the course of future developments in science and technology, and so any attempt to govern technology with strict rules determined in advance will probably fail to encourage the best and to prevent the worst.o imagine the future in terms of innovation means, most fundamentally, to imagine change in terms of new ideas, and to think of life as an array of individual experiments and choices.It is to ask how we might best encourage innovation, how we might allow the best innovations to flourish (and the worst to be rejected), and how new ideas allowed to thrive can alter human life.Each is too easily and too often caricatured by the other, but if taken seriously, each also offers a rich and compelling anthropology of progress — a sense of how the future happens in real human terms.The biotechnology debates offer a uniquely vivid opportunity to examine these competing anthropologies of progress, and to see whether they point us to a reasonable and recognizable understanding of the human experience, and therefore whether they can be relied upon to guide our thinking about the future.Progress, in this sense, is made possible by improvements in our knowledge and understanding, our abilities, our circumstances, our institutions, our technology, and our control over nature and chance.There is of course always a danger that we may misuse our newfound powers, or even that they might corrupt us; but there are also reasons to believe that we will learn to use them responsibly, and that they will enhance our lives and improve our world.